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Readings for the Old

No. II.

I have promised to open a leaf of the past, and shall, to the best of my ability, perform my promise; but, in doing so, I must promise that the reader is not to identify my own self with my reminiscences. They are more the result of observation than personal experience; and, although I do not claim to be better  than my fellows, still I would not have laid to my door all the delinquencies that I may in the course of my writings have occasion to point to. Having made this remark, I shall proceed with my rather painful, but, I trust, useful task.

We will not, my venerable friends, commence at “Page 1,” when we were under the guidance and control of our parents or guardians—when we were neither able to judge nor act for ourselves, but were led by the advice and teaching of those who studied our welfare and happiness; but we will open the book a  few years in advance, and begin by reference to the period when, having by the course of events become our own masters,  we made our debut on the “world’s wide stage.” Let us, then, first ask ourselves whether, at that fearfully responsible period, we entertained that sincere affection, that deep veneration, that unbounded gratitude for our preceptors, which we were in duty bound to do; whether we cherished what they had, with untiring zeal and unceasing application, instilled into our youthful minds, regardless of their own sufferings and deprivations, so that they could but see their beloved offspring or regarded pupils fulfil their religious and moral duties towards God and man? Let us con over the page carefully, and recall to our minds whether all this pure love, this love “of heart, of soul, of might,” was duly appreciated by us? Did we endeavour, to the fullest extent of our abilities, to return, even if it was only a tithe of their affections? Did we strive by our actions to call forth the approba­tion of the world towards our teachers, thus fulfilling God’s commandments, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” and <<297>> “Thou shalt bow down to the hoary head?”

Did we perform our duty, by supporting them when sickness or old age disabled them? And did we bear with their infirmities, natural at an advanced period of life, as they had patiently and joyously borne with ours in our years of helpless infancy? If we find this page completed by an affirmative answer to all these questions—if we feel in our own souls that we have thus read it as we found it, and not, by misplacing or misconstruing words, made the record read to suit bur wishes,—then how our old hearts must warm at the recollection that we thus fulfilled those duties! How our cold and sluggish blood must joyously course through our shrunken veins, at the consciousness that, by acting thus, we then laid the foundation of our present happiness,—that the obedience and love of our children are but the reflection of the brilliant light shed by our own actions over the horizon of our future years of peace and happiness.

But perhaps the black and frightful page records a different history; maybe we find that, no sooner had we felt ourselves free from the trammels of parental authority, so exercised, than we at once threw off all acknowledgment of it, disowned all obedience to it, discarded an remembrance of it, and became that most hideous of all monsters, an ungrateful child. Perhaps we lived on in years of thoughtlessness, contributing to the scanty support of the aged and infirm authors of our being; and, when the Supreme called them hence, followed them to the grave, shed tears over their cold and lifeless clay, and, attiring ourselves in all the fashionable array of mourning for twelve months, “laid the flattering unction to our souls” that we had performed our duty! Woe be to those whose page of early manhood reads thus sinfully; who, in their selfishness, forgot or slighted those who taught their weak and tottering childhood first to stand erect; who impressed upon their plastic minds the true conception of their Maker, gradually filling their young hearts with love and adoration, and teaching their innocent lips to utter praise to God; who, with patience anti perseverance unequalled, prepared the soil, planted the seed, and watched its slow and tedious growth, carefully rooting up the noxious weeds that now and then would inter-<<298>>mingle with the cherished culture, and, as the expanding bud gave promise of a future fruit, would skillfully and cautiously train it to perfection.

Oh! what can equal the patient toil, the ceaseless watchfulness, the disinterested love of a parent for the child! And shall that love be returned by indifference, by forgetfulness, by ingratitude? And have we so returned it? If we have (and Heaven forbid that it be so!) we have a fearful account to settle. May God in his infinite mercy grant us life, that we may repent—that we may, by fulfilling our duty now, make some amends for our early dereliction, before he summons us to the last awful tribunal, where the soul is arrayed against itself, where there is no chance of suborned witnesses, and where each action of our life, from the most trivial to that of deepest import, will be shown forth in undisguised and truthful form—that we may so rear our children, that “in the sear and yellow leaf” of life they may look back with fearless eye, and heart that trembleth not, at the page that we now scan. And oh! that they may benefit by our example, and not forget that a parent owes great and sacred duties to a child.