« السابقةمتابعة »
who turn it over to chance, who live without They will never make a right use of time any definite scheme for its employment, or any fixed object for its end. Such desultory beings
precious from the vile,' lest unqualified admira. tion, where there is such large room for censure, should, while profusely embalming the dead, allure the ingenuous living to an imitation as unlimited as the panegyric was undistinguish-will be carried away by every trifle that strikes ing ?*
On time, considered as a Talent.
Ir we already begin to feel what a large portion of life we have improvidently squanderedwhat days and nights have been suffered to waste themselves, if not criminally, yet inconsiderately if not loaded with evil, yet destitute of good-how much time has been consumed in worthless employments, frivolous amusements, listless indolence, idle reading, and vain imaginations-if things already begin to appear wrong, which we once thought at least harmless, though not perhaps useful-what appear ance will they assume in that inevitable hour when all things will be seen in their true light, and appreciated according to their intrinsic value? We shall then feel in its full force how often we neglected what we knew to be our duty, shunned what we were aware was our interest, and declined what we yet believed would add to our happiness; while, with perverted energy, we eagerly pursued what we had reason to think was contrary to our interest, duty, and happiness. But excuses satisfy us now, to which we shall not then give the hearing for a moment. The thin disguise which the illusion of the senses now casts over vanity, sloth, and will then be as little efficient as consola.
He who carefully governs his mind will conscientiously regulate his time. To him who thus accurately distributes it, who appropriates the hour to its due employment, life will never seem tedious, yet counted by this moral arithmetic it will be really long. If we compute our time as critically as our other possessions; if we assign its proportions to its duties, though the divisions will then be so fully occupied that they will never drag, yet the aggregate sum will be found sufficiently long for all the purposes to which life is destined.
It is not a little absurd that they who most wish to abolish time would be the least willing to abridge life. But is it not unreasonable to endeavour to annihilate the parcels of which life is composed, and at the same time to have a dread of shrinking the stock? They who most pathetically lament the want of time, are either persons who plunge themselves into unnecessary concerns, or those who manage them ill, or those who do nothing. The first create the deficiency they deplore; the second do not so much want time as arrangement; the last, like brute animals laden with gold, groan under the weight of a treasure of which they make no use, and do not know the value.
To prevent any mistaken application of these remarks it may be proper to avow that Professor Porson and Mr. Horne Tooke are the persons to whom they
the senses, or any whim that seizes the imagi nation. They who live without any ultimate point in view, can have no regular process in the steps which lead to it.
But though in order to prevent confusion, to animate torpor, and tame irregularity, it is always a duty to form a plan; occasions will arise when it may be a higher duty to break it. Both ourselves and our plans must ever be kept subject to the will of a higher power. That is an ill-regulated mind which wears life away without any settled scheme of action: that is a little mind which makes itself a slave to any preconceived rule, when a more imperative duty may arise to demand its infraction. Providence may call us to some work during the day which we did not foresee in the morning. Even a good design must be relinquished to make way for a better, nor must we sacrifice a useful to a favourite project, nor must we scruple to renounce our inclinations at the call of duty or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful doer as well as a 'cheerful giver.'
In our use of time we frequently practise a delusion which cheats us of no inconsiderable portion of its actual enjoyment. The now escapes us while we are settling future points not only of business, of ease, or of pleasure, but of benevolence, of generosity, of piety. These imaginary points to which we impatiently stretch forward in idea, we fix at successive but distant intervals, endeavouring by the rapid march of a hurrying imagination to annihilate the intervening spaces. One great evil of reckoning too absolutely on marked periods which may never arrive, is, that, by this absorption of the mind, we neglect present duties in the anticipation of events not only remote but uncertain. Even if the anticipated period does arrive, it is not always applied to the purpose to which it was pledged; and the event which was to feel the full weight of our interference and commanding influenee, when it has taken place, sinks into the undistinguished mass of time and circumstances. The point which we once thought, if it ever could be attained, would supply abundant matter, not only for present duty or pleasure, but for delightful retrospection, loses itself, as we mingle with it, in the common heap of forgotten things; and as we recede from it, merges in the dim obscure of faded recollections. Having arrived at the era, instead of seizing on that present so impatiently desired while it was future, we again send our imaginations out to fresh distances in search of fresh deceits. While we are pushing it on to objects still more remote, the large uncalculated spaces of comfort and peace, or of languor and discontent, which fill the chasm, aud which we scarcely think worth taking into the account, make up far the greater part of life.
