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Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy fathers; and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind. If thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off. for ever.
THAT every day has its pains and sorrows is universally experienced, and almost universally confessed. But let us not attend only to mournful truths: if we look impartially about us, we shall find, that every day has likewise its pleasures and its joys..
We should cherish sentiments of charity towards all men. The Author of all good, nourishes much piety and virtue in hearts that are unknown to us; and beholds repentance ready to spring up among many whom we conside er as reprobates.
No one ought to consider himself as insignificant in the sight of his Creator. In our several stations, we are all sent forth to be labourers in the vineyard of our heavenly Father. Every man has his work allotted, his talent committed to him; by the due improvement of which he may, in one way or other, serve God, promote virtue, and be
useful in the world.
The love of praise should be preserved under proper subordination to the principle of duty. In itself it is a useful motive to action; but when allowed to extend its influence too far, it corrupts the whole character, and produces guilt, disgrace, and misery. To be entirely destitute of it, is a defect. To be governed by it, is depravity. The proper adjustment of the several principles of action in human nature is a matter that deserves our highest attention. For when any one of them becomes too weak or too strong, it endangers both our virtue and our happiness.~
The desires and passions of a vicious man, having once obtained an unlimited sway, trample him under their feet. They make him feel that he is subject to various contradictory and imperious masters, who often pull him differnt ways. His soul is rendered the receptacle of many repugnant and jarring dispositions; and resembles some barbarous country, cantoned out into different principalities, which are continually waging war on one another.
Diseases, poverty, disappointment, and shame, are far from being, in every instance, the unavoidable doom of man. They are much more frequently the offspring of his own misguided choice. Intemperance engenders disease, sloth
produces poverty, pride creates disappointments, and dishonesty exposes to shame. The ungoverned passions of men betray them into a thousand follies; their follies into crimes; and their crimes into misfortunes.
When we reflect on the many distresses which abound in human life; on the scanty proportion of happiness which any man is here allowed to enjoy ; on the small difference which the diversity of fortune makes on that scanty proportion; it is surprising, that envy should ever have been a prevalent passion among men, much more that it should have prevailed among Christians. Where so much is suffered in common, little room is left for envy. There is more occasion for pity and sympathy, and inclination to
assist each other.
At our first setting out in life, when yet unacquainted with the world and its snares, when every pleasure enchants with its smile, and every object shines with the gloss of novelty, let us beware of the seducing appearances which surround us; and recollect what others have suffered from the power of headstrong desire. If we allow any passion, even though it be esteemed innocent, to acquire an absolute ascendant, our inward peace will be impaired. But if any which has the inward taint of guilt, take early possession of our mind, we may date, from that moment, the ruin of our tranquillity.
Every man has some darling passion, which generally affords the first introduction to vice. The irregular gratifi cations into which it occasionally seduces him, appear under the form of venial weakness es; and are indulged, in the beginning, with scrupulousness and reserve. But, by longer practice, these restraints weaken, and the power of habit grows. One vice brings in another to its aid. By a sort of natural affinity they connect and entwine themselves together; till their roots come to be spread wide and deep over all the soul.
WHENCE arises the misery of this present world? It is not owing to our cloudy atmosphere, our changing seasons, and inclement skies. It is not owing to the debility of our bodies, or to the unequal distribution of the goods of fortune. Amidst all disadvantages of this kind, a pure, a steadfast, and enlightened mind, possessed of strong virtue, could enjoy itself in peace, and smile at the impotent assaults of fortune and the elements. It is within ourselves that miserys ved its seat. Our disordered hearts, our guilty
passions, our violent prejudices, and misplaced desires, are the instruments of the trouble which we endure. These sharpen the darts which adversity would otherwise point in vain against us..
While the vain and the licentious are revelling in the midst of extravagance and rist, how little do they think of those scenes of sore distress which are passing at that moment throughout the world; mutitudes struggling for a poor subsistence, to support the wife and children whom they love, and who look up to them with eager eyes for that bread which they can hardly procure; multitudes groaning under sickness in desolate cottages, untended and unmourned ; many apparently in a better situation of life, pining away in secret with concealed griefs; families weeping over the beloved friends whom they have lost, or in all the bitterness of anguish, bidding those who are just expiring the last adieu.
Never adventure on too near an approach to what is evil. Familiarize not yourselves with it, in the slightest instances, without fear. Listen with reverence to every reprehension of conscience; and preserve the most quick and accurate sensibility to right and wrong. If ever your moral impressions begin to decay, and your natural abhorrence of guilt to lessen, you have ground to dread that the ruin of virtue is fast approaching.
