Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

with terror, was destitute of enjoyment, because he was deftitute of hope, and was perpetually tormented by the dread of losing that which yet he did not enjoy. The song of the birds had been repeated till it was not heard, and the flowers had so often recurred, that their beauty was not seen ; the river glided by unnoticed, and he feared to lift his eye to the prospect, left he should behold the waste that circumscribed it. But he that toiled through tlie valley was happy, because he looked forward with hope. Thus, to the sojourner upon earth, it is of little moment whether the path he treads be strewed with flowers or with thorns, if he perceives himself to approach those regions, in comparison of which the thorns and the flowers of this wilderness lose their distinction, and are both alike impotent to give pleasure or pain.

“ What then has eternal Wisdom unequally distributed? That which can make every station happy, and without which every station must be wretched, is acquired by virtue ; and virtue is possible to all. Remember, Almet, the vision which thou hast seen; and let my words be written on the tablet of thy heart, that thou mayest direct the wanderer to happiness, and justify God to man."

While the voice of Azoran was yet founding in my ear, the prospect vanished from before me, and I found myself again fitting at the porch of the temple. The sun was gone down, the multitude was retired to rest, and the solemn quiet of midnight concurred with the resolution of my doubts, to complete the tranquillity of my mind.

Such, my son, was the vision which the prophet vouch. safed me, not for my sake only, but for thine.' Thou halt fought felicity in temporal things; and therefore thou art disappointed. Let not instruction be loft upon thee ; but go thy way, let thy flock clothe the naked, and thy table feed the hungry; deliver the poor from oppression, and let thy conversation be above. Thus shalt thou “rejoice in hope," and look forward to the end of life as the consum. mation of thy felicity.

Almet, in whose breast devotion kindled as he spoke, returned into the temple, and the stranger departed in peace.

HAW KESWORTH.

SECTION VI.
Religion and Superftition contrasted.

A VISION. I had lately a very remarkable dream, which made fo Itrong an impression on me, that I remember every word of it, and if you are not better employed, you may read the relation of it as follows:

I thought I was in the midst of a very entertaining set of company, and extremely delighted in attending to a lively conversation, when, on a sudden, I perceived one of the most shocking figures that imagination can frame, ad. vancing towards me. She was dressed in black, her skin was contracted into a thousand wrinkles, her eyes deep sunk in her head, and her complexion pale and livid as the countenance of death. Her looks were filled with terror and unrelenting severity, and her hands armed with whips and scorpions. As soon as she came ncar, with a horrid frown, and a voice that chilled my very blood, she bade .me follow her. I obeyed, and she led me through rugged paths, beset with briers and thorns, into a deep folitary val. ley. Wherever she passed, the fading verdure withered beneath her steps ; her peftilential breath infected the air with malignant vapours, obscured the lustre of the sun, and involved the fair face of heaven in universal gloom. Dismal howlings resounded through the forest ; from every baleful tree, the night raven uttered his dreadful note ; and the prospect was filled with defolation and horror. In the midit of this tremendous scene, my execrable guide addressed me in the following manner :

“ Retire with me, O rash, unthinking mortal ! from the vain allurements of a deceitful world ; and learn, that pleasure was not designed the portion of human life. Man was born to mourn and to be wretched. This is the condition of all below the stars ; and whoever endeavours to oppose it acts in contradiction to the will of Heaven. Fly then from the fatal enchantments of youth and social delight, and liere consecrate the solitary hours to lamentation and wo. Misery, is the duty of all sublunary beings ; and every enjoyment is an offence to the Deity, who is to be worshipped only by the mortification of every sense of pleasure, and the everlalting exercise of fighs and tears."

This melancholy picture of life quite funk my spirits, and seemed to annihilate every principle of joy within me. I

heart.

threw myself beneath a blasted yew, where the winds blew cold and dismal round my head, and dreadful apprehenfions chilled my

Here I resolved to lie till the hand of death, which I impatiently invoked, should put an end to the miseries of a life so deplorably wretched. In this fad situation I espied on one hand of me a deep muddy river, whose heavy waves rolled on in flow, sullen murmurs. Here I determined to plunge ; and was just upon the brink, when I found myself suddenly drawn back. I turned about, and was surprised by the fight of the loveliest object I had ever beheld. The most engaging charms of youth and beauty appeared in all her form ; effulgent glories sparkled in her eyes, and their awful fplendours were foftened by the gentlest looks of compallion and peace.

At her approach, the frightful spectre, who had before tormented me, vanished away, and with her all the horrors she had caused. The gloomy clouds brightened into cheerful sunshine, the groves recovered their verdure, and the whole region looked gay and blooming as the garden of Eden. I was quite transported at this unexpected change, and reviving pleasure began to gladden my thoughts : when with a look of inexpressible sweetness, my beauteous deliver. er thus uttered her divine instructions.

