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THE OLD CHURCH.
ANOTHER GROUP FROM 'STILL LIFE' BY THE AUTHOR OF OUR VILLAGE.'
There stands an old church in the village of B-, which is one of the dearest mementos of my remembrance. It has held itself firmly up beneath the weight of a century, and looks as venerable as Time itself. It is just apart from the compact portion of the village, surrounded by the inspiring objects that nature often produces. It is also buried in the depth of a majestic grove, ancient as itself, whose foliage twinkles to the least breath of summer air. The grove is all alive with the songs of the birds, and they cluster around the eaves of the old edifice, as if they loved it with more than human affection. The spire shoots lightly out from the green branches of the trees, and is surmounted by a cock, sitting up as prim as a maid of forty, watching, as it were, the whereabouts of the villagers. It has been declared by the sexton that the cock was invariably in the habit of spreading its wings and crowing as the week ended, at twelve, on Saturday, at midnight; but the deacon always said there was some doubt about that. The interior was also remarkable for its age, and the very organ appeared to have a trembling tone of antiquity. There were initials cut on the walls many years ago, by those whose names may be now found carved in the burying-ground. I have paced its aisles, and listened to the pensive melody of the autumn crickets, for they haunted and loved the spot. I have heard the chattering locusts about it in the silent August noon, and the whippoorwill oft visited the spot in the twilight of the early morning.
How many hours I have mused upon that spot ! There was the chorister – he who officiated half a century in that capacity —combining the avocations of sexton, Sunday-school teacher, bell-ringer, sweeper, grave-digger, and the thousand other duties that linger around a church. Alas! poor Yorick !' — his modest little gravestone is the only record left of him. He was called · Simon.' Simon ! how familiar it sounds! Morning, noon, and night, he was to be seen bustling about the edifice. He was a particular man. He took more pride in his bell-rope than in all other objects whatever; and what is worthy of remark,, he had it beautifully painted from end to end. He once drowned a sacrilegious cat for daring to walk through the sanctuary; and even the flies were not permitted to hum around the building. His vocal music has never been equalled. He kept one string in his nose which produced a twang that stands entirely unparalleled. Methinks I see him now, standing erect, with his book in hand, his spectacles on the tip of his nose, his eyes closed, dragging moderately through an old psalm — his voice growing weaker and weaker, as sleep gently descends upon him. And then, as he walked through the middle aisle, and delivered a note to the minister, there was an air of business depicted on his countenance a responsibility - a smile of familiarity when he delivered his charge — a something that cast a breathless silence over the
congregation, and attracted every eye toward him. Simon endeavored to be a pious man, but he once took the name of his God in vain,' and he was never known to smile after. The truth may as well out, and this was the cause : Some rude boys, instigated by Satan, no doubt,
one cold Saturday evening, turned up the mouth of Simon's bell, and charged it with water. During the night it became congealed, and on the following morning was a solid blue mass of ice. Simon appeared as usual, shook out his rope, and commenced preparations; but there was no sound. He started, for he was superstitious. He resolved to ascend into the belfry; but a second thought warned him against such temerity. Spirits might be hovering there, and his tongue, too, might lose its locomotive power. Away he ran, through the village, declaring that Satan, or some other power, had taken possession of the church-bell. He immediately raised a body of twelve armed men to march to the rescue. After much bustle, they arrived, and declared the bell to be frozen into silence, and hinted that Simon was the sole cause of it. Simon denied it. You admit the doors were locked on your arrival - it must be charged upon you,' said one of the band to the sexton. •No, by my soul,' replied he. They persisted, and Simon persisted, until the latter, in a whirlwind of passion, said, 'he'd be d -d if he did !' and that settled the matter. That was a sad day for Simon - a day which ruined him temporally if not spiritually. But methinks, like the first oath of Uncle Toby, the 'recording angel dropped a tear, and blotted it out forever.'
Few now recollect Simon. Those who looked upon him in his official capacity, have long since gone to sleep, as well as himself. Many of the mounds in the little yard around his own were raised by his hand; and many is the breast that Simon has silently sodded down. It was a school which taught him much, and the effects of which improved his life, until the same good office was done for him which he had so often performed for others.