hardly deserve a harsher name, if these large All this would be only foolish, and would uncultivated wastes, these barren interstices, these neglected subdivisions, had not all of
them imperious demands of their own-if they were not to be as rigorously accounted for, a the vivid spots and shining prospects which promise so much and produce so little.
Let us not then compute time by particular periods or signal events. Let us not content ourselves with putting our festal days only into the calendar, but remember that from the hour when reason begins to operate, to the hour in which it shall be extinguished, every particle of time is valuable; that no day can be insignificant, when every day is to be accounted for; that each one possesses weight and importance, because of each the retribution is to be received. In the prospect therefore of our coming time, let us not make great leaps from the expectation to the occurrence; but bearing in mind that small concerns make up the larger share of life, let us aim to execute well those which lie more immediately before us. For the instant occasion we have life and time in hand, for that which is prospective, we may no longer be in possession of either and it is an argument of no small cogency, that he who devotes time to its best purposes, secures eternity for its best enjoy.
But we are guilty of the strange inconsistency of being most prodigal of what we best love, and of throwing away what we most fear to lose, that time of which life is made up. If God does not give us a short time, we can contrive to make it short by this wretched husbandry. It is not so much indigence of time as a prodigality in the waste of it, that prevents life from answering all the ends for which it is given. Few things make us so independent of the world as the prudent disposition of this precious article. It delivers people from hanging on the charity of others to emancipate them from the slavery of their own company. We should not only be careful not to waste our own time, but that others do not rob us of it.-The distinction of crime between 'stealing our purse' and 'stealing our good name' has been beautifully contrasted. That the purse is 'trash' is a sentiment echoed by many who yet set no small value on the trash so liberally condemned; while the waster of his own, or the pilferer of another's time, escapes a censure which he ought more heavily to incur. It is a felony for which no repentance can make restitution, the commodity being not only invaluable but irrecoverable.
Considerable evil, with respect to the economy of time, arises from an error which infects some minds of a superior cast-a notion that contempt of order and custom are indications of genius, that great minds cannot be tied to times, nor enslaved by seasons. They value themselves on being systematic only in their disdain of method, on being regular in nothing but irregularity; with them accident gives the law to action. They pride themselves in not despatching business but postponing it, and this in order to show with what ability they can retrieve time to which they are always in arrears. From this vanity of intimating that they can execute in hours what costs slower souls days or weeks, the most pressing business is deferred to some indefinite period, and duties thus postponed are not seldom - omitted.
The same confidence in his own powers which leads a young man of genius to believe he can catch knowledge by intuition, see every thing at a glance, and comprehend every thing in a mo ment, tempts him to put off that moment. But if such wonders are really to be achieved without the old ingredients, time and study, what might he not expect would be accomplished with their assistance. Those who are now marvels would then be miracles! The too common consequence of this impatience of application, is to affect to despise whatever knowledge requires time to attain, and to consider whatever demands industry to acquire, as not worth acquiring.
Nor is this error monopolized by talents. We have known some, who, having no other evidence of genius to produce, never failed to be unpunctual. It is a wonder that the more intellectual, seeing their province thus invaded by dunces, do not become regular through mere contempt of their imitators, and abandon the abuse of time to those who know not how to spend it wisely.
