Page images

could be meant for the abode of misery and pain. For what end has the lavish hand of Providence diffused such innumerable objects of delight, but that all might rejoice in the privilege of existence, and be filled with gratitude to the beneficent Author of it? Thus to enjoy the blessings he has sent, is virtue and obedience; and to reject them merely as means of pleasure, is pitiable ignorance, or absurd

perverseness. Infinite goodness is the source of created existence; the proper tendency of every rational being, from the highest order of raptured seraphs, to the meanest ranks of men, is to rise incessantly from lower degrees of happiness to higher. They have each faculties assigned them for various orders of delights.”

“ What,” cried I, “is this the language of Religion ? Does she lead her votaries through flowery paths, and bid them pass an unlaborious life? Where are the painful toils of virtue, the mortifications of penitents, the self-denying exercises of saints and heroes?"

“ The true enjoyments of a reasonable being,” answered the stranger mildly, “ do not consist in unbounded indulgence, or luxurious ease, in the tumult of passions, the languor of indolence, or the flutter of light amusements. Yielding to immoral pleasures corrupts the mind, living to animal and trifling ones debases it; both in their degree disqualify it for its genuine good, and consign it over to wretchedness. Whoever would be really happy, must make the diligent and regular exercise of his superior powers his chief attention, adoring the perfections of his Maker, expressing good will to his fellow-creatures, cultivating inward rectitude. In the regions inhabited by angelic natures, unmingled felicity for ever blooms, joy flows there with a perpetual and abundant stream, nor needs there any mound to check its course. Beings conscious of a frame of mind originally diseased, as all the human race has cause to be, must use the regimen of a stricter self-government. The Christian and the hero are inseparable; and to the aspirings of unassuming trust, and filial confidence, are set no bounds. To him who is animated with a view of obtaining approbation from the Sovereign of the universe, no difficulty is insurmountable. Secure in this pursuit of every needful aid, his conflict

with the severest pains and trials, is little more than the vigorous exercises of a mind in health. His patient de pendence on that Providence which looks through all eternity, his silent resignation, his ready accommodation of his thoughts and behaviour to its inscrutable ways, is at once the most excellent sort of self-denial, and a source of the most exalted transports. The happiness allotted to man in his present state, is, indeed, faint and low, compared with his immortal prospects, and noble capacities; but yet whatever portion of it the distributing hand of heaven offers to each individual, is a needful support and refreshment for the present moment, so far as it may not hinder the attaining his final destination."


IX.-ON FRIENDSHIP. A FAITHFUL friend, it is justly and beautifully said, by one of the apocryphal writers, is the medicine of life. Á variety of occasions happen, when to pour forth the heart to one whom we love and trust, is the chief comfort, perhaps the only relief, we can enjoy. Miserable is he, who, shut

up within the narrow enclosure of selfish interest, has no person to whom he can at all times, with full confidence, expand his soul.

Since cordial friendship is so great a blessing to human life, let us proceed to consider what duties it requires, and by what methods it may be cultivated to most advantage. The fundamental qualities of true friendship are, constancy and fidelity. Without these material ingredients it is of no value. An inconstant man is incapable of friendship. He may perhaps have affections which occasionally glow in his heart; which excite fondness for amiable qualities, or connect him with seeming attachment to one whom he esteems, or to whom he has been obliged. But after these feelings have lasted for a little, either fancied interest alienates him, or some new object attracts him; and he is no longer the same person to those whom he once loved. A man of this inconstant mind cannot be said to have any mind at all. For where there is no fixedness of moral principle, occasional feelings


are of no value, mind is of no effect; and with such persons it is never desirable to have any connexion. Where constancy is wanting, there can be no fidelity, which is the other basis of friendship. For all friendship supposes entire confidence and trust; supposes the seal of secrecy to be inviolable; supposes promises and engagements to be sacred; and no advantage of our own to be pursued at the expense of our friend's honour. An inconstant man is despicable. A faithless man is base.

Many failings you experience in yourselves. Be not surprised when you discover the like in others, of whom you had formed the highest opinion. The best and most estimable persons are they, in whom the fewest material defects are found; and whose great and solid qualities counterbalance the common infirmities of men. It is to these qualities you are to look in forming friendships; to good sense and prudence, which constitute the basis of every respectable character; to virtue, to good temper, to steadiness of affection; and according to the union of those dispositions, esteem yourselves happy in the friend whom you choose.

Nothing more certainly dissolves friendship, than the jealousy which arises from darkness and concealment. If your situation obliges you to take a different side from your friend, do it openly. Avow your conduct; avow your motives; as far as honour allows, disclose yourselves frankly; seek no cover from unnecessary and mysterious secrecy. Mutual confidence is the soul of friendship. As soon as that is destroyed, or even impaired, it is only a show of friendship that remains. What was once cordial intimacy, degenerates first into formal civility; constraint on both sides next succeeds; and disgust or hatred soon follows. The maxim which has been laid down by certain crooked politicians, to behave to a friend with the same guarded caution as we would do to an enemy, because it is possible that he may one day become such, discovers a mind which never was made for the enjoyments of friendship. It is a maxim which, not unreasonably I admit, may find place in those political and party friendships, where personal advancement is always in view. But it is altogether inconsistent with the spirit of those friendships, which are formed, and understood to be nourished, by the heart. Blair.

X.-CHRIST'S BIRTH ANNOUNCED. WHEN the Saviour of mankind was born in Judea, his birth was attended with no external splendour which could mark him out as the promised Messiah. The business of life was proceeding in its usual train. The princes of the world were pursuing their plans of ambition and vanity. The chief priests and the scribes, the interpreters of revelation, were amusing the multitude with idle traditions. Jesus lay neglected in the stable of Bethlehem; and the first rays of the Sun of Righteousness beamed unnoticed on the earth. But the host of heaven were deeply interested in this great event. They contemplated with pleasure the blessings which were about to be dispensed to men; and from their high abode a messenger descended to announce the dawn of that glorious day, which the prophets had seen from afar, and were glad. The persons to whom these tidings of joy were first proclaimed, were not such indeed as the world would have reckoned worthy of so high a pre-eminence. They were not the wise, the rich, or the powerful of the earth. That which is highly esteemed among men, is often of little value in the sight of God. The rich and the poor are alike to him. He prefers the simplicity of a candid mind to all those artificial accomplishments which attract the admiration of the giddy multitude. It was to the shepherds of Bethlehem that the angel appeared—to men obscure and undistinguished among their brethren, who, in the silence of the night, were following the duties of their peaceful occupation, far from the vices of courts, and the prejudices of the synagogue. But the manner in which the birth of the Messiah was announced, was suited to the dignity of so great an occasion. At midnight these shepherds were tending their flocks, and all was dark and still in the fields of Bethlehem, when, on a sudden, a light from heaven filled the plain, and the angel of the Lord stood revealed before them. So un. usual an appearance struck them with awe. They knew not with what tidings this messenger might be charged. But the voice of the angel soon quieted their fears. It was a message of mercy with which he was intrusted ·

Behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the



[ocr errors]

XI.—THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST. It is a glorious scene that is here presented to our view. The disciples are assembled around their Master, to receive the last expressions of his

affection. The hands of Jesus are raised over their heads in the posture of earnest supplication. His feet already press lightly on the mountain, and the host of angels are preparing the song of triumph to celebrate his return to his native abode. And lo! while the blessing is yet proceeding from his mouth, he rises insensibly from the earth ; as he ascends, the eyes of the apostles are fixed in silent astonishment on a scene so full of wonder ; at length a cloud receives him, and hides him from their enraptured sight. What various emotions now mingle in the minds of his disciples : Affection for so compassionate a Master, whose last parting words of kindness still resound in their ears ;amazement at so strange an event;-sorrow for the departure of a friend to whom they were so warmly attached, and joy when they think of the honour to which he is now advanced ;--all conspire to fill and to agitate their breasts. Their eyes had traced the path in which their Master had ascended, and are now irresistibly fixed on the place where at last he had disappeared from their view. Their hearts still continue to follow him, and their imaginations, enlivened by affection and faith, penetrate within the veil to scenes which are concealed from mortal sight, and dwell on the contemplation of the glory to which the Redeemer was now exalted. While, full of such emotions as these, they look steadfastly towards heaven, a vision is presented which banishes every doubt

« PreviousContinue »