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1 with its present condition, how prosperous soever. Originally formed for a wider range of objects, for a higher sphere of enjoyments, it finds itself, in every situation of fortune, straitened and confined. Sensible of deficiency in its state, it is ever sending forth the fond desire, the aspiring wish, after something beyond what is enjoyed at present.
2 Hence, that restlessness which prevails so generally among mankind. Hence, that disgust of pleasures which they have tried ; that passion for novelty ; that ambition of rising to some degree of eminence or felicity, of which they have formed to themselves an indistinct idea. All which may be considered as indications of a certain native, original greatness in the human soul, swelling beyond the limits of its present condition ; and pointing to the higher objects for which it was made. Happy, if these latent remains of our primi tive state, served to direct our wishes towards their proper destination, and to lead us into the path of true bliss.
s But in this dark and bewildered state, the aspiring tendency of our nature unfortunately takes an opposite direction, and feeds a very misplaced ambition. The flattering appearances which here present themselves to sense; the distinctions which fortune confers; the advantages and pleasures which we imagine the world to be capable of bestowing, fill up the ultimate wish of most men. These are the objects which engross their solitary musings, and stimulate their active labours; which warm the breasts of the young, animate the industry of the middle aged, and often keep alive the passions of the old, until the very close of life.
4 Assuredly, there is nothing unlawful in our wishing to be freed from wbatever is disagreeable, and to obtain a fuller enjoyment of the comforts of life. But when these wishes are not tempered by reason, they are in danger of precipitating us into much extravagance and folly. Desires and wishes, are the first springs of action. When they become exorbitant, the whole character is likely to be tainted.
5 If we suffer our fancy to create to itself worlds of ideal happiness, we shall discompose the peace and order of our minds, and foment many hurtful passiong. Here, then, let moderation begin its reign ; by bringing within reasonable bounds the wishes that we form. As soon as they become extravagant, let us check them, by proper reflections on
fallacious nature of those objects, which the world hangs out to allure desire.
6 You have strayed, my friends, from the road which conducts to felicity; you have dishonoured the native dignity of your souls, in allowing your wishes to terminate on nothing higher than worldly ideas of gresness or happiness. Your imagination roves in a land of shadows. Unreal forms deceive you. It is no more than a phantom, an illusion of happiness, which attracts your fond admiration; nay, an illusion of happiness, which often conceals much real misery.
7 Do you.n:agine that all are happy, who have attained to those summits of distinction, towards which your wishes agpire ? Alas! how frequently has experience shown, that ivhere roses were supposed to bloom, nothing but briers and thorns grew! Reputation, beauty, riches, grandeur, nay, royalty itself, would, many a time, have been gladly exchanged by the possessors, for that more quiet and humble station, with which you are now dissatisfied.
8 With all that is splendid and shining in the world, it is decreed that there should mix many deep shades of woe. On the elevated situations of fortune, the great calamities of life chiefly fall. There, the storm spends its violence, and there, the thunder breaks, while, safe and unhurt, the inhabitants of the vale remain below ;-Retreat, then, from those vain and pernicious excursions of extruvagant desire.
9 Satisfy yourselves with what is rational and attainable. Train your minds to moderate views of human life, and human happiness. Remember, and admire the wisdom of Agur's petition: “ Remove far from me vanity and lies-Gíve me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with food convenient for me: lest I bc full and deny thee ; and say, who is the Lord ? or lest I be poor, and steal ; and take the name of my God in vain."
BLAIR. SECTION XV. Omniscience and omnipresence of the Deity, the source of con.
solation to good men. TWAS yesterday, about sun-set, walking in the open fields, 1 till the night insensibly fell upon me. I at first amused myself with all the richness and variety of colours, which appeared in the western parts of heaven. In proportion as they faded away and went out, several stars and planets appeared one after another, till the whole firmament was in a glow.
2 The blueness of the ether was exceedingly heightened and enlivened, by the season of the year, and the rays of all those luminaries that passed through it. The galaxy
appeared in its most beautiful white. To coinplete the scene, the full moon rose, at length, in that clouded majesty, which Milton takes notice of; and opened to the eye a ne v picture of nature, which was more finely shaded, and disposed among softer lights than that which the sun had before discovered to me.
3 As I was surveying the moon walking in her brightnesa, and taking her progress among the constellations, a thought arose in me, which I believe very often perplexes and disturbs men of serious and contemplative natures. David himself fell into it in that reflection ; " When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers; the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou regardest him!”
4 In the same manner, when I considered that infinite host. of stars, or, to speak more philosophically, of suns, which were then shining upon me; with those innumerable sets of planets or worlds, which were moving round their respective sung; when I still enlarged the idea, and supposed another heaven of suns and worlds, rising still above this which I discovered ; and these still enlightened by a superior firmament of luminaries, which are planted at so great a distance, that they may appear to the inhabitants of the former, as the stars do to me: in short, while I pursued this thought, I could not but reflect on that little insignificant figure which I myself bore amidst the immensity of God's works.
