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1846.] Tendency of the Bible to purify the Intellect. is called a fraudulent bankruptcy may be venial. The guilt was in the assumption of obligations which there was no reasonable prospect of discharging, or rather it was in the state of mind which first began to elevate riches into a god. The degenerating process began in the idolatry of gold, in the first turning of the feeblest current of the affections in the wrong direction. Men charge the deviation of the youth from the paths of virtue to some overmastering temptation, to some public and astounding offence. But the divine precept laid its finger on the desire, years before, to read a certain book, against which, at the time, the conscience remonstrated. Thus the word of God becomes the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. No latent desire can evade its searching glance; no recess of the soul is so barred as to exclude it.
The heart educated under such discipline, the character formed under such influences, will have a delicate moral perception, a nice apprehension of moral distinctions, a kind of anticipatory dread of defilement, which no human systems of morals can produce. These, indeed, proceed on the ground that sin consists in the corrupt motive, or wrong intention. But they do not lay that stress which the Bible does, on the slight, inceptive movement, on the germinating desire. They often weaken their own teachings by their ingenious explanations and subtle casuistry.
IV. The observance of the precepts of the Bible secures a general purity in the intellectual faculties.
In the education of the young, sufficient attention has not been paid to what may be termed the purity of the mental powers. They may have an innocence and transparency as truly as the affections of the heart; or, they may be as real and, sometimes, as great an impediment to the attainment of holiness as a depraved will. Moral obliquity cannot, of course, be strictly affirmed of an intellectual power, yet the latter may be so conversant with degrading objects, as to appear to be itself hopelessly corrupt. It has so long lived in a pestilential atmosphere, that it has apparently changed its nature. It has borrowed an infection to which it should seem to have no affinity. How often is the memory tenacious of objects which one would thankfully forget! How often may her records become a swift witness against one in the adjudications of the great day! In how many cases, also, is the power of association the handmaid of evil! If in youthful days it gathered images which it ought not, if it revelled amid scenes where a fatal malaria lurked, if its wonderful capabilities were employed
on objects which, while they corrupted the heart, infected the mind also, a purification seems to be nearly hopeless. To banish these degrading associations, is sometimes far more difficult than to exorcise a moral faculty of its impure possessions. The love of holiness may be supreme in the heart, while the mind may be chained, like a galley slave, to early acquired and invincibly bad habits. Of the intellect it may not unfrequently be said, as really as of the desires or the will, can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots ?
Now the Scriptures furnish a two-fold guard against this evil. They, themselves, supply pure and invigorating excitement for the intellect; they introduce it to objects and associations on which it may healthfully and forever meditate, while they prohibit it from stepping on the enchanted ground; they mark off, with ineffaceable lines, the territory on which it may not enter; they anathematise the first prompting of a desire to resort to places where the mind becomes like a cage of unclean birds; they would bind in iron clasps, or rather burn, every book which seduces the understanding, while it inflames the appetites and petrifies the feelings. Be ye holy, is their requisition, both in the movements of your
intellect, and the impulses of your heart.
V. Under the influence of the Scriptures, a manly character will be formed. Some of the principal elements of such a character are self-knowledge, reverence and benevolent feeling.
Without self-knowledge we may entertain an opinion of ourselves below what the truth warrants. In an important sense there is a dignity in human nature. The language which has been used on this subject, is not altogether that of cant or of false assumption. No one can carefully study his nature, compare his various susceptibilities, or obtain any glimpses of the yet unknown energies which are wrapped up within him ;-no one can look at those heights of knowledge and goodness, which a few men have reached ;-no one can think, for a moment, what it is to be formed in the image of God, without a profound conviction of man's intellectual and moral dignity. The misfortune of multitudes is, that they undervalue themselves and possess no adequate apprehension of the immense capabilities of even a finite mind. They have little sympathy with that apostle who reached forth to the things which are before. They practically reject the doctrine of human perfectibility in any sense. There are many who need no lectures on the imbecility of human reason. They lose their salvation, possibly, by a too mean opinion of themselves.
This accurate self-knowledge furnishes a firm basis for a manly character. Building on this foundation, one will be equally removed from a cringing servility, and from airs of self-importance, from the seductions of flattery, and from the despondent feelings which spring from a false shaine.
Another important element is reverence towards God, and towards man also, so far as he is like his Maker, or real esteem for whatever is deserving of it, whether found in an individual now living, or on the page of history, in institutions and usages past or present, in abstract truth, or, as it has been exemplified in great and beneficent actions.
