« PreviousContinue »
relations, and friends; and spreads itself over the whole cir. cle of social and domestic life I mean not that it imports a promiscuous undistinguished affection which gives every man an equal title to our love. Charity, if we should endeavour to carry it so far, would be rendered an impracticable virtue; and would resolve itself into mere words, without affecting the heart. True charity attempts not to shut our eyes to the distinction between good and bad men; nor to warm our hearts equally to those who befriend, and those who injure us. reserves our esteem for good men, and our complacency for our friends. Towards our enemies it inspires forgiveness, hu. manity, and a solicitude for their welfare. It breathes universal candour, and liberality of sentiment. It forms gentleness of temper, and dictates affability of manners. It prompts corresponding syinpathies with them who rejoice, and them who weep. It teaches us to sligbt and despise no man. Charity is the comforter of the afflicted, the protector of the oppressed, the reconciler of differences, the intercessor for offenders. It is faithfulness in the friend, public spirit in the magistrate, equity and patience in the judge, moderation in the sovereign, and loyalty in the subject. In parents, it is care and attention ; in children, it is reverence and submission. In a word, it is the soul of social life. It is the sun that enlivens and cheers the abodes of men. It is “ like the dew of Hermon," says the Psalmist, 66 and the dew that descended on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”
SECTION VIII. Prosperity is redoubled to a good man. None but the temperate, the regular, and the virtuous, know how to enjoy prosperity. They bring to its comforts the manly relish of a sound uncorrupted mind. They stop at the proper point, before enjoyment degenerates into disgust, and pleasure is converted into pain. They are strangers to those complaints which flow from spleen, caprice, and all the fantastical distresses ot'a vitiated mind. While riotous indul gence enervates both the body and the mind, purity and virtle heighten-all the powers of human fruition.
Feeble are all pleasures in which the heart has no share. T'he selfish gratifications of the bad, are both narrow in their circle, and short in their duration. But prosperiy S ix** doubled to a gond man, hy his generous use of it. lt
. 19 reBected back upon hin frore everyone whom he makes happy.
In the intercourse of domestic'affection, in the attachment of friends, the gratitude of dependants, the esteem and good-will of all who know him, he sees blessings multiplied round him, on every side. " When the ear heard me, then it blessed me ; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me : because I delivered the
poor that cried, the fatherless, and him that had done to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing with joy. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame : I was a father to the poor ; and the cause which I knew not I searched out."--Thus, while the righte ous man flourishes like a tree planted by the rivers of water, he brings forth also his fruit in its season: and that fruit he brings forth, not for himself alone. He flourishes, not like a tree in some solitary desert, which scatters its blossoms to the wind, and communicates neither fruit nor shade to any living thing: but like a tree in the midst of an inhabited country, which to some affords friendly shelter, to others fruit; which not only is admired by all for its beauty; but blessed by the traveller for the shade, and by the hungry for the susten ance it hath given.
On the beauties of the Psalms. Greatness confers no exemption from the cares and sorrows of life: its share of them frequently bears a melancholy proportion to its exaltation. This the monarch of Israel ex. perienced. He sought in piety, that peace which he could not find in empire ; and alleviated the disquietudes of state, with the exercises of devotion. His invaluable Psalms convey those comforts to others, which they afforded to himself. Composed upon particular occasions, yet designed for gene
delivered out as services for Israelites under the Law, yet no less adapted to the circumstances of Christians under the Gospel; they present religion to us in the most en. gaging dress; communicating truths which philosophy could never investigate, in a style which poetry can never equal ; while history is made the vehicle of prophecy, and creation lends all its charms to paint the glories of redemption. Calculated alike to profit and to please, they inform the understanding, elevate the ailections, and entertain the imagination. Indired under the influence of him, to whom all hearts are known, and all events foreknown, they suit mankind in all situations ; grateful as the manna which descended froiu a00.e, and conformed itself to every palate,
ral use ;
The fairest productions of human wit, after a few peru sals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and loss their fragrancy: but these unfading plants of paradise become as we are accustomed to them, still more and more beautiful, their bloom appears to be daily heightened; fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who has once tasted their excellences, will desire to taste them a gain; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best
And now, could the author fatter himself, that any one would take half the pleasure in reading his work, which he bas taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of politics, and the noise of folly. Vanity and vexation flew away for a season ; care and disquietude came not near his dwelling. He arose, fresh as the morning, to his task; the silence of the night invited him to pursue it; and he can truly say, that food and rest were not preferred before it. Every psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it, and no one gave bim uneasiness but the last : for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which have been spent in these meditations on the songs of Sion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass; they moved smoothly and swiftly along : for when thus engaged, he counted no time. They are gone, but they have left a relish and a fragrance upon. the mind; and the remembrance of them is sweet.
