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with a well-wrought incident; but then she is immediately so impertinently observed by the men, and frowned at by some insensible superior of her own sex, that she is ashamed, and loses the enjoyment of the most laudable concern, pity. Thus the whole audience is afraid of letting fall a tear, and shun as a weakness the best and worthiest part of our sense.'
THERE are but few men who are not ambitious of distinguishing themselves in the nation or country where they live, and of growing considerable among those with whom they converse. There is a kind of grandeur and respect which the meanest and most insignificant part of mankind endeavoured to procure in the little circle of their friends and acquaintance. The poorest mechanic, nay, the man who lives upon common alms, gets him his set of admirers, and delights in that superiority which he enjoys over those who are in some respects beneath him. This ambition, which is natural to the soul of man, might, methinks, receive a very happy turn; and, if it were rightly directed, contribute as much to a person's advantage, as it generally does to his uneasiness and disquiet.
The truth is, honours are in this world under no regulation; true quality is neglected, virtue is oppressed, and vice triumphant. The last day will rectify this disorder,
and assign to every one a station suitable to the dignity of his character. Ranks will be then adjusted, and precedency set right.
Methinks we should have an ambition, if not to advance ourselves in another world, at least to preserve our post in it, and outshine our inferiors in virtue here, that they may not be put above us in a state which is to settle the distinction for eternity.
Men in scripture are called strangers and sojourners upon earth, and life a pilgrimage. Several heathen, as well as Christian authors, under the same kind of metaphor, have represented the world as an inn, which was only designed to furnish us with accommodations in this our passage.
It is therefore very absurd to think of setting up our rest before we come to our journey's end, and not rather to take care of the reception we shall there meet, than to fix our thoughts on the little conveniences and advantages which we enjoy one abu:e another in the
way to it.
Epictetus makes use of another kind of allusion, which is very beautiful, and wonderfully proper to incline us to be satisfied with the post in which Providence has placed
We are here, says he, as in a theatre, where every one has a part allotted to him. The great duty which lies upon a man is to act his part in perfection. We may indeed
say, that our part does not suit us, and that we could act another better. But this, says the philosopher, is not our business. All that we are concerned in is to excel in the part which is given us. If it be an improper one, the fault is not in us, but in Him who has cast
our several parts, and is the great disposer of the drama.
The part that was acted by this philosopher himself was but a very indifferent one; for he lived and died a slave. His motive to contentment in this particular, receives a very great enforcement from the above-mentioned consideration, if we remember that our parts in the other world will be new cast, and that mankind will be there ranged in different stations of superiority and pre-eminence, in proportion as they have here excelled one another in virtue, and performed in their several posts of life the duties which belong to them.
There are many beautiful passages in the little apocryphal book, intitled The Wisdom of Solomon, to set forth the vanity of honour, and the like temporal blessings which are in so great repute among men, and to comfort those who have not the possession of them. It represents in very warm and noble terms this advancement of a good man in the other world, and the great surprise which it will produce among those who are his superiors in this. "Then shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face of such as have afflicted him, and made no account of his labours. When they see it, they shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the strangeness of his salvation, so far beyond all that they looked for. And they repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit, shall say within themselves, This was he whom we had sometime in derision, and a proverb of reproach. We fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honour. How is he numbered
among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints !!
If the reader would see the description of a life that is passed away in vanity and among the shadows of pomp and greatness, he may see it very finely drawn in the same place. In the mean time, since it is necessary, in the present constitution of things, that order and distinction should be kept up in the world, we should be happy, if those who enjoy the upper stations in it would endeavour to surpass others in virtue as much as in rank, and by their humanity and condescension make their superiority easy and acceptable to those who are beneath them; and if, on the contrary, those who are in meaner posts of life would consider how they may better their condition hereafter, and, by a just deference and submission to their superiors, make them happy in those blessings with which Providence has thought fit to distinguish them.
WEDNESDAY, November 14, 1711.
* THERE is one thing I have often looked for in your papers, and have as often wondered to find myself disappointed; the rather because I think it a subject every way agreeable to your design, and, by being left unattempted by others, it seems reserved as a proper employment for you ; I mean, a Disquisition, from whence it proceeds that men of the brightest parts and most con
prehensive genius, completely furnished with talents for any province in human affairs, such as by their wise lessons of economy to others have made it evident that they have the justest notions of life, and of true sense in the conduct of it—from what unhappy contradictious cause it proceeds that persons, thus finished by nature and by art, should so often fail in the management of that which they so well understand, and want the address to make a right application of their own rules. This is certainly a prodigious inconsistency in behaviour, and makes much such a figure in morals, as a monstrous birth in naturals; with this difference only, which greatly aggravates the wonder, that it happens much more frequently : and what a blemish does it cast upon wit and learning in the general account of the world? And in how disadvantageous a light does it expose them to the busy class of mankind, that there should be so many instances of persons who have so conducted their lives in spite of these transcendent advantages, as neither to be happy in themselves, nor useful to their friends; when every body sees it was entirely in their own power to be eminent in both these characters ? For my part I think there is no reflection more astonishing than to consider one of these gentlemen spending a fair fortune, running in every body's debt without the least apprehension of a future reckoning, and at last leaving not only his own children, but possibly those of other people, by his means, in starving circumstances; while a fellow, whom no one would scarce suspect to have a human soul, shall perhaps raise a vast estate out of nothing, and be the founder of a family