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of the giddy and the vain; but it must sink them in the esteem of all the wise. It renders them strangers to themselves; and useless, if not pernicious, to the world. They lose every manly principle. Their minds become relaxed and effeminate. All that is great or respectable in the human character is buried under a mass of trifles and follies.
If some measures ought to be taken for rescuing the mind from this disgraceful levity; if some principles must be acquired, which may give more dignity and steadiness to conduct; where, I pray you, are these to be looked for ? Not surely in the house of feasting, where every object flatters the senses and strengthens the seductions to which we are already prone; where the spirit of dissipation circulates from heart to heart; and the children of folly mutually admire and are admired. It is in the sober and serious house of mourning that the tide of vanity is made to turn, and a new direction given to the current of thought. When some affecting incident presents a strong discovery of the deceitfulness of all worldly joy, and rouses our sensibility to human woe; when we behold those with whom we had lately mingled in the house of feasting, sunk by some of the sudden vicissitudes of life into the vale of misery; or when, in sad silence, we stand by the friend whom we had loved as our own soul, stretched on the bed of death; then is the season when the world begins to appear in a new light; when the heart opens to virtuous sentiments, and is led into that train of reflection which ought to direct life. He who before knew not what it was to commune with his heart on any'serious subject, now puts the
question to himself, For what purpose he was sent forth into this mortal, transitory state; what his fate is likely to be when it concludes; and what judgment he ought to form of those pleasures which amuse for a little, but which, he now sees, cannot save the heart from anguish in the evil day? Touched by the hand of thoughtful melancholy, that airy edifice of bliss, which fancy had raised up for him, vanishes away. He beholds in the place of it, the lonely and barren desert, in which, surrounded with many a disagreeable object, he is left musing upon himself. The time which he has misspent, and the faculties which he has misemployed, his foolish levity, and his criminal pursuits, all rise in painful prospect before him. That unknown state of existence into which, race after race, the children of men pass, strikes his mind with solemn awe. Is there no course by which he can retrieve his past errours ? Is there no superiour power to which he can look up for aid? Is there no plan of conduct, which, if it exempt him not from sorrow, can at least procure him consolation amidst the distressful exigencies of life ? — Such meditations as these, suggested by the house of mourning, frequently produce a change on the whole character. They revive those sparks of goodness which were nigh being quite extinguished in the dissipated mind; and give rise to principles and conduct more rational in themselves, and more suitable to the human state.
In the second place, Impressions of this nature not only produce moral seriousness but awaken sentiments of piety, and bring men into the sanctuary of Religion. One might, indeed, imagine that the blessings of a prosperous condition would prove the most natural incitements to devotion; and that when men were happy in themselves, and saw nothing but happiness around them, they could not fail gratefully to acknowledge that God, who giveth them all things richly to enjoy. Yet such is their corruption, that they are never more ready to forget their benefactor, than when loaded with his benefits. The giver is concealed from their careless and inattentive view, by the cloud of his own gifts. When their life continues to flow in one smooth current unruffled by any griefs; when they neither receive in their own circumstances, nor allow themselves to receive from the circumstances of others, any admonitions of human instability; they not only become regardless of Providence, but are in hazard of contemning it. Glorying in their strength, and lifted up by the pride of life into supposed independence, that impious sentiment, if not uttered by the mouth, yet too often lurks in the hearts of many, during their flourish, ing periods, JVhat is the Almighty that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
If such be the tendency of the house of feasting, how necessary is it, that, by some change in their situation, men should be obliged to enter into the house of mourning, in order to recover a proper sense of their dependent state? It is there, when forsaken by the gaieties of the world, and left alone with God, that we are made to perceive how awful his government is; how easily human greatness bends before him ; and how quickly all our designs and measures, at his interposal, vanish into nothing. There, when the countenance is sad, and the affections are softened by grief; when we sit apart, involved in serious thought, looking down as from some eminence on those dark clouds that hang over the life of man, the arrogance of prosperity is humbled, and the heart melts under the impressions of religion. Formerly we were taught, but now we see, we feel, how much we stand in need of an Almighty Protector, amidst the changes of this vain world. Our soul cleaves to Him who despises not, nor abhors the afliction of the afflicted. Prayer flows forth of its own accord from the relenting heart, that he may be our God, and the God of our friends in distress; that he may never forsake us while we are sojourning in this land of pilgrimage ; may strengthen us under its calamities; and bring us hereafter to those habitations of rest, where we, and they whom we love, may be delivered from the trials which all are now doomed to endure. The discoveries of his mercy, which he has made in the Gospel of Christ, are viewed with joy, as so many rays of light sent down from above to dispel, in some degree, the surrounding gloom. A Mediator and Intercessor with the Sovereign of the universe, appear comfortable names; and the resurrection of the just becomes the powerful cordial of grief. In such moments as these, which we may justly call happy moments, the soul participates of all the pleasures of devotion. It feels the power of religion to support and relieve. It is softened, without being broken. It is full, and it pours itself forth ; pours itself forth, if we may be allowed to use the expression, into the bosom of its merciful Creator.
In the third place, Such serious sentiments produce the happiest effect upon our disposition towards our fellow-creatures, as well as towards God. It is a common and just observation, that they who have lived always in affluence and ease, strangers to the miseries of life, are liable to contract hardness of heart with respect to all the concerns of others. Wrapped up in themselves, and their own pleasures, they behold with indifference the most affecting scenes of distress. Habituated to indulge all their desires without controul, they become impatient of the least provocation or offence; and are ready to trample on their inferiours, as if they were creatures of a different species from themselves. Is this an amiable temper, or such as becomes a man? When appearing in others, do we not view it with much displeasure ? When imputed to ourselves, can we avoid accounting it a severe reproach?
By the experience of distress, this arrogant insensibility of temper is most effectually corrected; as the remembrance of our own sufferings naturally prompts us to feel for others when they suffer. But if Providence has been so kind as not to subject us to much of this discipline in our own lot, let us draw improvement from the harder lot of others. Let us sometimes step aside from the smooth and flowery paths in which we are permitted to walk, in order to view the toilsome march of our fellows through the thorny desert. By voluntarily going into the house of mourning; by yielding to the sentiments which it excites, and mingling our tears with those of the afflicted, we shall acquire that humane sensibility which is one of the highest ornanaments of the nature of man. Perceiving how much