Imágenes de páginas

which an individual reaches considerable eminence from an unpromising beginning, that he is more or less distinguished by his native powers of mind. There is especially a strong thirst for knowledge, in connexion with an unyielding spirit of perseverance. These qualities seem necessary, in order to put the individual on the course of intellectual effort necessary to ensure the contemplated result, as well as to enable him to overcome the obstacles which lie in his way. No man ever becomes truly great without a course of severe application; but such a course will never be entered upon where there is not a strong native desire for knowledge; or, being entered upon, it will be abandoned, unless there is much native energy of resolution to sustain it. And, in addition to these qualities, there is often found some striking intellectual peculiarity, which marks the individual among the multitude; and, by attracting public attention towards him, goes far to neutralize the influence of whatever is unpropitious in his external circumstances.

In the subject of this memoir we find a striking illustration of these remarks. That his mind was cast in a superior mould will not probably be questioned by any individual who contemplates the history of its operations. In his early childhood he evinced the same inquisitiveness of mind—the same irrepressible desire of knowledge, which constituted one of the leading traits of his character through life. While other children of his age were passing their evenings in the usual sports of childhood, he was passing his in the diligent culture of his intellectual faculties—in acquiring knowledge from every source to which his straitened circumstances permitted him to have access. Had he possessed only a common degree of perseverance, he would have yielded to the obstacles which met him at the threshold of his career. Not only extreme poverty, but the worst kind of orphanage, and circumstances still more trying, were mingled together in his humble and pitiable lot; but the native energy of his character rose superior to all these obstacles, and enabled him to go forward, notwithstanding all the embarrassing and retarding influences by which he was surrounded. And then again he was distinguished for the exuberance of his fancy, and the keenness of his wit; and these qualities served not only to make him known, but to render him a favourite. Had his mind been differently constituted from what it was—had he been lacking in inquisitiveness, or in energy, or in brilliancy, or had these qualities been combined in different proportions, it is by no means certain that he would have reached the degree of usefulness which he was permitted to attain. It is not intended by these remarks to convey an impression that an uncommon original genius is essential to eminent usefulness; or even that persons whose native powers have not risen above an humble mediocrity have not, in many instances, emerged from an obscure condition, and rendered important service to their generation. What I would imply is, that where God designs to render an individual eminently useful, whose condition in life would seem to oppose formidable obstacles to it, it will generally be found that he has given him some peculiar original qualifications for encountering these obstacles successfully.

But it is not merely in the native character of the mind, but in the arrangements of Divine providence, that we are to look for the cause of eminent usefulness in what would seem eminently unpropitious circumstances. If we examine closely in such cases, we shall generally find that God has set over one >hing against another, and that that condition whose general features seem most uninviting, has in it, after all, some element of improvement—something which may assist to the formation of a useful character, and even be a passport to future eminence. And a moment's reflection may satisfy us that such an arrangement is admirably adapted to develope and strengthen the intellectual powers. On the one hand, there are difficulties enough to require the most vigorous exertions to overcome them; and on the other, there are facilities enough to encourage the hope of ultimate success; so that there is a double influence operating to a sustained and diligent course of effort at mental improvement. In many cases, indeed, there may appear to be such a

preponderance of difficulties, and the path to eminence so entirely hedged up, that, to a superficial observer, it may seem impossible that the individual should ever escape from his original obscurity; and yet, to the more scrutinizing observation of the person who is most of all interested, there may appear enough that is favourable to awaken hope and stimulate to exertion; and it will usually be found, in such cases, that the degree of eminence attained, other things being equal, is in proportion to the amount of difficulty overcome.

In the case of the venerable man whose character is exhibited in this volume, there was a combination of unpropitious circumstances at his entrance upon life, which, if the idea of his attaining to future eminence in the Christian ministry had been suggested, would doubtless, with almost every one, have stamped it as a visionary project. But there were, after all, some circumstances pertaining to his condition of a favourable kind, and his instinctive sagacity led him to discover them, while his eager desire of knowledge prompted him to avail himself of them. Though his lot was cast in a neighbourhood which, at that time, was favoured with limited advantages for intellectual improvement, yet a few books were actually within his reach, and if his poverty forbade his reading them by the light of a candle, he knew how to appreciate and improve the light of a kitchen fire. And though he was cast helpless upon the world, without a friend and without a farthing, he was thrown into a family who evinced towards him an uncommon degree of kindness, and were disposed, according to their ability, to second his humble efforts at improvement. It deserves especially to be remarked that this family was distinguished by the fear of God; and it was no doubt the influence of an exemplary Christian conversation which served chiefly to mould the elements of his moral character, and ultimately to imbue him with a deep and pervading piety. Had his lot been cast in a family of a different description, where he had been treated with cold neglect instead of being fostered with parental tenderness, or where he had breathed the atmosphere of infidelity and blasphemy rather than of piety and prayer, is it not reasonable to suppose that he might have proved a scourge rather than a blessing to society ?—a degraded wanderer over the world, instead of an eminently devoted and honoured minister of Jesus Christ?

And the providence of God is often not less strikingly or kindly manifested in indicating to the individual an appropriate field of labour, than in combining circumstances to rescue him from early degradation. Had Mr. Haynes, even after he became a preacher, attempted to plant himself in the bosom of refined and cultivated society, he might have found himself engaged in an impracticable enterprise; and not improbably, if he had subsequently found his proper place, would have

« AnteriorContinuar »