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ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE
BY JOHN EVANS, A M.
Master of a Seminary for a limited Number of Pupils,
Pullin's Row, Islington.
Magnus ab integro SÆCLORUM nascitur ordo.
Mighty years begun From their first orbin RADIANT CIRCLES run!
DRYDEN Nothing is lasting on the world's wide stage, As sung, and wisely sung, the Grecian sage; And man, who through the globe extends his sway, Reigos but the sovereign creature of a day; One generation comes-another goes, Time blends the happy with the man of wocs ; A different face of things each age appears, And all things alter in a course of years.
*HE moralist has recommended stated times for
of meditation. At such periods the faculties are awakened, and the soul is set in motion. Thus stimulated, the sluggish current of our thoughts becomes quickened, Howing on with an accelerated rapidity. Such is precisely our present situation. The commencement of a century occurs not twice in our life. This is a serious consideration.-May it be rendered subservient to our moral improvement!
Standing as it were on an eminence and looking around us, we find the new revolving century replete with the most important, though obvious, topics of instruction.
1. We cannot enter on the present period without glancing at the century already expired. It would betray a strange insensibility, not to cast one “ lingering look after an old friend, whom we have now quitted for ever. The 17th century, which preceded it, was marked by disasters of an extraordinary kind. The civil wars between Charles the I. and his parliament, which terminated in the decapitation of that monarch--the act of uniformity, by which two thousand pious and learned ministers were ejected from their livings in the church, reducing them and their families to beggary--the plague, which swept away thousands of the inhabitants of this metropolis—the fire of Lon. don, which laid 436 acres of the city in ruins the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion, on account of which hundreds were butchered by a ruffian, under the forms of law
and the abdication of James the II. which threw the nation for a time into the utmost confusion, are events not to be forgotten. In the succeeding century, now elapsed, nothing equally pernicious has occurred. Though sadly disordered towards the latter end of it by WAR, yet it may be pronounced, on the whole, favour. able to human impro ement. We have, however, lost during this period some of the first men, whose genius and wisdom have at once instructed and exalted the nation. Our Marlboroughs and our Newtons are no more! Such recollections, though melancholy, cannot be avoided in the retrospective survey of a century! These are thoughts which will force themselves on the mind, in spite of every effort to exclude them :When down thy vale, unlock'd by solemn thought, That loves to wander in thy sunless realms, O DEATH! I stretch my view-what visions rise! What triumphs-toils imperial-arts divine In wither'd laurels glide before my sight!
What length of far-famed ages billow'd high
Xerxes, the Persian Monarch, when he reviewed his millions from a stately throne in the plains of Asia, burst into tears on the recollection that the multitude of men he saw before his eyes, would, in one hundred years be NO MORE!
2. The commencement of a century should suggest to us the inestimable value of our time. Time was granted to man for his improvement. By the protraction of life fresh opportunities are afforded for our progress in knowledge, virtue and piety. We were not raised into being that we might be idle spectators of the objects with which we are surrounded. The situation in which we are placed demands reiterated exertion. The spheres in which we move call for the exercise of all the ability with which we may be endowed. Enquiries therefore should be made how improvements can be best effected, either in our individual, social, or public capacities. This conduct will reflect an honour on our rationality. This train of action will elevate us in the scale of being-impart a zest to our enjoyment, and prepare us for the honours of immortality! It is said, that the elder Cato repented of three things—one of which was his having spent a day without improvement.
3. We cannot begin a century without being impressed with the vicissitude by which sublunary affairs are characterised.
Every thing around us is in a state of constant fluctuation. Neither nature nor art continue long in one position. The heavens above us are in perpetual motion. The earth beneath is ever chang, ing its external appearance. The atmosphere around us is subject to incessant variations. Individuals, families, and nations, are altering their aspect, and assuming forms marked by strong traits of novelty. Not only opinions, but even long established customs at length lose their hold on the mind, and are shut out by practices of a directly opposite tendency. Thus are we whirled around in the vortex of life by incidents the most strange, and by events the most contrary to our expectations. Change, in its endless variety of shapes, presents itself, and we observe, with surprize, the effects produced by it, both in ourselves and in our friends with whom we are connected : But sure to foreign climes we need not range,
Nor search the ancient records of our race, To learn the dire effects of time and change,
Which, in ourselves, alas! we daily trace;
Or hoary hair, I never will repine;
Of candour, love, or sympathy divine;
4. We should enter upon the new century with the pleasing idea that the progressive series of events tends to human improvement.
The light which broke out at the great æra of the reformation, continues to send forth its rays, and will illuminate the most distant regions of the globe! The human faculties, which had slumbered for ages, were then roused into action, and the discovery of the art of printing facilitated the spread of truth in districts whither its beams had not before penetrated. Since that illustrious period, scieuce has lifted up her head commerce has spread abroad her sails and religion has unfolded prospects of futurity highly favourable to human felicity. Our ideas seem now to flow in channels which cannot easily be interrupted. More just views of the Supreme Being are entertained, and clearer notions indulged respecting the rights and privileges of humanity. Man will henceforward become more sensible of his advantages, and will, it is to be hoped, convey them entire and unmutilated to their posterity. The benevolent ot every class rejoice in the prospect. Feeling for his species, the good man will exult in the recollection, that the night of ignorance and misery is passing away, and will be assuredly lost in the full blaze of perfect day : Hail, radiant ages! hail, and haste along! To reasoning man your splendid years belong : Unclose your leaves of true unfaded gold, That hidden lie in Fate's rich volume roll'd! Not fancy_FAITH, the muse this vision gave; Of real scenes—her sober raptures rave, Prophetic fury what she sings inspires, TRUTH's living coal hath lent her lips its fires : Of moral science-lamp to love and peace; The lucid crescent shines-whose bright increase, Shall lose its horns in plenitude of light, Andreach a glorious fall that ne'er shall wane to night!
Finally, let us, upon the commencement of the new century, realise the perfections and government of the Supreme Being, under whose superintendance every thing will be conducted to a happy conclusion.
A fatherless world! an orphan universe! are ideas agonizing to every well constituted mind. The present system bears unequivocal marks of the wisdom and goodness by which it was originally con: