far as, profaned into the materials of a false religion. Thus men obtained something like the accomplishment of the expectation of our first parents-a more vivid perception, by means of their sin, of what was fair and sublime.

The supposed work might inquire what class of the beauties, that may be comprehended in the wide term “ scenery,” may have had the greatest power over susceptible minds. And it might be shown how different orders of genius are actuated and modified respectively by those different classes of nature's exhibitions.

It would be a matter of very great interest to determine under what conditions this influence of nature, where it does actually operate on the taste and imagination, shall also be salutary in a moral respect. It has been a favourite doctrine with many men of sensibility and genius, that these captivations of nature are absolutely and almost necessarily conducive to the moral rectitude of the mind ; that they unconditionally tend to purify, to harmonize, and to exalt the principles and the affections. If the maintainers of this opinion, so kind to our nature, had not examined the human mind enough to know, from its very constitution, that in some modes and degrees of its depravity, it not only may fail to be corrected by the perception of those charms of nature, but they receive their influence so that it shall augment the deptavity; it is strange that their faith was not shaken by the notorious fact, that many fine geniuses, of the very class most alive to the beauty and sublimity of nature, poets and painters, have been among the most profligate of men—not to notice that the inhabitants of some of the most paradisiacal and romantic sections of the earth, are among the most basely corrupt of the whole human race. Let any man recollect what he has read and heard of the inhabitants of the most exquisite countries on the Mediterranean.

Another object of the supposed inquiry would be, to determine what mode of training from childhood, what kind of locality for residence, what studies and occupations would most effectually dispose and gratify a mind, possessed of the requisite native sensibility for feeling these finer influences of the material world. It would also be a very capital object to teach the art and habit of observing the scenery of nature ; an instruction which might, with the greatest propriety, be accompanied by an emphatical censure of the careless stupidity of the man who can, for half a century, carry about the world a soul accommodated with the organs of sight and hearing, and scarcely twenty times, in that whole lapse of duration, fix an intense, examining, prolonged attention, on any of the innumerable displays exhibited in the elegance and grandeur of the creation.

It would be a gratifying, and an easy part of the undertaking, to show, chiefly by means of well-selected examples, the vast advantage to elegance, and indeed to all serious, moral, and religious instruction, derivable, in the form of striking analogies, happy illustrations, and a diction full of colour and life, from having the prodigious world without the mind, brought, in its representative imagery, to be an ideal world, almost as rich, within it.

In the last place, it would be proper, in some part of such a work, to caution men of genius, who both perceive the palpable material beauty and grandeur of the creation, and feel, in the contemplation, the influence as of some more refined and ideal element, far beyond the perception of the senses, against suffering themselves to be deluded into a notion that this abstracted and elevated mode of feeling is something so analogous to religion, as to render it of less importance to attain that distinct and divine sentiment. The fine enthusiasm of this feeling made some ancient, and has made some modern, philosophers content with acknowledging, as supreme in the universe, some kind of all-pervading spirit, less than a real intelligence. And among certain modern poets, we have heard of a mystical spiritualization of the earth and the heavens, which, under the denomination of physiopathy, was to be regarded as the most refined mode of religion, and peculiarly adapted to the most subtle and purified human spirits, though it was less than an acknowledgment of intelligence in the object adored! It is not, however, against this that we particularly mean the caution, but against the delusion, in minds firmly believing in a God, of the self-flattery, that being exceedingly enchanted and elevated in contemplating his works, must, of itself, necessarily be, in effect, identical with devotion towards him.



(Continued from page 7.) Of course, in the sullen temper in which I then was, it was not to be expected that I should answer this question any more than some of the former ones ; on which my kind mother condescended to try other arguments with me, and, still pointing out the black currant bush, she observed to me that its roots, as well as those of every other tree, lay under the ground, and, in some instances, deep in the earth ; and then she remarked, that although the little plant before us looked green, and full of sap, and although its glossy leaves now glistened in the sun, yet that it would die before many seasons had passed, and the place of it would know it no more; and this, said she, should be a perpetual lesson to us how little it matters to that tree whether it falls to north or south, whilst to us it is of infinite consequence how we may be found in that hour, when death shall come upon us. And then she recalled to my mind the words of the hymn,

