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enjoyment of pleafure: but I fhall at prefent decline confidering the fubject in this view; and confine myself to point out the direct effects of a proper attention to the distreffes of life upon our moral and religious character.
In the first place, the houfe of mourning is calculated to give a proper check to our natural thoughtleffness and levity. The indolence of mankind, and their love of pleasure, spread through all characters and ranks fome degree of averfion to what is grave and ferious. They grasp at any object, either of bufinefs or amufement, which makes the prefent moment pafs fmoothly away; which carries their thoughts abroad, and faves them from the trouble of reflecting on themselves. With too many, this paffes into a habit of conftant diffipation. If their fortune and rank allow them to indulge their inclinations, they devote themfelves to the purfuit of amusement through all its different forms. The skilful arrangement of its fucceffive scenes, and the preparatory ftudy for shining in each, are the only exertions in which their understanding is employed. Such a mode of life may keep alive, for a while, a frivolous vivacity it may improve men in fome of thofe exterior accomplishments, which fparkle in the eyes of the giddy and the vain; but it muft fink them in the efteem of all be wife. It renders them ftrangers to themfelves; and ufelefs, if not pernicious to the world. They lofe every manly principle. Their minds become relaxed and effeminate. All that is great or refpectable in the human character is buried under a mafs of trifles and follies.
If fome measures ought to be taken for refcuing the mind from this difgraceful levity; if fome principles mult be acquired, which may give more dignity and steadiness to conduct; where are these to be looked for? Not furely in the houfe of feafting, where every object flatters the fenfes, and ftrengthens the feductions to which we are already prone; where the fpirit of diffipation circulates from heart to heart; and the children of folly mutually admire and are admired. It is in the fober and ferious houfe of mourn. ing that the tide of vanity is made to turn, and a new direction given to the current of thought. When fome affect ing incident presents a ftrong difcovery of the deceitfulness of all worldly joy, and rouses our fenfibility to human wo; when we behold those with whom we had lately mingled in the houfe of feafting, funk by fome of the fudden vici i. tudes of life into the vale of mifery; or when, in fad filence,
we stand by the friend whom we had loved as our own foul, ftretched on the bed of death; then is the feason when the world begins to appear in a new light; when the heart opens to virtuous fentiments, and is led into that train of reflection which ought to direct life. He, who before knew not what it was to commune with his heart on any serious fubject, now puts the queftion to himself, for what purpose he was fent forth into this mortal, tranfitory ftate; what his fate is likely to be when it concludes; and what judgment he ought to form of thofe pleasures which amufe for a little, but which, he now fees, cannot fave the heart from anguish in the evil day. Touched by the hand of thoughtful melancholy, that airy edifice of blifs, which faney had raised up for him, vanishes away. He beholds, in the place of it, the lonely and barren defert, in which, furrounded with many a difagreeable object, he is left mufing upon himself. The time which he has mifpent, and the faculties which he has mifemployed, his foolith levity and his criminal pursuits, all tile in painful profpect before him. That unknown state of existence into which, race after race, the children of men pals, trikes his mind with folema awe, Is there no courfe by which he can retrieve his paft errors? Is there no fuperior power to which he can look up for aid? Is there no plan of conduct which, if it exempt him not from forrow, can at least procure him confolation amidst the distressful exigencies of life? Such meditations as thefe, fuggefted by the houfe of mourning, frequently produce a change in the whole character. They revive thofe fparks of goodness which were nearly extinguished in the diffipated mind; and give rife to principles of conduct more rational in themselves, and more fuitable to the human ftate.
In the next place, impreffions of this nature not only produce moral ferioufiefs, but awaken fentiments of piety, and bring men into the fanctuary of religion. One might, indeed, imagine that the bleffings of a profperous condition would prove the most natural incitements to devotion; and that when men were happy in themselves, and faw nothing but happiness around them, they could not fail gratefully to acknowledge that God who "giveth them all things richly to enjoy." Yet fuch is their corruption, that they are never more ready to forget their benefactor, than when loaded with his benefits. The giver is concealed from their carelefs and inattentive view, by the cloud of his own gifts, When their life continues to flow in one smooth current, an
ruffled by any griefs; when they neither receive in their own circumstances, nor allow themfelves to receive from the circumftances of others, any admonitions of human inftability, they not only become regardless of Providence, but are in hazard of contemning it Glorying in their ftrength, and lifted up by the pride of life into fuppofed independence, that impious fentiment, if not uttered by the mouth, yet too often lurks in the hearts of many during their flourishing periods, "What is the Almighty that we should ferve him, and what profit fhould we have if we pray unto him?”
