صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

whole moral state whence human action proceeds. In this matter we must not appeal to a majority of men for the measure or the kind of conduct of the smaller number. The majority may be wholly right in their doctrines and practice; but a vote has no charm to infuse either, into those who are wrong in both. Let us teach men where the evil they do lies, what are its sources, and all of them. Let us show every side of virtue, and with what felicity it is blessed. Let it be made to all men a personal concern, to think and act well. Let the moral principle be awakened from its long and profound slumber, and it will be to them in all its revelations and doings, the fast friend of their happiness, their sure guide to good. By such means, and by such means only, can we secure to this cause the permanency it claims of its friends. And proceeding on its true principles, we must secure to it all of progress that the nature of man allows us to hope for. To pursue an opposite course will be sure to create enemies. We shall find parties rising in this matter, and in this way one of the purest, one of the dearest of causes to the philanthropist, will come to be polluted by low and vulgar passions, presenting themselves in their most odious aspects. Suppose for a moment that it should be mixed up with what are called politics, and great or small questions of a public nature should be made to turn by the power of this reform. Nothing could be so fatal to it. Its great and distinguishing characteristic, its purely moral nature, would be taken away from it. It would itself soon again be lost sight of, in the jarrings and miserable strifes which now make Christianity mourn. The responsibleness then, which rests with those who have an active agency in this matter, is not a light one. Making every allowance, however, for human infirmity, if the true principles of the temperance reform be steadily kept in sight, the interruptions to its progress will not be great, and its present bright prospects will be covered by no impenetrable cloud.

Article IV.


The individual whose name is at the head of this article, has been long and widely known, and warmly admired. Of course our design is not an attempt to raise up into notice, one, whose genius and talents have no intrinsic force to secure ascendency and attention. Reputation like Hall's, sustained by powers so vast and noble, will always take care of itself. It asks not the adventitious help of critical eulogy or purchased praise. The assumed arbiter of literary destiny can neither augment nor diminish, by his judgments and decrees, the lustre and elevation of his fame. Our object, in this article, is to give a candid estimate of the literary and professional character of Mr. Hall and of the probable influence of his works and name. As incipient and introductory to this design, it may be profitable to glance at the process of training, and the application by which he grew to greatness; for whatever our theories of the equality or inequality of native endowments, it must be conceded, that education has a chief influence in the structure, strength and symmetry of the mind.

Robert Hall was born at Arnsby, near Leicester, on the 2d of May, 1764; the youngest of fourteen children. Like Doddridge, his infancy was one of extreme and precarious feebleness. In the infantile stage, there were no remarkable intellectual indications. It was not till he was two years of age, that he could either talk or walk. No attempts were made, as sometimes are made, in the first dawn of being, to force knowledge upon him, or to decoy to inadequate mental exertion—attempts, in consequence of which, many minds that might have shone with peculiar brightness, have set in sad and premature gloom. He was not taught, till he seemed to solicit instruction. It was in a burial ground, situated near his father's house, that he first learned to read and spell ; his nurse was his instructor, a grave-stone the textbook. After he began to learn, his progress was rapid, and he soon became a surprising instance of intellectual precocity. The following facts are related of him when attending an elementary school in a neighboring village. « On starting from home on the Monday, it was his practice to take with him two or three books from his father's library, that he might read them in the intervals between the school hours. The books he selected, were not those of mere amusement, but such as required deep and serious thought. The works of Jonathan Edwards, for example, were among his favorites; and it is an ascertained fact, that before he was nine years of age, he had perused and reperused with intense interest, the treatises of that profound and extraordinary thinker, on the "Affections' and on the Will.' About the same time he read, with a like interest, · Butler's Analogy. At the age of eleven, Mr. Simmons, his instructor, informed Mr. Hall that he must remove Robert from the school, for he was not able to keep pace with him, without sitting up all night to study; a practice to which his strength was inadequate. Young Hall then passed into the family of a valued friend of his father, Mr. Wallis, of Kettering, who was so much struck with the wonderful precocity of the lad, that he would frequently request him to deliver short religious addresses, before select companies invited for the purpose. Mr. Hall in subsequent life, occasionally alluded to this treatment with warmth, as palpably indiscreet and injurious.” “I never call the circumstances to mind," he said, “ without grief at the yanity it inspired; nor, when I think of such mistakes of good men, am I inclined to question the correctness of Baxter's language, strong as it is, where he says, “Nor should men turn preachers as the river Nilus breeds frogs (saith Herodotus), when one half moveth before the other is made, and while it is yet but plain mud.'

We have been thus particular in detailing circumstances of Hall's early development and training, as it is interesting to know something of the original movements of a great mind. In this instance, we behold the exhibitions of remarkable strength and comprehension in childhood. But it is not always thus with individuals who attain ultimate eminence. Indeed, we are inclined to the opinion, that ordinarily, precocity is an unfavorable symptom. At least, remarkable boys do not always make remarkable men. Greatness is generally of slow and arduous growth. “It has been observed by long experience,” says Dr. Johnson on this very point, “that late springs produce the greatest plenty.” This much we may safely affirm ; great intellectual power is invariably the result of great and protracted intellectual exertion. On this account it may be, that many whose early promise was rather dim and dubious, transcend expectation, and astonish by the

splendor of their subsequent career. They were alone, in the solitude of the closet, in communion with wasting toil, silently forming and compacting the sinews of a robust strength, while those of brighter hopes were playing in the sun, squandering the golden season of preparation in vain endeavors for a premature fame. The man who would ever be any thing must struggle for it, and breast labor, and keep long at the wheel of mental toil, and put no trust in original endowments and facilities. Hall did so. Though he, if any, might have confided in native gifts, yet he did not in the least confide in them. He began with, and persisted in a hard application, and it was this that made him the giant he grew to.

Mr. Hall's preparatory studies were conducted at Northampton, under the eccentric Dr. John Ryland, where she made great proficiency in Latin and Greek,” and at the Baptist academy, Bristol, under Dr. Caleb Evans, where he read the learned languages, metaphysics, and divinity. In November, 1781, at the age of seventeen, Hall entered as a pupil at King's college, Aberdeen. Here he had the advantage of the luminous instructions of doctors Gerard, Campbell, and Beattie. But the most important and influential circumstance which attended his residence at this seat of learning, was the intimacy he formed with Sir James Mackintosh, there a fellow-student designed for the medical profession. These two minds, of a lofty structure, brought into connection, and warmed by frequent, friendly collision, undoubtedly contributed much to a mutual strength and elevation. Sir James says, “ he became attached to Hall because he could not help it.” Though their tastes were different, and but little congeniality of sentiment existed, yet their attachment was strong. "The substratum of their minds seemed of the same cast,” they were kindred in greatness and power. Hence the firm bond of their union. They read together, sat together, walked together; being most of the time during their perambulations intensely engaged on the arena of moral and metaphysical disputation. In this way resources were accumulated, power increased and consolidated, acumen sharpened, and principles settled. And there was no loss of mutual kindness and regard. “The process seemed rather like blows in welding iron, to knit them closer together.” Immediately upon leaving Aberdeen, Mr. Hall became


associated with Dr. Evans, as assistant pastor of the church at Broadmead, Bristol; and soon after he was appointed classical tutor in the Baptist academy in that place. At this time he was only twenty-one years of age; a truly perilous amount of duty for one so young and inexperienced. But his mind was prompt and elastic, his resources were rich and abundant; and he accomplished the services and sustained the responsibilities of his station with credit and even applause.

We have arrived at the conclusion of Hall's academical career, but not at the conclusion of his scientific and classical studies. Though he had made peculiarly large and various acquisitions, and took at his first appearance before the world, an elevated and admired position, yet he was by no means satisfied with what he had gained. His capacious soul, with restless longings, reached out for more. There was a thirst for knowledge, strong, insatiable, ever growing in intensity. Amid professional duties and racking pains, it constrained him onward in the career and labor of unremitting acquisition. The works he sought to, for the nerving and storing of his powers, were not the light and ephemeral things of the day, but the productions of the veteran and massive thinkers of other times. He chose to go up and drink at the fountain, however difficult the access, rather than in the stream below, where the waters were injured by uncongenial admixtures. 6 When I first became known to Mr. Hall,” says Dr. Gregory, "he had recently determined to revise and extend his knowledge in every department, 'to re-arrange the whole furniture of his mind, and the economy of his habits,' and to become a thorough student. He proposed devoting six hours a day to reading; but these, unless his friends sought after him, were often extended to eight or nine. He thought himself especially deficient in a tasteful and critical acquaintance with the Greek poets; and said he should once more begin at the beginning. He set to work, therefore, upon the best treatises on the Greek metres then extant. He next read the Iliad and Odyssey twice over, critically; proceeded with equal care through nearly all the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides; and thence extended his classical reading in all directions.” He kept up his intercourse, we believe, more or less intimately, with the master-spirits of antiquity, through his whole life. Plato was his favorite, and he once remarked, " that an entire disregard of his writings would be an irrefra

« السابقةمتابعة »