« AnteriorContinuar »
object of it. In a circle of friends enjoying one another, he is as happy as the happiest.
7. In a word, he lives in a different sort of world, from what the selfish man inhabits. He possesses a new sense that enables him to behold objects which the selfish cannot see. At the same time, his enjoyments are not of that kind which remain merely on the surface of the mind. They penetrate the heart. They en. large and elevate, they refine and ennoble it. To all the pleasing einotions of affection, they add the dignified consciousness of virtue.
8. Children of men! men formed by nature to live and to feel as brethren! how long will ye continue to estrange yourselves from one another by competitions and jealousies, when in cordial union ye might be so much more blest? How long will ye seek your happiness in selfish gratifications alone, neglecting those purer and better sources of joy, which flow from the affections and the heart?
On the true honour of man. 1. The proper honour of man arises not from some of those splendid actions and abilities, which excite high admiration. Cour. age
and prowess, military renown, signal victories and conquests, may render the name of a man famous, without rendering his character truly honourable. To many brave men, to many heroes renowned in story, we look up with wonder. Their exploits are recorded. Their praises are sung. They stand as on an eminence above the rest of mankind. Their eminence, nevertheless, may not be of that sort, before which we bow with inward esteem and respect. Something more is wanted for that purpose, than the conquering arm, and the intrepid mind.
2. The laurels of the warriour must at all times be dyed in blood, and bedewed with the tears of the widow and the orphan. But if they have been stained by rapine and inhumanity; if sordid avarice has marked his character; or low and gross sensuality has degraded his life; the great hero sinks into a little man. What, at a distance, or on a superficial view, we admired, be. comes mean, perhaps odious, when we examine it more closely. It is like the Colossal statue, whose immense size struck the spectator afar off with astonishment; but when nearly viewed, it apo pears disproportioned, unshapely, and rude.
3. Observations of the same kind may be applied to all the reputation derived from civil accomplishments; from the refined polie? ticks of the statesman; or the literary efforts of genius and erudition. These bestow, and within certain bounds, ought to bestow, eminence and distinction on men. They discover talents which in themselves are shining; and which become highly valuable, when employed in advancing the good of mankind. Hence, they frequently give rise to fame. But a distinction is to be made be. tween fame and true honour.
4. The statesman, the orator, or the poet, may be famous ; while yet the man himself is far from being honoured. We envy his abilities. We wish to rival them. But we would not choose to be classed with him who possesses them. Instances of this sort are too often found in every record of ancient or modern history,
6. From all this it follows, that in order to discern where man's
true honour lies, we must look, not to any adventitious circumstances of ortune; not to any single sparkling quality ; but to the whole of what forms a man; what entitles him, as such, to rank high among that class of beings to which he belongs; in a word, we must look to the mind and the soul.
6. A mind superiour to fear, to selfish interest and corruption; a mind governed by the principles of uniform rectitude and integrity; the same in prosperity and adversity; which no bribe can seduce, nor terrour overawe; neither by pleasure melted into effeminacy, nor by distress sunk into dejection : such is the mind which formas the distinction and eminence of man.
7. One, who in no situation of life, is either ashamed or afraid of discharging his duty, and acting his proper part with firmness and constancy; true to the God whom he worships, and true to the faith in which he professes to believe ; full of affection to his brethren of mankind; faithful to his friends, generous to his enemies, warm with compassion to the unfortunate; self-denying to little private interests and pleasures, but zealous for publick interest and happiness; magnanimous, without being proud; humble, without being mean; just, without being harsh ; simple in his manners, but manly in his feelings; on whose words we can entirely rely; whose countenance never deceives us; whose professions of kindness are the effusions of his heart: one, in fine, whom, independent of any views of advantage, we would choose for a superiour, could trust in as a friend, and could love as a brother-this is the man, whom in our heart, above all others, we do, we must honour.
BLAIR. SECTION XIII. The influence of devotion on the happiness of life. 1. WHATEVER promotes and strengthens virtue, whatever calms and regulates the temper, is a source of happiness. Devotion produces these effects in a remarkable degree. It inspires composure of spirit, mildness, and benignity; weakens the painful, and cherishes the pleasing emotions; and, by these means, carries on the life of a pious man in a smooth and placid tenour.
