Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

es the learned speculations of philosophy, and the power, ful charms of eloquence; the heroic courage of the warrior, and the brilliant metaphors of the poet. To what other motive than this, do we owe the productions of genius, and, consequently, the diffusion of knowledge! This has reared the stately fabric of science; it has given it. a base, as durable as time, and an apex as high as the heavens. This animates genius, that without it were inert, and gives energy to the mental faculties, without which they were useless. From its power over the mind are derived inestimable advantages. Analyze every good quality of the heart, and you will find its source to be ambition.

As ambition is the most powerful of the passions, só it has the longest duration. Love, if not soon destroyed by caprice, perishes at the approach of old age, and its extinction is more speedy as its commencement is more violent. Hatred, although more durable than love, is generally of short duration, necessarily yielding to the ravages of time. Revenge is only excited occasionally, and is soon satiated with its object. But ama bition is coeval with life itself. No misfortune can impair its energy, or lessen its exertions.

The other passions are weakened by the absence of their objects ; but ambition is more vehement as its object is more distant-more earnest in pursuit as its object is more difficult to be attained.

Without this invigorating principle, the verse of the poet would be lifeless, and the arm of the warrior inactive. The nobler feelings of the heart would be entirely unknown; and, as man would be incapable of admiring, so there would be nothing worthy of admiraation ; every thing in science would be imperfect; every thing in art contemptible.

X. LIFE AND ITS USES.

[From the same.]

“ Dum vivimus, vivamus." He, who addresses us on the value of life, a subject in which all are equally concerned, is certain of alluring, if he cannot convict; and, though his proselytes be few, bis audience will be large. He, who pretends to increase our blessings, or give stability to those we possess, touches a string that entwines the human heart, and harmonizes with our feelings. It would, indeed, be strange, if man needed much exhortation to make him comply with the suggestions of interest, or refused to pursue that course, which experience has declared the road to happiness. Hence the propensity, inherent in human nature, to reward those, who, by shortening the way to riches, have conferred benefits on society. If then, honours be alloted to him who teaches us how to obtain this comparatively inferior blessing, how much greater is his merit, who teaches us how to enjoy life, on which every other blessing depends? The road of life is dark, and who would refuse a guide ? Many are the quicksands in the ocean of existence, and who would navigate it without a pilot ?

Influenced by the prevalent opinion in their favour, there have appeared some, in every age, who, in an authoritative manner, bave drawn the lines between happiness and misery, and held forth recipes for avoiding the one, and obtaining the other. By the interpretation of some, our motto commands the gratification of the passions, and entire devotion to sensual pleasure. They would lead us over beds of roses to havens of increasing bliss, where man may breathe away his life in the luxury of enjoyment, without remorse for the past, or dread of the future. Heedless of those lines which the Creator has drawn between day and night, man is taught to apply both to the purposes of pleasure ; he is to obey no God, for religion is averse to sensuality; he is to love none of his fellow creatures, for love is the offspring of prejudice He is to “exert his energies" to obtain whatever he wishes ; and in his wishes, he is to be restrained by no consideration, either of utility or right. In a word, he is to “ eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow he must die.” Such is the substance of a doctrine, founded upon the worst passions of the human heart, and directly subversive of religion and happiness. As long as there exists a God, and future happiness is the object of present existence as long as man is in

tended to "eat, that he may live, and not to live, that he may eat," so long will the pleasures of the voluptuary be considered as the golden apples, which draw the attention from the grand object of life-as abysses more dreadful, because covered with flowers.

We pass from the flowery but deceptive vale of pleasure, to the gloomy cavern of superstition; and here we are told, that we must abstain from every pleasure, however innocent; that man is placed on earth, like a cat on an air pump, where he must endure the most excruciating torture, without hope of relief, or possibility of escape.

To every one, who reflects, the state of him, who lives in continual fear of death, is as deplorable as his, who has no hope of a future existence. The sun of superstition, and the votary of pleasure, will be equally distant from the rewards of a well spent life, as the bed of Procrustes was equally fatal to the tall and the short,

XI. EDUCATION.
[From the same.]

"Quo semel est imbuta recens,
Servabit odorem testa diu."

