ePub 版

the species. Nature is the mightiest and the such a change as shall make the printed Bible kindliest of teachers. The rocks and unchang. alone the means of regenerating the species. ing hills give to the heart the sense of a dura- “ An age of Bibles" may not be an age of tion beyond that of the perishable body. The Christian charity and hope. The word of God flowing stream images to the soul an everlast- may not be revered the more by becoming a ing continuity of tranquil existence. “The common book in every cottage, and a drug in brave o'er-hanging firmament,” even to the the shop of every pawnbroker. It was surely most rugged swain, imparts some conscious- neither known nor revered the less when it ness of the universal brotherhood of those over was a rare treasure, when it was proscribed whom it hangs. The affections ask no leave by those who sat in high places, and its torn of the understanding to "glow and spread and leaves and fragments were cherished even kindle," to shoot through all the frame a tre-unto death. In those days, when a single mulous joy, or animate to holiest constancy. copy chained to the desk of the church was We taste the dearest blessedness of earth in alone in extensive parishes, did it diffuse less our childhood, before we have learned to ex-sweetness through rustic hearts than now, press it in mortal language. Life has its uni- when the poor are almost compelled to possess versal lessons far beyond human lore. Kind-it? How then did the villagers flock from disness is as cheering, sorrow as purifying, and tant farms, cheered in their long walks by the aspect of death as softening to the ignorant thoughts not of this world, to converse for a in this world's wisdom, as to the scholar. The short hour with patriarchs, saints, and apostles! purest delights grow beneath our feet, and all How did they devour the venerable and wellwho will stoop may gather them. While sages worn page with tearful eyes, or listen delighted lose the idea of the Universal Parent in their to the voice of one gifted above his fellows, subtleties, the lowly “FEEL after Him and find who read aloud the oracles of celestial wisdom! Him.” Sentiment precedes reason in point of What ideas of the Bible must they have entime, and is a surer guide to the noblest reali- joyed, who came many a joyful pilgrimage to ties. Thus man hopes, loves, reveres, and en hear or to read it! Yet even more precious was joys, without the aid of writing or of the press the enjoyment of those who, in times of perseto inspire or direct him. Many of his feelings cution, snatched glances in secret at its pages, are even heartier and more genuine before he and thus entered, as by stealth, into the parahas learned to describe them. He does not disiacal region, to gather immortal fruits and perpetually mistake words for things, nor cul- listen to angel voices. The word of God was tivate his faculties and affections for a dis. dearer to them than house, land, or the “ruddy cerning public. His aspirations “are raised, drops which warmed their hearts.” Instead of not marked.” If he is gifted with divine ima- the lamentable weariness and disgust with gination, he may “walk in glory and in joy which the young now too often turn from the beside his plough upon the mountain side," perusal of the Scriptures, they heard with mute without the chilling idea that he must make attention and serious joy the histories of the Old the most of his sensations to secure the ap- Testament and the parables of the New. They plause of gay saloons or crowded theatres. heard with revering sympathy of Abraham reThe deepest impressions are worn out by the ceiving seraphs unawares-of Isaac walking multiplication of their copies. Talking has out at eventide to meditate, and meeting the almost usurped the place of acting and of feel- holy partner of his days—of Jacob's dream, and ing; and the world of authors seem as though of that immortal Syrian Shepherdess, for whose their hearts were but paper scrolls, and ink, love he served a hard master fourteen years, instead of blood, were flowing in their veins. which seemed to him but a few days of Joseph "The great events with which old story rings, the beloved, the exile, the tempted, and the seem vain and hollow." If all these evils will forgiver-of all the wonders of the Jewish not be extended by what is falsely termed the story-and of the character and sufferings of Education of the Poor, let us at least be on our the Messiah. These things were to them at guard lest we transform our peasantry from once august realities, and surrounded with a men into critics, teach them scorn instead of dream-like glory from afar. “Heaven lay humble hope, and leave them nothing to love, about them in their infancy.” They preserved to revere, or to enjoy!

