Page images
PDF
EPUB

in moral loveliness, will be attainted by its unhallowed touch.

Early let us go to our garden, and look if the small germ be there; and every morning return to see if it be coming up. And mark well the manner of its growth. It does not come at once, a bold and mischievous falsehood. Being in society, we hear something that hurts or offends us; desiring that another should share our indignation or redress our wrong, we add to it, perhaps, no more but an aggravative tone. It is but wounded feeling, or just abhorrence of sin. True-but it is falsehood. Walking by the way-side, we meet objects of distress; anxious to interest others for their sake, we exaggerate the picture of suffering, or conceal its alleviation. Our motive is but benevolence. True—but it is falsehood. We have been witness to some incident, or listened to some recital: a very little embellishment will make it highly marvellous, and excite interest or afford amusement; no one can be harmed by it. True-but it is still falsehood. Well, the weed is fair and green: shall we let it grow on another day? We have committed some fault—if we confess it, we shame ourselves for ever, and sink in the esteem of those we love.. " A falsehood for this time will conceal it, and we will do the wrong no more. True-but another sin, and probably a greater, is added to the first, and He who knows all is left out of the account.

Being innocent, it may be we have been wronged, or we have been the unwilling occasion of wrong; by a falsehood, mischief may be prevented: with no other defence in our power, we may surely prevent crime, and secure ourselves from injury. But this is no more than to choose to ourselves the culprit's part, and being innocent, voluntarily to claim

cere.

guilt on our behalf. It is better to suffer innocent, than guilty to escape. We are perhaps brought unawares into a situation in which, if the truth be not denied, we shall seem unkind, ungrateful, insin

We know that we are not so, though appearances are against us; falsehood may seem here but the servant of truth-we use it only to prevent mistake. Methinks our fatal weed is growing now apace. That which at first seemed the handmaid of generous feeling, hath passed over to the service of self--not yet, it is true, to serve any evil propensity, or indulge any culpable desire. It seems but a fair background to set off our flowers. Let it grow on.

Hard service truly has that propensity which once is enlisted to wait on the selfish interests of man. Envy, jealousy and emulation, anger, resentment and revenge, ambition, vanity, and pride; all these make a part of human selfishness, and claim to be served in their turn. The weapon is in a hand well practised to its use. When better feeling predominates, the use of it seems to be for good. But when passion surprises us, can the well-practised hand forbear the ready weapon ? Envy can, by a word of falsehood, bear down its proud superior; emulation can, by a falsehood, pass over the head of its rival; revenge can sate itself, anger can safely spend itself, in falsehood; pride, and vanity, and ambition, may be served by it. And thus we have the weed full grown. We may use it oftener or seldomer, as the temptation arises, or as passion impels; but that we shall use it when occasion urges, is not doubtful. And who now can tell the deformity of the weed we have spared? It may misrepresent the most pure intention; it may blight the fairest character; it may attaint the holiest mind; bring

ridicule on the most sacred truths; betray the most generous trust; destroy all confidence and honest intercourse in society; and provoke and insult that high, holy, and omniscient Being, whom nothing can deceive, and who will bear with no deception.

Faintly we have sketched the mischiefs, and faintly described the manner of the growth. We have given some examples, but they are a few among a thousand. We warn you of the danger of the first departure from truth; of the playful brandishing of so dangerous a weapon. Thus much, at least, must be acknowledged-falsehood is sin—sin can never be a trifle or a jest.

FEARS.

The butler desired me, with a very grave face, not to venture myself in it after sunset, for that one of the footmen had been almost frightened out of his wits by a spirit that appeared to him in the shape of a black horse without a head-to which he added, that about a month ago, one of the maids coming home late that way with a pail of milk upon her head, heard such a rustling in the bushes that she let it fall.

ADDISON.

It was my misfortune once to visit a family of people, very excellent, and very amiable, and for any thing I desire to say to the contrary, very wise in things of moment. Besides the mother, there were several young people of different ages, reaching from infancy almost to womanhood, all happy, and all obliging-except when they happened to be assailed with what they were pleased to call fear: but as fear has always respect to danger, fancied, real, or possible, I should prefer to find some other name for it, because I can prove that it existed where danger was not possible, nor even by themselves apprehended. What influence these attacks had upon their own happiness it is hard to judge, because some people find their enjoyment in the miseries they create for themselves: but they made woful inroads on the enjoyments of others; and for compliance, good humour, and good breeding, poor chance, indeed, had they to stand against the influence of these vehement emotions.

Though the hour was late, I had scarcely laid

myself down to rest on the night of my arrival, ere I was roused by the buzzing of voices, and the sound of soft, stolen footsteps in the adjoining gallery. The young ladies had been disturbed by extraordinary sounds, or such at least as would have been extraordinary, had not the hearing of them recurred every other night. One was afraid to go to bed, and another was afraid to get up; one could not come into her room, and another could not come out of it. Some thought they heard, and others were sure they heard—but nobody knew what. Nor was it easy to perceive the purport and end of the commotion; for no one made any attempt to ascertain the real ground of alarm: probably because they knew not where to look for it-or more likely because they were too much used to their own fears to expect to find any ground for them. And so, after much listening, and starting, and whispering, they were pleased at last to go to rest, and generously allowed me to do the same.

I ventured in the morning to suggest, that the indulgence of unreasonable fears was not the evidence of a strong mind, and did in itself much tend to weaken it: that in the presence of real danger it unfits us for exertion, and in the absence of it, costs us as much suffering, as the evil itself might do. I was answered by stories manifold and various of things that had been, and things that might be; and the absolute certainty they still retained of having heard noises, though not one in their morning senses really supposed there had been any thing to make the noise.

Willing to close a conversation I thought so little improving, I proposed to two of the younger girls to walk with me in the adjoining grounds. It was agreed to with pleasure; they were polite, cheerful, v

« PreviousContinue »