« AnteriorContinuar »
gone to it with his energies depressed, and his spirit broken by a bad beginning. But, instead of seeking great things for himself, he chose a retired and comparatively uncultivated field, where the peculiarity of his history would be least likely to awaken prejudice against his ministrations. And, more than that, the field of his early labours was overrun to a great extent with different forms of infidelity; and the unusual fertility and quickness of his mind, in connexion^ with his previous familiarity with the cavils and objections of unbelievers, singularly qualified him for such a sphere. The result has been, that the trophies which he gained in some of his conflicts with the enemies of true Christianity, survive to his honour on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps it had not been easy to have selected another field in which both his original powers and early training would have conspired to render him so much at home, and in which such a mind as his was so pre-eminently needed.
It must appear on the slightest reflection, that there is much in the history of such a life as that of the subject of this memoir, to aid young men of promising dispositions and talents, but of an humble lot, to encounter the obstacles which lie in their way to usefulness and distinction. It must be acknowledged, indeed, that Mr. Haynes had the advantage of possessing finer original powers than fall to the lot of the mass of mankind; but, on the other hand, it is equally certain that few have ever risen under the pressure of such adverse circumstances; so that, if he had more power than most others, he had proportionally greater difficulties to surmount. Is there a child at this moment in some one of the haunts of wretchedness around me, in whose bosom is kindled up the great and noble desire of becoming an enlightened and useful man;—of moving in the walks of respectability, or becoming a fountain of intelligence and blessing to his neighbourhood, or devoting himself to the service of God in the ministry of reconciliation;—shall I bid that child extinguish this rising desire, and tell him that the degradation into which he is cast is too deep to warrant the hope that he shall ever escape from it, and exhort him to make the best of his ignoble condition, because it admits of no remedy? No, I will do no such thing; but I will approach him with looks and words of encouragement, and I will tell him that there is no obstacle that will not yield to perseverance; and then I will go over with the story of Lemuel Haynes, to show him that I speak words of truth and soberness. And it were easy to refer to many other instances of a similar character, in which individuals have triumphed over the most appalling obstacles to eminence, and, from the humblest lot, have actually risen to the highest places of influence and honour. Yes, there are men now in our own country whose influence is felt at the extremities of the nation—men in the various departments of literature, and science, and politics, and religion, who are among those that take the lead in moulding the elements of our public prosperity—whose present elevated standing must be referred to what seemed a most unpropitious beginning; and if you go back with their history but a few years, you will find them amid the toils of some humble vocation, engaged with the perplexing problem, "whether the obstacles in the way of their acquiring an education were too great to be overcome?" Happily, they decided in favour of making a vigorous effort to overcome them; and in the successful result which has followed may be read in golden letters the great truth, that nothing is too hard for an unyielding perseverance.
But while the history of eminent self-made men holds out the strongest inducements to young men of promise, in humble circumstances, to grapple fearlessly with the difficulties which may lie in the way of their being liberally educated, it suggests to the wise and good, and especially to the guardians of our public interests, the great importance not only of seconding the wishes and aiding the efforts of such young men, but of keeping an eye out upon the humbler classes of society, with a view to cherish, so far as possible, every opening bud of piety and genius. It is indeed an office that requires much judgment and discrimination, to select youth in indigent circumstances to be educated solely, or in a great degree, upon the charities of the church; but in a state of things which calls for so much well-directed intellectual and moral influence as that in which our lot is cast, it is manifest that every class of society must be taxed for its legitimate share, and even the humblest must not escape. There are young men of considerable vigour and precocity of mind, whom it may not be desirable to educate, on account of some marked defects in their moral constitution; and there are young men, on the other hand, of promising dispositions and exemplary piety, who have too little force of intellect to warrant their being withdrawn from a vocation in which the hands rather than the head are put in requisition; but where talent, piety, and prudence are found in combination, and there is a disposition on the part of the individual to consecrate himself to the Christian ministry, no doubt it is the duty of the church to train him for her own service; and the individual by whose benefactions he is sustained in his preparation for the sacred office, or by whose watchful sagacity he has been selected for such a destination, may have exerted a benign influence which will reach to the ends of the earth.
There is perhaps no public instrumentality which is so important in its bearings upon this subject as the Sabbath school. Into the sacred enclosure which this institution provides are gathered children from the humblest walks of society; and the intercourse which the teacher necessarily has with them gives him the best opportunity of estimating aright their dispositions and talents. It were well that every teacher and superintendent should consider it a part of his duty to watch the characters of those under his care with reference to this object; and whenever he finds a case of sufficient promise to warrant such a step, let him report it to the officers of the church, and let the individual be recommended to her charities.
If I may pass to a remark or two of a more general kind, I would say that the formation of such a character as that of Mr. Haynes furnishes a striking illustration of the wise and wonderful workings of Divine providence. Who that beheld him in the deep degradation of his earliest years, could have dreamed that he was destined to occupy an extensive sphere of usefulness in the church; to stand for more than half a century a skilful and valiant defender of the faith, and to leave behind him a name which multitudes would delight to honour? But God's ways are not as our ways. The elements of his character, his faculties, and dispositions, were given with reference to the work he had to accomplish. And so, too, the ordering of his circumstances was made to subserve the same end; and even those events in his history which seemed to betoken nothing but degradation and disaster, were rendered subservient to the development of his faculties and the extension of his usefulness. If there was bitterness in his cup, it was qualified by softening ingredients. If there was thick darkness hanging over the commencement of his path, a faint light soon shone in