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WHAT DOES IT MEAN?.

BY REV. ALPRED NEVIN.

The geologist, as he bores and drills the earth, is able from the different strata and deposites which he discovers, to ascertain not only its past and present condition but its original intent. So, too, an individual, by examining old title-deeds, may sometimes learn enough about the elevation and dignity of his ancestry to show him that he is, in his ignorance and vice, living unworthily of those of the same blood who have preceded him in the journey of life, and to stimulate him to attempted imitation of their virtues.

It is strange how language conveys important truths from age to age. A single word will become the vehicle of a thought, and send it down from generation to generation, with a life-power in it which makes it work as it passes on through the mass of humanity. Take the word man as an example. It is fuil of significance. It follows the race in all its wanderings, as an antiquated coin, which is often buried but never loses its “superscription," and is at once denotive of our origin and our destiny. Man!--the very mention of the name wakes up unnumbered echoes in support of the grand ideas which are lodged in it, and points us to the most diversified and convincing proofs of the verity and forcefulness of its import. It says to us, and it says it in more senses than one

“Thou hast a noble guest, О flesh !" Man, in Hebrew, to which the term is possibly indebted for its earliest origin, occurs under the form maneh-a verb directly importing to "discern or discriminate,' and which, hence, signifies, as a noun, “a discerning or discriminating being. In that very ancient language, the Sanscrit, the word has both these senses in the directest possible manner. So, too, in Greek, men and menas signify mind, or “the thinking fac. ulty'_ the latter of which terms, being contracted, is mens, which, in the Latin language, imports the very same thing. Not to multiply instances, we only add that, in the Gothic, and all the northern dialects of Europe, man imports the very same idea as in our own tongue, the English indeed having descended from the same quarter."

Thus you see, intellect is one of our marvellous endowments. It is an essential part of our constitution. It is a gift from God. “The inspiration of the Almighty hath given us understanding." What a wonderful donation is it! Who shall guage its capacity; who shall measure its susceptibility of expansion and improvement? How much would Newton and Bacon have known by this time, if they had lived on, thinking, and observing, and exploring as they did, when dwelling in “the earthly house of this tabernacle?" If any one chooses to ignore his pre-eminence over all sublunary creatures, or if he wishes to unman himself, he can easily do so. The road to such a result is such that "a fool need not err therein.” Let him neglect his mind, and he shall most

1856.]

What Does it Mean?

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certainly shrink from approximation to the angels above him, and sink to a sad nearness and likeness to the animals beneath him. Let him be satisfied to be as the beaver that is content with building its hut, and the bee that is content with constructing its hive and its comb, and the ox that seeks for nothing beyond abundance and variety of herbageinstead of developing as he ought the principle which qualifies him to reason, to combine, to acquire, to compare, to judge, to measure the stars in their distances and mutual relations, to weigh the globe, to know and master the forces of nature, to unfold the teeming wonders of creation, to search into Truth-physical, mathematical and moral, in its various phases and forms, and to rise

“ Through Nature up to Nature's God," and his wish will be gratified. His name will, in effect, he withdrawn from the list of men. His genus will be changed though his species may be hard to determine.

What does the word mankindmean? Is it a term which indicates merely the race of human beings? By no means. It signifies that men are "kinned_that is, of kin; that they are of common origin, and are united by common ties, which nothing but unnatural violence can sever. Every time we use this word, we “declare our faith in the one common descent of the whole race of man, and in making this declaration, we make it with an acknowledgment of kind feelings, dispositions, sympathies, and deeds due from us to our brethren.” Of a like import is our adjective humane, which comes from the Latin root humanus. Both words signify “having the feelings and dispositions proper to man-having tenderness, compassion, and a disposition to treat others with kindness, particularly in relieving them when in distress, or in captivity-when they are helpless or defenseless-kind, benevolent."