the purity—the spirit of meek submission-the The Bible Society, founded and supported, patient confiding love of their childhood in no doubt, from the noblest motives, also puts iheir maturest years. They, in their turn, inforth pretensions which are sickening. Its ad- stilled the sweetness of Christian charity, drop vocates frequently represent it as destined to by drop, into the hearts of their offspring, and change all earth into a paradise. That a com- left their example as a deathless legacy. plete triumph of the principles of the Bible Surely this was better than the dignified pawould bring in the happy state which they look tronage now courted for the Scriptures, or the for can never be disputed ; but the history of pompous eulogies pronounced on them by our religion affords no ground for anticipating rival orators! The reports of anniversaries such a result from the unaided perusal of its of the Bible Society are often, to me, inexprespages. Deep and extensive impressions of the sibly nauseous. The word of God is praised truths of the gospel have never been made by in the style of eulogy employed on a common mere reading, but always by the exertions of book by a friendly reviewer. It is evidently living enthusiasm in the holy cause. Provi- used as a theme to declaim on. But the praise dence may, indeed, in its inscrutable wisdom, of the Bible is almost overshadowed by the impart new energy to particular instruments; Batteries lavished on the nobleman or county But there appears no sufficient indication of Imember who has condescended to preside, and

which it is the highest ambition of the speak- / from entirely forming an ossified crust about ers ingeniously to introduce and to vary. Happy the soul. We see them too with gentle interest, is he who can give a new turn to the compli- because we have always seen them, and were ment, or invent a new alliteration or antithesis accustomed to relieve them in the spring-time for the occasion! The copious nonsense of the of our days. And if some of them are what successful orators is even more painful than the world calls imposters, and literally“ do bethe failures of the novices. After a string of guile us of our tears," and our alms, those false metaphors and poor conceits, applauded tears are not shed, nor those alms given, in to the echo, the meeting are perhaps called on vain. If they have even their occasional reto sympathize with some unhappy debutant, vellings and hidden luxuries, we should rather whose sense of the virtues of the chairman rejoice to believe that happiness has everyproves too vast for his powers of expression; where its nooks and corners which we do not and with Miss Peachum in the Beggars' Opera, see; that there is more gladness in the earth to lament“ that so noble a youth should come than meets the politician's gaze; and that forto an untimely end.” Alas! these exhibitions tune has her favours,“ secret, sweet, and prehave little connection with a deep love of the cious,” even for those on whom she seems Bible, or with real pity for the sufferings of man. most bitterly to frown. Well may that divinest Were religious tyranny to render the Scriptures of philosophers, Shakspeare, make Lear reply scarce, and to forbid their circulation, they to his daughters, who had been speaking in the would speedily be better prized and honoured true spirit of modern improvements : than when scattered with gorgeous profusion, and lauded by nobles and princes.

“O reason not the need : our bàsest beggars The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity

Are in the poorest thing superfluous : is another boasted institution of these cold.

Allow not nature more than nature needs,

Man's life is cheap as beasts!” hearted days. It would annihilate the race of beggars, and remove from the delicate eye the There are many other painful instances in very form and aspect of misery. Strange in these times of that “restless wisdom” which fatuation! as if an old class of the great fa- " has a broom for ever in its hand to rid the mily of man might be cut off without harm ! world of nuisances." There are, for example, "All are but parts of one stupendous whole,” the plans of Mr. Owen, with his infallible bound together by ties of antique sympathy, of recipes for the formation of character. Virtue which the lowest and most despised are not is not to be forced in artificial hot-beds, as he without their uses. In striking from society proposes. Rather let it spring up where it will a race whom we have, from childhood, been from the seed scattered throughout the earth, accustomed to observe, a vast body of old as- and rise hardly in sun and shower, while the sociations and gentle thoughts must necessarily “free mountain winds have leave to blow be lost for ever. The poor mendicants whom against it.” But I feel that I have already we would banish from the earth, are the best broken too violently on my habits of dreamy sinecurists to whose sustenance we contribute. thought, by the asperity into which I now and In the great science-the science of humanity then have fallen. Let me then break off at

