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bright and constant ray still continued to shine on me through the darkness of my fate ; and that star was my sister's love. How few are . there who can appreciate the full value of a sister's love! How few, too, have been placed, as I have been, in circumstances to call for the utmost manifestation of that disinterested, that heavenly feeling, (if any thing earthly can be so called,) in all its purity and strength. No love, save a mother's, can compare with a sister's. While the ordinary charities of our nature lie on the surface, and are soon exhausted by frequent demands, the love of a mother or sister gushes forth from the very depths of the heart, and never ceases to flow till the heart itself runs dry.
Mine was such a sister as few are blessed with. Nature had made her with a delicate frame; but, on the other hand, had gifted her with uncommon strength of mind. To a heart overflowing with all a sister's sympathies for the misfortunes of a brother, she joined a degree of intelligence much greater than is usually met with, even among those who have enjoyed much higher advantages of education than fell to her lot, and a strength of judgment not often found in her sex. For years she willingly devoted herself to become “ears to the deaf, and a tongue to the dumb.” With unwearied patience she would reply to all the teazing questions of a curiosity the more auxious to know what was passing around because it was hidden. With unwearied pains did she again and again endeavour to preserve to me the faculty of speech, to correct a pronunciation which, when no longer corrected by the ear, had become like the efforts of a blind man to walk straight on a rugged path. To her I owe a large part of the little I know. To her I owe that my mind, instead of being left groveling in the narrow dominions of sense, can soar into the boundless universe of intellect, can glow with the high conceptions of poetry, and revel in the countless stores of thought. It is only when the stern hand of misfortune has crushed down the immortal mind, and chained the aspiring spirit to earth, that we can feel the full value of such a sister's love ; and not till we have felt its inappreciable worth, can we feel what it is to lose such a sister.
Many years have passed since, helpless in mind and body, from the effect of a dangerous illness my sister's hand soothed my pillow, supported my tottering steps, and supplied the only mode of communication with the mental world around me. Rachel (so was my sister called) became a wife and a mother, and I, as I grew up into manhood, longed to see something of the world of which I had read. Deprived, for the most part, of my sister's society, which had so long been the solace of my misfortunes, I felt myself alone in the world. I went forth to seek the society of those of kindred misfortunes. Such society I found in the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, at —
I heard that Rachel had happily given birth to a son. To-morrow, thought I, will I return home, and welcome the little stranger. But first I will spend one more evening here.
How many pleasurable feelings conspired on that evening to dispose me to that frame of mind which is itself enjoyment, while it only seems
the anticipation of enjoyment! Ah! how soon, and how unexpectedly, were they all to be destroyed !
I prepared to mingle in the circle where were assembled bright eyes, fair faces, and faultless forms, that might have realized the dreams of the poet, and served as models for the painter and sculptor. And, yet more, those eyes flashing with the brightest coruscations of thought; those faces kindling with the expression of mind made visible; while fair hands, in all the thousand graces of attitude, conveyed from heart to heart the thoughts of minds often highly gifted by nature, and, considering the narrow sphere from which their ideas were drawn, surprisingly intelligent. But, above all, here the pure and unsophisticated feelings of hearts unsullied by the world's contamination, shone through the countenance and gestures, as through a transparent veil.
But even here, though I was in society in which I could mix on equal terms, though the veil of mystery which, in the circles of those who speak, shrouded the mind's commerce, and made it an interdicted traffic to me, was here drawn aside; though I could here unlock the temple of conversation, and admit myself into its deepest recesses, still I felt that even here my happiness was not complete, and that the minds around me were too simple, and their ideas drawn from too narrow a sphere, to understand many of the thoughts that spontaneously arose in mine. My heart recurred to my sister, with whom I could express every thought, every feeling, and feel assured that the former was understood, and the latter appreciated.
But I am called from this circle when I have scarcely seated myself. A friend is waiting for me. He has a letter from another sister, announcing that“ Rachel is no more !"
