صور الصفحة

figure of what had once bent on me bright looks of life and love. Far rather would I retrace them as they were, in the chambers of vivid imagery, than tread again their real and visible precincts. This feeling appears to be almost universal among mankind. Even to those who seem to gather an accession of happiness with every fleeting year—and surely they are few—-the past wears many a charm of softening recollection, extorting sometimes the sigh of fond regret over what is for ever gone. Whether the consciousness of life’s limited duration, indissolubly connecting with former times a certainty that such a portion of our alloted space has actually fled, never to be recalled, may not influence us more than we are aware of when indulging such reminiscences, I cannot pretend to decide: I think that it does. To one who has been brought out of the world, aster participating largely in its spirit and rejoicing in many things opposed to the love of God, it is sometimes wonderful to contemplate the extent to which what divines call the religious affections have been excited, long before a ray of the true light had visited their minds. Feelings even rapturously devotional may have been enkindled, and the soul, as it were, borne upwards into regions purely spiritual, while yet the heart was altogether estranged from God, and unreservedly yielded to his enemies—-to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. I frequently recall with no small bewilderment of mind the emotions excited within the walls of an edifice with which many a melting recollection is closely interwoven. Often do I, in imagination, again pace its majestic aisles, as was my wont in childhood and in early youth, bending many an awe-struck look on “the high embowered roof,” admiring on its “storied windows,” the broad dark depth of purple, crimson, and all those mellow colours through which the day-beam struggled to look in upon the antique tracery of richly-carved stalls; and the massive effigies, recumbent on their sculptured tombs, where generations of living men had approached to gaze and to wonder, and had retired to perish ; making way for a succeeding race, who should in turn

behold and depart, and die, even as they.

I pass on to the singularly fine quadrangle of cloisters, girding in a burial-ground where surely every particle of dust must once have been instinct with the spirit of life, so many centuries had contributed their relics of mouldering humanity to swell its crowded hillocks. Never have I since beheld a cemetery so rich in the rank honours of long, wild grass, springing through crevices of broken gravestones— themselves scarcely less green from mossy incrustations, and meandering stains of damp—waiving in the perpetual draught of air, and peering, as it seemed, through the black but beautiful arches that bounded their territory, to arrest the glance of some thoughtless passer-by, with the mute but impressive demand, “What is man 7” So vivid is the recollection of this familiar spot, that the light air now fanning me while I write seems tainted with that peculiar savour, and loaded with that indescribable chill, which no atmospheric change could overcome. The breeze of the cloisters was always stirring, always dank, and always fraught with desolation. There was that in it which repressed the buoyancy of youthful spirits, sobering the mind into something akin with the surrounding objects. I have felt my giddy mirthfulness subside into pensive thought as I slackened the pace frequently amounting to a run, while seeking in the cloisters that exercise which perchance a stormy day denied me elsewhere; and when a little side-door opened, giving ingress to the band of youthful choristers, habited in their every-day surplices of dusky purple, and I marked them through the intercepting arches winding their silent way towards the great body of the church, for the performance of evening service, I have been irresistibly drawn to follow their steps; and, taking my seat in the recess of a dark but lofty side-pew, to join in the devotions that had formed no part of my plan in visiting the cloister promenade. It was on such occasions that I have been rapt into something so nearly resembling the servour of true piety as to yield a clue to the otherwise inexplicable power of those delusions which blind the devotees of Rome. The impulse was certainly from without, and from around—not from within or above. Nothing can more beautifully harmonize than twilight shadows and the interior of an antique building, lofty, massive, and richly sculptured. Even the fading of those gorgeous tints upon its gothic windows seemed to speak something of the fashion of this world passing away: and when the deep slow tones of a majestic organ, touched by a master's hand, were melting as they