By disappointments and trials the violence of our passions is tamed, and our minds are formed to sobriety and reflection. In the varieties of life, occasioned by the vicissitudes of worldly fortune, we are inured to habits both of the active and the suffering virtues. How much soever we complain of the vanity of the world, facts plainly show, that if its vanity were less, it could not answer the purpose of salutay discipline. Unsatisfactory as it is, its pleasures are still too apt to corrupt our hearts. How fatal then must the consequences have been, had it yielded us more complete enjoyment? If, with all its troubles, we are in danger of being too much attached to it, how entirely would it have seduced our affections, if no troubles had been mingled with its pleasures?
In seasons of distress or difficulty, to abandon ourselves to dejection, carries no mark of a great or a worthy mind. Instead of sinking under trouble, and declaring" that his soul is weary of life," it becomes a wise and a good man, in the evil day, with firmness to maintain his post: to bear up against the storm; to have recourse to those advantages which, in the worst of times, are always left to integrity and
virtue; and never to give up the hope that better days may yet arise.
How many young persons have, at first set out in the world with excellent dispositions of heart; generous, charitable, and humane; kind to their friends, and amiable among all with whom they had intercourse! And yet how often have we seen all those fine appearances unhappily blasted in the progress of life, merely through the influence of loose and corrupting pleasures; and those very persons, who promised once to be blessings to the world, sunk down, in the end, to be the burden and nuisance of society!
The most common propensity of mankind, is to store futurity with whatever is agreeable to them; especially in those periods of life, when imagination is lively, and hope is ardent. Looking forward to the year now beginning, they are ready to promise themselves much, from the foundations of prosperity which they have laid; from the friendships and connexions which they have secured; and from the plans of conduct which they have formed. Alas! how deceitful do all these dreams of happiness often prove! While many are saying in secret to their hearts, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and more abundantly," we are obliged in return to say to them" Boast not yourselves of to-morrow; for you know not what a day may bring forth !”
No rank or possessions can make the guilty mind happy1. DIONYSIUS, the tyrant of Sicily, was far from being happy, though he possessed great riches, and all the pleasures which wealth and power could procure. Damocles, one of his flatterers, deceived by these specious appearances of happiness, took occasion to compliment him on the extent of his power, his treasures, and royal magnificence; and declared that no monarch had ever been greater or happier than Dionysius.
2. "Hast thou a mind, Damocles," says the king, "to taste this happiness; and to know, by experience, what the
enjoyments are, of which thou hast so high an idea ?" Damocles, with joy, accepted the offer. The king ordered that a royal banquet should he prepared, and a gilded sofa, covered with rich embroidery, placed for his favourite. Sideboards, loaded with gold and silver plate, of immense value, were arranged in the apartment.
S. Pages of extraordinary beauty were ordered to attend his table, and to obey his commands with the utmost readiness, and the most profound submission. Fragrant ointments, chaplets of flowers and rich perfumes, were added to the entertainment. The table was loaded with the most exquisite delicacies of every kind. Damocles, intoxicated with pleasure, fancied himself amongst superior beings.
4. But in the midst of all this happiness, as he lay indulg ing himself in state, he sees let down from the ceiling, exactly over his head, a glittering sword hung by a single hair. The sight of impending destruction put a speedy end to his joy and revelling. The pomp of his attendance, the glitterof the carved plate, and the delicacy of the viands, cease to afford him any pleasure.
5. He dreads to stretch forth his hand to the table. He throws off the garland of roses. He hastens to remove from his dangerous situation; and earnestly entreats the king to restore him to his former humble condition, having no desire to enjoy any longer a happiness so terrible.
6. By this devise, Dionysius intimated to Damocles, how miserable he was in the midst of all his treasures; and in possession of all the honours and enjoyments which royalty CICERO
Change of external condition is often adverse to virtue.
1. In the days of Joram, king of Israel, flourished the prophet Elisha. His character was so eminent," and his fame so widely spread, that Benhadad, the king of Syria, though an idolater, sent to consult him, concerning the issue of a distemper which threatened his life. The messenger employed on this occasion was Hazael, who appears to have been one of the princes, or chief men of the Syrian court.
2. Charged with rich gifts from the king, he presents himself before the prophet; and accosts him in terms of the highest respect. During the conference which they held together, Elisha fixed his eyes steadfastly on the countenance effazael; and discerning, by a prophetic spirit, his future