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6. If his friend Marcellinus shall think proper to write to him, upon the subject of so reasonable a grief, let me remind him not to use the rougher arguments of consolation, and such as seem to carry a sort of reproof with them; but those of kind and sympathizing humanity.
7. Time will render him more open to the dictates of reason: for as a fresh wound shrinks back from the hand of the surgeon, but by degrees submits to, and even requires the means of its cure; so a mind, under the first impressions of a misfortune, shuns and rejects all arguments of consolation; but at length, if applied with tenderness, calınly and willingly acquiesces in them. Farewell.
MELMOTH'S PLINY. SECTION IV.
On discretion. 1. I HAVE often thought, if the minds of men were laid open, we should see but little difference between that of a wise man,
and that of a fool. There are infinite reveries, numberless extrava
, great difference is, that the first knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for conversation, by suppressing some, and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words. This sort of discretion, however, has no place in private conversation between intimate friends. Onsuch occasions, the wisest men very often talk like the weakest ; for indeed talking with a friend is nothing else than thinking aloud.
2. Tully has therefore very justly exposed a precept, delivered by some ancient writers, That a man should live with his enemy in such a manner, as might leave him room to become his friend and with his friend, in such a manner, that, if he became his enemy, it should not be in his power to hurt him. The first part of this rule, which regards our behaviour towards an enemy, is indeed very reasonable, as well as very prudential; but the latter part of it, which regards our behaviour towards a friend, savours. more of cunning than of discretion: and would cut a man off from the greatest pleasures of life, which are the freedoms of conversation with a bosom friend. Besides that, when a friend is turned into an enemy, the world is just enough to accuse the perfidiousness of the friend, rather than the indiscretion of the person who confided in him.
3. Discretion does not only show itself in words, but in all the circumstances of action; and is like an under-agent of Providence, to guide and direct us in the ordinary concerns of life. There are many more shining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none so useful as discretion. It is this, indeed, which gives a value to all the rest; which sets them at work in their proper times and places; and turns them to the advantage of the person who is possessed of them. Without it, learning is ped
antry, and wit impertinence; virtue itself looks like weakness; - the best parts only qualify a man to be more sprightly in errours, and active to his own prejudice.
4. Discretion does not only make a man the master of his own parts, but of other men's. The discreet man finds out the talents of those he converses with ; and knows how to apply them to prop, er uses. Accordingly, if we look into particular communities and divisions of men, we may observe, that it is the discreet man, not the witty, nor the learned, nor the brave, who guides the conversation, and gives measures to society. A man with great talents, but void of discretion, is like Polyphemus in the fable, strong and blind; endued with an irresistible force, which, for want of sight, is of no use to him.
5. Though a man has all other perfections, yet if he wants discretion, he will be of no great consequence in the world ; on the contrary, if he has this single talent in perfection, and but a common share of others, he may do what he pleases in his particular station of life.
6. At the same time that I think discretion the most useful talent a man can be master of, I look upon cunning to be the accomplishment of little, mean, ungenerous minds. Discretion points out the noblest ends to us; and pursues the most proper and laudable methods of attaining them; cunning has only private, selfish aims; and sticks at nothing which may make them succeed.
7. Discretion has large and extended views; and, like a wellformed eye, commands a whole horizon: cunning is a kind of short-sightedness, that discovers the minutest objects which are near at hand, but is not able to discern things at å distance. Discretion, the more it is discovered, gives a greater authority to the person who possesses it: cunning, when it is once detected, loses its force, and makes a man incapable of bringing about even those events which he might have done, had he passed only for a plain man.
8. Discretion is the perfection of reason; and a guide to us in all the duties of life: cunning is a kind of instinct, that only looks out after our immediate interest and welfare. Discretion is only found in men of strong sense and good understandings: cunning is often to be met with in brutes themselves; and in persons who are but the fewest removes from them. In short, cunning is only the mimick of discretion; and it may pass upon weak men, in the same manner as vivacity is often mistaken for wit, and gravity, for wisdom.
