Page images
PDF
EPUB

felf, investigates closer, scrutinizes deeper, tries him. self upon founder principles, and pronounces more impartially on the value of himself and his actions. There he will neither be led into error by the dread of betraying himself before others, nor by the hope of obtaining from them a more advantageous opinion of him. There self-conceit gives way to rational self-love. There nothing is more natural than for a man to ask his own heart: Am I really that for which I am taken? The wise, the virtuous, the, fincere, the upright, the beneficent, the well-di posed, the useful man, which I am reputed to be by my friends ? Have I done so much good, have I performed so much service to society as they ascribe to me? Am I actually exempt from those failings, which I know how to conceal in company, and from which I am thought to be exempt? Are these failings so insignificant, are they so unavoidable, so inseparable from human infirmity, as they are said to be? Can I reflect on myself and on my moral condition with as much complacency, and be as fatisfied with myself and my conduct, when I am not disturbed in reflecting on them, when nothing beguiles me, nobody flatters me, when I consider what I am and what I do, in the clear light of truth, in the presence of him who fees in secret? Oh how totally different, my dear brethren, do we not appear to ourselves, how many weak places in our heart, how many infractions in our virtue, how many defects in our best dispositions and actions, do

VOL. II.

D

we

we not then perceive, which we almost always overlook in the ordinary dissipations of our lives, or only discern them, as it were, in the shade ! And must not such discoveries as these be of inestimable moment to us, must they not render solitude, which enables us to make them, delightful to us ?.

But folitude must become still dearer to us, if we consider, in the fourth place, that we there feel the being of God and his nearness, far more intimately and acutely than it is possible for us in other circumstances to do. Indecd he is every where present, every where near, near to every one of us, he pervades and animates all, he works in all and by all; and the sentiment of him never absolutely forfakes the wise man and the christian, even in the noise and hurry of an active and social life. He has the Lord alway before him and walks continually in his presence. But how frequently will this greatest, this most bleffed of all sentiments, be obscured by the unavoidable distractions and businesses which engross our whole attention! How feldom can we entertain it properly, or dwell long enough upon it! How much oftener is it then only like a feeble, transient gleam, or the cold, unfruitful light of the moon, than the strong beams of the fun, warming, invigorating, illuminating, and enlivening nature !

No, only in the filence of solitude, only in those folemn hours and moments, when all around us is still, when we hear nothing in nature but the voice of God, the voice of God in our hearts, the voice of God in his word, only there do we learn to ob. serve the revelations of the deity within us and without us, fee ourselves furrounded with the effects of his power and goodness, and cordially feel that he is not far from every one of us, that he is all in all. There our reflections are perspicuous and certain : If I be, then God is; if I be and operate here, then God is and operates here, by whom I fubfift and live. Am I encompassed by creatures all around me, by beauties, by blessings and powers ? Then am I encompassed all around by God, the father of these creatures, the source of these beauties and powers, the giver and preserver of these bounties. Where force, where motion, where life, where intelligence, where freedom and activity is, there is God, there he reveals himself, there he acts! How nigh, how inexpressibly nigh then must he not be to me, and to every thing that is and lives and thinks and moves!: What can I be and think and will and do and enjoy, that does not afford me a demonstration of the existence and the presence of God, without whom nothing is and nothing will be, nothing can be, and nothing happen? No, I have no need to soar into the heights of heaven, to search for him, the Omnipresent, nor to dive into the abysses of the deep, neither to look for him in the splendor of the sun nor in the darkness of the night, neither through the boundless regions of the sky nor in the temples of his votaries, neither in this nor in that peculiar spot of his-immeasurable

domain ;

2

domain ; he is in the height and in the depth, in the splendor of the fun and in the obscurity of night, among the hymning choirs of fuperior spirits, and in the midst of his worshipers on earth; he is here and at the same time there, in me and in each of his creatures, is every where, and every where equally great, equally powerful, equally good, every where perfection and love itself! Nothing can conceal me from his inspection, nothing deprive me of his vivifying and blessing influence, nothing of his paternal tenderness; nothing remove and part me from him, without whom I should not be, and without whose power and will I could not continue for a moment !- And now when these thoughts are strong and vigorous in me; when I thus feel the nearness of my God, my creator and father; feel that I live and move and am in him : what a light must not then diffuse itfelf

upon all things round me, what brightness in my mind! What are the cares and what the troubles that will not then vaniln away! What strife of the passions will not then subside! What tumult not sink into peace! What hopes, what assurance, what joy will not animate and pervade my frame! What a foretaste not bless me of purer and everlasting pleasure! And shall not the solitude that promises and procures me such advantages be dear to me?

O folemn silence, be thou hailed of me! Hail, sacred solitude ! facred to wisdom, to self-possession, to fupernal joys, sacred to the complacency of God: ever be thou blessed-of me, ever let me find thee the restorative, the comfort, the folace of my soul! Take me into thy bosom, when stunned with the noise of the world and weary of its pleasures, I am only alive to my intellectual wants ! Oh shed thy mild reviving influence on me, when I feel the weariness of the traveller, overtaken by night, while yet a great way from the place he endeavoured to reach, or has had the misfortune to stray from his path! Shield me from the derision of the vain, from the unmerited fcorn and the uncharitable judgment of the envious, from the melancholy view of the follies, the crimes, and the miseries, which so often dis. figure the scene of busy and social life! Be thou my fanctuary and resting place against the hostile attacks of infidelity and doubt; dart light around me when my path is obscure; appease my swelling heárt, abate the rage of every wild and furious passion, establish serenity in my breast; give me to feel the intimate presence of my creator and father, to taste the ravishing joys of exalted devotion, and be to me the gate of heaven!

But, wouldst thou, my christian friend and brother, wouldst thou that folitude should be and procure to thee what it is and procures to the wise man and the christian ; then let the following maxims of prudence be recommended to thee in the use of it.

Seek not solitude from disgust or misanthropy ; not that thou mayst give freer scope to thy sullen and gloomy reflections, or the furious fallies of thy

D3

wounded

« PreviousContinue »