“ My name is RELIGION. I am the offspring of Truth and Love, and the

parent of BENEVOLENCE, HOPE, and Joy. That monster, from whose power I have freed you, is called SUPERSTITION : she is the child of DiscONTENT, and her followers are Fear and Sorrow. Thus different as we are, she has often the insolence to assume my name and character ; and seduces unhappy mortals to think us the fame, till the, at length, drives them to the borders of DESPAIR, that dreadful abyss into which you were just going to fink.

“ Look round, and survey the various beauties of the globe, which Heaven has destined for the seat of the human race; and confider whether a world thus exquisitely framed could be meant for the abode of misery and pain. For what end has the lavish hand of Providence diffused innu. merable objects of delight, but that all might rejoice in the privilege of existence, and be filled with gratitude to the beneficent Author of it? Thus to enjoy the blessings he has sent, is virtue and obedience ; and to reject them merely as means of pleasure, is pitiable ignorance, or absurd per. verseness. Infinite goodness is the fource of created exist

ence. The proper tendency of every rational being, from the highest order of raptured seraphs, to the meanest rank of men, is, to rise incessantly from lower degrees of happi. ness, to higher. They have faculties alligned them for various orders of delights."

“ What !" cried i, “is this the language of Religion? Does she lead her votaries through flowery paths, and bid them pass an unlaborious life ? li here are the painful toils of virtue, the mortifications of penitents, and the selfdenying exercises of saints and heroes ?

“ The true enjoyments of a reasonable being," answered the mildly, “ do not confilt in unbounded indulgence, or luxurious eafe, in the tumult of pallions, the languor of indolence, or the flutter of light amusements. Yielding to immortal pleasure corrupts the mind ; living to animal and triffiüg ones debases it : both in their degree disqualify it for its genuine good, and consign it over to wretchedness. Whoever would be really happy, must make the diligent and regular exercise of his superior powers his chief attention ; adoring the perfections of his Maker, expressing good-will to his fellow-creatures, and cultivating inward rectitude. To his lower faculties he must allow such gratifications as will, by refreshing, invigorate his nobler pursuits. In the regions inhabited by angelic natures, unmingled felicity forever blooms; joy flows there with a perpetual and abundant stream, nor needs any mound to check its course. Beings conscious of a frame of mind originally diseafed, as all the human race has cause to be, muit use the regimen of a stricter self-government. Whoever has been guilty of voluntary excesses must patiently submit both to the painful workings of nature, and needful severities of medicine, in order to his cure. Still he is en titled to a moderate share of whatever alleviating accommodations this fair mansion of his merciful Parent affords, confiftent with his recovery. And, in proportion as this recovery advances, the liveliest joy will spring from his secret sense of an amended and improving heart. So far from the horrors of despair is the condition even of the guilty. Shudder, poor mortal, at the thought of the gulf into which thou walt just now going to plunge.

" While the most faulty have every encouragement to amend, the more innocent foul will be supported with fill sweeter confolations under all its experience of humaninfirm. ities, supported by the gladdening assurances, that every fir

cere endeavour to outgrow them, shall be affifted, accepted, and rewarded. To such a one, the lowliest self-abafement is but a deep laid foundation for the most elevated hopes ; since they who faithfully examine and acknowledge what they are, shall be enabled, under my conduct, to become what they desire. The christian and the hero are infeparable ; and to the afpirings of unaffuming trust and filial confidence, are set no bounds. To him who is animated with a view of obtaining approbation from the Sovereign of the universe, no difficulty is insurmountable. Secure in this pursuit of every needful aid, his conflict with the severest pains and trials, is little more than the vigorous exercises of a mind in health. His patient dependence on that Proyidence which looks through all eternity, his filent resignation, 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 Itudying to beliave right in respect of these, is a discipline of the human heart, useful to others, and improving to it. felf. Suffering is no duty, but where it is necessary to avoid guilt, or to do good ; nor pleasure a crime, but where it strengthens the influence of bad inclinations, or lessens the generous activity of virtue. The happiness allot. ted to man in his present state is indeed faint and low, compared with his immortal prospects, and noble capaci. ties: but yet whatever portion of it the distributing hand of Heaven offers to each individual, is a needful support "and refrelhment for the present moment, so far as it may not hinder the attaining of his final destination.

• Return then with me from continual misery, to mod. erate enjoyment, and grateful alacrity : return from the contracted views of folitude, to the proper duties of a relative and dependent being

RELIGION is not confined to cells and clolets, nor reltrained to sullen retirement. These are the gloomy doctrines of SUPERSTITION, by which she endeayours 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 cheer. ful as discovers a mind satisfied with its own dispenLations."

« ПредишнаНапред »