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parts of the world where wisdom and knowledge flourish; though, it must be confessed, there are, even in these parts, several poor uninstructed persons, who are but little above the inhabitants of those nations of which I have been here speaking; as those who have had the advantages of a more liberal education, rise above one another by several different degrees of perfection.
7. For, to return to our statue in the block of marble, we see it sometimes only begun to be chipped, sometimes rough hewn, and but just sketched into a human figure ; sometimes, we see the man appearing distinctly in all his limbs and features; sometimes, we find the figure wrought up to great elegancy; but seldom meet with any to which the hand of a Phidias or a Praxiteles could not give several nice touches and finishings. ADDISON.
On Gratitude. 1. THERE is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind, than gratitude. It is accompanied with so great inward satisfaction, that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance. It is not, like the practice of many other virtues, difficult and painful, but attended with so much pleasure, that were there no positive command which enjoined it, nor any recompense laid up for it hereafter, a generous mind would indulge in it, for the natural gratification which it affords.
2. If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker? The Supreme Being does not only confer upon us those bounties which proceed more immediately from his hand, but even those benefits which are conveyed to us by others. Every blessing we enjoy, by what means soever it may be derived upon us, is the gift of Him who is the great Author of good, and the Father of mercies.
3. If gratitude, when exerted towards one another, naturally produces a very pleasing sensation in the mind of a grateful man, it exalts the soul into rapture, when it is employed on this great object of gratitude ; on this beneficent Being, who has given us every thing we already possess, and from whom we expect every thing we yet hope for.
ADDISON. SECTION III.
On Forgiveness. 1. The most plain and natural sentiments of equity concur with divine authority, to enforce the duty of forgiveness. Let him who has never in his life done wrong, be allowed the privilege of remaining inexorable. But let such as are conscious of frailties and crimes, consider forgiveness as a debt which they owe to others. Common failings are the strongest lesson of mutual forbearance. Were this virtue unknown among men, order and comfort, peace and repose, would be strangers to human life.
2. Injuries retaliated according to the exorbitant measure which passion prescribes, would excite resentment in return. The injured person would become the injurer; and thus wrongs, retalia tions, and fresh injuries, would circulate in endless succession, till the world was rendered a field of blood.
3. Of all the passions which invade the human breast, revenge is, the most direful. When allowed to reign with full dominion, it id,
more than sufficient to poison the few pleasures which remain to man in his present state. How much soever a person may suffer from injustice, he is always in hazard of suffering more from the prosecution of revenge. The violence of an enemy cannot inflict what is equal to the torment he creates to himself, by means of the fierce and desperate passions which he allows to rage in his soul.
4. Those evil spirits who inhabit the regions of misery, are represented as delighting in revenge and cruelty. But all that is great and good in the universe, is on the side of clemency and mercy. The almighty Ruler of the world, though for ages offended by the unrighteousness, and insulted by the impiety of men, is " long-suffering and slow to anger.”
. 5. His Son, when he appeared in our nature, exhibited, both in his life and his death, the most illustrious example of forgiveness which the world ever beheld. If we look into the history of mankind, we shall find that, in every age, they who have been respected as worthy, or admired as great, have been distinguished for this virtue.
6. Revenge dwells in little minds. A noble and magnanimous spirit is always superiour to it. It suffers not from the injuries of men those severe shocks which others feel. Collected within itself, it stands unmoved by their impotent assaults; and with generous pity, rather than with anger, looks down on their unworthy conduct. It has been truly said, that the greatest man on earth can no sooner commit an injury, than a good man can make himself greater, by forgiving it.
BLAIR. SECTION IV. Motives to the practice of gentleness. 1. To promote the virtue of gentleness, we ought to view our character with an impartial eye ; and to learn, from our own fail. ings, to give that indulgence which in our turn we claim. It is pride which fills the world with so much harshness and severity. In the fulness of self-estimation, we forget what we are. We claim attentions to which we are not entitled. We are rigorous to offences, as if we had never offended; unfeeling to distress, as if we knew not what it was to suffer. From those airy regions of pride and folly, let us descend to our proper level.