5 Were the sun, which enlightens this part of the creation, with all the host of planetary worlds that move about him, utterly extinguished and annihilated, they would not be missed, more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The space they possess, is so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, it would scarcely make a blank in the creation. The chasm would be imperceptible to an eye that could take in the whole conipass of nature, and pass from one end of the creation to the other; as it is possible there may be such a sense in ourselves hereafter, or in creatures which are at present more exalted than ourselves. By the help of glasses, we see many stars, which we do not discover with our naked eyes ; and the finer our telescopes are, the greater still are our discoveries.
6 Huygenius carries this thought so far, that he does not think it impossible there may be stars, whose light has not yet travelled down to us, since their first creation. There is no question that the universe has certain bounds set to it; but when we consider that it is the work of Infinite Power, prompted by Infinite Goodness, with an infinite space to F2
exert itself in, how can our imagination set any bounds to it?
7 To return, therefore, to my first thought, I could not but look upon myself with secret norror, as a being that was not worth the smallest regard of one, who had so great a work under his care and superintendency. I was afraid of being overlooked amidst the immensity of nature; and lost among that infinite variety of creatures, which, in all probability, swarm through all these immeasurable regions of matter.
8 In order to recover myself from this mortifying thought, I considered that it took its rise from those narrow conceptions, which we are apt to entertain of the Divine Nature. We ourselves cannot attend to many different objects at the same time. If we are careful to inspect some things, we must of course neglect others. This imperfection which we observe in ourselves, is an imperfection that cleaves, in some degree, to creatures of the highest capacities, as they are creatures, that is, beings of finite and limited natures.
9 The presence of every created being, is confined to a certin measure of space; and, consequently, his observation is siinted to a certain number of objects. The sphere in which we move, and act, and understand, is of a wider circumference to one creature, than another, according as we rise one above another in the scale of existence. But the widest of these our spheres, has its circumference.
10 When, therefore, we reflect on the Divine Nature, we are so used and accustomed to this imperfection in ourselves, that we cannot forbear, in some measure, ascribing it to HIM, in whom there is no shadow of imperfection. Our reason, indeed, assures us, that his attributes are infinite ; but the poorness of our conceptions is such, that it cannot forbear setting bounds to every thing it contemplates, till our reason comes again to our succour, and throws down all those little prejudices, which rise in us unawares, and are natural to the mind of man.
11 We shall therefore utterly extinguish this melancholy thought, of our being overlooked by our Maker, in the multiplicity of his works, and the infinity of those objects among which he seems to be incessantly employed, if we consider, in the first place, that he is omnipresent; and, in the second, that he is omniscient.
12 If we consider him in his omnipresence, his being passes through, actuates, and supports, the whole frame of nature. His creation, in every part of it, is full of him. There is nothing he has made, which is either so distant, so Jittle, or so inconsiderable, that he does not essentially reside in it. His substance is within the substance of every being
whether material or immaterial, and as intimately present to it, as that being is to itself.
13 It would be an imperfection in him, were he able to move out of one place into another; or to withdraw himself from any thing he has created, or from any part of that space which he diffused and spread abroad to infinity. In short, to speak of him in the language of the old philosophers, he is a Being whose centre is every where, and his circumference no where.
14 In the second place, he is omniscient as well as omni present. His omniscience, indeed, necessarily and natural ly flows from his omnipresence. He cannot but be con scious of every motion that arises in the whole material world, which he thus essentially pervades; and of every thought that is stirring in the intellectual world, to every part of which he is thus intimately united.
15 Were the soul separated from the body, and should it with one glance of thought start beyond the bounds of the creation; should it for millions of years, continue its progress through infinite space, with the same activity, it would still find itself within the embrace of its Creator, and encompassed by the immensity of the Godhead.
16 In this consideration of the Almighty's omnipresence and omniscience, every uncomfortable thought vanishes. He cannot but regard every thing that has being, especially such of his creatures who fear they are not regarded by him. He is privy to all their thoughts, and to that anxiety of heart in particular, which is apt to trouble them on this occasion ; for, as it is impossible he should overlook any of his creatures, so we may be confident that he regards with an eye of mercy, those who endeavour to recommend themselves to his notice; and in unfeigned humility of heart, think themselves unworthy that he should be mindful of them. ADDISON.
SECTION I. Happiness is founded in rectitude of conduct. ALL men pursue good, and would be happy, if they A knew how: not happy for minutes, and miserable for hours; but happy, if possible, through every part of their existence. Either, therefore, there is a good of this steady, durable kind, or there is not. If not, then all good must be transient and uncertain ; and if so, an object of the lowest value, which can little deserve our attention or inquiry. .