Oldalképek
PDF

SECTION VII.

Charity. 1. CHARITY is the same with benevolence or love; and is the term uniformly employed in the New Testament, to denote all the good affections which we ought to bear towards one another. It consists not in speculative ideas of general benevolence, floating in the head, and leaving the heart, as speculations too often do, untouched and cold: neither is it confined to that indolent good nature, which makes us rest satisfied with being free from inveterate malice, or ill-will to our fellow-creatures, without prompting us to be of service to any.

2. True charity is an active principle. It is not properly a single virtue; but a disposition residing in the heart, as a fountain whence all the virtues of benignity, candour, forbearance, generosity, compassion, and liberality, flow, as so many native streams. From general good-will to all, it extends its influence particularly to those with whom we stand in nearest connexion, and who are directly within the sphere of our good offices.

3. From the country or community to which we belong, it descends to the smaller associations of neighbourhood, relations and friends; and spreads itself over the whole circle of social and domestic life. I mean not that it imports a promiscuous undis tinguished affection, which gives every man an equal title to our love. Charity, if we should endeavour to carry it so far, would be rendered an impracticable virtue; and would resolve itself into mere words, without affecting the heart.

4. True charity attempts not to shut our eyes to the distinction between good and bad men; nor to warm our hearts equally to those who befriend, and those who injure us. It reserves our esteem for good men, and our complacency for our friends. Too wards our enemies, it inspires forgiveness, humanity, and a solici tude for their welfare. It breathes universal candour and liberality of sentiment. It forms gentleness of temper, and dictates affability of manners.

5. It prompts corresponding sympathies with them who rejoice, and them who weep. It teaches us to slight and despise no man Charity is the comforter of the afflicted, the protector of the oppressed, the reconciler of differences, the intercessor for offenders It is faithfulness in the friend, public spirit in the magistrate, equity and patience in the judge, moderation in the sovereign, and loyalty in the subject.

6. In parents, it is care and attention; in children, it is reverence and submission. In a word, it is the soul of social life. It is the sun that enlivens and cheers the abodes of men. It is “like the dew of Hermon,” says the Psalmist," and the dew that descended on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

BLAIR. SECTION VIII. Prosfierity is redoubled to a good man. 1. None but the temperate, the regular, and the virtuous, know how to enjoy prosperity. They bring to its comforts the manly ro. lish of a sound uncorrupted mind They stop at the proper point, before enjoyment degenerates into disgust, and pleasure is convert ed to pain. They are strangers to those complaints which flow from spleen, caprice, and all the fantastical distresses of a vitiated mind. 'While riotous indulgence enervates both the body and the mind, purity and virtue heighten all the powers of human fruition.

2. Feeble are all pleasures in which the heart has no share. · The selfish gratifications of the bad, are both narrow in their circle, and short in their duration. But prosperity is redoubled to a good man, by his generous use of it. It is reflected back upon him from every one whom he makes happy. In the intercourse of domestic affection, in the attachment of friends, the gratitude of dependants the esteem and good will of all who know him, he sees blessings multiplied on every side.

3."When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing with joy. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame: I was a father to the poor; and the cause which I knew not, I searched out.”

4. Thus, while the righteous man flourishes like a tree planted by the rivers of water, he brings forth also his fruit in its season; and that fruit he brings forth, not for himself alone. He flourishes, not like a tree in some solitary desert, which scatters its blossoms to the wind, and communicates neither fruit nor shade to any living thing: but like a tree in the midst of an inhabited country, which to some affords friendly shelter, to others fruit; which is not only admired by all for its beauty ; but blessed by the traveller for the shade, and by the hungry for the sustenance it hath given. BLAIR.

. SECTION IX.

On the Beauties of the Psalms. 1. GREATNESS confers no exemption from the cares and sorrows of life; its share of them, frequently bears a melancholy proportion to its exaltation. This the monarch of Israel experienced. He sought in piety, that peace which he could not find'in empire; and alleviated the disquietudes of state, with the exercises of devotion. His invaluable Psalms convey those comforts to others which they afforded to himself,

2. Composed upon particular occasions, yet designed for genera. use; delivered out as services for Israelites under the law, yet no less adapted to the circumstances of Christians under the gospel; they present religion to us in the most engaging dress; communi cating truths which philosophy could never investigate, in a style which poetry can never equal; while history is made the vehicle of prophecy, and creation lends all its charms to paint the glories of redemption.

3. Calculated alike to profit and to please, they inform the under standing, elevate the affections, and entertain the imagination. In dited under the influence of him, to whom all hearts are known, and all events foreknown, they suit mankind in all situations; grateful as the manna which descended from above, and conformed itself to cvery palate

4. The fairest productions of human wit, after a few perusals, like

gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragrancy; but unfading plants of paradise, become, as we are accustomed to them., still more and more beautiful; their bloom appears to be daily heightened; fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who has once tasted their excellences, will desire to taste them again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best.

5. And now, could the author flatter himself, that any one would take half the pleasure in reading his work, which he has taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employ. ment detached him from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of - politics, and the noise of folly. Vanity and vexation flew away for a season ; care and disquietude came not near his dwelling. He arose, fresh as the morning, to his task; the silence of the night, invited him to pursue it; and he can truly say, that food and rest were not preferred before it.

6. Every psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it, and no one gave hiin uneasiness but the last; for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which have been spent in these meditations on the songs of Sion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass; they moved smoothly and swiftly-along: for when thus engaged, he counted no time. They are gone, but they have left a relish and a fragrance upon the mind ; and the remembrance of them is sweet.

HORNE. SECTION X. Character of ALFRED, King of England. 1. The merit of this prince, both in private and public life, may, with advantage, be set in opposition to that of any monarch or citizen, which the annals of any age, or any nation, can present to us. He seems, indeer, to be the complete model of that perfect character, which, under the denomination of a sage or wise man, the philosophers have been fond of delicating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hopes of ever seeing it reduced to practice; so happily were all his virtues tempered together; so justly were they blended ; and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper bounds.

2. He knew how to conciliate the most enterprising spirit, with the coolest modcration; the most obstinate perseverance, with the easiest flexibility; the most severe justice, with the greatest lenity; the greatest rigour in cominanci, with the greatest affability of deportmient; the highest capacity and incliation for science, with the most shining talents for action.

* 3. Nature also, as if desirous that so bright a production of her skill should be set in the fairest light, had bestowed on hini all bodily accomplishments; vigour of limbs, dignity of shape and air, and a pleasant, engaging, and open countenance. By living in that barbarous age, he was deprived of historians worthy to transmit his fame to posterity, and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more particular strokes, that we might at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, froin which, as a man, it is impossible he could be entirely exempted.

HUME.

SECTION XI.

Character of QUEEN ELIZABETH. 1. THERE are few personages in history, who have been mon exposed to the calumny of enemies, and the adulation of friends, than queen Elizabeth; and yet there scarcely is any, whose reputa tion has been more certainly determined by the unanimous consent of posterity. The unusual length of her administration, and the strong features of her character, were able to overcome all pro judices; and, obliging her detractors to abate much of their invec tives, and her admirers somewhat of their panegyrics, have, a last, in spite of political factions, and, what is more, of religious animosities, produced a uniform judgment with regard to her cone duct.

2. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, and address, are allowed to merit the highest praises; and appear not to have been surpassed by any persin who ever fill ed a throne: a conduct less rigorous, less imperious, more sincere, more indulgent to her people, would have been requisite to form a perfect character. By the force of her mind, she controlled all her more active, and stronger qualities, and prevented them from running into excess.

3. Her heroism was exempted from all temerity; her frugality, from avarice; her friendship, from partiality; her enterprise, from turbulency and a vain ambition. She guarded not herself, with equal care, or equal success, from less infirmities; the rivalship of beauty, the desire of admiration, the jealousy of love, and the sallies of anger.

4. Her singular talents for government, were founded equally on her temper and on her capacity. - Endowed with a great command over herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendency over the people. Few sovereigns of England succeeded to the throne in more difficult circumstances; and none ever conducted the government with so uniform success and felicity.

5. Though unacquainted with the practice of toleration, the true secret for managing religious factions, she preserved her people, by her superior prudence, from those confusions in which theological controversy had involved all the neighbouring nations; and though her enemies were the most powerful princes of Europe, the most active, the most enterprising, the least scrupulous; she was able, by her vigour, to make deep impressions on their state; her own greatness meanwhile remaining untouched and unimpaired.

6. The wise ministers and brave men who flourished during her reign, share the praise of her success; but, in stead of lessening the applause due to her, they make great addition to it. They owed, all of them, their advancement to her choice; they were supported by her constancy; and, with all their ability, they were never able to acquire an undue ascendency over her. .

7. In her family, in her court, in her kingdom, she remained equally mistress. The force of the tender passions was great over her, but the force of her mind was still superior; and the combat which her victory visibly cost her, serves only to display the firme ness of her resolution, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments & The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the pre

judices both of faction and of bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable, because more natural; and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminish. ing, the lustre of her character. This prejudice is founded on • the consideration of her sex.

9. When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her qualities and extensive capacity; but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable, weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true me. thod of estimating her merit, is, to lay aside all these considerations, and to consider her merely as a rational being, placed in au. thority, and intrusted with the government of mankind

HUME. SECTION XII.

The Slavery of Vice. 1. The slavery produced by vice, appears in the dependence un der which it brings the sinner, to circumstances of exte. nal for tune. One of the favourite characters of liberty, is the independence it bestows. He who is truly a freeman, is above all servilo compliances, and abject subjection. He is able to rest upon him. self; and while he regards his superiors with proper deference, neither debases himself by cringing to them, nor is tempted to purchase their favour by dishonourable means. But the sinner has forfeited every privilege of this nature.

2. His passions and habits, render him an absolute dependent on the world, and the world's favour; on the uncertain goods of fortune, and the fickle humours of men. For it is by these he subsists, and among these his happiness is sought, according as his passions determine him to pursue pleasures, riches, or prefere ments. Having no fund within himself whence to draw enjoyment, his only resource is in things without. His hopes and fears all hang upon the world. He partakes in all its vicissitudes; and is shaken by every wind of fortune. This is to be, in the strictest sense, a slave to the world.

3. Religion and virtue, on the other hand, confer on the mind principles of noble independence. “The upright man is satisfied from himself.” He despises not the advantages of fortune, but he centres not his happiness in them. With a moderate. share of them, he can be contented; and contentment, is felicity. Happy in his own integrity, conscious of the esteem of good men, reposing firm trust in the providence, and the promises of God, he is exempted from servile dependence on other things. .

4. He can wrap himself up in a good conscience, and look forward, without terror, to the change of the world. Let all things fluctuate around him as they please, he believes that, by the Divine ordination, they shall be made to work together in the issue for his good : and therefore, having much to hope from God, and little to fear from the world, he can be easy in every state.One who possesses within himself such an establishment of mind, is truly free. -5. Bat shall I call that man free, who has nothing that is his

« ElőzőTovább »