« 上一頁繼續 »
3. But in this church I felt myself continually thrown back upon the world by the frigidity and pomp of the poor worms around me. The only being that seemed thoroughly to feel the humble and prostrate piety of a true Christian, was a poor decrepit old woman, bending under the weight of years and infirmities.
4. She bore the traces of something better than abject poverty. The lingerings of decent pride were visible in her appearance. Her dress, though humble in the extreme, was scrupulously clean. Some trivial respect, too, had been awarded her,' for she did not take her seat among the village poor, but sat alone on the steps of the altar.
5. She seemed to have survived all love, all friendship, all society; and to have nothing left her but the hopes of heaven. When I saw her feebly rising and bending her aged form in prayer, habitually conning her prayer-book, which her palsied hand and failing eyes could not permit her to read, but which she evidently knew by heart—I felt that the faltering voice of that poor woman arose to heaven far above the responses of the clerk, the swell of the organ, or the chanting of the choir.
6. I am fond of loitering about country churches; and this was so delightfully situated, that it frequently attracted me. It stood on a knoll, round which a small stream made a beautiful bend, and then wound its way through a long reach of soft and meadowy scenery. The church was surrounded by yew trees, which seemed almost coeval with itself. Its tall gothick spire shot up lightly amongst them, with crows and rooks generally wheeling about it. I was seated here one still sunny morning, watching two labourers who were digging a grave.
7. They had chosen one of the most remote and neglected corners of the church-yard, where, by the number of nameless graves around, it would appear that the unknown and friendless were huddled into the earth. I was told that the new made grave was for the only son of a poor widow. While I was meditating on the distinctions of worldly rank, which extend thus down into the very dust, the tolling of the bell announced the approach of the funeral.
8. They were the obsequies of poverty, with which pride had nothing to do. A coffin of the plainest materials, without pall or other covering, was borne by some of the villagers. The sexton walked before with an air of cold indifference. There were no mock mourners in the trappings of affected wo; but there was one real mourner, who feebly tottered over the corpse. It was the aged mother of the deceased; the poor old woman whom I had seen seated on the steps of the altar. She was supported by a humble friend, who was endeavouring to comfort her. A few of the neighbouring poor had joined the train, and some children of the village were running hand in hand, now shouting with unthinking mirth, and sometimes pausing to gaze with childish curiosity on the grief of the mourner.
9. As the funeral train approached the grave, the parson issued out of the church-porch arrayed in his surplice, with the prayer-book in his hand, and attended by the clerk. The service, however, was a mere act of charity. The deceased had been destitute, and the survivor was pennyless. It was shuffled through, therefore, in form, but coldly and unfeelingly.- The well-fed priest scarcely moved ten steps from the church door; his voice could scarcely be heard at the grave; and never did 1 hear the funeral service, that sublime and touching ceremony, turned into such a frigid mummery of words.
10. I approached the grave. The coffin was placed on the ground. On it were inscribed the name and age of the deceased—" George Somers, aged 26 years." The poor mother had been assisted to kneel down at the head of it. Her withered hands were clasped as if in prayer; but I could perceive, by a feeble rocking of the body, that she was gazing on the last relicks of her son with the yearnings of a mother's heart.
11. The service being ended, preparations were made to deposit the coffin in the earth. There was that bustling stir that breaks so harshly otfthe feelings of grief and affection; directions given in the cold tones of business; the striking of spades into sand gravel, which, at the grave of those we love, is, of all sounds, the most withering. The bustle around seemed to awaken the mother from a wretched reverie.
12. She raised her glazed eyes, and looked about with a faint wildness. As ths men approached with cords to lower the coffin into the grave, she wrung her hands, and broke into an agony of grief. The poor woman who attended her, took her by the arm, and endeavoured to raise her from the earth, and to whisper something like consolation. 'Nay now—nay, now— dont take it so sorely to heart.' She could only shake her head, and wring her hands, as one not to be comforted.
13. As they lowered the body into the earth, the creaking of the cords seemed to agonize her; but when, on some accidental obstruction, there was a jolting of the coffin, all the tenderness of the mother burst forth; as if any harm could come to him who was far beyond the reach of worldly suffering.
14. I could sec no more. My heart swelled into my throat-, Bay eyes filled with tears; I felt as if I were acting a barbarous part, in standing by and gazing idly on this scene of maternal anguish. I wandered to another part of the church-yard, where I remained until the funeral train had dispersed.
15. When I saw the mother slowly and painfully quitting the grave, leaving behind her the remains of all that was dear to her/on earth, and returning to silence and destitution, my heart ached for her. What, thought I, are the distresses of the rich! They have friends to soothe; pleasures to beguile ; a world to divert and dissipate their griefs. What are the sorrows of the young! Their growing minds soon close above the wound—their green and ductile affections soon twine around new objects. But the sorrows of the poor, who have no outward appearance to soothe—the sorrows of the aged with whom life at best is but a wintry day, and who can look for no after growth of joy—the sorrrows of a widow, aged, solitary, destitute, mourning over an only son, the last solace of her years; these are the sorrows which make us feel the impotency of consolation.
