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AN INTENSE ADMIRER OF NATURE.
passionately fond of the scenes of nature, and perhaps on this account God was pleased to make them the first means of enlightening and impressing my dark and careless spirit. The verdant fields, the luxuriant landscape, and the shadowing grove, have ever had charms for my mind, which I cannot better express than in the language of the poet : 'And steals with resistless witchery the soul.' Indeed I have ever been one of the most devoted worshippers in the great temple of Nature, and many a time do I remember when my feelings have been harrowed by long contact with the iron spirit of the world, I have found peace in the silent streets which surround the ancient city of York. The torrent of passion has been stemmed, the throbbings of the sensitive spirit have ceased, the irritation of wounded pride and the pang of disappointed hope have been soothed by the soft beauties of nature and the sublime serenity of an evening sky.
"It was to indulge my favourite propensities that one beautiful Sabbath evening I issued from the narrow streets and confined atmosphere of a crowded city. It was near the hour of evening worship, and multitudes were flocking to the house of God. I confess I could not but envy these people as they pressed with cheerful eagerness to their respective sanctuaries. Although the temple of God had not sufficient charms to attract my wayward feet, I felt convinced, and the conviction sunk like lead into my soul, that these people, in many instances at least, were in possession of that unknown happiness after which I had so long but vainly panted. And although my abominable pride tempted me to despise their weakness, I almost wished an exchange of circumstances. I remember, as I passed by the church of an eminent minister, to have been peculiarly attracted with the singing of the commencing hymn of evening worship."
"You will imagine perhaps," the letter proceeds, "that
I was suddenly rescued from this state of awful recklessness. Such, however, was not the case. If ever any one's conversion was gradual, mine was. One day, through the conversation of a pious young man, I was led to read 'Watts on the Mind.' It deeply interested me, and although it produced no religious impression I began to see that the investigation of truth must be a source of the most exalted pleasure. I had previously read history, dramas, and works of fiction: now I applied myself to philosophy. Bacon and Locke were my favourite authors, and I found myself in a new world. My study of these books produced a seriousness of disposition, and I soon made a practice of regularly attending church. My conduct was also much reformed, and by some might be thought religious. My heart, alas, was unchanged. Although my former sins had lost their charm, and the gay dreams in which my fancy had revelled were vanished, my condition was as dangerous as ever. My sin was now of a more subtle and intellectual character. My mind was often startled by doubts. I believe that what was chiefly instrumental in preserving me from scepticism, was the remembrance of counsels and principles instilled into my mind by maternal love. Whenever it was suggested that religion was a farce, a dream of enthusiasm, there rose up in memory, in opposition to this horrid thought, a mother's counsel-a mother's conduct-a mother's prayers. O that I could give you an adequate idea of the resistless energy of female influence! There was something in my mother's conduct which convinced me that religion must be a reality. Amid all my doubts that conviction haunted me. It mingled with all the operations of my judgment. I could not rid myself of it.
"I remember, one beautiful evening, taking a walk into the country. It was in the month of July, when nature had arrayed herself in her richest robe. I was sauntering
A MEMORABLE SCENE.
along one of my favourite retreats, musing on the mysterious nature of my existence and destiny, when I came to the gate of a luxuriant corn-field. The scene was most lovely. The field was surrounded by oak trees of the largest growth. A sacred silence reigned. It appeared as if nature were rendering her evening devotions to her great Creator. A slight breeze might now and then be seen gently waving the corn, and heard faintly rustling amid the dusky foliage. The departing sun, by his tremulous and evanescent rays, imparted that peculiar lustre which gives to objects an unearthly tinge. For some time I gazed in silence; then, with the rapidity of lightning, an idea shot across my mind which transfixed me. Although I retain a vivid remembrance of it, I despair of ever describing it. It was suggested by the prospect before me. It seemed as if the beauties of nature had become suddenly personified. I could not help exclaiming: How beautiful! Scarcely had that idea crossed my mind, when it reverted to the great Author of the scene. And if this be an emanation from that great and glorious Being, murmured I to myself, how beautiful, how glorious must be His nature! Immediately the idea of His presence recurred to me. The conviction that He was actually there flashed upon my mind. I can give you no conception of my feelings at that moment. I felt His eye was upon me, that I was the object of His scrutinizing gaze, that I was surrounded by God. Every sensibility of my soul trembled and quivered with emotion; the whole of my past history rose before me, written in characters of fire. If ever I knew what the word shame meant, it was at that moment. I felt that my whole life had been a series of provocations and insults to the greatest and best of Beings. I would have given a world if the thread of my existence could have been wound back. I felt that my polluted and deformed spirit was brought into contact with infinite purity and beauty.
This state of mind continued for some time. At length these emotions subsided, and I returned home determined to commence a new life.-But I feel exhausted with writing. I shall leave the remainder until another day."
Three or four suggestions are furnished by this sketch which claim brief consideration. One relates to parents. The circumstances and habits of a youth, no less than his tastes, should be regarded in determining his vocation and place of residence. His transfer from a hamlet to a city is fraught with peril. Rarely should a youth become resident in a large town who is ignorant of its dangers. Inconsiderateness on this point has occasioned many a domestic pang.
The importance of parents possessing true religion is prominently exhibited in this document. Who will undertake to tell us what a different history John Hessel's would have been, what a different destiny would probably have awaited him, had he had a prayerless mother! Should not his touching exclamation ring in the ears of every young woman, "O that I could give you an resistless energy of female influence !" can you give to a profligate son who mainly upon your irreligious training?
adequate idea of the Parents what reply charges his vices
And take encouragement, ye pious parents who have to grieve over a wayward son. You see how difficult it is for a youth to break entirely away from the meshes fabricated by a parent's prayers. And the more earnest the prayers the stronger the meshes. Hope on, hope ever. Read an instance more encouraging than even John Hessel supplies. "The Rev. Daniel A. Clark was blessed from earliest years with the prayers and instructions of an eminently pious mother. The youth was rebellious and headstrong, and hated the restraint she imposed. He wished to indulge in his favourite amusements, particularly that of dancing, of which he was very fond. She, however, was
ADMONITIONS TO YOUNG MEN.
inexorable in her prohibition. He would get away by stealth, and engage in it with the merry company, and then go home to suffer all the agonies of remorse. After one of these seasons of stolen indulgence he says: 'I felt a part of hell in my bosom. I could not sleep. My whole system was so agitated that at length the bedstead shook. I began to think that God would bear with me no longer, and was about to cut me off in my sins.' He was often in like distress, and it was his mother's counsels and prayers that kept him in this trouble while he persisted in sin. At length those prayers were answered, and the rebellious youth became one of the most powerful preachers in America." Fathers and mothers, pray on, and on, and on.
Another suggestion relates to young men. A warning voice against theatre-going reaches you from the history of John Hessel. Is pleasure, however intense, to be purchased at the price of misappropriated time, misspent money, and immense risk to your moral principles and habits? Be persuaded to seek the more elevated pleasures which intelligent intercourse and instructive books afford. He regretted visiting the theatre; did he ever regret abandoning it? Do you know one who did?
Do not however indulge your love for reading to an unseasonable hour. You have his affirmation that by this means "he debilitated a constitution, strong and healthy." You make a bad bargain in bartering health for knowledge. The learned Dr. Owen has furnished testimony on this point. He declared that he would gladly surrender all the acquirements he had made after ten at night, could he have the health he had sacrificed by late study. Shall the experience of ten thousand sufferers be no warning to us? Depend upon it you cannot preserve health otherwise than by observing the requirements of your physical nature. Late rest is unnatural rest.