網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

judgment was scarcely confirmed by her heart. Mortification and regret, not, perhaps, altogether free from a tinge of resentful jealousy, were her predominant feelings; and she accused herself of ingratitude to Heaven, because an unbidden tear had stolen down her cheek.

CHAPTER X.

Her divine skill taught me this;-
Thus from every thing I saw,
I could some instruction draw,
And raise pleasure to the height,
From the meanest object's sight.-
By the murmur of a spring,
Or the least bough's rustelling,
By a daisy, whose leaves spread,
Shut when Titan goes to bed,
Or a shady bank or tree,
She could more infuse in me,
Than all nature's bounties can
In some other wiser man.

GEORGE WITHER.

THE first interview of Middleton and Chritty, after their return to their respective homes, occurred at the Parsonage House, whither Hargrave and Lucy had invited them. Middleton was embarrassed, from a recollection of what had occurred at Lady Bishopstown's, and his inability to explain it; but the cheerful and easy self-possession of Chritty, and the cordiality of her reception, quickly reassured him; while the sprightly Lucy, rallying him on his grave looks, exclaimed,

The Turks pray to their prophet_against sorrowful faces, which they consider sinful-so do I; and, as a penance for your presuming to enact the Knight of the Rueful Countenance, and in my presence, I order you to escort Chritty to the north seat of the church-yard, that she may see what an improvement we have made in the view, by pulling down the old barn. Hargrave is visiting one of his sick parishioners, and I cannot go myself, having some household duties to discharge. Dear, dear! what a torment is married life!

One has always some worrying, pleasant, troublesome, dear, delightful, little occupation to fill up one's time. Heigho! it's quite miserable to be so happy all day long." The playful housewife jingled her bunch of keys, and assumed such a lackadaisical yet beautiful expression of mock distress, that Chritty laughed outright, while a languid smile passed over the features of Middleton, as he offered his arm to the sister, and declared that he should be most delighted to perform the enjoined penance of showing her the improvement in the church-yard, which he termed throwing open a new picture for public and gratuitous exhibition. For the purpose of enabling it to be the better seen and enjoyed, Hargrave had caused a bench to be fixed, upon which Chritty placed herself, and, after admiring the view, turned to her companion, who had now seated himself beside her, and said, smilingly, "Well, Mr. Middleton, do you remember our last colloquy upon this spot, and are you prepared to answer me, why the future should not be as a golden age to the present, seeing that the present may be termed a golden age to the past?"

"I need not provide myself with an answer, since I fully admit your position; we may go on improving, however, ad infinitum, without any correspondent increase of happi

ness.

If we could measure our enjoyments and advantages with those of our ancestors, instead of our wealthier contemporaries, we should all of us be more contented; but it is the unfortunate property of rank, riches, and superiorities of all sorts, that, while they do not make their possessors happy, they render others miserable by exciting their envy,"

"But will you not admit that there is a levelling principle at work, which is constantly tending to equalize the enjoyments of all ranks? In intellectual pleasures, the most exalted of any, already are the educated poor almost upon a par with the rich, and so far they may be said to have attained a comparatively golden age."

"Brought, as I have been, into personal contact with some of the least favourable specimens of my fellow-creatures, both male and female, how can I imagine them to constitute any portion of even a comparatively golden age?"

"By judging from mankind in the mass, and not from individual instances. Eminently wise and useful was the counsel given, by a lately deceased philosopher,* to a friend,

* Sir James Mackintosh.

whose views were not altogether dissimilar from your own. 'Allow yourself,' said the sage, to see the great loveliness of human virtue amidst all its imperfections, and employ your moral imagination, not so much by bringing it into con trast with the model of ideal perfection, as in gently blending some of the fairer colours of the latter with the brighter hues of real experienced excellence, thus heightening the beauty, instead of broadening the shade which must surround us, until we waken from this dream in other spheres of existence.""

"I want not quotations, but realities.'

"Rather say you have a morbid craving for the gloomy in preference to the gladsome. The first step towards either goodness or happiness, is to believe in their existence. Are there then no pleasant realities? And is this august, this majestic, this beautiful, this delightful world, to be termed a doleful dungeon, or a vale of tears? What monstrous ingratitude! Enjoyment is the natural state of existence; our senses, instead of being limited, as they might have been, to purposes of mere existence, are made to minister unto us a thousand superfluous gratifications, if any thing can be deemed superfluous that creates an innocent pleasure. What incalculable, what ineffable delights, apart from all objects of utility, are let in upon us by the eye, by the ear, by the palate, by the sense of smelling! Why is the jocund earth, our magnificent banqueting hall, garlanded with flowers, odorous with perfumes, and melodious with all varieties of grand and dulcet music, but that the abundant and delicious festival which is incessantly renewed for all animated beings, making their existence a perpetual jubilee, may be rendered as variously delightful as possible, and fill the mind of the reasoning guest with pious gratitude to the Creator, for the blessings and delights that he hath so profusely scattered throughout the whole creation? Strange that this universal love which our common Father extends to all, without discrimination of country or of creed, should not have imbued his sons with stronger feelings of fellowship, brotherhood, and toleration!"

"You have enumerated delights for which it behooves us to be thankful; but, after all, these are but sensual pleasures, which we share with the animals that perish."

66 Nay, not the greatest of all. Consider the illimitable range of our intellectual delights, in art, science, and literature; reflect upon the charms of love and friendship, and

of all those sweet charities, affections, and sensibilities which, when they flow in the channel intended by nature, are perpetually bathing our hearts in joy."

"One might apply to your fancy, Christiana, what was said of the Venus painted by Zeuxis, that it seemed to be fed upon roses, for you certainly see every thing en couleur de rose, and I envy you that happy faculty of enjoying existence which I, alas! am utterly unable to attain. Even could you persuade me to change my desponding views as to the miserable destiny of man in this world, which I confess you have in some degree shaken, it would not allay the fears that beleaguer me as to his future fate."

66

'It ought to do so, if analogy and fair deduction have any influence over your mind. What we see is chiefly valuable to us, as an imperfect shadowing forth of what we are incapable of seeing. If, in this our fleeting existence, God has provided for our habitation so magnificent a palace, and has been careful to lavish upon us such varieties of enjoyment, think you not that, in the future state which is to endure for ever, the tender love and mercy of the Creator, more necessary to us by all the difference between life and eternity, will be immeasurably more considered than the claims or demerits of the creature? That the beneficent, the indulgent Father of his children in their perishable state, can become inexorable towards them when they are immortal, it is difficult to imagine; still less that, without reference to the good or evil they may have committed, he can capriciously elect some to glory and doom others to perdition."

"You are alluding to the doctrine of predestination, which I hold to be supported by positive texts of Scripture."

"And which I presume to think refuted by the general scope and spirit of the holy writings. It is a trite illustration, but you must allow me to repeat, that texts are like the hairs of a horse's tail, which in their connected form conduce to purposes of beauty, protection, and utility, but which, when extracted singly, are only fit for springs and snares. From any such passages that appear to be inconsistent with the divine goodness, I would appeal to the bible of the universe, on whose three leaves of earth, sea, sky, God's own hand hath stamped in characters that all may read, while none can alter or interpolate them, justice, mercy, and all-embracing love."

« 上一頁繼續 »