« AnteriorContinuar »
lives in a perpetual warfare. Here, an enemy encounters ; there, a rival supplants him. The ingratitude of a friend stings him this hour; and the pride of a superior wounds him the next. In vain he flies for relief to trifling amusements. These may afford a temporary opiate to care ; but they communicate no strength to the mind. On the contrary, they leave it more soft and defenceless, when molestations and injuries renew their attack.
Let him who wishes for an effectual cure to all the wounds which the world can inflict, retire from intercourse with men to intercourse with his Creator. When he enters into his closet, and shuts the door, let him shut out, at the same time, all intrusion of worldly care ; and dwell among objects divine and immortal.—Those fair prospects of order and peace, shall there open to his view, which form the most perfect contrast to the confusion and misery of this earth. The celestial inhabitants quarrel not; among them there is neither ingratitude, nor envy, nor tumult. Men may bariss one another ; but in the kingdom of heaven concord id tranquillity reign forever.-From such objects, there be ans upon the mind of the pious man, a pure and enlivening light ; there is diffused over his heart a holy calm. His agitated spirit reassumes its firmness, and regains its peace. The world sinks in its importance ; and the load of mortality and misery loses almost all its weight. The " green pastures" open, and the “still waters” Aow around him, beside which the “ Shepherd of Israel” guides his flock. The disturbances and alarms, so formidable to those who are engaged in the tumults of the world, seem to him only like thunder rolling afar off ; like the noise of distant waters, whose sound he hears, whose course he traces, but whose waves touch him not.
As religious retirement is thus evidently conducive to our happiness in this life, so it is absolutely necessary in order to prepare us for the life to come. He who lives always in public, cannot live to his own soul. Our intercourse with the world, is, in several respects, an education for vice From our earliest youth, we are accustomed to hear riches and honours extolled as the chief possessions of man; and proposed to us, as the principal aim of our future pursuits. We are trained up, to look with admiration on the flattering marks of distinction which they bestow. In quest of those fancied blessings, we see the multitude around us eager and fervent. Principles of duty, we may, perhaps, hear some
times inculcated; but we seldom behold them brought into competition with worldly profit. The soft names, and plausi, ble colours, under which deceit, sensuality, and revenge, are presented to us in common discourse, weaken, by de, grees, our natural sense of the distinction between good and evil. We often meet with crimes authorised by high examples, and rewarded with the caresses and smiles of the world. Thus breathing habitually a contagious air, how cer, tain is our ruin, unless we sometimes retreat from this pestilential region, and seek for proper correctives of the disorders which are contracted there? Religious retirement both abates the disease, and furnishes the remedy. It lessens the corrupting influence of the world ; and it gives op, portunity for better principles to exert their power. Soli. tude is the hallowed ground which religion hath, in every age, chosen for her own. There, her inspiration is felt, and her secret mysteries elevate the soul; there, falls the tear of contrition ; there, rises towards heaven the sigb of the heart ; there, melts the soul with all the tenderness of devotion, and pours itself forth before him who made, and him who redeemed it. How can any one who is unac. quainted with such employments of mind, be fit for heaven? If heaven be the habitation of pure affections, and of intellectual joy, can such a state be relished by him who is always immersed among sensible objects, and has never acquired any taste for the pleasures of the understanding and the heart?
The great and the worthy, the pious and the virtuous, have ever been addicted to serious retirement. It is the characteristic of little and frivolous minds, to be wholly occupied with the vulgar objects of life. These fill up their desires, and supply all the entertainment which their coarse apprehensions can relish. But a more refined and enlarged mind leaves the world behind it, feels a call for higher pleasures, and seeks them in retreat. The man of public spirit has recourse to it, in order to form plans for general good.; the man of genius, in order to dwell on his favourite themes ; the philosopher, to pursue his discoveries; the saint, to improve himself in grace. " Isaac went out to meditate in the fields, at the evening tide.” David, amidst all the splendour of royalty, often bears witness both to the pleasure which he received, and to the benefit which he, reaped from devout meditation. Our blessed Saviour himself, though, of all who ever lived on earth, he goeded
least the assistance of religious retreat, yet, by his frequent practice, has done it signal honour. Often were the garden, the mountain, and the silence of the night, sought by him, for intercourse with Heaven. “When he had sent the multitude away, he went up into a mountain, apart, to pray."
The world is the great deceiver, whose fallacious arts it highly imports us to detect. But in the midst of its pleasures and pursuits, the detection is impossible. We tread, as within an enchanted circle, where nothing appears as it truly is. It is only in retreat, that the charm can be broken. Did men employ that retreat, pot in carrying on the delusion which the world has begun, not in forming plans of imaginary bliss, but in subjecting the happiness which the world affords to a strict discussion, the spell would dissolve ; and in the room of the upreal prospects, which had long amused them, the nakedness of the world would appear.
Let us prepare ourselves, then, to encounter the light of truth: and resolve rather to bear the disappointment of some flattering hopes, than to wander forever in the paradise of fools. While others meditate in secret on the means of attaining worldly success, let it be our employment to scrutinize that success itself. Let us calculate fairly to what it amounts; and whether we are not losers on the whole, by our apparent gain. Let us look back for this purpose, on our past life. Let us trace it from our earliest youth ; and put the question to ourselves. What have been its happiest periods ? Were they those of quiet and innocence, or those of ambition and intrigue ? Has our real enjoyment uniformly kept pace with what the world calls prosperity ? As we advanced in wealth or station, did we proportionally advance in happiness? Has success, almost in any one instance, fulfilled our expectations ? Where we reckoned upon most enjoyment, have we not often found least? Wherever guilt entered into pleasure, did not its sting long remain, after the gratification was past ?_Such questions as these, candidly angwered, would in a great measure unmask the world. They would expose the vanity of its pretensions ; and convince us, that there are other springs than those which the world affords, to which we must apply for happiness.
While we commune with our heart concerning what the world now is, let us consider also what it will one day appear to be. Let us anticipate the awful moment of our bid. ding it an eternal farewell; and think, what reflections will
most probably arise, when we are quitting the field, and looking back on the scene of action. In what light will our clo. sing eyes contemplate those vanities which now shine so Bright, and those interests which now swell into so high importance ? What part shall we then wish to have acted! What will then appear momentous, what trilling, in human conduct ?-Let the sober sentiments which such anticipations suggest, temper now our misplaced ardour. Let the last conclusions which we shall form, enter into the present estimate which we make of the world and of life.
Moreover, in communing with ourselves concerning the world, let us contemplate it as subject to the Divine dominion. The greater part of men behold nothing more than the rotation of human affairs. They see a great crowd ever in motion : the fortunes of men alternately rising and falling; virtue often distressed, and prosperity appearing to be the purchase of worldly wisdom. But this is only the outside of things : behind the curtain, there is a far greater scene, which Is be held by none but the retired, religious spectator. If we Hift up that curtain, when we are alone with God, and view the world with the eye of a Christian ; we shall see, that while “ man's heart deviseth his way, it is the Lord who directeth his steps.” We shall see, that however men appear to move and act after their own pleasure, they are, nevertheless, retained in secret bonds by the Almighty, and all their operations rendered subservient to the ends of his moral government. We shall behold him obliging the wrath of man to praise him ;" punishing the sinner by means of his own miquities ; from the trials of the righteous, bringing forth their reward; and to a state of seeming universal confusion, preparing the wisest and most equitable issue. While the fashion “ of this world” is passing fast away, we shall discern the glory of another rising to succeed it. We shall behold all human events, our griefs and our joys, our love and our hatred, our character and memory, absorbed in the ocean of eternity ; and no trace of our present existence left, except its being forever “well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked." ,
History of ten days of Seged, emperor of Ethropta.
Of heav'n's protection who can be
To-morrow I will spend in bliss.............F. LEWIS. SEGED, lord of Ethiopia, to the inhabitants of the world : to the sons of presumption, humility, and fear; and to the daughters of sorrow, contempt, and acquiescence.
Thus, in the twenty-seventh year of his reign, spoke Sex ged, the monarch of forty nations, the distributer of the waters of the Nile : “ At length, Seged, thy toils are at an end; thou hast reconciled disaffection, thou hast suppressed rebellion, thou hast pacified the jealousies of thy courtiers, thou hast chased war from thy confines, and erected fortresses in the lands of thy enemies. All who have offended thee tremble in thy presence ; and wherever thy voice is heard, it is obeyed. Thy throne is surrounded by armies, numerous as the locusts of the summer, and resistless as the blasts of pestilence. Thy magazines are stored with amunition, thy treasures overflow with the tribute of conquered kingdoms. Plenty waves upon thy fields, and opulence glitters in thy cities. Thy nod is as the earthquake that shakes the mountains, and thy smile as the dawn of the vernal day. In thy hand is the strength of thousands, and thy health is the health of millions. Thy palace is gladdened by the song of praise, and thy path perfumed by the breath of benediction. Thy subjects gaze upon thy greatness, and think of danger or misery no more. Why, Seged, wilt not thou partake of the blessings thou bestowest? Why shouldst thou only forbear to rejoice in this general felicity ? Why should thy face be clothed with anxiety, when the meanest of those who call thee sovereign, gives the day to festivity, and the night to peace. At length, Seged, reflect and be wise. What is the gift of conquest but safety ? Why are riches collected but to purchase happiness ?”
Seged then ordered the house of pleasure, built in an island of the lake Dambea, to be prepared for his reception.
"I will retire,” says he, "for ten days from tumult and care, from councils and decrees. Long quiet is not the lot of the governors of nations, but a cessation of ten days