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CHRISTIAN PARLOR MAGAZINE.
THE PRODIGAL SON.
Who will be hardy enough to attempt a paraphrase of this tale, so inimitable in its simplicity and unstudied pathos ? It may be marred; to mend it is not in human genius.
The whole of the character of the Divine Teacher stands in striking contrast with human eloquence. With an accurate regard to the character of his hearers, his instructions were so given as to reach at once their understandings, to fix themselves lastingly in the memory, and with the best possible adaptedness to reach the heart, and influence the springs of action. With no effort at oratory-with no glosses of rhetoric-his language was yet eloquence of the highest order, because most true to nature and best adapted to a desired effect.
President Dwight, in a sermon on this parable, pronounces it “ upon the whole, the best prosaic composition in the Scriptures. The narrative is told with the simplicity of a child, and with a skill which answers to the highest wish of criticism. The facts are selected with extreme felicity, and arranged in the happiest order. The language is so concise that there is not a word to spare, and so perspicuous, that not another word is necessary. No story, of the same length, is equally important to man, or equally pathetic. It ends also precisely where it ought, with a complete annunciation of the catastrophe, and at the interesting moment when the feelings are raised to the highest pitch. It contains almost as many truths as words, and all these are fraught with instruction of the
most momentous nature : while the moral, if I may call it such, deeply interests the inhabitants of Heaven, and awakens hope and transport in the whole family of Adam.”
In the parable delineated in the Plate we see the waywardness of youth—the impatience of restraint under the parental roof—the eagerness to launch out upon a sea of unstinted pleasures, followed by the usual natural consequences of vicious and thoughtless indulgence. How touchingly is the condition of the young man displayed, employed in the degrading office of tending swine, and, in the depth of his poverty, envying the very beasts he feeds, the coarse food allotted them—then suddenly arousing him-. self as from a dream, and remembering the abundance of his father's house-the resolution, abandoning all filial claim, to throw himself, a penitent, on the favor of a father whose bounty he had so abused, and to ask, not the forfeited place of a son, but the humble station of a servant;-then the ready forgiveness-the affectionate embrace-the joyous banquet-how like a father-how deeply touching the delineation of ready mercy to the repentant, shown by our heavenly Father! Then comes the selfish coldness of the elder brother—what a rebuke te Jewish pride and pharisaic self-righteousness! This exhibition of the Almighty in the terder character of a father, has softened and worn to repentant humility many a wandering prodigal whose heart has stood out in iron firmness against all the thunders of Sinai.
VOL. 1. NO. IV.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF MADAME GUIZOT.
BY R. R. BAIRD.
During the night of the first of January, 1797, a man of about sixty years of age might have been seen leaning on a window, in a small village in France. His weary eyes were lifted towards Heaven, where the stars were peacefully shining
implore the mercy of God; then turning them to earth again, he seemed to feel that it was in vain to ask for pity ;-for he could not see any one as void of joy and comfort as himself, and he felt that the tomb was not far distant. Already he had descended sixty steps of the ladder which was to lead him into eternity, and since his youth he had only been carrying along with him, crimes and remorse. His health was destroyed, his soul debased and cast down, his heart torn by remorse, and his old age was embittered by vexation and grief. The days of his youth appeared before him, and reminded him of that solemn day when his venerable father placed him at the entrance of those two roads, one of which leads to a peaceful and happy country, covered with fertile pastures and harvests, on which a bright sun shines continually, filled with most harmonious murmurs, and watered by clear springs ;-while the other leads to an abode of darkness, to a den inhabited only by serpents, and filled with everything that is loathsome.
But, alas! the serpents clung to his breast, the poison polluted his lips, and he now could tell where he was, for he had chosen the latter path.
Again he lifted up his hollow eyes to Heaven with unspeakable anxiety, and exclaimed; “O youth, return! O my father ! place me again at the entrance of life, that I may choose the other way, which leads to happiness and joy!”
But neither youth nor his father returned, for they were both gone
He saw a light rise above the level of the marshes and again disappear; and then he said to himself: “ Thus was I in my days of folly!” Then he saw a meteor dart across the heavenly vault, waver for a moment, and then vanish. Ah! thus am I now!” exclaimed he again ;-and the
sharp, bitter stings of repentance struck deeper than ever into his criminal heart.