2. Besides exerting this habitual influence on the mind, devotion opens a field of enjoyments, to which the vicious are entire stran gers ; enjoyments the inore valuable, as they peculiarly belong to retirement, when the world leaves us; and to adversity, when it becomes our foe. These are the two seasons, for which every
wise man would most wish to provide some bidden store of comfort,
3. For let him be placed in the most favourable situation which the human state adınits, the world can neither always amuse him, nor always shield him from distress. There will be many hours of vacuity, and many of dejection, in his life. If he be a stranger to God, and to devotion, how dreary will the gloom of solitude often prove! With what oppressive weight will sickness, disappointment, or old age, fall upon his spirits !
4. But for those pensive periods, the pious man has a relief prepared. From the tiresome repetition of the common vanities of life, or from the painful corrosion of its cares and sorrows, VO tion transports him into a new region; and surrounds him there with such objects, as are the most fitted to cheer the dejection, to calm the tumults, and to heal the wounds of his heart.
5. If the world has been empty and delusive, it gladdens him with the prospect of a higher and better order of things, about to arise. If men have been ungrateful and base, it displays before him the faithfulness of that Supreme Being, who, though every other friend fail, will never forsake him.
6. Let us consult our experience, and we shall find, that the two greatest sources of inward joy, are, the exercise of love directed towards a deserving object, and the exercise of hope terminating on some high and assured happiness. Both these are supplied by devotion ; and therefore we have no reason to be surprised, if, on some occasions, it fills the hearts of good inen with à satisfaction not to be expressed.
7. The refined pleasures of a pious mind are, in many respects, superiour to the coarse gratifications of sense. They are pleasures which belong to the highest powers and best affections of the soul; whereas the gratifications of sense reside in the lowest region of our nature. To the latter, the soul stoops below its native dignity. The former, raise it above itself. The latter, leave always a comfortless, often a mortifying remembrance behind them. The former, are reviewed with applause and delight.
8. The pleasures of sense resemble a foaming torrent, which, after a disorderly course, speedily runs out, and leaves an empty and offensive channel. But the pleasures of devotion resemble the equable current of a pure river, which enlivens the fields through which it passes, and diffuses verdure and fertility along its banks.
9. To thee, O Devotion! we owe the highest improvement of our nature, and much of the enjoyment of our life. Thou art the support of our virtue, and the rest of our souls, in this turbulent world. Thou composest the thoughts. Thou calmest the passions. Thou exaltest the heart. Thy communications, and thine only, are imparted to the low, no less than to the high; to the poor, as well as to the rich.
10. In thy presence, worldly distinctions cease; and under thy influence, worldly sorrows are forgotten. Thou art the balm of the wounded mind. Thy sanctuary is ever open to the miserable; inaccessible only to the unrighteous and impure. Thou beginnest on earth the temper of heaven. In thee, the hosts of angels and blessed spirits eternally rejoice.
BLAIB. SECTION XIV. The planetary and terrestrial worlds comparatively considered. 1. To us, who dwell omits surface, the earth is by far the most extensive orb that our eyes can any where behold: it is also clothed with verdure, distinguished by trees, and adorned with a variety of beautiful decorations; whereas, to a spectator placed on one of the planets, it wears a uniform aspect; looks all luminous; and no larger than a spot. To beings who dwell at still greater distances, it entirely disappears.
2. That which we call alternately the morning and the evening star, (as in one part of the orbit she rides foremost in the procession of night, in the other ushers in and anticipates the dawn,) is a planetary world. This planet, and the four others that so wonderfully vary their mystick dance, are in themselves dark bodies, and shine only by reflection; have fields, and seas, and skies, of their own; are furnished with all accommodations for animal subsistence, and are supposed to be the abodes of intellectual life; all which, together with our earthly habitation, are dependent on that grand dispenser of Divine munificence, the sun ; receive their light from the distribution of his rays, and derive their comfort from his benign agency.
3. The sun, which seems to perform its daily stages through the sky, is in this respect fixed and immoveable: it is the great axle of heaven, about which the globe we inhabit, and other more spacious orbs, wheel their stated courses. The sun, though seemingly smaller than the dial it illuminates, is abundantly larger than this whole earth, on which so many lofty mountains rise, and such vast oceans rolì." A line extending from side to side through the centre of that resplendent orb, would measure more than eight hundred thousand miles: a girdle formed to go round its circumference, would require a length of millions. Were its solid contents to be estimated, the account would overwhelm our understanding, and be almost beyond the power of language to express.
