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ON CONTENTMENT. 1. CoXTentment produces, in some measure, all those effects which the alchymist usually ascribes to what he calls the philosopher's stone ; and if it does not bring riches, it does the same thing, by banishing the desire of them. If it cannot remove the disquietudes arising from a man's mind, body, or fortune, it makes him easy under them. It has indeed a kindly influence on the soul of man, in respect of every being to whom he stands related.
2. It extinguishes all murmur, repining, and ingratitude, towards that Being who has allotted him his part to act in this world. It destroys all inordinate ambition, and every tendency to corruption, with regard to the community wherein he is placed. It gives sweetness to his conversation, aod a perpetual serenity to all his thoughts.
3. Among the many methods which might be made use of for acquiring this virtue, I shall mention only the two follow. ing. First of all, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants; and secondly, how much more uphappy he might be than he really is.
4. First, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants. I am wonderfully pleased with the reply which Aristippus made to one, who condoled with hiin upon the loss of a farm :" Why,” said he, “ I have three farms still, and you have but one; so that I ought rather to be afflicted for you, than you for me."
5. On the contrary, foolish men are more apt to consider what they have lost, than what they possess; and to fix their eyes upon those who are richer than themselves, rather than those who are under great difficulties. All the real pleasures and conxeniences of life lie in a narrow compass; but it is the humour of mankind to be always looking forward, and straining after one who has got the start of them in wealth and honour.
6. For this reason, as pone can be properly called rich who bave not more than they want, there are few rich men, in any of the politer nations, but among the middle sort of people, who keep their wishes within their fortunes, and have more wealth than they know how to enjoy. .
7. Persons of a higher rank live in a kind of splendid poverty; and are perpetually wanting, because, instea! of acquiescing in the solid pleasures of life, they endeavour to outvie one another in shadows and appearances. Men of sense
have at all times beheld, with a great deal of mirth, this silly game that is playing over their heads; and, by contracting their desires, they enjoy all that secret satisfaction which others are always in quest of.
8. The truth is, this ridiculous chase after imaginary pleasures cannot be sufficiently exposed, as it is the great source of those evils which generally undo a nation. Let a man's estate be what it may, he is a poor man if he does not live within it; and naturally sets himself to sale to any one that can give him his price.
9. When Pittacus, after the death of his brother, who had left him a good estate, was offered a great sum of money by the king of Lydia, he thanked him for his kindness; but told him, he had already more by half than he knew what to do with. In short, content is equivalent to wealth, and luxury to poverty; or to give the thought a more agreeable turn, “ Content is natural wealth," says Socrates; to which I shall add, luxury is artificial poverty.
10. I shall therefore recommend to the consideration of those who are always aiming at superfluous and imaginary enjoyments, and who will not be at the trouble of contracting their desires, an excellent saying of Bion, the philosopher, namely, “ That no man has so much care, as he who endeavours after the most happiness.?
11. In the second place, every one ought to reflect how much more unhappy he might be than he really is. The former consideration took in all those who are sufficiently provided with the means to make themselves easy; this re. gards such as actually lie under soine pressure or misfors tune. These may receive great alleviation, from such a comparison as the unhappy person may make between himself and others; or between the misfortune which he suffers, and greater misfortunes which might have befallen him.
12. I like the story of the honest Dutchman, who, upon breaking his leg by a fall from the main-mast, told the standers by, it was a great mercy that it was not his neck. To which, since I am got into quotations, give me leave to add the saying of an old philosopher, who after having invited some of his friends to dine with him, was ruffled by a person that came into the room in a passion, and threw down the table that stood before him : - Every one," says he,“ has his calamity; and he is a happy man that has no greater than this."
13. We find an instance to the same purpose, in the life of doctor Hammond, written by bishop Fell. As this good
man was troubled with a complication of distempers, when he had the gout upon him, he used to thank God that it was not the stone'; and when he had the stone, that he had not both these distempers on him at the same time.
14. I cannot conclude this essay without observing, that there never was any system beside that of Christianity, which could efectually produce in the mind of man the virtue I have been hitherto speaking of. In order to make us conlented with our condition, many of the present philosophers tell us, that our discontent only hurts ourselves, without being able to make any alteration in our circumstances; others that whatever evil befals us is derived to us by a fatal necessity, to which superior beings themselves are subject; while others, very gravely, tell the man who is miserable, that it is necessary he should be so, to keep up the harmony of the universe ; and that the scheme of Providence would be troubled and perverted, were he otherwise.
15. These and the like considerations, rather silence than satisfy a man. They may show him that his discontent is unreasonable, but they are by to means sufficient to relieve it. They rather give despair than consolation. In a word, a man might reply to one of these comforters, as Augustus did to his friend, who advised him not to grieve for the death of a person whom he loved, because his grief could not etch him again : “ It is for that very reason,” said the emperor, “that I grieve.”
