« ForrigeFortsett »
Thou exaltest the heart. Thy communications, and thine only, are imparted to the low, no less than to the high ; to the poor, as well as to the rich. In thy presence, worldly distinctions cease ; and under thy influence, worldly sorrows are forgotten. Thou art the balm of the wounded mind. Thy sanctuary is ever open to the miserable ; inaccessible only to the unrighteous and impure. - Thou beginnest on earth the temper of heaven. In thee, the hosts of angels and blessed spirits eternally rejoice.
BLAIR. SECTION XIV. The planetary and terrestrial worlds comparatively considered.
To us, who dwell on its surface, the earth is by far the most extensive orb that our eyes can any where behold: it is also clothed with verdure, distinguished by trees, and adorned with a variety of beautiful decorations ; whereas, to a spectator placed on one of the planets, it wears a uniform aspect : looks all luminous ; and no larger than a spot. To beings who dwell at still greater distances, it entirely disappears. That which we call alternately the morning and the evening star, (as in one part of the orbit she rides foremost in the procession of night, in the other ushers in and anticipates the dawn,) is a planetary world. This planet, and the four others that so wonderfully vary their mystic dance, are in themselves dark ·bodies, and shine only by reflection ; have fields, and seas, and skies, of their own; are furnished with all accommodations for animal subsistence, and are supposed to be the abodes of intellectual life ; all which, together with our earthly habitation, are dependent on that grand dispenser of Divine munificence, the sun ; receive their light from the distribution of his rays, and derive their comfort from his benign agency.
The sun, which seems to perform its daily stages through the sky, is in this respect fixed and immoveable : it is the great axle of heaven, about which the globe we inhabit, and other more spacious orbs, wbeel their stated courses. The sun, though seemingly smaller than the dial it illuminates, is abundantly larger than this whole earth, on which so many lofty mountains rise, and such vast oceans' roll. A line extending from side to side through the centre of that resplendent orb, would measure more than eight hundred thousand miles : a girdle formed to go round its circumference, would require a length of millions. Were its solid contents to be estimated, the account would overwhelm our understanding, and be almost beyond the power of language to express. Are 1
we startled at these reports of philosophy! Are we ready to cry out in a transport of surprise, “How mighty is the Being who kindled so prodigious a fire ; and keeps alive, from age to age, so enormous a mass of flame !" let us attend our philosophical guides, and we shall be brought acquainted with speculations more enlarged and more inflaming.
This sun with all its attendant planets, is but a very little part of the grand machine of the universe: every star, though in appearance no bigger than the diamond that glitters upon a lady's ring, is really a vast globe, like the sun in size and in glory ; no less spacious, no less luminous, than the radiant source of day. So that every star, is not barely a world, but the centre of a magnificent system ; has a retinue of worlds, irradiated by its beams, and revolving round its attractive influence, all which are lost to our sight in unmeasurable wilds of ether. That the stars appear like so many diminutive, and scarcely distinguishable points, is owing to their immense and inconceivable distance. Immense and inconceivable indeed it is, since a ball, shot from the loaded cannon, and flying with unabated rapidity, must travel, at this inipetuous rate, almost seven hundred thousand years, before it could reach the nearest of these twinkling luminaries.
While, beholding this vast expanse, 1 learn my own extreme meanness, I would also discover the abject littleness of all terrestrial things. What is the earth, with all her ostentatious scenes, compared with this astonishing grand furniture of the skies? What, but a dim speck, hardly perceivable in the map of the universe ? It is observed by a very judicious writer, that if the sun himself, which enlightens this part of the creation, were extinguished, and all the host of planetary worlds, which move about him, were annihilated, they would not be missed by an eye that can take in the whole compass of nature, any more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The bulk of which they consist, and the space which they occupy, are so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, that their loss would scarcely leave a blank in the immensity of God's works. If then, not our globe only, but this whole system, be 80 very diminutive, what is a kingdom or a country? What are a few lordships, or the so much admired patrimonies of those who are styled wealthy ?. When I measure them with my own little pittance, they swell into proud and bloated dimensions : but when I take the universe for my standard, how scanty is their size! how contemptible their figure! They shrink into pompous nothings
SECTION XV. On the power of custom, and the uses to which it may be applied.
There is not a common saying, which has a better turn of sense in it, than what we often hear in the mouths of the vulgar, that " Custom is a second nature.” It is indeed able to form the man anew; and give him inclinations and capacities altogether different from those he was born with. A person who is addicted to play or gaming, though he took but little delight in it at first, by degrees contracts so strong an inclination towards it, and gives himself up so entirely to it, that it seems the only end of his being. The love of a retired or busy life will grow upon a man insensibly, as he is conversant in the one or the other, till he is utterly unqualified for relishing that to which he has been for sometime disused, Nay, a man may smoke, or drink, or take snuff, till he is unable to pass away his time without it; not to mention how our delight in any particular study, art, or science, rises and improves, in proportion to the application which we bestow up. on it. Thus, what was at first an exercise, becomes at length an entertainment. Our employmeats are changed into diversions. The mind grows fond of those actions it is accustomed to ; and is drawn with reluctancy from those paths in which it has been used to walk.
