« PreviousContinue »
word, however, is frequently adopted, sion calls us to action ; and often, if when the thing signified is shamefully we honestly and diligently begin to neglected : 'I will take an opportunity act, we find that difficulties clear off of doing such a thing,' is, in the mouth as we proceed, and unexpected opportuof many people, nothing more than an nities open upon us, and lead to satisexcuse for putting off the doing of a factory results, far beyond our anticithing which ought to be done at the pations. A wise man will make more present moment.
opportunities than he finds : and it is a My uncle, as I have already observed, mark of wisdom to discern, seize, and when he saw that a word or phrase had improve opportunity; but a mark of attracted our attention, made a practice gross and sinful folly to resist the claims of desiring us to refer to a dictionary, of duty, and the incentives of opportuand trace its derivation and its syno- nity. Never forget, my boys, that in all nyms, which he justly considered a likely matters, both great and small, every way to fix correct ideas on our minds, man is obliged, by the Supreme Maker of and to lodge useful sentiments in our | the universe, to improve all the opportumemories; nor were we backward in nities of good which are afforded him. obeying such a suggestion, as it gene. You have many opportunities ; how are rally opened the way to conversation, in you improving them ? which we were favoured with uncle's “There is one particular connected own sentiments on the subject referred to. with opportunity of every kind, that
Opportunity is explained by Dr. should stimulate us, promptly and diliJohnson as fit place, convenience, suit- gently, to improve it. Opportunity is ableness of circumstances to any end." | uncertain, both in its continuance and
Opportunity," says another writer, return. Richard, you observe, neg“from opportunus, fit, signifies the thing lected the occasion when he ought to that happens fit for the purpose." have attended to it, because he flattered
“Pray, uncle," I inquired, “ does himself that the fine weather which furoccasion mean the same thing as oppor- nished the opportunity would last; and tunity ? for when Mrs. Rogers told in that he was mistaken. Now he conRichard to take the opportunity of a fine soles himself with the hope that there morning to gather the raspberries, I will be plenty more opportunities before heard him say, 'There is no occasion to the season is over. Perhaps, in this, do that just now; I shall do it in the also, he may be equally mistaken. Cerafternoon.'" “No, Samuel, indeed they tainly, no opportunity will recur so fado not; as the result of Richard's neg- vourable as that which he has squandered. ligence fully exemplifies. Occasion sig- Too many people, like Richard, spend nifies that which falls in the way, so as the first part of their lives in wasting to produce some kind of change, and opportunities, and indulging vain hopes ; requires a certain line of conduct. But and the last half in bitter disappointment opportunity means, such a state or con- and fruitless regret.” currence of circumstances as forms the Frank looked very thoughtful. As he most fit and favourable juncture for pur- afterwards told me, he was engaged in a suing that course with success. The mental enumeration of his own opportuoccasion is that which determines our nities, and in self-scrutiny as to his imconduct, and leaves us no choice as to provement of them. “ Samuel,” he said, the step to be taken. The opportunity what a highly favoured lot is ours, is that which invites us to action, and and how much have we to answer for ! prompts us to embrace the fit moment We have opportunities for mental imfor taking the step. We do things, provement; time, ability to learn, tutherefore, as the occasion requires, or as tors, books, and every advantage of eduopportunity offers. A sense of duty will cation; we ought to become wise men. always, to a wise and good person, form We have religious opportunities, the a sufficient occasion ; and he will desire Scriptures, the throne of grace, the inand embrace every opportunity, or fa- vitations of the gospel, ministers, pious vourable state of circumstances for doing parents, good examples ; we ought to be it , though he will by no means wait good men. Then we have abundant for them. What is right must be done, opportunities of doing good to others. however unfavourable and discouraging We have leisure, property, influence, the circumstances may be in which we education; we ought to be useful men. find ourselves placed, when the occa- Uncle often says, that these things are
not given us merely for our own sakes, cle, "in company with a young officer, who but that we may, as faithful stewards, deeply pained me by his flippant, profane, improve them, for the good of those and sceptical conversation. I made sevearound us.”
ral attempts to address a suitable word to “Do you remember, Frank, what him, but he ingeniously warded off whatthat minister said, who called last week ever I could say, and we parted without to see uncle, and stayed to tea? I did any thing like a satisfactory result. I had not well understand it; but what you in my portmanteau The Life of Colonel just said reminded me of it.”
