Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

sentiments about to be avowed. With CICERO, in his preface to Atticus, prefixed to his Cato Major, I can say,

“ Novi enim moderationem animi tui et æquitatem : teque non cognomen solùm Athenis deportâsse, sed humanitatem et prudentiam intelligo. Et tamen te suspicor iisdem rebus, quibus meipsum interdum graviùs commoveri : quarum consolatio et major est, et in aliud tempus differenda. Nunc autem mihi visum est de senectute aliquid ad te conscribere. Hoc enim onere, quod mihi commune tecum est, aut jam urgentis, aut certè adventantis senectutis, et te et meipsum levari volo. Etsi te quidem id modicè se sapienter, sicut omnia, et ferre, et laturum esse certè scio. Sed mihi, cum de senectute aliquid veliem scribere, tu occurrebas dignus eo munere, quo uterque nostrum communiter uteretur.” With the modification necessarily implied, and easily understood, these words of the great Roman express my sentiments and object. I now proceed to lay before you my views of one of the greatest subjects that can occupy the mind of man-a subject the more interesting to you, perhaps, from its extreme importance in relation to your literary functions.

You know full well, Sir, that Intellect is the great Idol, and its culture the chief business, of the juvenile myriads who resort to our universities.

Moral greatness is by them but slightly heeded : it is, indeed, seldom mentioned, little desired, and less pursued. I now look back, with views much altered, to the course of study pursued both at St. Andrews and at Glasgow, during the period of my attendance at those seats of learning. I can now perceive that immense improvements might be introduced into all the classes, but especially into those of Latin, Greek, Logic, and Ethics. The manner in which these classes used to be conducted, rendered them fearfully perilous to the piety of spiritually minded young men. Their tendency was, and that most decidedly, anti-Christian. The man who

prosecuted his studies in the light of eternity, and contemplated the bearing of all his academic pursuits upon the service of Christ, the glory of God, and the good of mankind, as the true end of life, had much to grieve and discourage him. The air of academic groves was not, to such a man, the air of heaven. The genius which there presided was the genius of heathenism. The whole system required a thorough reformation. There was nothing done to infuse right views either of study or of life,—nothing to purify and regulate the fires of literary and philosophic ambition, which burned and blazed so fiercely, and with such à lurid flamie, in a multitude of bosoms. The consequence was often lamentable. I speak from close observation, as well as from bitter experience. In the four classes which I have mentioned, frequent and most seasonable opportunities occur for passing remarks from the Professor's chair, which would have more weight with the confiding and admiring auditors than a hundred languid homilies from the pulpits of the college chapels. It will be a happy day for these nations when all professors of colleges shall awake to the ineffable importance of the question of true greatness. Public opinion inust be corrected ; and the work should begin at the fountains of light. Let the ministers of the Word, professors of law and medicine, men of letters, teachers of youth, conductors of the press, patriots, rulers, and statesmen, -let all these classes be thoroughly enlightened on this point, and it will be a sure pledge that the regeneration of our world is at hand. It is above all things to be desired that our Academic Senates should be deeply moved to consider the question of true moral greatness, of the importance of missions, and of the evils of war.

They are training the future intellectual sovereigns of the empire. Theirs is the high and awful responsibility of forming the principles and characters of this important portion of the rising race. College

opinions are, for the most part, the opinions of future life : they are seldom exchanged for better. May every chair of every college be soon filled by men like-minded with yourself and your liberal colleagues!

The best interests of the British empire, and of all nations, are deeply, vitally involved in this subject. Ought not our colleges to guide the intellectual movements of the earth ? This is their province ; it should be their pride. If the guides are blind, who shall conduct the millions ? Light has begun to break forth. A Scottish student, who found an early grave, Robert Pollok, the immortal author of “ The Course Of Time," has set a high example to his academic brethren, in thus laying down the doctrine of the relative excellence of Mental and of Moral Greatness. He holdly asserts, -

“ That not in mental, but in moril worth,
God excellence placed; and only to the good,
To virtue, granted happiness alone.

