Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

our remarks by reference to a common error of the advocates of religion at the present day. They attempt by a skillful analysis to show, that in the nature of things, there is a necessity which originates and defines evangelical virtue. They find, that in the established order of nature and the enduring susceptibilities of the mind, there can be no change—that human conduct is the only variable thing in the case, and that this is subject to the free will—and moreover that the nature of that conduct must determine the fitness and therefore the condition of the soul. Here then is a necessity, and if the mind adapts itself to it, it is happy; if not, it is tormented. Hence every wise man will cultivate this adaptation, which is another term for virtue. There is therefore a necessity for virtue, and every man who sees the true nature of things, must feel constrained to be virtuous. Whence then, we ask, does virtue originate 2 In necessity. And what is that submission which the rational man must pay to this necessity ? Prudence, an accommodation to circumstances which he cannot modify. And this is called virtue! And he who cherishes it, is flattered with hopes of heaven, while he has not an emotion of evangelical faith, the essential saving characteristic of genuine virtue—for the faith of the gospel is neither a belief in evidence, nor a pliant prudence. It is a humble trust in the Deity as good and wise enough to govern, involving a cordial submission to his directions without inquiring their reasons or necessity. How fatally does religion mistake, when she leaves authority for philosophy. But another and more serious consequence of this error is found in its surther development. The enemies of religion, seeing that virtue thus defined, is the “virtue of necessity,” and therefore destitute of intrinsic excellence, inquire, “How can God make it the ground of eternal distinction in the awards of the final judgment.” And it is replied that God sees this necessity, and to it conforms the requirements and sanctions of his law, nay, that he must do this or he would cease to befriend the interests of his kingdom. Thus, the independent sovereign of the universe is represented as stooping from heaven to inform the prostrate victims of an unseen necessity that He too can do nothing but submit to the same inexorable power. And when rebellious men complain and ask the reason of their prospective doom, His ministers proclaim this apology—“He cannot do otherwise.” Philosophy asks, “why should we be virtuous * Religion is taught by its author to reply,–because God chooses and commands it. It asks why will he punish sin The answer is, because he chooses and threatens to do so. If men will not be satisfied with such terms, the defender of the faith is never authorized to propose new and more accommodating expositions. By leaving such questions where the Bible leaves them, an opportunity is given for '. By resorting to philosophy, faith is destroyed, and religion dies in its own sanctuary by the hands of its own friends. The noblest offspring of philosophy is prudence, the child of faith is virtue. It becomes the friends of religion therefore to give philosophy its place, but never to concede to it the province of revelation, nor receive it as a substitute for that authority upon which religion is o ... W.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

279

LETTERS FROM THE OLD DOMINION.
No. I.

Harper's Ferry, Va., May 2, 1837.

They who like ourselves, my dear ****, have been only “Tarry at Home Travellers,” may perhaps find some gratification in the description of the scenes and incidents even of a little travel in one of our neighboring states. As you requested it, especially, I feel under some obligations to attempt the unwonted task of a travelling letter writer; which I do, however, with the assurance that your kind indulgence will make up for the want of intrinsic interest, which, I fear, will too greatly characterize my epistles.

For the first time, I am in the Old Dominion; the state in many respects so highly distinguished above most others of our Union. Its rivers and its mountains—its limestone caverns, and other remarkable natural curiosities—its salubrious watering places—the circumstances of its settlement and infancy—the events of our Revolution, of which Virginia was the theatre—the fact that to that state we owe our Washington, and Patrick Henry, and Madison, and Marshall, with a host of our most illustrious patriots and statesmen of the present as well as of former days—all these, make Virginia the object of no common interest. We may be allowed to feel a glow of patriotic pride, too, as we remember that the men whom we have named are not alone Virginia's sons, but those of our common country; and as we pass beneath the brow of Monticello, or bend over the tomb of our country's father, our hearts may well grow indignant at the thought of a dissolution of the union of those who are bound together as one people, by ties so strong, and recollections so sacred, as those which unite our citizens in interest, in character, and in feeling.

