Графични страници
PDF файл

and the prickly briar, grow up spontaneously, whilst plants and trees that are good for food must be cultivated with great care and toil? And what though man is impelled to eat his bread in the sweat of his face, and to be daily mustering up the resources of his mind and body in order to reduce stubborn matter to his use and convenience ? All this is entirely befitting his present condition, to wit, the depravation of his affections, appetites and passions, and his state of trial : it precludes the possibility of general idleness, which would render him more vicious by many degrees than he is now. What though crosses and disappointments, sickness and sorrow, are common to the lot of man, and there is such an emptiness or deficiency in even the best of his enjoyments that not a single individual of the whole race is in all respects happy ? These very evils are preventives of moral evil. Through the divine in. fluence, in a thousaud instances they curb our passions, humanize our dispositions, and bring our minds to a right state of recollection and to new and better pur. poses of action. And finally, what though besides that wordly enjoyments are ever mixed with alloy and are ever unsatisfactory, life itself is frail and fleeting? What though Death is daily mowing down his thousands and tens of thousands without distinction of age or degree ? Awful as is this law of mortality, and clearly evincive as it is of original transgression, it is a dispensation of which there is moral necessity. If men were, in this world, immortal, or held their lives, upon a secure lease, for hundreds of years, in all probability a great proportion of them would extend their transgressions far beyond the present bounds of human depravity. The consciousness of the shortness and brittleness of life, bridles in avarice and ambition. The fear of death is a strong curb upon appetite and passion. Death

breaks in pieces gigantic schemes of oppression, deliv. ers the world from unfeeling oppressors, scatters abroad the unrighteous hoards of avaricious worldlings, and is the great humbler of upstart pride and arrogance.

It is, I repeat, the moral condition and conduct of the tenant, that mars the beauty and poisons the comforts of the tenement. The promised “new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness," would be no unhappy world even with the physical form and properties of the one we inhabit.

Were the heavens above as black as sackcloth, or glaring with light of a frightful hue, and were the earth beneath us presenting to our senses nothing but objects of disgust and horror ; then, indeed, the world would correspond with the rueful descriptions which querulous genius has given of it. Then, indeed, the following lines of poetry would possess no less truth than beauty.

For ah! what is there of inferior birth,
That breathes, or creeps upon the dust of earth,
What wretched crealure, of what wretched kind,

Than ipap more weak, calamitous and blind ?, But the truth is, though fallen man is weak, and blind, and sinful, yet his earthly condition, so far from being calamitous beyond that of all other creatures, is attended with a great many circumstances of comfort and delight.

The earth, even in its present state, is filled with the goodness of the beneficent Creator; and Man is the object of his especial care and bounty. Is it nothing that, above and around us, light and colours, with their corresponding shades, are infinitely diversified, to soothe and gratify the eye? That we are furnished with such sweet and melodious sounds to charm the ear? That the earth affords such a variety to delight the palate ? That it is decked with the enamel of innumerable flowers of varied colours and delicious fragrance ? That by a nice admixture of the different species of air, the atmosphere is so exactly fittted for respiration ? That the silk-worm spins to adorn, the sheep bears a fleece to warm, and the ground itself yields the rudiments of fine linen to array, our frail bodies ? That, in all parts of the world, there is furnished à supply of medicaments for the particular diseases of the climate ? That Fire, Air, and Water, along with a great variety of minerals, are made, in so many ways, to minister to the convenience and adornment as well as to the subsistence of our race ?-Is all this aggregate of earthly benefits and blessings to be accounted as nothing ? Shall Man, loaded as he is with so many unmerited temporal blessings, complain and fret because they are mixed with natural evil ? Especially shall he do it when a full moiety of the calamities he suffers are brought upon him, not by the direct hand of Providence, but by his own follies and crimes ?

To love the word more than Him who made it, and life more than Him who gave it, is that worldly-mindedness which is base and criminal. But a moderate or subordinate love of the world, of life, and of all its innocent enjoyments, along with lively gratitude to the Donor, is what becomes our rational and moral nature. Whereas, on the other hand, to think or speak contemptuously of the common gifts of Providence, betokens as little of humility as of thankfulness.


of the two most noted methods for commencing conver


The old Persian rule, not to speak till there is something weighty to say, though well enough in theory, is

too difficult of practice. For, with most of mankind, and especially those who have the phlegm of the English, or the Dutch blood, in their veins, it would be an intolerable restriction upon the freedom of speech.

Conversation is a sort of commerce, in which there is absolute necessity for the circulation of coin of small denominations, as well as of that which is possessed of great intrinsic value. Not that countenance is ever, or on any account, to be given to base coin. Far from the pale of colloquial commerce be the profane oath, the obscene or impious jest, the open or covert slander, the language of deceit and falsehood : far from it be every word of immoral or indecent tenor. It must however be admitted, for such is the fact, that, in carrying on this kind of commerce, there is urgent need of small change, and of a great deal of it. For lack of this light commodity, many a man of deep learning and excellent moral qualities, makes but a wretched figure in any other


than that of the learned. And how can it be otherwise? since no part of his capital is adapted to the commerce of common life.

For the most part it is more difficult to set talk a going, than to keep it going after it is begun. Now this difficulty often arises from a fastidious or squeamish feeling ; each one adhering too strictly to the aforementioned rule, not to speak till something of consequence is thought of to be said. For which reason, the interview begins with profound silence: the individuals gazing upon one another, and each longing to put the tongue in motion, but all alike unable to find a pertinent observation to commence with. And what renders the case more deplorable, is, that the longer the silence is continued, the harder it is to break it.

Now to obviate this distressing difficulty, custom has introduced into colloquial commerce a singular kind of

[ocr errors]

small change consisting of truisms, or self-evident sayings. As this manner of speech is fairly within the compass of every one's ability, so it has the advantage of always steering clear of contradiction.

A. and B. for example, happening to meet together, the one instantly utters a truism, which the other agrees to forthwith, affirming roundly, and without any mental reservation, that the thing is even so : And then the said affirmant, in his turn brings forth another truism, which, the politeness of the first speaker accedes to with a prompt profession of undoubting belief. By this time, or at least after the interchange of some half a dozen truisms, the conversation begins either to deepen or to tower; and peradventure it becomes quite edifying in its progress.

There is no single source so prolific of auxiliaries of talk, or rather of means to begin it with, as the weather. It is pleasant or unpleasant, warm or cool, wet or dry, calm, breezy, or boisterous. The sun either shines or it does not. There are signs in the heavens, sometimes of rain, sometimes of snow, sometimes of cold. Not an evening passes over us, but is either

moony or starry, or else cloudy and darksome: and the moon herself assumes several different phases in the course of her month.

Now all this, along with a great deal of kindred matter besides, furnishes a never failing abundance to begin talk, especially in the climate we live in, which, more fortunately for our colloquy than our corporeal weal, is so perpetually varying. Whether it rains or shines, whether it be calm or windy, whether the evening be lightsome or dismal dark ; in short, whatever turn the weather happens to take, we report the naked truth of it to such persons as we fall in company with, and they frankly acknowledge that, in good sooth, their

« ПредишнаНапред »