Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

for God is present:- here, my auditors, is produced an interest, which, weighed against every other, preponderates by infinite degrees; an interest which it requires but little capacity to comprehend, and no extraordinary sensibility to feel; an interest which points to nothing of less magnitude, or shorter duration, than everlasting happiness, or ruin; an interest, in fine, adapted to the plainest conceptions and deepest solicitudes of the soul. Whether you speak of social ties, or political institutions, or motives of health, reputation, quiet, and the rest of that class; their influence on practice must unavoidably be deficient. Some of them 'reach only to particular actions, conjunctures, and modifications of life: none of them necef. sarily affect the whole of existence: none of them are commensurate with the posfible attainments and immortal faculties of man; and they are each unaccompanied with that awful, universal, never-ceasing importance and majesty, which can alone VOL. II.“

Aa' ers i

secure a legitimate, entire, and endless-dominion over the understanding, the confcience, and the heart.

On

Do I mean to infinuate, that either moral or prudential considerations are of no use in cases of a critical nature ? Far from it. The celebrated Hebrew Youth, in refifting the blandishments of his master's wife, did not only urge the dread of dirpleasing the Omnipresent Divinity, who, ke knew, was then his Witness, and would at last be his Judge, but argued with great force on the principles of ingenuity, gratitude, fidelity, and honour; principles originally implanted by the fame Hand, frequently addressed in Holy Writ, as we have found on former occasions, and perhaps entitled to a little more attention than is given them in the discourses of some public instructors. The truth is, that Religion adopts into her family all. the focial and all the private Virtues. To nurse and train them, to regulate and

affist their operations, is among her chief cares; nor does she disdain to strengthen her intereft in the minds of men by any ind nate propenfion to goodness, or any happy influence of education; all which the traces to the appointment of her Parent God, and employs as fo many fubordinate means of leading her children to Him. But obferve, I beseech you: while fhe allows to every one of them its full value, she ftill infists, that they fhall all have their « waiting eyes towards her," as both their mistress and their patroness, for fupport, for countenance, and direction.

Among the temporal motives to a right behaviour which she also proposes, I just named Reputation. There was, not very long ago, a period when, it must be owned, a regard to that object, and others connected with it, those of credit, business, and general acceptance, produced very de-s. fireable and extensive effects on the cons: duct of men, of young men especially whe

were setting out in the world, and who depended for their success chiefly on their character. I say not that every view of this sort is now neglected. God forbid. But I do fay, that its efficacy is much less diffusive than formerly, that the love of honest fame does not actuate near so many of mankind as in better ages. An avowed contempt of chastity, prudence, frugality, and moderation in the male sex, and I am tempted to add, an open renunciation of domestic duties and enjoyments among the other, in favour of diversion, dress, cardtables, and.continual gadding, offend but a few minds, in comparison of those that would have seriously condemned them, when the nation was less rich, and less polished.

· But I go farther, and say, that if you will suppose the fouleft characters to be clothed in the trappings of wealth, or of grandeur, or to be connected with those who are, or yet boldly to assume an air of consequence, to which they have not the smallest title, they shall often be received with complaisance, if not kindness, by men of unquestionable probity, but who, if they had equal fortitude, would fhun them with detestation.

I go still farther, and observe with astonishment, not only that the generality can look upon the worst offenders with a smiling face, or at least with a placid indifference, not only that the feeling of indignation at vice in those who are not guilty of it, and the feeling of shame in those who are, seem nearly annihilated; but that there are many who can make flagrant iniquity a subject of merriment. It has been thought, that when Virtue falls into such disrepute, as to frighten people from espousing her cause, left they should be ridiculed for their pains, it indicates the last stage of public depravity. But the period in which we live, appears to have proceeded a length till now un

« PoprzedniaDalej »