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When the good man moves into this scene of contemplation, he must endeavour to draw such a veil before his eyes, as to shut out every prospect, but that which ought to be the object of a good man's search. By a communication with the world, he has already found out what the world produces: and if his reflections on his situation be equal to the importance of the subject, he will discover that the value of life depends upon its use; and that the exertion he ought to employ, should be in proportion to the prize which he expects to gain. Precarious is that man's pleasure, fallacious is that man's hope which fixes its foundation on worldly wisdom. Even moral virtue, so eloquently described, and so imperfectly practised by the heathen philosophers, became a deceitful director of their conduct. Virtue!-said Brutus on the plain of Pharsalia, when he was about to revenge the death of Cæsar on himself, "Virtue ! "I thought thee a substance, but now I "find thee an empty shadow!"
Can a more degrading picture present itself to the eye, can a more sorrowful reflection
flection impress itself on the heart, than that which arises from a perusal of part of St. Paul's letter to the Roman christians? The Romans, at that period, though somewhat fallen from the original greatness of their character, were the most civilized nation on the globe. In what shape did virtue appear amongst them? or rather did she appear at all? and was she able, by her own intrinfic worth, to banish vice from the face of the earth-At no period, perhaps, can that wholly be expected. The imperious passions of human nature forbid it. But surely little could be hoped for, when those "who professed themselves "wise became fools;" when they who knew God, refused him their obedience; when they not only partook freely of all the detestable vices of the vulgar, but "had "pleasure in those that did them."
Such philosophers, whether in the world, or out of the world, will not meet with the approbation of the good; or even, (vain though they are), the applause of their own hearts. A solitary instance, perhaps, may sometimes be found amongst them, which displays
displays a more than ordinary combination of the moral virtues. But how often is such a character debased by some secret alloy? We turn our eyes with pity from the poniard of Brutus and the sword of Cato.
To a real defect in principle we may ascribe this general failure in the conduct of the wisest heathens. The greatest abilities were united with the severest study; but not having a light strong enough to direct them, they were lost, as in the mazes of a wood. From reflection, indeed, some of them discovered, and acknowledged, the existence of a deity; but when they attempted to raise a structure on this foundation, their opinions branched out into the most fanciful appearances. This important truth they sometimes proclaimed, and sometimes buried under a mysterious ceremony; whilst the common people, unable to reason on the one side, and unwilling implicitly to obey on the other, were distracted by a multitude of contending thoughts, and led astray by a variety of seductions.
The system of nature, the system of Rousseau and the philosophers of the French school,
school, appear not with more engaging features, than the picture I have just delineated. It is no pleasing employment to unveil the face of nature under this impression; but as truth is the object of our research, I shall reply only in the words of a countryman of their own, the amiable but unfortunate navigator, Mons. De la Perouse, in the narrative of his last voyage, published in consequence of a decree of the national
After describing the miserable situation of the inhabitants of Port des François, on the western coast of North America, he adds, "In vain may philosophers exclaim
against this picture. They write books "in their closets, whilst I have been engaged in voyages during a course of thirty years. I have been a witness of "the injustice and deceptions of these people whom they have described to us
as so good, because they are very near 66 to a state of nature; but this same na"ture is only sublime in her masses, she "is negligent of all details. It is not pos"sible to penetrate into woods, which the "hand
"hand of civilized man has not made "passable; to traverse plains filled with "stones and rocks, and inundated by im"passable marshes; in a word, to form "society with man in a state of nature; "because he is barbarous, deceitful, and "wicked. In this opinion I have been confirmed by my own melancholy experi
My opinion," says the same navigator in another place," concerning barbarous nations, was long since fixed; and my voyage has only served to confirm it.
J'ai trop, à mes pèrils, appris à les connaître.
"I am a thousand times more angry "with the philosophers who extol the savages than with the savages themselves. "The unfortunate Lamagnon t whom "they massacred, told me, the very even
* Vol. II. p. 132.
+ Lamagnon, De Langle, and ten others were massacred at Maouna, one of the Navigator's Islands, during Mons, de Perouse's voyage.