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, or confirm one wavering purpose to virtue, I shall not have unjustly commended that occasional indulgence of pensivenessa and sorrow, which will thus be rendered, not only one of the refinements, but one of the improvements of life.
The Vision of Mirza. 1. On the fifth day of the moon, which according to the custom of my forefathers I always kept holy, after having washed myself, and offered up my morning devotions, I ascended the high hills of Bagdat, in order to pass the rest of the day in meditation and prayer. As I was here airing myself on the tops of the mountains, I fell into a profound contemplation on the vanity of human life; and, passing from one thought to another, “Surely,” said I, “ man is but a shadow, and life a dream.”
2. While I was thus musing, I cast my eyes toward the summit of a rock that was not far from me, where I discovered one, in the habit of a shepherd, with a musical instrument in his hand. As I looked upon him he applied it to his lips, and began to play upon it. The sound of it was exceedingly sweet, and wrought into a variety of tunes that were inexpressibly melodious, and altogether different from any thing I had ever heard.—They put me in mind of those heavenly airs that are played to the departed souls of good men upon their first arrival in paradise, to wear out the impressions of their last agonies, and qualify them for the pleasures of that happy place.
3. My heart melted away in secret raptures. I had been often told that the rock before me was the haunt of a Genius, and that several had been entertained with music who had passed by it, but never heard that the musician had before made himself visible. When he had raised my thoughts, by those transporting airs which he played, to taste the pleasure of his conversation, as I looked upon him like one astonished, he beckoned to me, and, by the waving of his hand, directed me to approach the place where he sat.
4. I drew near, with that reverence which is due to a superior nature; and, as my heart was entirely subdued by the captivating strains I had heard, I fell down at his feet and wept. The Genius smiled upon me with a look of compassion and affability, that familiarized him to my imagination, a Pen'-sive-ness, thoughtfulness, sad- 6 Af-fa-bil-i-ty, civility, readiness to con
and at once dispelled all the fears and apprehensions with which I approached him. He lifted me from the ground, and, taking me by the hand, “Mirza,” said he, “I have heard thee in thy soliloquies :a follow me.”
5. He thèn led me to the highest pinnacle of the rock, and placing me on the top of it, “Cast thy eyes eastward,” said he, “and tell me what thou seest.”' I see,” said I, a huge valley, and a prodigious tide of water rolling through it.” "The valley that thou seest,” said he, “is the valley of misery; and the tide of water that thou seest, is part of the great
tide of eternity.” “What is the reason,” said I, " that the tide I see rises out of a thick mist at one end, and again loses itself in a thick mist at the other ?"
6. “ What thou seest,” said he, “is that portion of eternity which is called time, measured out by the sun, and reaching from the beginning of the world to its consummation. Examine, now," said he, “ this sea, that is thus bounded with darkness at both ends, and tell me what thou discoverest in it.” “I see a bridge,” said I, “standing in the midst of the tide."
"The bridge thou seest,” said he, “is human life: consider it attentively." Upon a more leisurely survey of it, I found that it consisted of three-score and ten entire arches, with several broken arches, which, added to those that were entire, made up the number of about a hundred.
7. As I was counting the arches the Genius told me that this bridge consisted, at first, of a thousand arches ; but that a great flood swept away the rest, and left the bridge in the
ruinous condition I now beheld it. “But tell me farther," said he, “ what thou discoverest on it.” “I see multitudes of people passing over it,” said I, “and a black cloud hanging on each end of it"
8. As I looked more attentively, I saw several of the passengers dropping through the bridge into the great tide that flowed underneath it; and, upon farther examination, perceived there were innumerable trap-doors that lay concealed in the bridge, which the passengers no sooner trod upon, but hey fell through them into the tide, and immediately dísap. peared. These hidden pit-falls were set very thick at the entrance of the bridge, so that throngs of people no sooner proke through the cloud, than many of them fell into them. They grew thinner toward the middle, but multiplied and ay closer together toward the end of the arches that were intire.
9. There were indeed some persons—but their number was éry small-that continued a kind of hobbling march on the
a So-lil':0-quy, talking to one's self.
broken arches, but fell through, one after another, being quite tired and spent with so long a walk. I passed some time in the contemplation of this wonderful structure, and the great variety of objects which it presented.
10. My heart was filled with a deep melancholy to see several dropping, unexpectedly, in the midst of mirth and jollity, and catching by every thing that stood by them to save themselves. Some were looking up toward the heavens in a thoughtful posture, and, in the midst of a speculation, stumbled and fell out of sight. Multitudes were very busy in the pursuit of bubbles, that glittered in their eyes and danced before them; but often, when they thought themselves within the reach of them, their footing failed, and down they sunk.
11. In this confusion of objects, I observed some with cimeters in their hands, and others with lances, who ran to and fro upon the bridge, thrusting several persons on trapdoors, which did not seem to lie in their way, and which they might have escaped had they not been thus forced upon them.
