« PreviousContinue »
opinions forced into notice without any suggestion from the occasion—this was the character of Janet's conversation : questions she could as well have answered as asked—doubts that had never really troubled her—hopes and fears to which she was an utter stranger, but all which it was of course to talk about in religious society. Out of it, Janet's timidity prevailed : she was afraid of ridicule, afraid of censure, afraid to speak at all, or to speak as she be. lieved what would boathought of her, was ever uppermost.
Can the leopard change his spots, and the Ethiop his skin? Can the simplicity of the unconscious child be restored to the bosom seven times dyed in artifice and pride? Can the practised heart unlearn its doubleness, and become single? Ten years later, I saw Jenet Bevoir again. Much had happened in that time. A reverse of fortune had deprived her of the means of distinction. Some extravagancies of doctrine, and palpable inconsistencies of conduct, had brought her religion into doubt, in the circle on whose opinions she
had lived. Sickness--painful, lingering sickness—had sent her to her chamber to commune with her own heart in solitude and silence. There Janet could not act—there Janet had no audience but her God. There, for the first time in her life, Janet found herself unobserved and forgotten; and for many a long month had nothing to do but to unclothe herself of the subterfuges of sin, and the disguises of self, and stand unmasked and single before herself, as she stood before God-a
an infant, guileless, helpless, naked. And there she first forgot that she was Janet Bevoir—the expected, distinguished, disappointed Janet Bevoir : and saw in herself nothing but a reconciled child of God—the purchase of the Redeemer's blood, bought with a
price; and her own no longer. When I saw her, she had recovered, and returned to society. But how altered ! Janet was simple now in every thing, because her heart was simple. It was filled with one thought, one hope, one love; or, if there were any other, they were merged in this, as the stars of heaven in the morning sunbeam. It was impelled by one motive, guided by one law, and animated by one reward. Janet saw too intently now the eye
of God upon her, to consider who else observed her. Janet was too busy in approving herself honest before God, to hear what others said, or inquire what others thought. Her eye was upon herself
, indeed, but it was upon that secret self that none can see besides. And now Janet's manners were simple and her words were simple; they could not be otherwise. She meant no effect, and looked out for
She had no intention but to do right and to speak truth; it did not signify who heard it, or who saw it. Janet had one Judge, one King, one Father. She saw herself worse than any eye beheld her, she saw herself a greater sinner than earth could make her. She lost her timidity in the discovery of the world's worthlesness, and her pretension in the discovery
of her own. She forgot that she was Janet Bevoir, for she had learned that she was nothing.
My story has been too long : I can add but a few words more. Would any acquire simplicity of character ? Let them not set about to put it on: that is but to stain again the thrice-dyed web, and add a new affectation to the old ones. Let them go to the source whence conduct and conversation spring. Let them see if they worship one God or more. Instead of watching their words and actions, let them watch their hearts, and see if they act and speak to please their God, the world, or themselves, or each
alternately. Let them walk with their eye on heaven, and they will walk gracefully, without thinking of their carriage. Let the heart be made single, and Simplicity will grow upon their thoughts and feelings first, and ultimately upon their man
conversation. This has been, and it can be; for it is what the Scripture means, when it directs us to become as little children.
Wanting the key of revelation, and utterly at fault without it, philosophy has argued, whether man has any innate knowledge of right and wrong: or whether, indeed, there be any right or wrong, apart from the expediency or inexpediency, proved by experience to pertain to certain actions and propensities. If philosophy had no ground for these conclusions, it had, at least, some excuse for its doubts, in the confusion of opinion respecting good and evil, which has been found wherever the light of revelation shines not. There is scarcely a crime so base and abominable, but has been somewhere held a grace, if not a virtue, in the character; and men have been deified and adored in one place, for actions for which in another they might be hanged. The revelation of the law of God, wherever it is acknowledged, puts an end to this discrepancy. Professedly it is adopted as the test of morality; and legislation recognises it as the standard of right and wrong: not in the spirit indeed, but in the letter. If men still continue to commit outward and gross crimes, they do it, admitting them to be such; or they endeavour to pass them under other and fictitious
But is there no confusion between right and wrong?-no discrepancy of opinion in Christian societies respecting the character of certain actions,
habits, and feelings? Is there nothing that is a sin in one place, a harmless folly in another, and in a third, a fashionable accomplishment—the pride of one bosom, the shame of another ? Have we but one name for a thing, whatever dress it wears; and that the name which God has given it? Is there nothing which the partition-wall of our houses divides into vice on one side, and virtue on the other? Nay, closer than this, is there in the same chamber nothing that one will blush to have, and another would blush to be without? Nay, closer still than this, is there no feeling, no disposition we have felt ashamed in one company to be detected in, and ashamed in another to be supposed to want? If there be any such thing, it is a remnant of heathen darkness, which the light of truth divine has failed to dissipate: not for want of pureness in its beams, but because we have not examined our opinions by its lamp, or minded its testimony of what man misnames. How much of this confusion between right and wrong
has our Saviour unravelled and exposed in his sermon on the mount? How vainly, for the most part, unravelled and exposed what man desires not to know ? To those, who do desire to know the wrong that they may shun it, the right that they may seek it, I will tell what gave rise to these observations.
In my course of Listening, now for many years, my attention has been taken with something of which I found it very difficult to trace the lame. Its characters still more baffled and defeated my in. quiries, while the place of its abode, and the modes of its appearing, have been so incongruous and contradictory, I could not determine to what or to whom this indefinite something most properly belongs. I might have taken it for a misfortune, but that I