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THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGION ON THE INTELLECT.

A LECTURE DELIVERED AT THE LONGTON ATHENEUM.

BY THE REV. P. J. WRIGHT.

MAN is vastly superior to all the living creatures that exist in our world, but he is not equal to angels. The mind of man dwells in a fleshly tabernacle, angels are not clothed with corporeal garments. Angels excel man in mental and moral strength, and they are continuously the subjects of religious influence. Man is formed for religion, and it is his privilege to emulate angels in intellectual power and spiritual excellence. In order that he may enjoy this privilege, Divine Providence, by various means, causes religious influence to stimulate his intellect. There are diverse kinds of religious influence in the world. It is not every kind that will so act on the soul of man as to invest it with dignity and happiness. Some kinds of religious influence debase and enfeeble the intellect. Other kinds improve it in only a slight degree, and fill it with painful anxieties. The Christian religion alone is adapted to ennoble, adorn, and enrich the human intellect, in the genial manner and to the large extent designed by Jehovah. The influence of this religion on the intellect is like the influence of nature on a cultivated landscape. Just as the dews, the showers, and the sunlight cover the fields with beauty and fruitfulness, so the doctrines, facts, and secret operations of religion invest the intellect with all that is lovely and of good report in the estimation of mankind. Accordant with the view thus set forth Richard Watson remarks, "Piety is manhood. Religion, though not the offspring, is the great instructress of reason. She alone has the power to turn the mind, hitherto wandering over the scene of external objects, inwardly upon itself; to contemplate its wants, its powers, and its destiny; to open a new world to thought; to supply from heaven and from God the subjects of meditation, and thus to expand and mature the intellectual of man." To the same effect are the words of an eloquent clergyman : "We will not yield the culture of the understanding to earthly husbandmen. There are heavenly ministers, who water it with a choicer dew, and pour on it the beams of a more brilliant sun, and prune its branches with a kinder and more skilful hand. We will not give up reason, to stand always as a priestess at the altars of human philosophy. She hath a more majestic temple to tread, and more beauteous robes wherein to walk, and incense rarer and more fragrant to burn in golden censers. She does well when exploring boldly God's visible works. She does better when she meekly submits to spiritual teaching, and sits as a child at the Saviour's feet, for then shall she experience the truth, that the entrance of God's words giveth light and understanding."

Religion is impulsive to the intellect. There are forces which act upon material substances, and there are forces which act upon mind. The winds of heaven uplift the waves of ocean, impel huge ships towards their destination, purify the atmosphere, and carry the clouds over the face of the earth to water it with fructifying rains.

The warm rays of the sun stimulate vegetation, make the grass grow and the trees bud, tinge the flowers with beautiful colours, and clothe the corn with gold. Truth exerts a similar power on the human mind. Any kind of truth, historic, philosophic, or scientific, will exert such power. Religious truth, especially, will do so, and in this respect surpasses all other truth. It ranks pre-eminent in power to rouse the intellect from lethargy and incite to mental improvement. Is the reason of this inquired for? Not to mention any additional reason, the inherent energy of true religion is quite sufficient to account for the delightful result. Illustrations of the stimulating force of religion may be easily furnished, and they are found in two classes of subjects-individuals of feeble capacity, and persons ignorant through inattention, or the influence of unfavourable circumstances. Respecting the first class little need be said, for the details of such cases have scarcely any effect beyond the gratification of curiosity and love of the marvellous. Henry Melville states: "The instances are of no rare occurrence, in which a mental weakness, bordering almost on imbecility, has been succeeded by no inconsiderable soundness and strength of understanding. The case has come within my own knowledge, of an individual who, before conversion, was accounted, to say the least, of very limited capacities, but who after conversion displayed such power of comprehending difficult truths, and such facility of stating them to others, that men of staunch and well informed minds sought intercourse as a privilege." An individual resides not far from Nottingham, with whom I am personally acquainted, who, had he not been brought under the influence of religion, would have moved among society as an eccentric cipher. Religion has so roused and enlightened his mind, that by public exhortation on theological topics, the distribution of books, and the exercise of the gift of prayer, he is exceedingly useful to his fellow creatures. Respecting the second class more may be stated. It has been no uncommon circumstance for persons of mature years, and even very aged persons, encompassed with infirmities and of failing sight, who had lived in utter ignorance of the very elements of knowledge, when renewed in heart by the grace of God, to sit down, and, impelled by irrepressible thirst for information, patiently learn the letters of the alphabet, and subsequently enrich their minds with stores of wisdom. I have often seen young men, who, before they became religious, were thoughtless despisers of books, and brutish in their habits, very soon after they had given their hearts to God, manifesting thoughtfulness, eagerly perusing books written by men of strong intellects, and rapidly securing acquaintance with the noblest ideas that occupy the human understanding. The records of missionary labours abound with facts of this description. John Williams tells us concerning a chief and his friends who came from Rurutu to Raiatea. "When they were conducted to public worship on the Sabbath, they beheld with astonishment the assembled multitude, heard them sing the praises of the one living and true God, and listened with the deepest interest to the message of mercy. At once they were convinced of the superiority of the Christian religion, and concluded that God had graciously conducted them there, for the purpose of making them acquainted with its inestimable blessings. Having placed themselves under our instruction, we gave them in charge to our deacons, and supplied them with elementary books. Auura was exceed

