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under it, and the perishing cattle loll out their parched tongues, where they once drank the refreshing stream. Suppose a few happy districts escape these dreadful scourges for a number of years, are they not at last visited with redoubled severity? And, whilst abused affluence vanishes as a dream before the intolerable dearth, do not a starving, riotous populace, leave their wretched cottages, to plunder the houses of their wealthy neighbours, desperately venturing the gallows for a morsel of bread.
When some, secure from the attacks of water, quietly enjoy the comforts of plenty, fire perhaps surprises them in an instant: They awake involved in smoke, and surrounded by crackling flames, through which (if it is not too late) they fly naked at the hazard of their neck, and think themselves happy if, while they leave behind them, young children or aged parents, burning in the blaze of all their goods, they escape themselves with dislocated joints or broken bones. Their piercing shrieks, and the fall of their house, seem to portend a general conflagration; loud confusion increases, disasterous ruin spreads; and perhaps, before they can be stopped, a street, a suburb, a whole city is reduced to ashes.
Turn your imagination from the smoaking ruins, to fix it upon the terrifying effects of the air, agitated into roaring tempests and boisterous hurricanes, before their impetuous blast, the masts of ships and cedars of Lebanon, are like broken reeds; men of war, and solid buildings like the driven chaff. Here, they strip the groaning forest, tear the bosom of the earth, and obscure the sky with clouds of whirling sand: And there, they plow up the liquid foaming plains, and with sportive fury turn up mountains for ridges, or cut valleys instead of furrows. As they pass along, the confounded elements dreadfully roar under the mighty scourge, the rolling sea tosses herself up to
* This happened some years ago in this neighbourhood.
heaven, and solid land is swept with the besom of destruction.
To heighten the horror of the scene, thunder, the majestic voice of an angy God, and the awful artillery of heaven, bursts in loud claps from the lowring sky. Distant hills reverberate and increase the alarming sound, and with rocking edifices declare to man, that vengeance belongeth unto God: And, to enforce the solemn warning, repeated flashes of lightning, with horrible glare, dazzle his eyes, and with forked fires strike consternation into his breast; if they do not actually strike him dead, in the midst of his shattered habitation.
Nor doth heaven alone dart destructive fires; earth, our mother earth, as if it were not enough frequently to corrupt the atmosphere by pestilential vapours, borrows the assistance of the devouring element, to terrify and scourge her guilty children. By sudden, frightful chasms, and the mouth of her burning mountains, she vomits clouds of smoke, sulphureous flames, and calcined rocks; she emits streams of melted minerals, covers the adjacent plains with boiling fiery lavas; and as, if she wanted to ease herself of the burthen of her inhabitants, suddenly rises against them, and in battles of shaking at once crushes, destroys, and buries them in heaps of ruins.
These astonishing scenes, like a bloody battle that is seen at a distance, may indeed entertain us: They may amuse our imagination, when in a peaceful apartment, we behold them beautifully represented by the pen of a Virgil, or the pencil of a Raphael. But to be in the midst of them, as thousands are, sooner or later, is inexpressibly dreadful: It is actually to see the forerunners of divine vengeance, and hear the shaking of God's destructive rod: It is to behold at once a lively emblem, and an awful pledge of that fire and brimstone, storm and tempest, which the righteous Governor of the world will rain upon the ungodly; when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise,
the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth, with the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.
Now as reason loudly declares, that the God of order, justice, and goodness, could never establish and continue this fearful course of things, but to punish the disorders of the moral world by those of the natural; we must conclude that man is guilty, from the alarming tokens of divine displeasure, which sooner or later are so conspicuous in every part of the habitual globe.
We have taken a view of the residence of mankind: let us now behold them entering upon the disordered scene. And here reason informs us, that some mystery of iniquity lies hid under the loathsome, painful, and frequently mortal circumstances, which accompany their birth. For it can never be imagined, that a righteous and good God, would suffer innocent and pure creatures, to come into the world skilled in no language but that of misery, venting itself in bitter cries, or doleful accents.
