« ZurückWeiter »
the motives of interest and ambition, it is to be cultivated for its own sake, by those who understand and wish to enjoy, under every circumstance, the utmost attainable happiness. Next to religion, it is the best and sweetest source of comfort in those hours of dejection which every mortal must sometimes experience. It constitutes one of the most solid pillars to support the tottering fabric of human felicity, and commonly contributes as much to virtue as to calm and rational enjoyment."
ESSAYS MORAL and Literary, 14th ed. No. 51.
Is it no pleasure, when prevailing frost
Has harden'd earth's dank surface, and the foot
Treads upon rock where erst it sank absorb'd-
To mark the wonders of the frozen world?
Fountain of elegance, unseen thyself,
What limit owns thy beauty, when thy works
That studiously surveys the wise design,
If to the spot invisible we strain
Our aching sight, and with microptic tube
MANKIND are more distressed by dangers and accidents than any of the lower ranks of the creation; not because they are exposed to more, but from the superior sense and apprehension of them. Our lives, though longer than those of almost any other species, pass in more continued alarm and terror than any, because we are conscious of their period; and have also a sense of the extent of time, which represents that period as short and inconsiderable.
What an imperfect view might paint to us in this as matter of complaint and disgust, a better
acquaintance with our nature shews us in the contrary light, as an object of triumph and congratulation. The same faculties which alarm us with a sense of dangers before they arrive, assist us with the means of obviating them; and that knowledge which shews us the short period of our residence here points out also an immortality behind it. To us who have a more interesting state in view, even the unavoidable distresses and miseries that present themselves in vain in their approach, serve to the excellent purpose of taking off our thoughts from a scene, the allurements of which might otherwise influence us to a fatal neglect of all farther considerations: and the consciousness of an inevitable and approaching dissolution, forces upon us the reflection on what is to happen afterward. What appears to us a severe decree is, therefore, an act of indulgence; and the prescience which is the source of immediate pain to us is our road also to the supremest pleasure.
With the rest of the animated world it is otherwise a sense of dangers which they could not avoid would have been a source of unnecessary anguish; and a consciousness that their frame must be destroyed would have had the tenfold horror and no one advantage. It is best
for them to submit to that which cannot be escaped, without foreseeing that it is to happen: it is happiest for them to enjoy their existence, undisturbed by a knowledge of its termination, till the moment in which they sink again into that nothing from which they sprung. Instinct offers them all the necessary advantages of reason without its ineffectual torments; and it is as much mercy in the Creator to have withheld it from them, as to have given it to us.
The contemplative mind will find every disinterested application of thought, every pursuit of a rational inquiry, thus leading to the praise of his Creator. The minutest, and, as they appear to many, the most abject things, may give opportunities for such investigations; and even the instances in their several accidents, which seem at first to shock his apprehension, will, in the end, most palpably convince him that all is of a piece. The beauties of a minuter part of the creation are not more hidden from the unassisted sight, than the ends and purposes of their economy from the casual observation. The microscope does not more amaze and charm us with the discovery of the first, than the application of our faculties does in tracing the latter; nor is it possible to look about us,
amidst the most trivial occurrences, without being convinced of the one as strongly as of the other.
The advantages of exercise, as necessary to the mind's health as that of the body, carry me, as often as the weather will permit, into some of the fields and openings on the skirts of this region of smoke: nor do I ever return from such a walk without improvement and information. One of the last expeditions of this kind carried me to the side of a little brook near Kensington, which every shower extends to twenty times its natural limits, and every dry week retrenches to almost nothing.
The morning was sharp though bright; the overflowed part of the channel of this rivulet was now covered with ice, and the tops of a few water-plants appeared at distances above the surface. A consciousness that no product of nature is unpeopled by other of its creatures, even under disadvantageous circumstances, prompted me to take up two or three of these frozen vegetables; and a cursory observation shewed me that neither the part of them that was above, nor that which was under the surface of the ice, was destitute of its inhabitants; neither that part which was frozen by the air, nor that drenched in water, was vacant. Creatures of