« AnteriorContinuar »
heart, warms it with reciprocal affection, and gives to any possession which is agreeable in itself, a double relish, from its being the gift of a friend. Favours conferred by men, I acknowledge, may prove burdensome. For human virtue is never perfect; and sometimes unreasonable expectations on the one side, sometimes a mortifying sense of dependence on the other, corrode in secret the pleasures of benefits, and convert the obligations of friendship into grounds of jealousy.
2. But nothing of this kind can affect the intercourse of gratitude with Heaven. Its favours are wholly disinterested; and with a gratitude the most cordial and unsuspicious, a good man looks up to that Almighty Benefactor, who aims at no end but the happiness of those whom he blesses, and who desires no return from them, but a devout and thankful heart. While others can trace their prosperity to no higher source than a concurrence of worldly causes; and, often, of mean or trifling incidents, which occasionally favoured their designs ; with what superiour satisfaction does the servant of God remark the hand of that gracious power which hath raised him up; which hath happily conducted him through the various steps of life, and crowned him with the most favourable distinction beyond his equals ?
3. Let us farther consider, that not only gratitude for the past, but a cheering sense of divine favour at the present, enters into the pious emotion. They are only the virtuous, who in their prosperous days hear this voice addressed to them, “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a cheerful heart; for God now accepteth thy works.” He who is the author of their prosperity, gives them a title to enjoy, with complacency, his own gift.
4. While bad men snatch the pleasures of the world as by stealth, without countenance from the great Proprietor of the world, the righteous sit openly down to the feast of life, under the smile of approving heaven. No guilty fears damp their joys. The blessing of God rests upon all that they possess; his protection surrounds them; and hence, “in the habitations of the righteous, is found the voice of rejoicing and salvation.” A lastre unknown to others, invests, in their sight, the whole face of nature.
5. Their piety reflects a sunshine from heaven upon the progperity of the world ; unites in one point of view, the smiling aspect, both of the powers above, and of the objects below. Not only have they as full a relish as others, for the innocent pleasures of life, but, moreover, in these they hold communion with their divine benefactor. In all that is good or fair, they trace his hand. From the beauties of nature, from the improvements of art, from the enjoyments of social life, they raise their affection to the source of all the happiness which surrounds them; and thus widen the sphere of their pleasures, by adding intellectual, and spiritual, to earthly joys.
6. For illustration of what I have said on this head, remark that cheerful enjoyment of a prosperous state, which king David had when he wrote the twenty-third psalm; and compare the highest pleasures of the riotous sinner, with the happy and satisfied spirit which breathes throughout that psalm.-In the midst of the splendour of royalty, with what amiable simplicity of gratitude does ho look up to the Lord as “his Suepherd;" happier in ascribing all his success to Divine favour, than to the poiicy of his councils, or to the force of his arıns!
7. How many instances of divine goodness arose before him in pleasing resembrance, when, with such relish, he speaks of the . green pastures and still waters, beside which God had led him; of his cup which he had made to overflow; and of the table which he had prepared for him in the presence of his enemies !” With what perfect tranquillity does he look forward to the time of his passing through “ the valley of the shadow of death ;' unappalled by that spectre, whose most distant appearance blasts the prosperity of sinners! He fears no evil, as long as "the rod and the staff” of his Divine Shepherd are with him; and, through all the unknown periods of this and of future existence, commits himself to his guidance with secure and triumphant hope: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life ; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
8. What a purified, sentimental enjoyment of prosperity is here exhibited! How different from that gross relish of worldly pleasures, which belongs to those who behold only the terrestrial side of things; who raise their views to no higher objects than the succession of human contingencies, and the weak efforts of human ability ; who have no protector or patron in the heavens, to enliven their prosperity, or to warm their hearts with gratitude and trust!
BLAIR SECTION XXIII. Virtue, when deeply rooted, is not subject to the influence of
fortune. 1. The city of Sidon having surrendered to Alexander, he ordered Hephestion to bestow the crown on him whom the Sidoni. ans should think most worthy of that honour. Hephestion being at that time resident with two young men of distinction, offered them the kingdom ; but they refused it, telling him that it was contrary to the laws of their country, to admit any one to that honour, who was not of the royal family.
