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love of itself; i.e. becomes an object of a new affection in the same person.” Thus the birth of emotion upon emotion is begun in the soul, of which, though it has a beginning, no one can so much as imagine to himself an end : a creation is commenced which shall go on through eternity.
Not only has the past this life-giving power, by which, through the according action of heart and mind, the being grows up and expands with a just congruity throughout; it also imparts stability to the character; for the past is fixedto that is neither change, nor the shadow of turning. We may look back along the shores of that sea, and behold every cliff standing in its original, dark strength; we may hear the solemn moving of its waves, but no plunge of a heavy promontory, tumbling from its base, startles us : what hath been in the soul, cannot cease to be. Every secret thought of all the races of men who have been, all forms of the creative mind, put forth in act, still live. Every emotion of the heart that beat away back into time, may sleep, but is not dead : it shall wake again. The hands that moulded the images first embodied in the mind, may be dust now; the material forms of art may have fallen back into shapeless earth again; castle and fane, pyramid and column, may have come down; but the forms in the mind, of which these were but the outward show, still stand there perfect. True, the veil of that temple may hang before them for a while ; but when the angel, that standeth upon the sea and upon the earth, shall utter the voice, Time shall be no longer—that veil shall be rent from the top to the bottom. O, it seems to me that I can look in even now, and behold these spirits of the past, in all their aspects of thoughts of mystery, subduing love, passionate endeavor and lofty aim, and forms beautiful as the angels, and noble as gods. How populous is the past! Yes, not a passion, not a thought, not an image of the minds that have been, has perished : the spiritual cannot die. What mean we by that we call death? It is but the seal of eternity.
If the past, in its spiritual constitution, has this character of durability; if it comes before us having put on the form of eternity, its influence upon us must be, to impart the permanent to our own characters. For between us and whatsoever we love, a secret, confluent process of assimilation is going on, till the two become, as it were, homoge
That which we much dwell upon, through a mys
tical intercommunion, we, in time, resemble : the aspect of our soul becomes like that spiritual countenance on which the mind's eye most rests itself. When Moses descended from Sinai, “and when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.” Moses had come from standing before the brightness of the Most High God!
Another effect of the past upon us, and a much needed and elevating one, is to beget in us the spirit of reverence. As it is unnatural for the mind to think of what has once lived, as now utterly extinct; as even material shapes, the representatives of the mind's forms, still live in their spiritual shapes, in the mysterious world of forms, the past comes shadowing over us with the calm awe of eternity in it, and man beholds and reveres. Eternity is present with him, not as an intellectual abstraction, but in the images of whatever has once been : it spreads out visibly before the mind's eye; and as in the clouds of evening twilight, with the bodily eye we see figured,
A tower'd citadel, a pendant rock,
With trees upon't, that nod unto the world, in a higher and truer sense, rises upon the mind's eye, the vast, the crowded, the eternally living world of the past. The spirit is filled with it. Eternity has now a meaning, a feeling in it, and the soul awakened by its all surrounding presence, stands awed at its own conscious immortality :With what solemn grandeur comes up before it the spirit of the past !
It is not in connection with the eternal, alone, that the past awakens reverence in us. So long as we suffer our minds to have their natural play, that which existed long before we came into being will call out something of filial respect; the past will be reverenced as our great ancestor. Nor is this an unmeaning emotion. For whatever has been, touches on whatever is : the present would not be as it is, had the past been different from what it was. As the peculiar gestures of the father are acted over again in the child, and as on the lip of the little one, is still playing the mother's own smile, though she herself be gone ; so the past, by wonderful communication, infuses something of its own character into whatever follows it. He who has no reverence for the past, is an unnatural son, mocking at age, and foreswearing his own
father. And should this reverential feeling die out, and the children of this or the coming time, make light of it, we may depend upon it, in its stead, passions will break into their social state, which shall rend them like the “two she bears out of the wood."
Again, power raises more or less of admiration in the mind. When we look at it as an object of the mind's contemplation merely, and not as operating immediately upon ourselves, it makes itself felt. And this it does, however remote in time or place, and however used, whether for a good or a bad end. For use changes not its nature, it is still power ; and we acknowledge it from its infinite perfectness in the Almighty, down to its most tortuous acts in the meanest of his creatures.
Aside from moral and intellectual power, in its lowest form, that of brute strength, power calls out a kind of admiration, I had almost said respect. We may
have seen in the countenance of a palid book-man, a sort of scornful pity at the exhibition of muscular power in a hale day-laborer. But had we looked into the man's heart, we should have seen how it gave his face the lie. It was an uncomfortable sense of another's superiority, (no matter in what,) driving him home to his misgiving self-complacency, his only hiding place at such times.