There, too, was old father Brewer. For forty years he occupied one particular seat. Neither summer's heat nor winter's cold kept him from the church. There he sat in the corner, round and heavy, his head naked, save a few white locks that fluttered thinly around his temples. When he passed away, there was a vacancy in the whole house. Something seemed wrong. He had so long been an object - a something during a weary discourse, to fix your eye upon, and find rest. It was long before that vacuum was filled, and in fact, it only gradually healed, like a desperate wound. • Father Brewer' received his title from the circumstance of his being one of the fathers of the village. He was one of those who knew the day when the spot was a forest; when the wolf howled far and wide; when the Indian walked forth like a king, clad in the wild romance of his tribe; and only here and there the smoke of the white man curled among
branches of the trees. He was instrumental in raising the little church in the shadows of the wilderness, and lived to behold that wilderness melt around it like the April snow, and stand forth, as it does now, in the sunshine of the blue heavens. His death was as quiet and tranquil as the sinking of the evening star, which vanishes in purity and silence. He was not cut down, but gathered. Father Brewer, too, is gone!
Parson Johnson was a peculiar man. He was one of those divines who practised, as near as poor human frailty would allow, what he preached; and this was all he sought in the ways of his beloved little Rock. There was nothing boisterous in his manner, as he stood forth
in the pulpit ; but all was calm and gentle as the whisper of a seraph. I see him now, arrayed in his modest attire, the heavy wrinkles arching his brow, his locks whitened by the snow-flakes of seventy years, standing before me in the little desk he occupied so long. I see him affectionately persuading and entreating his people, to choose the better part'--to forsake the
gaudy and glittering tinsel of wealth — to grasp after those immortal flowers that know no blight of winter, and to‘lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.' He looked like a being more than human a sentinel, as it were, upon the narrow bridge that divides time from eternity. Every body loved Parson Johnson. The very children of the village would forsake their parents, and hasten to meet his embrace, for his way was as simple as a child's.' There was a treasury of anecdote in him, and many is the fireside that has been charmed by his presence. There was nothing sour or morose in his manner : the beauty of his religion consisted in a great measure in the felicity it conferred on man here below. Who ever looked on Parson Johnson, and thought
not better of christianity? Who ever suspected for a moment that the Father of the universe was not with him ? It would have been sacrilege! His opinion on any subject was weighed as closely as though it were holy writ itself. When his master on high called him to his bosom, the little flock stood silent. Their shepherd was no more. It was a bereavement too deep to be soon forgotten. He lingered long in their memories, even as the death of a fond parent remains green in the recollection of his children.
But what rendered the old church more sacred to me, was the fact that a long line of ancestors had loved it before me. There were traces of my own mother's hands throughout the interior; and her form was cold many long years ago. This gave a pleasing solemnity to every object around, and threw me into a deeper and holier train of meditation.
But I must not forget Deacon Miller's dog. That dog of the deacon's was the most sanctified animal it has ever been my fortune to encounter. He always made his appearance about the commencement of the sermon, (probably having an aversion to prayers,) and after pushing the front door one side with his cold nose, he would curl up his tail as round as a hoop upon his back, and trot up the middle aisle with all the importance of a lord. After making the circuit of the church a few times, by way of preliminary, he would couch himself down at the pew-door of the deacon, and fix his eyes upon Parson Johnson with the most intense attention during the remainder of the discourse. He was a pattern to many of the biped race; and although he undoubtedly did wrong in habitually appearing at so late a period, his demeanor was unexceptionable after his arrival; and when the services were concluded, he retired with decent solemnity, doubtless as much edified as many of the congregation. The deacon thought much of the animal; he lived to a ripe old age, when rheumatism set in, and after a couple of years, carried the favorite to his grave.
The deacon proposed that the sexton should toll the age of the departed to the village; but that worthy peremptorily refused, and a dispute arose on the occasion, which rendered them enemies forever afterward.
Doubtless this old church will stand when the writer of this is no
If it does, then let it also remain a lesson to others, as it has been to me.