“ Admire the goodness of Almighty God!
He riches gave, He intellectual strength,
To few, and therefore none commands to be
Or rich, or learned; nor promises reward
Of peace to these. On all He moral worth
Bestowed, and moral tribute asked from all.
And who that could not pay ? Who born so poor,
Of intellect so mean, as not to know
What seemed the best; and, knowing, might not do ?
As not to know what God and conscience bade,
And what they bade not able to obey ?
And he who acted thus fulfilled the law
Eternal, and its promise reaped of peace;
Found
peace
this

way alone : who sought it else, Sought mellow grapes beneath the icy pole, Sought blooming roses on the cheek of death, Sought substance in a world of fleeting shades."* The poet not only thus lays down correctly the great principles of the subject, but likewise illustrates them

* Course of Time, book iv.

by three appropriate characters. The first is that of a person whose intellect stood at the very lowest point of rationality, and runs thus :

“ One man there was, and many such you might
Have met, who never had a dozen thoughts
In all his life, and never changed their course,
But told them o'er, each in its customed place,
From morn till night, from youth till hoary age.
Little above the ox which grazed the field
His reason rose; so weak his memory,
The name his mother called him by, he scarce
Remembered ; and his judgment so untaught,
That what at evening played along the swamp,
Fantastic, clad in robe of fiery hue,
Ile thought the devil in disguise, and fled
With quivering heart and winged footsteps home.
The word philosophy he never heard,
Or science; never heard of liberty,
Necessity, or laws of gravitation;
And never had an unbelieving doubt.
Beyond his native vale he never looked,
But thought the visual line that girt him round,
The world's extreme; and thought the silver moon,
That nightly o'er him led her virgin host,
No broader than his father's shield. He lived,
Lived where his father lived, died where he died,
Lived happy, and died happy, and was saved.
Be not surprised : he loved and served his God !"

In this touching picture we see how piety exalts weakness, and how the feeblest being may yet promote the glory of his Creator. Even the tiny moth, when connected with God, is at once lifted into importance. This example presents one of the lowest conceivable exhibitions of moral greatness. The knowledge, love, and service of God, nevertheless, imparted to the little spark of intellect a beauty and a worth which, independently of these accompaniments, could not have belonged to the mind of a Bacon or a Newton. The poet, in order to illustrate his principle, that moral is superior to mental greatness, draws a second portrait,

of which the infidel Hume is the subject. Intellectually considered, it is drawn to the life. The subtle sophist was never so briefly and accurately depicted. The portraiture does ample justice to his vast intellectual powers, but it is exceedingly defective in its exhibition of his moral pravity, and his empoisoned malignity against God. Its runs thus :

“ There was another, large of understanding,
Of memory infinite, of judgment deep,
Who knew all learning, and all science knew;
And all phenomena in heaven and earth;
Traced their causes; traced the labyrinths
Of thought, association, passion, will;
And all the subtle, nice affinities
Of matter, traced; its virtues, motions, laws;
And most familiarly and deeply talked
Of mental, moral, natural, divine.
Leaving the earth at will, he soared to heaven,
And read the glorious visions of the skies;
And to the music of the rolling spheres
Intelligently listened; and gazed far back
Into the awful depths of Deity ;
Did all that mind assisted most could do ;
And yet in misery lived, in misery died,
Because he wanted holiness of heart."

We have here a most striking picture of intellectual greatness. Does it captivate? Can a Christian for a moment desire to be such a man, full of knowledge, but void of goodness ?-familiar with creation, but ignorant of God? All the philosopher's science yields no happiness, because it works no holiness. Hume never once tasted true felicity; and in this condition he left the world. Is he to be envied ? Ought he to be praised?

But, reserving comment, we must attend to the third character drawn by the poet in illustration of his principle. The subject of this most graphic sketch was the late Lord Byron, Pollok's own contemporary. The portrait is, in its chief features,'as true as it is awful.

« НазадПродовжити »