16. On the contrary, religion bears a more tender regard to human nature. It prescribes to every miserable man the means of bettering his condition ; nay, it shows him that bearing his afflictions as he ought to do, will naturally end in the removal of them. It makes him 'easy here, because it can make him happy hereafter.
RANK AND RICHES AFFORD NO GROUND FOR ENVY. 1. Or all the grounds of envy among men, superiority in rank and fortune is the most general. Hence the malignity which the poor commonly bear to the rich, as engrossing to themselves all the comforts of life. Hurice the evil eye with which persons of inferior stations scrutinize those who are above them in rank ; and if they approach to that rank, their envy is generally strongest against such as are just one step higher than themselves.
2. Alas! my friends, all this envious disquietude, which
agitates the world, arises from a deceitful figure which imposes on the public view. False colours are hung out: the real state of men is not what it seems to be. The order of society requires a distinction of ranks to take place ; but in point of happiness, all men come much nearer to equality than is commonly imagined ; and the circumstances which form any material difference of happiness among them, are not of that nature which renders them grounds of envy.
3. The poor man possesses not, it is true, some of thọ conveniences and pleasures of the rich ; but, in return, he is free from many embarrassments to which they are subject. By the simplicity and uniformity of his life, he is delivered from that variety of cares, which perplex those who have great affairs to manage, intricate plans to pursue, and many enemies, perhaps, to encounter in the pursuit. ;
4. In the tranquility of his small habitation, and private family, he enjoys a peace which is often unknown at courts. The gratifications of nature, which are always the most satisfactory, are possessed by him to their full extent ; and if he be a stranger to the refined pleasures of the wealthy, he is unacquainted also with the desire of them, and by conse. quence, feels do want.
5. His plain meal satisfies his apr.etite, with a relish, prabably higher than that of the rich man, who sits down 10 his luxurious banquet. His sleep is more sound ; his health more firm ; he knows not what spleen, languor, and listlessness, are. His accustomed employments or labours are not more oppressive to him, than the labour of attendance on courts and the great, labours of dress, the fatigue of amusements, the very weight of idleness, frequently are to the rich. * 6. In the mean time, all the beauty of the face of nature, all the enjoyments of domestic society, all the gaiety and cheerfulness of an easy mind, are as open to him as to those of the highest rank. The splendour of retinue, the sound of titles, the appearances of high respect, are indeed soothing, for a short time, to the great. But, become familiar, they are soon forgotten. Custom effaces their impression. They sink into the rank of those ordinary things which daily recur, without: raisiąg any sensation of joy.
7. Let us cease, thermfore, from looking up with discontent and envy to those whom birtli or fortune has placed above us. Let us adjust the balance of happiness fairly. When we think of the enjoyments we want, we should think also of the troubles from which we are free. If we allow their ut value to the comforts we possess, we shall find reason
to rest satisfied, with a very moderate, though not an.opulent and spendid condition of fortune. Often, did we know the whole, we should be inclined to pity the statc of those whom we now envy.
ELAIR. SECTION XIII. PATIENCE UNDER PROVOCATIONS, our INTENCST AND DUTY.
1. The wide circle of human society is diversified by an endless variety of characters, dispositions, and passions. Uniformity is in no respect, the genius of the world. Every man is marked by some peculiarity which distinguishes him froin another; and no where can two individuals be found who are exacily and in all respects alike. Where so much diversity obtains, it cannot but happen, that in the intercourse which men are obliged to maintain, their tempers will often be ill adjusted to that intercourse will jar and interfere with each other.
2. Hence, in every station, the highest as well as the lowest, and in every condition of life-public, private, and domestic-occasions of irritation frequently arise. We are provoked, sometimes, by the folly and levity of those with whom we are connected; sometiines, by their indifference or neglect ; by the incivility of a friend, the haughtiness of a superior, or the insolent behaviour of one in lower station.
3. Hardly a day passes, without somewhat or other occurring, which serves to ruffle the man of impatient spirit. Or course, such a man lives in a continual storm. He knows not what it is to enjoy a train of good humour. Servants, neighbours, friends, spouse, and children, all, through the uorestrained violence of his temper, become sources of disturbance and vexation to himn. In vain is affluence ; in vain are health and prosperity. The least trifle is sufficient to discompose his mind, and poison his pleasures. His very annusements are mixed with turbulence and passion.
4. I would beseech this man to consider, of what small moment the provocations which he receives, or at least imagines hinisell to receive, are really in themselves ; but of what great moment he makes them, by suffering them to deprire him of the possession of hiinself. I would beseech him to consider, how many hours of happiness he throws away, which a little more patience would allow him to enjoy; and how much he puts it in the power of the most insignificant persons to render him miserable.
5. “But who can expect," we hear him exclaim, “that he is to possess the insensibility of a stone. How is it possible for human nature to endure so many repeated provoca