Then he remembered all the men of his own age; those whom he once knew, and knew no more—who now, scattered over all parts of the earth, were sowing the seeds of truth and vir. tue, and were now spending the New Year's eve in the midst of their happy families. The sound of the village bell, which celebrates this new step of time, sounded from the church in a tone of praise and thanksgiving. It reminded him of his beloved parents, of the petitions they used to offer up to heaven in his behalf on that solemn day; of the counsels and reproofs, which in this awful moment he would willingly have received, to hear again the familiar sound of their voices. Prayers and wishes which had never been realized ; counsels by which he haul never profited. Overburdened with grief and shame, he could no longer turn his eyes to that heaven where his father was; but filling with tears they fell on the snow, which covered the ground; he sighed, and seeing nothing to console him, he could not refrain from again exclaiming: “Oh! happy youth, beloved father, I mourn your loss; return, O return to me!”
And his youth and his father did return, for all was but a dream which had disturbed him, on the first night of the new year; he was still young, and his father was living ;-the faults he had committed were alone a reality. He returned heartfelt thanks to God that his youth was not indeed past, and that he might be able to leave the path of vice to regain the path of virtue, which would lead him to the land of happiness, covered with abundant harvests.
Return with him, O my young readers; regain the path of virtue and happiness, if, like him, you have wandered away from it. This terrible dream will, hereafter, be your judgment. Some day, like him, you may be worn down with sorrows and perhaps crimes; and then in vain will you cry out, “ Happy, innocent youth, Oh return to me, that I may fath which I have forsaken !”
Your happy youth will never return.
In every clime and civilized tongue the name ington himself had two horses killed under him, of Washington is honored with a reverence sel- and four balls passed through different parts of dom paid to a mere man. Every year his mem
his coat. An Indian warrior, after the tragedy, ory
and his fame are blooming fresher and more declared that Washington was never born to be fragrant. The immortality of his name is sure, killed by a bullet; “ for,” said he, “ I had sevdepending not upon monuments of brass or mar- enteen fair shots at him with iny rifle, and yet ble, which time soon destroys, but upon the I could not bring him to the ground.” In all ever-during and admiring appreciation of worth the territic slaughter of this dreadful day, we and virtue implanted in the human breast. find Washington perfectly cool and collected, The character of Washington is of an order
and the same character of imperturbable courage different from that of other great men. It is not was displayed by him invariably in circumstanthe greatness of Cæsar, of the Scipios, of Han- ces of danger ; but mere physical courage was nibal, of Napoleon, or Wellington. Neither of not the quality that distinguished him pre-emithese is his exact parallel. In some respects
nently from other men. Bonaparte, on many each of them surpassed him. In completeness, occasions, particularly at the terrible bridge of symmetry, finish, and beauty of character, he Lodi, displayed the highest degree of personal far surpassed any of them, and his biography daring and d'sregard of death. Alexander and leaves its own peculiar impression upon our
Cæsar were brave men. Yet there might have heart.
been found in the camps of all these warriors It will be an interesting exercise to analyze
soldiers as brave as their leader, as regardless, briefly the character and claim of Washingtor. or more so of danger, suffering, and death. In. to immortality. What were the elements of deed, mere physical courage is a frequent charthat character, what the distinguishing excellen- acteristic of very inferior men, and though ces of that great man to which the people of cowardice would indelibly disgrace a soldier, all civilized countries pay such willing tribute mere courage goes but very little to confer the of honor and admiration ?
