Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

above them. But, alas ! when we descend into the regions of private life, we find disappointment and blafted hope equally prevalent there. Neither the moderation of our views, nor the justice of our pretensions, can ensure success. But time and chance happen to all. Against the stream of events both the worthy and the undeserving are obliged to struggle; and both are frequently overborne atike by the current.

“ Befides disappointment in pursuit, diffatisfaction in enjoy. ment is a farther vanity to which the human state is subject. This is the feverest of all mortifications, after having been succefsful in the pursuit, to be baffled in the enjoyment itself. Yet this is found to be an evil till more general than the former. Some may be so fortunate as to attain what they have pursued; but none are rendered completely happy by what they have attained. Disappointed hope is misery; and yet successful hope is only imperfect bliss. Look through all the ranks of mankind. Examine the condition of those who appear moft prosperous; and you will find that they are never just what they desire to be. If retired, they languish for action; if busy, they complain of fatigue. If in middle life, they are impatient for distinction; if in high stations, they sigh after freedom and ease. Something is still wanting to that plenitude of satisfaction which they expected to acquire. Together with every wish that is gratified, a new demand arises. One void opens in the heart, as another is filled. On wishes, wilhes grow; and to the end, it is rather the expectation of what they have not, than the enjoyment of what they have, which occupies and interests the moit successful.

so 'This dissatisfaction in the midst of human pleasure fprings partly from the nature of our enjoyments themselves, and partly fron circumstances which corrupt them. No worldly enjoyments are adequate to the high desires and powers of an immortal fpirit. Fancy paints them at a distance with splendid colours ; but poffeffion unveils the fallacy. The eagerness of paffion bestows upon them at first a brisk and lively relish. But it is their fate always to. pall by familiarity, and sometimes to pass from satiety into disgust. Happy would the poor man think himself if he could enter on all the treasures of the rich; and happy for a short while he might be. But before he had long contemplated and admired his state, his poffeffions would seem to leffen, and his cares would grow.

" Add to the unsatisfying nature of our pleafures the attending circumftances which never fail to corrupt them. For, such as they are, they are at no time poflessed unmixed. To human lips it is not given to taste the

cup
of

When external circumstances how fairest to the world, the envied man groans in private under his own burden. Some vexation disquiets, some , passion corrodes him; some distress, either felt or feared, għaws,

the root of his felicity. When there is nothing from without to disturb the prosperous, a secret poison operates

P p 2

within.

pure joy.

like a worm,

within. For worldly happiness ever tends to deftroy itself, by corrupting the heart. It fosters the loose and the violent paffions. It engenders noxious habits; and taints the mind with a false delicacy, which makes it feel a thousand unreal evils.

“ But put the case in the most favourable light. Lay afide from human pleasures both disappointment in pursuit, and deceitfulness in enjoyment; suppose them to be fully attainable, and completely satisfactory ; ftill there remains to be considered the vanity of uncertain possession and short duration. Were there in worldly things any fixed point of security which we could gain, the mind would then have some basis on which to rest. But our condition is such, that every thing wavers and totters around us. Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knoweft not what a day may bring forth. It is much if, during its course, thou heareit not of somewhat to disquiet or alarm thee. For life never proceeds long in an uniform train. It is continually varied by unexpected events. The feeds of alteration are every where rown; and the sunshine of prosperity commonly accelerates their growth. If your enjoyments be numerous, you lie more open on different fides to be wounded. If you have possessed them long, you have greater cause to dread an approaching change. By flow degrees prosperity rises ; but rapid is the progress of evil. It requires no preparation to bring it forward. The edifice which it cost much time and labour to erect, one inaufpicious event, one fud. den blow, can level with the dust. Even supposing the accidents of life to leave us untouched, human bliss must still be transitory; for man changes of himself. No course of enjoyment can delight us long. What amused our youth loses its charm in maturer age. As years advance, our powers are blunted, and our pleasur. able feelings decline. The filenit lapse of time is ever carrying somewhat from us, till at length the period comes when all inuit be swept away. The prospect of this termination of our labours and pursuits is sufficient to mark our state with vanity. Our days are as a hand-breadıl, and our age is as nothing. Within that little fpace is all our enterprise bounded. We crowd it with toils and cares, with contention and strife. We project great defigns, entertain high hopes, and then leave our plans unfinished, and fink into oblivion.

