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sinful emotion, will remain upon the conscience; and, unless mercy blot it thence, on Heaven's eternal records.
NOTE. It has often been a question of vital importance to the interest and happiness of the youth of our country, whether, in the work of education, the spirit of emulation should be so strongly appealed to as an incentive to exertion; and whether the mere desire of excelling ought to be encouraged ?
The subject is about to be better understood, and to receive from the most enlightened friends of early instruction, that consideration which its high importance justly claims.
It has been well remarked, that the excitement produced by competition, may be as transient as it is strong; that it has a tendency to exhaust the powers, and reduce the mind to lassitude and despondency. Artificial stimulants are the natural antecedents of languor and debility. Competition, the necessary offspring of emulation, rather impedes, than promotes the progress of the mind toward the highest attainments, and sets up but a low standard for exertion. To rise above the mark which a rival has attained is its object. If this object is secured, the mind is given up to indolence; if not, it is reduced to discouragement. Surely with an eye upon a higher standard, furnished by unerring wisdom and perfect excellence, these disastrous results might be avoided ; larger attainments might be made, and a constant, he ful enlargement of the faculties, might be secured. But mark the effect of emulation on the moral character. Who can deny that it is a fruitful source of jealousy; that it generally inflates the successful aspirant with pride, and fills his disappointed rival with envy?
How is the reward of successful competition in this matter consistent with evangelical morality? How can it be consistent with those Christian principles which forbid the “ seeking of the honour that cometh from man," and of comparing ourselves among ourselves; or with those Christian injunctions, which bind us to “ love our neighbours as ourselves," and " in honour to prefer one another?" And shall the moral character of our youth be marred, and their eternal happiness be hazarded for the sake of a doubtful intellectual auxiliary?
One day, I suppose my readers do not exactly care what day, or what sort of a day, or at what hour, or whether in spring or autumn, in sunshine or in clouds. So it was one day, I had been walking a considerable distance through lanes where nature, unchecked by any interference on the part of man, brought forth together, in boundless luxuriance, her bitters and her sweets. The poisonous Nightshade twined her branches round the honied Woodbine. The Bindweed laid its head of pure and spotless white on the hard bosom of a neighbouring Thorn. The Thistle and the Hairbel grew side by side. It was with difficulty, in some places, I had made my way through the midst of them; and sometimes the Brambles caught my dress, and sometimes I set my foot upon a Thistle: and when I attempted to gather a flower, the thorns pricked, and the nettles stung me. But I do not remember that I felt any surprise, or any sort of resentment, that they did so. I neither wondered they should grow there, nor desired that they should be rooted out. I cannot recollect, indeed, that I had any thoughts upon the subject: it was so natural they
should be there, and being there, that they should do what they did. All seemed too much of course to claim any observation.
Leaving these wild paths, I entered by a gateway into grounds that, though scarcely extensive enough to claim the title of a park, were yet approaching to it in character, very beautiful, and of no inconsiderable extent. Though the house was not in sight, no one could doubt it was the appendage of some goodly mansion, on which the owner expended constant attention, and which it pleased him to adorn and beautify. The magnificent trees, branching even to the ground, showed the care with which they had been protected from the browzing of the cattle. The flowering shrubs told by their sunny looks that they or their forefathers had been bred in something less than fifty-two degrees of latitude.* A slender Leveret stole fleetly over the turf, scarcely bending under its steps; and a Squirrel, that looked as if he had been just combed and dressed, was leaping among the trees. But the Cur that should enter there was doomed to death, by notice written upon a board; and his owner too, unless the spring-guns could distinguish between the honest man and the thief. And now my path was broad and straight, and beaten very hard; having no more to force my road through narrow ways
and paths uncertain, I began to walk freely and carelessly. Occupied with the altered beauty of the scene around me, I did not look where I was treading. Nature was not displaced by art, for she was here in all her splendour, in the full-dress garb with which taste, and industry, and wealth, had clothed her, yet decked in no other beauties than her own.
* The latitude of that part of England which is the scene of this story.
My mind became occupied with admiring, that He, who had made a world so beautiful that nothing could be wanting to it, had yet left to its inhabitants the means of improving it, and adding to its charms: for doubtless, even in Eden, it was the business of man to train and beautify what nature made. And now that it has become his harder task to humour the unwilling soil, and provide against a capricious climate, a mass of the most exquisite materials remain to him, and his toil and care are repaid by every combination of beauty, which taste can sug. gest, and skill accomplish. While I was thinking all this--one may think a great many wise things in less time than one can say them-and not regarding where I walked, I set my foot upon some low thistles, negligently left upon the path, and while it tingled from their thorns, felt very much inclined to upbraid the thistles that grew where thistles should not; and the gardener that did not dig them up, and the master that did not keep a better gardener. But why did that excite surprise, and almost indignation here, which a short time before did not awaken so much as a reflection?
The world is a wide wilderness. Things good and excellent are strangely mixed in it with corruptions the vilest and the basest. The most enormous crimes crowd round and stifle the most generous feelings. Natural virtues, the broken outlines of that image once impressed upon the heart of man; now indistinct, and faint, and almost gone, are found in such base company, it is true, of nations as of individuals, that on the most brilliant character, is marked the foulest spots. We have but to read the bistory of men in their natural state, to learn that this has been so: we have but to study the lives and characters of persons, under no other in
fluence than that of natural feeling, to be assured it is so still. But in this wilderness there is a garden, which he who made it surely takes pleasure in. He has fenced it round, he has gathered out the stones from it, he has planted it with the choicest vines.
Separated from an idolatrous, self-adoring world, drawn round, as it were, with the compass of his most holy word, as far as the light of truth has in its spirit reached, the Redeemer has appropriated to himself a people under the appellation of Christians, to worship him, and love him, and, as far as in their weak humanity they can, to follow in his footsteps. He has left this fair garden under no ordinary culture. He knows that the soil he made it from is ever what it was, disposed to bear the brier and the thorn, that choke the goodly produce of his care. But what could have been done more for it, that he has not done? The midday of Gospel truth shines on it; the most holy precepts, and most sanctifying doctrines, are shown forth in it. Like the light dews of the morning that fall, we see not whence, the Holy Spirit sheds its influence on the heart. The sweetest hopes and richest promises are whispered abroad for our encouragement. The result is, in some respects, what we might expect it to be. It is true that sin springs up every hour in the corrupted bosom, but it is not left to flourish there unchecked. A purer morality takes place of nature's blindness; a stronger principle comes in aid of nature's weakness. Have we not reason then to be more startled, and more concerned, if, in walking through this cultured ground, we meet with wrongs that should not flourish there? Is it there we must be cautious of the thistles and the briers that prick and entangle us at every step; and walk as insecurely as among those who know no better guide than their own perverted will ?