Christianity is a social principle. He who has discovered the use of time, and consequently the value of eternity, cannot but be solicitous for the spiritual good of his fellow-creatures. The one, indeed, is indicative of the other. But this good, like every other, is not without its dangers. We cannot essentially benefit people without associating with them, without rendering ourselves agreeable to them. But in so doing we should ever recollect that we may seek to please till we forget to serve them, we may soften strong truths to render them more palatable till we come gradually less to recommend them, than ourselves. In the spirit of friendly accommodation we may insensibly lower the standard of religion, with a view to make ourselves more agreeable, and may deceive in order to conciliate. We may
Or we may fall into another error. begin at the wrong end. We may censure the wrong practice without any reference to the principle, or we may suit our counsels, not to the wants, but to the taste, of our friend. In our endeavours to promote the good of others, we should be careful to find out the points in which they are most deficient. If their error be ignorance of Scripture, if worldliness, if prejudice, if a general disinclination to seriousness, if a blind respect for religion, joined to an unacquaintedness with its doctrines; in each case, a very different mode of conduct will be requi site. In each, in all, we should, indeed, with the utmost fairness, lay open the whole scheme of Christianity, neither concealing its difficul ties, its humbling requisitions, nor the self-denials it imposes. But at the same time, if we suspect any one truth to be particularly revolting to them, it will be more prudent to approach this truth gradually through others, from which they are less averse, than, by forcing its introduction at the outset, shut up the way to farther progress. Every doctrine should be unfolded gradually, judiciously, temperately, not insisting on any points that are not clearly scriptural, nor on any that admit of doubtful disputation, nor on many points at a time; and, above all, or none unscasonably, or unceasingly.
This habit of turning time to account, by en- | trospect of all we have done, and all we ought deavouring to be useful to others, will, if con- to have done! And shall we, then, put off the ducted with mildness, and exercised with Chris- inspection to an uncertain period, to a period, tian humility, be eminently beneficial to ourselves. It will set us on a closer examination of the truths we suggest; and in contending with blindness and self-sufficiency, we shall find a wholesome exercise for our own patience and moderation. It may remind us, that we were once, perhaps in the same state- Above all, it will put us on a more strict watchfulness over our own hearts and lives, lest we should be adopt. ing one set of principles for our conversation, and another for our conduct. It will induce the necessity of a more exact consistency, as they, to whom we are counsellors, will not be backward, if we furnish them with the least ground, to be our censurers.
when we can neither repent to any purpose for what was wrong, nor begin to do what we shall then perceive would have been right? Let these frequent meditations on death, lead us to reflect what the feelings of a dying bed will be. Let us think now what will then be the review of riches mis-spent, of talents neglected or perverted, of influence abused, of learning misapplied, of time misemployed! To entertain serious thoughts of death now, is the most likely me. thod for rectifying tempers, for conquering propensities, for establishing principles, for confirm ing habits, of which we shall then feel the consequences; for relinquishing enterprises and pursuits, for the success of which we may then be as much afflicted, as we should now be at their defeat.
And here I would affectionately suggest to my numerous amiable young friends, the benefit to be derived to their own minds from turning a He who cannot find time to consult his Bible, certain portion of their time to the personal in- will find, one day, that he has time to be sick; struction of the poor, for which so wide a field he who has no time to pray, must find time to is just now providentially opened. In commu- die. He who can find no time to reflect, is most nicating the elements of religious knowledge-likely to find time to sin; he who cannot find in numberless repetitions of the same plain truths-in being obliged to begin again the simple document which they fancied they had long ago impressed in the humbling necessity of lowering their ideas, and debasing their language, in order to make themselves intelligible in the forbearance which dulness of intellect, perverseness of temper, and ingratitude demand, they may gain some proficiency themselves, even where their success with others is least encouraging.
time for repentance, will find an eternity in which repentance will be of no avail. Let us, then, under the influence of the Divine Spirit, seriously reflect, under what law we came into the world: it is appointed for all men once to die, and, after death, the JUDGMENT.' Is it not obvious, then, that the design of life is to prepare for judgment; and that, in proportion as we employ time well, we make immortality happy?
