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4. All those great scenes of publick calamity, which we behold with astonishinent and horrour,have originated from the source of violent passions. These have overspread the earth with bloodshed. These have pointed the assassin's dagger, and filled the poisoned bowl. These, in every age, have furnished too copious materials for the orator's pathetick declamation, and for the poet's tragical song. When from publick life we descend to private conduct, though passion operates not there in so wide and destructive a sphere, we shall find its influence to be no less baneful. * 5. I need not mention the black and fierce passions, such as envy, jealousy, and revenge, whose effects are obviously noxious, and whose agitations are immediate misery. But take any of the licentious and sensual kind. Suppose it to have unlimited scope ; trace it throughout its course; and we shall find that gradually, as it rises, it taints the soundness, and troubles the peace, of his mind over whom it reigns; that, in its progress, it engages him in pursuits which are marked either with danger or with shame; that, in the end, it wastes his fortune, destroys his health, or de bases his character; and aggravates all the miseries in which it has involved him, with the concluding pangs of bitter remorse. Through all the stages of this fatal course, how many have heretofore run? What multitudes do we daily behold pursuing it, with blind and headlong steps ?
BLAIR. SECTION VII. On the proper state of our temper, with respect to one another.
1. It is evident, in general, that if we consult either publick welfare or private happiness, Christian charity ought to regulate our disposition in mutual intercourse. But as this great principle admits of several diversified appearances, let us consider some of the chief forms under which it ought to show itself in the usual tenour of life.
2. What first presents itself to be recommended, is a peaceable temper; a disposition averse to giving offence, and desirous of cultivating harmony, and amicable intercourse in society. This supposes yielding and condescending manners, unwillingness to contend with others about trifles, and, in contests that are unavoidable, proper moderation of spirit. "
3. Such a temper is the first principle of self-enjoyment. It is the basis of all order and happiness among mankind. The positive and contentious, the rude and quarrelsome, are the bane of society. They seem destined to blast the small share of comfort which nature has here allotted to man. But they cannot disturb the peace of others, inore than they break their own. The hurricane rages first in their own bosom, before it is let forth upon the world. In the tempests which they raise, they are always tost; and frequently it is their lot to perish.
4. A peaceable temper must be supported by a candid one, or a disposition to view the conduct of others with fairness and impartiality. This stands opposed to a jealous and suspicious temper, which ascribes every action to the worst motive, and throws à black shade over every character. If we would be happy, in ourselves, or in our connexions with others, let us guard against this malignant spirit. Let us study that charity “which thinketh
Do evil ;" that temper, which, without degenerating into credulity, will dispose us to be just; and which can allow us to observe an errour, without imputing it as a crime. Thus we shall be kept free from that continual irritation, which imaginary injuries raise in a suspicious breast; and shall walk among men as our brethren, Qot as our enemies.
5. But to be peaceable, and to be candid, is not all that is required of a good man. He must cultivate a kind, generous, and sympathizing temper, which feels for distress, wherever it is be. held; which enters into the concerns of his friends with ardour; and to all with whom he has intercourse, is gentle, obliging, and humane. How amiable appears such a disposition, when contrasted with a malicious or envious temper, which wraps itself up in its own narrow interest, looks with an evil eye on the success of others, and, with an unnatural satisfaction, feeus on their disappointments or miseries! How little does he know of the true happiness of life, who is a stranger to that intercourse of good offices and kind affections, which, by a pleasing charm, attaches men to one another, and circulates joy from heart to herrt!
6. We are not to imagine, that a benevolent temper finds no exercise, unless when opportunities offer of performing actions of high generosity, or of extensive utility. These may seldom occur. The condition of the greater part of mankind in a good measure, precludes them. But, in the ordinary round of human affairs, many occasions daily present themselves, of mitigating the vexations which others suffer; of soothing their minds; of aiding their interest ; of promoting their cheerfulness, or ease. Such occasions may relate to the smaller incidents of life.
7. But let us remember, that of small incidents the system of human life is chiefly composed. The attentions which respect these, when suggested by real benignity of temper, are often more material to the happiness of those around us, than actions which carry the appearance of greater dignity and splendour. No wise or good man ought to account any rules of behaviour as below his regard, which tend to cement the great brotherhood of mankind in comfortable union. Particularly amidst that familiar intercourse which belongs to domestick life, all the virtues of temper find an ample range.
