Слике страница

ture. The just man, one of stern integrity, but of a cold heart, does not gain upon our affections like the good man, whose warm benevolence is seen in deeds of charity, and in the whole round of social and relative duties. The incorruptible integrity and stern inflexibility of Cato, we admire, whilst we actually love the mild virtues of gratitude and compassion, and an unaffected benignity of disposition.

One of the features of human character, which peculiarly delight and charm every heart of common sensibility, is the pious affection of children to their parents: nor is it too much to say, that the divine promise of worldly good to those who honor their father and their mother, relates, in part, to the good will of mankind, with which filial piety is almost always rewarded in greater or less degrees. As scarce any thing is regarded with more general abhorrence and detestation than cruelty of children to their parents, or is more frequently punished even in this world by some remarkable retaliation of Providence; so, on the other hand, filial attentions conciliate favour and multiply friends. A daughter, who, with affectionate assiduity nurses and consoles her father or her mother, in the decrepitude of old age, in sickness and in sorrow, a son, who bestows a liberal share of his labor, or his income, to the support of his needy parents-children who thus discharge the debt of kindness and tenderness, rarely fail to find friends in time of need.

These remarks are made as an introduction to the following story, which, though it has a romantic appearance, may be credited as matter of fact.

In the former part of the last century, there lived in a large seaport in France, a merchant, who had carried on trade with equal honor and prosperity, till he was turned of fifty; and then, by sudden and unavoidable losses, found himself unable to comply with his engagements; and his wife and children, in whom he placed his principal earthly happiness, reduced to such a situation as doubled his distress.

"His sole resource in that situation was the reflection, that upon the strictest review of his own conduct, nothing either of iniquity or imprudence appeared.

He thought it best therefore to repair to Paris, in order to lay a true state of his affairs before his creditors, that being convinced of his honesty, they might be induced to pity his misfortunes, and allow him a reasonable space of time to settle his affairs. He was kindly received by some, and very civilly by all; from whence he received great hopes, which he communicated to his family. But these were speedily dashed by the cruelty of his principal creditor, who caused him to be seized and sent to gaol.

"As soon as this melancholy event was known in the country, his eldest son, who was turned of nineteen, listening only to the dictates of filial piety, came post to Paris, and threw himself at the feet of the obdurate creditor, to whom he painted the distress of the family in the most pathetic terms, but without effect. At length in the greatest agony of mind, he said, 'Sir, since you think nothing can compensate for your loss, but a victim, let your resentment devolve upon me. Let me suffer instead of my father, and the miseries of prison will seem light in procuring the liberty of a parent, to console the sorrows of a distracted and dejected family, that I have left behind me. Thus, sir, you will satisfy your vengeance, without sealing their irretrievable ruin.'-And there his tears and sighs stopped his utterance.

"His father's creditor beheld him upon his knees, in this condition, for a full quarter of an hour. He then sternly bid him rise and sit down, which he obeyed.The gentleman then walked from one side of the room to the other, in great agitation of mind, for about the same space of time. At length throwing his arms about the young man's neck, "I find, said he, there is yet something more valuable than money: I have an only daughter, for whose fate I have the utmost anxiety. I am resolved to fix it; in marrying you she must be happy. Go, carry your father's discharge, ask his consent, bring him instantly hither, and let us bury in the joy of this alliance, all remembrance of what has formerly happened."


Of the inestimable benefits of Law.

Or all human institutions, that of Law is of primary importance. The benefit of government consists not so much in its being a guard against external, as against internal violence. For it is not certain that a people living without government would be invaded from abroad; but it is quite certam they would invade, pillage, and murder one another, at home. In every age, and in every country, man, unfettered by law, has been a tiger to man. Not but that, at all times and in all countries, there have been some persons inclined of their own free will to do aright; but their number and strength have never been sufficient to stem the torrent of violence without aids from the arm of civil government. So far from it, where anarchy has prevailed, the more virtuous have ever been its marked victims.