- they not rarely are our first teachers: they once, with the single expression of a hope, that affectingly remind us of our own state of mu- this “bright and breathing world” may not be tual dependance; bring sorrow palpably before changed into a Penitentiary by the efforts of the eyes of the prosperous and the vain; and modern reformers. prevent the hearts of many from utterly“ losing

I am, Sir, their nature.” They give, at least, a salutary

Your hearty well-wisher, disturbance to gross selfishness, and hinder it |





“We know what we are,” said poor Ophelia, the past and future in each fragment of the in" but we know not what we may be.” Perhaps stant, even as the flavour of every drop of she would have spoken with a nicer accuracy some delicious liquid is heightened and prohad she said, “ we know what we have been." longed on the lips. It is the past only which Of our present state we can, strictly speaking, we really enjoy as soon as we become sensible know nothing. The act of meditation on our- of duration. Each bygone instant of delight selves, however quick and subtle, must refer becomes rapidly present to us, and“ bears a to the past, in which alone we can truly be glass which shows us many more.” This is said to live. Even in the moments of intensest the great privilege of a meditative being-never enjoyment, our pleasures are multiplied by the properly to have any sense of the present, but quick-revolving images of thought; we feel to feel the great realities they pass away,

casting their delicate shadows on the fu- of a being which should have no end. When ture.

this sense has been weakened, as it was amidst Time, then, is only a notion-unfelt in its all the exquisite forms of Grecian mythology, passage-a mere measure given by the mind the brevity of life has been forgotten. There to its own past emotions. Is there, then, any is scarcely an allusion to this general senti. abstract common measure by which the infi- ment, so deep a spring of the pathetic, through nite variety of intellectual acts can be meted— out all the Greek tragedies. It will be found any real passage of years which is the same also to prevail in individuals in proportion to all—aný periodical revolution, in which all as they meditate on themselves, or as they who have lived, have lived out equal hours ? nurse in solitude and silence the instinct of the Is chronology any other than a fable, a “tale Eternal. that is told ?" Certain outward visible actions The doctrine that Time exists only in rehave passed, and certain seasons have rolled membrance, may serve to explain some apover them; but has the common idea of parent inconsistencies in the language which time, as applicable to these, any truth higher we use respecting our sense of its passage. or surer than those infinite varieties of dura- We hear persons complaining of the slow tion which have been felt by each single heart? passage of time, when they have spent a single Who shall truly count the measure of his own night of unbroken wearisomeness, and wondays-much more scan the real life of the mil. dering how speedily hours, filled with pleasure lions around him ?

