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The Value of Diary-keeping.
conviction that the penning of these delightful notes was one effective instrument in forming, strengthening, and polishing the writer's character. Something, however, there is to be said on the other side of the question. There is some difficulty in being strictly and severely honest with one's heart on paper. It must be hard at all times to get quit of a half-conscious reference to possible supervision, different from that of the writer's own eye, and to prevent the pen from being warped aside from the true course by an insensible under-current of regard to the opinion of others, when friends, perchance the public, may peruse the pages of our unfolded inner history. After all, however, this can operate only, to any extent, in withholding the hand from recording everything : and this is as it should be. The only friend who should read any man's whole heart is God. Behind the chamber opened by the most faithful diary, there must be, and ought to be, an adytum, where the soul pouring itself out can never have any other auditor than the Hearer of Prayer. Much, however, being reserved, it can yet hardly be questioned that the habit of committing to paper somewhat of the hidden history of the soul must furnish valuable aid in the culture of the understanding and heart. It is not altogether that in this way the results of self-inspection are set down for after reference, serving as landmarks at once to stimulate and measure future progress; but the very shaping of our thoughts into written words concentrates the attention—detains the mental exercise we would dissect and delineate before the contemplation of the mind, and serves as a glass to aid the intro-vision. In some form or other, however rude, such paper aid will be found necessary even to the private Christian who would thoroughly examine himself, and keep his heart with all diligence. No matter though the record should feed the flames, as soon as it has been written, it will do the writer good. We cannot but regard the advice therefore, already adverted to, as sound counsel, and say to young men-dissect and know yourselves by keeping something like a diary, truthfully and honestly. Dr. Heugh's own is manifestly faithful. The evidence of this does not lie so much in the circumstance mentioned by the biographer, that his journals, in great part, had been kept in a peculiar short-hand which the writer could not anticipate should ever be deciphered, as in the character of the notes themselves. The penman is too resolute in his self-scrutiny, lays his grasp too firmly, and turns his eye too keenly on the subject of his search, has too high a
a purpose in view by the investigation, to leave us in doubt that he is dealing with himself in the process, with an earnest fidelity --and that his notes display at once a skilful and a faithful chemistry of the heart.
But another question presents itself: How far are we at liberty to make use of such records of departed friends ? Is the public disclosure of their experience an injury done to them: and is our pleasure in perusal of their notes to be marred by the reflection that we are feasting on forbidden spoils? We know not that with such a book as the present in our hands, we can at all hope to decide a question of this sort impartially. Our logic will naturally be biassed by the liking to retain our treasure. But are we really wronging the dead when we reveal what they never themselves meant to disclose, and had even locked up from our inspection? Are we doing indignity to their memory ? That every reader of this “Life” has risen from its perusal imbued with a higher regard for Dr. Heugh than even the living man commanded, we are well persuaded ; but it has not been so in every such case--and the question is not to be decided by results in individual instances. Have we the right to penetrate the bosoms of men when they are gone, as we could not, and would not, when they were alive? The answer depends, we think, on the promise of benefit to the living. If no high purpose can be served by such unveiling as we speak of, then no more think of it than you would open their coffin, and rend the shroud from their bosom. But there is hallucination about what we call the memory of the dead. We are far from regarding the name which men leave after them as a matter of slight importance. From the memory of the just, ever blessed in its influence for good over others, a tribute of fresh happiness is always ascending to the glorified spirit; while to many a wicked man it is a boon when his name so rots as to ensnare by its example no more. The works that follow the departed to glory or wo, are often a series stretching through many generations, flowing on like a stream, while the earth abideth. Were it possible—to take a particular case for illustration—to collect and destroy the copies of the excellent Commentary of Matthew Henry, the deed of extinction would be like plucking jewels from his heavenly crown, diminishing his honour and joy eternally. On the other hand, could you cast into oblivion the works of the impious sceptic, or ribald poet, or ephemeral story-teller, you might earn the lost one's thanks, by lightening, as it were, the stone which presses for ever on his soul's sepulchre. Deal truly, then, and wisely by the memory of the dead; thus viewed, use his works reflectingly and reverently, since a blow may be struck on earth, reaching in its effects to heaven or hell. But in the sense in which we use the term, when we speak of injuring a man's memory, the idea has illusion in it. Fame is nothing to the dead; no more to the living soul of the departed than to his inanimate dust. The honour that cometh from God is everything beyond Story of Dr. Heugh's Life.
75 the grave. That " fancied life in others' breath,” which even before our death” is found an evanescent shadow, an unsubstantial and mocking echo, can have no place amid the stupendous realities of the world behind the veil. In this acceptation, we think, a man's fame belongs wholly to his surviving friends : a name which has existence only on earth must have its custodiers here. The dead are not wronged, while the living are unwounded. We are sure of unanimous suffrages among the readers of the present volumes as to the valuable contribution towards their instruction and improvement, which the near friends of Dr. Heugh have presented in the extracts made from hidden treasures left to them by the dead. Guardians besides of their friend's honoured name, they have not misjudged but have added fresh lustre to a reputation to them so valuable. We know that the study of this “ Life” has evoked the remark even from some who shared the intimacy of the deceased, that in his lifetime they had been ignorant of his true worth.
