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Allusions of which we, perhaps, are unconscious, shades of thought imparted by a knowledge of things out of our profession, veins of truth which lie below the surface of a subject, and expressions, or larger quotations, borrowed from valuable thinkers, impart to a preacher a certain power which commands respect. It was one direction of Paul to a young minister, to give attendance to reading, that his profiting might appear unto all.
Reading has the effect to fertilize the mind. When writing on any subject, however diverse from that on which we may have been reading, it is surprising to see how surely some connection will be formed between them as we write. bond,” which Cicero beautifully describes as holding all the sciences together, imparts its spell to all subjects of thought, so that they help each other with illustrations. This supply of illustration is one of the happy benefits of reading To take, for example, a book which happens to be at hand, let a man read Fremont's work on Oregon and North California ; and when he next writes a sermon, or, perhaps, several years afterward, some scene, or some fact, or some expression in that book will furnish him with an illustration. As when we turn a faucet, the water in a hundred pipes begins to move towards it; so whenever we write, every thing which we have recently read, and some things which we read long ago, feel a sort of attraction, and are ready to pour themselves, if needed, into the subject in hand.
One great benefit of reading is in enriching our vocabulary. Milton's prose is an illustration of a great command of powerful words. A striking word is a picture. Shakspeare is king in this dominion. To condense a thought by setting it forth in one apt word, to give an epithet which will paint the quality of the thing which we wish to describe, is one secret of powerful writing. Gray's Poems occur, just at this moment, as a good illustration of the power of happy epithets. For example, in his Prospect of Eton College, he speaks of fallen ambition,
“ To bitter scorn a sacrifice,
And grinning infamy."
Such an epithet in that connection is as good as a whole page of description. Men who are studious of right epithets, and know how to use them skilfully, are not wordy. They who heap odd
adjectives together for effect, as some do who know the power of striking epithets, lose the fruit of their labor, because their artifice is seen, and they also distract and weary attention. But it is tedious to listen to a discourse in which no unusual and striking word, either noun, or especially, adjective, comes out with bold, original force; but the dull monotony of common-place flows down like the noise of a rain-spout, which lulls to sleep. He who reads much and with care, will insensibly enlarge his command of words. Here it may be observed, that one of the most profitable books in this respect for one to read whose business is to write, is Dr. Johnson's larger Dictionary, containing his quotations from English authors illustrating his words. Several pages of that book read at a time will have a good effect in stimulating the mind in the use of language. There are those who have read that dictionary through in course.
Some have complained that they cannot read much, because everything they read stimulates their imagination, excites trains of thought, and leads them off into collateral reflections ; so that they can read but a little at a time, and are discouraged in not being able to master a greater number of books.
Such readers are o some accounts to be envied. They convert everything which they acquire into immediate use. They have prolific minds, like prairie soil, which the slightest tillage excites to superabundant bearing. Let them not be discouraged at their slow progress among “ the latest publications.” They get more intellectual profit from one hour's reading, than others do from the reading of all the publications of the season. Though they may not read so often as others, they have the same advantages of natural constitution with camels, whose drink serves them for many days. Dugald Stewart says, “a want of curiosity and of invention facilitates greatly the acquisition of knowledge. It renders the mind passive in receiving the ideas of others, and saves all the time which might be employed in examining their foundation or in tracing their consequences. They who are possessed of much acuteness or originality, enter with difficulty into the views of others, not from any defect in their power of apprehension, but because they cannot adopt opinions which they have not examined, and because their attention is often seduced by their own speculations." *
* Elements, &c. VI. 8.
For this cause, the readers of whom we speak, after reading a little, are so excited by some illustration, or new thought, or they follow out their own reflections suggested by the reading so earnestly, that they make slow progress through a book. But they are profitable readers, and we are sure to see the fruit of their reading in their productions. Such readers ought to make themselves acquainted with the purport of every valuable book which is published; for they are the men who know readily where to find a thing when it is wanted, for illustration or instruction ; provided they have at least cast their eyes over the pages of books as they issue from the press. It is peculiarly incumbent on such readers, as indeed it is the duty of all, for their intellectual good, to employ themselves from time to time on some books or subjects which will require close, continuous thinking. Otherwise, their writings will be desultory, and tediously replete with mere facts and illustrations.
