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II. While our opinions and ideas are thus changing within, the condition of all external things is, at the same time, ever changing without us, and around us. Wherever we cast our eyes over the face of nature, or the monuments of art, we discern the marks of alteration and vicissitude. We cannot travel far upon the earth, without being presented with many a striking memorial of the changes made by time. What was once a flourishing city, is now a neglected village. Where castles and palaces stood, fallen towers and ruined walls appear. Where the magnificence of the great shone, and the mirth of the gay resounded, there, as the prophet Isaiah describes, the owl and the raven now dwell, thorns come up, and the nettle and the bramble grow in the courts. When we read the history of nations, what do we read but the history of incessant revolution and change? We behold kingdoms alternately rising and falling; peace and war taking place by turns; princes, heroes, and statesmen, coming forth in succession on the stage, attracting our attention for a little by the splendid figure they make, and then disappearing and forgotten. We see the fashion of the world assuming all its different forms, and, in all of them, passing away.
But to historical annals there is no occasion for our having recourse. Let any one who has made some progress in life, recollect only what he has beheld passing before him in his own time. We have seen our country rise triumphant among the nations; and we have seen it also humbled in its turn. We have seen in one hemisphere of the globe new dominions acquired, and in another hemisphere our old dominions lost. At home we have seen factions and
parties shift through all their different forms; and administrations, in succession, rise and fall. What were once the great themes of eager discussion and political contest, are now forgotten. Fathers recount them to their children as the tales of other times. New actors have come forth on the stage of the world. New objects have attracted the attention, and new intrigues engaged the opinions of men.
New members fill the seat of justice ; new ministers the temples of religion ; and a new world, in short, in the course of a few years, has gradually and insensibly risen around us.
When from the public scene we turn our eye to our own private connections, the changes which have taken place in the fashion of the world, must touch every reflecting mind with a more tender sensibility. For where are now many of the companions of our early years; many of those with whom we first began the race of life ; and whose hopes and prospects were once the same with our own? In recollecting our old acquaintance and friends, what devastations have been made by the hand of time! On the ruins of our former connections new ones have arisen; new relations have been formed; and the circle of those among whom we live is altogether changed from what it once was. Comparing our present situation with our former condition of life; looking back to our father's house, and to the scenes of youth ; remembering the friends by whom we are trained, and the family in which we grew up; who, but with inward emotion, recollects those days of former years, and is disposed to drop the silent tear, when he views the fashion of the world thus always passing away!
III. Not only our connections with all things around us change, but our own life, through all its stages and conditions, is ever passing away. How just, and how affecting is that image, employed in the sacred writings to describe the state of man, we spend our years as a tale that is told ! * It is not to any thing great or lasting that human life is compared; not to a monument that is built, or to an inscription that is engraved ; not even to a book that is written, or to a history that is recorded, but to a tale, which is listened to for a little ; where the words are fugitive and passing, and where one incident succeeds and hangs on another, till, by insensible transitions, we are brought to the close; a tale, which in some passages may be amusing, in others, tedious; but whether it amuses or fatigues, is soon told and soon forgotten. Thus year steals upon us after year. Life is never standing still for a moment; but continually, though insensibly, sliding into a new form. Infancy rises up fast to childhood; childhood to youth ; youth passes quickly into manhood; and the grey hair, and the faded look, are not long of admonishing us, that old age is at hand. In this course all generations run. The world is made up of unceasing rounds of transitory existence. Some generations are coming forward into being, and others hastening to leave it. The stream which carries us all along, is ever flowing with a quick current, though with a still and noiseless course. The dwelling-place of man is continually emptying, and by a fresh succession of inhabitants, continually filling anew. The memory of man passeth away like
the remembrance of a guest who hath tarried but one night.
As the life of man, considered in its duration, thus fleets and passes away, so, during the time it lasts, its condition is perpetually changing. It affords us nothing on which we can set up our rest; no enjoyment or possession which we can properly call our own. When we have begun to be placed in such circumstances as we desired, and wish our lives to proceed in the same agreeable tenor, how often comes some unexpected event across to disconcert all our schemes of happiness? Our health declines; our friends die; our families are scattered; something or other is not long of occurring, to show us that the wheel must turn round; the fashion of the world must pass away. Is there any man who dares to look to futurity with an eye of confident hope ; and to say, that against a year hence, he can promise being in the same condition of health or fortune as he is at present? The seeds of change are every where sown in our state; and the very causes that seemed to promise us security, are often secretly undermining it. Great fame provokes the attacks of envy and reproach. High health gives occasion to intemperance and disease. The elevation of the mighty never fails to render their condition tottering; and that obscurity which shelters the mean, exposes them, at the same time, to become the prey of oppression. So completely is the fashion of this world made by Providence for change, and prepared for passing away. In the midst of this instability, it were some comfort, did human prosperity decay as slowly as it rises. By slow degrees, and by many
intervening steps, it rises. But one day is sufficient to scatter and bring it to nought. I might add,
IV. That the world itself in which we dwell, the basis of all our present enjoyments, is itself contrived for change, and designed to pass away.
While the generations of men come forth in their turns, like troops of succeeding pilgrims, to act their part on this globe, the globe on which they act is tottering under their feet. It was once overflowed by a deluge. It is shaken by earthquakes; it is undermined by subterraneous fires; it carries many a mark of having suffered violent convulsions, and of tending to dissolution. Revelation informs us that there is a day approaching, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise; the elements shall melt with fervent heat; and the earth and the works therein shall be burnt up.
When this destined hour arrives, the fashion of the world shall have finally past away. Immortal spirits shall then look back upon this world, as we do at present on cities and empires, which were once mighty and flourishing, but now are swept from existence, and their place is no more to be found.
I shall insist no longer on this representation of things. Enough has been said, to show that the fashion of the world, in every sense, passes away. Opinions and manners, public affairs and private concerns, the life of man, the conditions of fortune, and the earth itself on which we dwell, are all changing around us. — Is every thing, then, with which we are connected, passing and transitory? Is the whole state of man no more than a dream or fleeting vision? Is he brought forth to be only the child of a