2. Let us survey the natural equality on which Providence has placed man with man, and reflect on the infirmities common to all. If the reflection on natural equality and mutual offences, be insufficient to prompt humanity, let us at least remember what we are in the sight of our Creator. Have we none of that forbearance to give one another, which we all so earnestly entreat from heaven? Can we look for clemency or gentleness from our Judge, when we are so backward to show it to our own brethren?
3. Let us also accustom ourselves, to reflect on the small moment of those things, which are the usual incentives to violence and contention. In the ruffled and angry hour, we view every appearance through a false medium. The most inconsiderable point of interest, or honour, swells into a momentous object; and the slightest attack seems to threaten immediate ruin.
4. But after passion or pride has subsided, we look around in vain for the mighty mischiefs.we dreaded. The fabrick, which our disturbed imagination had reared, totally disappears. But though the cause of contention has dwindled away, its consequences re. main. We have alienated a friend; we have imbittered an enemy; we have sown the seeds of future suspicion, malevolence, or disgust.
5. Let us suspend our violence for a moment, when causes of discord occur. 'Let us anticipate that period of coolness, which of itself, will soon arrive. Let us reflect how little we have any prospect of gaining by fierce contention; but how much of the true happiness of life we are certain of throwing away. Easily, and from the smallest chink, the bitter waters of strife are let forth; but their course cannot be foreseen; and he seldom fails of suffering most from their poisonous effect, who first allowed them to flow.
BLAIR. SECTION V. A suspicious temper the source of misery to its possessor. 1. As a suspicious spirit is the source of many crimes and calamities in the world, so it is the spring of certain misery to the person who indulges it. His friends will be few; and small will be his comfort in those whom he possesses. Believing others to be his enemies, he will of course make them such. Let his caution be ever so great, the asperity of his thoughts will often break out in his behaviour ; and in return for suspecting and hating, he will incur suspicion and hatred.
2. Besides the external evils which he draws upon himself, arising from alienated friendship, broken confidence, and open enmity, the suspicious temper itself is one of the worst evils which any man can suffer. If" in all fear there is torment,” how migerable must be his state, who, by living in perpetual jealousy, lives in perpetual dread!
3. Looking upon himself to be surrounded with spies, enemies, and designing men, he is a stranger to reliance and trust. Hé knows not to whom to open himself. He dresses his countenance in forced smiles, while his heart throbs within from apprehensions of secret treachery. Hence fretfulness and ill-humour, disgust at the world, and all the painful sensations of an irritated and imbittered mind.
4. So numerous and great are the evils arising from a suspicious disposition, that, of the two extremes, it is more eligible to expose ourselves to occasional disadvantage from thinking too well of others, than to suffer continual misery by thinking always ill of them. It is better to be sometimes imposed upon, than never to trust. Safety is purchased at too dear a rate, when, in order to secure it, we are obliged to be always clad in armour, and to live in perpetual hostility with our fellows.
5. This is, for the sake of living, to deprive ourselves of the comfort of life. The man of candour enjoys his situation, what. ever it is, with cheerfulness and peace. Prudence directs his intercourse with the world; but no black suspicions haunt his hours of rest. Accustomed to view the characters of his neighbours in the most favourable light, he is like one who dwells amidst those beautiful scenes of nature, on which the eye rests with pleasure.
6. Whereas the suspicious man, having his imagination filled with all the shocking forms of human falsehood, deceit, and treachery, resembles the traveller in the wilderness, who discerns no objects around him but such as are either dreary or terrible; caverns that open, serpents that hiss, and beasts of prey that howl.
BLAIR SECTION VI.
Comforts of religion. 1. THERE are many who have passed the age of youth and beauty; who have resigned the pleasures of that smiling season; who begin to decline into the vale of years, impaired in their health, depressed in their fortunes, stript of their friends, their children, and perhaps still more tender connexions. What resource can this world afford them? It presents a dark and dreary waste, through which there does not issue a single ray of comfort.
