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made a strange mistake, in creating a desire without any object.
Certain it is, that the soul is eternally craving; no sooner has she obtained the object for which she longed, than a new wish is formed, and the whole universe cannot satisfy her. Infinity is the only field adapted to her nature; she delights to lose herself in numbers, to conceive the greatest as well as the smallest dimensions, and to multiply without end. Filled at length, but not satisfied with all she has devoured, she seeks the bosom of the Deity, in whom centre all ideas of infinity, whether relating to perfection, time, or space.
The inferior animals are not agitated by this hope which manifests itself in the heart of man; they immediately attain their degree of happiness; a handful of grass satisfies the lamb, a little blood gluts the tiger. If we were to assert, with some philosophers, that the different conformation of the organs constitutes all the difference between us and the brute, still this mode of reasoning could, at the farthest, be admitted only in acts purely material; but of what service is my hand to my mind, when amid the silence of night I soar through the regions of boundless space, to discover the architect of so many worlds? Why does not the ox act, in this respect, as I do? His eyes are sufficient, and if he had my legs or my arms, they would for this purpose be totally useless to him.
He may repose upon the turf, he may raise his head toward the sky, and call by his bellowing, the unknown Being who fills the immense expanse. But no; he prefers the grass on which he treads; and while those millions of suns that adorn the firmament furnish the strongest evidences of a Deity, the animal soundly slumbers, unconscious that, with the wonders of his instinct, he is himself thrown beneath the tree at the foot of which he lies, as a slight proof of a divine intelligence.
If it be impossible to deny that man cherishes hopes to the very tomb; if it be certain that all earthly possessions, so far from crowning our wishes, only serve to increase the void in the soul; we cannot but conclude, that there must be a something beyond the limits of time.
'The ties of this world,' says St Augustin, 'are attended with real hardship and false pleasure; certain pains and uncertain joys; hard labor and unquiet rest; a situation fraught with woe, and a hope void of felicity.' Instead of complaining that the desire of happiness has been placed in this world and its object in the other, let us admire in this constitution of things the beneficence of God. Since we must sooner or later quit this mortal life, Providence has placed beyond the fatal boundary, a charm which attracts us, in order to diminish our horror of the grave; thus the affectionate
mother who wishes her child to cross a certain limit, holds a pleasing object on the other side to entice him to pass it.
ON THE DEATH OF A FRIEND.
NOTWITHSTANDING the warnings of philosophers, and the daily examples of losses and misfortunes which life forces upon our observation, such is the absorption of our thoughts in the business of the present day, such is the resignation of our reason to empty hopes of future felicity, or such our unwillingness to see what we dread, that every calamity comes suddenly upon us, and not only presses us as a burden, but crushes as a blow.
There are evils which happen out of the common course of nature, against which it is no reproach not to be provided. A flash of lightning intercepts the traveller in his way; the concussion of an earthquake heaps the ruins of cities upon their inhabitants. But other misfortunes time brings, though silently, yet visibly forward by its even lapse, which yet approach us unseen because we turn our eyes away, and seize us unre
sisted, because we could not arm ourselves against them but by setting them before us.
That it is vain to shrink from what cannot be avoided, and to hide that from ourselves which must sometime be found, is a truth which we all know, but which all neglect, and perhaps none more than the speculative reasoner, whose thoughts are always from home, whose eye wanders over life, whose fancy dances after meteors of happiness kindled by itself, and who examines any thing rather than his own state.
Nothing is more evident than that the decays of age must terminate in death; yet there is no man, says Tully, who does not believe he may yet live another year; and there is none who does not, upon the same principle, hope another year for his parent or his friend; but the fallacy will be in time detected; the last year, the last day, must come. It has come, and is past. The life that made my own life pleasant is at an end, and the gates of death are shut upon my prospects.
The loss of a friend upon whom the heart was fixed, to whom every wish and endeavour tended, is a state of dreary desolation, in which the mind looks abroad impatient of itself, and finds nothing but emptiness and horror. The blameless life, the artless tenderness, the pious simplicity, the modest resignation, the patient sickness, and the quiet death, are remembered only to add value to
the loss, to aggravate regret for what cannot be amended, to deepen sorrow for what cannot be recalled.
These are calamities by which Providence gradually disengages us from the love of life. Other evils fortitude may repel, or hope may mitigate; but irreparable privation leaves nothing to exercise resolution, or flatter expectation. The dead cannot return, and nothing is left us here but languishment and grief.
Yet such is the course of nature, that whoever lives long must outlive those whom he loves and honors. Such is the condition of our present existence, that life must one time lose its associations, and every inhabitant of the earth must walk downward to the grave, alone and unregarded, without any partner of his joy or grief, without any interested witness of his misfortunes or suc
Misfortune, indeed, he may yet feel; for where is the bottom of the misery of man? But what is success to him that has none to enjoy it? Happiness is not found in selfcontemplation; it is perceived only where it is reflected from another.
We know little of the state of departed souls, because such knowledge is not necessary to a good life. Reason deserts us at the brink of the grave, and can give no farther intelligence. Revelation is not wholly silent. There is joy in