Recklessness, impatience in respect to whatever is fixed and ancient, is diametrically opposed to a truly manly character. This is founded in part on a discriminating knowledge of men and things. But a contempt for authority and for whatever is timewom and venerable makes no such distinctions. It looks on all men in the light of its own mediocrity. He who has no reverence for others, cannot entertain much for himself.
A third element for a manly character is true benevolence, a disinterested regard for the rights and happiness of others. A predominating selfishness, be it gross or refined, is the parent of an ignoble character. Do good to others with hearty affection, if thou wishest to build a reputation on a solid basis. If thou wouldst possess the happiness that flows from true dignity,
" Pour blessings round thee like a shower of gold."
It is when man is moving about the little circle of his own pleasures, that he gains the contempt of others, if not of himself.
Real gentility, true courteousness, is the product of a friendly heart. All else, which men name politeness, is counterfeit. If amenity of manners does not spring from good will, it is nothing but hypocrisy, for while the professions of kindness are on the lips and in the gestures, the motive is unadulterated selfishness. A character formed under such influences cannot have one ennobling trait.
Now the adoption of the word of God as the rule of life implies and presupposes self-knowledge, true reverence and disinterest. ed affection. It bids us search our hearts, and judge, as the truth demands. It nowhere disparages our reason, nor speaks slightingly of any faculty, except so far as we have perverted it by sin. It calls upon us to embrace its promises, and thereby act a manly part. God himself assumes the attitude of reasoning with us. In disobeying him, we are charged with unmanliness, with brutalizing our rational and moral nature.
At the same time, the biblical instructions are fitted to place our sins and weaknesses in the most convincing light, to reveal our guilt in contrast with God's spotless purity. It eradicates our pride by offering a gratuitous salvation. The reception of its gracious provisions cannot coëxist with self-ignorance, or an overWeening conceit.
The Bible, also, is filled with objects which excite the deepest reverence. Its spirit is that of the profoundest awe. It utterly discountenances all unseemly familiarities with sacred things. On the other hand, it does not repress curiosity. It strikes the balance accurately between a blind admiration for the past, and an inconsiderate desire for change, between an indiscriminate veneration, and a passionate love of what is new. If the character be moulded in accordance with such influences, it will possess that accurate proportion, that appropriate adjustment, without which true manliness cannot exist.
We need hardly refer to the spirit which the Bible cherishes and enjoins—to the perfect disinterestedness which it breathes and inculcates on every page.
The counteraction of selfishness, the implantation of liberal principles, is its unceasing aim. Poetry and history, doctrine, admonition and example, sealed and ratified in blood, -all conspire to the same end, promulgate the same lesson. There is nothing there narrow, ambiguous, mean, serpentine, unless brought out in order to put the brand of
1846.] The Ideal of all Excellence in the Bible.
35 reprobation upon it. The water of the river of life has not a more crystalline clearness.
Were we required to designate the principles of true politeness, we would not go to the pages of Chesterfield, nor to the usages of aristocratic society, nor to the ceremonies of royal courts. We would rather point to such men as Abraham and Paul, as specimens of true nobility. How nice a sense of honor had the father of the faithful! What a princely spirit shone out in his life! What a total forgetfulness of himself did the great apostle exhibit! His burning zeal in the cause of his Master, the stupendous labors which he performed, the depth of his insight into the scheme of redemption, are not the most interesting things about him. We wonder at his Christian chivalry, at his knightly bearing, at his delicate sense of what was due to himself and to others, at his Christ-like charity, over-leaping everything which commonly holds men in bondage. His courteousness was equal to his moral courage, his Christian generosity was more remarkable than his martyrdom.
VI The Bible supplies a perfect example for the formation of character. The benefits of having before the mind some lofty ideal, when attempting to accomplish a great object, are well known. The masters in the arts, men of the highest order of genius, have well understood the advantages of this imagined perfect form, floating before the imagination. It has lived in their dreams by night, and excited them to superhuman efforts by day. They had no hope of ever embodying it in actual form. Its pictured brightness no color could copy, yet not the less did the artist toil on, painting, as he said, for eternity.
So likewise when excellence of any kind has been exhibited in actual life. A few great men have been the teachers of the world. Their example shines with a never-setting radiance. Through the mists of ages, their defects are not visible, while their great and beneficent deeds have a more potent spell as time passes on.
Washington's usefulness is not seen in the country which, under God, he saved; it is in his undying exam. ple. David Brainerd's field of labor was not the Delaware Indians; it was the plains of India, and the gardens of Persia where his great copyist, Henry Martyn, lived and labored. Howard's theatre was not the prisons of Europe ; it is in the hearts of philanthropists that his memory is now influential in the four quarters of the world. The good that men do lives after them. The limit of human life is not forty or sixty years,—ages are its own. Not