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TRIAL AND DISCIPLINE.
I. Nature of Trial.-The Steam-boat on trial-Efforts of the Engineer-Improvements-Final Results-Her Power-Safe and successful Action.-Life a Time of Trial-Trials of Childhood-The Child and the Forbidden Book-CommandsPain-Advantage of Trial in Childhood-Putting Playthings out of Reach-Conversation with a Mother-Trials not to be shunned-Instruction and Practice -The Merchant's Plan for his Son-A Voyage of Difficulty-its Effects. II. The Uses of Trial.-Self-knowledge-The Deceived Mother-True Submission distinguished from False-The Engineer watchful-Trial a Means of Improvement-The Boy studying Division-The Moral and Arithmetical Question.— Practical Directions- God's Providence universal-Losses of every kind from God-The Careless Engineer-Neglect of Duty.-Concluding Remarks.
"Strangers and Pilgrims on the Earth."
I. NATURE OF TRIAL.
THE Bible everywhere conveys the idea, that this life is not our home, but a state of probation, that is, of trial and discipline, which is intended to prepare us for another. In order that all, even the youngest of my readers, may understand what is meant by this, I shall illustrate it by some familiar examples, drawn from the actual business in life.
When a large steam-boat is built with the intention of having her employed upon the waters of a great river, she must be proved, before put to service. Before trial, it is somewhat doubtful whether she will succeed. In the first place, it is not absolutely certain that her machinery will work at all. There may be some flaw in the iron, or an imperfection in some part of the workmanship, which will prevent the motion of her wheels. Or if this be not the case, the power of the machinery may not be sufficient to propel her through the water with such force as to overcome the current; or she may, when brought to encounter the rapids found at some narrow passage in the stream, not be able to force her way against their resistance.
The engineer, therefore, resolves to try her in all these
respects, that her security and her power may be properly proved, before she is entrusted with her valuable cargo of human lives. He cautiously builds a fire under her boiler; he watches with eager interest the rising of the steam-gage, and scrutinises every part of the machinery as it gradually comes under the controul of the tremendous power which he is cautiously applying. With what interest does he observe the first stroke of the ponderous piston! And when, at length, the fastenings of the boat are let go, and the motion is communicated to the wheels, and the mighty mass slowly moves away from the wharf, how deep and eager an interest does the engineer feel in all her movements, and in every indication he can discover of her future success!
The engine, however, works imperfectly-as every one must-on its first trial; and the object in this experiment is, not to gratify idle curiosity by seeing that she will move, but to discover and remedy every little imperfection, and to remove every obstacle which prevents more entire success. For this purpose, you will see our engineer examining most minutely and most attentively every part of her complicated machinery. The crowd on the wharf may be simply gazing on her majestic progress, as she moves off from the shore; but the engineer is within, looking, with faithful examination, into all the minutia of the motion. He scrutinises the action of every lever, and the friction of every joint. Here, he oils a bearing;— there, he tightens a nut. One part of the machinery has too much play, and he confines it;-another too much friction, and he loosens it. Now he stops the engine; now reverses her motion; and again sends the boat forward in her course. He discovers, perhaps, some great improvement of which she is susceptible; and when he returns to the wharf, and has extinguished her fire, he orders from the machine-shop the necessary alteration.
The next day he puts his boat to the trial again; and she glides over the water more smoothly and swiftly than before. The jar which he had noticed is gone, and the friction reduced; the beam plays more smoothly; and the alteration which he has made, produces a more equable motion in the shaft, or gives greater effect to the stroke of the paddles upon the water.
When, at length, her motion is such as to satisfy him upon the smooth surface of the river, he turns her course upwards towards the rapids, to see how she will sustain a greater trial. As he increases her steam, to give her power to overcome the new force with which she has to contend, he watches with eager interest her boiler; inspects the gage and the safety-valves; and, from her movements under the increased pressure of her steam, he receives suggestions for further improvements, or for precautions which will ensure greater safety. These he executes and thus he perhaps goes on for many days, or even weeks, trying and examining, for the purpose of improvement, every working of that mighty power to which he knows hundreds of lives are soon to be entrusted. This now is probation-trial for the sake of improvement. And what are its results? Why, after this course has been thoroughly and faithfully pursued, this floating palace receives upon her broad deck, and in her carpeted and curtained cabins, her four or five hundred passengers. They pour, in one long procession of happy groups, over the bridge of planks-father and son -mother and children-young husband and wife-all, with implicit confidence, trusting themselves and their dearest interests to her power. See her, as she sails away: how beautiful, and yet how powerful, are all her motions! That beam glides up and down gently and smoothly in its grooves; and yet, gentle as it seems, hundreds of horses could scarcely hold it still. There is no apparent
violence, but every movement is with almost irresistible power. How graceful is her form, and yet how mighty is the momentum with which she presses on her way! Loaded with life, and herself the very symbol of life and power, she seems something æthereal-unreal, which, ere we look again, will have vanished away. And though she has within her bosom a furnace glowing with furious fires, and a reservoir of death-the elements of most dreadful ruin and conflagration-of destruction the most complete, and agony the most unutterable—and though her strength is equal to the united energy of two thousand men, she restrains it all. She was constructed by genius, and has been tried and improved by fidelity and skill;and one man governs and controuls her, stops her and sets her in motion, turns her this way and that, as easily and certainly as the child guides the gentle lamb. She walks over the hundred and sixty miles of her route without rest and without fatigue; and the passengers, who have slept in safety in her berths, with destruction by water without and by fire within, defended only by a plank from the one and by a sheet of copper from the other, land at the appointed time in safety.
My reader, you have within you susceptibilities and powers, of which you have little present conceptionenergies, which are hereafter to operate in producing fulness of enjoyment, or horrors of suffering, of which you now but little conceive. You are now on trial. God wishes you to prepare yourself for safe and happy action. He wishes you to look within, to examine the complicated movements of your heart, to detect what is wrong to modify what needs change, and rectify every irregular motion. You go out, to try your moral powers upon the stream of active life; and then return to retirement, to improve what is right, and remedy what is wrong. Renewed opportunities of moral practice are given you,
that you may go on from strength to strength, until every part of that complicated moral machinery, of which the human heart consists, will work as it ought to work, and is prepared to accomplish the mighty purposes for which your powers are designed. You are on trial-on probation, now. You will enter upon active service in ano
In order, however, that the reader may understand fully the views to be presented in this chapter, I wish to point out particularly the difference between the condition of the boat I have described, when she was on trial, and when she was afterwards in actual service. While she was on trial, she sailed this way and that, merely for the purpose of ascertaining her powers and her deficiencies, in order that the former might be increased and the latter remedied. The engineer steered her to the rapids. It was not, however, because he particularly wished to pass the rapids, but only to try the power of the boat upon them. Perhaps with the same design he might run along a curved or indented shore, penetrating deep into creeks, or sweeping swiftly round projecting headlands; and this, not because he wishes to examine that shore, but only to see how his boat will obey her helm. Thus he goes on, placing her again and again in situations of difficulty, for the purpose simply of proving her powers, and enabling him to perfect the operation of her machinery. Afterwards, when she comes into actual service—when she has received her load, and is transporting it to its place of destination-the object is entirely changed: service, not improvement, is now the aim. Her time of trial is ended.
The Bible everywhere considers this world as one of trial and discipline, introductory to another world of actual service, which is yet to come. A child, as he comes forward into life, is surrounded with difficulties which