Page images

in the efforts for evangelizing the world are such as have the most enlarged views and the most exalted sentiments.

Our own church offers many occasions and encouragements for intellectual culture. When we consider the comparatively small number of literary and scientific men in our communion, the very few, as yet, of our children and youth that are pursuing an education, the extensive influence that education is calculated and destined to pro. duce, we must see that there is great room for improvement. Our ministers are, in general, taken into service before they have completed a regular course of study; and such will probably be the case for some time to come. Our children, therefore, should have as good an education as we can possibly give them. And then, if, while in business, they are called into the vineyard of the Lord, they may feel that they have some qualifications the want of which many have had great cause to lament. Our children and youth should also be taught that the means of self.improvement are within their reach; and, from the numerous examples of successful private study, should be en. couraged to cultivate their own minds.

Our church holds it to be the duty of its members, both male and female, to bear testimony to the truth in social meetings, and even in large congregations; and though I would by no means wish that in such testimony a regard to the manner and subject of speaking would show itself, and divert attention from the simple tale of personal experience, yet I suggest whether, in view of this custom of our church, the cultivation of the mind is not a duty, as it may correct many un. necessary defects, and impart desirable advantages. The increasing attention to the subject of education among our people shows, that in order to keep up with the tendency of the age we must pay an in. creased attention to our personal improvement. We rejoice to find that our sincere desire to benefit the rising generation, and thus the whole denomination, by multiplying the means of instruction, obtains the sanction and blessing of the Almighty in the revivals of religion which take place in our literary seminaries, and which are spread. ing themselves so astonishingly throughout the length and breadth of

our Zion.

(4.) The efforts of the enemies of the cross render unwittingly an essential service to Christianity. These efforts challenge the employment of knowledge and understanding on the part of Christ's disciples. And indeed his enemies find it necessary to use all possible diligence and skill to confirm themselves in their infidelity, and to disseminate their sentiments. The religion of the Bible appeals successfully to the unsophisticated judgment and feelings, and triuniphs, in many cases, without the aid of human learning. But to confute the spe. cious sophistries of infidelity, and to defend the various facts and doctrines of Scripture by an array of historical, critical, and philosophical arguments, calls for considerable research, and some intellectual skill. We cannot doubt that sometimes the truth may even have suffered from too great an attempt to establish it by human means alone. Still it would not answer to allow the enemies of the cross the advantage which superior knowledge and abilities would give them over many minds. It should be seen that, as the age of miracles has passed, the church numbers among her sons, and among

her daughters too, many who stand, at least, on equal ground for intelligence with her enemies. The more narrowly the claims of Christianity are examined, the more thoroughly we become acquainted with its nature and history, the more firmly persuaded shall we be of its truth and importance. The intelligent, enlightened Christian is the strongest Christian, as far, at least, as conviction of the external truth of his system is concerned. It is to be feared, however, that many, resting in a' firm conviction of that external truth, neglect the still more certain and delightful assurance of its spiritual reality and power in the glorious manifestations of divine grace to the heart. The highest intellectual attainments must be accompanied with the perfect love of God in the soul in order to fit us for the most enduring and quiet trust on divine and eternal truth.

I have thus presented you with a very imperfect view of some of the occasions that tend to stimulate mental culture. If my representa. tions have failed to excite your desires for improvement, I can only advise you to take these various topics into consideration for your. selves, and see if there be not enough in them to awaken an intense interest in attaining suitable qualifications for extensive usefulness.

III. I proposed to show, in the third place, that this age is favor. able to intellectual cultivation by reason of the means and aid which it furnishes for that purpose. On this part of the subject I intend to be brief, since I fear I have already exceeded the limits of your forbearance.

1. The means of education were never more numerous and extensive thari at the present time, and they are constantly multiplying. Correct views respecting education are spreading. It is not the ac. quiring of the knowledge contained in books and sciences that constitutes education. Knowledge and study are only means to an end, viz., the discipline of the faculties. Education is "fitting the mind to become the best possible instrument in discovering, applying, and obeying the laws of God.”. Hence it is not considered as belonging to one period of life, but while it commences with the opening of the understanding, it ceases not till the improvement of the mind can be carried no farther. Neither is it confined to any special place or circumstances.

