Page images
PDF
EPUB

read almost constantly twelve or fourteen hours a day for five-andtwenty or thirty years, and had heaped together as much learning as could be crowded into a head. In the course of my acquaintance with him, I consulted him once or twice, not oftener; for I found this mass of learning of as little use to me as to the owner. The man was communicative enough; but nothing was distinct in his mind. How could it be otherwise? he had never spared time to think; all was employed in reading. His reason had not the merit of common mechanism. When you press a watch, or pull a clock, they answer your question with precision; for they repeat exactly the hour of the day, and tell you neither more nor less than you desire to know. But when you asked this man a question, he overwhelmed you by pouring forth all that the several terms or words of your question recalled to his memory; and if he omitted any thing, it was that very thing to which the sense of the whole question should have led him or confined him. To ask him a question was to wind up a spring in his memory, that rattled on with vast rapidity and confused noise, till the force of it was spent; and you went away with all the noise in your ears, stunned and uninformed.

He who reads with discernment and choice, will acquire less learning, but more knowledge ; and as this knowledge is collected with design, and cultivated with art and method, it will be at all times of immediate and ready use to himself and others.

Thus useful arms in magazines we place,
All ranged in order, and disposed with grace;
Nor thus alone the curious eye to please,
But to be found, when need requires, with ease.

You remember the verses, my lord, in our friend's Essay on Criticism, which was the work of his childhood almost; but is such a monument of good sense and poetry, as no other, that I know, has raised in his riper years.

He who reads without this discernment and choice, and resolves to read all, will not have time, no, nor capacity either, to do anything else. He will not be able to think, without which it is impertinent to read; nor to act, without which it is impertinent to think. He will assemble materials with much pains, and purchase them at much expense, and have neither leisure nor skill to frame them into proper scantlings, or to prepare them for use. To what purpose should he husband his time, or learn architecture? he has no design to build. But then to what purpose all these quarries of stone, all these mountains of sand and lime, all these forests of oak and deal?

THE USE OF HISTORY'.

To teach and to inculcate the general principles of virtue, and the general rules of wisdom and good policy which result from such details of actions and characters, comes, for the most part, and always should come, expressly and directly into the design of those who are capable of giving such details: and, therefore, whilst they narrate as historians, they hint often as philosophers; they put into our hands, as it were, on every proper occasion, the end of a clue, that serves to remind us of searching, and to guide us in the search of that truth which the example before us either establishes or illustrates. If a writer neglects this part, we are able, however, to supply his neglect by our own attention and industry: and when he gives us a good history of Peruvians or Mexicans, of Chinese or Tartars, of Muscovites or Negroes, we may blame him, but we must blame ourselves much more, if we do not make it a good lesson of philosophy. This being the general use of history, it is not to be neglected. Every one may make it who is able to read, and to reflect on what he reads; and every one who makes it will find, in his degree, the benefit that arises from an early acquaintance contracted in this manner with mankind. We are not only passengers or sojourners in this world, but we are absolute strangers at the first steps we make in it. Our guides are often ignorant, often unfaithful. By this map of the country, which history spreads before us, we may learn, if we please, to guide ourselves. In our journey through it, we are beset on every side. We are besieged sometimes, even in our strongest holds. Terrors and temptations, conducted by the passions of other men, assault us; and our own passions, that correspond with these, betray us. History is a collection of the journals of those who have travelled through the same country, and been exposed to the same accidents: and their good and their ill success are equally instructive. In this pursuit of knowledge an immense field is opened to us: general histories, sacred and profane; the histories of particular countries, particular events, particular orders, particular men; memorials, anecdotes, travels. But we must not ramble in this field without discernment or choice, nor even with these must we ramble too long.

THE WORLD OUR COUNTRY.1

Whatever is best is safest; lies out of the reach of human power; can neither be given nor taken away. Such is this great

l What abeaDtiful Idea, "the world our country—all mankind our countrymen." When this sentiment shall be practically realized, (and the day seems to be (aut drawing near when It will be,) all restrictions npon trade will be everywhere removed; Intercourse between nations will be as free 2 I 42*

and beautiful work of nature, the world. Such is the mind of man, which contemplates and admires the world, whereof it makes the noblest part. These are insepambly ours, and as long as we remain in one, we shall enjoy the other. Let us march, therefore, intrepidly wherever we are led by the course of human accidents. Wherever they lead us, on what coast soever we are thrown by them, we shall not fmd ourselves absolutely strangers. We shall meet with men and women, creatures of the same figure, endowed with the same faculties, and born under the same laws of nature.

We shall see the same virtues and vices, flowing from the same principles, but varied in a thousand different and contmry modes, according to that infinite variety of laws and customs which is established for the same universal end, the preservation of society. We shall feel the same revolution of seasons, and the same sun and moon will guide the course of our year. The same azure vault, bespangled with stars, will be everywhere spread over our heads. There is no part of the world from whence we may not admire those planets which roll, like ours, in different orbits, round the same centml sun; from whence we may not discover an object still more stupendous, that army of fixed stars hung up in the immense space of the universe; innumemble suns, whose beams enlighten and cherish the unknown worlds which roll around them: and whilst I am ravished by such contemplations as these, whilst my soul is thus raised up to heaven, it imports nie little what ground I tread upon.

FORTUNE NOT TO BE TRUSTED.

