Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

SECTION XXI. Trust in the care of Providence recommended. MAN, considered in himself, is a very helpless, and a very wretched being. He is subject every moment to the greatest calamities and misfortunes. He is beset with dangers on all sides; and may become unhappy by numberless casualties, which he could not foresee, nor have prevented had he foreseen them.

2 It is our comfort, while we are obnoxious to so many accidents, that we are under the care of ONE who directs contingencies, and has in his hands the management of cvery thing that is capable of annoying or offending us ; who knows the assistance we stand in need of, and is always ready to bestow it on those who ask it of him.

3 The natural homage, which such a creature owes to so infinitely wise and good a Being, is a firm reliance on bim for the blessings and conveniences of life; and an habitual trust in him, for deliverance out of all such dangers and difficulties as may befal us.

4 The man who always lives in this disposition of mind, has not the same dark and melanchuly views of human nature, as he who considers himself abstractedly from this relation to the Supreme Being. At the same time that he reflects upon his own weakness and imperfection, he comforts himself with the contemplation of those divine attributes, · which are employed for his safety, and his welfare. He finds his want of foresight made up, by the omniscience of him who is his support, He is not sensible of his own want of strength, when he knows tirat his helper is almighty.

5 In short, the person who has a firm trust in the Supreme Being, is powerful in his power, wise by his wisdom, happy by his happiness. He reaps the benefit of every divine attribute ; and loses his own insufficiency in the fulness of infinite perfection. To make our lives more easy to us, we are commanded to put our trust in him, who is thus able to relieve and succour us ; the Divine Goodness having made such a reliance a duty, notwithstanding we should have been miserable, had it been forbidden us.

6 Among several motives, which might be made use of to recommend this duty to us, I shall only take notice of those that follow. The first and strongest is, that we are promised, he will not fail those who put their trust in him. But without considering the supernatural plessing, which accompanies this duty, we may observe, that it has a natural tendency to its own reward;' cr in other words, that this

.

firm trust and confidence in the great Disposer of all things, contributes very much to the getting clear of any affiction, or to the bearing of it manfully.

7 A person who believes he has his succour at hand, and that he acts in the sight of his friend, often exerts himself beyond his abilities ; and does wonders, that are not to be matched by one who is not animated with such a confidence of success. Trust in the assistance of an Almighty Being, naturally produces patience, hope, cheerfulness, and all other dispositions of mind, which alleviate those calamities that we are not able to remove.

8 The practice of this virtue administers great comfort to the mind of man, in times of poverty and affliction ; but most of all, in the hour of death. When the soul is hovering, in the last moments of its separation; when it is just entering on another state of existence, to converse with scenes, and objects, and companions, that are altogether new; what can support her under such tremblings of thought, such fear, such anxiety, such apprehensions, but the casting of all her cares upon HIM, who first gave her being ; who has conducted her through one stage of it; and who will be always present, to guide and comfort her in her progress through eter. nity"

ADDISON. SECTION XXII. Piety and gratitude enliven prosperity. PIETY, and gratitude to God, contribute, in a high degree, to enliven prosperity. Gratitude is a pleasing emotion. The sense of being distinguished by the kindness of another, gladdens the heart, warms it with reciprocal affection, and gives to any possesion which agreeable in itself, a double relish, from its being the gift of a friend. Favours conferred by men, I acknowledge, may prove burdensome. For human virtue is never perfect; and sometimes unreasonable expectations on the one side, sometimes a mortifying sense of dependence on the other, corrode in secret the pleasures of benefits, and convert the obligations of friendship into grounds of jealousy.

2 But nothing of this kind can affect the intercourse of gratitude with Heaven. Its favours are wholly disinterested; and with a gratitude the most cordial and unsuspicious, a good man looks up to that Almighty Benefactor, who aims at no end but the happiness of those whom he blesses, and who desires no return from them, but a devout and thankful heart. While others can trace their prosperity to no higher source than a concurrence of worldly causes ; and, often, of

mean ortrifling incidents, which occasionally favoured their designs; with what superiour satisfaction does the servant of God remark the hand of that gracious Power which hath raised him up; which hath happily conducted him through the various steps of life, and crowned him with the most favourable distinction beyond his equals?

3 Let us farther consider, that not only gratitude for the past, but a cheering sense of divine favour at the present, enters into the pious emotion. They are only the virtuous, who in their prosperous days hear this voice addressed to them, “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a chee:ful heart; for God now accepteth thy works.” He who is the author of their prosperity, gives them a title to enjoy, with complacency, his own gift.

4 While bad men snatch the pleasures of the world as by stealth, without countenance from the great Proprietor of the world, the righteous sit openly down to the feast of life, under the smile of approving heaven. No guilty fears damp their joys. The blessing of God rests upon all that they possess; his protection surrounds them; and hence, “ in the habitations of the righteous, is found the voice of rejoicing and salvation.” A lustre unknown to others, invests, in their sight, the whole face of nature.

