« PreviousContinue »
made, if we should resort to the writers of Heathen antiquity for the true motives of conduct-for our rule in life, or our hope in death. This would, in truth, be but seeking to draw the living waters of the Gospel from the perforated casks of Pagan Mythology, to borrow one of her own illustrations. But, when we not only find in classic literature, especially among the writers of Greece, the laws of all taste, and the patterns of all excellence-when we not only derive from her historians, philosophers, and orators, examples for all time of the closest accuracy of thought, the most complete simplicity, energy, and majesty of diction, and from her violet-crowned Muses the perfect mastery over every mode of the lyre (I had rather refer to such images in the harmony of their own native tones
Χρυσέα φόρμιγξ, Απόλλω-
Σύνδικον Μοισᾶν κτέανον,—
but when, besides all these sources of what may be esteemed as mere pleasure and delight, we proceed to infer that the supreme Governor of the universe must have deemed it good in His inscrutable counsels to have furnished and arrayed all this wondrous development of human intellect and genius, as if with the purpose of proving how high they could soar, how low they must sink, without the accompaniment of His special revelation; and then to have made this very language, thus fraught beforehand with all the treasures of this world's cunning, and adapted by the marvellous pliancy of its mechanism to the expression of all human thought, susceptible of a still higher destination in being the chief channel in communicating the simple and weighty terms of that Revelation to the world; just as also the Imperial power of Rome was the appointed instrument first for opposing, then for exalting, and then for diffusing the true religion amongst mankind-when we further find every day fresh manuscripts unhoused from Thracian or Syrian monasteries, throwing new and unexpected lights both upon the interpretation of the sacred text, and the history of the early Church, at once vindicating the truth of Scripture, and stripping the false pretensions and usurpations of man-when the great German people, with its hosts of acute critics and laborious scholars, are exercising their ingenuity upon all that has been discovered, and upon a great deal that has not-I argue both from this pervading and continuing correspondence between the literature that has been termed sacred and been
termed profane, as well as from the general truth that the Author of the Universe is the source of all its beauty, and all its inspiration, that it can be no more our duty to leave the excellencies of classical literature unexplored and uncared for, than it would be for the tourist or painter to track the upward course of the fair stream which waters your town, and not let his enthusiasm thrill with a livelier pulse amid the ravines of Braemar, or his reverence kindle into a warmer glow under the crests of Lochnagar. I wish, however, principally, within such short limit of time as still remains to me, instead of dilating further upon the character of those studies in these seats of learning, whether literary or scientific, which have already sufficiently commended themselves to the approval of mankind, to enter into somewhat more of immediate communication with the living mass of youth which I survey around me; and as it is by their favour that I have been thus invested with the privilege to address and even to counsel them, I trust they will pardon the endeavour to establish, during the short period allotted to our intercourse, the impressions of a more close, and real, and lasting sympathy between us. It is indeed not without emotion that I am now looking upon you, a portion of the rising youth and hope of Scotland-I may more fitly say of our common country-of our common race of man. It is impossible for me, or for any one, to decipher what amount of promise there may be among the active forms and ingenuous countenances now gathered here, buoyant and ardent with all the energies of youth. It is quite possible that there may be among them the germs of the most splendid contributions to the service or the delight of the world; and that even I, little worthy as I may be of such a function, may at this moment be addressing men destined, in the good Providence of God, to make their country greater, and their race happier, than they found it. But without anticipating more than any ordinary measure of the favours of Heaven, and the fortunes of menwithout assuming that there are to issue from among you any prodigies of genius or virtue-still to the most sober and least visionary apprehension, what is the spectacle here presented? I see those who are to emerge from these walls as soon as the academical course has closed, and to enter upon the many paths of active life-some in all the busy calls of trade-some in the honourable competition of mercantile enterprisesome to administer or expound the laws of their country, and bring justice home to the poor man's dwelling-some in that holy profession of
healing, which is entitled to the epithet, if for no other reason than that it was exalted by the practice of our Divine Master himself-some in the varied pursuits of science, art, and literature, among whom, perhaps, there will not be wanting those who will return to the wellremembered abode which they now inhabit here, and restore the full stream of their matured acquirements to its native well-head-some, above all, in your old honoured Scottish pulpits; and here you will allow one who is a stranger in your country, and not an adherent to your Church, to speak without any reference to the later divisions which have prevailed within it; but I never can speak of the history, or the ministers of the Church of Scotland without respect and gratitude for her steady consistency in all her seasons of shade and sunshine, to both the simplicity and fervour of Gospel truth. When, however, I place the profession of a minister of the Gospel high above