Page images
PDF
EPUB

advise the lovers of so much honesty, to make clean the mansion, and put forth no few of its inhabitants, before they venture to set wide the gates, that all may be witness of what is passing within. It

appears to me, young people cannot go forth into the world under a more false impression, than this persuasion, that they owe no courtesy to any but those whom circumstances or preference happen to make their friends. They owe it to every

indivi. dual without exception, who has not forfeited it by offence against them: for every individual is their fellow, and their kindred, and their companion ; in a destiny, of which the beginning, and the purport, and the issue, are the same: and, therefore, each one is a claimant on their sympathy and benevolence. To say that we would do them any kindness in their need, or confer

any

substantial benefit in our power, but refuse to conciliate in our ordinary intercourse, is to offer that which we have not, in excuse for withholding that which we have. Our benevolence may never have an occasion of exercise in substantial benefits: in complacency, kindness, and courtesy, and an accommodating spirit, we may always, and to every one, evince it.

We know that the devoted Christian has something more to say respecting the discountenance that should be given to folly and irreligion; the distinction to be made between those who serve God, and those who serve him not. This distinction must exist in the feelings of all who sincerely love their Lord: but I cannot see in it, an excuse for the cold, repulsive, harsh, unsocial, unconciliating manner, some pious people assume towards those whom they consider less religious than themselves. We are the fellow-criminals, not the judge: whatever be our penitence and hope of pardon, we are here the at

tainted rebels of our sovereign, not the administrators of his justice: and whatever be the present promise of his mercy towards us more than them, his pity takes not its limits from our judgment; and it may be they will enter into the kingdom of heaven before us.

But if still it does not appear that we ought to cultivate habits of kindness, attention, and civility, to all around us; behold, there was one who came into that crowded prison-house, that did not belong to it: its attainted inhabitants were not to his mind: there was no spirit there congenial to his nature, or fitted to hold communion with him. Their ways, were not as his ways; nor their feelings as his feelings. Day by day their discordant natures jarred on his holy bosom; and their impure pursuits revolted his celestial innocence. Yet He walked courteously in the midst of all, and stood not aloof from any. He wept over their ills, indeed, and he reproved their wrongs; but he kept none at a distance as unworthy his regard: he dwelt with them as a brother and a friend: took interest in their lawful occupations; conformed to their habits, and adapted his benefits and his advice, to the peculiar character and need of each. Is the subject greater than his ruler? Is the servant wiser than his Lord?

POLITENESS.

Politeness is the moral grace of life, if I may venture so to term it: the grace of the mind. What the world accounts graces are little more than the graces of the body.

DR. BROWN.

WALKING one morning by myself—an unfavourable circumstance for a Listener--and in a lonely place, where, though I could not please myself as Rousseau did, with believing the foot of man had never trodden, I certainly could discern no traces of his despoiling hand. A fit of enthusiasm, such as poets, I suppose, are subject to, seized upon my brain in favour of nature's unassisted works: and in most sublime soliloquy, I began to decry the assassinations, committed by man's sacrilegious hand, upon her charms. I compared the briery path I was creeping through with difficulty, to the broad, beaten turnpike; the elegance and simplicity of the wildflowers, half hiding, half showing themselves, upon their beds of green, to the trained, and trimmed, and methodically-planted flowers of the garden: trees, whence no pruner had ever lopped a branch: grass, whence the mower had not filled his scythe, nor the reaper

his bosom: recesses, where for years, the redbreast had returned to rebuild his nest, and found it as he left it. • What a pity it is,” I exclaimed, “ that man should intermeddle with what God has made, and mar the beauties he can never mend! When all that avarice and vanity suggest

has been tried, to torture our parks and gardens into form, are they to be compared to the wild, woody glade, that knows no training but from na. ture's hand, yearly returning to redress her work?” So I thought, and so have poets said and sung for ages past: and so sure was I growing that every thing should be as nature made it, that it is possible I might have gone on to say, as some have said, that rather than clear a wood for building houses and making turnpikes, it would be advisable to live like our forefathers, in the hollows of trees, and reach our habitation over sting-nettles, had I not, in the midst of my soliloquy, egressed from this same wood, and within sight of man's lamented depredations, found myself upon the beach.

It chanced that there was walking there a man who seemed intent on finding something among the pebbles. Often he stooped down to pick them up, and after a little examination, threw them from him. Once only I perceived, that having looked at one with attention, he retained it in his hands.

Why,” said I,“ do you prefer that stone to all the rest?" "Because," he replied, “it is of value, and they are worth nothing." “And yet," I answered, " I see no beauty in that, more than in the others: it is a rough brown stone." “ It is so now, and there is no beauty in it; but there is value: when I have cut and polished it, and set it in a golden rim, its beauty will be acknowledged; and rival purchasers will contend for the possession. Come to my laboratory, and I will show you the richest jewels of the Eastern mine, and you will say they seem but inelegant and worthless stones; see them again upon the brow of royalty, or on the neck of beauty; and you will gaze on them, as nature's most exquisite productions." This was true; but then my solilo

YOL. I.

M

quy was absolutely wasted: for here were nature's most valuable, most inimitable, and probably, most tedious productions, not only improved by art, but owing to it, all their perceptible, though not their real value. The gem was a gem while it lay neglected in the sand; but most would have passed it by unheeded; or, finding, have rejected it as of little value; and even when the worth was ascertained, we doubt much if any lady would be ambitious to string the unpolished jewels for her bosom, or bind them in her hair.

There are things besides stones, that, valuable in themselves, need the factitious aid of ornament to make them lovely. All the polish in the world, it is true, would not make of the worthless stone a dia. mond; and whoever knew the value, would take the gem without it, and reject the other in its richest brilliancy: but the rich jewel must be set and polished, before its beauty is perceived; or with the unskilful, the glittering paste may be preferred before it. Is not this a truth too much forgotten by some who think it enough to be good, without remembering to be agreeable? With some parents, who, while they store the minds of their children with knowledge, and lead them forward in the paths of truth, fearful, perhaps, of fostering vanity, or overlooking the importance of recommending by exterior beauty the interior worth, totally neglect their manners, habits, and appearance? Is it not so with some young persons, who, earnestly desiring to please God, and loving their fellow-creatures for his sake, do yet misjudgingly despise, or carelessly neglect, those trifles that, trifles as they are, make all the difference between an agreeable and a disagreeable woman; and though they affect not the moral or religious worth, will make that worth the more or

« PreviousContinue »