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6. “In order, however, to be more certain, we sent in a Levantine mariner, who, by the promise of a good reward, ventured, with a flambeau in his hand, into this narrow aperture. After continuing within it for about a quarter of an hour, he returned, bearing in his hand, some beautiful pieces of white spar, which art could neither equal nor imitate. Upon being informed by him that the place was full of these beautiful incrustations, I ventured in once more with him, about fifty paces, anxiously and cautiously descending, by a steep and dangerous way.
7. “Finding, however, that we came to a precipice which led into a spacious amphitheatre, (if I may so call it,) still deeper than any other part, we returned, and being provided with a ladder, flambeau, and other things to expedite our descent, our whole company, man by man, ventured into the same opening; and descending one after another, we at last saw ourselves all together in the most magnificent part of the cavern."
The grotto of Antiparos, continued. 1. “Our candles being now all lighted up, and the whole place completely illuminated, never could the eye be presented with a more glittering, or a more magnificent scene. The whole roof hung with solid icicles, transparent as glass, yet solid as marble. The eye could scarcely reach the lofty and noble ceiling ; the sides were regularly formed with spars; and the whole presented the idea of a magnificent theatre, illuminated with an immense profusion of lights.
2. “The floor consisted of solid marble ; and, in several places, magnificent coluinns, thrones, altars, and other objects, appeared, as if nature had designed to mock 'the curiosities of art. Our voices, upon speaking or singing, were redoubled to an astonishing loudness; and upon the firing of a gun, the noise and reverberations were almost deafening:
3. “In the midst of this grand amphitheatre rose a concretion of about fifteen feet high, that, in some measure, resembled an altar; from which, taking the hint, we caused mass to be celebrated there. The beautiful columns that shot up round the altar, appeared like candlesticks; and many other natural objects represented the customary ornaments of this rite."
4. “ Below even this spacious grotto, there seemed another cayern; down which I ventured with my former mariner, and descended about fifty paces by means of a rope. I at last arrived at a small spot of level ground, where the bottom appeared different from that of the amphitheatre, being composed of soft clay, yielding to the pressure, and in which I thrust a stick to the depth of six feet. In this however, as above, numbers of the most beautiful crystals were formed; one of which, particularly, resembled a table.
5.“ Upon our egress from this amazing cavern, we perceived a Greek inscription upon a rock at the mouth, but so obliterated by time, that we could not read it distinctly. It seemed to import that one Antipater, in the time of Alexander, had come hither; but whether he penetrated into the depths of the cavern, he does not think fit to inform us.”—This account of so beautiful and striking a scene, may serve to give us some idea of the subterraneons wonders of nature.
Earthquake at Catanea. 1. ONE of the earthquakes most particularly described in history, is that which happened in the year 1693; the dainages of which were chiefly felt in Sicily, but its motion was perceived in Germany, France, and England. It extended to a circumference of two thousand six hundred leagues; chiefly affecting the sea coasts, and great rivers; more perceivable also upon the mountains than in the valleys.
2. Its motions were so rapid, that persons who lay at their length, were tossed from side to side, as upon a rolling billow. The walls were dashed from their foundations; and no fewer than fifty-four cities, with an incredible number of villages, were either destroyed or greatly damaged. The city of Catanea, in particular, was utterly overthrown. A traveller who was on his way thither, perceived, at the distance of some miles, a black cloud, like night, hanging over the place.
3. The sea, all of a sudden, began to roar; mount Ætna to send forth great spires of flame; and soon after a shock ensued, with a noise as if all the artillery in the world had been at once discharged. Our traveller being obliged to alight instantly, felt himself raised a foot from the ground; and turning his eyes to the city, he with amazement saw nothing but a thick cloud of dust in the air.
4. The birds flew about astonished; the sun was darkened; the beasts ran howling from the hills; and although the shock did not continue above three minutes, yet near nineteen thousand of the inhabitants of Sicily perished in the ruins. Catanea, to which city the describer was travelling, seemed the principal scene of ruin ; its place only was to be found; and not a footstep of its former magnificence was to be seen remaining.