Thus is it shown that we are not separate, solitary, isolated beings, but "members one of another.” We are not to be selfish and snappish. We are to look not only upon our own things, but also upon the things of others. We are to exert our influence, whatever it may be, to cheer, and comfort, and elevate our fellow beings. We are not to act like the snail, which shuts itself up in its own shell, but to be as the sun which shines, and the dew that falls, and the winds that blow, and the flowers that bloom, not for themselves but for others. The following sentiment can be seen from several points of view :

“That man may breathe, but never lives,
Who much receives, but nothing gives,
Whom none can bless, whom none can thank,
Creation's blot, creation's blank.”

Some, in human form, have for their maxim: "I am not my brother's keeper." You can see it written on their foreheads, and the palms of their hands, and upon the cold smile of self-gratulation which a contrast of their favored circumstances with those of the children of wretchedness and sorrow generates, instead of melting their hearts to deeds of generous sympathy and pity. God, in his mercy, save me from such iceberg coldness! I would not thus feel myself a broken and dissevered thing; I would not thus make Ego my idol; I would not thus breathe the same

atmosphere with the first fratricide who purpled the green fields with a brother's blood, and attempted to conceal his guilt by the plea which at once showed that selfishness—the poison of our nature—had not only prompted the horrid deed, but also been strengthened by it.

If we turn to man's religious nature, we find it attested by such words as religo (Latin,) which signifies to bind back, or anew, referring to those ties which originally bound man to God and to humanity; and anthropos (Greek,) which means turning the countenance upuardsreferring, doubtless, to our recollection of heaven as our original and proper home. Religion is the more probable specifying difference of man from all other creatures than Reason. Cicero says, that “if a person travel the world, it is possible to find cities without walls, without letters, without kings, without wealth, without coin, without schools and theatres; but a city without a temple, or that useth no worship, prayers, &c., no one ever saw.” Another philosopher says: “I judge invocation of God, with hope towards him, to be, if we will speak the truth, the only genuine property of man;" and he adds, “only he who is acted by such a hope is a man, and he that is destitute of this hope is no manó” preferring this account to the common definition (which he says is only of the concrete man,) "that lie is a reasonable and mortal living creature." Another remarks, “that upon accurate search, religion and faith appear the only ultimate difference of man, whereof neither Divine perception is capable nor brutal imperfection.” This last author gives us the middle position between the incorporeal intelligence above us, and the animal creation below us, which furnished the poet his ground-work for that striking and truthful delineation

“How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
How complicate, how wonderful is man!
How passing wonder He who made him such,
Who mingled in our make such strange extremes
Of different natures, marvellously mixed !
Helpless immortal! insect infinite,

A worm, a god—I tremble at myself !” Let the truth thus presented be well pondered. It ought to be. Religion is not to us an exotic, but an indigenous plant. It is natural to us, and we cannot renounce it without running into monstrosity. I do not say, understand me, that the religion of the Bible is natural to us—that is, Christianity. But I affirm that our nature is religious in its tendencies and demands, and christianity, which God in answer to prayer will make to us a personal and practical interest is the only truth that meets our case. If embraced by a cordial faith, it will save us in both worlds. “A christian is the highest style of man."

TO THE MOON.

ART thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,

Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever-changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

1856.]

Satanic Literature.

SATANIC LITERATURE.

The authors of our polite literature, for the most part, do not assume an attitude of avowed hostility to the gospel. Were they decided infidels, their deviations from the christian standard would at least be consistent with their character. But a more pernicious policy is pursued by those who admit the divine authority of the christian system; but who practically disregard its inspired cummunications, while they advance sentiments alien and even hostile to its spirit, without seeming to be conscious of such startling inconsistency. An enlightened christian judgment must, however, demand, as an indispensable condition of its approval of any production of genius, calculated to influence the tastes and feelings of mankind, the most exact comformity to the spirit and sentiments of the christian religion. How large a proportion of the elegant literature, circulated and read in our own land, must excite painful emotions and melancholy anticipations in the mind of a sincere believer in the religion of Christ !

