Abbildungen der Seite

-- with so much hot blood leaping in their veins, and with so many cherished visions of independent life dancing and glittering before their view, are not in the best condition to form a wise and safe decision on matters of this sort. Nor can it be greatly wondered at, that even if they are led, like their memorable prototype in the Scripture, to come to the Master and inquire what they shall do to inherit eternal life, --- so many of them should be found, like him, going away, — exceeding sorrowful at first, it may be, - but still going away, - perhaps never again to return.

More especially is this liable to be the case with young men, whose lot in life is cast by Providence, or cast by parental preference, or cast of their own choice, amid the crowded marts and busy throngs and confused thoroughfares of some proud and luxurious metropolis. Who marvels that the hearts of the most hopeful Christians have so often grown faint and almost sunk in despair within them, as they have contemplated the distractions and temptations which belong to a large city! In the quiet seclusion of a country life, a virtuous and religious course seems comparatively easy. The pure atmosphere of the open fields supplies health to the soul as well as to the body. Rural occupation invigorates the moral as well as the muscular system. The unobstructed contemplation of the earth and the heavens, and the habitual observation of the marvellous course of the sun and the seasons, inspire a thoughtful reverence for the great Creator. A drought or a freshet, defying the best energies of man to avert its desolating influences, - blasting in a month, or it may be in a moment, the whole promise of the year, - inculcates a lesson of constant dependence upon God, which no heedlessness and no presumption can altogether deride or disregard. In the country, too, the week-day labors are more rarely interrupted by the noise of feasting and revelry; and the opportunities for evening indulgence and dissipation, if not entirely unknown, are of comparatively infrequent occurrence. And there, also, the solemn stillness of the day of rest, broken only by the sweet music of the village bell or the tuneful melodies of the village choir, invités both young and old, with no doubtful or divided appeal, to the worship of God in his holy temple.

But how many of these blessed influences are enfeebled and paralyzed, if not wholly wanting, in “proud and gay and gaindevoted cities!” There, art seems to aim at, and almost to accomplish, the work of shutting out from sight the whole face of nature. There, the steam and smoke and dust of varied and incessant labor seem to blur over and blot out more than half the heavens from the spiritual as well as from the natural eye. There, every thing speaks of man, and nothing of God. There, wealth too often engenders a corrupting and cankering luxury, and opportunities and examples of vicious indulgence are multiplied at every corner. Well does the thoughtful Cowper exclaim, in one of those charming poems, in the perusal of which our own Franklin tells us that he revived his long-lost “ relish for reading poetry:”

“ In cities, vice is hidden with most ease,
Or seen with least reproach.”

Well does he add:

“ Rank abundance breeds,
In pampered cities, sloth and lust,
And wantonness and gluttonous excess.'

And there, too, the dizzying whirl of business and amusement, by which men are hurried along through the six days which are avowedly given to the world, leaves them too frequently with but jaded and distracted souls for the one day which is nominally dedicated to the Lord ; and the services of the sanctuary are too often attended with listless indifference, or forsaken altogether upon pretences of health or of weather, which would not have detained one for a moment from a ball, a concert, or an opera.

"Let us endeavor,” said that great statesman and orator, Edmund Burke, writing from Dublin, at sixteen years of age, to his schoolfellow, Richard Shackleton,-“ . Let us endeavor to live according to the rules of the Gospel; and He that prescribed them, I hope, will consider our endeavors to please Him, and assist us in our designs. This, my friend, is your advice, and how hard is it for me to follow it! I am in the enemy's country, - the townsman is beset on every side. It is here difficult to sit down to think seriously. Oh! how happy are you who live in the

country! I assure you, my friend, that without the superior grace of God, I will find it very difficult to be commonly vir:


What heart in this assembly-young or old — does not respond to reflections like these ? Who can contemplate the manifestations of human frailty and human depravity, as daily and hourly presented to our view even on the mere surface-life of a great city, without feeling deeply and painfully, the dangers to which the young and inexperienced are exposed within its walls? And yet, my friends, how small a part of those dangers is visible to the human eye! How very small a proportion of all the vices and crimes which are committed within the walls of a crowded metropolis, is ever brought to the knowledge of any human tribunal! How few of the sins over which angels may be weeping, ever reach the criminal calendar or the public journal ! How much of “rioting and drunkenness;" how much of “chambering and wantonness;" how many frauds and forgeries, suicides and infanticides; - how many excesses and violences and villanies of every sort, go along, not merely unwhipped of justice, but absolutely undivulged! How many crimes remain to be exposed and audited in another world, for the one which now and then startles and shocks us in this world, by the monstrous details of its grossness and its guilt!

