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Most of our passions flatter us in their rise. But their beginnings are treacherous; their growth is. imperceptible; and the evils which they carry in their train, lie concealed, until their dominion is established. What Solomon says of one of them, holds true of them all, “that their beginning is as when one letteth out water.” It issues from a small chink, which once might have been easily stopped ; but being neglected, it is soon widened by the stream; till the bank is at last totally thrown down, and the flood is at liberty to deluge the whole plain.
Prosperity debilitates, instead of strengthening the mind. Its most common effect is, to create an extreme sensibility to the slightest wound. It foments impatient desires; and raises expectations which no success can satisfy. It fosters a false delicacy, which sickens in the midst of indulgence. By repeated gratification, it blunts the feelings of men to what is pleasing; and leaves them unhappily acute to whatever is uneasy. Hence, the gale which another would scarcely feel, is, to the prosperous, a rude tempest. Hence, the rose-leaf doubled below them on the couch, as it is told of the effeminate Sybarite, breaks their rest. Hence, the disrespect shown by Mordecai, preyed with such violence on the heart of Haman.
Anxiety is the poison of human life. It is the parent of many sins, and of more miseries. In a world where every thing is so doubtful; where we may succeed in our wish, and be miserable; where we may be disappointed, and be blessed in the disappointment; what mean this restless stir and commotion of mind ? Can our solicitude alter the course, or unravel the intricacy, of human events? Can our curiosity pierce through the cloud, which the Supreme Being hath made impenetrable to mortal eye?
No situation is so remote, and no station so unfavourable, as to preclude access to the happiness of a
future state. A road is opened by the Divine Spirit to those blissful habitations, from all corners of the earth, and from all conditions of human life ; from the peopled city, and from the solitary desert; from the cottages of the poor, and from the palaces of kings; from the dwellings of ignorance and simplicity, and from the regions of science and improvement.
The scenes which present themselves, at our entering upon the world, are commonly flattering. Whatever they be in themselves, the lively spirits of the young gild every opening prospect. The field of hope appears to stretch wide before them. Pleasure seems to put forth its blossoms on every side. Impelled by desire, forward they rush with inconsiderate ardour; prompt to decide, and to choose; averse to hesitate, or to inquire; credulous, because untaught by experience; rash, because unacquainted with danger; headstrong, because unsubdued by disappointment. Hence arise the perils to which they are exposed; and which too often, from want of attention to faithful admonition, precipitate them into ruin irretrievable.
By the unhappy excesses of irregular pleasure in youth, how many amiable dispositions are corrupted or destroyed! How many rising capacities and powers are suppressed! How many flattering hopes of parents and friends are totally extinguished ! Who but must drop a tear over human nature, when he beholds that morning which arose so bright, overcast with such untimely darkness; that sweetness of temper wbich once engaged many hearts, that modesty which was so prepossessing, those abilities which promised extensive usefulness, all sacrificed at the shrine of low sensuality : and one who was formed for passing through life, in the midst of public esteen, cut off by his vices at the beginning of his course; or sunk, for the whole of it, into insignificance and contempt? These, O sinful Pleasure are
thy trophies. It is thus that, co-operating with the foe of God and man, thou degradest human honour, and blastest the opening prospects of human felicity.
EXAMPLES IN POETRY.
Exercises, p. 133.
Where thy true treasure? Gold says, “ Not in me:”
Th' Almighty, from his throne, on earth surveys
Why go a begging to contingencies,
Still in the right to stay :
To find that better way.
Or impious discontent,
Or aught thy goodness lent.
God loves from whole to parts; but human soul
Know then this truth, (enough for man to know,)
When all thy mercies, O my God!
My rising soul surveys,
In wonder, love, and praise.
O how shall words with equal warmth,
The gratitude declare,
But thou canst read it there.