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By the magic of his song he can either enhance the beauty of virtue, or hide the deformity of vice. By his authority he can do much to direct the current of opinion. By his example he will hold out a model, to which many will deem it their honour or their sufficient apology to conform. The standard which he erects is burnished with a radiance which attracts numbers first to admire, then to enlist under his banners, and then to follow his steps. He becomes a nucleus,around which congenial elements will ra pidly agglomerate. And sheltered under the covert of his name, and emboldened by the general recognition of his talents, many will avow sentiments which they would otherwise have scarcely dared to harbour, and proceed to acts from which they would have shrunk with abhorrence. The blaze of genius throws in the eyes of the world a lustre over the most polluted path; and, following the track of such a luminary, not a few will deem it glorious to offend. Truly, however, has it been remarked by one, whose conduct both as a writer and as a man afforded a melancholy illustration of the perversion of his own sentiment, and who thus stands condemned from his own mouth to the lasting censure of indignant generations, that "No florid prose nor honied lines of
Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime."
Besides, in addition to the powerful present influence of the character and writings of men of distinguished talents, the very object which they most fondly desire, the earthly immortality of their productions, should prevent their ever employing their pen, except in what is favourable to the cause of virtue. When a work is presented before the public bearing a clear impress of genius, and evincing preeminent powers of mind, whatever may be its immediate and direct tendency, it rarely fails to excite a certain degree of attention; and it is fre
quently seized with eagerness by a class of the community as giving advantageous expression to their peculiar sentiments or propensities. As such it will be handed down from age to age, still extending and deepening its influence, as the award of time stamps it with higher authority and encircles it with prouder wreaths. wreaths. And if this accumulating power, this heightening glory, be altogether pernicious in its effect, who can calculate the guilt of a man who put forth all the resources of his mind for the purpose of bequeathing a malignant legacy to generations yet unborn? What must be the reflections of such an individual at the close of his career on the review of talents, not even laid up in a napkin, not buried under ground, but laid out in the market of human passions at a fearful usury of guilt.
Many there have been at such an hour, who would have been glad to blot the page which they had written, to obliterate with tears of blood the lines which their pencil had drawn. But such desires and regrets availed not to check the progress of the evil. The seeds of impiety and vice deposited in their works have been growing in rank luxuriance long after the hand which scattered them had mouldered into
dust. The monument of genius still remains, though inscribed, like some proud temple of Eastern idolatry, with characters, from which principle must turn away with abhorrence, and delicacy with disgust. To avoid these bitter regrets, and to prevent these abuses of mental endowment, it is not enough that the man of talent should secure to himself the negative merit of guarding against what is positively injurious; but he should endeavour to render every effort of his mind directly or indirectly conducive to the interests of virtue, and tributary to the cause of truth. The productions of his pen should shine forth, not as false fires set up to bewilder and decoy, but as salutary beacons
directing the youthful and inexperienced voyager over the dangerous sea of temptation into the harbour of security and peace. In contemplating the history of genius in later ages, it is gratifying to observe its nobler and higher energies not seldom devoted to the objects which have been stated as defining its obligations, and as forming its legitimate designs. If in the various departments of literature and philosophy it has been occasionally degraded from its office and high destiny, as the associate of Divine revelation, to guide to the knowledge of the Supreme; others have worthily sustained its character in this exalted relation, and in their immortal works seem to frown indignant rebuke upon those by whom it has been perverted and abused. In comparing the friends of religion and virtue among men of science and genius, with those of an opposite character, with those who for the most part were infidels in principle and profligates in conduct, we have certainly no reason to be ashamed of the contrast. If a malignant star has occasionally risen above the horizon of literature and philosophy, it is delightful to reflect that its influence has been overpowered, and its splendour eclipsed by brighter luminaries scattered over the same tract of the intellectual firmanent. If France has had its Voltaires, its Rousseaus, its D'Alemberts, and at a later period its La Places-the poets of licentiousness, and the philosophers of scepticism,-it has also had its Pascals, its Fenelons, and its illustrious list of sacred orators, to vindicate, amidst all the depth of its superstition, the cause of religion and truth. If Britain has produced its acute but atheistic Hobbs, its subtle Hume, its brilliant but insidious Gibbon, its fervid but frequently coarse Dryden, its glowing but dissipated Burns, its intensely feeling but wayward and unprincipled Byron, it has also produced a phalanx of intellectual worthies more than equal to these grievous
abusers of the noblest gifts of Heaven. It has produced its universal Bacon, its unequalled Newton, its profound Locke, its deep-searching Boyle, its ethereal Milton, its sublime Young, its pure and holy Cowper-to say nothing of the varied genius of the present agemen whose transcendent powers and whose regular habits of morality and virtue might well put pert scepticism and self-willed profligacy to the blush; men, the whole weight of whose character and the whole force of whose talents were thrown into the scale of general Christianity. Let us then follow, at whatever distance, this bright cloud of witnesses to the truth of our religion, and to the purity of its morality. Thus, while our philosophy will become more profound, and our knowledge more extensive, our faith will suffer no decay, and our virtue no diminution. The progress of our character, on the contrary, will be proportional and healthful. We shall learn to study every science as a branch of the sublime philosophy of religion, and transmute, by a sacred alchemy, the coarsest elements of nature into the pure gold of the sanctuary; and thus, though after all we can do we shall be unprofitable servants, yet, as the devoted disciples of Him whose name we bear, we shall not merely shed around us the light of a Christian and influential example here upon earth; but shine forth amidst the glories of a brighter firmament as the stars for ever and ever.