Gardiner, Doddridge's Evidences, and “I know what you mean. He said the Book of Truth itself, the New Testhat no man was converted for his own tament. How suitable would either of sake alone, but also that he might become these have been to him! and, as we stayed an instrument of good to others. He at an inn to dine, I might have opened thought that no good ınan could be con- my trunk, and presented them to him ; tent to go to heaven alone. And he be- but I did not think of it, and the opporlieved that there was no Christian, how- tunity was lost. Very shortly afterwards, ever humble his abilities and attainments, the unhappy young man fell in a duel but was privileged with some opportu- and I had, and have ever since had, to nity of being useful to the souls of those reproach myself with neglecting an oparound him. He mentioned several in- portunity of doing good to his soul. stances of very simple efforts having been “It is thus,” proceeded my uncle, after owned and blessed ; and said how much it a moment of pensive silence, “that the was our duty to watch for such opportu- soul's salvation is neglected, both relanities, and improve them when they tively and personally. How often do we occurred. I recollect he said, there were fail to do to others the good we might do, some poor, simple, unlettered people who, but that we do not consider and improve he doubted not, would share largely in opportunities that present themselves for the glory promised; “ They that be wise making the attempt; and how do sinners shall shine as the brightness of the fir- personally neglect and slight the great mament; and they that turn many to salvation by inconsideration. John Bunrighteousness as the stars for ever and yan justly describes the careless sinever,' ” Dan. xii. 3.
ner as spending all his days in 'raking My uncle, who had been called away, in the muck, while a crown of glory is seemed pleased on his return to find that suspended above his head, of which he we were still talking about opportunity, takes no notice. Moses apprehended the and again joined in the conversation. like ruinous inconsideration in his be
“How is it, .uncle," asked Frank, loved nation, when he aspirated the that opportunities of every kind are so anxious wish, Oh that they were wise, frequently lost and suffered to pass unim- that they understood this, that they proved ? I know that in general it may would consider their latter end !'
. Deut. be said, it is owing to the corruption xxxii. 29; and Solomon, when he said, of human nature; but that is a vague as with a sigh, Wherefore is there a expression, and seems to convey no spe- price in the hand of a fool to get cific instruction. I should be glad to wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?' know what are the particular hinderances Prov. xvii. 16. And it is that which a to our improvement of opportunities, that greater than either Moses or Solomon I may set a special guard against them.” bewailed, when he pathetically lamented,
My uncle paused a moment, as he was * If thou hadst known, even thou, at wont to do, when asked an opinion on least in this thy day, the things which what he deemed a matter of importance, belong unto thy peace ! but now
they are and then replied, I “think you will find hid from thine eyes,' Luke xix. 42. on reflection, that opportunities are often My dear lads, think of that delightful lost through inconsideration or careless- scene at the well of Samaria, John iv., ness. How very commonly do we hear and the glorious results of one wellpersons regretting the loss of an advantage, improved opportunity, an opportunity which, say they, 'I had such a good which, in all probability, never recurred; opportunity of acquiring; but I never and never inconsiderately squander an thought of it.' Instances immediately opportunity of gaining good, especially crowded upon the recollection of each of spiritual good, or of doing good to the
bodies or souls of others." “I was travelling," continued my un- I expressed a wish always to have some
kind friend at hand to point out and re- his way. Incapable of setting up a firm mind me of my opportunities, that I purpose on the basis of things as they might not be in danger of overlooking or are, he is often employed in vain specuforgetting them.