THE analogy between the natural and moral world is evident to the most superficial observer. Hence the moralist adduces natural causes and effects, as arguments in support of morality. No simile, perhaps, has ever been used, more apt than our motto, to illustrate the importance of early education. This needs little illustration. It is equally obvious to the unenlightened and the civilized; to the savage and the philosopher. Both ancients and moderns concur in this grand truth,

"That education forms the tender mind-
Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclin'd."

Among the former, the education of youth was thought worthy of the public concern; and parents were often deprived of the government of their children, lest, by their indulgence, they might render them effeminate and useless to the state. This was a subject recom

mended by Solon and Lycurgus, as calculated to produce the most important effects. Indeed, if we survey human nature, we shall find nothing productive of so sensible effects as education. Were not the savage inured to scenes of horror in his youth, we should not behold him, when old, exceeding the tiger in ferocity. It is the mos of education that teaches a civilized person to avoid the commission of crimes, which, in his youth, he was taught to abhor; and to perform, himself, what in others, he had been instructed to reverence. This, subverting the usual order of things, renders woman audacious, and man effeminate. This, in a word, has power to humanize brutes, and to brutalize man.

The objects of instruction, have been various among different nations. In the early ages of antiquity, when every thing was subject to the passions; when the noble and generous feelings of the heart were either stifled or disregarded, and the qualities of the mind entirely neglected; children were only instructed in the means of gratifying their selfish desires. But, as mankind became more civilized, the passions were made subservient to reason, and the object of education became more worthy of man. Refinement succeeded barbarity and the cultivation of literature and the fine arts, that ennoble and adorn human nature, every where prevailed. In these arts, the youth of Greece were instructed. Such was the education of the Grecian poets, orators, and philosophers, who, by their writings, have left to succeeding ages only the power of admiring what they cannot equal.

To illustrate any farther, the importance of early education is unnecessary. It must be evident to all, that, if there be a period in which the faculties are su

susceptible of improvement, and upon the management of which our future happiness essentially depends, it must be youth. In childhood, the principles of virtue and morality are to be inculcated. The word of God is to be explained, and his commands enforced; for he, who neglects them in youth, will disbelieve them in old age. If this period of our lives pass unimproved, our manhood will be vicious, our old age miserable: for

66 "Tis a truth, and none more plain appears,
Our most important are our earliest years ;
The mind, impressible and soft, with ease
Imbibes and copies what she hears and sees;
And, through life's labyrinth, holds fast the clue,
That education gives her, false or true.”

XII. THE CHURCH-YARD.

[From the same.] You have sauntered, perhaps, of a moon-light evening, out of the precincts of the living, moving world, to linger and contemplate among the grass-grown memorials of those who are gone

" The body to its place, and the soul to heaven's grace,
And the rest in God's own time."

An appalling chill shoots through the current of life, at the undisturbed and universal silence of the scenethe stars tranquilly shining on the white marble, and feebly illuminating the name, which friendship had caryed for the slumberer beneath ; here, the grass waving in rank luxuriance, as if to hide the triumphs and the trophies of death, and there a human bone unearthed from its time-worn sepulchre, a ghastly visiter to the realms of day—a wooden tablet, marking the repose of the humble; a cross, the sign of the sleeping believer, and lofty and magnificent memorials over the mortal relics of the wealthy and the great. Ah! who, in such an assemblage as this, can be accounted great! What gold survives the crucible of death!

We can learn nothing from the living, which the dead do not teach us. Would beauty be modest and unpretending, let her quit the ball and the festival for a moment, and carry her toilet to the tomb. Would the proud learn humility; the resentful, good nature; the penurious, charity; the frivolous, seriousness; the bigoted, philanthropy ; would the scholar ascertain the true objects of knowledge ; the man of the world, the true means of happiness, here and hereafter; and the ambitious, the true sources of greatness, let him retire awhile from the living, and commune with the dead. We must all come to the mournful silent level of the

« AnteriorContinuar »