But to whatever account we turn our time with respect to others, the first object of its right employment is with ourselves; and this not only in discharging those exercises of piety and virtue, which are too obvious and too generally ac knowledged, to require to be specified; but, in IN that general use of the talents, suggested attending to the secret dispositions of the mind, in the parable, there is also a particular vocation in order to ascertain its real character. We do on the exercise of which, every man must equinot mean to imply that we can judge of its state tably determine. Each is particularly called by the thoughts which are necessarily suggest-upon to acquit himself of that more immediate ed by any actual business, or any pressing object, such thoughts being the proper demand of the occasion, and not any certain indication of our abiding state and habitual temper.—But by watching the nature and tendency of qur spontaneous thoughts, we may, in a great measure, determine on the character of our minds; their voluntary thoughts and unprompted feelings, being the streams which indicate the fountain whence they flow.-The heart is that perennial spring; for, whether grace or nature supply the current, the fountain is inexhaustible. In either case, the more abundantly it flows, the more constantly its waste is fed by fresh supplies; expense, instead of exhausting, augments the stream, whether the source from earth supply worldly thoughts, or that from above such as are heavenly. Thoughts determine on the character as the man thinketh so is he.
duty, for the practice of which, God has given special endowments and opportunity. Our Maker requires the specific exercise of the specific talent. The nature of the gift points out the nature of the requisition. The use of endowment is a peculiar debt, a marked obligation. This is not a gift confounded with the mass of his gifts, but one by which God designs to be, by that individual, more remarkably glorified.
But charity is a virtue of all times and all places. It is not so much an independent grace in itself, as an energy, which gives the last touch and highest finish to every other, and resolves them all into one common principle. It is called the very bond of perfectness,' not only because it unites us to God, our ultimate perfection, but because it ties all the other virtues together, and refers them thus concatenated, to Him, their common source and centre.
What a scene will open upon us, when, from St. Peter having given a pressing exhortation our eternal state, we shall look back on the use to many exalted duties, finishes by ascribing to we have made of time! What a revolution will charity this emphatical superiority; Above all be wrought in our opinions! What a contrast things, have fervent charity.' It is, indeed, the will be exhibited, when we shall take a clear re-prolific principle of all duty: a confluence of
every thing that is lovely and amiable: the common purposes of life.-Whenever we are fountain from which all excellences flow, the promoting the good of mankind, either by assist stream in which they all meet. It is not sub-ing public institutions, or relieving individuals, ject to the ebb and flow of passion or partiality -it is true christian sympathy. It is tender without weakness; it does not arise from that constitutional softness which may be rather infirmity than virtue. It is the affection of the Gospel; a love derived from the Spirit of Christ, and reciprocally communicated among his genuine followers.
we are obviously helping on the cause of charity; and, when we cannot effectively assist the work, we may exercise the principle; we may pray for the happiness which we cannot confer, and rejoice in every addition to the general good towards which we cannot contribute. On the other hand, the purse may sometimes be open where the heart is shut. And it is perhaps a more rare and a higher virtue to exercise forbearance towards the faults and to put a candid construction on the actions of others, than to supply their wants, or promote their temporal interests. But whether candour in judging or liberality in giving, be the virtue in exercise, by the adoption of each as a law, and the practice of both on the ground of conformity to the Divine will, we shall acquire such a habit of exercising the kind affections, that what was adopted as a principle will be established into a pleasure; what was a force upon nature, will almost grow into a part of it; obligation will become choice, law impulse, duty necessity; the energy will become so powerful, that the heart will involuntarily spring to the performance; indolence, selfishness, trouble, inconvenience, will vanish under the vigorous operation of a habit whose motive is genuine Christianity.
Charity comprehends an indefinitely wide sphere, both in feeling and doing. According to the arrangement of St. Paul, in his beautiful personification of this grace, she may be said to embrace almost the whole scheme of religious, personal, and social duty. Patient and kind,' she does not wait to be solicited to acts of benignity, she seizes the occasion-she does more, she watches for it. She' endures' evils, but inflicts none; she does not select her trials, but 'bears all things.' Though she believes all things,' yet she exercises her hope without relinquishing her prudence; sometimes, where conviction forbids her thinking favourably, even then it does not prevent her hoping all things,' She subdues vaunting,' conquers the swellings of insolence, and the intractableness of pride. Not only she envieth not,' not only she disallows the injustice of desiring what is another's, but by a noble disdain of selfishness, she even 'seeketh not her own.' Her disinterestedness stirs her up to the perpetual rooting out that principle wrought by nature into the constitution of the soul. So far from thinking it a proof of spirit to resent injuries, she is not easily provoked' by them. She smooths the fierceness of the irrascible, and corrects the acrimony of the evil-tempered. She not only does not perpetrate, but she thinketh no evil.' She has found a shorter way of becoming rich than ava-promotion of the greatest possible good. She rice ever invented, for charity makes another's goods her own by a simple process; without dispossessing the proprietor, she rejoices so much in another's prosperity that it becomes hers, because it is his.
Here we see that the Apostle places charity not only before all the virtues which he thus gracefully marshals, before qualities the most moral, gifts the most spiritual, attainments the most intellectual, but he actually degrades these last in the comparison; he does not barely lower their value, he annihilates it. Without this principle of life, this soul of duty, this essence of goodness, they are not only little, they are nothing. Without charity, possessions, talents, exertions are all fruitless. They are of no value in the sight of God: they are of no efficacy to our salvation. Charity alone sanctifies our of ferings, recommends our prayers, and makes our very praises acceptable.
And though nothing is formally efficacious but the blood and merits of Christ, yet charity, as a divine grace, and one that will never cease, shows that our interest in him, and union with him, are real and genuine.
But to descend to the particulars of charity, and apply the different branches of it to the
First Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. xiii.
One Christian grace is never exercised at the expense of another, nor is it perfect, unless it promotes that other. This charity enjoys abstinently that she may give liberally. While she restrains every wrong inclination, she sti mulates us to such as are right. She is never a solitary quality, but is inseparably linked with truth and equity. She leads us perpetually to examine our means, dispositions, and opportu. nities, and to exert their combined force for the
teaches us to contribute to the comfort of others as well as to their necessities. She converts small kindnesses into great ones, by doing them with reference to God; for it is not so much the worth, as the temper, which will render them acceptable to Him.
We must not judge of our charity by single acts and particular instances, for they are not always good men who do good things, but by our general tendencies and propensities. We must strive after an uniformity in our charityexamine whether it be equable, steady, voluntary, and not a charity of times, and seasons, and humours. If we are as unkind and illiberal in one instance, as we are profuse in another, when the demand is equal, and we have both the choice and the means, whatever we may be, we are not charitable.
Though charity, as we have already observed, is a quality of universal application, and by no means limited within the narrow bounds of alms-giving, yet, not to allow a due, that is, a high rank and station to those works of benevolence, to which our Redeemer gives so conspi. cuous a place in his exhibition of the scrutiny at the general judgment, would be mistaking the genius of Christianity, would be departing from the practice and the principles of its Founder; it would be forgetting the high dig
nity he conferred on this grace, when he de-into the street. She then recollected, that in
clared that he should consider the smallest work of love done to the least of his followers for his sake as done to himself.
her extreme terror, she had left her child be. hind in bed. To the astonishment of all present, she rushed back through the flames and to the general joy, soon appeared with the child alive in her arms. While she was expressing her gratitude, the light of the lamps fell on its face, and she perceived, to her inexpressible horror, that she had saved the child of another woman-her own had perished. It may be imagined what were the feelings of the company. A subscription was instantly begun. Almost every one had liberally contributed, when a nobleman, who could have bought the whole
This pecuniary charity is not to be limited to our particular connexions-must not be confined to unfounded attachments, to party favourites. It must be governed by the law of justice. We must not do a little good to one which may in. volve a greater injury to another: yet though we should keep our heart always open, and our feelings alive to the general benefit, still, as our power must be inevitably contracted, whatever right others may have to our beneficence, local circumstances, natural expectations, and press-party, turning to the writer of these pages, said, ing necessity, confer the more immediate claim. The most immediate is that of the household of faith.'
