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God whom they have not seen, by every evidence of love to their brethren whom they have seen, and who would not, for any selfish gain, deliberately wrong the lowliest child of earth; would these like to discover that they have robbed the lonely of a friend, have winged the shaft of malice against the defenceless ; have made the full cup of sadness to run over but one added drop; perhaps have overborne with shame some contrite spirit, or brought contempt on some struggling child of God? They may not discover it. They may never know it, until the books are opened at the judgment day. But for a little mirth, for the merit of a little brilliancy, will they take the risk ?
Would that the evil stopped even here. But there is one character of sarcasm, the prevalence of which has much dwelt upon my mind. I speak of the habit of ridiculing the professors of religion, and especially its ministers. From the world we expect this. We know whence it arises, and what it means: for we know that when the voice, or manner, or other peculiarity of the minister are sarcastically noticed, the laugh excited is intended to fall upon the doctrine he preaches. But young people who thus amuse themselves, without any sinister intention, are little aware, I believe, of the injury they do others, and more particularly themselves. It is perfectly indecent, the manner in which, at the very doors of the sanctuary, you may hear them make mirth of the reader's or the preacher's peculiarities. There are those among my acquaintance whom I carefully watch out of the church, before I leave my seat, lest I should meet them in the aisles, and have every serious impression dissipated by some sarcastic mimicry of the preacher's tones and expressions. And many, many times, at the dinner table, or in the
evening circle, have I sat with painful sadness, listening to the exaggerated statements, the sarcastic criticism, with which the Sabbath service was reviewed ; not by enemies; not by disapprovers; but by those who should, and who did, set the highest value on what they heard.
Nor is it persons only. The things of God, religion itself ; they do not mean it, I trust, but religion itself is not too sacred for the blight of their unhallowed jesting. I have the misfortune to have some friends, whose good feeling towards religion I should be sorry to doubt, who never mention it without the same play of words they accustom themselves to use in everything: not seldom, I grieve to say, the words of Scripture itself, so travestied as to excite a smile at, if not against, the most pious practices and exalted truths; the objects, I really believe, of their reverence as much as of my own. Could they know how the more serious and deeply feeling bosom shudders at that venturous sport; how the sacred words pronounced in ludicrous associations, jar the heart that has been used to hear in them the language of its intensest feelings; surely they would blush and be ashamed for their unholy mirth. I would give instances of what I mean, but I fear to seem personal. Many are in my recollection; and may come, possibly, to the recollection of those who read. If it should be so, I am persuaded they will receive the Listener's affectionate remonstrances without resentment. This mirthful fancy, when united with an amiable disposition, is very entertaining. There are ways in which it may very innocently be indulged: for never was religion an enemy to harmless mirth. There will be occasions in which it may be even usefully exercised, and prevail where reason cannot. But in things sacred, in things serious, in
things divine ; towards persons who should be sacred for the things' sake, it can never be harmless. These jesters are little aware of the effect of each ludicrous association on the weak and vacillating mind; and the unconfessed gratification and encouragement afforded by them to spirits profane and worldly. Nor are they more aware of the injury their own minds suffer from this indulgence. They may not know it, but they cannot name a thing irreverently without lessening their reverence for it; they cannot allude to things serious without seriousness, but they become less important in their estimation. And surely they might be aware that the minister, or other servant of God, whose defects and peculiarities they are accustomed to ridicule, cannot retain an influence over their minds : no small consideration, when it is through the medium of his servants our Lord so generally dispenses the influence of his grace.
To my young friends who read these pages, I freely confess that my subjects are derived from observation of habits, that to themselves I am not at liberty to remark; and when this happens, and some young lady finds in my pages her own words, or her own follies, I am persuaded she reads them smiling, and without offence; even as if we told her her ribbon was untied, or her feathers about to blow away: it had escaped her observation; she cannot see herself as others see her: the mirror once presented, she can judge of the justness of my remarks.
The following observations are on habits which are common to both sexes, and to every condition in life; habits that may as well be those of youth, as of age; indeed, if they exist in after life, it is almost certain to be, because they have been indulged at its commencement.
Has it ever happened to any but myself, to listen to I, I, I, in conversation, till, wearied with the monotony of the sound, I was fain to quarrel with the useful little word, and almost wish I could portray its hydra head, and present it in a mirror to my oracles, that they might turn away disgusted for ever with its hideous form ? If so—such
will have sympathy with my tale.
I was the companion, one morning, of an invalid young lady, of rather respectable mind, and who was sufficiently recovered to take an interesting part
in conversation, when her medical attendant was announced. A young gentleman entered, whom I judged to be about twenty-five; his pleasing appearance and studious countenance attracted my attention ; and after the few necessary medical inquiries were dismissed, I was alert on his introduction of topics more general. I listened for some time even more than willingly, and from the wisdom of his remarks, I should certainly have given him credence for a man of reading and of thought, and as such, should have judged he gave the preference to literary society, without the unceasing assurances of these facts from his own lips. But to convey
readers clearer idea of my disquiet, I will give the outline of the closing part of the conversation, assuring them, however, that the preceding discussion did more credit to the doctor's pretensions.
Dr. R.-Have you seen that ponderous work of Mr. S.? I sat up till past midnight reading it. It is a most delightful thing; and I can never lay aside a book in the midst, when I am interested.
Miss H.-I have not seen it, but from your recommendation shall be glad to do so, particularly as in this country place I can find but little society.
Dr. R.-True-literary society is the charm of life: I mingle with no other, (excepting indeed professionally ;) and then [introducing a spendid list of literati] with such men as these, one can find mental reciprocity: and I have the honour of their intimate acquaintance.
Miss H.-I have read the works of C and of S. you have just named. What kind of man is C in the parlour?
Dr. R.-0, quite charming! I was very intimate with him—he exceedingly regretted my leaving town—I must stay and dine with him whenever he