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4. The fairest productions of human wit, after a few perusals, like gathered flowers, wither in our hands, and lose their fragrancy: but these unfading plants of paradise become, as we are accustomed to them, still more and more beautiful; their bloom appears to be daily heightened; fresh odours are emitted, and new sweets extracted from them. He who has once tasted their excellences, will desire to taste them again; and he who tastes them oftenest, will relish them best.
5. And now, could the author flatter himself, that any one would take half the pleasure in reading his work, which he has taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of politicks, and the noise of folly. Vanity and vexation flew away for a season; care and disquietude came not near his dwelling.' He arose, fresh as the morning, to his task; the silence of the night invited him to pursue it; and he can truly say, that food and rest were not preferred before it.
6. Every psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it, and no one gave him uneasiness but the last: for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which have been spent in these meditations on the songs of Sion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass; they moved smoothly and swiftly along: for when thus engaged, he counted no time. They are gone, but they have left a relish and a fragrance upon the mind ; and the remembrance of them is sweet.
HORNE. SECTION X. Character of ALFRED, king of England. 1. The merit of this prince, both in private and publick life, may, with advantage, be set in opposition to that of any monarch or citizen, which the annals of any age, or any nation, can present to us. He seems, indeed, to be the complete model of that perfect character, which,under the denomination of a sage or wise man, the philosophers have been fond of delineating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hopes of ever seeing it reduced to practice: so happily were all his virtues tempered together; so justly were they blended : and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper bounds.
2. He knew how to conciliate the most enterprising spirit, with the coolest moderation; the most obstinate perseverance, with the easiest flexibility; the most severe justice, with the greatest lenity; the greatest rigour in command, with the greatest affability of deportment; the highest capacity and inclination for science, with the most shining talents for action.
3. Nature also, as if desirous that so bright a production of her skill should be set in the fairest light, had bestowed on him all bodily accomplishments; vigour of limbs, dignity of shape and air, and a pleasant, engaging, and open countenance. By living in that barbarous age, he was deprived of historians worthy to transmit his fame to posterity; and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more particular strokes, that we might at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, from which, as a man, it is impossible he could be entirely exempted.
- SECTION XI..
Character of QUEEN ELIZABETH. 1. THERE are few personages in history, who have been more exposed to the calumny of enemies, and the adulation of friends, than queen Elizabeth ; and yet there scarcely is any, whose reputation has been more certainly determined by the unanimous consent of posterity. The unusual length of her administration, and the strong features of her character, were able to overcome all prejudices; and, obliging her detractors to abate much of their inveč. tives, and her admirers somewhat of their panegyricks, have, at last, in spite of political factions, and what is more, of religious animosities, produced a uniformjudgement with regard to her conduct.
2. Her vigour, her constancy, her magnanimity, her penetration, vigilance, and address, are allowed to merit the highest praises; and appear not to have been surpassed by any person who ever filled a throne: a conduct less rigorous, less imperious, more sincere, more indulgent to her people, would have been requisite to form a perfect character. By the force of her mind, she controlled all her more active, and stronger qualities, and prevented them from running into excess.
3. Her heroism was exempted from all temerity; her frugality from avarice; her friendship from partiality ; her enterprise from turbulency and a vain ambition. She guarded not herself, with equal care, or equal success, from less infirmities; the rivalship of beauty, the desire of admiration, the jealousy of love, and the sallies of anger.
4. Her singular talents for government, were founded equally on her temper and on her capacity. Endowed with a great coinmand over herself, she soon obtained an uncontrolled ascendency over the people. Few sovereigns of England succeeded to the throne in more difficult circumstances; and none ever conducted the government with so uniform success and felicity. .
5. Though unacquainted with the practice of toleration, the true secret for managing religious factions, she preserved her people, by her superiour prudence, from those confusions in which theological controversy had involved all the neighbouring nations; and though her enemies were the most powerful princes of Europe, the most active, the most enterprising, theleast scrupulous, she was able, by her vigour, to make deep impressions on their state; her own greatness meanwhile remaining untouched and unimpaired.
