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'Tis yours to live as Nature bids to live,
Yours to fulfil her ever-bounteous plan : All other systems lead but to deceive;
'Tis simple Nature is the guide of man. “Be blest," is the first law to mortals giv'n, The only end of man,—the only wish of Heav'n.
Gaiety is the balm of life; and there is the most reason to believe that person's religion will be the most lasting, whose temper is the most cheerful. They become insensibly tired of religion, who become tired of themselves. Every thing then becomes a burden, and the whole concludes with sinking into a dismal misanthropy, or the greatest dissipation. True devotion neither consists in a careless air, nor in a brown habit. Most votaries imagine, that clothes of a dark colour please the celestial beings more than those of a lighter and more lively hue; yet we find the angels are always painted either in white or blue. The wise do not love ostentatious piety: modesty does not depend upon colours; if it be decent in dress and manner, it is what it really ought to be. Let every thought and every action be directed to the honour of God; for that is the sum of religion.
Had it not been for the ill conduct of the votaries of religion, it would not have been exposed to so much ridicule from the men of the world. Almost always inflamed with bitter zeal, they are never satisfied except with themselves; and they would have every one submit to their whims, because their piety is often the effect only of caprice.
Every person who is truly pious, is patient, gentle, and humble; unsuspecting of ill, never splenetic, and conceals, when he cannot excuse, the faults of his neighbour. Every truly pious person rejoices with those that rejoice, and weeps with those that weep, according to the advice of St. Paul, “to bear each others burdens;" for sympathy is an eminent trait in the Christian character.
True devotion is charity, and without it nothing we can do is of use to salvation. False devotees do little less injury to the cause of religion, than the openly profane. Always ready to kindle against those who do not agree with them in their humours and opinions, they are agitated by a restless, impetuous, persecuting zeal, and are commonly either fanatical or superstitious, hypocrites or ignorant.
When you find that there is neither rancour in your heart, nor pride in your mind, nor singularity in your actions, and that you observe the precepts of the gospel without affectation or trifling, you may then believe you are in the way of salvation.
Young people are often disgusted with piety, because too great perfection is required; and works of penitence even tire ourselves, when they are not moderate. The common way of life is most certain, though perhaps not the most perfect ;—it is much too violent, to forbid all recreation and relaxation.
Piety does not require us to be self-tormentors. Religion teaches us what we should do, and what we ought to believe; and there can be no better instructor than the Gospel. We should mingle solitude with society, and contract acquaintance with such only as will neither lead us to melancholy nor to dissipation.
We should vary our reading. There are some books for recreation, which may succeed the more serious. St. Paul, in giving rules for decent conversation, permits us to say things that are cheerful and agreeable.
To imagine we are always offending, were to serve God like slaves. The yoke of the Lord is easy, and his burden is light. “Love God,” says St. Augustine, “and do what thou wilt;" because then you will do nothing but what is agreeable to him, and you will act, with respect to him, as a son towards a father whom he loves.
Above all things, we should be of a candid, liberal, and charitable spirit; religion has humanity for a basis, and they who are not kind and charitable, cannot be Christians.
Religious persons may dress like the rest of the world, according to their rank in life, without being either too foppish or too negligent. True religion
shuns extremès; it is only when counterfeited, that men affect a slovenly dress, a declining head, an austere countenance, and a whining tone.
There is, however, a conformity to the fashions of the world, against which we are particularly cautioned in the gospel, and of this admonition we never ought to lose sight. The fascinations of liberality might tempt us to transgress the rules which it prescribes; but there are limits, beyond which, virtue can never sanction a laxity of sentiment, without endangering her own reputation. To know these boundaries, constitutes one essential branch of human wisdom.
Walking, as we are, in a state of comparative twilight on these points, and liable to daily error, to know the path of safety would be a most desirable acquisition. This, however, on all occasions, is more than man, in his present condition, can ever hope to attain. Yet he cannot be insensible, that his safety lies within the precincts which the gospel prescribes; and here his moral virtues, and his intellectual energies, may operate without control.
I shall introduce to the reader an ANDROMETER, constructed by the late Sir William Jones, which affords a striking specimen of the extent of his views, in the acquisition of intellectual excellence; it may be defined,-a scale of human attainments and enjoyment: he assumes seventy years, as the limit of exertion or fruition; and, with a view to progressive improvement, each year is appropriated to a particular study or occupation. The arrangement of what was to be learned or practised, during this period, admits of a fourfold division.
The first, comprising thirty years, is assigned to the acquisition of knowledge, as preparatory to active occupation.
The second, of twenty years, is dedicated principally to public and professional employment.
Of the third, which contains ten years, the first five are allotted to literary and scientific composition; and the remainder to the continuation of former pursuits.
The last ten, constituting the fourth division, which begins with the sixty-first year, are devoted to the enjoyment of the fruits of his labours; and the conclusion of the whole is specified to be-a Preparation for Eternity.
In the construction of the Andrometer, it is to be considered as a mere sketch, never intended for publication. In the formation of it, Mr. Jones probably had a view to those objects, the attainment of which he then meditated. We are not to conclude, that the preparation for eternity, which stands at the top of his scale, was to be deferred until the seventieth year; it is rather to be considered as the object to which be was perpetually to look during the wbole course of his life, and which was exclusively to engross the attention of his latter years. He was too well convinced of the precarious tenure of human existence, to allow himself to rest the momentous concern of his eternal welfare, on the fallacious expectation of a protracted life ; he knew, moreover, too well the power of habit, to admit a supposition, that it could be effectually resisted or changed at the close of life. Neither are we to suppose that moral and religious lessons, which constitute the occupation of the eighth year, were from that period to be discontinued, although they were not afterwards mentioned; but the meaning of Mr. Jones probably was, that it should be seriously and regularly inculcated at an age when the intellectual faculties had acquired strength and expansion by preceding exercises. That the order of arrangement in the Andrometer could never be strictly adhered to in the application of our time, and cultivation of our talents, if it were intended, is evident; but to those who, from their situation, are enabled to avail themselves of the suggestions which it furnishes, it will supply useful hints for improvement, and serve as a standard of comparison for their progress.
With these explanations, I present it to the reader, reversing, for the sake of convenience, the order of the Scale,
Ideas received through the Senses.
French and Italian.
Compositions in Verse and Prose.
Law and Eloquence.
Private and social Virtues.
The Learned protected.
55 to 60_
Perfection of earthly Happiness.
-PREPARATION FOR ETERNITY-completod.