If we trace back the streams of time as far towards the source as there are any lights furnished us from history, we shall find that no tyranny has been so horrible as that of anarchy. In the antediluvian ages, in which no regular government of general extent was perhaps known, "the earth was filled with violence.” Those giants, those men of renown, so termed by the sacred penman, were, there is reason to think, daring and mighty robbers, who, at the head of their companies of bandits, traversed the countries; committing pillage and murders, wherever they went.

In the patriarchal ages there were men of exalted piety, who ruled well their own children and domestics. But even then, well-regulated civil government, was scarcely known any where; else the most venerable patriarch could hardly have been so distressed with fear for the honor of his aged wife, and lest he should himself be murdered on her account, when they were journeying together to Egypt, which at that time was the most renowned for arts and sciences of any country in the world.

There were periods of the like anarchy and its kor

rible concomitants, in the history of the tribes of Israel; when " every man did that which was right in his own eyes;" when "the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through by-ways"* for fear of the swarms of robbers and murderers that infested the country.

In the Heroic Ages, of ancient Greece, there was very little of government or law; mere brutal strength, united with ferocious courage, being the only passport to eminence. The Theseuses and the Herculeses, were renowned and deified for their valorous exploits against robbers. Not that they were scrupulous of committing robbery and murder; but they were renowned and deified, because they had been the means of extirpating a race of banditti more execrable than themselves.

The age of chivalry, in modern Europe, bore a considerable resemblance to the heroic ages of Greece. Chivalry, or knight-errantry, had its origin in the deplorable condition of anarchy in which the countries of Europe were placed. The knights-errant, or roving knights, were professedly the protectors of the weaker part of the community, and particularly of the fair sex ; whose champions they pretended to be, and whose ravishers they very often were. The licentiousness of manners, during the anarchial age of chivalry, was, if we may credit the fragments of its history, both general and shockingly enormous.


Even so far forward as the ninth century, there was no public maritime law in Europe; and in consequence of this lawless condition of the seas, piracy was not only tolerated, but held in honor. The petty sovereigns of the nations upon the Baltic, provided each of their sons with a ship or ships, and enjoined it upon them to make their fortunes by piracy and plunder.

There is an instance comparatively recent, and yet bearing an affinity to those that have been adduced above. Scotland, it is well known, is at present, and long has been, one of the best moralled countries in the world: yet only three centuries since, for want of stable government, it was a land of robbers and ruffians.

*5th chap. of the book of Judges.

Camden, in his Britannia, speaking of the robberies committed by the Scotch Borderers, in the 16th century, says: "They sally out of their own borders in the night, in troops, through unfrequented by-ways, and many intricate windings.-All the day time they refresh themselves and their horses in lurking-holes they had pitched upon before, till they arrive in the dark, at those places they have a design upon. As soon as they have seized upon the booty, they, in like manner, return home in the night, through blind ways, and fetching many a compass. The more skilful any captain is to pass through those wild deserts, crooked turnings, and deep precipices, in the thickest mists and darkness, his reputation is the greater, and he is looked upon as a man of an excellent head. And they are so very cunning, that they seldom have their booty taken from them, unless sometimes, when, by the help of bloodhounds, following them exactly upon their tracks, they may chance to fall into the hands of their adversaries. When being taken, they have so much persuasive eloquence, and so many smooth and insinuating words at command, that if they do not move their judges, nay, even their adversaries (notwithstanding the severity of their natures) to have mercy, yet they incite them to admiration and compassion."

Two important particulars clearly follow from these historic sketches. The one is, that since we live in an age of regulated government and superior civilization, in which life, character and property, are well secured by law, we cannot too highly prize these blessings; and the other, that all persons possessing any regard for religion, or morals, or even for their own personal interests, should use their best endeavors to preserve social order, and to set their faces steadfastly against all wanton violations of good and wholesome laws. Neither is it an unimportant part of christian education, to learn and habituate children to prize and venerate the wholesome institutions of government and law.

In a free republican government, such as ours, the laws are not only for, but from the Peopl and it is indispensably requisite that its youth should have a

« ПретходнаНастави »