Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

selves to float loose and careless on the tide of life,ready to receive any direction which the current of fashion may chance to give you; what can you expect to follow from such beginnings ?

4. While so many around you are undergoing the sad consequences of a like indiscretion, for what reason shall not those consequences extend to you? Shall you attain success without that preparation, and escape dangers without that precaution, which are required of others ? Shall happiness grow up to you, of its own accord, and solicit your acceptance, when, to the rest of mankind, it is the fruit of long cultivation, and the acquisition of labour and care ?

5. Deceive not yourselves with those arrogant hopes. Whatever be your rank, Providence will not, for your sake, reverse its established order. The Author of your being hath enjoined you to “take heed to your ways; to ponder the paths of your feet; to remember your Creator in the days of your youth."

6. He hath decreed, that they only " who seek after wisdom, shall find it; that fools shall be afflicted, because of their trans. gressions; and that whoever refuseth instruction, shall destroy his own soul.” By listening to these admonitions, and tempering the vivacity of youth with a proper mixture of serious thought, you may ensure cheerfulness for the rest of life; but by delivering yourselves up at present to giddiness and levity, you lay the foundation of lasting heaviness of heart.

7. When you look forward to those plans of life, which either your circumstances have suggested, or your friends have proposed, you will not hesitate to acknowledge, that in order to pursue them with advantage, some previous discipline is requisite. Be assured, that whatever is to be your profession, no education is more necessary to your success, than the acquirement of virtuous dispositions and habits. This is the universal preparation for every character, and every station in life.

8. Bad as the world is, respect is always paid to virtue. In the usual course of human affairs, it will be found, that a plain understanding, joined with acknowledged worth, contributes more to prosperity, than the brightest parts without probity or honour. Whether science, or business, or publick life, be your aim, virtue still enters, for a principal share, into all those great departments of society. It is connected with eminence, in every liberal art; with reputation in every branch of fair and useful business; with distinction in every publick station.

9. The vigour which it gives the mind, and the weight which it adds to character; the generous sentiments which it breathes; the undaunted spirit which it inspires ; the ardour of diligence which it quickens; the freedom which it procures from pernicious and dishonourable avocations; are the foundations of all that is highly honourable, or greatly successful among men.

10. Whatever ornamental or engaging endowments you now possess, virtue is a necessary requisite, in order to their shining with proper lustre. Feeble are the attractions of the fairest form. if it be suspected that nothing within corresponds to the pleasing appearance without. Short are the triumphs of wit, when it is supposed to be the vehicle of malice. 11. By whatever means you may at first attract the attention, you can hold the esteem, and secure the hearts of others, only by amiable dispositions, and the accomplishmenis of the mind. These are the qualities whose influence will last, when the lustre of all that once sparkled and dazzled has passed away.

12. Let not then the season of youth be barren of improvements, so essential to your future felicity and honour. Now is the seed-time of life; and according to “what you sow, you shall reap." Your character is now, under Divine assistance, of your own forming; your fate is, in some measure, put into your own hands.

13. Your nature is as yet pliant and soft. Habits have not established their dominion. Prejudices have not pre-occupied your understanding. The world has not had time to contract and debase your affections. All your powers are more vigorous, disembarrassed and free, than they will be at any future period.

14. Whatever impulse you now give to your desires and passions, the direction is likely to continue. It will form the channel in which your life is to run; nay, it may determine its everlasting issue. Consider then the employment of this important period, as the highest trust which shall ever be committed to you; as in a great measure, decisive of your happiness, in time, and in eternity.

15. As in the succession of the seasons, each, by the invariable laws of nature, affects the productions of what is next in course ; so, in human life, every period of our age, according as it is well or ill spent, influences the happiness of that which is to follow. Virtuous youth gradually brings forward accomplished and flour. ishing manhood; and such manhood passes of itself, without uneasiness, into respectable and tranquil old age.

16. But when nature is turned out of its regular course, disorder takes place in the moral, just as in the vegetable world. If the spring put forth no blossoms, in summer there will be no beauty, and in autumn, no fruit: so, if youth be trifled away without improvement, manhood will probably be contemptible, and old age miserable. If the beginnings of life have been “vanity," its latter end can scarcely be any other than “ vexation of spirit.”