It is a matter of fact, that infants generally return their first breath with a groan, and salute the light with the voice of sorrow; Generally, I say, for sometimes they are born half-dead, and cannot without the utmost difficulty be brought to breathe and groan. But all are born at the hazard of their lives: For, while some cannot press into the land of the living, without being dangerously bruised; others have their tender bones dislocated. Some are almost strangled ; and it is the horrible fate of others, to be forced into the world by instruments of torture; having their skull bored through or broken to pieces, or their quivering limbs cut or torn off from the unfortunate trunk. Again,
While some appear on the stage of life embarrassed with superfluous parts, others unnaccountably muti
lated, want those which are necessary: And what is more terrible still, a few, whose hideous, mishapen bodies seem calculated to represent the deformity of a fallen soul, rank among frightful monsters; and to terminate the horror of the parents, are actually smothered and destroyed.
The spectators, it is true, concerned for the honour of mankind, frequently draw a veil over these shocking and bloody scenes; but a philosopher will find them out, and will rationally infer that the deplorable and dangerous manner in which mankind are born, proves them to be degenerate fallen creatures.*
If we let our thoughts ascend, from the little sufferers, to the mothers that bear them; we shall find another dreadful proof of the divine displeasure and of our natural depravity. Does not a good master, much more a gracious God, delight in the prosperity and happiness of his faithful servants? If mankind were naturally in their Creator's favour, would he not order the fruit of the womb to drop from it, without any more inconveniency, than ripe vegetables fall from the opening husk, or full-grown fruit from the disburdened tree? But how widely different is the case! Fix your attention on pregnant mothers: See their disquietude and fears. Some go before hand through
* Logicians will excuse the author, if he prefers the common unaffected manner of proposing his arguments, to the formal method of the schools. But they may easily try his enthymemes by giving them the form of syllogisms, thus.
1. Argument. If the rod of God is fearfully shaken over this globe, the disordered habitation of mankind; it is a sign they are under his displeasure.
But God's rod is fearfully shaken over this globe, &c. Therefore mankind are under his displeasure.
II. Argument. A pure and innocent creature cannot be born, under such and such deplorable circumstances.
But man is born under such and such deplorable circumstances. Therefore man is not a pure and innocent creature.
an imaginary trava almost as painful to the mind, as the real labour is to the body. The dreaded hour comes at last. Good God! What lingering, what tearing pains; what redoubled throes, what killing agonies attend it! See the curse....or rather see it not. Let the daughter of her who tasted the forbidden fruit without the man, drink that bitter cup without him. Fly from the mournful scene, fly to distant apartments ....But in vain....The din of sorrow pursues and overtakes you there.
A child of man is at the point of being born; his tortured mother proclaims the news in the bitterest accents. They increase with her increasing agony. Sympathize and pray, while she suffers and groans.... Perhaps while she suffers and dies: For it is possibly her dying groan that reaches your ear. Perhaps nature is spent in the hard travail; her son is born, and with Jacob's wife, she closes her languid eye and expires. Perhaps the instruments of death are upon her : The keen steel mangles her delicate frame: As Cæsar's mother; she generously suffers her body to be opened, that her unborn child may not be torn from her in pieces; and the fertile tree is unnaturally cut down that its fruits may be safely gathered.
Perhaps neither mother nor child can be saved, and one grave is going to deprive a distracted mortal of a beloved Rachel, and a long expected Benjamin. If this is the case, O earth, earth, earth, conceal these slain, cover their blood, and detain in thy dark bosom, the fearful curse that brought them there. Vain wish! Too active to be confined in thy deepest vaults, it ranges through the world: With unrelenting fierceness it pursues trembling mothers, and forces them to lift up their voice for speedy relief: Though varied according to the accents of an hundred languages, it is the same voice....that of the bitterest anguish : And while it is reverberated from hamlet to hamlet, from city to city, it strikes the unprejudiced inquirer, and makes him confess, that these clouds of unbribed