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It arises from reflection on our own failings and wants; and from just views of the condition, and the duty of man. It is native feel. ing, heightened and improved by principle. It is the heart which easily relents; which feels for every thing that is human; and is backward and slow to inflict the least wound.
10. It is affable in its address, and mild in its demeanour; ever ready to oblige, and willing to be obliged by others; breathing habitual kindness towards friends, courtesy to strangers, long-suffering to enemies. It exercises authority with moderation; administers reproof with tenderness; confers favours with ease and mod. esty. It is unassuming in opinion, and temperate in zeal. It contends not eagerly about trifles; slow to contradict, and still slower to blame ; but prompt to allay dissension, and to restore peace.
11. It neither intermeddles unnecessarily with the affairs, nor pries inquisitively into the secrets of others. It delights above all things to alleviate distress; and, if it cannot dry up the falling tear, to sooth at least the grieving heart. Where it has not the power of being useful, it is never burdensome. It seeks to please, rather than to shine and dazzle ; and conceals with care that superiority, either of talents or of rank, which is oppressive to those who are beneath it.
12. In a word, it is that spirit and that tenour of manners, which the gospel of Christ enjoins, when it commands us, “to bear one another's burdens; to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep; to please every one his neighbour for his good ; to be kind and tender-hearted; to be pitiful and courteous ; to support the weak, and to be patient towards all men.”-BLAIR
SECTION 1. Trial and execution of the Earl of STRAFFORD, who sell a sacrifice to the violence of the times, in the reign of CHARLES the First.
1. The earl of Strafford'defended himself against the accusations of the house of Commons, with all the presence of mind, judgeinent, and sagacity, that could be expected from innocence and ability. His children were placed beside him, as he was thus defending his life, and the cause of his royal master. After he had, in a long and eloquent speech, delivered without premeditation, confuted all the accusations of his enemies, he thus drew to a conclusion.
2. “But, my lords, I have troubled you too long : longer than I should have done, but for the sake of these dear pledges, which a saint in heaven has left me.”—Upon this he paused; dropped a tear; looked upon his children; and proceeded. “What I forfeit for myself is a trifle: that my indiscretions should reach my posterity, wounds me to the heart.
3. “Pardon my infirmity. Something I should have added, but I am not able: and therefore I let it pass. And now, my lords, for myself. I have long been taught, that the afflictions of this life are overpaid by that eternal weight of glory, which awaits the innocent. And so, my lords, even so, with the utmost tranquillity, I submit myself to your judgement, whether that judgement be life or death: not my will, but thine, O God, be done !
4. His eloquence and innocence induced those judges to pity, who were the most zealous to condemn him. The king himself went to the house of lords, and spoke for some time in his defence; but the spirit of vengeance, which had been chained for eleven years, was now roused ; and nothing but his blood could give the people satisfaction. He was condemned by both houses of parliament; and nothing remained but for the king to give his consent to the bill of attainder.
5. But in the present commotions, the consent of the king would very easily be dispensed with; and imminent danger might attend his refusal. Charles, however, who loved Strafford tenderly, hesitated, and seemed reluctant; trying every expedient to put off so dreadful an office, as that of signing the warrant for his execution. While he continued in this agitation of mind, and state of suspense, his doubts were at last silenced by an act of great magnanimity in the condemned lord.
6. He received a letter from that unfortunate nobleman, desiring that his life might be made a sacrifice to obtain reconciliation between the king and his people: adding, that he was prepared to die ; and that to a willing mind there could be no injury. This instance of noble generosity was but ill repaid by his master, who complied with his request. He consented to sign the fatal bill by commission; and Strafford was beheaded on Tower-hill; be. having with all that composed dignity of resolution, which was expected from his character.
GOLDSMITH. SECTION II. An eminent instance of true fortitude. 1. ALL who have been distinguished as servants of God, or benefactors of men; all who, in perilous situations, have acted their part with such honour as to render their names illustrious through succeeding ages, have been eminent for fortitude of mind. Of this we have one conspicuous example in the apostle Paul, whom it will be instructive for us to view in a remarkable occurrence of his life.
