« PreviousContinue »
passed by any denomination of equal number in the world, for energy and success in business, general intelligence and social privilege, they have yet to learn their high obligations to the Gospel, and give their best influence to the religious institutions which they revere as from God, and love as a precious inheritance from their fathers.
We should like to treat this point more fully and minutely, but our remarks have already extended to greater length than we anticipated in the outset. We should like to resign our pen to some of those who have been successful in enlisting the active zeal of the laymen of their parishes in all the good words and works of our brotherhood. Let some one of them take it up and finish the discussion of the subject.
Some may, possibly, have been misled by the title of Miss Martineau's volume to expect in it a manual of the common sort, for the use of invalids. But it is found to be far other, and vastly more, than this. Not deficient in whatever pertains to its special purpose, it is rich in thoughts and suggestions of high value, relating to topics of a wide and general interest. It supplies the results of much and profound reflection on the science of human nature. It is occasionally eloquent on themes which connect themselves with the higher spiritual philosophy. It combines the discussion of great principles with the noblest persuasives to great virtues.
The variety of tone and manner, as well as of topics, in these Essays is remarkable. We are far from being confined to the same wailing chord. One may even detect a sportive fancy at work among the graver faculties, pleasantly doing the bidding of a kind heart. We might cite in proof the Essay styled - Nature to the Invalid.” How
* Life in the Sick-Room. Essays. By HARRIET MARTINEAU. With an Introduction to the American Edition. By Eliza L. FOLLEN. Boston : L. C. Bowles and W. Crosby. 1844. 12mo. pp. 204.
exhilarating, and how beautiful it is! So too, that entitled “Life to the Invalid," in which we almost forget we are reading any other than a very lively discussion by a fine mind in high health and spirits. Nothing morbid occurs in the whole book. The evils which it brings to view are those we recognize, as found in all sick-rooms, not heightened, sometimes softened in the description, and always spoken of with a calm, uncomplaining spirit. The author is quick to acknowledge every mitigating circumstance which blends with painful scenes, every remnant of good in any, however unhappy condition. Her affectionate gratitude may exaggerate, but never undervalues. In giving moral counsel, or enumerating moral dangers, her humility prompts to the phrase, “ the liabilities of us sick.” And we know not what disparager of human merit would not be reenforced from her lowly depreciation of all solace borrowed from the conscience, to which she refuses the office of consoler altogether. We mark on every page some new proof how calamity has been overborne by spiritual power; how the mind that “by disuse had forgotten its sense of enjoyment,” has yet kept its lights undimmed, its aspirations still ascending, its love disinterested and fervent, and its piety, like the wave-worn rock, immovable amidst the storm. Indeed, it is for its rational yet elevated and spiritual views of religion, its clear and simple, yet sublime and ennobling inculcations of duty, that this production will make most interest for itself in the general mind.
The charm of the book to those in whose behoof it was written, will be the thorough apprehension of their case which it manifests, and that true and deep sympathy with them which pervades it throughout. The sick sometimes need the spiritual aid and comfort, which can be found only in the presence with them of one who enters into their condition, understands and feels it. They languish, not seldom we fear, as hopelessly in want of a perfect sympathy, as for the adequate relief to their outward malady. Here they have, reproduced from another's experience, whatever in their own has most perplexed and disheartened them. They are taught by one who has known all they know of the condition of which she speaks, and are encouraged and strengthened by sympathy and affection in a fellow-sufferer. That she has tasted their griefs and felt
their trials they are painfully sure, but the pain is removed by the triumph over all these which is revealed in her work, and of which she shows them how they may partake. There is no indulgence to their faults indeed, and no attempt to screen them from the truths which search the wounded heart unsparingly. But there is a merciful tenderness intermingling with this fidelity, all the more soothing and dear for its coming from so true a spirit. Those who suffer with us cannot easily offend by admonitions which their better wisdom prepares them to give, and which are explained and enforced in the evident fruits of their own experience. Never was there a more cordial welcome to friend in the sick-room, than, we are confident, will reward the author of this excellent volume. She will give a new life to minds which were almost paralysed by the blow, that severed them from the influences on which they were too dependent for health and vigor. We can conceive no higher beneficence than that which has thus converted the very wreck of personal happiness to uses of charity, and made the severest personal endurance tributary to others' good.
From the fact that the work has reached a second edition in this country, we may reasonably infer that most of our readers are already familiar with its pages.
We cannot however omit all quotation. From the Essay on “Sympathy to the Invalid” we cite the following, as a good illustration of the purpose and manner of the book.
