Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

tion, and an unguarded state of mind, transformed in all his sentiments; and as he rose in greatness rising also’in gult; till at last he completed that wbole character of iniquity, which he once detested.

BLAIR

SECTION III.

Haman; or, the misery of pride. Ahasuerus, who is supposed to be the prince known among the Greek historians by the name of Artaxerxes, had advanced to the chief dignity in his kingdom, Haman, an Amalekite, who inherited all the ancient enmity of his race, to the Jewish nation. He appears, from what is recorded of him, to have been a very wicked minister. Raised to greatness without merit, he employed his power solely for the gratification of his passions. As the honours wbich be possessed were next to royal, bis pride was every day fed with that servile homage, which is peculiar to Asiatic courts; and all the servants of the king prostrated tbemselves before him. In the midst of this general adulation, one person only stooped not to Haman. This was Mordecai the Jew; who, knowing this Amalekite to be an enemy to the people of God, and, with virtuous indig. dation, despising that insolence of prosperity with which he saw him lifted up, 6 bowed not, nor did him reverence.” On this appearance of disrespect from Mordecai, Haman

was full of wrath ; but he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone.” Personal revenge was not sufficient to satisfy Hinn.

So violent and black were his passions, that he resolved to exterminate the whole nation to which Mordecai belopged. Abusing, for his cruel purpose, the favour of his credulous sovereigo, be obtained a decree to be sent forth, that, against a certain day, all the Jews throughout the Persian dominions should be put to the sword. Meanwbile, confident of success, and blind to approaching ruin, he continued exulting in his prosperity. Invited by Abasuerus to a royal banquet, which Esther the queeu had prepared," he went forth that day joyful, and with a glad heart.” But behold how slight an incident was sufficient to poison his joy! As he went forth, he saw Mordecai in the king's gate ; and observed, that he still refused to do hirn homage : “ He stood not up, nor was moved for him ;” although he well knew the formidable desigos, which Haman was preparing to execute.

D*

king."

One private man, who despised his greatness and disdained submission, while a whole kingdom trembled before him ; one spirit, which the utmost stretch of his power could neither subdue nor humble, blasted his triumphs. His whole soul was shaken with a storm of passion. Wrath, pride, and desire of 'revenge, rose into fury. With difficulty be restrained himself in public ; but as soon as he came to his own house, he was forced to disclose the agony of his mind. He gathered together his friends and family, with Zeresh his wife. • He told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and of all the things wherein the king bad promoted him; and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. He said, moreover, Yea, Esther the queen suffered no mao to come in with the king, to the banquet that she had prepared, but myself; and to-morrow also am I invited to her with the

After all this preamble, what is the conclusion ? 6 Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.”

The sequel of Haman's history I shall not now pursue. It might afford matter for much instruction, by the conspicuous justice of God in his fall and punishment. But contemplating only the singular situation, in wbicb the expressions just quoted present him, and the violent agitation of his mind which they display, the following reflections naturally arise: How miserable is vice, when one guilty passion creates so much torment! how unavailing is prosperity, when in the beight of it, a single disappointment can destroy the relish of all its pleasures ! how weak is human nature, which, in the absence of a real, is thus prone to form to itself imaginary woes ! .

SECTION IV.

Lady Jane Gray, This excellent personage was descended from the royal line of England by both her parents.

She was carefully educated in the principles of the reformation : and her wisdom and virtue rendered her a shin. ing example to her sex. But it was her lot to continue only a short period on this stage of being; for, in early life, she fell a sacrifice to the wild ambition of the duke of Northumberland; who promoted a marriage between her and his son, lord Guilford Dudley; and raised her to the

[ocr errors]

throne of England, in opposition to the rights of Mary and Elizabeth. At the time of their marriage, she was only about eighteen years of age, and her husband was also very young; a season of life very unequal to oppose the interested views of artful and aspiring men ; who, instead of exposing them to danger, should have been the protectors of their in. nocence and youth.