lations on some different supposable state “Ah," said my uncle, “you deceive of things, which would have saved him yourself, if you think that any friend or from all this perplexity and irresolution. adviser can
secure you against your Thus he is occupied, instead of catching own negligence. Friends may watch with a vigilant eye, and seizing with a over you for good, and suggest and ad- strong hand, all the possibilities of his vise, but it must be your own act and situation. deed to improve your opportunities; and 6. The events of life seize such a man if lost, they will be lost through your own as a kind of neutral material, not he the fault. The very counsel and vigilance events. Others advancing through life you desire, is a kind of opportunity which with an internal invincible determination must be made available by your own im- of mind, have seemed to make the train provement, but which, it is very possible, of circumstances, whatever they were, you may squander and neglect.
conduce as much to their chief design as “Indolence, I was about to mention, as if they had taken place on purpose.”. one cause of the frequent loss of opportu- My dear lads, let your eye be single, nity. It was so as long ago as Solomon's and your aim steady and well-directed, time ; for he tells us that “The sluggard and then you will find yourselves free to will not plough by reason of the cold; embrace all favourable opportunities of therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have gaining good and doing good ; and like nothing;' and `He that gathereth in sum- that pattern of Christian magnanimity, mer is a wise son : but he that sleepeth in the apostle Paul, you will find that all harvest is a son that causeth shame, Prov. events, however seemingly adverse, fall xx. 4; x. 5; and such sluggards he admo- out rather unto the furtherance' (Phil. nishes by the example of the thrifty ant, i. 12) of the great object of your
lives. who diligently improves the favourable “ Timidity is another obstacle to the imseason, and derives the benefit of her provement of opportunity.
There are forecast in a comfortable provision for many persons who decide in their own the time of need. Guard, my boys, minds on the propriety and desirableness now in the morning of your days, against of a certain step, and that the present indulging a slothful indolent spirit. It moment is the suitable and favourable is a bar to excellence and success of every opportunity for taking it, but they parley kind; above all, may you never bear the with a spirit of timidity till it brings them character of spiritual sluggards, lest, back to a state of indecision. • Will the when the seed-time and harvest of oppor- thing be quite prudent? Many things tunity are over, you should have to ex- are to be considered. May there not be claim, in unavailing bitterness, “The some evil in the change, of which they harvest is past, the summer is ended, are not aware ? May not some other meaand we are not saved,'” Jer. viii. 20. sures be devised which will meet the
My uncle mentioned, as a third hinder- claims of duty, and satisfy the requireance to the improvement of opportunity, ments of conscience, without involving so a spirit of indecision, and took the oppor- considerable a sacrifice of worldly intetunity of recommending to our careful rest ? Is this a proper time ? What and repeated perusal, an invaluable essay, will people say ?' etc., etc. Yes, all this then recently published, on decision of reasoning is in the very spirit of him character; a piece which has probably who saith, There is a lion without, I been eminently useful to many indivi- shall be slain in the streets,' Prov. xxii. duals, among whom I may presume to 13; of him whose "way is as an hedge class myself. The following brief ex- of thorns,' Prov. xv. 19; and of him tracts will show its applicability to the who buried his talent in the earth, instead subject in hand.