17. I shall finish this address, with calling your attention to that dependence on the blessing of Heaven, which, amidst all your endeavours after improvement, you ought continually to preserve. It is too common with the young, even when they resolve to tread the path of virtue and honour, to set out with presumptuous confidence in themselves.

18. Trusting to their own abilities for carrying them successful. ly through life, they are careless of applying to God, or of deriving any assistance from what they are apt to reckon the gloomy discipline of religion. Alas! how little do they know the dangers which await them? Neither human wisdom, nor human virtue, unsupported by religion, is equal to the trying situations which often occur in life.

19. By the shock of temptation, how frequently have the most virtuous intentions been overthrown? Under the pressure of disaster, how often has the greatest constancy sunk? " Every good, and every perfect gift, is from above." Wisdom and virtue, as well as “riches and honour, come from God.” Destitute of his favour, you are in no better situation, with all your boasted abilities, than orphans left to wander in a trackless desert, without any guide to conduct them, or any shelter to cover them from the gathering storm.

20. Correct, then, this ill-founded arrogance. Expect not, that your happiness can be independent of Him who made you. By faith and repentance, apply to the Redeemer of the world. By piety and prayer, seek the protection of the God of heaven.

21. I conclude with the solemn words, in which a great prince delivered his dying charge to his son: words, which every young person ought to consider as addressed to himself, and to engrave deeply on his heart: “Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy fathers; and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind. For the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. If thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”

BLAIR.

CHAPTER IX.
PROMISCUOUS PIECES.

SECTION I. Earthquake at Calabria, in the year 1638. 1. An account of this dreadful earthquake, is given by the cele, brated father Kircher. It happened whilst he was on his journey to visit mount Ætna, and the rest of the wonders that lie towards the South of Italy. Kircher is considered, by scholars, as one of the greatest prodigies of learning. “Having hired a boat, in company with four more, (two friars of the order of St. Francis, and two seculars,) we launched from the harbour of Messina, in Sicily ; and arrived, the same day, at the promontory of Pelorus. Our destination was for the city of Euphemia, in Calabria ; where we had some business to transact; and where we designed to tarry for some time.

2. “However, Providence seemed willing to cross our design; for we were obliged to continue three days at Pelorus, on account of the weather; and though we often put out to sea, yet we were as often driven back. At length, wearied with the delay, we resolved to prosecute our voyage ; and, although the sea seemed more than usually agitated, we ventured forward.

3. “The gulf of Charybdis, which we approached, seemed whirled round in such a manner, as to form a vast hollow, verging to a point in the centre. Proceeding onward, and turning my eyes to Ætna, I saw it cast forth large volumes of smoke, of mountainous sizes, which entirely covered the island, and blotted out the very shores from my view. This, together with the dreadful noise, and the sulphurous stench which was strongly perceived, filled me with apprehensions, that some more dreadful calamity was impending.

4. “The sea itself seemed to wear a very unusual appearance: they who have seen a lake in a violent shower of rain, covered all over with bubbles, will conceive some idea of its agitations. My surprise was still increased, by the calmness and serenity of the

weather; not a breeze, not a cloud, which might be supposed to put all nature thus into motion. I therefore warned my companions, that an earthquake was approaching; and, after some time, making for the shore with all possible diligence, we landed at Tropæa, happy and thankful for having escaped the threatening dangers of the sea.

5." But our triumphs at land were of short duration ; for we had scarcely arrived at the Jesuits' College, in that city, when our ears were stunned with a horrid sound, resembling that of an infinite number of chariots, driven fiercely forward; the wheels rattling, and the thongs cracking. Soon after this, a most dreadful earthquake ensued; so that the whole tract upon which we stood seemed to vibrate, as if we were in the scale of a balance that continued wavering. This motion, however, soon grew more violent; and being no longer able to keep my legs, I was thrown prostrate upon the ground. In the mean time, the universal ruin round me redoubled my amazement.

6. “ The crash of falling houses, the tottering of towers, and the groans of the dying, all contributed to raise my terrour and despair. On every side of me, I saw nothing but a scene of ruin; and danger threatening wherever I should fly. I recommended myself to God, as my last great refuge.

