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groundless censure and reproach; disdaining all compliance with publick manners, when they are vicious and unlawful; and never ashamed of the punctual discharge of every duty towards God and man ;--this is what shows true greatness of spirit, and will force approbation even from the degenerate multitude themselves.
3. “This is the man,” (their conscience will oblige them to acknowledge,) " whom we are unable to bend to mean condescensions. We see it in vain either to flatter or to threaten him; he rests on a principle within, which we cannot shake. To this man we may, on any occasion, safely commit our cause. 'He is incapable of betraying his trust, or deserting his friend, or denying his
4. It is, accordingly, this steady inflexible virtue, this regard to principle, superiour to all custom and opinion, which peculiarly marked the characters of those in any age, who have shone with distinguished lustre; and has consecrated their memory to all posterity. It was this that obtained to ancient Enoch the most singular testimony of honour from heaven.
5. He continued to "walk with God,” when the world apostatized from him. He pleased God, and was beloved of him ; so that living among sinners, he was translated to heaven without seeing death ; " Yea, speedily was he taken away, lest wickedness should have altered his understanding, or deceit beguiled his soul."
6. When Sodom could not furnish ten righteous men to save it, Lot remained unspotted amidst the contagion. He lived like an angel among spirits of darkness; and the destroying flame was not permitted to go forth, till the good man was called a heavenly messenger, from his devoted city.
7. When “all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth,” then lived Noah, a righteous man, and a preacher of righteousness. He stood alone, and was scoffed by the profane crew. But they by the deluge were swept away; while on him, Providence conferred the immortal honour of being the restorer of a better race, and the father of a new world. Such examples as these, and such honours conferred by God on them who withstood the multitude of evil doers, should often be present to our minds.
8. Let us oppose them to the numbers of low and corrupt examples, which we behold around us ; and when we are in hazard of being swayed by such, let us fortify our virtue, by thinking of those, who in former times, shone like stars in thé midst of surrounding darkness, and are now shining in the kingdom of heaven, as the brightness of the firmament, for ever and ever.
SECTION X. The mortifications of vice greater than those of virtue. 1. Though no condition of human life is free from uneasiness, yet it must be allowed, that the uneasiness belonging to a sinful course, is far greater, than what attends a course of well-doing. If we are weary of the labours of virtue, we may be assured, that the world, whenever we try the exchange, will lay upon us a much heavier load.
2. It is the outside only, of a licentious life, which is gay and smiling. Within, it conceals toil, and trouble, and deadly sorrow. For vice poisons human happiness in the spring, by introducing disorder into the heart. Those passions which it seems to in
dulge, it only feeds with imperfect gratifications; and thereby strengthens them for preying, in the end, on their unhappy victims.
3. It is a great mistake to imagine, that the pain of self-denial is confined to virtue. He who follows the world, as much as he who follows Christ, must“ take up his cross;" and to him assuredly, it will prove a more oppressive burden. Vice allows all our passions to range uncontrolled ; and where each claims to be superiour, it is impossible to gratify all. The predominant desire can only be indulged at the expense of its rival.
4. No mortifications which virtue exacts, are more severe than those, which ambition imposes upon the love of ease, pride upor interest, and covetousness upon vanity. Self-denial, therefore, belongs, in common, to vice and virtue ; but with this remarkable difference, that the passions which virtue requires us to mortify, it tends to weaken; whereas, those which vice obliges us to deny, it, at the same time, strengthens. The one diminishes the pain of self-denial, by moderating the demand of passion; the other increases it, by rendering those demands imperious and violent.
5. What distresses that occur in the calm life of virtue, can be compared to those tortures, which remorse of conscience inflicts on the wicked; to those severe humiliations, arising from guilt combined with misfortunes, which sink them to the dust; to those violent agitations of shame and disappointment, which sometimes drive them to the most fatal extremities, and make them abhor their existence! How often, in the midst of those disastrous situations, into which their crimes have brought them, have they execrated the seductions of vice; and, with bitter regret, looked back to the day on which they first forsook the path of innocence!
On Contentment. 1. CONTENTMENT 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, and 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 following. First of all, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants; and secondly, how much more unhappy he might be than he really is.
4. First, a man should always consider how much he has moro than he wants. I am wonderfully pleased with the reply which Aristippus made to one, who condoled with him 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 on those who are under greater difficulties. All the real pleasures and conveniences 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 none can be properly called rich, who have 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, instead 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 regards such as actually lie under some pressure or misfortune. 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 ! have 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 hím, was ruffled by a person that came into the room in a passion, and threw down the table that stood before them: “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 Ham:ond, 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 besides that of Christianity, which could effectually produce in the mind of man the virtue I have been hitherto speaking of. In order to make us contented 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 befalls us is derived to us by a fatal necessity, to which superiour 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 har: mony 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 no means sufficient to relieve it. They rather givé 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 loy be.. cause his grief could not fetch 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 afilictions as he ought to do, will naturally end in the removal of them. It makes him easy here, because it can make him happy hereaf.
SECTION XII. Rank and riches afford no ground for envy.. 1. Of all the grounds of envy among men, superiority in rapk and fortune is the most general. Hence, the malignity which the poor com aly bear to the rich, as engrossing to themselves all the comforts of life. Hence, the evil eye with which persons of inferiour station 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 publick 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 the conve. niences 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 caree, which perplex those who have great affairs to manage, in
tricate plans to pursue, many enemies, perhaps, to encounter in the pursuit.
4. In the tranquillity of his small habitation, and private family, he enjoys a peace which is often unknown at courts. The gratih. cations 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 consequence, feels no want.
5. His plain meal satisfies his appetiie, with a relish probably higher than that of the rich man, who sits down to his luxurious banquet.. His sleep is more sound; his health more firm; he knows not what spleen, languor, and listlessness are. His aceustomed employments or labours are not more oppressive to him, than the labour of attendance on courts and the great, the 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 domestick society, all the gayety 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 raising any sensation of joy.
7. Let us cease, therefore, from looking up with discontent and envy to those, whom birth 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 just value to the comforts we possess, we shall find reason to rest satisfied, with a very moderate, though not an opulent and splendid, condition of fortune. Often, did we know the whole, we should be inclined to pity the state of those whom we now envy.
SECTION XIII. Patience under provocations our interest as well as 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 exactly 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, publick, private, and domestick, oce casions of irritation frequently arise. We are provoked, sometimes, by the folly and levity of those with whom we are connected; sometimes, by their indifference or neglect; by the incivility of a friend, the haughtiness of a superiour, 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. Of course, auch a man lives in a continual storm. He knows not what it is en