8. It is very unfortunate, that within that circle, men too often think themselves at liberty, to give unrestrained vent to the caprice of passion and humour. Whereas there, on the contrary, more than any where else, it concerns them to attend to the government of their heart; to check what is violent in their tempers, and to soften what is harsh in their manners. For there the temper is formed. There, the real character displays itself. The forms of the world disguise men when abroad. But within his own family, every man is known to be what he truly is.
9. In all our intercourse then with others, particularly in that which is closest and most intimate, let us cultivate a peaceable, a candid, a gentle, and friendly temper. This is the temper to which, by repeated injunctions, our holy religion seeks to form us. This was the temper of Christ. This is the temper of Heaven.
Excellence of the holy Scriptures. 1. Is it bigotry to believe the sublime truths of the Gospel, with full assurance of faith? I glory in such bigotry. I would not part with it for a thousand worlds. I congratulate the man who is pogsessed of it: for, amidst all the vicissitudes and calamities of the present state, that man enjoys an inexhaustible fund of consola. tion, of which it is not in the power of fortune to deprive him.
2. There is not a book on earth, só favourable to all the kind, and all the sublime affections ; or so unfriendly to hatred and persecution, to tyranny, to injustice, and every sort of malevolence, as the Gospel. It breathes nothing throughout, but mercy, benevolence, and peace.
3. Poetry is sublime, when it awakens in the mind any great and good affection, as piety, or patriotism. This is one of the noblest effects of the art. The Psalms are remarkable, beyond all other writings, for their power of inspiring devout emotions. But it is not in this respect only, that they are sublime. Of the divine nature, they contain the most magnificent descriptions, that the soul of man can comprehend. The hundred and fourth Psalm, in particular, displays the power and goodness of Providence, in creating and preserving the world, and the various tribes of animals in it, with such majestick brevity and beauty, as it is vain to look for in any human composition."
4. Such of the doctrines of the Gospel as are level to human capacity, appear to be agreeable to the purest truth, and the soundest morality. All the genius and learning of the heathen world; . all the penetration of Pythagoras, Socrates, and Aristotle, had never been able to produce such a system of moral duty, and se rational an account of Providence and of man, as are to be found in the New Testament. Compared, indeed, with this, all other moral and theological wisdom Loses, discountenanc'd, and like folly shows. BEATTII.
SECTION IX. Reflections occasioned by a review of the blessings, pronounced
by Christ on his disciples, in his sermon on the mount. 1. What abundant reason have we to thank God, that thia large and instructive discourse of our blessed Redeemer, is so particularly recorded by the sacred historian. Let every one that “hath ears to hear," attend to it: for surely no man ever spoke as our Lord did on this occasion. Let us fix our minds in a posture of humble attention, that we may “receive the law from his mouth."
2. He opened it with blessings, repeated and most important blessings. But on whom are they pronounced ? and whom are wo taught to think the happiest of mankind ? The meek and the humble; the penitent and the merciful ; the peaceful and the pure ; those that hunger and thirst after righteousness; those that labour, but faint not, under persecution! Lord! how different are thy maxims from those of the children of this world!
3. They call the proud happy; and admire the gay, the rich, the powerful, and the victorious. But let a vain world take it's gaudy trifles, and dress up the foolish creatures that pursue them. May our souls share in that happiness, which the Son of God came
to recommend and to procure! May we obtain mercy of the Lord; may we be owned as his children; enjoy his presence; and inherit his kingdom! With these enjoyments, and these hopes, we will cheerfully welcome the lowest, or the most painful circumstances.
4. Let us be animated to cultivate those amiable virtues, which are here recommended to us ; this humility and meekness; this penitent sense of sin; this ardent desire after righteousness; this compassion and purity; this peacefulness and fortitude of soul; and, in a word, this universal goodness which becomes us, as we sustain the character of “the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world.”
5. Is there not reason to lament, that we answer the character no better? Is there not reason to exclaim with a good man in foriner times, “ Blossed Lord! either these are not thy words, or we are not Christians !" Oh, season our hearts more effectually with thy grace! Pour forth that divine oil on our lamps ! Then shall the flame brighten ; then shall the ancient honours of thy religion bę revived; and multitudes be awakened and animated, by the lustre of it, “ to glorify our Father in heaven.”
DODDRIDGE SECTION X.
