Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

waited for the night to pass away, wondering whether the morning light would reveal a savage wilderness, or dawn upon spicy groves and glittering fanes, and gilded cities, and all the splendour of oriental civilisation.

RETURN AND RECEPTION OF COLUMBUS.—(PrescoTT.)

In the spring of 1493, while the court was still at Barcelona, letters were received from Christopher Columbus, announcing his return to Spain, and the successful achievement of his great enterprise, by the discovery of land beyond the western ocean. The delight and astonishment raised by this intelligence were proportioned to the scepticism with which his project had originally been viewed. The sovereigns were now filled with a natural impatience to ascertain the extent and other particulars of the important discovery ; and they transmitted instant instructions to the admiral to repair to Barcelona, as soon as he should have made the preliminary arrangements for the further prosecution of his enterprise.

The great navigator had succeeded, as is well known, after a voyage of natural difficulties, difficulties which had been much augmented by the distrust and mutinous spirit of his followers, in descrying land on the 12th of October 1492. After some months spent in exploring the delightful regions, now for the first time thrown open to the eyes of an European, he embarked in the year 1493 for Spain. One of his vessels had previously foundered, and another had deserted him ; so that he was left alone to retrace his course across the Atlantic. After a most tempestuous voyage, he was compelled to take shelter in the Tagus, sorely against his inclination. He experienced, however, a most honourable reception from the Portuguese monarch, John II., who did ample justice to the great qualities of Columbus, although he had failed to profit by them. After a brief delay, the admiral resumed his voyage, and crossing the bar of Saltes, entered the harbour of Palos about noon, on the 15th of March 1493, being exactly seven months and eleven days since his departure from

that port.

Great was the commotion in the little community of Palos, as they beheld the well-known vessel of the admiral re-entering their harbour. Their desponding imaginations had long since consigned him to a watery grave; for, in addition to the preternatural horrors which hung over the voyage, they had experienced the most stormy and disastrous winter within the recollection of the oldest mariners. Most of them had relatives or friends on board. They thronged immediately to the shore, to assure themselves, with their own eyes, of the truth of their return. When they beheld their faces once more, and saw them accompanied by the numerous evidences which they brought back of the success of the expedition, they burst forth in acclamations of joy and gratulation, They awaited the landing of Columbus, and the whole population of the place accompanied him and his crew to the principal church, where solemn thanksgivings were offered up for their re. turn ; while every bell in the village sent forth a joyous peal in honour of the happy event.

The admiral was too desirous of presenting himself before the sovereigns to protract his stay long at Palos. He took with him on his journey specimens of the multifarious products of the newlydiscovered regions. He was accompanied by several of the native islanders, arrayed in their simple barbaric costume, and decorated, as he passed through the principal cities, with collars, bracelets, and other ornaments of gold, rudely fashioned ; he exhibited also considerable quantities of the same metal in dust or in crude masses, numerous vegetable exotics possessed of aromatic or medicinal virtue, and several kinds of quadrupeds unknown in Europe, and birds, whose variety of gaudy plumage gave a brilliant effect to the pageant. The admiral's progress through the country was everywhere impeded by the multitudes thronging forth to gaze at the extraordinary spectacle, and the more extraordinary man, who, in the emphatic language of that time, which has now lost its force from familiarity, first revealed the existence of a

6 New World.” As he passed through the busy, populous city of Seville, every window, balcony, and housetop which could afford a glimpse of him is described to have been crowded with spectators.

It was the middle of April before Columbus reached Barcelona. The nobility and cavaliers in attendance on the court, together with the authorities of the city, came to the gates to receive him, and escorted him to the royal presence.

Ferdinand and Isabella were seated, with their son, Prince John, under a superb canopy of state, awaiting his arrival. On his approach they rose from their seats, and extending their hands to him to salute, caused him to be seated before them. These were unprecedented marks of condescension, to a person of Columbus's rank, in the haughty and ceremonious court of Castile. It was, indeed, the proudest moment in the life of Columbus. He had fully established the truth of his long-contested theory, in the face of argument, sophistry, sneer, scepticism, and contempt. He had achieved this not by chance, but by calculation, supported through the most adverse circumstances by consummate conduct. The honours paid him, which had hitherto been reserved only for rank, or fortune, or military success, purchased by the blood and tears of thousands, were in his case a homage to intellectual power successfully exerted in behalf of the noblest interests of humanity.

