« PreviousContinue »
Christians of other times, often manifested great zeal, great selfdenial, great perseverance; and yet the greater part of the world, for more than eighteen centuries, have been quietly left to sleep in paganism. Could zeal have delivered a world from the thraldom of sin, ours would have been emancipated by the millions whose bones have whitened the plains of the east, and exhausted the blood of Europe to regain possession of the holy city. Could self-denial have effected it, the Gospel would have been spread on every shore, by means of the monasteries and pilgrimages by which so many have committed suicide. Here was zeal, but it was under the direction of an erring judgment. The armies of the prince of darkness could not be vanquished by carnal weapons. Here was selfdenial; but a world of wanderers was not to be recalled by unmeaning and useless ceremonies, however mortifying. Nor were charities wanting. The liberality of christians of other times is amply proved by the abbeys, the nunneries, and the cathedrals which now exist. But the great desideratum of doing good was not yet discovered. This discovery is that of the combined efforts of christians. The individual who gave fortunes for the support of monasteries, or he who often counted seven thousand beggars at his gates, before breakfast, was wholly unacquainted with the enlightened benevolence of our day. If we now marshal armies, their arms are only alıns and prayers. Instead of permitting individuals to waste their strength upon attempting to grasp unattainable objects, and spending their lives in solitary struggles, the church now brings her whole power into happy and effective concert. The wealthy and powerful individual does no longer attempt to put forth his single hand, and by his solitary efforts stem the torrents of vice, of sin, and wretchedness which are desolating our world; but he unites his endeavours with kindred hearts and sister spirits which are glowing all around him. And the thought is pleasing, that while the united prayers of christendom are rising as from a common altar, every village, and family, and individual may send out streams of kindness, which will mingle and spread and fertilize every corner which mourns the desolations of sin.
Not only has the discovery been made that we must unite our strength and exertions, but also that all have an opportunity of doing their part. Formerly, it was supposed that none but the wealthy could be charitable to any purpose. But this notion has been banished by experience. The benevolence of our times scorns not to receive the boon of the most obscure donor. The man of wealth who is charioted in splendour, and the peasant who occupies his own contented cottage, may alike give as they are able, and each reflect that his charities make a part of that stream which is conveying the legacy of heaven to every nation. Nay, the fisherman who guides his little canoe on the bosom of the St. Lawrence, and the poor widow who dwells on the banks of the Ohio, may each throw their gifts into the treasury of God, where they soon meet and mingle, even as the prayers of the donors meet before the throne of the Eternal.
Cold, indeed, must be the heart which can contemplate all these facilities of doing good, and yet take no share in the great work. Worse than useless must be the hand which would grasp a world of riches and yet never raise a finger for others. Weak the faith that dares not lend the perishable riches to God-feeble the hopes o eternal joys, that can prompt to laying up no treasures abovecontracted the feelings and the love which can permit the soul to withdraw from enterprises of benevolence and to lavish its all upon this life.
With the increased light in point of duty, and the increased variety of means by which we can be useful to our fellow-men, we look upon the parsimonious christian as an object of deep pity. Although such a spirit is so diametrically opposed to the spirit of Christ, that an avaricious christian would seem to be almost a paradox, yet there are those who entertain hopes of heaven, and it may be exalted hopes, whose only real enjoyment seems to be, like Judas, to carry the bag and finger its contents. If such will go by the name of Christians, let them remember, that the world has no charity for them, and though they may be loud in professions, yet they possess so little of the Spirit of Christ that they may almost be certain “ they are none of his."
SOLITARY HOURS.—No. III.
“He comes ! he comes !—In every breeze the Power
IN Autumn, when the freshness is fast fading from the face of nature, and the wrinkles of old age are deepening upon its brow, the bosom of man also, yielding to the influence of its wonted sym. pathies, imbibes the general sentiment of the hour. What heart, that has ever been buoyant with the gay inspirations of Spring, and the less volatile joys of Summer, can withhold the responsive tribute of its own sadness, now, when decay sweeps over the devoted landscape, when the brown leaf is seen here and there eddying down the sluggish breeze, and when the birds that remain seem to carol their requiem to the departed beauty of the seasons ? These appearances of natural dissolution cast a pensive air over the sallies of the soul, and for many an hour brood darkly on its finer sources of sensibility. There is something in this gradual, yet inevitable decay of external things, repulsive to the aspirings of the mind, which, by the contemplative spirit of the season, is wont to be lifted into its own region of immortality, where all is flourishing and perpetual. And this sad influence is heightened both by the power of involuntary sympathy, and by natural association, which awakens, with a corresponding sigh, so many ungrateful recollections of our own temporal vicissitude.
There is an autumn in human affairs. Through gay and sprightly spring, splendid and busy summer, to the sober fall, lies the course of this life's successive scenes. In so short a period have the seasons of the year passed by, that we yet retain some lively impressions of them all. 'Scarcely has the sweet fragrance of the vernal blossom wasted upon the sense, or the golden beams, reflect. ed from the billows of the waving harvest, ceased to flicker on the eye, when October, with his sickly breath, comes as the harbinger of desolation to this animated scene. So like the earthly career of many a one whom we have known, is this brief succession of bloom and blasting, that it seems almost a farce, in mockery of their fate.