seemed to mount, and finally lost amid the

recesses of the lofty roof–when the suc. ceeding stillness was broken by a single voice reading, perhaps, in the lesson for the day, some exquisitely sublime passage from Isaiah—when the dark-blue lining of my cushioned and curtained recess almost assumed 'the semblance of a funeral canopy, and a dim, unearthly character rested on all around—my feelings have so largely partaken in that character, as to impress me with the confident belief that I was holding high and full-communion with HIM whom I neither loved, nor feared, nor desired to know beyond the fictitious excitements of such moments. Under these circumstances, and beneath the closing shades of a dull October evening, I well remember the effect produced on my mind by the appointed lesson—the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians: I was very young, and had never paid attention to that magnificent portion of holy writ. It was most exquisitely read, in a deep sonorous voice by one who at least felt the poetry of the composition, and as such did justice to it. Certain I am, that it brought me into a new and strange proximity to heavenly things, which remained long after the thrilling emotion of that hour had passed away. This recollection often humbles and alarms me ; for now that the Lord has, in his abundant mercy, drawn aside the veil under which all spiritual meanings lay hidden from my view, I cannot always realize the intensity of feeling which marked that well-remembered period. It is well for the child of God that he is cautioned by many wise counsellors

within the walls of my own, my beautiful cathedral 7” How beautiful that cathedral was, at the time when I fondly called it my own, is matter of history now. The hand of modern innovation has so reformed its supposed defects, so industriously applied the levelling brush of the whitewasher to its deversified knots of fruit, and flower, and story, and heraldic blazonry—so cropped, and trimmed, and planed away its redundant fretwork—so shamed the old grey stones of its venerable bulk by the spruce addenda of spic-and-span masonry, that there are few pilgrimages which I would not undertake in preference to one that should lead me to the shrine of my early devotion—the beloved memento of my joyous childhood. Whatever mania I may be subject to, the mania of reckless innovation will ever be abhorrent to my soul. I love to look upon the monuments of my country’s greatness—s love to walk round about them, to mark well her bulwarks, to number her towers, and to mount guard, if so it might be given me, over every grey fragment of what the Lord so long has blessed to her safety and prosperity. My cathedral, like other British institutions, “has braved a thousand years, the battle and the breeze,” and yet it stands seemingly prepared to endure for another thousand. With my consent, the finger of the spoiler should never have touched it; and spoilation is too often the true word for what, in our day, goes by the name of renovation. Yet even where the hand of judgment has unquestionably interposed to strengthen, and that of taste to improve the objects of our early attachment, how reluctantly do we trace the alteration that has removed, or glossed over some remembered peculiarity. A blemish it might be: but it formed a link in the delicate chain of fond recollections; and its removal is a robbery of our treasurehouse. The place of my birth was remarkable for its architectural relics of antiquity;

against the illusiveness of momentary im- and the surrounding country displayed pulses, in their origin as likely to be earth- many an old-fashioned fabric, from the ly and material, as heavenly and spiritual. venerable mansion that had cradled a

Osten, when elated in what seems a highly devotional frame, I suddenly put to myself the searching question, “Wherein does

this differ from the enthusiasm enkindled

long line of nobles, to the humble but substantial farm-house, with its narrow gables,

its jutting eaves, and low, wide casements set deep in frame-work of rudely carved stone. It has been my lot for many years to dwell in places as dissimilar from these early haunts as are the elegant triflings of modern art from the laboured and enduring workmanship of former ages. Hence, when my rambles bring me suddenly within view of some time-worn edifice—from which no part of England is altogether free—the sensations excited are indescribably strong. A chord is touched, that seems to awake an echo from every little cell of slumbering memory; and I am carried back to times and scenes, thoughts and feelings, wherein it is hard to say whether the painful or the pleasurable emotion predominates. Can the Christian then dwell with fondness on days that came and went, leaving him as they found him, living without hope and without God in the world? Ought not the retrospection to be one of unmingled shame and sorrow, while, viewed in the light of gospel truth, each event furnishes a memento of his rebellion against the Most High 7 Such thoughts have troubled me, I confess; but there is one consideration that blends very sweetly with the reminiscences of by-gone days– it is beautifully expressed in the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness. ... Thou shalt also consider in thine heart that as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.” To lose the remembrance of former days were to forget the wonders which the Lord hath wrought: and to retrace them with gloomy repugnance were to rob Him of much glory due unto His name. Oh, there are many who sported with me through the airy cloisters, and snatched the long grass as they bounded by, who trifled on through maturer years, and suddenly passed away to a world where they never had sent one serious thought before them. There are others, still robust and active denizens of busy life, whose every hope is bounded by the visible earth to the dust of which their souls tenaciously cleave, who recognize not the long-suffering of a waiting Saviour in the time thus

given, nor in their occasional disappointments the chastening hand of a Father. And some there are, who, led by paths of endless variety, have reached the narrow

way that tends Zionward, and, meeting with the companion of their earliest years, can take delight in raising a mutual Ebenezer of remembrances and thanksgivings with which no stranger may intermeddle. “The God which led me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil:”—who can take up that grateful ascription of praise, without permitting his mind to wander back and realize the days wherein he was guided by One whom then he had not known I have been mercifully kept from running into any extreme of doctrine, fully convinced that both extremes are alike removed from the solid and simple truth; but the pre-ordaining love of God in Christ, electing from the mass of self-destroying wanderers some whom he would compel to come in, while others, to whom the door of invitation was opened equally wide through the all-atoning efficacy of the Saviour's cross, would despise and perish —this precious fact throws a sun-beam over every chequered scene that memory can revisit. “Goodness and mercy have followed me all my life long.” I cannot name an hour, or point to a spot, where they ceased the pursuit so long eluded by the self-doomed sinner. Full well do I remember how they whispered with me in the cloistered aisle, and spoke aloud in the gracious words that were to me but as a very lovely song. My stubborn rebellion is a monument of my Lord’s sparing mercy— my wilful wanderings of His pursuing goodness. If no change had passed on my beautiful cathedral, I would hasten to revisit every haunt beneath its arching roof; and there would I recall the thoughts of other years, and own the Spirit of God to have been continually pleading with my spirit, beseeching me to turn, and I would not. Methinks I could now read aright the lesson of mortality, so strangely misinterpreted before; and find cause for double endearment, through the operation of divine grace, in what was always fondly cherished by natural feeling. Surely the blessedness of the heavenly Canaan will be enhanced by a broad, clear view of the wilderness through which the Lord led his stiff-necked and rebellious, but finally subdued and rescued people. We rob God of much glory when we avert

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

THERE are times and places where individuals are thrown together under circumstances that leave an indelible impression: though not a name should be known, nay, nor a face distinguished, yet may the keenest interest be excited. It is difficult to prove this, unless to travellers; and, among travellers, perhaps to those who have traversed the mighty billows. Of all the meetings or partings that have moved my feelings through life, I remember none so closely united, or so intensely exciting during their momentary continuance, as the greeting, in mid-Atlantic, of a vessel which bounded athwart our track.

For about twenty days we had lost sight of land; and not an object had interposed between the overarching heavens and the broad line of waters that rose, in the vast circle of a clear horizon, to meet their azure bend, save the little sea-birds which occasionally appeared astern of our large ship, now stepping the waves with playful grace, now perching on the tall masthead, and anon stretching the wing we knew not whither. The sailors considered the frequent appearance of these birds as indicative of an approaching storm; but nothing resembling it occurred until our five weeks voyage was nearly ended. The sameness of the scene was wearisome to those who merely regarded the sky as air, and the sea as water, and longed for a more substantial element whereon to expatiate: those who have closely watched their aspect can attest that in the heavens there is but little monotony, in the mighty ocean none—except during that most tormenting season, a dead calm. I was de

