Слике страница
PDF
ePub

rest pains and trials, is little more than the vigorous exercises of a mind in health. His patient dependence on that providence which looks through all eternity, his silent redignation, his ready accommodation of his thoughts and behaviour to its inscrutable ways, are at once the most excellent sort of self-denial, and a source of the most exalted transports. Society is the true sphere of human virtue. In social, active life, difficulties will perpetually be met with ; restraints of many kinds will be necessary; and studying to behave right in respect of these, is a discipline of the human heart, aseful to others, and improving to itself. Suffering is no duty, but where it is necessary to avoid guilt, or to do good; por pleasure a crime, but where it strengthens the influence of bad inclinations, or lessens the generous activity of virtue. The happiness allotted to man in his present state, is indeed faint and low, compared with his immortal prospects, and noble capacities : but yet whatever portion of it the distributing hand of heaven offers to each individual, is a needful support and refreshment for the present moment, so far as it may not hinder the attaining of his final destination.”

*** Řeturn then with me from continual misery, to moderáte enjoyment, and grateful alacrity: return from the contracted views of solitude, to the proper duties of a relative and dependent being. Religion is not confined to cells and closets, nor restrained to sullen retirement. These are the gloomy doctrines of SUPERSTItion, by which she endeavours to break those chains of benevolence and social affection, that link the welfare of every particular with that of the whole. Remember that the greatest honour you can pay the Author of your being, is a behaviour so cheerful as discovers a mind satisfied with its own dispensations.”

Here my preceptress paused; and I was going to express my acknowledgments for her discourse, when a ring of bells from the neighbouring village, and the new risen sun darting his beams through my windows, awoke me.

CARTER

CHAPTER II.

DIDACTIC PIECES.

SECTION I.

Vicious connexions the ruin of virtue.

AMONG the numerous causes which introduce corruption into the heart, and accelerate its growth, none is more unhappily powerful than the contagion which is diffused by bad examples, and heightened by particular connexions with persons of loose principles, or dissolute morals. This, in a licentious state of society, is the most common source of those vices and disorders which so much abound in great ci. ties

; and often proves, in a particular manner, fatal to the young; even to them whose beginnings were once auspicious and promising. It may thereforė be a useful employment of attention, to trace the progress of this principle of corruption; to examine the means by which“ evil communications" gradually undermine, and at last destroy "good morals.". It is indeed disagreeable to contemplate human nature, in this downward course of its progreso.

But it is always profitable to know our own infirmities and dangers.

As certain virtuous principles are still inherent in human nature, there are few who set out at first in the world without good dispositions. The warmth which belongs to youth naturally exerts itself in generous feelings, and sentiments of hogour; in strong attachment to friends, and the other emotions of a kind and tender heart. Almost all the plans with which persons who have been liberally educated, begin the world, are connected with honourable views. At that period, they repudiate whatever is mean or base. It is pleasing to them to think of commanding the esteem of those among whom they live, and of acquiring a name among men.

But alas ! how soon does this flattering prospect begin to be overcast! Desires of pleasure usher in temptation, and forward the growth of disorderly passions. Ministers of vice are seldom wanting to encourage and flatter the passions of the

young. Inferiors study to creep into favour by servile obsequiousness to all their desires and humours. Glad to find any apology for the indulgences of which they are fond, the young too readily listen to the voice of those who suggest to them, that strict notions of religion, order, and virtue, are old fashioned and illiberal ; that the, restraints which they impose are only fit to be prescribed to those who are in the first stage of pupilage ; or to be preached to the vulgar, who ought to be kept within the closest bounds of regularity and subjection. But the goodness of their hearts, it is insinuated to them, and the liberality of their views, will fully justify their emancipating themselves, in some degree, from the rigid discipline of parents and teachers.

Soothing as such insinuations are to the youthful and inconsiderate, their first steps, however, in vice, are cautious and timid, and occasionally checked by remorse.

As they begin to mingle more in the world, and emerge into the circles of gaiety and pleasure, finding these loose ideas counte. nanced by too general practice, they gradually become bolder in the liberties they take. If they have been bred to business, they begin to tire of industry, and look with contempt on the plodding race of citizens. If they are of superior rank, they think it becomes them to resemble their equals ; to assume that freedom of behaviour, that air of forwardness, that tone of dissipation, that easy negligence of those with whom they converse, which appear fashionable in high life. If affluence of fortune unhappily concurs to favour their inclinations, amusements and diversions succeed in a perpetual round; night and day are confounded; garning fills up their vacant intervals.;. they live wholly in public places; they run into many degrees of excess, disagreeable even to thembelves, merely from weak complaisance, and the fear of being ridiculed by their loose associates. Among these associates, the most hardened and determined always take the lead. The rest follow them with implicit submission; and make proficiency in this school of iniquity, in exact proportion to the weakness of their understandings, and the strength of their passions.

How many pass away, after this manner, some of the most valuable years of their life, tost in a whirlpool of what -cannot be called pleasure, so much as mere giddiness and folly ! In the habits of perpetual connexion with idle or licentious company, all reflection is lost ; while circulated from one empty head, and one thoughtless heart, to another,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

folly shoots up into all its most ridiculous forms; prompts the extravagant, unmeaning frolic in private ; or sallies forth in public into mad riot; impelled sometimes by intoxication, sometimes by mere levity of spirits.

Amidst this course of juvenile infatuation, I readily admit, that much good nature may still remain. Generosity and attachments may be found ; nay, some awe of religion may still subsist, and some remains of those good impressions which were made upon the mind in early days. It might yet be very possible to reclaim such persons, and to form them for useful and respectable stations in the world, if virtuous and improving society should happily succeed to the place of that idle crew, with whom they now associate ; if important bú. siness should occur, to bring them into a different sphere of action; or, if some seasonable stroke of affliction should in mercy be sent, to recall them to themselves, and to awaken' serious and manly thought. But, if youth and vigour, and flowing fortune continue ; if a similar succession of companions go on to amuse them, to engross their time, and to stir up their passions ; the day of ruin—let them take heed, and beware the day of irrecoverable ruin, begins to draw nigh. Fortune is squandered; health is broken; friends are offended, affronted, estranged ; aged parents, perhaps, sent afflicted and mourning to the dust.

There are certain degrees of vice which are chiefly stamped with the character of the ridiculous, and the contemptible : and there are also certain limits, beyond which, ifit pass, it becomes odious and detestable. If, to other corruptions which the heart has already received, be added the infusion of sceptical principles, that worst of all the “evil communications” of sinners, the whole of morals is then on the point of being overthrown. For, every crime can then be palliated to conscience ; every check and restraint which had hitherto remained, is taken away. He who, in the beginning of his course, soothed himself with the thought, that while he indulged his desires, he did hurt to no man ; now, pressed by the necessity of supplying those wants into which his expensive pleasures have brought him, goes on without remorse to defraud, and to oppress. The lover of pleasure now becomes hardened and cruel ; violates his trust, or betrays his friend ; becomes a man of treachery, or a man of plood; satisfying, or at least endeavouring all the while to satisfy himself, that circumstances form his excuse ; that by Recessity he is impelled; and that, in gratifying the passions

which nature bad implanted within him, he does no more than follow nature.

Miserable and deluded man! to what art thou come at the last ? Dost thou pretend to follow nature, when thou art contemning the laws of the God of nature ? when thou art stilling his voice within thee, which remonstrates against thy erimes ? when thou art violating the best part of thy nature, by counteracting the dictates of justice and humanity? Dost thou follow nature, when thou renderest thyself a useless animal on the earth ; and not useless only, but noxious to the society to which thou belongest, and to which thou art a disgrace ; noxious, by the bad example thou hast set ; 208jous, by the crimes thou hast committed ; sacrificing inno. cence to thy guilty pleasures, and introducing shame and ruin into the habitations of peace ; defrauding of their due the unsuspicious who have trusted thee; involving in the ruins of thy fortune many a worthy family; reducing the industrious and the aged to misery and want; by all which, if thou hast escaped the deserved sword of justice, thou hast at least brought on thyself the resentment, and the reproach, of all the respectable and the worthy.--Tremble then at the view of the gulf which is opening before thee. Look with horror at the precipice, on the brink of which thou standest : and if yet a moment be left for retreat, think how thou maýst escape, and be saved.

BLAIR.

SECTION II

On cheerfulness

(HAVE always preferred cheerfulness to mirth. The latter I consider as an act, the former as a habit of the mind. Mirth is short and transient, cheerfulness fixed and permagent. They who are subject to the greatest depressions of melancholy, are often raised into the greatest transports of Koirth ; on the contrary, cheerfulness, though it does not give the mind a gladness so exquisite, prevents it from falling into any depths of sorrow. Mirth is like a flash of lightning, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of day-light in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity.

Men of austere principles look upon mirth, as too wanton and digsolute for a state of probation, and as filled with a

« ПретходнаНастави »