Page images
PDF
EPUB

prevent their reflecting upon the manner in which their hours had been passed. Their family increases, and their cares and efforts to provide for their necessities likewise accumulate. Old age insensibly approaches, and perhaps there will then be an equal inability and want of leisure to reflect upon the present, or to remember what they have done, and what they have neglected to do; thus they never know the great end which they were designed to answer in the creation. Iet no one defer reflecting upon this state till old age;

for he can never be certain of attaining to it. So delicate is the tree of life, that with difficulty it advances to maturity; often nipped in the bud, it perishes before its petals have expanded; even shoots of vigour, which promised to flourish with strength, and with beauty, have their sap withered, and die. To leave the language of metaphor, how many a noble youth, formed in nature's fairest mould, just as his virtues are beginning to open, and his mind to beam, bows beneath the pale messenger! How many of the softer sex, with charms sweet as the opening morn, whose attractive graces entwine the heart, live but to shew the beauty of nature, and then, as if too refined for this sphere, wing their flight to purer regions! If we are permitted to pass the period of youth safe from the dangers which threaten, we are still uncertain as to the continuance of another hour. Let this reflection then induce us ever to live as if the pre. sent day was to be the last of our existence, and we shall then pass the time in employment suited to the nature of intelligent and rational beings.

JANUARY XXVIII.

Hoar-frost observed on the Glass of Windows. In this little phenomenon we may observe with how much simplicity, variety, and order, nature arranges her least productions. Though we frequently admire the extraordinary figures which the frost on glass presents to us, we seldom consider them with much attention. This phenomenon is occasioned by heat, which in a close apartment seeks to diffuse itself on all sides, and to penetrate cooler

bodies. Hence it glides through the close contexture of the glass, and in passing through leaves on the inside the portions of air and water to which it was united : it forms a cloud, which thickens as the heat passes out, till there remains too little in the chamber to hold the particles of water on the glass in a state of fuidity, and these becoming congealed produce that diversity of appearances with which the windows are covered. The beginning of these figures is formed by small filaments of ice, which insensibly unite : we at first see lines extremely fine, from which others proceed, which in their turn produce fresh filaments, resembling those which grow from a quill. When the frost is strong, and the first crust of ice is thickened, the most beautiful flowers, and lines of various kinds, sometimes straight, sometimes spiral, are produced. We may here learn a truth very essential to our happiness. Consider the flowers which the frost has pourtrayed on the glass; they are beautifully and artificially varied: yet one ray of the noon-day sun effaces them! So theimagination paints every thing beautiful to us : but whatever it represents as attractive, in the possession of the goods of this world, is but a pleasing image, which the light of reason will dissipate.

JANUARY XXIX.

On the Use of Bread. Of those aliments which are distributed with such abundance for the support of man, none seems to be more general or more necessary than bread. It is consumed alike by the poor and the rich, by the sick and by the healthy; and would seem to be the food more particularly designed by Dature for our support, and we find the plant which produces the materials for its preparation will grow, and its fruit be matured, in almost every climate. We eat bread with pleasure from infancy to old age, whilst a continued succession of the richest viands cloys and satiates. Let us then, each time of breaking bread, be mindful of its great utility, and be grateful to the bounteous Giver of good for such a blessing. But how can we render our gratitude more acceptable, than by dividing a portion of the bread which we possess in abundance amongst those who have received a more limited quantity ? And by doing this, each time that we break our fast, we shall have the pleasing satisfaction of knowing, that the mouths of the hungry are filled, and the needy sent away rejoicing for the plenty which the favour of Heaven permits us to enjoy.

JANUARY XXX.

Of our Duty in respect to Sleep. It is painful to observe that most people abandon themselves to sleep with the utmost carelessness. Considering it only in respect to our bodies, the change produced in them by sleep is very considerable and important. If we consider it in other respects, and reflect upon what may take place during the awful stillness of the night, it appears to me, that we ought never to resign ourselves into the arms of sleep without due reflection upon our state, and being in some degree prepared for what may take place.

How thankful should we be to the Creator for the blessings of sleep! Those whose hearts are oppressed with grief, whom doubts and anxiety assail, whom maladies afflict, tossing on their pillow, a prey to ca and distracting thoughts, alone can estimate the value of sleep, or know the sweets of its influence. Let not its treasures be abused; do not indulge them to excess, by suffering indolence and effeminacy to prolong your slumbers beyond the time which nature seems to require; nor suffer avarice, ambition, or any passion, to curtail the necessary hours of repose. Above all, endeavour to secure a pure repose by the tran. quillity of your mind ; let it not be ruffled by contending emotions, nor disturbed by the pangs of a conscience ill at rest; and be well prepared to meet the presence of your God; for you know not but this night you may be amongst the number of those who lie down to rise no more. Let this be your thought: 'If during this night my soul is required of me, am I ready to stand before my Maker, before that Being from whom nothing is hidden? We daily feel our deficiencies, and the weakness of our hearts; wbich we beseech the Lord to pardon and to blot out from all remembrance, for the love of Christ Jesus.'

JANUARY XXXI.

Of the Revolutions which are continually taking place

in Nature.

ALL the vicissitudes of nature are derived from those immutable laws, which the Creator established when he made the heavens and the earth to rise out of chaos. Since that period, upwards of five thousand years have passed away, and the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth have witnessed at certain times the return of the same vicissitudes, and of the same effects; they still continue to see that sun, that moon, and those stars, which God once formed, revolve with regularity in their destined course, and perform, with uniform order their allotted revolutions. If we ask what power overrules them, what influence determines their course, their order, and regularity, what force governs their destination, and preserves them from clashing in their orbs, or from whirling off into the vast space of heaven, we are led to the great First Cause of all things, the Almighty God, who has marked out the circle they are to describe in the heavens, who directs their course, and preserves the beauty and the harmony of the universe with wisdom and power too great for finite beings to conceive or to comprehend.

Nearer to us, the elements are in continual agitation. The air is ever in motion, and the waters unceasingly flow; rivers beginning with small and imperceptible sources, inereased by a thousand tributary brooks, form streams, which rising in their course, swell to an amazing bulk, and roll majestically towards the ocean, into which they incessantly heave their accumulating waves. From the sea's vast surface vapours arise, and collected in the sky, form clouds, which continually breaking, shower down the collected water in the form of rain, hail, or snow; and this penetrating the bosom of the earth, and making its way into the depths of the mountains, supplies the original sources of the streams, thus preserving an endless circulation.

The seasons continue for a limited term, and succeed each other in the order prescribed from the beginning of time. Each year the earth resumes her fertility, vegetation flourishes, and the returning harvest gladdens her inhabitants : her gifts are never exhausted, because her productions are always returned to her. Winter arrives at the appointed time, and brings the necessary repose; when this is obtained, spring succeeds, and nature awakes from her short sleep with gaiety; pleasure, and love. This circulation is observed in every living creature; the blood transmitted from the centre flows by different ramifications of vessels to the most distant parts of the body, imparting to them life and vigour and then returns to the heart, whence it proceeded. All these revolutions lead us to the contemplation of Him who fixed their foundation at the creation of the world, and has since by his power and his wisdom continued to direct them with unceasing perfection.

We have now seen the conclusion of this month, which is gone for ever; we can never experience its return under exactly the same circumstances. The period will at last ar. rive when all the vast machinery of this universe must stop, and all its wheels be motionless; when the spheres shall cease to roll, and all the defined periods of time be lost in eternity. But the infinite and immutable God will still remain, and with him all those into whose nostrils he has breathed the breath of life.

FEBRUARY I.

Every Thing in Nature conduces to the Good of

Mankind.

It behoves thee, O man! to be deeply sensible of the love and preference with which God has honoured thee, in distinguishing thee from all other creatures, by so many advantages. Acknowledge, as thou oughtest, the privilege of being peculiarly the object of the Divine liberality, of

« PreviousContinue »