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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 unawares—of 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 prolusion, 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 remind us 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 nooks 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:
"0 reason not the need: our basest beggars
There are many other painful instances in these times of that " restless wisdom" which "has a broom for ever in its hand to rid the world of nuisances." There are, for example, the plans of Mr. Owen, with his infallible recipes for the formation of character. Virtue is not to be forced in artificial hot-beds, as he proposes. Rather let it spring up where it will from the seed scattered throughout the earth, and rise hardly in sun and shower, while the "free mountain winds have leave to blow against it." But I feel that I have already broken too violently on my habits of dreamy thought, by the asperity into which I now and then have fallen. Let me then break off at once, with the single expression of a hope, that this "bright and breathing world" may not be changed into a Penitentiary by the efforts of modern reformers. I am, Sir,
Your hearty well-wisher,
A CHAPTER ON " TIME."
BEING AN ATTEMPT TO THROW NEW LIGHT ON AN OLD SUBJECT..
[New Monthly Magazine.]
"we know what we are," said poor Opheliai"but we know not what we may be:" Perhaps she would have spoken with a nicer accuracy had she saidj " we know what we have been." Of our present state we can strictly speaking, know nothing. The act of meditation on ourselves, however quick and subtle, must refer to the past, in which alone we can truly be said to live. Even va> the moments of intensest enjoyment, our pleasures are multiplied by the quick-revolving images of thought; we feel the past and future in each fragment of the instant, even as the flavour of every drop of some delicious liquid is heightened and prolonged on the lips. It is the past only which we really enjoy as soon as we become sensible of duration. Each bygone instant of delight becomes rapidly present to us, and "bears a glass which shows us many more." This is the great privilege of a meditative being—never properly to have any sense of the present, but to feel the great realities as they pass away, casting their delicate shadows on the future.
Time, then, is only a notion—unfelt in its passage—a mere measure given by the mind to ita own past emotionsIs there, then, any abstract common measure by which the infinite variety of intellectual acts can be meted—any real passage of years which is the same to all—any periodical revolution, in which all who have lived, have lived out equal hours 1 Is chronology any other than a fable, a " tale