« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
this he drew his sword, and cried out with a loud voice, The sword of the Lord and of Gideon ; which so terrified his antagonist, that he was immediately disarmed, and thrown upon his knees. In this posture he begged his life; but the Major refused to grant it, before he had asked pardon for his offence in a short extemporary prayer which the old gentleman dictated to him upon the spot, and which his proselyte repeated after him in the presence of the whole Ordinary, that were now gathered about him in the garden.
13.-On Religion. RELIGION elevates us above terrestrial objects. What is the object of all our occupations here below ? Follow men to the bar, to the council board, to the public or private assemblies, whenever they meet and hold intercourse together. Human interests, human views, projects often frivolous, always limited, always perishable ; lo, these are the eternal subjects of our discussion and pursuit.
Let eloquence exhaust its art, and paint these vanities in deceitful colours; let our inclinations concur with it in seducing us. Precarious, fleeting happiness! Illusion of short duration! I know not what secret languor moves along with us in this confined sphere. A sentiment of satiety and disgust attaches itself to the return of these vain objects. We feel that we are not made to be always busied about this world; and that' the pleasures which we here taste are only introduc
Our thoughts require subjects more vast to occupy them, our affections demand objects more noble to fix them. It is to religion that we must look for them. It is at the foot of the altars raised in our temples to its honour, that man, throwing aside the burden of human things, and extricating himself from cold occupations, from grovelling interests, and from puerile attachments, hears a voice
which exalts, elevates, and rejoices his soul.
All is magnificent in the objects of religion. All her views comport with the highest faculties of our nature.
tory to others.
Her features awaken our most lively sensibility. De licious sentiments mingle themselves with the grand thoughts which she inspires. She displays her celestial origin, her celestial destination. It is not to small portions of time, a few years, a few generations, a few ages, that our speculations are here limited; they embrace eternity. They are not finite beings like ourselves with whom we hold intercourse. It is with a Being who has for attributes absolute perfection; for limits immensity itself. It is no longer the assemblage of a few objects frivolous, uncertain, and of dubious quality, that we seek. It is happiness compleie, solid, perfect in its nature and infinite in its duration like God himself.
14.-Remarks on the Swiftness of T'ime. , The natural advantages which arise from the position of the earth which we inhabit, with respect to the other planets, afford much employment to mathematical speculation, by which it has been discovered, that no other conformation of the system could have given such commodious distributions of light and heat, or imparted fertility and pleasure to so great a part of a revolving sphere.
It may be perhaps observed by the moralist, with equal reason, that our globe seems particularly fitted for the residence of a being, placed here only for a short time, whose task is to advance himself to a higher and happier state of existence, by unremitted vigilance of caution, and activity of virtue.
The duties required of man are such as human nature does not willingly perform, and such as those are inclined to delay who yet intend sometime to fulfil them. It was therefore necessary that this universal reluctance should be counteracted, and the drowsiness of hesitation wakened into resolve; that the danger of procrastination should be always in view, and the fallacies of security be hourly detected.
To this end all the appearances of nature uniformly conspire. Whatever we see on every side, reminds us of the lapse of time and the flux of life. The day and night succeed each other, the rotation of seasons diversifies the year, the sun rises, attains the meridian, declines and sets; and the moon every night changes its form.
The day has been considered as an image of the year, and a year as the representation of life. The morning answers to the spring, and the spring to childhood and youth; the noon corresponds to the summer, and the summer to the strength of manhood. The evening is an emblem of autumn, and autumn of declining life. The night with its silence and darkness shews the winter, in which all the powers of vegetation are benumbed; and the winter points out the time when life shall cease, with its hopes and pleasures.
He that is carried forward, however swiftly, by a motion equable and easy, perceives not the change of place but by the variation of objects. If the wheel of fife, which rolls thus silently along, passed on through undistinguishable uniformity, we should never mark its approaches to the end of the course. If one hour were like another; if the passage of the sun did not shew that the day is wasting; if the change of seasons did not impress upon us the flight of the year, quantities of duration equal to days and years would glide unobserved. If the parts of time were not variously coloured, we should never discern their departure or succession, but should live thoughtless of the past, and careless of the future, without will, and perhaps without power to compute the periods of life, or to compare the time which is already lost with that which may probably remain.
But the course of time is so visibly marked, that it is even observed by the passage, and by nations who have raised their minds
little above animal instinct: there are human beings, whose language does not supply them with words by which they can number five, but I have read of none that have not names for day and night, for summer and winter.
Yet it is certain that these admonitions of nature, however forcible, however importunate, are too often
vain; and that
who mark with such accuracy the course of time, appear to have little sensibility of the decline of life. Every man has something to do which he neglects ; every man has faults to conquer which he delays to combat.
So little do we accustom ourselves to consider the effects of time, that things necessary and certain often surprise us like unexpected contingencies.. We leave the beauty in her bloom, and, after an absence of twenty years, wonder, at our return, to find her faded. We meet those whom we left children, and can scarcely persuade ourselves to treat them as men. The traveller visits in age those countries through which he rambled in his youth, and hopes for merriment at the old place. The man of business, wearied with unsatisfactory prosperity, retires to the town of his nativity, and expects to play away the last years with the companions of his childhood, and recover youth in the fields where he once was young:
From this inattention, so general and so mischievous, let it be every man's study to exempt himself. Let him that desires to see others happy, make haste to give while his gift can be enjoyed, and remember that every moment of delay takes away something from the value of his benefaction. And let him who proposes his own happiness, reflect, that while he forms his purpose the day rolls on, and “the night cometh, when no man can work.”
15.-On Public Preaching. In public addresses to an audience, the great end of reformation is most effectually promoted ; because all the powers of voice and action, all the arts of eloquence, may be brought to give their assistance. But some of those arts depend on gifts of nature, and cannot be attained by any strength of genius or understanding; even where nature has been liberal of those necessary requisites, they must be cultivated by much practice, before the proper exercise of them can be acquired. Thus, a public speaker may have a voice that is musi
cal and of great compass; but it requires much time and abour to attain its just modulation, and that variety of flexion and tone, which a pathetic discourse requires. The same difficulty attends the acquisition of that propriety of action, that power over the expressive features of the countenance, particularly of the eyes, so necessary to command the hearts and passions of an audience.
It is usually thought that a preacher, who feels what he is saying himself, will naturally speak with that tone of voice and expression in his countenance, that best suits the subject, and which cannot fail to move his audience: thus it is said, a person under the influence of fear, anger, or sorrow, looks and speaks in the manner naturally expressive of these emotions. This is true in some measure; but it can never supposed, that any preacher will be able to enter into his subject with such real warmth upon every occasion. Besides, every prudent man will be afraid to abandon himself so entirely to any impression, as he must do to produce this effect. Most men, when strongly affected by any passion or emotion, have some peculiarity in their appearance, which does not belong to the natural expression of such an emotion. If this be not properly corrected, a public speaker, who is really warm and animated with his subject, may nevertheless make a very ridiculous and contemptible figure. It is the business of art, to shew nature in her most amiable and graceful forms, and not with those peculiarities in which she appears in particular instances; and it is this difficulty of properly representing nature, that renders the eloquence and action, both of the pulpit and the stage, acquisitions of such difficult attainment.
16.-How a Modern Lady of Fashion disposes of her
Time. Ir a modern lady of fashion was to be called to account for the disposition of her time, I imagine her defence would run in this style :-“ I can't, you know, be out of the world, nor act differently from every