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The stoical philosophy might produce a Cato or a Brutus, battling amid the ruins of Roman liberty—or a Caius Marius, surveying with gloomy eye the desolation of Carthage. The Epicurean school might produce a Cæsar, who sacrificed every thing to the lust of sway; or an Atticus, the submissive tool of every tyrant, who could kiss the hand of Antony though imbrued with the blood of Cicero: but it could not produce one man actuated solely by the desire of moral excellence, far less one that can furnish a model for imitation.
The ancient ideas of virtue might produce an Alexander weeping for new worlds to conquer ; but the humble and devout Christian exhibits a far brighter specimen of humanity than all the heathen philosophers that antiquity can produce.
The doctrine of the soul's immortality is one of superior importance in religion. One or two of the arguments adduced by ancient writers in support of this doctrine deserve attention; though the same cannot be said of all. The common people grounded their belief of it chiefly on the testimony of the poets. Besides, though the immortality of the soul had been generally believed, it was not deduced from unassisted reason, but seems to have been handed down from age to age; it is thus probable that it is resolvable into a tradition, or fragment of revelation, preserved amid the general wreck.
Little as reason thus accomplished, we have no ground to suppose that it would have done so much, if left altogether to itself. But men were never without some fragments of revelation which helped them to eke out their scanty systems of belief. There can be no doubt that it was from this source they derived their ideas of a future state-of the existence of God-of morality-in short, all the knowledge they had of this subject.
What then can reason enable man to do in this matter? It may throw considerable light on the being of God; it may even convey some notion of his attributes. But when it undertakes the question between God and man, it finds it to be impracticable. It cannot disperse the obscurity which hangs over the hopes and the destinies of man. It can awaken the fears of guilt, but it cannot appease them. It inspires terror, but it speaks not comfort. There are many doubts which it cannot resolve, and many mysteries which it cannot penetrate.
And, however clear and broad the light which Christians have thrown around the evidences of our holy faith, it is well that a thorough acquaintance with them, though of great service in confirming the believer, and capable of yielding to him the highest delight in the investigation, is yet not indispensable to a thorough knowledge of its doctrines and duties. Many a good and holy man is there, in the humbler walks of life, who knows nothing of the arguments which have been so learnedly insisted upon with regard to the genuineness of the Bible; but his is a better, even an experimental evidence of its truth; for to him has the Spirit come with efficacy and power. He needs not to be told of the philosophic arguments for the soul's immortality; for he has but to open his Bible, and every one of its pages he sees stamped with the impress of immortality; and he awaits with patience and holy joy the hour when he shall be called from this state of probation and trial to the “rest which remaineth for the people of God.” And were an infidel to behold the dying bed of an aged Christian, falling asleep in Jesus, in the sure hope of a blessed immortality, what a rebuke would it administer to all his philosophy and pride; and entrenched as he is in the strong-holds of scepticism, he would, one might imagine, be constrained to exclaim, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my latter end be like his, !"
Requires a strong restraint;
And pray and never faint. The tongue is described by the Apostle James, as a little member, but capable of extraordinary achievements. “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.” It can entertain and delight; it can amuse the torpid and insensible ; it can heal the wounds of the afflicted, or excite in the mind the most painful sensations ; it can comfort and encourage, counsel and direct, alarm and intimidate. Happy are they who use it for the glory of God, and the edification of mankind.
The complaints that are made respecting the faults of the tongue are numerous and vehement; and although this does not apply to all tongues, yet there are many that may be included, and that justly merit the appellation of evil tongues. Such are,
1. The censorious tongue which delights in evil reports, sarcasms, slanders and reproaches, from which the most virtuous and consistent characters have no protection. There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword, Prov. xii. 18. Report, say they, and we will report it, Jer. xx. 10. This tongue is very common, and it is found in every town, village, hamlet, and even in every house. The smallest occurrences are seized and converted by the censorious into offences; and if nothing real can be procured, invention is upon
the rack. “ The most dangerous of tame beasts,” says Diogenes, “is the slanderer.” The failings or infirmities of gracious persons are generally more published than their good deeds, and one fault of such a person sometimes meets with more reproaches than all his excellences with praise ; such is the depravity of our nature, and the force of envy and malice. For these reasons it is, that lying and tale-bearing are so much encouraged, and because of these things it is that slander has more power to persuade than either truth or reason.”