5 Their piety reflects a sunshine from heaven upon the prosperity of the world; unites in one point of view, the smiling aspect, both of the powers above, and of the objects below. Not only have they as full a relish as others, for the innocent pleasures of life, but, moreover, in these they hold communion with their divine Benefactor. In all that is good or fair, they trace his hand. From the beauties of nature, from the improvements of art, from the enjoyments of social life, they raise their affection to the source of all the happiness which surrounds them; and thus widen the sphere of their pleasures, by adding intellectual, and spiritual, to earthly joys.

6 For illustration of what I have said on this head, remark that cheerful enjoyment of a prosperous state, which king David had when he wrote the twenty-third psalm ; and compare

the highest pleasures of che riotous sinner, with the happy and satisfied spirit which breathse throughout that psalm.-In the midst of the splendour of royalty, with what amiable simplicity of gratitude does he look up to the Lord as “his Shepherd;" happier in ascribing all his success to Divine favour, than to the policy of his councils, or to the force of his arms!

7 How many instances of divine goodness arose before him in pleasing remembrance, when with such relish, he

BLAIR.

speaks of the green pastures and still waters, beside which God had led him ; of his cup which he had made to overflow; and of the table which he had prepared for him in the pre8ince or his enemies !" With what perfect tranquillity does he look forward to the time of bis passing through “the valley of the shadow of death;” unappalled by that spectre, whose most distant appearance blasts the prosperity of sin. ners! He fears no evil, as long as “the rod and the staff of h s Divine Shepherd are with him; and, through all the unknown periods of this and of future existence, commits himself to his guidance with secure and triumphant hope: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

8 What a purified, sentimental enjoyment of prosperity is here exhibited! How different from that gross relish of worldly pleasures, which belongs to those who behold only the terrestrial side of things; who raise their views to no higher objects than the succession of human contingencies, and the weak efforts of human ability ; who have no protector or patron in the heavens, to enliven their prosperity, or to warm their hearts with gratitude and trust!

SECTION XXIII. Virtue, wher deeply rooted., is not subject to the influence of

fortune. THE city of Sidon having surrendered to Alexander, he ordered Hephestion to bestow the crown on him whom the Sidonians should think most worthy of that honour. He phestion being at that time resident with two young men of distinction, offered them the kingdom; but they refused it, telling him that it was contrary to the laws of their country, to admit any one to that honour, who was not of the royal family.

2 He then, having expressed his admiration of their disinterested spirit, desired them to name one of the royal race, who might remember that he had received the crown through their hands. Overlooking many, who would have been ambitious of this high honour, they made choice of Abdolonymus, whose singular merit had rendered him conspicuous, even in the vale of obscurity. Though remotely related to the royal fainily, a series of misfortunes had reduced him to the necessity of cultivating a garden, for a small stipend, in the suburbs of the city.

3 While Abiolonymus was busily employed in weeding his garden, the two friends of Hephestion, bearing in their hands the ensigns of royality, approached him, and saluted him

king. They informed him that Alexander had appointed him to that office; and required him immediately to exchange his rustic garb, and utensils of husbandry, for the regal robe and sceptre. At the same time, they admonished him, when he should be seated on the throne, and have a nation in his power, not to forget the humble condition from which he had been raised.

4 All this, at the first, appeared to Abdolonymus as an illusion of the fancy, or an insult offered to his poverty. He requested them not to trouble him farther with their impertinent jests; and to find some other way of amusing themselves, which might leave him in the peaceable enjoyment of his obscure habitation.-At length, however, they convinced him, that they were serious in their proposal; and prerailed upon him to accept the regal office, and accompany them to the palace.

5 No sooner was he in possession of the government, than pride and envy created him enemies; who whispered their murmurs in every place, till at last they reached the ear of Alexander. He commanded the new-elected prince to be sent for; and inquired of him, with what temper of mind he had borne his poverty. “ Would to Heaven," replied Abdolonymus, “ that I may be able to bear my crown with equal moderation : for when I possessed little, I wanted nothing : These hands supplied me with whatever I desired." From this answer, Alexander formed so high an idea of his wisdom, that he confirmed the choice which had been made; and annexed a neighbouring province to the government of Sidon.

QUINTUS CURTIUS. SECTION XXIV. The Speech of FABRICIUS, a Roman Ambassador, to king

Pyrrhus, who attempted to bribe him to his interests, by the offer of a great sum of money.

WITH regard to my poverty, the king has, indeed, been justly informed. My whole estate consists in a house of but 'mean appearance, and a little spot of ground; from which, by my own labour, I draw my support. But if, by any means, thou hast been persuaded to thirik that this poverty renders me of less consequence in my own country, or in any degree unhappy, thou art greatly deceived.

2 I have no reason to complain of fortune: she supplies me with all that nature requires ; and if I am without superflu. ities, I am also free from the desire of them. With these, I confess I should be more able to succour the necessitous, the only advantage for which the wealthy are to be envied; but small as my possessions are, I can stiil contribute something

« НазадПродовжити »