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education of the poor ? or had they greater facilities than
we enjoy, of increasing their intelligence, their wisdom, or
their piety ? One thing, however, is morally certain ; and
that is, that they practised a greater degree of philanthro-
phy. If we look around upon mankind, how few will we
observe who imitate their example ; v/ho are animated with
the same love for their fellow beings.

Whence arises this degeneracy of the present day 1 Why
has religion become a mockery ? Why are thrones tottering
and crumbling to dust, or nations on the verge of ruin and
desolation ? Is it not owing to the selfishness of man ?
This, indeed, is the prolific source of innumerable evils.
It destroys the bonds that should unite friends and kindred
together. It divides and separates the members of a com-
munity, the moment they are subject to its influence. The
man who comes within the limits of its controul, heeds not
the distresses of complaining millions, provided his own de-
sires are gratified. Selfishness keeps alive the flame of
mutual hate and discord between families ; and renders
them indiflerent to every thing but their own immediate
welfare. One has but little regard for the other. They
will not assist in time of public distress, if it is not, ultimate-
ly, for their own advantage. If a personal sacrifice is
demanded for the good of the country, their murmurings
are heard above all others. They despise their connexions
who are struggling with poverty ; and envy those who are
more fortunate than themselves. But in affliction they will
again be united in harmony and friendship. Then they no


longer are influenced by their prejudices. They learn that
one is dependant upon the other ; that individual selfishness
will bring destruction upon the whole. Behold the hardy
seamen who are threatened with sliipwreck ! — whatever may
have been their previous dissensions, they now forget them
all, and combine their efibrts for each others preservation.
Through the medium of tribulation, domesdc peace is re-
established, and that happiness is built up which was so un-
thinkingly destroyed.

But what, may we inquire, is to be understood by philan-
throphy? "Whosoever will be great among you," says
Christ to his disciples, " shall be your minister. And who-
soever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the son of man came not to be ministered unto,
but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Philanthrophy, therefore, may be considered as a perpetu-
al, unwearying desire, to promote, as far as possible, the
general welfare of mankind, even though it should prove
a personal sacrifice. If this love was more prevalent in
society, there would be fewer chances of unhappiness. We
should then be blended together as a peaceable brotherhood ;
as a great and harmonious family, without pride, envy or
jealousy to disturb our tranquillity.

If you would be philanthropic, you must reflect how you
can best render your assistance, so as to be of the greatest
benefit to those who may require your support. You
must constantly add to your stores of knowledge, and use
every honourable means to increase your weahh. The
more you possess of either, the greater are your opportuni-
ties to become useful.


When you are about to perform the part of a philan-
thropist, do not conclude that you must necessarily neglect
your own private business, to engage in the work of be-
nevolence ; but let it rather be a warning to prepare your-
self, by degeees, for the fulfilment of a beneficent inclination.
Without this, you yourself may become a burden to others.
Do not suppose that your prayers, alone, can effect the
happiness of your fellow beings. Christ and his apostles
prayed for us all ; but they did not rest content with this ;
they travelled through the country healing the sick, and in-
structing the ignorant. When we have acquired enough to
satisfy our own wants, then it should be our duty to attend
to those of others. All this the christian will perform in a
quiet and unassuming manner. " And when thou prayest,"
says the saviour " thou shalt not be as hypocrits are ; for they
love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners
of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say
unto you, they have their reward."

Philanthrophy always implies a certain sacrifice, because
it cannot be exercised without more or less self-denial. It di-
rects us to the peace and well doing oi our acquaintances and
friends, while we partially overlook ourselves. It urges us
to devote our time and property to the common good of our

Let us travel back to ages that have past, and observe
the characters of those venerable and worthy men, who
have long since gone down to the tomb ; men, who fought
and bled for the liberty we now enjoy; who voluntaiily
suffered every privation that they might purchase happiness
for their fellow men. Their names are recorded by the



ever living God; and their philanthropic deeds are carried
down to posterity, and transmitted to future generations.

