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but what of the future? Ah! it is a land of dreams and full of mysteries. It is still in advance of you. Ere the setting sun you may taste of its sweets or of its ills, of its joys or its griefs. You are constantly pressing Brward and anxious to look into it; but a mysterious curtain shuts from your view all its realities, leaving you in uncertainty and doubt. The present moment is the last that precedes it, and yet for ages to come it will be in advance of you. You are now standing on its borders and constantly threatening to leap over its confines. Its vast treasures of good and evil, although concealed from your view, are partly yours. As your history will be unfolding, Providence will roll them out from behind the mysterious curtain. It may be you will fall heir” to “apples of gold in pictures of silver,” to wealth and happiness, or to shame, disgrace and misery. For aught you know the future may fill your cup with wormwood and gall. But be thou not alarmed at this. Call not in the aid of “the soothsayer,” nor of "the fortune teller." The future is as much hid from their view as from yours by the same mysterious curtain. Look to a higher source, and call in aid of a more substantial nature. Let God be your light and Truth your guide, and you have nothing to fear. Although your way, like Hagar's, lies partly through the wilderness, whose dark shades occasionally fill the soul with a horrid gloom, there shall no evil befall you. If God be your portion, the future cannot fail to pour on your head its richest blessings.
Still, you may be doubtful. The idea of an unending existence, estending into the future with all its hidden realities, fills your bosom with anxious thought. You think of the divine law of human deprarity and of eternal destiny. With these you dare not trifle. They are of vital importance to you. Hence your uneasiness. Nor would we have you otherwise than deeply interested in this direction. No thought can be brought to bear with equal solemnity on the mind with that of unending existence. Around it cluster all the inquiries relative to the immortality of the soul and its eternal state. We think of the past, o? its joys and griefs, its pleasures and pains. We think of the present, of our circumstances and prospects for the future. But here we must stop, unless we would proceed on the ground of coujecture. We know indeed that there are laid up in the future vast treasures of good and evil, but the manner of their distribution is unknown. Hence we again call it a land of darkness and uncertainty. Over the vast territory it occupies are found many “fountains and streams," some of pure and living waters, for the refreshment of weary pilgrims and strangers, and others from which flow (though often in deceitful disguise, to deceive and destroy the young,) poison and death, in all their varied and most horrid forms. No wonder, then, that the soul of the sober thinker becomes awestricken, as he sees himself suspended between the past and the future, on the thread of unending existence. Reader, that is your position. You are just commencing the long journey of your existence. You are inexperienced and limited in your attainments. Probably you are altogether indifferent as to the manner in which you are performing it. Dreams of future happiness and greatness may be fitting over your mind. Anticipation of a glorious future may be indulged in. So long, however, as the present is not improved, all such happiness and great. ness must remain objects of a delusive hope. So long, too, the precious
days and years of the young are passing away in their history, whilst they remain unconscious of their true mission in the world. The vanities of life, the pleasures of the world, and the madness of fashion, occupy their attention almost constantly. Thus many young men and ladies, whom God has favored with fine natural talents, spend their best days. Be not offended then, dear readers of The Guardian, at a stranger who desires to say to you a word in season.
Unending existence!-such is yours. For a moment imagine your. self on the banks of some mighty stream. You look up the stream and down after its rolling waters, but see no end. You commence to move up the stream and continue on until finally you stand at the fountainhead. You retrace your steps down the stream to the starting point. You pass it and move on and on until finally you find yourself on the water's edge of the great ocean. Here your stream rolls its contents into the mighty deep, and you see it no more. Yet its waters continue in the ocean. So with your existence. You may find a starting place by going into the past. But no landing by moving down the stream of the future. You may follow on the stream of the present life until you lose it in the ocean of eternity. Although the inhabitants of time may no longer see you on entering eternity, your existence will continue to flow on. Will you seriously reflect on this fact.
The unending existence on which you have entered is one of constant development. Hence it has also a history. That history shows progress. This progressive history, however slow it advances, will conduct you in the future to an eminence in the development of your intellectual powers, absolutely incredible to all human calculations. In this unending process all your faculties for the accumulation of knowledge will expand, and all your reasoning powers be strengthened. What an inconceivably glorious eminence may not the human soul reach in its future history.
This development of our powers is conditioned on the proper and healthful exercise of the same. The mind, like the body, must have exercise or it will be a mere dwarf. In the case of the body, matter works on matter. In the case of the mind, although it has also to do
its congenial element. The finite contemplates the infinite. The mind may be cultivated by a careful study of the branches usually included in a liberal education, but will find no resting-place on this side the infinite. It is here only that the soul, in the exercise of faith, will find a pure and healthful atmosphere for the development of all its powers. The study of nature will always lead to that which is higher than nature. The material will always end in the spiritual. To exclude therefore from our thoughts the idea of God, and the sphere of spiritual existence and faith, is to throw a serious barrier in the way of that expression and development of our powers of which they are capable and for which they have been designed. The young, therefore, cannot well commit a greater error than to confine their thoughts and studies to things visible only, and not to the invisible also. Divine truth, grasped by the power of faith, which gives that truth a living power and actual existence in the mind, is the most healthful nourishment for the inner man, and best calculated to draw out and develop the moral and mental faculties of the soul. Hence they who cultivate religion in its true form, in connection with their mental culture in the study of the arts and sciences, reach the highest eminence. And, true as this is when applied to this period of life, so true is it also when applied to an unending future. Would we then attain that high degree of moral and mental culture of which we are capable and for which we were designed, we must not confine our powers to the objects of sense only, but must extend them to those of faith also.
