« EelmineJätka »
diminution of the other. Plutarch has written an essay on the benefits which a man may receive from his enemies; and among the good fruits of enmity, mentions this in particular, that, by the reproaches which it cafts upon us, we fee the worst fide of ourselves, and open our eyes to feveral blemishes and defects in our lives and converfations, which we fhould not have observed without the help of fuch ill-natured monitors.
In order likewife to come to a true knowledge of ourfelves, we fhould confider on the other hand, how far we may deferve the praifes and approbations which the world bestow upon us; whether the actions they celebrate proceed from laudable and worthy motives; and how far we are really poffeffed of the virtues which gain us applaufe among thofe with whom we converse. Such a reflection is abfolutely neceffary, if we confider how apt we are either to value or condemn ourselves by the opinions of others, and to facrifice the report of our own hearts to the judgment of the world.
In the next place, that we may not deceive ourselves in a point of fo much importance, we fhould not lay 100 great a ftrefs on any fuppofed virtues we poffefs, that are of a doubtful nature: and fuch we may esteem all thofe in which multitudes of men diffent from us, who are as good and wife as ourselves. We should always act with great cautioufnefs and circumfpection, in points where it is not impoffible that we may be deceived. Intemperate zeal, bigotry, and perfecution for any party or opinion, how praife-worthy foever they may appear to weak men of our own principles, produce infinite calamities among mankind, and are highly criminal in their own nature; and yet how many perfons, eminent for piety, fuffer fuch monftrous and abfurd principles of action to take root in their minds under the colour of virtues? For my own part, I must own, I never yet knew any party fo juft and reafonable, that a man could follow it in its height and violence, and at the fame time be innocent.
We fhould likewife be very apprehenfive of thofe actions, which proceed from natural conftitution, favourite paffions, particular education, or whatever promotes our worldly intereft or advantage. In thefe or the
like cafes, a man's judgment is easily perverted, and a wrong bias hung upon his mind. Thefe are the inlets of prejudice, the unguarded avenues of the mind, by which a thoufand errors, and fecret faults find admiffion, without being obferved or taken notice of. A wife man will fufpect thofe actions to which he is directed by fomething befides reafon, and always apprehend fome concealed evil in every refolution that is of a difputable nature, when it is conformable to his particular temper, his age, or way of life, or when it favours his pleasure or his profit.
There is nothing of greater importance to us, than thus diligently to fift our thoughts, and examine all thefe dark recefles of the mind, if we would establish our fouls in fuch a folid and fubftantial virtue as will turn to account in that great day, when it must stand the test of infinite wisdom and justice.
I fhall conclude this effay with obferving that the two kinds of hypocrify I have here fpoken of, namely, that of deceiving the world, and that of impofing on ourfelves, are touched with wonderful beauty in the hundred thirty-ninth pfalm. The folly of the firft kind of hypocrify is there fet forth by reflections on God's emnifcience and omniprefence, which are celebrated in as noble ftrains of poetry as any other I ever met with, either facred or profane. The other kind of hypocrify, whereby a man deceives himself, is intimated in the two laft verfes, where the pfalmift addreffes himself to the great fearcher of hearts in that emphatical petition; Try me, O God, and feek the ground of my heart; prove me and examine my thoughts; look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlafting.
The Mercy of Affliction; an Eaftern Story.
[Advent. No. 76.]
OZALDAB, Caliph of Egypt, had dwelt fecurely for many years in the filken pavilions of pleasure, and had every morning anointed his head with
the oil of gladnefs, when his only fon ABORAM, fo whom he had crouded his treasures with gold, extended his dominions with conquefts, and fecured them with impregnable fortreffes, was fuddenly wounded, as he was hunting, with an arrow from an unknown hand, and expired in the field.
BOZALDAB, in the diftraction of grief and defpair, refused to return to his palace, and retired to the gloomieft grotto in the neighbouring mountain he there rolled himself in the duft, tore away the hairs of his hoary beard, and dafhed the cup of confolation that PATIENCE offered him to the ground. He fuffered not his minstrels to approach his prefence; but liftened to the screams of the melancholy birds of midnight, that fit through the folitary vaults and ecchoing chambers of the Pyramids. "Can that GOD be benevolent," he cried, "who thus wounds the foul as from an am"bufh, with unexpected forrows, and crushes his creatures in a moment with irremediable calamity? "Ye lying Imans, prate to us no more of the juftness"and the kindnefs of an all-directing and all-loving "PROVIDENCE! He, whom ye pretend reigns in "Heaven, is fo far from protecting the miferable fons "of men, that he perpetually delights to blaft the "sweetest flowrets in the garden of HOPE; and like a
malignant giant, to beat down the strongest towers of "HAPPINESS with the iron mace of his anger. If "this Being poffeffed the goodness and the power with "which flattering priests have invested him, he would
doubtless be inclined and enabled to banish those " evils which render the world a dungeon of distrefs,
a vale of vanity and woe.I will continue in it no "longer!"
