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For life never proceeds long in a uniform train. It is continually varied by unexpected events.
14. The seeds of alteration are every where sown; and the sunshine of prosperity commonly accelerates their growth. Ifour enjoyments are numerous, we lie more open on different sides to be wounded. If we have possessed them long, we have greater cause to dread an approaching change. By slow degrees proş. perity rises; but rapid is the progress of evil. It requires no preparation to bring it forward.
15. The edifice which it cost much time, and labour to erect, one inauspicious event, one sudden blow, can level with the dust. Even supposing the accidents of life to leave us untouched, human bliss must still be transitory; for man changes of himself. No course of enjoyment can delight us long. What amused our youth, loses its charm in maturer age. As years advance, our powers are blunted, and our pleasurable feelings decline.
16. The silent lapse of time is ever carrying somewhat from us, till at length the period comes, when all must be swept away. The prospect of this termination of our labours and pursuits, is sufficient to mark our state with vanity. “Our days are a hand's breadth, and our age is as nothing." Within that little space is all our enterprise bounded. We crowd it with toils and cares, with contention and strite. We project great designs, entertain high hopes, and then leave our plans unfinished, and sink into oblivion.
17. This inuch let it suihce to have said concerning the vanity of the world. That too much has not been said, must appear to every one who considers how generally mankind lean to the opposite side; and how often, by undue attachment to the present state, they both feed the most sinful passions, and “pierce themselves through with many sorrows." *
BLAIR. SECTION XIX. What are the real and solid enjoyments of human life. 1. It must be admitted, that unmixed and complete happiness is unknown on earth. No regulation of conduct can altogether prevent passions from disturbing our peace, and misfortunes from wounding our heart. But after this concession is made, will it follow, that there is no object on earth which deserves our pursuit, or that all enjoyment becomes contemptible which is not perfect? Let us survey our state with an impartial eye, and be just to the various gifts of Heaven.
2. How vain soever this life, considered in itself, may be, the comforts and hopes of religion are sufficient to give solidity to the enjoyments of the righteous. In the exercise of good affections, and the testimony of an approving conscience; in the sense of peace and reconciliation with God, throuch the great Redeemer of mankind; in the firm confidence of being conducted through all the trials of life, by infinite Wisdom and Goodness; and in the joyful prospect of arriving, in the end, at immortal felicity; they possess a happiness, which, descending from a purer and more perfect region than this world, partakes not of its vanity.
3. Besides the enjoyments peculiar to religion, there are other pleasures of our present state, which, though of an inferiour order, must not be overlooked in the estimate of human life. It is nee cessary to call attention to these, in order to check that repining and unthankful spirit to which man is always too prone.
4. Some degree of importance must be allowed to the comforts of health, to the innocent gratifications of sense, and to the entertainment afforded us by all the beautiful scenes of nature; some to the pursuits and harmless amusements of social life; and more to the internal enjoyments of thought and reflection, and to the pleasures of affectionate intercourse with those whom we love. These comforts are often held in too low estimation, merely because they are ordinary and common; although that is the circumstance which ought, in reason, to enhance their value. They lie open, in some degree, to all ; extend through every rank of life ; and fill up agreeably many of those spaces in our present existence, which are not occupied with higher objects, or with serious cares.
5. From this representation it appears, that, notwithstanding the vanity of the world, a considerable degree of comfort is attainable in the present staté. Let the recollection of this serve to reconcile us to our condition, and to repress the arrogance of complaints and murmurs.—What art thou, O son of man! who, haying sprung but yesterday out of the dust, darest to lift up thy voice against thy Maker, and to arraign his providence, because all things are not ordered according to thy wish ?
6. What title hast thou to find fault with the order of the universe, whose lot is so much beyond what thy virtue or merit gave thee ground to claim ! Is it nothing to thee to have been introduced into this magnificent world ; to have been admitted as a spectator of the Divine wisdom and works; and to have had access to all the comforts which nature, with a bountiful hand, hag poured forth around thee? Are all the hours forgotten which thou hast passed in ease, in complacency, or joy?
7. Is it a small favour in thy eyes, that the hand of Divine Mercy has been stretched forth to aid thee; and, if thou reject not it's proffered assistance, is ready to conduct thee to a happier state of existence? When thou comparest thy condition with thy desert, blush, and be ashamed of thy complaints. Be silent, be grateful, and adore. Receive with thankfulness the blessings which are allowed thee. Revere that government which at present refuses thee more. Rest in this conclusion, that though there are evils in the world, its Creator is wise and good, and has been bountiful to thee.
BLAIR. SECTION XX.
Scale of beings.. 1. Though there is a great deal of pleasure in contemplating the material world ; by which I mean, that system of bodies, into which nature has so curiously wrought the mass of dead matter, with the several relations that those bodies bear to one another; there is still, methinks, something more wonderful and surprising, in contemplations on the world of life; by which I intend, all those animals with which every part of the universe is furnished. The material world is only the shell of the universe: the world of life are its inhabitants.
2. If we consider those parts of the material world, which lie the nearest to us, and are therefore subject to our observation, and inquiries, it is amazing to consider the infinity of animals with which they are stocked. Every part of matter is peopled ; every green leaf swarms with inhabitants. There is scarcely a single humour in the body of a man, or of any other animal, in which our glasses do not discover myriads of living creatures. We find, even in the most solid bodies, as in marble itself, innumerable cells and cavi. ties, which are crowded with imperceptible inhabitants, too little for the naked eye to discover.
3. On the other hand, if we look into the more bulky parts of nature, we see the seas, lakes, and rivers, teeming with number. less kinds of living creatures. We find every mountain and marsh, wilderness and wood, plentifully stocked with birds and beasts; and every part of matter affording proper necessaries and conve. niences, for the livelihood of the multitudes which inhabit it. .
4. The author of "the Plurality of Worlds,” draws a very good argument from this consideration, for the peopling of every planet; as indeed it seems very probable, from the analogy of reason, that if no part of matter, with which we are acquainted, lies waste and useless, those great bodies, which are at such a distance from us, are not desert and unpeopled; but rather, that they are furnished with beings adapted to their respective situations.
5. Existence is a blessing to those beings only which are endowed with perception; and is in a manner thrown away upon dead matter, any farther than as it is subservient to beings which are conscious of their existence. Accordingly we find, from the bodies which lie under our observation, that matter is only made as the basis and support of animals; and that there is no more of the one than what is necessary for the existence of the other.
6. Infinite goodness is of so communicative a nature, that it seems to delight in conferring existence upon every degree of perceptive being. As this is a speculation, which I have often pursued with great pleasure to myself, I shall enlarge farther upon it, by considering that part of the scale of beings, which comes within our knowledge.
7. There are some living creatures, which are raised but just above dead matter. To mention only that species of shell-fish, which is formed in the fashion of a cone; that grows to the surface of several rocks; and immediately dies, on being severed from the place where it grew. There are many other creaturcs but one remove from these, which have no other sense than that of feeling and taste. Others have still an additional one of hearing: others of smell; and others, of sight.
8. It is wonderful to observe, by what a gradual progress tho world of life advances, through a prodigious variety of species, before a creature is formed, that is complete in all its senses : and even among these, there is such a different degree of perfection, in the sense which one animal enjoys beyond what appears in another, that though the sense in different animals is distinguished by the same common denomination, it seems almost of a different nature.
9. If, after this, we look into the several inward perfections of eunning and sagacity, or what we generally call instinct, we find them rising, after the same manner imperceptibly one above am
other; and receiving additional improvements, according to the species in which they are implanted. This progress in nature is so very gradual, that the most perfect of an inferiour species, comes very near to the most imperfect of that which is immediately above it.
10. The exuberant and overflowing goodness of the Supreme Being, whose mercy extends to all his works, is plainly seen, as I have before hinte i, in his having made so very little matter, at least what falls within our knowledge, that does not swarm with life. Nor is his goodness less seen in the diversity, than in the multitude of living creatures. Had he made but one species of animals, none of the rest would have enjoyed the happiness of existence: he has therefore, specified, in his creation, every degree of life, every capacity of being.
