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is more attractive than real merit; which secures to merit a hearing and an influence which it would not otherwise obtain ; and which will be likely, in many cases, to open a door to usefulness, which, without it, would, in all probability, have continued impenetrably closed ? In repeated instances, have I known men of weak minds, and of small information, but of remarkably fascinating manners, carry all before them, in circles of society, into which men of far higher qualifications, both intellectual and moral, but defective in the attractions of manner, were scarcely able to obtain admittance. A soft, insinuating address has, a thousand times, rendered its possessor triumphant, when, upon every principle of truth and justice, he ought to have failed.
But, in the second place, it is not only true that, in very large portions of society, a well regulated manner is every thing, atoning for the want both of virtue and knowledge, and frequently superseding the highest worth; but it has more influence, even with the most discerning and virtuous, than is commonly imagined. To every human being, that which is intrinsically excellent appears doubly attractive when presented in a pleasing manner. Truth, even to those who know it to be truth, finds a more cordial welcome; and duty, even among its most sincere and enlightened friends, commands a more ready obedience, when they are clothed in an attractive garb, and speak in alluring accents. That the very same words, which, when uttered by some, are intolerably offensive, when spoken in the mild respectful manner of others, are welcome and even delightful; that the very same action, which, performed by
some, is censured, when performed by others, of perhaps less talent or virtue, is lauded to excess, are among the most notorious facts in human life; and that, not in the circles of the ignorant and unprincipled only, but also in those of the most estimable portions of mankind.
How is it possible, then, for a thinking man to consider the subject on which I address you as unworthy of his regard, or as even of small importance ? To adopt this opinion is equally to oppose reason and experience, and to set at naught some of the most precious means of gaining access to the human heart.
Let me entreat you to remember, too, that those who bear the office to which you aspire, stand more peculiarly in need of the aid which polished and attractive manners furnish, than any other class of men. To them the use of “carnal weapons” is interdicted. They neither have, nor ought to have, as ministers, any other influence in society, than that which arises from the sacredness of their office, the excellence of their character, and the attraction of their manners. It is their great business to win men to the love of the truth and of duty by moral means, and among others, by exhibiting in their own temper and lives, the meek, lowly, amiable, and benevolent spirit of the religion which they inculcate. If they fail of doing this, they fail in one of the most important means of professional success. And yet it is plain that every minister must essentially fail here who does not succeed in setting forth, in his own person, a style of manners adapted to conciliate the respect and good will of all whom he approaches.
And when I recollect how extremely important
the first steps of a young minister are; at how early and inexperienced an age he frequently enters on his public work; how much depends on the character of his habits and manners when he is least sensible of the fact; and how completely he may prostrate his dignity, and foreclose his usefulness, by a few ridiculous foibles, or inadvertent habits, of the existence of which it would be sometimes difficult to convince him:- I say, when I recollect all these things, I am astonished that candidates for the ministry think so little of this matter, and are so little concerned to form a style of manners, which may be conducive, at once, to their comfort and usefulness.
Allow me further, my dear young friend, to remark, that if you wish to succeed in forming such manners as it is the object of these pages to recommend, you must begin early and labour patiently ; otherwise, you will never make the attainment. As the discipline of the temper and feelings ought to be commenced with the earliest dawn of reason, and is the work of a lifetime; so the discipline of the manners, if the expression may be allowed, depending, as it does, for success on “ruling our spirits," should be begun as early as possible; the sooner the better. Say not, it is too soon for you to begin to “put on the clergyman,” when you are only in the second
your theological studies. Let me tell you, my friend, if you begin now, and labour in this species of culture with the utmost assiduity, I shall consider you as doing great things if you succeed in forming even tolerable clerical manners by the time you are ready to enter the pulpit. It is, as I have already said, a gradual work. In the conflict with
your old habits, and your unhallowed feelings, you will have many a painful struggle, and will probably suffer many a discouraging defeat. It will be much if you ultimately gain the victory. If you are so happy, you will find it to be no easy conquest. But, when gained, it will be the most glorious and the most precious of all victories - a victory over yourself.
You will perceive that my counsel extends beyond the time that you propose to spend in the Theological Seminary, and, indeed, will apply, in some of its parts, to the whole of your clerical life, should it be ever so long. This was expressly intended. It occurred to me that a little manual, addressed to one of those who bear to me the relation of pupils, adapted to promote his benefit, not only while he continues in the institution of which I am an officer, but when he shall have taken his leave of it, nay, as long as he lives, might, at the same time, if given through the medium of the press, be of some use to others, to whom I have had, and may yet have, the honour and the pleasure to stand in the same relation; not merely in the beginning, but throughout the whole of their
And if the following pages should be blessed, in the smallest degree, to your advantage, or that of any other individual, in preparing for a profession which I love, I shall consider myself as abundantly rewarded.
I will only add, that in preparing this little system of advices, I have by no means forgotten how small my title is to assume the office of teacher on such a subject. It is a maxim in physical science, that a stream can never, in ordinary circumstances, rise
higher than its fountain. If I thought this maxim applied as rigidly to intellectual and moral culture, I should lay down my pen in despair: or rather, I should not have dared to take it
purpose of discussing a subject at once so delicate and difficult. But it does not. Nothing is more common than to see pupils rising far higher than their instructors in knowledge and practical wisdom. This thought comforts and animates me in the undertaking. My office having placed me in the way of perceiving how greatly a body of precepts and suggestions on this subject is needed-having never seen any thing which appeared to me to approach toward answering the purpose in view—knowing that all that many ingenuous youth need to put them on the right track, is a collection of hints, for setting their own minds at work-and hoping that what is “sown in weakness," may be “ raised in power,” I venture to make the attempt which the title of these letters announces. May our common Master accept and bless it !.