of improving it, and out of his own mouth “It is a poor and disgraceful thing not is condemned as a wicked and slothful to be able to reply with some degree of servant, Matt. xxv. 18. 24. 30. It is a sound certainty, to the simple questions, What precept of Dr. Johnson's, Neglect no will you be ? What will you do ?” opportunity of doing good, nor check
“A person of an indecisive character the desire of doing it by a vain fear of wonders how all the embarrassments in what may happen.' the world happened to meet exactly in “Opportunity,” continued my uncle,
“is often sacrificed to prejudice. We to the address of the medical gentleman. have set our minds against a certain mea- He knocked and inquired if Dr. M. were sure, a certain course, or a certain party, at home. " This is not Dr. M.'s house,” and thus we overlook, and perhaps reject, replied the servant, “it is the next door; all the good they might yield us-perhaps but Dr. M. now lies dead. He was taken the greatest good that was ever within off suddenly two days ago.” So, by a our offer. “How shall this man save us ?' | little procrastination, perhaps unavoidwas the scornful tone of the children of Be able delay, the opportunity was irrecolial concerning Saul the Lord's anointed, verably lost, of any benefit that might 1 Sam. x. 27. • Can there any good thing have been derived from his skill. This come out of Nazareth ?' was the language circumstance my uncle related with much of many who, through prejudice, rejected feeling, and added—“And is it not thus the Messiah. It was the language of one, in the affairs of the soul ? Do not the who was afterwards brought to a better spiritually diseased put off, from day to mind, to lay aside prejudice, to investi- day, application to the great Physician ? gate truth, and to embrace the opportunity Do not their friends put off, from day to of conversing with Him of whom Moses in day, plainly to admonish them of their the law and the prophets did write, John danger, and urge them to seek the remedy, i. 45, 46. It is through prejudice that until it is too late. The spiritual health many in our day, like the Jews of old, is not recovered, the sinner dies under despise the simplicity of the gospel, or his disease, not because there is no Phydislike its humbling, or its holy doctrines, sician or no balm in Gilead, Jer. viii
. 22; and say of the Saviour, “We will not but because the application is neglected. have this man to reign over us,' and Thus Satan cheats us of all our time by
reject the counsel of God against them- cheating us of the present time. selves,' Luke xix. 14; vii. 30.
“There is one more cause of the neglect “Procrastination. Ah, there is no ob- of opportunity, which occurs to my mind stacle to the improvement of opportunity as nearly connected with procrastination. more universal and fatal than procrasti- It is presumption. We neglect present nation! Thousands are every day suf- opportunities because we flatter ourselves, fering the loss of advantages which they in defiance of all reason, Scripture, and might have possessed, and fully intended experience, that we shall have plenty to possess, but delayed to embrace the more—that opportunity will either be opportunity, until it eluded their grasp. prolonged or renewed. The young let This is seen alike in trifles, and in con- slip the golden opportunity of youth, incerns of magnitude."
comparably the best time for embracing reMy uncle mentioned a painful instance ligion, because they presume on its being which had occurred in his own expe- time enough to attend to it when age adrience. A friend of his was suffering vances. The busy neglect religion, while from a formidable malady, for which he they presume on future leisure. The had been strongly recommended to apply healthy put off repentance to a sick bed. to a physician in London, who had been Thus each after his own peculiar manner, remarkably successful in cases of that like Felix, dismisses the solemn truths nature. The gentleman who recommend that claim immediate attention, by preed him, related several signal cures suming on a more convenient season,' wrought under his treatment, which ex- Acts xxiv. 25, which in the vast majocited lively hope in the mind of the suf- rity of cases never arrives. Multitudes ferer, who eagerly inquired the name and of lost spirits might now mingle their residence of the physician. The gentle- voices, in tones emphatic with the horman replied that he had recently changed rors of despair, to press upon heedless his abode, but that on his return he would procrastinating mortals the solemn conobtain his address, and forward it to my sideration that, to them, Now is the uncle, who was to be in London on a cer- accepted time; now is the day of salvatain day. Immediately on his arrival, tion,'” 2 Cor. vi. 2. my uncle called at the place appointed, I must not omit one remark of Uncle but no direction was left there. It ar- Barnaby on the subject of opportunity. rived by the next day's post; but then my "Opportunity," said he, “is an incentive uncle was so engaged that he could not to good, or a provocative to evil. In the command time to go to such a distance, first instance, ‘Draw nigh to God, and he and the day was lost. Next day my will draw nigh to you ;' ask, “ Lord, what uncle made it his first business to hasten wilt thou have me to do ;' and, Work
AN ARABIAN TALE.