4. Are we startled at these reports of philosophy! Are we ready to cry out in a transport of surprise, “How mighty is the Being who kindled so prodigious a fire; and keeps alive, from age to age, so enormous a mass of flame!” let us attend our philosophical guides, and we shall be brought acquainted with speculations more enlarged and more amazing.
5. This sun with all its attendant planets, is but a very little part of the grand machine of the universe: every star, though in appearance no bigger than the diamond that glitters upon a lady's ring, is really a vast globe, like the sun in size and in glory; no less spacious, no less luminous, than the radiant source of day. So that every star, is not barely a world, but the centre of a magnificent system ; has a retinue of worlds, irradiated by its beams, and revolving round its attractive influence, all which are lost to our sight in unmeasurable wilds of ether.
6. That the stars appear like so many diminutive, and scarcely distinguishable points, is owing to their immense and inconceiva ble distance. Immense and inconceivable indeed it is, since a ball, shot from the loaded cannon, and flying with unabated rapidity, must travel, at this impetuous rate, almost seven hundred thousand years,' before it could reach the nearest of these twinkling luminaries.
7. While, beholding this vast expanse, I learn my own extreme meanness, I would also discover the abject littleness of all terrestrial things. What is the earth, with all herostentatious scenes, compared with this astonishing grand furniture of the skies? What, but a dim speck, hardly perceivable in the map
of the universe ? 8. It is observed by a very judicious writer, that if the sun himself, which enlightens this part of the creation, were extinguished, and all the host of planetary worlds, which move about him, were annihilated, they would not be missed by an eye that can take in the whole compass of nature, any more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The bulk of which they consist, and the space which they occupy, are so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, that their loss would scarcely leave a blank in the iromensity of God's works.
9. If then, not our globe only, but this whole system, be so very diminutive, what is a kingdom or a country? What are a few lordships, or the so much admired patrimonies of those who are styled wealthy? When I measure them with my own little pittance, they swell into proud and bloated dimensions: but when I take the universe for my standard, how scanty is their size! how contemptible their figure! They shrink into pompous nothings.
SECTION XV. On the power of custom, and the uses to which it may be applied.
1 THERE is not a common saying, which has a better turn of sense in it, than what we often hear in the mouths of the vulgar, that Custom is a second nature. It is indeed able to form thé man anew; and give him inclinations and capacities altogether different from those he was born with.
2. A person who is addicted to play or gaming, though he took but little delight in it at first, by degrees contracts so strong an inclination towards it, and gives himself up so entirely to it, that it seems the only end of his being. The love of a retired or busy life will grow upon a man insensibly, as he is conversant in the one or the other, till he is utterly unqualified for relishing that to which he has been for some time disused.
3. Nay, a man may smoke, or drink, or take snuff, till he is unable to pass away his time without it; not to mention how our delight in any particular study, art, or science, rises and improves, in proportion to the application which we bestow upon it. Thus, what was at first an exercise, becomes at length an entertainment Our employments are changed into diversions. The mind
grows fond of 'those actions it is accustomed to; and is drawn with reluctancy from those paths in which it has been used to walk.
4. If we attentively consider this property of human nature, it may instruct us in very fine moralities. In the first place, I would have no man discouraged with that kind of life, or series of action, in which the choice of others, or his own necessities, may have engaged him. It may perhaps be very disagreeable to him, at first; but use and application will certainly render it not only less painful, but pleasing and satisfactory.
5. In the second place, I would recommend to every one, the admirable precept, which Pythagoras is said to have given to his disciples, and which that philosopher must have drawn from the observation I have enlarged upon : “ Pitch upon that course of life which is the most excellent, and custom will render it the most delightful.”
6. Men, whose circumstances will permit them to choose their own way of life, are inexcusable if they do not pursue that which their judgement tells them is the most laudable. The voice of reason is more to be regarded, than the bent of any present inclipation: since, by the rule above-mentioned, inclination will at length come over to reason, though we can never force reason to comply with inclination.
7. In the third place, this observation may teach the most sensual and irreligious man, to overlook those hardships and difficulties, which are apt to discourage him from the prosecution of a virtuous life. “The gods,” said Hesiod, " have placed labour before wir