Imagens das páginas

gained only by study, and study to be prose- The senses have not only that advantage over cuted only in retirement.

conscience which things necessary must always These are some of the motives which have had have over things chosen, but they have likewise power to sequester kings and heroes from the a kind of prescription in their favour. We crowds that soothed them with flatteries or in- feared pain much earlier than we apprehended spirited them with acclamations; but their effi- guilt, and were delighted with the sensations of cacy seems confined to the higher mind, and to pleasure before we had capacities to be charmed operate little upon the common classes of man with the beauty of rectitude. To this power, kind, to whose conceptions the present assem thus early established and incessantly increasblage of things is adequate, and who seldom ing, it must be remembered that almost every range beyond those entertainments and vexa- | man has, in some part of his life, added new tions which solicit their attention by pressing on strength by a voluntary or negligent subjection their senses.

of himself; for who is there that has not insti. But there is a universal reason for some stated gated his appetites by indulgence, or suffered intervals of solitude, which the institutions of them by an unresisting neutrality to enlarge the Church call upon me now especially to men- | their dominion and multiply their demands? tion ;* a reason which extends as wide as moral From the necessity of dispossessing the sensi. duty, or the hopes of Divine favour in a future tive faculties of the influence which they must state, and which ought to influence all ranks of naturally gain by this pre-occupation of the life, and all degrees of intellect, since none can soul arises that conflict between opposite desires imagine themselves not comprehended in its in the first endeavours after a religious life, obligation but such as determine to set their which, however enthusiastically it may have Maker at defiance by obstinate wickedness, or been described, or however contemptuously ridi. whose enthusiastic security of His approbation | culed, will naturally be felt in some degree, places them above external ordinances and all though varied without end, by different tempers human means of improvement.

of mind, and innumerable circumstances of The great task of him who conducts his life by health or condition, greater or less fervour, more the precepts of religion is to make the future or fewer temptations to relapse. predominate over the present, to impress upon From the perpetual necessity of consulting the his mind so strong a sense of the importance of animal faculties in our provision for the present obedience to the Divine will, of the value of the life arises the difficulty of withstanding their reward promised to virtue, and the terrors of impulses, even in cases where they ought to be the punishment denounced against crimes, as of no weight; for the notions of sense are inmay overbear all the temptations which temporal stantaneous, its objects strike unsought, we are hope or fear can bring in his way, and enable accustomed to follow its directions, and therehim to bid equal defiance to joy and sorrow, to fore often submit to the sentence without ex. turn away at one time from the allurements of amining the authority of the judge. ambition, and push forward at another against Thus it appears, upon a philosophical estithe threats of calamity.

mate, that, supposing the mind at any certain It is not without reason that the apostle repre-time in an equipoise between the pleasures of sents our passage through this stage of our ex- this life and the hopes of futurity, present obistence by images drawn from the alarms and jects falling more frequently into the scale would solicitude of a military life, for we are placed in time preponderate, and that our regard for an in such a state that almost everything about us invisible state would grow every moment weaker, conspires against our chief interest. We are in till at last it would lose all its activity and bedanger from whatever can get possession of our come absolutely without effect. thoughts; all that can excite in us either pain To prevent this dreadful event, the balance is or pleasure has a tendency to obstruct the way put into our own hands, and we have power to that leads to happiness, and either to turn us transfer the weight to either side. The motives aside or retard our progress.

to a life of holiness are infinite, not less than Our senses, our appetites, and our passions, the favour or anger of Omnipotence, not less are our lawful and faithful guides in most things than eternity of happiness or misery. But these that relate solely to this life; and, therefore, by can only influence our conduct as they gain our the hourly necessity of consulting them we gra- | attention, which the business or diversions of dually sink into an implicit submission and the world are always calling off by contrary habitual confidence. Every act of compliance | attractions. with their motions facilitates a second compli. The great art, therefore, of piety, and the end ance, every new step towards depravity is made for which all the rites of religion seem to be inwith less reluctance than the former, and thus stituted, is the perpetual renovation of the the descent to life merely sensual is perpetually motives to virtue by a voluntary employment of accelerated.

our mind in the contemplation of its excellence,

its importance, and its necessity, which, in pro* This paper was published April 10, 1750. | portion as they are more frequently and more

[graphic][ocr errors]

SAMUEL JOHNSON, L.L.D.'. Symptóby. Hla A lige from the ci aiuti Penting

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

willingly revolved, gain a more forcible and per. call ourselves masters, or which we can spend manent influence, till in time they become the wholly at our own choice. Many of our hours reigning ideas, the standing principles of action, are lost in a rotation of petty cares, in a constant and the test by which everything proposed to recurrence of the same employments; many of the judgment is rejected or approved

our provisions for ease or happiness are always To facilitate this change of our affections, it is exhausted by the present day; and a great part necessary that we weaken the temptations of the of our existence serves no other purpose than world by retiring at certain seasons from it, for that of enabling us to enjoy the rest. its influence arising only from its presence is Of the few moments which are left in our dismuch lessened when it becomes the object of posal, it may reasonably be expected that we solitary meditation. A constant residence amidst should be so frugal as to let none of them slip noise and pleasure inevitably obliterates the

tably obliterates the | from us without some equivalent: and perhaps impressions of piety, and a frequent abstraction it might be found, that as the earth, however of ourselves into a state where this life, like the straitened by rocks and waters, is capable of next, operates only upon the reason, will rein

producing more than all its inhabitants are able state religion in its just authority, even without to consume, our lives, though much contracted those irradiations from above, the hope of which by incidental distraction, would yet afford us a I have no intention to withdraw from the sin. / large space vacant to the exercise of reason and cere and the diligent.

virtue; that we want not time, but diligence, This is that conquest of the world and of our.

for great performances; and that we squander selves which has been always considered as the

much of our allowance, even while we think it perfection of human nature; and this is only to

sparing and insufficient. be obtained by fervent prayer, steady resolu

This natural and necessary comminution of our tions, and frequent retirement from folly and

lives, perhaps, often makes us insensible of the vanity, from the cares of avarice, and the joys

negligence with which we suffer them to slide of intemperance, from the lulling sounds of de.

away. We never consider ourselves as possessed ceitful flattery, and the tempting sight of pros

at once of time sufficient for any great design, perous wickedness.

and therefore indulge ourselves in fortuitous amusements. We think it unnecessary to take

an account of a few supernumerary moments, LIFE SUFFICIENT TO ALL PURPOSES

which, however employed, could have produced IF WELL EMPLOYED.

little advantage, and which were exposed to a "Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise ;

thousand chances of disturbance and interrupHe who defers this work from day to day,

tion. Does on a river's bank expecting stay,

It is observable that, either by nature or by Till the whole stream, which stopped him, should be habit, our faculties are fitted to images of a cer. gone,

tain extent, to which we adjust great things by That runs, and as it runs, for ever will run on."

| division, and little things by accumulation. Of --Cowley.

extensive surfaces we can only take a survey, as An ancient poet, unreasonably discontented the parts succeed one another; and atoms we at the present state of things, which the system cannot perceive till they are united into masses. of opinions obliged him to represent in its worst Thus we break the vast periods of time into cen. form, has observed of the earth, “that its greater turies and years; and thus, if we would know part is covered by the uninhabitable ocean ; that the amount of moments, we must agglomerate of the rest some is encumbered with naked moun. | them into days and weeks. tains, and some lost under barren sands ; some The proverbial oracles of our parsimonious scorched with unintermitted heat, and some ancestors have informed us, that the fatal waste petrified with perpetual frost; so that only a of fortune is by small expenses, by the profusions few regions remain for the production of fruits, of sums too little singly to alarm our caution, the pasture of cattle, and the accommodation of and which we never suffer ourselves to consider

together. Of the same kind is the prodigality of The same observation may be transferred to life; he that hopes to look back hereafter with the time allotted us in our present state. When satisfaction upon past years, must learn to know we have deducted all that is absorbed in sleep, the present value of single minutes, and endeav. all that is inevitably appropriated to the de-our to let no particle of time fall useless to the mands of nature, or irresistibly engrossed by the ground. tyranny of custom; all that passes in regulating It is usual for those who are advised to the the superficial decorations of life, or is given up | attainment of any new qualification, to look upon in the reciprocations of civility to the disposal of themselves as required to change the general others; all that is torn from us by the violence course of their conduct, to dismiss business, and of disease, or stolen imperceptibly away by exclude pleasure, and to devote their days and Jassitude and languor; we shall find that part of nights to a particular attention. But all comour duration very small of which we can truly mon degrees of excellence are attainable at a