" Just as a tree cut down, it fell

To north or southward ; there it lies.
So man departs for heaven or hell,

Fixed in the state wherein he dies." “ But here," continued she,“ is another tree; examine it, Gertrude, and tell me what the difference is between this and the black currant tree." “Oh! mamma," I answered, “ a great, great difference ; this last is a crab-tree, and the fruit is so bad, that we cannot eat it.” And I remember that, whilst this conversation was passing, I was astonished; for I could not conceive what reference it bore to my late ill behaviour; and I was in hopes that my mamma had begun to forget my misdemeanor, but, in a few minutes, she spoke again to me, and then I found my mistake.

“ Can you tell me," she said, “ which of these trees are most useful ?” “ The black currant-tree, mamma," I replied, " because of the fruit; the other tree is good for nothing, I believe, but to be cut down, and cast into the fire.” My mamma suddenly interrupted me, for I was going to add more; saying, “You have acknowledged, Gertrude, that those trees which do not bear good fruit should be burnt, and also that human beings are compared, in Scripture, to trees; tell me, now, of what is fruit the type, in the language of the Bible?" I began to suspect that my mamma had some more meaning in what she was saying than I had at first thought ; and, fearing how all these things might turn against me, I knew not how to answer ; which my mother perceiving, added, that as a tree was an emblem of a member of the visible church, or of the garden of God, so fruit was the type of the works of that individual member represented by the tree. “ The Bible,” she continued, “says, 'even a child is known by its ways, whether they are good or bad ; therefore, if the tree which brings forth bad fruit ought, as you say, to be burnt, what does a child, then, deserve who brings forth the fruit of malice and wickedness ? Say, then, Gertrude, what does your conduct this day towards your brother prove you to be ? a thorn, or a bramble, I fear, at best; and not one of those fair plants which are described in the Canticles as flourishing in the garden, enclosed and shut up for the pleasure of the prince.” I was astonished when my mamma thus explained her meaning, and burst into tears ; on which she added, “ Let it be your prayer, my dear child, that you may not be as an evil tree, but that you may give the promise of good works, as this tree gives the promise of fruit ; being laden with buds which require time alone to attain their perfection.” I remember no more of this conversation, but when I returned into the house I found my brother waiting for me ; he looked kindly at me, and in a short time we were upon our usual terms; notwithstanding which, what had passed between me and my mother had passed deep into my heart.

When I was about ten years of age, I had a dreadful illness ; and for many days I was not allowed to see any one but my mamma and my nurse. I remember that time, and the things which passed through my mind, as well as if it had been but yesterday. A candle was always kept burning in my room during the hours of darkness, and I often lay awake, thinking and reasoning in a foolish way, indeed, about many things, but especially about the conversation relating to the black currant-tree. And this inquiry was suggested to my mind, viz. whether or not I had yet been able to bring forth those little buds which are the promises of good works; and as my heart (through the divine teaching, no doubt) always answered “No," and admonished me of many evil thoughts and wicked feelings, these reflections were always succeeded by a fit of terror, in which I used to try to pray, and to force myself to think of holy things, till my head began to wander, and I lost my recollection in frightful and confused visions; and so I spent many nights, and have often wondered since how it was that I never mentioned these, my troubles, to my mother; though I doubt whether she could have

then set me right. But one reason of my silence was this, that although my thoughts were extremely painful during the night, when the sun again shone through my windows, and I inhaled the sweet breath of the flowers in the garden, and heard the sheep and lambs bleating on the hills, like a child, as I was then, my sad thoughts passed away, and I remembered them no more, till the dark hour came again.

It was a happy day when I first came down after this illness; all my brothers and sisters were so kind and gentle to me, that I felt I loved them more than ever; and, being softened and depressed by my late suffering, I did not exhibit my little tempers, but seemed pleased with what was done for me; so that my parents believed that I was not at all hurt by the indulgence which was shown to me. Although, from this very indulgence, I lost, for a time, all serious thoughts connected with the black currant-tree ; the greater part of my time being devoted to amusement, as it was not thought right for me, till some months were passed, to apply again to my studies.

