Imatges de pÓgina
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beauty of language, and vivid eloquence, are found where society is in a simple state and human learning has made but little progress.

In the book of Proverbs we have a collection of maxims which an intimate knowledge of the springs of human conduct, and of all the motives, and feelings, and desires, of the heart, alone could suggest. Short, but forcible and full of wisdom, are the sayings of the King of Israel; they are, to use his words, "good doctrine," applicable to the situation and circumstances of mankind, and worthy of being stored in the memory of the wisest and the best.

And there are the Psalms of David, some of the earliest and finest specimens of lyric poetry-of poetry composed for music. No one, certainly, can read these pieces without admiring the fire of genius, and the tone of exalted feeling which pervade them. There is so much of true devotion and humility, and so deep a sense of dependence upon God in these sacred songs, as to entitle them to the warmest praise. When the poet bewails his sins and sufferings he is full of tenderness; when he dwells on the mercies of God to himself and to all, his strains glow with the warmth of his feelings, and are dignified by the solemnity of his devotion.

With this description of the Jewish sacred writings we break off, and shall resume the subject in another chapter.

The Value of Good Intentions.

Errors respecting good intentions and the use and value of them are very common. It is sometimes thought that they are highly meritorious, even without considering whether they are made to appear in the conduct of the individual, or pass off his mind as they came on, without affecting his actions. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that in some cases they are regarded as equal in value to active goodness-that which is openly witnessed in the life; and he who entertains them in his mind, feels as if he had done his part in forming them. The number of cases in which so much merit can be attributed to good intentions merely, is comparatively small; in many cases those who pride themselves upon them lean to a deception which is flattering but injurious to themselves, and are too apt to be contented with them, instead of endeavouring to make them evident by the conduct, which, rightly formed and listened to, they naturally dictate. It is our object in this subject to suggest rules for forming a correct judgment of the value of our good intentions, and to advise a regular endeavour to carry them into practice.

Let us ask, what are good intentions? what is usually, or ought to be understood of them? They are states of the mind, in which we design to perform some actions or trains of action of a moral kind: we are disposed to be more dutiful, for example, than we have been to our earthly benefactors and friends, or, in a higher sense, to our heavenly Benefactor; it is our purpose to carry into effect some plan that is worthy of ourselves, and useful and im

portant to others. Good intentions frequently follow bad conduct. When we feel that we have done wrong, that we have hurt the feelings of a parent or a friend who loves us by our unkindness, that we have injured another by our injustice or falsehood, that we have given any a right to be deeply displeased with us, that we have exposed ourselves to the displeasure of God, and are not only distressed on account of what we have done or neglected to do, but feel a desire to be more obedient and kind, and just and faithful in future, and propose to ourselves to be so, our minds are filled with good intentions. What is the amount of merit of this disposition towards goodness consequent upon our sorrow and penitence? Its chief value must be found in its not remaining a mere disposition, or inclination, or design, or purpose. In other words, if these good intentions are suffered to pass away from the mind, as the dream of the night passes away at the dawn of morning, and we make no effort to act agreeably to them, it is easily seen that they are of very small value indeed, and of little use or benefit to us.

But are there no instances of good intentions which are not wrought out in the life, and yet may be regarded as morally valuable and meritorious? Undoubtedly there are such instances, and we may refer to one in the Old Testament, 1 Kings, viii, 18. Let us explain the reference. David was raised from a private station to the throne of Israel, as the successor to Saul, and he had many enemies to contend with some even in his own family, over whom he triumphed, so that his dominions were large and his government established. We read some parts of his history with grief and wonder; but he was, nevertheless, a man of

warm and generous affection, of deep and fervent piety, and his gratitude to God for the numerous mercies he experienced at His hands, was strongly and beautifully expressed in those poetical compositions which are called the Psalms. He was very attentive to the public worship of Jehovah; appointed orders of priests for the regular performance of it; made many other regulations for the solemn and holy observance of the sabbath; and was desirous of erecting a temple for the worship of Jehovah, instead of the tabernacle which had been used for that purpose from the time of the journeyings of the Israelites in the wilderness. In the 17th Chap. of the 1st Chronicles, the intention of David is stated, and with the message sent to him from God by Nathan the prophet. It is an exceedingly interesting portion of sacred history-for the pious spirit in which David's design originated, and for the encouraging and gracious manner in which God was pleased to notice it. But the remark we wish to make upon it is, that the good intention of David was not permitted to be carried into effect. A great part of his reign had been spent in war, and it was more agreeable to the divine will that the prince, who would succeed him and enjoy a peaceful reign, should erect the proposed temple. We are told by this prince, Solomon, in the former passage, that the Lord had declared to David, his father, that he did well in that it was in his heart to build a house unto his name; and we have, therefore, in this portion of history, an instance of a good intention which was acceptable in the sight of God, and regarded by Him as equal in value to a moral act. The

circumstances themselves explain the reason. It was not a mere idle wish, or thought, of David, that he would erect a temple worthy the celebration of divine worship; it was his deliberate purpose or design, and he would have endeavoured to bring it to a successful end had he not been enjoined to leave the undertaking for the peaceful reign of his son and successor. And it must be further observed, that he did all that he was not expressly forbidden to do, towards the accomplishment of his intentions, "he prepared abundantly before his death."

It will not be just to compare the good intentions which are generally formed, with this of the Royal Psalmist, and to attribute to them equal merit, because he was divinely prevented from fulfilling it, whilst those are such as may be, and ought to be, carried into effect. What, we may ask, is their usual object? To lay aside some vice or crime; to be attentive to some particular duty. Good intentions are, indeed, greatly varied; but each individual forms them for himself according as he feels that he has been negligent or unkind, or unjust to his earthly connexions, or undutiful to his heavenly Friend; in all there is, therefore, a general resemblance, since they are all of a moral kind. And it must be observed, that there is a further likeness in them, which is, that they admit of being accomplished, of which every one is convinced at the moment that he forms them. Of course we leave out of the view all desires or schemes of usefulness, in the form of benevolence or any other virtue, the fulfilment of which circumstances render totally impossible. Such are the ardent pantings of the generous

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