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such looks of interest and concern, such protestations of sympathetic sorrow or delight, that should a tythe of them ever reach so far as the heart, it could not but burst with its emotions. The observing man, who mixes only occasionally with the world, sees, at a glance, this farce, or rather, this tragi-comedy of life, in which they who have parts, have nigh forgot they were acting, so long have they played in it, to and upon one another. But the effect is a sad one upon just penetration, free-heartedness, and a discriminating moral sense ; and the looker-on goes home, with a melancholy shake of the head, repeating to himself the words of good bishop Hall, “I would fear that speaking well, without feeling, were the next way to procure habituall hypocrisie!”
If we follow out the influences of the present, it is plain enough how they should turn us to physical pursuits, and thus strengthen the power of the outward over us, rather than lead us to those operations which relate more inwardly to men; for there is something tangible about the former, and easy of apprehension to him who lives in the sensible, more than in the abstract. And if it be true, that the present produces a love and a feeling of power, and out of these, self-satisfaction; physical pursuits, more than the abstract and unseen, gratify and strengthen these feelings, for they put the results of our efforts visibly before our eyes. Chemical and mechanical principles, carried into act by us, give out new forms and combinations, and lo! there are standing before us the works of our own hands; and here arises the feeling that the moving power is in ourselves, and that we work upon the mere servants of our will, the unresisting subjects of our control.
In the way in which the man of the mere present, views the outward, there is no corrective to his pride, in these employments; for he is not the man to search out their relation to the infinite, and they will not remind him of it. But the study of the moral and intellectual nature, touches on every side upon the infinite and unsearchable ; and, according to the expanse of the mind engaged in this pursuit, will be its consciousness of an infinite and an unknown; for the larger the circle of the mind's thoughts, the more is there to come in contact with that which lies around it. The tendency of the physical, is to make us feel our power ; of the other, to teach us our weakness. And so it turns out in this age; and this is the age of mechanical inventions, and chemical dis
coveries; and steam power has more worshippers than moral power.
Absorption in the present, leading to an over-estimate of it, naturally runs again into an over-estimate of self. The sense of nearness is a cause of this ; for nearness produces a feeling of rights in common, not only in ordinary interests and privileges, but even in distinguishing qualities and endowments sometimes. Being next door neighbor to a great man, imparts self-importance; and to laud or to defend him, why, that is standing to him in the relation of protector and patron, at once.
In this same present, which influences all, each one, as was sometime ago remarked, however seemingly insignificant, has some influence in return, and a part, that, in one way or another, acts upon what is going on. And therefore it is, that from palace to hovel, from the father to the prating youngone, we hear so much, even to very weariness, of the spirit of the age, the light of the age, the refinement of the age, and, last of all, of that march, to keep step to which, every man, woman and child is practising such contortions—the march of the mind.
Yes, in the present, man feels his self-consequence; for he has an influence in it; and it is in his nature, that he should feel this self-consequence growing in him, in the proportion that he magnifies that upon which he acts. The self-gratulatory manner in which men talk of this age in which we live, verifies this remark, and another, also, that we are under some powerful illusion as to the advances of our times. For great truths, while they ennoble man, make him thoughtful, sober-minded, not thinking of himself more highly than he ought to think. And well they may; for complete truths, whatsoever they concern, reach into eternity, and open immortality upon the soul. And shall not the spirit stand in awe, with eternity within it, and eternity round about it?
The thoughtful looker-on believes that all will finally work together for good. But he knows, too, that this spirit of vanity and self-satisfaction must first meet with some fearful rebuke ; and that the spirit of pride which engenders high things, is unwittingly engendering that which shall by and by dash them. If there be any one thing in particular,
which characterizes this age, it is over-weening self-complacency. And this comes of living so altogether in and for the present ; and it is this self-complacency, again, which keeps us so
much in the present. For we may rely upon it, the present is both father and child to self-complacency.
How fatal is all this to the spirit of reverence! And what is created and finite man without it? But how shall he who is thronged by the changing, suffocating, every-day present, enlarge himself to this spirit, that speaks of immortality ? And how shall he learn to know its great nature, intent as he is on that where life feeds on decay, and death on life-being and ceasing to be? A man of the mere present ! he may be affable, obliging, generous ; but the heart is not satisfied. We feel that there is a void in him ; he wants the spirit of reverence-And the whole age wants it—all the earthly types of it are breaking down, and these are times of overthrow; and the spirit of overthrow is a hard spirit, and an arrogant.
