Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

moral taste. It robs the universe of all finished and consummate excellence, even in idea. The admiration of perfect wisdom and goodness for which we are formed, and which kindles such unspeakable rapture in the soul, finding in the regions of scepticism nothing to which it corresponds, droops and languishes. In a world which presents a fair spectacle of order and beauty, of a vast family nourished and supported by an alınighty Parent; in a world which leads the devout mind, step by step, to the contemplation of the first fair and the first good, the sceptic is encompassed with nothing but obscurity, meanness, and disorder.

When we reflect on the manner in which the idea of Deity is formed, we must be convinced that such an idea intimately present to the mind, must have a most powerful effect in refining the moral taste. Composed of the richest elements, it embraces, in the character of a beneficent Parent and almighty Ruler, whatever is venerable in wisdom, whatever is awful in authority, whatever is touching in goodness.

Human excellence is blended with many imperfections, and seen under many limitations. It is beheld only in detached and separate portions, nor ever appears in any one character whole and entire. So that when, in imitation of the Stoics, we wish to form out of these fragmients the notion of a persecily wise and good man, we know it is a mere fiction of the mind, without any real being in whom it is embodied and realized. In the belief of a Deity, these conceptions are reduced to reality; the scattered rays of an ideal excellence are concentrated, and become the real attributes of that Being with whom we stand in the nearest relation, who sits supreme at the head of the universe, is armed with infinite power, and pervades all nature with his presence.

The efficacy of these sentiments in producing and augmenting a virtuous taste, will indeed be proportioned to the vividness with which they are formed, and the frequency with which they recur; yet some benefit will not fail to result from them, even in the lowest degree. .

The idea of the Supreme Being has this peculiar property; that, as it admits of no substitute, so, from the first moment it is impressed, it is capable of continual growth and enlargement. God himself is immutable; but our conception of his character is continually receiving fresh accession; is continually growing more extended and refulgent, by having transferred upon it new perceptions of beauty and goodness; by attracting to itself, as a centre, whatever bears the impress of dignity, order, or happiness. It borrows splendor from all that is fair, subordinates to itself all that is great, and sits enthroned on the riches of the universe.

| XCI.

ON GAMING—Rennel. To a rapacious thirst for gain, the gamester joins a disposition to FRAUD, and that of the meanest cast. To those who soberly and fairly appreciate the real nature of human actions, nothing appears more inconsistent than that societies of men, who have incorporated themselves for the express purpose of gaming, should disclaim fraud or indirection, or affect to drive from their assemblies those among their associates whose crimes would reflect disgrace on them. Surely this, to a considerate mind, is as solemn and refined a banter as can well be exhibited : For when we take into view the vast latitude allowed by the most upright gamesters; when we reflect that, ac, cording to their precious casuistry, every advantage may be legitimately taken of the young, the unwary, and the inebriated, which superior coolness, skill, address, and activity, can supply, we must look upon pretences to honesty as a most shameless aggravation of their crimes. Even if it were possible that, in his own practices, a man might be a FAIR GAMESTER, yet, for the result of the extended frauds committed by his fellows, he stands

deeply accountable to God, his country, and his conscience. To a system necessarily implicated with fraud; to associations of men, a large majority of whom subsist by fraud; to habits calculated to poison the source and principle of all integrity, he gives efficacy, countenance and concurrence. Even bis virtues he suffers to be subsidiary to the cause of vice. He sees, with calmness, depredation committed daily and hourly in his company, perhaps under his very roof. Yet men of this description declaim (so desperately deceitful is the heart of man) against the very knaves they cherish and protect, and whoin, perhaps, with some poor sophistical refuge for a worn-out conscience, they even imitate. To such, let the scripture speak with emphatical decision-"When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him.

But in addition to fraud, and all its train of crimes, propensities and habits of a very different complexion enter into the composition of a gamester : a most ungovernable FEROCITY OF DISPOSITION, however for a time disguised and latent, is invariably the result of his system of conduct. Jealousy, rage and revenge, exist among gamesters in their worst and most frantic excesses, and end frequently in consequences of the most atrocious violence and outrage. By perpetual agitation, the malignant passions spurn and overwhelm every boundary which discretion and conscience can oppose. . From what source are we to trace a very large number of those murders, sanctioned or palliated indeed by custom, but which stand at the tribunal of God precisely upon the same grounds with every other species of murder ?From the gaming table, from the nocturnal receptacles of distraction and frenzy, the duellist rushes with his hand listed up against his brother's life!

Those who are as yet on the threshold of these habits, should be warned, that however calm their natural temperament, however meek and placable their disposition, yet that, by the events which every moment arise, they stand exposed to the ungovernable fury of themselves,

and others. In the midst of fraud, protected by menace on the one hand, and, on the other, of despair; irritated by a recollection of the meanness of the artifices, and the baseness of the hands by which utter and remediless ruin has been inflicted ; in the midst of these feelings of horror and distraction, it is, that the voice of brethren's blood " crieth unto God from the ground"_" and now thou art cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.Not only Thou who actually sheddest that blood, but THOU who art the artificer of death-thou who administerest incentives to these habits—who disseminatest the practice of them--improvest the skill in them-sharpenest the propensity to them-at the hands will it be required, surely at the tribunal of God in the next world, and perhaps, in most instances, in his distributive and awful dispensations towards thee and thine here on earth."

XCII. MEMENTOS OF THE INSTABILITY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE.

Fitch. We have such a memento in the fact, that others, who have been sharing with us in our privileges, are constantly leaving the world. They who dwell with us in the city of our residence on earth—beings of immortalityare constantly bidding us adieu, and entering into eternity. All our privileges thus become associated with the memory of former companions, who once had their abode below. They dwelled with us but a few days, they scarcely made themselves known to us, when they gave the farewell look, pressed the parting hand, bade adieu, and entered on an abode in eternity. The tolling bell, the niournful procession, the grave of their relics, the erected monument, signalized iheir departure; and now all around the city of our abode are the traces of their former presence, reminding us of our having no continuing residence here.

We look back at the days they passed with us before they entered into eternity, and they appear to us but a hand breadth ; and, from their dwelling in eternity, we seem to hear them say, as we miss them from the scenes in which they once mingled with us, that these are scenes where pilgrims to eternity tarry but a day. When in the habitations where they once dwelt with us, or in the streets where they walked with us, or the sanctuary to which they went with us in company, or at the mercyseat where they once bent with us the knee of devotion, or by the scriptures before which they once listened with us to the words of Jesus Christ, we look for them, but they are gone; the place which they once occupied at our side is vacant; they are far from us in their eternal dwelling; and the places where we once knew them are now so many mementos, that here we ourselves have no continuing city.

We have another continual memento of this fact, in the advancement we are constantly making ourselves towards eternity. Every thing in the city of our residence on earth reminds us, that we are never stationary in it, but are always advancing towards the period of our final departure. We have entered into a scene of divine wonders, but we cannot delay to spend our existence here in gazing upon them ; we are constantly in motion, urging our way through them to an eternal dwelling. Each breaking morn, each radiant noon, each shadowy eve, as they pass by us, make no tarrying, but pass us never more to return. The jocund Spring, Summer with his swarms of life, Autumn with her golden harvest, Winter with his icy sceptre and his snowy robes, as each year they pass us, are in constant motion, and, while we greet them, take their leave of us forever. Each changing scene of life arrests our minds, enlists our feelings; then takes its final leave of us, the sons of eternity. Creeping infancy, merry boyhood, aspiring youth, industrious manhood, decrepit age, we meet in swist succession; just greet, and bid adieu for eternity. In the midst of all

« FöregåendeFortsätt »