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On Peace of Soul, and a religious Mind..
For th' attentive mind,
By this harmonious action on her powers,
This fair inspired delight: her temper'd powers
A FREQUENT contemplation of the finest models of art, a frequent observation of the beauties of nature, a frequent and attentive perusal of the writings of the most elegant and eminent scholars, produce in man that high relish of the mind, which is distinguished by the name of taste. The possession of this quality is the source of a thou
sand intellectual pleasures. Wherever his eye turns, his heart is delighted
"Still new beauties meet his lonely walk,
If all be right within his heart, the impression made by the several objects of his contemplation will be strong and lasting. The harmony which he beholds in nature will communicate itself to his thoughts. His meditation on the charms of order will induce him to "scek at home, to find a "kindred order;" and the maturity of virtue may spring from so well cultivated an imagination.
"It has been often observed," says a learned and ingenious artist, "that the "good and virtuous man can alone acquire
a true or just relish even of works of art. "This opinion will not appear entirely "without foundation, when we consider "that the same habit of mind which is acquired by our search after truth in the more serious duties of life, is only trans
*Sir Joshua Reynolds, Disc. 7.
"ferred to the lighter amusements.
same disposition, the same desire to find "something steady, substantial and dura"ble, on which the mind can lean, as it
were, and rest with safety, actuates us in "both cases. The subject only is changed. "We pursue the same method in our search "after the idea of beauty and perfection in "each; of virtue, by looking forwards
beyond ourselves to society, and to the "whole; of arts, by extending our views "in the same manner to all ages and all "times."
Theories of this nature no doubt are beautiful and pleasing, but if we really wish for those enjoyments of the mind which neither the breathing marble, the column, or the towering arch can give, we must proceed one step further, and contemplate the beauty and harmony of that revealed religion which alone adds tranquillity to life, and gives indeed to every passion, "a chaster, milder, "more attractive mien." The mere beauty of virtue is delusive; we may admire the features without imitating the aspect. The beauty of religion is more impressive. We
cannot behold the motives of christianity without wishing to transplant each amiable and alluring grace into our own bosom. And so accommodating is the principle of religion to the wants and wishes of mankind, that no one ever yet supplicated her help in vain.
The universal influence of this principle is one argument of its truth. We see the philosopher of nature building systems of imaginary virtue, and exerting every energy of his mind to reform the world. But the beauty of his fabric is soon deformed by fluctuating opinion and actual transgression. Having brought his disciple to this point, he leaves him to extricate himself as well as he is able. The disciple, possessing no knowledge but what he derived from an insufficient master, falls a sacrifice to his imperfect lessons. On the contrary, the christian philosopher places his instruction upon firmer ground. Though well qualified to meditate on the charms of order, though revolving in his mind the natural beauty of virtue, he draws his pictures from a more perfect model than that of nature. He
looks on man as he is formed by grace; he therefore studies his character and perfections who revealed himself to the world for this purpose, and who, to make his appearance more effectual to the salvation of all men, became a propitiatory sacrifice for the offences of mankind.
It is the influence of religion on the heart, on the disposition of the mind, on the general habits of the man in every description of human life, which produces that true content and happiness, that peace of soul and tranquillity of spirit, which is the earnest wish, the importunate prayer of every Christian. And can we doubt the efficacy of this principle, if we consider, for a moment, what is promised by the gospel, and what is experienced by the believer? What indeed was the awful legacy of the Author of our religion, and how have we received it? "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give "unto you: not as the world giveth, give I "unto you." It is spiritual peace, it is man's peace with God and with his own conscience, which produces those sensations of comfort, which pass all understanding,