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mons which were written in the days of his greatest intellectual strength and activity.
In the capacity of a teacher of youth, Dr. Mason was scarcely less distinguished, than by his pulpit talents. His learning was extensive and varied; it was not limited to those branches which were more immediately connected with his profession, but embraced almost every department in the field of classical and general literature. His knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages particu larly, was critical and minute; so that he could bring out from the ancient classics, many beauties which the greater part even of more thorough students, would overlook. He was also uncommonly familiar with the whole subject of Biblical Criticism; for he had made it almost the study of his life, to ascertain the genuine meaning of God's word, and had brought to this study, not only an inquisitive and investigating mind, but a rich amount of varied acquisition. With the ample stores of knowledge which he possessed, he had a wonderful facility at communication. Instead of spreading his thoughts over an extensive surface, he brought every thing quickly to a point; and left an impression on the mind of the attentive student, so clear and strong, that it could not be easily effaced. It was a grand object with him, and one in which he admirably succeeded, to train his students to a habit of reflection; not merely to impart knowledge, but to establish a conviction, that the great secret of intellectual improvement lies in the power of independent thought, and to bring that power into active exercise. His instruction in the theological seminary, was founded almost exclusively upon the bible. He was accustomed to recommend to his students, a course of reading on the various subjects to which their attention was directed; but he often cautioned them to beware of an improper reliance on human authorities, and to let their conclusions be based ultimately on the law and the testimony. His intercourse with the young gentlemen under his care, whether of the Academical or Theological departments, was a delightful compound of dignity and familiarity; and the consequence was, that he gained in an equal degree, their respect and affection. We have heard the testimony of many who enjoyed the privilege of his instructions, that he was in that department, a model of all that was condescending, and dignified, and paternal.
It is hardly necessary to say, that Dr. Mason bore a most important part in the public concerns of the church. He was highly gifted with wisdom to plan, and with firmness and skill to execute. The theological seminary with which he was connected, owed not only the high distinction which it gained, but its very existence chiefly to his persevering efforts; and when by reason of infirmity, he could no longer sustain its interests, it declined and finally be
came extinct. In a deliberative assembly, when some question of magnitude came up for discussion, he often appeared with unequalled strength and majesty. It was sometimes true of him on such occasions, as he himself remarked of Hamilton, that "he rose, and towered, and soared, surpassing himself as he surpassed others."
In all the private relations of life, Dr. Mason was most amiable and exemplary. As a son, a husband, a father, he always appeared with the utmost consistency, and dignity, and tenderness. His desire for the spiritual welfare and salvation of his children, seemed paramount to almost every other; and it pleased God in his gracious sovereignty and covenant faithfulness, that this desire should be granted; for before the close of his life, each of his children had hopefully become a subject of renewing grace. As a friend, he was open, generous, and sincere; and his attachments once formed, were strong and enduring. Those who knew him best, bear the most decisive testimony to the strength and value of his friendship. Such were his powers of conversation, and such the exuberance of his good nature, that he was the life of every circle in which he moved. It is hardly necessary to add, that an acquaintance with him was extensively sought, and that his dwelling was the seat of generous hospitality.
It is much to be regretted, that Dr. Mason's writings, though certainly an invaluable legacy to the world, should be comprised exclusively of his book on Catholic Communion, in four thin octavo volumes; and of the contents of these much the larger part, are a reprint of his former publications. He has indeed left enough to secure all the immortality which an author can have on earth; but we cannot but feel regret that so few comparatively of the thoughts of such a mind should have been preserved; and we are quite sure that posterity will lament this the more, the more conversant they are with his writings. That he tasked his gigantic powers to the utmost, there can be no question; but it may reasonably be doubted, whether if he had assumed less of public responsibility and labor, and given himself more time to use his pen, he might not on the whole have served the church to better purpose; for though his influence in that case might have been less perceptibly felt, while he was living, it might have acted upon a greater number of minds after he was dead. As the mighty power of the press is now so well known, and so adequately appreciated, we cannot but think that there is a loud demand upon those who have a talent for writing, to use it in the service of the church; for if an individual writes a useful and popular book, even though it may not possess merit enough to secure it a transmission to posterity, yet it may be the means of affecting the moral destinies of ma
ny to whom by his personal influence, he could never have access. We say then, let the press be kept constantly at work in behalf of the church; and let those who have the ability to write, diligently improve the talent; and if they should not be known to posterity, they may at least have the honor of serving their generation.