The mere story of Dr. Heugh's life, like that of most ministers of the Gospel, may be told in a few sentences. Born at Stirling on the 12th August 1782, and educated in boyhood at the Grammar School of the borough, his early years were spent under the roof and care of his father, the respected minister, at the time, of the General Associate Congregation in that town. At the age of fifteen he entered on his academical course in the University of Edinburgh, and having closed the requisite literary curriculum, was admitted to the study of divinity under the Professor of the body to which he belonged. On the 22d February 1804, and while yet in bis twenty-second year, he was licensed to preach the Gospel; was ordained some two years thereafter as colleague to his father, and continued diligently to discharge the duties of the pastoral office in Stirling till the year 1821, when he was translated to Glasgow. Here he continued till his death in 1846, laborious beyond most in the functions of the ministry, and distinguished for the honourable share he took in public matters affecting the prosperity of his own communion, the interests, generally, of the Church of Christ, and the wellbeing of mankind at large.
This brief and general outline, in the hands of the biographer, and with the materials for illustration before him, expands and ramifies into a goodly volume, full, without tediousness, of instruction and interest. We have already said that extracts make up the mass of the book; the editor, with judgment and taste, weaving his selected paragraphs into a continuous pieture of the progress of Dr. Heugh's mind, fully as much as a delineation of the events of his outward history. It is not so much the scenes through which he passed that the biography brings before us, as what he was amid these successive scenes. It is the constant insight into the inner life of their subject, and the consequent perception of his growth as a man and a Christian that gives this work its charm. The book is a mind-history, a memoir of the soul.
One remark here occurs: We have no distinct record of his conversion. When we first view him, his inner life is already a stream advancing somewhat freely, purely, and joyously on its way to Heaven; and we cannot learn with what strugglings and windings it took its rise and pursued its earlier course from the riven rock. We see him, like some of Bunyan's pilgrims when first descried, already on the narrow way of life, and know not how he was first warned to flee from the City of Destruction, or found entrance by the wicket-gate. There is sufficient evidence, however, that he obtained admission by the legitimate portal, and had not climbed up some other way. And while it would have been interesting to know how divine truth first dawned on such a mind as that of Dr. Heugh, the absence of any record, and indeed of any remembrance of the manner of the change, need not surprise us in the case of one educated religiously in his infancy, and knowing from a child the Holy Scriptures. It may indeed be questioned, whether with more prayer, faithfulness, and distinct aim at the Christianity of children on the part
parents, the great mass of the young of our Christian flocks might not be introduced into the true fold in childhood, and be unable, in after life, to tell how or when, because they had been recipients of the Divine influence prior to the dawn of abiding recollections.
Taking up the course of this inner history where we first meet with it, we discover a kind of twofold and twin development; the intellectual and the spiritual—the education, so to distinguish, of the understanding and of the heart—the discipline of the study and of the closet. A similar co-ordinate progress appears at the beginning of his pastoral work: we have the professional somewhat distinct from the personal training. This latter distinction, necessarily, to some extent, obtains to the close. But it is illustrative of the progress of this mind (as well as of this mind-memoir) that not a few things pertaining to its intellectual education and professional acquirements, which occupy considerable place in the earlier notes, disappear wholly as the diary advances. The discipline of intellect and heart become blended in the one nurture of the soul, as sister streams unite and flow on in one full channel; and the minister is hardly to be distinguished from the man, nor the Christian from the Christian pastor. Referring, in illustration of the earlier nurture which gradually disappears, to such extracts as register rules for the acquisition of babits of attention, of the power of conversing with His Habits of Vigilant Observation.
facility and usefulness, and of a natural and easy manner in public speaking, it may be added, that most who knew Dr. Heugh will conclude that the discipline in question had ceased even from very success. For few men were ever distinguished more by powers of close observation, vivacious speech, and a graceful, effective style of oratory.
It will be greatly to the advantage of every young reader to pay special attention to those passages in this biography which bear on the former of the points now mentioned--the acquiring of habits of wakeful and accurate observation. There are not many things more essential to all mental greatness or power, or more serviceable to a man's usefulness. Of that drowsy and listless posture of mind which permits intercourse with men and things to pass away without leaving behind any distinct impression, or more than a remembrance which is vague confusion, like colours and distances to the eye which has but partially learned to see, Dr. Heugh speaks in terms of strong reprobation, as unworthy alike of a rational being and Christian man. Ile potes the want of fixed attention as among his own early defects, and sets himself to supply the lack with a hearty resoluteness, which merited the result it secured. Few men have passed through life more thoroughly awake to all around, and the keenness and fixedness of his observation are displayed equally in his survey of nature and in his pursuit of subjects of meditation. Let his example direct and encourage young men (who, he somewhere says, in regard to the surmounting of difficulties, “ can do anything they please") to cultivate as one of the choicest mental acquisitions, the power of attentive observation. In their walk through life, let them keep the eye open, and the mind alert; every object in nature teaches, and all society too; and whatever they do, let them perform with alacrity and spirit. It was a favourite and a worthy maxim with Dr. Heugh, that whatever was worth doing at all was worth doing well.
It was one result of the habit of vigilant observation which Dr. Heugh had successfully cultivated, that the varied scenes of this beautiful world presented attractions to his eye similar to those which they possess for the poet or painter. There is an affected delight in fine scenery, but his love of nature was genuine and profound. He seems to have been especially captivated and impressed by whatever was majestic and grand, and to have found intense pleasure in musing on mountain and sea. His love of nature, moreover, was Christian. It was not after all the scene so much, as God in it, that he delighted to see. And surely it cannot be needful to vindicate such love of the works of God in creation, on the part of a renewed man. The principles of natural religion are involved, and though exhibited in new rela