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This artificial civility, however, when it is merely such, has several imperfections. Much of its attention is frivolous and officious; it is accompanied, in spite of every art to conceal it, with the coldness of insincerity; and it is confined to a limited number of objects. Amidst the domestic and familiar circle, the restraint of art is thrown aside, and relations and friends are laid open to the irruptions of uncorrected acrimony of temper.
But when love is without dissimulation; when complaisance appears to spring from a sincere desire to please; when the kind affections are the fountains from which it flows; however destitute of artificial grace, however defective in delicacy of language and in elegance of carriage, it is infinitely more pleasing than that which is studied and assumed.
He, therefore, whose heart is penetrated, and whose manners are pervaded by a sincere principle of love to man; who, with a comparative indifference for superfluous forms, extends his endeavours to promote the real comfort of his companions, to points beyond the prescriptions of ceremony; and who carries these attentions to his private connexions and most familiar hours; is to be regarded as no inconsiderable contributor to the sum of human happiness, however humble his fortunes may be, however limited his ability to lighten the burdens of poverty.
The mere expression of kindness, where it confers no important benefits, is infinitely soothing to all human creatures. The affability of the rich is often more gratifying to poverty than their bounty; and patronage, without gentleness, renders death more eligible than dependence. There are those who will render occasional services of a substantial nature, but who allow themselves to give pain to all around them, by the unrestrained irruption of ill humor, and the uncontrolled use of unkind language. While their actions sometimes bind up the body's wounds, their words inflict others in the heart, and deep and sore ones too, in the breast of affectionate kinsmen and friends, and frequently in the breast of them, whose outward bruises from fortune's blows, their beneficent hand is healing. Benefactors they are, ungenerous benefactors! who, while from whatever motive they adopt the helpless and the fatherless, are able, by the harshness of their habitual manner towards them, to put the dependent perpetually in mind of his dependence; who occasion a cruel contest in the ingenuous breast, between resentment aud gratitude, and put bitter bread into the mouth they profess to feed. Beneficence, in itself, however shining, thus overshaded, forfeits the character of benevolence, fails to effect happiness, and cancels the obligations of gratitude.
Let not him, who would not wish to discredit his understanding, or expose the sincerity of his virtue to suspicion, call the recommendation of courtesy beneath what is styled the dignity of the pulpit. This virtue is of the first importance, whether considered as an attribute of a character, or as an offering to society. It is a necessary, and an absolutely necessary proof of sincere charity. Where that heavenly principle is planted, it will infallibly produce the fruit. It is the natural emanation of an amiable heart. It may be called the effluvia of philanthropy; it flies off as naturally from it as fragrance from the flower, or as light from the sun.
In what I have said under this head, I have but, in other words, recommended the cultivation of radical and vital benevolence. Where that is sincere, this efflux of it will be found in the manners. I deliver an important precept, I preach the gospel of Jesus, I repeat the very language of the gospel, when I say, “Be courteous.'
Nor will this virtue appear in a less important point of view, if considered as a tribute to human happiness. If its effects are little in themselves, there is so continual a repetition of them, there is so perpetual a recurrence of the occasions which call for them, that it will be confessed, by those who attentively consider it, to produce, upon the whole, more happiness in human life, than much of that beneficence which makes a great figure in
it. Although those miniature kindnesses, humble services, and obliging attentions, in a course of which courtesy consists, when separately considered, are insignificant; yet their uniform succession and collective influences, will be found to amount to a larger sum of contribution to happiness, in the narrow sphere which they affect, than any single, occasional act of pecuniary munificence. An accumulation of particles and grains composes the mountain that lifts its head to hea
A confluence of drops makes up the multitudinous ocean. That humble current of little kindnesses, which, though but a creeping streamlet, yet incessantly flows; although it glides in silent secrecy within the domestic walls, and along the walks of private life, and makes neither appearance nor noise in the world, pours, in the end, a more copious tribute into the store of human comfort and felicity, than any sudden and transient flood of detached bounty, however ample, that may rush into it with a mighty sound.
One cause of moral pride is ignorance of ourselves, or of the degree in which we are virtuous. When we know what we ought to be, it is not so easy to ascertain exactly what we are. Character is best expressed by action; but occasions are necessary to call the character into action; and occasions, adapted to draw it out into those strong and decisive actions, which make it impossible, either for the spectator, or the possessor of it, to entertain a doubt of what it is, do not always occur. There are some who stand in such circumstances, during the whole course of their lives, as to secure them from all temptation to actions flagrantly criminal. In such a situation as this, a strict selfexamination is necessary to arrive at selfknowledge. A decidedly good man, who is thus circumstanced, may know, and indeed must know, that he is, on the whole, a good man ; though he cannot so accurately ascertain the extent and degree of his goodness. But, on the other hand, a bad man, whose actions are thus circumscribed, though equally able, by looking into his secret thoughts and feelings, to determine what he is, is generally led to presume, that, as no deep stains appear upon the surface, all is pure and white within.