HARRIETT'S CASE OF CONSCIENCE.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
FROM the nature of your-allow me to say-very interesting publication, with which I have but lately become acquainted, I trust that I may take the liberty of stating to you the perplexities of my present situation, in the hope that you, or some of your
judicious correspondents will, if possible, afford me some advice.
I am the only daughter of a very respectable widow lady, well advanced in years, and reside with her in a remote, but populous village; in which there are a few genteel families, with whom we have always lived on terms of great intimacy, and especially with the rector and his daughters.
During the last year, we have been visited by some pious and zeal ous clergymen, who were encouraged to come into our neighbourhood by a family residing at no great distance from our village; and a Bible association has actually been formed in our parish. I was much solicited by a daughter of the abovementioned family to attend the meetings; but the known and strong dislike of our friend the rector to all such proceedings made me at first decline it. She, however, said so much about the interesting speeches made on such occasions, that I resolved, at all hazards, to go with her; and I was so delighted with all I heard and saw, that in spite of the remonstrances of my dear mother, I followed the speakers to the next village; and after again hear ing all they had to say, I was quite won over to their opinions about Bible, Missionary, and kindred societies.
The Sunday after these animating meetings, I went to church as usual. The rector's discourse on that text, "Take heed how ye hear," was evidently preached at myself and others who had attended the meetings and sermons. Upon meeting the rector in the churchyard after the service, he bowed very stifly, instead of cordially shaking me by the hand as he had been accustomed to do, and hurried his daughters away, scarcely giving them time to speak to me. I met other village friends, who were little less stiff than the rector. I felt somewhat mortified, I own; but to shew them how little I valued their frowns, I soon offered to become a collector of CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 333.
weekly pence, a distributor of monthly reports and tracts, and a teacher in the Sunday-school in the next parish, in which there is a remarkably pious and interesting young clergyman, whose ministry I now thought it my duty to attend. -Pray do not be hasty, but hear me out.
My dear mother became greatly alarmed at my proceedings, and my frequent absence from home; and the rector finding that I was also frequently absent from his church, absolutely forbade his daughters to speak to me. In vain did I assure my mother that all my zeal and activity were directed to promote the glory of God: she said the rector considered me as one of the busybodies mentioned by St. Paul, who go about gossipping about religion, without having any part or lot in the matter. I was greatly provoked at this abuse, and determined at once to throw off the trammels of my former connexions; and in pursuance of this resolution, I devoted myself intently to works of piety, and became "instant in season, and out of season." Knowing that dear Mr. (I again entreat your readers not to be hasty in conclusions) had a very populous parish, and that he often went from home, on various occa sions, which prevented his visiting the sick and the poor as frequently as he wished, I spared not to walk miles in all weathers to assist him in these duties; which, in addition to the time employed in collecting in two parishes, and in attending Mr.'s Thursday evening lecture and Sunday-school, left me but little time for home duties; but the others were urgent: and as some neighbour occasionally sat with my dear mother, and did for her little kind offices which my numerous engagements prevented my discharging, I was the less uneasy. Upon meeting one of these friends the other day, she accosted me rather more graciously than usual, and requested me to call upon her, as 4 C
she wished to have a little conversation with me. I was delighted at this rencontre, and fully believed that her prejudices were giving way, and that she would, eventually, become one of us. Full of this idea, I sought the interview as soon as possible. She is a sensible middleaged woman, with very precise notions; but believing that my zeal had made some impression on her, I met her with the most cordial Christian kindness: but, alas! I was grievously mistaken; she scarcely deigned to touch my offered hand, and desiring me, with a stately cool. ness, to be seated, she immediately began her lecture in nearly the following words: "I have taken upon me a most unpleasant office, Miss ; but out of regard to your excellent mother, I have conquered my reluctance to speak to you upon painful subjects. You must be aware that your late conduct has been very offensive to your good mother; and, indeed, to all your old friends." Here I involuntarily interrupted her by saying, "I am persuaded, madam, that no one ever yet turned out of the broad way that leadeth to destruction, without giving offence." To this she made a somewhat caustic reply; adding, "So many unfavourable reports of your injudicious and indiscreet conduct have reached your mother's ears, that she has requested me to assure you, that unless you alter your plans, you will oblige her to leave this place; to which, for many reasons, she is much attached. It is commonly reported, that you perfectly haunt the poor curate in the next parish, and lose no opportunity of putting yourself in his way; and we all know that whilst you are praying with the sick, and begging through the neighbourhood, you are neglecting the first duties of a Christianyour duties to your aged mother."