Creation. 1. In the progress of the Divine works and government, there arrived a period, in which this earth was to be called into exist
When the signal moment, predestined from all eternity, was come, the Deity arose in his might; and with a word created the world.—What an illustrious moment was that, when, from non-existence, there sprang at once into being, this mighty globe, on which so many millions of creatures now dwell!
2. No preparatory measures were required. No long circuit of means was employed. “He spake, and it was done: be commanded, and it stood fast. The earth was at first without form, and void ; and darkness was on the face of the deep.” The Almighty surveyed the dark abyss, and fixed bounds to the several divisions of nature. He said, “ Let there be light; and there was light.”
3. Then appeared the sea, and the dry land. The mountains rose ; and the rivers flowed. The sun and moon began their course in the skies. Herbs and plants clothed the ground. The air, the earth, and the waters, were stored with their respective inhabitants. "At last, man was made after the image of God.
4. He appeared, walking with countenance erect; and received his Creator's benediction, as the Lord of this new world. The
Almighty beheld his work when it was finished, and pronounced it good.' Superiour beings saw with wonder this new accession to existence. “The morning stars sang together; and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
Charity. 1. CHARITY is the same with benevolence or love; and is the term uniformly applied in the New Testament, to denote all the good affections which we ought to bear towards one another. It consists not in speculative ideas of general benevolence, floating in the head, and leaving the heart, as speculations too often do, untouched and cold. Neither is it confined to that indolent good nature, which makes us rest satisfied with being free from inveterate malice, or ill-will to our fellow-creatures, without prompting us to be of service to any.
2. True charity is an active principle. It is not properly a single virtue; but a disposition residing in the heart, as a fountain whence all the virtues of benignity, candour, forbearance, generosity, compassion, and liberality, How, as so many native streams. From general good-will to all, it extends its influence particularly to those with whom we stand in nearest connexion, and who are directly within the sphere of our good offices.
3. From the country or community to which we belong, it descends to the smaller associations of neighbourhood, relations, and friends; and spreads itself over the whole circle of social and domestick life. I mean not that it imports a promiscuous, undistinguished affection, which gives every man an equal title to our love. Charity, if we should endeavour to carry it so far, would be rendered an impracticable virtue; and would resolve itself into mere words, without affecting the heart.
4. True charity attempts not to shut our eyes to the distinction between good and bad men; nor to warm our hearts equally to those who befriend, and those who injure us. It reserves our esteem for good men, and our complacency for our friends. Towards our enemies it inspires forgiveness, humanity, and a solicitude for their welfare. It breathes universal candour, and liberality of sentiment. It forms gentleness of temper, and dictates affability of manners.
5. It prompts corresponding sympathies with them who rejoice, and them who weep. It teaches us to slight and despise no man. Charity is the comforter of the afflicted, the protector of the oppressed, the reconciler of differences, the intercessor for offenders. It is faithfulness in the friend, publick spirit in the magistraté, equity and patience in the judge, moderation in the sovereign, and loyalty in the subject.
6. In parents, it is care and attention; in children, it is reverence and submission. In a word, it is the soul of social life. It is the sun that enlivens and cheers the abodes of men. It is like the dew of Hermon,” says the Psalmist, “and the dew that descended on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
SECTION VIII. Prosperity is redoubled to a good man. 1. None but the temperate, the regular, and the virtuous, know how to enjoy prosperity. They bring to its comforts the
manly relish of a sound uncorrupted mind. They stop at the proper point, before enjoyment degenerates into disgust, and pleasure is converted into pain. They are strangers to those complaints which flow from spleen, caprice, and all the fantastical distresses of a vitiated mind. While riotous indulgence enervates both the body and the mind, purity and virtue heighten all the powers of human fruition.