If power awakens a sense of admiration, every circumstance that puts it not only out of our check and direct control, but beyond our direct or indirect means of influence, also, increases our sense of the greatness of that power, and our consciousness of our own inferiority to it; and the more we dwell upon it, the more these impressions act and react upon each other ; the more our admiration of it rises, larger pomp
attends upon it, and we bend in reverence before it. What a grandeur, then, is thrown round the powers of the past! How they expand on our vision, till their height becomes terrible! Look, for they still live,-awful, mysterious powers! But we can only look and adore, not reach them,
-even uncared for of them! Amid their vast thoughts, amid their great stir of passions, amid the proud structures they raised on earth, and which are now sublimated into ethereal domes and temples, amid all these, what one thought, there, is of us ? what one standing-place there for our feet? what cathedral arch, or clustering column there, can we lay an altering hand upon ? Time cannot crumble
A hand like that which came out upon the wall, has written on them, Changeless as Eternity !—The past has touched them.
To think of a power so at ease in its own strength and ever-during nature, as to take no concern for our opposition or favor, or even to heed that we exist, has something in it most humbling to our proud natures. But such to us is the past. Let any one who has stood under a heavy-based rock, and strained hard against it, to give himself some sense of the immovable, call to mind his sensations at the time. Did he not feel, at his poor effort, how feebler than a very child he was ?—so feeble that strength and weakness could not express the difference between him and that he pressed against ? And was he not conscious of a wonderful diminishing of his importance, at the time? And, so, in the higher relationthat between us and our fellow-man, we have felt, not angered alone, but mortified too, at an unreturned regard. Did not our anger spring from our mortification ?
To be conscious, then, that we stand so related to any thing, as to be without influence or notice, lowers pride, and leads to a moderate estimate of self. In the present, however, who is so insignificant as to be self-persuaded that he is altogether without influence, or that there is no way in which some man may not be the better or the worse, the merrier or the sadder, for him ? And who has never been in a mood to say to the future, “ This shall be so and so ?” But who shall say to the past, “ I will it thus ?” Try it. Are we not dumb ? Call to it. Sounds any voice from the present, through its deep recesses ?
Do its barred gates ring to our blows ? Let us be still, then, and be humble ; and be content to reverence the glorious and the good, in which we cannot share.
Cannot share! O, be humble, and we shall share. Revere, and we shall enter in. Humility is the golden branch which shall open to us, as at a touch, its heavy doors; and we shall go in, and talk with the spirits of old as with familiar friends, and come back into the present, more thoughtful men, and look forward, wiser discerners into future time.
We shall stand in a true relation to the present and the future, by standing in a right relation to the past. For he who has been back into the past, comes down again into the present midst, and is prepared to travel on into the
future, loaden with the experiences of ages gone, and made wise by the observa
tion of principles in their beginnings, their workings, and their remote results. He is able to bring into contact early causes and their distant effects, and tracing the former through their intricate windings down to the latter, to learn how it was that purposes so often produced their contraries—hope despair, and despair hope. He has learned this truth for the consolation and strengthening of his soul, that, sooner or later, evil recoils upon itself, and that if indirectness and wrong be not visited upon the father, it will be upon the children; and through his wide view, he is enabled to see how
– from good still good proceeds; Direct or by occasion.
-A truth, stale indeed to the apprehension, but realized and let into the life of only a few hearts. He has found out just how short-lived and little worth are expedients and contrivings, and that, in the main, even temporary and particular ends are best reached through permanent and general principles : he has, in fine, been let into the true meaning of that“ great word,” as it has been well termed—“Simplicity.”
Having seen, also, that man is a creature of excess, blindly indifferent where worthy occasions open upon him, and straining with exhausting effort against that which, if let alone, would go harmlessly by of itself
, a spirit of waiting composure is begotten in him, and over his actions is spread the great calm of thought.
An hour's reflection is worth a life's experience. To have studied and meditated upon the past, is better for a man than if he had been born of Adam and had only lived along his centuries of years down to this day. For then, he would have been always in the present, agitated by its excitements, ever changing with its shiftings, and so crowded before and behind, as neither to look back on what he had left, nor forward into that towards which he was going.–What a motley, inexperienced, short-sighted, short-lived creature would be your present man of six thousand years!
Contemplation has also taught him the spiritual uses of material things, and how, from the outward acts of mere outward men, to draw vigor for inward action, and nourishment for the inward lise. His mind is become an universal solvent, letting out the residuum of things, and taking up their essences into his own clear spirit. And see, again, how he has put the present all away from around him; and there he