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BOY'S SECOND HELP TO READING.
Sir Robert Peel's Address to the Students of the
This discourse was delivered on the 13th November, 1837, when Sir Robert occupied the office of Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow. The melancholy death of this “ Nestor of politics,” and invaluable man, is too recent an event to render a biographical sketch of his career necessary; but the beautiful remarks here laid before the reader carry us back to the days of his early successes at Christ Church, Oxford. Sir Robert Peel, as having himself achieved the highest honours the University could confer, both in classical literature and mathematics, has left behind him a name to be reverenced, and an example to be imitated, by every reader of these volumes. For the sake of clearness his observations have been here arranged under different heads.
I should not be acting in conformity with the established usage of the University, I should still less be acting in unison with my own feelings, if I did not on this occasion address myself immediately to those who are pursuing their studies within these walls. Yes, let me, who have not survived my sympathies with the feelings and aspirations of academic youth, who have drunk from the same pure spring from which you are allaying the thirst for knowledge, who have felt the glow of your emulation, and have panted, like you, for academic distinction-let me, after being engaged in the active scenes of public life, and buffeted by the storms and contentions of party,—let me bring the living testimony of practical experience to confirm the truth of those precepts, to enforce those exhortations which you hear from the higher authority of the distinguished men of whom your instruction is the immediate and peculiar province. Let me assure you, with all the earnestness of the deepest conviction, founded on the opportunities of observation which public life and intercourso
with the world have afforded, that your success, your eminence, your happiness, are much more independent of the accidents and caprices of fortune, infinitely more within your own control, than they appear to be to superficial observers. There lies before you a boundless field of exertion. Whatever be your pursuit, whatever be the profession which you may choose, the avenues to honourable fame are widely open to you, or, at least, are obstructed by no barriers of which you may not command the key. Does the study of theology engage your attention ? Is the office of the sacred ministry to be your destination ? To what nobler aim can you dedicate your faculties and acquirements than to vindicate the great principles of our common faith, to defend them from the assaults of infidelity, to establish them on the only foundation on which the spirit of free inquiry will allow them to rest the authority of Scriptural truth? But be not content with mediocrity. Aspire to that eminence which has been attained by the great preachers of other ages, the honoured champions of the Protestant religion. Why should you despair of attaining it? Bring to your sacred functions the spirit by which they were ani. mated, treasure up the same stores of professional learning, make them available by the command of the same simplicity of style and energy of expression; above all, enforce the precepts you inculcate by that highest argument, the pure example of your own lives, and despair not of exercising a moral influence like that which they exercised, and founding a reputation lasting as theirs. In the commanding authority of your station-in the frequent opportunities for the public exertion of your powersin the eagerness with which men will listen to truths that concern their eternal interests, if they be but enforced (and they too frequently are not) with the same measure of earnestness, of ability, and of eloquence, with which their worldly interests are defended, --in these things you will find all that can satisfy the highest ambition for honourable fame. Is science your pursuit ? “The great ocean of truth,”. to quote the expression of Newton, “the great ocean of truth" lies expanded before you. “I do not know," said he, at the close of his illustrious career, what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, finding sometimes a brighter pebble or a smoother shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. Each subsequent advance in science has served, not to contract the field of inquiry, but to extend it on every side. It has served, like the telescope, to make us familiar with objects before imperfectly comprehended; but, at the same time, by the obscure vision of things unknown, of relations and dependencies of which we had no conception, it has shown us the comparative nothingness of human knowledge. Are you destined for the legal profession or are you ambitious of distinction in the public service of your country? Surely the recent competition for this office, which now entitles me to address you, is pregnant with signal proof that whatever be the place of your
nativity, whatever be the accidents of your birth, the highest distinctions are accessible to all, and that no national jealousies remain to obstruct your advancement, or to envy you the possession of them when obtained.
Cultivation of the Mind. Mental discipline, the exercise of the faculties of the mind, the quickening of your apprehension, the strengthening of your ment, are of even more importance than the store of learning. you will consider these faculties as the gifts of nature, by far the first in value,-if you will be persuaded, as you ought to be, that they are capable of constant, progressive, and, therefore, almost indefinite improvement,--that by arts similar to those by which magic feats of dexterity and bodily strength are performed, a capacity for the nobler feats of the mind may be acquired,—the first, the especial object of your youth, will be to establish that control over your own minds, and your own habits, that shall insure the proper cultivation of this precious inheritance. Try, even for a short period, the experiment of exercising such control. If, in the course of your study, you meet with a difficulty, resolve on overcoming it; if you cannot, by your own unaided efforts, be not ashamed to admit your inability, and seek for assistance. Practise the economy of time; consider time, like the faculties of your mind, a precious estate,-that every moment of it well applied is put out to an exorbitant interest. I do not say, devote yourselves to unremitting labour, and forego all amusement; but do say, that the zest of amusement itself, as well as the successful result of application, depend in a great measure upon the economy of time. When you have lived half a century, you will have seen many instances in which he who finds time for everything,-for punctuality in all the relations of life, for the pleasures of society, for the cultivation of literature, for every rational amusement,-is the same man who is the most assiduous and the most successful in the active pursuits of his profession. Estimate also, properly, the force of habit. Exercise a constant, an unremitting vigilance over the acquirement of habit, in matters that are apparently of entire indifference, that perhaps are really so, independent of the habits they engender. It is by the neglect of such trifles that bad habits are acquired, and that the mind, by tolerating negligence and procrastination in matters of small account, but frequent recurrence, matters of which the world takes no notice,-becomes accustomed to the same defects in matters of higher importance. If you will make the experiment of which I have spoken; if, for a given time, you will resolve that there shall be a complete understanding of everything you read, or the honest admission that you do not understand it; that ere shall be a strict regard to the distribution of time; that there shall be a constant struggle against the bondage of bad habits ; a constant effort, which can only be made