« PreviousContinue »
source of the conduct they would fain imitate. Dazzled by the splendid discoveries of Columbus, they have not traced the tedious collection of facts and arguments which raised his expectations. Absorbed in admiration at the lucid demonstrations of Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Humphrey Davy, or Cuvier, they forget the long years of toilsome reasoning which revealed the marvels they announced to a wondering world. Enthusiastic at the bravery and tact of celebrated conquerors, they omit the study of their early struggles to ensure the knowledge and experience requisite for their success. They are too apt to attribute to good fortune, what is really due to prudent preparation. Such was Arthur Gwynne's mistake,—"The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and then his heart fretteth against the Lord.” “Unstable as water thou shalt not excel,” is the penalty of all who substitute occasional impulse of action for decision of character.
Nor can it be wondered at, that Arthur Gwynne's religious course should exhibit corresponding vacillations. Religion changes the heart and purifies the conduct, but does not obliterate mental or moral peculiarities. When, therefore, our young friend first understood his own condition in the sight of God, and from the depths of heartfelt contrition, learned the precious truth of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, his joy was unbounded, and he longed to communicate the same glorious tidings to all. Hence he began seriously to think of entering the Christian ministry, and enrolling himself among the missionary band; but, ere preliminaries could be arranged, his fervid zeal abated, and the thought presented itself, that Christian effort in other departments need not be incompatible with business. An undeniable truth certainly, of which we have ample proof in the eminent usefulness of Wilberforce, Fowell Buxton, Thornton, Hardcastle, and other worthies, whose praise is in all the churches ; but who, however, evinced one qualification which Arthur overlooked--that steady perseverance which his impatience never could command.
At the Sabbath school he was a zealous teacher for some months. Nay, he seemed to outstrip his companions, and was ever attempting new schemes—a youthful apprentice class; a young men's association, &c.;--all good in themselves, but needing the incessant “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” prescribed in Holy Writ. But the results of his plans did not equal his ardent anticipations of immediate fruit. Like a child over his first garden, he tried too many experiments—was perpetually disturbing the seeds to see if they had taken root, or how they grew; and thus frustrated his most cherished projects of Christian philanthropy.
Of course his views upon religious doctrines, as well as scientific truth, were continually changing ; nor had he sufficient discretion to keep silence while his opinions were immature. Abhorring the thought of indecision upon anything, his crude notions were all proclaimed to any who would listen to him, and passing sometimes suddenly from one extreme to another, he occasionally incurred the imputation of double dealing, or untruthfulness.
Great minds of decided tone are slow in coming to conclusions, however promptly they may act when their opinions are formed. The most profound scientific scholars hesitate not to confess a quiescent position, while investigations are tediously progressing; and the most enlightened student of Scripture, sees the greatest reason for apprehending that he has not yet attained to the discovery of all truth.
We need not prolong the recital of a career replete with hard lessons of dear-bought experience, ere this fitfulness of impulse grew into real decision of character: nor need we rehearse the numberless occasions, when Arthur Gwynne exclaimed, “ Could I but recal that passage of my life, how differently should I now act! How often I fancied obstinacy was firmness, and rashly pursued my own course, or doggedly upheld my own opinion, because I was sure I was right; when, alas!. I could render no sensible reason for either words or actions. I blamed my fellow-creatures when an imprudent measure brought its own punishment of declining business, as if all the world should give me credit for the purest motives, when it is too frequently deceived to be over credulous. My own family could never depend upon my counsels, for I was either too absorbed about other matters, to listen fully to their perplexities; or with a high hand I asserted my authority as master in my own house, so that I was alternately, either a cipher, or a tyrant!"
We would earnestly recommend our youthful friends, to peruse Foster's admirable essay upon “ Decision of Character.' In terse and elegant language, its elements are dissected; its attractions exhibited ; and its dangers and temptations pointed out, for there are dangers and temptations too, thickly besetting the very path which seems to lie above the ordinary perils of humanity.
If a decided character possess the desirable power of refusing to consent, when sinners entice, he may be disposed to lay aside the tender-heartedness and compassion which so eminently characterized our Lord and Saviour, in his demeanour towards them that were “ignorant and out of the way.” Enabled himself to hold on honorably in that path which shineth more and more unto the perfect day; there is danger lest he be tempted to rebuke or despise the infirmity of those who are young or weak in the faith.
