Page images
PDF
EPUB

this phantom so eagerly followed through life! whilst all that is truly valuable to us is looked upon with indifference; or, at best, made subordinate to this darling pursuit!

Equally vain and absurd is every scheme of life that is not subservient to, and does not terminate in, that great end of our being—the attainment of real excellence, and of the favour of God. Whenever this becomes sincerely our object, then will pride and vanity, envy, ambition, covetousness, and every evil passion, lose their power over us; and we shall, in the language of Scripture, " walk humbly with our God." We shall then cease to repine under our natural or accidental disadvantages, and feel dissatisfied only with our moral defects; we shall love and respect all our fellow-creatures; as the children of the same parent, and particularly those who seek to do his will : all our delight will be “ in the saints that are in the earth, and in such as excel in virtue.” We shall wish to cultivate good will, and to promote innocent enjoyment, wherever we are; we shall strive to please, not from vanity, but from benevolence. Töstead of contemplating our own fancied perfections, or even real superiority, with self-complacence, religion will teach us to®“ look into ourselves, and fear:"—the best of us, God knows, have enough to fear, if we honestly search into all the dark recesses of the heart, and bring out every thought and intention fairly to the light, to be tried by the precepts of our pure and holy religion.

It is with the rules of the gospel we must compare ourselves, and not with the world around us; for we know “ that the many are wicked ;” and that we must not be " conformed to the world."

How necessary it is, frequently thus to enter into our. selves, and search out our spirit, will appear, if we consider how much the human heart is prone to insincerity, and how often, from being first led by vanity into attempts to impose upon others, we come at last to impose on ourselves.

There is nothing more common than to see people fall into the most ridiculous mistakes, with regard to their own characters; but such mistakes can by no means be allowed to be unavoidable, and therefore innocent: they arise from voluntary insincerity, and are continued for want of that strict honesty towards ourselves and others, which the Scripture calls "singleness of heart;" and which in modern

language is termed simplicity—the most enchanting of all qualities, esteemed and beloved in proportion to its rareness.

He, who “ requires truth in the inward parts,” will not excuse our self-deception ; for he has commanded us to examine ourselves diligently, and has given us such rules as can never mislead us, if we desire the truth, and are willing to see our faults, in order to correct them. But this is the point in which we are defective; we are desirous to gain our own approbation, as well as that of others, at a cheaper rate than that of being really what we ought to be; and we take pains to persuade ourselves that we are that which we indolently admire and approve.

There is nothing in which this self-deception is more notorious than in what regards sentiment and feeling. Let a vain young woman be told that tenderness and softness is the peculiar charm of the sex—that even their weakness is lovely, and their fears becoming, and you will presently observe her grow so tender as to be ready to weep for a fly; so fearful that she starts at a feather; and so weak hearted, that the smallest accident quite overpowers her. Her fondness and affection becomes fulsome and ridiculous; her compassion grows contemptible weakoess; and her apprehensiveness the most abject cowardice: for, when she quits the direction of nature, she knows not where to stop, and continually exposes herself by the most absurd extremes.

Nothing so effectually defeats its own ends as this kind of affectation ; for though warm affections and tender feelings are beyond measure amiable and charming, when perfectly natural, and kept under the due controul of reason and principle, yet nothing is so truly disgusting as the affectation of them, or even the unbridled indulgence of such as are real.

Remember, that our feelings were not given us for our ornament, but to spur us on to right actions. Compassion, for instance, was not impressed upon the human heart only to adorn the fair face with tears, and to give an agreeable languor to the eyes; it was designed to exert our ut: inost endeavours to relieve the sufferer. Yet, how often is selfish weakness, which Aies from the sight of distress, dignified with the name of tenderness! " My friend is, I hear, in the deepest affliction and misery-I have not seen her—for indeed I cannot bear such scenes—they afs fect me too much-those who have less sensibility are filter for this world-but for my part, I own, I am not able to support such things I shall not attempt to visit her till I hear she has recovered her spirits." This has been said with an air of complacence; and the poor sel6 sh creature has persuaded herself that she had finer feelings than those generous friends, who are sitting patiently in ihe house of mourning-watching, in silence, the proper moment to pour in the balm of comfort-who suppressed their own sensations, and only attended to those of the afficied person—and whose tears flowed in secret, whilst their eyes and voice were taught to enliven the sickening heart with the appearance of cheerfulness.

