« PředchozíPokračovat »
of real life-attempting the greatest ends without adequate means. I hope, however, these strivings of desire, these pantings of the soul will lead to something good.
"I have been thinking a good deal about our plans. They appear admirably adapted to promote concentration of the mental powers. In addition to all the ordinary
means they bring in that immense auxiliary, the social feeling. A principle which operates so powerfully both in civil and religious society, cannot be unefficacious in our case. On the contrary, the more spirits advance in intellectual improvement the more influence will they exercise over each other. I therefore look forward with sanguine expectations to our future intercourse.
"There are three things which I think we should particularly study in conjunction: a passage in the Hebrew Bible or Greek Testament a subject in theology-and a useful memoir. I would lay down no rigid plan, for I am tired of plan-making; but I think these three departments are so important that we should carry them on simultaneously. In all our studies we should connect variety of means with uniformity of design and end.
"In reading the Scriptures, I have thought we had better spend a week in the Bible and Testament alternately. I should also wish us to have two or three subjects in theology, and to change them every week. This plan, while it would afford full scope for our efforts, would continually excite new interest. The grand desideratum is to place ourselves in such circumstances as shall render it impossible not to take a deep interest in, and fully investigate, the objects of our attention. I have been thinking of Edwards' Memoir. I should wish us to get our minds thoroughly imbued with the spirit of that great man."
The memoir of Jonathan Edwards was read, and amongst other remarks suggested by it, I find the following inquiry:"What are the peculiar circumstances in the present age,
ETAT. 211 THE PHILOSOPHY OF PREACHING.
in my station, which may be seized upon and turned to the best account? It will not do to follow in the track of Edwards. His principles may be adopted, his means of moral and intellectual aggression may be used, but a new course must be struck out a new field selected. Suppose I select this :-The philosophy of preaching-the best mode of applying truth to the human mind to strip it of that which has weakened its influence-to give it the most concentration and energy-to ascertain what parts of the human mind are most vulnerable to the sword of the Spirit -or how the different ingredients of the moral medicine must be mingled in order to produce the greatest possible effect. This is a great field, affording at once scope and stimulus. The apparatus must be extensive. It will require, 1. A deep acquaintance with the Bible; a practical knowledge. 2. An intimate knowledge of the human heart. 3. A careful observation of all the great moral phenomena the conduct of mankind has exhibited and is now exhibiting; a knowledge not to be acquired in the study only, but by mingling in the stirring scenes of life. Every fact must be set down in the note book of the mind, and be made to tell in the great plan. 4. A thorough acquaintance with the laws of mind, so far as they are known. 5. The study of the best divines-those whose thought is closest, whose ideas are the most elevated, who view things on the largest scale, such as Howe and Edwards; whose reasoning is the most impassioned-Demosthenian, as Baxter. 6. An acquaintance with the best literature-that language which is the best vehicle of solemn and impassioned thoughts, which tells upon the general mind, which hides itself behind the idea, so as to make it completely fill the spectator's sphere of vision; language which can shift its mode of aggression, and both get at the heart through the understanding, and at the understanding through the heart. This plan has long been in 'my mind's eye;'
it is here but faintly defined, but will be useful.”—How many candidates for the Christian Ministry have such a plan in their mind's eye at twenty-one?
15th. "I have observed to-day that one may be too prodigal in communicating ideas. An increase of quantity must always produce a corresponding decrease in value. few ideas uttered with proper emphasis and tones, leaving sufficient time for the hearer to receive them, will often be more effective than a great profusion.”
Though the annexed may probably provoke a smile from some reader, I deem it worth insertion as a revelation of character. 16th. “I have not been careful enough in eating and drinking; last night I took too much supper. I believe these habits increase, so that if I do not check them their power will become tremendous. During the next week then I will endeavour to do better. Until next Saturday I will adhere to the following resolutions: 1. Eat very slowly. 2. Never take more than two cups at breakfast and tea, nor more than one piece of pudding at dinner. 3. Take a moderate piece of bread and half a mug of milk for supper-and never go a second time. 4. If I violate any of these regulations, I will forfeit half a crown to the London Missionary Society."
22nd. "I have this morning had the painful consciousness of indistinctness of mental vision arising from doing things in a hurried manner and having too many objects before the mind at once. Let me observe these two rules: 1. Do one thing at once. 2. Do nothing in a hurry."
On the 25th he writes: "I have tried the plan of the 16th, and have come to this conclusion:-To eat slowly; and in order to do this, engage in conversation as much as possible. 2. Never to take food when I cannot ask the blessing of God upon it."
Here we have noble aspirations, blended with such con
ASPIRATIONS AND CONFESSIONS.
fessions as only deep searchings of heart could prompt. “In reading over my diary this morning I have had some humbling experiences. O that I could make usefulness the supreme object of my aim! How degrading—how dishonourable to be useless! With what mighty wrestlings of spirit some men have prepared themselves for their work, such as Edwards! what watching, what activity, what study, what prayer! I see nothing of this in myself. I seem to be actuated by a mean, low, paltry, ambition; a desire only to aggrandize myself. Sometimes it appears to me that if I can only compass my own ends-exalt myself a little above my fellow-men—the glory of God and the welfare of immortal souls may go. O God, I confess this grievous sin to Thee! In boundless mercy forgive it, and give me a new heart."
26th. "I have thought of a plan by which immense improvement may be realized. It is to write down in my Diary every morning some desirable object to be aimed at during the day—some difficulty to be mastered—some sin to be avoided—some blessing to be prayed for. By confining my attention to one object I shall derive the advantage of concentration. To-day I have resolved to consider the condition of the heathen-to think about them-to read about them-to pray for them.”
Nov. 11th. “It is very probable that if we could unravel the complicated thread of God's providential dealings with us, we should meet with a harmonious classification—that those whose moral characters and circumstances were similar are placed under a similar discipline."-In the last member of this sentence Mr. Hessel betrays a confusion of thought unusual with him. Are not "circumstances" discipline? May not the chief disciplinary means employed for our improvement justly come under that denomination ? And though God's providential dealings very probably admit of a harmonious classification, it by no means follows that
persons of similar temperament are placed under similar discipline. The love of variety so palpably exhibited in the works and ways of God warrants the belief that characters compounded of precisely similar elements are subjected to varied disciplinary processes.
Here are a few aphorisms on reading well worthy of perusal.
"Unless a book calls into vigorous exercise the faculties to which it is particularly addressed, I do not think it worth reading. A book worth reading ought to have some influence upon the intellect and character. If profit is derived from it, memory will often recur to it; it will have an undisputed place in the mind. There will be a peculiar tone of feeling toward it, like the memory of ancient loves."
"An incessant poring over books is injurious. If the mind be in a state in which neither reason, nor imagination, nor the feelings, can be brought into play, better throw aside a book and commence some other employment. Dull reading is worse than nothing. The practice of half understanding or half feeling the sentiments of an author, is pernicious."
"However short the time for study, the mind must be kept in a state of vigorous activity. One hour of this kind of study is worth five of mere reading. Nay, I would say more; the five may be absolutely injurious; the one must be beneficial."
"One great source of intellectual excellence is the faculty of intense attention-of holding the object of mental vision so distinctly and prolongedly before the mind that it may not only obtain a clear view-but experience the requisite