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A Dream


Darkness was upon the earth! The voices of men’s consciences, that whispered of sin committed, and repentance long deferred, were hushed in silence. Guilty minds, that trembled with the approach of night, feeling its gloom would be to them a dreadful punishment in time to come, at length obtained from dread and misery a short respite. Tranquil hearts, the abode of charity, hope, and love,—that knew no fear of self-communing,—where confidence and faith had built a strong support through trial, where meekness and humility had fitted the spirit for a better world, lay stilled in calm repose. All nature seemed to slumber! An awful stillness had crept o’er every living thing. Nought there was of life, save He who filleth all space with his immensity.

In a chamber, where wealth had reared to luxury a shrine, there lay a youth, whose years had scarce with manhood’s stamp yet marked his face and form. Around his mouth there played a smile that spoke of youth’s bright hopes, by grief or sad convictions yet undimmed. Beautiful he lay! God’s noble image, in all save that which giveth life and knowledge of a better world.

From the centre of this apartment arose a bluish vapour, composed of transparent particles of phosphorescent light; which, growing brighter and brighter, gradually diffused itself, through half its space, while forth from its deep shadow there came a colossal figure, clad in flowing drapery, and bearing in its hand a wand of glowing light.

It was a strange figure! Its head was bare and covered with silvery hair, which hung in masses on its shoulders. Its snowy beard extended to its waist. The face was singularly beautiful,—there was an expression as of a calm and holy resignation to earthly, sufferings in its mild blue eyes. It was impossible to gaze upon its features without a feeling of awe and holy veneration.

Close to the bed the figure approached, and lifting up the wand of light, awoke the youth with its intense brilliancy.

Slowly he turned, and gazing upon the spirit, felt through all his senses a calm and happy influence. The lips of the spirit moved as though in speech. The youth bent eagerly forward; but not a sound  broke upon the solemn stillness of the room. Deep within the innermost recesses of his soul a still small voice spoke out in tones distinct and clear,

“Awake, thou child of error! and see what it is to sleep the sleep of living death, with bright and joyous life around thee.”

The youth essayed to speak, but the words died unuttered on  his lips. The spirit seemed to perceive his wish; for again its lips moved, and the still small voice within spoke out an answer,

“Know me for the guardian of thy better self. The immortal vision through which mankind may see and understand themselves. Through me the vision of a brighter future—of a world where sin and error exist not in thought—where dwelleth nought but universal happiness and love—is made distinct and clear. Bear but a touch of my hand, and thine eyes shall be opened unto thee.”

As the spirit ceased it extended forth its hand, which the youth clasped firmly in his own.

Slowly they rose, and all beneath them vanished. From the flowing drapery of the spirit there sprang out, one on either side, two beauteous forms of clear transparent light. These ascended above the other two, and appeared to bear the spirit up.

One was that of a bright, winged, rosy, boy, with golden hair and sunny eyes; his face irradiated with youthful happiness; his cheeks ruddy with the glow of health. In his hand he held a lighted torch, with which, ever and anon, he scattered round with childish glee a rich and fragrant perfume.

The other, was that of a girl, meek, mild, and pensive. Her face was slightly tinged with sadness, but of singular beauty. The full dark eyes glistened as though with recent tears, from under the long silky lashes which were cast down over them, scarcely veiling an expression of benign love and pity. Around the mouth  there played a holy meekness and humility. The whole form seemed to shrink up timidly within itself, as though even the intrusive light caused its nature pain.

Again the youth turned upon the spirit, and the voice spoke out in answer,

“Behold in these my children Hope and Charity—my dearest attributes, the very essence of myself, giving unto earth the choicest gifts of heaven. Through this night’s wonders bear thou witness to their power.”

Even as the spirit spoke they came again to earth, and stood before a house that seemed familiar to the youth. It was broad, bright day already, so quick had time’s transitions been effected. Persons were passing to and fro, as he had seen them a hundred times before. It was the Sabbath, too, the Jewish Sabbath; for he gazed he saw that none throughout the busy street save him before whose house they stood, had “remembered the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

Softly they passed through the door, the children leading, and as they stood within the dwelling, the voice of the spirit spoke,

“Behold in this thy infancy’s abode. In the matron beside the hearth thou seest thy foster-parent,—she who watched thy youth with tender care, when the Great Supreme had gathered to the grave the authors of thy being. From her thou didst obtain thy health and strength; yet ‘tis long since thou hast looked upon  her face. Look well around thee, and mark the changes that have taken place within that time.”

At a table covered with a clean white cloth there sat a man in the prime of life. Time, by his silvered hair and furrowed checks, spoke plainly it had done by him its worst; yet naught there was of grief or sad repining shadowed forth. Religion, deep, strong, and fervent, had been throughout his trials, and they were many, to him his sole support. A book from whose pages he had drunk the waters of living truth lay open before him. Around his knees there clustered the darling treasures of his heart. From time to time he paused, and lifting up his head explained to them such passages as he thought needed to their minds a simpler language.

And how happy each one looked!—so scrupulously neat and clean, drinking in the good man’s words with the quiet, calm attention of mature old age, fearing to break the solemn stillness by even a whispered word—as if to them the seventh day had been indeed a day of rest in thought, and look, and deed. “And so it is!” the spirit whispered, “God bless them! so it is!”

And now the family were seated round their frugal dinner. Their number had been increased; for they were not so poor, but that there were others whose lot in life was still more humble. Their necessities found relief at the good man’s table, and their burden was made lighter by his cheering solace. And the Kiddush—the Motzee, those holy ordinances, how scrupulously were they all observed! Up to heaven in joyful praise their thoughts were turned, as with blended voices they rendered thanks to “Him who giveth food unto all living, whose name endureth for ever.”

As the youth witnessed this, again the spirit whispered,

“See how poverty has tried them in every trivial thing!—the furniture—their clothing—and worse than all, in their scanty food, that scarce suffices for half that dwell there. See all this, and know that one-twentieth part the sum you idly throw away from week to week would relieve their deep privation.”

Slowly the spirit approached the hearth, on which there burnt a spiral column of living light, and with its wand increased threefold the brilliant flames.

Hope, too, with his torch made all within the chamber happier with its fragrant incense.

Charity had left her sweet impress on all their hearts, carrying with her the slight fastenings that had opposed her search within them.

(To be continued.)