« 上一頁繼續 »
It is a doctrine of the Bible which common sense and common experience confirm, that the frequent contemplation of a future heaven has a powerful tendency to transform the mind and prepare it both for the duties of this life, and the rewards of duty in the life to come. Communing with the true, the spiritual and the holy, we receive their impress and pass into their likeness. And by the same law of our minds, the frequent contemplation of a virtuous and happy past, tends to produce in us a resemblance to that past, and to transform us into its image.
The home of our childhood should be, by its design and constitution, an image of heaven; and if that design were realized, the active portion of human life would be passed in circumstances peculiarly beautiful. Manhood would accomplish its high task on a field midway between two heavens : onward are the distant and dim towers and gates of the holy city, the New Jerusalem-behind him, the sacred inclosure of the family, with its priest and altar and daily oblation; in prospect is the family of the redeemed with harps of gold—in retrospect, the family where his existence had its origin, and where his first, and simplest, and purest hopes and joys were felt.
The distinguished President Dwight once narrated to a friend a striking dream, the most remarkable character in which was an intelligence, half child and half cherub. The combination, he said, struck him as presenting a most wonderful and unspeakably beautiful whole. Infantile and godlike attributes flowed together, and formed one transcendently lovely character.
Something very like this beautiful creature of vision might be expected, as the product of those two concurrent influences which flow, the one from heaven, the other from “ Home, sweet Home.” What, indeed, but a union, in more or less perfect degree, of the qualities of the angel and the child, constitutes that highest style of man, the Christian? The truly godlike, is ever also the truly childlike. To the idea of intelligence little less than an angel's, add the simplicity, frankness, innocence, affectionateness of a lovely child, and the product is
a great man. Secure one thing more, that his affections be placed upon proper objects, and he is a great and good man.
Now, we say, one of those great and blessed benefits which the family influence was intended to work out for us, is this of nurturing within us the childlike, while the contemplation of a heavenly home, on the other hand, inspires and cherishes the godlike and lifts us up to its greatness and glory. Just as often as we go back in thought to the family, (provided always, that it has been what it should have been in character,) and as often as we throw our hearts open to its influence, just so often do we find ourselves, like the disciple on the mount, deeming it good to be there and wishing to remain. We get back to our old place on the village green, or by the old fireside, or at the family board, and for the moment, at least, our artificiality and stiffness stand rebuked, and we wish we were children again, as free, as artless, as happy as they. We think with sorrow and shame of the changes that have taken place in us—of the pride, the cunning, the infinite trickery of business and political competition of the idle dreams we have indulged in—of the vain hopes we have blown and followed, as formerly we chased the soap bubble, or pursued the butterfly in the meadow. Above all, we think with sadness of the loss of sensibility and guileless simplicity which we have suffered, amid the cares and pleasures of active life, while the imagined goods for which we have sacrificed them are quite as unsubstantial as the toys of childhood.
Thus, evermore, the home of our childhood is saying to us, “Come back and be a child ;" while the heavens are urging, but not inconsistently, “Come up hither and be an angel.” Let us obey both. Let us often catch the influences of both, and hold them to our hearts, and live habitually in that precise focus where the soft, mellowing rays from the hearth-stone and altar of our childhood's home meet and mingle with those which descend from the home of the soul in heaven. Let the voice of the one recall us daily to the simplicity and sincerity of childhood, while the whispers of the other allure us onward and upward forever. I went to visit my cousin H- His was a noble nature, but at the time to which I now refer, it was almost a wreck. He had not grown strong in the struggle of life, as such brave and athletic natures usually do. A vigorous will is naturally roused by the opposition of adverse circumstances; but in his case, this faculty had sunk into such utter powerlessness, that he could neither do nor dare, or even muster manly courage lo suffer uncomplainingly. It had not merely sunk into inertness, and left the mental powers to stagnate, but with strange moral perversity, Satanlike, by one desperate and controlling volition, it seemed to say, “Evil, be thou my good.”
THE HISTORY OF A SOUL.
A TALE OF MY GRANDMOTHER'S.
BY MRS. E. D. W. M'KEE.
I need not detail the social circumstances which had induced this lamentable condition of a mind so gifted, yet now so aimless, hopeless, cheerless ; for that were to tell a trite and common story. I should but recite the history of every young man of genius, who, without fortune or influential friends, enters the profesșional lists, already thronging with fierce and eager combatants, who do not always tilt with hurtless weapons, like the true knights of yore -where the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; the laws of that despicable warfare being neither brave nor gallant, but allowing fraud to overcome force, and bravery to be outdone by trickery. Never did knight of chivalry run such a gauntlet as the young Æsculapian of the nineteenth century, who, armed with drug and scalpel, turns errant, to seek his fortune in the world's great thoroughfares--striving to win fame, and wealth, and power, and the sweet smiles of the “ faire ladye of love." But such a contest, even for the bravest and manliest spirits, is well nigh hopeless ; for though the young doctor's
practice be after the most approved allopathic methods, his fame and pay are sure to come in homeopathic doses.
