« PreviousContinue »
THERE is no principle in the human mind, which has a more powerful influence over it, than hope. Its exercise commences early in life, and accompanies us in our progress through all the difficul ties and dangers of our way. It often causes the countenance of the child to brighten, when sorrow has covered it with gloom. Amid the disappointments of childhood, how does the hope of brighter scenes on the morrow relieve the little sufferer, and save him from grief and dejection. When far removed from the home of his friends, and the objects of his tenderest affection, the prospect of returning at some future period beguiles the tediousness of the separation.
Hope swells the breast of the youth, when the objects of his pursuit are presented to his view. Pleasure and happiness alike allure him. His plans are laid, the means of obtaining his end provided, and in all the enthusiasm and ardor of his soul, he rushes forward to possess the prize. What causes those painful labors, this superiority to opposition and discouragement, but the hope that some day yet to dawn, will put him in possession of all that his heart has conceived ? If disappointment deprive him of any of his fancied joys, still hope, with her balmy influence cheers his soul. In his darkest hours, even her faint glimmerings shed a light around him, and the face of nature, which before was cheerless, and desolate, and wild, now shines with gaiety and beauty. Attend the votary of literary fame. Ask him why the midnight lamp burns dimly, while he engages, with all the powers of his soul, in the pursuit of knowledge? Why are his days spent in painful stu dy, till his body, weakened by his exertions, gives fearful intimations of his approaching end. The hope of distinction urges him forward, and he becomes insensible to the dangers of his path.
See the mother, watching over the bed of a sick child. With all the exquisite sensibilities of maternal fondness, she views every change of countenance, observes every beating pulse ; listens to every groan and every sigh; marks the least sign of restlessness; promptly attends to every request; ministers to every want, and deprives herself of sleep and rest, in order to alleviate the sufferer. On him, perhaps, she looks as the support of her declining years. She sees him rise in respectability and usefulness, an ornament to his family, and a blessing to the community. Should he be taken away, all her prospects of worldly happiness would be darkened, and her path through this wilderness of life shrouded in gloom. With what delight does she view any signs of returning health. Joy beams in her countenance, and the most pleasing sensations possess her soul. But why these emotions of pleasure? It is the hope that the child shall be restored to her arms.
Far away on some desert shore the lonely mariner wanders. He listens to the wild roar of the winds and waves. He hears wafted in every breeze, “ the wolf's long howl,” and startles at the savage yell. He turns his eye toward the land that gave him birth, and nothing meets it but the expanse of Heaven, and the trackless ocean. All the fond endearments of home and country rush upon his mind. He views in imagination the little cottage in some retired spot, where in his youthful days he listened to the “legendary tale”; where he shared in the fondness of paternal love, and mingled in the innocent amusements of juvenile age.
While engaged in these contemplations, conflicting passions agitate his soul. He sighs at the recollection of joys that are past, and laments his remove from all he holds dear. But the hope, that when he has crossed the tempestuous ocean, and endured a little more hardship, he shall revisit the scenes of his childhood, and listen to the accents of affection, and embrace the friends of his bosom, revives his drooping spirits.
Enter the gloomy prison, and visit its solitary inmate. There, from day to day he sits pensive and melancholy, shut from the intercourse of society, and the pleasures of friendship. The sun shines
dimly through the grates of his cell; he listens to the creaking of the iron doors, and no voice of compassion meets his ear; no sympathy of friends divides with him the burden of his sorrows, or wipes from his eye the falling tear. He seems deprived of every thing that can render life desirable, and would, were it in his power, put an end to his existence, save that “ Hope, the charmer, lingers still behind.” She presents brighter prospects to his view, and he is saved from sinking in despair.
Under the influence of this principle, the Christian, groaning from day to day, under a burden of sin and infirmity, is encouraged to renew his strength. Circumstances, however adverse, can never tear from his mind that inward peace which springs from a good hope. Possessed of this, the beggar, famishing with want, can smile with inward joy, and the exiled captive rejoice, while the king on a throne is a stranger to enjoyment. The martyr, as he advances to the stake, contemplates with composure, the flames which shall bear his soul triumphant beyond these mortal scenes. The rack and the gibbet lose their terrors, and all the pains and horrors of an ignominious death, can never tear from his mind the consolations of that hope which is an “anchor to the soul.”
In whatever situation man is placed, he lives under the influence of hope. Never could he sustain the woes of life which continually pour upon him, without he were supported by brighter scenes in the reversion. Supported by this, he can snile in affliction, defy the shafts of adversity, rise superior to the breath of calumny, triumph in the midst of persecution, and brave danger in all its shapes.
Deprive the world of this, the landscape ceases to bloom, the season is turned to blackness, and the last antidote to the miseries of human life is taken away. Deprive the world of this, and you cover it with the shroud of death, and fill it with the groans of despair.
SOLITARY HOURS.-N0. IV.