lower price; he that should steadily and resol. constancy, and a vigilant improvement of those utely assign to any science or language those hours, which, in the midst of the most restless interstitial vacancies which intervene in the most activity, will remain unengaged, to write more crowded variety of diversion or employment, than another in the same condition would have would find every day new irradiations of know- hoped to read. Compelled by want to attend. ledge, and discover how much more is to be ance and solicitation, and so much versed in hoped from frequency and perseverance, than common life, that he has transmitted to us the from violent efforts and sudden desires ; efforts most perfect delineation of the manners of his which are soon remitted when they encounter age, he joined to his knowledge of the world, difficulty, and desires, which, if they are in. | such application to books, that he will stand for dulged too often, will shake off the authority of ever in the first rank of literary heroes. How reason, and range capriciously from one object this proficiency was obtained he sufficiently disto another.

covers, by informing us, that the “Praise of The disposition to defer every important design Folly," one of his most celebrated performances, to a time of leisure, and a state of settled uni- was composed by him on his road to Italy; formity, proceeds generally from a false estimate “ne totum illud tempus quo equo fuit insiden. of the human powers. If we except those gigan- dum, illiteratis fabulis tereretur," lest the hours tic and stupendous intelligences who are said to which he was obliged to spend on horseback grasp a system by intuition, and bound forward should be tattled away without regard to litera. from one series of conclusions to another, with. | ture. out regular steps through intermediate proposi- An Italian philosopher expressed in his motto, tions, the most successful students make their that “time was his estate;” an estate, indeed, advances in knowledge by short flights, between which will produce nothing without cultivation, each of which the mind may lie at rest. For but will always abundantly repay the labours of every single act of progression a short time industry, and satisfy the most extensive desires, is sufficient; and it is only necessary, that if no part of it be suffered to lie waste by negli. whenever that time is afforded, it be well em gence, to be overrun with noxious plants, or laid ployed.

out for show rather than for use. Few minds will be long confined to severe laborious meditation; and when a successful attack on knowledge has been made, the student

REPENTANCE recreates himself with the contemplation of his “We through this maze of life one Lord obey; conquest, and forbears another incursion, till the Whose light and grace unerring, lead the way. new-acquired truth has become familiar, and his

By hope and faith secure of future bliss, curiosity calls upon him for fresh gratifications.

Gladly the joys of present life we miss :

For baffled mortals still attempt in vain, Whether the time of intermission is spent in

Present and future bliss at once to gain." company, or in solitude, in necessary business,

-F. Lercis. or in voluntary levities, the understanding is equally abstracted from the object of inquiry; That to please the Lord and Father of the uni. but perhaps if it be detained by occupations less verse is the supreme interest of created and de. pleasing, it returns again to study with greater pendent beings, as it is easily proved, has been alacrity than when it is glutted with ideal plea universally confessed; and since all rational sures, and surfeited with intemperance of applica- | agents are conscious of having neglected or vio. tion. He that will not suffer himself to be dis-lated the duties prescribed to them, the fear of couraged oy fancied impossibilities, may some being rejected, or punished by God, has always times find his abilities invigorated by the necessity burdened the human mind. The expiation of of exerting them in short intervals, as the force crimes, and renovation of the forfeited hopes of of a current is increased by the contraction of its Divine favour, therefore constitute a large part channel.

of every religion. From some cause like this it has probably The various methods of propitiation and atone. proceeded, that among those who have con | ment which fear and folly have dictated, or arti. tributed to the advancement of learning, many fice and interest tolerated in the different parts have risen to eminence in opposition to all the of the world, however they may sometimes re. obstacles which external circumstances could proach or degrade humanity, at least show the place in their way, amidst the tumult of business, I general consent of all ages and nations in their the distresses of poverty, or the dissipations of opinion of the placability of the Divine natura a wandering and unsettled state. A great part That God will forgive, may, indeed, be estabof the life of Erasmus was one continual pere. lished as the first and fundamental truth of grination; ill supplied with the gifts of fortune, religion; for, though the knowledge of His and led from city to city, and from kingdom to existence is the origin of philosophy, yet, with. kingdom, by the hopes of patrons and prefer out the belief of His mercy, it would have little ment, hopes which always flattered and always influence upon our moral conduct. There could deceived him; he yet found means, by unshaken be no prospect of enjoying the protection or

« AnteriorContinuar »