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“ There is no reason that it should dread, lest rent asunder at the moment of separation from the body, scattered abroad and dispersed by the winds, it may fly away and no longer be in existence anywhere."
In another passage are these remarkable and affecting words, expressing the deliberate conviction, in full view of death, of the loftiest intellects in the highest School of Philosophy in Greece. They may well rebuke the littleness of modern Scepticism.
“ To me, then Socrates! as perhaps to yourself, certain knowledge about such things, appears to be during this present life, either impossible, or extremely difficult; yet on the other hand, not to canvass, in every possible manner, what is asserted respecting them, or to desist before one is wearied out by considering it in every point of view, is the part of a very weak man.”
And the speaker proceeds to say that if absolute certainty on such subjects be impossible, then it is expedient,
“Adopting the best and least refragable of human opinions, and carried along on this—as if exposed on a raft —to sail through the voyage of life ; unless any one can pass through it more securely, and with less risk, on a stronger vehicle, OR SOME DIVINE SYSTEM.”
This is the sentence of the noblest heathen philosophy, that the man who will not reverently labour after the best theory of human immortality, or revelation, until all his powers are wearied in the effort, “is a very weak man;" and that those who so labour, should cling to their discoveries as a drowning man would cling to a raft, on which his hope of life depended.
How many modern Sceptics are thus classed by the Ancients in the category of very weak men? How many of them have thus laboured after a revelation ; and what is the religious system of their choice and adoption, for which they reject Christianity, and on which they peril their souls as exposed on a raft, to sail through the voyage of life ?"
For the purposes of this Lecture, I have adopted the conventional meaning of the term Scepticism, namely, the rejection of an authoritative revelation or system of religious muth. And before proceeding further in the argument, I would pause for a moment, to remind the Sceptic that his moral position is unnatural. This observation is of value only to those who doubt honestly and thoughtfully, not to those whose Scepticism is made up of imbecility and conceit, whose intellects are incapable of examining a theory, or deducing an inference; who bravely doubt, because their emasculated minds are too idle, or too feeble, for a well reasoned belief, and their souls too frivolous to be moved by deep, majestic, religious affections. To the really enquiring Sceptic, the fact that in rejecting a revealed system of religion, he is doing violence to a primary instinct of human nature, will have some weight. I propose to demonstrate from this truth, a truth incontrovertibly proved by the religious history of Man, that Sceptism is contrary to Reason.
(To be continued in our next.)
BY J. J. B.
One breezy Autumn morning, as the twain brethren, Life and Death, of whom so much is written, more conjectured, and less known, born at no distant period from one another, and yet in their aspects so strangely different, ever clinging one to the other, and yet to the casual observer, displaying such deadly antagonism, at the same time tangible, and yet spiritual! the two stupendous mysteries, given to us for our study, were wandering (side by side, and hand in hand, their very robes that floated behind them commingling lovingly) through the streets and the lanes, over the heather and the swamp, over the half-turned stubble and the close-nipped pasture land; between the giant pillars of the forest, between the smoke scathed walls of the city, and between the high fern-clad boughs and bronzed hedges of this fair land, the one rosy and fresh from his pleasant labour, the other wasted and wan from the harrowing scenes he had been forced to witness, and writhing in heart at the ingratitude he had met with
And as they passed, the haggard and wan, looked on the fresh and fair, and sighed bitterly.
And his brother asked of him the reason; and he, never pausing on his way, made an answer, and said: “Because of the ingratitude of men, is my heart heavy! I release them from the bonds of sickness and impotence, when they cannot enjoy existence, though its summer-hour be with them; and I gather them carefully into my lap when their winter-time is come; still I am thanked not! I am thanked not! I know when I bend over the pillow that the deed I am about to execute is fair, but the shrieks of horror and agony dissuade me! and I turn away, half crediting myself the loathly and unwholesome thing, that the nurse holds up to the child, that the sceptic presents to man, and his own conscience to the murderer; say, my blithe brother, have I not cause for sighing?”
"Truly," said Life, “truly my kinsman, I can understand thy sorrow, but thy disappointment I cannot; thy doom is widely different from mine, I have rapture in watching the bursting of each bud in the world's garden, I tend its progress with delight, and when it reaches its fulness, and the brown leaves intrude within it, and thy footstep draweth near, I am still content; but thou wert ever, from thy birth, condemned to cast with the shade of thy presence, a film over the eye and a leaden weight upon the heart. I was ordained for good, thou wert born for the sad and the terrible. Man without thee would have been wholly happy.”
Never! cryed Death, “happy without my birth, he could not be. Let my course be stayed but for a few hours, and he would shriek and pray for the film and the shadow thou hast named. “It is false! it is false!” cryed the fairhaired.
Shall the trial be made, for this day only?” asked the careworn. “Willingly!”
e morning breezesying the Heged the na the dara, and no mossips and poles and from the clouds me down the earliedere he village,
The morning swelled into the noon, and the noon grew paler and paler, the breezes hushed, halted, and again howled, and hurried to and fro, driving the vagrant clouds together, like sheep for slumber; and the clouds obeyed the summons, and huddled closely, and the shadow came down, and the day was over; and :hroughout its course had Death the wearied rested, and no mortal had cast from him the garment of earth, and the village gossips had no tale of dissolution to relate, the moralists had no dying words to comment upon, the felon had none to extol as "game," and the heir had to wait a few hours longer! It may be that to a few, the respite was welcome, but to the many far from it.
A woman lay on the rough flock mattress, dying; she was very old, she had long existed as a burden on the parish, and in their secret hearts its officers rejoiced that she was "going at last;" she was indeed herself; her thoughts, her feelings, her knowledge, her affections, were of a bye-gone day, when the white-headed parish doctor and the village nurse who tended her, were squalling red faced babies. She had seen the last of all that she cared for, and of all that she hated, and her dim eyes, and her dim heart, could not discern the light of life, and the shadow of death was brighter and rather to be desired, and was prayed for earnestly,
Yet for that day it came not!
A girl, scarcely out of her teens, and beautiful as a blush rosebud, lay weeping heart-brokenly, the last tears of her young life, in a circle of weeping kindred; kindred on whom she had brought bitter, bitter, dishonour; she loathed herself, she shrunk from the gaze of her sorrowing friends, listening eagerly through her tears, to the words of the minister, and yet to the last loving, oh! how truly, her destroyer. Was the fear of death with her? Did she shrink from the borders of his wing-shadow ?
And yet that day he came not.
The scholar and the poet, who had newly donned the garb of widowhood, and reclined feebly in his ample chair, with his eyes fixed upwards, through the dusk of the room, through the roof and the ceiling, through the evening clouds into the deep heaven, and there beheld, in angel robes, beckoning him with the same bright smile that she wore when he romped with her as a girl, and woed her as maiden,–His wife. Did he shudder at the approach of him who neared to lead him there? Did he struggle against the coming on of the shadow ?
And yet that day it came not!
The debauchee and the sceptic awakened from his apathetic langour, at the “eleventh hour,” by the words read to him from the velvet clasped book by his side, read too in the soft, sorrowful, pitying tones of that best of ministers, an unselfish sister. Had he any regret at parting from the world, whose cup he had drained until the dregs were plastered over his palate, for the fair land that the sweet words had opened for him, save the one sorrow of parting with his monitress? Was not the shadow a relief to his mind, sated so much with the glare of the world's lamps?
And yet that day it came not.
An excommunicate from the pale of immaculate society, who had shuffled back from his exile, repentent and home-sick, to gaze on his father's land again, and was dying from hunger in its fields, barred out from labour by the iron brand of crime, expiring in the centre of the world's greatest empire, teeming with good honest feeling souls, steady money makers, and good church goers, but who shunned him, as of old they shunned the leprosy stricken; did he, looking up to the dappled English heaven, cry aloud for another day of gnawing hunger, another day of bitter temptation ? Did he writhe in anguish at the approach of the shadow and the film ?
And yet that day they came not!
When the clocks, in the distant town, sang of midnight, on the rough stubble land, met the brethren, and the eyes of the fairhaired one were swimming in tears waiting to fall, and his gold locks were limp with the drops already fallen; while the countenance of him who had rested, was flushed with the pride of conquest, and had lost its loathsome furrows. And they grasped hands in silence, for the one admitted the argument of the other; and they placed themselves side by side, and in the driving gust that opened another day, sped together over the heather and pasture and fallow, through the lanes and the streets, through the woods and the orchards of this fair land!
HIS RECEPTION: In different ages men endowed with ability almost superhuman have arisen: some to wield the steel on the tented field; others to handle the same metal, though in a different form, in gaining for themselves the championship over their contemporary literati. Every century has produced its own peculiar stamp of geniusThe most gifted poets, the greatest orators, the subtlest politicians, or generals of the most indomitable prowess and consumate ability, that England has ever enumerated among her "great departed,"