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It may be doubted, indeed, if the notion ever met with serious acceptance anywhere else than in the minds of a few scoffing infidels; and even they must have been compelled to admit that the facts were against them, for most assuredly the Christian world has not manufactured its saints out of boors. One must be ignorant of the very commonest facts of history to be unaware of the close relationship between piety and learning, knowledge and goodness, so abundantly illustrated in every age of Christianity. True it is that a man may be unlearned and yet attain a high degree of religious culture. But is not every generous mind painfully conscious of the want of harmony in such a character? Is it not at once conceded that the religious excellence exists there not because of, but in spite of, the illiteracy we pity and deplore ? So decided, indeed, is the connection between man's religious and intellectual faculties, that without a certain degree of enlargement of the mental powers, the religious sentiment seldom rises above a slavish superstition, or a blind adoration, in which fear is the predominating element. We lay great stress upon this mutual and sympathetic relationship between intellectual culture and moral and spiritual development, believing firmly that an enlightened, vigorous, and wellordered intellect, however humble its treasures, will prove our best help in the purification and culture of the affections. We place the paramount incentive of religious duty first among those motives which should prompt every man to an earnest cultivation, according to his circumstances, of those intellectual faculties with which the Creator has endowed him.
Having thus stated what we conceive to be the chief incentive to mental self-culture, let us consider what are the objects at which we should distinctly aim in this culture. What should a man of ordinary position and endowments, guided by strong common sense, propose to accomplish by this mental self-training ? A vast amount of hollow and superficial talk has been expended on this subject of mental culture; and some senseless books have made their
appearance on the same topic. It really becomes necessary to remind people that no mere culture can create genius, nor can any man educate himself above his capacity. Culture will not always ensure either repute among one's fellow-men, worldly success, or social advancement. It often forms a useful help to the attainment of these things, but it cannot ensure their possession. In this competitive world, necessarily only a small proportion can rise to distinction, or secure the prizes of wealth and fame. Admittedly it argues an unwholesome state of feeling to be altogether indifferent to worldly position and
repute, repute, or even the attainment of wealth. These are in them. selves worthy aims when their pursuit is conducted in a worthy and religious spirit. But they are by no means the highest objects of existence, and are certainly not worth a man’s straining his best powers to achieve. Besides, if happiness depended on our attainment of the glittering prizes which the world can dispense only to one man in a thousand, pitiable indeed were the fate of the nine hundred and ninetynine who must necessarily be disappointed. We speak thus because a great amount of twaddle has been talked at young people and working men in a contrary strain ; and the biographies of eminent and worthy celebrities are misapplied in a similarly false spirit. Let a man cultivate his mind for the sake of developing the nature which God has given him, for the sake of the pure and lofty joy which this culture shall yield, and the uses to others it shall enable him to fulfil; and verily he shall have his reward. But if he demand that the recompense of such culture shall be the possession of worldly wealth, unwonted success in life, or fame and distinction, who shall be answerable for his disappointment ?
There is another blunder into which many persons are apt to fall on this subject of mental culture. They speak and act as if the object to be attained were to cram oneself with the greatest possible quantity of mere facts—to avail oneself to the utmost of the stores of knowledge that is the favourite phrase) which in our days lie within everybody's reach. This goes upon the assumption that man is a mere beast of mental burden, the chief purpose of whose existence here is to tramp like a packhorse along the highway of human life, carrying the last new load of information which the world chooses to heap upon his weary shoulders. However vigorously platform speakers may declaim in strains which imply this view of human life, the great mass of mankind practically discard the notion. Men do not feel themselves to be mere reading animals, with whom the acquisition of book knowledge is to be the be-all and end-all of existence. The great mass of mankind do not so much desire to become better students as better and happier men. They seek to learn how to enjoy more fully the existence which God has given them, and they ask for book learning only in proportion as it will help them to the attainment of this object. It is, indeed, the especial business of the man of science to investigate for the sake of extending the boundaries of human knowledge ; but we often hear persons talking and acting as if this were a business in which every man among us in this work-a-day world bore some share of direct responsibility. John Locke
thought otherwise. For a man (said he) to understand fully the business of his particular calling in the commonwealth, and of religion, which is his calling as he is a man of the world, is usually enough to take up his whole time; and there, are few that inform themselves in these, which is every man's: proper and peculiar business, so to the bottom as they should do.
Let these remarks not be misunderstood. What we deprecate is, not the steady pursuit of knowledge, the systematic acquirement of information, but the foolish practice of intellectual cramming. We live in an age and a country wherein books abound, and our danger really lies rather in reading too much than too little. A man may be adding to his 'stores of knowledge all the days of his life, and may all the while lack wisdom. He may be a walking cyclopedia of information and facts, but unless these cohere around some central purpose or principle, they are of little value either to himself or the world. As the Spanish proverb has it, knowledge will become folly if good sense does not take care of it.
To acquire a knowledge of facts is one object of self-culture, but it is not the only, or the highest aim which we should propose to ourselves. Culture implies development, growth, expansion; and by intellectual culture we mean that exercise of the reflecting and reasoning faculties which contributes to their healthy development and activity, as physical exercise contributes to the health and vigour of the body. To awaken and energise these faculties, to give them force, acuteness, and facility of action, to develope one's intellectual individuality, and to bring it to bear for the service of our fellow-men, these are the great objects which we should propose to ourselves in efforts after mental self-culture. A man of disciplined faculties, it has been well said, has the command of others' knowledge; a man without them has not the command of his own. Only when the possession of knowledge, or the process of its acquirement, contributes to mental power and enlightenment, does its acquisition fully repay the toil.
