Your affectionate Brother.
Mental Cultivation. Reading.
MY DEAR SISTER,
Our minds are given us as talents to improve in the service of God. If we neglect the proper cultivation of them, we shall come under the condemnation of the servant who hid his talent in the earth. But there is a very great difference between mental cultivation and the mere reception of knowledge. So you will perceive that when I speak of the improvement of the mind, I do not mean reading only; but that discipline which calls into exercise the intellectual faculties, and enables us to employ them in the investigation of the truth. This discipline is a necessary preparation for profitable reading. It is a great mistake to suppose that mind is entirely original; or that only a few possess intellectual faculties capable of searching into the deep recesses of knowledge. It is true some possess talents of a superior order; but none, except idiots, are incapable of improvement; and many of the greatest minds have been formed upon a foundation which appeared to consist of little else than dullness and stupidity. The most crooked and unpromising twig may, by proper care and culture, become a great and beautiful tree. The object of all education is to prepare us for usefulness, either to ourselves or to others. We are not to disregard ourselves. The glory of God is as much concerned in our own spiritual growth, as in that of any other individual. But we are to love others as ourselves, and seek their good as our own. Although our heads may be filled with knowledge, yet if we have not the capacity of employing it for practical purposes, it will be of little benefit, either to ourselves or others. Many persons excuse themselves for neglecting to improve their minds, upon the ground that they are incapable of doing anything great or brilliant. But this arises from a foolish pride. If we have but a single talent, we are equally under obligation to improve it in the service of our Master as if we had ten. And it was upon this principle that the servant was condemned to whom but one was given.
The discipline of which I speak may be effected in many ways. But the method I shall propose is one that can be pursued without an instructor, while employed most of the time in active pursuits. The course already recommended, in relation to meditation and the study of the Scriptures, will be found a great assistance in the proper discipline of the mind. But this is not all that is necessary. I know of nothing which more effectually calls out the resources of the mind than writing. To a person unaccustomed to this exercise, it appears exceedingly difficult. But a little practice will make it a pleasing and delightful employment. The mind is far more richly feasted with ideas conceived and brought forth by itself, than by those produced by others, and communicated through the medium of the senses; and all the intellectual faculties are strengthened and improved by exertion.