6. The wise ministers and brave men who flourished during her reign, share the praise of her success; but, instead of lessening the applause due to her, they make great addition to it. They owed, all of them, their advancement to her choice; they were supported by her constancy; and, with all their ability, they were never able to acquire an undue ascendency over her.
7. In her family, in her court, in her kingdom, she remained equally mistress. The force of the tender passions was great over her, but the force of her mind was still superiour: and the combat whích her victory visibly cost her, serves only to display the firmness of her resolution, and the loftiness of her ambitious sentiments.
8. The fame of this princess, though it has surmounted the prejudices both of faction and of bigotry, yet lies still exposed to another prejudice, which is more durable, because more natural; and which, according to the different views in which we survey her, is capable either of exalting beyond measure, or diminishing, the lustre of her character. This prejudice is founded on the consideration of her sex."
9. When we contemplate her as a woman, we are apt to be struck with the highest admiration of her qualities and extensive capacity; but we are also apt to require some more softness of disposition, some greater lenity of temper, some of those amiable weaknesses by which her sex is distinguished. But the true method of estimating her merit, is, to lay aside all these considerations, and to consider her merely as a rational being placed in authority, and intrusted with the government of mankind. HUME.
The slavery of vice. 1. The slavery produced by vice, appears in the dependence under which it brings the sinner, to circumstances of external fortune. One of the favourite characters of liberty, is the independence it bestows. He who is truly a freeman, is above all servile compliances, and abject subjection. He is able to rest upon himself; and while he regards his superiours with proper deference, neither debases himself by cringing to them, nor is tempted to purchase their favour by dishonourable means. But the sinner has forfeited every privilege of this nature.
2. His passions and habits render him an absolute dependent on the world, and the world's favour; on the uncertain goods of fortune, and the fickle humours of men. For it is by these he subsists, and among these his happiness is sought; according as his passions determine him to pursue pleasures, riches, or preferments. Having no fund within himself whence to draw enjoyment, his only resource is in things without. His hopes and fears all hang upon the world. He partakes in all its vicissitudes; and is moved and shaken by every wind of fortune. This is to be, in the strictest sense, a slave to the world.
3. Religion and virtue, on the other hand, confer on the mind principles of noble independence. “The upright man is satisfied from himself.” He despises not the advantages of fortune, but he centres not his happiness in them. With a moderate share of them he can be contented; and contentment is felicity. Happy in his own integrity, conscious of the esteem of good men, reposing firm trust in the providence, and the promises of God, he is exempted from servile dependence on other things.
4. He can wrap himself up in a good conscience, and look forward, without terrour, to the change of the world. Let all things shift around him as they please, he believes that, by the Divine ordination, they shall be made to work together in the issue for his good: and therefore, having much to hope from God, and little to fear from the world, he can be easy in every state. One who possesses within himself such an establishment of mind, is truly free.
5. But shall I call that man free, who has nothing that is his own, no property assured ; whose very heart is not his own, but rená dered the appendage of external things, and the sport of fortune ? Is that man free, let his outward condition be ever so splendid, whom his imperious passions detain at their call, whom they send
forth at their pleasure, to drudge and toil, and to beg his only enjoyment from the casualties of the world?
6. Is he free, who must flatter and lie to compass his ends; who must bear with this man's caprice, and that man's scorn; must profess friendship where he hates, and respect, where he contemns; who is not at liberty to appear in his own colours, nor to speak his own sentiments; who dares not be honest, lest he should be poor?
7. Believe it, no chains bind so hard, no fetters are so heavy, as those which fasten the corrupted heart to this treacherous world; no dependence is more contemptible than that under which the voluptuous, the covetous, or the ambitious man, lies to the means of pleasure, gain, or power. Yet this is the boasted liberty, which vice promises, as the recompense of setting us free from the salutary restraints of virtue.
BLAIR. SECTION XIII.
The man of integrity. 1. It will not take much time to delineate the character of the man of integrity, as by its nature it is a plain one, and easily understood. lie is one, who makes it his constant rule to follow the road of duty, according as the word of God, and the voice of his conscience, point it out to him. He is not guided merely by affections, which may sometimes give the colour of virtue to a loose and unstable character.
