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THE IMPORTANCE OF PIETY.
existing, the boon will be propitious to the possessor, and generally have a bearing on the destinies of others long after material objects are crumbling to dust.
The importance of religion in any eminence, besides the advantages it confers on individuals, will moreover be apparent, if we recall the fact that there is a general tendency to evil in the human family; the great mass of whom, so long as their physical wants are supplied, pass with fearful rapidity down the stream of time, dreaming that they are possessed of all which can make life valuable ; and, therefore, never make an effort to better their condition in a mental, moral, or religious aspect. To arouse such to a proper degree of intelligence, and to the consideration of the momentous relationship which the present bears to the future, requires the warmest philanthropy with which heaven can inspire any bosom, much self-denial, an intellect of considerable power and grasp, and an aptitude to teach and exhibit truth in its loveliest forms.
Happily, the Almighty seems to aid those who task themselves to the performance of any great work. The very determination to succeed, often brings with it the power for its accomplishment. This is especially the case if the eminence sought is one of fervid piety, and designed to be made
ITS RELATION TO LEARNING.
subservient to His purposes in the spread of religious truth. Hence an inspired apostle intimates that it is right to covet superior gifts, when they are to be laid as tribute at the feet of Christ. Then, truly, the offering
“ Is no vain sàcrifice.” But, mere mental acquisitions, even if made available for the amelioration of the present condition of man, are not the richest offerings which we can tender to God. “ The High and lofty one” demands first, the homage of the heart. Besides, we are not always free to choose the precise attainments which seem desirable ; and even if we were, still there is much of what is thought to be intellectual greatness that our successors may regard as tinsel, and which will tarnish and fade away with time; while the consecration of the heart to religion will prompt us to spread the knowledge of the Divine Being and man's obligations to him, which may be productive of good to others, and redound to His glory here and hereafter too.
Many gigantic efforts of mind in earlier ages of the world became immortal, because they bore the stamp of truth. Yet these, probably, seem to be brighter mental stars because of the dense darkness that surrounded them in the slumber of the world's mind.
RELIGIOUS AND MORAL CULTURE.
Truth cannot die. It may be trodden under foot and lie buried deep beneath the prejudices of the times, or be put under ban and proscription, as was the case with the facts deduced by Galileo, yet, sooner or later, the vital energy inherent in all truth will make it burst forth with renovated beauty and freshness, rebuking the incredulity of the age in which it first came to light.
We have long, too long it may be, worshipped at the shrine of intellect, as if this was the summit of excellence attainable by mortals. Nor is it to be wondered at, since the prevalent systems of education tend to perpetuate the error by seeking exclusively the adornment of the mind, without aiming, in connexion therewith, at the cultivation of the heart. But surely the day is not distant, when the training of the moral and religious faculties will assume an importance never heretofore acknowledged; for these branches of education will go far towards the establishment of a better order of things. By this, the sluices of man's best affections will be opened, and the warmest sympathies of his nature expanded to meet the exigencies of suffering humanity. It is this that will most tend to the infusion of a lofty benevolence, softening the asperities of life; and bringing many of the worst passions into an etherial temper, we shall be able and willing to
recognize in every man a friend and brother," and God as the common Father of all.
Not more truly does the polished mirror reflect the object presented before it, than will the conduct of the sincere Christian reflect back the image which the Holy Spirit imprints on the heart. There, like the unruffled lake
which the sun has just dawned, “ the sun of righteousness arises with healing in his wings," diffusing beams of light that awaken up many latent emotions, feelings and desires, and a thirst after holiness utterly unknown before. How entire the change from what was lifeless to vitality and beauty! This impress of divinity is the seal and witness of a relationship to God; and just as we delight to trace the features of the father in those of the child, do we find the characteristics of a renewed man in all that are “ born of the Spirit.”
Apart from the consideration that our relationship with heaven necessarily gives a dignity to our characters, there is a majesty and power in moral excellence, that is potent everywhere. It lends a splendour to that which is already dignified, and “raises up the beggar to set him with princes, even among the princes of God's people;" investing him with a title to “an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” Without destroying any conventional distinctions,
grace to the
it gives an equality to all as rational and responsible agents. In poverty or affluence, youth or age, whether rude or learned, or whatever be our circumstances, it is “ an ornament of neck" that becomes attractive and influential, and others see in all that we do semblance of the meekness, charity, and benevolence of the Saviour's character.
In the wilds of India, Henry Martyn's amiable deportment, piety, and earnest endeavours to do good, tended to soften the natural ferocity of the savages into gentleness, inspiring them first with hospitality, and afterwards with love to things which are heavenly in their character and tendency. Yet abstract truths, though poured fresh from a mind richly imbued with intellectual grace, fell powerless on the hearts of his auditors; while the grand theme which kindled up his best affections—mercy to man through Christ Jesusirresistible. In this they felt a sympathy with the missionary, and their obdurate hearts began to melt into tenderness and love, for it was evident that he spoke as one who had “felt, and tasted, and handled " the soul-inspiring truths which gushed from his lips in “thoughts that breathed, and words that burned.”
It matters little what a man teaches, or whether he exhorts as with an angel's tongue; if