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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 pleas ures 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 pleas ures, 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 on sale to any one that oan give him his price.
o 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 pro
vided 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 I am 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 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."
13 We find an instance to the same purpose, in the life of doctor Hammond, 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 superior 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 harmony 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 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 not to grieve for the death of a person whom he loved, because his grief could not fetch him again: “It is for that very reason," said the emperor; w that I grieve."
16 On the contrary, religion bears a more tender regar to human nature. It prescribes to every miserable mar
ans of bettering his condition: nay,
bearing his afflictions as ho ought to do, will naturally end in
U 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 persons of inferior station, scrutinizet hose 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 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 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.
3The poor man possesses not, it is true, some of the conyeniences 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 cares, which perplex those who have great affairs to manage, intricate 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 gratifications 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 appetite, with a relish proba. bly 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 accustomed 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 domestic society, all the gaiety 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.
BLAIR. SECTION XIII. Patience under provocations our interest as well as duty. T HE wide circle of human society, is diversified by an
endless variety of characters, dispositions, and pag. sions. Uniformity is, in no respect, the genius of the world. Every man is marked by some peculiarity, which distinguishes him from 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, public, private, and domestic, occasions 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 superior, 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, such a man lives in a continual storm. He knows not what it is to enjoy a train of good humour. Servants, neighbours, friends, spouse, and children, alsources of disturbance
en all, through the unrestrained violence of his' temper, become sources of vexation to him. In vain is affluence: in vain are health
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prosperity. The least trifle is sufficient to discompose his mind, and poison his pleasurcs. His very amusements are mixed with turbulence and passion.
4 I would beseech this man to consider, of what small moment the provocations which he receives, or at least imagines himself to receive, are really in themselves; but of what great moment he makes them, by suffering them to deprive him of the possession of himself. I would beseech him to consider, how many hours of happiness he throws away, which a little more patience would allow him to enjoy: and how much he puts it in the power of the most insignih. cant persons to render him miserable.
5 ? But who can expect," we hear him exclaim, “that he is to possess the insensibility of a stone? How is it possible for human nature to endure so many repeated provocations ? or to bear calmly with so unreasonable behaviour ?”—My brother! if thou canst bear with no instances of unreasonable behaviour, withdraw thyself from the world. Thou art no longer fit to live in it. Leave the intercourse of men. Retreat to the mountain, and the desert; or shut thyself up in a cell. For here, in the midst of society, offences must come.
6 We might as well expect, when we hehold a calm atmosphere, and a clear sky, that no clouds were ever to rise, and no winds to blow, as that our life were long to proceed, without receiving provocations from human frailty. The careless and the imprudent, the giddy and the fickle, the ungrateful and the interested, every where meet us. They are the briers and thorns, with which the paths of human life are beset. He only, who can hold his course among them with patience and equanimity, he who is prepared to bear what he must expect to happen, is worthy of the name of a man.
7 If we preserved ourselves composed but for a moment, we should perceive the insignificancy of most of those provocations which we magnify so highly. When a few suns more have rolled over our heads, the storm will, of itself, have subsided; the cause of our present impatience and disturbance will be utterly forgotten. Can we not, then, anticipate this hour of calmness to ourselves; and begin to en. joy the peace which it will certainly bring ?
8 If others have behaved improperly, let us leave them to their own folly, without becoinnig the victim of their ca. price, and punishing ourselves on their account.-Patience, in this exercise of it, cannot be too much studied, by all who wish their life to flow in a smooth stream. It is the reason of a man, in opposition to the passion of a child. It is the enjoyment of peace, in opposition to uproar and confusion.