“ This much let it suffice to have said concerning the vanity of the world. That 100 much has not been said, must appear to every one who considers how generally mankind lean to the oppofite side ; and how often by undue attachment to the present ftate, they both feed the most finful passions, and pierce themselves through with many forrows. Let us proceed to enquire,

II. How this vanity of the world can be reconciled with the perfections of its divine Author. This enquiry involves that great difficulty which has perplexed the thoughtful and serious in every age; if God be good, whence the evil that fills the earth? In answer to this interesting question, let us observe,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

" In the first place, that the present condition of man was not his original or primary state. We are informed by divine revelation, that it is the consequence of his voluntary apostacy from God and a state of innocence. By this, his nature was corrupted ; his powers were enfeebled; and vanity and vexation introduced into his life. All nature became involved in the condemnation of man.

The earth was cursed upon his account, and the whole creation made to groan and travail in pain.

“ How mysterious foever the account of this fall may appear to us, many circumstances concur to authenticate the fact, and to fhow that human nature and the human state have undergone an unhappy change. The belief of this has obtained in alinost all nations and religions. It can be traced through all the fables of antiquity. An obscure tradition appears to have pervaded the whole earth, that man is not now what he was at first; but that, in consequence of some transgression against his great Lord, a state of degradation and exile fucceeded to a condition that was more flourishing and happy. As our nature carries plain marks of perversion and disorder, so the world which we inhabit bears the fymptoms of having been convulsed in all its frame. Naturalists point out to us every where the traces of some violent change which it has suffered. Islands torn from the continent, burning mountains, shattered precipices, uninhabitable waftes, give it all the appearance of a mighty ruin. The physical and moral state of inan in this world mutually sympathize and correspond. They indicate not a regular and orderly structure either of matter or of mind, but the remains of somewhat that once was more fair and magnificent. Let us observe,

6. In the second place, that as this was not the original, so it is not intended to be the final state of man. Though in consequence of the abuse of the human powers, fin and vanity were introduced into this region of the universe, it was not the purpose of the Creator that they should be permitted to reign for ever. He hath made ample provision for the recovery of the penitent and faithful part of his subjects, by the mercifal undertaking of that great restorer of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ. By him life and immortality were both purchafed and brought to light. The new heavens and the new earth are discovered, wherein dwelleth righteousness; where, through the divine grace, human nature shall regain its original honours, and man snall return to be what once he was in Paradise. Through those high discoveries of the Gospel, this life appears to good men only in the light of an intermediate and preparatory itare. Its vanity and misery, in a manner, disappear. They have every reason to sub. Fnit without complaint to its laws, and to wait in patience till the appointed time come for the reftitution of all things. Let us take notice.

In the third place, that, a future state being made known, we can account in a satisfying manner for the present distress of

human

humari life, without the smallest impeachment of divine goodness. The sufferings we here undergo are converted into discipline and improvement. Through the blesfing of Heaven, good is extracted from apparent evil; and the very misery which originated from fin is rendered the means of correcting finful pafsions, and preparing us for felicity. There is much reason to believe that creatures as imperfect as we are, require some such preliminary Ifate of experience before they can recover the perfection of their nature. It is in the midft of disappointments and trials that we learn the insufficiency of temporal things to happiness, and are taught to seek it from God and Virtue. By these the violence of our parfions is tamed, and our minds are formed to sobriety and reflection. In the varieties of life, occasioned by the vicissitude of worldly fortune, we are inured to habits both of the active and the suffering virtues. How much soever we complain of the vanity of the world, facts plainly show that if its vanity were less, it could not answer the purpose of falutary discipline. 'Unsatisfacto. ry as it is, its pleasures are still too apt to corrupt our hearts. How fatal then must the consequences have been, had it yielded us more complete enjoyn:ent? If, with all its troubles, we are in danger of being too much attached to it, how entirely would it have feduced our affections, if no troubles had been mingled with its pleasures ?

•6 These observations serve in a great measure to obviate the difficulties which arise from the apparent vanity of the human ftate, by showing how, upon the Christian system, that vanity may be reconciled with the infinite goodness of the Sovereign of the Universe. The present condition of man is not that for which he was originally designed ; it is not to be his final state; and du, ring his passage through the world, the distresses which he undergoes are rendered medicinal and improving. After having taken this view of things, the cloud which, in the preceding part of the discourse, appeared to fit fo thick upon human life begins to be dirfipated. We now perceive that man, is not abandoned by his Creator. We difcern great and good designs going on in his bebalf, and, we are allowed to entertain better hopes,

(To be concluded in cur next.]

Remarks on Dr. Samuel Johnson's Journey to the Hebrides ; in

which are contained, Observations on the Antiquities, Lunguage, Genius, and Manners of the Highlanders of Scotland. By the Reverend Donald M Nicol, A. M. Minister of Lifmore in tirsyl/hire. 8vo. 45. Boards. Cadell.

The Journey, on which our author animadverts with so much lpleen and freedom, was noticed in the first volume of

our

[ocr errors]

our Review. There we gave our opinion, on the whole, that the lovers of Travels, Journies, and Voyages, would find but little amusement in the Doctor's performance; and that he had modestly owned the truth, in the conclusion of his work, by saying, that he was conscious his thoughts on national manners were the thoughts of one who had seen but little.'

With regard to the late appearance of these Remarks, Mr. M‘Nicol, in an Advertisement prefixed to the work, gives us the following reasons :

" The following sheets," says he, “ were written foon after Doce tor Johnson's Journey to the Hebrides' was printed. But as the writer had never made his appearance at the bar of the public, he was unwilling to enter the lists with such a powerful antagonist, without previously consulting a few friends. The distance of those friends made it difficult to procure their opinion, without some trouble and a great loss of time: besides, the author was not so fond of his work as to be very anxious about its publication.

"He is, however, sensible that the publication, if it was at all to happen, has been too long delayed. Answers to eminent writers are generally indebted, for their sale and circulation, to the works which they endeavour to refute. Unfortunately Docfor Johnson's · Journey' has lain dead in the library for some time paft. This consideration is so discouraging, that the writer of the Remarks expects little literary reputation, and less profit, from his labours. But as he had gone so far, he was induced to go further still, were it for nothing more than the ambition of sending his work to seep, on the saine shelf, wiih ţhat of the learned Doctor Joha. son."

As Dr. Johnson's Journey,' according to our author's own testimony, has lain dead in the library for some time pafl, he ought not to have disturbed its repose, nor treated the ashes of the dead with so much disrespect and inhumanity. In this case, nil de mortuis nisi bonum, ought to have tempered his malice, or restrained his asperity.

The epithets introduced by Mr. M‘Nicol in his Remarks, are, for the most part, harsh and illiberal. This he virulently condemns in the Doctor, but seems not to be aware that he lies under the same condemnation. He talks loudly of the Doctor's fcurrilities, but, we think, his own are by no means inferior. To say the truth, an abundance of filth and dirt is thrown on both sides.

Mr. M Nicol afferts that the Doctor embraced every opportunity to inculcate the poverty of the Scotch. fays he, “ leeins to be a rich topic to him.” Here, in vindication of the Doctor, we shall inform Mr. M‘Nicol, that

a charaEter

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »