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reserve. But, by longer practice, these restraints weaken, and the power of habit grows. One vice brings in another to its aid. By a sort of natural affinity they connect and entwine themselves together ; till their roots come to be spread wide and deep over all the soul.
WHENCE arises the misery of this present world? It is not owing to our cloudy atmosphere, or changing seasons, and inclement skies. It is not owing to the debility of our bodies, or to the unequal distribution of the goods of fortune. Amidst all disadvantages of this kind, a pure, a steadfast, and enlightened mind, possessed of strong virtue, could enjoy itself in peace, and smile at the impotent assaults of fortune and the elements. It is within ourselves that misery has fixed its seat. Our disordered hearts, our guilty passions, our violent prejudices, and misplaced desires, are the instruments of the trouble which we endure. These sharpen the darts which adversity would otherwise point in vain against us.
While the vain and the licentious are revelling in the midst of extravagance and riot, how little do they think of those scenes of sore distress, which are passing at that moment throughout the world! multitudes struggling for a poor subsistence, to support the wife and children whom they love, and who look up to them with eager eyes for that bread which they can hardly procure; multitudes groaning under sickness in desolate cottages, untended and unmourned; many apparently in a better situation of life, pining away in secret with concealed griefs; families weeping over the beloved friends whom they have lost, or in all the bitterness of anguish, bidding those who are just expiring the last adieu.
Never adventure on too near an approach to what
is evil. Familiarize not yourselves with it, in the slightest instances, without fear. Listen with reverence to every reprehension of conscience, and preserve the most quick and accurate sensibility to right and wrong. If ever your moral impressions begin to decay, and your natural abhorrence of guilt to lessen, you have ground to dread that the ruin of virtue is fast approaching.
By disappointments and trials the violence of our passions is tamed, and our minds are formed to sobriety and reflection. In the varieties of life, occasioned by the vicissitudes of worldly fortune, we are inured to habits both of the active and the suffering virtues. How much soever we complain of the vanity of the world, facts plainly show, that if its vanity were less, it could not answer the purpose of salutary discipline. Unsatisfactory as it is, its pleasures are still too apt to corrupt our hearts. How fatal then must the consequences have been, had it yielded us more complete enjoyment! If, with all its troubles, we are in danger of being too much attached to it, how entirely would it have seduced our affections, if no troubles had been mingled with its pleasures?
In seasons of distress or difficulty, to abandon ourselves to dejection, carries no mark of a great or a worthy mind. Instead of sinking under trouble, and declaring "that his soul is weary of life," it becomes a wise and a good man, in the evil day, with firmness to maintain his post; to bear up against the storm ; to have recourse to those advantages which, in the worst of times, are always left to integrity and virtue; and never to give up the hope that better days may yet arise.
How many young persons have at first set out in the world with excellent dispositions of heart: generous, charitable, and humane; kind to their friends, and amiable among all with whom they had intercourse! And yet, how often have we seen all those fair appear
ances unhappily blasted in the progress of life, merely through the influence of loose and corrupting pleasures; and those very persons, who promised once to be blessings to the world, sunk down, in the end, to be the burden and nuisance of society!
The most common propensity of mankind, is, to store futurity with whatever is agreeable to them: especially in those periods of life, when imagination is lively, and hope is ardent. Looking forward to the year now beginning, they are ready to promise themselves much, from the foundations of prosperity which they have laid; from the friendships and connexions which they have secured; and from the plans of conduct which they have formed. Alas! how deceitful do all these dreams of happiness often prove! While many are saying in secret to their hearts, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and more abundantly,” we are obliged in return to say to them; "Boast not yourselves of tomorrow; for you know not what a day may bring forth!"
No rank or possessions can make the guilty mind happy.
DIONYSIUS, the tyrant of Sicily, was far from being
happy, though he possessed great riches, and all the pleasures which wealth and power could procure. Damocles, one of his flatterers, deceived by those specious appearances of happiness, took occasion to compliment him on the extent of his power, his treasures, and royal magnificence; and declared that no monarch had ever been greater or happier than Dionysius. "Hast thou a mind, Damocles," says the king, "to taste this happiness? and to know, by experience, what the enjoyments are, of which thou hast so high an idea." Damocles, with joy, accepted the offer. The King ordered that a royal banquet should be prepared, and a gilded sofa, covered with rich embroidery, placed for his favourite. Side-boards, loaded with gold and silver plate of immense value, were arranged in the apartment. Pages of extraordinary beauty were ordered to attend his table, and to obey his commands with the utmost readiness, and the most profound submission. Fragrant ointments, chaplets of flowers, and rich perfumes, were added to the entertainment. The table was loaded with the most exquisite delicacies of every kind. Damocles, intoxicated with pleasure, fancied himself amongst superior beings. But in the midst of all this happiness, as he lay indulging himself in state, he sees let down from the ceiling, exactly over his
head, a glittering sword hung by a single hair. The sight of impending destruction put a speedy end to his joy and revelling. The pomp of his attendance, the glitter of the carved plate, and the delicacy of the viands cease to afford him any pleasure. He dreads to stretch forth his hand to the table. He throws off the garland of roses. He hastens to remove from his dangerous situation; and earnestly entreats the king to restore him to his former humble condition, having no desire to enjoy any longer a happiness so terrible.
By this device, Dionysius intimated to Damocles, how miserable he was in the midst of all his treasures; and in possession of all the honours and enjoy ments which royalty could bestow.
Change of external condition is often adverse to virtue.
In the days of Joram, king of Israel, flourished the prophet Elisha. His character was so eminent, and his fame so widely spread, that Benhadad the king of Syria, though an idolater, sent to consult him, concerning the issue of a distemper which threatened his life. The messenger employed on this occasion was Hazael, who appears to have been one of the princes, or chief men of the Syrian court. Charged with rich gifts from the king, he presents himself before the prophet; and accosts him in terms of the highest respect. During the conference which they held together, Elisha fixed his eye steadfastly on the countenance of Hazael; and discerning by a prophetic spirit, his future tyranny and cruelty, he could not contain himself from bursting into a flood of tears. When Hazael, in surprise, inquired into the cause of this sudden emotion, the prophet plainJy informed him of the crimes and barbarities, which he foresaw that he would afterwards commit. The soul of Hazael abhorred, at this time, the thoughts of cruel