Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

the solitary pleasures of the sensual and the selfish. But a Christian should view every moral obligation in connection with the precepts and prospects of the gospel ; for, in the Scriptures, the greatest stress is laid on the cultivation of Benevolence: “Now there remaineth these three-faith, hope, and charity, and the greatest of these is charity.” Probably the superior happiness of a future world will principally consist in a complete emancipation from the selfish affections, till all considerations of self are lost in a disposition of universal love!

Refined Benevolence tends to ameliorate and improve the social affections, to polish and purify the manners, and to cherish the most noble feelings of human nature. It opens every avenue to the heart, awakens all its sensibilities, and touches every spring and movement of the soul. It is a conspicuous attribute of the best of beings. “Tis mightiest in the mightiest.” It flows immediately from that inexhaustible Fountain, whose salubrious streams refresh the moral and intellectual world. It constitutes one of the noblest perfections of the Supreme Mind; it is the essence of the Divine nature; and the glory of ours. The cultivation of this godlike temper must reflect distinguished honour on the creature; for it raises man to a resemblance of his Creator, and renders him more like that Being, who is the sublime pattern of perfect Benevolence. The benevolent man is a privileged being :

Peace from the bosom of his God,

True peace, shall he receive;
And when he kneels before the throne,

His trembling soul shall live.
To him protection shall be shewn,

And mercy from above
Descend on those who thus fulfil

The perfect law of love. It should, moreover, afford' us the highest consolation, to be assured that Benevolence will not be forgotten hereafter by the all-seeing Judge of human actions and intentions. Every work of charity, every labour of love, every deed and sentiment of kindness, will be publicly acknowledged and applauded in that day, when the secrets of all hearts, and the motives of all actions, shall be revealed :-then shall they be recorded in the splendid page of immortality--the sacred and eternal register of glory!

A modern poet has the following beautiful lines on the Tear of Sympathy :

No radiant pearl, which crested fortune wears,
No gem, that twinkling hangs from beauty's ears,
Nor the bright stars, which night's blue arch adorn,
Nor rising suns, that gild the vernal morn,
Shine with such lustre, as the tear that breaks

For other's woe, down Virtue's manly cheeks. Such are the advantages and pleasures of Benevo. lence; the possession of which is thus amiably invoked by the muse of the pious Doddridge:

Far from thy servants, gracious God!

Th’unfeeling heart remove,
And form in our obedient souls

The image of thy love.
Oh! may our sympathizing breasts

The gen'rous pleasure know,
Kindly to share in others' joy,

And weep for others' woe!
Where'er the helpless sons of grief

In low distress are laid,
Soft be our hearts their pains to feel,

And swift our hands to aid.
Oh! be the law of love fulfill'd

In ev'ry act and thought ;
Each angry passion far removid,

Each selfish view forgot.
Be thou, my heart, dilated wide

With this kind social grace;
And in one grasp of fervent love

All earth and heav'n embrace. In practising the virtue of Benevolence, we cannot too scrupulously attend to the injunction, “not to let our left hand know what our right hand doeth.” Charity loses all its excellence, all its beauty, if performed with ostentation, or bestowed with indelicacy.

Fontenelle's maxiin was, “ that a man ought to part with his superfluities, in order to minister to the necessities of others;" and the delicacy of his friendship, as well as the Benevolence of his disposition, is strikingly evinced in the following incident. Having heard that the celebrated Marivaux was ill, and having just reason to fear that he, who never laid by any money, might be in want of it at such an exigence, he went to him, and, when they were alone, told him his suspicions. Perhaps (said he with great delicacy) more money may be convenient for you, than you have by you? Friends should never wait to be solicited; here is a purse with a hundred louis-d'ors, which you must permit me to leave at your disposal.” "I consider them (said Marivaux) as received and used; permit me now to return them with the gratitude that such a favour ought to excite."

England abounds in benevolent institutions. Independently of the two hospitals supported at the public charge at Greenwich and Chelsea, London has twentytwo hospitals, or asylums for the sick, lame, &c.; one hundred and seven alms-houses, for the maintenance of old men and women; twenty institutions for indigent persons of various other descriptions; twentytwo dispensaries for gratuitously supplying the poor with medicine and medical aid at their own dwellings; forty-one free-schools, with perpetual endowments for educating and maintaining three thousand five hundred children of both sexes; twenty other public schools for deserted and poor children; one hundred and sixty-five parish schools, supported by their respective parishes, with the aid of occasional voluntary contributions, which, on an average, clothe and edu cate six thousand boys and girls. In the city of London, belonging to its corporation, there are ninetyfour public companies, who distribute above £7500 in charity annually; and the metropolis has, besides, many institutions for the education or relief of those who are actually distressed, of a less public and pro. minent nature, but which very widely extend aid to the indigent. The sum annually expended in the metropolis, in charitable purposes, independently of private relief to individuals, has been estimated at £850,000! Most of the hospitals and asylums were founded by private munificence; of these some are endowed with perpetual revenues, and others sup: ported by annual or occasional voluntary contribu. tions. The alms-houses were built and endowed either by private individuals, or corporate bodies of tradesmen, and many of the free-schools sprang from the same origin.

We shall close this chapter with the following affecting anecdote of Benevolence in an humble indi vidual, and clemency in an exalted one:

In 1812, a young woman of the name of Frances Sage, was under sentence of death in Newgate. A benevolent Israelite, whose compassion had been deeply excited by an inquiry into the circumstances of her crime, resolved on writing a letter to the late lamented Princess Charlotte, to supplicate her intercession for the unfortunate criminal. The letter was such, as did equal honour to his head and heart. It was in these terms :May it please your Royal Highness,

To give a few moments' attention to the most humble advocate that ever volunteered in the cause of an afflicted family. And, as I seek for no reward except the hallowed consolation of success, let your indulgence be proportional to my zeal.

The interest which the public prints have taken in the fate of Frances Sage, a young Englishwoman, now under sentence of death in Newgate, induced me yesterday to visit a dwelling which her crime had made desolate, and at least to pour the healing balm of condolence upon the wounds of her distracted friends. A finished picture of the scene I witDessed, must not agonize your royal bosom, every thing proclaimed distress and desolation; one tear was forced from her parents' eyes only to make room for another, and they looked as if, at that moment, they had experienced a most melancholy confiscation of all their family honours. I found that the same breeze on which your welcome voice first floated on the ears of a joyful people, was burdened with the cries of this unhappy girl, for she is just your age. That the innocence of her youth had been assailed by the artifices of an accomplished villain, who had deserted her at the moment of her utmost need; that she had never before been guilty of a crime, except when she submitted to the wiles of her seducer; that an ignominious death awaited her; that no effort was making for her safety, and that she was enveloped in contrition. Smooth and sudden is the descent from virtue. When the despoiler of her honour had induced the first step towards degradation, it was easy for him to coerce a second"; but there is an elasticity in the human mind, which enables it to rebound even after a fall more desperate than her's. In such an effort, oh! Royal Lady, assist her; and let the harsh gratings of her prison-hinge be drowned in the glad tidings of your father's mercy. The eloquence of a Trojan monarch gained, in a hostile camp, the body of his devoted Hector; and the force of royal advocacy was evinced at the memorable siege of Calais, when an enraged and stern king had firmly set his heart upon the execution of St. Pierre. Where then is the difficulty to be apprehended, when an only Daughter, and a nation's hope, asks from a generous Prince, and an indulgent Father, the life of a fallen but repenting woman. I have known the exquisite luxury of saving life, and announcing pardon; and I beseech you to lay such holy consolation to your heart, by raising your powerful voice in the advocacy of human frailty ; snatch her, not only from untimely death, but also from the contagion which surrounds her, from the infectious aggregation of the vices of a prison, where precept and example are rivals in the cultivation of depravity, I humbly ask it for her parents, because it will heal their bleeding hearts; and for her sea-beaten brother, for it will strengthen his arm against the enemies of your house; I solicit it for the empire, because she is a reclaimed subject; I ask it for the honour of that throne which you are destined to adorn ; and I implore it for the sake of that God whose favourite attribute is mercy. Grant then this humble prayer, illustrious favourite of my Prince, and may the ‘Divinity which hedges thrones,' may. He who wears the crown immortally,' bless you with long, long life, and end it happy."

“Joseph." Along with this letter, the generous writer transmitted the following petition from the wretched girl herself. “ To his

Royal Highness the Prince Regent, &c. &c. &c.

“ The most humble Petition of Frances Sage. “Sheweth,

“ That at an age when judgment was imperfect, and seduction strong, she was drawn from her father's house by the artifices of a villain. That, degraded by her crime in the estimation of her family, when the hour of repentauce came, no friendly door invited her return. That her dependence on her seducer was increased, while his attentions to her abated; and that in a distracted hour she purchased the continuance of his protection by a breach of the law. That her life must

« ПредишнаНапред »