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you should take the part of the spider; and equally creditable it is to you, Thomas, to stand up in defence of the fly: but unless judgment is mingled with sensibility, the latter quality may lead us into error. A healthy humanity will prevent us from giving unnecessary pain, or annoyance, to any creature; but an unhealthy humanity ever produces greater evils, than it seeks to avoid. If we were to abstain from animal food, out of a misplaced tenderness to the animal creation; and never walk abroad, lest we should set our foot on insects that crawl on the ground; our comforts would be abridged, our lives would be rendered uncomfortable, our health would suffer, and our duties would be greatly neglected.
"Whenever, then, the inferior creatures trespass on the comfort of man, it is undoubtedly lawful to remove, or destroy them. Now, the spider, though he has a right to weave his web, has no right to stop up the entrance into my summer arbour. You, Edward, Mary, and Thomas, might jump over the line he has made; and little Peter might creep under it but how am I to manage with my crutches? I decide at once, that, as the spider is the offending party, and as we cannot, without much inconvenience, put up with his trespass, his line shall be at once destroyed.
This knotty point being adjusted, Mr.
Franklin entered thus on his evening subject -acts of love and affection.
"Acts of kindness, humanity, prudence, usefulness, and such like, may be performed towards utter strangers; but acts of love and affection are manifested towards our relatives only, or those to whom we feel a strong attachment. I gave you an instance of Ruth's affection for her mother-in-law, Naomi. Hers was not a mere feeling; for Ruth really forsook her people and kindred to accompany Naomi into a strange land, there to live with her, and there to die with her; desiring, in her heart, that the same grave might hold their mouldering bones."
Mary. That must have been affection, indeed.
Mr. Franklin. Acts of affection have been recorded of parents towards their children, and of children towards their parents; of wives for their husbands, and of husbands for their wives; wherein love strong as death has been shown: but these are not the things to which I would direct your attention in learning to act. You must not waste your feelings, or your time, in longing for unusual opportunities, in which you may give wonderful proofs of your love. True affection best shows itself in discharging the little everyday acts of love, that all have the power to perform.
Edward. But anybody may do a little act
of affection. I should like to do something very striking indeed.
Mr. F. Perhaps so; but such as are in the constant habit of doing little acts of love, will be most likely, should circumstances require it, to give proofs of affection of a more striking kind. Consider, for a moment, the love of a mother for her child; why, in many cases, she would willingly lose her life in its defence, and yet, perhaps, she may never be called upon to show this intensity of love in any other than common every-day acts of affection. She attends to all the wants of her child; feeds
it, washes and dresses it, nurses it in her arms when awake, watches over it when it is asleep, and prays for it fervently that it may be kept from all evil, and guided into all good; that it may, through Divine mercy, be not only
her child, but also a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven; and this is the case, day after day, and year after year. Here is no striking, or wonderful act to be performed, and yet what love and affection can exceed the love and affection of a mother?
Mary. No affection can be stronger.
Mr. F. Lay down, then, this rule in learning to act never to think the least act of love beneath your attention. Life, for the most part, is made up of common actions, and in these common actions we must manifest our love. He who would do great acts of affection, while he leaves small acts of love undone, may well be suspected of rather desiring the credit of possessing affection, than the real possession and practice of it. Acts of love must not be done once a year only, but every day, and all day long.
E. I will say no more about liking to do striking acts.
Mr. F. It would be a hard thing to point out expressly what acts of love you ought to perform, and the exact way in which you should perform them, because this depends so much on the circumstances in which you are placed; but some general advice I will give you. Ask yourselves this question every morning: What acts of love to my parents can I do this day? Then call to mind what they have told you to do, and what they have told you not to do; for it is as great an act
of affection towards them to abstain from what they have forbidden, as it is to do what they have commanded. If you love God, keep his commandments; and your acts will then be acts of love to God. If you love your parents, do what they desire you; and your doing so, in the commonest duty, will be an act of love to them. Offer up, in the Saviour's name, your prayers and praises to your heavenly Father; keep your persons clean; be careful of your clothes; be diligent with your books; be kind to your brothers and sisters; correct, as much as you can, your bad habits: all these things, common as they may be, are acts of love to your parents. With regard to each other, and towards all you love, act in the same way. Little offerings of affection, on birth-days and at other seasons, with kind attentions in time of sickness, are all acts of love; and the more you abound in them, the more ready will you be to give greater proofs of affection, whenever they are required at your hands.
Thomas. I shall remember the question we are to put to ourselves on a morning.
E. And I shall remember, that acts of love are not to be performed once a year only, or on great occasions; but on every day of the year, and all day long.
Mr. F. If you remember this, and practise it, you will give joy to others, and also bring abundance of peace to your own bosoms.