The publication of a book, evidently written for instruction, is certainly an important event; and every thinking man will so regard it, and keep his eye on the issues of the press. For when a book is published, it appears that some mind has been employed upon a subject which has deeply interested it. The author has gone through the important process of deliberating and deciding, whether to speak to the world on that subject or not. He has had that fearful experience of breaking his mind to a publisher; an experience which he who has known will not hastily repeat. Under all the difficulties of the case, the book comes forth. That man has taken the tribune, and the world is his assembly. Very few may listen to him, but still his book is an event ; and there are those in every intelligent community who are influenced by it, if it be a useful book; if not, its publication serves the purpose of deterring more able men from attempting that in which they might fail. To keep the eye on the issues of the press is to keep one's self informed of the progress of the age ; and happy are they who have the means and disposition to do it.
There is one class of publications which we may read with profit, and which we may naturally suppose will always deserve attention, namely: orations, and addresses on important occasions. These are the best efforts of their authors. Every thing combines to make them exert themselves to the utmost of their ability, and we lose much in not making more account of such publications.
But after all, in reading, we sow much, and bring in little. It requires resolution and industry to maintain good habits in this particular. It is a source of great satisfaction and pleasure to think, that our knowledge in a future state will no doubt be gained more by intuition, and not by the wearying process of study, with dull apprehensions, imperfect memories, and poor eye-sight. Reason, which distinguishes us from brutes, is, in its laborious and painful exercise, a mark of our inferiority to higher beings whose processes of deduction are more rapid ; or at least, with whom such processes are pleasurable influxes of light to their understandings and hearts. A Christian scholar may derive much happiness from the thought that the pleasures of learning are to increase with him forever. But in conversing with educated and cultivated men who are in an unregenerated state, we are impressed with this great difference in them and their prospects, from those of Christians, — that their endowments may be confined to this world. Unless they be converted, their accomplishments here are only qualifying them for more extensive and more exquisite pain hereafter. Every book they read, every science they acquire, every new language, every new train of thought, will only minister to their sorrow.
CORRESPONDENCE ON MISSIONS.
SEVERAL months ago, an aged lady of talent and wealth, connected with the upper class of society in one of our cities, and in religious sentiments a Unitarian, was moved to write and publish some “ Tracts on Missions," whose object was to shew
" the inexpediency and the unscriptural nature of missions to the heathen. The spirit of the “ Tracts” may be inferred from this, that the title-page bore as a motto the following passage of Scripture : “ Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Matt. xxiii. 15.
The authoress was pleased to send a copy of these “ Tracts," together with a letter, to one of the evangelical pastors of the place where she lived. He replied in a letter. This correspondence
having come to our knowledge, and having deeply interested us in reading it, we here present it to our readers, omitting merely the names and local allusions.
, Sept. 19, 1848. RESPECTED SIR,
Some time has passed since I published “Tracts on Missions,” intended to prove the importance of directing all our efforts to reform and save that portion of our fellow beings who are sunk in vice and misery, and who are daily increasing in consequence of their alluring into their ranks the young and thoughtless.
It is not only for this purpose that I have made this effort, but in the hope of saving from their impending fate that interesting portion of our race which inhabits the Sandwich Islands. Was not the command first given to go to our own lost sheep, previous to that of preaching the gospel to the world ; and was not this last command followed by an exhortation to the performance of those duties of humanity which were required in attestation of the truth of their mission ? This object has an important bearing on the welfare of our country at large.
When I published “ Tracts on Missions," I felt that as age was rapidly advancing upon me, nothing more could be done than to circulate freely what I had already written ; nevertheless, as time has since been allowed me, I have determined to reprint my “ Remarks on the Tour around Hawaii,” as the predictions then made have been so fully verified.
In reference to the statements made, all who are acquainted with the History of Missions must be convinced of the truth of what I have advanced ; many of the events described have passed and are still passing before our eyes.
Were not Missions sent among our Indians to convert them to our faith, from the first settlement of our country? And how has this process been carried on? How have the tidings of peace and good-will been perverted, and its most sacred precepts violated ? And, in conclusion, have not the confiding natives been driven from all they held most dear and sacred to become exiles in a foreign land ? Moreover by the establishment of missions, have not the generous natives of the beautiful isles in the Pacific Ocean been deprived of their ancient inheritance ; VOL. III.