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interrupted my son, “ I beg you will give me leave to read this letter I know it will please you." Upon which, with my permission, he read as follows:
HONOURED SIR, I have called off my imagination a few moments from the pleasures that surround me, to fix it upon objects that are still more pleasing, the dear little fireside at home. My fancy draws that harmless group, as listening to every line of this with great composure. I view those faces with delight, which never felt the deforming hand of ambition or distress ! But, whatever your happiness may be at home, I am sure it will be some addition to it to hear, that I am perfectly pleased with my
situation, and every way happy here.
Our regiment is countermanded, and is not to leave the kingdom. The colonel, who professes himself my friend, takes me with him to all companies where he is acquainted, and, after my first visit, I generally find myself received with increased respect, upon repeating_it. I danced last night with Lady G and, could I forget you know whom, I might be perhaps successful. But it is my fate still . to remember others, while I am myself forgotten by most of my absent friends ; and in this number, I fear, sir, that I must consider you ; for I have long expected the pleasure of a letter from home, to no purpose. "Olivia and Sophia too promised to write, but seem to have forgotten me. Tell them they are two arrant little baggages, and that I am, at this moment, in a most violent passion with them ; yet still, I know not how, though I want to bluster a little, my heart is respondent only to softer emotions. Then, tell them, sir, that, after all, I love them affectionately ; and be assured of my ever remaining
Your dutiful Son. “ In all our miseries,” cried I, “ what thanks have we not to return, that one at least of our family is exempted from what we suffer. Heaven be his guard, and keep my boy thus happy, to be the supporter of his widowed mother, and the father of these two babes, which is all the patrimony I can now bequeath him! May he keep their innocence from the temptations of want, and be their conductor in the paths of honour!” I had scarcely said these words, when a noise like that of a tumult seemed to proceed from the prison below; it died away soon after, and a clanking of fetters was
heard along the passage that led to my apartment. The keeper of the prison entered, holding a man all bloody, wounded, and fettered with the heaviest irons. I looked with compassion on the wretch as he approached me, but with horror, when I found it was my own son.“ My George! my George! and do I behold thee thus? Wounded
- fettered! Is this thy happiness ? is this the manner you return to me? Oh, that this sight could break my heart at once, and let me die!”
“ Where, sir, is your fortitude?" returned my son, with an intrepid voice. " I must suffer; my life is forfeited, and let them take it."
I tried to restrain my passions for a few minutes in silence, but I thought I should have died with the effort. boy! my heart weeps to behold thee thus, and I cannot, cannot help it. In the moment when I thought thee blest, and prayed for thy safety, to behold thee thus again! Chained wounded! And yet the death of the youthful is happy. But I am old, a very old man, and have lived to see this day! To see my children all untimely falling about me, while I continue a wretched survivor in the midst of ruin! May all the curses that ever sunk a soul fall heavy upon the murderer of my children ! May he live, like me, to see
Hold, sir," replied my son, “ or I shall blush for thee. How, sir! forgetful of your age, your holy calling, thus to arrogate the justice of Heaven, and fling those curses upward that must soon descend to crush thy own gray head with destruction! No, sir, let it be your care now to fit me for that vile death I must shortly suffer ; to arm me with hope and resolution ; to give me courage to drink of that bitterness which must shortly be my portion.”
My child, you must not die : I am sure no offence of thine can deserve so vile a punishment. My George could never be guilty of any crime to make his ancestors ashamed of him.”
“ Mine, sir," returned my son, “ is, I fear, an unpardonable one.
When I received my mother's letter from home, I immediately came down, determined to punish the betrayer of our honour, and sent him an order to meet me, which he answered, not in person, but by despatching four of his domestics to seize me. I wounded one who first assaulted me, and I fear desperately ; but the rest made me their prisoner. The coward is determined to put the lạw in execution against me ; the proofs are undeniable : I have sent a challenge, and as I am the first transgressor upon the statute, I see no hopes of pardon. But you have often charmed me with your lessons of fortitude ; let me now, sir, find them in your example.”
And, my son, you shall find them. I am now raised above this world, and all the pleasures it can produce. From this moment I break from my heart all the ties that held it down to earth, and will prepare to fit ụs both for eternity. Yes, my son, I will point out the way, and my soul shall guide yours in the ascent, for we will take our flight together. I now see, and am convinced, you can expect no pardon here ; and I can only exhort you to seek it at that greatest tribunal where we both shall shortly answer. But, let us not be niggardly in our exhortation, but let all our fellow-prisoners have a share :-- Good jailer, let them be permitted to stand here while I attempt to improve them.” Thus saying, I made an effort to rise from my straw, but wanted strength, and was able only to recline against the wall. The prisoners assembled themselves according to my directions, for they loved to hear my counsel : my son and his mother supported me on either side; I looked and saw that none were wanting, and then addressed them with the following exhortation.
