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Religion bath, on the whole, provided for every good man abundant materials of consolation and relief. How dark soever the present face of nature may appear, it dispels the darkness, when it brings into view the entire system of things, and extends our survey to the whole kingdom of God. It represents what we now behold as only a part, and a small part, of the general order. It assures us, that though here, for wise ends, misery and sorrow are permitted to have place, these temporary evils shall, in the end, advance the happiness of all who love God, and are faithful to their duty. It shows them this mixed and confused scene vanishing by degrees away, and preparing the introduction of that state, where the house of mourning shall be shut forever; where no tears are seen, and no grans heard; where no hopes are frustrated, and no virtuous connexions dissolved; but where under the light of the Divine countenance, goodness shall flourish in perpetual felicity. Thus, though religion may occasionally chasten our mirth with sadness of countenance, yet under that sadness it allows not the heart of good men to sink. It calls upon them to rejoice "because the Lord reigneth who is their Rock, and the most high God who is their redeemer." Reason likewise joins her voice with that of Religion; forbidding us to make peevish and unreasonable complaints of human life, or injuriously to ascribe to it more evil than it contains. Mixed as the present state is, she pronounces, that generally, if not always, there is more happiness than misery, more pleasure than pain, in the condition of man.
THERON AND ASPASIO.
Beauty and utility combined in the productions of nature. THERON and ASPASIO took a morning walk into the fields; their spirits cheered, and their imaginations lively; gratitude glowing in their hearts, and the whole creation smiling around them.
After sufficient exercise, they seated themselves on a mossy hillock, which offered its couch. The rising sun had visited the spot, to dry up the dews and exhale the damps, that might endanger health; to open the violets, and to expand the primroses, that decked the green. The whole shade of the wood was collected behind them; anů a beautiful, extensive, diversified landscape spread itself before them.
Theron, according to his usual manner, made many improving remarks on the prospect, and its furniture. He traced the footsteps of an All-comprehending contrivance, and pointed out the strokes of inimitable skill. He observed the grand exertions of power, and the rich exuberance of goodness, most signally, most charmingly conspicuous through the whole.-Upon one circumstance he enlarged, with particular satisfaction.
See! ASPASIO, how all is calculated to administer the highest delight to mankind. Those trees and hedges, which skirt the extremities of the landscape, stealing away from their real bulk, and lessening by gentle diminutions, appear like elegant pictures in miniature. Those which occupy the nearer situations, are a set of noble images, swelling upon the eye, in full proportion, and in a variety of graceful attitudes; both of them ornamenting the several apartments of our common abode, with a mixture of delicacy and grandeur.
The blossoms that array the branches, the flowers that embroider the mead, address and entertain our eyes with every charm of beauty: whereas, to other creatures, they are destitute of all those attractions, which result from a combination of the loveliest colours, and the most alluring forms. Yonder streams, that glide with smooth serenity, along the valleys, glittering to the distant view, like sheets of polished crystal, or soothing the attentive ear, with the softness of aquatic murmurs, are not less exhilarating to the fancy, than refreshing to the soil through which they pass. The huge, enormous mountain; the steep and dizzy precipice; the pendant horrors of the craggy promontory, wild and awful as they are, furnish an agreeable entertainment to the human mind; and please even while they amaze: whereas, the beasts take no other notice of those majestic deformities, than to avoid the dangers they threaten.
How wonderfully do such considerations exalt our idea of the Creator's goodness, his very distinguishing goodness to mankind! And should they not proportionably endear that eternal Benefactor to our hearts? His ever bountiful hand, has, with profuse liberality, scattered blessings among all the ranks of animated existence. But to us he exercises a beneficence of a very superior kind. We are treated with peculiar attention. We are admitted to scenes of delight, which none but ourselves are capable of relishing.
Another remark, though very obvious, is equally imporThe destination of all these external things is no less advantageous, than their formation is beautiful. The bloom which engages the eye with its delicate hues, is cherishing the embryo fruit; and forming, within its silken folds, the rudiments of a future dessert.-Those streams which shine from afar, like fluid silver, are much more valuable in their productions, and beneficial in their services, than they are beautiful in their appearance. They distribute, as they roll along their winding banks, cleanliness to our houses, and fruitfulness to our lands. They nourish, and at their own expense, a never-failing supply of the finest fish. They visit our cities, and attend our wharves, as so many public vehicles, ready to set out at all hours.
Those sheep, which give their udders to be drained by the busy frisking lambs, are fattening their flesh for our support; and while they fill their own fleeces, are providing
for our comfortable clothing. Yonder kine, some of which are browsing upon the tender herb, others, satiated with pasturage, and ruminating under the shady covert, though conscious of no such design, are concocting, for our use, one of the softest, purest, most salutary of liquors. The bees that fly humming about our seat, and pursue their work on the fragrant blossoms, are collecting balm and sweetness, to compose the richest of syrup; which, through the produce of their toil, is intended for our good. Nature and her whole family, are our obsequious servants, our ever-active labourers. They bring the fruits of their united industry, and pour them into our lap, or deposit them in our store-rooms.
Who can ever sufficiently admire this immense benignity? -The Supreme Disposer of events has commanded delight and profit to walk hand in hand, through his ample creation, making all things so perfectly pleasing, as if beauty were their only end; yet all things so eminently serviceable, as if usefulness had been their sole design.-And, as a most winning invitation to our gratitude, he has rendered man the centre, in which all the emanations of his beneficence, diffused through this terrestrial system, finally terminate.
Do you pretend to sit as high on Olympus as Hercules? Did you kill the Nemean lion, the Erymanthean boar, the Lernean serpent, and Stymphalian birds? Did you destroy tyrants and robbers? you value yourself greatly on subduing one serpent: I did as much as that while I lay in my cradle.
It is not on account of the serpent that I boast myself a greater benefactor to Greece than you. Actions should be valued by their utility, rather than their splendour. I taught Greece the art of writing, to which laws owe their precision and permanency. You subdued monsters; I civilized meħ.
It is from untamed passions, not from wild beasts, that the greatest evils arise to human society. By wisdom, by art, by the united strength of civil community, men have been enabled to subdue the whole race of lions, bears, and serpents; and, what is more, to bind by laws and wholesome regulations, the ferocious violence and dangerous treachery of the human disposition. Had lions been destroyed only in single combat, men had had but a bad time of it; and what but laws could awe the men who killed the lions? The genuine glory, the proper distinction of the rational species, arise from the perfection of the mental powers. Courage is apt to be fierce, and strength is often exerted in acts of oppression but wisdom is the associate of justice. It assists her to form equal laws, to pursue right measures, to correct power, protect weakness, and to unite individuals in a common interest and general welfare. Heroes may kill tyrants, but it is wisdom and laws that prevent tyranny and oppression. The operations of policy far surpass the labours of Hercules, preventing many evils which valour and might cannot even redress. You heroes regard nothing but glory; and scarcely consider whether the conquests which raise your fame, are really beneficial to your country. Unhappy are the people who are governed by valour not directed by prudence, and not mitigated by the gentle arts!
I do not expect to find an admirer of my strenuous life, in the man who taught his countrymen to sit still and read; and to lose the hours of youth and action in idle speculation and the sport of words.
An ambition to have a place in the registers of fame, is the Eurystheus which imposes heroic labours on mankind. The muses incite to action, as well as entertain the hours of repose; and I think you should honour them for presenting to heroes so noble a recreation, as may prevent their taking up the distaff, when they lay down the club.
Wits as well as heroes can take up the distaff. What think you of their thin-spun systems of philosophy, or lascivious poems, or Milesian fables? Nay, what is still worse, are there not panegyrics on tyrants, and books that blaspheme the gods, and perplex the natural sense of right and wrong? I believe if Eurystheus were to set me to work again, he would find me a worse task than any he imposed;