Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

were the feeling and the act of Jesus! What a lesson for me to learn! What an example for me to study! What a rebuke to my negligence! O, let me imbibe the spirit of his peace! O, let me cultivate such delicacy of taste, such purity of sentiment! O, let me acquire such decency, such order, and such beauty, such tranquillity of soul, such true dignity of mind!'

Did the blessed Saviour so leave his very tomb as profoundly to impress his disciples, the moment they looked into it, with its perfect order and quiet; and shall we leave confusion and disturbance in the places that now know us, in the scenes through which we are journeying to heaven, in the homes where, especially, our memory is to live and our influence to be perpetuated when we are gone? Did the good Master leave us such an example of delicate careful. ness in even the smallest actions, and shall we allow ourselves to be rude, hasty, and negligent in the performance of any duty ? Did the Saviour pause, and quietly fold the napkin, ere he issued from his sepulchre, and shall we be willing to go down into ours with the heart in unrest, with any work in disorder, with any duty undone?

Remember, Christian believer, how thy Lord left the place where he lay. Carry in your mind, carry in your heart, the symbol which I have too poorly interpreted and commended, – that it may interpret and commend itself, and become to you another dear token of your Redeemer, another hallowed remembrancer of purity, tranquillity, and reliance. Learn to finish every work. Learn to pass through every scene with a well-ordered movement. Learn to meet every crisis with an undisturbed soul. Learn to leave a pure influence in every place. Learn so to live that the last hour, whenever it comes, shall find you in peace, - with every duty done, every account balanced, every injury forgiven, every sin repented of and forsaken, — thy mantle folded neatly by thy side, and thy hands folded peacefully upon thy breast.

SINCERITY.

" Sincerity 's my chief delight,

The darling pleasure of my mind;
O that I could to her invite

All the whole race of human kind!
Take her, mortals, she's worth more

Than all your glory, all your fame,
Than all your glittering, boasted store,

Than all the things that you can name.
She 'll with her bring a joy divine,
All that's good, and all that's fine.”

LADY CHUDLEIGH,

“Doing right argues taste as well as goodness.” I treasured up that remark as the announcement of a great discovery; though I knew well enough that the truth thus announced was as old as the creation, and that a regard for good taste has always had more or less influence on all human action. My friend professed to quote them from some one, but I have not been able to find out who is the author. Shenstone has something like it, however: “ Taste and good-nature are universally connected.” I thank the old poet for having stamped this truth with the authority of his name. True it is that, “take which you will of the two," you will take the other with it. Every one who sends forth a like sentiment does something, and perhaps more than he imagines, for the world's good; and every one who repeats the saying in conversation, or quotes it on the printed page, also sets in motion a noble influence, which may never cease to be felt.

Every man worth the name has some regard for good taste. The reflection that a certain course of conduct is in bad taste, or will be regarded so by the world, will often keep a man from it, who would never entertain a thought about its abstract right. Whence comes this very potent influence which we term taste? Although it is to some extent an intuitive perception of what is beautiful, and harmonious, it is also very much a matter of judgment, and of public opinion. Or else there are two kinds of taste; one a faculty of the mind, and the other a set of rules made to be used instead of this faculty. Properly there is but one criterion of matters of taste, and that is the intuitive perception of the refined and educated mind. If popular rules conform with this, they are well enough. But often there is a conflict of authority. On the one side is public opinion, always a powerful party; and on the other is the individu. al's instinctive feeling, sometimes not a very powerful party; for the mind's own power has usually been quite without exercise, this being saved by the ready-made rules always at hand. And so the public caprice is with most persons the standard.