If, however, this “ similia similibus curan
tur” mode of prescribing be the right one, then my cousin Hubert's professional and other disappointments should have cured themselves ; and yet they did not, but left him early in his life-journey, like the man of Jericho, fallen by the wayside, wounded, fevered, heart-sick. Thus I found him when I went as the bearer of a message from my dearest friend—a lady whom he once fondly loved, and had vainly hoped to win, but whom he was now as vainly striving to forget. In losing her, life lost its zest so utterly, that if wishing could have brought the things he once had sighed for, he would not have wished, save to lie down and die. After this shock, an ill-suppressed misanthropy, or at best a cold indifference, seemed to have sent a fatal chill over the warm lifeblood of his generous and enthusiastic soul, which once had beat so high with hope and fond desire. Even his welcome to me, his earliest and truest friend, would have been cold, but for a certain sudden lighting of the eye and a pressure of the hand which bespoke a cor. diality his words did not express. When I seated myself by his side, he only said, “My dear Anna, it is kind of you to come to me now," and then relapsed into a sombre and moody silence-a seeming forgetfulness even of my presence. I delivered the message with which I had been charged. It was kind and hopeful, yet he did not respond. He seemed not to feel, for he sat apparently stolid and unmoved. This alarmed me, for I knew how every fibre of his heart had hitherto trembled responsive to such a touch ; and surely, thought I, the golden cord must now be loosened, or it would answer to the soft whispering breath of love.
After a moment's silence, I ventured on that most difficult and delicate of all the duties of friendship-—the attempt to encourage and console. I began, however, with common-places, fearing to offend or irritate by being more direct.
THE HISTORY OF A SOUL.
“All will by and by go well,” said I; “ keep up a good heart, your fortunes yet will brighten."
“ Perhaps so,” replied Hubert ; “but I never expect to be happy again, or even to be enough in love with life to make existence tolerable. The world may perhaps go well with me, as you say. I may possibly experience what is called luck or good fortune—that which Christianity teaches, and which I would fain believe, is not luck, nor mere worldly chance, but the clairvoyant eye of an ever-watchful Providence, spying out among the infinite possibilities of circumstance and condition, those which are best suited to my particular wants and necessities, tempering the wind to the shorn lamb, and shielding me by its omnipotent ' hand from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.' Yes, all this may be- I hope it will be: I shall be glad, and I hope grateful, even for the satisfaction I may be able to derive from a tranquil and satisfed outward life; but a wounded spirit who can bear? If all the delights of this earth-life were compounded into one potent panacea for all the ills the heart is heir to, it were a useless unguent for wounds that lie so deep, and fester even at the heart's core.
It might prove a medicine for the mind, and help the brain somewhat to bear the heart-throb. It might, nay, it would certainly mollify and heal the bruises on the surface; but could it allay the burning fever of that hidden soul-sickness, which dries up the very fount of human happiness within ? Yes, I may be happy as the world calls it; I may have a large house, a sumptuous table, and fine clothing.. I may say to others less favored than myself, Go and come; and they shall do my bidding and await my pleasure. But this is not happiness. To be housed, to be fed and clothed, to be served and obeyed, is not to be happy. This worldly thrift is after all a meagre thing, and all the happiness it brings but a low and vulgar species of content, even if it can rise so high as that. That is a coarse and common greed which is satisfied with mere physical fatness with a feast of the good things of this present animal and sensuous life. A mere good-liver who enjoys fire because it warms him, meat because it feeds him, and fine array because it makes him look gay and handsome as a peacock, or social rank because it enables him to strut and gobble like a turkey foremost in the flock, is as surely and entirely a mere animal, as a stall-fed ox just
ready for the shambles. Indeed, the graminivorous feeder is the nobler of the twohigher in the scale of being—because truer to the heaven-implanted instincts of its nature, than the half-rational human eater of boiled and roastei flesh. Yes, the pampered goose from whose swollen liver we make a 'paté de fois,' and even an oyster, or its brother clam, have each subserved the true ends of their existence better than such an earth-cumberer. Like these silly creatures he is only useful when he dies—when in obedience to the great law,"dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,' he renders up his individual being, or more properly, surrenders his useless carcass to fecundate the bosom of the fruitful earth, from whence he stole her elemental atoms, only to animate, and waste, and squander them in useless breathing. That were a bold stonecutter who should dare to contradict Heaven, by carving · Requiescat in pace' over a heap of such human ashes. No! these creature comforts are not happiness, neither do they furnish material out of which by any cunning alchemy or talismanic touch the soul of man can manufacture it. To attempt, Anna, to satisfy the natural craving of the human soul after superhuman good by feeding it on such delights, is to seek nourishment by eating and drinking from the witches' caldron, where all is 'boil and bubble-toil and trouble.' ”
I was silent, because I knew not how to reply. Here was a mind of immense strength, almost infinite in its reach and grasp, whose power was now destructively turned inward on itself. Objective existence seemed to have lost its charm. The love of the sensuous had perished in the shock which had shaken to its centre the inner moral life of the soul. How was Hope, that most vitative of all human passions, again to be resuscitated in such a bosom? I was sorry when he ceased, for it had been long since he had spoken out his hidden thoughts so freely; for of late, unlike himself, he had grown cold, reserved, and timid, even with me his most cherished friend, to whom he had always unreservedly confided his every thought and purpose.