If we attentively consider this property of hunan nature, it may instruct us in very fine moralities. In the first place, I wonld have no man discouraged with that kind of life, or series of action, in which the choice of others, or his own necessities, may have enraged him. It inay perhaps be very disagreeable to him, at first; but use and application will certainly render it not only less painful, but pleasing and satisfactory.
In the second place, I would recommend to every one, the admirable precept, which Pythagoras is said to have given to his disciples, and which that philosopher must have drawn from the observation I have enlarged upon : “ Pitch upon that course of life which is the most excellent, and custom will render it the most delightful." Men, whose circumstances will permit them to choose their own way of life, are inexcusable if they do not pursue that which their judgment tells them is the most laudable. The voice of reason is more to be regarded, than the bent of any present inclination : since, by the rule above mentioned, inclination will at length come over to reason, though we can never force reason.to comply with inclination.
in the third place, this observation may teach the most sensual and irreligious man, to overlook those hardships and difficulties, which are apt to discourage him from the prosecution of a virtuous life. The gods," said Hesiod, “ have placed labour before virtue; the way to her is at first rough and difficult, but grows more simooth and easy the farther we advance in it." The man who proceeds in it with steadiness and resolution, will, in a little time, find that “ her ways are ways of pleasantness, and that all her paths are peace.”
To enforce this consideration, we may further observe, that the practice of religion will not only be attended with that pleasure which naturally accompanies those actions to which we are habituated, but with those supernumerary joys of heart, that rise from the consciousness of such a pleasure ; from the satisfaction of acting up to the dictates of reason ; and from the prospect of a happy immortality.
In the fourth place, ire may learn from this observation which we have made on the mind of man, to take particular care, when we are once settled in a regular course of life, how we too frequently indulge ourselves in even the most innocent diversions and entertainments ; since the mind may insensibly fall off from the relish of virtuous actions, and by degrees, exchange that pleasure which it takes. in the performance of its duty, for delights of a much inferior and an unprofitable rature.
The last use which I shall make of this remarkable property in human nature, of being delighted with those actions to which it is accustoined, is, 6 show how absolutely necessary it is for us to gain babits of virtue in this life, if we would enjoy the pleasures of the next. The state of bliss we call heaven, will not be capable of affecting those minds which are not thus qualified for it: we must, in this world, gain a relish for truth and virtue, if we would be able to taste that knowledge and perfection, which are to make us happy in the next. The seeds of those spiritual joys and raptures, which are to rise up and flourish in the soul to all eternity, must be planted in it during this its present state of probation. In short, heaven is not to be looked upon only as the reward, but as the natural effect of a religious life. ADDISOX.
SECTION XVI. The pleasures resulting from a proper use of our faculties..
Happy that man, who, unembarrassed by vulgar cares, master of himself, his time, and fortune, spends his time in making himself wiser; and his fortune, in making others (and. therefore himself) happier : who, as the will and understanding are the two ennobling faculties of the soul, thinks himself not complete, till his understanding is beautified with the valuable furniture of knowledge, as well as his will enriched with every virtue ; who has furnished himself with all the advantages to relish solitude and enliven conversation ; who when serious, is not sullen ; and when cheerful, not indiscreetly gay ; whose ambition is, not to be admired for a false glare of greatness, but to be beloved for the gentle and sober lustre of his wisdom and goodness. The greatest millister of state has not more business to do, in a public capacity, than he, and indeed every other man, may find in the retired and still scenes of life. Even in his private walks, every thing that is visible convinces him there is present a Being invisible. Aided by natural philosophy, he reads plain legible traces of the Divinity in every thing he meets : he sees the Deity in every tree, as well as Moses did in the burning bush, though not in so glaring a manner : and when he sees him, he adores him with the tribute of a grateful heart. SEED.
Description of candour. · TRUE candour is altogether different from that guarded, inoffensive language, and that studied openness of behaviour, which we so frequently meet with among men of the world. Smiling, very often, is the aspect, and smooth are the words, of those who inwardly are the most ready to think evil of others. That candour which is a Christian virtue, consists, not in fairness of speech, but in fairness of heart. It may want the blandishment of external courtesy, but supplies its place with a humane and generous liberality of sentiment. Its manners are unaffected, and its professions cordial. Exempt, on one hand, from the dark jealousy of a suspicious mind, it is no less removed, on the other, from that easy credulity which is imposed on by every specious pretence. It is perfectly consistent with extensive knowledge of the world, and with due attention to our own safety. In that various in-tercourse, which we are obliged to carry on with persons of every different character, suspicion, to a certair, degree, is a necessary guard. It is only when it exceeds the bounds of prudent caution, that it degenerates into vice. There is a proper mean between undistinguished credulity, and universal jealousy, which a sound understanding discerns, and which: the man of candour studies to preserve.