12. The Genius, seeing me indulge myself in this melancholy prospect, told me I had dwelt long enough upon it.“Take thine eyes off the bridge,” said he, “and tell me if thou yet seest any thing thou dost not comprehend." Upon looking up, What mean,” said I, “ thosa great flights of birds that are perpetually hovering about the bridge, and settling upon it from time to time? I see vultures, harpies, ravens, cormorants, and, among many other feathered creatures, several little winged boys, that perch in great numbers upon the middle arches."
13. "These," said the Genius, “ are Envy, Avarice, Superstition, Despair, Love, with the like cares and passions that in fest human life.” here fetched a deep sigh.
" Alas !" said I, “man was made in vain! how is he given away to misery and mortality.! tortured in life, and swallowed up in death!" The Genius, being moved with compassion toward me, bid me quit so uncomfortable a prospect. “Look no more,” said he, on man, in the first stage of his existence, in his setting out for eternity; but cast thine eye on that thick mist, into which the tide bears the several generations of mortals that fall into it."
14. I directed my sight as I was ordered, and-whether ol no the good Genius strengthened it with any supernatural force, or dissipated part of the mist that was before too thick for the eye to penetrate, I saw the valley opening at the farther end, and spreading forth into an immense ocean, that
a Cim'e-ter, a short sword.
had a huge rock of adamant running through the midst of it, and dividing it into two equal parts. Thė clouds still rested on one half it, insomuch that I could discover nothing in it; but the other appeared to me a vast ocean, planted with innumerable islands that were covered with fruits and flowers, and interwoven with a thousand little shining seas that ran among them.
15. I could see persons dressed in glorious habits, with garlandsa upon their heads, passing among the trees, lying down by the sides of fountains, or resting on beds of flowers ; and could hear a confused harmony of singing birds, falling waters, human voices, and musical instruments. Gladness grew in me upon the discovery of so delightful a scene. I wished for the wings of an eagle, that I might fly away to those happy seats; but the Genius told me there was no passage to them, except through the gates of death that I saw opening
every moment upon the bridge. 16. "The islands," said he, “that lie so fresh and green before thee, and with which the whole face of the ocean appears spotted, as far as thou canst see, are more in number than the sands on the sea shore. There are myriads of islands behind those which thou here discoverest, reaching farther than thine eye, or even thine imagination can extend itself. These are the mansions of good men after death, who, according to the degrees and kinds of virtue in which they excelled, are distributed among these several islands, which abound with pleasures of different kinds and degrees, suitable to the relishes and perfections of those who are settled in. them. Every island is a paradise, accommodated to its respective inhabitants.
17. “Are not these, O Mirza, habitations worth contending for? Does life appear miserable, that gives thee opportunities of earning such a reward? Is death to be feared, that will convey thee to so happy an existence? Think not man was made in vain, who has such an eternity reserved for him.” I gazed with inexpressible pleasure on those happy islands. At length, said I, “Show me now, I beseech thee, the secrets that lie under those dark clouds that cover the ocean, on the other side of the rock of adamant."
18. The Genius making me no answer, I turned about to address myself to him a second time, but I found that he had left me.
I then turned again to the vision which I had been so long contemplating; but, instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, and the happy islands, I saw nothing but the
a Gar'-lands, wreaths of flowers.
long, hollow valley of Bagdat, with oxen, sheep and camels grazing upon the sides of it.
The Eiernity of God. 1. IF all who live and breathe around us are the creatures of yesterday, and destined to see destruction to-morrow; if the same condition is our own, and the same sentence is written against us; if the solid forms of inanimate nature and laborious art, are fading and falling; if we look in vain for durability to the very roots of the mountains, where shall we turn, and on what can we rely?. Can no support be offered ; can no source of confidence be named? Oh yes! there is one Being to whom we can look, with a perfect conviction of finding that security, which nothing about us can give, and which nothing about us can take away.
2. To this Being we can lift up our souls, and on him we may rest them, exclaiming in the language of the monarch of Ísrael, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or even thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” “Of old hast thou laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hards. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment, as a' vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end."
3. The eternity of God is a subject of contemplation, which, at the same time that it overwhelms us with astonishment and awe, affords us an immoveable ground of confidence in the midst of a changing world. All things which surround us, all these dying, mouldering inhabitants of time, must have had a Creator, for the plain reason that they could not have created themselves. And their Creator must have existed from all eternity, for the plain reason that the first cause must necessarily be uncaused.
4. As we cannot suppose a beginning without a cause of existence, that which is the cause of all existence must be self-existent, and could have had no beginning. And, as it had no beginning, so also, as it is beyond the reach of all influence and control, as it is independent and almighty, it will have no end. Here then is a support which will never fail ; here is a foundation which can never be moved—the everlasting Creator of countless worlds, “the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity.”