« AnteriorContinuar »
SECTION V. W HAT avails the show of external liberty, to one who has W lost the government of himself?
He that cannot live well to-day, (says Martial,) will be less qualified to live well to-morrow."
Can we esteem that man prosperous, who is raised to a situation which flatters his passions, but which corrupts his principles, disorders his temper, and finally oversets his vir. tue?
What misery does the vicious man secretly endure ! Adversity ! how blunt are all the arrows of thy quiver, in comparison with those of guilt!
When we have no pleasure in goodness, we may with certainty conclude the reason to be, that our pleasure is all derived from an opposite quarter.
How strangely are the opinions of men altered, by a change in their condition!
How many have had reason to be thankful, for being disappointed in designs which they earnestly pursued, but which, If successfully accomplished, they have afterwards seen would have occasioned their ruin!
What are the actions which afford in the remembrance a rational satisfaction ? Are they the pursuits of sensual plea: zure, the riots, of jollity, or the displays of show and vanity ? No: I appeal to your hearts, my friends, if what you recollect with most pleasure, are not the innocent, the virtuous, the honourable parts of your past life.
The present employment of time should frequently be an object of thought.“ About what are we now busied? What is the ultimate scope of our present pursuits and cares? Can we justify them to ourselves? Are they likely to produce any thing that will survive the moment, and bring forth some fruit for futurity ?
Is it not strange, (says an ingenious writer,) that some persons should be so delicate as not to bear a disagreeable Picture in thi s picture in the house, and yet, by their behaviour, force eve
uencate as not to bear a disagreeable ry face they see about them, to wear the gloom of uneasi. ness and discontent ?
If we are now in health, peace and safety; without any particular or uncommon evils to afflict our condition; what more can we reasonably look for in this vain and uncertain world? How little can the greatest prosperity add to such a state? Will any future situation ever make us happy, if now, with so few causes of grief, we imagine ourselves miserable The evil lies in the state of our mind, put in our condition of
fortune; and by no alteration of circumstances is it likely to be remedied.
When the love of unwarrantable pleasures, and of vicious companions, is allowed to amuse young persons, to engross their tiine, and to stir up their passions; the day of ruin, let them take heed, and beware! the day of irrecoverable ruin begins to draw nigh. Fortune is squandered ; health is broken; friends are offended, affronted, estranged ; aged parents, perhaps, sent afflicted and mourning to the dust.
On whum does time hang so heavily, as on the sluthful and lazy? To whom are the hours so lingering ? Who are so often devoured with spleen, and obliged to fly to every expedient, which can help them to get rid of themselves? Instead of producing tranquillity, indolence produces a fretful restlessness of mind; gives rise to cravings which are never satisfied ; nourishes a sickly, effeminate delicacy, which sours and corrupts every pleasure.
SECTION VI. W E have seen the husbandman scattering his seed upon.
w the furrowed ground! It springs up, is gathered into hig barns, and crowns his labours with joy and plenty.--. Thus the man who distributes his fortune with generosity and prudence, is amply repaid by the gratitude of those). whom he obliges, by the approbation of his own mind, and by the Cavour of Heaven.
Temperance, by fortifying the mind and body, leads to happiness : intemperance, by enervating them, ends generally in misery.
Title and ancestry, render a good man more illustrious ; but an ill one, more contemptible.' Vice is infamous, though in a prince ; and virtue, honourable, though in a peasant.
An elevated genius, employed in little things, appears (to use the simile of Longinus) like the sun in his evening declination : he remits his splendour, but retains his magnitude; and pleases more, though he dazzles less.
If envious people were to ask themselves, whether they would exchange their entire situations with the persons envicd, (I mean their minds, passions, notions, as well as their persons, fortunes, and dignities, I presume the self-love, common to human nature, would generally make them prefer their own condition.
We have obliged some persons :-Very well what would we have more? Is not the consciousness of doing good, a sufficient reward ? Dy me ? srt yourselves or others, by the pursuit of plea.
sure. Consult your whole nature. Consider yourselves not only as sensitive, but as rational beings ; not only as rational, but social ; not only as social, but iminortal.
Art thou poor?-Show thyself active and industrious, peaceable and contented. Art thou wealthy ?-Show thyself beneficent and charitable, condescending and humane.
Though religion removes not all the evils of life; though it promises no continuance of undisturbed prosperity, (which indeed it were not salutary for man always to enjoy,) yet, if it mitigates the evils which necessarily belong to our state, it may justly be said to give “rest to them who labour and are heavy laden.”
