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of the middle-aged, and often keep alive the passions of the old, until the very close of life. Assuredly, there is nothing unlawful in our wishing to be freed from whatever is disagreeable, and to obtain a fuller enjoyment of the comforts of life. But when these wishes are not tempered by reason, they are in danger of precipitating us into much extravagance and folly. Desires and wishes are the first springs of action. When they become exorbitant, the whole character is likely to be tainted, If we suffer our fancy to create to itself worlds of ideal happiness; if we feed our imagination with plans of opulence and splendour far beyond our rank; if we fix to our wishes certain stages of high advancement, or certain degrees of uncommon reputation or distinction, as the sole stations of felicity; the assured consequence will be, that we shall become unhappy in our present state; unfit for acting the part, and discharging the duties that belong to it; we shall discompose the peace and order of our minds, and foment many hurtful passions. Here, then, let Moderation begin its reign; by bringing within reasonable bounds the wishes that we form. As soon as they become extravagant, let us check them by proper reflections on the fallacious nature of those objects which the world hangs out to allure desire.
You have strayed, my friends, from the road which conducts to felicity; you have dishonoured the native dignity of your souls, in allowing your wishes to terminate on nothing higher than worldly ideas of greatness or happiness. Your imagination roves in a land of shadows. Unreal forms deceive you. It is no more than a phantom, an illusion of happiness which attracts your fond admiration; nay, an illusion of happiness which often conceals much real misery. Do you imagine, that all are happy, who have attained to those summits of distinction, towards which your wishes aspire? Alas! how frequently has experience shewed, that where roses were supposed to bloom, nothing but briars and thorns grew? Reputation, beauty, riches, grandeur, nay, royalty itself, would, many a time, have been gradually exchanged, by the possessors, for that more quiet and humble station, with which you are now dissatisfied. With all that is splendid and shining in the world, it is decreed that there should mix many deep shades of woe. On the elevated situations of fortune, the great calamities of life chiefly fall. There the storm spends its violence, and there the thunder breaks; while, safe and unhurt, the inhabitant of the vale remains below.Retreat, then, from those vain and pernicious excursions of extravagant desire. Satisfy your
selves with what is rational and attainable. Train your minds to moderate views of human life and human happiness. Remember and admire the wisdom of Agur's wish. Remove far from me vanity and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. *— Let me recommend,
II. Moderation in our pursuits. Wishes and desires rest within. If immoderate, and improper, though they taint the heart, yet society may not be affected by them. The obscure and harmless individual may indulge his dreams, without disturbing the public peace. But when the active pursuits in which we engage rise beyond moderation, they fill the world with great disorder; often with flagrant crimes. This admonition chiefly respects the ambitious men of the world. I say not that all ambition is to be condemned; or that high pursuits ought, on every occasion, to be checked. Some men are formed by nature, for rising into conspicuous stations of life. In following the impulse of their minds, and pro
* Prov. xxx. 8, 9.
perly exerting the talents with which God has blessed them, there is room for ambition to act in a laudable sphere, and to become the instrument of much public good. But this may safely be pronounced, that the bulk of men are ready to over-rate their own abilities, and to imagine themselves equal to higher things than they were ever designed for by nature. Be sober, therefore, in fixing your aims, and planning your destined pursuits. Beware of being led aside from the plain path of sound and moderate conduct, by those false lights which self-flattery is always ready to hang out. By aiming at a mark too high, you fall short of what it was within your power may to have reached. Instead of attaining to eminence, you may expose yourselves to derision; nay, may bring upon your heads manifold disasters. I I say to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly.
Whatever your aims be, there is one exercise of moderation which must be enjoined to those of the greatest abilities, as well as to others; that is, never to transgress the bounds of moral duty. Amidst the warmth of pursuit, accustom yourselves to submit to the re
*Rom. xii. 3.
straints which religion and virtue, which propriety and decency, with regard to reputation and character, impose. Think not, that there are no barriers which ought to stop your progress. It is from a violent and impetuous spirit that all the evils spring, which are so often found to accompany ambition. Hence, in private life, the laws of truth and honour are violated. Hence, in public contests, the peace and welfare of nations have been so often sacrificed to the ambitious projects of the great. The man of moderation, as he is temperate in his wishes, so in his pursuits he is regulated by virtue. A good conscience is to him more valuable than any success. He is not so much bent on the accomplishment of any design as to take a dishonourable step, in order to compass it. He can have patience, He can brook disappointments. He can yield to insurmountable obstacles; and, by gentle and gradual progress, is more likely to succeed in the end, than others are, by violence and impetuosity. In his highest enterprise, he wishes not to have the appearance of a meteor, which fires the atmosphere; or of a comet, which astonishes the public by its blazing eccentric course; but rather to resemble those steady luminaries of heaven, which advance in their orbits, with a silent and regular mo