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no occasion is this more requisite for true honor, than where reJigion and morality are concerned. In times of prevailing licentiousness, to maintain unblemished virtue, and uncorrupted integrity; in a public or a private cause, to stand firm by what is fair and just, amidst discouragements and oppusition ; des• pising groundless censure and reproach ; disdaining all com: pliance with public 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 degen. crate multitude themselves. * This is the man," (their con science will oblige them to acknowledge,) “ whom we are unable to bend to mean condescensions. We see it in vain ei. ther 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 betray. ing his trust, or deserting his friend, or denying his faith."
It is, accordingly, this steady indexible virtue, this regard to principle, superior to all custom and opinion, which pecul. iarly marked the characters of those in any age, who have shone with distinguished lustre ; and was consecrated their memory to all posterity. It was this ihat obtained to ancient Enoch the most singular testimony of honour from heaven 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 wick. edness should have altered his understanding, or deceit beguied his soul.” When Sodom could not furnish ten right. eous men to save it, Lot remained unspotted amidst the contagion. He lived like an angel aniong spirits of darkness ; and the destroying Aame was not permitted to go forth, till the good man was called away by a heavenly messenger from his devoted city. When sail 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 thim. Providence conferred she immortal honour of being the restorer of a better race, and the father of a new world. Such examples as these, and such bonours conferred by God on hem who withstood the multitude of evil doers, shouid often be present to our minds 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 the midst of surrounding darkness, and are now shining in the kingdom of heayen, an the brightness of the firmament, forever and ever.
The mortifications of vice greater than those of virtue.
THOUGH no condition of human life is free from uneasiness, yet it must be allowed, that the uneasiness belonging to a sin. ful course, is far greater than wbat 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 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. Tbose passions which it seems to indulge, it only feeds with imperfect gratifications, and thereby strengtheus them for preying, in the end, on their unhappy victims.
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 iis 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 superior, it is impossible to gratify all. The predominant desire can only be indulged at the expense of its rival, No mortifications which virtue exacts, are more severe than those which ambition imposes upon tbe love of ease, pride upon interest, and covetousness upon vanity. Seif denial,there. fore, belongs, in common, to vice and virtue ; but with this remarkable difference that the passions which virtue requires us to mortify, it iends to weaken ; whereas, those which vice obliges us lo deny, it, at the same time, strengthens. The one diminishes, the pain of self denial, by moderating the de. mand ol passion ; the other increases it, by rendering those demands imperious and violent. What distresses that occur in the calm life of virtue,can be compared to those tortures which remorse of conscience inflic's on the wicked ; to those se. vere humiliations, arising from guilt combined with misfortunes, which sink them to the dust ; to those violent agita. tions 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 vire ; and, with bitter re. gret, looked back to the day on which they first forsook the path of innocence !
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 bas indeed a kindly influence on the soul of man, in respect of every being to whom he stands related. 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.
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 wants and secondly, how much more unhappy he might bw than he really is.
First, a man should always consider how much he has more 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.” On the contrary, foolish men are more apt to consider what they have lost, than what they pos. sess, and to fix their eyes upon those who are richer than themselves, rather than on those who are under greater diffi. culties. All the real pleasures and conveniencies of life lie in a narrow compass; but it is the humour of mankind to be al. ways looking forward; and straining after one who has got the start of them in wealth and honour. 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: 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 be. held, with a great deal of mirth, this silly game that is play. ing over their heads; and, by contracting their desires, they enjoy all that secret satisfaction which others are always in quest of. The truth is, this ridiculous chase after imaginary pleasures, cannot be sufficiently exposed, as it
the great source of those evile wbich generally undo a nation. Leta
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. 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 wbat 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 artificiał poverty. 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 philosophier, namely, “ That no man has so much care, as he who endeavors after the most happiness
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, wbo are sufficiently provided with the means to make themselves easy : this
regards such as actually lie under some pressure or misfortunhese may receive great alleviation from such a comparison as the happy person may make between himself and others; or between the misfortune which he suffers, and greater misfortunes which might have befallen him.
I like the story of the honest Dutchman, who, upon break. ing 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 I am got into quotations, give me leave to add the say ing of an old philosopher, who, after having invited some of his friends to dine with him, 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." We find an instance to the same purpose, in the life of doctor Ham. mond, written by Bishop Fell. As this good man was troub. led with a complication of diste npers, when he had the goui 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 distemper's on him at the same time.
I cannot conclude this essay without observing, that there flever was any system desides that of Christianity, which could effectually produce in the mind of maw the virtue I have been hitherto speaking of. In orcier to make us contented wiib our condition, many of the present phuosophers tell us, that our discontent only hurts ourselves, without being able to make any aiterarion in our circumstances ; others, that whatever evil betalls us, is derived to us by a fatal necessity'. to which superior beings tliemselves are subject. while oike
ers, very gravely, tell the man who is miserable, that it is ne. cessary he should be so. to keep up the farmony of the uni. verse, and that the scheme of Providence would be troubled and perverted, were he otherwise. These, and the like con. siderations, 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 give despair than consolation. In a word, a man might reply to one of these comforters, as Augustus did to his friend, who advised him pot to grieve for the death of a person whom he loved, because his grief could not fetch him again : “ It is for that ve. ry reason, i said the emperor, “that I grieve.”
On the contrary, religion bears a more tender regard to hu. man nature. It prescribes to every miserable man the means of bettering bis condition : nay, it shows him, that bearing biis afiictions as be ought to do, will naturally end in the remov. al of ihen. It makes him easy here, because it can make him happy hereafter.
Rank and riches afford no ground for envy.
Of all the grounds of envy among men, superiority in rank and fortune is the most general. Hence the malignity which the poor commonly bear to the rich, as engrossing to themselves all the comforts of life. Hence, the evil eye with which per. sons of inferior 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.- Alas ! my friends, all this envious disquietude, which agitates the world, arises from a deceitful figure which imposes on the public 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 fhappiness, all men come much nearer to equality than is commonly imagined; and the circumstances, which form any mater al difference of happiness among men, are not of that na. ture which renders them grounds of envy The poor man possesses not, it is true, some of the conveniences and pleas. ures of the rich; but, in return, he is free from many embarassments to which they are subject. By the simplicity and uni. formity of his lite, he is delivered from that variety of cares. wbich perplex those who have great affairs to manage, intri. cale plans to pursue, many enemies, perhaps, to encounter in the pursuit. In the tranquillity of his small habitation, and private family, he enjoys a peace which is often unknown at courts. The gratifications of nature, which are always the most satisfactory, are possessed by him to their full extent