Schemes of life often illusory. 1. OMAR, the son of Hassan, had passed seventy-five years in honour and prosperity. The favour of three successive califs had filled his house with gold and silver ; and whenever he appeared, the benedictions of the people proclaimed his passage. • 2. Terrestrial happiness is of short continuance. The brightness of the flame is wasting its fuel; the fragrant flower is passing away in its own odours. The vigour of Omar began to fail ; the curls of beauty fell from his head; strength departed from his hands; and agility from his feet. He gave back to the calif the keys of trust, and the seals of secrecy; and sought no other pleasure for the remains of life, than the converse of the wise, and the gratitude of the good.
3. The powers of his mind were yet unimpaired. His chamber was filled by visitants, eager to catch the dictates of experience, and officious to pay the tribute of admiration. Caled, the son of the viceroy of Egypt, entered every day early, and retired late. He was beautiful and eloquent: Omar admired his wit, and loved : his docility. “Tell me,” said Caled, “thou to whose voice nations ; have listened, and whose wisdom is known to the extremities of Asia, tell me how I may resemble Omar the prudent. The arts by which thou hast gained power and preserved it, are to thee no Jonger necessary or useful ;, impart to me the secret of thy conduct, and teach me the plan upon which thy wisdom has built thy fortune.”
4. “ Young man," said Omar, “it is of little use to form plans of life. When I took my first survey of the world, in my twentieth year, having considered the various conditions of mankind, in the hour of solitude I said thus to myself, leaning against á cedar, which spread its branches over my head: “Seventy y rsi are allowed to man; I have yet fifty remaining.
5.“Ten years I will allot to the attainment of knowledge, and ten I will pass in foreign countries; I shall be learned, and therefore
shall be honoured ; every city will shout at my arrival, and every student will solicit my friendship. Twenty years thus passed, will store my mind with images, which I shall be busy, through the rest of my life, in combining and comparing. I shall revel in inexhaustible accumulations of intellectual riches; I shall find new plea-sures for every moment; and shall never more be weary of myself.
6. “I will not, however, deviate too far from the beaten track of life ; but will try what can be found in female delicacy. I will marry a wife beautiful as the Houries, and wise as Zobeide: with her I will live twenty years within the suburbs of Bagdat, in every pleasure that wealth can purchase, and fancy can invent.
7. “I will then retire to a rural dwelling ; pass my days in obscurity and contemplation; and lie silently down on the bed of death. Through my life it shall be my settled resolution, that I will never depend upon the smile of princes; that I will never stand exposed to the artifices of courts ; I will never pant for publick honours, nor disturb my quiet with the affairs of state. Such was my scheme of life, which I impressed indelibly upon my memory
8. “The first part of my ensuing time was to be spent in search of knowledge, and I know not how I was diverted from my design. I had no visible impediments without, nor any ungovernable passions within. I regarded knowledge as the highest honour, and the most engaging pleasure; yet day stole upon day, and month glided after month, till I found that seven years of the first ten had vanished, and left nothing behind them.
9. “I now postponed my purpose of travelling; for why should I go abroad, while so much remained to be learned at home? I immured myself for four years, and studied the laws of the empire. The fame of my skill reached the judges; I was found able to speak upon doubtful questions; and was commanded to stand at the footstool of the calif. I was heard with attention; I was consulted with confidence; and the love of praise fastened on my heart.
10.“ I still wished to see distant countries; listened with rapture to the relations of travellers; and resolved some time to ask my dismission, that I might feast my soul with novelty: but my presence was always necessary; and the stream of business hurried me along. Sometimes I was afraid lest I should be charged with ingratitude: but I still proposed to travel, and therefore would not confine myself by marriage.
11. “In my fiftieth year, I began to suspect that the time of travelling was past; and thought it best to lay hold on the felicity yet in my power, and indulge myself in domestick pleasures. But at fifty nó man easily finds a woman beautiful as the Houries, and wise as Zobeide. I inquired and rejected, consulted and deliberated, till the sixty-second year made me ashamed of wishing to marry. I had now nothing left but retirement; and for retirement I never found a time, till disease forced me from publick employment.
12. “Such was my scheme, and such has been its consequence. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge, I trified away the years of improvement; with a restless desire of seeing different countries, I have always resided in the same city; with the highest expectation of connubial felicity, I have lived unmarried; and with unalterable resolutions of contemplative retirement, I am going to die within the walls of Bagdat."