Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

enjoy a train of good humour. Servants, neighbours, friends, spouse, and children, all, through the unrestrained violence of his temper, become sources of disturbance and vexation to him. In Vain is affluence; in vain are health and prosperity. The least trifle is sufficient to discompose his mind, and poison his pleasures. His very amusements are mixed with turbulence and passion.

4. I would beseech this man to consider, of what small moment the provocations which he receives, or at least imagines himself to receive, are really in themselves; but of what great moment he makes them, by suffering them to deprive him of the possession of himself. 'I would beseech him, to consider, how many hours of happiness he throws away, which a little more patience would allow him to enjoy : and how much he puts it in the power of the most insignificant persons to render him miserable.

5. “ But who can expect," we hear him exclaim, “ that he is to possess the insensibility of a stone? How is it possible for human nature to endure so many repeated provocations? or to bear calmly with so unreasonable behaviour?”—My brother! if thou canst bear with no instances of unreasonable behaviour, withdraw thyself from the world. Thou art no longer fit to live in it. Leave the intercourse of men. Retreat to the mountain, and the desert; or shut thyself up in a cell. For here, in the midst of society, offences must come.

6. We might as well expect, when we behold a calm atmosphere, and a clear sky, that no clouds were ever to rise, and no winds to blow, as that our life were long to proceed, without receiving provocations from human frailty. The careless and the imprudent, the giddy and the fickle, the ungrateful and the interested, every where meet us. They are the briers and thorns, with which the paths of human life are beset. He only, who can hold his course among them with patience and equanimity, he who is prepared to bear what he must expect to happen, is worthy of the name of a man.

7. If we preserved ourselves composed but for a moment, we should perceive the insignificancy of most of those provocations which we magnify so highly. When a few suns more have rolled over our heads, the storin will, of itself, have subsided ; the cause of our present impatience and disturbance will be utterly forgotten. Can we not then, anticipate this hour of calmness to our selves; and begin to enjoy the peace which it will certainly bring?

8. If others have behaved improperly, let us leave them to their own folly, without becoming the victim of their caprice, and punishing ourselves on their account.-Patience, in this exercise of it, cannot be too much studied by all who wish their life to flow in a smooth stream. It is the reason of a man, in opposition to the passion of a child. It is the enjoyment of peace, in opposition to uproar and confusion.

SECTION XIV. Moderation in our wishes recommended. 1. The active mind of man seldom or never rests satisfied with its present condition, how prosperous soever. Briginally formed for a wider range of objects, for a higher sphere of enjoyments, it finds itself, in every situation of fortune, straitened and confined. Sensible of deficiency in its state, it is ever sending forth the fond

BLAIR.

desire, the aspiring wish, after something beyond what is enjoyed at present.

2. Hence, that restlessness which prevails so generally among mankind. Hence, that disgust of pleasures which they have tried that passion for novelty; that ambition of rising to some degree of eminence or felicity, of which they have formed to themselves an indistinct idea. All which may be considered as indications of a certain native, original greatness in the human soul, swelling be. yond the limits of its present condition; and pointing to the higher objects for which it was made. Happy, if these latent remains of our primitive state, served to direct nur wishes towards their proper destination, and to lead us into the path of true bliss.

3. But in this dark and bewildered state, the aspiring tendency of our nature unfortunately takes an opposite direction, and feeds a very misplaced ambition. The flattering appearances which here present themselves to sense; the distinctions which fortune to be capable van a towing, casures which we imagine the world

up the men. These are the objects which engross their solitary musings, and stimulate their active labours; which warm the breasts of the young, animate the industry of the middle aged, and often keep alive the passions of the old, until the very close of life.

4. Assuredly, there is nothing unlawful in our wishing to be freed from whatever is disagreeable, and to obtain a fuller enjoyment of the comforts of life. But when these wishes are not tempered by reason, they are in danger of precipitating us into much extravagance and folly, Desires and wishes are the first springs of action. When they become exorbitant, the whole character is likely to be tainted. ness, we shall discompose the peace and order of our minds, and foment many hurtful passions. Here, then, let moderation begin its reign; by bringing within reasonable bounds the wishes that we form. As soon as they become extravagant, let us check them, by proper reflections on the fallacious nature of those objects, which the world hangs out to allure desire.

6. You have strayed, my friends, from the road which conducts to felicity; you have dishonoured the native dignity of your souls, in allowing your wishes to terminate on nothing higher than worldly ideas of greatness or happiness. Your imagination roves in a land of shadows. Unreal forms deceive you. It is no more than a phantom, an illusion of happiness, which attracts your fond admiration; nay, an illusion of happiness, which often corso ceals much real misery.

7. Do you imagine that all are happy, who have attained to those summits of distinction, towards which your wishes aspire ? Alas ! how frequently has experience shown, that where roses were supposed to bloom, nothing but briers and thorns grew! Rep utation, beauty, riches, grandeur, nay, royalty itself, would, many a time, have been gladly exchanged by the possessors, for that more quiet and humble station, with which you are now disgatisfied.

8. With all that is splendid and shining in the world, it is decreed that there should mix many deep shades of wo. On the ele

5. If we suffer our fancy to create to itself worlds of ideal happi

BLAIR.

vated situations of fortune, the great calamities of life chiefly fall. There, the storm spends its violence, and there, the thunder breaks; while, safe and unhurt, the inhabitants of the vale remain below ;-Retreat, then, from those vain and pernicious excursions of extravagant desire.

