Page images

Happy age, to grief unknown !
Happy age, but quickly flown !
Soon thy sports thou must resign,
Studious labour then is thine ;
Far from every youthful play,
Grave instruction points thy way:
Science, rich in ancient store,
Spreads for thee her classic lore:
Rough is learning's arduous road,
Yet with brightest flow'rets strew'd,
Flow'rets, 'mid the waste of time,

Blooming in eternal prime. From the pen of the same lady we have the following short but heartfelt prayer for her little offspring :

O may each celestial truth
Influence thy tender youth;
Teach thee every vice to shun,
That has hapless man undone ;
And thro' error's tenfold might

Lead thee to eternal light!
The amiable authoress of “ Hints on the Sources of
Happiness,” has made the following observations on
the pleasures of infancy :-

“ No one ever cast a glance on a group of young children, without being struck with the alertness of movement, and buoyancy of spirits, so perceptible in those gay little beings. Perpetually in motion, constantly mirthful, they seem equally incapable of satiety or fatigue. Frolic succeeds to frolic; the light laugh, the elastic spring, the busy fingers, all bespeak the joyous mind within. Difficulties are overcome as soon as discovered, cares forgotten as soon as felt. Over the infant bosom sorrow flits, as the summer cloud over the smiling meadow, casting a momentary gloom, soon chased by returning brightness, and leaving no trace behind. The innate elasticity possessed by babyhood, quickly restores the lightly oppressed heart to gaiety. Susceptible of sympathy, of affection, of hope, the three principal avenues by which happiness enters the human breast-insensible to malignity, to hatred, to despair, the three great inlets of misery--they are happy because they deserve to be so. Most people are ready to acknowledge the bliss of their early years, the cheering recollections of baby felicity. There are, indeed, who, endeavour to substantiate the charge of predestined suffering, by re; marking that the first indications of existence are expressed

[ocr errors]

by a cry. Infants having no power of articulation, resort to tears to express their wants, and smiles to denote their satisfaction. This is their language; a cry is not therefore always the sign of suffering ; it is more generally the indication of desire : and how soon do these tokens of uneasiness disappear, even before words can supply their place, and when by signs alone the joyous little being can explain its sensations! Who has not marked with delight the dumb expression of happiness, the joyous crow, the little hands clapped with eloquent hilarity, the little feet frisking with glee, and the whole frame bounding with gaiety ;-the tear trembling in the eye, dried as it reaches the glowing cheek, or arrested there by the dimpling smiles that play around the rosy lip? Happy emblem that the progress of sorrow is checked by the quicker, stronger growth of joy.”

The same excellent writer thus enumerates some of the advantages and pleasures of Youth :

The progressive advancement of the mental and bodily powers; the spirit to will, and the force to execute; the buoyancy that mocks at sorrow; the energy of mind that defies fatigue. Hopes, smiling and propitious; desires, lively and varying. Memory revelling on the past; for what but joy can the young recall ? Fancy glorying in the future ; for what but joy do the young anticipate? The consciousness of increasing usefulness and importance stealing on the mind, and yielding an elation, a sense of dignity, that encourages to new exertions, whilst it rewards those already made. Every day becoming more wise, more virtuous, more independent'; rising from belplessness to vigour, from ignorance to wisdom. Every faculty strengthening, every affection dilating; thus preparing the human being for the performance of those duties to God and man, for which it was created.”

Such are the blissful privileges of Youth, while science, enthusiasm, and novelty, by turns enliven every emotion. In order to enjoy the pleasures of Youth, virtue must be the object of our choice:

Down the smooth stream of life the stripling starts,
Gay as the morn : bright glows the vernal sky,
Hope swells his sails, and passion steers his course.
Safe glides his little bark along the shore,
Where virtue takes her stand: but if too far
He launches forth, beyond discretion's mark,
Sudden the tempest scowls, the surges roar,
Blot his fair day, and plunge him in the deep.



Unnumber'd comforts on my soul,

God's tender care bestow'd,
Before my infant heart conceiv'd

From whom those comforts flow'd.
When in the slipp’ry paths of youth

With heedless steps I ran,
His arm, unseen, convey'd me safe,

And led me up to Man. For the season of Manhood new pleasures are prepared. In this season of business and dignity, the soul feels conscious of the importance of the present moment. Numerous pleasures are the result of that strength, courage, fortitude, prudence, and reason, which are the characteristics of Manhood.

