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Reflections on Retirement.
Retire-the world shut out ;-thy thoughts call home;
Imagination's airy wing repress ;
Lock up thy senses ;—let no passion stir ;—
HAD formed a wish from the earliest times of which I have any recollection, that after having filled an active and useful department in life, I might retire from the public scene to the shades of rural solitude;
not such a solitude as diminishes, or contracts, the power of doing good, but such as turns the exertion into a more peaceful channel; such as preserves the tranquillity of the mind, whilst it promotes and invigorates the activity of the body. A good providence has been pleased, in a great measure, to fulfil this my early inclination. From hence the reader will conjecture what sort of a RECLUSE appears before him.
Various have been the plans formed by those who have meditated a retirement from busy life, and various the modes by which such plans have been carried into execution. From a variety of circumstances, not originally the objects of consideration, such schemes have generally proved abortive. A false estimate of human happiness is the common cause of this miscarriage.
An entire seclusion from the world is as contrary to the true enjoyments of man, as a tumultuous intercourse with it. The philosopher who carries you back to the first principles of society, and places you in a desart, may offer a flattering picture to the mind of him whose irritable temper is daily
daily teazed with a multitude of petitioners; but it is a delusive happiness which he presents, like that of the deity of Epicurus, who is represented as sitting remote froin every thing human or celestial; neither interested for himself, nor regarding the wants and necessities of others.
On the other hand, to be perpetually conversant in scenes where the tide of "human existence" is at its highest flood, to seek for true happiness in a crowd, is to deprive ourselves of that gratification which arises from a calm contemplation of the characters of men; for it is as impossible to reflect in the midst of the busy, as it is to rest upon the bosom of a torrent.
From the smallest observation, therefore, it will be evident that, the extremes of life are equally to be avoided. Man was no more formed to be carried rapidly around the circle of dissipation, than to inhabit the solitary cave, or to rest in inglorious ease under the spreading branches of an impervious forest.
Every violence committed upon the human mind by an over-exertion of its powers,
powers, tends to counteract and destroy those principles which they were intended to promote. The man whose wishes center in the stream of public life, rests his happiness upon a multitude, whose schemes and plans differ so essentially from his own, that they never can produce the solid comfort which he desires. He who narrows his expectations too much, and confines the sphere of his enjoyments to his own breast, is equally distant from the point of felicity. The one becomes a voluptuary; the other, a misanthrope.
To retire sometimes to the shade flection, even from the affectionate intercourse of friends, is a judicious choice, as well as a religious injunction. The mind that has been distracted with cares demands some repose to rally its scattered forces. Some defilement too, it may be supposed to have contracted, from an indiscriminate communication with the world. How delightful then must that moment be, which is spent amidst scenes of solitude! How must the heart expand when it has broken its fetters, and freely breathes that air of
liberty with which a benevolent Creator refreshes all his creatures! He who was so lately a prisoner, now becomes master of his own actions: he who was a criminal, looks around him in the confidence of innocence. The book of nature, illustrated by the book of revelation, becomes his study. He traces the connection between those important volumes, with a penetrating eye and a delighted heart. On his return to the busy stage of man, he finds his actions improved by benevolence. His temporary seclusion has taught him the true value of life, and he discovers that there are objects of equal importance with the bank and the exchange.
Thus may every man be a Recluse for the best and most important purposes. Thus may he improve in the study of his Maker, and in the knowledge of himself; and thus will he become a better servant of his God, and a better member of public society.
A little reflection will make it clear, how much the religion of the gospel promotes these advantages. I speak not of this religion, as delineated by the infidel, or distorted