THE EQUAL DEALINGS OF PROVIDENCE DEMONSTRATED WITH REGARD
TO THE HAPPY AND THE MISERABLE HERE BELOW. THAT, FROM THE NATURE OF PLEASURE AND PAIN, THE WRETCHED MUST BE REPAID THE BALANCE OF THEIR SUFFERINGS IN THE LIFE HEREAFTER.
“ My friends, my children, and fellow-sufferers, when I reflect on the distribution of good and evil here below, I tind that much has been given man to enjoy, yet still more to suffer. Though we should examine the whole world, we shall not find one man so happy as to have nothing left to wish lor, but we daily see thousands, who, by suicide, shew as they have nothing left to hope. In this life, then, it appears that we cannot be entirely blest, but yet we may be completely miserable.
Why man should thus feel pain ; why our wretchedness should be requisite in the formation of universal felicity ; why, when all other systems are made perfect by the perfec tion of their subordinate parts, the great system should require for its perfection parts that are not only subordinate to others, but imperfect in themselves -- these are questions that never can be explained, and might be useless if known. On this subject, Providence has thought fit to elude our curiosity, satisfied with granting us motives to consolation.
“ In this situation man has called in the friendly assistance of philosophy; and Heaven, seeing the incapacity of that to console him, has given him the aid of religion. The consolations of philosophy are very amusing, but often fallacious : it tells us that life is filled with comforts, if we will but enjoy them; and, on the other hand, that though we unavoidably have miseries here, life is short, and they will soon be over. Thus do these consolations destroy each other; for, if life is a place of comfort, its shortness must be misery, and if it be long, our griefs are protracted. Thus philosophy is weak; but religion comforts in a higher strain. Man is here, it tells us, fitting up his mind, and preparing it for another abode. When the good man leaves the body, and is all a glorious mind, he will find he has been making himself a heaven of happiness here ; while the wretch that has been maimed and contaminated by his vices, shrinks from his body with terror, and finds that he has anticipated the vengeance of Heaven. To religion, then, we must hold, in every circumstance of life, for our truest comfort: for if already we are happy, it is a pleasure to think that we can make that happiness unending; and if we are miserable, it is very consoling to think that there is a place of rest. Thus, to the fortunate, religion holds out a continuance of bliss ; to the wretched, a change from pain.
But though religion is very kind to all men, it has promised peculiar rewards to the unhappy : the sick, the naked, the houseless, the heavy laden, and the prisoner, have ever most frequent promises in our sacred law. The author of our religion every where professes himself the wretch's friend, and, unlike the false ones of this world, bestows all his caresses upon the forlorn. The unthinking have censured this as partiality, as a preference without merit to deserve it. But they never reflect, that it is not in the power even of Heaven itself to make the offer of unceasing
felicity as great a gift to the happy as to the miserable. To the first, eternity is but a single blessing, since at most it but increases what they already possess. To the latter, it is a double advantage ; for it diminishes their pain here, and rewards them with heavenly bliss hereafter.
But Providence is in another respect kinder to the poor than to the rich ; for as it thus makes the life after death more desirable, so it smooths the passage there. The wretched have had a long familiarity with every face of terror. The man of sorrows lays himself quietly down, without possessions to regret, and but few ties to stop his departure : he feels only nature's pang in the final separation, and this is no way greater than he has often fainted under before; for after a certain degree of pain, every new breach that death opens in the constitution, nature kindly covers with insensibility. : “Thus Providence has given the wretched two advantages over the happy in this life,-greater felicity in dying, and in heaven all that superiority of pleasure which arises from contrasted enjoyment. And this superiority, my friends, is no small advantage, and seems to be one of the pleasures of the poor man in the parable ; for though he was already in heaven, and felt all the raptures it could give, yet it was mentioned as an addition to his happiness, that he had once been wretched, and now was comforted ; that he had known what it was to be miserable, and now felt what it was to be happy. Thus,
my friends, you see religion does what philosophy could never do : it shews the equal dealings of Heaven to the happy and the unhappy, and levels all human enjoyments to nearly the same standard. It gives to both rich and poor the same happiness hereafter, and equal hopes to aspire after it ; but, if the rich have the advantage of enjoying pleasure here, the poor have the endless satisfaction of knowing what it was once to be miserable, when crowned with endless felicity hereafter ; and even though this should be called a small advantage, yet, being an eternal one, it must make up by duration what the temporal happiness of the great may have exceeded by intenseness.
“ These are, therefore, the consolations which the wretched have peculiar to themselves, and in which they are above the rest of mankind : in other respects, they are below them. They who would know the miseries of the poor,