" The funeral is to be to-morrow, at two. If you would take a last look at your sister's remains, you must set out immediately.” The evening was dark and stormy. What a contrast were the feelings with which I went forth into the darkness of night and the fury of the storm, to those with which, a short time before, I had entered the bright, gay, and joyous circle from which I had been so unexpectedly summoned !
It seemed as if the suddenness of the blow which had fallen, had stupified the power of feeling. I even feared that I did not mourn my sister as much as I ought. I endeavoured to recall to my mind all her worth, all her kindness to me; or rather, the heart refused to turn to other objects, and kept brooding over its loss.
I reached the house that had been my sister's home. How often before had I crossed its threshold; but, ah! with what different feelings ! And when I met the weeping eyes of friends, assembled to pay the last tribute of earthly affection to the cold remains of one so universally esteemed and loved, then the sorrow that had lain hid in the heart's depth, gushed forth at the magic call of sympäthy.
I thought of the motherless babe, and my first fear (for as yet I was ignorant of the particulars) was, that he was involved in his mother's fate. They led me to his cradle, but I felt that I could not look on him then; I needed all my fortitude for another trial.
The funeral service was performed. I heard it not. It might have been eloquent; it might have been calculated to aggravate or to soothe the grief of surviving friends : on me it was lost: but the coffin, covered with its black pall, was near me, and that spoke an eloquent language to my heart.
The mourners, and they were truly mourners, were called on to take one last lingering look of those mild lineaments which the grave was soon to shut from their view for ever. I strove to man my heart for the trial, and drew near the coffin Pale, cold, and fixed in an expression that told fearfully the power of the grim tyrant, were those features which had never met mine without the smile of sisterly love. Yet in that last look might be traced the bright serenity of a Christian's faith, struggling with the pangs of a death of more than ordinary suffering. But her hands, yea, those hands which had nursed me in infancy and in sickness-nay, more, had for years supplied the daily aliment on which my mind had depended for life and growth*_those dear hands were entangled in the shroud, and pressed down for ever by the inexorable screws of the coffin lid. The thought swelled my heart almost to bursting, and, in spite of the pride of manhood, my sobs became audible. The door was near me; I hid my face behind it, and gave free course to a grief that would no longer be restrained
The coffin was borne to the grave; it was committed to the earth; and the mortal remains of her whose spirit had shed light and happiness on all around her, were given up to be the prey of the worm in silence and darkness! The thought was too horrid to be endured. I turned to the other side of the picture : I represented to myself that my grief was selfish-that my loss was her gain-and that her pure and gentle spirit, the fiery ordeal of mortal suffering past, had gone
To that land where ties are never torn,
And joys are never-never outworn. My reason acknowledged the force of the argument. But when did the heart, in its hour of suffering, ever listen to reason ?
I thought of the little orphan so early deprived of that which nothing else can adequately supply—a mother's care and love; and as I placed him in the arms of another sister, she said, “ He was named J—Rbefore his mother's death.” The name was mine. My tears gushed forth afresh. If that loved sister could have looked down from her happy seat, she would have felt that her loss was duly mourned, and her kindness not forgotten. Poor motherless boy! you shall never want a protector while your unfortunate uncle lives.
MEN RESPONSIBLE FOR HUMAN LIFE LOST BY
“If an ox gore a man or woman, that they die, then the ox shall be stoned; but the owner shall be quit. But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in
* It will be recollected that those who have lost the sense of hearing, converse through the instrumentality of their fingers.
time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.”—Exodus xxi. 28, 29.
The principle of this law is all that we are concerned with at present. And it is a very plain one, and a very broad one, brought out here in a specific case, but extending to ten thousand others. It is this : every man is responsible to God for the evils which result from his selfishness or his indifference to the welfare of others.
This law will help us to illustrate the principle. “ If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die, then the ox shall surely be stoned ; but the owner of the ox shall be quit." The design in stoning the ox, was to produce an effect upon men, to show them how highly the Lawgiver valued human life. The very beast that destroyed it, should be cast forth as an abomination. God said to Noah : “ The blood of your lives will I require : at the hand of the very beast will I require it, and at the hand of man." A stigma shall be fixed upon man or beast that shall destroy him who is made after the similitude of God.