This extraordinary young person, besides the solid endowments of piety and virtue,possessed the most engaging disposition, the most accomplished parts ; and being of an equal age with king Edward VI.she had received all her education with him, and seemed even to possess a greater facility in acquiring every part of manlynd classical literature. She had attained a knowledge of the Roman and Greek languages, as well as of several modern tongues ; had passed most of her time in an application to learning ; and expressed a great indifference for other occupations and amusements usual with her sex and station Roger Ascham, tutor to the lady Elizabeth, having at one time paid her a visit, found her employed in reading Plato, while the rest of the family were engaged in a party of hunting in the park; and upon his admiring the singularity of her choice, she told him, that she " received more pleasure from that author, than any others could reap from all their sport and gaiety Her heart, replete with this love of literature and serious studies, and with tenderness towards her husband, who was deserving of her affection, had never opened itself to the flattering allurements of ambition; and the information of her advancement to the throne was by no means agreeable to ber, She even refused to accept the crown; pleaded the preferable right of the two princesses; expressed her dread of the consequences attending an enterprise so dangerous, not to say so criminal; and desired to remain in that private station in which she was born Overcome at last with the entreaties, rather than reasons, of her father and father-in-law, and, above all, of her husband, she submitted to their will, and was prevailed on to relinquish her own judgment. But her elevation was of very short continuance. The nation declared for queen Mary; and the lady Jane, after wearing the vain pageantry of a crown during ten days, returned to a private life, with much more satisfaction than she felt when royalty was tendered to her

Queen Mary, who appears to have been incapable of generosity or clemency, determined to remove every person, from whom the least danger could be apprehended. Warna ing was, therefore, given to lady Jane to prepare for death; a doom which she had expected, and which the innocence of her life, as well as the misfortunes to which she had been exposed, rendered no unwelcome news to be. The queen's bigoted zeal, under colour of tender mercy to the prisoner's soul, induced ber to send priests, who molested her with perpetual disputation; and even a reprieve of three days was granted ber, in hopes that she would be persuaded, during that time, to pay, hy a timely conversion to popery, some regard to her eternal welfare Lady Jane bad presence of mind, in those melancholy circuinstances, not only to defend her religion by solid arguments, but also to write a letter to her sister, in the Greek language ; in which, besides sending her a copy of the Scriptures in that tongue, she exhorted her to maintain, in every fortune, like steady perseveranca On the day of her execution, her husband, lord Guilford, desired permission to see ber; but she refused her consent, and sent him word, that the tenderness of their parting would overcome the fortitude of both; and would too much unbend their minds from that constancy, which their approaching end required of them. Their separation, she said, would be only for a moment; and they would soon rejoin each other in a scene, where their affections would be forever united; and where death, disappointment, and misfortune, could no longer have access to them, or disturb their eternal felicityof

It had been intended to execute the lady Jane and lord Guilford together on the same scaffold, at Tower hill; but the council, dreading the compassion of the people for their youth, beauty, innocence, and noble birth, changed their orders, and gave directions that she should be beheaded within the verge of the Tower. She saw her husband led to execution ; and having given him from the window some token of her remembrance, she waited with tranquillity till her own appointed hour should bring her to a like fate. She even saw his headless body carried back in acart; and found herself more confirmed by the reports, which she heard of the constancy of his end, than shaken by so tender and melancholy a spectacle. Sir John Gage, constable of the Tower

when he led her to execution, desired her to bestow on him some small present, which he

might keep as a perpetual memorial of her. She gave bim her table-book, in which she had just written three sentences, on seeing her husband's dead body ; one in Greek, another in Latin, a third in English. The purport of them was, “bat buman justice was against his body, but the Divine Mercy wonld be favourable in his soul; and that if her fault deserved punishment, her youth, at least, and her imprudence, were worthy of excuse ; and that God and posterity, she trusted would show her favour.” On the scaf d, she made a speech to the by-standers, in which the mildness of her disposition led her to take the blame entirely on herself, without uttering one complaint against the severity with which she had been treated. She said, that her offence was, not that she had laid her hand upon the crown, but that she had not rejected it with sufficient constancy ; that she had less erred through ambition than through reverence to her parents, whom she had been taught to respect and obey ; that she willingly received death, as the only satisfaction which she could now make to the injured state ; and though her infringement of the laws had been constrained, she would show, by her voluntary submission to their sentence, that she was desirous to atone for that disobedience, into which too much filial piety had betrayed her; that she had justly deserved this punishment for being made the instrument, though the unwilling instrument, of the ambition of otbers : and that the story of her life, she hoped, might at least be useful by proving that innocence excuses not great misdeeds, if they tend any way to the destruction of the commonwealth. -After uttering these words, she caused herself to be disrobed by ber women, and with a steady, serene countenance, submitted herself to the executioner.

HUME,

SECTION V. Ortogrul; or, the vanity of riches. As Ortogrul of Basra was one day wandering along the streets of Bagdat, musing on the varieties of merchandise which the shops opened to his view; and observing the dif. ferent ore upations which busied the multitude on every side, he was awakened from the tranquillity of meditation, by a crowd that obstructed his passage. He raised his eyes, and saw the chief vizier, who, haying returned from the divan, was entering his palace.

« PredošláPokračovať »