« AnteriorContinuar »
of it. If, instead of overworking the mind, you would hearken to my voice, as I admonish you of my advances, you would learn to apportion your labor to your strength. Your mind and body would give reciprocal support, and both be in health and freshness."
I answered, "If you will allow me to say it, the union of the mind and body, though intimate, is not so perfect as you would make it appear. An enfeebled body may, and frequently does, contain a vigorous mind, and it often happens that the mind is prevented carrying out its own workings by the weak covering which surrounds and checks it. Thus, when hopes are created in the mind, the body prevents them from being realized, and man sinks under disappointment."
The spirit said, in a tone, as I thought, more quick than usual, "Your last words might lead to the belief that I sometimes practise deception. I never deceive. My course is one straight onward progress. I neither deviate nor falter; and he who will note my steps, will find me true and constant. The glittering worlds above began their rounds at my birth, and we have kept on our way with unchanged pace. Thousands of years have witnessed our steady motion, and ages to come will behold the same movement. And as to man's hopes, I neither create nor influence them. He forms them himself, often on improper foundations, and because they are not fulfilled, he accuses me and other spiritual agents of having deceived him. But know that man deceives himself, and will continue to do so so long as he founds his hopes on his wishes. Men misuse terms. A wish is an inward desire that an event may take place. A hope is an expectation that it will happen, and this expectation has often no basis on which to rest. The mourners who surround the bed of a death-stricken person express a hope he may be restored, but this is a false hope which can never be accomplished, because it is made against a decree which is passed and cannot be changed. People may hope that a person in ill health may get well, for here they have the remedies of art and the natural strength of the sufferer to justify them; but when art has failed, and nature has done all she can do, then hope should not be indulged, and mortals may only wish."
To this I replied, "I fear that mortals are not capable
of making these nice distinctions, and by requiring them you would blunt the feelings which prompt the desire to give relief to the distressed by the expression of hopes or wishes. In the ardor, too, of our affections, we seek to bring down on our cherished objects all the good which we think they deserve and which may increase their comfort; permit us then to convey our desires in such terms as we are familiar with, and be indulgent to our ignorance. The Great Being whom we invoke will know our thoughts, and not scrupulously weigh the words by which they are expressed."
"You are right," answered the spirit, "and I do not mean to prevent, in your supplications, the use of such forms as you are accustomed to; my sole aim is, to teach you so to discipline your mind as to lead you to ask only that which you may with propriety request-thus sheltering you from the clouds of disappointment you are apt to complain of. Life is too short to be passed in expectations which may never be realized, and the vain regrets which unfulfilled hopes engender. I have no intention to give a check to the flow of the heart, but rather to guard the tender sympathies from the wounds they inflict on themselves by the defeat of well meant but ill founded anticipations."
I said in answer, "I am wrong in suspecting you sought to weaken the charm which hope conveys to the soul; and as you express a wish so to discipline the heart and understanding, that their demands may be proportionate to their real wants, and such only as is fitting should be granted, may I so far encroach on the kind interest you manifest towards me, as to ask of you such counsel as may serve to direct my thoughts and actions in the way to produce as much of happiness as my nature will admit; that so long as I shall rest within your influence, my path of life may be smooth, and my declining years be free from sorrow."
"You ask of me much, and more perhaps than I can perform," rejoined the spirit. "I am a passive portion of duration, not an active principle of moral good or evil. I am no dispenser of benefits to man; I can only bear him up, that he may receive them from another Source; and if I appear before you in an embodied form, it is because you are better able to carry on intercourse by seeing the being who addresses himself to you, and because your dim vision
is incapable of beholding a spiritual substance. I watch over man while he reposes on my lap or while he flies on my wings, but am without power to act on his volition; neither is it my vocation to prescribe modes of life or tell by what means we can hold company together. The world abounds in teachers, but they are prone to err by their method of instruction. They do not sufficiently study the form of mind of their several pupils; they do not enough consider the different modes by which knowledge should be imparted, in order that it may take root in different undertandings. They neglect to take notice of the perceptive powers of those they teach, which prevents them from so modifying their precepts that a full and equal sum of knowledge may be fastened on the intellect, although it passes to it through several channels. The teacher is apt to govern others by the method which was adopted to direct himself, and takes the experience derived from a bygone system, as a present guide to influence more enlarged capacities and control minds which are developing themselves under new combinations of thoughts. I cannot direct you, but so far as you are carried forward in life by my agency, I cannot avoid regarding your motions as you pass
The events of the world flit before me, and I cannot but regard the uses to which man puts his faculties-how much misery he might spare himself-how much rational pleasure he might command. In this way I have acquired knowledge of man, and this experience, though it does not fit me to be a teacher, yet enables me to give some wholesome precepts, and my regard for your personal welfare makes me willing to give you advice. More I cannot do; yet in this way I may be of service to you, and lighten the burden which you sometimes think weighs heavily.
