Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE WORLD CHAMPION.

To Christian philanthropists, and especially to American Christians, no subject can be more interesting than that of the concluding reflections in the last article. Desirous of expatiating somewhat more largely thereupon, I have chosen another heroic name as the nucleus of my remarks, and congratulate myself on the honor assumed of writing a few eulogistic words on WASHINGTON.

I need not say that the surrounding halo of that name can not be brightened by any breath of ours, and that the admiration with which all men look upon the character of him who wore and honored it, may not be increased by the added tribute of our humble gratitude. He stands too high in the esteem of mankind, to be elevated in the least degree by our feeble efforts. His statue occupies too lofty a niche in the temple of fame, to be adorned or approached by the incense of our offered praises: they may not reach, in their proudest aspirations, and even kiss in grateful humility, its axalted pedestal-much less encircle with a new glory his wreathed brow. Yet, though Washington cannot now be honored by us, he is an honor to us. If that natural feeling of pride, which we also experience in common with all men of all nations and ages, when contemplating: he ragnainmity of our most distinguished countrymen and

ancestors, be of proper indulgence, as we can scarce doubt that it is; if it be the unaffected and irrepressible language of a heart not utterly debased, claiming still, even in its admitted lamented degradation, some bond of high companionship, some sympathetic unsevered link, binding with uninterrupted and indissoluble tie its own deep pathos in throbbing harmony with that of living excellence, of departed worth; then may we well be proud to claim Washington as our fellow-citizen and friend we may feel ourselves honored in calling him the Father of our nation, and in meeting to contemplate and praise his character, and with swelling bosoms and glistening eyes to thank God that we too are Americans. And if not, if indeed we may claim no peculiar interest in the distinguished honors which the world unites to confer on our country's chieftain; if upon us no dim reflection of his glory falls, and no participation in the fame of his worth is of right ours; still it becomes us, as knowing the omnipotence of example, as feeling the obligations of a just and generous gratitude, as thrilled by the instinctive admiration excited by exalted virtue-it becomes us to join our voices and hearts in paying tribute to whom it belongs, in rendering to Cesar the things that are Cesar's; as unto God the things that are His. Let us then call in those thoughts of ours "that wander through eternity," and curb the airy flight of impatient fancy, and silence the voice of impulsive passion, while for a short time we direct our attention to an object in every respect worthy to be made the subject of intense and undivided mental activity, both of refined sentiment and none the less of voluntary critical intellection; for I know not, I confess, of a nobler theme for the excrcise of our highest powers, than the investigation of human character in its varied manifestations and phases, especially that of such as

by unusual energy, have fixed upon themselves the stamp of greatness.

I do not propose to give a biography, or even a memoir of Washington. To do so would be to insult your limited course of reading, to insinuate that you have not already often warmed your patriotism and kindled your philanthropy over the page of our nation's history. I do not choose to offend by any such unfounded and absurd insinuation. You have doubtless read the graphic descriptions of his exploits and the eloquent delineations of his character, which constitute a considerable part of our best American literature; you also have thanked Heaven for a boon not peculiar to his nation or his age, but common to mankind and to all time, hallowing by its memory the past, blessing by its example the present, and destined to exert its power through all futurity; and you have grieved that relentless fate doomed to the lot of mortality that "one of the few who were not born to die."

It needs not then that I should make a feeble effort to recount those acts of his which, to adopt an expression of the matchless Tully, "no tongue is so eloquent that it can properly narrate, much less suitably adorn;" to sketch that life whose every page is at this moment living on the uninscribed tablets of your hearts. I will not do it: Let us therefore take a general view of the influence exerted by Washington on the world-the probable ultimate results of his achievements on the universal history of our race: not thus, indeed, is character to be justly estimated, since much more is due to divine than human providence, in the final consequences of conduct; but it is nevertheless pleasant and profitable to view illustrious men with reference to their position in the ranks of mankind, and to trace the long trains of important events that, like heavy cars on a

[ocr errors]

descending plain, once started dash onward to a distant goal by other than the prime motive power.

Man is a progressive being, capable of vast, almost infinite improvement. The human mind is not contented to remain stationary, but boldly aspires to an unbounded advancement. It is contrary to its exalted nature to continue long degraded in the dust; it feels an irresistible instinct ever impelling it to rise toward heaven, its birth.. place and its destined home; it would not be the kinsman of a worm, but soar away, unbound by time and space, the brother of an angel; it would not be the slave of circumstance, but the proud monarch of creation: nay, it has dared to usurp the throne of the Almighty; with impious Titanic hand it has seized the scepter from Jehovah; it has banished God from nature, and made itself a substitute for Deity it has claimed the empire of the Most High, encroaching on the prerogative of Omnipotence by demanding for itself adoration, while the opposing voices of Sinai's awful mount have thundered forth in counter peals, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve."

Man's first historic act affords an illustration of this disposition of his nature. Not contented to retain his assigned position when a forward step was possible in any direction, he coveted knowledge even where ignorance was bliss, and by the desire of a new acquirement was seduced from his allegiance to the lawful sovereign. From that time to the present, he has been characterized by the same ungovernable thirst for knowledge; he has labored and toiled and died to gratify it; he is at this day prying inquisitively into the secret constitution of the minutest atom, and unlocking with the key of persevering investigation the grand arcana of nature. Sun, moon and stars are

« PreviousContinue »