Now, that sincerity is in good taste seems to be the spontaneous feeling of every mind. But as the world goes, sincerity is frowned upon and held in contempt. What would society say of the man who should habitually speak his real thoughts, and act out himself? Surely he would be called a fool. To be natural is not spicy enough to interest most people. To speak and act naturally has not the stage effect, which it seems to be a very odd infirmity of the present age to admire in common life. Goldsmith very prettily says, that “natural speaking, like sweet wine, runs glibly over the palate, and scarce leaves any taste behind it; but being high in a part resembles vinegar, which grates upon the taste, and one feels it while he is drinking." The author was writing of stage-actors; but since “ all the world's a stage,” the quotation is quite applicable. The actors on this great stage, too, think that the way to please is to “cringe into attitudes, mark the emphasis, and slap the pockets." Men and women must have the vinegar all the time, they like the sharpness of it so well as it goes down. And so they are “high in their parts.” They will have nothing of a common, natural sort. Having put on masks, they go about solemnly acting a farce in every-day life. It matters not that each one can see through his neighbor's disguises : he is bound by the rules of dramatic propriety not to laugh while he is acting. But unfortunately there is no disposition to laugh in most of these actors, for they have come to regard this universal dissimulation as the natural state of man, or at least the proper one. Owing to their constant study of the art, some of these performers have attained a wonderful proficiency in it. Like true artists, they regard little things as well as striking attitudes. The same training that is shown in the successful part of a bank-defaulter is apparent as well in the frivolous scenes of the drama, where they act their salutations to acquaintances and speak their commonplaces about the weather. We talk about what we do not understand, and express more than we feel, or less than we feel, or what we do not feel at all, because others do so, and sincerity is thought to be so insipid. We live beyond our means, and make a great show of ourselves and the things that belong to us, — things that have not been paid for, sometimes, — for the sake of the éclat we get for it.

Some persons may think that they are acting in good taste when they follow an insincere way of life, because it is the prevalent mode of the time. But I know that their own hearts, if they ever have a chance to speak, tell them that insincerity in any form is not in good taste. We sometimes go to the woods, or to the mountains, where nature recalls us to ourselves and makes us sane. There is no one here whom we feel it our duty to cheat. We never could cheat ourselves by any of our practices. We now feel how wanting in true refinement has been all our foolery in the attempt to cheat others. These hours when we are truly ourselves “bring a joy divine.” The grand sincerity of nature inspires us with the resolve to go back to the village or the town, and live a nobler kind of life with purer hearts and sweeter manners.

I have spoken of the grand sincerity of the woods and mountains. Is not sincerity a thing sublime everywhere? An author who always speaks noble thoughts has recently

said, " I look upon the simple and childish virtues of veracity and honesty as the root of all that is sublime in character.” Every one must feel in his heart that he is ready to say the same. A simple truthfulness of character is really sublime. It does not commonly attract the notice of the multitude, and is seldom sung by poets. It is not brilliant, showy. It is without noise. It is quiet in its bearing, and simple always. Its strength and worth are not recognized in the common course of things.

Dissimulation is elected to office and taken into favor. But when times of trial come, the gilded rottenness shows its weakness, and sober honesty stands out alone in its strength.

"An honest soul is like a ship at sea,

That sleeps at anchor upon the occasion's calm;
But when it rages, and the wind blows high,
She cuts her way with skill and majesty."

Were it my object to set forth the advantages of honesty and sincerity, I might quote the saying of Poor Richard, which has passed from mouth to mouth till it has all the force of a demonstration; or I might attempt to show how hard some men work that they may be thought men of plaindealing, when they are not; how they shift and plot and cringe to gain the appearance of honesty, when a little real honesty would have saved them all their great trouble. Honesty or sincerity has a practical value, and is a recommendation that it is sometimes thought desirable to possess. What we sometimes take for this turns out to be a subtle counterfeit, put on to win our confidence. But it is a quality not easily counterfeited; and it is not usually difficult to distinguish between that sincerity which has grown up with the man, and is a part of him, and that appearance of it which has been assumed for the occasion.

But these reflections are common. The beauty and grace which a constant truthfulness gives to its owner's character and life are something that is less often thought of. I like

VOL. XIX.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »