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Behold the aged sinner goes,
What makes the case of such aged impenitents more sad and pitiable, is the fact that they are so deeply insensible of their perilous state. "Gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not."
How often are we constrained to contemplate aged men with wonder? They know or might know, surely-that their end is near. It must be so from the years they have attained. The boldest presumption scarcely dare add five or ten years more to their lives. Few grave-stones bear a higher date than that which they have already attained. Great God! how near is their certain doom!
And yet how unconcerned they go
Others see their position. Others are alarmed by their tottering steps so near the verge of everlasting death. Perhaps angels shudder, and weep-if angels have tears for the hardened as they have rejoicings over those that repent and turn. All are alarmed for them but themselves! Still, on they stumble-till death strikes!-the silver cord is loosed, the golden bowl is broken, the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God-whose favor it neglected, whose mercy it despised, whose grace it received in vain !
It is a strange blinduess. Yet it exists: and the scriptures constantly warn against it. Madness is in their hearts while they live, and afterwards they go down to the dead. They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely. They will not be wooed, and hence they are not won. In all this the scriptures only declare what all experience proves true. They are all around us, gray-headed reprobates! They stand forth as a warning and a terror, like bleached rocks, which the gentle rains of heaven and the warm sunlight of God's love do not soften and which no storms of His chastising providences can break into contrition. They are as barren fig-trees in the Lord's vineyard, at whose roots the axe is already laid-awaiting the doom of fruitless cumberers of the ground.
Whilst we deplore the dreariness of impenitent old age, let us not forget to consider where this evil begins. Like age itself it has its roots far back in earlier years, coming on gradually, and by a silent process. The prophet has well located its beginning or at least its dangerous crisis in that period of life when "gray hairs are here and there upon him."
This points us to earlier, perhaps particularly to middle life. The white winter begins when the first snow but barely whitens the heaviest tufts of grass in the meadows, and the leafiest parts of the trees and hedges. These light drifts of the early snow are the first fruits of the coming winter, and its sure pledge. So the first sprinkling of gray hairs, as they appear, often even before what we call middle life, are the first tokens of coming age. They are only "here and there," but their meaning is not dark. They come as a new prophet which the rest acknowledge; and those which were the crown and glory of earlier life say, We
must decrease, you must increase. These are as prophetic warning voices to him who bears them. If these warnings are neglected, the almost certain consequence is impenitent old age.
Do not facts gathered from actual experience and observation prove the danger of passing middle life in an impenitent state. Then habits are fully formed. Then the affections have their lasting bias. Then the current of life has struck its strong direction! "Can the Ethiopean change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil? Wo unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean! when shall it once be ?"
Middle life is the hill-top, beyond which you surely descend-and descend in the direction you then take. You are then, as a man above Niagara, who has been drawn beyond that certain point, where returning or reaching the shore is impossible, except as by miracle. Silently as yet you may be gliding, but you are nevertheless in the dreadful draught! Whilst you are still in calm waters, men call to you in vain from the shore. You smile at their fears, whilst your danger is not to you in sight; and when, a little farther on, you reach the rapids, you call to them in vain, for then, though eyes may pity, no arms can save!
So natural, easy, and sure is the path from careless middle life to impenitent and hopeless old age. Hence the warning is given when the danger begins. The first signs of the coming dissolution are to be taken as solemn monitions, calling us to the needed preparation. "Gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not."
How dreary must be the path of life to him who approaches its close without hope of something better beyond. Behind are childhood, youth, middle life, with all the hopes that gilded them while they lasted. All these are gone forever. Before is the grave, the judgment, and the solemn realities that lie beyond. The poor wanderer has reached the end of his journey-he has passed his probation-and it is a failure! an everlasting failure! Having ended a life in which eternal interests were involved a life on which hung all heaven for him-a life in which God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and angels, and all the good have manifested the deepest concern, is all gone, and gone beyond recall, and he now learns that it were better if he had never been born. His harvest
is past ! His summer is ended! The melancholy autumn, when for him all things perish, is around him, sounding its dreary dirges into his spirit's ear, to which he responds in despair:
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of life are gone;
The fire that on my bosom prays
YOUNG man, in search of business, first choose an HONEST one. Ask not merely is it lucrative, or respectable, or easy, or even awful, but is it JUST?
"MOTHER MADE IT."
A few weeks since, while in one of the beautiful inland cities of Wisconsin, an incident occurred which awakened in my mind a train of reflections which possibly may be written and read with advantage.
I was hurrying along the street when my attention was arrested by the appearance of a little boy on the side of the pavement, selling candy. He was not really beautiful, nor was he decidedly the reverse. His age was about nine years; his clothes were old and faded, but well patched. His candy was spread upon a coarse, white cotton cloth, neatly stretched over what had been a japanned server. He was surrounded by a group of small boys, evidently belonging to different grades of society.
As I came nearly opposite him, the oft-repeated interlude, "Candy, sir?" fell upon my ears, and although opposed to the excessive use of candy, I stepped aside to patronize the light-haired, pale, freckled, homespun little representative of trade. I purchased of him, partly for his encouragement, but with particular reference to the friendship of the little folks of the family with which I was the temporary guest.
The candy was as white as the cloth beneath it, being free from the poisonous coloring ingredients so extensively used in the confectionary art. I tasted it, and found it delicately flavored and very nice.
"My boy," said I, "your candy is very good. Let me have a little more." I immediately saw that my remark had awakened in his young heart emotions which, in themselves, were quite abstract from the candy trade. His countenance beamed with joy, as he raised his large eyes, sparkling with delight, and observed, in reply:
"It is good, isn't it? Mother made it."
