Imatges de pÓgina
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mind, that longs to be among the first to spread joy and peace among the dwellings of the poor, but is denied the privilege of acting so distinguished a part in consequence of the poverty to which itself is subject. Such are the feelings that swell the bosom of him who would devote himself to his country's good, were he not bound by stern necessity to labour for himself. We do not call these strong feelings and wishes good intentions: they denote the disposition, and they are honorable to the bosom by which they are moved, but they must sleep there for ever in this world. The name only belongs to designs and purposes, which every one may accomplish, if he will apply himself with zeal and vigour to the undertaking. And of these we observe that the value depends entirely upon the use which is made of them.

Let us render the subject plain by an example. A child is cautioned by his parents to guard against a certain fault, the nature and consequences of which are explained to him, and he remembers for a time what they have said to him. He does avoid the fault. But he at length forgets himself, and is guilty of it. His parents are concerned at the change. They speak to him on the subject, remind him of their former counsels, express their sorrow for his weakness and disobedience, and with greater earnestness than before beseech him to be on his guard for the future. Unless his disposition be very unamiable and stubborn, it is easy to conceive the state of his mind. He is ashamed that he has not been guided by the advice of his parents, and that his conduct has been faulty. He grieves to think that he has given pain and sorrow to them by his miscon

duct; if he does not see so well as they the importance of what they advised him to observe, he is at the same time assured that they had the best reasons for giving him the advice he neglected; and whilst he penitently acknowledges that he has done wrong and obtains their pardon, he promises himself that he will not offend again in a similar manner. His mind is now occupied with good intentionsintentions of obedience to his parents, and of preserving himself from blame; and he is eager to carry them into effect, longing for the opportunity to arrive in which he may be able to say to himself,-"Parents! have I not steadily kept to my purpose?" But days pass on, and his feelings cool. The caution of his parents and his own intention gradually pass away from his mind; he falls into the thoughtlessness so common to youth; when the trial comes he is taken by surprise, and again commits the fault. Would it be right to assign much merit to the child in such a case? Is he to be praised because he formed a good design, and did not carry it through? On the contrary, we should say that he was more culpable in the second instance than in the first; for he was more fully convinced of the propriety of what was recommended to him; he saw that it was of more importance in his parents' eyes than he had previously thought it to be, for the moment or the day his mind was more seriously set to the observance of it; and if he afterwards failed to comply with the wishes of his parents, and broke his own seriously-formed resolutions, he betrayed a greater degree of weakness and exposed himself to greater shame.

Is it usual for the husbandman to content himself with

the intention to sow his field with seed? What if he prepare the soil with the nicest care, rooting out every weed, and breaking down every clod, and heightening the fertility of it with a plentiful draining-must he not be a foolish man to look in the autumn for the yellow waving corn, when he had done nothing more than intend to scatter the seed upon the bosom of the earth? The soft showers of April would fall in vain upon the soil; the glowing suns of summer in vain spread their beams over it; in vain the gentle gales of autumn would whisper along its surface; no green blade would shoot, no ear would form, no blossom open, no stem gracefully yield with its ripening load. The land would be as barren of all, save weeds, as the husbandman's intention was barren and ineffective; and the finger of the thoughtful would point to it in reproof, and his voice call it the land of good intentions. Just so is it in respect of morals. The mere intention of any person, however important and praiseworthy the object to which it refers, can produce no fruit, if he allow it to remain inactive in his mind. It is the intention of the husbandman who never troubles himself to sow the seed. It is the intention of the builder who delays for ever to lay the foundation of his house. It is the intention of the traveller who never sets forward on his journey. And, as we can only smile or mourn at such instances of folly, so must we smile or mourn at him, who, intending to change the habits of his life, to repair the evils he has done, and to avoid doing evil in future, still continues in the course to which he has habituated himself, without making one effort to change it for the better.

We can now decide, without hesitation, how far it is useful or good to form certain designs without taking the trouble to bring them to pass. It is, in short, neither useful nor good. Design as much as we may to serve others, they are only the better for our design when we make it evident by our actions. And intend as we may to alter our own conduct in any way, that conduct still remains the same, and we are just as immoral, until we steadfastly forsake the evil way we intend to shun, and prove that we can keep a virtuous resolution. It is not enough an upright Judge can never consider it to be enough-that it is in our hearts.

We earnestly address ourselves to those who are conscious of good intentions:-"You are blessed with parents of whose wisdom and kindness you have a high opinion, whose counsels you know to be of vast moment to your happiness, but you feel some internal reproach when you ask yourselves, if you have always returned their kindness, or obediently listened to their counsels: and you intend to be more grateful and more obedient. Or you recollect some instance, or perhaps instances, of ill-humour or unkindness to a brother, or a sister, or a friend, and it is your intention to repair the past, and not allow your evil passions to master you again. In the station of a servant, you remember that some reasonable commands of a master or mistress were received with rudeness, and neglected or disobeyed; you remember that it is your engagement to obey the commands of your employers, you cannot deny that they should be obeyed with willingness, and your reflections on the subject lead to the intention of performing your part

in the family, or in the business, with civility, alacrity, and a desire to give satisfaction. Are you conscious of some heedless or wilful violation of the laws of God? Do you feel a secret pang when you reflect on past misconduct? And are there blended with your thoughts of penitence designs of reform and amendment?-Let not these intentions of affection and duty towards your parents, of kindness and forbearance towards your relatives, of respect and obedience towards your employers, of reverence and service towards God, be suffered to sleep in your minds. If there be one fault unrepaired, one vice uncorrected, or one duty left undone, give to the intentions of your mind the life of action; be consistent with yourselves, faithful and obedient to your friends and to God. The good purposes of your hearts will then appear in your conduct; your goodness and piety will commend you to the love of those who know you, and especially to Him whose love is rich in present and future blessings.

On Reading the Scriptures.

CHAP. II.

We have briefly described the Jewish Scriptures, but it would be a serious omission did we not say how far they surpass all the productions of ancient times in their descriptions of the Supreme Being. They describe Him such as we delight to believe He is-Infinite and Eternal; possessed of all power and all knowledge, of majesty unrivalled, of

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