11. The whole chasm of nature, from a plant to a man, is filled up with diverse kinds of creatures, rising one after another, by an ascent so gentle and easy, that the little transitions and deviations from one species to another, are almost insensible. This intermediate space is so well husbanded and managed, that there is scarcely a degree of perception, which does not appear in somne one part of the world of life. Is the goodness, or the wisdom of the Divine Being, more manifested in this his proceeding?
12. There is a consequence, besiles those I have already mentioned, which seems very naturally deducible from the foregoing considerations. If the scale of being rises by so regular a progress, so high as man, we may, by parity of reason, suppose, that it still proceeds gradually through those beings which are of a superiour nature to him ; since there is infinitely greater space and room for different degrees of perfection, between the Supreme Being and man, than between inal and the most despicable insect.
13. In this great system of being, there is no creature so wonderful in its nature, and which so much deserves our particular attention, as man; who fills up the middle space between the animal and the intelleciual nature, the visible and the invisible world; and who is that link in the chain of being, which forms the connexion between both. So that he who, in one respect, is associatevi with angels and archangels, and may look upon a being of infinite perfection as his father, and the highest order of spirits as his brethren, may, in another respect, say to “corruption, thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister.” ADDISON.
SECTION XXI. Trust in the care of Providence recommended. 1. MAN, considered in himself, is a very helpless, and a very wretched being. He is subject every moment to the greatest calamities and misfortunes. He is beset with dangers on all sides; and may become unhappy by numberless casualties, which he could not foresee, nor have prevented bad he foreseen them.
2. It is our comfort, while we are obnoxious to so many accidents, that we are under the care of ONE who rlirects contingencies, and has in his han is the management of every thing that is capable of annoying or offen'ling us; who knows the assistance we stand in need of, and is always ready to bestow it on those who ask it of him.
8. The natural homage, which such a creature owes to so infi. nitely wise and good a Being, is a firm reliance on him for the bless. ings and conveniences of life; and an habitual trust in him, for de. liverance out of all such dangers and difficulties as may befall us.
4. The man who always lives in this disposition of mind, has not the same dark and melancholy views of human nature, as he who considers himself abstractedly from this relation to the Supreme Being. At the same time that he reflects upon his own weakness and imperfection, he comforts himself with the contemplation of those divine attributes, which are employed for his safety, and his welfare. He finds his want of foresight made up, by the omniscience of him who is his support. He is not sensible of his own want of strength, when he knows that his helper is almighty.
5. In short, the person who has a firm trust in the Supreme Being, is powerful in his power, wise by his wisdom, happy by his happiness. He reaps the benefit of every divine attribute ; and loses his own insufficiency in the fulness of infinite perfection. To make our lives more easy to us, we are commanded to put our trust in him, who is thus able to relieve and succourus; the Divine Goodness having made such a reliance a duty, notwithstanding we should have been miserable, had it been forbidden us.
6. Among several motives, which might be made use of to recommend this duty to us, I shall only take notice of those that follow. The first and strongest is, that we are promised, he will not fail those who put their trust in him. But without considering the supernatural blessing, which accompanies this duty, we may observe, that it has a natural tendency to its own reward; or, in other words, that this firm trust and confidence in the great Disposer of all things, contribute very much to the getting clear of any affliction, or to the bearing of it manfully.
7. A person who believes he has his succour at hand, ana that he acts in the sight of his friend, often exerts himself beyond his abilities; and does wonders, that are not to be matched by one who is not animated with such a confidence of success. Trust in the assistance of an Almighty Being, naturally produces patience, hope, cheerfulness, and all other dispositions of mind, which alleviate those calamities that we are not able to remove.
8. The practice of this virtue administers great comfort to the mind of man, in times of poverty and affliction ; but most of all, in the hour of death. When the soul is hovering, in the last moments of its separation; when it is just entering on another state of existence, to converse with scenes, and objects, and companions, that are altogether new ; what can support her under such tremblings of thought, such fear, such anxiety, such apprehensions, but the casting of all her cares upon him, who first gave her being; who has conducted her through one stage of it; and who will be always present, to guide and comfort her in her progress through eternity ?
ADDISON. SECTION XXII. Piety and gratitude enliven prosperity. 1. Piety, and gratitude to God, contribute, in a high degree, to enliven prosperity. Gratitude is a pleasing emotion. The sense of being distinguished by the kindness of another, gladdens the