The writings of Dr. Mason, as appears from the title of his works, are chiefly Sermons and Essays; the former consisting partly of the occasional discourses which he published during his life, and partly of what were found in manuscript after his death; the latter being a reprint of various articles which were originally published in the Christian's Magazine. Though the sermons are masterly, and bear the image of his own mind so distinctly, that none who have known him, can fail to recognize it, yet the impres sion which is gained by reading them, bears no comparison with that which was made by the delivery; for in addition to the fact, that his best thoughts are said to have been extemporaneous, even when he preached a sermon, the substance of which had been written, there is an abruptness in his style, which, though it was admirably accommodated to his bold and exciting manner of delivery, is not so well adapted to the calm perusal of the study. The sermon which probably procured him more reputation than any other in the delivery, was that originally published in the National Preacher, entitled "The Gospel preached to the poor ;" and perhaps there is no other in the collection, which on the whole, has equal claims to merit; though it must be felt by all whoever listened to it from the pulpit, that it was incomparably more grand and overpowering, than as it appears from the press. We doubt whether there has ever been a sermon preached within the limits of the American church, which has swayed, and melted, and overwhelmed an audience inore than this, or which has left a deeper impression of the dignity and excellence of the gospel. Most of the published essays are more or less of a controversial character; the most important of them are on "the church," and on "episcopacy;" the latter of which are regarded by Presbyterians and Congregationalists as perfectly triumphant on the points in dispute, between them and Episcopalians. We have no doubt that most of our readers will be disposed to find out more particularly the contents of these volumes for themselves. We are sure, that whoever takes them up, will find himself in communion with a mighty mind, and will often pause in admiration as he proceeds, and will not be disposed to quit the work until he has given it a thorough and diligent perusal.
From the survey which we have now taken of the life, and character, and writings of Dr. Mason, it were impossible to resist the conclusion that he was one of the master spirits of the age. It may be said of him more emphatically than of almost any other
man, that his field was the world. Few men have had direct access to as many minds as he; but his hand was often felt where his footsteps and his voice were not heard. There is indeed scarcely any department of knowledge or action in which he has not exerted an influence; for though his direct influence has been chiefly in the line of his own profession, yet such a mind as his could not view with indifference any enterprise which had for its object the intellectual and moral elevation of his fellow men; and hence he was ready with his powerful aid, as often as any such object was proposed to him. While his influence has been so benignly and powerfully exerted not only in his own country but abroad, he has contributed not a little to elevate the American character in view of other nations; for there are few men of any nation or age with whom he might not be advantageously brought into comparison. Our own mother country whom we have sometimes thought, (perhaps as a punishment for our mischief in other days) a little backward in allowing us all the merit which we might be disposed to claim, has nevertheless promptly awarded due honor to this illustrious man; and more than once have we heard him spoken of in British circles, in a manner which was fitted, in our estimation at least, to heighten the privilege of being an American.
As Dr. Mason's name is intimately associated with the intellectual and moral character of our country, it will, as a matter of course, descend through all coming generations on the brightest page of her history. But what is still more important, his influence will be perpetuated with his name; and he will live not only in the habits of many who will come after him, but in the future destinies of the church. It is one of the most delightful reflections which a great and good man can enjoy, that his labors do not expend their influence on the generation to which he belongs; and that, even though his influence should not be acknowledged by succeeding generations, it will be written of him in heaven, that he had contributed, under God, to form and elevate their character.
Let it not be said, that owing to the exuberance and splendor of Dr. Mason's powers, he cannot be properly held up as a model to those whose intellect is of a far less commanding character. Doubtless there are few who, with the most vigorous and persevering efforts, could ever reach the eminence which he was permitted to attain; though there is as little doubt that there are many who content themselves to remain in the ranks of mediocrity, who with suitable exertion, might stand forth not only morally, but intellectually, as lights in the world. Most men are lamentably ignorant of the extent of their own powers, because they have never brought them into vigorous action. No one can calculate the amount of good which an individual of even common powers may accomplish
during an ordinary life, provided they are well directed and faithfully improved. And let him who would do most and do best, beware that he fix his eye on no common model. Nothing is more sure than this to dwarf the mind, and give a commonplace, if not a groveling character to its operations. He who has any model before him, should be sure that it is an illustrious one; and so long as the power of intellectual effort is continued to him, he ought not 10 be satisfied with any given amount either of acquisition or of usefulness. Let an individual of ordinary powers possess the single and elevated views, the strength of purpose and the persevering industry of Dr. Mason, and we greatly mistake if he is not in the end surprised by his own attainments and efforts, and if the world does not find occasion to record his name on the list of their benefactors.
There is much in the present state of our country and of the world—much we may say in the character of the age, to stimulate to the highest efforts of intellect, and the most faithful improvement of all the powers which God has given us. No one can doubt that this is a critical era in our country's history; and that well directed efforts of mind are of immense moment in securing the privileges we have inherited from our fathers and transmitting them to posterity. If we look abroad, we see an unwonted agitation among the nations,-portentous signs of revolution, which tell in language of no equivocal import, that the social fabric is soon to be taken down, and built again upon some improved model. The ve ry elements of society seem to be already in a commotion, waiting for some master spirit-some plastic hand to impress upon them the character of stability, and of political and moral reform. From these and other circumstances, it results, that the age has a peculiarly impressive character; and of course, is highly susceptible of being molded by influence. Let every man then feel that this important characteristic of the times, brings upon him an increased responsibility to task himself to the utmost for the improvement of his own powers, and for the benefit of his fellow men. With the present generation more perhaps than any preceding one, may the political and moral destinies of the world be said to be entrusted. God grant that men of high and low degree may realize that they have a part to act in this eventful crisis of things; and that that part is to do all that they can to render this an age of light and virtue and purity, that its spirit may be propagated to the joy and benefit of coming generations.