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ally gliding away; and, that at length, a day will come in which he will find himself bereft of all on which he had built- his hope. So that he sees clearly, that as his heart is devoted only to things in themselves fragile and vain, his soul must, at the exit from this life, find itself solitary and destitute, since he has taken no care to unite himself to a real and self-subsistent good, which could support him in, and subsequently to, this present existence.
And hence he begins to consider as a nonentity, every thing which returns to nothingness,—the heavens, the earth, his body, his relations, his friends, his enemies, wealth or poverty, humiliation or prosperity, honor or ignominy, esteem or contempt, authority or insignificance, health or sickness, and even life itself. In fact, whatever is shorter in duration than his soul, is incapable of satisfying the desires of that soul, which earnestly seeks to establish itself on a basis of felicity as durable as itself.
He begins to regard with astonishment, the blindness in which he has been plunged; and when he considers on the one hand, the length of time that he has lived without any such thoughts, and the great number of persons who live with equal thoughtlessness; and, on the other, how clear it is that the soul being immortal, cannot find happiness in the things that perish, and which must, at all events, be taken from him by death; then there comes upon him a holy anxiéty and astonishment which give rise to salutary sorrow.
For he considers that however great may be the number of those who grow old in the ways of the world, and whatever authority may be in the multitude of examples, of those who place their happiness in this world, it is nevertheless certain, that even if the things of this world had in them some substantial delight,an assumption which is falsified by the fatal and continual experience of an infinite number of persons the loss of these things is certain, at the moment when death separates us from them. So that, if the soul has amassed a treasure of tempo
ral good, whether of gold, of science, or of reputation, it is inevitably necessary, that it must one day find itself denuded of all the objects of its felicity; and hence it appears, that though many objects have had in them that which ministered satisfaction, they had not that which would have satisfied him permanently ; and that even if they procured him a happiness that was real, they could not procure a happiness that was lasting, because it must be terminated by the limits of human life.
Then by a holy humility, which God has exalted above pride, the map begins to rise above the common habits of men in general. He condemns their conduct ; he detests their maxims; he laments their blindness; he devotes himself to the search for that which is truly good; he arrives at the conviction, that it wust possess these two qualities,—the one, that it must be as durable as himselt,—the other, that it must be more worthy of love than any thing else.
He sees that in the love which he has cherished towards the world, he has found in it, owing to his blindness, the second quality of these two, for he had discovered nothing more worthy of his love, but now as he sees not in it the former quality also, he knows that it is not the sovereign good. He seeks it then elsewhere; and knowing by an illumination altogether pure, that it does not exist in the things which are within him, or around him, or before him, he begins to seek for it in those things which are above.
This elevation of soul is so lofty and transcendant, that it'stops not at the heavens; they have not what would satisfy him ; nor at the things above the heavens, nor at the angels, nor at the most perfect of created beings. It darts through universal creation, and cannot pause till it has reached the very throne of God; there the soul begins to find repose, and grasps that real good which is such, that there is nothing truly worthy of love, and that it cannot be taken from bim but by his own consent.
For though he does not yet taste those enjoyments
by which God blesses the services of habitual piety, he learns, at least, that the creatures can never deserve his love more than the Creator; and his reason, aided by the light of grace, teaches him that there is nothing more worthy of love than God, and that He cannot be taken away except from those who reject him,since to desire God, is to possess him; and to refuse him, is to lose him.
And thus he rejoices in having found a blessing which cannot be torn from him as long as he wishes to possess it, and which has nothing superior to itself.
And with these novel reflections, he enters upon the view of the grandeur of his Creator, and upon acts of the deepest humiliation and reverence. He counts himself as less than nothing in that presence; and, being unable to form of himself an idea sufficiently humiliating, or to conceive, of the sovereign Good a thought sufficiently exalted, he makes repeatedly fresh efforts, to lower himself to the last abysses of nothingness, whilst he surveys God still in interminably multiplying immensities; and, at last, exhausted by this mighty conception, he adores in silence, he looks on himself as a vile and useless creature, and by repeated acts of veneration, adores and blesses his God, and would for ever bless and adore.
Then he sees something of the grace by which God has manifested his infinite majesty to a worthless worm-he is ashamed and confounded at having preferred so many vanities to such a Divine Master; and, in the spirit of compunction and penitence, he looks up for his compassion to arrest that anger, the effect of which, seen through these immensities, seems to hang over him so awfully.
He sends up ardent prayers to God, to obtain this mercy, that as it has pleased Him to disclose himself to his soul, it would please Him also to lead it to himself, and prepare for him the means of reaching Him. For it is to God that he now aspires, and, at the same time, he only aspires to reach Him by those means which come from God himself, for he wishes God himself to be his way, his object, and his end. Then on the result of these prayers, he learns that he ought to act conformably to the new light which he has received.
He begins to know God, and to desire to go to him ; but he is ignorant of the mode of reaching him. Hf, then, his desire is sincere and real, just as a person who wishes to go to a particular : spot, but who has lost his way, and knows that he is in error, has recourse to those who are well acquainted with it, so he seeks advice from those who can teach him the way that leads to the God, from whom he has so long been alienated. And in thus seeking to know this way, resolves to regulate his couduct for the remainder of his life by the truth, as far as he knows it; and seeing that his natural weakness, together with the habitual tendency which he now has to the sin in which he has lived, have incapacitated him for reaching the happiness of which he is in search, he implores from the mercy of God those gracious aids by which he may find him, devote himself to him, and adhere to him for ever. Heartily occupied by the loveliness of the Divine excellency,-old as eternity, in fact, but to him so new ;-he feels that all he does ought to bear him towards this adorable object; he sees now clearly that he ought henceforth only to think of adoring God, as his creature, of gratitude to him for unnumbered obligations, of penitence as guilty, and prayer as necessitous; so that his entire occupation should be to contemplate, and love, and praise him throughout eternity.
REASONS FOR SOME OPINIONS OF THE PEOPLE.
I WRITE my thoughts here without order, but probably not in mere'unmeaning confusion. It is, in fact, the true order, and will mark my object, even by the disorder itself.
We shall see that all the opinions of the multitude are very sound: that the people are not so weak as they are reported; and, that consequently, the opinion which would destroy the opinion of the people, will be itself destroyed.
2. It is true in one sense, that all the world is in a state of delusion ; for although the opinions of the people are sound, they are not so as held by them, because they conceive the truth to reside where it does not. There is truth in their opinions, but «ot where they suppose.
3. The people reverence men of high birth. Your half-informed men despise them, affirming, that birth is not a personal advantage, but a mere accident. Your really superior men honor them, not on the ground of the popular notion, but for loftier reasons. Certain zealots of narrow views, despise them, notwithstanding those reasons which secure to them the respect of superior men, because they judge by a new light, that their measure of piety imparts. But more advanced Christians give them honor, according to the dictates of light yet superior; and thus opinions, for and against, obtain in succession, according to the light possessed.
4. Civil wars are the greatest of evils. They are certain, if it is wished to recompense merit, for all would affirm that they deserved reward. The evil to be feared from a fool who succeeds by inheritance, is neither so great nor so certain.