A man may not have it in his power to imitate in every
respect, the great and good actions of his prototypes ; still
he is not prevented from exercising a certain degree of be-
nevolence. If he is a competitor for an office, and sees
amono; his rivals one who is more active and intelligent
than himself: one who is likely to discharge the duties of
the station with more zeal, ability, and advantage to the
country, he will, if he is governed by laudable motives, re-
sign liis claim, and not aspire to that distinction for which
l^e is not fitted. If there is a scheme proposed lor the
amelioration of some public or private calamity, he will
cheerfully otfer his assistance. He will not stop to inquire
what honour it may confer upon him, or what advantage he
may personally derive ; but immediately identify liimself
with the cause of sufferincr humanitv, and afford relief by his
timely interposition. This is that pure philanthrophy — that
nobleness of soul, which will always be recognized as a
primary excellence of the human character. If war has
laid waste the country — if she is thrown into some unex-
pected difficulty, we hear the selfish man continually mur-
muring in consequence of the pecuniary losses he must
necessarily sustain ; while in such an extremity, the philan-
throphist is willing to make every possible sacrifice for the
public good. He limits his expenses, and substitutes water
for wine ; a crust of bread for costly dishes ; and if he
complain at all, it is because of the sufferings of his fellow

The philanthropist does not ask to be rewarded for his


generosity. He is not influenced by any sordid motives.
He exerts himself cheeriuUv tor the o;ood of mankind. If
God has given him wealth, lie willingly appropriates a part
of it for the relief and education of the poor, or some other
equally charitable purpose.

Let us all imitate the example of our celestial pattern,
Jesus Christ, who expiated his life upon the cross, for the
redemption and happiness oi^ all who believe in his name.
Then we will not be tormented by a guilty and upbraiding
conscience. We will feel the blessed assurance that our
lives have been spent in usefulness ; and when we die, it
will be with the joyful hope of inheriting the kingdom of
eternal glory.



Silent and solemn night ! Thou art ever sacred to my
feehno-s ! Thou art the benefactress of the afflicted, whose
tears thou driest ! Thou art the friend of the unfortunate
whose sorrows are forgotten in thy gentle dreams ! Thou
art the mother of the weary, who seek to repose in thy
arms, and receive from thee new life and vigor. Thou art
an evidence of the majesty and power of God — of his un-
fathomable wisdom, and ineffable goodness I

Thou art worthy of my meditations ; for by thy enchant-
ment, the whole universe, as far as the eye can reach, is
changed. With thy shadows, sleep falls upon the world.
At thy approach, a myriad of stars are seen to glitter in
the firnament, before to us invisible.

Where is the man who remains unmoved, when he walks
forth in the solitary night, and beholds innumerable worlds
spread out before him ? when the stilhicss of death reigns
in the streets, which, but a few hours before, were alive
with the throng and bustle of the crowd 1 when the gar-
dens, and groves, and habitations of men are silent ? when
the trees, and the flowers, are enveloped in darkness, or
seen in the pale and uncertain light of the moon ? The
soul shudders with an involuntary fear. There are none
who do not feci an inexplicable awe creeping over tlicm at
a time like this. What thouo;hts — what feelino;s crowd
upon the mind ! How insignificant would appear the earth.


if she did not receive a charm from the splendors of the
midnight heavens ! Where is the strength of the mighty
chief, when weariness comes upon him, and he is bound in
the arms of sleep ? What are all the riches of the earth,
when their possessor, like unto one that is dead, slumbers,
unconscious of them all ?

Thus it is, that night disposes us to serious meditations.
It collects the wandering and distracted mind, and forces it
into a common with itself. The solemnity of nio;ht inclines
the fickle to useful and salutary reflections — it has recalled
many a skeptic to faith in the ever living God — and many a
scoffing sinner to the paths of rectitude and virtue.