To this state, “ all preceding states have been but preparatory. The flower is then in its brightest hue, and sweetest fragrance; the fruit is then in its richest flavour, and largest size; the tree is then in its noblest growth of stem and foliage; and though the bud, the blossom, and the sapling, were each beautiful, they were but germs of excellence.

of excellence. Thus, lovely as is the season of youth, it is but the precursor of more consummate beauty, of more consummate worth. It is in Manhood that the body attains its highest degree of vigour and grace; that the heart is warmed with the best regulated passions and affections ; that the mind is most refined and expanded."

Buffon observes, “ Man holds a legitimate dominion over the brute animals, which no revolution can destroy. It is the dominion of mind over matter, a right of nature founded upon unalterable laws; a gift of the Almighty, by which man is enabled at all times to

perceive the dignity of his being; for his power is not derived from his being the most perfect, the strongest, or the most dexterous of all animals. If he had only the first rank in the order of animals, the inferior tribes would unite and dispute his title to sovereignty But man reigns and commands from the superiority of his nature. He thinks, and therefore he is master of all beings who are not endowed with this inestimable talent. Material bodies are likewise subject to his power; to his will they can oppose only a gross resistance or an obstinate inflexibility, which his hand is always able to overcome, by making them act against each other. He is master of the vegetable tribes, which, by his industry, he can with pleasure augment or diminish, multiply or destroy! He reigns over the animal creation, because, like them, he is not only endowed with sentiment, and the power of motion, but because he thinks, distinguishes ends and means, directs his actions, concerts his operations, overcomes force by ingenuity, and swiftness by perseverance."

Man is the noblest work of God, on earth ; and his benevolent Creator has endowed him with astonishing capacities for improvement. To what heights may he not soar in imagination! How much may he comprehend with his intellect! What comprehensive, profound, complicated plans, can he not form and execute! What distant, honourable designs, can he not propose, pursue, and attain! What influence may be not have on the mind and the heart, the morals and the deportment, of whole generations of men, of nature entire! What dominion may he not exercise over himself, and numberless objects without him! How many satisfactions may he not enjoy himself, and procure for others! What burdens can he not bear without sinking under them! What sufferings can he not endure, without being vanquished by pain! With what unabated ardour, with what all-conquering perseverance, can he strive after even greater perfection! And how grand, how glorious is his destination! What prospects lie before him! Everlasting continuance, everlasting life, everlasting activity, incessant increase in knowledge, in virtue, and in happiness.

What is there so great, so small, so remote, so difficult, so sublime, that is not, or may not be, an object of his reflections, of his investigations, of his exertions? What treasures of knowledge, what perceptions, what admirable mental and mechanical habits, may he not acquired and to what an immense extent may he not proceed in the accumulation of the former, and in the elevation and application of the latter! Of what vast enterprises, of what noble achievements, of what shining virtues, of what heroic exploits, of what insuperable strength and fortitude, is he not capable! How far around him may he not operate, and how much good may he not perform! How greatly beautify and animate the face of nature! How greatly diversify her fertility, and promote her beneficial views!

Man is the image of God; he derives his descent from the everlasting Father; he is his offspring, and bears the visible traces of his divine original, and his fellowship with the Deity. His understanding is a ray of divine intelligence; his power, an efflux from that of the Almighty; his activity, something similar to that of unwearied omnipotence; his capacity of becoming continually more perfect, is a symbol of approaching incessantly nearer to the divine nature ; his immortality is a similitude of the interminable duration of the Eternal, and the means of obtaining an everlasting communion with him. As often as he wills and does good; as often as he perceives, admires, and promotes order and beauty; as often as he diffuses joy and happiness around him ; so often does he think, and feel, and will, and act, in a godlike manner; so often does he pursue the work of his Creator and Father; so often does he promote the designs of the sovereign Being ; so often does he obtain a taste of

divine felicity: and the more he does so, the oftener he acts in this manner, the greater is his similitude to God, the brighter is the image of the Deity resplendent in him, and the less are we able to mistake his divine origin, and the dignity of his immortal nature. It is


« PreviousContinue »