“ But if there's an hereafter, And that there is, conscience, uninfluenced, And suffer'd to speak out, tells every man."
ALL moral truths recommend themselves to our consideration with an interest proportionate to their importance, and to the kind and degree of influence which they exert upon our feelings. The
latter of these circumstances is probably the more influential; for that class of philosopher is comparatively small which the mere importance of truth has led in to laborious investigations, while the number of those whose speculations are exercised upon subjects of deep personal interest have composed almost the whole school. If this remark is correct, we are at no loss for a reason why the immortality of the soul has been a topic of frequent discussion. It is a truth recognized by all, as the basis of every other which affects the character and destiny of man; and upon this basis arises the glorious superstructure of the moral constitution, resembling an arch, in the connexion and dependencies of its parts, of which happiness is the grand key-stone.
To every one the subject opens a field for pleasing and profitable contemplation. Whether we consider the evidences of the fact itself, or other truths with which it is connected, we find much to entertain the reason and to interest the heart.
The first source from which the evidence of the soul's immortality is derived, according to the view which I propose to myself, is the character of the mind, as noticed in the nature of the objects about which it is actively employed. Of these I shall mention only two; mathematical and moral truths. Of all the beings with whom we are familiarly acquainted, man only is able to investigate those two branches of knowledge. It is the exclusive prerogative of the human mind to soar beyond the boundaries of the material universe, to penetrate the regions of abstract science ;-and to distinguish and compare the qualities of virtue and vice.
The nature, then, of these objects of intellectual pursuit, will afford at least a probable clue to the nature of the mind itself. If these objects of the soul's ambition are aspiring in their nature, and unlimited in their extent, then those faculties within us, which make these the chief end of their pursuit, and feed upon them as the aliment of their existence, cannot be viewed in any other light than as participating in the superiority of their natures. This subject is so palpable, that the mind, in contemplating it, is wont to feel a generous indignation that any one can be so hardened in the contempt of himself as to doubt of the truth. Admit, for a moment, that the soul is finite: Upon commencing its existence, it comes to the investigation of abstract and moral truths; it begins to understand them; a field of boundless area is opened for its speculations; it gazes on the scene-it rushes upon the verge of this interminable stage, and grasps at every object within its powers; it finds its faculties expanding; it begins to sound new depths of knowledge, and sees others deeper still presented before it: Nay, when it glances over the prospect, desires for the future begin to awaken; these strengthen into expectation—and it begins to anticipate and lay hold on immortality; when, lo! a sordid bit of dust to which it has been allied, becoming superannuated, or disorganized by the influ.. ence of disease, drags the reluctant soul back to annihilation!
Perhaps as strong evidence as can be obtained from this source, in favour of the mind's immortality, is from the fact that it is unwilling to relinquish these noble pursuits. The mind certainly pos
sesses so much affinity to these imperishable objects, as to have a high relish for the delights which they afford; and is it not probable that it is as imperishable itself?
It may also be an evidence of the soul's immortality, that the decay of surrounding material objects produces in it involuntary sensations of disgust. It needs little reflection to satisfy us of the circumstance bere introduced. For who that has ever noticed the emotions of his mind, does not know that he has experienced pain from such a view of the material creation; especially those parts of it which are most agreeable? Upon this subject the effusions of sentiment, that quicksilver of the soul and sure index of all its emotions, are well known and amply decisive. How then can the existence of this feeling be accounted for, more naturally than upon the supposition that the soul is immortal, and therefore shrinks from the very notion of decay; that there is something in final extermipation offensive to the sensibilities of its aspiring nature ?
There is another source of this kind of evidence, which is more directly conclusive than any above mentioned; the dread of annihilation, which is instinctive in the mind. Although, from its simple nature, this is a kind of evidence which cannot be very definitely presented, yet by its internal dictates every man is brought to the conviction
“ It must be som
And intimates Eternity to man." Corresponding to this dread of annihilation, is the desire after immortality.
But here the objection may be made, that there are also instances of persons desiring annihilation..
But this, I imagine, is found to be true only in cases where the wretch who desires it, has been driven from every other expedient for escaping a miserable future existence. No one, who had secured a store of intellectual pleasure, has ever wished for an end to his existence. And even in the bosom of wretchedness and despair, I am inclined to believe, there exists no real wish for annihilation; and that what is expressed as such, is but a vague desire after some change from their present restless condition; after some discovery which may alleviate the dread of what is really expected in future.
The immortality of the soul, then, is established by considerations drawn from its own operations and instincts. And it is a truth full of importance; a truth which ennobles our views of the Creator, as it exalts our own natures. It should be a supreme subject of gratitude to every lover of the truth, that in our enlightened country it is beginning to triumph over its opposers, that the strong holds of scepticism are relinquished, and that the rudiments of wisdom, recovering from the waste of the infidel's ruthless invasion, are resuming their characteristic purity. Rarely is the man to