In endeavoring to combat and put to flight these gloomy fancies, it seemed to me that “ discretion was the better part of valor ;” that perhaps a simple hopeful prompting of his mind, such as had elicited the last reply, might urge him unconsciously to disclose his inner life more fully—to open up to me the depth of
THE HISTORY OF A SOUL.
the wound to which he had so affectingly allu- ance, while I calmly replied, that in seeking to ded; for well I knew there was balm in Gilead, comfort him by a prospect of future good forand a physician there, could I but persuade tune, I had not intended to allude merely to him to seek healing. In a season of like suf- those grosser forms of mere animal enjoyment, fering, the armless hand whose mystic hiero- of which he had spoken with so much indifferglyphs once terrified the guilty Belshazzar by ence, and even disgust, but to those more refined a prophecy of coming doom, had extended itself and rational pleasures, which the Creator has to me, yet not in such dire threatenings, though so wisely and beneficently superadded to the well deserved; for it wrote indelibly on the mere pleasure of physical existence. He imdesolate chambers of my soul
patiently interrupted me, by saying
" It matters not, so far as my own case is “Come, ye disconsolate, where'er you languish,
concerned, what kind of enjoyments you inCome at the shrine of God fervently kneel ; Here bring your wounded hearts-here tell your anguish
tended to speak of, because I know well, that Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”
no plenitude of worldly good, of whatever kind,
can make the really sad-souled, happy. At But how should I tell him this ? how urge best, it can only just make them contented to forward a mind, blinded by philosophic skepti- live. It can only repress the suicidal longing cism, and withal stronger and fuller than my to lie down with the dreamless dead in the quiet own, to the cross of Calvary—to the Saviour bosom of the all-kind earth. It can only make -to the Holy Comforter ? How, contrary to the restless soul easy, not happy. It can shut its constitutional tendencies, and its long-cher- the mouth of the canker-worm, and interrupt ished habits of thought and feeling, should I its gnaw ; but it cannot kill it. The enemies make it know the rest, the joy there is in lov- of the soul's peace are hydra-headed; and ing and believing-yea, even in suffering- when we slay one, we do but make a place when we know that a Father's infinite heart for another to grow, with a yet deadlier venom of pitying love yearns over us, even while His in its viper tooth. Our poor suffering souls, hand wields the rod whose smart chastises our all scarred, and seamed, and wounded, pant for sinful stubbornness into right loyal and loving healing and for rest. They long—nay, they obedience ?
even dare to hope to lie down on some warm Hubert, though still silent, heaved a sigh so genial summer-day of that bright Future, which profound, that his very life seemed breathing shall succeed “this winter of our discontent,' itself out along with it; and the shade of abso- on soft beds of worldly ease, to rest in peace, lute despair which settled over his face, was or lap themselves in soft Elysian dreams. But sadder and more fearful to look upon, than that such a hope is false as it is fair—false as that awful and passionless repose which over- gassy fatuus which lures the sad benighted shadows the human countenance when the wing traveller into yet more fatal mires and footof the Death Angel hovers over it. Had the falls." wealth of a world at that moment been mine, “Do you really then," said I,“ count as nothI would have gladly bartered it for the joy of ing all the delights of our sensible and rational putting into Hubert's empty and failing hand, existence on this earth, which the Creator has the single pearl of everlasting price. But how built up, and furnished, and roofed over with should I make him comprehend the value of such infinite wisdom, both of design and exesuch heavenly riches ? Alas! that we should cution, as a pleasant dwelling-place for His have in our hands a price to buy wisdom, and earthly children? Can you really look with know it not, nor use it to our everlasting gain. indifference on the great social system in the But something told me, You can do it. Heart midst of which we are placed? Can you look will yet answer to heart, but not now. Some- upon life as a lottery, or a game of chance, thing made me know, that when the proper when the slightest observation will teach you, crisis in his moral experiences should come, my that there is an unseen hand somewhere, reguheart would then find ready utterance, and the lating the complex and often inexplicable moveelectric fire of feeling run along the brighten- ments of the great wheel of fortune ? else, why ing chain of sympathy between my soul and does industry bring wealth oftener than it does his, till his should be touched and warmed, and poverty, and why does energy beget success, comforted. My heart prayed, oh! how ear- rather than defeat ? Can you, Hubert, look on nestly, yet held these deeper emotions in abey
ned, and see the Giver of all distribute
THE HISTORY OF A SOUL.