or engrossing occupations, have flown; and The ordinary language of moralists respect yet we all know how long any period seems ing time shows that we really know nothing which has been crowded with events or feel. respecting it. They say that life is fleeting ings leaving a strong impression behind them. and short; why, humanly speaking, may they In thinking on seasons of ennui we have nonot as well affirm that it is extended and last thing but a sense of length-we merely reing? The words “short” and “long” have member that we felt the tedium of existence; only meaning when used comparatively; and but there is really no space in the imagination to what can we compare or liken this our hu- filled up by the period. Mere time, unpeopled man existence? The images of fragility-thin with diversified emotions or circumstances, is vapours, delicate flowers, and shadows cast but one idea, and that idea is nothing more from the most fleeting things—which we em- than the remembrance of a listless sensation. ploy as emblems of its transitoriness, really A night of dull pain and months of lingering serve to exhibit its durability as great in com- weakness are, in the retrospect, nearly the same parison with their own. If life is short, com- thing. When our hands or our hearts are busy, pared with the age of some fine animals, how we know nothing of time—it does not exist for much longer is it than that of many, some of us; but as soon as we pause to meditate on whom pass through all the varieties of youth, that which is gone, we seem to have lived long maturity, and age, during a few hours, accord- because we look back through a long series ing to man's reckoning, and, if they are en- of events, or feel them at once peering one dowed with memory, look back on their early above the other like ranges of distant hills. minutes through the long vista of a summer's Actions or feelings, not hours, mark all the day! An antediluvian shepherd might com- backward course of our being. Our sense of plain with as much apparent reason of the the nearness to us of any circumstance in our brevity of his nine hundred years, as we of our life is determined on the same principles-not threescore and ten. He would find as little to by the revolution of the seasons, but by the confute or to establish his theory. There is relation which the event bears in importance nothing visible by which we can fairly reckon to all that has happened to us since. To him the measure of our lives. It is not just to com- who has thought, or done, or suffered much, pare them with the duration of 'rocks and hills, the level days of his childhood seem at an imwhich have withstood " a thousand storms, a measurable distance, far off as the age of chi. thousand thunders;" because where there is valry, or as the line of Sesostris. There are no consciousness, there is really no time. The some recollections of such overpowering vastpower of imagination supplies to us the place ness, that their objects seem ever near; their of ages. We have thoughts which “date be- size reduces all intermediate events to nothing; yond the pyramids.” Antiquity spreads around and they peer upon us like “a forked moun. us her mighty wings. We live centuries in tain, or blue promontory," which, being far contemplation, and have all the sentiment of off, is yet nigh. How different from these apsix thousand years in our memories :

pears some inconsiderable occurrence of more

recent date, which a flash of thought redeems "The wars we too remember of King Nine,

for a moment from long oblivion ;-which is And old Assaracus and Ibycus divine."

seen amidst the dim confusion of half-forgotten

things, like a little rock lighted up by a Whence, then, the prevalent feeling of the chance gleam of sunshine afar in the mighty brevity of our life? Not, assuredly, from its waters ! comparison with any thing which is presented What immense difference is there, then, in

It is only because the mind is the real duration of men's lives! He lives formed for eternity that it feels the shortness longest of all who looks back oftenest, whosa of its earthly sojourn. Seventy years, or se life is most populous of thought or action, and venty thousand, or seven, shared as the com- on every retrospect makes the vastest picture. mon lot of a species, would seem alike suffi. The man who does not meditate has no real cient to those who had no sense within them I consciousness of being. Such a one goes to

to our senses.

death as to a drunken sleep; he parts with ex. fortune, or the events which have called forth istence wantonly, because he knows nothing their affections. Their first parting from home of its value. Mere men of pleasure are, there is indelibly impressed on their minds their fore the most careless of duelists, the gayest school-days seem to them like one sweet April of soldiers. To know the true value of being, of shower and sunshine—their apprenticeship yet to lay it down for a great cause, is a pitch is a long week of toil ;-but then their first of heroism which has rarely been attained by love is fresh to them as yesterday, and their man. That mastery of the fear of death which marriage, the births of their children, and of is so common among men of spirit, is nothing their grand-children, are events which mark but a conquest over the apprehension of dying their course even to old age. They reach their It is a mere victory of nerve and muscle. infancy again in thought by an easy process, Those whose days have no principle of conti- through a range of remembrances few and nuity-who never feel time but in the shape simple, but pure, and sometimes holy. Yet of ennui-may quit the world for sport or for happier is the lot of those who have one great honour. But he who truly lives, who feels the aim; who devote their undivided energy to a past and future in the instant, whose days are single pursuit; who have one idea of practical to him a possession of majestic remembrances or visionary good, to which they are wedded. and golden hopes, ought not to fancy himself There is a harmony, a proportion, in their bound by such an example. He may be in- lives. The Alchemist of old, labouring with spired to lay down his life, when truth or vir- undiminished hope, cheering his solitude with tue shall demand so great a sacrifice; but he dreams of boundless wealth, and yet workingon, will be influenced by mere weakness of reso- could not be said to live in vain. His life was lution, not by courage, if he suffer himself to continuous-one unbroken struggle one arbe shamed, or laughed, or worried out of it! dent sigh. There is the same unity of interest

Besides those who have no proper con- in the life of a great verbal scholar, or of a true sciousness of being, there are others even per- miser; the same singleness of purpose, which haps more pitiable, who are constantly irritated gives solidity to floating minutes, hours, and by the knowledge that their life is cut up into years. melancholy fragments. This is the case of all The great Lawyer deserves an eminent rank the pretending and the vain; those who are among true livers. We do not mean a politiever attempting to seem what they are not, or cal adventurer, who breathes feverishly amidst to do what they cannot; who live in the lying the contests, the intrigues, and petty triumphs breath of contemporary report, and bask out a of party; nor a dabbler in criticism, poetry, sort of occasional holiday in the glimmers of or the drama; nor even a popular nisi-prius public favour. They are always in a feverish advocate, who passes through a succession of struggle, yet they make no progress. There hasty toils and violent excitements to fortune is no dramatic coherence, no unity of action, and to oblivion. But we have respect to the in the tragi-comedy of their lives. They have real dull plodder—to him who has bidden an hits and brilliant passages perhaps, which early “ Farewell to his Muse,” if he ever had may come on review before them in straggling one: who anticipates years of solitary study, succession; but nothing dignified or massive, and shrinks not back; who proceeds, step by tending to one end of good or evil. Such are step, through the mighty maze with a cheerful self-fancied poets and panting essayists, who heart, and counts on his distant success with live on from volume to volume, or from ma- mathematical precision. His industry and gazine to magazine, who tremble with nervous self-denial are powers as true as fancy or elodelight at a favourable mention, are cast down quence, and he soon learns to take as hearty a by a sly alliteration or satirical play on their pleasure in their exercise. His retrospect is names, and die of an elaborate eulogy “in aro- vast and single-of doubt solved, stoutest books matic pain.” They begin life once a quarter, mastered, nicest webs disentangled, and all or once a month, according to the will of their from one intelligible motive which grows old publishers. They dedicate nothing to poste- with him, and, though it “strengthened with rity ; but toil on for applause till praise sick- his strength,” will not diminish with his deens, and their “life's idle business” grows too cline. It is better in the end to have had the heavy to be borne. They feel their best days pathway of life circumscribed and railed in by passing away without even the effort to build forms and narrow observances, than to have up an enduring fame; and they write an elegy strayed at will about the vast field open to on their own weaknesses! They give their human enterprise, in the freest and most gracethoughts immaturely to the world, and thus ful wanderings; because in the latter case we spoil them for themselves for ever. Their cannot trace our road again, or call it over; own earliest, and deepest, and most sacred while in the first, we see it distinctly to the feelings become at last dull common-places, end, and can linger in thought over all the which they have talked of and written about spots where our feet have trodden. The “old till they are glad to escape from the theme. names” bring back the “old instincts" to our Their days are not “ linked each to each by hearts. Instead of faint sympathies with a natural piety," but at best bound together in multitude of things, a kind of small partnerforgotten volumes. Better, far better than this, ship with thousands in certain general dogmas is the lot of those whose characters and pre- and speculations, we have all our own past intensions have little “ mark of likelihood;" — dividual being as a solid and abiding posseswhose days are filled up by the exercises of sion. honest industry, and who, on looking back, re A metaphysician who thinks earnestly and cognise their lives only by the turns of their l intensely for himself, may truly be said to live