If fuch be the tendency of the houfe of feafting, how neceffary is it that, by fome change in their fituation, mer fhould be obliged to enter into the house of mourning, in order to recover a proper fenfe of their dependent state! It is there, when forfaken by the gaieties of the world, and left alone with the Almighty, that we are made to perceive how awful his government is; how easily human greatness bends before him; and how quickly all our defigns and measures, at his interpofal, vanith into nothing.. There, when the countenance is fad, and the affections are foftened by grief; when we fit apart involved in ferious thought, looking down as from fome eminence on those dark clouds that hang over the life of man, the arrogance of profperity is humbled, and the heart melts under the impreffions of religion. Formerly we were taught, but now we fee, we feel how much we ftand in need of an Almighty Protector, amidst the changes of this vain world. Our foul cleaves to him who "defpifes not, nor abhors the affliction of the af flicted." Prayer flows forth of its own accord from the relenting heart, that he may be our God, and the God of our friends in diftrefs; that he may never forfake us while we are fojourning in this land of pilgrimage; may ftrengthen us under its calamities, and bring us hereafter to those habitations of rest, where we, and they whom we love, may be delivered from the trials which all are now doomed to endure. The difcoveries of his mercy, which he has made in the gospel of Christ, are viewed with joy, as fo many rays of light fent down from above to difpel, in fome degree, the furrounding gloom. A Mediator and Interceffor with the Sovereign of the univerfe appear comfortable names; and the refurrection of the just becomes the powerful cordial of grief. In fuch moments as thefe, which we may juftly call happy moments, the foul participates of all the pleasures of devotion. It feels the power of religion to
fupport and relieve. It is softened without being broken. It is full, and it pours itself forth, if we may be allowed to ufe the expreffion, into the bofom of its merciful Creator.
Enough has been faid to fhow, that, on various occafions, "forrow may be better than laughter." Wouldst thou acquire the habit of recollection, and fix the principles of thy conduct; wouldst thou be led up to thy Creator and Redeemer, and be formed to fentiments of piety and devotion; wouldst thou be acquainted with those mild and tender affections which delight the compaffionate and humane; wouldst thou have the power of fenfual appetites tamed and corrected, and thy foul raised above the ignoble love of life, and fear of death? go, my brother, go-not to scenes of pleasure and riot, not to the house of feasting and mirth -but to the filent houfe of mourning; and adventure to dwell for a while among objects that will foften thy heart. Contemplate the lifeless remains of what once was fair and flourishing. B. ing home to thyfelf the viciffitudes of life. Recall the remembrance of the friend, the parent, or the child, whom thou tenderly lovedit. Look back on the days of former years; and think on the companions of thy youth, who now fleep in the duft. Let the vanity, the mutability and the forrows of the human ftate, rife in full prospect before thee; and though thy "countenance may be made fad, thy heart shall be made better." This fadnefs, though for the prefent it dejects, yet fhall in the end fortify thy fpirit; infpiring thee with fuch fentiments, and prompting fuch refolutions as fhall enable thee to enjoy, with more real advantage, the reft of life. Difpofitions of this nature form one part of the character of thofe mourners whom our Saviour hath pronounced blessed; and of thofe to whom it is promised, that "fowing in tears, they fhall reap in joy." A great difference there is between being ferious and melancholy; and a melancholy too there is of that kind which deferves to be fometimes indulged.
* Religion hath, on the whole, provided for every good man, abundant materials of confolation and relief. How dark foever the prefent face of nature may appear, it dif pels the darkness, when it brings into view the entire fyf tem of things, and extends our survey to the whole kingdom of God. It reprefents that we now behold as only a part, and a small part, of the general order. It affures us, that though here, for wile ends, mifery and forrow are permitted to have place, these temporary evils fhall, in the end,
advance the happiness of all who love God, and are faithful to their duty. It fhows them this mixed and confufed fcene vanishing by degrees away, and preparing the introduction of that ftate, where the house of mourning shall be fhut up forever; where no tears are feen and no groans heard; where no hopes are fruftrated, and no virtuous connexions diffolved; but where, under the light of the Divine countenance, goodness shall flourish in perpetual felicity. Thus, though religion may occafionally chaften our mirth with fadnefs of countenance, yet under that sadness it allows not the heart of good men to fink. It calls upon them to rejoice "because the Lord reigneth who is their Rock, and the most high God who is their Redeemer." Reafon likewife joins her voice with that of religion; forbidding us to make peevish and unreasonable complaints of human life, or injuriously to afcribe to it more evil than it contains Mixed as the present state is, she pronounces, that generally, if not always, there is more happiness than mifery, more pleasure than pain, in the condition of man.
THERON AND ASPASIO.
Beauty and utility combined in the productions of nature.
THERON and ASPASIO took a morning walk into the fields; their fpirits cheered, and their imaginations lively; gratitude glowing in their hearts, and the whole creation fmiling around them.
After sufficient exercise, they feated themfelves on a moffy hillock, which offered its couch. The rifing fun had vifited the fpot, to dry up the dews and exhale the damps, that might endanger health; to open the violets, and to expand the primrofes, that decked the green. The whole fhade of the wood was collected behind them: and a beautiful, extenfive, diverfified landfcape fpread itself before them.
Theron, according to his ufual manner, made many improving remarks on the profpect, and its furniture. He traced the footsteps of an All-comprehending contrivance,