Never, perhaps, was there a more liberal public spirit in endowing institutions of learning, and in fostering the means of intellectual improvement. Schools, academies, and colleges are scattered all over the land, and the modes and branches of instruction are constantly improving. The sentiment seems to be extending, that money is valuable the more when it contributes to intelligence and virtue. Selfishness and covetousness, however, still exist. Luxury and extravagance too increase with the increase of wealth. One very good way of checking these evils is to open a channel in which wealth may be employed for the welfare of mankind. The perplexities and embarrassments of business may lead some to reflect on the propriety of investing their property in means that shall produce a profitable income to the com. munity at least, instead of wasting it in needless self-indulgences. And what object more worthy of attention than moral and intellectual improvement? If this should be promoted more extensively by esta. blishing schools, by supporting benevolent societies, by aiding worthy,

indigent young persons in the pursuit of education, how greatly would moneyed men help to bless the world!

2. The press is constantly teeming with intellectual aliment. True, much light and hurtful trash is issued; but there are numerous public cations which contain nourishment for the mind. Among such a profusion of works as is daily published, there is some difficulty in making a proper selection. The improvement of the mind and the heart should, doubtless, be the chief object of all reading, as far as the individual is concerned; hence those books should be preferred which contribute most to effect this object. Books containing facts and principles are most conducive to mental cultivation. The imagi. nation should be gratified, but judiciously. It is very fond of highly wrought scenes in composition, which, like highly seasoned food, are, in the end, exceedingly injurious. The imagination should be under the control of reason, and there is just as much reason in eating agreeably flavored poison, as in reading books that beget a sickly sensi. bility, or encourage vicious propensities.

3. The associations of the present day furnish means of mental cultivation. Lyceums, literary, scientific, philosophical, and historical societies are most important auxiliaries. Here, by mutual contact, thought is awakened, desire excited, and the faculties are strengthened. Societies might be formed in connection with the several departments of science which might contribute greatly to the increase of knowledge in each department. Their respective labors and success might excite a laudable emulation, and thus mutually tend to quicken intellectual effort. The public lectures, exhibitions, and documents of these associations contribute much toward awaking and sustaining the spirit of inquiry, and engage the public mind more strongly in behalf of literature and science.

4. The decided moral influence of the present age is not among the least means of intellectual improvement. Whether we consider the restraints which correct moral influence imposes on the wayward passions, or the freedom, elasticity, and vigor of mind which, when yielded to, that influence always produces, it cannot be viewed but with the deepest respect as one of the most important agents in mental culture. It is well that such is the state of public opinion, that in order to come up to our station with dignity and usefulness, we must be furnished with high moral principle. This is as necessary to personal improvement and happiness as to the welfare of society, and hence religion and morality not only fit us to advance the interests of others, but are the promoters of our own.

5. Finally, the means of mental discipline are within the reach of all. They surround us. Let a person but feel the stimulus to effort which the events of the present day produce, and he may qualify himself for extensive usefulness. And it is owing to want of due sensibility to the scenes and circumstances around them, that many remain uninspired with an eager desire and lofty purpose to obtain the power of exerting a healthful, wide-spreading influence. By reading, reflection, observation, and conversation, a person will make rapid advancement in self-education. It was to “patient thought” that Sir Isaac Newton owed his successes and his fame. Nature and society lie open to our researches. Who can say he may not do " what man has already

done ?” And why may not some of this assembly, by persevering mental application, rise, at some coming day, to a distinguished rank among the master spirits of the times ?

Though much of what has been said is chiefly applicable to young men, yet it is hoped that the ladies will not overlook their interest in the subject. If they cannot be active politicians, they can cultivate science, literature, and the arts. Many brilliant stars of most benignant aspect have appeared in the literary heavens--constellations of female worthies who have enlightened, cheered, and blessed mankind. The female mind has shown itself capable of mastering the most abstruse speculations and the highest order of science, as well as of adorning the instructive page with the most attractive eloquence. But woman wields a mighty power, even in the politics of a country, by the tales of the nursery, and the inculcation of patriotic sentiments in the forming state of character and of habit.