“ The archangel of consolation is the friend who, at a fitting moment, reminds me of my high calling. Not the clergyman, making his stated visit for the purpose; not the zealous watcher for souls, who fears for mine on the ground of difference of doctrine; not the meddler, who takes charge of my spiritual relations whether I will or no: none such are, by virtue of these offices, effectual consolers. But if the friend of my brighter days with whom I have travelled, sung, danced, consulted about my work, enjoyed books and society — the friend, now far off, busy in robust health of body and spirit, sends me a missive which says, ' You languish — you are sick at heart. But put this sickness from your heart, and your pains under your feet. You have known before that there is a divine joy in endurance. Prove it now.
Lift up your head amidst your lot, and wait the issue — not submissively, but heroically. Live out your season, not wistfully looking out for hope, or shrinking from fear : but
serenely and immoveably (because in full understanding with God,) ENDURE.' If such an appeal comes, and at any hour (for there is no hour of sickness with which it is not congenial,) what an influx of life does it bring! What a heavenly day, week, year, succeeds! How the crippled spirit leaps up at the miraculous touch, and springs on its way, praising God in his very temple! And again, when a thoughtful, conscientious spirit, guided by an analytical intellect, utters from a distance, not as an appeal, but as in soliloquy — With an eternity before us, it cannot matter much, if we would but consider it, whether we are laid aside for such or such a length of time; whether we can be busy for others at this moment, or must wait so many months or years : and as for ourselves, how can we tell but that we shall find the experience we are gaining worth any cost of suffering?' When such a thought comes under my eye, as if I overheard some spirit in the night-wind communing with itself, I feel a strong and kindly hand take my heart and steep it in patience. Again, a kind visitor, eloquent by using few words or none on matters nearest at heart, takes down from my
shelves a Fenelon or other quietist, and with silent finger points to the saying, inexhaustible in truth, that it is what we are that matters
not what we do ; and here, in one moment, do I find a boundless career opened to me within the four walls of my room. Again, a tender spirit, anxious under responsibility, says, 'If you could but fully feel, as you will one day feel, the privilege of having your life and lot settled for you — your spirit free, your mind at leisure — no hurry, no conflicts nor misgivings about duty,
you would easily conceive that there are some who would gladly exchange with you, and pour into your lap willingly all the good things that you seem to be without. I dare say we are very philosophical for you about your sufferings; but where I do sympathise with you, is in regard to this clearness and settledness of your life's duty and affairs.' To this, again, my whole being cries 'amen !' Here are a few of the heavenly messages which have come to me through human hearts.” — pp. 46 – 48.
The following is from the Essay on “Death to the Invalid.”
“ To men of the most spiritual tone of mind, every attestation of the reality of unseen objects is a boon of the highest order ; and no such attestation can surpass in clearness that which is afforded by the sensible progress of decay in the material part of the sufferer's frame. All attempt at description is here vain. Nothing but experience can convey a conception of the intense reality in which God appears supreme, Christ and his gospel divine, and holiness the one worthy aim and chief good, when
our frame is refusing its offices, and we can lay hold on no immediate outward support and solace. It is conceivable to the healthy and happy, that, if waked up from sleep by a tremendous earthquake, the first recoil of terror might be followed by an intense perception of the fixity and tranquillity of the spiritual world, in immediate contact with the turbulence of the outward and lower scene. It is conceivable to us all, that the drowning man may, as is recorded, see his whole life, in all its minute details, presented to him, as in clear vision, in one instant of time, as he lapses into death. Well --- something like both these experiences is that of extreme and dissolving pain, to a certain order of minds. The vision and the attestation are present, without the horrors caused amidst an earthquake by the misery of a perishing multitude, though at the cost of more bodily anguish than in the case of the drowning man. Though there may be keen doubts in a modest sufferer how long such anguish can be decently endured, -- whether the filial submission will hold out against torment, there is through, above and beyond such doubts, so overpowering an impression of the vitality of the conscious part of us, and of the reality of the highest objects for which it was created and has lived, so inexpressible a sense of the value of what we have prayed for, and of the evanescence of what we are losing, that it is no wonder if the dying have been known to call for aid in their thanksgivings, and to struggle for sympathy even in their incommunicable convictions. If the shadows of the dark valley part, and disclose to such an one the regions that lie in the light of God's countenance, it is no wonder that he calls on those near him to look and see, though he is making the transit alone.”
pp. 114-116. We can give only one more extract, from the “ Power of Ideas in the Sick-Room."
* * *
“Great is the power of all thought, congenial with our nature, over disease of body and morbid tendencies of the mind; but those which connect us with the Maker of our frame, and the Ordainer of our lot, are absolutely omnipotent.” *
“See what (their) force is, in comparison with others that are tendered for our solace! One, and another, and another, of our friends comes to us with an earnest pressing upon us of the ' hope of relief,' — that talisman which looks so well till its virtues are tried! They tell us of renewed health and activity,
of what it will be to enjoy ease again, to be useful again, to shake off our troubles and be as we once were.
We sigh, and say it may
so; but they see that we are neither roused nor soothed by it.
"Then one speaks differently, -- tells us we shall never be