while it is called to-day: 'the night com- the power of the king! I am a poct eth, when no man can work,' Jas. iv. 8; of such a tribe, and have composed an Acts ix. 6; John ix. 4. In the other, ‘Re- ode in praise of our lord the sultan.” sist the devil, and he will flee from you,' “ O brother of the Arabs,” said the Jas. iv. ?. The greatest heroism is at once king, "hast thou heard our conditions ?" to quit the field where opportunity invites 'No," answered the poet, and what to evil, saying, “How can I do this great are they, O king of the age ?" The wickedness, and sin against God ?'” Gen. king replied, " that if the ode be not xxxix. 9.
thine, we give thee no reward; and
if it be thine, we give thee the weight A WHIMSICAL story, says Lane, is told in money of what it is written upon.” of a king, who denied' to poets those re- "How," said El-Asma’ee, “ should I wards to which usage had almost given assume to myself what belongs to anthem a claim. This king, whose name is other, and knowing too that lying before not recorded, had the faculty of retaining kings is one of the basest of actions. in his memory an ode after having only But I agree to this condition, our once heard it; and had a memlook who lord the sultan." So he repeated his could repeat an ode which he had twice ode. The king, perplexed and unable heard, and a female slave who could to remember any of it, made a sign to repeat one that she had heard thrice. the memlook ; but he had retained no. Whenever a poet came compliment thing, and called to the female slave, him with a panegyrical ode, the king but she also was unable to repeat a used to promise him that if he found word. “O brother of the Arabs,” said his verses to be his original composition, he, thou hast spoken truth, and the he would give him a sum of money equal ode is thine without doubt: I have never in weight to what they were written up- heard it before : produce, therefore, on. The poet consenting, would recite what it is written upon, and we his ode; and the king would say, “It will give thee its weight in money, as is not new ; for I have known it for we have promised.” C Wilt thou,” said some years,” and would repeat it as
“send one of thy attendants he had heard it; after which he would to carry it ?" “ To carry what ?” add, “And this memlook also retains asked the king, “is it not here upon it in his memory;" and would order a paper in thy possession ?" “No, o the memlook to repeat it; which, having our lord the sultan,” replied the poet; heard it twice, from the poet and the " at the time I composed it, I could not king, he would do. The king would procure a piece of paper upon which then say to the poet, “I have also a to write it, and could find nothing but female slave who can repeat it ;” and a fragment of a marble column left me ordering her to do so, stationed behind by my father, so I engraved it upon the curtains, she would repeat what she this; and it lies in the court of the had thus thrice heard : so the poet would palace.” He had brought it, wrapt up, go away empty handed. The famous on the back of a camel. The king, to poet El-Asma'ee, having heard of this fulfil his promise, was obliged to exhaust proceeding, and guessing the trick, de his treasury; and, to prevent a repetition termined upon outwitting the king; and of this trick (of which he afterwards accordingly composed an ode made up discovered El-Asma'ee to have been the of very
difficult words ; but this was author) in future, rewarded poets acnot his only preparative measure; an- cording to the usual custom of kings. other will be presently explained; and
This is a story which may be told a third was to assume the dress of a to the crafty, who, notwithstanding all Bedawee, that he might not be known, their cunning, are frequently outwitted. covering his face, the eyes only ex- They dig a pit for others, and fall into cepted, with a litham, (a piece of dra- it themselves. The mortification to be pery,) in accordance with a custom of endured in such circumstances must be the Arabs of the desert. Thus dis- great, but to practise on the credulity guised, he went to the palace, and of others incurs guilt also. It is forhaving asked permission, entered and bidden alike by love to our neighbours saluted the king, who said to him, and ourselves. The petition of the "Whence art thou, o brother of the psalmist should be universally adopted, Arabs, and what is thy desire ?" "Let integrity and uprightness preserve The poet answered, " May Ġod increase me,” Psa. xxv. 21.