2. After having long acted as the apostle of the Gentiles, his mission called him to go to Jerusalem, where he knew that he was to encounter the utmost violence of his enemies. Just before he set sail, he called together the elders of his favourite church at Ephesus; and, in a pathetick speech, which does great honour to his character, gave them his last farewell. Deeply affected by their knowledge of the certain dangers to which he was exposing himself, all the assembly were filled with distress, and melted into tears.
3. The circumstances were such, as might have conveyed dejection even into á resolute mind; and would have totally overwhelmed the feeble. “They all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him; sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they should see his face no more.”—What were then the gentiments, what was the language, of this great and good man? Hear the words which spoke his firm and undaunted mind.
4. “Behold, I go bound in the spirit, to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there; save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me ; neither coant I my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to tes. tify the gospel of the grace of God.”
5. There was uttered the voice, there breathed the spirit, of a brave and a virtuous man. Such'a man knows not what it is to shrink from danger, when conscience points out his path. In that : path he is determined to walk, let the consequences be what they may. This was the magnanimous behaviour of that great apostle, when he had persecution and distress full in view. , 6. Attend now to the sentiments of the same excellent man, when the time of his last suffering approached ; and remark the majesty, and the ease, with which he looked on death. “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness."
7. How many years of life does such a dying moment overbalance? Who would not choose, in this manner, to go off the stage, with such a song of triumph in his mouth, rather than prolong his existence through a wretched old age, stained with sin and shame?
BLAIR. SECTION III. The good man's comfort in affliction. 1. The religion of Christ not only arms us with fortitude against the approach of evil, but, supposing evils to fall upon us with their heaviest pressure, it lightens the load by many consolations to which others are strangers. While bad men trace, in the calami. ties with which they are visited, the hand of an offended sovereign, Christians are taught to view them as the well-intended chastisements of a merciful Father.
2. They hear amidst them, that still voice which a good conscience brings to their ear: “Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” They apply to themselves the comfortable promises with which the gospel abounds. They discover in these the happy issue decreed to their troubles; and wait with patience tilf Providence shall have accomplished its great and good designs.
3. In the mean time, Devotion opens to them its blessed and holy sanctuary: that sanctuary in which the wounded heart is healed, and the weary mind is at rest; where the cares of the world are forgotten, where its tumults are hushed, and its miseries disappear; where greater objects open to our view than any which the world presents; where a more serene sky shines, and a sweeter and calmer light beams on the afflicted heart.
4. In those moments of devotion, a pious man, pouring out his wants and sorrows to an Almighty Supporter, feels that he is not left solitary and forsaken in a vale of wo. God is with him; Christ and the holy Spirit are with him; and though he should be bereaved of every friend on earth, he can look up in heaven to a Friend that will never desert him.
BLAIR. SECTION IV.
The close of life. 1. When we contemplate the close of life; the termination of man's designs and hopes; the silence that now reigns among those
who, a little while ago, were so busy, or so gay; who can avoid being touched with sensations at once awful and tender? -What heart but then warms with the glow of humanity ? In whose eye does not the tear gather, on revolving the fate of passing and short-lived man?
2. Behold the poor man who lays down at last the burden of his wearisome life. "No more shall he groan under the load of pove erty and toil. No more shall he hear the insolent calls of the master, from whom he received his scanty wages. No more shall he be raised from needful slumber on his bed of straw, nor be hurried away from his homely meal, to undergo the repeated labours of the day.
3. While his humble grave is preparing, and a few poor and decayed neighbours are carrying him thither, it is good for us to think, that this man too was our brother; that for him the aged and destitute wife, and the needy children, now weep; that, neglected as he was by the world, he possessed, perhaps, both a sound understanding, and a worthy heart; and is now carried by angels to rest in Abraham's bosom.