Such was Emilius :-Born to respectable and wealthy parents, his infancy was passed in the lap of indulgence, cherished by the caresses of a tenderness, whose exercise knew no check from the embarrassments of adversity. In childhood he shared in the same kind solicitude, while the sweetness of his temper and the brilliant flashes of his opening mind united to throw a thousand endearments around his person, and to encircle his path with a halo of future promise. Nor was this a morning soon to be overcast by the cold damps of disappointment, and the sullenness of misanthropy. From his ancestors he inherited his lot among the excitements of commercial life, where his dearest interests were not dependent on the caprice of others, and where he needed only enterprize and perseverance, to enable him to gain the objects of his ambition. 'He was not therefore exposed to the perils of many a youthful devotee to more refined pursuits, who feeds on the popular breath, that often bears a contagion to stifle the early aspirations of genius. He rose from youth to manhood like the purple dawn to a day cloudless and serene. Yet how can we say serene ?- for he had no religion. And is there any thing but the voice of God that can calm the tempestuous sea of life? Can any thing but the grace, which raises us above the world, secure us from its vanity and vexation of spirit ? No. But to those who have never beheld things in the light of eternity, nor learned, by looking at their nature, to estimate them as they are, this world may for a time seem to be an abiding portion; and its toils and trials may be cheerfully sustained, through the deceitful persuasion that they are the price of a substantial good. Emilius, by his amiable and conciliating deportment, had captivated the esteem of those around him, and by his enterprizing and judicious conduct he had gained the confidence he deserved ; so that he early began to feel a complacency in his own character, attended also by the secret satisfaction which springs from sustaining some important responsibilities in society. From this, and many similar examples, we are constrained to admit, that, while men can be so intoxicated by flattery as to substitute the good opinion of their fellow men for the approbation of God, and so blinded by lust and ambition as to mistake the wealth and honours of this world for an imperishable possession, there may be even a transient peace to the wicked.
So passed the life of our friend. The present hour was always bright with him, and no fearful apprehension for the future ever planted a thorn on his pillow. He had received mental cultivation enough to enable him to transact business with accuracy, and not so much as to afford him any mortifying convictions of his comparative ignorance. His regard for morality and religion was sufficient to ensure the loose respect of the circle in which he moved, while it was not sufficient to molest his love for worldy gratification, nor to raise any suspicions of his false security in sin.
He took to his bosom, from a wealthy and fashionable family, a female who was fitted to be the partner of his religious stupidity, and supreme devotion to the interests and pleasures of the world. Around him rose a numerous family, which served still more to rivet his thoughts and affections to things below, and to satisfy him with the temporal gifts of Providence. But why should I detail the incidents of a career so uniform, and in the light we are now viewing it, so empty and insipid ? He was in the full meridian of his days; the flush of health was on his cheek, and the music of pleasure was quivering in his ear; his horn of plenty was overflowing, and his soul felt its fullest emotions, when suddenly he died,
and there were no bands in his death. And now that he is gone, as there was little in his conduct, while among us, to elicit the esteem of the truly good, to awaken the gratitude of the poor, or to call forth the veneration of his equals, so there is little in his memory to excite their regret that he is no more.
The event is recent. The mourners are going about the streets. They cannot endure the thought that their friend is not in heaven ; while at the same time they are conscious that, if there is any truth in what christians say about special grace,-if these things are so, he had made no preparation to meet death and judgment, and possessed a heart unqualified to relish the enjoyments which pious people seem to love. Alas! their hope is only another illusion, such as they have long been accustomed to practise upon themselves, to neutralize the pain of any unwelcome truth; it will be as fleeting as the shadows of a morning dream. “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven." Go now to his late splendid mansion ;--for it is
better to visit the house of mourning than the house of feasting; thy tread, sounding upon the marble walk, has turned upon thee the widow's ghastly stare, from the only lattice through which the solitude without is permitted to commune with the solitude within :One little orphan is in the garden, who runs to the desolate piazza, almost as timorous as the hare surprised in the forest, and with almost as little noise, save the whistle of the bleak wind as it brushes her dishevelled hair. The hoary shade trees stand like so many emblems of pride abased, while their summer foliage, seared and fallen, is blown in tufts about the pale green avenue. The viewless spirit of autumn, wooed by the inourner's sadness, and the desertion that attends the sudden reverse of prosperity, seems to have enshrined itself amidst the gloom that haunts these relicks of affluence and pleasure. It appears to delight in marring the fair scenes of nature, as death in destroying the proudest confidence of man; and in flinging over the landscape's wreck the same cheerlessness that pervades the countenances of the surviving widow and fatherless. Even the surges of light and shade that the flying clouds cause to pass over the hills and vales, seem an emblem of the joys and sorrows of this fleeting life. Once it was not so. Once we should not have come within the shadow of this stately mansion ungreeted by the voice of hospitality and friendship. I was here when spring was in its bloom, and again when summer was in its maturity, and then Emilius also was in the prime of his life. His plans of domestic improvement were accomplished, and all around this beautiful spot was like a paradise. But the bloom of spring, the glory of summer, and the bustle of human pageantry, are succeeded now by the sickly paleness of autumn, and the quiet of the grave. These came like consumption's hectic flush, untimely to chase away the carmine hue of health from the cheek of female beauty.
Let us go to his tomb and weep there. It is but a little distance. Both mansions of Emilius are to be seen at once. The melancholy stillness of death inhabits each, and every sunbeam, reflected from the turret or the urn, wings to the eye it once could cheer and brighten, burdened with the same sad associations.
"Behold! these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world ;-, they increase in riches. When I sought to know this, it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God: then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation as in a moment! As a dream when one a waketh, so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved”
“I mourn, but ye woodlands I mourn not for you ;
“O when shall it dawn on the night of the grave !" Such is the responsive harn ony of my soul, while yet I see the blighted leaf careering on the wind, whose plaintive wailings I hear in the tops of the dismantled alms.