There is a class of works, not only anti-Christian, but openly and daringly immoral in their tendency. These generally assume the form of fiction. Their chief interest consists in the intricacy of the plot or story, conducted through a series of surprising events and startling coincidences. Their grand aim is to patronise crime and pander to lust. The fundamental maxim of their creed is, “the impulse of passion and the force of circumstances justify all actions to which they incline." This general principle pervades this whole class of corrupt literature. Adopting this perverse maxim, these writers proceed to erect a superstructure of fiction for its habitation. They employ their descriptive and inventive powers to paint the workings of passion, in all the glowing ardor of its excitement, associated at the same time with certain generous or chivalrous qualities, that give relief to the picture and fascinate the sympathies of the reader. They describe propitious scenes, and combine the circumstances in the history, so as to form a suitable occasion for the triumph of temptation. The leading characters in such works of fiction, are mostly selected from certain reprobated ranks of society. And instead of representing them as suffering under the providential penalty of their own misdeeds; the attempt is made rather to represent them as objects of commiseration as the victims of passion and the slaves of circumstance. Their passions prompt perpetual outrage on the relations of society, and society, in self-defense, repels such destructive elements. Hence, in the inevitable conflict which ensues, the whole blame of the result is thrown upon the institutions of society. Such superior natures are hampered, harassed, and hurried headlong into reckless violence, by the tame compliances of social life! They sin and they suffer because they are oppressed! In this literature of lust and license, we Accordingly find, that almost every social virtue is, in its turn, traduced and villified, in order to vindicate the opposite vice. The tenderest ties of nature—the most sacred relations of human life, are reproached and dishonored, in order to extenuate the lawless passions by which they are assailed. Virgin chastity and conjugal fidelity are stigmatised in order to redeem from merited disgrace the crimes of the prostitute and the adulteress. The violation of marriage vows is justified by describing the dreary and desolate doom of some fair victim, sacrificed by parental authority, or the more indefinite tyranny of circumstances, on the hymeneal altar-joined in law, but not in heart, to some uncongenial and irksome companion; inhabiting a cold and cheerless home; pining and drooping in the loneliness of despair; until at length some more fascinating lover breaks like sunlight upon the scene; dispels the shadows from her heart, and illuminates her whole being with the glow of a new life. Then follow a series of stolen interviews the secret compact and the final elopement. Again, perhaps, the guilt of the painted prostitute is palliated and excused by describing the captivating person and seducing arts of some faithless lover, who ensnares and then betrays the affections of his confiding victim. The different stages in the process of beguilement are set forth; and when the spell is complete the hour, the scene, the persuasion, and the yielding impulse are all vividly portrayed. And after the first fatal step has been taken, the victim of shame is represented as shut out from all return to virtue, by an unjust and unrelenting public sentiment.

But why continue a description of that depraved literature, which perverts the decrees of reason and conscience; which reverses the laws of nature and Providence; which exalts licentiousness and vice, and degrades virtue and piety; which elevates rogues and ruffians, debauchees and desperadoes above the ruins of disorganized society? It is an honor to our country to state that the literature of this description, circulated in our midst, is almost entirely of foreign production. The greater portion is of French origin. An image of the national character, instead of a model to win our admiration, it should prove a beacon to warn us of danger. Unhappy nation! Blessed with brilliant gifts, but cursed by a wretched destiny! With a bloody history of revolutions in the past the present a scene of trembling suspense, with elements of disorder suppressed but not subdued, overawed into temporary silence by threatening military power—the future, what it shall be, no prophet has dared to predict. Vain, volatile, fluctuating, fantastic and yet gifted people! What oracle can solve the mystery of your career ? What causes can be assigned for the contradictions in your history? Shall they be traced to the peculiar constitutional temperament of the people, as sanguine, excitable and prone to extremes? We find they are composed of common Aesh and blood, and exhibit nothing singular in their physical organization. No, the causes lie deeper than the veins and arteries of the physical frame, veiled in the secret fountains of their moral nature. France, with her heroes, poets and philosophers; with her priests, superstitions and temples; with her arts, palaces and monuments; with all her Babel jargon of “liberty, fraternity and equality;" France is yet a nation of infidels! with all the elements of social life, sensuous, sordid and self-conflicted ; shrouded in earthliness, and shut out from the air and the light of heaven; with no abiding sense of moral obligation; with no elevating, sustaining and satisfying religious faith: long since has her doom een recorded—Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel .!

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