What a smiling aspect does the love of parents and chil. dren, of brothers and sisters, of friends and relations, give to every surrounding object, and every returning day! With what a lustre does it gild even the small habitation, where this placid intercourse dwells! where such scenes of heartfelt satisfaction succeed uninterruptedly to one another !
How many clear marks of benevolent intention appear every where around us! What a profusion of beauty and ornament, is poured forth on the face of nature ! What a magnificent spectacle presented to the view of man! What supply contrived for his wants ! What a variety of objects get before him, to gratify his senses, to employ his understanding, to entertain his imagination, to cheer and gladden his heart!
The hope of future happiness, is a perpetual source of consolation to good men."* Under trouble, it sooths their minds; amidst temptation, it supports their virtue, and, in their dying moments, enables them to say, “O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?"
SECTION VII. A GESILAUS, king of Sparta, being asked, “ What things A he thought most proper for boys to learn," answered, “Those which they ought to practise when they come to be men.” A wiser than Agesilaus, has inculcated the same sentiment : “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
An Italian philosopher expressed in his motto, that " time was his estate." An estate indeed which will produce nothing without cultivation; but which will always abundantly repay the labours of industry, and satisfy the most extensive desires, if no part of it be suffered to lie waste by negligence, to be overrun with noxious plants, or laid out for show, rather than use.
When Aristotle was asked, “What a man could gain by
telling a falsehood,” he replied, “ Not to be credited when he speaks the truth."
'L'Estrange, in his Fables, tells us that a number of frolicsome boys were one day watching frogs, at the side of a pond ; and that, as any of them put their heads above the water, they pelted them down again with stones. One of the frogs, appealing to the humanity of the boys, made this striking observation ; “ Children, you do not consider, that though this may be sport to you, it is death to us.”
Sully, the great statesman of France, always retained at his table, in his most prosperous days, the same frugality to which he had been accustomed in early life. He was frequently reproached by the courtiers, for this siinplicity; but he used to reply to them, in the words of an ancient philosopher: “If the guests are men of sense, there is suficient for them : if they are not, I can very well dispense with their company.'
Socrates, though primarily attentive to the culture of his mind, was not negligent of his external appearance. His cleanliness resulted from those ideas of order and decency, which governed all his actions; and the care which he took
his health, from his desire to preserve his mind free and ranquil.
Eminently pleasing and honourable, was the friendship between David and Jonathan. “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan,” said the plaintive and surviving Da: vid ; “ very pleasant hast thou been to me: thy love for me was wonderful; passing the love of women."
Sir Philip Sidney, at the battle near Zutphen, was wounded by a musket ball, which broke the bone of his thigh. He was carried about a mile and a half to the camp; and being faint with the loss of blood, and probably parched with thirst through the heat of the weather, he called for drink. It was immediately brought to him: but, as he was putting the vessel to his mouth, a poor wounded soldier, who happened at that instant to be carried by him, looked up to it with wishful eyes. The gallant and generous Sidney, took the bottle from his mouth, and delivered it to the soldier, saying, “Thy necessity is yet greater than mine.”
Alexander the Great, demanded of a pirate, whom he had taken, by what right he infested the seas? "By the same right,” replied he, « that Alexander enslaves the world. But Tam called a robber, because I have only one small vessel ; and he is styled a conqueror, because he commands great fleets and armies." We too often judge of men by the splendour, and not by the merit of their actions.
Antoninus Pius, the Roman Emperor, was an amiable and good man. When any of his courtiers attempted to inflame him with a passion för military glory, he used to answer: “That he more desired the preservation of one subject, than the destruction of a thousand enemies."
Men are too often ingenious in making themselves miserable, by aggravating to their own fancy, beyond bounds, all the evils which they endure. They compare themselves with none but those whom they imagine to be more happy; and complain, that upon them alone has fallen the whole load of human sorrows. Would they look with a more impartial eye on the world, they would see themselves surrounded with sufferers; and find that they are only drinking out of that mixed cup, which providence has prepared for all.- I will restore thy daughter again to life,” said an eastern sage, to a prince who grieved immoderately for the loss of a heloved child, “provided thou art able to engrave on her tomb, the names of three persons who have never mourned.” The prince made inquiry after such persons; but found the inquiry vain, and was sileni.
SECTION VIII. TTE that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city I that is broken down, and without walls.
A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.
*Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
Pride goeth before destruction ; and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be truly wise.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Open rehuke, is better than secret love.
Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool, than of him.
He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.
He that hath pity on the poor, lendeth to the Lord ; that which he hath given, will he pay him again.
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.
He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?
I have been young, and now I am old; yet have I never seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.
( 274 )