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The refined pleasures of a pious mind are, in many respects, superior to the coarse gratifications of sense. They are pleasures which belong to the highest powers, and best affections of the soul; whereas the gratifications of sense reside in the lowest region of To the latter the soul stoops below its native dignity. The former, raise it above itself. The latter, leave always a comfortless, often a mortifying, remembrance behind them. The former, are reviewed with applause and delight. The pleasures of sense resemble a foaming torrent, which, after a disorderly course, speedily runs out, and leaves an empty and offensive channel. But the pleasures of devotion resemble the equable current of a pure river, which enlivens the fields through which it passes, and diffuses verdure and fertility along its banks. To thee, O Devotion! we owe the highest improvement of our nature, and much of the enjoyment of our life. Thou art the support of our virtue, and the rest of our souls in this turbulent world. Thou composest the thoughts. Thou calmest the passions. 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.
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 whe 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, wheel their stated courses. The sun, though seemingly smal ler 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 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 influ-ence, 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 impetuous rate, almost seven hundred thousand years, before it could reach the nearest of these twinkling luminaries.
While, beholding this vast expanse, I 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 astonishingly 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 comparision 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 so 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.
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 some time 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 upon it. Thus, what was at first an exercise, becomes at length an entertainment. Our employments 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 human nature, it may instruct us in very fine moralities. In the first place, I would 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 engaged him. It may 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 smooth and easy the farther we advance in it." The man who proceeds in it with steadiness and resolu