2. He then, having expressed his admiration of their disinterested spirit, desired them to name one of the royal race, who might remember that he had received the crown through their hands. Overlooking many, who would have been ambitious of this high honour, they made choice of Abdolonymus, whose singular merit had rendered him conspicuous, even in the vale of obscurity. Though remotely related to the royal family, a series of misfortunes had reduced him to the necessity of cultivating a garden, for a small stipend, in the suburbs of the city.
3. While Abdolonymus was busily employed in weeding his garden, the two friends of Hephestion, bearing in their hands the ensigns of royalty, approached him, and saluted him king. They informed him that Alexander had appointed him to that office; and required him immediately to exchange his rustick garb, and utensils of husbandry, for the regal robe and sceptre. At the same time, they admonished him, when he should be seated on the throne, and have a nation in his power, not to forget the humble oondition from which he had been raised.
4. All this, at the first, appeared to Abdolonymus as an illusion of the fancy, or an insult offered to his poverty. He requested them not to trouble him farther with their impertinent jests; and to find some other way of amusing themselves, which might leave him in the peaceable enjoyment of his obscure habitation. At length, however, they convinced him, that they were serious in their proposal; and prevailed upon him to accept the regal office, and accompany them to the palace.
5. No sooner was he in possession of the government, than pride and envy created him enemies; who whispered their murmurs in every place, till at last they reached the ear of Alexander. He commanded the new-elected prince to be sent for; and inquired of him, with what temper of mind he had borne his poverty. “ Would to Heaven,” replied Abdolonymus, “that I may be able to bear my crown with equal moderation : for when I possessed little, I wanted nothing: these hands supplied me with whatever 1 desired.” From this answer, Alexander formed so high an idea of his wisdom, that he confirmed the choice which had been made ; and annexed a neighbouring province to the government of Sidon.
QUINTUS CURTIUS. SECTION XXIV. The Speech of FABRICIUS, a Roman ambassador, to king Pyrr. hus, who aitempted to bribe him to his interests, by the offer of a great sum of money.
1. With regard to my poverty, the king has, indeed, been justly informed. My whole estate consists in a house of but inean apa pearance, and a little spot of ground; from which, by my own làbour, I draw my support. But if, by any means, thou hast beer persuaded to think that this poverty renders me of less consequence in my own country, or in any degree unhappy, thou art greatly deceived.
2. I have no reason to complain of fortune : she supplies me with all that nature requires ; and if I am without superfluities, I am also free from the desire of them. With these, I confess I should be more able to succour the necessitous, the only advantage for which the wealthy are to be envied; but small as my possessions are, I can still contribute something to the support of the state, and the assistance of my friends.
3. With respect to honours, my country places me, poor as I am, upon a level with the richest: for Rome knows no qualifications for creat employments, but virtue and ability. She appointe me to officiate in the most august ceremonies of religion; she intrusts me with the command of her armies; she confides to my care the most important negotiations. My poverty does not lessen the weight and influence of my counsels in the senate.
4. The Roman people honour me for that very poverty, which king Pyrrhus considers as a disgrace. They know the many opportunities I have had to enrich myself, without censure; they are convinced of my disinterested zeal for their prosperity: and if I have any thing to complain of, in the return they make me, it is only the excess of their applause. What value, then, can I put upon thy gold and silver ? What king can add any thing to my fortune? Always attentive to discharge the duties incumbent upon
me, I have a mind free from self-reproach ; and I have an honest fame.
SECTION XXV. Character of James I. king of England. 1. No prince, so little enterprising and so inoffensive, was ever so much exposed to the opposite extremes of calumny and flattery, of satire and panegyrick. And the factions which began in his time, being still continued, have made his character be as much disputed to this day, as is commonly that of princes who are our contemporaries.
2. Many virtues, however, it must be owned, he was possessed of; but not one of them pure, or free from the contagion of the neighbouring vices. His generosity bordered on profusion, his learning on pedantry, his pacifick disposition on pusillanimity, his wisdom on cunning, his friendship on light fancy and boyish fondness.
