« AnteriorContinuar »
man laws. Virtue, duty, principle, would be mocked and spurned as unmeaning sounds. A sordid self-interest would supplant every other feeling ; aird man would become in fact, what the theory of atheism declaxes him to be,-a companion for brutes.
Oir the reasonableness of Devotion. 1. TRUE devotion is rational, and well founded. It takes: its rise from affections which are essential to the human frame, We are formed by Nature to admire what is great, and to love what is amiable. Even inanimate' objects have power to excite these emotions. The magnificent prospects of the natural world, fill the mind with reverential awe. Its beautiful scenes: create delight. When we survey the aetions and behavior of our fellow creatures the affections glow with greater ardor'; and if to be unmoved in the former case, argues a defect of scnsibility in our powers, it discovers in the latter, an odions hardness and depravity in the heart.
2. The tenuerness of an affectionate parent, the generosity of a forgiving enemy, the public spirit of a patriot or a hero, often fill the eyes with tears, and swell the breast with emotions too big for utterance. The object of these affections is frequently raised above us in condition and rank. Let us suppose him raised also above us in nature. Let us imagine that an angel, or any being of superior order, had condescended to be our friend, our guide, and patron: no person, sure, would hold the exaltation of his benefactor's character, to be an argument why he should love and revere him less.
3. Strange! that the attachment and veneration, the warmth and overflowing of heart, which excellence and goodness on every other occasion eonimand, should begin to be accounted irrational, as soon as the Supreme Being becomes their object. For what reason must human sensibility be extinct toward him alone? Are all benefits entitled to gratitude, except the highest and the best ? Shall goodness cease to be amiable, only because it is perfect?
4. It will perhaps be said, that an unknown and invisible being is not qualified to raise affection in the human heart Wrapt up in the mysterious obscurity of his nature, he es. capes our search, and affords no determinate object to our love or desire. We go forward, but he is not there,--and backward, but we cannot perceive him,-on the left hand,
00:-di-cus, very ofrer ve, haletul,
a In-an I-mata, void of life
where he worketh, but we cannot behold him: he hideth nimself on the right hand, that we cannot see him.
5. Notwithstanding this obscurity, is there any being in the universe more real and certain, than the Creator of the world, and the Supporter of all existence ? Is he in whom we live and move, too distant from us to excite devotion ? His form and essence, indeed, we cannot see; but to be unseen and imperfectly known in many other instances, precludega neither gratitude nor love. It is not the sight so much as the strong conception, or deep irnpression of an object, which affects the passions.
6. We glow with admiration of personages who have lived in a distant age. Whole nations have been transported with zeal and affection for the generous hero, or public deliverer, whom they knew only by fame. Nay, properly speaking, the direct object of our love is in every case invisible ; for that on which affection is placed is the mind, the soul, the internal character of our fellow creatures,-which, surely, is no less concealed than the Divine Nature itself is from the view of sense.
7. From actions, we can only infer the dispositions of men; from what we see of their behavior, we collect what is invisible ; but the conjecture which we form is at best imperfect; and when their actions excite our love, much of their heart remains still unknown.
8. I ask, then, in what respect God is less qualified than any other being, to be an object of affection ? Convinced that he exists; beholding his goodness spread abroad in his works -exerted in the government of the world – displayed in some measure to sense, in the actions of his Son Jesus Christ,--are we not furnished with every essential requisite which the heart demands, in order to indulge the most warm, wid at the same time the most rational emotions.
9. If these considerations justify the reasonableness of devotion, as expressed in veneration, love, and gratitude, the paine train of thought will equally justify it when appearing !!! the forms of desire, delight, or resignation. The latter are indeed the consequence of the former. For we cannot but desire some communication with what we love; and will naturally resign ourselves to one, on whom we have placed the full confidence of affection. The aspirations of a devout man after the favor of God, are the effects of that earnest wish for happiness which glows in every breast.
10. All men have somewhat that may be called the object of their devotion -reputation, pleasure, learning, riches, or
a Pre-cludes', hinders, prevents.
whatever apparent good has strongly attached their heart This becomes the center of attraction, which draws them towards it,-which quickens and regulates all their motions. While the men of the world are thus influenced by the objects which they severally worship, shall he only, who direct: all his devotion toward the Supreme Being, be excluded from a place in the system of rational conduct ?'
Character of Washington. 1. It is natural that the gratitude of mankind should be drawn to their benefactors. A nuniber of these have successively arisen, who were no less distinguished for the elevation of their virtues, than the luster of their talents. Of those, "however, who were born, and who acted through life as is they were born, not for themselves, but for their country, and the whole human race, how few, alas! are recorded on the long annalsa of ages, and how wide the intervals of time and space that divide thém.