all others, as I assuredly consider it to be in dignity, in privilege, in importance, I by no means intend to convey that it behoves every one to aim at making it his own; on the contrary, I hold it to be the clear duty of a man to ascertain, with as much sincerity of mind as he can bring to the momentous inquiry, what the calling in life is for which the apparent arrangements of Providence, and his own natural gifts, best adapt him; and then, when he has made the decision (I am of course speaking thus of the general run of cases, as there can scarcely be any universal or unbending rule applicable to such matters), to adhere to the course he has entered upon with the utmost steadfastness of purpose. This, it will be always fair for him to presume, is his allotted sphere, his appropriate theatre of action; keeping within this, he appears warranted to hope for the blessing from above-departing from this, he seems to throw all on his own responsibility; he is in danger of incurring the reproach of Reuben-"Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." To exhort you, collectively, to diligence, to stimulate you to ardour, during those golden hours now at your command for the undisturbed pursuit of your respective studies, while the dull surge of the outward world only booms in the distance, would be not only a very obvious task in itself, but one also I trust, for the most part superfluous with reference to you. The desire for success in life is so general, and the ingredients of that success so palpable, that where these fail in suggesting and exciting the requisite exertion, the voice of the speaker can have little hope of being effective. Upon consulting and diving back
into my own past experience, whether derived from observation of my fellows in the career of life, or still more consciously and painfully from the testimony of my own self-knowledge, I am inclined to think that the tendency against which we ought most to be on our guard in School and College life in this country, and I doubt not in others, is the spirit of too decided emulation with one another, arising from the too eager desire of applause. I would be far from wishing to be understood as seeking to quench or supersede this powerful incentive to young and ardent dispositions; Providence has implanted it, and the whole constitution of the world in which we live teems with matter for its fuel and aliment; but, like many of the best endowments of our race, it requires to be watched, guided, subordinated. I perceive that my accomplished predecessor the Earl of Eglinton, in his inaugural Address, quoted one of those old Homeric lines which stir us like a war-trumpet, and it will furnish me with just the distinction which I want to establish
Αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν, καὶ ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων :
"Always excel, and tower above the rest."
In the first section of this line, dèv åpioτevei, “alway excel," the genius of Paganism and the genius of Christianity may take common ground, and impart a common lesson-" always excel." To the soldier, when the ranks rush together-to the sailor, when the storm sweeps down upon him-to the statesman, in the hottest strife of faction-to the ploughman, even on your granite hill-sides-to the physician or surgeon, by the couch of the sick, or maimed-to the clergyman, by the bed of the dying-duty has but one voice-"Always excel." But for the next half of the line, "and tower above the rest," there the genius of Paganism goes on; the genius of Christianity halts. To tower above the rest may be the result of your excellence; it cannot safely be its motive. Christianity here comes in with other motives, and with maxims which are at once immeasurably more humble, inconceivably more lofty. "Charity secketh not her own"-"In honour preferring one another"-these, depend upon it, young friends, these are the rules to test your moral progress, to measure your heavenward growth. Most sincere indeed is my wish for you all that, when amid all the diverging paths and multifarious duties of your after lives, you look back upon the years that are now gliding too swiftly past you here, it may be to recognise in them the starting point of your several
careers of eminence and distinction, enriched by the acquisitions with which you will have stored your own minds, and ennobled by the purposes of usefulness and philanthropy to which you will hereafter consecrate them. It should, however, be never left out of view, that eminence and distinction, in their very nature, cannot be the lot of all; they do not always follow upon endeavour-they do not invariably attend desert. But you may have learned better things from the mental and intellectual training of this place; you never could have learned them more effectively than from one of my most honoured predecessors in office-the learned and excellent Dr. Abercrombie-whose inaugural Address from this chair is a perfect manual for the discipline of the mind and understanding, showing most powerfully to what a matter of science, and almost of certainty, it can be reduced; and in how great a degree, if properly pursued and improved upon, it makes the mind its own supreme master and lawgiver. But most of all do I wish for you to look back on these sunny days of youth as the season of solemn resolve that you will put before you the one true ambition, and embrace the one paramount purpose of life—the ambition and the purpose to do the will of our God, and copy the character of His Christ.
PRESENTATION OF THE FREEDOM OF ABERDEEN TO THE EARL OF CARLISLE.
I have now the honour to discharge the most pleasant duty of the day, in calling especial attention to the distinguished nobleman on my right. You are all aware that Lord Carlisle has held important office in the State, and that he has devoted much of his valuable time and great talents for the benefit of his country, and the welfare of mankind. His exertions in the cause of philanthropy and literature are acknow