As in every season of the year, so at different periods
of each revolving day, the deity is made manifest in a pecu-
liar and varied manner. The freshness of morning, the
splendors of noon, the calmness of evening, and tlie ma-
jesty of night, are all the result of his beneficence.
Every thing that we behold ; the air, the earth and the
waters ; the rocks, the hills and the valleys, and every
living thing, proclaim to us the wisdom and omnipotenc«
of an all wise Creator. Then, weak and discontented mortal,
cease thy attachment to things that are terrestrial, and con-
template the grandeur and sublimity of the eternal. At
all times, and under every circumstance, remember that
thou art destined for a higher sphere than that of the brute —
that thou shall not live for the body alone, but chiefly for
the spirit.

At night, the love of the diety is made known to us in
many different ways. When the sun leaves our horizon,



to light the other half of the globe, every thing sinks into
tranquillity that nothing may disturb our rest. The uni-
versal darkness that reigns over the face of nature, is fa-
vourable to our slunmbers. Nothing distracts the mind, or
arrests our attention. A.s we remove a light from the cradle
of the infant, or the bed of the invalid, or quiet a noise that
might break in upon their repose, so does the paternal care
of God watch over the slumbers of his children, and take
them all into his friendly protection. The faculties that
were impaired, are now restored to their wonted vigor ; and
the body that was languishing, is strengthened and pre-
pared for its ordinary duties.

When nature invites us to repose, we should -attend to
her request. No one can disobey her laws with impunity.
Nothing destroys the health so speedily, as the wilful
changing of night into day, and the-consequent deprivation
of rest at the proper time. When the sun disappears, the
state of the atmosphere is sensibly changed, and many of
the plants fold up their leaves and flowers. The animals
grow weary, and conceal themselves in their lairs. The
blood of the healthiest man is more excited, and his nerves
irritable. The situation of the sick is also more critical ;
they manifest a greater degree of langour and restlessness.

Long and oft-repeated vigils, from an inordinate love of
amusement, is an infallible method of shortening life. The
mind is less acute, in consequence of the body being relax-
ed and overcome by unnecessary exertions. The bloom
departs from our cheeks. The pallied features and lustre-
less eye, too plainly show that we have been sinning against


the laws of nature. Sinning, did we say ? It is indeed a
truth, that we grievously sin against our Creator, and set at
nought his precepts, when we ruin ourselves by dissipation,
and thereby number our days upon the earth. Yet, so fool-
ish is man, that he, for the gratification of his senses, will
devote the midnight-hour to unhallowed revelry, at the
risk of prematurely falling a victim to his excesses, o-r
dragging a diseased and infirm body to the grave.

The christian fully appreciates the blessings which he
receives at the hands of his maker. After a well spent day,
how refreshing to him are the slumbers of the nisjht ! He
is forbearing in his judgment of those who needlessly waste
those hours in rioting, that should be appropriated to their
rest. He pays a strict regard to that inestimable jewel —
health — without which he feels conscious he would be un-
fit for any useful enterprize. Are we accountable to God
for the proper use and management of those blessings which
he has allotted to us while sojourners here below ? Then the
preservation of our life and health is an awful responsi-

As night throws a shadow upon every object, and re-
moves each obstacle that might disturb our repose, so
should we banish from our minds every tumultuous passion.
With the garments of which we divest ourselves on retir-
ino; to rest, we should also endeavor to renounce the cares
and anxieties of the day, that we may attend only to the
things of the Lord. A clear conscience, and the assurance
that G od will watch over and protect us, prepares for us a
downy pillow. We again return into all the weakness and


insensibility of infancy. Before the hand of God quicken-
ed us into Hfe — before our lips were taught to lisp his name,
he prepared us for happiness beyond our hope or anticipa-
tion. With thee, O Lord, " the night shineth as the day:
the darkness and the light are both alike to thee". Thine
eyes did see me yet being imperfect, and in thy book all
my days were written that were to be, when as yet there
was none of them.*

