S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Dr. John Abercrombie
The unanswerable reasonings of Butler never reached the ear of the gray-haired pious peasant, but he needs not their powerful aid to establish his sure and certain hope of a blessed immortality. It is no induction of logic that has transfixed the heart of the victim of deep remorse, when he withers beneath an influence unseen by mortal eye, and shrinks from the anticipation of a reckoning to come. In both the evidence is within, a part of the original constitution of every rational mind, planted there by Him who framed the wondrous fabric. This is the power of conscience: with an authority which no man can put away from him it pleads at once for his own future existence, and for the moral attributes of an omnipresent and ever-present Deity. In a healthy state of the moral feelings, the man recognizes its claim to supreme dominion. Amid the degradation of guilt it still raises its voice and asserts its right to govern the whole man; and though its warnings are disregarded, and its claims disallowed, it proves within his inmost soul an accuser that cannot be stilled, and an avenging spirit that never is quenched.
Pecuniary aid, by those who have the means, is the most easy form in which benevolence can be gratified, and that which often requires the least, if any, sacrifice of personal comfort or self-love. The same affection may be exercised in a degree much higher in itself, and often much more useful to others, by personal exertion and personal kindness. The former, compared with the means of the individual, may present a mere mockery of mercy; while the latter, even in the lowest walks of life, often exhibits the brightest displays of active usefulness that can adorn the human character. This high and pure benevolence not only is dispensed with willingness when occasions present themselves, but seeks out opportunity for itself, and feels in want of its natural and healthy exercise when deprived of an object on which it may be bestowed.
Learn to feel the supreme interest of the discipline of the mind; study the remarkable power which you can exercise over its habits of attention and its trains of thought; and cultivate a sense of the deep importance of exercising this power according to the principles of wisdom and of virtue . Judging upon these principles, we are taught to feel that life has a value beyond the mere acquirement of knowledge and the mere prosecution of our own happiness. This value is found in those nobler pursuits which qualify us for promoting the good of others, and in those acquirements by which we learn to become masters of ourselves. It is to cultivate the intellectual part for the attainment of truth,and to train the moral being for the solemn purposes of life, when life is viewed in its relation to a life which is to come.
When we turn our serious attention to the economy of the mind, we perceive that it is capable of a variety of processes of the most remarkable and most important nature. We find, also, that we can exert a voluntary power over these processes by which we control, direct, and regulate them at our will,and that when we do not exert this power the mind is left to the influence of external impressions, or casual trains of association, often unprofitable, and often frivolous. We thus discover that the mind is the subject of culture and discipline, which, when duly exercised, must produce the most important results on our condition as rational and moral beings; and that the exercise of them involves a responsibility of the most solemn kind, which no man can possibly put away from him.
A person accustomed to a life of activity longs for ease and retirement; and when he has accomplished his purpose finds himself wretched. The pleasure of relaxation, indeed, is known to those only who have regular and interesting employment. Continued relaxation soon becomes a weariness; and, on this ground, we may safely assert that the greatest degree of real enjoyment belongs, not to the luxurious man of wealth, or to the listless votary of fashion, but to the middle classes of society, who, along with the comforts of life, have constant and important occupation.