7. “At that hour, how vain was every sublunary happiness! Wealth, honour, empire, wisdom, all mere useless sounds, and as empty as the bubbles of the deep! Just standing on the threshold of eternity, nothing but God was my pleasure; and the nearer I approached, I only loved him the more.

3. “ After some time, however, finding that I remained unhurt, amidst the general concussion, I resolved to venture for safety ; and running as fast as I could, I reached the shore, but almost terrified out of my reason. I did not search long here, till I found the boat in which I had landed; and my companions also, whose terrours were even greater than mine. Our meeting was not of that kind, where every one is desirous of telling his own happy escape: it was all silence, and a gloomy dread of impending terrours.

9. “ Leaving this seat of desolation, we prosecuted our voyage along the coast; and the next day came to Rochetta, where we landed, although the earth still continued in violent' agitations. But we had scarcely arrived at our inn, when we were once more obliged to return to the boat; and, in about half an hour, we saw the greater part of the town, and the inn at which we had put up, dashed to the ground, and burying the inhabitants be. neath the ruins.

10.“In this manner, proceeding onward in our little vessel, finding no safety at land, and yet, from the smallness of our boat, haying but a very dangerous continuance at sea, we at length landed at Lopizium, a castle midway between Tropea and Euphæmia, the city to which, as I said before, we were bound. Here, wherever I turned my eyes, nothing but scenes of ruin and horrour appear. ed; towns and castles levelled to the ground; Strombalo, though at sixty miles distance, belching forth flames in an unusual manner, and with a noise which I could distinctly hear.

11. “But my attention was quickly turned from more remote,

to contiguous danger. The rumbling sound of an approaching earthquake;which we by this time were grown acquainted with, alarmed us for the consequences; it every moment seemed to grow louder, and to approach nearer. The place on which we stood now began to shake most dreadfully; so that being unable to stand, my companions and I caught hold of whatever shrub grew next to us, and supported ourselves in that manner.

12. “After some time, this violent paroxysis ceasing, we again stood up, in order to prosecute our voyage to Euphæmia, which lay within sight. In the mean time, while we were preparing for this purpose, I turned my eyes towards the city, but could see only a frightful dark cloud, that seemed to rest upon the place. This the more surprised us, as the weather was so very serene.

13. “We waited, therefore, till the cloud had passed away: then turning to look for the city, it was totally sunk. Wonderful to tell! nothing but a dismal and putrid lake was seen where it stood. We looked about to find some one that could tell us of its sad catastrophe, but could see no person. All had become a melancholy solitude ; a scene of hideous desolation.

14. “Thus proceeding pensively along, in quest of some human being that could give us a little information, we at length saw a boy sitting by the shore, and appearing stupified with terrour. Of him, therefore, we inquired concerning the fate of the city ; but he could not be prevailed on to give us an answer.

15. “ We entreated him, with every expression of tenderness and pity to tell us; but his senses were quite wrapt up in the contemplation of the danger he had escaped. We offered him some victuals, but he seemed to loath the sight. We still persisted in our offices of kindness; but he only pointed to the place of the city, like one out of his senses; and then running up into the woods, was never heard of after. Such was the fate of the city of Euphemia.

16.** As we continued our melancholy course along the shore, the whole coast, for the space of two hundred miles, presented nothing but the remains of cities; and men scattered, without a habitation, over the fields. Proceeding thus along, we at length ended our distressful voyage by arriving at Naples, after having escaped a thousand dangers both at sea and land." GOLDSMITH.

SECTION II.

Letter from Pliny to GEMINIUS. 1. Do we not sometimes observe a sort of people, who, though they are themselves under the abject dominion of every vice, show a kind of malicious resentment against the errours of others; and are most severe upon those whom they most resemble ? yet, surely a lenity of disposition, even in persons who have the least occasion for clemency themselves, is of all virtues the most becoming.

2. The highest of all characters, in my estimation, is his, who is as ready to par on the errours of mankind, as if he were every day guilty of some hiniselt'; and, at the same time, as cautious of committing a fault, as if he never forgave one. It is a rule then which we should, upon all occasions, both private and publick, most religiously observe; “ to be inexorable to our own failings, while

« AnteriorContinuar »