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Religion never to be treated with Levity.
MPRESS your minds with reverence for all that
no compliance with the intemperate mirth of others, ever betray you into profane follies. Besides the guilt which is thereby incurred, nothing gives a more odious appearance of petulance and presumption to youth, than the affectation of treating religion with levity. Instead of being ani evidence of superior understanding, it discovers a pert and shallow mind; which, vain of the first (matterings of knowledge, presumes to make light of what the rest of mankind revere. At the same time, you are not to imagine, that when exhorted to be religious, you are called upon to become more fora mal and folemn in your manners than others of the fame years; or to erect yourselves into supercilious reprovers of those around you. The spirit of true religion breathes gentleness and affability. It gives a native unaffected ease to the behaviour. It is social, kind, and cheerful; far removed from that gloomy and illiberal superstition which clouds the brow, sharpens the temper, dejects the spirit, and teaches men to fit themfelves for another world, by neglecting the concerns of this. Let your religion, on the contrary, connect preparation for heaven with an honourable difcharge of the duties of active life. Of such religion discover, on every proper occasion, that you are not ashamed; but avoid making any unneceffary oftentation of it before the world.
To piety join modesty and docility, reverence of your parents, and submission to those who are your superiors in knowledge, in station, and in years. Dependence and obedience belong to youth. Modesty is one of its chief ornaments, and has ever been esteemed a presage of rising merit. When entering on the career of life, it is your part not to assume the reins
as yet into your hands; but to commit yourselves to the guidance of the more experienced, and to become wife by the wisdom of those who have gone before you, Of all the follies incident to youth, there are none which either deform its present appearance, or blast the prospect of its future prosperity, more than selfconceit, presumption, and obstinacy. By checking its natural progress in improvement, they fix it in long immaturity, and frequently produce mischiefs which can never be repaired. Yet these are vices too com, monly found among the young. Big with enterprize, and elated by hope, they resolve to trust for success to none but themselves. Full of their own abilities, they deride the admonitions which are given them by their friends, as the timorous suggestions of age. Too wise to learn, too impatient to deliberate, too forward to be restrained, they plunge, with precipitant indiscretion, into the midst of the dangers with which life abounds,
The Balance of Happiness equal.
N extensive contemplation of human affairs will
lead us to this conclusion; that among the different conditions and ranks of men, the balance of happiness is preserved in a great measure equal; and that the high and the low, the rich and the poor, approach, in point of real enjoyment, much nearer to each other, than is commonly imagined. In the lot of man, mutual compensations, both of pleasure and of pain, universally take place. Providence never intended that any state here should be either completely happy, or entirely miserable. If the feelings of pleasure are more numerous, and more lively, in the higher departments of life, such also are those of pain. If opulence increases our gratifications, it increases, in the same proportion, our desires and demands. · If the poor are confined to a more narrow circle, yet within that circle lie most of those natural fatisfactions which, after all the refinements of art, are found to be the most genuine and true. In a state, therefore, where there is neither so much to be coveted on the one hand, nor to be dreaded on the other, as at first appears, how submnisfive ought we to be to the disposal of Providence"! How temperate in our desires and pursuits ! How much more attentive to preserve our virtue, and to improve our minds, than to gain the doubtful and equivocal advantages of worldly profperity!
When we read the history of nations, what do we read but the history of the follies and crimes of men ? We may dignify those recorded transactions, by calling them the intrigues of statesmen, and the exploits of conquerors; but they are, in truth, no other than the efforts of discontent to escape from its misery, and the struggles of contending passions among unhappy men. The history of mankind has ever been a continued tragedy; the world, a great theatre, exhibiting the same
repeated scene, of the follies of men shooting forth into guilt, and of their passions fermenting, by a quick process, into misery.
But can we believe, that the nature of man came forth in this state from the hands of its gracious Creator? Did he frame this world, and store it with inhabitants, folely that it might be replenished with crimes and misfortunes ? In the moral, as well as in the natural world, we may plainly discern the signs of some violent contusion, which has shattered the original workmanship of the Almighty. Amidst this wreck of human nature, traces still remain which indicate its Author. Those high powers of conscience and reason, that capacity for happiness, that ardour of enterprize, that glow of affection, which often break through the gloom of human vanity and guilt, are like the scattered columns, the broken arches, and defaced sculptures of fome fallen temple, whose ancient fplendour appears amidst its ruins. So confpicuous in human nature are those characters, both of a high origin and of a degraded state, that, by many religious sects throughout the earth, they have been seen and confeffed. A tradition seems to have pervaded almost all nations, that the human race had either, through some offence, forfeited, or, through some misfortune, loft, that station of primæval honour which they once pofseffed. But while, from this doctrine, ill-understood, and involved in many fabulous tales, the nations wandering in Pagan darkness could draw no consequences that were just; while, totally ignorant of the nature of the disease, they fought in vain for the remedy; the fame divine revelation, which has informed us in what manner our apostacy arose, from the abuse of our rational powers, has instructed us also how we may be restored to virtue and to happiness.
, empire, ftill continued the feat of learning, politeness, and wisdom. Theodoric, the Ostrogoth, repaired the schools which barbarity was suffering to fall into decay, and continued those pensions to men of learning, which avaricious governors had monopolized.
In this city, and about this period, Alcander and Septimius were fellow-students together. The one, the most fubtle reasoner of all the Lyceum ; the other, the most eloquent speaker in the academic groye. Mutual admiration foon begot a friendship. Their fortunes were nearly equal, and they were natives of the two most celebrated cities in the world; for Alcander was of Athens, Septimius came from Rome.
In this state of harmony they lived for some time together, when Alcander, after pafling the first part of youth in the indolence of philosophy, thought at length of entering into the busy world ; and as a step pre