S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
You once remarked to me how time strengthened family affections, and, indeed, all early ones: ones feelings seem to be weary of travelling, and like to rest at home. They who tell me that men grow hard-hearted as they grow older have a very limited view of this world of ours. It is true with those whose views and hopes are merely and vulgarly worldly; but when human nature is not perverted, time strengthens our kindly feelings, and abates our angry ones.
It is not in the heyday of health and enjoyment, it is not in the morning sunshine of his vernal day, that man can be expected feelingly to remember his latter end, and to fix his heart upon eternity. But in after-life many causes operate to wean us from the world: grief softens the heart; sickness searches it; the blossoms of hope are shed; death cuts down the flowers of the affections; the disappointed man turns his thoughts toward a state of existence where his wiser desires may be fixed with the certainty of faith; the successful man feels that the objects which he has ardently pursued fail to satisfy the cravings of an immortal spirit; the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness, that he may save his soul alive.
It is not for man to rest in absolute contentment. He is born to hopes and aspirations, as the sparks fly upwards, unless he has brutified his nature, and quenched the spirit of immortality which is his portion.
From what I have observed, and what I have heard those persons say whose professions lead them to the dying, I am induced to infer that the fear of death is not common, and that where it exists it proceeds rather from a diseased and enfeebled mind than from any principle in our nature. Certain it is that among the poor the approach of dissolution is usually regarded with a quiet and natural composure which it is consolatory to contemplate, and which is as far removed from the dead palsy of unbelief as it is from the delirious raptures of fanaticism. Theirs is a true, unhesitating faith, and they are willing to lay down the burden of a weary life, in the sure and certain hope of a blessed immortality.
This is the first heavy loss which you have ever experienced; hereafter the bitterness of the cup will have passed away, and you will then perceive its wholesomeness. This world is all to us till we suffer some such loss, and every such loss is a transfer of so much of our hearts and hopes to the next; and they who live long enough to see most of their friends go before them feel that they have more to recover by death than to lose by it. This is not the mere speculation of a mind at ease. Almost all who were about me in my childhood have been removed. I have brothers, sisters, friends, father, mother, and child, in another state of existence; and assuredly I regard death with very different feelings from what I should have done if none of my affections were fixed beyond the grave. To dwell upon the circumstances which, in this case, lessen the evil of separation would be idle; at present you acknowledge, and in time you will feel them.
Whoever has tasted the breath of morning, knows that the most invigorating and most delightful hours of the day are commonly spent in bed; though it is the evident intention of nature that we should enjoy and profit by them. Children awake early, and would be up and stirring long before the arrangements of the family permit them to use their limbs. We are thus broken in from childhood to an injurious habit: that habit might be shaken off with more ease than it was first imposed. We rise with the sun at Christmas; it were continuing so to do till the middle of April, and without any perceptible change we should find ourselves then rising at five oclock, till which hour we might continue till September, and then accommodate ourselves again to the change of season.
As surely as God is good, so surely there is no such thing as necessary evil. For by the religious mind, sickness and pain and death are not to be accounted evils. Moral evils are of your own making; and undoubtedly the greater part of them may be prevented. Deformities of mind, as of body, will sometimes occur. Some voluntary castaways there will always be, whom no fostering kindness and no parental care can preserve from self-destruction; but if any are lost for want of care and culture there is a sin of omission in the society to which they belong.
It is certain that all the evils in society arise from want of faith in God, and of obedience to His laws; and it is no less certain that by the prevalence of a lively and efficient belief they would all be cured. If Christians in any country, yea, if any collected body of them, were what they might, and ought, and are commanded to be, the universal reception of the gospel would follow as a natural and a promised result. And in a world of Christians, the extinction of physical evil might be looked for, if moral evil, that is, in Christian language, sin, were removed.
Nor let it be supposed that terrors of imagination belong to childhood alone. The reprobate heart, which has discarded all love of God, cannot so easily rid itself of the fear of the devil; and even when it succeeds in that also, it will then create a hell for itself. We have heard of unbelievers who thought it probable that they should be awake in their graves: and this was the opinion for which they had exchanged a Christians hope of immortality!
It is only our mortal duration that we measure by visible and measurable objects; and there is nothing mournful in the contemplation for one who knows that the Creator made him to be the image of his own eternity, and who feels that in the desire for immortality he has sure proof of his capacity for it.
Beasts, birds, and insects, even to the minutest and meanest of their kind, act with the unerring providence of instinct; man, the while, who possesses a higher faculty, abuses it, and therefore goes blundering on. They, by their unconscious and unhesitating obedience to the laws of nature, fulfil the end of their existence; he, in wilful neglect of the laws of God, loses sight of the end of his.
The march of intellect is proceeding at quick time; and if its progress be not accompanied by a corresponding improvement in morals and religion, the faster it proceeds, with the more violence will you be hurried down the road to ruin.
He who never relaxes into sportiveness is a wearisome companion; but beware of him who jests at everything! Such men disparage, by some ludicrous association, all objects which are presented to their thoughts, and thereby render themselves incapable of any emotion which can either elevate or soften them: they bring upon their moral being an influence more withering than the blasts of the deserts.
It behoves us always to bear in mind, that while actions are always to be judged by the immutable standard of right and wrong, the judgments which we pass upon men must be qualified by considerations of age, country, station, and other accidental circumstances; and it will then be found that he who is most charitable in his judgment is generally the least unjust.
As the pleasures of the future will be spiritual and pure, the object of a good and wise man in this transitory state of existence should be to fit himself for a better, by controlling the unworthy propensities of his nature, and improving all his better aspirations, to do his duty to his God, then to his neighbour, to promote the happiness and welfare of those who are in any degree dependent upon him, or whom he has the means of assisting, never wantonly to injure the meanest thing that lives, to encourage, as far as he may have the power, whatever is useful and tends to refine and exalt humanity, to store his mind with such knowledge as it is fitted to receive, and he is able to attain; and so to employ the talents committed to his care, that when the account is required, he may hope to have his stewardship approved.
