« PreviousContinue »
LETTERS TO VARIOUS FRIENDS.
LETTER 1.-TO A NEPHEW: ON THE POWER OF
Nottingham, March 30th, 1814. My dear J-,
I am much obliged to you for your letter, which, however, I am afraid was not written quite so well as you can write, if you take pains. You should always do every thing as well as you can, even if it cost you a great deal of trouble, and then by-and-by you will be able to do it well without trouble. I hope, now that the weather is fine, you are able to get out, and run about for two or three hours every day. Here is a very pleasant park in Nottingham, where the children play at foot-ball and trap-bat, and games of all kinds. It is all up and down hill, and in some places very steep, but the children are used to this; and so they run up and down places where you would not
venture at all. And even in places much steeper and more dangerous than these, people by habit acquire the art of running with very great swift
When Mr. Gray wanted to descend the Alps, they looked so terrible and steep, and so covered with loose masses of rock, some of them very large, that he could not at all tell how he should be able to get down.
But two men, natives of the country, put him into a litter, and one took one end of it, and one the other, and down they ran as quick as ever they could, jumping from crag to crag, where, if the foot of either had once slipped, they would all three have been dashed to pieces in an instant. The men were used to this, and therefore did it without difficulty. So goats, which are hardy creatures, and born in very exposed places, and which, therefore, are perpetually accustomed to clambering among the mountains, do it with the most wonderful cleverness. Mr. Gray (the same person) saw a goat (I forget whether in Cumberland or Italy) standing on a little juttingstone, with a tremendous precipice straight down below. He says, he would not have been put there for all the world ; but the goat very composedly put up one of its hind legs and scratched its ear.
I will tell you another story about a goat. When Dr. Clarke was in Palestine, near Bethlehem, an Arab came to show the party a wonderful goat which he had. The man had six little blocks of wood, the top part of each of which was not so large as the top of one of your mama's tumblers. The man put one on the
ground, and began playing a tune, and his goat jumped up and stood with all his four feet on that little space. Then the man put two blocks one on the other, and then three, and at last all six; and each time the goat stood on the top. But when the man altered what is called the da capo movement in his tune, which perhaps you cannot understand if I could explain it, the goat tottered about, and when he left off his tune altogether, the goat tumbled down. Now this was all habit. And by habit we may learn to do many things which at first seem very difficult. By habit I can write or cast up a sum, perhaps, twenty times as quick as you. So you see the importance of getting into good habits. If a person has accustomed himself to read or write, or do a sum while other people are talking in the room, though it may be very disagreeable at first, yet by habit he will not mind it. A man who has accustomed himself to get up at a particular hour, will do it whether it be cold or hot, without minding. I wish you to get into good habits, a habit of sitting still at table, of attending to what you are about, and, above all, of doing what you are bid.
Give my love to your papa and mama, your brothers and Eliza, and believe me,
Your affectionate Uncle,
LETTER II.-TO THE REV. WALKER GRAY, AN
INTIMATE COLLEGE-FRIEND: — WRITTEN ON
THE GREAT CHANGE
VIEWS AND FEELINGS.
Autumn, 1820. My dear Gray,
You have perhaps heard that I have had an attack of hæmorrhage, but am now, I thank God, entirely recovered. This illness has been, under the influence of the Spirit of God, the means of essentially, I trust effectually and lastingly, altering my views; my views of this worla and another, of God and myself, of Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When I say, altering my views, I should say, perhaps, renewing my will as to these things: but the two must go together, and both are comprehended under that of David, converting the soul. What a change is this even to be begun! I thank God that my life is spared, and I pray that I may be enabled to redeem the time that I have left, to the only ends for which life is valuable, the glory of God, and the salvation of my own soul, and the souls of others.—“ Here it is,” people say,
“ that persons run from one extreme to another; from wasting life in all kinds of frivolity to —,” I confess I do not know what the other extreme is, or how a person can too much give up his time and himself to God. Alas! that our judgments and our feelings should often be so much at variance with each other. Very sincerely yours,
Southend, December 20th, 1820. Every time I see you makes me more wish we could be nearer to each other. But I am afraid, when I look back upon my silence and dulness during your last visit, this wish cannot be, or cannot long be, mutual. I can only say, that debility of body enfeebles the mind, and that also when the mind is anxiously taken up even with religion, the spirits will be distracted ; and this, I think, must be the reason of the reproach of gloom that comes upon religion. Settled Christians do not come in the way of the world, but young unsettled ones, whose minds are at first distracted, who are sometimes elevated and sometimes depressed, very much perhaps owing to mere animal spirits,—such are necessarily so much taken up within, and so anxiously, as often to be absent, silent, and apparently morose.
I am divided between the fear of troubling and prejudicing you; and the greater fear of having had the opportunity of doing you any good,-(alas ! how much do I need, and how truly do I wish, for some one to do the same for me!) and of having neglected it.
LETTER IV.-TO THE SAME FRIEND.
Caroline-place, January 19th, 1821.
Did you ever consider (I mean, did the consideration ever come home to your