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interests be contemplated in its light, by the “wise men, and “the mighty men,” who now suppose that they almost “ see the end from the beginning;” we would predict their sitting down in the dust before God, with the humble acknowledgment, "we are of yesterday and know nothing." There is not yet faith in millions of us to believe that which “ the Lord from heaven” has told us of the grand secret of all national policy, that “righteousness exalteth a nation."
And we repeat the idea, that a grand obstacle in the way of our true national interests is, living without God in the world ”— unconversion.
The Christian's great duties, then, as a citizen, lie in the range of holiness toward God, for himself, and the promotion of that holiness in his fellow men around him. “ What shall we do that we may work the works of God ? ” what to make the influence of our example more persuasive and commanding upon the thoughtless and unbelieving, the self-wise and those who forget God? what to bring all classes and conditions of our fellow men acquainted with the “ truth as it is in Christ Jesus,” with their duties as hastening to the final judg'ment seat; with their true interests as immortal beings; their dangers as transgressors against God; their encouragements as those for whom have been bought with “ the blood of the everlasting covenant,” the offers of pardon and peace with God, and the hope of blessedness in eternity ? And these inquiries are all answered in the moment of their being put; yea, they have been anticipated, long since, in the voice of God's word and providence, and by the Saviour himself, in the hour in which he ascended to the right hand of God, leaving a command, well following that wonderful and glorious work which he had just finished, and which marks out the Christian's duty to the land of his birth and privileges, as well as to the rest of the “world which lieth in wickedness.” And every call of Christian benevolence in this age, gives emphasis to the divine instructions to the Christian citizen on his duties to his country. Worldly men may look with incredulity, perhaps with scorn, or what is worse, with jealousy and hatred, upon the movements of Christians in their associations of benevolence; and like the Samaritan scoffer, as he looked upon the rebuilding of Jerusalem, may say, “what do these feeble Jews ? will they fortify themselves ? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day?” And the response may come from multitudes of a kindred spirit, “Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.” It is now too late for such sneers to take effect, even upon discerning and honest worldly men ; and on the Christian, who is living in any proper measure to God, they are things which more excite his compassion than his anger. For he sees the time approaching, in which God will decide the question, Who has been the best friend of his country? He who has “cast off fear and restrained prayer," and lived to himself and to his own and the final destruction of his fellow men; or he whose heart has been filled with love to God and good will to men; and whose life has been spent in the promotion of the “godliness which is in Christ Jesus?"
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.” Think not that your duties as a Christian, and your duties in relation to the civil government under which you live, do not belong together, or that they are separable. They are inseparable. So far as you omit either, you sin against God. Take the broad and noble view of this subject which you certainly will find the record of God gives, the more you study it. A few pages like the preceding can give you but a glimpse of it. You must habitually take it into that secret place where God pours in such light as he never grants to shine in the study of the wisest politician, who knows not what humble, fervent, effectual prayer is. You need not ask a seat in the councils of your State, nor of the nation, nor the highest office in the gift of the people, in order that you may do most good. Go forth from your closet, day by day, to shed around you the steady and increasing light of a Christian example, in every sphere of duty, in every relation of life, in all your transactions with men. 6 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,” for the moral and spiritual benefit of immortal men around you,“ do it with thy might." Labor for the conversion of men. For the conversion of a sinner is an addition to the number of good citizens, and to the amount of that righteousness in a nation which is pleasing in God's holy sight. At home, abroad, in private life, in public, in a narrow sphere of influence, or a wide one, be the Christian. Enter with all your heart into plans of Christian benevolence. If you are poor, you can at least cast in two mites,” to help on the movements of benevolence which are struggling to bless our country and the world. If you are rich, you can, with others who should do the
same, cause a flood of blessings to flow over the whole face of the land, and to other nations of the earth.
« Let the same mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus;" “who went about doing good ;” and who blessed a nation and a world with such benevolence, as neither heaven nor earth ever saw before. Be mindful of this truth, that, so far as the example of the Son of God is followed, in all things, by those who profess to be his, so far is the best of all influence exerted in the community, and the most done for its true prosperity and happiness. In short, “ settle it in your hearts,” that he best discharges his duty in respect to the government under which he lives, who, in the truest sense, lives“ soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
FICTION, AS A VEHICLE FOR TRUTH.
By JACOB ABBOTT, Boston, Massachusetts.
