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form the decision and complaint of the aged. In those of middle life, the comparative knowledge which it implies, would seem presumptuous, or at least premature; and as to the young, who know but little from experience, they can only indulge the powers of imagination, or retail such sentiments as have been propagated by others.
As it is said of those who form comparisons, (from their own observation, we will suppose) in favor of former times, and consequently disad vantageous to the present, that "they do not inquire wisely concerning this;" it may be practically useful, in discoursing farther on the words of the text, to consider on what errors of judgment, or on what peculiar failings of mind and disposition, this charge of not "inquiring wisely," may be reasonably founded.
The wise and merciful Creator has graciously bestowed on his intelligent creatures blessings and enjoyments, that are adapted to the progressive stages of their existence. It is the province of youth, and at the same time, it is their duty, within proper limits, to enjoy the present, and to look forward with some delight to the future. With the aged, it is a serious and appropriate employment, among other things, to
ponder the path of life;"-to look back on what is past, and to mature the lessons of experience into the warnings and precepts of true wisdom. In the safe retreats of age, they can mark in others the folly of romantic expectations, the dangerous excesses of pleasure, and the miseries and disappointment, that often follow in the train of ardent passions, even when their progress is not contaminated with sin and guilt; but their own recollections, and the sentiments which they attach to the pleasures enjoyed in early life by themselves, are deemed pure, and unmixed with this alloy. They present little more than images of delight, which are remembered with some tenderness of regret, only because they are past, and cannot return. They are not associated with any ideas of folly, vice, or danger; because the wisdom which could fully convince them of either, was not then formed in the understanding, or the heart, and must necessarily be the fruit of a later season.
As we advance in life, therefore, we are apt to bring the gratifications and pursuits of the young to a very different test and standard; and one error in judgment evidently arises from supposing, that their vices and follies are more enormous, only because our principles have
varied, our experience has been enlarged, and our feelings and associations are no longer the
It must not be forgotten, also, that our capa cities of enjoyment do not long remain sta tionary, if we except such as are purely intel lectual, and such as are connected with the high hopes and important duties of religion: The lively relish of delight is soon palled by ret petition. Even the most beautiful scenes of nature, as well as the finest productions of art, may be viewed so often, as to be passed over without being viewed at all. Nothing in after life, perhaps, can equal our early gratifications;
the first impressions, that were made on us by a beautiful poem, by exquisite music, or by the exhibition of such scenes and objects, as were best adapted to our peculiar taste ando feelings. Now, it is the necessary condition of the aged, forming, in some measure, what may be called their profit and their loss, to be familiar with almost every thing. The pleasurable sen sations that arise from novelty can no longer I exist;—at least, in no great variety, and in no powerful degree;—and, to form a just judgmentTM of things for which we have lost all relish, or for which our pleasure is greatly diminished,"
supposes such a measure of pure intellect as must not be expected of man. Let us not imagine, then, that genius is extinct, because we can no longer view its productions with the early charm of youth; nor let us form unjust and invidious comparisons between former days and the present: because our best opinions are! apt to be warped and corrupted, unless we have! the wisdom to make the most accurate allow ance for the privations of feeling and novelty, as well as for the gradual accessions of knowledge and experience, which must necessarily be the characteristics only of declining life.
These considerations alone will lead, perhaps, to a sufficient justification of the wise man's censure as expressed in the text: but others may be added. The period of youth is, or ought to be, devoted to necessary and useful acquisitions;-to the pursuits of knowledge, and the important rudiments of virtue and religion. With respect to the world, young peri sons are, and, perhaps, should be, for the most part, extremely ignorant. Parents and guar dians rightly judge, that the worst consequences may be apprehended from making them familiar with corruption, vice, and wickedness. Even when no actual commission of evil may be
dreaded, the delicate purity of the mind seems to be injured by it, as the beauty of some fruits and flowers is sullied, merely by touching the farina that covers them. Many crimes of great enormity, many odious offences, and many shocking and disgusting scenes, therefore, are studiously kept from their eyes. They must, however, be gradually developed to persons of riper years, whose duty indeed it is to prevent, sup press, and punish them: but, in consequence of this painful increase of knowledge and experience, they are apt to think, that the world is become more wicked; and that the same enormities did not exist in former times, because, when young, they were not permitted to know them.
It may be farther remarked, that only an extensive intercourse with the world, such as is utterly incompatible with youth, can render us familiar with the various forms of selfishness, hypocrisy, and fraud; and it is not till we have acquired a state of comparative independence, or the power of conferring substantial benefits, that we can be exposed to the machinations of the worthless ;-that we excite the malevolence of envy, and feel the pang, which ingratitude, or neglect, too often inflicts. It is, indeed, so ordered by a wise and gracious God, that the