ingly diligent in learning and made rapid progress. In a short time, he completely mastered the spelling book, could repeat the greater part of our catechism, and read in the Gospel of Matthew. They were with us only a little more than three months, and before they left, he and several others could read, spell, and write correctly, although they were previously ignorant of the formation of a letter or a figure." He states

also respecting a class of "thirty old women, some lame, others blind, and all tottering on the brink of the grave," which had been formed in another island: "One or two of them could read, having learned after they were upwards of sixty years of age, and all of them could repeat a catechism which contained the leading principles of Christianity.' thermore states, that in connection with the introduction of Christianity a new era commenced with the natives," not only in their moral history, but also in their intellectual. The process of instruction under which they were brought, the new wants and desires created by the supply of knowledge, the excitement produced by a series of discoveries, many of which were so wonderful and sublime that they could not fail both to quicken and enlarge their faculties, and above all, the elevating power of vital religion, made them mentally, as well as spiritually, new creatures in Christ Jesus." The influence of religion on the minds of the Hottentots of Africa, who had sunk nearly to a level with the brutes that perish, has been astonishing and delightsome in a high degree. Full ten years did the brave and benevolent Moffatt labour amongst them, in word and doctrine, without stimulating their torpid faculties, or changing their vile habits, or even securing their serious attention. They continued stupidly ignorant, disgustingly filthy, and fiercely brutal in their conduct. At length the truth enlightened their understanding and moved their conscience; they were brought out of darkness into marvellous light, and made the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. In that hour a mighty impulse was given to their intellect. They awoke from the dream of ignorance, and arose from the foul bed of sensual indulgence. The beings who had sunk so low among human kind as to lose all ideas of God, and the soul, and immortality; as to become not very unlike the grinning and chattering apes of the country in which they dwelt, discovered and felt their deep degradation, perceived the dignity of which they were capable, set themselves to acquire the elements of knowledge and the comforts of civilization, soon realized encouraging attainments, and are still advancing in the path of mental improvement. These facts, with many others of a similar description, clearly demonstrate that the influence of religion invests its subjects with the characteristics of thinking, inquiring, and progressive beings.

Religion purifies the intellect. This fact has been strangely overlooked in efforts to instruct and develop the human understanding. It is, nevertheless, of high importance, both as it respects the individual and those with whom he has to associate. Cleanliness is essential to physical health and to agreeableness in social intercourse. Purity of mind is essential to mental health and to a benign effect on the intellectual faculties of others. Nothing admits of more easy illustration. Without adverting to the frivolous and polluting writings and conversation of thousands, whose minds are not under religious influence, the foul blots which appear on the pages of some of the authors who are famous in English literature, fully prove the correctness of our state

