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By digging only a short depth into the eartb, a greater degree of cold is felt than on the surface. because the latter is heated by the sun : but if we go fifty or sixty feet deep, the heat increases sensibly; and, if a still greater depth be gone to, the air becomes so close, that it stops respiration, and puts out a candle. It is not easy to determine the cause of this heat. Those who admit that there are concealed fires in every place under the earth, approach, perhaps, the nearest to the truth. But how this fire, so closely confined, can burn: what the substance is that feeds it, or how it can be burned without consuming, is what cannot be determined with certainty. There are phenomena on our globe, which prove the existence of subterraneous fires in a very formidable manner. From time to time there are terrible eruptions of fire. The two most remarkable mountains which produce such, are Etna in Sicily, and Vesuvius in the kingdom of Naples. The accounts given of these two volcanoes are frightful. Sometimes a black vapour only rises from them; at other times, an inward roaring is heard, which is followed by thunder and lightning, attended by an earthquake. Then the vapour clears up, and becomes luminous. Sometimes these eruptions are so violent, that large pieces of rock, and numerous stones, are hurled into the air. The force of the interior air of these moun. tains is so prodigious, that, in the last century, pieces of rocks weighing three hundred pounds were thrown into the air, and fell at the distance of three miles. At certain times, the vitrified entrails of the earth boil up, and rise, till their formidable foaming runs over, and flows for the space of several miles
through the neighbouring fields, destroying every thing in its passage: for several days one wave of fire runs over another till it reaches the sea; and even here its violence is such, that it continues to flow for some time without being extinguished in the waves of the ocean. Who can think without terror of the disasters which such eruptions occasion? Whole farms and villages, with their fertile plantations, are swallowed up: the meadows are consumed: the olive-trees and vines entirely destroyed. We are told, that in one of the eruptions of Etna, the torrent of burning lava spread itself over fourteen cities; and that the roaring within the mountain was heard at twenty miles' distance.
But wherefore these volcanoes, which spread such terror and devastation on the earth?.: Who am I, to dare to ask such a question? Have I a right to demand an account of the plans formed by Supreme Wisdom? The existence of these volcanoes cannot be a work of chance; and I ought to conclude, that the Creator bas wise reasons for ordering such to be. Whatever mischiefs these eruptions occasion, it is nothing in comparison of the advantage they are, on the whole, to our globe. The bosom of the earth being full of fire, it was necessary that there should be volcanoes, because they are the vents by which the force of that dreadful element is broken and weakened. And though the countries where the subterraneous fires collect in greatest quantities, are subject to earthquakes, they would be still more violent, if these volcanoes did not exist. Italy would not be such a fertile country, if, now and then, the fire which the earth contains had not found a vent in these mountains. This is enough to convince us, that they contribute to fulfil the designs of our divine Author, so full of wisdom and goodness. And if there still remain things to us obseure and impene-.. trable, let us put our hands to our mouths, and say, “Lord, thy judgments are right and equitable, and thy ways. past finding out.". ZO .
LESSON X. '
The Rapidity with which the Human Life
Our life is short and transitory. This is an incontestable proposition; though, to judge from the conduct of most people, one would not suppose it a received truth. Let us consider only with what swiftness the days, the weeks, the months, and the years have passed, or rather flown away. They were over, even before we perceived it. Let us endeavour to recal them to mind, and to follow them in their rapid flight. Is it possible to give an account of the different æras? If there had not been in our lives certain very remarkable moments, which made impression on our minds, we should be still less able to recollect the histories of them. How many years of our infancy, devoted to the amusements of youth, which we can say nothing of, but that they have glided away? How many others have passed in the thoughtlessness of youth; during which, misled by our inclinations, and given up to pleasure, we had neither the wish, nor the time, to look into ourselves? To these years succeeded those of a riper age, more capable of reflection. We then thought it was time to change our way of life, and to act like reasonable men ; but the business of the world took possession of us to such a degree, that we had no leisure to reflect on our past lives. Our families increased, and our cares and endeavours 'to provide for them increased in proportion. Insensibly the time draws nigh, in which we arrive at old age; and perhaps, even then, we shall neither have leisure nor force of mind to recollect the past, to reflect upon the period to which we are come, upon what we have done, or neglected to do ; in a word, to consider the purposes for which we were placed in this world. In the mean time, what can insure our ever attaining that advanced age? How many accidents break the delicate thread of life, before it comes to its full length!—The new, born infant falls, and is shortly reduced to dust. The young men and maidens, who give the highest hopes, are cut down in the age of bloom and beauty: a violent illness, an unfortunate accident, lays them in the grave. Dangers' and accidents multiply with years; negligence and excess lay the seeds of maladies, and dispose the body to catch those that are epidemical. The last age is still more dangerous. In a word, half of those who are born, are carried out of the world and perish in the short space of their first seventeen years. Behold the concise, but faithful history of life! Let us think seriously of this; every instant is a portion of life impossible to recal, but the remembrance of which may be either the source of joy or sorrow.
Our Duty in regard to Sleep. It is a melancholy remark we have often occasion to make, that most people lie down to sleep with an inconceivable security. To consider it only so far as it relates to our bodies, the revolution produced by sleep ought to appear to us of great consequence; but, if we were to consider of all that might happen to us while we are enjoying repose, it appears to me, that in consequence, we ought not to throw ourselves into the arms of sleep, without having taken proper precautions, and having, in a certain degree, prepared ourselves for it. In reality, it is not surprising, that those who in their waking hours are so inconsiderate, so negligent of
every duty, should be equally so in that which relates to sleep. Let us, however, learn in what manner we may glorify the Almighty, and act as becomes the character of a Christian, in this respect. What thanksgivings are due to the Creator for the blessings of sleep! Some may not know the full value of it, as it may never have been denied to their wishes, when they have desired it. But, how soon would sickness, sorrow, fear, or old age, deprive them of the sweets of repose! Oh! it is then that they would acknowledge, that sleep is the most pressing want of nature; and at the same time, an inestimable blessing of the Deity. But, should they wait till they lose this blessing to become wise? No, but now, while they enjoy the advantages of sleep, never let them give themselves up to it, without a lively sense of gratitude towards their Heavenly Benefactor. Let this gratitude prevent them equally from making an abuse of sleep, or, by contrary extreme, not making use of it. It is always wrong to prolong, through idleness, the hours designed for repose. Nature, in this respect, as in every thing else, is content with a little; and seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is as much as is necessary. But, we are not less blamable, when, through avarice, ambition, or any other motive of that sort, we lose our sleep and necessary rest. In both cases, we act contrary to the rules established by our Creator, and contrary to the gratitude we owe him for such a blessing.
Above all things, let us endeavour to go to sleep with a proper turn of mind. What should we do, if we were to know for a certainty, that, from the arms of sleep, we were to pass into those of death? Should we not employ our last moments in preparing ourselves for this passage; in recollecting our past life; in seeking, through the blood of Christ, the remission of our sins? Well then, we may, every night, consider this case possible. In each winter's