3. While he imagined that he was only maintaining his own authority, he may perhaps be suspected in some of his actions, and still more of his pretensions, to have encroached on the liberties of his people. While he endeavoured, by an exact neutrality, to acquire the good will of all his neighbours, he was able to preserve fully the esteem and regard of none. His capacity was considerable, but fitter to discourse on general maxims, than to conduct any intricate business.
4. His intentions were just, but more adapted to the conduct of private life, than to the government of kingdoms. Awkward in his person, and ungainly in his manners, he was ill qualified to command respect: partial and undiscerning in his affections, he was little fitted to acquire general love. Of a feeble temper, more than of a frugal judgement; exposed to our ridicule from his vanity, but exempt from our hatred by his freedom from pride and arrogance.
5. And, upon the whole, it may be pronounced of his character, that all his qualities were sullied with weakness, and embellished by humanity. Political courage he was certainly devoid of; and
from thence chiefly is derived the strong prejudice, which pre· vails against his personal bravery: an inference, however, which must be owned, from general experience, to be extremely fallacious.
HUME. SECTION XXVI. CHARLES V. emperor of Germany, resigns his dominions, and
retires from the world. 1. Tais great emperor, in the plenitude of his power, and in possession of all the honours which can flatter the heart of man, took the extraordinary resolution, to resign his kingdoms; and to withdraw entirely from any concern in business or the affairs of this world, in order that he might spend the remainder of his days in retirement and solitude.
2. Though it requires neither deep reflection, nor extraordinary discernment, to discover that the state of royalty is not exempt from cares and disappointments; though most of those who are exalted to a throne, find solicitude, and satiety, and disgust, to be their perpetual attendants, in that envied pre-eminence; yet, to
descend voluntarily from the supreme to a subordinate station, and to relinquish the possession of power in order to attain the enjoyment of happiness, seems to be an effort too great for the human mind.
3. Several instances, indeed, occur in history, of monarchs who have quitted a throne, and have ended their days in retirement. But they were either weak princes, who took this resolution rashly, and repented of it as soon as it was taken; or unfortunate princes, from whose hands some strong rival had wrested their sceptre, and compelled them to descend with reluctance into a private station.
4. Dioclesian is, perhaps, the only prince capable of holding the reins of government, who ever resigned them from deliberate choice; and who continued, during many years, to enjoy the tranquillity of retirement, without fetching one penitent sigh, or casting back one look of desire, towards the power or dignity which he had abandoned. .
5. No wonder, then, that Charles's resignation should fill all Europe with astonishment; and give rise, both among his contemporaries, and among the historians of that period, to various conjectures concerning the motives which determined a prince, whose ruling passion had been uniformly the love of power, at the age of fifty-six, when objects of ambition operate with full force on the mind, and are pursued with the greatest ardour, to take a resolution so singular and unexpected.
6. The emperor, in pursuance of his determination, having assembled the states of the Low Countries at Brussels, seated himself, for the last time, in the chair of state ; on one side of which was placed his son, and on the other, his sister the queen of Hungary, regent of the Netherlands, with a splendid retinue of the grandees of Spain and princes of the empire standing behind him.
7. The president of the council of Flanders, by his command, explained, in a few words, his intention in calling this extraor: dinary meeting of the states. He then read the instrument of resignation, by which Charles surrendered to his son Philip all his territories, jurisdiction, and authority in the Low Countries; absolving his subjects there from their oath of allegiance to him, which he required them to transfer to Philip his lawful heir; and to serve him with the same loyalty and zeal that they had manifested, during so long a course of years, in support of his government.
8. Charles then rose from his seat, and leaning on the shoulder of the prince of Orange, because he was unable to stand without support, he addressed himself to the audience; and, from a paper which he held in his hand, in order to assist his memory, he recounted, with dignity, but without ostentation, all the great things which he had undertaken and performed, since the commencement of his administration.
9. He observed, that from the seventeenth year of his age, he had dedicated all his thoughts and attention to publick objects, reserving no portion of his time for the indulgence of his ease, and very little for the enjoyment of private pleasure ; that either in a pacifickor hostile manner, he had visited Germany nine times, Spain six times, France four times, Italy seven times, the Low Countries