It is an interesting circumstance, that while many men have been found who united viciousness of life with high mental accomplishments, such instances are exceeding rare in the female portion of the community. If you find a lady of refined and cultivated powers you are almost sure to find her an advocate and an example of high moral principle. The heart of woman seems to be nearer neighbor to the intellect than the heart of man, and the sympathy between them seems to be both readier and stronger. In cultivating, therefore, the mind of woman, we are raising the standard of virtuous influence; we are preparing her to be the guiding star of society to honor and happi

Woman's heart seems, in general, to yield more readily and fully than man's to the influence of Christian truth and love ; and hence, by bringing both religion and education to bear on female character, we are most rapidly advancing the highest interests of humanity.

Be assured, then, ladies, that the paths of learning, of influence, and of usefulness, are open and inviting. Let your hearts be moved by the high resolve to improve your powers for the benefit of mankind. There are sources of instruction and improvement within the reach of all. May some of the fair in this audience aspire to emulate the labors and to acquire the hallowed influence of a More, a Sedgwick, a Sigourney; and may all strive to promote among themselves and in this community a love and desire for high intellectual and moral attainments !



For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.


LITERATURE must be allowed to perform, at least, a subordinate agency in the moral government of the world. A knowledge of its influences, in its various bearings on schemes of divine Providence, leaves no doubt that it has been ordained as one of the modes of our being. In a comprehensive sense, it embraces a great compass of subjects, and almost every style of composition : but in the more restricted meaning of the term, it is merely the permanent forms in

which elevated sentiment and the most efficacious thought are embodied.

It may not be unprofitable to dwell, for a while, upon the question as to the period and the nation of the world that have furnished a literature, in this latter sense, best fitted to exert an essential and permanent influence on society; and then consider the connection of such a literature with other means which bear on Biblical science.

The limits to which we must be confined in this article will not allow us to review the successions of literature; nor scarcely to look over the vast panorama, and glance at its monuments of glory that are scattered here and there all along the line of ages, from the earliest dawn of mind to the present day. And were we, indeed, to start from a point far back, almost on the very margin of primeval time, and to pass on through the whole lapse of centuries past, there would be found in that entire range but one period, we think, in which a national literature appears of such form and influence as to have stamped its own obvious character on the development of mind in after

ages. It is the age of Grecian glory. We should leave behind us, in that review, the vast, the gorgeous, and elaborate monuments of art that rose up on the plains of Chaldea and in the valley of the Nile, as utterly failing to exemplify the grand purposes of human genius. Neither India, with her cumbrous mythology ; nor Egypt, proficient though she was in many sciences; nor Phenicia, employed in the most extensive commerce of antiquity; nor Nineveh and Baby. lon, with all their vastness and splendor, can claim to have had any literature, at least, such a literature as, by its sweetness, strength, and majesty, could come down on the mind of posterity with its own power.

But among the Greeks are found intellectual peculiarities which can be affirmed of no other nation. A remarkable uncertainty hangs over their origin as a race; but we can award to them a just inde. pendence in their literary greatness, except so far as they deduced from oriental and Egyptian sources many dogmas in philosophy and religion, and some materials for thought to fashion, and imagination to embellish. Yet, with these several deductions, the world has never witnessed a nation like this--a mere speck as to territory, in com. parison with the many mighty empires that have overshadowed the earth-abounding in so many independent elements, which, when em. bodied, have done so much to subdue deformity into elegance, and rudeness of intellect into accomplishment.

Many causes existed to render the beautiful land of the Greeks the birthplace of the fairest literature that has yet dawned on the intellectual world, the chief of which might be referred, perhaps, to the surpassing loveliness and variety which nature had lavished upon it. The picturesque view of mountain and vale; the sea, with its deeply indented coast and bold promontory; the serene sky; the genial clime; the olive clad hills; the fountains, rivulets, cascades, and the ocean wave all these contributed to a joyous activity of intellectual power. The influence of scenery and of the early circumstances of society usually goes to the deepest elements of man's sentient nature. And scarcely more favorable, in this particular, could the condition of the Greeks have been, for the development of valuable thought and

« PreviousContinue »