Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

springing from his own strength, which would be a manifest error; wherefore he avoids it, he conceals his best actions, and preserves his noblest sentiments in the secret recesses of his own heart: he knows that whatever induces him to display them is pride and a love of being observed, distinguished, and esteemed, not for what he is, but for something far superior.

Modesty, then, being humility reduced to practice, it can have no fellowship with pride; nor can there be such a thing as a just pride. Pride can never be just, since it can never be either a support to human weakness, or a consolation in adversity. No; these admirable fruits spring from humility alone; it is humility that shields us against our weakness, by reminding us of its existence every moment; it is humility that makes us watch and pray to Him who ordains and imparts virtue ; it is “ humility that makes us lift up our eyes unto the hills whence cometh our help.” And in adversity, consolations are reserved for the humble soul, that acknowledges herself worthy to suffer, and feels a sense of joy arising from submission to the divine will. Looking at her faults, adversity appears like the retribution of a God that will pardon, and not like the stroke of a blind power; she increases in dignity and purity, because every pain suffered with resignation, cancels some of the spots that rendered her less fair; and what more? she grows to love adversity itself, because it renders her“ conformed to the image of the Son of God," and, instead of abandoning herself to vain

as

and empty complaints, she returns thanks amid circumstances under which, if she were left to herself, she would utter nought but the lamentation of despair or the cry of revolt. But as for pride; when God shall have humbled the proud man, one stricken and wounded, will pride be any healing balsam for him? To what can it serve him in the midst of adversities, but to fill him with hatred for them as unjust ; to excite in his breast a restless and painful comparison between that which he would fain persuade himself he deserves, and that which it is his lot to endure? The secret of the repose of man, in this life, consists in the conformity of his will with that of God. And who is further removed from this blessed disposition than the afflicted proud man?

MANZONI.

LESSON X.

ADDRESS TO THE CUCKOO.

HAIL, beauteous stranger of the grove !

Thou messenger of spring !
Now heaven repairs thy rural seat,

And woods thy welcome sing.

What time the daisy decks the green,

Thy certain voice we hear;
Hast thou a star to guide thy path,

Or mark the rolling year?

Delightful visitant! with thee

I hail the time of flowers;
And hear the sound of music sweet,

From birds among the bowers.

The school-boy, wandering through the wood,

To pull the primrose gay,
Starts, the new voice of spring to hear,

And imitates thy lay.

What time the pea puts on the bloom,

Thou fliest the vocal vale,
An annual guest in other lands,

Another spring to hail.

Sweet bird ! thy bower is ever green ;

Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,

No winter in thy year!

O! could I fly, I'd fly with thee;

We'd make, with joyful wing, Our annual visit o'er the globe, Companions of the spring.

LOGAN.

LESSON XI.

THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE.

Predilection ecclesiastical unequivocal miraculous judicial metropolis resplendent authority Byzantium campaign celibacy Constantinople promulgated legacies designated imperial dominions superstition CONSTANTINE, although nurtured in the bosom of paganism, had inherited the kindly disposition, we may perhaps call it the predilection of his father, Constantius, in favour of Christianity. These sentiments were soon converted into a decided inclination, and finally, into a firm belief in the divinity of the same religion. The change was effected, according to his own declaration, which we find in Eusebius, by the miraculous appearance in the heavens of a resplendent cross, which was accompanied by a promise of victory. This occurred in the year 311, during his campaign against Maxentius.

In the following year, Constantine, who was now lord of the western division of the Roman empire, and Licinius, who was sole ruler of the east, promulgated a decree, granting toleration to all religions. This was the first imperial decree promulgated in favour of the Christians; in 313 it was followed by the edict of Milan, which secured to the Christians in particular, the free exercise of their religion. A series of laws, during the following year, bestowed upon them many and great advantages. Constantine freed all ecclesiastical persons from the burden of the public offices of the state, and from the payment of all personal taxes; he confirmed the judicial authority of the bishops; abolished the laws against those who lived in celibacy; permitted churches to receive presents and legacies; enforced the observance of the Sunday; maintained many churches and ecclesiastics; and erected many temples to the honour of the true God. But, in the mean time, Licinius, who beheld in Constantine a dangerous rival, and an abettor of the Christians, persecuted the faithful in his own dominions. The war, which in 323 broke out between the two emperors, was, in reality, a religious war. Licinius fell in the contest, and with him fell paganism.

The conqueror, under whose sway the whole empire of Rome now lay united, declared himself, in the most unequivocal manner, a professor of the Christian religion; and expressed his desire and his hope, that all his subjects would imitate his example. He caused his sons to be educated as Christians, and placed Christians in the most important offices of the state. To the ancient capital of the dominions of heathen Rome, he opposed a Christian metropolis at Byzantium, now called from him, Constantinople. He ceased not in his attacks upon paganism, which he even designated as a superstition of by-gone times. He commanded the heathen temples, in many places,

« ПредишнаНапред »