Whatever strengthens our local attachments is favourable both to individual and national character. Our home, our birth-place, our native land,think for awhile what the virtues are which arise out of the feelings connected with these words, and if you have any intellectual eyes you will then perceive the connection between topography and patriotism. Show me a man who cares no more for one place than another, and I will show you in that same person one who loves nothing but himself. Beware of those who are homeless by choice: you have no hold on a human being whose affections are without a tap-root. The laws recognize this truth in the privileges they confer upon freeholders; and public opinion acknowledges it also in the confidence which it reposes upon those who have what is called a stake in the country. Vagabond and rogue are convertible terms; and with how much propriety may any one understand who knows what are the habits of the wandering classes, such as gipsies, tinkers, and potters.
Philosophy is of two kinds: that which relates to conduct, and that which relates to knowledge. The first teaches us to value all things at their real worth, to be contented with little, modest in prosperity, patient in trouble, equal-minded at all times. It teaches us our duty to our neighbour and ourselves. But it is he who possesses both that is the true philosopher. The more he knows, the more he is desirous of knowing; and yet the farther he advances in knowledge the better he understands how little he can attain, and the more deeply he feels that God alone can satisfy the infinite desires of an immortal soul. To understand this is the height and perfection of philosophy.
There is no security in a good disposition, if the support of good principles (that is to say, of religion, of Christian faith) be wanting. It may be soured by misfortunes, it may be corrupted by wealth, it may be blighted by neediness, it may lose all its original brightness, if destitute of that support.
For a young and presumptuous poet (and presumptuousness is but too naturally connected with the consciousness of youthful power) a disposition to write satires is one of the most dangerous he can encourage. It tempts him to personalities, which are not always forgiven after he has repented and become ashamed of them; it ministers to his self-conceit; if he takes the tone of invective, it leads him to be uncharitable; and if he takes that of ridicule, one of the most fatal habits which any one can contract is that of looking at all things in a ludicrous point of view.
Voltaire and Wesley were of the same generation; they were contemporaries through a longer course of time [than Luther and Loyola]; and the influences which they exercised upon their age and upon posterity have not been less remarkably opposed. While the one was scattering, with pestilent activity, the seeds of immorality and unbelief, the other, with equally unweariable zeal, laboured in the cause of religious enthusiasm. The works of Voltaire have found their way wherever the French language is read; the disciples of Wesley, wherever the English is spoken. The principles of the archinfidel were more rapid in their operation: he who aimed at no such evil as that which he contributed so greatly to bring about, was himself startled at their progress: in his latter days he trembled at the consequences which he then foresaw; and indeed his remains had scarcely mouldered in the grave before those consequences brought down the whole fabric of government in France, overturned her altars, subverted her throne, carried guilt, devastation, and misery into every part of his own country, and shook the rest of Europe like an earthquake. Wesleys doctrines, meantime, were slowly and gradually winning their way; but they advanced every succeeding year with accelerated force, and their effect must ultimately be more extensive, more powerful, and more permanent; for he has set mightier principles at work . The Emperor Charles V. and his rival of France appear at this day infinitely insignificant, if we compare them with Luther and Loyola; and there may come a time when the name of Wesley will be more generally known, and in remoter regions of the globe, than that of Frederic or of Catherine. For the works of such men survive them, and continue to operate when nothing remains of worldly ambition but the memory of its vanity and its guilt.
Robert Southey: Life of John Wesley, 3d edit., 1846, i. 2.
In his will [John Wesley] directed that six poor men should have twenty shillings each for carrying his body to the grave; for I particularly desire, said he, that there may be no hearse, no coach, no escutcheon, no pomp except the tears of them that loved me and are following me to Abrahams bosom. I solemnly adjure my executors, in the name of God, punctually to observe this. At the desire of many of his friends, his body was carried into the chapel the day preceding the interment, and there lay in a kind of state becoming the person, dressed in his clerical habit, with gown, cassock, and band; the old clerical cap on his head; a Bible in one hand, and a white handkerchief in the other. The face was placid, and the expression which death had fixed upon his venerable features was that of a serene and heavenly smile. The crowds who flocked to see him were so great that it was thought prudent, for fear of accidents, to accelerate the funeral and perform it between five and six in the morning. The intelligence, however, could not be kept entirely secret, and several hundred persons attended at that unusual hour. Mr. Richardson, who performed the service, had been one of his preachers almost thirty years. When he came to that part of the service, Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother, his voice changed, and he substituted the word father; and the feeling with which he did this was such that the congregation, who were shedding silent tears, burst at once into loud weeping.
Robert Southey: Life of John Wesley, 3d edit., 1846, ii. 402.
It would please you to see such a display of literary wealth which is at once the pride of my eye, and the joy of my heart, and the food of my mind; indeed, more than metaphorically meat, drink, and clothing, to me and mine. I believe that no one in my station was ever so rich before, and I am sure that no one in my station had ever a more thorough enjoyment of riches of any kind, or in any way. It is more delightful for me to live with books than with men, even with all the relish which I have for such society as is worth having.
Unbelievers have not always been honest enough thus to express their real feelings; but this we know concerning them, that when they have renounced their birthright of hope, they have not been able to divest themselves of fear. From the nature of the human mind this might be presumed, and in fact it is so. They may deaden the heart and stupefy the conscience, but they cannot destroy the imaginative faculty.
Robert Southey: Quar. Rev., July, 1823: Progress of Infidelity.