Base calumny by working under ground,
Can secretly the greatest merit wound. 2. The foolish tongue which utters what is conceived by the light, vain, conceited, trifling mind. The mouth of fools poureth out foolishness, Prov. xv. 2. Eleanor has this sort of tongue; she will tattle by the hour, and say nothing to instruct or edify. She will bring home all the gossip of the village, and intersperse it with the most ridiculous remarks. Foolish talkers are generally so minute in their details, that the most trilling circumstances are carefully introduced, and the ear is worn out by the words," he said, and I said, and well said I.” Foolish talkers are often very witty, at least they affect to be so; and although their attempts terminate in a complete failure, they are seldom non-plused, not having the penetration to discover how ill their conversation is received. A talkative pert person applied once to Isocrates to teach him oratory. The philosopher required of him twice as much money as he did of others; the man having expressed his
surprise, Isocrates said, “I must have twice as much money of you, because I shall have twice as much trouble; for first you must be taught how to hold your tongue, and then, how to speak.”
Foolish talkers delight in the marvellous. All that they see and hear is wonderful; they have a long catalogue of expressions ready prepared, which are produced pro re nata, as the circumstance may require ; such, for instance, as the most beautiful flower that was ever seen ; the most elegant woman; the most superb lettuce; the most splendid ride, &c. &c.
Words are like leaves, and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath, is rarely found ! 3. The incautious tongue; which generally moves without due consideration ; well meaning, with good intention, but often illtimed. He thinks it necessary to speak his mind, and with the idea of being faithful, he reproves unaptly, out of season, and, wanting the suivater in modo, he fails in his object. Reproof should be administered as parents give medicine to their children. The bitter draught should be rendered palatable by the sweet disposition and gentleness of the nurse. If Nathan had acted incautiously, David would have spurned his reproof, and perhaps treated him with disdain ; whereas he proceeds carefully, spreads his net cautiously, and takes the offender ere he is aware.
Fervidus was always too prompt in conversation. Although one of the best of human kind regenerated by grace, yet he delivered his opinions on every subject too freely. Such candour is not cordially received by the world, and they often hate the man that tells them the truth, Fervidus once expressed himself incautiously concerning Absens ; Malignus overheard it, repeated the words to Absens, and wrote an insolent unchristian epistle to Fervidus, pretending to feel deeply the offence against Absens. Fervidus, sensible that he had acted hastily, most generously, and in a spirit truly Christian, wrote to Malignus and Absens, expressing his sorrow at the circumstance, Absens received the letter with affection, and replied that he was perfectly satisfied. It is proper to add, that Fervidus profited by the event, and earnestly prayed that the Lord would set a watch upon the door of his lips, that he might no more speak unadvisedly. Taciturnus, on the other hand, converses sparingly-fearful of giving offence, and disliking controversy, he is seldom prominent
in a debate, and is considered by some to have no opinion of his own, and by others, is condemned as inconsistent and time-serving. Obstinans is a talker of a totally opposite character. He loves controversy, and is sure to oppose whatever is asserted. A friendly party is thus converted into a debating society, and, in some instances where this has occurred, it has been resolved not to give a second invitation to Obstinans.
4. The envious tongue, not only expresses its uneasiness at the prosperity of others, but darts its malignant poison against them, and thus seeks to injure the reputation it cannot reach. Plutarch compares envious persons to cupping-glasses, which draw the worst humours of the body to them : they are also like some flies, which resort only to the raw and corrupt parts of the body, or if they light on a sound part, by blowing upon it they try to bring it to putrefaction. When Momus could find no fault in the picture of Venus, with the face, he endeavoured to speak against the slippers ! Envious persons, when they cannot prove any thing against another, though they cannot blame the substance, yet they will misrepresent the mere circumstances of men's actions in order to excite a prejudice against them. “Though an envious man,” says Dr. Johnson, “ cannot but see perfections, yet, having contracted the distemper of acquired blindness, he will not own them, but is always degrading or misrepresenting things which are excellent; thus, point out a pious person, and ask the envious man what he thinks of him ? he will say he is a hypocrite, or deceitful; praise a man of learning or of great abilities, and he will say he is a pedant, or proud of his attainments; shew him a fine poem or painting, and he will call the one stiff,' and the other a ' daubing :' in this way he depreciates or deforms every pleasing object.” Envy is enumerated by the Apostle emong the evils of the flesh, Gal. v. 21., and he adds, “ they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
5. The murmuring tongue is the mark of a captious, discontented, unsatisfied disposition, displeased, more or less, with every person and every thing. As such look for perfection in others, they ought to be perfect and without a single fault. The weather is never suitable-either it is too hot or too cold, too dry or too moist. A sermon is either too long or too short. An essay is too flowery or too dry. The murmurer is never really well—he is