« PreviousContinue »
the garb of history, of poetry, of philosophy, and of periodical journals ;-assailing the highest interests of man as a moral, a religious, an immortal being.
Does ambition seek political distinction and power: -how destructive has it been in this
in all ages of the world! Animated and carried along by this principle, to what madness and crime has it led individuals both in ancient and in modern times ! How many thousand human beings have been sacrificed to gratify the ambition of a single Cæsar! If we beheld hamlets and cities in ruins, the means of subsistence, the domestic enjoyments of multitudes wasted, and war spreading misery and death over the face of that world on which the Creator lavishes his bounty, we should only witness some of the evils which cruel and hard-hearted ambition voluntarily produces.
Nor let us deceive ourselves by thinking that in our humble station we are beyond the reach of its influence. There is no principle that has so wide a control over mankind. Paltry as the object may be which we covet, and to which we give the homage of our heart, it will prove, should we love it to the neglect of God and of our true interests, our certain and everlasting ruin. While many are ever saying, Who will shew us any good-may it be the unfeigned language of our hearts, “ Lord lift thou up upon us the light of thy countenance. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee."
ANOTHER of the duties which we owe to ourselves is the cultivation of fortitude ; or that virtue, in the exercise of which we are enabled to conduct ourselves with propriety in regard to the difficulties and dangers of life; so as neither to betray ourselves by unreasonable fear, nor rashly to put ourselves in the way of evil. It is by fortitude that we can guard from injury those rights which the Creator has given us, and employ them in advancing the great end of our being; it is by the self-command which proceeds from it that we can prepare to meet the evils which threaten us at a distance; and it is the same virtue which keeps the mind from sinking under present and unavoidable calamities, and animates it to endure, with patience and resignation to the will of God, what it can neither control nor remove. No man can be truly virtuous who is not in some degree courageous ; since all the evils of life,--pain, and poverty, loss of property, of friends, or of reputation, and all the allurements of unlawful pleasure and profit, give occasion to the exercise of christian fortitude. It is closely connected with self-control, without a considerable share of which, none can be eminently good or great ; and it is nearly allied to contentment, which consists not in divesting ourselves of all inclination for what we do not enjoy at present, but in not VOL. II.
indulging any, without the authority of conscience and of God, and in possessing that tranquil and grateful state of mind which will lead us to give thanks always for all things, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“ With respect to fortitude, the fourth in the enumeration of cardinal virtues, we may observe that, in every active nature, there is a measure of force required to support their active exertions, and a measure of weakness sufficient to frustrate the purpose of nature, or to betray the confidence that may be placed in the highest measures of skill and of good disposition.
“ Force of mind has a peculiar reference to the state of man, to the difficulties, hardships, and dangers, in the midst of which he is destined to act. In the support of what is honourable and just, he has sometimes occasion to suffer what is inconvenient or painful to his animal frame. In espousing the cause of the just, he may incur the animosity and opposition of the wicked. In performing the offices of beneficence to others, he may encounter with hardship or danger to himself. But this circumstance, which seems to restrain or limit his activity, serves rather to whet his spirit, and increase his ardour in the performance of worthy actions. The difficulty he surmounts becomes an evidence of the disposition which he approves, and actually endears the object for whose sake he exposes himself. Hence it is, that ingenuous minds are confirmed in the love of virtue, in proportion as it becomes a principle of elevation, of heroism, or magnanimity*.”
* Ferguson's Prin. of Mor, and Pol. Science, v. ii. p. 43, 44.
ON THE FORMATION OF GOOD HABITS,
This is the next of the obligations which we owe to ourselves. It arises from the consideration of man's being susceptible of advancement in moral excellence and in happiness. It has been from a wise and gracious design that he has been rendered capable of forming habits,—and since he is so much the creature of habit, it is of infinite importance that this law of his nature should be turned to good account. Hence, the end of education should be, not merely the communication of knowledge—this is but one of its advantages,—but the training of the mind, the calling forth of good dispositions, and the suppression of the bad, and the formation of those habits that will prepare for the successful discharge of the duties of life.
It is impossible to enumerate here the different habits to the formation of which we should give our attention. But there is one that has so direct an influence on our religious and moral improvement, on the equanimity of our temper, and on the permanence of our happiness, that I cannot forbear mentioning it ;-I mean industry. This is of the greatest value to man in regard to every thing that tends to elevate him in goodness, in greatness, or in happiness. It is industry that has brought forth from the earth its riches, that has extracted from its bosom the materials requisite for accomplishing its own purposes, that has erected on its surface not only comfortable but elegant
habitations, that has procured the luxuries as well as the necessaries of life, that has so multiplied its treasures as to allow a portion of the community to disengage themselves from the labours of the field, and give their attention to the sciences, to the useful and ornamental arts. It is industry that has converted so great a portion of the earth into fruitfulness, that has enabled the same being who once plied in his canoe, fearlessly to circumnavigate the globe, and to make even the great deep bear on its bosom the mighty engines of his power ;-that has raised arround us in the beauty and magnificence of architecture, in the unbounded utility of the arts, and in the progress and sublimity of science, so many monuments of the ingenuity and intellectual strength of man, and that sweeps away all the barriers that might hinder him from running the noble career of indefinite improvement.
All is the gift of industry,
PRUDENCE, OR A SUITABLE REGARD TO SELF-HAPPINESS.
This is the next obligation which man owes to himself; and in connexion with his religious and moral improvement, it is one of very great importance. Its violation is not less criminal than is the breach of those duties which he owes to God, or to man; and when suffering, as the consequence of its viola