Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

course of a gentle river that rolled among the trees, and watered a large region with innumerable circumvolutions. In these amusements, the hours passed away unaccounted; his deviations had perplexed his memory, and he knew not towards what point to travel. · He stood pensive and confused, afraid to go forward lost he should go wrong, yet conscious that the time of loitering was now past. While he was thus tortured with uncertainty, the sky was overspread with clouds; the day vanished from before him; and a sudden tempest gathered round his head. He was now roused by bis danger to a quick and painful remembrance of his fol. ly; he now saw how happiness is lost when ease is consulted; he lamented the unmanly impatience that prompted him to seek shelter in the grove ; and despised the petty curiosity that led him on from trifle to tride. While he was thus reflecting, the air grew blacker, and a clap of thunder broke bis meditation.

He now resolved to do what yet remained in his power, to tread back the ground which he had passed, and try to find some issue where the wood might open into the plain. le prostrated himself on the ground, and recommended his life to the Lord of Nature. He rose with confidence and tranquillity, and pressed on with resolution. The beasts of the desert were in motion, and on every hand were heard the mingled howls of rage and fear, and ravage and expiration. All the horrors of darkness and solitude surrounded him : the winds roared in the woods ; and the torrents tumbled from the hills.

Thus forlorn and distressed, he wandered through the Frild, without knowing whither he was going, or whether he was erery moment drawing nearer to safety, or to destruction. At length, not fear, but labour, began to overcome him ; bis breath grew short, and his knees trembled ; and he was on the point of lying down in resignation to his tate, when he beheld, through the brambles, the glimmer of a taper. He advanced towards the light; and finding that it proceeded from the cottage of a hermit, he called humbly at the door, and obtained admission. The old man set before liim such provisions as he had collected for himself, on which. Obidah fed with eagerness and gratitude.

When the repast was over, 66 Tell me," said the hermit, “ hy what chance thou hast been brought hither? I have been now twenty years an inhabitant of the wilderness, in

which I never saw a man before.” Obidah then related the occurrences of his journey, without any concealment or palliation.

“ Son,” said the hermit, o let the errors and follies, the dangers and escape of this day, sink deep into thy heart. Remember, my son, that human life is the journey of a day. We rise in the morning of youth, fall of vigour, and full of expectation ; we set forward with spirit and hope, with gaiety and with diligence, and travel on a wbile in the direct road of piety towards the mansions of rest. In a short time, we remit or fervour, and endeavour to find some mitigation of our duty, and some more e sy means of obtaining the same end. We then relax our vigour, and resolve no longer to be terrified with crimes at a distance; but rely. upon our own constancy, and venture to approach what we resolve never to touch. We tous enter the bowers of ease, and repose in the shades of security. Here the heart softens, and vigilance subsides ; we are then willing to inquire whether another advance cannot be made, and whether we may not, at least, turn our eyes upon the gardens of pleasure. We approach them with scruple and hesitation ; we enter them, but enter timorous and trembling; and always hope to pass through them without losing the road of virtue, which, for a while, we keep in our sight, and to which we purpose to return. But temptation succeeds temptation, and one compliance prepares us for another; we in time lose the happiness of innocence, and solace our disquiet with sensual gratifications. By degrees, we let fall the remembrance of our original intention, and quit the only adequate object of rational desire. We entangle ourselves in business, immerge ourselves in luxury, and rove through the labyrinths of inconstancy; till the darkness of old age begins to invade us, and disease and anxiety obstruct our way. We then look, back upon our lives with horror, with sorrow, with repentance ; and wish, but too often vainly wish, that we had not forsaken the ways of virtue. Happy are they, my son, who shall learn from thy example, not to despair ; but shall remember, that, though the day is past, and their strength is wasted, there yet remains one effort to be made : that reformation is never hopeless, nor sincere endeavours ever un-, assisted ; that the wanderer may at length' return after all his errors ; and that he who implores strength and courage from above, shall find danger and difficulty give way before him. Go now, my son, to thy repose ; commit thyself to the care,

of Omnipotence ; and when the morning calls again to toil, begin anew thy journey and thy life.” DR. JOHNSON.

CHAP. III.

DIDACTIC PIECES.

SECTION 1. A The importance of a good Education. I CONSIDER a human soul, without education, like marble in the quarry : which shows none of its inherent beauties, until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discovers every ornamental cloud, spot, and vein, that runs through the body of it. Education, after the same manner, when it works upon a noble mind, draws out to view every latent virtue and perfection, which, without such helps, are never able to make their appearance.

If my reader will give me leave to change the allusion so soon upon him, I shall make use of the same instance to illustrate the force of education, which Aristotle has brought to explain his doctrine of substantial forms, when he tells us that a statue lies hid in a block of marble ; and that the art of the statuary only clears away the superfluous matter, and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone, and the sculptor only finds it. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero, the wise, the good, or the great man, very often lies hid and concealed in a plebeian, which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light. I am therefore much delighted with reading the accounts of savage nations ; and with contemplating those virtues which are wild and uncultivated : to see courage exertimg itself in fierceness, resolution in obstinacy, wisdom in cunning, patience in sullenness and despair.

Men's passions operate variously, and appear in different kinds of actions, according as they are more or less rectified and swayed by reason. When one hears of negroes, who, upon the death of their masters, or upon changing their service, hang themselves upon the next tree, as it sometimes happens in our American plantations, who

can forbear admiring their fidelity, though it expresses itself in so dreadful a manner ? What might not that savage greatness of soul, which appears in these poor wretches on many occasions, be raised to, were it rightly cultivated. ? And what colour of excuse can there be, for the contempt with which we treat this part of our species ; that we should not put them upon the common foot of humanity ;. that we should only set an insignificant fine upon the man who murders them ; nay, that we should, as much as in us lies, cut them off from the prospects of happiness in another world, as well as in this ; and deny them that which we look upon as the proper means for attaining it?

It is therefore an unspeakable blessing, to be born in those parts of the world where wisdom and knowledge flourish; though, it must be confessed, there are, even in these parts, several poor uninstructed persons, who are but little above the inhabitants of those nations of which I have been here speaking; as those who have had the advantages of a more liberal education, rise above one another by several different degrees of perfection. For, to return to our statue in the block of marble, we see it sometimes only begun to be chipped, sometimes rough hewn, and but just sketched into a human figure ; sometimes, we see the man appearing distinctly in all his limbs and features ; sometimes, we find the figure wrought up to great elegancy ; but seldom meet with any to which the hand of a Phidias or a Praxiteles could not give several nice touches and finishings.

ADDISON.

SECTION II.

. On Gratitude. There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind, than gratitude. It is accompanied with so great inward satisfaction, that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance. It is not, like the practice of many other virtues, difficult and painful, but attended with so much pleasure, that were there no positive command which enjoined it, nor any recompense laid up for it hereafter, a generous mind would indulge in it, for the natural gratification which it affords.

If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker: The Supreme Being does not only confer upon us those bounties which proceed more immediately from his hand, but even those benefits which are

ADDISON.

conveyed to us by others. · Every blessing we enjoy, by what means soever it may be derived upon us, is the gift of Him who is the great Author of good, and the Father of mercies.

If gratitude, when exerted towards one another, naturally produces a very pleasing sensation in the mind of a grateful man, it exalts the soul into rapture, when it is employed on this great object of gratitude ; on this beneficent Being, who has given us every thing we already possess, and from whom we expect every thing we yet hope for. .

SECTION III.

On Forgiveness. The most plain and natural sentiments of equity concur with divine authority, to enforce the duty of forgiveness. Let bim who has never in his life done wrong, be allowed the privilege of remaining inexorable. But let such as are conscious of frailties and crimes, consider forgiveness as a debt which they owe to others. Common failings are the strongest lesson of mutual forbearance. Were this. virtue unknown among men, order and comfort, peace and repose, : would be strangers to human life. Injuries retaliated according to the exorbitant measure which passion prescribes, would excite resentment in return. The injured person would become the injurer; and thus wrongs, retaliations, and fresh injuries, would circulate in endless succession, till the world was rendered a field of blood. Of all the passions which invade the human breast, revenge is the most direful. When allowed to reign with full dominion, it is more than sufficient to poison the few pleasures which remain to man in his present state. How much soever a person may suffer from injustice, he is always in hazard of suffering more from the prosecution of revenge. The violence of an enemy can. not inflict what is equal to the torment he creates to himself, by means of the fierce and desperate passions which he allows to rage in his soul.

Those evil spirits who inhabit the regions of misery are represented as delighting in revenge and cruelty. But all that is great and good in the universe, is on the side of clemency and mercy. The almighty Ruler of the world, though for ages offended by the unrighteousness, and insulted by the impiety of men, is a long suffering and slow to anger." His Son, when be appeared in our nature, ex

« ForrigeFortsett »