character of greatness. It is at best but a phyIn the first place, Washington was very little sical quality, which the horse he rides shares indebted to the circumstances of his birth for his equally with him, and which is found as persubsequent fame. He boasted of no noble or fectly among men of almost no intellect, and princely descent. No royal blood or alliance among all ranks of the brute creation, as it is in gave éclat to his deeds. On such a foundation the Marlboroughs, the Nelsons, and the Wel. many names in history rest for their celebrity. lingtons of the world. Washington sprang from a plain, though highly Nor did the greatness of Washington consist respectable parentage, and at the age of ten in acquaintance with military science. That he years was left a fatherless boy, with a high- was well versed in the art of war, that he had minded and devoted mother to direct his tender carefully studied the theory of military operayears; but no influence of illustrious ancestry tions, is not doubted. But he had many equals an: relationship paved and facilitated his glorious and not a few superiors in this art. The French career. He was to carve his own fortune, and army of the Republic had come such. Bona. ennoble his own name, and immortality was to parte could have mustered almost a regiment of be his, not by inheritance but by achievement. officers, finished in all that pertains to military The fame of Washington does not rest, in any
science, whom yet the world will never regard noteworthy degree, upon his personal, physical
with the admiration awarded to Washington. courage. That he possessed such courage was Experience amply shows that a man may have never questioned by any unprejudiced person. very little intellect, and no moral worth at all, The situation of Washington was often extreme- and yet be a thorough master of military science. ly perilous. In the disastrous defeat of Brad- How much higher or better than a brute was dock, Washington was one of the aids of that Lord Nelson, whose tactics annihilated the naunfortunate general, and was constantly em- val power of France, or Prince Blucher, who ployed during the whole of the bloody conflict, sealed the fate of Waterloo and the world ? in conveyin; his superior's orders to the different Nor was it the number or the greatness of his parts of the field. Every other officer on horse- battles, that so established the immortality of back was either killed or wounded, and Wash- Washington. When we read the history of the
wars of Europe, when we pass in review the battles of Hohenlinden, Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, Borodino, Leipsic, and Waterloo, and then turn to our own revolutionary history, and the battle-fields of Trenton, Monmouth, Princeton, Yorktown, and other places memorable for the birth-struggles of freedom, and celebrated over the world, we are instantly struck with the vast disparity in the latter instances, in the forces employed, the desperation of their conflict, and the total of their losses or triumphs. The armies of the revolution dwindle into guerilla bands, and their molest chief would scarcely have been seen amid the blaze of a soirée of European lieutenants. The grandeur and glory of the American contest, the ever-fresh and fragrant fame of the Father of his country, must be measured by some other principle of computation than the number in the battle, or the dead upon the field. We must find the moral element of the strife, before we understand why the eyes
of civilized mankind rest with more interest upon the plain of Monmouth than upon the field of Austerlitz, and why Napoleon himself reverently bows at the name of Washington.
The greatness of Washington did not consist in his superior mental activity, or comprehensiveness of view, or earnestness of application to the duties of his situation. He was distinguished in all these respects.
His office as commander-in-chief of the army of the revolution was no sinecure. The whole soul of Washington was given to its responsibilities. With a wakeful vigilance that knew no relaxation, and sought no repose till his mission was accomplished, he studied all the difficulties of his situation, and seized every opportunity and advantage with a zeal which the intenseness of his patriotism forbade to be less, and the limits of the human mind forbade to be greater. From the day this great and good man received his commission, till the day when he resigned it into the hands of Congress, every faculty of that noble mind was strained to its utmost tension in its labors of patriotism, in its toil for freedom. Yet we can easily find parallels to Washington's mental activity, comprehensiveness, and application. In these respects, Napoleon was a greater man. His activity appeared superhuman, and seemed to render him ubiquitous. He knew everybody and everything. The lowest officer, if guilty of a fault, felt that the emperor knew it. All the complicated concerns of the army and the empire seemed to be under his immediate inspection. Many of his most important internal improvements, as roads, bridges, schools,
were planned and ordered in camp, amid two hundred thousand troops, or in the heat of a campaign. No detail of business was too minute to engage his attention, and no number of ob. jects of care distracted his mind. The more we reflect upon the prodigious amount of distinct, clear thought bestowed by Napoleon upon the thousandfold interests of his empire, and the minute, exact, and wise direction which he personally gave to them all, the more we are filled with astonishment. Great as were his exertions in the field, rapid and startling as were his military combinations and movements, they were as nothing compared with his labors in the cabinet. Yet all this did not make Napoleon a Washington.
Wherein, then, consisted that peculiar and commanding greatness which is the acknow. ledged character of Washington ? It did not consist in his genius, his military science, his enterprise, his skill, or his successes in the field. All this he might have been and done, and yet not have been that Washington whose name is now a household word, and whose memory reposes, a sacred trust, in the bosoms of all civilized men, to be guarded and handed down from father to son, till the end of time.
The great Roman master has remarked, that no man can be a truly great orator without integrity. We go farther, and say that no man can be truly great in any line of exertion, with. out integrity, without controlling virtuous principle. Without this, or at least the well-counterfeited appearance of it, the world, corrupt as it is, with holds its admiration. Oliver Cromwell was one of the ablest soldiers and states. men in English history. But the suspicion that rests on his integrity has blasted his fame. Napoleon's memory is to a considerable extent loved and venerated by his countrymen. But that love and veneration are based on the belief that Napoleon did really, as he professed, live for the glory of France and not for his own aggrandisement; that his ambition, however wild and wasteful of human blood, was not selfish but patriotic. Napoleon had evidently persuaded himself that, as he declared at St. Helena with evident sincerity, he was aiming at great and beneficent designs towards France and the world, when his career was arrested by the allied arms.