Madam, I will give you,' every expecting eye was turned to the peer, knowing him to be unused to the giving mood, the person addressed joyfully held out her hand, but drew it back on his coolly saying, I will give you this affecting incident for the subject of your next tragedy.' Some will read this passage who were present on the occasion.
But since neither the logic nor the rhetoric of the writer, were she so happy as to possess either, is likely to make the churl liberal,' or to stir up the vain or the voluptuous to a beneficence which shall bear any fair proportion to the costly maintenance of their luxury or their vanity, the slight observations which follow shall be addressed to the bountiful giver, a char.
From hence it appears, that in inquiring into the duties of charity, we must overlook the use to be made of riches, one of the talents implied in the parable. The application of money, whether kept by its owners to their hurt,' or squandered to their destruction, will equally be made the subject of final investigation. Lord Bacon's remark, that riches, when kept in a heap, are corrupt like a dunghill, but when spread abroad, diffuse beauty and fertility,' has been more admired than acted upon. All the fine sentences that have been pelted at the head of covetousness have probably never reformed one miser; nor have the most pointed aphorisms, not divinely di-acter, blessed be God as common as it is amiarected, ever taught the luxurious the true use of money. Happily the age in which we live is so generally disposed to acts of beneficence, that there never was a period which less imposed the necessity to press the duty, to enforce the practice, or to point out the objects. A thousand new channels are opened, yet the old ones are not dried up; the streams flow in abundance, as if fed by a perennial fountain.
Let not any one, however, intrench himself in the supposed security of surrounding goodness. Let not any take comfort that he lives in an age of charity, if he himself is not charitable. We are not benevolent by contact or infection, or by breathing an atmosphere of charity. Yet who has not heard persons exultingly boast of this noble characteristic of the age, who are by no means remarkable for contributing their own contingent towards establishing its character? Probably many a man gloried in the valour of his country, and exulted in the pride of being an Englishman, after the battles of Trafalgar and Salamanca, who, had he been sent into the action would have been shot for cowardice.
ble. To the act it is unnecessary to excite him; to the motive he cannot too carefully look. This is the more requisite, as, in an age in which more excellent charity sermons are annually preached than ever were delivered since the establishment of Christianity-that which alone, of all the religions in the world, ever made charitable foundations a part of its institutionwe now and then meet with one which seems to invert the principle, and to put the point for the base. It is with diffidence we put the question, dreading to be suspected of indulging a spirit of censure where we would wish to offer unqualified commendation; but do we not now and then hear assigned to almsgiving, nay assigned to the individual contribution for which the well intentioned preacher is eloquently pleading, a merit so vast, that it would seem to supply the absence of all other merits; a merit which would almost induce one to believe that a more than ordinary contribution to the plate would prove a golden key, to stand in his stead, who has opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers ?"
To explain my meaning by an example:-In Who has not seen the ready eye discharge its the temple of Him who gave his Son to die, to kindly showers at a tale of woe, and the frugal atone for the sins of the world, I once heard, sentimentalist comfort himself that his tears had and from no mean authority, Charity called the paid more cheaply the debt of benevolence, for atoning virtue of the age. To have termed it which his purse had been solicited. The Author, the prevailing, the distinguishing, the most amimany years ago, made one in a party of friends: able characteristic of the age, had been right an expected guest, who was rather late, at and true. But when I found it thus gravely length came in; she was in great agitation, proposed as an expiation for sin, I was ready to having been detained on the road by a dreadful imagine that I heard the exclamation of St. fire in the neighbourhood. The poor family, Paul to his Galatians-I marvel that ye are so who were gone to bed, had been with difficulty soon removed from him that called you unto the awakened. The mother had escaped by throw-grace of Christ unto another Gospel.'
ing herself from a two pair of stairs window We must readily not only allow for, but ad