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In thousand varied forms, borne by a strange
The eve for deep reflection, sober thought,
A helmless, shattered, and a feeble bark,
The sport of winds and waves, and lowering storms ;—
By grace renewed, the spirit falls at rest
In peaceful, happy quietude at home,
Sag Harbor, L. I., June 8th, 1844.
THE TRUE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE.
BY REV. JAMES M. MACDONALD.
"An angel's wing would droop, if long at rest."-WILCOX.
No chasm, no solitude, from link to link
Action is the universal law. Its authority reaches all substances and beings, from the meanest plant to the noblest world; from the ephemeral insect to the immortal seraph. Man must obey it. He can no more violate it, either as a physical, intellectual, or moral being, with impunity, than it could be suspended in the material world without disaster.
Better to create occupation than to live without it. How many are unhappy from having nothing to do! A French nobleman, it is said, to escape depression and ennui, had recourse to the art of an engraver." Any engagement," remarks Dr. Paley, "which is innocent, is better than none, as the writing of a book, the building of a house, the laying out of a garden, the digging of a fish-pond, even the raising of a cucumber or a tulip." Activity, as it respects our physical being, is a first law, and the re
THE TRUE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE.
wards of obedience to it are a joyous animal existence, health, elasticity, bodily volume and force, a useful life and the approbation of God.
The objects which claim the investigation of the human mind are numerous, and spread themselves in all directions around our earthly abode. They are nothing less than the works of God in every department, in all their copiousness, variety, and grandeur. Nature is a volume put into our hands expressly for our perusal, and an acquaintance with it is essentially connected with our highest and best interests. To a reflecting mind it is obvious that we are indebted to such knowledge for many peculiar advantages, and for our most exquisite enjoyments. We are furnished with faculties fitted for the acquisition of knowledge. But these powers of acquisition will prove wasted or abused talents, except as a man yields to the force of the great law of action. The mind must be urged on in the process of obtaining knowledge, and expanding its powers. To preserve its healthy action, its just and natural balance, it must be kept in constant exercise. Action is the appropriate element of the mind; it increases the energy of its powers, and opens a way for that energy to be expended. Intellectual employments bring their own reward. New impulses lead to new discoveries, and thus open new sources of pleasure. But there are penalties attending mental supineness and sloth. The mind will prey upon itself. "Unemployed talents are sure to revenge themselves upon their possessors. They will not lie in the mind like lightning in a cloud, without injuring their sanctuary or losing their energy; but will impair at once their shrine and themselves. Great powers were created for great purposes; and when not applied to them they assail each other like wild beasts in a cage. Memory keeps conscience sleepless, and imagination torments both. The visions of fancy become the realities of sensation. The brain burns sensibly, and the palpitations of the heart are the pulsations of the soul. Thoughts are substances, and feelings convulsions."
To arrive at the true enjoyment of rational beings, the powers with which the Creator has endowed us are not to slumber in inaction. The universe is spread out as a volume through which we may range, selecting whatever is most worthy of pursuit from its ample stores. But let it be borne in mind that no great and valuable attainments can ever be made, except by vigorous mental exertion. Nature will not
• Robert Philip.
open her store-house, and introduce the listless observer into her arcana. She will not divulge her mysteries by accident, nor be cheated into revealing them. He alone, who is diligent in searching, like Theseus in the labyrinth of Crete, will find the key by which he may unlock, and the secret thread which shall guide him through all her labyrinths.
Obedience to the law of moral action is also inseparably connected with the highest usefulness and the purest enjoyments of man. Influence, which by the mass of men is so imperfectly understood, is always inseparable from moral action. A man's duties do not, and cannot all centre in himself; there are obligations from which he can never be absolved, and to the Author of his being he is bound to render his homage, fear, and obedience.
Persons distinguished for habits of active benevolence, are seldom known to become irascible, misanthropic, and sick of life. True charity exerts a tranquillizing influence on the soul; it is an antagonist principle to every disquieting passion; and it is kindred to the calm, pure, and ennobling impulses which give the direction, and make up the sum of a happy life. Right employment is the true philosopher's stone. In seeking to promote the happiness of his fellowcreatures, a man finds the best solace for his own sorrow. He is not perpetually employed in a gloomy introspection, he looks beyond himself, perhaps discovers others more unhappy. It is in philanthropic exertion that the diseased mind finds its restorative power. Let actionnoble, generous, virtuous action-be our law:
""Twill sweep distemper from the busy day,
And make the chalice of the big, round year,
Let every faculty be enlisted; let time be duly prized. It was one of the three things which Cato, the wise and virtuous Roman, in reviewing his life, regretted, that he had permitted a day to pass without performing any virtuous action.
