« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Wesley. And the same attention upon our part will not fait, under any ordinary circumstances, to secure to us at least respectable qualifications for the work. But, alas ! how few of us, my brethren, strictly adhere to them? In consequence of this irregularity, an attention to our official duties consumes all our time, and we have none left for study.
It is indeed cause of great joy and gratitude to the great Head of the Church, that he has thrust the Methodist preachers into so many open doors, and has rendered them the instruments of so much good. But there are new doors daily opening, that we shall not be able to enter, but which will be entered by others, unless the literary character of our ministry generally assume more elevated ground. In order to this a spirit of emulation and enterprise, upon the subject of literature, must be diffused through the whole mass! (And that this will soon be the case, if I am not mistaken, there is daily and increasing evidence.) And if it should not be judged best speedily to enter upon some new and well-concerted project for the more rapid and thorough training of our young preachers, we must make the very best use of the means we have already in operation, and the plans we have already on foot must be followed up with system
Unless this is the case we cannot rationally indulge the hope that we shall be able to meet the expectations of the American public, or fill the sphere of action to which we are evidently called by the providence of God.
IV. The fourth cause of the evil complained of which I shall notice, is the want of method in reading and study. Some pursue no method at all. They read just as the fit takes them,-and any book that may chance to fall in their way. They read no book regularly, but a little in this and a little in that, and finally know little or nothing about any. Ask such a man whether he has read the most common work, and he will probably answer, “I have read a part of it.” But if such readers get through a work, it is in so desultory a manner that they can give little account of what it contains. A book that is worth any more attention than barely to look over the table of contents, in most cases, should be thoroughly read. And very few books which we do not intend to study, as well as read entirely through, should occupy our attention for an hour after gaining a general idea of their contents. To this observation, however, I should of course except all works of reference. But he that would read to purpose must not only read diligently, but he must read methodically. He must always have a book on hand which he is reading and studying by course.
Others there are who read too much, and reflect too little upon what they read. They throw more materials upon the mind than it can retain or digest; and so great part of their labor goes for nothing. And there are still others who read too slow. They are so long going through a book, and their reading seasons are so "few and far between,” that the chain of thought is broken, and the author is not comprehended. The subject studied exists in the minds of such readers in disjointed parts and broken fragments, and adds little or nothing to their stock of knowledge.
Light and unprofitable reading is too frequently indulged in. Some there are who read little or nothing excepting periodicals ;-news
papers, magazines, &c. Though this species of reading has its use, yet it should not be made a leading object, much less should it constitute the whole range of a minister's literary resources.
V. The fifth cause of the evil under consideration, at which I would just hint, is a want of taste for reading and study. It is a happy circumstance that this evil is every day subsiding. Still, however, we have reason to fear that it does exist, even now, in too many instances. The evidence of the fact, and the mischief it occasions, I cannot now enlarge upon. I would, however, just say that though I am far from having a disposition to make unkind reflections upon any class of ministers, yet I cannot but feel that the advice of Mr. Wesley, and of our excellent Discipline to such as have“ no taste for reading,” is most just and appropriate : “Contract a taste for it by use, or return to your former employment." For I can but think that the man who engages in the ministry without a taste for books, and is not able to contract such a taste by use, has sadly mistaken his appropriate calling; and that he cannot remain in it without great hazard to the Church.
VI. The sixth and last source of the difficulty complained of, is the want of books upon sacred criticism. Though this reason may now scarcely be said to exist, yet we still feel the chilling effects of the iron age which is but just passed. Your speaker, though but of yesterday, can recollect reading every word of Wood's Dictionary of the Bible for the sake of the scraps of Biblical criticism which are found scattered through the work; and also studying thoroughly, and by course, Wesley's Notes upon the New Testament, as furnishing the best exposition of the sacred text within his reach. But thanks to Providence, and, under Providence, to the editors and publishers of our books, that the more recent race of our preachers are not so straitened. We now have learned and critical commentaries upon the whole Bible, with many other critical works, upon detached parts of the Scriptures, having for their object the illustration of their language, and a faithful exhibition of their doctrines. And we confidently hope that the time is not far distant when there will be no lack of books in any department of sacred literature, in the catalogue issued from our own press. And if I may be permitted, I would here suggest an opinion that a periodical of a highly literary and critical character, issued from our press, appears to be a desideratum. It is a mortifying fact that we are doing but little upon the subject of Biblical criticism. And, indeed, we scarcely know what is doing in this and other countries upon this subject, only as we go abroad for information. If we had a periodical in which should be published translations of select articles from the German critics, critical notices of new foreign publications, with reviews of the new works which are published at home and abroad, it would, at least in the judgment of your humble speaker, make a work which would be a vast means of improvement to the Methodist ministry in Biblical learning. And I should be sorry to doubt whether such a work would be sustained. If none but the travelling and local preachers, or all the travelling and half the local preachers were to take each a copy, it ought to pay the expenses of editing and publishing. Look at what our Presbyterian brethren are doing in this way? Their quarterlies are sent out from all the great cities, and many of the large towns in the union. They are ably conducted and well sustained. The work I would have, need not interfere in the least with the Magazine.* That should be a popular work, this should be highly literary and critical; and should call out powerful pens which are now slumbering, and no doubt will continue to slumber until some such vehicle of communication is introduced. But I must now hasten to a conclusion, with a few words to the members of this association.
Brethren of the society, this is the first anniversary of this association. Its formation affords cheering evidence that the spirit of enterprise is at work among us; that there is a disposition not only to use the ordinary means of improvement, but to put forth new and extraordinary efforts to raise the tone of literature in our conference. The measure was entered upon as an experiment; not knowing what might be its result; yet hoping that it would at least furnish new stimulants to mental efforts, and no inconsiderable aid to such as are pursuing a regular course of advanced studies. Hence its formation met with general approbation, and was, indeed, hailed by many with a high degree of joy. What may yet be the success of the enterprise is, perhaps, problematical. But we can but hope that this association is destined either to run a long and brilliant course, or to be merged in something still better calculated to effect the high object of its organization.
But that it may succeed to our wishes, two things are indispensable. Energy and concert. Without the former, it will die a lingering death: and without the latter, it will expire by the violence of its professed friends. It is for us to say what shall become, and what influence it shall exert upon the subject of mental improvement within our bounds. Though it proffers its benefits to all classes of the preachers, yet it is hoped that it will be found especially beneficial to the younger members of the conference. To them it will serve as a guide in their course, and its annual examinations will operate as a spur to diligence. Indeed we hope it may prove a nucleus around which shall be encircled all the mental and moral power of the conference, and that every member will feel himself sacredly bound to further its great objects by every exertion in his power. This it is particularly desirable should be the case with
* These are very important suggestions. But we would submit whether the Magazine and Quarterly itself might not be improved into such a work? With a view to its enlargement and literary improvement, the present editor, soon after he came into office, submitted a paper to one of our oldest and most respectable annual conferences, recommending such improvements as should comprehend a greater variety of critical and literary pieces; but so little attention was paid to these suggestions, that the paper was merely read, and laid on the table, and never taken up for consideration. The editor has also, on a variety of occasions, urged this subject upon his brethren without receiving scarcely a cordial respond by way of encouragement; but he still hopes that measures will be adopted both for the enlargement of this work, and for the improvement of its character, literary and scientific, hy enlisting the talents and securing the labors of able and industrious correspondents. A reference to its pages, even in its present small size, will show that there is room enough for many more original compositions than are admitted. And surely it cannot be expected that an editor, from his own resources merely, can furnish original matter to fill and enrich the pages of such a work. While, therefore, we thank our brother for his suggestions, we invite a continuance of his favors, as well as the pens of others to render the pages of this periodical the more valuable.-Editor.
the leading members, that their example may act upon the junior preachers. Finally: let us all recollect that we are not acting for ourselves, nor for the present generation merely : but that our conduct, and particularly our plans for improvement, will affect posterity to the end of time, and that it is perfectly within our power to bring upon ourselves the blessings of future ages. Generations yet unborn may look back to the organization of this society as to a new and interesting era in the literary history of this conference. Let us then, brethren, take hold of the work like men, and give "a long pull, and a strong pull, and a pull all together," and nothing shall obstruct our progress or mar our success; but our most enlarged expectations shall be realized.
REED'S AND MATHESON'S NARRATIVE. A Narrative of the Visit to the American Churches, by the Deputa.
tion from the Congregational Union of England and Wales. By ANDREW REED, D. D., and James MATHESON, D. D.
We have become so accustomed to the abuse of foreign travellers, that whenever we take up a book of travels, purporting to be written by a British tourist in the United States, we are prepared to con over pages of misrepresentation, calumny, and ridicule. expect, indeed, to see our institutions the butt of sarcasm, our manners caricatured, our country defamed, and our usages, civil and religious, severely criticised. Nor are we at all displeased at hav. ing our faults told us plainly, if their exposure be accompanied with an apparent desire that they should be corrected, and with a suitable allowance for those foibles which arise out of our youth and inexperience, and which are characteristic, less or more, of all nations; for we no more consider ourselves exempt from the common frailties of human nature, nor yet from actual faults which might and therefore ought to be corrected, than we expect to be treated with justice by a bigoted foreigner.
Whether it be a lingering resentment which is still fostered against us for asserting our independence, and maintaining our civil and religious rights, or a spirit of jealousy on account of our growing prosperity, or whether it be owing to that partiality which all true patriots feel for their own domestic firesides and political peculiarities, or whether all these things co-operate to produce their appropriate results, it seems that most of English tourists who have visited our shores, and have published the results of their observations, have betrayed a want of that candor and strict regard to justice and truth which should characterize all who write for the information of the public.
As before remarked, we do not complain that our defects are noticed, if it be done in a becoming manner, nor that our character should be critically analyzed, if allowance be made for those frailties which are inseparable from human nature. But it appears to us unreasonable to expect that perfection in America which can be found nowhere else. If all the inhabitants of England were angels and not men—if every stage driver, every innkeeper, farmer, and mechanic, in England, exhibited the perfections of polished gentlemen, the profound thought of a thorough-bred philosopher, and every rustic exemplified the graces of a well-educated and practical Christian,--then might the American stage drivers, innkeepers, farmers, and mechanics be held up as objects of reproach by English writers for not showing off to the best advantage all the elegances of refined life, and all the intelligence and grace of a genuine Christian. And even though those persons in America, holding the same stations in society as those in older countries, may fall beneath them in their general demeanor, it may not be so much owing to themselves as to their circumstances circumstances over which they have no control-and to which therefore they are compelled to bow whether they will or not.
The manners of different nations are formed, in a great measure, from the institutions under which they live. Those who have had their birth and education where monarchy is established, and where the nobility form a distinct class, into whose presence the common people dare not intrude but with their hats under their arms, and in the posture of inferiors, necessarily contract a different form of manners from those who have grown up in a republic, where distinctions are less artificial, and where the tests of human character are principally moral worth and integrity, intelligence and patriotism. We do not say, indeed, that these tests belong exclusively to republics, nor yet that they are always resorted to for the purpose of selecting such a man as the nation shall delight to honor. But what we mean to say is this :—that in an aristocratical country, where the king and nobility tower up above the rest of the nation to such a height that they are accustomed to look down upon those below them with a sort of scornful indifference- where wealth marks the boundaries between man and man—there is such a wide gulf between the one and the other, that they are unapproachable by that sort of familiarity which is exemplified in those countries where a greater equality generally prevails; and that this circumstance, of itself, forms a difference in the manners of the p ople; and, furthermore, that this ought to be taken into the account in the estimate which is made of the character of different nations.
Without pretending to deliver a lecture upon the qualifications of a traveller in foreign lands, to enable him to make a judicious use of his opportunities for remarks on the character of the people he may visit, we may be permitted to say that such a one ought, as far as possible, to divest himself of all partiality for his own country,