ment. There are passages in Shakespear, with all his creative energy, and in Byron, with all his glow of language, which Christian parents would not like their sons and daughters to read, knowing the baleful effect likely to be produced thereby on their youthful imagination. No such objectionable passages pollute the writings of the mighty Milton, the amiable Cowper, and the earnest Pollok. We find no such repulsive blemishes in "Paradise Lost," the "Task," and the “Course of Time." The streams of poetry in these noble and beautiful effusions of genius flow onward in chrystal clearness, without any ebullition or admixture of turbid waters. How are we to account for the difference between the two classes of writers? There is only one explanation that will account for it. The intellect of the first class had not been purified by vital godliness; the intellect of the second class had been baptized with holy influence from above. The purifying power of religion in the mind of man should excite no astonishment. Without enlarging on the renovating energy of the Holy Spirit in its direct action on the intellectual faculties, it is quite clear that the preceptive bearing of Christianity cannot fail to promote purity of thought. Religion enjoins and necessitates communion with our Maker. It brings the human mind into fellowship with the Infinite Mind. The intellect is instructed and led thereby to contemplate God, to hold converse with God, and to rejoice in God. The Great Being to whom we thus approach with humble boldness is almighty. The ponderous earth on which we live and move, with all its furniture and inhabitants; the brilliant sun that pours floods of glory on far-off worlds; the massive and shining spheres that roll in the depths of space; the cherubim, and seraphim, and hosts of angels that dwell in the heaven of heavens, were brought into existence out of nothing, by the word of his power. The goodness of this great Being is as remarkable as his omnipotence. The morning light, the evening dews, the refreshing rains, the healthful breeze, the herbs, and fruits, and flowers, the birds that sing among the branches, the ripe corn that rustles in the valley, our health, our reason, and our spiritual mercies, all proclaim to our mental ear, in tones most musical, most pleasant, that God is good. This great Being is as holy as he is good and powerful. His name is holy. He dwells in the high and holy place. He is of purer eyes than to look upon iniquity. Angels veil their faces before the glory of his holiness. Nothing that defileth can enter his bright and beatific abode. You will perceive at a glance the application of these statements. The mind that enjoys intercourse with the high and holy One will put away polluting ideas, and cherish thoughts of a pure and heavenly nature. Religion requires us to subordinate the sensual to the intellectual-the animal passions to the faculties of the understanding. In doing so, purity of mind is indispensable. To follow the impulses of sense, is to become brutish; to regulate the gratifications of sense by the dictates of a depraved fancy, is to become fiendish; to control the desires of sense by the volitions of a pure heart, is to approximate to the moral excellence and happiness of angels. The influence of religion is here developed in all its power and glory. It not only places animal appetite under the direction of the mental faculties, it prohibits also every evil desire of the mind, and thus brings our inferior nature into submission to our superior nature, in its conformity to the Divine nature. Religion is suggestive of holy and beautiful thoughts. While it condemns

unholy ideas, it supplies a multitude of conceptions, which are so many rays of light from the Sun of Righteousness-so many revelations of truth and grace from the Most High. These conceptions expel and keep out the ideas which degrade and defile the understanding. The effect of their communciation is like that produced by the beams of the rising sun. Those beams dispel the fogs that brood over the fields, and they render the landscape a scene of loveliness. So the thoughts imparted by religion to the intellect clear away the fogs of ignorance, error, and sin, adorn its faculties with the beauty of holiness, and produce enjoyments of a lofty description. Thus man is made godlike; God dwells in man, and man dwells in God.

Religion strengthens the intellect. Energy results from exercise. If a man luxuriate in ease and idleness he will degenerate into feebleness; but if he engage in active pursuits, that call forth his utmost strength, he will greatly invigorate his physical powers. How remarkably swift of foot the racer becomes by frequently racing with others! How keen and far-seeing the sight of the sailor becomes, by oft-repeated watching on the wide waste of waters! What vigour is produced in the arm of the brawny son of Vulcan, by uplifting the weighty hammer to strike the heated iron! The mental faculties are made strong by similar Exercise on difficult subjects invariably augments their power. It is impossible for the mind to prosecute inquiries demanding patient thought, comprehensive survey, and considerable mental force, without increasing its vigour. By effort it must and will grow stronger. Nothing is equal to religion in supplying the intellect with the exercise requisite to render it vigorous. Its topics are so lofty, so vast, and so mysterious, that even angels who excel in mental strength desire to look into them, to investigate and understand them. What can be better adapted than such topics to strengthen the human understanding? The clergyman already quoted remarks, "In all the wide range of sciences, what science is there comparable in its sublimity and difficulty to the science of God? In all the annals of human kind, what history is there so curious and so riveting, as that of the infancy of man-the cradling, so to speak, of the earth's population? Where will you find a lawgiver from whose edicts may be learned a nobler jurisprudence than is exhibited by the statute book of Moses? Whence will you gather such vivid illustrations of the power of truth as are furnished by the march of Christianity, when apostles stood alone, and a whole world was against them? And if there be no book which treats of a loftier science, and none which contains a more interesting history, and none which more thoroughly discloses the principles of right and the prowess of truth, why, then, just so far as mental improvement can be proved dependant on acquaintance with scientific matters, or historical, or legal, or ethical, the Bible, beyond all other books, must be counted the grand engine for achieving that improvement; and we claim for the Holy Scriptures the illustrious distinction that, containing whatsoever is needful for saving the soul, they present also whatsoever is best calculated for strengthening the intellect. We might occupy your attention with the language as we have done with the matter of Holy Writ. It were easy to show you that there is no human composition presenting, in anything of the same degree, the majesty of oratory and the loveliness of poetry. So that, if the debate were simply on the best means of improv

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