Page images

to us, with useful employments and harmless pleasures,-to practice that industry, activity, and order, which the course of the natural world is constantly preaching.

9. Let not the passions blight the intellect in the spring of its advancement; nor indolence nor vice canker the promise of the heart in the blossom. Then shall the summer of life be adorned with moral beauty,-the autumn yield a harvest of wisdom and virtue, and the winter of age be cheered with pleasing reflections on the past, and bright hopes of the future. Monthly Anthology.


On the Swiftness of Time.

1. THE natural advantages which arise from the position of the earth we inhabit, with respect to the other planets, afford much employment to mathematical speculation,-by which it has been discovered, that no other conformation of the system could have given such commodious distributions of light and heat, or have imparted fertility and pleasure to so great a part of a revolving sphere.

2. It may perhaps be observed by the moralist, with equal reason, that our globe seems particularly fitted for the residence of a being, placed here only for a short time, whose task is to advance himself to a higher and happier state of existence, by unremitted vigilance of caution, and activity of virtue.

3. The duties required of man, are such as human nature does not willingly perform, and such as those are inclined to delay, who yet intend, at some time, to fulfill them. It was therefore necessary, that this universal reluctance should be counteracted, and the drowsiness of hesitation wakened into resolve, that the danger of procrastination should be always in view, and the fallacies of security be hourly detected.

4. To this end all the appearances of nature uniformly conspire. Whatever we see, on every side, reminds us of the lapse of time and the flux of life. The day and night succeed each other; the rotation of seasons diversifies the year; the sun rises, attains the meridian, declines and sets; and the moon, every night, changes its form.

5. The day has been considered as an image of the year, and a year as the representation of life. The morning answers to the spring, and the spring to childhood and youth. The Roon corresponds to the summer, and the summer to c Fal'-la-cies, false appearances, decelts.

a Coun-ter-act'-ed, acted in opposition. Pro-cras-ti-nation, delay.

the strength of manhood. The evening is an emblem of autumn, and autumn of declining life. The night, with its silence and darkness, shows the winter, in which all the powers of vegetation are benumbed; and the winter points out the time when life shall cease, with its hopes and pleasures.

6. He that is carried forward, however swiftly, by a motion equable and easy, perceives not the change of place but by the variation of objects. If the wheel of life which rolls thus silently along, passed on with undistinguishable uniformity, we should never mark its approaches to the end of the course. If one hour were like another,-if the passage of the sun did not show that the day is wasting,-if the change of seasons did not impress upon us the flight of the year,-quantities of duration, equal to days and years, would glide unobserved.

7. If the parts of time were not variously colored, we should never discern their departure or succession; but should live, thoughtless of the past, and careless of the future, without will, and perhaps without power to compute the periods of life, or to compare the time which is already lost with that which may probably remain.

8. But the course of time is so visibly marked, that it is even observed by the passage, and by nations who have raised their minds very little above animal instinct: there are human beings, whose language does not supply them with words by which they can number five; but I have read of none that have not names for day and night, for summer and winter.

9. Yet it is certain that these admonitions of nature, however importunate, are too often vain; and that many, who mark with such accuracy the course of time, appear to have little sensibility of the decline of life. Every man has something to do which he neglects; every man has faults to conquer which he delays to combat.

10. So little do we accustom ourselves to consider the effects of time, that things necessary and certain, often surprise us like unexpected contingencies. We leave the beauty in her bloom, and, after an absence of twenty years, wonder at our return to find her faded. We meet those whom we left children, and can scarcely persuade ourselves to treat them as men. The traveler visits, in age, those countries through which he rambled in his youth, and hopes for merriment at the old place. The man of business, wearied with unsatis factory prosperity, retires to the town of his nativity, and ex

a Em'-blem, a representation of something.

b Im-por-tu-nate, pressing with solicita c Con-tin'-gen-cies, casual events. [tion

pects to play away his last years with the companions of his childhood, and recover youth in the fields where he once was young.

11. From this inattention-so general and so mischievous— let it be every man's study to exempt himself. Let him that desires to see others happy, make haste to give while his gift can be enjoyed; and remember, that every moment of delay takes away something from the value of his benefaction ; and let him who proposes his own happiness, reflect, that while he forms his purpose the day rolls on, and " the night cometh when no man can work." Dr. Johnson.


The unhappiness resulting from unrestrained passions.

1. THE passions are those strong emotions of the mind, which impel it to desire and to act with vehemence. When directed toward proper objects, and kept within just bounds, they possess a useful place in our frame,-they add vigor and energy to the mind, and enable it, on great occasions, to act with uncommon force and success; but they always require the government and restraint of reason.

2. It is in the mind just as it is in the body. Every member of the body is useful, and serves some good purpose. But if any one swell to an enormous size, it presently becomes a disease. Thus, when a man's passions go on in a calm and moderate train, and no object takes an inordinate hold of any of them, his spirit is in this part sound, and his life proceeds with tranquillity. But if any of them be so far indulged and left without restraint as to run into excess, a dangerous blow will then be given to the heart.

3. Supposing, for instance, that some passion, even of the nature of those which are reckoned innocent, shall so far seize a man, as to conquer and overpower him ;-his tranquillity will be destroyed. The balance of his soul is lost; he is no longer his own master, nor is capable of attending properly to the offices of life which are incumbent on him, or of turning his thoughts into any other direction than what passion points out. He may be sensible of the wound,-may feel the. dart that is fixed in his breast, but is unable to extract it.

4. But the case becomes infinitely worse, if the passion which has seized a man be of the vicious and malignant kind. Let him be placed in the most prosperous situation of life,give him external ease and affluence to the full, and let his

a Ben-e-fac'-tion, charitable gift.
In-or'-di-nate, immoderate, excessive.

c In-cum-bent, imposed as a duty.
d Ma-lig'-nant, malicious, virulent.

character be high and applauded by the world,-yet, if into the heart of this man there has stolen some dark, jealous suspicion,- -some rankling envy, some pining discontent,-that instant his temper is soured, and poison is scattered over all his joys. He dwells in secret upon his vexations and cares; and while the crowd admire his prosperity, he envies the more peaceful condition of the peasant and the hind.

5. If his passions chance to be of the more fierce and outrageous nature, the painful feelings they produce will be still more intense and acute. By violent passions the heart is not only wounded, but torn and rent. As long as a man is under the workings of raging ambition, disappointed pride, and keen thirst for revenge, he remains under immediate torment. Over his dark and scowling mind, gloomy ideas continually brood. His transient fits of merriment and joy, are like beams of light, breaking occasionally from the black cloud that carries the thunder.

6. What greatly aggravates the misery of such persons, is, that they dare make no complaints. When the body is diseased or wounded, to our friends we naturally fly; and from their sympathy or assistance expect relief. But the wounds given to the heart by ill-governed passions, are of an opprobrious nature, and must be stifled in secret. The slave of passion can unbosom himself to no friend; and, instead of sympathy, dreads meeting with ridicule or contempt.




Of Curiosity concerning the affairs of others.

1. THAT idle curiosity,—that inquisitived and meddling spirit, which leads men to pry into the affairs of their neighbors, is reprehensible on three accounts. It interrupts the good order, and breaks the peace of society. It brings forward and nourishes several bad passions. It draws men aside from a proper attention to the discharge of their own duty.

2. It interrupts, I say, the order, and breaks the peace of society. In this world we are linked together by many ties. We are bound by duty, and we are prompted by interest, to give mutual assistance, and to perform friendly offices to each other. But those friendly offices are performed to the most advantage, when we avoid to interfere, unnecessarily, in the concerns of our neighbor. Every man has his own part

a Tran'-sient, passing, basty.
bOp-pro'-bri-ous, reproachful, disgrace-


c Sym'-pa-thy, a fellow feeling.

d In-quis'-i-tive, given to inquiry,
e Rep-re-hen'-si-ble, censurable.
fMu'-tu-al, acting in return.


to act, has his own interest to consult,—has affairs of his own to manage, which his neighbor has no call to scrutinize." 3. Human life then proceeds in its most natural and orderly train, when every one keeps within the bounds of his proper province,-when, as long as his pursuits are fair and lawful, he is allowed, without disturbance, to conduct them in his own way. That ye study to be quiet, and do your own business, is the apostolic rule, and indeed the great rule for the preservation of harmony and order.

4. But so it is, that in every age a set of men have existed, who, driven by an unhappy activity of spirit, oftener, perhaps, than by any settled design of doing ill, or any motives of ambition or interest, love to intermeddle where they have no concern,-to inquire into the private affairs of others, and, from the imperfect information they collect, to form conclusions respecting their circumstances and character. These are they who, in Scripture, are characterized as tattlers and busy bodies in other men's matters, and from whom we are called to turn away.

5. Though persons of this description should be prompted by nothing but vain curiosity, they are, nevertheless, dangerous troublers of the world. While they conceive themselves to be inoffensive, they are sowing dissension and feuds." Crossing the lines in which others move, they create confusion, and awaken resentment.-For every man conceives himself to be injured, when he finds another intruding into his affairs, and, without any title, taking upon him to examine his conduct. Being improperly and unnecessarily disturbed, he claims the right of disturbing, in his turn, those who have wantonly troubled him.

6. Hence many a friendship has been broken; the peace of many a family has been overthrown; and much bitter and lasting discord has been propagated through society. While this spirit of meddling curiosity injures so considerably the peace and good order of the world, it also nourishes, among individuals who are addicted to it, a multitude of bad passions. Its most frequent source is mere idleness, which, in itself a vice, never fails to engender many vices more. The mind of man cannot be long without some food to nourish the activity of its thoughts.

7. The idle who have no nourishment of this sort within themselves, feed their thoughts with inquiries into the conduct of their neighbors. The inquisitive and curious are always talkative. What they learn, or fancy themselves to have learned, concerning others, they are generally in haste

a Scru'-ti-nize, to examine closely.

b Feuds, quarrels, contentions.

« PreviousContinue »