9. Satisfy yourselves with what is rational and attainable. Train your minds to moderate views of human life, and human happiness. Remember, and admire, the wisdom of Agur's petition: “Remove far from me vanity and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with food convenient for me : lest I be full and deny thee; and say, who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal; and take the name of my God in vain.”.

SECTION XV. Omniscience and omnipresence of the Deity, the source of conso

lation to good men. 1. I was yesterday, about sunset, walking in the open fields, till the night insensibly fell upon me. I at first amused myself with all the richness and variety of colours, which appeared in the western parts of heaven. In proportion as they faded away and went out, several stars and planets appeared one after another, till the whole firmament was in a glow.

2. The blueness of the ether was exceedingly heightened and enlivened, by the season of the year, and the rays of all those luminaries that passed through it. The galaxy appeared in its most beautiful white. To complete the scene, the full moon rose, at length, in that clouded majesty, which Milton takes notice of; and opened to the eye a new picture of nature, which was more finely shaded, and disposed among softer lights than that which the sun had before discovered to us."

3. As I was surveying the moon walking in her brightness, and taking her progress among the constellations, a thought arose in me, which I believe very often perplexes and disturbs men of sericus and contemplative natures. David himself fell into it in that reflection; “When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fin gers; the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou regardest him!”

4. In the same manner, when I considered that infinite host of stars, or, to speak more philosophically, of suns, which were then shining upon me; with those innumerable sets of planets or worlds, which were moving round their respective suns; when I still enlarged the idea, and supposed another heaven of suns and worlds, rising still above this which we discovered; and these still enlightened

by a superiour firmament of luminaries, which are planted at so great a distance, that they may appear to the inhabitants of the former, as the stars do to us: in short, while I pursued this thought, I could not but reflect on that little insignificant figure which I'myself bore amidst the immensity of God's works.

5. Were ihe sun, which enlightens this part of the creation, with all the host of planetary worlds that move about him, utterly extinguished and annihilated, they would not be missed, more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The space they possess is so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, it would scarcely make a blank in the creation. The chasm would be imperceptible to an eye, that could take in the whole compass of nature, and pass

from one end of the creation to the other; as it is possible there may

be such a sense in ourselves hereafter, or in creatures which are at present more exalted than ourselves. By the help of glasses, we see many stars, which we do not discover with our naked eyes; and the finer our telescopes are, the more still are our discoveries.

6. Huygenius carries this thought so far, that he does not think it impossible there may be stars, whose light has not yet travelled down to us, since their first creation. There is no question that the universe has certain bounds set to it; but when we consider thát it is the work of Infinite Power, prompted by Infinite Goodness, with an infinite space to exert itself in, how can our imaginations set any bounds to it?

7. To return, therefore, to my first thought, I could not but look upon myself with secret horrour, as å being that was not worth the smallest regard of one who had so great a work under his care and superintendency. I was afraid of being overlooked amidst the immensity of nature; and lost among that infinite variety of creatures, which, in all probability, swarm through all these immeasurable regions of matter.

8. In order to recover myself from this mortifying thought, I considered that it took its rise from those narrow conceptions, which we are apt to entertain of the Divine Nature. We ourselves cannot attend to many different objects at the same time. If we are careful to inspect some things, we must of course neglect others. This imperfection which we observe in ourselves, is an imperfection that cleaves, in some degree, to creatures of the highest capacities, as they are creatures, that is, beings of finite and limited natures.

9. The presence of every created being is confined to a certain measure of space; and consequently his observation is stinted to a certain number of objects. The sphere in which we move, and act, and understand, is of a wider circumference to one creature, than another, according as we rise one above another in the scale of existence. But the widest of these our spheres has its circumference.

10. When, therefore, we reflect on the Divine Nature, we are so used and accustomed to this imperfection in ourselves, that we cannot forbear, in some measure, ascribing it to him, in whom there is no shadow of imperfection. Our reason indeed assures us, that his attributes are infinite ; but the poorness of our conceptions is such, that it cannot forbear setting bounds to every thing it contemplates, till our reason comes again to our succour, ană throws down all those little prejudices, which rise in us unawares, and are natural to the mind of

man. 11. We shall therefore utterly, extinguish this melancholy thought, of our being overlooked' by our Maker, in the multiplícity of his works, and the infinity of those objects among which he seems to be incessantly employed, if we consider, in the first place, that he is omnipresent; and in the second, that he is omniscient.

12. If we consider him in his omnipresence, his being passes through, actuates, and supports, the whole frame of nature. His creation, in every part of it, is full of him. There is nothing he

[graphic]

CHAPTER IV.
ARGUMENTATIVE PIECES.

SECTION I. Happiness is founded in rectitude of conduct. 1. All men pursue good, and would be happy, if they knew how : not happy for minutes, and miserable for hours; but happy, if possible, through every part of their existence. Either, therefore, there is a good of this steady, durable kind, or there is not. If not, then all good must be transient and uncertain; and if so, an object of the lowest value, which can little deserve our attention or inquiry.

2. But if there be a better good, such a good as we are seeking, like every other thing, it must be derived from some cause; and that cause must either be external, internal, or mixed; in as much as, except these three, there is no other possible. Now a steady, durable good, cannot be derived from an external cause; since all derived from externals must fluctuate as they fluctuate.

3. By the same rule, it cannot be derived from a mixture of the

« AnteriorContinuar »