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passed his door; he only desisted from doing good when he had no longer the power of relieving.
From a fortune thus spent in benevolence, he expected a grateful return from those he had formerly relieved, and made his application with confidence of redress : the ungrateful world soon grew weary of his importunity; for pity is a short-lived passion. He soon, therefore, began to view mankind in a very different light from that in which he had before beheld them: he perceived a thousand vices he had never before suspected to exist: wherever he turned, ingratitude, dissimulation, and treachery, contributed to increase his detestation of them. Resolved, therefore, to continue no longer in a world which he hated, and which repaid his detestation with contempt, he retired to this region of sterility, in order to brood over his resentment in solitude, and converse with the only honest heart he knew, namely, with his own.
A cave was his only shelter from the inclemency of the weather; fruits gathered with difficulty from the mountain's side, his only food; and his drink was fetched, with danger and toil
, from the headlong torrent. In this manner he lived, sequestered from society, passing the hours in meditation, and sometimes exulting that he was able to live independently of his fellow-creatures.
At the foot of the mountain an extensive lake displayed its glassy bosom; reflecting, on its broad surface, the impending horrors of the mountain. To this capacious mirror he would sometimes descend; and, reclining on its steep bank, cast an eager - look on the smooth expanse that lay before him. “ How beautiful,” he often cried, “ is nature ! how lovely, even in her wildest scenes! How finely contrasted is the level plain that lies beneath me, with yon awful pile that hides its tremendous head in clouds! But the beauty of these scenes is no way comparable with their utility ; from hence an hundred rivers are supplied, which distribute health and verdure to the various countries through which they flow,
Every part of the universe is beautiful, just, and wise: but man, vile man,
is a solecism in nature; the only monster in the creation. Tempests and whirlwinds have their use; but vicious, ungrateful man is a blot in the fair page of universal beauty. Why was I born of that detested species, whose vices are almost a reproach to the wisdom of the divine Creator! Were men entirely free from vice, all would be uniformity, harmony, and order. A world of moral rectitude should be the result of a perfectly moral agent. Why, why, then, 0 Alla! must I be thus confined in darkness, doubt, and despair ?"
Just as he uttered the word despair, he was going to plunge into the lake beneath him, at once to satisfy his doubts, and put a period to his anxiety, when he perceived a most majestic being walking on the surface of the water, and approaching the bank on which he stood. So unexpected an object at once checked his purpose; he stopped, contemplated, and fancied he saw something awful and divine in his aspect.
“ Son of Adam," cried the genius, "stop thy rash purpose; the Father of the faithful has seen thy justice, thy integrity, thy miseries, and hath sent me to afford and administer relief. Give me thine hand, and follow, without trembling, wherever I shall lead. In me behold the Genius of Conviction, kept by the great Prophet to turn from their errors those who go astray, not from curiosity, but a rectitude of intention. Follow me, and be wise."
Asem now departed from the water-side in tranquillity; and, leaving his horrid mansion, travelled to Segastan, his native city, where he diligently applied himself to commerce, and put in practice that wisdom he had learned in solitude. The frugality of a few years soon produced opulence; the number of his domestics increased; his friends came to him from every part of the city; nor did he receive them with disdain ; and a youth of misery was concluded with an old age of affluence and ease.
48.- On the English Clergy, and Popular Preachers.
It is allowed on all hands, that our English Divines receive a more liberal education, and improve that education by frequent study, more than any others of this reverend profession in Europe. In general, also, it may be justly
be observed, that a greater degree of gentility is annexed to the character of a student in England than elsewhere; by which means our clergy have an opportunity of seeing better company while young, and of sooner wearing off those prejudices young men are apt to imbibe even in the best regulated universities, and which may termed the vulgar errors of the wise.
Yet, with all these advantages, it is very obvious, that the clergy are no where so little thought of by the populace as here; and though our divines are foremost with respect to abilities, yet they are found last in the effects of their ministry; the vulgar, in general, appearing no way impressed with a sense of religious duty. I am not for whining at the depravity of the times, or for endeavouring to paint a prospect more gloomy than in nature; but certain it is, no person who has travelled will contradict me, when I aver, that the lower orders of mankind, in other countries, testify, on every occasion, the profoundest awe of religion ; while, in England, they are scarcely awakened into a sense of its duties, even in circumstances of the greatest distress.