2. The upright man is guided by a fixed principle of mind, which determines him to esteem nothing but what is honourable ; and to abhor whatever is base or unworthy, in moral conduct Hence we find him ever the same; at all times, the trusty friend, the affectionate relation, the conscientious man of business, the pious worshipper, the publick spirited citizen.
3. He assumes no borrowed appearance. He seeks no mask to cover him; for he acts no studied part; but he is indeed what he appears to be, full of truth, candour, and humanity. In all his pursuits, he knows no path, but the fair and direct one; and would much rather fail of success, than attain it by reproachful means.
4. He never shows us a smiling countenance, while he meditates evil against us in his heart. He never praises us among our friends; and then joins in traducing us among our enemies. We shall never find one part of his character at variance with another. In his manners, he is simple and unaffected; in all his proceedings, open and consistent,
BLAIR. SECTION XIV.
Gentleness. 1. I begin with distinguishing true gentleness from passive tameness of spirit, and from unlimited compliance with the man- . ners of others. That passive tameness, which submits, without opposition, to every encroachment of the violent and assuming, forins nó part of Christian duty ; but, on the contrary, is destructive of general happiness and order. That unlimited complai- , sance, which, on every occasion, falls in with the opinions and manners of others, is so far from being a virtue, that it is itself a : vice, and the parent of many vices.
2. It'overthrows all steadiness of principle ; and produces that sinful conformity with the world, which taints the whole charac. ; ter. In the present corrupted state of human manners, always to assent and to comply, is the very worst maxim we can adopt. It is impossible to support the purity and dignity of Christian morals, without opposing the world on various occasions, even though we should stand alone.
3. That gentleness therefore which belongs to rirtue, is to be carefully distinguished from the mean spirit of cowards, and the fawning assent of sycophants. It renounces no just right from fear. It gives up no important truth from tiattery. It is indeed not only consistent with a firm mind, but it necessarily requires a manly spirit, and a fixed principle, in order to give it any real value. Upon this solid ground only, the polish of gentleness can with advantage be superinduced.
4. It stands opposed, not to the most determined regard for virtue and truth, but to harshness and severity, to pride and arrogance, to violence and oppression. It is properly, that part of the great virtue of charity, which makes us unwilling to give pain to any of our brethren. Compassion prompts us to relieve their wants. Forbearance prevents us froin retaliating their injuries. Meekness restrains our angry passions ; candour, our severe judgements.
5. Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manners; and, by a constant train of humane attentions, studies to alleviate the burden of common misery. Its office, therefore, is extensive. It is not, like some other virtues, called forth only on peculiar emergencies; but it is continually in action, when we are engaged in intercourse with men. It ought to form our address, to regulate our speech, and to diffuse itself over our whole behaviour.
6. We must not, however, confound this gentle “wisdom which is from above,” with that artificial courtesy, that studied smoothness of manners, which is learned in the school of the world. Such accomplishments, the most frivolous and empty may possess. Too often they are employed by the artful, as a snare ; too often affected by the hard and unfeeling, as a cover to the baseness of their minds. We cannot, at the same time, avoid observing the homage, which, eyen in such instances, the world is constrained to pay to virtue.
9. In order to render society agreeable, it is found necessary to assume somewhat, that may at least carry its appearance. Virtue is the universal charm. Even its shadow is courted, when the substance is wanting. The imitation of its form has been reduced into an art; and, in the commerce of life, the first study of all who would either gain the esteem, or win the hearts of others, is to learn the speech, and to adopt the manners, of candour, gentleness, and humanity.
8. But that gentleness which is the characteristick of a good man, has, like every other virtue, its seat in the heart; and let me add, nothing except what flows from the heart, can render even external manners truly pleasing. For no assumed behaviour can at all times hide the real character. In that unaffected civility which springs from a gentle mind, there is a charm infinitely more powerful, than in all the studied manners of the most finished courtier.
9. True gentleness is founded on a sense of what we owe to him who made us, and to the common nature of which we all share.