Page images
PDF
EPUB

mourned her, from affection too; but even to them she could not be said to be of use ; she never found her pleasure in improving, or in pleasing them. I do not say Hester wronged any one, or injured any one; but I say, her only business in existence, was herself. She had no pleasure in other people's talents; she found no excitement in other people's interests; she enjoyed no other one's happiness, and shared no other one's sorrows.

If I have said enough to prove that Hester's ennui was the offspring of selfishness, I have not yet said all. The Self to which she was devoted, was that base, grovelling, perishable portion of herself, which belongs exclusively to time. What was the object of her creation, for what

purpose

her
years

were given, her powers and faculties designed, and what was to be the ultimate issue of the whole, was not an object of consideration, much less of action or pursuit. What wonder if Hester found no sufficient interest in existence, no remedy for the listless void of unoccupied powers and feelings! The purpose of existence and its end cut off, all co-existent beings shut out by the narrow line her selfishness had drawn around her, what a pitiful compass was there left, in which all the powers of mind and feeling were to spend and sate themselves !

I leave the story. There are few, I hope, so unhappy as Hester Eden. Most have multiplied themselves into one or two, or it may be a dozen beings, whom family connexion, or intimate friendship, has identified with themselves, and thus made objects of existence. If these are enough, and while they remain, there is less liability to the feeling we speak of. But let the still small circumference be voided ; let something interfere to deaden the interest, or remove the excitement, and see how quickly it will

come.

Listen for a while. Do the lonely not tell you their hours are a burden to them? Do the bereaved not tell you, they have nothing left to live for? Do the disappointed not tell you they have no object of interest remaining ? Let the selfish and the worldly keep their language. Let those who have been fed upon sensation, famish in despair when the world ceases to supply it. But never let us hear words like these from Christian lips, for it does not become them. The purpose for which being was given of God, must be sufficient to employ that being: if it proves not so, it is because God's purpose and ours are not one. The continuance of being to the child of God, has a purpose also, else would he be taken to his rest: the day's work, for the finishing of which he is detained, must be sufficient for the day's employ; if it is not, it is because we do not choose to do it. Therefore, if it be true that any one has no object of sufficient interest in life, it can only be because they have relinquished the great objects for which they ought to live—the glory of God, the good of their fellow-creatures, and their own preparation for glory; and betaken themselves to one, that is indeed not worth their trouble—the selfish interest of sixty, and it may be much fewer, uncertain years. Every talent, every faculty, and every moment of time we are possessed of, was given us for a definite and destined purpose; and it is only because we have embezzled the intrusted wealth, and devoted it to Self, that we are subject to this want of interest, and insufficiency of motive.

I am not speaking of that languor of disease, the result of physical depression, which makes the hours pass heavily, from incapacity of action. This is quite a different feeling. The suffering then is, that we cannot act; not that we want a stimulus to action, Vol. II.

I

or an object of pursuit. It is a privation of powers we feel the want of, not the burden of powers we know not how to expend. Examine the complaint from the lips of prosperity: what does it mean, but that God has given so much, there is nothing to go after for ourselves; and to heighten the enjoyments, to lessen the sufferings, to aid the incapacity, and supply the deficiencies of others, are not objects of sufficient importance to keep our activities alive? Listen to it in the language of adversity : what does it mean, but that, having selected some object of existence for ourselves, which God has thought proper to withdraw, we determine, in rebelliousness of heart, to seek no other, but to lose, in cold inaction, the powers he has not suffered us to dispose of as we please?

Shall I err, then, if I say, that this feeling, which, wanting a better word, we call Ennui, though often betrayed and complained of where the word is not applied, has no other source than that principle of self, which, in man's corruption, takes place of the principle of righteousness? If this be true, when Divine grace displaces the selfish principle, its offspring, too, should disappear. And again I say neither the word nor the thing becomes one who has been hired and sent into his master's vineyard, at the first hour or the last, to perform the task assigned him; and for the neglect of which, he may have to render a fearful account.

ALMS-GIVING.

I once received a letter from a friend on a subject of sufficient importance to give it a place in these pages: the reader can form an opinion the better when we give the story as it was communicated.

MADAM,
Having frequently been much indebted to you

for the light thrown on the obscurity of my views in many respects, I feel assured you will pardon the liberty I take in requesting, that, when you may find it entirely convenient, you will give me your views, as to the feelings and conduct proper to be observed towards that wretched and troublesome race—the Beggars. In giving you a hasty sketch of my own difficulties respecting them, I merely intend to ask for your advice; and having of late given up the fatiguing desire of every one's opinion, and every one's example, shall abide by your decision, and be much comforted by a well-proved rule, whether to follow the new plan of relieving the beggars, by giving them nothing, or of strictly acting up to the text, “ Turn not away thy face from any poor man.”

For many years I lived in the country ; and here, after much capricious conduct towards the race, relieving or turning off every fresh comer according to the fancied truth or imposture of his predecessor, or to the varying advice of every friend consulted, I at length came to a determination, that for myself it was safer to be weak and mistaken, than to hug

myself in selfishness, and call it“ prudence;" and therefore gave orders that no poor creature should be turned away from a house where every comfort was enjoyed by its inmates; but receive enough in wholesome food to prevent their suffering, during that day, the misery of want, and rebellious cursing of the heart towards those whose lot was made so much to differ from their own. Well, I entertained perhaps about the average proportion of one honest man to ten knaves ; when, leaning one evening, in a musing fit, over the entrance-gate of my little domain, my eye was caught by some large chalk characters on the outside of the gate ; and quitting my station, I read, with some difficulty, “God bless the family in that house; for I was hungry and they gave me to eat ; thirsty, and they gave me to drink.” My heart swelled as I finished this tribute of gratitude, and “never will I forfeit my claim to the prayer of the poor and destitute,” was my fervent ejaculation, as I stood gazing on the illformed characters, and then watched every object that appeared on the road till night closed in ; hoping, for the first time in my life, to discover a beggar. The orderly habits of my gardener soon led to the disappearance of these written thanks on the gate; but they were stamped on my heart, and after this occurrence, as you may suppose, my zeal increased. I turned into a sort of caravansera an out-house near the road, conveniently situated for resting the weary traveller on his way, as well as for facilitating the disappearance of poultry, wood, garden tools, half dried linen and all those miscellaneous valuables generally dispersed about the garden and outhouses of a country residence.

I read no more effusions, and I would rather not (unless much pressed) tell how much I lost in the

« PreviousContinue »