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"Stir Up the Gift of God which is in Thee."
One of the most noteworthy practical counsels given by the Apostle Paul to his young disciple, Timothy, was this, " Stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands;" II. Tim., 1, 6. Observe that although the gift was from God, yet Timothy was reminded of his duty to stir it up, or to follow exactly the figure in the original word, to kindle it up as into a flame, by an effort of his own. Observe further that although Timothy was an earnest and zealous disciple, going forth to his work in the fervor of early manhood, yet his wise and experienced friend deemed it expedient to call his attention twice to this matter, once in the gentle words, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee;" (L Tim., 4,14), and again in the more positive and emphatic words above quoted, "Stir up the gift of God which is in thee." Paul, whose knowledge of human nature was so profound, thought it not superfluous to enjoin even upon his enthusiastic and aspiring pupil to cultivate and nourish and keep in glowing activity the power which we may believe to have been both intellectual and spiritual, that had come from God through the laying on of hands of the presbyters. The clear implication was that this power would remain vital and fruitful and would grow, only on condition that with fixed purpose he strove to cherish and develop it.
It has seemed to me that the precept of the Apostle to Timothy carries in its essential spirit a salutary counsel to those, on whose heads the University lays its hands this week, sending them forth to the work of their life and invoking the benediction of Heaven upon them. Not irreverently she may say that she has conferred her best gift upon you, the gift of knowledge and discipline of mind and character, and, imitating the example of St. Paul, she may lovingly exhort every one of you to 4% stir up this gift " which you have received from her, to kindle it into a flame, to make it a vital and ever enlarging power in all your future career.
In the ardent zeal with which your hearts are now burning for activity and success in your various employments, you may deem such an exhortation uncalled for. But the observation of all experienced teachers confirms the wisdom of St. Paul in giving a word of appeal even to the active and earnest Timothies. There is a striking proclivity in men to halt at certain stages of progress and to remain for a time at least content with the attainments already made. Your own memories—probably the experience of some of you—will recall the case of students who worked diligently in school and practiced much self-denial to get into college, and who then, as if all had been accomplished by entering college, neglected their studies for months, until quickened consciences or official admonitions stirred up the gift which was in them. It is unhappily true that a similar thing too often happens to graduates, when they leave the University, if the goad of necessity does not urge them to immediate activity. I do not mean that they sit down in indolence, but rather that they do not carry on with enthusiasm and earnest purpose that development of mind and character which they have begun under the stimulating influence of university life. They do not persist in stirring up the gift which they have received. They do not fulfil the promise of their studentdays. They stop growing on the day that they leave these halls. I wish to urge upon you the importance of forming now the fixed purpose of regarding your present intellectual and moral power as simply a germ, which you should cultivate and develop with unabated industry through all your life.
I. In the first place, observe that if you do not stir up this gift, it will wither and shrink from disuse. You 35
can not lay aside like a deposit in the bank the mental power you have already gained, and by simply leaving it theje have it to draw upon at any time of need. It evaporates, it disappears, if it is not actively employed. You might almost as well not have acquired it at all as to leave it in desuetude for any considerable time. Unless the coals are kept kindled by a draught, they smolder and blacken and go out.
I do not mean that one need keep fresh in mind all the details of his college studies. These may disappear from his memory, but the discipline and intellectual strength he gained from them must be kept by the vigorous use of the trained mind on some work, which calls not unfrequently for the full exercise of all the intellectual strength. The mind, like the muscles, become flabby and weak from insufficient exercise. I would not overstate the case. The human mind is so constituted that perhaps no one who has had a fair course of university training can by neglect absolutely lose all the benefits of that training. Almost every one, we may hope, is a somewhat broader man than he would have beta but for that training. Every Faculty feels justified in exercising a large patience with dull men of honest purpose, in the belief that their education, though it be somewhat imperfect, will give them larger and more generous views of life and make them more useful citizens. But I am addressing those who, 1 trust, have a higher ambition than merely to retain these subsidiary and incidental benefits of their course of study, and my exhortation is that if you would retain the full power you have to-day you diligently strive to cultivate it.
IL But again, this appeal to stir up your gift is enforced by the fact that the gift, valuable as it is, is only the germ of what you should have and must have for the largest usefulness in life. Far be it from me to disparage the value of the possession which your diplomas are to certify that you have. But I should say that no man deserves the diploma who is content with the acquisitions to which the diploma testifies. What you have is only an instrument j^ with which to make further acquisitions. The disparaging terms in which men so often speak of what they call the inadequate results of college training have no significance except upon the erroneous hypothesis that the college assumes to give a man all the attainments he will ever need. No college makes any such absurd assumption for itself. The college presumes to say by its diploma simply this, that the graduate has made attainments and received a discipline, which fairly entitle him to enter upon his career as a man of such culture as the diploma indicates. The special attainments are in every case of less consequence than the acquired power and the impulse to make much larger progress in the future. The chief value of the gift with which the University has endowed you is is like that of a seed of wheat, not in what it is now, but in the promise and potency of the golden harvest which lie coiled in its narrow walls.
III. But once more, the possession of this germ carries with it the obligation to secure its largest development. It is the duty of every man to make the most, in a high sense of the expression, of all that he is and all that he has, talents, attainments and opportunities. With your culture you are not at liberty to act as though you had not received it. Every privilege you have here enjoyed, every increment of your store of learning, every augmentation of your intellectual and moral power have increased your obligation, as they have your ability, to carry further and further the development of your mind and the elevation of your character. He that has ten talents is in the parable asked to produce ten more on the day of accounting as the fruits of his industry and enterprise.
IV. Again, if one is to reach eminence in his calling, it is absolutely essential to "stir up the gift" received in his school of instruction. If any one goes hence to his profession, content with his present acquirements, however varied and profound they may be, it needs no prophet to foretell what will be his rank among his brethren. He will find himself speedily passed in the race, perhaps by some who never enjoyed a tithe of his early opportunities, but who have steadily pressed forward with unremitting zeal. The longer I observe men, the more my respect increases for the achievements of downright hard work. Students are generally, inclined to overrate the promise which lies in brilliancy of intellect, and to base upon it predictions of success which are not fulfilled. Combine brilliancy with industry, and almost all things are possible to it. But brilliancy without the long, steady pull of industry often disappoints us. I like to quote a favorite maxim of one of my old teachers, whose fruitful life of toil illustrated his words, "Nothing can stand up against days' works." The field of knowledge and research is now so broad, the competition for the conspicuous positions in each is so hot, that no matter how advantageous is one's start, nothing but the most untiring assiduity can place one or keep one at the front. If your teachers here give you the good start and the mental discipline needed to " stir up the gift," it is all you can ask of them. The race you must run with your own feet.
Y. So far I have been considering merely the conditions of your success in your respective professions. To achieve that kind of success is the proper aim and the true duty of every one. But every educated man is or ought to be something more than a member of a profession. He is a member of that larger brotherhood, which we call society, and as an educated man has weighty and responsible duties to that brotherhood, which he cannot discharge without constantly stirring up the gift that he has received. Among the many functions of educated men is one to which sufficient attention has perhaps not been paid, namely, that of interpreter of the great thinkers to the mass of active men, who are not themselves students. It is seldom that the great masters of thought come into direct commmni