This dissolute and fearless conduct, foreigners are apt to attribute to climate and constitution : may not the vulgar, being pretty much neglected in our exhortations from the pulpit, be a conspiring cause? Our divines seldom stoop to their mean capacities; and they who want instruction most, find least in our religious assemblies.
Whatever may become of the higher orders of mankind, who are generally possessed of collateral motives to virtue, the vulgar should be particularly regarded, whose behaviour in civil life is totally hinged upon their hopes and fears.
Those who constitute the basis of the great fabric of society should be particularly regarded; for, in policy as in architecture, ruin is most fatal when it begins from the bottom.
Men of real sense and understanding prefer a prudent mediocrity to precarious popularity; and, fearing to outdo their duty, leave it half done. Their discourses from the pulpit are generally dry, methodical, and unaffecting, delivered with the most insipid calmness; insomuch, that should the peaceful preacher lift his head over the cushion, which he alone seems to address, he might discover his audience, instead of being awakened to remorse, actually sleeping over his methodical and laboured composition.
This method of preaching is, however, by some called an address to reason, and not to passions; this is styled the making of converts from conviction : but such are indifferently acquainted with human nature, who are not sensible, that men seldom reason about their faults till they are committed. Reason is but a weak antagonist, when headlong passion dictates : in all such cases, we should arm one passion against another; it is with the human mind as in nature, from the mixture of two opposites, the result is most frequently neutral tranquillity. Those who attempt to reason us out of our follies, begin at the wrong end, since the attempt naturally presupposes us capable of reason; but to be made capable of this, is one great point of the cure.
There are but few talents requisite to become a popular preacher; for the people are easily pleased if they perceive any endeavours in the orator to please them: the meanest qualifications will work this effect, if the preacher sincerely sets about it. Perhaps little, indeed, very little more is required, than sincerity and assurance; and a becoming sincerity is always certain of producing a becoming assurance. “ Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum ipsi tibi. If you wish me to weep, you must first weep yourself”-is so trite a quotation, that it almost demands an apology to repeat it; yet, though all allow the justice of the remark, how few do we find put it in practice! Our pulpit orators, with the most faulty bashfulness, seem impressed rather with an awe of their audience than with à just respect for the truths they are about to deliver: they, of all professors, seem the most bashful, who have the greatest right to glory in their commission.
49.-On Universal Benevolence. THOUGH our effectual good offices very
seldom be extended to any wider society than that of our own
country; our good will is circumscribed by no boundary, but may embrace the immensity of the universe. We cannot form the idea of any innocent and sensible being, whose happiness we should not desire, or to whose misery, when distinctly brought home to the imagina tion, we should not have some degree of aversion. The idea of a mischievous, though sensible being, indeed, naturally provokes our hatred, but the ill-will which, in this case, we bear to it, is really the effect of the sympathy which we feel with the misery and resentment of those other innocent and sensible beings, whose happiness is disturbed by its malice.
This universal benevolence, how noble and generous soever, can be the source of no solid happiness to any man who is not thoroughly convinced that all the inhab itants of the universe, the meanest as well as the greatest, are under the immediate care and protection of that great, benevolent, and all-wise Being, who directs all the movements of nature; and who is determined, by his own unalterable perfections, to maintain in it, at all times, the greatest possible quantity of happiness. To this universal benevolence, on the contrary, the very suspicion of a fatherless world, must be the most melancholy of all reflections ; from the thought that all the unknown regions of infinite and incomprehensible space may be filled with nothing but endless misery and wretchedness.. All the splendour of the highest prosperity can never enlighten the gloom with which so dreadful an idea must necessarily overshadow the imagination; nor, in a wise and virtuous man, can all the sorrow of the most afflicting adversity ever dry up the joy which necessarily springs from the habitual and thorough conviction of the truth of the contrary system.
The wise and virtuous man is at all times willing that his own private interest should be sacrificed to the public interest of his own particular order or society. He is at all times willing, too, that the interest of this order or society should be sacrificed to the greater interests of the state or sovereignty, of which it is only a subordinate part. He should, therefore, be equally willing that all those inferior interests should be sacri