"You were taught in infancy to pursue the right and shun the wrong, by special precepts which applied to each thought and action. When these precepts became engraven on your mind, experience of the world and interchange of ideas with your fellow-mortals both modified and confirmed them. They then became general principles, such as now govern your conduct. You have long since received all the instruction necessary to form your moral character, and whatever is wanting must be supplied by yourself, if it be not now too late to give a new direc
tion to habits which appear to be firmly fixed. You may still improve so long as you are with me, for although I may destroy, I often bring to view and even throw a lustre on many objects which have been hidden from sight. I know you believe your disposition was not studied by those who directed your mind, by which error you imagine a bias was given to your feelings and habits which is not in harmony with your natural disposition. In short, you think, that by a different mode of instruction you would have been formed a man of more marked character, and consequently have made in the world a display you find yourself unfit to make now. Every day you say inwardly, that you have about as much to forget as to remember, of what you have been taught. It is possible every one thinks as you do when he has attained your age. Yet it is not certain, that under a different method of government you would have been a better or a happier man; for, after all, these are the two points to be aimed at. Do not, therefore, complain of what you are, but study to make your character better than it is. To do this, occupy your mind with useful studies which will bring forth wise reflections; make every effort to arrive at purity of heart; guard yourself against repining at your condition, but bear it with cheerfulness even if it be less good than you think you merit. Watch over and control the infirmities of temper which are apt to beset people as they advance in life, and let not the decay of bodily strength cast a shade over the vigor of your mind. Look not abroad; but with an earnest intent to be better, look within yourself for the comfort you may stand in need of. By doing thus you will keep your faculties in healthful exercise, their strength will remain longer unimpaired, and you will pass on with a firm step to the end of your career. At the same time you will acquire peace of mind, an object beyond all price; and may indulge the cheering hope, that you carry with you in spirit the materials to form a more elevated and brighter character in another state. I have been your companion through a term of life longer than that which falls to the lot of most mortals; do not depend on my being with you much longer; though this thought should not have an effect to create sadness, for to the good death has no terrors except those the imagination clothes him with. Cheerfulness in old age
is as pleasant to behold as is gayety in youth. It is the evidence of a contented mind, and a partial token of a well spent life. Remember the point of time you have reached this day, be grateful, and do not misuse the gift.”
At the close of these words I waited in expectation of hearing more, but no sound coming to my ear, after a short interval I looked up and nothing was to be seen. The glass presented its smooth surface, but no form was there to continue the pleasing dialogue. Everything about me looked as it did at first, yet on my ear still rested the wo ́ds, 'Remember the point of time you have reached this day.' My senses seemed to awaken, and I then bethought me that this day I was sixty years old.
T. W. S.
ART. VII. CHEAP LITERATURE AND THE NEWSPAPER PRESS.
WITHIN a few years past, as everybody knows, the writing, printing and circulation of books have been increasing with extraordinary rapidity. Indeed, ever since Peter Schoeffer, fellow-worker of Faust, set up his metal types in the city of Mentz, about the middle of the fifteenth century, the progress of book-making has been one of marvellous swiftness. Millions of hands, restrained before, finding a channel open, have seized their pens and poured forth upon the world a tide, either of wisdom or of folly, as the case happened to be, sufficient to work some remarkable result. What prophet, of even the most sanguine temperament, could have predicted the changes that have been thus wrought within the short space of these four hundred years?
If Christianity is the comprehensive, vital principle which we believe it to be, then it has intimate relations with all the lawful employments of human life. Nothing is exempt from its control - business nor amusement, action nor study. With all human interests it has something to do. To all conditions and pursuits it has something to say. The efficiency of our faith, as it dwells in the secret heart, is manifested in its minute and thorough applications to the most various and dissimilar positions in which men can be placed.
One of the greatest wrongs ever inflicted on religion