« PreviousContinue »
THE FEMALES' ADVOCATE.
FEELING AND PRINCIPLE.
There are, perhaps, no two things more frequently confounded, than feeling and principle. How often do we hear vice extenuated with the remark that the man's feelings are good, that he has quick perceptions of the beauty of religion, though, unfortunately, his disposition will not allow him to walk always in. its precepts ! nay, I once read an assertion, that the person whose life I had been perusing, could not be said to be destitute of religion, (though his Memoirs sadly proved the contrary,) since he so feelingly enjoyed the beauties of the natural world. “ Frequently,” says his biographer, “I have seen tears of exquisite feeling in his eyes, while he has been gazing at some beautiful scenery, whether with the sun reigning in his glory and magnificence, or the moon gliding in her beauty and repose.” All this certainly is possible enough, many are excited even to tears at the aspect of Nature in her beauty ; but it is also possible, that a man may do this, and yet lead an abandoned life, may gaze in raptures on a midnight sky, or a glorious sunset, and yet go from the contemplation of it to scenes of riot and dissipation.
We may fancy our heart is touched when only our imagination is warmed, that we worship God, when we only admire the beauty of his works. There are those who will read with emotion the life of the Redeemer in his mission of love, who yet never dwell a moment on the necessity of purifying their hearts as his was pure, of ordering their lives as his was ordered, of being perfect as he was perfect; and who, while expatiating with admiration on the glory of the Almighty, when “ Sinai smoked because the Lord descended upon it in fire”—think not on the precepts of the lawgiver, or the requirements of the judge.
Let my readers now follow me in imagination to the figure of a young female, sitting at an open window reading; the time evening; the sun setting in all its splendor, touching with its golden rays the knotted trunks of those old oaks so long the pride of that fair park, bathing those distant mountains in a flood of glory, and playing with a faint light on the raven hair of that young girl. How, or where I saw all that follows, matters not, let it suffice that it happened.
The book seemed to affect the feelings of the peruser most strongly ; she read with eagerness, and the tear that was on her cheek, and the sob that occasionally escaped her, shewed what power lay in the words of the author. At length she burst into a violent flood of tears, threw herself on her knees, and in all the fervour of highly excited feeling prayed; and prayed that over her heart the shadow of sin might not fall; that she might not go to the grave in sin and sorrow.
The tale was one of sin and suffering, of crime and death, and Edith had prayed that she might be preserved from a like course, but the petition was the bursting forth of emotions wrought to their highest pitch, not the supplication of one who felt her need of assistance; it was the expression of excited passion, not the desire of a depending Christian.
Five years afterwards I saw Edith again, and where ? in a miserable lodging, where everything around her bore evidence of extreme poverty; the corpse of an infant in its coffin was at one end of the room, a little boy of about two years old was lying across a broken chair asleep, his unfortunate countenance bearing traces of misery and tears; and Edith, the wretched parent, stretched on what was intended for a bed, was apparently fast hastening to that land “from whence no traveller returns." And how was all this? could it be possible that miserable being was the loved, the envied, the happy Edith ? where was now that fervour of feeling, that warmth of heart, that depth of sensibility, that exquisite perception of the beautiful ? alas! they only served to make the death-bed more dreary, the soul's agony more severe. Did they not tell of talents perverted, feelings misapplied, of idols on earth ? Did they not speak of duties neglected, of warnings despised, of God forgotten ? alas! they did; and though the
earthly condition of the last days of Edith was ameliorated by friends, to the immortal soul none could speak; remorse came with all its stings, but not after it repentance ; the heart seared and worldly, felt only additional pangs by the presence of those feelings it once believed would support and soothe it; and those who watched the last sighs of Edith, were uncheered by the remembrance of one word to which they could cling in hope,-she died, “ and made no sign."
In commenting on the above melancholy sketch, let it not be supposed that I am condemning feeling or fervour; far from it; neither are they incompatible with principle ; on the contrary, they both beautify and strengthen it. No, I only wish to caution my readers against substituting feeling for principle ; without the former we should become the mere formal observers of a series of useless ceremonies ; with it alone we have neither support for the day of trial, nor strength against the hour of temptation. Edith went into the world, to dwell amidst its turmoils, to be assailed by its temptations, to be captivated by its pleasures, with a heart whose corruptions she dreamed not of, and a spirit undoubting of its strength ;— feeling reigned in all its power, and to that alone she trusted, for principle was not there—what wonder then that she fell? Scripture and experience both declare, “ he that trusteth his own heart is a fool.”
LESSONS FROM THE BOOK OF NATURE.
THE FALLEN TREE.
Our minds and hearts to bless." THERE is at the return of spring peculiar satisfaction in visiting a favorite haunt ; a pleasure felt in a higher degree after a protracted absence-a pleasure not unlike that of friendship; but the pleasure of friendship has often to contend with serious drawbacks, and to be mingled with saddened thoughts. The familiar countenance, after long separation, is at least in some degree altered by the touch of time, which works a yet greater change in the habits and feelings : friend removes from friend, even when an interchange of thought is maintained : affection may unite friends as closely as heretofore, but they have trod separate paths, have had separate interests and trials. It is, therefore, not surprising that on the eve of parting, for a long period, the heart should sink with undefined forebodings—nor that when the joyful moment of reunion arrives a sigh should escape the lips. Our meetings with nature, however, are generally pleasurable, so far as she is concerned ; it is true that in revisiting a spot not seen for some time, thoughts of changes in ourselves flash across the mind and withdraw the attention from the well-known objects around :-bot they at least seem the same, the blue sky—the treesthe fields ! and warm is our greeting to all. My mind was busy with these comparisons, as, on one of the many lovely days of the present spring, we drove along a charming country-road in our neigh. bourhood.