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He did not, however, forget whither he was travelling, but found a narrow way bordered with flowers, which appeared to have the same direction with the main road; and was pleased that by this happy experiment, he had found means to unite pleasure with business, and to gain the rewards of diligence without suffering its fatigues. He, therefore, still continued to walk for a time, without the least remission of his ardour, except that he was sometimes tempted to stop by the music of the birds that the heat had assembled in the shade ; and sometimes amused himself with plucking the flowers that covered the banks on either side, or the fruits that hung upon the branches. At last the green path began to decline from its first tendency, and to wind among hills and thickets, cooled with fountains, and murmuring with water-falls. Here Obidah paused for a time, and began to consider whether it were longer safe to forsake the known and common track; but remembering that the heat was now at its greatest violence, and that the plain was dusty and uneven, he resolved to pursue the new path, which he supposed only to make a few meanders in compliance with the varieties of the ground, and to end at last in the common road.
Having thus calmed his solicitude, he renewed his pace though he suspected that he was not gaining ground. This uneasiness of his mind inclined him to lay hold on every new object, and give way to every sensation that might soothe or divert him. He listened to every echo, he mounted every hill for a fresh prospect, he turned aside to every cascade, and pleased himself with tracing the course of a gentle river that rolled among the trees, and watered a large region with innumerable circumvolutions. In these amusements the hours passed away uncounted, his deviations had perplexed his memory, and he knew not towards what point to travel.
He stood pensive and confused, afraid to go forward lest he should go wrong, yet conscious that the time of loitering was now past. While he was thus tortured with uncertainty, the sky was overspread with clouds, the day vanished from before him, and a sudden tempest gathered round his head. He was now roused by his danger to a quick and painful remembrance of his folly; he now saw how happiness is lost when ease is consulted; he lamented the unmanly impatience that prompted him to seek shelter in the grove, and despised the petty curiosity that led him on from trifle to trifle. While he was thus reflecting, the air grew blacker, and a clap of thunder broke his meditation.
He now resolved to do what remained yet in his power, to tread back the ground which he had passed, and try to find some issue where the wood might open into the plain. He prostrated himself on the ground, and commended his life to the Lord of nature. He rose with confidence and tranquillity, and pressed on with his sabre in his hand, for the beasts of the desert were in motion, and on every hand were heard the mingled howls of rage and fear, and ravage and expiration ; all the horrors of darkness and solitude surrounded him; the winds roared in the woods, and the torrents tumbled from the hills.
Thus forlorn and distressed, he wandered through the wild, without knowing whither he was going, or whether he was every moment drawing nearer to safety or destruction. At length, not fear but labour began to overcome him ; his breath grew short, and his knees trembled, and he was on the point of lying down in resignation to his fate, when he beheld through the brambles the glimmer of a taper. He advanced towards the light, and finding that it proceeded from the cottage of a hermit
, he called humbly at the door, and obtained admission. The old man set before him such provisions as he had collected for himself, on which Obidah fed with eagerness and gratitude. When the repast was over “ Tell me," said the hermit, “ by what chance thou hast been brought hither ; I have been now twenty years an inhabitant of the wilderness, in which I never saw a man before.” Obidah then related the occurrences of his journey, without any concealment or palliation
“Son,” said the hermit, “ let the errors and follies, the dangers and escapes of this day, sink deep into thy heart. Remember, my son, that human life is the journey of a day. We rise in the morning of youth, full of vigour and full of expectation ; we set forward with spirit and hope, with gaiety and with diligence, and travel on a while in the straight road of piety towards the mansions of rest. In a short time we remit our fervour, and endeavour to find some mitigation of our duty, and some more easy means of obtaining the same end. We then relax our vigour, and resolve no longer to be terrified with crimes at a distance, but rely upon our own constancy, and venture to approach what we resolve never to touch. We thus enter the bowers of ease, and repose in the shades of security. Here the heart softens and vigilance subsides ; we are then willing to inquire whether another advance cannot be made, and whether we may not, at least, turn our eyes upon the gardens of pleasure. We approach them with scruple and hesitation ; we enter them, but enter timorous and trembling, and always hope to pass through them without losing the road of virtue, which we, for a while, keep in our sight, and to which we purpose to return. But temptation succeeds temptation, and one compliance prepares us for another ; we in time lose the happiness of innocence, and solace our disquiet with sensual gratifications. By degrees we let fall the remembrance of our original intention, and quit the only adequate object of rational desire. We entangle ourselves in business, immerge ourselves in luxury, and rove through the labyrinths of inconstancy, till the darkness of old age begins to invade us, and disease and anxiety obstruct our way. We then look back upon our lives with horror, with sorrow, with repentance; and wish, but too often vainly wish, that we had not forsaken the ways of virtue. Happy are they, my son, who shall learn from thy example not to despair, but shall remember, that though the day is past, and their strength is wasted, there yet remains one effort to be made ; that reformation is never hopeless, nor sincere endeavours ever unassisted ; that the wanderer may at length return after all his errors; and that he who implores strength and courage from above, shall find danger and difficulty give way before him. Go now, my son, to thy repose ; commit thyself to the care of Omnipotence; and when the morning calls again to toil, begin anew thy journey and thy life.”
XV. CHRISTIANITY AN ACTIVE PRINCIPLE. On the first promulgation of Christianity, it is true, some of her early converts seem to have been in danger of so far mistaking the genius of the new religion,
as to imagine that in future they were to be discharged from an active attendance on their secular affairs. But the Apostle most pointedly guarded them against so gross an error, and expressly and repeatedly enjoined them to perform the particular duties of their several stations with increased alacrity and fidelity, that they might thereby do credit to their Christian profession. This he did, at the same time that he prescribed to them that predominant love of God, and of Christ, that heavenly mindedness, that comparative indifference to the things of this world, that earnestendeavour after growth in grace, and perfection in holiness which are the essential characteristics of real Christianity. It cannot, therefore, be supposed by any who allow to the Apostle even the claim of a consistent instructor, much less by any who admit his divine authority, that these latter precepts are incompatible with the former. Let it be remembered, that the grand characteristic mark of the true Christian, which has been insisted on, is his desiring to please God in all his thoughts, and words, and actions; to take the revealed word to be the rule of his belief and practice ; " to let his light shine before men;" and in all things to adorn the doctrine which he professes. No calling is prescribed, no pursuit forbidden, no science or art, no pleasure is disallowed, which is reconcilable with this principle. It must, indeed, be confessed that Christianity would not favour that vehement and inordinate ardour in the pursuit of temporal objects, which tends to the acquisition of immense wealth, or of widely spread renown; nor is it calculated to gratify the extravagant views of those mistaken politicians,—the chief object of whose admiration, and the main scope of whose endeavours for their country, are, extended dominion, and commanding power, and unrivalled affluence, rather than the more solid advantages of peace, and comfort, and security. These men would barter comfort for greatness. In their vain reveries they forget that a nation consists of individuals, and that true national prosperity is no other than the multiplication of particular happiness.
But, in fact, so far is it from being true that the prevalence of real Religion would produce a stagnation in life; that a man, whatever might be his employment or pursuit, would be furnished with a new motive to prosecute it with alacrity—a motive far more constant and vigorous than any human prospect can supply: at the same time, his solicitude being not so much to succeed in whatever he might be engaged in, as to act from a pure principle, and leave the event to God, he would not be liable to the same disappointments as men who are active and laborious from a desire of worldly gain or of human estimation. Thus he would possess the true secret of a life, at the same time useful and happy. Following peace also with all men, and looking upon them as members of the same family, entitled not only to the debts of justice, but to the less definite and more liberal claims of fraternal kindness; he would naturally be respected and beloved by others, and be in himself free from the annoyance of those bad passions, by which they who are actuated by worldly principles are so commonly corroded. If any country were indeed filled with men, each thus diligently discharging the duties of his own station without breaking in upon the rights of others, but on the contrary, endeavouring so far as he might be able, to forward their views and promote their happiness, all would be active and harmonious in the goodly frame of human society. There would be no jarrings, no discord. The whole machine of civil life would work without obstruction or disorder, and the course of its movement would be like the harmony of the spheres.
Such would be the happy state of a truly Christian nation within itself. Nor would its condition with regard to foreign countries form a contrast to this its internal comfort. Such a community, on the contrary, peaceful at home, would be respected and beloved abroad. General integrity in all its dealings would inspire universal confidence. Differences between nations commonly arise from mutual injuries, and still more from mutual jealousy and distrust. Of the former there would