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every glass. How dextrously did he then glide through all the strange windings of the case, with a sagacity which never failed, while he garnished his discourse with many a legal pun and learned conceit, which was as the light bubble on the deep stream of his knowledge! He is gone!-and I find none to resemble him in this generation-none who thus can put a spirit into their work, which may make cobweb-sophistries look golden, and change a laborious life into one long holiday!
In the greater world, I have observed with sorrow, a prevailing disregard of the past, and a desire to extol the present, or to expatiate in visionary prospects of the future. I fear this may be traced not so much to philanthropy as to self-love, which inspires men with the wish personally to distinguish themselves as the teachers and benefactors of their species, instead of resting contented to share in the vast stock of recollections and sympathies which is common to all. They would fain persuade us that mankind, created, “ a little lower than the angels,” is now for the first time “ crowned with glory and honour ;" and they exultingly point to institutions of yesterday for the means to regenerate the earth. Some, for example, pronounce the great mass of the people, through all ages, as scarcely elevated above the brutes which perish, because the arts of reading, writing, and arithmetic, were not commonly diffused among them; and on the diffusion of these they ground their predictions of a golden age. And were there then no virtuous hardihood, no guileless innocence, no affections stronger than the grave, in that mighty lapse of years which we contemptuously stigmatize as dark? Are disinterested patriotism, conjugal love, open-handed hospitality, meek self-sacrifice, and chivalrous contempt of danger and of death, modern inventions? Has man's great birthright been in abeyance even until now? Oh, no! The Chaldæan shepherd did not cast his quiet gaze through weeks and years in vain to the silent skies. He knew not, indeed, the discoveries of science, which have substituted an immense variety of figures on space and distance, for the sweet influences of the stars; yet did the heavens tell to him the glory of God, and angel faces smile on him from the golden clouds. Book-learning is, perhaps, the least part of the education of the species. Nature is the mightiest and
the kindliest of teachers. The rocks and unchanging hills give to the heart the sense of a duration beyond that of the perishable body. The flowing stream images to the soul an everlasting continuity of tranquil existence. “The brave o'er-hanging firmament,” even to the most rugged swain, imparts some consciousness of the universal brotherhood of those over whom it hangs. The affections ask no leave of the understanding to “glow and spread and kindle,” to shoot through all the frame a tremulous joy, or animate to holiest constancy. We taste the dearest blessedness of earth in our childhood, before we have learned to express it in mortal language. Life has its universal lessons far beyond human lore. Kindness is as cheering, sorrow as purifying, and the aspect of death as softening to the ignorant in this world's wisdom, as to the scholar. The purest delights grow bemeath our feet, and all who will stoop may gather them. While sages lose the idea of the Universal Parent in their subtleties, the lowly “FEEL after Him and find Him.” Sentiment precedes reason in point of time, and is a surer guide to the noblest realities. Thus man hopes, loves, reveres, and enjoys, without the aid of writing or of the press to inspire or direct him. Many of his feelings are even heartier and more genuine before he has learned to describe them. He does not perpetually mistake words for things, nor cultivate his faculties and affections for a discerning public. His aspirations “are raised, not marked.” If he is gifted with divine imagination, he may “walk in glory and in joy beside his plough upon the mountain side,” without the chilling idea that he must make the most of his sensations to secure the applause of gay saloons or crowded theatres. The deepest impressions are worn out by the multiplication of their copies. Talking has almost usurped the place of acting and of feeling; and the world of authors seem as though their hearts were but paper scrolls, and ink, instead of blood, were flowing in their veins. “The great events with which old story rings, seem vain and hollow.” If all these evils will not be extended by what is falsely termed the Education of the Poor, let us at least be on our guard lest we transform our peasantry from men into critics, teach them scorn instead of humble hope, and leave them nothing to love, to revere, or to enjoy!
The Bible Society, founded and supported, no doubt, from the noblest motives, also puts forth pretensions which are sickening. Its advocates frequently represent it as destined to change all earth into a paradise. That a complete triumph of the principles of the Bible would bring in the happy state which they look for can never be disputed; but the history of our religion affords no ground for anticipating such a result from the unaided perusal of its pages. Deep and extensive impressions of the truths of the Gospel have never been made by mere reading, but always by the exertions of living enthusiasm in the holy cause. Providence may, indeed, in its inscrutable wisdom, impart new energy to particular instruments; but there appears no sufficient indication of such a change as shall make the printed Bible alone the means of regenerating the species. “An age of Bibles” may not be an age of Christian charity and hope. The word of God may not be revered the more by becoming a common book in every cottage, and a drug in the shop of every pawnbroker. It was surely neither known nor revered the less when it was a rare treasure, when it was proscribed by those who sat in high places, and its torn leaves and fragments were cherished even unto death. In those days, when a single copy chained to the desk of the church was alone in extensive parishes, did it diffuse less sweetness through rustic hearts than now, when the poor are almost compelled to possess it? How then did the villagers flock from distant farms, cheered in their long walks by thoughts not of this world, to converse for a short hour with patriarchs, saints, and apostles! How did they devour the venerable and well worn page with tearful eyes, or listen delighted to the voice of one gifted above his fellows, who read aloud the oracles of celestial wisdom! What ideas of the Bible must they have enjoyed, who came many a joyful pilgrimage to hear or to read it! Yet even more precious was the enjoyment of those who, in times of persecution, snatched glances in secret at its pages, and thus entered, as by stealth, into the paradisiacal region, to gather immortal fruits and listen to angel voices. The word of God was dearer to them than house, land, or the “ ruddy drops which warmed their hearts." Instead of the lamentable weariness and disgust with which the young now too often turn from the perusal of the Scriptures, they heard with mute attention and serious joy the histories of the Old Testament and the parables of the New. They heard with revering sympathy of Abraham receiving seraphs unawaresof Isaac walking out at even-tide to meditate, and meeting the holy partner of his days-of Jacob's dream, and of that immortal Syrian Shepherdess, for whose love he served a hard master fourteen years, which seemed to him but a few days of Joseph the beloved, the exile, the tempted, and the forgiver- of all the wonders of the Jewish story and of the character and sufferings of the Messiah. These things were to them at once august realities, and surrounded with a dream-like glory from afar. “Heaven lay about them in their infancy.” They preserved the purity- the spirit of meek submission—the patient confiding love of their childhood in their maturest years. They, in their turn, instilled the sweetness of Christian charity, drop by drop, into the hearts of their offspring, and left their example as a deathless legacy. Surely this was better than the dignified patronage now courted for the Scriptures, or the pompous eulogies pronounced on them by rival orators! The reports of anniversaries of the Bible Society are often to me, inexpressibly nauseous. The word of God is praised in the style of eulogy employed on a common book by a friendly reviewer. It is evidently used as a theme to declaim on. But the praise of the Bible is almost overshadowed by the flatteries lavished on the nobleman or county member who has condescended to preside, and which it is the highest ambition of the speakers ingeniously to introduce and to vary. Happy is he who can give a new turn to the compliment, or invent a new alliteration or antithesis for the occasion! The copious nonsense of the successful orators is even more painful than the failures of the novices. After a string of false metaphors and poor conceits, applauded to the echo, the meeting are perhaps called on to sympathize with some unhappy debutant, whose sense of the virtues of the chairman proves too vast for his powers of expression; and with Miss Peachum in the Beggars' Opera, to lament “ that so noble a youth should come to an untimely end.” Alas! these exhibitions have little connexion with a deep love of the Bible, or with real pity for the sufferings of man. Were religious tyranny to render the Scriptures scarce, and to forbid their circulation, they would
speedily be better prized and honoured than when scattered with gorgeous profusion, and lauded by nobles and princes. The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity is another boasted institution of these cold-hearted days. It would annihilate the race of beggars, and remove from the delicate eye the very form and aspect of misery. Strange infatuation as if an old class of the great family of man might be cut off without harm “All are but parts of one stupendous whole,” bound together by ties of antique sympathy,' of which the lowest and most despised are not without their uses. In striking from society a race whom we have, from childhood, been accustomed to observe, a vast body of old associations and gentle thoughts must necessarily be lost for ever. The poor mendicants whom we would banish from the earth, are the best sinecurists to whose sustenance we contribute. In the great science—the science of humanity— they not rarely are our first teachers: they affectingly remindus of our own state of mutual dependance; bring sorrow palpably before the eyes of the prosperous and the vain; and prevent the hearts of many from utterly “losing their nature.” They give, at least, a salutary disturbance to gross selfishness, and hinder it from entirely forming an ossified crust about the soul. We see them too with gentle interest, because we have always seen them, and were accustomed to relieve them in the spring-time of our days. And if some of them are what the world calls impostors, and literally “do beguile us of our tears” and our alms, those tears are not shed, nor those alms given, in vain. If they have even their occasional revellings and hidden luxuries, we should rather rejoice to believe that happiness has every where its mooks and corners which we do not see; that there is more gladness in the earth than meets the politician's gaze; and that fortune has her favours, “secret, sweet, and precious,” even for those on whom she seems most bitterly to frown. Well may that divinest of philosophers, Shakspeare, make Lear reply to his daughters, who had been speaking in the true spirit of modern improvements:
“O reason not the need: our basest beggars