We have just spoken of intellectual individuality. One of the aptest explanations of the meaning of this phrase which we have ever met with, is to be found in Dr. Burder's little book, named at the head of this article :
The minds of men (says the doctor) differ not less than their countenances. The face of every individual has its own peculiar aspect, its own peculiar expression. The features taken separately may bear resemblance to the features of many others, but the combination of the whole gives to every countenance an indescribable character of individuality by which it is distinguished from that of every other human being. Analogous to these indications of individuality of countenance, are the characteristic differences which obtain among minds. The leading faculties
of the intellect, and the essential susceptibilities of the heart, belong to our common nature. But in different individuals they exist in different degrees and in different proportions. They have received different degrees of cultivation, and of excitement; they have been developed under widely different circumstances ; they have been conversant with different classes of objects. The result is, that every individual is distinguished by his own peculiar habits of thinking and of expressing thought. He has his own plans of reading, of reflecting, and of investigating. He has his own processes of incorporating the thought of others with the ideas which appear to be the spontaneous produce of his own mind. His mind may be compared to a mould, which gives the yielding substance its form and character, its “image and superscription.” Now, in proportion to the vigour and to the completeness of intellectual operations, and in proportion to the facility of carrying forward the processes of manly and independent thinking, the mind may be expected to obtain a character of individuality. Even when it avails itself of the thoughts of others, it has a talent of making those thoughts its own before it communicates them by discourse or writing. The ideas which are derived from a variety of conversations or of books, are so modified, and arranged, and expressed, that although they present to notice little which can be pronounced new or original, yet they exhibit an aspect characteristically different from that which they have received from the lips, or from the pen, of any other individual. They are obviously the result of the working of a mind which has the power of thought, and which finds delight and facility in the exertion of that power. Such a one .may not be endowed with the talent of bold and inventive originality; but he commands and he rewards the attention of his hearers by the characteristics of an interesting individuality. He is sufficiently alive to a sense of what he is not capable of attaining, to preserve him from aspiring to the elevation of a towering genius; and he is sufficiently alive to a sense of what he is capable of effecting, to preserve him from sinking into the degradation of a servile imitator, or of an adept at the concealment of plagiarisms.'
Every man must be to a great extent his own director as to the fields of knowledge which he should explore, as knowing best his own mental needs, what is accordant with his tastes, aptitudes, and inclinations, or most useful in his peculiar sphere and calling in life. Sundry reasons will lead different minds to select different branches of science and information, The selection having been made by each man for himself, and keeping in view the great objects of mental self-culture, a word or two may be said about reading and reflection, the chief processes by which these ends will be achieved.
Without the habit of reflection books are useless to us. Reflection, or (shall we term it?) self-communion, is the basis of conviction. The man who has not begun to form convictions has not made any advance in the work of self-culture. It is astonishing how little conviction exists beneath the mass of ideas to which men give utterance. If there were more true conviction in the world there would be truer and better action. Men play false to themselves a great deal more than they do to others. So little of what they think is thought profoundly and sincerely; so little of what they say is said earnestly and heartily. Yet profound and clear conviction is the groundwork of all that is manly and strong in character, and to this all one's reflection must lead if it is to be of any service to oneself or the world. Reflection is especially the
possible department of self-culture. Every man may not have a great amount of leisure at his command, or have access to all the books which he would desire; but a mind accustomed to the habit will seldom want materials for instructive reflection. They are within and around us. In the depths of our own mysterious nature, in the observation of individual character, in ordinary natural phenomena, in the passing history of one's own time, in the circumstances and experiences of one's own personal history, and especially in the high teachings of inspired wisdom to which in this happy country it is every man's privilege to listen if he chooses, the earnest searcher after truth may find abundant sources for obtaining valuable stores of the precious metal. But it is because men practise so little the habit of reflection that these common stores of knowledge are not turned to better account.
Important, however, as is this habit of reflection or selfcommuning, it is obvious that the advances which any totally unassisted mind would make in knowledge and the attainment of truth would be very limited. Our minds need help and sympathy; and hence we come to the second means of selfculture, namely reading. Thought, reflection, conviction-such are the stages through which the mind passes forward to power and enlightenment; and it is by reading that these processes are stimulated. In saying two or three things about books and their uses, we will begin by repeating that one must beware of reading too many books. Our aim in reading must be to discipline the faculties, to give them tone, facility of action, and power. A man will gain far more mental benefit-far more useful practical knowledge-by thoroughly studying one book than by a superficial reading of a dozen ; always assuming that the book is worth mastering, and that he is capable of mastering it. There is nothing more surely productive of a weak and flabby intellect than a habit of continuous, systemless, objectless reading, without a deduction therefrom of definite principles of reasoning or action. This injurious habit was never more extensively practised than in this age of the multiplication of books. When there were fewer books in the world men valued them more and used them better. Injudicious reading is just as likely to produce mental debility as indiscriminate loading of the stomach is likely to produce dyspepsia; and let us never forget that a healthy and vigorous mind, though its fare be scanty and homely, is far preferable to a pampered and sickly one. It is indiscriminate devouring of books which fills the world with smatterers and superficial coxcombs, in whose company it is impossible to find oneself without desiring for them a decrease