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15. There is a practice indulged, not very frequently indeed, but more frequently, if I mistake not, than it ought to be. I mean that of calling out a student from the lecture-room, in the middle of a lecture or recitation, and sometimes on very slight occasions. That occasions may arise, which will fully justify such a step, no one can doubt. But that it should be ventured upon frequently, and for trivial purposes, merely to gratify a social visitor, or to indulge a fit of juvenile impatience, every one will perceive to be both injudicious, and a mischievous violation of order. It disturbs the officiating professor. It incommodes the whole class. It may suddenly take out of the room the very individual for whose benefit a particular explanation then in hand, had been intended, as I have known, more than once, to be the case; and thus do an injustice of which no one can fully estimate the amount. And all this, perhaps, to accomplish something either of no real importance, or which might just as well have been postponed until after the close of the exercise. I would advise you, then, to set your face against this practice, by testifying your disapprobation when it is done with respect to yourself, and by endeavouring to disseminate a sentiment adverse to it among your fellow-students.
16. I would advise you to take copious notes, on the spot, of all the lectures which you hear. This habit, when once established, will furnish an additional motive to perfect punctuality in being present at every lecture; for you will be unwilling to see a blank occurring in every half dozen pages in your notebook. It will constrain you to pay close attention to every word that is uttered when you are present. It
will aid you in acquiring the art of expressing yourself with brevity and precision. And it will enable you with ease to refresh your memory afterwards. I once knew a student who had a series of note-books, which contained the substance of all that he had studied at college, as well as afterwards in the seminary. And he assured me, that not only had the labour of forming them been of great advantage to him ; but that he also considered them, at the time when he was speaking on the subject, as, on various accounts, among the most precious books in his library.
17. In fine, let every hour which you spend in the lecture-room, be considered as an hour of peculiar value. Remember that the business of a professor is not to think for you, but to excite you to think; to put you in possession of general principles ; to start trains of thought; to state leading facts, rather than the minuter items of history; in short, to open a precious mine, to give you a specimen of its contents, and to unfold some of the best methods of exploring its boundless riches. This being done for you, all the rest must be accomplished by yourself. But in vain will any student hope to achieve much in the attainment of that which lectures cannot give him in detail, unless he bring to every lecture a mind awake, active, inquisitive, and greedy of knowledge; unless he carefully watch every sentence that is dropped, every opening for an important question and explanation ; and every opportunity, however small, of extending his views of truth or duty. If students listened with such a spirit, the shortest and most meagre lecture would be thought a feast. O how remote from this is the dull, drowsy, uninterested mind which some bring
to the exercises of the class; a mind which, instead of eagerly seizing, examining and extending all that is presented to it, can hardly be stimulated to such a degree of attention as will enable it even to comprehend what is said at the time, much less to give any intelligent account of it afterwards. You may rest assured, that if you do not gain the art of bringing intense mental application to that which is presented to you from time to time, you will never accomplish much in any species of mental improvement.
That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God. - 1 Tim. iii. 15.
HABITS IN THE PULPIT, AND IN THE HOUSE OF GOD.
MY DEAR YOUNG FRIEND:- - The pulpit has been sometimes called the minister's throne. There he appears to perform the most important part of his public work. And there, if any where, he ought to be seen to advantage. His aspect, his attitudes, and his whole deportment, ought to correspond with the gravity and solemnity of his message. And while, on the one hand, every thing like pomp, ostentation, or mock dignity, should be avoided as hateful; on the other, all coarseness, levity, or vulgarity, every thing that borders on the ludicrous, or the want of real dignity, ought to be shunned with no less care.
As you are soon, with the permission of Providence, to ascend the pulpit, I am anxious that you should have some just ideas how you ought to appear there. It is my purpose, therefore, in the present letter, to put you on your guard against a few of those faults which I have often observed ministers to commit in the sacred desk; and to offer a few plain counsels which may aid you in avoiding those faults. 21 *
1. Avoid all unnecessary expense of spirits, voice, and strength, immediately before going into the pulpit. Those who are not aware of the difficulties under which ministers labour, especially such of them as have weak lungs, or general delicacy of health, are apt to call upon them for services which require much effort, just before the commencement of the public service in the church. The consequence is, that they sometimes ascend the pulpit nearly as much exhausted, as, at other times, when they quit it. This cannot always be avoided; but it certainly ought in all cases to be avoided, when it can be consistently with duty. Guard against all unnecessary reading loud, and every thing which tends to produce exhaustion or weariness, especially of the lungs. Make a point of entering on the service of the sanctuary in all the freshness and fulness of your strength and spirits. In this case, you may hope to perform them with more vigour and animation; with more comfort to yourself; and with more profit to others. Whereas if you either inadvertently, or unavoidably, fatigue yourself before you go to the pulpit, your whole public work, on that occasion, will probably be dull and nerveless. Hence that preacher is extremely unwise, who sits up late on Saturday night, and exhausts himself in making preparations for the next day. Of all nights in the week, it is important that that, which immediately precedes the Sabbath, should be passed in unbroken sleep.
2. When you expect to preach, instead of eating more, rather eat less than on other days. I do not forget that no rules on this subject can be laid down, which will equally suit all persons. But, unless I am