such rich prizés, and lead on to a promised land the patient, the diligent, the wise, the hopeful, and the courageous, while you sit down and weep by the bitter waters of Meribah, or go lonely, sullen, and sad, on your life-journey?"
• But,” said Hübert, interrupting me, “ these golden apples of yours, which shine so fair outside, are no decoy to one, who, like myself, knows they are only puff-balls, full of dust and earthiness. I would not put out a hand, much less run a race to grasp them, even though they were truly Hesperidean. Do you know, Anna, the things you speak of seem to me worse than mocking phantoms ? When, unbidden, they thrust their unwelcome shapes before my vision, they seem but the melancholy ghosts of dead hopes, I petted, nursed, and fondled when a child, only to see them die and bury themselves back again into the unreality from whence they sprang. Show me something real, something worth living for, and I will live again. That is beyond the power of your philosophy; for what earthly goods are real goods--not shadows-falses-cheats ? Gold is shining yellow dust; fame a child's rattle, whose noisy din tickles a simple ear, but makes no music to a reasoning soul. What are rank and elevated station, but a narrow standing-place—a terrace on a dangerous social precipice? If we fall from thence, we land not on the terra-firma, where stand secure the vulgar multitude below; but a single mis-step plunges us into a fathomless gulf of infamy below."
“But, Hubert,” said I, “ you forget that there are calmer and more retired pleasures for those who cannot relish such garish outside shows as rank, and wealth, and fame. There is the calm and contemplative life of the philosophic student. There is the luxury of books —the power of silent converse with the inarticulate wisdom of the dead. Can we not thus amplify our existence, till it reaches infinitely beyond the narrow boundaries of our own individual wants and woes-embracing in our conscious life, all lives, all beings, all spaces, and all times?"
“ Dear Coz,” said Hubert, with more of his natural playfulness than he had yet manifested, "you are both poet and philosopher. If my cold hard nature could soften, and be warmed by anything, surely your enthusiasm would be the sweet contagion which could breathe its own life and joy into my soul again. But that young hearty life which opens the soul to such
sweet influences, has died out of me. I am old—not older than yourself in years, but in that stern discipline of life, which has left me disenchanted. This learning, or rather this unlearning, has made me wiser than all the philosophy of the schools could ever do. When you tell me, Anna, of the happiness men find in books, and lives of studious thought, do you, in good faith, really believe that learning can do the soul good ? For what is it? With one man, it is a Babel of confused languages, the odds and ends of all the words men's tongues have syllabled, since the scattered Babel-builders went forth from the plains of Shinar, to dot the virgin face of earth with nations of diverse character and tongues. With another, learning is a series of long and tedious trains of exact and rigid reasonings on the infinites of space, and quantity, and measurement, a kind of mathematical brain-fever; and is cerebral excitement a cure for heart-ache? But learning with another is philosophy—a perplexed and tangled mass of sequences, which have been sorted, matched, and mated, as causes and effects, and then arranged in scientific formulæ. Furnished with such instruments as Science handles, we may probe nature to the quick, and extort her secrets; but can we probe the heart with them, and from its centre remove the fester which sends its poison, at every pulse-beat, through all the veins and fibres of our being ?”
“No, Hubert, I did not speak of physics, there are higher themes than these for contemplative minds-nobler fields of philosophic speculation. Beyond the confines of matter lies a soul-realm, infinite as God, with objects of curious inquiry, various and numberless as the myriad orders of intellectual being, with which the efflux of the Divine has tenanted this thickly peopled universe.”
“ Yes, Anna, there are such realms, but they are realms of darkness, thick, palpable, impenetrable, inscrutable, save to that Eye which watches while creation sleeps. Why do you, good cousin, give imagination wing, and talk so finely to a poor broken heart like mine? Remember fancy has turned to fact with me: nothing pleases, nothing solaces or delights me. The universe is a blank, and existence but a sense of misery. You who are so calm and happy in the midst of home, and friends, and books, cannot know how meagre the consolations are, which you offer to such a sad and burdened heart as mine."