The history of the past teaches us what changes and revolutions in the state of society a single man may effect. Even the examples of perverted moral action present striking illustra tions of individual power, and while they should stimulate to greater vigor the friends of virtue and of man, they utter an impressive warning against such a perversion of the noblest faculties of our nature. What an instance of lofty but perverted genius we have in Lord Byron! His productions minister to the worst passions
of the human heart. Their influence is the more pernicious because "the fatal poison lurks among the gorgeous beauties of poetry." But had he devoted his talents to the interests of humanity, fruitful gardens might now have bloomed where frightful deserts have been created. In the efforts of this nobleman to improve the condition of Greece, we discover the inefficacy of every such attempt, based upon no better principles. It was a good cause, he was an eminent man, and yet he served it ineffectually. His religious sentiments and habits were at war with his enterprise. He could not hasten the liberties of Greece by appealing to the valor of the heroes of Marathon and Thermopylæ. Her classic antiquities, and even her history, glowing with patriotism, chivalry, and high achievement, had no voice that could reach the breasts of her degenerate sons.
The melancholy, or rather the misanthropy of Byron, was a permanent feature in his character, and its exhibitions filled up a large space in his life. Although he submitted to voluntary banishment from his native land, and became a self-devoted martyr to Grecian liberty, he could never escape from the enemy to his peace he carried about in his own bosom. With our knowledge of his character, principles, and manner of life, we are not surprised at the confession he made. "Were I offered the choice," said Byron, "either to live over again, or to live so many more years onward, I should certainly prefer the first; yet my young days were vastly more unhappy than I believe those of other men commonly are. I once attempted to enumerate the days I had lived, which might, according to the common use of language, be called happy. I could never make them amount to more than eleven, and I believe I have a very distinct remembrance of every one. I often ask myself, whether, between the present time and the day of my death, I shall be able to make up the round dozen." The fabled notion of the halcyon days, the septem placidi dies, of the ancient poets, was in his case almost literally verified. And it is doubtless in allusion to his own painful experience that he somewhere in his writings, inquires,
"Did man compute Existence by enjoyment, and count o'er Such hours 'gainst years of life-say, would he
But men have lived in the world for some wise and beneficial purpose-have fulfilled the law of their being-been useful and happy-and left us
examples worthy of imitation. Their memory is blessed. Their actions "smell sweet and blossom in the dust." The celebrated HOWARD, with a generosity, a humanity, a piety, never excelled among men, directed his footsteps wherever the voice of human woe invited, wherever the groans of the prisoner were heard. What a noble and sublime spectacle! With a patience which the severest trials never exhausted, he pursued the path of noiseless, unobtrusive beneficence, removing from many a heart its oppressive load, and plucking from the memory its "rooted sorrows." "For more than sixteen years," it is recorded of him," he travelled from kingdom to kingdom, over a distance equal to nearly thrice the circuit of the globe, declining no hardship, shunning no danger, submitting himself with the utmost cheerfulness to all the annoyances incident to such an undertaking, amidst the selfishness of the keepers of the prisons, and the horrid vices of many of their inmates-amidst the heat and suffocation, the dampness and noisome effluvia of close apartments, and the contagion of disease--breathing, for a long time together, an atmosphere tainted with the ingredients of death."
This good man encountered a most severe domestic affliction. His sensibilities as a parent were deeply wounded by the wickedness of an only son. But in benevolent exertion he sought and found a solace-a balm for his wounded heart. In seeking to console others, he found consolation for himself.
"We must run glittering, like a brook, in the open sunshine,
Or we are unblest."
The second foreign tour of the philanthropist proved fatal to his life. But death was by no means an unexpected or unwelcome event. He had been strongly impressed with the belief that he should never see England again. To a friend who endeavored to divert his mind from dwelling on death, he said: "Death has no terrors for me! it is an event I have always looked to with cheerfulness, if not with pleasure; and be assured it is to me a more grateful subject than any other." "He then spoke of his funeral, and gave directions respecting the manner of his interment. Let me beg of you, as you value your old friend, not to suffer any pomp to be used at my burial; nor any monument nor monumental inscription whatever, to mark where I am laid. Deposit me quietly in the earth, place a sun-dial over my grave, and let me be forgotten." FORGOTTEN? NEVER.
THE ABBOT OF CLAIRVAUX.
BY REV. E. F. HATFIELD.
In the darkest periods of the Church of Christ, there has still appeared, even within the pale of the papal communion, here and there a distinguished light. It is refreshing to turn from the gloomy records of the dark ages, and contemplate the excellences of one who in spite of the superstitions, to which in common with all the world he was addicted, appears to have been a true disciple of the holy Jesus. Such, I am constrained to believe, was the famous BERNARD, one of the brightest luminaries of the twelfth century.
