MY DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS:
This day of your matriculation is so critical a point of time in your life, that the Reverend the Dean has very naturally desired that some words might be addressed to you suited to the occasion.
I come from the crowded engagements of my official life to undertake that duty. The field that opens to my view, the considerations applicable to the occasion, are so numerous, so complicated, so important, that an adequate presentation of them all would require me to meet you day after day for many weeks.
I can only select a very few of them; and in restrict-ing myself to a narrow, limited course of remarks, I console myself with the reflection that much of what I pass by in silence will be brought to your notice in the incidental observations made to you by your Instructors in the course of their expositions.
Young gentlemen, I need scarcely say to you that each period of life involves a preparation for that period which is to follow it. And the welfare, the usefulness, the happi-ness of each period must depend almost wholly on the pre-paration in the preceding period. And this precious period of three years on which most of you are just entering, to be passed in the quiet and seclusion of a retired Institution, favored with the counsels of able Instructors, with an ample, well-stored library open to you, with noble opportunities for gratifying your desire for knowlege, with so many moments favorable to devotion, to meditation, favorable to self-examination and self-discipline; this precious period of three years is for your preparation--for what'? O, for that [3/4] which no words can adequately express! for the most sacred, most blessed, most responsible work--the life-long work of the Holy Ministry; to qualify you, if it may be so, to be "Ministers of Christ and Stewards of the Mysteries of God!" to qualify you to take the charge of souls; to ten-derly, lovingly, wisely guide them, draw them, console, ad-monish, warn, constrain, lead them through the trials, perils, sorrows of this world up to a world of everlasting peace and rest and love and adoration! This is the exalted, sacred, responsible, life-long work for which these three years' study, prayer, reading, meditation, are, with the help of God's Grace, to prepare you; and the nature of that unspeakably momentous work will depend very much, almost wholly, on the way in which you shall spend this time of your preparation. And that life-long ministerial work will be your preparation, good or bad, for the unend-ing life that is to follow! God grant that your preparation to be here made may be' good and thorough!--preparation of mind and heart, soul and body; for they are all con-cerned in the work you are to do for your Divine Master, for the Church of God, for the souls of men!
I am sure I need not stop to insist on the obligation you will be under, here and hereafter, to be earnest, devout, thoughtful students of the Word of God--to be modest, humble, loyal students of the Teaching of God's Church as it has been set forth by holy men, by the great Body of the Faithful from the earliest ages. Yes! my dear young friends, you know, and I beg you never to forget, that the things which you are here to learn, to meditate, to take into the very centre of your souls, are not the haphazard conclusions of bold, adventurous, unguided, unsupported thinkers--guesses at Truth, often the offspring of pride and [4/5] conceit--invented and loudly proclaimed by one, quite as loudly contradicted and condemned by another! No! by no means! Such shifting phantoms are not worth the study of years! They are not things to assist you in forming your minds and hearts! They do not help, but rather confuse and debase your powers and habits of thought. They are not things to take with you when you go forth to in-struct, to guide, to console, to save the weary, erring, dis-couraged children of men! No! The things which you are here to endeavor to master and lay up in your minds and hearts, to guide and help you in future years, in dealing carefully, tenderly, with the souls of the young and old com-mitted to your charge, are the simple, deep, far-reaching, well-ascertained, well-settled, immutable Truths of the Word and Church of God! It is enough to fill one with sadness to see a novice, an ill-guided mind, wearying and puzzling itself, and misleading others with a confused statement, where an intelligent Sunday School pupil of the Church would give a clear, simple, satisfactory answer at a moment's call. One word before leaving a subject which may well be left to your Instructors here. Is it conceiv-able that there may be in all this assembly a rash, impetu-ous young mind that, in the course of the three years, will meet with a statement of a vital truth which at first view will provoke doubt, question, contradiction! I will only say to such a mind, better be modest, better be humble, bet-ter consider whether one hasty ill-informed judgment can be equal in weight and authority to the united judgment of the wise and learned and holy of many ages! In one word, let me frankly say, what I think all will admit: You are not here to contradict and debate, but to learn, to weigh, to carry with you, a mystery, if it be so, in the belief that to a [5/6] dutiful and loyal spirit, as advances are made in knowledge and spiritual wisdom, the mystery will open itself so far as may be good for those who are to teach, or for those who are to learn.