Yesterday morning, you remember, when we left home, the cloudiness and coolness of the weather promised us but little pleasure from our first day's Maying. As we steamed it rapidly down the noble Delaware, we passed in quick succession the southern front of our beautiful city, its Navy Yard, Fort Mifflin, and the Lazaretto. The country on each side of the river, which is too level ever to appear interesting, seemed particularly dull at this time, from the absence of the verdure usual at this season. Wilmington, on our right, appeared to lie almost below the level of the water; and the course of the beautiful Christiana, at whose junction with the Brandywine the town is situated, could only be marked by the sails which here and there might be seen through the openings in the woods. Before we arrived at Newcastle, where we were to transfer ourselves to the railroad cars for Frenchtown, the sun had dispersed the clouds, and under a clear sky we were rapidly and pleasantly transported across the peninsula. By 3 P.M. we had sailed down the Chesapeake, delivered our passengers for Norfolk and Richmond to the steamer that was in waiting near the mouth of the Patapsco, and had reached the Monumental city. We had sufficient time in the afternoon to perambulate through the pleasantest streets of the city, under the guidance of a kind Baltimorean friend, with whom we visited the Monuments and the Cathedral, which have so often been described that I need only mention them. The manner in which we spent a delightful evening will be narrated at some other time, as since the “right of search” has been deputed to all our postmasters, it would hardly be safe to run the risk of exposure by committing it to the mail. Suffice it to say, that it was in the company of an esteemed friend from Philadelphia, whom we chanced to meet in our walk, and in as good a place as the lecture room of the Rev. Dr. H.’s church. We may venture to add, that an evening spent at a Baltimore “fair,” confirmed our o impression of the deservedly high reputation of Baltimore eauty. Expecting to spend a few days in B. on our homeward route, and disposed to lose no time in reaching a warmer clime by moving farther south, we started at six this morning for this place. The rail road, which has been in operation for some months, was not in very good order; and indeed, we should think it difficult to keep it in good order for any considerable length of time, on account of the great number of curves in the road. As the morning was cool, though clear, we were compelled to keep up the windows of the cars, so that we were debarred from the sight of much of the beautiful scenery that lies on each side of the road. In about an hour and a half, we stopped to breakfast at Ellicott's Mills, where we were again obliged to regret the diminution of the beauty of the surrounding country, occasioned by the entire absence of foliage from the forest trees. Soon after 12 o'clock, M. we parted with those of our fellow passengers whose course was towards Wheeling, Va. and “the West,” who here turned to the northwest, on the branch of the rail road from Fredericktown, Md. The country hereabouts began to assume new interest from the presence of the mountains, a feature of the landscape which proves a source of endless variety, and, to me, of unwearied pleasure. About twelve miles from this place, at the Point of Rocks, we came in sight of the Potomac. From this point the rail road runs along the bank of the river, and follows the windings of its beautiful and rapid stream. To lay the rails it has been necessary, in many places, to cut out the solid rock; and we had thus, on the one hand, the overhanging cliff for many feet above us, and on the other, and as far below, the river kept up its incessant and pleasing murmur, as it dashed over the rocks so thickly scattered throughout its bed. The scenery here is not dissimilar to that which may be observed from the canal on the banks of the Susquehannah, above Harrisburg, though the latter is greatly inferior in beauty, since the mountains there are neither so extensive, so lofty, nor so bold. Almost the first object that attracted our notice when near the town, was a neat and even handsome church, seated on a lofty hill immediately back of the village; and we soon formed the determination to pay it an early visit, as its location promised us a very extensive view of the surrounding country. We crossed the Potomac on the rail road bridge, and at about 3 P.M. took up our comfortable quarters in the National Hotel, kept by Mr. Gibson. The views from the windows of this house are such as are afforded by few others in the United States. Opposite one, on the east, is a lofty mountain, at whose base rolls the Potomac, rushing to its junction with the Shenandoah. From another, is seen the view usually given in engravings of this place; and of which they will afford you a clearer idea than you could gain from any description of mine, though pen and pencil are alike inadequate to give you even a faint conception of its beauty and grandeur. As soon as we were somewhat rested, and had dined, we sought the hill before mentioned, the base of which was but a few rods distant from our hotel. We ascended it by means of natural steps, or, rather, steps cut in the rock. The church itself lost much of its interest to us, when we discovered that it was dedicated to the superstitions of the Romanists: they certainly have displayed most excellent taste and judgment, however, in the selection of this spot for the edifice. From the steps of the church, and at an elevation perhaps of two hundred feet from the river, we had a view more beautiful than any I had ever beheld. We were on a mountain and surrounded by mountains. On our right, was a ridge, extending before and behind us as far as the eye could reach; and on whose slopes the clouds by their shadows were producing an ever changing contrast of light and shade, heightened by the varied coloring of the forests, from the dark ever-green of the pines and cedars, to the bright spring-green of the more advanced brush and other trees that were just putting out their leaves and blossoms. Between us and the mountain flowed the Shenandoah, whose shallow but clear waters reflected from the mountains and the passing clouds every hue, and the constant music of whose falls, mellowed by the height to which it rose, conspired to produce an effect in the highest degree delightful. At our feet lay the town, separated by the Potomac from the opposite mountain; and the two rivers here meeting at right angles flow on in one wider stream, till lost to the sight by a sudden turn around the base of a not distant mountain. WOL. II. 36

« FöregåendeFortsätt »