long. He has this great advantage over the about as reasonable as to say, a man neves most felicitous inventor of machinery, or the was young because he has grown old, or never most acute of scientific inquirers, that all his lived because he is now dead. The length or discoveries have a personal interest; he has agreeableness of a journey does not depend on his existence for his living study ; his own the few last steps of it, nor is the size of a heart is the mighty problem on which he medi- building to be judged of from the last stone tates, and the “exceeding great reward” of his that added to it. It is neither the first nor victories. In a moment of happy thought he the last hour of our existence, but the space may attain conquests, “compared to which the that parts these two—not our exit, nor our enlaurels which a Cæsar reaps are weeds." trance upon the stage, but what we do feel, and Years of anxious thought are rewarded by the think while there-that we are to attend to in attainment of one triumphant certainty, which pronouncing sentence upon it. Indeed, it would immediately gives a key to the solution of a be easy to show that it is the very extent of thousand pregnant doubts and mysteries, and human life, the infinite number of things conenables him almost to “ curdle a long life into tained in it, its contradictory and fluctuating an hour.” When he has, after long pursued and interests, the transition from one situation to baffled endeavours, rolled aside some huge diffi- another, the hours, months, years, spent in one culty which lay in his path, he will find beneath fond pursuit after another; that it is, in a word, it a passage to the bright subtleties of his nature, the length of our common journey, and the through which he may range at will, and quantity of events crowded into it, that, baffling gather immortal fruits, like Aladdin in the sub- the grasp of our actual perception, make it terranean gardens. He counts his life thus not slide from our memory, and dwindle into noonly by the steps which he has taken, but thing in its own perspective. It is too mighty by the vast prospects which, at every turn for us, and we say it is nothing! It is a speck of his journey, have recompensed his toils, in our fancy, and yet what canvas would be over which he has diffused his spirit as he big enough to hold its striking groups, its endwent on his way rejoicing. We will conclude less objects! It is light as vanity; and yet if this article with the estimate made of life from all its weary moments, if all its head and hearthis own experience by one of the most pro-aches were compressed into one, what fortifound and original of thinkers.

tude would not be overwhelmed with the blow! “ It is little, it is short, it is not worth having What a huge heap, a huge dumb heap,' of if we take the last hour, and leave out all wishes, thoughts, feelings, anxious cares, sooththat has gone before, which has been one way ing hopes, loves, joys, friendships, it is comof looking at the subject. Such calculators posed of! How many ideas and trains of senseem to say that life is nothing when it is over; timent, long, deep, and intense, often pass and that may, in their sense, be true. If the through the mind in one day's thinking or readold rule-Respice finem-were to be made abso-ing for instance! How many such days are lute, and no one could be pronounced fortunate there in a year, how many years in a long life, till the day of his death, there are few among still occupied with something interesting-still us whose existence would, upon such condi- recalling some old impression-still recurring tions, be much to be envied. But this is not a to some difficult question, and making progress fair view of the case. A man's life is his in it, every step accompanied with a sense of whole life, not to the last glimmering snuff of power, and every moment conscious of the the candle; and this I say is considerable, and high endeavour or the glad success;" for the not a little matter, whether we regard its plea- mind seizes only on that which keeps it emsures or its pains. To draw a peevish con- ployed, and is wound up to a certain pitch of clusion to the contrary, from our own super- pleasurable excitement by the necessity of annuated desires of forgetful indifference, is its own nature." —Hazlitt's Table Talk, Essay 6.



TRENE is no pursuit in life which appears the founders of honourable families. If the more captivating at a distance than the profes. young aspirant perceives, even in his hasty sion of the bar, as it is followed and rewarded and sanguine glance, that something depends in English courts of justice. It is the great on fortuitous circumstances, the conviction avenue to political influence and reputation; only renders the pursuit more inviting, by addits honours are among the most splendid ing the fascinations of a game of chance to which can be attained in a free state ; and its those of a trial of skill. If he is forced to conemoluments and privileges are exhibited as fess that a sacrifice of principle is occasionally prizes, to be contested freely by all its mem- required of the candidate for its most lucrative bers. Its annals celebrate many individuals situations, he glories in the pride of untempted who have risen from the lowest ranks of the virtue, and pictures himself generously resistpeople, by fortunate coincidence, or by patient ing the bribe which would give him riches and labour, to wealth and station, and have become l authority in exchange for conscious rectitude

« 上一頁繼續 »