Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
The Power of a New Affection
By Thomas Chalmers (17801847)
From Commercial Discourses
CONCEIVE a man to be standing on the margin of this green world, and that, when he looked towards it, he saw abundance smiling upon every field, and all the blessings which earth can afford scattered in profusion throughout every family, and the light of the sun sweetly resting upon all the pleasant habitations, and the joys of human companionship brightening many a happy circle of societyconceive this to be the general character of the scene upon one side of his contemplation; and that on the other, beyond the verge of the goodly planet on which he was situated, he could descry nothing but a dark and fathomless unknown. Think you he would bid a voluntary adieu to all the brightness and all the beauty that were before him upon earth, and commit himself to the frightful solitude away from it? Would he leave its peopled dwelling places, and become a solitary wanderer through the fields of nonentity? If space offered him nothing but a wilderness, would he for it abandon the home-bred scenes of life and of cheerfulness that lay so near, and exerted such a power of urgency to detain him? Would not he cling to the regions of sense and of life and of society? and shrinking away from the desolation that was beyond it, would not he be glad to keep his firm footing on the territory of this world, and to take shelter under the silver canopy that was stretched over it?
But if, during the time of his contemplation, some happy island of the blest had floated by, and there had burst upon his senses the light of its surpassing glories and its sounds of sweeter melody, and he clearly saw that there a purer beauty rested upon every field, and a more heartfelt joy spread itself among all the families; and he could discern there a peace and a piety and a benevolence which put a moral gladness into every bosom, and united the whole society in one rejoicing sympathy with each other and with the beneficent Father of them all: could he further see, that pain and mortality were there unknown, and above all, that signals of welcome were hung out, and an avenue of communication was made for himperceive you not, that what was before the wilderness, would become the land of invitation; and that now the world would be the wilderness? What unpeopled space could not do, can be done by space teeming with beatific scenes and beatific society. And let the existing tendencies of the heart be what they may to the scene that is near and visibly around us, still if another stood revealed to the prospect of man, either through the channel of faith or through the channel of his senses, then, without violence done to the constitution of his moral nature, may he die unto the present world and live to the lovelier world that stands in the distance away from it.