I confess to you, Mr. Observer, that I warmly resented this interference of my neighbour, and told her that her habits of life were so retired, and her notions so antiquat
ed and precise, that she was altogether unfit to judge of my conduct; and courtesying somewhat haughtily, I took my leave. When I got out of the house, and began to reflect on what had passed, I could not but be much hurt at my mother deputing Mrs. to speak to
me; and I was also greatly mortified at the report about the curate. I walked about for some time in much agitation, not knowing what to do; but suddenly it occurred to me to call and state my case to a lady who resides in the next village. This lady is reputed to be very judicious, as well as pious; and she is also a person of some consideration in the neighbourhood. I had often wished to cultivate her acquaintance, but she never encouraged the advances I made. Upon this occasion, however, I resolved to wave all ceremony, and to request an audience of her. The servant shewed me into a neat kind of study and work-room, in the middle of which stood a large table covered with work and books. Before the lady and her daughters came in I had time to observe one heap of baby-linen for the poor, neatly cut out; another parcel neatly made up; and a large basket on the floor filled with flannel, coarse linen, and other useful articles. I peeped at the books too;-a volume of Scott's Bible lay open; and there were several other works good and useful, I dare say, but I was not acquainted with any of them. I had just time to compose myself after this examination, when Mrs.
and her daughters entered the room. She looked rather surprised, but received me politely, and apologised for my having been shewn into the work-room. She evidently did not wish to make a display of their works of charity, for she instantly hurried me into the drawingroom, and sent her two sweet, modest-looking daughters, who appeared to be about fourteen and fifteen years of age, to take off their bonnets; and they did not return to us.
After apologising for my unceremonious call, I told her that the high character I had heard of her piety and wisdom had induced me to take so great a liberty; and I hoped she would allow me to state to her the difficulties of my situation, and give me her advice. With out waiting for a reply, I went on and told her all that had happened from the time of the first Bible meeting, and what had passed that very morning in my interview with my mother's friend, except about my being in a passion with her. I mentioned particularly how the rec. tor and his daughters had behaved to me; and the bold stand I had made against all their attempts to sneer me out of my religion. She looked very grave whilst I was telling my tale, and when I ceased she said she was very sorry that I had heard her piety and judgment so much overrated: she was sorry, too, that I had given my neighbours any cause to reprove me: she was ill-qualified to be my counsellor; "but since you really ask for advice, Miss," she added, "I will venture to say, that I think your zeal has carried you rather beyond the bounds of prudence and propriety. I will own to you that I have heard, as well as Mrs. — of your want of attention to your aged mother, and that you have been suspected of entertaining a partiality for our curate, Mr. and of taking pains to put yourself often in his way."-Judge of my vexation, Mr. Editor, on learning that Mrs.
was also prejudiced against me. could only raise my hands and eyes and exclaim, "Oh, the wickedness of this world !”—Mrs. went on: "I hope you will not think me an enemy to any of the institutions you are so zealously supporting. I assure you that I am not; being a subscriber, and, so far as I have opportunity, an active friend to them all: but I must say that I feel inclined to discourage the forward zeal of some young ladies, whose services are not so necessary, or so
discreetly given, as they may suppose." I now took courage to ask her, how she thought the money could be collected, if not by young ladies who had leisure for such duties? In some cases, she said, it might be allowed; but she thought that middle-aged, or elderly collectors should in general be preferred; for, besides the impropriety of suf fering young ladies to be frequently going about the streets, she conceived that it was of great importance to give them constant habits of useful employment at home, nor was it possible to acquire such habits without regularly persevering in them. "And pray, madam,” I said, "do you never visit the sick, nor allow your daughters to do it? nor bring them up to attend the Sundayschool?" "I fear," she replied, "that you will not think very highly either of my piety or my judgment, when I tell you that I have not myself been a Sunday-school teacher since my children were old enough to require my attention on Sunday mornings; and with regard to my daughters, who are very young, I judge it best not to make them teachers till they are fitter for so important an office. I feel afraid of their becoming conceited and irritable, which I have observed to be the case with several young Sunday-school teachers." I observed here, that I thought there could be but little fear of this in young ladies so religiously brought up as her daughters. She replied with much seriousness, "I do not consider my daughters as being truly religious merely because they have been religiously educated; and I would, for the present, carefully avoid leading them into situations in which their corrupt nature might shew itself to the prejudice of others as well as themselves. Education, after all, is but a feeble curb to human passions. It is the grace of God alone that can effectually restrain them. When I shall judge them properly qualified to be useful as teachers, I shall certainly encou