From a Preceptor to his Pupils.
1. I Am truly sensible of the important trust reposed in me, and cannot but feel a solicitude to discharge it with propriety. I will not say that the pecuniary emolument arising from it is by any means, indifferent to me. No man would sacrifice his ease, and enter into an anxious employment, without a desire of those rewards which *re allotted to industry. And it is equitable that he, who is willing to step forward, and render himself Extensively useful to others, should derive such advantages from his exertions, as may render his old age easy and respected, or provide for the wants of a rising family. But 1 must declare on the other hand, that the satisfaction arising from a consciousness of performing the duty incumbent on me, and rendering a service equivalent to the recompense, sweetens every labour, and gives additional value to the pecuniary compensation.
2. You are placed here for two purposes; the improvement of the understanding, and the formation of virtuous principles for the guidance of your moral conduct. Improvement of the understanding is apparently the first object in your entrance at school; but it cannot be doubted but that improvement of the heart is really esteemed by those to whom you are most dear, at a hicher prirft than the finest accomplishment of the most cultirated intellect. It is your business to unite these estimable objects, and to suffer your hearts and understandings to via with each other in the pursuit of excellence.
3. The principal purpose of my frequent addresses, is to promote the knowledge and the practice of the Christian religion; and in the performance of this purpose, 1 shall of necessity be led to recommend the purest system of morality. Ethics, improved and exalted by the Christian religion, become the guides to real wisdom and solid happiness, to which they could never attain when taught only in the schools of heathen philosophy. In the religious part of your education, it is not expected that you should be engaged in the profound disquisitions of theology. The plain doctrines of the religion which you have been taught to profess, must be explained to you; but the principal business is, to open your hearts foj the reception of those sentiments and precepts, which conduce to the direction of your actions in the employment and engagements of your subsequent life. In the first place, 1 must then remind you of the necessity of reading the Scriptures; that is, of drinking the sacred waters at the fountain.
4. But to read the Scriptures to advantage, judgment is necessary; and as judgment at your age is not mature, you must seek and follow the directions of your instructers. At your age, the plainest, and most perspicuous passages will best deserve and reward your attention. The historical parts of the Old Testament will entertain you, if you consider them only in a classical view, as valuable passages of ancient history; but I chiefly refer you to the books which more immediately conduce to moral instruction.
5. If you read the Old Testament with a taste for its beauties, you will accomplish two important purposes at the same time. You will acquire a knowledge of the Holy Bible, which is your duty; and you will improve your taste and judgment, which is your business as students in the course of a polite education. The New Testament requires the peculiar attention of every one who professes himself a Christian. But here, also, judgment is necessary to direct the student in the mode of his study. To one who has not the requisite share of introductory knowledge, the gospel will appear to contain many difficulties. As you cannot yet engage in theological studies, 1 must recommend 't to you to take up the Testament with that humility which becomes all human creatures, but more particularly persons so young as you are, and so destitute of all that knowledge which can enable you to form a decisive opinion in divinity.
6. You will do right to pay particular attention to the sermon on the mount, and to that admirable epitome of all moral philosophy, the rule of doing to others as we wish them to do to us. If you pay due obedience to this precept, you will never hesitate in determining what part you shall act whenever difficulties oceur. It will, however, be proper that you should, at an early age, familiarize to your mind, the language of tlje Scriptures, in all their parts, though you should not be able fully to comprehend them. You will thus treasure up many useful passages in your memory, which, on many occasions, in the course of your lives, may be useful. A very early acquaintance with the words of the Old and New Testament, even before any adequate ideas of their meaning have been obtained, has been found useful in subsequent life to the professed divine.
7. And kere I cannot but animadvert.on the prevalent neglect of the Holy Scriptures; a neglect which too plainly indicates a faint belief in the doctrines which they contain, and which ought to animate every parent and instructer in the business of infusing religious sentiments, and a reverence for the Scriptures, while the mind is most susceptible of deep impressions. You, who constitute a part of the rising generation, will exert yurselves in removing an evil which menaces the ruin of the national morals and prosperity.
8. They, indeed, who are capable of a sentiment so enlarged as this, exhibit a manliness of mind, which is the more honourable to them as it is uncommon at their age. In the religious part of your education, it would be a disgraceful omission to neglect the catechism. 1 recommend it to you as a useful, though humble guide, and I wish to warn you against that pride of heart which induces some persons to slight it, and from that spirit of censoriousness, which causes in others a dislike of all that contradicts their own particular persuasion.
9. You will in vain expect success in your studies, unless you implore a blessing on them from heaven; or if you should be permitted by Providence to make a proficiency in knowledge for the sake of others, you will not derive from your acquisition that degree of happiness which you would otherwise enjoy. You must ask the Giver of every good gift for that most valuable gift of literary improvement. You are apt, at your age, to be thoughtless. You enjoy health and spirits. You are strangers to the cares of the world. Cheerfulness, indeed, becomes you; but let me prevail with you, when I entreat you to consider the value of time, and the importance of making a good use of it.