When I was fourteen, a great change took place in our family. My eldest sister, who was many years older than myself, was married to a clergyman, and removed to some distance. My favourite brother, Frederic, went to reside with her; and two of my sisters were sent to school. This first breaking up of our family was sad to many, but there was pleasure mingled with the sadness ; for I thought I should be made of more consequence now that our party was diminished—my youngest sister and myself being the only young ones left at home. Our kind mamma used to instruct us in the morning, and my sister and I spent our evenings chiefly together ; for it was the summer time, and our parents often walked out to pay visits, leaving us behind them. I remember, on one of these occasions, going into an arbour in the garden with my sister, and, as we sat there, we talked upon different subjects, particularly of circumstances which had occurred in our younger days, when all our sisters and brothers were with us; and at last, being much affected, we both wept, and, to divert ourselves, we brought out a book, and one read aloud, whilst the other worked. We enjoyed this so much, that the next evening we went again to the arbour; and thus we did for the next and the following day; and at length we begged our too indulgent mamma to permit us to subscribe to a small library in the nearest town ; this she granted, on condition that our books should be shown to her before we read them. We promised that it should be so, and for a time we kept our promise ; but at length, wanting to change our volume, and finding our mamma engaged, we ventured to choose for ourselves; and we made our choice in such a careless manner, that, though the library was supposed to be composed of what are thought choice works, yet we had made a selection which was not proper for us, for there are few works of mere entertainment from which an unrenewed mind may not derive much evil. But the evil which we derived from the volumes we selected, (for, having used our own judgments in one instance, we failed not to follow it in many others,) consisted not so much in any thing that was actually improper in any particular passages, so much as in the effect which they produced, as a whole, in turning our thoughts to worldly subjects, rather than to those medita

tions which are profitable to the immortal soul; in consequence of which, after having read for a time, I constantly yielded to the indulgence of vain desires, endeavouring to drive every serious thought from my mind; and, could I have succeeded, what would have become of me? But, through the divine mercy, I had to deal with one who was stronger than my own wicked heart ; and, after an interval of perfect deadness, I was again assailed with those fears which had troubled me some years before; the confused and imperfect knowledge I had of religion tending rather to increase than diminish them. I had got some scattered notions of true doctrine, but I knew not how to put these notions together. It had been explained to me that the three divine attributes of God, viz. holiness, justice, and mercy, were all infinite; and, furthermore, that each must have its perfect work ; and that, through our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, “ mercy and truth had met together, and righteousness and peace had kissed each other.” Yet still I never could be assured that I myself was an object of mercy; for I believed that some perished eternally, and that all obstinate sinners would be turned into hell, with such as forget God.

Thinking only of this attribute of justice in all the perfection of its terrible majesty, I sometimes felt that hell, such as I understood it to be, was almost opening before me; in consequence of which alarm, I took the very way I ought not to have taken, and gave myself over more and more to think of those worldly pleasures which were described in the books I speak of, endeavouring to drive out better thoughts, by trying to fancy myself in situations (such as these books described) in which I might enjoy all the pleasures of the world ; thus striving, as it were, with my Maker, and often seeming, for a time, to strive with success. He, in every contest, He that loved me showed himself the conqueror. Oh! what fairy visions of pomp, and riches, and happiness did I create for myself-pursuing these visions of uninterrupted joy through the course of years, and adding delight to delight in my vain imagination, till, suddenly, the thought would obtrude itself, Well, grant that it would be so ; what then? death must come, and, after that, the judgment. And then, with Solomon, I was often compelled to say, “ All is vanity ;" for I must come to be as a tree, whose root withereth, and whose dried branches are cast into the oven ; “ for all flesh is grass, and the glory thereof as the flower that fadeth.”

Thus all my earthly visions were mingled, in their progress, with fearful expectations of fiery sufferings, which seemed to glare across them from the remote future ; and, in the end, were all terminated with scenes of temporal death, the coffin, and the worm !

(To be continued.)

MY MOTHER'S GRAVE. It was thirteen years since my mother's death, when, after a long absence from my native village, I stood beside the sacred mound, beneath which I had seen her buried.

Since that mournful period, great changes had come over me. My

« VorigeDoorgaan »