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roots, and should not be disturbed. I thought, besides, that though I had ridiculed the husbandman who sowed the harvest that he would not reap, yet if any one had ground, and that ground was his own; and he could please himself, while others gathered in their corn, and filled their garners, his own remaining empty, to stand by, and moralize upon the lightness of the thistle-down, the spiny hardness of the leaves, and fading beauty of the flowers, boasting his experience of their worthlessness, I thought I had nothing to say in this case, why a man should not plant thistles to his dying day. But afterwards there came a thought that checked my mirth, and seemed to reprove my indifference. I found, that in one respect, my correspondent had spoken truth : I had supposed the good man's field to be his own; whence, though I deduced his folly in planting thistles where he would gather corn, I yet left him free to choose the harvest he preferred. But if, in fact, that field had been another's, and the possessor held it only on lease or sufferance, till the owner should reclaim it, the deduction should have been other than it was. I consent to amend my story; though I would still avoid discussing what I before supposed to be granted the general inadmissibility of worldly amusements to a religious life. And for this reason. The subject is discussed everywhere, and between everybody ; arguments are worn threadbare, and little good comes of it.
The earthly-minded go on with their amusements, not because they know them to be harmless, but because they mean to enjoy them whether they are or not. The pretender to religion talks a great deal against them; not for dread of their unholiness, but because the sacrifice costs less, and shows
than the abridgment of selfishness in other forms. The
child of God leaves them, and forgets them, not because he is scared from his desires by the potency of argument, but because he has no taste, nor time, nor heart, for such vain foolery. This course will continue, I apprehend, after all our discussions. And if there is a class of persons, as among our younger Christians I believe there may be, who are really wishing to know how to adjust the claims of heaven and the claims of earth; the love of holiness, with the countenance of sin; the presence of Jesus, with the society of his despisers; the peculiarities of the gospel, with the habits of polite life; the commands of God, with the approbation of the world; destinies entirely opposite, with the least possible division by the way; entire, radical, and eternal difference of principle, with the least possible difference of life and conversation; to these, perhaps, an admonition might be in the stead of argument. You have taken to yourselves a most burdensome task; but it is none of heaven's imposing. God has not required it at your hands. There are commands innumerable to choose between one thing and the other, but none to reconcile them.
This, by the way–My friend is not of the number, I believe. But I am informed, and, indeed, if I did not know it, I should have listened these many years in vain, that she speaks the thoughts of numbers of others, of young females in particular, who mistake feelings for principles, and sentiment for piety; and think themselves very religious, because they sigh over the vanity of earthly things, though they seek them not the less; and shudder at the thought of death and judgment, though they prepare for them not the more; and in times of depression, take refuge in some idea of God, though they know him not, and serve him not the better. For
I will suppose
the sake of these I have determined on replying to the letter; all personality is put aside. I answer to all those who hold a similar language, or cherish the like sentiments, not to my individual correspondent. She will therefore, I trust, forgive the criticism of her words.
My correspondent claims to have the question judged by her own experience, and the effect of vanity and folly upon herself. Is she quite sure she knows herself, and, at “past five-and-twenty," has come to the full fruition of her early culture? If so, I will receive her testimony of herself, and fill up the deficient outline as justly as I can. her name to be Amelia, and understand that she is now past five-and-twenty. I will suppose that Amelia was “ brought early into the world,” that is, into fashionable amusements and the gayeties of life, perhaps as early as seventeen; this allows her full eight years' experience in them. She was handsome, of course,or her vanity would not have been so largely administered to: she was in prosperity, or her tastes could not have been so fully indulged; she was amiable, or she would not have been so happy and so much beloved in her family circle. Every capability of pleasure was thus bestowed on her; and she had the advantage of being allowed to gather unrestrained, what she considers “the bitter but useful fruits of experience in folly.” It is not unfair to assert that she spent the greater part of her time in collecting them. The “ continual" gratification of her vanity, and her “keen" delight in the indulgence of her taste, imply that these early years were passed in pursuit of self-gratification in some form or other. Amelia is no uncommon character, and we are in the less danger of sketching her amiss. She was brought up for the world: when presented to it, she found accept
ance in its sight; and she has spent the first years of womanhood in doing its pleasures and her own, unarrested by a voice that said, “She that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth."
And what is Amelia now ? After eight years, assiduous labour in folly and fashion's bondage, she questions the value of their wages, and writes down, 6 out of the fulness of conviction,” that “life is a gift more fraught with pain than pleasure.” Familiar, I dare say, with Young's Night Thoughts, Hervey's Meditations, and other good books, she invokes the interest of another world to renew the excitement of feeling this can afford no longer. The conjured spirit, however, proves an importunate adjunct to the still fashionable lady. Not content with its appropriate seasons, “the stillness of darkness, the thunder-storm, and the extreme of sorrow,” it follows her to the gay crowd, pictures to her fancy her fair companions mouldering in the grave, sounds in her ear the trumpet-call to judgment, turns the lightness of comedy into the sublime of tragedy, the thoughtlessness of mirth into the poetry of sentiment. If I misstate the case, Amelia must forgive. It is all she has disclosed. She has not told me that when she became dissatisfied with the wages of folly, she forsook its service. She has not told me that thoughts of death and judgment in the crowd sent her to solitude, penitence, and prayer. Would she had told me how many of that giddy crowd were arrested in the dance of folly by her example, and won, by her timely warnings, to prepare for the change she so shuddered to think upon! Would that she had said how often and how bitterly before God she mourned her own wasted years and accumulated sins, her Lord's neglected and forgotten service! Then I might have perceived the "usefulness”
as well as the “bitterness" of her eight years' harvest. On the contrary, she states the result of all to be “temporary delight and permanent indifference.” She justifies the expenditure in folly of five-andtwenty years out of her brief threescore, and she speaks of herself as a still“ flattered,” still “pleased," and still “ animated actor," in the gay crowd. She describes, I fear, but too correctly, the character of her piety—“ It never passes the lips, and scarcely appears in the life”-and Amelia forgets the word that says, “ These three years have I come seeking fruit, and find none; cut it down : why cumbereth it the ground ?"
This is what Amelia is. May I imagine, also, what she will be, when her five-and-twenty years are doubled, if neither wrath nor mercy interpose ? This reference to things divine, which she takes to be religion, but which is, in fact, no other than the unsatisfied feeling; the last chapter of a long romance, very dull, but necessary to conclude the story; this will die with the vivacity of youthful feeling; imagination will cease to present its images of mortality; the vivid impressions of futurity will wear fainter and fainter; the chill of advancing age will wither these, as it withers every other growth of feeling : flowers of one root, the sweep of indifference will involve them all. But the sullen root of habit will remain. Folly never was, never can be, its own
It were as wise to expect the rugged thistle by longer growing should produce us corn. Every indulgence of evil adds to its power, and fastens another fetter on its slave, as certainly as the weed by every blossom multiplies its growth. Pleasures, no longer loved, will be pursued from habit: fashion's drudgery will be done when its wages are denied ; the wearied limbs and faded cheek will be exhibited