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ÆTAT. 21] AN IMPASSABLE BARRIER TO ADVANCEMENT. 57
employed. Mr. Priestley and myself spend an hour every night in turning over, by conversation, the wondrous knowledge that a day hath won.'”
During the period when the mental powers of an ardent youth are rapidly developing, an excitement is experienced which is apt to vent itself in an offensive, because dogmatic, form. The rush of energy creates dissatisfaction with prevalent quiet notions and methodical movements, and the impulse to do something is interpreted to be a power to do anything. Hence a feeling of self-superiority which only experience—perhaps rough experience--can remedy. Mr. Hessel had possessed a goodly measure of this feeling. Stern experience was now teaching some of her humbling lessons. Oct. 4th. “I feel this morning as if I had never yet known what preaching was. Indeed I have not been preaching, I have been repeating compositions, and those often of the most meagre kind. I have not got to the core of truth, and have been presenting parings only. O how disgusting and ridiculous is the high opinion I have entertained of myself! What a fool have I been for believing the flatteries of weak minds, instead of attending to the palpable evidence of my sad deficiencies. May God save me from that curse—that impassable barrier to all mental and moral advancement-self-complacency !”—Young man ! these last three sentences, rightly pondered, may prove more valuable to thee than a mine of gold.
“I have much neglected my Diary and am convinced this is a deep injury. I am certain that if well employed a Journal might be an important means of grace. It has led me to a diligent study of myself—been the means of my becoming acquainted with my own character. I am now convinced of the inaccuracy of Robert Hall's remark. I am aware that the effect of daily putting down a string of common-place phrases can be of little use; but a daily record of the actions and feelings of the soul cannot fail to
be immensely useful. In many instances it will be the means of developing more of the phenomena of the human mind than could be developed by any other process. There is reason to conclude that Edwards' Diary was one great instrument in raising him to that intellectual and moral elevation he attained. In early life he formed the habit of looking steadily at his own soul—and the acuteness and strength of vision required for this could not fail to be highly invigorating."-Robert Hall had “a persuasion that
— the habit of keeping a regular journal tempted to an artificial tone of expression which did not accord with the actual state of the heart. Like many other things, a Journal is a good or an evil as is the use made of it. If it be employed as a mere register of devotional feeling it will minister to mischief. Christ, not self, is to be the object of our contemplation. Only by “looking unto Jesus” can the soul be kept in a healthy state. Mr. Hessel's Journal however was more a repository of sentiments than experi
It furnished a convenient outlet for mental energy, and a guage by which he could measure his mental as well as spiritual progress. His mind was under a constraint to utter itself, and utterance in this form was relaxation rather than toil. To him therefore, I believe, it proved highly beneficial. A record made some six months subsequently, must, I think, commend itself to the judgment of all. “By daily noting down my best thoughts I deepen present impression, and cause the light supplied by experience to shine with a more steady lustre. It must be a great advantage to make a visible impress of our views and feelings when in our higher moods. By recurrence to this, the soul's best light and warmest feelings are reflected upon itself.”.
The steadiness with which he keeps his eye on improvement, and the fertility of his invention to discover means of ÆTAT. 21)
MEANS OF IMPROVEMENT UNLIMITED.
securing it, have here an illustration. “I enjoyed considerable freedom in prayer this morning, and I think it was obtained mainly by a determination to say nothing which I did not fully mean. I have been in the habit of using words without attaching any definite meaning to them, and I now see this practice to be highly pernicious. This morning I first considered what I should ask, and then expressed my desire in as few words as possible ; mentally dwelling upon it until I realized the importance of the petition. At first I was very slow and seemed as if I had nothing to request, and nothing to say to my Heavenly Father. But desires soon began to spring, and they flowed until they formed a torrent. I hope that this is one means by which God is about to revive His work in my soul.
"I have lately seen the importance of attending much to mental and moral discipline-of acquiring those habits which will secure the greatest possible good. I see it is possible to multiply the means of intellectual improvement to an almost unlimited extent—that one may be continually opening new channels of mental wealth, so that in whatever circumstances we are placed something may be flowing into the mind. I must give up all those employments originating in mere custom and which yield little or no good, and open spheres of operation in which the mental energies shall have full room and adequate motives for exertion. I should like to work habitually under the influence of necessityto acquire those habits which will render it impossible for me not to be doing or acquiring some good. I would not wish this necessity to be a stern task-master rigidly exacting an unwilling obedience to his laws; but a sweet enchantress whose magic spell irresistibly draws me on the road to eminence.
"Among the employments which have been useless, and I believe decidedly injurious, are the following: 1. Cursory reading. I have read much that has not only done me no
good, but, by forming habits of indistinct conception, great injury. 2. Slovenly attention to the college-studies. Through this I have lost much real knowledge ; much mental power ; much reputation, and consequently, influence and usefulness, which I can never regain.
All this is very humiliating, but I richly deserve all I suffer from it. 3. The habit of preaching the same sermons so frequently. The evils arising from this practice are more than I can enumerate. It produces a limited range of theology ; habits of mental
; inactivity on the Sabbath, which are attended by bad moral consequences ; a feigned, unnatural, sleepy, mode of delivering sermons, very much adapted to make the hearers as dul land stupid as myself. It is often the means of causing me to waste Friday night and Saturday, which might be usefully employed in preparing discourses and thus turning to practical account the reading of the week. So long as I continue this practice, I am neglecting to cultivate the talent of public speaking, by which, if I am to be useful at all, a great deal of my usefulness is to be effected.”
6th. “Have been thinking much in my walk about my future life-if I am spared. The solemn question whether I am to be useful or useless, presses hard upon me.
Am I now acquiring the elements of usefulness or not? This is the grand, practical, all-absorbing inquiry. I feel that my time is short; that my part in the great drama of existence will soon be acted ; and I am anxious to act it well. I think I never felt with such an emphasis of conviction that great usefulness can only be secured by intimate communion with the Deity. He is the great source of moral power—the arm that is not nerved by Him must be powerless. May it be mine to act upon this conviction !
8th. “I must make more continuous efforts in study, and write complete sermons and essays. If the mind be accustomed only to small acts its action will be feeble. Great efforts are not only a sign of mental greatness but are ÆTAT. 21]
ONE OF THE SECRETS OF SUCCESS.
the means of producing it.”—Young man ! read these two last sentences again.
“I will set apart some portion of time every month to review my diary and consecrate myself anew to God. I think the last Saturday morning in every month would be the best time. It would be well to take maxims and resolutions on trial for a month, and then make a summary of those I determine to adopt."
“ Whenever I feel the least incitement to pray I will cherish it and engage
prayer. I will regard that day as not well spent in which I have not offered up many silent petitions to God. There are numerous occasions every day in which I may do this. In the morning before I leave my bed—when entering the library for morning prayeron opening a book—when about to mingle with my
fellowstudents, that my intercourse with them may be a mutual blessing.”
“More things are wrought by prayer
“Let me never forget that I am to be a preacher of the Gospel-not a poet, a philosopher, an orator, or a mere literary man. Let
book I read have some bearing upon my destination, and whenever I have found that I have got hold of a volume that will do me ultimate good in that character, I will lay it aside.”—This passage suggests one of the secrets by which success in any vocation can alone be secured.
Why do so many persons fail in realizing the noble purposes they projected in youth ? Because their energies are scattered over too wide a surface. They lack definiteness of object and concentration of effort. Life is too short to permit any man to be