If some industrious bibliographer were to make out a catalogue of the works, which, from the earliest periods to the
present time, have been most widely circulated, and have exerted the most powerful and extensive influence among mankind, he would find that nearly all of them would be, in some sense or other, works of fiction. The poetical romances of Homer, would head the list, if it was arranged in chronological order; and the Waverly family would be the last title entered. With fiction it would begin, and with fiction it would end.
Look at our own literature, for example. What stands at the head of English poetry? A wild, supernatural, unearthly story, in which everything is fiction—incidents, characters, and the laws of mind and matter which it recognizes ; and which has even framed a constitution of nature for itself, in every respect different from reality.
Who has made the deepest and most permanent record of English history ? A dramatic poet, by laying, in the events of that history, the foundation upon which the splendid structures of his imagination have been reared. What writer has traced the path of Christian duty, for the greatest number of millions ? Bunyan, by a romantic tale, in which he personified piety, and the difficulties and trials with which she has to contend. How many thousands, who could not have been reached by other means, have followed, with deep interest, the wanderings of Christian, over the craggy rocks, and through the dark vallies ;—now encountering the fierce assaults of Apollyon, and now sinking under the savage tyranny of the giant Despair. What is the masterpiece, so far as success may be considered a criterion, of the literature of childhood ? A story of romantic adventure on a solitary island, with whose wild details every boy and girl, who can read the English language, is familiar. We cannot indeed ever ascertain, what number of copies of any standard English work have been circulated ; but it is probable, that no other four could be found, whose united readers would make so great a throng, as the collected multitudes, who have made themselves acquainted with Paradise Lost, The Plays of Shakespeare, The Pilgrim's Progress, and Robinson Crusoe.
It would however be very unsafe to infer, from the extensive circulation which some popular works of fiction have received, that fictitious writing has, on the whole, exerted a wider influence than true. A narrative of facts, by an early historian, may be rewritten and remodelled by a succeeding one; it may be incorporated with other accounts, and thus be handed down, by a series of writers, from generation to generation, while the original record, and the man who made it, are alike forgotten. A story, however, or a description which genius has conceived and written, can seldom be altered but to be spoiled. So long as it remains in the world of literature at all, it must remain under its own name and its original form. The rise of new nations and new languages, may make translations necessary; but even this is almost always fatal. There are very few works of imagination that can survive it. If such works live at all, they must live unchanged. If incomplete, they must continue unfinished; if wrong, unaltered. No blemish can be removed, no deficiency supplied ; but they must remain forever untouched by any hand, but the one that formed them.
While then a successful work of the imagination is sacred, all other writings are, as it were, common literary property ; and they form a mass, in which each individual production is soon lost. A new treatise on intellectual philosophy necessarily supersedes the old, if it is equal to it in execution.
Hume drove preceding historians from the shelves of popular libraries, and must in his turn give way; and the experimentalist, who takes the lead in science in one century, lives only in the biographical dictionary in the next. On such subjects, books necessarily form a succession, the latter production drawing sustenance from the former, and destroying them as a return. While, on the other hand, works of imagination and taste, if genius has once breathed life into them, live forever. Succeeding efforts can only make additions, not substitutes. It thus happens, that while individual writings of this class possess a more lasting and extensive celebrity, the whole class, probably, exert less control over the public mind, than the books whose field is sober truth.
There is something in the very constitution of the human mind, which places it, to a great extent, beyond the reach of cold abstractions. It demands vivid pictures; it is allured to virtue, and deterred from vice, by seeing them in living and acting reality. No writer, or speaker, who has attempted to act upon mind, ever practised more fully, on a recognition of this, than our Saviour. There is the parable of the Prodigal Son, which has, perhaps, had as much influence upon mind, as any other composition of equal length, that ever was written; how entirely does its moral power depend upon its being a minute and circumstantial narrative ! true to nature ; true in sentiment; but indebted, for the imagery in which this sentiment is clothed, to an imagination as fertile as any human mind was ever gifted with, though subdued and chastened, and consecrated to the noblest end.
It is interesting to observe, how large a part of the Bible is minute circumstantial narrative and dialogue; and this characteristic, has probably been one of the strongest means of awakening and sustaining the interest in it, which has spread this volume so extensively in the world. This, in a very great degree, gives it its moral power. This procures for it a hearing, in a thousand cases, where cold abstractions