« AnteriorContinuar »
dreams, or lay immersed in the insensibility of sleep, thy hand recovered me from the temporary lethargy; thy hand set a new, a delicately fine edge, on all my blunted senses, and strung my sinews with recruited vigour. When my thoughts were benumbed and stupified, thy quickening influence roused them into activity; when they were disconcerted and wild, thy regulating influence reduced them into order; refitting me at once to relish the innocent entertainments of an animal, and to enjoy the sublime gratifications of a rational capacity. When darkness covered the creation, at thy command the sun arose, painted the flowers, and distinguished every object; gave light to my feet, and gave nature with all her beautiful scenes to my eye. To thee, O thou God of my strength, I owe the continuance of my being, and the vivacity of my constitution. By thy sacred order, without any consciousness of mine, the wheels of life move, and the crimson fountain plays. Overruled by thy exquisite skill, it transforms itself by the nicest operations of an inexplicable kind of chemistry into a variety of the finest secretions, which glide into the muscles, and swell them for action, or pour themselves into the fluids, and repair their incessant decays; which cause cheerfulness to sparkle in the eye, and health to bloom in the cheek.
"Disastrous accidents, injurious to the peace of my mind, or fatal to the welfare of my body, beset my paths. But thy faithfulness and truth, like an impenetrable shield, guarded me all around. Under this divine protection, I walked secure amidst legions of apparent perils; and passed unhurt through a far greater multiplicity of unseen evils. Not one of my bones was broken; not a single shaft grazed upon my ease; even when the eye that watched over me saw, in its wide survey, thousands falling beside me in irrecoverable ruin, and ten thousands deeply wounded on my right hand. If sickness has at any time saddened my chamber, or pain harrowed my flesh, it was a wholesome discipline and a gracious severity.
The chastisement proved a sovereign medicine to cure me of an immoderate fondness for this imperfect troublesome state, and to quicken my desires after the unimbittered enjoyments of my eternal home. Has not thy munificence, unwearied and unbounded, spread my table, furnished it with the finest wheat, and replenished it with marrow and fatness; while temperance sweetened the bowl, appetite seasoned the dish, contentment and gratitude crowned the repast? Has not thy kindness, Ŏ God of the families of Israel, preserved my affectionate relations, who study by their tender offices to soften every care, and heighten every joy? Has not thy kindness given me valuable friends, whose presence is a cordial to cheer me in a dejected hour, and whose conversation mingles improvement with delight.
"When sin lay disguised amidst flowery scenes of pleasure; enlightened by thy wisdom, I discerned the latent mischief; made resolute by thy grace, I shunned the luscious bane. If, through the impulse of sensuality or the violence of passion, I have been hurried into the snare, and stung by the serpent; thy faithful admonitions have recalled the foolish wanderer, while the blood of thy Son has healed his deadly wounds. Some, no doubt, have been cut off in the midst of their iniquities, and transmitted from the thrillings of polluted joy to the agonies of eternal despair; whereas I have been distinguished by longsuffering mercy, and, instead of lifting up my eyes in torments, to behold a heaven irrecoverably lost, I may lift them up under the pleasing views of being admitted, ere long, into those abodes of endless felicity. In the mean time, thou hast vouchsafed me the revelation of thy will, the influences of thy Spirit, and abundance of the most effectual aids, for advancing in knowledge and growing in godliness; for becoming more conformable to thy image and more meet for thy presence; for tasting the pleasures of religion, and securing the riches of eternity.
"How various is thy beneficence, O thou lover of souls! It has unsealed a thousand sources of good; opened a thousand avenues of delight; and heaped blessings upon me with a ceaseless liberality. Îf I should attempt to declare them, they would be more than the starry host which glitter in this unclouded sky; more than the dewy gems, which will adorn the face of the morning.
