« PrécédentContinuer »
Trifles form the sum of human things,
If we listen to the voice of experience speaking, whether through the organ of those high and brave spirits, who contemplate the connection of our sorrows and joys, seen in a long course from the hill-top of contemplation and wisdom, or changing the conduit of our instruction, we choose to derive our information from a near but humble spring, even the testimony and ocular demonstration of our own private views of life in all its passing and ever-changing varieties and translations, we shall find, to our mortification and sorrow, that the highest promises of fortune are hollow, and that man was made to mourn, even when sitting on the heap of accumulations abundant. That misery is universal, I affirm not; that the picture has not been overcharged by some moral paint
ers, more willing to produce a tragic impression, than to copy the lines of simple verity, and the colors of real life, I most gladly concede. In youth we are full of expectations, hopes, promises, false surmises, imaginations as one would, borrowing from the future to be paid with the usury of tasksome experience; we imagine our painted skiff is taking us to the golden mountains of Plutus, and preparing for us the myrrhine cups of Setine and Falernian wine, to be quaffed in never coming satiety; whenas the black streams of heart-sore vanity, and disappointed ambition, are bearing us to the sterile wastes of dear bought knowledge, where not a reed is found to whistle in the wind.
Yet concerning the miseries of man, arising like the waves of the sea after a tempestuous east wind, I find our learned doctors on these themes, are divided into two sections or parties, whereof it may become our subject to discourse a little. Learned Cicero informs, in that tractate wherein he discourses of the miseries of old age, to be borne by the few who survive the accidents of sicknesses, of youth and middle life, that, all its evils, lightened by wisdom, are to be carried with an equal mind. He draws altogether a pleasant and joyous picture of human life; reconciling us to our being by the dictates of philosophy, and vindicating the order of nature, which is regulated by Providence, from the aspersions which malignant foolishness casteth thereon. It is grievous to
remember, that these comfortable conclusions are contravened by men claiming to be Christians, whose sour dispositions overshadow all the seeds of grace. The pagan blancheth the image of life; the Christian covers it with mud and weeds, rotted by the perverted rain.
Human life, to him looking thereon with unbiased heart and clarified disposition, is like a spring, which is beautiful or otherwise as you use it. It is silver and sweet, if suffered to flow in its own purity; if no beast dippeth the foot in its surface to disturb its bottom; no boar out of the wood, defileth its waters; if no branch, swung by the tempest, stirreth up its sediment, or breaks the purity of its glassy surface. But loathsome and foul, and vaporous and unhealthy will the very air of heaven become around it, oppressing the source of life and offending the very nostrils of those that breathe therein will it be, if one, changing its nature, turn it from a spring to a bog.
He is but a youngling in life, who does not perceive that our sharpest sorrows arise from vanity, sore with scores of wounds. It is our bleeding pride, that makes us miserable; our soiled plumes, our cropped feathers, our torn ribbons, our blotted escutcheons, our starved ambition. Great sorrows are often the ill-starred progeny of little things. The head of the Nile, is a puddle in Abyssinia; and of the Amazon, a mountain stream. The tears of man and woman also, may stream over an onion as well as at the
funeral of a child.
The host of our sorrows become more sorrowful yet, and magnified, because we deem ourselves bound to bury them in a discreet silence.
By some, whose blockish minds hardly penetrate from the altitude of the tree that blossoms in the air to the secret depth of the root which supports it below, it is misaffirmed, that humility, our enjoined guide through the paths and perils of mistrustful life, is a cruel step-dame, which leads us only to the delvedout valley, cold, rocky, mountain-bound, and sun-forsaken, where the snows of winter fall early and last long, and where scarce a blessed flower is seen to grow. Foolish souls! They see not the high wisdom of Providence, who, in commanding man his duty, consulted his peace. If pride wounds, humility heals; if pride leads us to the rock's brow only to cast us down and rejoice in our fall, humility comes like a pitiful matron, takes us up, pities us in our low estate, bandages our broken limbs, and closes our galling wounds, by stanching the blood, and pouring in from her bountiful horn, the rills of wine and oil. Humility is like a sprig of evergreen, which grows in the nook of the rock on the southern side of a spreading ridge, never shaken by the east wind, never nipt by winter, though they vex the oak or strip it of all its honors, when most lofty and green.
But what is humility? Ay, there you falter; there your conscience takes the bribe. You can see every man's pride but your own; you also admire humility
in all action except when it comes to trim and prune your own life. Then, you question; then, you doubt and founder; then, you fill your heart with false visions, and your lips with idle excuses. Self-honesty, is of all blessings most rare. Take the book of personal experience, read over the thick-written pages of your personal beauty or deformity; of your poverty or wealth, and how you have gotten it; your actions and their motives; your omissions and excuses therefor; your hours of amusement and sleep; your daily slumbers, and your midnight vigils; your faults of tempers, and merits by blindness allowed; your tenor of life as a father, husband, brother, or son; as a citizen, neighbor, or private man; your secret thoughts, and careless speeches; your aspirings and fallings; your hopes and purposes; your plans and the execution of them; your sins, budding or blown, to God, to man and yourself;-read over these, I say, with a watchful eye, and a remembering bosom, even to the last page and appendix of the volume; read them with acknowledged sorrow and purposed amendment; and half the evils of life will be lost-half! nay, all will be softened-and thou shall dwell amidst sublunary tribulations, as it were the next door to heaven!
Blessed be the hour when one heart at least discovered this comfortable truth! Blessed the hour, which showed the at-first-painful light, coming increased and reflected, from the bleeding tree of sal