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When we enter into retirement; when we pafs into folitude: we are then, in regard of thought, more active than paffive. We act more from ourselves, and by our proper energy, than allow other things to act upon us. Our attention is lefs interrupted, is more continued and strong. We may We may felect from among the objects of our reflection; tarry as long as we will with those that, in present circumstances, are most profitable and pleasant; confider them on more fides than one, in more than one combination; compare them with our farther perceptions, with our other thoughts; apply them more calmly to ourselves; imprint them deeper in our memory and our heart and revolve them fo long and in fuch various ways, till they diffuse a pure light upon our minds, and fhed a genial warmth into our hearts, and thus become fo fixed that they cannot be forgotten. Thus may we, by filent, folitary reflection, one while extend and rectify certain notions in religion, at another unravel fome difficulties which perplexed our mind on the theatre of the world, now quiet our troubles and cares by a clearer conception of their causes, and the best grounds of comfort, then collect new forces for the performance of our duty, and for making progrefs on the way of perfection, then again, by more attentively confidering our worldly affairs and concerns, learn more wisdom and prudence for carrying them on. At all events, we exercife and ftrengthen our mental powers; many obfcurities that render our path hard to pursue, disperse and retire and
and we return, with more chearfulness and content, to active and focial life. The fphere of our fight becomes enlarged by reflection; we have learnt to furvey more objects, and to conne&t them together; we carry with us a clearer fight, a jufter judgment, and firmer principles, into the world wherein we live and act; and are then able, even amidft various diftractions, so much the longer to arreft our attention, and to think and determine more rightly, in proportion as we have accustomed ourfelves to this exercise in retirement.
In the filence of folitude, we have, fecondly, a more intimate consciousness of ourselves, of our exiftence, of our faculties, of our dignity. How often and how eafily do we forget ourfelves in the hurry of business, in the diftractions of company, in the eddy of a bustling life! How apt are we there to exift far more in others than in ourfelves, to esteem far more the judgments and approbation of others, than the judgment and approbation of our hearts, take far more pains to give fatisfaction to others than to fatisfy ourselves, rejoice much more in being thought wife and good, rich and great, by others, than in the intimate conviction that we intrinfically are fo! But, the more a man exifts and lives in public and the less to himself: fo much the lefs frequently and lefs perfectly does he enjoy his life; fo much the more does it refemble a dream; and so much the more eafily will he be deceived by every error and appearance that offers.
Whereas in folitude, my dear brethren, our mind, as it were, returns home; there fhe collects her fcattered forces, and concentrates them within herself. There we wake, as it were, from a dream; there we separate ourselves from all that is without us and is not properly our own; there we separate our very thoughts from that which thinks within us. There we intimately feel, that we are, that we live, that we think, that we are intelligent, free, fpontaneouslyacting creatures, capable of great things, immortal. And what a bleffed fentiment is hot this! It is the joyful fentiment of one awakening from a trance, whose fenfes had been fast locked up, who had loft all arbitrary movement, all conscioufnefs, and now opens his eyes to the clear light of day, is fenfible to his internal faculties, exerts them freely and with perfpicuous confcioufnefs, and, impreffed with thefe delicious fenfations, praises his great preferver, that he ftill exifts and lives, and can in fpirit raise himself to him!
How much nobler, how much more bleffed is this fentiment of ourselves and our ability, than the deceitful view of our figure, our apparel, our outward circumstances, our riches, our borrowed beauties and prerogatives, which fo frequently transports us from ourselves, without allowing us to discern what actually belongs to our proper being, what gives us our true worth and dignity, from among the multitude of things to which we falfely attribute them! And when thus, in the folemn hour of folitude, the fenti
ment of felf is quick within us; when thus the daz zling glare of what is foreign to us, what is only for a fhort period connected with us, vanifhes from before our eyes; when thus our mind, as it were, looks into the depths of its nature: what capacities, what powers, what difpofitions for higher perfection and happiness, does it not discover in itfelf! With what a lively fentiment is it not then convinced, that its present ftate is not the compleatest mode of its exiftence, not the ultimate end of its being;. that it is not and becomes not here, what it may be and becoine; that an ever active faculty dwells within it, conftantly embracing more, and conftantly aiming at remoter things, which is ever ftruggling to burst its narrow bounds, and to produce, in other circumstances, in other connections with the visible and with the spiritual world, 'totally different effects, and to procure for itself the enjoyment of quite other fatisfactions and fruitions! And what a glorious prefentiment is this! What views it opens of everlasting being, and of everlasting progrefs! Yes, then does a man truly rejoice in his existence and his life; rejoice in them far more than in all the externals that belong to him; feels his entire worth, his inherent dignity, feels what he is capable of doing and performing; and feels himself fufficiently strong to accomplish every duty of life, to fuftain its afflictions and troubles, to bear every privation of outward things, and to quit this life itself, the firft ftep of his existence, without reluctance, and prefs for.
ward, with refolution and ardour, into the fuperior
In the filence of folitude, we not only acquire and keep up a more intimate confcioufnefs of ourselves in general, but we learn likewise, thirdly, to know ourselves, and particularly our failings and infirmities, far better than in the tumult of society. What a number of checks and hindrances does not this falutary knowledge of ourfelves meet with in focial life! Here are multifarious and intricate affairs; there alluring diverfions and fafcinating pleafures, which entirely draw off our attention from ourselves, and fix it altogether on externals. Here we meet with flatterers, who, from interested views or from weakness and exuberant complaifance, pronounce us to be better than we are; there partial judges, who think to excufe their own faults and extrava gancies by juftifying ours. Here are teftimonies of politenefs and others of friendship which bias our judgment of ourselves and our actions. Here are prevailing maxims and customs; there fafcinating examples, which prevent us from infpecting our failings and feeling our defects.
On coming into filence, on entering into folitude, the illufions of felf-love difperfe. The attention is fixed on ourselves: the flatterer holds his peace; no partial or corrupted judge, no civil friend takes our judgment by furprize: the force of example is weakened or evaded: the common excuses lofe all their validity. A man is more familiar with himfelf,