The sudden invasion of an enemy overthrows such as are not on their guard ; but they who foresee the war, and prepare themselves for it before it breaks out, stand without difficulty the first and the fiercest onset. I learned this important lesson long ago, and never trusted to fortune, even while she seemed to be at peace with me. The riches, the honors, the reputation, and all the advantages which her treacherous indulgence poured upon me, I placed so, that she might snatch them away without giving me any disturbance. I kept a great interval between me and them. She took them, but she could not tear them from me. No man suffers by bad fortune but he who has been deceived by good. If we grow fond of her gifts, fancy that they belong to us^ and are

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

perpetually to remain with us; if we lean upon them, and expect to be considered for them, we shall sink into all the bitterness of grief, as soon as these false and transitory benefits pass away; as soon as our vain and childish minds, unfmught with solid pleasures, become destitute even of those which are imaginary. But, if we do not suffer ourselves to be transported with prosperity, neither shall we be reduced by adversity. Our souls will be proof against the dangers of both these states: and having explored our strength, we shall be sure of it; for in the midst of felicity we shall have tried how we can bear misfortune.

PHILIP DODDRIDGE. 1702—1751.

Fsw men have exerted a more happy, holy, and wide-spread influence upon the world, than the "dissenting" minister, Philip Doddridge. He was born in London, in 1702, and at an early age he became the pupil of Mr. John Jennings, who kept an academy at Kibwortti, in Leicestershire, and in 1722 he entered upon the ministry at the same place. On the death of Mr. Jennings he sncceeded to his place, but in 1720, being invited by the "dissenting" congregation of that place to become their pastor, he removed there. Here for nearly twenty-two years he labored with great zeal and most exemplary piety, as pastor of the church, and as the principal of the academy, with the highest credit to himself, and benefit to those under his care. But his health declining in consequence of his great lalwrs, he took a voyage to Lishon, in the hope of deriving lxmefit from the relaxation and change of air and climate. But all in vain; and he died at Lishon thirteen days after his arrival, October 26, 1751.

Of the writings of Dr. Doddridge, too mnch, we think, can hardly be said in pmise. His "Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul,'' forms a body of pmctical divinity and Christian experience that has never been surpassed by any work of the same nature. Like the works of Baxter, Bunyun, and Watts, it is a classic of the religious world.1 His "Sermons on the Edncation of Children," "Sermons to Young People," "Ten Sermons on the Power and Gmce of Christ," "A Course of Lecorres on the Principal Subjer ts in Pneumatology, Ethics, and Divinity/'2 are held in the highest estimation by all mnks of Christians. Another work, still popular, is "Some Remarkable Passages in the Life of Colonel James Gardiner, who was slain by the Rebels at the Battle of Preston Pans, September 21, 174a. '3 But his most elabomte work, the result of many years' study, was u The Family Expositor, containing a Version ami Paraphrase of the New Testament, with Critical Notes, and a Practical Improvement of Each Section.'' This admirable compendium of Scriptural knowledge has, from its solid learning, critical acutencss, and the persuasive earnestness of its practical reflections, ever been held in the highest estimation by tho Christian world,1 and has been translated into several languages. To Doddridge, also, are we indebted for some of our best sacred lyrics, and for that epigram which Dr. Johnson calls "one of the finest in the English language.'"2 His letters, also, are admirable specimens of epistolary writiug, and for their easy and natural style are not unlike those of Cowper.

COUNTRY LIFE LETTER TO A FEMALE FRIEND.

You know I love a country life, and here we have it in perfection. I am roused in the morning with the chirping of sparrows, the cooing of pigeons, the lowing of kine, the hleating of sheep, and, to complete the concert, the grunting of swine and neighing of horses. We have a mighty pleasant garden and orchard, and a fine arbor under some tall shady limes, that form a kind of lofty dome, of which, as a native of the great city, you may perhaps catch a glimmering idea, if I name the cupola of St. Paul's. And then, on the other side of the house, there is a large space which we call a wilderness, and which, I fancy, would please you extremely. The ground is a dainty green sward; a brook runs sparkling through the middle, and there are two large fish-ponds at one end; both the ponds and the brook are surrounded with willows; and there are several shady walks under the trees, besides little knots of young willows interspersed at convenient distances. This is the nursery of our lambs and calves, with whom I have the honor to be intimately acquainted. Here I generally spend the evening, and pay my respects to the setting sun, when the variety and the beauty of the prospect inspire a pleasure that I know not how to express. I am sometimes so transported with

by what he considered a supernatural Interference, namely, a visible representation of Christ upon the cross, suspended in the air, amidst an unusual blaze of light, and accompanied by a declaration of the words, " Oh, sinner I did I suffer this for thee, ami are these the returns r' From the period of this vision till his death, twenty-six ycarB afterward, Colonel Onrdiner maintained the life of a sincere Christian, so far as the mlliLary profession is compatible therewith. But the time 1* to come when the Ci ri-tian will say what was said by Uiose In the first and second centuries when called to < nliat in the Roman armies, "I ani a Christian, and therefore cannot fight." The time ts to come when tlf military profession will be deemed not only disreputable but criminal: for what can be more diametrically opposite than the spirit of the gospel and the spirit of war]

1 "la reading tike New Testament," says the Bishop of Durham, "I recommend Doddridge's Family Expositor, as an impartial interpreter and faithful monitor. I know of no expositor wbo unites so many advantages as Doddridge."

2 Live while you live, the qarMfv would say,

Anil seize the pleasures of the present day.

Live while you live, the sacred pnncktr cries.

And give to God each moment as it flies.

Lord, In my views let both united be,

I live in pleasure when I live to Thee.

« PreviousContinue »