Fear and anxiety is unbecoming the Christian. Men
often suffer themselves to be tormented, during the night,
by phantoms that are conjured up by their own distorted
imaginations ; but all these the pious man will prudently
avoid. What ? can it be supposed that he who watches
over us through the day, will forsake us in the vigils of the
still night? Why, at this hour, do we tremble at the
thoughts of hell? or fancy that we can almost hear the
groans and agonies of the damned ? Why do we tremble
with the fear of apparitions, that are only the inventions
of weak and ignorant men ? Why do we imagine the re-
turn of a departed spirit, whose body has long been moul-
dered into dust ? Is it not the effect of a badly disciplined
mind ? It may be said, however, when darkness has spread
her mantle upon the earth, that the eye no longer can ren-
der its accustomed services — that every unusual noise pro-
duces a vague and inexplicable terror— a sort of despond-
ency ; and therefore, danger is easily apprehended, where,
in reality none exists. There are many persons, notwith-

• Psalms, cxxx"x, 16.


standing the clearness of their intellect — their religion —
their rational ideas of the Deity ; and we might add, their
entire disbelief of apparitions, who are, at the same time,
greatly annoyed by superstitious terrors at the approach
of night. This can only be occasioned by pernicious im-
pressions, that were allowed to fasten upon the mind in early
youth. It becomes therefore, a sacred and paramount duty
of parents, not to increase, either directly or indirectly,
the superstition of their children. It is a common and
very dangerous practice to relate frightful stories in their
presence ; or to awe them into submission, by threateaing
them with some supernatural appearance. These things
are written indellibly in their memory, and when they
arrive at the age of maturity, they find with all their rea-
son and philosophy, they cannot wholly eradicate them.

When parents are careful to improve the understanding
of their children, then their bigotry, in a measure, will
cease. Those who have been brought up in ignorance, are
the most likely to imbibe superstitious opinions ; and to
adhere tenaciously to them.

There is another error, peculiar even to the well-inform-
ed, that may be comprehended in our present subject. It
is that of dreams, and the undue importance which is fre-
quently attached to their interpretation. Who, of common
sense, will ascribe to them a prophetic power ? Whence
came this belief among christians ? It is a relic of the
dark and barbarous ages. But who for a moment will
suppose that we are enabled by our nightly visions to fore-
tell future events ? It would be in contradiction of God


himself. It is in direct opposition to reason and revela-

It is certainly probable, among the variety of our dreams,
that some of them may seem to be the precursors of events
that follow. This might incline a weak minded person to
the belief, that they are sure presages of good or evil. It
would, however, be still more remarkable, if, among the
innumerable fancies that flit through the brain while we
are asleep, none of them should bear a resemblance to sub-
sequent occurrences.

In the sacred writings, mention is frequently made of
wonderful dreams, whereby God "made revelation" of
himself, but to all others we are expressly commanded to
pay no attention. " If," says Moses, " there arise among
you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a
sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to
pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, let us go after
other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve
them ; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that pro-
phet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God
proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God
with all your heart, and with all your soul." Shall we,
therefore, blindly adhere to those errors that are disproved
by the word of God ? Shall we thus abuse our imagina-
tions ? Shall we endeavour to establish a coincidence be-
tween our dreams and actual events, instead of endeavour-
ing to trace the latter to natural causes ?

Far from me, at least, be such degradation ! — such a
perversion of the understanding ! Far from me be all 8u-


perstitioua terrors that are engendered by the night. God
dwelleth in eternal light ; before him there is no darkness.
His love and care for me are at all hours the same. I will
confide in his goodness, and then the night will be clothed
in light.



Behold the graves of the illustrious dead, who delivered
their country from bondage. Let them skimber peacefuUy
on. Their blood has not flowed in vain. The sacrifice of
their lives has restored liberty to the community ; and
while their bodies are reposing in the earth, millions are
rejoicing over the victory they have achieved.

Let us go to the house of mourning. There we shall hear
the lamentations of a disconsolate family. A sister has
been deprived of a brother ; a wife of a husband ; a mother
of a son. Their cheeks are pale and haggard with weeping.
They wring their hands in the wildness and agony of
despair. But why should they mourn for those who have
died upon the field of battle ? They are dwellers in the
courts above, where, in a few fleeting years, the friends'
they have left behind, will be re-united with them.

