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perishing in the snow, from the language of visible and inanimate nature, as painted by the poet of nature, (for all such poetry as Thomson's Seasons is an inferior species of inspiration, and the gift of God, as St. James says, chap. i.) into that of morality, just as it stands, and as literally as possible, viz.
“ As thus the snows arise, and foul, and fierce,
All winter drives along the darkened air,
As the selfish, frozen, unfeeling prudence of the world, thus rises to the view of the mind's eye, by means of experience and increasing age; and foul and fierce all the winter of selfishness in the human soul, darkens the prospect of the eye of reason and faith ; unhappy man (if not built on the rock of Christ) attacked by the general influenza, feels even his own disposition,
“ His own loose revolving fields,”
unfixed and beginning to change in sympathy with the external transformation. He perceives objects of hitherto unobserved importance, arise to his consideration, of a joyless, cold, and selfish aspect; and other views of human nature, full of horrid and gloomy uncharitableness, deform and distort the appearance of society, which he had formerly considered as a smooth smiling plain, but which he now finds to be a rough and trackless desert. He is now no longer able to discover the once clear and open flow of social and benevolent mind, the river of the soul and of society; or those generous sentiments, or trees of exalted kind,
“ Trees of the Lord's planting,” and bringing forth“ fruits of righteousness,” which used to “ send forth their branches unto the sea, and their boughs, unto the river”, (Psalm lxxx. Isaiah lx. and lxi. and St. Paul, 2 Corinthians,) either in his friends, or even sometimes in himself, which were wont to spring almost spontaneously from his heart, and were his landmarks in youth and ripe manhood; but he wanders on, more and more astray, and confounded in his judgments of men and things. Then he struggles, flounces impatiently through these grievous discoveries, these shocks of disappointed sentiment; stung with the painful, regretful recollection of former heartfelt social joys, now far distant, and vainly panting after even one faithful and sincere friend, with whom his heart might feel itself at home. These vain thoughts, and fondly-cherished wishes, rush on his recollection, and rouse the vig our of his mind in many a vain attempt to combat, and as it were, fight his way as formerly, through the increasing selfishness or coldness which he feels within and without.
“ How sinks his soul!
How, then, sinks his soul! What black despair and horror sinks his heart, buoyed up by hope and lingering faith, when he suddenly finds himself deceived and betrayed, by the very man, perhaps, whom he imagined to be his best, his only real friend; or by the very wife of his bosom ; or, lastly, even by the very heart of his own bosom,* (a case not uncommon, and very painful,) and at the very moment when he fancies himself at home in the bosom of love and friendship, finds that he has committed himself
* Solomon says,
- He that trusteth in his own heart is a
to a traitor, a stranger to sentiments of human kindness and sincerity! The night of despair, and the moral death of misanthropy, now close fast around his head, as well as round his heart; and all the malignant passions and selfish reasonings, peculiar to this moral period, roused into storm, represent the savage howling wilderness of unregenerate human-nature more wild and cruel than it actually is (perhaps) to his disturbed judgment.
“ Then throng the busy shapes into his mind,
Of cover'd pits, unfathomably deep,
snow; and what is land unknown,
Then throng the busy shapes of fancy into his mind; the suspicions, sometimes true and sometimes erroneous, that other men with whom he is connected are equally traitors; for having been deceived where he thought himself most sure, he has no longer a criterion whereby to judge what is cordial and sincere,
and to be relied on as firm ground, and what proceeds from the inconstant, or from the deceitful professions and interested views of the deep and insincere, or the weak and wavering thoughts of the mind. He continually ruminates on all the dark parts of human nature. Professions of friendship he considers as “covered pits, unfathomably deep ;” civilities and kindnesses, as "faithless bogs ;” and love, as a “hùge precipice.” Hence he becomes almost equally suspicious of all men; and, not being able to distinguish truth from falsehood, because he has not the clue of the labyrinth of human hearts; and because he never knew, or has forsaken Christ, the rock of his salvation, the light of spiritual truth, he stops short in his once determined course of integrity and philanthropy, and sinks down at last to the common selfish level of the world around him, which he once despised. Yet this does not happen to a once benevolently disposed, or vainly elevated mind, without many pangs and contentions, between the expiring confidence and carnal benevolence of his heart, and the increasing power of selfishness and infidelity, which is the icy wind of death. These pangs are rendered more keen by the recollection of what he once was, or thought himself to be! It is with anguish only to be felt, that he finds himself doomed to a perpetual divorce from his former vainly generous heart; and the supposed inno