But, turning to other views, I may remind you that there is another kind of knowledge to be sought besides that which is derived from books or from Instructors. That old precept, "Know thyself," is still good for all men, especially for those who are to guide souls and lead the way to Heaven. My young friends, I am quite ready to believe that every one of you, in coming to this Institution to prepare for the Holy Ministry of the Lord, came with sincere, earnest, devout purposes to do this work of preparation thoroughly, faithfully. And yet I am equally well convinced that each one of you, on looking into his own heart as in the light of God, in the presence of the judgment to come, in view of his proposed work as a "Minister of Christ and Steward of the Mysteries of God," must see and know that he has a great deal yet to do in regulating his thoughts, reforming his disposition, bringing himself nearer to the divine, pattern life of his adorable Redeemer and Master. If he awake from his dreams and come fully to himself, he must see and feel deeply that he needs to dwell oftener and longer upon the sides of eternity, to realize more fully in himself the Law of Holiness as taught in the Sermon on the Mount; needs to have more of the patience, gentleness, tenderness, love, pity, which so wonderfully ap-peared in the life of our blessed Lord. Here, there is work to employ no small part of your time and attention while you are here, preparing to lead a pattern life among the people of your future charge. Ah! young gentlemen, knowledge, book knowledge, is no doubt needful in the work [6/7] of the Christian Ministry. Acquaintance with the doctrine and discipline, and with the instrumentalities of the Church, is indispensable; but there is one thing which, in the Christian Minister, is most important of all: It is character! Why, my friends, formal preaching from the pulpit very com-monly occurs but once or twice in the week; but the preaching of a holy, lovely, sympathetic, benignant character in the midst of the Flock, that is preaching all the time, by day and by night. The people never turn their thoughts to the Pastor's home, as they are almost constantly doing when there is something attractive there, without being moved to reflect upon the excellence and beauty of his character, his good deeds, his kindness, his warm sympathies, his unwearied attention to the sick, the afflicted, the erring who come to him for his counsel and help. Sweetness and goodness often win the alienated, when hard and cold argument only harden and repel. Do not mistake me. There may be energy and firmness and manliness of character, and there should be, and yet there may be a sweetness, gentleness and goodness and patience which tell far more in the ministerial life, yes, and often in ordinary lives, tell far more than all other things put together. And even while here, my young friends, you may do much to cultivate this gentleness and dutiful-ness of character. Of course, in this matriculation you en-gage to submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Institution. No doubt you are sincerely resolved to do so. But it may be done in one spirit, or in another quite different. Exercises may be required, rules of conduct may be prescribed, which, to some, are distasteful and onerous. One may say in his heart, "I hate these things, they are of no use, but I have promised obedience and I will render it, however unwillingly." While another may say to himself [7/8] "These are not what I would have preferred, but they may be good for me. They are ordained by the proper authorities, and I really feel grateful to the Faculty for giving me occasion to put aside my own preferences, to practice a little self-abnegation, to mortify my own pride and selfwill." And so the same trial, while it annoys and irritates one, gives real satisfaction to another, and helps him on in the discipline of his mind and heart. And in the cross events of the after life the same difference is per-ceived, not perhaps by human eyes, but always by the all seeing eye. What is unwelcome and grating to the one, is meekly and gratefully received by the other, because it gives him the privilege and the comfort of feeling that he is fol-lowing a better will than his own.
And now, my young friends, a few words about your manner of life while in this Institution--your distribution and employment of time. For during the three years you pass here you are not only to make yourselves intimately acquainted with Holy Scripture, with theological learning, with the Rites and Usages of the Church, of which you are to be ministers--all very important things--but you are to use the little intervals of comparative rest and leisure for the further enlargement and improvement of your minds, so that when you go out into the world to exercise your holy office, to take your place among men--among intelli-gent and cultivated people, you may appear as intelligent and cultivated men yourselves, with some knowledge of English literature, of history, and of those sciences and ma-terial agencies which are exerting such powerful influences in the world around us!
