« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
of the time-often appearing to discern in the distant horizon the streaks of approaching dawn, and then finding the day-star of expectation entirely hidden,-constantly discharging present duties, and preparing for those to come,-walking perhaps sometimes in darkness, but always trusting in the name of Jehovah, and staying his soul on God, his God; -doubtless acknowledging Him in all his ways, and secretly directed (as all are who acknowledge Him faithfully) by the unseen hand, which more obviously guided his fathers in the desert by a pillar of cloud in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night :-growing up before Jehovah as a tender plant, without attracting the observation of men ;-never himself failing or being discouraged, because the day of summons to public duty came not;—but, as the finger of Providence directed him, supporting the bruised reed, and supplying the expiring lamp ;-and always watching with unwavering faith for the fulfilment of God's promises, in the way, and at the time, which Infinite wisdom deemed best.
“ It must have been under the influence of such views, that our great poet, near the beginning of the Paradise Regained, thus speaks of the beloved Son of God, when in the desert, after his high appointment was announced to him, -as retracing his holy life:
When I was yet a child, no childish play
Unto perfection.'" We might have pleasure in referring to many other discourses in this volume which would serve to illustrate the character and peculiar talents of the author, and suggest useful and interesting trains of thought ;—but we forbear. Our object will have been answered, if as many as possible of our readers should enable themselves to derive from a careful perusal of the sermons themselves the moral and spiritual benefit which we are sure they are well fitted to communicate.
We ought not to conclude without adverting to the promised Memoir, which we understand is in preparation, and which, if judiciously drawn up, cannot fail, we should think, of forming an acceptable addition to the treasures of Unitarian Biography, ART. VI.—PARADISE AFTER THE FALL.
AFTER our first parents had left the garden of Eden, having forfeited by disobedience their earthly Paradise, and their state of immortal innocence, a beautiful band of sisters were placed there, that its flowers might not blossom in vain, that some living forms might delight in the lovely creation.
The tree of knowledge stood in the midst no longer; the new race of innocent and joyous beings were to be free from Eve's fatal temptation ; but where its roots had once been fixed, now yawned an awful chasm, deep, dark, and incomprehensible.
The Almighty no longer manifested himself in Paradise. The most High had drawn before Him the veil of His perfections. To the weakened eyes of mortals the Creator had become invisible, and though His fatherly hand was over the sisters, they knew it not.
Stretched upon a mossy turf lay the three beautiful forms whose limbs had never yet tried their power, whose consciousness had yet to come unto them. The trees gently waved over their heads,—the rising sun threw its uncertain rays amidst the branches,--and the varying light danced on the sleeping sisters. The birds twittered upon the boughs, and carolled their morning hymn. Life came upon these children of God, and their eyes were opened to the beauties of created things. They sprang up together from their resting place, they gazed upon each other smilingly, and they bounded with elasticity of motion, and freshness of spirit, along the glades of the Paradise which opened before them. With unsated senses they once more met together; their hearts beat high with their inward bliss; their lips unbidden opened, and they participated their delight. Again and again they examined the beauties of the garden; they paused to taste of the varied fruits; they turned their eyes to the glorious sun and the bright sky above them, and again and again they re-echoed one another's voices, till exhausted as evening approached, they embracing sunk to repose.
The earliest ray of morning brought Celestina once more to a sense of being. Her eyes opened upon her sisters, who in placid slumbers lay beside her, half concealed by the luxuriant herbage which afforded their chance place of rest. Celestina's first sensation was of past happiness; her first impulse was with kisses of affection to arouse her companions.
Once more they ranged around their paradise with untired, unabated delight; once more, as the sun departed, the nightbreeze lulled them to repose.
Celestina again woke first, but now she suffered her sisters to sleep on; light had begun to dawn upon her mind, and her thoughts were busy within her breast. " How beautiful, how wonderful !” she mentally exclaimed; “how delightful is every thing around me! How strange that I have but just begun to know of these things !” She paused,-she surveyed herself, her eyes wandered inquiringly around; she felt she had consciousness, she was beginning to reflect. “How did I first come hither?" she asked herself; 6 whence has my life begun, or how is it that I cannot remember that I have always lived ?”
Her innocent countenance was for the first time beclouded with a sense of imperfection, and the tear stood in her eye, though she understood not its meaning. With a heart less buoyant, and a slower step than before had been Celestina's, she arose and entered a thicket. She explored its recesses, she broke through the close-woven foliage for the first time; she approached the place where the tree of knowledge had stood; she started from the brink of the chasm. She surveyed it with fixed eye; she walked around it; she stooped to examine the fearful abyss. Nothing resisted her snowy arm as she moved it backwards and forwards in the dark opening. Celestina felt within her an assurance of danger; she shuddered; she retreated. In the gayer parts of the garden she found her sisters dancing with light hearts in the pleasant sunbeams. With laughing eyes they entwined their arms with hers, and their waving locks floated on the balmy atmosphere as they chased the butterflies from flower to flower. Bright joy was once more on the brow of Celestina; her solitary walk and her meditations were forgotten.