9. The cast of mind which is natural to a discreet man, makes him look forward into futurity, and consider what will be his condition millions of ages hence, as well as what it is at present. He knows that the misery or happiness which is reserved for him in another world, loses nothing of its reality by being placed at so great a distance from him. The objects do not appear little to him because they are remote. He considers, that those pleasures and pains which lie hid in eternity, approach nearer to him every moment; and will be present with him in their full weight and measure, as much as those pains and pleasures which he feels at this very instant. For this reason, he is careful to secure to himself that which is the proper happiness of his nature, and the ul. timate design of his being.
10. He carries his thoughts to the end of every action; and considers the most distant, as well as the most immediate effects of it. He supersedes every little prospect of gain and advantage which offers itself here, if he does not find it consistent with his views of an hereafter. In a word, his hopes are full of immortality; his schemes are large and glorious ; and his conduct suitable to one who knows his true interest, and how to pursue it by proper methods.
On the government of our thoughts. 1. A MULTITUDE of cases occur, in which we are no less ac. countable for what we think, than for what we do. As, first, when the introduction of any train of thought depends upon our. selves, and is our voluntary act, by turning our attention towards such objects, awakening such passions, or engaging in such em ployments, as we know must give a peculiar determination to our thoughts. Next, when thoughts, by whatever accident they may have been originally suggested, are indulged with deliberation and complacency.
2. Though the mind has been passive in their reception, and, therefore, free from blame; yet, if it be active in their continue ance, the guilt becomes its own. They may have intruded at first, like unbidden guests; but if when entered, they are made welcome, and kindly entertained, the case is the same as if they had been invited from the beginning.
3. If we are thus accountable to God for thoughts either voluntarily introduced, or deliberately indulged, we are no less so, in the last place, for those which find admittance into our hearts from supine negligence, from total relaxation of attention, from allowing our imagination to rove with entire license, “like the eyes of the fool, towards the end of the earth."
4. Our minds are, in this case, thrown open to folly and vanity. They are prostituted to every 'evil thing which pleases to take possession. The consequences must all be charged to our account; and in vain we plead excuse from human infirmity. Hence it
appears, that the great object at which we are to aim in governing our thoughts, is, to take the most effectual measures for preventing the introduction of such as are sinful; and for hastening, their expulsion, if they shall have introduced themselves without consent of the will.
5. But when we descend into our breasts, and examine how far we have studied to keep this object in view, who can tell, “ how oft he hath offended?" In no article of religion or morals are men more culpably remiss, than in the unrestrained indulgence they give to fancy; and that too, for the most part, without remorse. Since the time that reason began to exert her powers, thought, during our waking hours, has been active in every breast, without a moment's suspension or pause.
6. The current of ideas has been always flowing. The wheels of the spiritual engine have circulated with perpetual motion. Let me ask, what has been the fruit of this incessant activity, with the greater part of mankind? Of the innumerable hours that have been employed in thought, how few are marked with any permanent or useful effect? How many have either passed away in idle dreams, or have been abandoned to anxious discontented musings, to unsocial and malignant passions, or to irregular and criminal desires ?
7. Had I power to lay open that storehouse of iniquity which the hearts of too many conceal ; could I draw out and read to them a list of all the imaginations they have devised, and all the passions they have indulged in secret; what a picture of men bhould I present to themselves! What crimes would they ap
pear to have perpetrated in secrecy, which to their most intimate companions they durst not reveal!
8. Even when men imagine their thoughts to be innocently employed, they too commonly suffer them to run out into extrava gant imaginations, and chimerical plans of what they would wish to attain, or choose to be, if they could frame the course of things according to their desire. Though such employments of fancy come not under the same description with those which are plainly criminal, yet wholly unblamable they seldom are. Besides the waste of time which they occasion, and the misapplication which they indicate of those intellectual powers that were given to us for much nobler purposes, such romantick speculations lead us always into the neighbourhood of forbidden
regions. 9. They place us on dangerous ground. They are, for the most part, connected with some one bad passion; and they always nourish a giddy and frivolous turn of thought. They unfit the mind for applying with vigour to rational pursuits, or for acquiescing in sober plans of conduct. From that ideal world in which it allows itself to dwell, it returns to the commerce of men, unbent and relaxed, sickly and tainted, averse to discharging the duties, and sometimes disqualified even for relishing the pleasures of ordinary life.
SECTION VI. On the evils which flow from unrestrained passions. 1. When man revolted from his Maker, his passions rebelled against himself; and, from being originally the ministers of reason, have become the tyrants of the soul. Hence, in treating of this subject, two things may be assumed as principles : first, that through the present weakness of the understanding, our passions are often directed towards improper objects; and next, that even when their direction is just, and their objects are innocent, they perpetually tend to run into excess; they always hurry us towards their gratification, with a blind and dangerous impetuosity.. On these two points then turns the whole government of our passions : first, to ascertain the proper objects of their pursuit ; and next, to restrain them in that pursuit, when they would carry us beyond the bounds of reason.
2. If there is any passion which intrudes itself unseasonably into our mind, which darkens and troubles our judgement, or habitually discomposes our temper; which unfits us for properly discharging the duties, or disqualifies us forcheerfully enjoying the comforts of Life, we may certainly conclude it to have gained a dangerous ascendant. The great object which we ought to propose to ourselves is, to acquire a firm and steadfast mind, which the infatuation of passion shall not seduce, nor its violence, shake; which, resting on fixed principles, shall, in the midst of contending emotions, remain free, and master of itself; able to listen calmly to the voice of conscience, and prepared to obey its dictates without hesitation.
3. To obtain, if possible, such command of passion, is one of the highest attainments of the rational nature. Arguments to show its importance crowd upon us from every quarter. If there be any fertile source of mischief to human life, it is, beyond doubt, the misrule of passion. It is this which poisons the enjoyment of individuals, overturns the order of society, and strews the path of life with so many miseries, as to render it'indeed the vale of tears.
4. All those great scenes of publiek calamity, which we behold with astonishinent and horrour,have originated from the source of violent passions. These have overspread the earth with bloodshed, These have pointed the assassin's dagger, and filled the poisoned bowl. These, in every age, have furnished too copious materials for the orator's pathetick declamation, and for the poet's tragical song. When from publick life we descend to private conduct, though passion operates not there in so wide and destructive å sphere, we shall find its influence to be no less baneful.
5. I need not mention the black and fierce passions, such as envy, jealousy, and revenge, whose effects are obviously noxious, and whose agitations are immediate misery. But take any of the licentious and sensual kind. Suppose it to have unlimited scope ; trace it throughout its course; and we shall find that gradually, as it rises, it taints the soundness, and troubles the peace, of his mind over whom it reigns; that, in its progress, it engages him in pursuits which are marked either with danger or with shame; that, in the end, it wastes his fortune, destroys his health, or debases his character; and aggravates all the miseries in which it has involved him, with the concluding pangs of bitter remorse. Through all the stages of this fatal course, how many have heretofore run? What multitudes do we daily behold pursuing it, with blind and headlong steps ?
SECTION VII. On the proper state of our temper, with respect to one another.
1. It is evident, in general, that if we consult either publick welfare or private happiness, Christian charity ought to regulateour disposition in mutual intercourse. But as this great principle admits of several diversified appearances, let us consider some of the chief forms under which it ought to show itself in the usual tenour of life.
2. What first presents itself to be recommended, is a peaceable temper; a disposition averse to giving offence, 'and desirous of cultivating harmony, and amicable intercourse in society. This supposes yielding and
condescending manners, unwillingness to contend with others about trifles, and, in contests that are unavoidable, proper moderation of spirit.
3. Such a temper is the first principle of self-enjoyment. It is the basis of all order and happiness among mankind. The positive and contentious, the rude and quarrelsome, are the bane of society. They seem destined to blast the small share of comfort which nature has here allotted to man. But they cannot disturb the peace of others, inore than they break their own. The hurricane rages first in their own bosom, before it is let forth upon the world. In the tempests which they raise, they are always tost; and frequently it is their lot to perish.
4. A peaceable temper must be supported by a candid one, or a disposition to view the conduct of others with fairness and impartiality. This stands opposed to a jealous and suspicious temper, which ascribes every action to the worst motive, and throws à black shade over every character. If we would be happy, in ourselves, or in our connexions with others, let us guard against this malignant spirit. Let us study that charity “which thinketh