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But who believes that the fountain will run low in consequence of occasional attention given to general literature, in the case of a conscientious man! Take the Christian pastor. Will any one pretend that he can not become well read in the literature of his profession without an entire and exclusive engagement with it; or that every hour, diverted from it, is sure to make a flaw in the completeness of his acquaintance with it? If any man thinks so, he reckons as essential what is unessential, and places an undue value upon things of little moment. It is by no means a man's duty to master every thing, in the shape of discussion and formal treatise, that has ever been written upon theological questions. If we thought so, we should be appalled by the mighty labor. It would weigh upon us like Etna upon Enceladus, and we could not begin to stir it. It is important, for example, to be acquainted with the historical development of religious doctrines. But why need we consider it indispensable, to read every controversy that has arisen in the course of that development; to look into every theological tilt that has ever happened and add our voices to those, which in his generation, proclaimed the triumph of the victor? We can fit ourselves to become able teachers of the truth without it, and pursue studies that shall do incomparably more for us in the way of enriching the mind and quickening thought. This is reason sufficient, for leaving the dry bones of the past undisturbed in their burial-places, and busying ourselves with truths that are always young and forever living.




The age in which we live is practical. The hearts of men are eagerly set upon results. The days of dreamy speculation, of poetic or religious contemplation, seem to have passed by. To act, rather than to think; to act with reference to an end soon and certainly attainable ; rather than to strive after abstract and shadowy ideas of truth or perfection, this is the rule of life everywhere. And, in immediate connection with this pervading sentiment, great and beneficent changes have been accomplished, and the world has grown, in a certain sense, wider and happier. More room is being made in it, all the time, for the poor and the oppressed, while the comforts and conveniences of life are placed within the reach of a far larger number of the earth's inhabitants than ever before. How many of the great forces of nature have lately been tamed and made serviceable! How many long understood, but long neglected principles of science have been made to receive some useful application ! How much of the long waste of material resources, that has been going on for ages, has at length ceased! It is as though humanity had shut up its books and were putting to the proof, in good earnest, the maxims of wisdom stored up in the progress of so many centuries; just as the individual, after his season of preparation in the school or the college, steps forth into active life, and brings his painfully acquired learning to the test of a daily experience in the practice of some useful profession.

It is not strange that, in such an age, there should be a tendency to undervalue books and study. And yet in this tendency there lies a great danger. It still continues to be true, in the words of the great founder of modern practical science that “knowledge is power.” And if there did not lie, back of the mighty energies put forth today, that vast sum of accumulated wisdom descending to us from the past, by which they are vitalized and controlled, all would be wasted and lost, for want of a certain direction. Rather they had never been put forth at all, for the inspiration which called them into exercise had been lacking. There is, indeed, little danger that the material sciences will suffer neglect from any mistake here, for men are comparatively wise where their material interests are concerned. It is in the department of our higher needs that we are most apt to be bewildered and run astray, because, in most men, their presence is less sensibly felt, and their demands are more easily granted. The interest in them, even in those who are very earnest, is less simple and entire, and the liability to deception is, therefore, much greater.

Benevolent enterprise has, in harmony with the general spirit of the age, sprung into a new and hitberto unparalleled activity. The command, "go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” has rung in the ears of believers with a new meaning. An earnest conscientiousness impels to the fulfilment of external duty in every sphere, whether extensive or narrow, while the second commandment of the two is apparently receiving an attention equalling, and in some instances supplanting, that bestowed upon the first. The religious life of the previous period was, to a great extent, introspective. That of the present looks forth into the world without, to see what may be done there, and to do it. The Christian mind of the past centuries thought deeply into the truth, divided, and distinguished, formed creeds and systems of doctrine. It was profoundly reflective and serious in its character. That of our own time is satisfied to behold truth rather in its moral than in its intellectual aspects, and is far more anxious to secure the spirit of Christian love, than the form of Christian doctrine. The danger accompanying the former tendency, "a danger not escaped,” was that of a cold and oppressive dogmatism ; but out of the latter also can come an evil fruit, a frivolous superficiality, first seen in the belief, and then acted forth in the life, an easy indifference to the truth for its own sake, which can never exist without peril to all pure and elevated principles of action. Carried to their worst extremes these two opposing tendencies leave us to choose between those two hollow unrealities, the inspiring sources of all hypocrisies, faith without works, and works without faith.

But, to look upon the more hopeful side of our present tendencies, so far as the earnestness which seems to characterize the time is sincere, and much of it is so, it is also thoughtful ; and where it is really thoughtful the necessity is felt of falling back ever and again upon the great original sources of wisdom, whatever they may be, and however they may be accessible. The experience of the individual, or even of the generation, is seen to be insufficient for the best guidance, under all exigencies. The wisdom that is laid up of old time, in treasure houses, and handed down to us as a vast. inheritance from the ages gone by, this will not be neglected nor forgotten, even in this era of active work : rather it will be resorted to with eagerness. The past will be made to throw its full light upon the present, and the best workers of the present will know that the activity of the hands and of the heart is not enough, but that the higher intellectual and spiritual faculties must also be put into exercise, that what is done may be so done as to secure the highest and most lasting results. Great has been the rivalry between the thinker and the man of action, but in truth, each needs the other. Indeed the best and most efficient worker is he who unites in himself the characteristics of both. Knowledge directs experiment, and experiment vitalizes and increases knowledge. The man, whose mind is thoroughly and constantly replenished by study and thought, has within himself the answers to a thousand questions that arise in the progress of every human pursuit, and he knows where to turn for as many more, in time of need.

Against mere learning, indeed, it is not strange that a prejudice should have arisen, so much of human selfishness has operated in its acquisition hitherto; so many have been willing to lay it up, as misers do their wealth, counting over their hoarded stores with secret exultation, now and then, but never bringing forth any of it in the affectionate and helpful spirit that might have made it a blessing to their race. The stores of the miser remain when his bones are mouldering in the dust, and his heirs are the richer, if not the happier, for their possession, but these too often decay with their owners, and no heirs by cunning search or happy discovery, can avail themselves of the useless treasure. The wretched spirit of pedantry, again, has misused learning for its vain and unadmired displays, procuring to itself sometimes the wondering gaze of ignorance, but from the more intelligent portion of mankind only a well merited contempt. The ostentatious parade of wealth is always an annoyance and an insult, but the man who unfolds his mental acquisitions for the mere sake of pride and vain glory, seldom secures even the poor flattery of envy, and the odium which rightly belongs only to his mode of exhibiting his possessions is apt, most unjustly, to attach itself to those possessions themselves.

But there are examples of a different kind, amply sufficient to show how much a man, by the careful culture of his mental powers, by making his own, so far as possible, the best thought and experience of the race, especially as it may serve to illumine that sphere of action which he has chosen as the scene of his own usefulness, may multiply his power to aid and benefit others.

A book is a dead and inert thing to look at, and dead enough it is, as it stands, covered with cobwebs and dust, on the shelves of a library. And yet, out of some of these musty leaves what a mighty energy has at times gone forth. Between them was imprisoned a living spark, which fell at last into some mind all prepared to be kindled by it, and straightway there arose a flame that illumed the whole horizon, and half the world. There are some books whose power over men seems never likely to fail. They are as fresh now, as true to nature, and to humanity, as they appeared on the day when they were written, and the great masters and leaders of the race will always resort to them for their best and most effective culture.

Such a book, but far more wonderful, than any of the rest, is the best earthly possession of the Christian church, the charter and guaranty of her rights, her liberties, her hopes, the strongest weapon of her defence, the surest instrument of her future victory.

That a great power is contained within the pages of the Bible may be inferred from its records in the past. The nucleus from which its course began is found away back in the earliest ages of the world. No other literature compares with it in well ascertained antiquity of origin, and yet, at this present day, no other book, or collection of books, is so fresh to the mind of the age, so widely read, so deeply pondered, so universally accepted and loved. Committed for more than a thousand years to the safe keeping of a race, the narrowest and most exclusive of mankind, a race that grew into existence as a nation under the oppressive and degrading yoke of slavery, and which was always obscurely and imperfectly known beyond the borders of its own territory; consisting, too, in great part of the historic and biographic records of such a nation as this, it has come to be, somehow, the book of the world; for the vast

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