At that moment he furiously raised his hand, which DESPAIR had armed with a dagger, to ftrike deep into his bofom; when fuddenly thick flashes of lightning fhot through the cavern, and a being of more than human beauty and magnitude, arrayed in azure robes, crowned with amaranth, and waving a branch of palm in his right hand, arrefted the arm of the trembling H 6.
and aftonished CALIPH, and faid with a majestic fimile, "Follow me to the top of this mountain."
"Look from hence, faid the awful conductor, I am "CALOC, the Angel of PEACE, look from hence into "the valley."
BOZALDAB opened his eyes and beheld a barren, a fultry, and folitary ifland, in the midft of which fat a pale, meagre and ghaftly figure: it was a merchant just perishing with famine, and lamenting that he could find neither wild berries nor a fingle fpring in this forlorn uninhabited defart; and begging the protection of heaven against the tigers that would now certainly deftroy him, fince he had confumed the laft fuel he had collected to make nightly fires to affright them. He then caft a casket of jewels on the fand, as trifles of no ufe; and crept feeble and trembling to an eminence, where he was accustomed to fit every evening to watch the fetting fun, and to give a fignal to any fhip that might haply approach the island.
"Inhabitant of heaven," cried BOZALDAB, "fuffer "not this wretch to perish by the fury of wild beasts." "Peace," faid the ANGEL," and obferve."
He looked again, and behold a veffel arrived at the defolate ifle. What words can paint the rapture of the ftarving merchant, when the captain offered to transport him to his native country if he would reward him with half the jewels of his cafket. No fooner had this pitylefs commander received the flipulated fum, than he held a confultation with his crew, and they agreed to feize the remaining jewels, and leave the unhappy exile in the fame helpless and lamentable condition in which they discovered him. He wept and trembled, intreated and implored in vain.
"Will HEAVEN permit fuch injuftice to be practifed? exclaimed BOZALDAB.- "Look again," faid the ANGEL," and behold the very fhip in which, fhort-fighted as thou art, thou wishedft the merchant might embark, dafhed in pieces on a rock: doft "thou not hear the cries of the finking failors? Pre"fume not to direct the GOVERNOR of the UNIVERSE "in his disposal of events. The man whom thou haft
pitied fhall be taken from this dreary folitude, but "not by the method thou wouldst prefcribe. His vice was avarice, by which he became not only abomin"able but wretched; he fancied fome mighty charm in “wealth, which, like the wand of ABDIEL, would gratify every wish and obviate every fear. This "wealth he has now been taught not only to defpife. "but abhor: he caft his jewels upon the fand, and "confeffed them to be ufelefs; he offered part of them to the mariners, and perceived them to be pernici66 ous; he has now learnt, that they are rendered ufe"ful or vain, good or evil, only by the fituation and 66 temper of the poffeffor. Happy is he whom distress "has taught wisdom! But turn thine eyes to another. " and more interesting scene."
The CALIPH inftantly beheld a magnificent palace, adorned with the ftatues of his ancestors wrought in jafper; the ivory doors of which turning on hinges of the gold of GOLCONDA, difcovered a throne of diamonds, furrounded with the RAJAS of fifty nations, and with ambassadors in various habits and of different complexions; on which fat ABORAM the much lamented fon of BOZALDAB, and by his fide a princefs fairer than a HOURI.
"Gracious ALLA!-it is my fon," cried the CaLIPH "O let me hold him to my heart!" "Thou "canft not grafp an unsubstantial vifion," replied the ANGEL: "I am now fhewing thee what would have "been the destiny of thy fon, had he continued longer 66 on the earth." "And why," returned BOZALDAB,
was he not permitted to continue? Why was not I "fuffered to be a witness of fo much felicity and "power" "Confider the fequel," replied he that dwells in the fifth heaven. BOZALDAB looked earn eftly, and faw the countenance of his fon, on which he had been used to behold the placid fmile of fimplicity and the vivid blushes of health, now distorted with rage, and now fixed in the infenfibility of drunkennefs; it was again animated with difdain, it became pale with apprehenfion, and appeared to be withered by intemperance; his hands were ftained with blood, and he trembled