And so did days, and weeks, and months pass, and the sisters' love never diminished, and their sportive innocence was undecayed. Yet sometimes Celestina's smile would vanish, and sometimes did she, who alone knew of its existence, with an awed spirit visit the chasm ; and sometimes did she experience an inward sinking, as though her heart had want of being filled. Yet she knew not what it was that could make her happier ; she only perceived she was less joyous than her sisters. And she was happy; for her Creator ever watched over her for good, and his blessed spirit was with her, though she could not discern it. .
It was towards the close of a beautiful day: the sisters were sporting together, and had hid themselves by turns in the deep shades. Two were now seeking through the groves and bowers; it was the gayest, the fairest, that was missing. Celestina and her companion entered the thicket whose entangled passes led to the chasm. To penetrate this dark region had till now been shunned by all save the dark-eyed maiden; her light-hearted playmates had more loved the sun and the flowers. But at length did the three sisters meet by the yawning gulf, and its existence was no longer a secret in the bosom of Celestina. Still danger was a feeling unknown except to her, and she saw it, and trembling held back her companion. And now the wanderer ran around the chasm in playful giddiness, and her airy footsteps passed unheeding by her sisters. With graceful speed she trod around the verge; with elastic bound she crossed the deep abyss; with eager haste she dared a second leap. Her strength was gone, and silently like lightning she fell. The dark gulf was there, but that pure being had fed! Her companions gazed fearfully and in mute wonder. They would have rushed after their lost sister, but they felt an unknown power restraining them, and they heard a voice as from heaven, which said, “ Fear not, little ones, it is your Father's good pleasure.”
Celestina moved not as she lay upon the turf supporting with her arm her innocent sister, who trembling in terror clung to the only being she could look to for protection. That feeble guardian, pale and speechless, had raised her eyes to the blue heavens, which seemed to rest on the surrounding thicket. Aching doubts, deep agony had oppressed her as she sank upon the ground, but the awful voice which in solemnly sweet accents had swept through the air, had filled her spirit with a deep, and till then unfelt delight. The secret aspirations of her soul to the hidden cause of her being, the desires of a grateful and adoring heart for some object to serve and love, were now for the first time answered; for the first time it had been revealed to her that she had a Father, and her heart taught her all that was implied in that blessed word.
The sun was declining ere the bereft sisters had spoken to each other. Its rays passed unbending across the topmost boughs of the dark grove, and the shades of the awful chasm were deepened. Celestina embraced her reviving sister, and rose to lead her to their bower. She tried to impart her feelings and hopes to her who till now had found a sufficiency of joy in the mere act of being; who till now had thought not whence she came or whither she must return. Bewildered with the bursting sense of hitherto unimagined things, this feeble child of humanity sunk to a sweet forgetfulness of sorrow. Celestina watched her until sleep had laid its soothing influences upon her, and then, in the calmness of the night air, she sought relief to her overpowered thoughts. This beautiful being, with spirit moulded for a higher state than that of uninformed innocence, sat upon a mossy bank, and wept. These tears, the first that she had ever shed, were the tribute mortality must pay before it can comprehend the joys of heaven. And now she raised her eyes, and immediately the blood ran thrilling through her veins. Night had before never found her sleepless,—the sun alone had been her guiding light; but now she saw the glories of the firmament; she gazed on the universe of worlds !
The voice she had heard was deep in Celestina's thoughts; a mingled and scarce-comprehended sensation of gratitude, awe, and veneration, spread over her soul, and this prayer was at her heart, though she hardly perceived it: “Oh Thou, who broughtest me into being, and who canst take me away from this sweet paradise, oh! teach me who Thou art!” Again did she cry bitterly, for a grievous weight oppressed her spirit. A second time did a voice come over her, “ The Lord who made all things is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. The Lord upholdeth them that fall, and to Him shall all flesh come. The Lord is thy Father, and is ever with thee, and thou shalt love and serve and obey thy Creator and thy God.”
Celestina lay as one lifeless on the earth's cold bosom, but her spirit was worshipping in the presence of her Maker. Fervent and unutterable were her grateful aspirations, long and deep her inward communions. She viewed the sunrise with glowing sensations; the day-spring from on high had dawned on her understanding. She sought for her sister with slow and serious steps, but her heart was joyous; it had been filled from the eternal and unfailing fountain.
With tearful embraces the former playmates met, who were henceforth to know a deeper and closer friendship. Celestina joined in mourning their sister's departure; it was her blessed task afterwards to impart the balm of consolation. “She was but gone home to their gracious Father, their everlasting friend; she was safe and happy in his merciful keeping; her bright fair spirit should never know sorrow, and her smile would welcome them when they also were summoned.”
And now did the sisters roam around their paradise, whilst heart to heart they grew together. Celestina instructed and cheered the gentle being who, in humble faith, prayed with her to her God.
No more was giddy sportiveness and careless mirth to be seen amidst the sunny bowers. The gayest of the band was gone, and the thought of such joys was sorrowful. And one