"And shall I forget the God of my salvation, the Author of all my mercies? Rather let my pulse forget to beat. Shall I render him no expressions of thankfulness? Then might all nature reproach my ingratitude. Shall I rest satisfied with the bare acknowledgment of my lips? No; let my life be vocal, and speak his praise, in that only genuine, that most emphatical language, the language of devout obedience. Let the bill be drawn upon my very heart; let all my affections acknowledge the draught; and let the whole tenor of my actions, in time and through eternity, be continually paying the debt, the ever-pleasing, evergrowing debt of duty, veneration, and love.
"And can I, O thou Guide of my goings, and Guardian of all my interests, can I distrust such signal, such experienced goodness? Thou hast been my helper through all the busy scenes of day; therefore under the shadow of thy wings will I repose myself, during the darkness, the danger, and death-like inactivity of the night. Whatever defilement. I have contracted, wash it thoroughly away in redeeming blood; and let neither the sinful stain, nor the sinful inclination, accompany me to my couch. Then shall I lay me down in peace, and take my rest; cheerfully referring it to thy all-wise determination, whether I shall open my eyes in this world, or awake in the unknown regions of another."
THE STARRY HEAVENS.
THIS evening, I exchange the nice retreats of art, for the noble theatre of nature. Instead of measuring my steps under the covert of an arbour, let me range along the summit of this gently rising hill. There is no need of the leafy shade, since the sun has quitted the horizon, and withdrawn his scorching beams. But see how advantages and inconveniencies are usually linked, and chequer our affairs below! If the annoying heat ceases, the landscape and its pleasing scenes are also removed. The majestic castle and the lowly cottage are vanished together. I have lost the aspiring mountain, and its russet brow; I look round, but to no purpose, for the humble vale, and its flowery lap. The plains whitened with flocks, and the heath yellow with furze, disappear. The advancing night has wrapt in darkness the long extended forest, and drawn her mantle over the windings of the silver stream. I no longer behold that luxuriant fertility in the fields, that wild magnificence of prospect, and endless variety of images, which have so often touched me with delight, and struck me with awe, from this commanding eminence.
The loss, however, is scarcely to be regretted; since it is amply compensated by the opening beauties of the sky. Here I enjoy a free view of the whole hemisphere, without any obstacle from below to confine the exploring eye, or any cloud from above to overcast the spacious concave. It is true, the lively
vermilion, which so lately streaked the chambers of the west, is all faded: But the planets, one after another, light up their lamps; the stars advance in their glittering train; a thousand and a thousand luminaries shine forth in successive splendours; and the whole firmament is kindling into the most beautiful glow. The blueness of the ether, heightened by the season of the year, and still more enlivened by the absence of the moon, gives those gems of heaven the strongest lustre.
One pleasure more the invading gloom has not been able to snatch from my sense. The night rather improves than destroys the fragrance which exhales from the blooming beans. With these the sides of this sloping declivity are lined; and with these the balmy zephyrs perfume their wings. Does Arabia, from all her spicy groves, breathe a more liberal, or a more charming gale of sweets? And, what is a peculiar recommendation of the rural entertainments presented in our happy land, they are alloyed by no apprehensions of danger. No poisonous serpent lurks under the blossom; nor any ravenous beast lies ready to start from the thicket.-But I wander from a far more exalted subject. My thoughts, like my affections, are too easily diverted from the heavens, and detained by inferior objects. Away, my attention! from these little blandishments of the earth; since all the glories of the sky invite thy regard.
We have taken a turn among the Tombs, and viewed the solemn memorials of the dead, in order to learn the vanity of mortal things, and to break their soft enchantment. We have surveyed the ornaments of the Garden; not that the heart might be planted in the parterre, or take root among the flowery race; but that these delicacies of a day might teach us to aspire after a better paradise, where beauty never fades, and delight is ever in the bloom. A third time we lighted the candle of meditation, and sought for wisdom, not in the crowded city or wrangling schools, but in the silent and lonely walks of ancient Night.