2. Feeble are all pleasures in which the heart has no share. The selfish gratifications of the bad, are both narrow in their cir. cle, and short in their duration. But prosperity is redoubled to a good man, by his generous use of it. It is reflected back upon him from every one whom he makes happy. In the intercourse of domestick affection, in the attachment of friends, the gratitude of dependants, the esteem and good-will of all who know him, he sees blessings multiplied round him, on every sidė.
3. “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me,
and I caused the widow's heart to sing with joy. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame: I was a father to the poor ; and the cause which I knew not I searched out."
4. Thus, while the righteous man flourishes like a tree planted by the rivers of water, he brings forth also his fruit in its season: and that fruit he brings forth, not for himself alone. He flourishes, not like a tree in some solitary desert, which scatters its blossoms to the wind, and communicates neither fruit nor shade to any living thing : but like a tree in the midst of an inhabited country, which to some affords friendly shelter, to others fruit; which is not only admired by all for its beauty ; but blessed by the traveller for the shade, and by the hungry for the sustenance, it hath given. BLAIR.
On the beauties of the Psalms. 1. GREATNEss confers no exemption from the cares and sorrows of life : its share of them frequently bears a melancholy proportion to its exaltation. This the monarch of Israel experienced. He sought in piety, that peace which he could not find in empire; and alleviated the disquietudes of statė, with the exercises of devotion. His invaluable Psalms convey those comforts to others, which they afforded to himself.
2. Composed upon particular occasions, yet designed for general use; delivered out as services for Israelites under the Law, yet no less adapted to the circumstances of Christians under the Gospel ; they present religion to us in the most engaging dress; communicating truths which philosophy could never investigate, in a style which poetry can never equal; while history is made the vehicle of prophecy, and creation lends all its charms to paint the glories of redemption.
3. Calculated alike to profit and to please, they inform the understanding, elevate the affections, and entertain the imagination. Endited under the influence of him, to whom all hearts are known, and all events foreknown, they suit mankind in all situa tions; grateful as the manna which descended from above, and conformed itself to every palate.
4. The fairest productions of human wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragrancy: but these unfading plants of paradise become, as we are accustomed to them, still more and more beautiful; their bloom appears to be daily heightened; fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who has once tasted their excellences, will desire to taste them again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best.
5. And now, could the author flatter himself, that any one would take half the pleasure in reading his work, which he has taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of politicks, and the noise of folly. Vanity and vexation flew away for a season; care and disquietude came not near his dwelling. He arose, fresh as the morning, to his task; the silence of the night invited him to pursue it; and he can truly say, that food and rest were not preferred before it.
6. Every psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it, and no one gave him uneasiness but the last: for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which have been spent in these meditations on the songs of Sion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass; they moved smoothly and swiftly along : for when thus engaged, he counted no time. They are gone, but they have left a relish and a fragrance upon the mind; and the remembrance of them is sweet.
SECTION X. Character of ALFRED, king of England. 1. The merit of this prince, both in private and publick life, may, with advantage, be set in opposition to that of any monarch or citizen, which the annals of any age, or any nation, can present to us. He seems, indeed, to be the complete model of that perfect character, which, under the denomination of a sage or wise man, the philosophers have been fond of delineating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hopes of ever seeing it reduced to practice: so happily were all his virtues tempered together; so justly were they blended : and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper bounds.
2. He knew how to conciliate the most enterprising spirit, with the coolest moderation; the most obstinate perseverance, with the easiest flexibility; the most severe justice, with the greatest lenity; the greatest rigour in command, with the greatest affability of deportment; the highest capacity and inclination for science, with the most shining talents for action.
3. Nature also, as if desirous that so bright a production of her skill should be set in the fairest light, had bestowed on him all bodily accomplishments; vigour of limbs, dignity of shape and air, and a pleasant, engaging, and open countenance. By living in that barbarous age, he was deprived of historians worthy to transmit his fame to posterity; and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more particular strokes, that we might at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, from which, as a man, it is impossible he could be entirely exempted.