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The Promised Land

Readings for the Young

By S. S.

No. I.

Although not classed under the category of diseases, still no malady to which the human frame is susceptible, is so injurious to the system, so difficult of cure, as sloth. Insidious in its approaches, its victim is altogether unconscious of its first attack; but its progress though slow is sure. The blood stagnates under its baneful influence, and instead of supplying the frame with renewed vitality; it corrodes the springs of existence, the elasticity of the system is lost; and unless violent and continuous remedies are used, its victim sinks into a hopeless decay.

As sloth is to the corporeal system, so it indifference to the intellectual faculties, which require constant exercise for their healthful development, and an end, an aim to call them into activity. If this exercise is denied them, and the faculties of the mind are allowed to lie dormant, they lose, by degrees, their vigour and activity, and <<548>>instead of raising their possessor to a higher state of being, they sink him lower in the scale of existence.

There is a people whose ancestors once dwelt in a lovely land, abounding in all that could please the appetite or delight the senses; a land whose beautiful valleys, and fertile plains, blessed the husbandman with a rich return for his light and health-inspiring toil; upon whose hills and mountains grew the vine in vigorous and luxuriant growth; and where the fig and the date-tree groaned under their delicious burden; a land so gentle in its visitings, so refreshing in its dews, that a thousand winters had not robbed the stately cedar of its greenness, or thrown the hoary robe of age over its proud and stately head. No savage beasts haunted its secluded and romantic dells, where nature had spread her beautiful robe around, and where the chaste and silent stars, or the glad beam of sunshine, kissed the laughing rivulets as they bounded along on their errands of adding fresher bloom to the lovely children of nature, as they bedewed them with the gemlike spray: nor were the dwellers of this land unworthy of its benign skies, or its teeming fertility. The inmates of the cottage, or the dwellers of the palace, alike shared the healthful toil, alike cultivated the energies of their minds; alike acknowledged the great Creator as their Father and beneficent Provider, and alike pointed out to their offspring, the path that they should follow, to enjoy the blessings that then surrounded them.

Ages passed, and saw them flourishing! ages passed, and saw them happy! Ages flew by, and said, “Surely this people is blessed of God.” But luxury, that mortal enemy to intellectual exercise, by degrees infected this peaceful and happy land, whose sons and daughters, no longer vying in doing good towards each other, or in rendering themselves more acceptable to their spiritual Father, whose love and watchfulness had warded off danger from without, or pestilence and disease from within, hastened with eager and mad delight to satisfy the cravings of vanity, or the lust of desire. In vain did their Ruler send messengers to warn them of their sinful conduct, and to urge them to retrace their devious ways, and regain the path of happiness: blind to all, except the gratification of their passions, they treated all the messengers with contempt, and set their instruction at defiance. It was then that the anger of the Most High was kindled, and He temporarily withdrew his pro<<549>>tection from this people, whom he had heretofore guarded with more than a mother’s love. The foe without, who had watched them as the famished wolf watches the lamb, seized upon them for his prey, and carried them away into captivity. “In their sore distress they cried unto the Lord,” and He heard them, and restored them again to the land they loved so well. They grew anew prosperous and mighty; but again they transgressed, and again and again were they chastised; but though lowly in their adversity, prosperity made them proud, and stiff-necked, and they were at last doomed to wander far and wide from their beloved country, whose lands were laid desolate, and whose altars were desecrated by the stranger who knew not nor cared for the God of Israel.

But though ages have passed since their expulsion from the land of their inheritance, and though ages may pass away before their return to the enjoyment of their patrimony: still they have the power, if they unitedly exercise the will, to return to that joyful land, for He, who promises but to perform, has said, that “When they turn towards him, with an unswerving faith, and united heart, he will gather them from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south,” and restore them to their ancient and revered land, and bestow upon them a prosperity so great, and a happiness so enduring, that the pains and heart-burnings that they have undergone in their wanderings, shall be remembered no more.

And how shall this wished-for return be brought about? It is only by each one looking upon himself as the means destined for its accomplishment; not to mistrust his efforts, however weak they may appear to himself, but add them to his brother’s; and what hat individual efforts may fail to achieve, united efforts may accomplish.

Seest thou yon lofty rock, that shields this valley from the angry waves of the tempestuous ocean? It is formed of grains as small as the sand which the winds of the desert sport with, and toss about into a thousand fantastic forms; and yet by a union of its many particles, it has stood for ages, and dashed back those tremendous waves, which have so often threatened destruction to this fair land. How many gallant barks have been dashed to pieces on its breast!  How often have the lightnings of heaven <<550>>played upon its brow! But there it stands unharmed, and there it will stand unmoved for ages to come, to show to Israelites the strength which exists in unity, and the necessity there exists for a fusion of parts, to endure, with safety, the raging storms which might otherwise engulf them. Many of those beautiful islands that shine on the ocean’s breast, like the stars which gem the diadem of night, are formed by the combined efforts of an insect, million times smaller than ourselves; and yet Heaven blessed its efforts with success; and shall not we, my young friends, endeavour to make use of our powers too? Ought we not, in the early morning of existence, mark out the labours of the day, and pursue it undeviatingly, without turning aside, because of the difficulties we may encounter, or the allurements that may beset us?