After a brief interval, the sovereigns requested of Columbus a recital of his adventures. His manner was sedate and dignified, but warmed by the glow of natural enthusiasm. He enumerated the several islands he had visited, expatiated on the temperate character of the climate, and the capacity of the soil for every variety of production, appealing to the samples imported by him as evidence of their natural productiveness. He dwelt more at large on the precious metals to be found in these islands, which he inferred less from the specimens actually obtained than from the uniform testimony of the natives to their abundance in the unexplored regions of the interior. Lastly, he pointed out the wide scope afforded to Christian zeal in the illumination of a race of men whose minds, far from being wedded to any system of idolatry, were prepared by their extreme simplicity for the reception of pure and uncorrupted doctrine. The last consideration touched Isabella's heart most sensibly; and the whole audience, kindled with various emotions by the speaker's eloquence, filled up the perspective with the gorgeous colouring of their own fancies, as ambition, or avarice, or devotional feeling, predominated in their bosoms. When Columbus ceased, the king and queen, together with all present, prostrated themselves on their knees in grateful thanksgivings, while the solemn strains of the Te Deum were poured forth by the choir of the royal chapel, as in commemoration of some glorious victory.

RELIGION IN COMMON LIFE—(CAIRD.)

THE salvation which the Gospel offers is not the prize of a lofty intellect, but of a lowly heart. The mirror in which its grand truths are reflected is not a mind of calm and philosophic abstraction, but a heart of earnest purity. Its light shines best and fullest, not on a life undisturbed by business, but on a soul unstained by sin. The religion of Christ, whilst it affords scope for the loftiest intellect in the contemplation and development of its glorious truths, is yet, in the exquisite simplicity of its essential facts and principles, patent to the simplest mind. Rude, untutored, toil-worn you may be, but if you have wit enough to guide you in the commonest round of daily toil, you have wit enough to learn the way to be saved. The truth as it is in Jesus, whilst, in one view of it, so profound that the highest archangeľs intellect may be lost in the contemplation of its mysterious depths, is yet, in another, so simple that the lisping babe at a mother's knee may learn its meaning.

Again : View religion as an Art, and, in this light too, its compatibility with a busy and active life in the world, it will not be difficult to perceive. For religion as an art differs from secular arts in this respect, that it may be practised simultaneously with other arts—with all other work and occupation in which we may be engaged. A man cannot be studying architecture and law at the same time. The medical practitioner cannot be engaged with his patients, and at the same time planning houses or building bridges,—practising, in other words, both medicine and engineering at one and the same moment. The practice of one secular art excludes for the time the practice of other secular arts. But not so with the art of religion. This is the universal art, the common, all-embracing profession. It belongs to no one set of functionaries, to no special class of men. Statesman, soldier, lawyer, physician, poet, painter, tradesman, farmer—men of every craft and calling in life---may, while in the actual discharge of the duties of their varied avocations, be yet, at the same moment, discharging the duties of a higher and nobler vocation—practising the art of a Christian. Secular arts, in most cases, demand of him who would attain to eminence in any of them, an almost exclusive

[ocr errors]

devotion of time, and thought, and toil. The most versatile genius can seldom be master of more than one art ; and for the great majority the only calling must be that by which they earn their daily bread.

Demand of the poor tradesman or peasant, whose every hour is absorbed in the struggle to earn a competency for himself and his family, that he shall be also a thorough proficient in the art of the physician, or lawyer, or sculptor, and you demand an impossibility. If religion were an art such as these, few indeed could learn it. The two admonitions, " Be diligent in business," and “ Be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord,” would be reciprocally destructive.

But religion is no such art ; for it is the art of being, and of doing, good : to be an adept in it, is to become just, truthful, sincere, self-denying, gentle, forbearing, pure in word, and thought, and deed. And the school for learning this art is, not the closet, but the world,—not some hallowed spot where religion is taught, and proficients, when duly trained, are sent forth into the world, —but the world itself, the coarse, profane, common world, with its cares and temptations, its rivalries and competitions, its hourly, ever-recurring trials of temper and character. This is, therefore, an art which all can practise, and for which every profession and calling, the busiest and most absorbing, afford scope and discipline. When a child is learning to write, it matters not of what words the copy set to him is composed, the thing desired being that, whatever he writes, he learn to write well. When a man is learning to be a Christian, it matters not what his particular work in life may be ; the work he does is but the copy-line set to him, the main thing to be considered is that he learn to live well. The form is nothing, the execution is everything. It is true indeed that prayer, holy reading, meditation, the solemnities and services of the Church, are necessary to religion, and that these can be practised only apart from the work of secular life. But it is to be remembered that all such holy exercises do not terminate in themselves. They are but steps in the ladder to heaven, good only as they help us to climb. They are the irrigation and enriching of the spiritual soil, worse than useless if the crop become not nuore abundant. They are, in short, but means to an end ; good only in so far as they help us to be good and to do good, to glorify God and do good to man ; and that end can perhaps best be attained by him whose life is a busy one, whose

« PredošláPokračovať »