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now on the main sea, abandoned to the winds and billows, without any other means of security than the care of the pilot, whom it was always in our power to choose among great numbers that offered their direction and assistance.
I then looked round with anxious eagerness, and first turning my eyes behind me, saw a stream flowing through flowery islands, which every one that sailed along seemed to behold with pleasure, but no sooner touched, than the current, which, though not noisy or turbulent, was yet irresistible, bore him away. Beyond these islands, all was darkness, nor could any of the passengers describe the shore at which he first embarked.
Before me, and on each side, was an expanse of waters violently agitated, and covered with so thick a mist, that the most perspicacious eye could see but a little way. It appeared to be full of rocks and whirlpools; for many sunk unexpectedly while they were courting the gale with full sails, and insulting those whom they had left behind. So numerous, indeed, were the dangers, and so thick the darkness, that no caution could confer security. Yet there were many, who, by false intelligence, betrayed their followers into whirlpools, or by violence pushed those whom they found in their way against the rocks.
The current was invariable and insurmountable; but though it was impossible to sail against
it, or to return to the place that was once passed, yet it was not so violent as to allow no opportunities for dexterity or courage, since, though none could retreat back from danger, yet they might avoid it by oblique direction.
It was however not very common to steer with much care or prudence; for by some universal infatuation, every man appeared to think himself safe, though he saw his consorts every moment sinking around him; and no sooner had the waves closed over them, than their fate and their misconduct were forgotten; the voyage was pursued with the same jocund confidence; every man congratulated himself upon the soundness of his vessel, and believed himself able to stem the whirlpool in which his friend was swallowed, or glide over the rocks on which he was dashed; nor was it often observed that the sight of a wreck made any man change his course; if he turned aside for a moment, he soon forgot the rudder, and left himself again to the disposal of chance.
This negligence did not proceed from indifference or from weariness of their present condition; for not one of those, who thus rushed upon destruction, failed, when he was sinking, to call loudly upon his associates for that help which could not now be given him; and many spent their last moments in cautioning others against the folly by which they were intercepted in the
midst of their course. Their benevolence was sometimes praised, but their admonitions were unregarded.
In the midst of the current of life was the gulph of Intemperance, a dreadful whirlpool, interspersed with rocks of which the pointed crags were concealed under water, and the tops covered with herbage, on which Ease spread couches of repose, and with shades where Pleasure warbled the song of invitation. Within sight of these rocks all who sailed on the ocean of life must necessarily pass. Reason, indeed, was always at hand to steer the passengers through a narrow outlet by which they might escape; but few could, by her intreaties or remonstrances, be induced to put the rudder into her hand, without stipulating that she should approach so near unto the rocks of Pleasure, that they might solace themselves with a short enjoyment of that delicious region, after which they always determined to pursue their course without any other deviation.
Reason was too often prevailed upon so far, by these promises, as to venture her charge within the eddy of the gulph of Intemperance, where, indeed, the circumvolution was weak, but yet interrupted the course of the vessel, and drew it by insensible rotations towards the centre. She then repented her temerity, and with all her force endeavoured to retreat; but the draught of the
gulph was generally too strong to be overcome; and the passenger, having danced in circles with a pleasing and giddy velocity, was at last overwhelmed and lost.
As I was looking upon the various fate of the multitude about me, I was suddenly alarmed with an admonition from some unknown Power: 'Gaze not idly upon others, when thou thyself art sinking. Whence is this thoughtless tranquillity, when thou and they are equally endangered?' I looked, and seeing the gulph of Intemperance before me, started and awaked.
SINCERITY IN FRIENDLY INTERCOURSE.
AMONGST all the beauties and excellences of the ancient writers, of which I confess myself an admirer, there are none which strike me with more veneration than the precepts they have delivered to us for our conduct in society. The fables of the poets, and the narrations of the historians, amuse and delight us with their respective qualifications; but we feel ourselves particularly concerned, when a moral virtue, or a special obligation is set before us, the practice of which is our indispensable duty; and, perhaps, we are more ready to observe these instructions, or, at
least, acquiesce sooner in the propriety of them, as the authority of the teacher is unquestionable, the address not particularly confined or levelled, and the censure less dogmatical.
Of all the virtues which the ancients possessed, the zeal and fidelity of their friendships appear to to me as the highest distinctions of their characters. Private persons, and particular affinities amongst them, have been long celebrated and admired; and if we examine their conduct as companions, we shall find, that the rites of their religion were not more sacred, more strongly ratified, or more severely preserved, than their laws of society.
The table of friendship and the altar sacrifices, were equally uncontaminated; the mysteries of Bacchus were enveloped with as many leaves as those of Ceres; and the profanation of either deity excluded the offenders from the assemblies of men; the revealer was judged accursed, and impiety was thought to accompany his steps.
Without inveighing against the practice of the present times, or comparing it with that of the past, I shall only remark, that if we cannot meet together upon the honest principles of social beings, there is reason to fear, that we are placed in the most unfortunate and lamentable era since the creation of mankind. It is not the increase of vices inseparable from humanity that alarms us,