2. In all this dreary length of way, they appear like five 'or six light-houses on as many thousand miles of coast: they gleam upon the surrounding darkness with an inextinguishable splendor —like stars seen through a mist; but they are seen like stars, to cheer, to guide, and to save. WASHINGTON is now added to that small number. Already he attracts curiosity like a newly discovered star, whose benign light will travel on to the world's and time's farthest bounds. Al ready his name is hung up by history, as conspicuously as is It sparkled in one of the constellations of the sky.
3. The best evidence of reputation is a man's whole life. We have now, alas ! all WASHINGTONS before us. There has Karcely appeared a really great man, whose character has heen more admired in his life time, or less correctly understood by his admirers. When it is comprehended, it is no easy task to delineated its excellencies in such a manner, as [:) give to the portrait both interest and resemblance: for it requires thought and study to understand the true ground of a An-nals, histories tigested ander years Con-stel-a'-done, clusters of stazs. Be rigu, kind, gew. The
the superiority of his character, over many others whom he resembled in the principles of action, and even in the man ner of acting
4. But perhaps he excels all the great men that ever livedo in the steadiness of his adherence to his maxims of life, and in the uniformity of all his conduct to the samie maxims. These maxims, though wise, were yet not so remarkable for their wisdom, as for their authority over his life: for if there were any errors in his judgment, we know of no blemishes in his virtue. He was the patriot without reproach: he loved his country well enough to hold his success in serving it an ample recompense.
5. Thus far, self-love and love of country coincided :* but when his country needed sacrifices that no other man could, or perhaps would be willing to make, he did not even hesitate. This was virtue in its most exalted character. More than once he put his fame at hazard, when he had reason to think it would be sacrificed, at least in this age.
6. It is indeed almost as difficult to draw his character, as the portrait of virtue. The reasons are similar: our ideas of moral excellence are obscure, because they are complex," and we are obliged to resort to illustrations. WASHINGTON's example is the happiest to show what virtue is; and to delineite his character, we naturally expatiate on the beauty or virtue:-much must be felt, and much imagined. His preeminence is not so much to be seen in the display of any one virtue as in the possession of them all, and in the practice of the most difficult. Hereafter, therefore, his character must be studied before it will be striking; and then it will be adInitted as a model-a precious one to a free republic!
7. It is no less difficult to speak of his talents. They were adapted to lead, without dazzling mankind; and to draw forth and employ the talents of others, without being misled by them. In this he was certainly superior, that he neither mistook nor misapplied his own.-His great modesty and reserve would have concealed them, if great occasions had not called them forth; and then, as he never spoke from the affectation to shine, nor acted from any sinister motives, it is from their effects only that we are to judge of their greatness and extent.
8. In public trusts, where men acting conspicuously are cautious, and in those private concerns where few conceal or resist their weaknesses, WASHINGTON was uniformly great, pursuing right conduct from right maxims. His talents were much as assist sound judgment, and ripen with it. n-in-ci'-ded, agreed, concurred.
CEx-pa' iato, to want nargt. Come viex, compoundeu, wipucavel
9. His prudence was consummate," and seerned to take the direction of his powers and passions ; for, as a soldier, he was more solicitous to avoid mistakes that would be fatal, than tu perform exploits that were brilliant ; and, as a statesman, to adhere to just principles, however old, than to pursue novelties; and therefore in both characters his qualities were singularly adapted to the interest, and were tried in the greatest perils of the country. His habits of inquiry were so far remarkable, that he was never satisfied with investigating, nor desisted from it, so long as he had less than all the light that he could obtain upon a subject; and then he made his decision without bias.
10. This command over the partialities that so generally stop men short, or turn them aside in their pursuit of truth, is one of the chief causes of his unvaried course of right conduct in so many difficult scenes, where every human actor must be presumed to err. If he had strong passions, he had learned to subdue them, and to be moderate and mild. If he had weaknesses, he concealed them,-which is rare,--and excluded them from the government of his temper and conduct,which is still more rare.
11. If he loved fame, he never made improper compliances for what is called popularity. The fame he enjoyed is of the kind that will last for ever; yet it was rather the effect, than the motive of his conduct.--Some future Plutarcho will search for a parallel to his character. Epaminondasis perhaps the brightest name of all antiquity. Our WASHING'ron resembled him in the purity and ardor of his patriotism; and, like him, he first exalted the glory of his country.
12. There, it is to be hoped, the parallel ends: for Thebese fell with Epaminondas. But such comparisons cannot be pursued far, without departing from the similitude. For we shall find it as difficult to compare great men as great rivers : some we admire for the length and rapidity of their current, and the grandeur of their cataracts; others for the majestie silence and fullness of their streams: we cannot bring them together to measure the difference of their waters.
13. The unambitious life of Washington, declining fare, yet courted by it, seemed, like the Ohio, to choose its loug way through solitudes, diffusing fertility; or like his own Potomac, widening and deepening his channel as he apr proaches the sea, and displaying most the usefulness and serenity of his greatness toward the end of his course. Such:
a Con-summate,complete, accomplished
Com-pli' an-ces, yieldings to what is desired
c Plutarch, a celehrted Grer:k historian