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REFLECTIONS ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
......Mighty years begun From their first orb-in radiant circles run!
Nothing is lasting on the world's wide stage,
The moralist has recommended stated times for the purposes 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, flowing on with an accelerated rapidity. Such is precisely our situation. The com mencement 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 important, though obvious, topics of instruction. 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 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 sphere in which we move calls for the putting forth 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.
We cannot begin a century without being impressed with the vicissitude by which sublunary affairs are characterised.
Every thing around us in a state of constant fluctuation. Neither nature nor art continued long in one position. The heavens above us are in perpetual motion. The earth beneath us is ever changing 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 expectation. Change, in its endless variety of shapes, presents itself, and we observe, with surprise, 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,
Which, in ourselves, alas! we daily trace;
But spare, O TIME! whate'er of mental grace,
Of candour, love, or sympathy divine;
Whate'er of fancy's ray, or friendship's flame is mine.
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 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, science 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 pri vileges of humanity. Man will henceforward be come more sensible of his advantages, and will, it is to be hoped, convey them entire and unmutilated to their posterity. The benevolent of every class rejoice in the prospect. Feeling for his species, the good man will exult in the recollection, that the night of ig norance and misery is passing away, and that it will be assuredly lost in the full blaze of perfect day.
Finally, let us, upon the commencement of the new century, realize 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 constituted. The parts themselves, and the relation they bear to each other, point out the ends for which they are intended. The sun, moon, and stars, perform with regularity their destined revolutions. The earth vegetates at the assigned period of fertility, and pours forth its stores for the sustenance and comfort of the human race. The intellectual and moral powers of
man lead him to the perception, and by the force of motives properly weighed, impel him to the practice of right conduct. The REVELATION with which we are favoured, is in every respect honourable to the divine government. The reasonableness of its doctrines, the purity of its precepts, and the sublimity of its prospects, recommend it to our serious attention. Even the futility of the objections made to its origin, shews in a more striking point of view its divinityfor the envenomed shafts of infidelity, recently aimed at the heavenly shield, have been seen to fall pointless to the ground. In such circumstances, and with such views, MAN is empowered to look abroad at the commencement of a century, and to realise the perfections and government of the Supreme Being, with whom there is no variableness nor the shadow of turning in neglecting this privilege, he omits to discharge an important duty. He sinks himself upon a level with the brutes, and relinquishes means calculated to promote and secure his perfection.
From the honourable ideas which we have been taught to form of Deity, we cannot for a moment suspect the equity with which he presides over every part of his wide extended empire! The architect prides himself on the proportion and regularity with which, his buildings have been raised. The artist contemplates the niceness and accuracy after which his pieces of mechanism have been constructed. The statesman congratulates himself on the sagacity with which his plans have been devised and accomplished. In a similar inanner the Deity has regulated every procedure of his government with the profoundest wisdom, in conjunction with a benevolence which exceeds our loftiest conceptions. Immediately after the creation, God surveyed the works of his hands, and pronounced them to be-good! And, humanly speaking, he must at all times look down with an eye of distinguished complacency on the subserviency of his government to general felicity.
Man, however, furnished with scanty powers of perception, is cooped up on every side, and vainly strives to disclose the secrets of futurity. "We know not what to-morrow brings forth." This is a measure ordained in infinite wisdom. The anticipation of our joys, or of our griefs, is often a burden too heavy to be borne. Pretensions, indeed, are made to a knowledge of our future destiny--but the imposition has been detected and exposed. Our wisest way is to throw the reins over a vain curiosity, Let us never attempt, on any occasion, to lift up the awful veil which divides the present moment from futurity! Such a procedure shews only our own impiety and folly. Conterted with that portion of information which is commensurate with our faculties and congenial with our present situation, let us devote our knowledge to the purposes of faith and prac tice. A larger degree of intelligence cannot, perhaps, in this life, be the legitimate object of attainment. Henceforwards, then, let us dismiss our anxious thoughts, banish our corroding cares, and shudder at the indulgence of impious anticipations. In fine, let us calmly and cheerfully resign ourselves to the disposal of that Great Being who cannot err, and who will with consummate ability conduct the affairs of his wise and righteous government to the happiest termination :
IMMORTAL KING! from all mutation free!