4. At no great distance from him, the grave is opened to receive the rich and proud man. For, as it is said with emphasis in the parable, “the rich man also died, and was buried.” He also died. His riches prevented not his sharing the same fate with the poor man; perhaps, through luxury, they accelerated his doom. Then, indeed, “the mourners go about the streets ;" and, while, in all the pomp and magnificence of wo, his funeral is preparing, his heirs, impatient to examine his will, are looking on one another with jealous eyes, and already beginning to dispute about the division of his substance.
5. One day, we see carried along the coffin of the smiling infant; the flower just nipped as it began to blossom in the parent's view : and the next day, we behold the young man, or young woman, of blooming form and promising hopes, laid in an untimely grave. While the funeral is attended by a numerons unconcerned company, who are discoursing to one another about the news of the day, or the ordinary affairs of life, letour thoughts rather follow to the house of mourning, and represent to themselves what is passing there.
6. There we should see a disconsolate family, sitting in silent grief, thinking of the sad breach that is made in their little society; and with tears in their eyes, looking to the chamber that is now left vacant, and to every memorial that presents itself of their de. parted friend. By such attention to the woes of others, the selfish hardness of our hearts will be gradually softened, and melted down nto humanity.
7. Another day, we follow to the grave, one who, in old age, and after a long career of life, has in full maturity sunk at last into rest. As we are going along to the mansion of the dead, it is natural for us to think, and to discourse, of all the changes which such a person has seen during the course of his life. He has pass. od, it is likely, through varieties of fortune. He has experienced prosperity, and adversity. He has seen families and kindreds rise and fall. He has seen peace and war succeed in their turns; the face of his country undergoing many alterations; and the very city in which he dwelt, rising, in a manner, new around him,
8. After all he has beheld, his eyes are now closed for ever. He was becoming a stranger in the midst of a new succession of men. A race who knew him not, had arisen to fill the earth. Thus passes the world away. Throughout all ranks and conditions, one generation passeth, and another generation cometh ;" and this great inn is by turns evacuated and replenished, by troops of succeeding pilgrims.
9. O vain and inconstant world! O fleeting and transient life! When will the sons of men learn to think of thee as they ought? When will they learn humanity from the afflictions of their brethren; or moderation and wisdom, from the sense of their own fugitive state ?
BLAIR. SECTION V. Exalted society, and the renewal of virtuous connexions, two
sources of future felicity. 1. BESIDES the felicity which springs from perfect love, there are two circumstances which particularly enhance the blessedness of that “multitude who stand before the throne;" these are, access to the most exalted society, and renewal of the most tender connexions. The former is pointed out in the Scripture, by “joining the innumerable company of angels, and the general assembly and church of the first-born; by sitting down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven;" a promise which opens the sublimest prospects to the human mind.
2. It allows good men to entertain the hope, that, separated froin all the dregs of the human mass, from that mixed and polluted crowd in the midst of which they now dwell, they shall be permitted to mingle with prophets, patriarchs, and apostles, with all those great and illustrious spirits, who have shone in former ages as the servants of God, or the henefactors of men; whose deeds we are accustomed to celebrate; whose steps we now follow at a distance, and whose names we pronounce with veneration.
3. United to this high assembly, the blessed, at the same time, renew those ancient connexions with virtuous friends, which had been dissolved by death. The prospect of this awakens in the heart, the most pleasing and tender sentiment that perhaps can fill it, in this mortal state. For of all the sorrows which we are here doomed to endure, none is so bitter as that occasioned by the fatal stroke which separates us, in the appearance for ever, from those to whom either nature or friendship had intimately joined our hearts.
4. Memory, from time to time, renews the anguish; opens the wound which seemed once to have been closed; and, by recalling joys that are past and gone, touches every spring of painful sensibility. In these agonizing moments, how relieving the thought, that the separation is only temporary, not eternal; that there is a time to come of re-union with those with whom our happiest days were spent : whose joys and sorrows once were ours; whose piety and virtue cheered and encouraged us; and from whom after we shall have landed on the peaceful shore where they dwell, no revolutions of nature shall ever be able to part us more! Such is the society of the blessed abode. Of such are the multitude composed, who “stand before the throne.”