SECTION X. Character of ALFRED, king of England. The merit of this prince, both in private and public life, may, with advantage, be set in opposition to that of any mo Darch or citizen, which the annals of any age, or any nation, can present to us. He seems, indeed, to be the complete model of that perfect character, which, under the denomination of a sage or wise man, the philosophers have been fond of delineating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hopes of ever seeing it reduced to practice : so happily were all his virtues tempered together; so justly were they olended; and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper bounds.
He knew how to conciliate the most enterprising spirit with the coolest moderation ; the most übstinate persever. ance, with the easiest flexibility; the most severe justice, with the greatst lenity; the greatest rigour in command, with the
greatest affability of deportment; the highest capacity and in clination for science, with the most shining talents for action.
Nature also, as if desirous that so bright a production of her skill should be set in the fairesi light, had bestowed on bim all bodily accomplishments; vigour of limbs, dignity of shape and air, and a pleasant, engging, and open countenance. By living in that barbarous age, he was deprived of historians worthy to transmit his faine to posterity ; and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more particular strokes, that we might at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, from which, as a man, it is impossible he could be entirely exempted.
Character of Queen ELIZABETH. There are few personages in history, who have been more exposed to the calumny of enemies, and the adulation os friends, than queen Elizabeth ; and yet there scarcely is any. whose reputation has been more certainly determined by the unanimous consent of posterity. The unusual length of her administration, and the strong features of her character, were able to overcome all prejudices; and, obliging her detractors to abate much of their invectives, and her admirers soinewhat of their panegyrics, have, at last, in spite of political factions, and what is more, of religious animosities, produced a uniform judgment with regard to her conduct. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, and address, are allowed to merit the highest praises ; and appear not to have been surpassed by any person who ever filled a throne : a conduct less rigorous, less imperious, more sincere, more indulgent to her people, would have been requisite to form a perfect character. By the force of her mind, she controlled all her more active, and stronger qualities ; and prevented them from running into excess. Her heroism was exempted from all temerity ; her frugality from avarice ; her friendship from partiality ; her enterprise from turbulency and a vain ambition. She guarded not herself, with equal care, or equal success, from less infirmities; the rivalship of beauty, the desire of admira tion, the jealousy of love, and the sallies of anger.
Her singular talents for government, were founded equally on her temper and on her capacity. Endowed with a great command over herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendency over the people. Few sovereigns of England suc:
ceeded to the throne in more difficult circumstances
and sone ever conducted the government with so uniform success and felicity.--Though unacquainted with the practice of toleration, the true secret for managing religious factions, she preserved her people, by her superior prudence, from those confusions in which theological controversy had involved all the neighbouring nations ; and though her enemies were the most powerful princes of Europe, the most active, the most enterprising, the least scrupulous, she was able, by her vig. our, to make deep impressions on their state; her own greatness meanwhile remaining untouched and unimpaired.
The wise ministers and brave men who flourished during her reign, share the praise of her success; but, instead of lessening the applause due to her, they make great addition lo it. They owed, all of them, their advancement to be choice; they were supported by her constancy; and, with al their ability, they were never able to acquire an undue as cendancy over her. In her family, in her court, in her king dom, she remained equally mistress. The force of the ten der passions was great over her, but the force of her min was still superior : and the combat which her victory visi bly cost her, serves only to display the firmness of her te solution, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments.
The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted prejudices both of faction and of bigotry, yet lies still expose io another prejudice, which is more durable, because mor natural; and which, according to the different views in whic we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure or diminishine, the lustre of her character. This prejudic is founded on the consideration of her sex. When we content plate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with th highest admiration of her qualities and extensive capacity but we are also apt to require some more softness of dispa sition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiabl weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the tru method of estimating her merit, is, to lay aside all these con siderations, and to consider her merely as a rational being placed in authority, and intrusted with the government a mankind.
The slavery of vice. The slavery produced by vice appears in the dependence under which it brings the sinner, to circumstances of externa