I need scarcely say that your first duty, day by day, and every day, in term time, your imperative duty, is, before [8/9] all other things, to do the work which your Instructors have set before you for that day, to do it thoroughly. Do one thing at a time! Don't allow yourselves to fall into the wretched habit of dawdling over your work, looking one moment at your lesson, and the next moment turning aside to some trifle. When you study, study with a fixed concen-tration of all your faculties. Master every knotty point. Go over the portion assigned to you the second or the third time. Assure yourself, if it be a portion of Church History, or of a book like Pearson on the Creed, assure yourself that without the aid of the book you can go over the details in order, stating everything distinctly and easily. Young gen-tlemen, to form a habit of fixing the attention closely, con-tinuously upon the matter before you, mastering thoroughly everything you need to know, and fixing it in your memory, is to form a habit of mind which will be of inestimable use to you in all the after life. And without such a habit of mind, your mind, for any earnest purpose, will be of com-paratively little use to you. And be it observed, my young friends, that many of our mental habits are formed almost without our notice. We pursue many things by turns. We run to and fro. We begin a work and suddenly turn away from it in disgust, hardly considering that in the meantime we are unconsciously educating ourselves well or ill--taking upon ourselves good or bad mental habits which will cleave to us and help us, or embarrass and harm us, for all the rest of our lives. Lord Bacon's precept is worth remembering and reducing, if possible, to practice. If you find your mind becoming bent in a wrong direction, bend it forcibly and persistently in the opposite direction. Put a force upon your mind till the ill habit is changed into a good habit.
 Ah! young gentlemen, we become absorbed in the contemplation of outward objects; we seek knowledge, we labor to acquire an education, and in the meantime, almost without our notice, an education is going on within; the tone and constitution of the mind--of the soul--of the immortal part, are being modified, are being refined or vulgarized--made more earthly or more spiritual; are being raised up toward Heaven, or debased to things of low estate! While we are eager about visible objects, as if they were the only things worth notice, the spiritual nature within may be fallen into grievous disorder before we are aware of it. I need not say, my young friends, that the training within, the education of the heart, must be carefully attended to as well as the progress in knowlege to be acquired for exterior uses.
But let us return for a moment to the daily routine of duty and study. Suppose the lessons of the day have been well acquired, and the duties of the recitation or lecture room well discharged, and that an hour or half hour of leisure follows. How is it to be spent? The mind needs rest and refreshment. To obtain them it is not necessary to fall into a state of absolute vacuity and indolence. The mind is more refreshed and reinforced by being turned to a different subject. Change is all that is required for rest and refresh-ment. A good book--lives of eminent scholars, statesmen, divines, poets. Let it be good writing, pure in sentiment, chaste in style, interesting in matter, and the reading of even half an hour will revive your spirits, enlarge your views, reanimate your faculties, and make you forget that you have known anything like fatigue. And in the mean-time, without your thinking of it, your mind will have been enriched with noble sentiments, with beautiful language and [10/11] imagery, with "thoughts that breathe and words that burn," which, in some future day, without your being conscious of it, will lend a touch of beauty, or an element of strength and persuasion to an argument, which otherwise might have been dull and ineffective. And so that half hour of reading, besides affording rest and refreshment, and waking up the mind to renewed life and energy, contributed not a little to the mental resources and to mental cultivation of the reader. What a pity if that half hour had been lost in idle dreams, or in still more idle and frivolous talk! How many of those half hour intervals of leisure there are in the three years' Seminary course! and if worthily spent, what an aggregate they yield of useful information, of refined literary culture, how much help they lend toward the formation of a beau-tiful mind, and all that without obstructing in the least the severe studies, but rather making them more fresh and more effective.
But perhaps you will be thinking that some time must be given daily to the care of health, to the taking of air and exercise. Yes, certainly; a "sound mind in a sound body" are good for all, and most especially for those who are to make good use of their minds to minister in Holy things. Hereafter you will very likely find enough of air and exer-cise as you go about your pastoral duties. And as to your life here, let me say, that reasonable temperance and dis-cretion at table, and reasonable temperance and discretion in taking your daily walk, if the elements permit, will, under ordinary circumstances, ensure to you the great bless-ing of health and cheerfulness. With a conscience at peace, with a reasonable assurance that you are faithfully and suc-cessfully prosecuting your studies and doing your duties, and with such habits of reading as I have briefly referred [11/12] to, your days will pass pleasantly, and you will have the strong consolation of trusting that you are rapidly advancing toward a good, youthful preparation for the noblest work in which man, in this world, can be engaged!