lighted with the daily view of the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the great deep; never wearying of the contemplation. Yet when, after floating, a solitary thing, always the seeming centre of an unbroken circle, our ship had pursued for three weeks her appointed way, I was not a whit less delighted than the veriest yawner on board to discern in the far offing, at early morning, a speck, the rapid increase of which assured us that she was upon our track, and gave us promise of a speedy approach. We gazed for a while, and then descended to our breakfast. A lively breeze that favoured both vessels, though, sailing in dislerent directions, had brought us very near before we again repaired to the deck: and had the times been warlike, with an enemy ranging the seas, the eagerness of inquiry could not have been more intense than through mere curiosity it now appeared. What is she 7 where from ? whither bound ! and numerous other questions, passed from mouth to mouth, as gravely as though some secret information had been afforded to the sundry individuals to whom they were addressed, on a point where all were necessarily in the dark. Meantime the ship made right for us; we hoisted what has been beautifully called “the meteor flag of England;” and while its broad folds rose heavily on the breeze, casting a shadow over the sparkling foam behind the rudder, our new acquaintance unfurled her striped flag, studded with stars, announcing herself an American. It was not very long since the hoisting of those several ensigns would have been the signal for a hostile onset; and the jealousy of that unnatural rivalship had by no means faded srom the bosoms of either country; yet, crossing as we then did each other's path, I can truly affirm that to myself and to the greater number of our passengers the vessel seemed to contain the most endeared company of interesting people that we could have met. National distinctions and national animosities were forgotten: we saw the first party of human beings that had enlivened our lonely way for weeks—like us they had left a home behind them; like us they were seeking a desired haven. They were, like us, exposed to elemental changes; an uncertain sky above, and unfathomable depth beneath their feet, and a frail dwelling of boards, which seemed tossed like a plaything on the strong billows that bore it swiftly past. No object is more strikingly beautiful than a ship freely bounding over the deep, when seen from another ship in similar motion. So light, so grand, so majestically true—“her march is o'er the mountain waves,” which she seems to cut with mathematical precision, while rising on their swell, and yielding to their downward sweep; her mast with graceful inclination pointing as she reels, her white sails glittering in the sunbeam, her broad banner undulating on the breeze, and so, a glorious gallant thing, she comes and is gone, and melts into a speck, soon to be lost in impenetrable distance. Thus it was with our transatlantic friend. We neared so closely that every individual on either deck was distinctly seen, while rapidly trumpeted, the mutual question and answer sounded cheerily across the intervening billows, that hoarsely murmured their own discourse. All pressed to look, and bent to listen; and feelings of pleasurable good-will were depicted in every countenance. The interview, however, passed like thought; a very few seconds had spread a long line of waters between us; the banner of England, no farther required at its post aloft, was lowered upon deck; and I sat down, delighted to nestle among its cherished solds, to indulge a meditation not so profitable as the same scene would now, through divine grace afford. Often have I recalled the beauty of that spectacle, with the interesting concomitants that fixed it so deeply on my memory. I have traced a parallel in the voyage of life, supposing that we have launched forth under the pilotage of ONE who has engaged to bring us into the haven where we would be. A solitary Christian is like a vessel in the mighty main, following the invisible steps of Him whose way is in the sea, and His path in the deep waters. To such a voyager, turn where he will, the point most interesting is that where the scene of his pilgrimage melts as it were into heaven. The worldly triflers who flock around are regarded but as the idle birds of ocean, portending only storm and shipwreck to him, if abiding in his company. He is content

to be alone, if so the Lord will ; but should a fellow pilgrim be brought within his track, of whom he may plainly discern that he also is bound for the haven of peace, how far beyond the mere ties of earthly kindred and companionship is the strength of that interest excited | Though it be but the interview of a few moments, though they part with no probability of again encountering one another on the ocean of life, though in all individual peculiarities of station, name, and circumstance, each continues a stranger to the other, long will the look of affection pursue his receding steps, and the heartbreathed ejaculation ascend with intercessory desire to their common Father, that the brother thus unexpectedly brought within personal knowledge may go on his way rejoicing, and find a quiet port in the land of everlasting rest. It is here that the real unity of the true church of Christ is manifested: no believer can look upon another believer as one strange to his sight, and uninteresting to his mind. He who by the Spirit of adoption has been brought to call God, Abba, Father, cannot but recognize a brother in each one who enjoys the same privilege: and sad is the state of the Christian whose affections go not forth towards every member of the family of faith ! That many such there are, is too apparent; and that they are the least happy of God's children is no less plain. If we love not the brethren, we lack the evidence which the Lord himself has pointed out as distinguishing those who have passed from death unto life; if we love them coldly, mistrustfully, indifferently, it is hard to prove that such a feeling deserves the name of love. There is an esprit du corps belonging to the professors of serious religion, very little akin to that zeal which would lay down its life for the brethren. It is found in partizans of every class; even among those who are banded under the immediate command of the Arch-enemy, to assail the truths of revelation. There is another species of attachment, passing with many who feel it for genuine love to the brethren; but which, if traced to its source, might be found to originate in the consciousness that among worldly men the people called evangelicals are held in

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »