« ZurückWeiter »
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 the age, it is overweening 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, that it is this all-present which begets this self-complacency, and is again begotten of it.
How fatal is all this to the spirit of reverence! And what is created and finite man without reverence? 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 quite as much from the decay of reverence in the minds of men, as from a spirit of resistance to wrong. Without setting up, in the commonly received sense, 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 adaptability in 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 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 naught, and whether it is not a form that must destroy reverence in the soul, and generate pride.
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 simple affections of the heart. 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,
We may go
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 governours, - 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
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. Yet 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 !
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 your 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 superiour wisdom and our superiour 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, of itself, is 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 overweening 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,
"All that of good and fair
Shall then come forth, to wear
“ They have not perished, - no!
Smiles, radiant long ago,