2. Every delusive prospect of ambition is now at an end; long experience of mankind, an experience very different from what the open and generous soul of youth had fondly dreamt of, has rendered the heart almost inaccessible to new friendships. The principal sources of activity are taken away, when they for whom we labour are cut off from us; they who animated, and who sweetened all the toils of life.
3. Where then can the soul find refuge, but in the bosom of Religion? There she is adınitted to those prospects of Providence and futurity, which alone can warm and fill the heart. I speak here of such as retain the feelings of humanity; whom misfortunes have softened, and perhaps rendered more delicately sensible ; not of such as possess that stupid insensibility, which some are pleased to dignify with the name of Philosophy.
4. It might therefore be expected, that those philosophers, who think they stand in no need themselves of the assistance of religion to support their virtue, and who never feel the want of its consolations, would yet have the humanity to consider the very different situation of the rest of mankind ; and not endeavour to deprive them of what habit, at least, if they will not allow it to be nature, has made necessary to their morals, and to their happiness.
5. It might be expected, that humanity would prevent them from breaking into the last retreat of the unfortunate, who can no · longer be objects of their envy or resentment; and tearing from them their only remaining comfort. The attempt to ridicule religion, may be agreeable to some, by relieving them from restraint upon their pleasures; and may render others very miserable, by making them doubt those truths, in which they were most deeply interested; but it can convey real good and happiness to no one individual.
GREGORY. SECTION VII. Diffidence of our abilities, a mark of wisdoin. 1. It is a sure indication of good sense, to be diffident of it. We then, and not till then, are growing wise, when we begin to discern how weak and unwise we are. An absolute perfection of understanding, is impossible : he makes the nearest approaches to it, who has the sense to discern, and the humility to acknowledge, its imperfections.
2. Modesty always sits gracefully upon youth; it covers a multitude of faults, and doubles the lustre of every virtue which it seems to hide : the perfections of men being like those flowers
which appear more beautiful, when their leaves are a little contracted and folded up, than when they are full blown, and display themselves, without any reserve, to the view.
3. We are some of us very fond of knowledge, and apt to value ourselves upon any proficiency in the sciences : one science, however, there is, worth more than all the rest, and that is, the science of living well ; which shall remain, when “ tongues shall cease, and “knowledge shall vanish away.”
4. As to new notions, and new doctrines, of which this age is very fruitful, the time will come, when we shall have no pleasure in them: nay, the time shall come, when they shall be exploded, and would have been forgotten, if they had not been preserved in those excellent books, which contain a confutation of them; like insects preserved for ages in amber, which otherwise would soon have returned to the common mass of things.
5. But a firm belief of Christianity, and a practice suitable to it, will support and invigorate the mind to the last; and most of all, at last, at that important hour, which must decide our hopes and apprehensions: and the wisdom, which, like our Saviour, cometh from above, will through his merits, bring us thither. All our other studies and pursuits, however different, ought to be subservient to, and centre in this grand point, the pursuit of eternal happiness, by being good in ourselves, and useful to the world.
SEED. SECTION VIII. On the importance of order in the distribution of our time. 1. TIME we ought to consider as a sacred trust coinmitted to us by God; of which we are now the depositaries, and are to render an account at the last. That portion of it which he has allotted to us, is intended partly for the concerns of this world, partly for those of the next.
2. Let each of these occupy, in the distribution of our time, that space which properly belongs to it. Let not the hours of hospitality and pleasure interfere with the discharge of our necessary affairs ; and let not what we call necessary affairs, encroach upon the time which is due to devotion. To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven. If we delay till to-morrow what ought to be done to-day, we overcharge the morrow with a burden which belongs noť to it. We load the wheels of time, and prevent them from carrying us along smoothly.
3. He who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows out that plan, carries on a thread which will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life. The orderly arrangement of his time is like a ray of light, which darts itself through all his affairs. But, where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidents, all things lie huddled together in one chaos, which admits neither of distribution nor review.
4. The first requisite for introducing order into the management of time, is to be impressed with a just sense of its value. Let us consider well how much depends upon it, and how fast it flies away. The bulk of men are in nothing more capricious and inconsistent, than in their appreciation of time. When they think of it,