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notions of true greatness, to show them that the greatness which is moral, is superior to that which is intellectual, that moral greatness reaches its highest altitude in the missionary character, and that the work of missions to the heathen is the most honourable employment that earth can furnish or man engage in; then is the present subject not unworthy of being presented to your notice. But, whatever may be the merits of my communication, it will at least serve as a humble expression of my respect for yourself, and of my filial and reverential regard for your ancient university. But I must now bring my letter to a conclusion, lest I should forget the maxim of Tacitus, which proclaims the only means whereby an Alumnus can do honour to his Alma Mater:
“ Plurimum facere, et minimum ipse de se loqui.”
· TO THE REV. JOHN FOSTER.
INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL GREATNESS ILLUSTRATED AND COMPARED FROM THE JEWISH PROPHETS, THE APOSTLES, MODERN WRITERS, AND CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES.
Sir,-Your “Essays" came into the hand which now addresses you, when I was but young in years, and only beginning to acquire the elements of knowledge. In common with multitudes, I was both instructed and delighted by them, especially by that on “ Decision of Character.” To that dissertation I owe more, in certain important respects, than I can well express. You will add to the obligations thence arising, by accepting my cordial acknowledgments and the dedication of the present letter, which aims at applying some of your own leading principles to the subject of Moral Greatness.
You have clearly shown, that there may be much decision where there is no goodness; and that but too many conspicuous examples of decision have been allied to guilty ambition, to remorseless cruelty, and to unparalleled crime! Such characters may, in a sense, be designated great but their greatness is fatally defective.
There is nothing moral in it. Goodness is essential to moral greatness—the greatness which belongs to God. Men cannot be truly great but in proportion as they are truly good. The best man is the greatest. True greatness consists in active piety and active benevolence. Sacrifice and suffering, and intense persevering effort, from motives of piety and benevolence, are necessary to the highest form of moral greatness. If these views be correct, philosophy has been misled. Her notion of greatness is exceedingly erroneous, her search after it having been limited to heathen antiquity, where it existed only in its least matured states, and presented itself in its most imperfect manifestations. The finest examples of greatness ever witnessed in our world, are to be found in the Scriptures. The blindness of philosophy to the moral greatness of the Jewish patriarchs and prophets, as there delineated, can be accounted for only from her hatred to the character of the God revealed in the Bible, and the resemblance of their character to it. In the books of the Old Testament alone, there is such an assemblage of names, distinguished by this divine attribute, as cannot be equalled from the entire mass of the heathen literature of all past times, united to that of those which are now passing over us. Neither modern nor ancient literature exhibits any character to be compared with Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Josiah, Jeremiah, Shadrach, Meshech, Abednego, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, or Mordecai. Nay, after this dignified selection has been made, a multitude of names remain of such splendour, that notwithstanding their inferiority to these, all the greatest lights of heathenism
are lost at once in the blaze of their brightness. It deserves especial remark, that all the illustrious persons here mentioned, with but two exceptions, were men distinguished by the spirit of peace. They were strangers to military pursuits. They earned their laurels by works of faith and labours of love-by piety and philanthropy.
Of Abel, we know just enough to prove that he was truly great. He knew the Lord; he believed the divine testimony, he pleased his Creator; and he died for the truth. Next to him was Enoch, one of the greatest and most honoured men that ever appeared in our world. “ He walked with God.” How significant the expression! How high the distinction! The deeds recorded of this celestial man required a courage far surpassing that which suffices to storm citadels, to wade in blood, and murder troops of armed men. He stood up boldly for God against the wicked, forewarning them of the Lord's advent “ to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly, of all their ungodly deeds and hard speeches.”—Behold the decision and elevation which eminent piety imparts to Christian character !
The moral stature of Noah was equal to that of Enoch. He lived in the worst age of the antediluvian world, when violence filled the earth, and iniquity like a flood covered all lands. Amid the millions of an atheistical age, stood Noah, like a rock in the ocean, unmoved by the billows that raged around him-a pattern of piety, and a preacher of righteousness—an individual against a world! What courage! What fidelity! What glory! The position accorded with the character: both were sublime. What elevation and honour his were, when God said to him, “ The end of all flesh is come before me; with thee will I establish my covenant !” How
awful was his station on the day when he laid the first plank of the ark! His deed was the fruit of faith in the knowledge which God had graciously imparted to him. Still more awful and sublime was his position while riding on the world of waters which had entombed the whole mass of contemporary nations! Nor was his position diminished in interest, although stripped of terror, when he stepped forth again upon the emerging earth, to lay the foundation of new empires. The edifice of Noah's greatness was founded in the belief of the Divine testimony, and its top stone was the spirit of cordial, uniform, universal obedience : “ according to all that God commanded him, so did he.”—Behold the decision and elevation which eminent piety imparts to Christian character!
We are next conducted to Abraham, incomparably the greatest historical personage of the post-diluvian world, although literature and philosophy have considered him beneath their notice, and no Christian writer has yet attempted a full delineation of the moral portraiture of “ the friend of God.” The church of Christ has in every age been so occupied with the “ Faith" of Abraham, that she has, perhaps, in some measure, overlooked the other elements of his marvellous character. Moral greatness reached its height in this parent and prototype of spiritual pilgrims. The position which he occupied was singular. He differed in all points from the great men of heathen nations. Numa, Solon, and Lycurgus, possessed but little in common with Abraham. His greatness had in it nothing accidental, nothing adventitious, nothing political, nothing military, nothing literary; it was purely personal, and altogether moral. Separate the men just mentioned from matters