That sort of tenderness, which makes us useless, may indeed be pitied and excused, if owing to natural in becility; but, if it pretends to loveliness and excellence, it becomes truly contemptible. · The same degree of active courage is not to be expected in woman as in man; and, not belonging to her nature, it is not agreeable in her: but passive courage-patience, and fortitude under sufferings-presence of mind, and calm resignation in danger-are surely desirable in every rational creature; especially in one professing to believe in an overruling Providence, in which we may at all times quietly confide, and which we may safely trust with every event that does not depend upon our own will. Whenever you find yourself deficient in these virtues, let it be a subject of shame and humiliation-not of vanity and self-complacence: do not fancy yourself the more amiable for ihat which really makes you despicable—but content yourself with the faults and weaknesses that belong to you, without putting on more by way of ornament. Wiih regard to tenderness, remember that compassion is best shewn by an ardour to relieve-and affection by assiduity to promote the good and happiness of the persons you love: that tears are unamiable, instead of being ornamental, when voluntarily indulged; and can never be attractive but when they flow irresistibly, and avoid observation as much as possible : the same may be said of every other mark of passion. It attracts our sympathy, if involuntary, and not designed for our notice—it offends, if we see that it is purposely indulged and obtruded on our observation.

Another point, on which the heart is apt to deceive itself, is generosity: we cannot bear to suspect ourselves of base and ungenerous feelings, therefore we let them work without attending to them, or we endeavour to find out some better motive for those actions, which really flow from

envy and malignity. Before you flatter yourself that you are a generous, benevolent person, take care to examine whether you are really glad of every advantage and excellence, which your friends and companions possess, though they are such as you are yourself deficient in. If your sister or friend makes a greater proficiency than yourself in any accomplishment, which you are in pursuit of, do you ever wish to stop her progress, instead of trying to basten your own?

The boundaries between virtuous emulation and vicious envy are very nice, and may be easily mistaken. The first will awaken your attention to your own defects, and excite your endeavours to improve; the last will make you repine at the improvements of others, and wish to rob them of the praise they have deserved. Do you sincerely rejoice when your sister is enjoying pleasure or commendation, though you are at the same time in disagreeable or mortifying circumstances? Do you delight to see her approved and beloved, even by those who do not pay you equal attention ? Are you afflicted and humbled, when she is found to be in fault, though you yourself are remarkably clear from the same offence: If your heart assures you of the affirmative to these questions, then may you think yourself a kind sister, and a generous friend; for you must observe, that scarcely any creature is so depraved as not to be capable of kind affections in some circumstances. We are all naturally benevolent, when no selfish interest interferes, and where no advantage is to be given up: we can all pity distress, when it lies complaining at our feet, and confesses our superiority and happier situation; but we have seen the sufferer himself become the object of envy and ill-will, as soon as his fortitude and greatness of mind had begun to attract admiration, and to inake the envious. person feel the superiority of virtue above good fortune.

To take sincere pleasure in the blessings and excellences of others, is a much surer mark of benevolence than to pity their calamities : and you must always acknowledge yourself ungenerous and selfish, whenever you are less ready to “ rejoice with them that do rejoice,” than 10 “weep with them that weep.” If ever your cominendations of others are forced from you, by the fear of betraying your envy-or if ever you feel a secret desire to inention something that may abate the admiration given them, do not try to conceal the base disposition from yourself, since that is not the way to cure it.

Human nature is ever liable to corruption, and has in it

the seeds of every vice, will be continually shooting forth and growing up, if not carefully watched and rooted out as fast as they appear. It is the business of religion 10 purify and exalt us, from a state of imperfection and infirmity, to that which is necessary and essential to happiness. Envy would make us miserable in heaven itself, could it be admitted there ; for we must there see beings far more excellent, and consequently more happy than ourselves; and, till we can rejoice in seeing virtue rewarded in proportion to its degree, we can never hope to be among the number of the blessed.

Watch then, and observe every evil propensity of your heart, that you may in time correct it, with the assistance of that grace which alone can conquer the evils of our nature, and which you must constantly and earnestly implore.

Even those vices which you would blush to own, and which most effectually defile and vilify the female heart, may hy degrees be introduced into yours, to the ruin of that virtue, without which, misery and shame inust be your portion; unless the avenues of the heart are guarded by a sincere abhorrence of every thing that approaches towards evil. Would you be of the number of those blessed “ who are pure in heart,” you must hate and avoid every thing, both in books and in conversation, that conveys impure ideas, however neatly clothed in decent language, or recommended to your taste by pretended refinements, and tender sentiments—by elegance of style, or force of wit and genius.

In the following tale you will find many of the foregoing observations fully exemplified. In poor Fanny Hastings you will see a true picture of a heart and affections not governed by any just principles. May these fatal consequences be timely averted ! *

TIIE SOLDIER'S RETURN;

A TALE.

FANNY HASTINGS was the daughter of a publican in the little town of ----- --, in South Wales. When she was only eight years old both her parents died, and she became dependent on the kindness of an aunt, and on the labours of her own hands, for support; and she soon found sufficient employment to enable her, with the aid of her re

« PreviousContinue »