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It is better to be a door-keeper in the house of the Lord, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
I have seen the wicked in great power; and spreading himself like a green bay-tree. Yet he passed away: sought him, but he could not be found.
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand, riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like precious ointment: Like the dew of Hermon, and the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion. The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold; he shall therefore beg in harvest; and have nothing.
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding: and, lo! it was all grown over with thorns; nettles had covered its face; and the stone wall was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well; I looked upon it, and received instruction.
Honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time; nor that which is measured by number of years:But wisdom is the grey hair to man, and an unspotted life is old age.
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.
NHAT 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 consider 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 sub ordination 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, dis grace, 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 either 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 different 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 an 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 taint of guilt, take carly possession of our mind, we may date, from that moment, the ruin of our tranquillity. Every man has some darling passion, which generally
Part 1. affords the first introduction to vice. The irregular gratifications, into which it occasionally seduces him, appear under the form of venial weaknesses; 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
seasons, and inclement skies. It is not owing to the debility of our bodies, nor to the unequal distribution of the goods of fortune. Ámidst 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 misery has fixed 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 riot, how little do they think of those scenes of sore distress, which are passing at that moment throughout the world; multitudes 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 pas
sions 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 salutary 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 fair 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 th day, and more_abundantly," we are obliged, in return, to say to them; "Boast not yourselves of to-morrow; for yo know not what a day may bring forth!"
No rank or possessions can make the guilty mind happy. IONYSIUS, 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 those 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 be prepared, and a gilded sofa, covered with rich embroidery, placed for his favourite. Side-boards, loaded with gold and silver plate of immense value, were arranged in the apartment.
3 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 indulging himself in state, he sees let down from the ceiling, exactly over his head, a glitring 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 glitter of 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 device, 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 sould bestow.