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The most common propensity of mankind, is, to store futurity with whatever is agreeable to them; especially in those periods of life, when imagination is lively, and hope is ardent. Looking forward to the year now beginning, they are ready to promise themselves much, from the foundations of prosperity which they have laid; from the friendships and connexions which they have secured; and from the plans of condact which they have formed. Alas! how deceitful do all these dreams of happiness often prove! While many are saying in secret to their hearts, "To-morrow shall be as this day, and more abundantly," we are obliged, in return, to say to them "Boast not yourselves of tomorrow; for you know not what a day may bring forth!"
Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, was far from being happy, though he possessed great riches, and all the pleasures which wealth and power could procure. Damocles, one of his flatterers, deceived by those specious appearances of happiness, took occasion to compliment him on the extent of his
power, his treasures, and royal magnificence: and declared that no monarch had ever been greater or happier than Dionysius.
2 “ Hast thou a mind, Damocles," says the king, “to taste this happiness; and to know, by experience, what the enjoyments are, of which thou hast so high an idea ?” Damocles, with joy, accepted the offer. The king ordered that a royal banquet should be prepared, and a gilded sofa covered with rich enbroidery, placed for his favourite. Sideboards loaded with gold and silver plate of immense value, were arranged in the apartment.
3 Pages of extraordinary beauty were ordered to attend his table, and to obey his commands with the utmost readîness, and the most profound submission. Fragrant ointments, chaplets of flowers, and rich perfumes, were added to the entertaininent. The table was loaded with the most exquisite delicacies of every kind. Damocles, intoxicated with pleasure, fancied himself amongst superior benne.
4 But in the midst of all this happiness as he lay indulging himself in state, he sees let down from the ceiling, exactly over his head, a glittering sword, hung by a single hair. The sight of impending destruction, put a speedy end to his joy and revelling. The pomp of his atteadnnce, the glitter of the carved plate, and the delicacy of the viands, cease to afford him any pleasure.
5 He dreads to stretch forth his hand to the table. He throws off the garland of roses. He hastens to remove from his dangerous situation; and earnestly entreats the king to restore him to his former humble condition, having no desire to enjoy any longer a happiness so terrible.
6 By this device, Dionysius intimated to Damocles, how miserable he was in the midst of all his treasures; and in possession of all the honours and enjoyments which royalty could bestow.
SECTION II. Change of external condition is often adverse to virtue. In the days of Joram king of Israel, flourished the prophet Elisha. His character was so eminent, and his fame so widely spread, that Benhadad, the king of Syria, tbough an idolater, sent to consult him, concerning the issue of a distemper which threatened his life. The messenger employed on this occasion, was Hazael, who appears to have been one of the princes, or chief men of the Syrian court.
2 Charged with rich gifts from the king, he presents himself before the prophet; and accosts him in terms of the highest respect. During the conference which they held together, Elisha fixed his eyes steadfastly on the countenance of Hazael, and discerning by a prophetic spirit, his future tyranny and cruelty, he could not contain himself from bursting into a flood of tears.
3 When Hazael, in surprise, inquired into the cause of this sudden emotion, the prophet plainly informed him of the crimes and barbarities, which he foresaw that he would afterwards commit. The soul of Hazael abhorred, at this time the thoughts of cruelty. Uncorrupted, as yet, by ambition or greatness, his indignation rose at being thought capable of the savage actions which the prophet had mentioned; and, with much warmth, he replies : “But what ? is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing ?''
4 Elisha makes no return, but to point out a remarkable change, which was to take place in his condition; “ The Lord hath shown me, that thou shalt be king over Syria." In course of time, all that had been predicted, came to pass. Hazael ascended the throne, and ambition took possession of his heart. " He smote the children of Israel in all their coasts. He oppressed them during all the days of king Jehoahaz:" and, from what is left on record of his actions, he plainly appears to have proved, what the prophet foresaw him to be, a man of violence, cruelty, and blood.
5 In this passage of history, an object is presented, which deserves ur serious attention. We behold a man who, in one state of life, could not look upon certain crimes without surprise and horror; who knew so little of himself, as to believe it impossible for him ever to be concerned in committing them; that same man, by a change of condition, and an unguarded state of mind, transformed in all his sentiments; and as he rose in greatness, rising also in guilt; till at last he completed that whole character of iniquity, which he once detested.
Haman ; or, the misery of pride. Ahasuerus, who is supposed to be the prince known among the Greek historians by the name of Artaxerxes, had advanced to the chief dignity in his kingdom, Haman, an Amalekite, who inherited all the ancient enmity of his race, to the Jewish nation. He appears from what is recorded of him, to have been a very wicked minister. Raised to greatness without merit, he employed his power solely for the gratification of his passions.
2 As the honours which he possessed were next to royal, his pride was every day fed with that servile homage, which is peculiar to Asiatic courts, and all the servants of the king prostrated themselves before him. In the midst of this general adulation, one person only stooped not to Haman.
3 This was Mordecai the Jew; who, knowing this Amalekite to be an enemy to the people of God,and, with virtuous indignation, despising that insolence of prosperity with which he saw him lifted up, "bowed not, nor did him reverence." On this appearance of disrespect from Mordecai, Haman was full of wrath: but he thought scorn to lay hands of Mordecai alone." Personal revenge, was not sufficient to satisfy him.
4 So violent and black were his passions, that he resolved to exterminate the whole nation to which Mordecai belonged. Abusing, for his cruel purpose, the favour of his credulous sovereign, he obtained a decree to be sent forth, that, against a certain day, all the Jews throughout the Persian dominions, should be put to the sword.
5 Meanwhile, confident of success, and blind to approach ing ruin, he continued exulting in his prosperity. Invited by Ahasuerus to a royal banquet, which Esther the queen had prepared, " he went forth that day joyful, and with a glad heart." But behold how slight an incident, was sufficient to poison his joy! As he went forth, he saw Mordecai in the king's gate ; and observed, that he still refused to do him homage. “He stood not up, nor was moved for him ;" walthough he well knew the formidable designs, which Haman was preparing to execute.
6 One private man, who despised his greatness, and dis dained submission, while a whole kingdom trembled before him ; one spirit, which the utmost stretch of his power could neither subdue nor humble, blasted his triumphs. His whole soul was shaken with a storm of passion. Wrath, pride, and desire of revenge, rose into fury. With difficulty he restrained himself in public ; but as soon as he came to his own house, he was forced to disclose the agony of his mind.
7 He gathered together his friends and family, with Zeresh his wife. “ He told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and of all the things wherein the king had promoted him; and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king.” He said, nuoreover, “ Yea, Esther the queen, suffered no man to come in with the king, to the banquet that she had prepared, but myself; and to-morrow also am I invited to her with the king.” After all this preamble, what is the conclusion ? " Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew, sitting at the king's gate.”.
8 The sequel of Haman's history, I shall not now pursue. It might afford matter for much instruction, by the conspienous justice of God in his fall and punishment. But contemplating only thë singular situation, in which the expresa
sions just quoted present him, and the violent agitation of his mind which they display, the following reflections naturally arise : How miserable is vice, when one guilty passion creates so much torment! how unavailing is prosperity, when in the height of it, a single disappointment, can destroy the relish of all its pleasures ! how weak is human nature, which in the absence of real, is thus prone to form to itself imaginary woes!
Lady Jane Gray.
royal line of England by both her parents. She was carefully educated in the principles of the reformation; and her wisdom and virtue, rendered her a shining example to her sex. But it was her lot to continue only a short period on this stage of being; for, in early life, she fell a sacrifice to the wild ambition of the duke of Northumberland; who promoted a marriage between her and his son, lord Guilford Dudley; and raised her to the throne of England, in opposition to the rights of Mary and Elizabeth.
2 At the time of their marriage, she was only about eighteen years of age; and her husband was also very young : a season of life very unequal to oppose the interested views of artful and aspiring men ; who, instead of exposing them to danger, should have been the protectors of their innocence and youth.
3 This extraordinary young person, besides the solid endowments of piety and virtue, possessed the most engaging disposition, the most accomplished parts; and being of an equal age with king Edward VI. she had received all her education with him, and seemed even to possess a greater facility in acquiring every part of manly and ciassical literature.
4 She had attained a knowledge of the Roman and Greek languages, as well as of several modern tongues; hau passed most of her time in an application to learning; and expressed a great indifference for other occupations and amusements usual with her sex and station.
5 Roger Ascham, tutor to the lady Elizabeth, having at one time paid her a visit, found her employed in reading Plato, while the rest of the family were engaged in a partire