Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

passion, and be ready to take a place among its martyrs. Feel that truth is not a local, temporary influence, but immutable, everlasting, the same in all worlds, one with God and armed with his omnipotence. Courage even on the side of error is power. How must it prove on the side of truth! A minister speaking not from selfish calculation, but giving out his mind in godly sincerity, uttering his convictions in natural tones, and always faithful to the light which he has received, however he may give occasional offence, will not speak in vain; he will have an ally in the moral sense, the principle of justice, the reverence for virtue, which is never wholly extinguished in the human soul.

FAITH SCHOOLED BY SORROW.

[Memoir of W. E. Channing. By W. H. Channing. 1848.]

Y OU tell me your faith was the faith of happiness. This is never the surest. Fortunately, mine grew up under a dark sky, and the light has been increasing to this day. My passion for happiness spent itself in my youth in reverie. I never thought of realizing the vision on earth, and yet it has, in an humble manner, been realized. My faith in God, schooled by trial, looked to him first and almost exclusively for virtue, for deliverance from the great evil of sin, which I early felt to be the only true evil. The consciousness of unworthiness repressed all hopes of immediate happiness, gave me a profound conviction of the justice of my suffering, turned all my reproaches from Providence on myself, and not only made me incapable of murmuring, but taught me gratitude for the discipline of life. How often, in disappointment, has my first utterance been thanks to the Purifier of the soul!

Thus my faith has never for a moment been shaken by suffering. The consciousness of unworthiness, of falling so far below my idea of duty, a feeling which hardly forsakes me, has helped much to reconcile me to outward evil. It has taken the sting from human reproach. In listening to the inward reprover I have cared little for human opinion, and have found too much truth in censure to be much displeased with any but myself. Accordingly, my religion has taken very much one form; I think of God as the Father, from whose power and love I may seek and hope for myself and others the unutterable and only good,-that of deliverance from all inward evil, of perfect, unspotted goodness, of spiritual life now and forever.

I have talked of myself, for, after all, our experience is the best lesson we can give to others. Your nature differs. You have had an im

patient thirst for immediate happiness, which my early history, and perhaps my mental constitution, forbade me. Happiness has come to me almost as a surprise, without plan or anticipation. You have grasped at it as almost your lawful inheritance, and had almost a feeling of wrong at disappointment.

[ocr errors]

ON THOMAS MOORE'S THEORY OF GENIUS.

[Letter to Joanna Baillie. 1824.-From the Same.]

I

CAN hardly express the feeling the news of Lord Byron's death has given me. That a mind so gifted should have been left to devote its energies to the cause of impiety and vice, and should be so soon and suddenly taken, without making reparation to insulted truth and virtue, -that such a mind is to live for ages in its writings only to degrade and corrupt,—in all this we see the mysterious character of God's providence. I always hoped, that, after the fever of youthful passion, this unhappy man would reflect, repent, and prove that in genius there is something congenial with religion. But he is gone-where human praise and human reproaches cannot follow him. Such examples of perverted talent should reconcile the less gifted to their obscure lot.

In his whole life he was by way of eminence a lawless man, spurning all restraint, whether divine or human, whether from his own conscience or from society; and he seems to have valued no power more than that of defying and resisting all wills which interfered with his own. That any talent, however stupendous, should have made such a man an idol to your sex shows that you must divide with us the reproach too justly brought against our age of great moral degradation. I learn that there is not on the face of the earth a more corrupt class than the fashionable young men of England. Would this be so, if young women were more true to the cause of virtue? This is almost too grave for a letter; but the toleration of gross vice, so common in what are called the higher classes, is not to be thought of without sorrow and indignation.

You ask me what I think of Moore's doctrine, that men of the first genius are naturally unfitted for friendship or domestic life. I have no faith in it. I have no doubt that genius is often joined with vice, but not naturally or necessarily. Mediocrity can boast of as many irritable, self-willed, licentious subjects as high talent. Moore seems to think genius a kind of fever, madness, intoxication. How little does he understand its divinity! I know that sometimes the "great deeps" in the heart of a man are broken open, and the mind is overwhelmed with a rush of thought and feeling; but generally genius is characterized by

VOL. V.-2

self-mastery. It is true of this inspiration what Saint Paul says of a higher," The spirit of a prophet is subject to the prophet." The highest genius, I believe, is a self-guiding, calm, comprehensive power. It creates in the spirit of the Author of the Universe, in the spirit of order. It worships truth and beauty. There is truth in its wildest inventions, and it tinges its darkest pictures with hues of beauty. As to Moore's notion, that genius, because it delights in the ideal, is soon wearied and disgusted with the real, it is false. The contrary is rather true. He who conceives and loves beauty in its highest forms is most alive to it in its humblest manifestation. He loves it not by comparison, or for its degree, but for its own sake; and the same is true of beauty. The true worshipper of beauty sees it in the lowliest flower, meets it in every path, enjoys it everywhere. Fact is against Moore. The greatest men I have known have been the most beautiful examples of domestic virtue. Moore's doctrine makes genius a curse, and teaches that the Creator, the source of harmony, has sown discord between the noblest attributes of the soul. I shall not wonder if some half-witted pretenders to genius should, on the strength of Moore's assertion, prove their title by brutality in their domestic and social relations.

THE LIFE HEREAFTER.

[Letter to Miss Olney. 1829.—From the Same.]

THE

HE idea of death as separating us from the outward universe, and shutting us up in our own minds, seems to me quite the reverse of the truth. Revelation speaks very distinctly of another organization which we are to receive hereafter, and which I consider as a means of communication with all God's works. This doctrine seems to me very rational. There is a progression in every part of nature, and to suppose the mind to emerge from its present connection with gross matter to a purely spiritual existence is to imagine a violent transition, quite irreconcilable with this great principle. Death is not to separate the mind from matter, but, in the case of the virtuous, is to raise it from its present subjection to matter to a glorious triumph over it. I confess, I cannot think without depression of breaking all my ties to the material universe. When I think of its infinite extent, of the countless worlds which astronomy discloses to me, I feel that material nature, including all the beings connected with it, must offer infinite food for the mind, unbounded and inexhaustible discoveries of God. Then I find, that, just as fast as my mind unfolds, my delight in the universe increases;

new correspondences are revealed between the inward and the outward world; a diviner light beams from the creation; a more thrilling voice comes from it. I cannot endure the thought of being severed from this harmonious and glorious universe. I expect death to multiply my connections with it, and to enlarge my knowledge of and power over it.

Your friend would limit us to purely moral pleasures after death. Why so? One of the great excellences of moral good is, that it aids us to enjoy all other good. The most perfect man is not he who confines himself to purely moral gratifications, but he who has a moral energy through which all things are received and enjoyed by him in a wise order and in just proportions. Other gratifications, thus controlled, become moral. In another world, our pleasures are to be diversified and multiplied. The outward creation-if on such a subject I may be allowed to speculate will minister an increasing variety of exquisite sensations, of which sight and hearing are but types.

John James Audubon.

BORN near New Orleans, La., 1780. DIED at Minnie's Land, New York, N. Y., 1851

A DANGEROUS ADVENTURE.

[Ornithological Biography. 1831.]

ON my return from the Upper Mississippi, I found myself obliged to

cross one of the wide prairies which, in that portion of the United States, vary the appearance of the country. The weather was fine, all around me was as fresh and blooming as if it had just issued from the bosom of nature. My knapsack, my gun, and my dog, were all I had for baggage and company. But, although well moccasoned, I moved slowly along, attracted by the brilliancy of the flowers, and the gambols of the fawns around their dams, to all appearance as thoughtless of danger as I felt myself.

My march was of long duration; I saw the sun sinking beneath the horizon long before I could perceive any appearance of woodland, and nothing in the shape of man had I met with that day. The track which I followed was only an old Indian trace, and, as darkness overshadowed the prairie, I felt some desire to reach at least a copse, in which I might lie down to rest. The night-hawks were skimming over and around me, attracted by the buzzing wings of the beetles which formed their food,,

and the distant howling of wolves gave me some hope that I should soon arrive at the skirts of some woodland.

I did so, and almost at the same instant a fire-light attracting my eye, I moved towards it, full of confidence that it proceeded from the camp of some wandering Indians. I was mistaken :-I discovered by its glare that it was from the hearth of a small log cabin, and that a tall figure passed and repassed between it and me, as if busily engaged in household arrangements.

I reached the spot, and presenting myself at the door, asked the tall figure, which proved to be a woman, if I might take shelter under her roof for the night. Her voice was gruff, and her attire negligently thrown about her. She answered in the affirmative. I walked in, took a wooden stool, and quietly seated myself by the fire. The next object that attracted my notice was a finely formed young Indian, resting his head between his hands, with his elbows on his knees. A long bow rested against the log wall near him, while a quantity of arrows and two or three raccoon skins lay at his feet. He moved not; he apparently breathed not. Accustomed to the habits of the Indians, and knowing that they pay little attention to the approach of civilized strangers (a circumstance which in some countries is considered as evincing the apathy of their character), I addressed him in French, a language not unfrequently partially known to the people in that neighborhood. He raised his head, pointed to one of his eyes with his finger, and gave me a significant glance with the other. His face was covered with blood. The fact was, that an hour before this, as he was in the act of discharging an arrow at a raccoon in the top of a tree, the arrow had split upon the cord, and sprung back with such violence into his right eye as to destroy it forever.

Feeling hungry, I inquired what sort of fare I might expect. Such a thing as a bed was not to be seen, but many large untanned bear and buffalo hides lay piled in a corner. I drew a fine time-piece from my breast, and told the woman that it was late, and that I was fatigued. She had espied my watch, the richness of which seemed to operate upon her feelings with electric quickness. She told me that there was plenty of venison and jerked buffalo meat, and that on removing the ashes I should find a cake. But my watch had struck her fancy, and her curiosity had to be gratified by an immediate sight of it. I took off the gold chain that secured it from around my neck, and presented it to her. She was all ecstasy, spoke of its beauty, asked me its value, and put the chain round her brawny neck, saying how happy the possession of such a watch should make her. Thoughtless, and, as I fancied myself, in so retired a spot, secure, I paid little attention to her talk or her movements. I helped my dog to a good supper of venison, and was not long in satisfying the demands of my own appetite.

« ПредишнаНапред »