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imperceptible; and the evils which they carry in their train, lie concealed, until their dominion is established. What Solomon says of one of them, holds true of them all," that their beginning is as when one letteth out water." It issues from a small chink, which once might have been easily stopped; but being neglected, it is soon widened by the stream; till the bank is at last totally thrown down, and the flood is at liberty to deluge the whole plain.
Prosperity debilitates, instead of strengthening the mind. Its most common effect is, to create an extreme sensibility to the slightest wound. It foments impatient desires; and raises expectations which no success can satisfy. It fosters a false delicacy, which sickens in the midst of indulgence. By repeated gratification, it blunts the feelings of men to what is pleasing; and leaves them unhappily acute to whatever is uneasy. Hence, the gale which another would scarcely feel, is, to the prosperous, a rude tempest. Hence, the rose-leaf doubled below them on the couch, as it is told of the effeminate Sybarite, breaks their rest. Hence, the disrespect shown by Mordecai, preyed with such violence on the heart of Haman.
Anxiety is the poison of human life. It is the parent of many sins, and of more miseries. In a world where every thing is so doubtful; where we may succeed in our wish, and be miserable; where we may be disappointed, and be blessed in the disappointment; what mean this restless stir and commotion of mind? Can our solicitude alter the course, or unravel the intricacy, of human events? Can our curiosity pierce through the cloud, which the Supreme Being hath made impenetrable to mortal eye?
No situation is so remote, and no station so unfavourable, as to preclude access to the happiness of a future state. A road is opened by the Divine
Spirit to those blissful habitations, from all corners of the earth, and from all conditions of human life; from the peopled city, and from the solitary desert; from the cottages of the poor, and from the palaces of kings; from the dwellings of ignorance and simplicity, and from the regions of science and improvement.
The scenes which present themselves, at our entering upon the world, are commonly flattering. Whatever they be in themselves, the lively spirits of the young gild every opening prospect. The field of hope appears to stretch wide before them. Pleasure seems to put forth its blossoms on every side. Impelled by desire, forward they rush with inconsiderate ardour; prompt to decide, and to choose; averse to hesitate, or to inquire; credulous, because untaught by experience; rash, because unacquainted with danger; headstrong, because unsubdued by disappointment. Hence arise the perils to which they are exposed; and which too often, from want of attention to faithful admouition, precipitate them into ruin irretrievable.
By the unhappy excesses of irregular pleasure in youth, how many amiable dispositions are corrupted or destroyed! How many rising capacities and powers are suppressed! How many flattering hopes of parents and friends are totally extinguished! Who but must drop a tear over human nature, when he beholds that morning which arose so bright, overcast with such untimely darkness; that sweetness of temper which once engaged many hearts, that modesty which was so prepossessing, those abilities which promised extensive usefulness, all sacrificed at the shrine of low sensuality: and one who was formed for passing through life, in the midst of public esteem, cut off by his vices at the beginning of his course; or sunk, for the whole of it, into insignificance and contempt?
These, O sinful Pleasure! are thy trophies. It is thus that, co-operating with the foe of God and man, thou degradest human honour, and blastest the opening prospects of human felicity.
EXAMPLES IN POETRY.
Exercises, p. 133.
Where thy true treasure? Gold says, "Not in me;" And "Not in me," the Di'mond.
Gold is poor.
The scenes of bus'ness tell us what are men;
Wo then apart, (if wo apart can be
From mortal man,) and fortune at our nod,
All this dread order break-for whom? for thee?
Man. like the gen'rous vine, sunnnrted lives ;
Th' Almighty, from his throne, on earth surveys
Bliss there is none, but unprecarious bliss.
Not gain'd with ease, nor safely lov'd, if gain'd?
Thus nature gives us (let it check our pride)
See the sole bliss Heav'n could on all bestow!
Whatever is, is right. This world, 'tis true,
And which more bless'd ? who chain'd his country, say,
The first sure symptom of a mind in health,
True happiness resides in things unseen.
Oh the dark days of vanity! while here,
Father of light and life! Thou good supreme!
From ev'ry low pursuit; and feed my soul
With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure,
If I am right, thy grace impart,
If I am wrong, O teach my heart
Save me alike from foolish pride,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
O lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
Communion sweet, communion large and high,
God loves from whole to parts; but human soul
Friend, parent, neighbour, first it will embrace;
Earth smiles around, with boundless bounty blest;
Know then this truth, (enough for man to know,) "Virtue alone is happiness below :"
The only point where human bliss stands still,
And but more relish'd as the more distress'd;
Never elated while one man's oppress'd;
Never dejected while another's bles'd;
And where no wants, no wishes can remain ;
Since but to wish more virtue, is to gain.
When all thy mercies, O my God!
O how shall words with equal warmth,
That glows within my ravish'd heart?