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decayed face of nature; or in autumn beholds the fields loaded with plenty, and the year crowned with all its fruits; he lifts his affections with gratitude to the great Father of all, and rejoices in the general felicity and joy
It may indeed be objected, that the same sensibility lays open the heart to be pierced with many wounds, from the distresses which abound in the world; exposes us to frequent suffering from the participation which it communicates of the,sorrows, as well as the joys of friendship. But let it be considered, that the tender melancholy of sympathy, is accompanied with a sensation, which they who feel it would not ex change for the gratifications of the selfish. When the heart is strongly moved by any of the kind affections even when it pours itself forth in virtuous sorrow, a se cret attractive charm mingles with the painful emotion; there is a joy in the midst of grief. Let it be farther considered, that the griefs which sensibility introduces are counterbalanced by pleasures which flow from the same source. Sensibility heightens in general the hu man powers, and is connected with acuteness in all our feelings. If it makes us more alive to some painful sensations, in return, it renders the pleasing ones more vivid and animated. The selfish man languishes in his narrow circle of pleasures. They are confined to what affects his own interest. He is obliged to repeat the same gratifications, till they become insipid. But the man of virtuous sensibility moves in a wider sphere of felicity. His powers are much more frequently called forth into occupations of pleasing activity. Num berless occasions open to him of indulging his favou rite taste, by conveying satisfaction to others. Often it is in his power, in one way or other, to sooth the af flicted heart, to carry some consolation into the house of wo. In the scenes of ordinary life, in the domestic and social intercourse of men, the cordiality of his affections cheers and gladdens him. Every appear
ance, every description of innocent happiness, is enjoy. ed by him. Every native expression of kindness and affection among others, is felt by him, even though he be not the object of it. In a circle of friends enjoying one another, he is as happy as the happiest. In a word, he lives in a different sort of world, from what the selfish man inhabits. He possesses a new sense that enables him to behold objects which the selfish cannot see. At the same time, his enjoyments are not of that kind which remain merely on the surface of the mind. They penetrate the heart. They enlarge and elevate, they refine and ennoble it. To all the pleasing emotions of affection, they add the dignified consciousness of virtue.Children of men! men formed by nature to live and to feel as brethren! how long will ye continue to estrange yourselves from one another by competitions and jealousies, when in cordial union ye might be so much more blest! How long will ye seek your happiness in selfish gratifications alone, neglecting those purer and better sources of joy, which flow from the affections and the heart!
On the true honour of man.
THE proper honour of man arises not from some of those splendid actions and abilities, which excite high admiration. Courage and prowess, military renown, signal victories and conquests, may render the name of a man famous, without rendering his character truly honourable. To many brave men, to mamy heroes renowned in story, we look up with wonder. Their exploits are recorded. Their praises are sung. They stand as on an eminence, above the rest of mankind. Their eminence, nevertheless, may not be of that sort, before which we bow with inward esteem
and respect. Something more is wanted for that purpose, than the conquering arm, and the intrepid mind. The laurels of the warrior must all times be dyed in blood, and bedewed with the tears of the widow and the orphan. But if they have been stained by rapine and inhumanity; if sordid avarice has marked his character; or low and gross sensuality has degraded his life; the great hero sinks into a little man. What, at a distance, or on a superficial view, we admired, becomes mean, perhaps odious, when we examine it more closely. It is like the Colossal statue, whose immense size struck the spectator afar off with astonishment; but when nearly viewed, it appears disproportioned, unshapely, and rude.
Observations of the same kind may be applied to all the reputation derived from civil accomplishments; from the refined politics of the statesman; or the literary efforts of genius and erudition. These bestow, and within certain bounds, ought to bestow, eminence and distinction on men. They discover talents which in themselves are shining; and which become highly valuable, when employed in advancing the good of mankind. Hence, they frequently give rise to fame.. But a distinction is to be made between fame and true honour. The statesman, the orator, or the poet may be famous; while yet the man himself is far from being honoured. We envy his abilities. We wish to - rival them. But we would not choose to be classed with him who possesses them. Instances of this sort are too often found in every record of ancient or modern history.
From all this it follows, that in order to discern where man's true honour lies, we must look, not to any adventitious circumstance of fortune; not to any single sparkling quality; but to the whole of what forms a man; what entitles him, as such, to rank high among that class of beings to which he belongs; in a word, we must look to the mind and the soul. A
mind superior to fear, to selfish interest and corrup tion; a mind governed by the principles of uniform rectitude and integrity; the same in prosperity and adversity; which no bribe can seduce, nor terror overawe; neither by pleasure melted into effeminacy, nor by distress sunk into dejection: such is the mind which forms the distinction and eminence of man.-One, who in no situation of life, is either ashamed or afraid of discharging his duty, and acting his proper part with firmness and constancy; true to the God whom he worships, and true to the faith in which he professes to believe; full of affection to his brethren of mankind; faithful to his friends, generous to his enemies, warm with compassion to the unfortunate; sell-denying to little private interests and pleasures, but zealous for public interest and happiness; magnanimous, without being proud; humble, without being mean; just, without being harsh; simple in his manners, but manly in his feelings; on whose words we can entirely rely; whose countenance never deceives us; whose professions of kindness are the effusions of his heart: one, in fine, whom, independently of any views of advantage, we would choose for a superior, could trust in as a friend, and could love as a brother-this is the man, whom in our heart, above all others, we do, we must honour.
The influence of devotion on the happiness of life.
WHATEVER promotes and strengthens virtue, whatever calms and regulates the temper, is a source of happiness. Devotion produces these effects in a remarkable degree. It inspires composure of spirit, mildness, and benignity; weakens the painful, and cherishes the pleasing emotions; and, by these means,
earries on the life of a pious man in a smooth and placid tenor.
Besides exerting this habitual influence on the mind, devotion opens a field of enjoyments, to which the vicious are entire strangers; enjoyments the more valuable, as they peculiarly belong to retirement when the world leaves us; and to adversity, when it becomes our foe. These are the two seasons, for which every wise man would most wish to provide some hidden store of comfort. For let him be placed in the most favourable situation which the human state admits, the world can neither always amuse him, nor always shield him from distress. There will be many hours of vacuity, and many of dejection in his life. If he be a stranger to God, and to devotion, how dreary will the gloom of solitude often prove? With what oppressive weight will sickness, disappointment, or old age, fall upon his spirits. But for those pensive periods, the pious man has a relief prepared. From the tiresome repetition of the common vanities of life, or from the painful corrosion of its cares and sorrows, devotion transports him into a new region; and surrounds him there with such objects, as are the most fitted to cheer the dejection, to calm the tumults, and to heal the wounds of his heart. If the world has been empty and delusive, it gladdens him with the prospect of a higher and better order of things, about to arise. If men have been ungrateful and base, it displays before him the faithfulness of that Supreme Being, who, though every other friend fail, will never forsake him, Let us consult our experience, and we shall find, that the two greatest sources of inward joy are, the exercise of love directed towards a deserving object, and the exercise of hope terminating on some high and assured happiness. Both these are supplied by devotion; and therefore we have no reason to be surprised, if, on some occasions, it fills the hearts of good men with a satisfaction not to be expressed.