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disturbed imagination had reared, totally disappears. But though the cause of contention has dwindled away, its consequences romain. We have alienated a friend; we have imbittered an enemy; we have sown the seeds of future suspicion, malevolence, or disgust.
5. Let us suspend our violence for a moment, when causes of discord occur. Let us anticipate that period of coolness, which of itself, will soon arrive. Let us reflect how little we have any prospect of gaining by fierce contention; but how much of the true happiness of life we are certain of throwing away. Easily, and from the smallest chink, the bitter waters of strife are let forth; but their course cannot be foreseen; and he seldom fails of suffering most from their poisonous effect, who first allowed them to flow.
BLAIR. SECTION y. A suspicious temper the source of misery to its possessor. 1. As a suspicious spirit is the source of many crimes and calamities in the world, so it is the spring of certain misery to the person who indulges it. His friends will be few; and small will be his comfort in those whom he possesses. Believing others to be his enemies, he will of course make them such. Let his caution be ever so great, the asperity of his thoughts will often break out in his behaviour; and in return for suspecting and hating, he will incur suspicion and hatred.
2. Besides the external evils which he draws upon himself, arising from alienated friendship, broken confidence, and open enmity, the suspicious temper itself is one of the worst evils which any man can suffer. If“ in all fear there is torment,” how miserable must be his state, who, by living in perpetual jealousy, lives in perpetual dread!
3. Looking upon himself to be surrounded with spies, enemies, and designing men, he is a stranger to reliance and trust. He knows not to whom to open himself. He dresses his countenance in forced smiles, while his heart throbs within from apprehensions of secret treachery. Hence fretfulness and ill-humour, disgust at the world, and all the painful sensations of an irritated and imbittered mind.
4. So numerous and great are the evils arising from a suspicious disposition, that, of the two extremes, it is more eligible to expose ourselves to occasional disadvantage from thinking too well of others, than to suffer continual misery by thinking always ill of them. It is better to be sometimes imposed upon, than never to trust. Safety is purchased at too dear a rate, when, in order to secure it, we are obliged to be always clad in armour, and to live in perpetual hostility with our fellows.
5. This is, for the sake of living, to deprive ourselves of the comfort of life. The man of candour enjoys his situation, what.. lever it is, with cheerfulness and peace. Prudence directs his in tercourse with the world; but no black suspicions haunt his hours of rest. Accustomed to view the characters of his neighbours in the most favourable light, he is like one who dwells amidst those beautiful scenes of nature, on which the eye rests with pleasure.
6. Whereas the suspicious man, having his imagination filled with all the shocking forms of human falsehood, deceit, and
treachery, resembles the traveller in the wilderness, who discerns no objects around him but such as are either dreary or terrible; caverns that open, serpents that hiss, and beasts of prey that howl.
BLAIR. SECTION VI.
Comforts of religion. 1. THERE are many who have passed the age of youth and beauty ; who have resigned the pleasures of that smiling season; who begin to decline into the vale of years, impaired in their health, depressed in their fortunes, stript of their friends, their children, and perhaps still more tender connexions. What resource can this world afford them? It presents a dark and dreary waste, through which there does not issue a single ray of comfort.
2. Every delusive prospect of ambition is now at an end ; long experience of mankind, an experience very different from what the open and generous soul of youth had fondly dreamt of, has rendered the heart almost inaccessible to new friendships. The principal sources of activity are taken away, when they for whom we labour are cut off from us; they who animated, and who sweetened all the toils of life.
3. Where then can the soul find refuge, but in the bosom of Religion? There she is adınitted to those prospects of Providence and futurity, which alone can warm and fill the heart. I speak here of such as retain the feelings of humanity; whom misfortunes have softened, and perhaps rendered more delicately sensible; not of such as possess that stupid insensibility, which some are pleased to dignify with the name of Philosophy.
4. It might therefore be expected, that those philosophers, who think they stand in no need themselves of the assistance of religion to support their virtue, and who never feel the want of its consolations, would yet have the humanity to consider the very different situation of the rest of mankind; and not endeavour to deprive them of what habit, at least, if they will not allow it to be nature, has made necessary to their morals, and to their happiness.
