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THE VOYAGE OF LIFE.
them; and that we now were on the main sea, abandoned to the winds and billows, without any other means of security than the care of the pilot, whom it was always in our power to choose among great numbers that offered their direction and assistance.
3. I then looked round with anxious eagerness; and first, turning my eyes behind me, saw a stream flowing through flowery islands, which every one that sailed along, seemed to behold with pleasure; but no sooner touched, than the current, which, though not noisy or turbulent, was yet irresistible, bore him away. Beyond these islands all was darkness, nor could any of the passengers describe the shore at which he first embarked.
4. Before me, and on each side, was an expanse of water violently agitated, and covered with so thick a mist, that the most perspicacious eye could see but a little way. It appeared to be full of rocks and whirlpools, for many sunk unexpectedly while they were courting the gale with full sails, and insulting those whom they had left behind. So numerous, indeed, were the dangers, and so thick the darkness, that no caution could confer security. Yet there were many, who, by false intelligence, betrayed their followers into whirlpools, or by violence pushed those whom they found in their way, against the rocks.
5. The current was invariable and insurmountable; but though it was impossible to sail against it, or to return to the place, that was once passed, yet it was not so violent as to allow no opportunities for dexterity or courage, since, though none could retreat back from danger, yet they might often avoid it by an oblique direction.
6. It was, however, not very common to steer with much care or prudence; for, by some universal infatuation, every man appeared to think himself safe, though he saw his consorts every moment sinking around him; and no sooner had the waves closed over them, than their fate and their misconduct were forgotten; the voyage was pursued with the same jocund confidence; every man congratulated himself upon the soundness of his vessel, and believed himself able to stem the whirlpool in which his friend was swallowed, or glide over the rocks on which he was dashed. Nor was
it often observed, that the sight of a wreck made any man change his course; if he turned aside for a moment, he
soon forgot the rudder, and left himself again to the disposal of chance.
7. This negligence did not proceed from indifference or from weariness of their present condition; for not one of those, who thus rushed upon destruction, failed, when he was sinking, to call loudly upon his associates for that help which could not now be given him; and many spent their last moments in cautioning others against the folly by which they were intercepted in the midst of their course. Their benevolence was sometimes praised, but their admonitions were unregarded.
8. The vessels in which we had embarked being confessedly unequal to the turbulence of the stream of life, were visibly impaired in the course of the voyage; so that every passenger was certain, that, how long soever he might, by favorable accidents, or by incessant vigilance, be preserved, he must sink at last.
9. This necessity of perishing might have been expected to sadden the gay, and intimidate the daring; at least, to keep the melancholy and timorous in perpetual torments, and hinder them from any enjoyment of the varieties and gratifications which nature offered them as the solace of their labors; yet, in effect, none seemed less to expect destruction, than those to whom it was most dreadful; they all had the art of concealing their danger from themselves; and those who knew their inability to bear the sight of the terrors that embarrassed their way, took care never to look forward, but found some amusement for the present moment, and generally entertained themselves with playing with Hope, who was the constant associate of the voyage of life.
10. Yet all that Hope ventured to promise to those whom she favored most, was, not that they should escape, but, that they should sink last; and with this promise, every one was satisfied, though he laughed at the rest for seeming to believe it. Hope, indeed, apparently mocked the credulity of her companions; for, in proportion as their vessels grew leaky, she redoubled their assurances of safety; and none were more busy in making provisions for a long voyage, than they, whom all but themselves saw likely to perish soon by irreparable decay.
11. In the midst of the current of life was the Gulf of
THE VOYAGE OF LIFE.
Intemperance, a dreadful whirlpool, interspersed with rocks, of which the pointed crags were concealed under water, and the tops covered with herbage, on which Ease spread couches of repose, and with shades where Pleasure warbled the song of invitation. Within sight of these rocks, all who sailed on the ocean of life must necessarily pass.
12. Reason, indeed, was always at hand to steer the passengers through a narrow outlet by which they might escape; but very. few could, by her entreaties or remonstrances, be induced to put the rudder into her hand, without stipulating, that she should approach so near unto the rocks of Pleasure that they might solace themselves with a short enjoyment of that delicious region, after which, they always determined to pursue their course without any other deviation.
13. Reason was too often prevailed upon so far by these promises as to venture her charge within the eddy of the gulf of Intemperance, where, indeed, the circumvolution was weak, but yet interrupted the course of the vessel, and drew it, by insensible rotations, towards the centre. She then repented her temerity, and, with all her force, endeavored to retreat; but the draught of the gulf was generally too strong to be overcome; and the passenger, having danced in circles with a pleasing and giddy velocity, was at last overwhelmed and lost.
14. Those few, whom Reason was able to extricate, generally suffered so many shocks upon the points which shot out from the rocks of Pleasure, that they were unable to continue their course with the same strength and facility as before, but floated along timorously and feebly, endangered by every breeze, and shattered by every ruffle of water, till they sunk, by slow degrees, after long struggles and innumerable expedients, always repining at their own folly, and warning others against the first approach to the gulf of Intemperance.
15. There were artists, who professed to repair the breaches, and stop the leaks, of the vessels which had been shattered on the rocks of Pleasure. Many appeared to have great confidence in their skill, and some, indeed, were preserved by it from sinking, who had received only a single blow. But I remarked, that few vessels lasted long which had been much repaired, nor was it found that the artists
themselves continued to float longer than those who had least of their assistance.
16. The only advantage, which, in the voyage of life, the cautious had above the negligent, was, that they sunk later, and more suddenly! for they passed forward till they had sometimes seen all those in whose company they had issued from the straits of Infancy, perish in the way, and at last were overset by a cross breeze, without the toil of resistance, or the anguish of expectation. But such as had often fallen against the rocks of Pleasure, commonly subsided by sensible degrees, contended long with the encroaching waters, and harassed themselves by labors, that scarce Hope herself could flatter with success.
17. As I was looking upon the various fate of the multitude about me, I was suddenly alarmed with an admonition from some unknown power; "Gaze not idly upon others, when thou thyself art sinking. Whence is this thoughtless tranquillity, when thou and they are equally endangered? I looked, and seeing the gulf of Intemperance before me, started and awaked.
LESSON CXXXVI. The Coming of a Devastating Army. Joel, Chapter ii. Verses 1-13.
1. Brow ye the trumpet in Sion;
And sound an alarm in mine holy mountain;
A day of clouds and of thick darkness.
2. Like them there hath not been of old time,
Even to the years of many generations.
Before them a fire devoureth,
And behind a flame burneth;
The land is as the garden of Eden before them,
Yea, and nothing shall escape them.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF ATHEISM.
3. Their appearance shall be like the appearance of horses, And like horsemen shall they run;
Like the sound of chariots on the tops of the mountains shall they leap;
Like the sound of a flame of fire which devoureth stubble.
They shall run like mighty men ;
They shall march each in his road;
And if they fall upon the sword they shall not be wounded. 4. They shall run to and fro in the city, they shall run upon the wall, they shall climb up into the houses; They shall enter in at the windows like a thief. Before them the earth quaketh, the heavens tremble; The sun and moon are darkened;
And the stars withdraw their shining.
And Jehovah shall utter his voice before his army;
For he is strong that executeth his word;
For the day of Jehovah is great;
And very terrible; and who shall be able to bear it?
Turn ye unto me with all your heart;
With fasting and with weeping and with mourning;
And turn unto Jehovah your God;
For he is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and of great kindness,
LESSON CXXXVII. The Consequences of Atheism.
1. Few men suspect, perhaps no man comprehends, the extent of the support given by religion to every virtue. No man, perhaps, is aware how much our moral and social sen