I am not among that misanthropical class who look upon auch works of stability only to ascertain my own frailty. There is an eloquence in those gray and silent objects, that should not be forgotten—a solemn voice, it is true, but it has about it nothing dark nor gloomy. It is sweet and pensive, like the tones of its own bell echoing soberly among the hills and valleys that surround it. One may read a lesson where Time has written his characters in the green and slippery moss upon its eaves. There is a homily in the silver thread of the spider that trembles suspended from its columns. Wherever you turn your eye, in this ancient and holy spot, there is a volume of instruction. It is to be looked upon as we gaze upon the October forests, when, in the silent and smoky noon-day, the leaf turns into gold, and the hills stand up in one full blaze of dying splendor. As
you would walk forth on the autumnal hills, and identify yourself with the great phenomena of nature
as you would pause at the rustle of a leaf, or smile at the sweet and mellow serenity of nature go, oh! friend and companion of my youth! and linger about this old church: if you are a cheerful man, it will purify your cheerfulness; and whatever you may be, you will return 'a better and a wiser man.'
H. H. R.
LINES TO A FRIEND
ON BEING REQUESTED TO SING OFT IN THE STILLY NIGHT BEFORE A FASHIONABLE EVENING PARTY.
On give not to the heartless crowd
That pensive, thrilling song!
Of Fashion's giddy throng.
The pathos of that melting lay
They have not soul to feel ;
The grief those words reveal.
Sing it to sooth the wearied heart,
Paured by the callous world;
Its hopes to ruin hurled.
Oh! sing it not in bright saloon,
Or halls of pride and power;
Illumes the evening hour.
And shouldst thou e'er, with care-worn heart,
On childhood's green haunts gaze,
The 'light of other days.'
Atstilly night,' should memory bring
The loved, the lost to mind,
Thus shalt ihou solace find.
Then waste not on the giddy throng
Those tones to sorrow dear,
The drooping heart to cheer.
I have recently come to New-York, as thousands have come before me, to seek my fortune. Whether I shall fill my purse with money, or be benefitted otherwise by the change, time alone can determine. I have walked up and down the streets, traversed every lane and alley, and penetrated all quarters of this great and growing metropolis. I have surveyed its architecture, viewed the curiosities of art with which it so magnificently and munificently abounds, and strange as it may appear, have been as much absorbed in thought, as much isolated in mind, as when wandering alone in the forests and the wilds of the ‘far west. In my rambles to and fro, I have sometimes found myself unconsciously hurried along by the current of population which rolls through the streets with a tremendous tide.
It is not my intention to go into an elaborate discussion of the comparative influence of town and country life upon the moral and physical condition of man. I leave this to the theologian and the physician - to those who are better qualified for the task.
Doubtless all of us have at times experienced difficulty in recollecting distinctly conversations had in the street, and what we have seen and heard in town. This is caused by the rapid succession of objects not affording time for that which precedes to make a permanent impression on the memory, before it is effaced by what follows. Hence a residence in the city rather tends to weaken than to strengthen this faculty. I take this, likewise, to be the case with all the faculties of man, moral, intellectual, and physical.
It may be said that those who reside permanently in the city, are in a great measure unconscious of what is going on around them that they become familiarized to it — that all the hurry, and noise, and excitement in the town, have no more effect upon a citizen, than the lowing of the herds, the singing of the frogs, or the music of the groves, have upon a countryman. I think otherwise and founded upon a residence of nearly twenty years in the city. It does seem to me that I never can become insensible to this kind of influence. It still annoys me - nay, at times it is intolerable. But I am aware all men are not alike, and that possibly I am an exception, in this instance, to the rest of mankind.
The result of my observations and reflections upon town life is, that great cities are not, to the mass of their inhabitants, favorable to the growth of virtue, and the consequent increase of human happi
The stir, and noise, and excitement with which they are filled - the anxiety and care with which the mind appears to be loaded — is exhausting, and eminently calculated to disturb the tranquillity of the soul prematurely to wear out and destroy the constitution of man. But in all this there is something exceedingly fascinating, particularly to the juvenile mind - something that addresses itself so forcibly to the external senses, that few have the moral power
and courage to resist its influence. Our senses and our passions usurp the authority and place of our judgment. So much splendor and show dazzle the mind, and fill the imagination
my opinion is