« 이전계속 »
The most miserable of human beings are professed sinners, men who despise rule, who look upon their passions as mere instruments of pleasure, and are determined to extract from life, every drop of amusement it can afford. The last excess is stale, and tiresome; there must be a higher degree of emotion; when every thing else is exhausted, the destruction of all decency affords some little entertainment; to laugh at religion is, for some time new, and amusing. But immodesty, and blasphemy soon weary, and the sinner finds, that he has not chosen the path of pleasantness and peace.
In fact, putting aside all religious considerations, there is not a greater mistake in the world, than to suppose, that a profligate man is a happy man. He seems to be happy, because his enjoyments are more visible, and ostentatious; but is in truth a very sorry, and shallow impostor, who may deceive the young, but is laughed at by the wise, and by all who know in what true happiness consists.
The truly happy man is he, who has early discovered, that he carries within his own bosom his worst enemies, that the contest must be manfully entered into; that if righteousness does not save him from his sinful appetites, they will rule him, up to the moment of the grave; that they will bend him down to the earth, and tear, and rend him like the bad spirits in scripture; that his fame will be sullied, his mind and body wasted away, and his substance destroyed.
When Solomon saw these things, when he beheld one man groaning with despair, another writhing with disease, when he beheld the follies, the errors, and crimes of the world, and could see nothing placid, nothing calm, nothing stable, but the righteous man; then he said, (and oh how truly, and wisely he said it,) the ways of that man are the ways of pleasantness, and his paths the paths of peace.
A religious man is happy because he is secure; because it is not in the power of accident, or circumstance, to disclose any secret guilt; as he is, he has long been; he can refer to the blameless tenor of years; to a mind long exercised in avoiding offence towards God, and towards man! His present enjoyments are never polluted, by bitter remembrances of the past; whatever he has of honor, or consideration among men, he has it honestly, and safely; it does not depend upon their ignorance, nor upon his dexterity, nor upon any fortunate combination of events.
The more men know him, the more they love him; the more they try him, the more plainly they are convinced that he follows after righteousness as the truest wisdom, and that this feeling is the plain and simple key to all his actions. Herein it is that the sinner so grossly miscalculates his happiness, and that he is so bitterly taunted by the great masters of ethics in the scriptures; that he has lost that, in which the pleasantness and comfort of righteousness principally consists; the inviolable feeling of security by which it is accompanied.
Believe me, whether you have sold this for money, or parted with it for ambition, or bartered it for the joy of some vile appetite, you have lost the purest and noblest instrument of human happiness. The time will come, when you will say to yourself, why did I do this? why did I give up my pleasant innocence? why cannot I look upon every man that I meet, with the same firmness and cheerfulness with which I was wont?
In this short, and passing life, there is nothing which can repay a man for the loss of his own conscious purity. In extreme old age, he will loathe the chariots, and the horses, the purple, the fine linen, and the sumptuous fare, the price of his soul, and will remember, (when it is too late,) that the ways of righteousness were pleasant, and her paths the paths of peace.
THERE is no season of the day or year, which gives me such pure and exquisite pleasure, as that of a Summer's Sabbath evening, when the heart has been soothed, and the spirit elevated by recent acts of devotion; and when, over every mountain and valley, forest and river, a holy tranquillity reposes, as if inanimate nature were conscious of the sanctity of the day of rest.
To an observer of feeling and imagination, the contemplation of nature is a source of continual enjoyment: the budding Spring inspires him with hope; the full blown Summer fills him with joy; the decaying Autumn speaks to him of his own decay, like the soothing voice of a parent that
invites him to repose, after the labors of the day; and the desolating Winter gives intimation of his death, when, like the faded flowers, his body shall be withering in the dust, and his spirit, like the birds of passage that follow the genial seasons in their journey round the globe, shall have winged its way to a better and happier region.
But a Summer's Sabbath evening is the season of the most exalted enjoyment: it is then that there seems to be an intimate communion between earth and heaven, and we feel as if partakers of the pleasures of both worlds: it is then that their confines seem to meet, and we feel as if, by one step, we could pass from time into eternity.
On a beautiful Sabbath evening, about the middle of July, I pursued my walk along a narrow path that stretched through an extensive wood, to enjoy alone and undisturbed, that soothing melancholy, which is to me sweeter than the turbulence of social merriment.
The sun had just set,-the twilight star was twinkling, like the eye of a beautiful woman, whose lashes are quivering with the effects of departing sorrow that bedewed them with tears, and the thrush was pouring forth his vesper hymn on the topmost twig of the tall larch tree, as if he thought that his song would sound the sweeter, the nearer he could make his perch to heaven.
It was to me a scene of peculiar interest: on the one side, stood the home of my father and mother, brothers and sisters, the affectionate beings who appeared to me parts of my own existence, without whom, without one of whom I could not live; and on the other side, lay the churchyard where my forefathers slept in 'the narrow house,' and where my kindred and myself were in all likelihood destined to sleep—one of us, perhaps, in a few days, for my mother was at that time sick, the being who gave me birth-who nourished me on her bosom in infancy-who condoled my sorrows in manhood-the thought of her death was dreadful.
But my mind was soon called from its agonizing anticipations, by the tremulous tones of a plaintive voice; when, on looking around me, I saw a man kneeling beneath a branching fir, and praying loudly and fervently. It was not, however, the prayer of the Pharisce, in the corner of the street, where every eye might behold him: the person before me was unconscious that any eye beheld him, but that of his Creator whom he was so earnestly supplicating.
I never saw a more affecting picture of devotion. I have
seen the innocent child lay its head upon its mother's knee, and lisp out its evening prayer; and the father of a family kneel in the midst of his domestic circle, and ask the blessing of God to be upon them and him: I have seen the beautiful maiden, whose lips, to the youthful imagination, seemed only tuned to the song of pleasure, whisper the responses in the public assembly of worship; and the dim-eyed matron stroke back her hoary tresses, and endeavor to mingle her quivering voice with the sublime symphony of the pealing organ:--all these have I seen, and felt the beauty of each; but this solitary worshipper affected me more deeply than I had previously experienced.
His knees were bent upon the deep-green earth, where his Bible lay on the one side of him, and his hat on the other; his hands were lifted up, his raven hair waved in the breeze, and his eyes were raised to Heaven; yet I saw, or fancied I saw, that he was frequently obliged to close them, and press out the tears that flowed to them from the fountain of sorrow.
I passed him unperceived, with respect for his devotional feelings, and sympathy with his accumulated afflictions. I knew him well: he was a laborer of the neighboring hamlet, intelligent and respectable in his sphere of life. Often on
the Sabbath evenings had I met with him in the same path, walking with his wife and his children; two little boys that plucked the wild flowers as they proceeded, and an infant girl that yet nestled in its mother's bosom.
He was devotedly attached to his family, and I considered him one of the happiest men in existence; for his wife appeared altogether worthy of the respect he paid her, and his children were as beautiful and promising as a parent's heart could have wished. He and I often entered into conversation, and I was not only pleased, but frequently astonished by his remarks; for his lips were unrestrained by the reserve of polished life, and all his most eccentric conceptions, and all his deepest feelings, were in a moment laid open and naked before you, in all their singularity and beauty.
He had read a good deal, but he had thought more than he had read; and, in consequence, there was a poetical originality in his mind, and a poetical enthusiasm in his heart, which were peculiarly pleasing to a person, who has felt his generous emotions repulsed and chilled by the cold and affected votaries of fashion.
He was quite contented with his laborious occupation;
for, as he said, his toils seemed light and pleasant, when he considered that they were undergone for the comfort of the wife, who, like a fruitful vine,' spread the blossoms of pleasure around his cottage; and of the children who, like olive plants,' arose to support him when bowed down by the burden of age.
The anticipation of an early death did not even appal him; for in that case, as he observed, there was a God in heaven who would prove a father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widow, and the orphan's stay, and the stranger's shield.'
The dictates of philosophy are weak, in comparison with the power of this religious trust: it is the rock, under whose shadow the weary find repose-the rock, whose summit is brightened by sunshine, while the valley from which it rises, is covered with clouds and darkness. My friend, the poor laborer, clung to it with enthusiasm in his severe domestic trials.
A malignant fever, like the storm that blasts the blossoms of spring, entered the hamlet, and, in the space of two months, swept off more than a third of the children. There was scarcely a cottage that had not numbered one of its little inmates with the dead.
It has been said, with what degree of truth I know not, that the loss of children is the heaviest trial by which the human heart can be visited; because, as it is averred, the attachment of the parent to the child is stronger than that of the child to the parent.
I have no doubt, that if a person have a family to divide the stream of affection, the death of a father or a mother will be felt with less poignancy, than if the solitary mourner have no object, as near and as dear, on which he can fix the lacerated ties of love, that have been forced to quit their hold of the bosom that withers in a parent's grave. each of these domestic calamities is, for a time, as severe as mortal creature can conceive; and as the man, who feels the acuteness of the green wounds of affliction, cannot properly estimate the pain of those, that have been healed by the influence of time, there appears to me no use in making, and no certainty in the result of, the comparison.
I might, however, argue against the received opinion, by saying, that the place of a parent, when once empty, can never again be filled; whereas the bosom that has given its