Our entrance into, and exit from the world, are matters
of necessity. Thousands are daily perishing ; but it excites
but little attention, because it is the inevitable fate of all.
Death, however, in many instances ceases to be indiffer-
ent — its aspect is materially changed, either by the vices or
magnanimity of the deceased. The execution of a mur-
derer — the death of a voluptuary — or the suicide of a de-
bauchee, fill us with horror and disgust. Their existence
is prematurely terminated by atrocious crimes. They are


without sympathy ; and every one would involuntarily
shudder -at the thought of sharing a similar fate. With far
other feelings were member the man who courageously offer-
ed up his life in defence of his rights, his honor, or his inno-
cence. We cannot but admire him, notwithstanding our
regret for his untimely end. His virtues are recorded in
our memory. His example has a beneficial influence upon
society, although the sacrifice was entirely for himselt'.
The ardor with which he combatted injustice and oppres-
sion is praiseworthy, notwithstanding it may have confer-
ed but little advantage upon others : but it is more difficult
for one to exert himself in like manner, for the happiness
of a friend. He who encounters death with such a motive,
is worthy of the highest praise. Therefore it is that we
honor him who resolutely springs into the boiling flood to
save the life of a fellow creature. Few men are capable
of performing such a magnanimous part, even for one of
their most intimate connexions. On the contrary they are
so degraded and parsimonious, that it is the smallest num-
ber who are willino; to contribute a mite from their abun-
dance, to alleviate the sufferings of those who are daily
perishing before their eyes.

If the risking of life, in order to save a single person
from danger or destruction is deserving of such commenda-
tion, how much more so is it when voluntarily ofl^ercd for
the well being of a whole country — friends as well as
foes — men, women and children of whom we know nothing
about. It is as glorious as the opposite extreme — cow-
ardice, is contemptible. Behold the traitor and coward ,



how they are hooted and hissed by the cro.wd. The formeif
is not only despised by his countrymen — but also by those
^vho were benefitted by his treachery. But the brave and
heroic warrior is honored even by his bitterest enemies.

We ought, says the apostle, to lay down our lives for our
brethern. Our saviour, by his own death, has furnished us
the example. But we can only imitate it to a certain de-
gree. He did not die the infamous death of the cross for
one person — nor a particular community of people — but for
the whole human race.

What can be more laudable than the efforts of the patriot
who struggles against the oppression of a tyrannical power,
that seeks to overwhelm him and his country in ruin ? At
the price of his own blood, he purchases, inch by inch^
that liberty which he hopes to transmit, unimpaired, to pos-
terity. Such a man has gloriously fulfilled his duties on
earth — and he will not be without his reward. His death
ennobled a life that was, perhaps, hitherto almost unnoticed.
He gave, in his last moments, an evidence of that power
that lay concealed within him. His slumbering energies
were called into action. He may have been careless of him-
self, and indifferent to others, but the hour of peril filled his
soul with courage and intrepidity. He takes up the pano-
ply of war, rmd all his former defects are forgotten in his
subsequent brilliant exploits. He is justly the pride of all
who behold him ; and the multitude go out to meet him on
liis way, and strew flowers in his path. Therefore has it
become proverbial, that he who nobly dies in the defence of
his country, throws an oblivion mantle over the deeds of


a previously ill spent life. He may be compared to the
splendors of a sunset, that succeeds a gloomy and tempestu-
ous day. He requires no idle ceremonies — no high sound-
ing epithets — no jargon of senseless and unmeaning praise —
no proud monument, to perpetuate his name, or keep him
alive in the remembrance of the people. He has been con-
secrated by his own blood — and his death becomes the
pride and glory of the whole nation. The recollection of
his valor adds to its further security. Enemies will respect
a people who have had such a fearless champion of their
rights. His virtues never die — they are transmitted from
one generation to another.

The warriors have preformed their duty. By their ex-
ertions — their self sacrificing love and patriotism, we are

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Online LibraryHeinrich ZschokkeHours of devotion → online text (page 12 of 15)