Again, this development will assume some particular form. It will be virtuous or vicious, moral or immoral. Whether it will assume the one or the other of these forms will be determined by the principles taken up and digested by the powers of the soul. By a regular process of mental assimilation, these principles give character to the development of our powers. Hence, if in early life we imbibe vicious principles such will also be the character of that development which will follow. This being the fact, it becomes a matter of the greatest importance for the young to guard against all unjust and unholy principles, and to cherish those of a virtuous nature.
The powers of man thus developing will be constantly engaged in some way or other. It is not possible for him, during the hours of wakefulness, to be altogether inactive. Man will be at work, either at the accomplishment of that which is good or that which is evil. He is capable of accomplishing much good or evil, as the case may be, in the short period of a single year. More will be done during a life time, and infinitely more still during that unending existence on which he has entered. Oh! who can form anything like a correct conception of that which he will yet experience and do in the future.
The activity of our powers as thus brought to view, will affect our inward state as well as our outward condition. The latter will be affected by the impressions produced by our actions on our fellow beings in the relations they sustain to us. The former by the relations we sustain to our Creator, and by those which exist between the divine law and human conscience. A course of action, found to be in strict conformity to the divine will and law, cannot fail to secure the favor of God and to produce an inward consciousness of moral rectitude. This is true whether applied in a legal or gospel sense. Hence such a course of conduct, whether in time or eternity, will in every case produce the same effects, namely, true happiness. Directly the contrary will be the result of a vicious, sinful course of conduct. It will incur the displeasure of God and bring into action all the evil passions of which we are capable. Connected with this is a consciousness of guilt, and this con. sciousness of guilt is ever productive in the creation of tormenting fear and misery! Thus an internal wreck is produced. The soul, like the mighty deep, is thrown into constant agitation. Its wild and confused action is continually exposing its own shame and misery. Passion burns. Wreaking vengeance seeks its victim. Envy tortures the soul. Lust craves the forbidden fruit. Covetousness reaches out the hand of fraud and falsehood. Oh! what misery is thus produced and endured in a single day. A petty quarrel, a pouty, fretful spell, a little envy, often embitter for days and weeks our existence. But who can bear the thought of enduring these evils, increasing as they will be in the case
of the impenitent and unbelieving throughout the ages of an unending future.
In the present life we are subject to many changes. By proper exertions and a reformation of life, we may improve our circumstances. From a course of sin and vanity we may turn to righteousness and serious thought. From a state of misery we may be changed to a state of happiness. Such changes indeed frequently take place. In most cases, however, they take place in early life, or before its decline under the pressure of old age. The sooner we turn our attention to wisdom's path the better. “Youth is the time to serve the Lord.” If that period be passed by without a radical change for the better the prospects for future happiness and usefulness can by no means be flattering. Hence that deep anxiety felt by parents and others for the young. They are well aware of the fact that sin opens many enticing ways to the view of the young and inexperienced. They know full well, too, that many a promising youth has been enticed thither, whose steps have been retraced. With them it is an established theory, that if the morning of life be spent in profligacy and sin, the evening of it is most likely to bring with it despondency and despair.
Finally, dear reader, will you once more with me direct your thoughts to the momentous problem of your existence. You look on the past and exclaim, in the language of another, Man is but of yesterday. But I ask you to look into the future! Will he die to-morrow? He may. He may pass away in an hour. Yet shall he live. The separation of soul and body will not destroy the one nor the other. Death will separate them only to be reunited for ever in a more full and complete form of existence. You shall pass through death and the grave, but not cease to exist. Your exit from the present world to that of spirits will leave you in possession of all your mental and spiritual faculties. It will not change your character, whether good or bad, but your state. In that change a state of probation will cease, and that of destiny commence. What will that state of destiny be? It is now hid from your view by that mysterious curtain which hides the future from the present. For this reason you may, like crowds of others, give yourself but little trouble in reference to it. Yet come it will. Its realities will overtake you, it may be, suddenly and unexpectedly. In the midst of life, in a moment you may sink into the arms of death. What will be thy destiny? What your future history? “Whither wilt thou go?”
In mimic glory shine,
Reflect the source divine;
That breathest mortal breath,
And sweeten even death.
THIRTY-FIVE. “THE YEARS OF A MAN'S LIFE ARE THREE SCORE AND TEN."
BY X. P. WILLIS.
Oh, weary heart! thou art half way home!
We stand on life's meridian height, As far from childhood's morning come,
As to the grave's forgetful night. Give Youth and Hope a parting tear
Youth started with us at the prow-
And Reason takes the guidance now:
Who comes with me and Memory on?
Joy's music hushed-Hope's roses gone!
Farewell without a sigh or tear!
To think that love may leave us here?
That sends its thread across the wave,
Steal down a path beyond the grave ! And now, bless God! its golden line
Comes o'er and lights my shadowy way, And shows the dear hand clasped in mine! But, list! what those sweet voices say:
The better land's in sight,
And by its chastening light All Love from Life's midway is driven, Save her whose clasped hand will bring thee on to Heaven,
A SISTER'S LOVE.
Which mildly beams above;
A sister's gentle love!
Than Nature's smile more gay;
Steeped in love's purest ray.
Bequeathed us from above;
A sister's holy love!