In these few words was embodied an unconscious exhibition of character. Here was a spontaneous outburst of filial affection.
Now this incident, in itself, was trifling; but the spirit of the language carried my mind back through life more than thirty years, and at irregular intervals bade me pause and apply the sentiment to some item connected with my own history.
Before making the application, however, I wish to disabuse myself of the charge which such application may incur, of appropriating to myself the nobility of character which I have above attributed to the candy boy. Holding myself exempt from this arrogance, I would simply say, I am not ashamed of the profession of my affection for my parents, and I hope I may not outlive that profession.
When I was a little boy, at school, and carried my dinner in a satchel made of calico, some of my school-mates carried theirs in fashionable willow baskets, and sometimes teased me because I carried mine in a "poke." I felt vexed, but reconciled myself with the recollection, that if I did carry a calico poke, "mother made it." In less than twenty-five years after that time, one of these school-mates was happy to avail himself of the privilege of sending his children to my school to receive gratuitous instruction, proffered in view of his extreme poverty. His children came to school without any dinner. They had no nice willow basket; they needed no calico "poke.
William Foster ruled his copy book with a pencil set in a fine silver case. He said he would not carry such a great ugly club of a pencil as mine. I compared the pencils. His was the handsomest, but no better than mine. I had a good lead pencil, hammered out of a piece of lead. Mother made it, and I was satisfied with it. After we grew up to be men, William Foster came to me to calculate interest on a small note, at six per cent. per annum; he carried a pencil worth four cents. I had no gum-elastic ball; but I had one made of woolen ravelings and covered with leather. "Mother made it."
When in my twenty-second year, I left home to attend school in L. There were in the school some fast young men, the sons of wealthy parents. There were others whose good sense was not annihilated by pecuniary advantages. Of the former class was John Stokes, who wore very fine broadcloth. My best coat was not so fine; the cloth cost two dollars and fifty cents a yard; my mother traded tow check of her own manufacture for it, while I was working to assist my father in raising his family; she paid fifty cents for getting it cut, and made it herself. John Stokes came one day to my desk, held out his arm, compared his coat-sleeve with mine, and inquired, ironically, where I got such a fine coat. I proudly told him, "Mother made it!" He feigned great surprise, and sarcastically observed he had mistaken it for imported goods; he wished he could get such fine cloths, and wondered if mother would not get him up a fine
A short time afterwards, while in a tailor shop one morning with a fellow student, John Stokes' fine coat was brought in by a lad, with instructions to scour and press it. He was not in his class that day; he had been seen the previous night on Water Street, rolling in the mud, drunk as Bacchus. He left the school in disgrace. He now lies in a drunkard's grave.
I boarded myself while attending school here. I walked nine miles home at the end of each week, and returned on Monday morning with my loaf of bread under my arm. It would become stale before Friday evening, but I always relished it when I recollected that "mother made it."
I am now so far advanced in life that my friends begin to call me old. But I have not lived long enough to learn why I should not still respect my mother and regard her affectionately. She is quite advanced in years, and has nearly lost her sight. She sits within a few feet of me, sewing up a rent in my linen coat while I write this. She has been a widow eight years, and is still toiling for the welfare of her children. She has never studied grammar, philosophy or music-these things were seldom taught in her younger days-but she knows their value, and has toiled hard many a day to purchase books for her children, and support them at school. And shall I now curl the lip of scorn, or blush in company, to hear her substitute a verb of unity for one of plurality, or pronounce a word twenty years behind the Websterian era? Never-no never! The old dilapidated grammar in my library might testify against her style; but its testimony would be infinitely more terrible against my ingratitude. I recollect well when she rode seven miles, one cold winter's day, to sell produce and purchase that book for me, when I was a little boy. It required a sacrifice, but "MOTHER MADE IT."
APPLES OF GOLD-No. 7.
THE FORCE OF NATURE AND CUSTOM.
THAT monster Custom, is angel yet in this;
Nature is often concealed; the natural disposition is sometimes subdued, but is seldom extinguished. Force makes nature more violent in the recoil; doctrine, discipline, and persuasion make nature less importunate; but custom only can alter and overcome nature.
He that seeks to overcome his natural disposition let him not set himself either too great or too small tasks; for the first will dishearten him by frequent failures, and the second will advance him but slowly, however successful. At first he should practice with helps, as swimmers with bladders; but after a time, let him use impediments, as dancers who wear heavy shoes; for it insures great perfection, if the practice in learning is harder than the use in service.
Where nature is powerful and therefore the victory is difficult, the care should be, first, to stay and arrest it in time; like him that used to repeat the four and twenty letters, when he was angry-and so on, repeating fewer and fewer, while his passion cooled or like one who, resolving to leave off wine, should, instead of drinking healths, take but a glass at his meal, and lastly discontinue altogether. But if a man have the resolution to enfranchise himself at once, that is best.
"Resolved severely once for all to smart."
Nor is the ancient rule amiss, to bend nature as a wand to a contrary extreme, whereby to set it right, it being understood that the contrary extreme is no vice. Let not a man force a habit upon himself by continual efforts, but rather with some intermission; for, first a pause renews the energy of the succeeding attempts; and again, if one yet imperfect in his efforts be always practising, he shall repeat his faults as well as his successes, and give the effect of habit to both; and there is no way to avoid this but by seasonable intermissions.
But let not any one trust too far to his victory over nature, for nature will lie buried a great while, and yet revive upon temptation; as was the case of Esop's damsel changed from a cat, who sat at the table very demurely until a mouse suddenly ran before her. Therefore a man