But, dear friends, you are to be preachers; you will have much to do in the way of composition; you must learn to be ready writers! to express clearly, and, if need be, forcibly the truths and lessons which you wish to commend to the people of your charge. More half-hour readings, which I trust you will not neglect, will have much to do in prepar-ing you for good thinking and good writing. If you have learned to love good writing, good authors, you will readily produce good thoughts in fitting language. I do not mean that thoughts will come to you without labor, but that among the thoughts that may present themselves you will instinctively reject the crude and inappropriate, and adopt the just and affecting ones. Prepare for preaching by laying up material that may come in your way, or be suggested. I would recommend the keeping of a notebook. Sometimes a text of Holy Scripture will strike you and suggest inter-esting thoughts; note them down with the thoughts. The painter--the artist--is always accumulating material for his future pictures. As he takes his walks over the fields he notices a striking glimpse of light and shade, or a beautiful cluster of wood and foliage. He takes his pencil and makes a few marks in his pocket album, enough to enable him to retain the image, feeling sure that it will serve a good turn in some future picture. And so it does, and it helps to make him true to nature, instead of being always obliged to tax his invention and rely on forced and artificial material.
And so you, gentlemen, in your walks, in your reading, in your conversation with your associates, will have thoughts [12/13] occur to you which will be worth preserving. Note them down with such observations as occur to you. It will encourage your thinking, improve your freedom and force of expression, and furnish you with a store of material, which, in some future time of pressure, you will be glad to avail yourself of. Sometimes it may happen that in turning over the pages of your notebook in future years, a text, or a hint at a subject, may many times pass under your eye without your feeling ready to make use of it. Perhaps the text does not open to you in a way to induce you to use it; or the hint at a subject does not seem to involve matter so in-teresting and useful as to tempt you to take it up for a dis-course, and so for years it may remain untouched in your notebook, often passing under your eye, but affording you no help; but perhaps after a long time an impressive and suggestive event may suddenly occur in the world, or a vivid train of thought may be flashed into your mind, and you are reminded of the text in your notebook, or the hinted subject and you see that the one or the other is full of life and meaning, contains a pregnant and important lesson for the people of your charge--for all people--and under the glow of the hour you take your pen and quickly and easily pro-duce an interesting and useful discourse!
Young gentlemen, if you set about writing a sermon, you will, if you are thoughtful and serious men, desire that the sermon you are to make may do good to the people who hear it. As you set to work, imagine yourself in the pre-sence of a congregation. You need be at no loss as to the special character of that congregation. If you know your-self, you may easily conceive of the qualities and dispositions, of the people you are to address--beings of noble capabili-ties, but full of weaknesses, imperfections, shortcomings, [13/14] forgetfulness, susceptible to the influence of good, and in some cases, perhaps, still more susceptible to the influence of evil!
Gentlemen, need I say be sincere, be real, be in earnest, be tender: You speak for your Lord and Saviour, Christ, who humbled Himself and suffered and died that we might live forever in peace and blessedness! You speak to immortal beings who are subject to pain and grief--in many cases wavering between, life and death, between light and darkness, between peace and joy, and the trouble, the gloomy forebodings that beset a state of sin! You won't wish to throw away among such beings pompous, glittering, unmeaning words, when, with the help of God's Grace, you might touch and win some forgetful, some erring soul! Heaven forbid! Make your sermons as if on your knees; under the eye of your blessed Lord, beg the help of God's Grace; prepare your mind by reading a portion from the Gospel. You won't play tricks in the Sacred Desk! You won't speak for display more than for edification and spiritual benefit! You won't indulge in extravagent assertions, or in unseemly lan-guage. You won't fill half of your sermon with dull, ineffective arguments to prove what does not need to be proven! You won't allow boorish manners, or irascible dispositions to lower your character and mar your influence for good! You won't like to speak evil of any man, or of any body of men! You won't be much given to disputation! Recognizing the great central facts and truths of Christianity as unquestioned verities, as momentous realities, you will try to make them live in presence of the hearts and consciences of your hearers, and endeavoring to enforce the lessons they convey for instruction, for admonition, for consolation, and as incentives to spiritual improvement and a holy life. In [14/15] fine, leaving unnoticed many precepts and suggestions which I would have liked to set before you, I conclude with the one thought and hope which is uppermost in my mind and heart, that while here you will endeavor in all gentleness and humility and seriousness to make yourselves well pre-pared for the great work of the Holy Ministry, and that hereafter you will be careful so to study, so to pray, so to preach, and so to live, that, through the Grace and Mercy of God, in Christ Jesus, you may both save yourselves and them that hear you!