That occasional energy, which shows itself in impetuous impulse only, is a defect, however, which admits of cure; nor need we await any fortuitous circumstance to originate the change. Calm, determined, persevering effort, will effect much, independently of religious motives; but the Christian youth will gladly bring his infirmity of impulse to the throne of heavenly grace, and there supplicate for the help promised in every time of need. The apostle Peter was one of these uncertain agents, possessing a strong will, which was manifested, though but occasionally, just in the very same manner as it is in the present day, among crowds of ardent people; but it was of little worth, because of its transient character, or its illjudged direction : and painful were the lessons which induced him to overcome his infirmity, and eventually to rise to the dignified decided character of his latter life.
“Patient continuance in well-doing,” is the inspired description of decision of character; and it is touching to trace, in Peter's epistles, the constant recollection of his own failures in this respect.
“ Meddle not with them that are given to change;" “ Judge nothing before the time;" Be swift to hear, slow to speak;" “ Meditate on these things ;” “Be circumspect;" (looking all around, as the word imports), are precepts all well calculated to assist the feeble or imperfect character, to be
strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Conversion is an individual thing; if once roused to perceive the wrath that awaits the guilty sinner, each must flee with prompt decision for himself, to that Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world; nor need any hesitate as to the consequences, for even in the present world," when a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
E. W. P.
THE WONDERFUL BOOK.* I dreamt I was in a strange old room: long it was, with long rows of books placed against the walls. A fine old man, with bright eyes and learned looks, was with me, talking about the books. “Sir," he said, “ I am an old philosopher. This is my house in the city of Rome, and all these books are mine.
Look, sir, at my books! they are very precious books. This one was written by the great philosopher of Greece, called Aristotle. Here is a work on Philosophy, written by his teacher, Plato. Here is a book of Biography, written by the learned Plutarch. This wonderful book of History was written by the great Greek Thucydides ; and here, sir, on this lower shelf, are the splendid books of poetry by Homer, Horace, and Virgil.
“Oh, this is a rare and wonderful collection! I have, here in this corner, a row of books which are worth thirty thousand”.
"But, just pardon me for interrupting you," I said. “I have a book in my pocket which is worth more than that row, or all the books in your long room put together.”
“I have been looking for a copy of it on your shelves and do not see it.”
“But, you cannot mean that it is worth more than all my books."
“Yes. In the first place, it is older than any of them. It has history from the very beginning of the world. It has philosophy much more wonderful than yours. It has beautiful biography, finer than Plutarch’s; and as for poetry, it has poetry about greater heroes than Homer ever saw or heard of."
* From “The Family Sunday Book,”—an agreeable and profitable companion to “Pleasant Pages."
** Pray, sir, who wrote it?”
“Some one who lived before any of these men, for He made them all."
“Then, sir, He must be a God! Did Apollo write it?”
"Oh no, some one far, far greater. He could not have stooped so low as to make such a god as Jupiter; he made the beings who made Jupiter. He who made my book is “the God—the great, eternal, invisible I AM.""
How strange! I have never heard of that God, nor of his book. What is it called ?"
“ It is called. The Book.""
“How wonderful a book it must be. Please let me see it. You must sell it to me;" and he stretched forth his hands eagerly.
“ Thank you, I cannot spare it. I am going to teach it to my children."
“What!” said he, trembling, "you are not going to give it to children-a book from a God is too good for children ; they must be very happy children! Pray, which century do you live in?"
“ In the nineteenth century-we are exactly in the middle of it."
“Ah, you are too far off for me. Would that I could only get into the nineteenth century, and be a child, and listen! But, sir, I must look at that book. I'll buy it-you shall have all my library for it.”
“No, I cannot spare it. I want it myself—for my children ; besides you cannot exchange.
“But, sir, I must, and will see it, for I am a philosopher,” and with that he tried to take it from me, but I ran, and just as I thought he would have caught me, and I should have lost it for ever, I awoke and found it under my pillowand here it is, dear children, here is the book for you, with the history of things which “prophets and kings desired to see, and have not seen; and to hear, and have not heard."
W. Papa, what a curious dream! Please let us see the book.”
P. This is it.