There has been oppression enough on the earth, we know. But what is so desolating to the spirit of a man, what makes him feel so an outcast from his kind, as the tyranny of the many? There is an impatience of gradations of ranks, now shaking the earth, which springs as much from the decay of reverence in the minds of men, as from a spirit of resistance to wrong. Without setting up the old doctrine of the divine right of kings, may we not ask, whether God has not purposed that there should be an analogy in the form of the political state, and an adaptation of it to the unfolding of the spiritual form of individual man, in all its parts? And that one portion of it should develope the feelings connected with generous protection, and kind and condescending regard ? And another portion of it teach contentedness, subordination, and respect ? So far as God has deemed it well to unveil the higher world, there would seem to be orders there, and their unjarring movements, rank above rank, to make the harmony of heaven. The question is now trying, whether the nature of man can bear a form of state which sets this principle at nought, and whether it will not inevitably destroy reverence in the soul, and generate pride there. This seems to be the working of the popular principle now; and it may turn out that a government founded wholly upon this latter principle, is of too abstract a nature to be an object for the mind's easy and direct apprehension, or for the heart's simple affections. It may appear that it wants embodying, and needs a visible head, something for the spirit of loyalty to look up to, and that for the want of this, in its place, comes in self. There is reason to fear that the sensitiveness of a
man, upon all that touches the republic, is too often nothing else than self, and that it is he, in feeling, who stands for the body politic. And looks it not a little like it, when a lording spirit is already taking possession of him, and he will not consent to be ruled even by his own elected governors-not he! till they come, cap in hand, and own themselves his servants ? And thus dies reverence!
This is a subject, however, which involves principles too important to be treated upon hastily, especially if considered in its bearing upon the religious character of man, go into it at some future time.
But even from the winning quiet of old age, the present takes away reverence; while bearing too in his countenance, as the old man does, the aspect of the past.
Where is that feeling for age, which Young so beautifully calls, “tender reverence?” Almost died out. O, what a delightful sensation it is to the soul! And how like is it to the kind respect a son bears a mother. Its blessed influences will abide in that heart into which it has once entered, and rest like soft lights on our spirits, even when we too are old. Young man, if you would have a heart-blessing, that shall go with you all your days, reverence age !
Alas, the spirit of reverence, and that which men revered in days past, were not all superstition. “ There was more in them than is dreamed of in our philosophy," more that was in accord with the wants, and the fulness too, of the human heart. We must beware how we take for granted our superior wisdom and our superior light. A more various knowledge of the external, it may be we possess. But that knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is a more inward principle, and has somewhat to do with the heart of man. Let us take care, therefore, while we are learning a little of all manner of outward things, to "get wisdom," that which shall turn them all to the soul's food. And for this end, bear in mind the words of old Baxter ;-Keep open the passage betwixt the head and the heart, that every truth may go to the quick.
Some one may here ask, Whether there is no evil, in looking exclusively to the past? The evil of such an excess was granted in the outset; and had this been an age of eremites and friars, I would have dwelt upon it.
And is there nothing good or great in the uses of the present ? asks another. Much. And when it ceases to be over-magnified in our eyes, there will be still more.
But we are not living for the present alone, objects a third; we are not only auguring great things, but we are preparing great things, for time to come. Remember, that when pride augurs, that is, of itself, bad omen ; and that in the spirit in which we prophesy, shall things be fulfilled. “Consider, too, that there is no setting bounds to moral influences, in time; no following them to their end, in eternity. As was awhile ago said, as the present, however modified by long and complicated workings, would not be as it is, if the past had been different from what it was;' so, that which now is, will make the future what it shall be.
One would think here was responsibility enough upon us, to make us put away too much confidence and over-weening of self. Let us do so; and go about our work (for we must work) with firm yet humble minds, with hopeful yet dependent spirits. Let us be ready to take something from experience. Let us be willing to turn awhile to look upon
the Great Past, to have our souls filled with its glorious, solemn vision. How still it stands on its foundations laid in eternity! But, see, there are faces there! And some of them are turned on us with a look surpassing earthly love; the heavens have touched them! They are not all strange to us. There is one !—and there! We thought it dead; but it lives! And it shall live! And we, too, shall live—we and the past; not one can perish. There is something awful in this truth; yet it
may be a glorious truth to us, if we will but receive it.Let me leave it with you, reader, in the words of our fine poet, .To the Past ::
" Thine for a space are they-
Thy gates shall yet give way,