In regard to the character and designs of Washington there is and there can be no doubt and no mistake. He was upright, a man of integrity, of undissembled goodness, of piety, and prayer, and his principles sanctified his counsels
and his arms, and were the basis of his success universal surprise. In Great Britain, where he and of his en luring fame. The impression al- was once denounced as a rebel and an outlaw, ways made by Washington, when living, upon he is universally regarded with the profoundest the minds of those with whom he had inter- admiration and reverence. Indeed, as an orator course was, that he was a man of extraordinary of their own has said, “ no people can claim, purity of purpose, and of surprising practical no country can appropriate him. The boon of wisdom. The writer of this hau frequent op- Providence to the human race, his fame is eterportunity, a few years ago, of conversing with nity, and his residence creation. In the proa number of persons who had been neighbors duction of Washington, it does really appear as and close observers of Washington while his if Nature was endeavoring to improve upon herwinter quarters were at Morristown, N. J.
self, and that all the virtues of the ancient world They all felt that he was a good man, and they were but so many studies, preparatory to the remembered numerous incidents illustrative of
patriot of the new. Individual instances, no this. They recalled his solitary, meditative doubt there were, splendid exemplifications of walks, his seasons of retirement, his cheering in- some single excellence. Cæsar was merciful, tercourse with the sick and distressed soldiery, Scipio was continent, Hannibal was patient, but his stern rebuke of profanity and irreverence, it was reserved for Washington to blend them and they pointed to the orchard in the rear of all in one, and, like the lovely masterpiece of the pastor's dwelling, as the spot on which the the Grecian artist, to exhibit in one glow of assacramental table was spread, and where the
sociated beauty, the pride of every model, and Father of his country modestly seated himself the perfection of every master. As a general, among the pious villagers, to commemorate with he marshalled the peasant into a veteran, and them the Saviour's dying love, and to express his supplied by discipline the absence of experience; humble reliance upon the Friend of Sinners.
as a statesman he enlarged the policy of the This goodness of character, this uprightness of cabinet into the most comprehensive system of moral principle, was the presiding influence in general advantage, and to the character of the Washington's career. Where it went, he went ; soldier and the statesman added that of the where it stayed, he stayed Amid the darkest
sage." adversity it supported him, and amid prosperity Such is the fame of Washington--a fame to and applause that would have intoxicated and which nothing base can adhere, from which ruined cominon men, it kept him true to him- even envy and the force of national prejudice self and to his country. If ever ambition whis- can take nothing away, and which shines as pered in his ear the idea of power and regal brightly in the firmament of Europe, as in the sway, it whispered in vain. Before he sub
hemisphere he redeemed. dued British power he had conquered himself, The great lesson which this subject illustrates and when, at the close of a long and toilsome and enforces is, the superiority of moral excelwar, he laid the sword of the public foe upon lence and power over every other. This we the altar of his country, he laid his own sword have seen is the peculiar charm in the character by its side, and retired a private, powerless man of Washington, and the peculiar and enduring to the shades of Mount Vernon, and from that basis of his fame. Such a fame can never perretreat looked out upon his free, happy, and ish while the moral constitution of man remains rejoicing country,
unchanged. It is a truth that, bad as the world
is, and prone as men are to be led temporarily His And more true joy the virtuous patriot feels, Than Cæsar, with a Senate at his heels."
astray by false lights and deceitful shows of
greatness, real worth and goodness, true inteIn estimating the public services of Gen. grity of character, will, other things being equal, Washington in the field and the cabinet, there exert the greatest influence on men's minds, is very little discrepancy of opinion in our day, The world must and does acknowledge the beauthough there was considerable in his own. His
ty and supremacy of virtue. We wish our generalship was sometimes severely criticised, public men understood this. There is not a and his views as a statesinan were often as- statesman in the land who would not have far sailed with great asperity. Now, no serious greater influence and a loftier fame, if he were error, even unintentional, and of the judgment, known to be a truly good man. Let an emi. is laid to his charge. All dissension is hushed. nently virtuous and pious man, whose talents No man rails at Washington, none esteem him and qualifications in other respects are undoubt. lightly. A despiser of that name would excite ed, be nominated for some high office in the