5. It might be expected, that humanity would prevent them from breaking into the last retreat of the unfortunate, who can no longer be objects of their envy or resentment; and tearing from them their only remaining comfort. The attempt to ridicule religion, may be agreeable to some, by relieving them from restraint upon their pleasures; and may render others very miserable, by making them doubt those truths, in which they were most deeply interested; but it can convey real good and happiness to no one individual.'
GREGORY. SECTION VII. Diffidence of our abilities, a mark of wisdom. 1. It is a sure indication of good sense, to be diffident of it. We then, and not till then, are growing wise, when we begin to discern how weak and unwise we are. An absolute perfection of understanding, is impossible: he makes the nearest approaches to it, who has the sense to discern, and the humility to acknowledge, its imperfections.
2. Modesty always sits gracefully upon youth; it covers a multitude of faults, and doubles the lustre of every virtue which it seems to hide: the perfections of men being like those flowers
which appear more beautiful, when their leaves are a little contracted and folded up, than when they are full blown, and display themselves, without any reserve, to the view.
3. We are some of us very fond of knowledge, and apt to value ourselves upon any proficiency in the sciences : one science, however, there is, worth more than all the rest, and that is, the science of living well ; which shall remain, when“ tongues shall cease,“ and “knowledge shall vanish away.”
4. As to new notions, and new doctrines, of which this age is very fruitful, the time will come, when we shall have no pleasure in them: nay, the time shall come, when they shall be exploded, and would have been forgotten, if they had not been preserved in those excellent books, which contain a confutation of them; like insects preserved for ages in amber, which otherwise would soon have returned to the common mass of things.
5. But a firm belief of Christianity, and a practice suitable to it, will support and invigorate the mind to the last; and most of all, at last, at that important hour, which must decide our hopes and apprehensions: and the wisdom, which, like our Saviour, cometh from above, will through his merits, bring us thither. All our other studies and pursuits, however different, ought to be subservient to, and centre in this grand point, the pursuit of eternal happiness, by being good in ourselves, and useful to the world.
SEED. SECTION VIII. On the importance of order in the distribution of our time. I. TIME we ought to consider as a sacred trust coinmitted to us by God; of which we are now the depositaries, and are to render an account at the last. That portion of it which he has allotted to us, is intended partly for the concerns of this world, partly for those of the next.
2. Let each of these occupy, in the distribution of our time, that space which properly belongs to it. Let not the hours of hoge pitality and pleasure interfere with the discharge of our necessary affairs; and let not what we call necessary affairs, encroach upon the time which is due to devotion. To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven. If we delay till to-morrow what ought to be done to-day, we overcharge the morrow with a burden which belongs not to it. We load the wheels of time, and prevent them from carrying us along smoothly.
3. He who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows out that plan, carries on a thread which will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life. The orderly arrangement of his time is like a ray of light, which darts itself through all his affairs. But, where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidents, all things lie huddled together in one chaos, which admits neither of distri. bution nor review.
4. The first requisite for introducing order into the manage. ment of time, is to be impressed with a just sense of its value. Let us consider well how much depends upon it, and how fast it flies away. The bulk of men are in nothing more capricious and inconsistent, than in their appreciation of time. When they think of it, as the measure of their continuance on earth, they highly prize it, and with the greatest anxiety seek to lengthen it out.
5. But when they view it in separate parcels, they appear to hold it in contempt, and squander it with inconsiderate profusion. While they complain that life is short, they are often wishing its different periods at an end. Covetous of every other possession, of time only they are prodigal. They allow every idle man to be master of this property, and make every frivolous occupation wel- : come that can help them to consume it.
6. Among those who are so careless of time, it is not to be expected that order should be observed in its distribution. But, by this fatal neglect, how many materials of severe and lasting regret are they laying up in store for themselves! The time which they suffer to pass away in the midst of confusion, bitter repentance seeks afterwards in vain to recall. What was omitted to be done at: its proper moment, arises to be the torment of some future season.
7. Manhood is disgraced by the consequences of neglected youth. Old age, oppressed by cares that belonged to a former period, labours under a burden not its own. At the close of life, the dying man beholds with anguish that his days are finishing, when his prepa aration for eternity is hardly commenced. Such are the effects of a disorderly waste of time, through not attending to its value. Every thing in the life of such persons is misplaced. Nothing is performed aright, from not being performed in due season.
8. But he who is orderly in the distribution of his time, takes the proper method of escaping those manifold evils, He is justly said to redeem the time. By proper management, he prolongs it. He lives much in little space ; more in a few years than others do in many. He can live to God and his own soul, and at the same time attend to all the lawful interests of the present world. He looks back on the past, and provides for the future.
9. He catches and arrests the hours as they fly. They are marked down for useful purposes, and their memory remains. Whereas those hours fleet by the man of confusion like a shadow. His days and years are either blanks, of which he has no remembrance, or they are filled up with so confused and irregular a succession of unfinished transactions, that though he remembers he has been busy, yet he can gwe no account of the business which has employed him.
BLAIR. SECTION IX. The dignity of virtue amidst corrupt examples. 1. The most excellent and honourable character which can adorn a man and a Christian, is acquired by resisting the torrent of vice, and adhering to the cause of God and virtue against a corrupted multitude. It will be found to hold in general, that they, who, in any of the great lines of life, have distinguished themselves for thinking profoundly, and acting nobly, have despised popular prejudices; and departed, in several things, from the common ways of the world.
2. On no occasion is this more requisite for true honour, than where religion and morality are concerned. In times of prevailing licentiousness, to maintain unblemished virtue, and uncorrupted integrity ; in a publick or a private cause, to stand firm by what is fair and just, amidst discouragements and opposition; despising
groundless censure and reproach ; disdaining all compliance with publick manners, when they are vicious and unlawful; and never ashamed of the punctual discharge of every duty towards God and man ;-this is what shows true greatness of spirit, and will force approbation even from the degenerate multitude themselves.
3. “ This is the man,” (their conscience will oblige them to ac· knowledge,)“ whom we are unable to bend to mean condescen*sions. We see it in vain either to flatter or to threaten him ; he
rests on a principle within, which we cannot shake. To this man , we may, on any occasion, safely commit our cause. He is incapable of betraying his trust, or deserting his friend, or denying his faith.”
4. It is, accordingly, this steady inflexible virtue, this regard to principle, superiour to all custom and opinion, which peculiarly marked the characters of those in any age, who have shone with
distinguished lustre; and has consecrated their memory to all - posterity. It was this that obtained to ancient Enoch the most singular testimony of honour from heaven.
5. He continued to " walk with God,” when the world apostatized from him. He pleased God, and was beloved of him; so that living among sinners, he was translated to heaven without seeing death; “ Yea, speedily was he taken away, lest wickedness should have altered his understanding, or deceit beguiled his soul."
6. When Sodom could not furnish ten righteous men to save it, Lot remained unspotted amidst the contagion. He lived like an angel among spirits of darkness; and the destroying flame was not permitted to go forth, till the good man was called away, by a heavenly messenger, from his devoted city.
7. When “all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth," then lived Noah, a righteous man, and a preacher of righteousness. He stood alone, and was scoffed by the profane crew. But they by the deluge were swept away; while on him, Providence conferred the immortal honour of being the restorer of a better race, and the father of a new world. Such examples as these, and such honours conferred by God on them who withstood the multitude of evil doers, should often be present to our minds.
8. Let us oppose them to the numbers of low and corrupt examples, which we behold around us; and when we are in hazard of being swayed by such, let us fortify our virtue, by thinking of those, who in former times, shone like stars in the midst of surrounding darkness, and are now shining in the kingdom of heaven, as the brightness of the firmament, for ever and ever. BLAR.
SECTION X. The mortifications of vice greater than those of virtue. 1. Though no condition of human life is free from uneasiness, yet it must be allowed, that the uneasiness belonging to a sinful course, is far greater, than what attends a course of well-doing. If we are weary of the labours of virtue, we may be assured, that the world, whenever we try the exchange, will lay upon us a much heavier load.
2. It is the outside only, of a licentious life, which is gay and smiling. Within, it conceals toil, and trouble, and deadly sorrow. For vice poisons human happiness in the spring, by introducing disorder into the heart. Those passions which it seems to in