Reflect, my friends, for an instant, what a spectacle almost any great city would present, at almost any single moment of its existence, to a person who had the power to penetrate within its recesses and privacies, and to behold at a glance all that was going on by day or by night within its limits! Nay, reflect, if you have the courage to do so, what a spectacle such a city actually does present to that all-seeing Eye, before which every scene of immorality and crime is daguerreotyped with unfailing accuracy and minuteness and minuteness — just as it occurs

just as it occurs — just as it occurs — no matter how close may be the veil of mystery in which it is involved to human sight, or how secret the chambers of iniquity within which it is transacted! What a panorama must be ever moving before that Eye! Oh, if there could be a more prevailing and pervading sense, that although no human agency or visible machinery be at work, the picture of our individual lives

[ocr errors]

is at every instant in process of being portrayed and copied, every word, act, thought, motive, indelibly delineated, with a fulness and a fidelity of which even the marvellous exactness of photograph or stereoscope affords but à faint illustration ; - if the great ideas of Omniscience and Omnipresence, which are suffered to play so loosely about the region of our imaginations, and of which these modern inventions — the daguerreotype, with the instantaneous action and unerring accuracy of its viewless pencil, — the Electric Ocean Telegraph, with its single flash, bounding unquenched through a thousand leagues of fathomless floods — have done so much to quicken our feeble conceptions ; - if, I say, these great ideas of Omniscience and Omnipresence could now and then be brought to a focus, and flashed in, with the full force of their searching and scorching rays, upon the inmost soul of some great city, like Paris or London, — to come no nearer home, - and of those who dwell in it;- what swarms of sins, what troops of sinners, would be seen scared and scampering from their holes and hiding-places ; — just as even now the inmates of some single abode of iniquity or infamy are sometimes seen flying from the sudden irruption of an earthly police, or from the startling terrors of some self-constituted vigilance committee !

What a different scene would some of the great cities of our own land, as well as of other lands, present,

what new securities should we enjoy for morality, for liberty, for property, for every thing which is comprised in the idea of public or private virtue, - could there be cherished and cultivated by us all such an habitual and vivid sense of an ever-watchful Eye, piercing through all disguises and from which no secrets are hid, as that which the immortal Milton bears witness to in his own breast, in closing the account of those youthful travels on the Continent; where he had not only conversed with Galileo and Grotius, and been complimented and flattered and caressed by cardinals and courtiers, and by all the leading luminaries of those countless fantastic Academies of Literature and Science with which Italy then swarmed, — with the Bees of Rome at their head,- the Humorists and the Melancholics, the Disor dered and the Disgusted, the Idlers, the Indifferents, the Neglected and the Bewildered, but where he had been fascinated too by the surpassing song of Leonora Baroni, and had tasked his Tuscan to the utmost in composing sonnets in admiration of some nameless beauty of Bologna, and had lingered and luxuriated in that voluptuous atmosphere of Nature and of Art, which often puts the sternest virtue to the test:—“I again take God to witness (said he, in closing that tour, and the passage also forms the close of the just published volume of his new and noble biography), I again take God to witness, that in all those places where so many things are considered lawful, I lived sound and untouched from all profligacy and vice, having this thought perpetually with me, that though I might escape the eyes of man, I certainly could not escape the eyes of God!”

It cannot be denied that more than one of our own American cities, limited as they still are in population, in wealth, and in luxury, when compared with the ancient capitals of the Old World, -- and imbued, as more than one of them still is, we trust, with that regard for morality and that reverence for religion which were the peculiar characteristics of their founders, have exhibited of late some fearful indications of enfeebled principle and declining virtue. It cannot be denied, that now and then, — when the detection and investigation of some appalling crime have withdrawn the curtain, for a moment, from the domestic life of some of our wealthy capitals, — scenes have been disclosed which make us shudder at the bare imagination of what that curtain may still conceal. And how often must the solemn reflection have occurred to many a father's and many a mother's heart, when called upon to trust their sons and their daughters to go forth, in pursuit of education or occupation, beyond the limits of parental supervision, — “ Amid what scenes and surroundings are my children about to be cast! Into what depths of worldliness and sensuality and sin may they not be plunged! How, how, are they to be screened and shielded from these tremendous perils? How can the force of association and example, and the influence of fraternity and friendship, - the contagion of good fellowship, - the electric cord of social sympathy, — be employed to lead them in the way of safety and of virtue, as they are now so often employed in seducing them into

« ZurückWeiter »