But why is the owner in this case quit, or guiltless ? Simply because the death is not in any way the result of his carelessness, or of his selfishness. From any thing within his knowledge, he had no reason to expect such a result. But if the ox had been wont to push with his horn, and he knew it, he shall be responsible for the consequences, whatever they may be ; for he had every reason to expect that mischief would be done, and took no measures to prevent it. And if the ox kill a man or woman, the owner hath done the murder, he shall be put to death. Why ? The death was the result of his selfishness, or of his indifference to the lives of others; and, according to the law of God, his life shall go for it.
The principle of this law is a principle of common sense. You see a fellow-creature struggling in the water; you know that he can never deliver himself; and you know that a very little assistance, such as you can render, will rescue him from a watery grave. You look on, and pass by. True, you did not thrust him in : but he dies by your neglect. His blood will be upon your head. At the bar of God, and at the bar of conscience, you are his murderer. Why? You did not kill him. Neither did the owner of the ox lift a hand; but he shall surely be put to death. You had no malice, neither had he. You did not intend his death ; at the very worst, you did not care. This is just his crime. He did not care. He turned loose a wild, fiery, ill. tempered, ungovernable animal, knowing him to be such ; and what mischief that animal might do, or what suffering he might cause, he did not care. But God held him responsible.
Take another case upon the same principle; and it is concerning a thing which has caused fear and trembling to most of us. Your dog has gone mad. You hate to kill him ; for he has, or had, some good qualities. You hate to tie him up, for it is too much trouble; and you hate, worst of all, to believe that he is mad. It has been testified to you, that many have died of his bite already, raving mad; and that many more, in different stages of the disease, are coming to the same miserable death. But still you will neither shoot nor shut up the cause of this wretchedness. You affect to doubt whether any of them
had the real hydrophobia, or whether the bite will produce the same effects again ; and so you leave him loose among your neighbours, and your neighbours' children. Is it not a dictate of common sense, that you ought to be responsible for the result? And you are. All that perish by means of this animal, are virtually slain by your hand. They owe their death to your carelessness or selfishness. It is in vain for you to say, “ I had no malice; I did not set the dog on; they might have kept out of the way; and if he was mad, it was none of my concern: let every one look out for himself." Would this not be adding insult to injury? Instead of proving your innocence, it would only prove you a wretch past feeling!
But what has all this to do with our duty at the present day? Much every way. We are bound, as rational beings, to act, not by impulses, but upon principles. We have established one known and general principle, viz. : That everyman is responsible for evils which result from his own selfishness, or indifference to the lives of men. In other words, to make a man responsible for results, it is not necessary to prove that he has malice, or that he intended the results. The highwayman has no malice against him he robs and murders, nor does he desire his death, but his money; and if he can get the money, he does not care ; and he robs and murders because he loves himself, and does not care for others; acting in a different way, but on the same selfish principle with the owner of the ox and of the mad dog; and on the very same principle, too, is he held responsible.
In the trial of the owner of the ox, the only questions to be asked, were these two: Was the ox wont to push with his horn in times past? Did the owner know it, when he let him loose? If both of these questions can be answered in the affirmative, the owner is responsible for all the consequences.
This is a rule which God himself has established ; and it is applicable to the whole of our social relations and responsibilities. As an instance, consider its bearings upon the trade in ardent spirits. Are ardent spirits wont to produce misery, and wretchedness, and death ? Has this been testified to those who make or sell them? If these two things can be established, the inference is inevitable; they are responsible, on a principle perfectly intelligible—a principle recognised, and proclaimed, and acted upon, by God himself.
It is possible that some may startle at this conclusion, and look around for some way to escape it. “ What! is a man responsible to God for the effects produced by all the spirits which he makes or sells ? This is a most fearful responsibility !” Indeed it is. But if these two things are true, every retailer and maker must bear it. And can either of these be disputed ? Turn your attention to these two facts : 1st. Ardent spirits usually produce misery. 2d. Those who make or sell it, art perfectly aware of its effects. I will not insult any man's understanding by entering into a laboured proof of either of these positions.
(To be Continued.)