This eminent man was born in the year 1091, at Fontaine of Burgundy, in France, of noble and pious parents. From his childhood he was addicted to learning and religion. Charmed with these pursuits he soon came to a fixed determination to immure himself in a cloister. the many monastic orders of that period he singled out the Cistertians (recently formed, 1099), because of their stricter rules of life, and greater austerities. At the age of twenty-two, he entered the Monastery at Citeaux (Cistertium), the original convent of the order near Dijon, and from which it derived its name. Two years after this event the abbey of Clairvaux (Claravallis) was founded in the neighboring province of Campania; and Bernard, not yet twenty-five years old, became its first abbot. In this capacity he rapidly rose to great distinction. His reputation for piety and wisdom soon brought to Clairvaux nearly seven hundred novices, of whom more than thirty became bishops, six cardinals, and one of them, Peter Bernard, pope under the title of Eugenius III.
His great austerities at length so injured his health as to oblige him to go abroad for his restoration. The absurdity of these excesses he then perceived and frankly confessed. Devoting himself to the work of preaching, he went from place to place, drawing great crowds, who flocked from all parts to be charmed with his fervid eloquence. By these means, and by his writings, he speedily raised himself to the highest pinnacle of fame in the Christian world. He was consulted by princes and kings, bishops and popes. His word was regarded as law, and himself as an oracle. His eloquence gave him the name of the honeyed teacher, and his writings were called a stream from paradise.
By his means the schism in the popedom was healed in 1138, Victor Leing persuaded by him to abdicate, and the kings of France and England brought to acknowledge Innocent II. To the second crusade he was what Peter the Hermit was to the first. He confuted Abelard, the noted rationalist, and arrested the progress of his sentiments. While he was sincerely attached to the papal supremacy, especially in the person of his pupil Eugenius, he boldly in veighed against the corruptions, errors and immoralities of the priesthood, not sparing even the pope himself. It is true that he opposed with great zeal the Cathari, a sort of Puritans, who flourished in his times, and whose greatest fault seems to have been to have known and abjured many of the errors and superstitions of the papacy. But no one pretends that he was free from prejudice. Had he known his opponents better he would have loved them more. No one can read his voluminous writings, and not be convinced, to use the language of Cave, that he was "a man of sincere and genuine piety, of eminent love to God, and animated with fervent zeal against the corruptors of Christian morals, who would himself have been much better had not the times in which it was his fortune to live, prevented." He died September 13th, 1153, in the sixty third year of his age.
It was of him that Luther said,- If there has ever been a pious monk who feared God, it was St. Bernard; whom alone I hold in much higher esteem than all other monks and priests throughout the globe." That Luther was right let the following extract from his 74th Sermon, on the Song of songs, be considered. He is speaking of the operations of the Holy Spirit in the heart, and remarks thus:
"I was sensible that he was present with me; I remember it after his visits were over; sometimes I had a presentiment of his entrances, but I never could feel his entrances or his exits themselves. Whence he came and whither he departed, by what way he entered or left me, I confess that I am even now ignorant; and no wonder, for his footsteps are not known. - You ask, then, since all his ways are unsearchable, whence could I know that he was present ?His presence was living and powerful; it awakened my slumbering soul; it moved, soft
ened and wounded my heart which had been hard, stony and distempered. It watered the dry places, illumined the dark, opened those which were shut, inflamed the cold, made the crooked straight, and the rough ways plain; so that my soul blessed the Lord, and all that was within me praised his holy name. I had no evidence of the Lord's presence with me by any of the senses; only from the motion of my heart, I understood that he was with me; and, from the expulsion of vices, and the suppression of carnal affections, I perceived the strength of his power; from the discernment and conviction of the very intents of my heart, I admired the depth of his wisdom; from some little improvement of my temper and conduct, I experienced the goodness of his grace; from the renovation of my inward man, I perceived the comeliness of his beauty; and from the joint contemplation of all these things, I trembled at his majestic greatness. But because all these things, on his departure, became torpid and cold, just as if you withdrew fire from a boiling pot, I had a signal of his departure. My soul must be sad till he return, and my heart is again inflamed with his love; and let that be the evi
dence of his return. As often as he leaves me, so often shall he be recalled, that he may restore to me the joy of his salvation, i. e. that he may restore to me himself. Nothing else is pleasing, while he is absent who alone is pleasure: and 1 pray that he may not come empty, but full of grace and truth as he was wont to do."
The heart of every believer, as well as that of Luther, must respond gratefully to such an exhibition of Christian experience, and welcome its author as one of the great brotherhood of the redeemed.
This sketch will prepare the reader to appreciate the following hymn of the same author, in which he pours out the fulness of his heart in the praises of his Saviour. The reader will pardon, I trust, the introduction of the original for the gratification of those who are familiar with the language of the Latin fathers. I have endeavored to give the English reader as close a version as the difference of idiom will allow, preserving the same number of verses and syllables in the same metre. Witsius calls it "an elegant song, worthy of being committed to memory and frequently sung in spirit and in truth to the praise of the Lord Jesus."