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There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind, than gratitude. It is accompanied with so great inward satisfaction, that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance. It is not like the practice of many other virtues, difficult and painful, but attended with so much pleasure, that were there no positive command which enjoined it, nor any recompense laid up for it hereafter, a generous mind would indulge in it, for the natural gratification which it affords.
If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker!--The Supreme Being does not only confer upon us those bounties which proceed more immediately from his hand, but even those benefits which are conveyed to us by others. Every blessing we enjoy, by what means soever it may be derived
upon us, is the gift of Him who is the great Author of good, and the Father of mercies.
If gratitude, when exerted towards one another, naturally produces a very pleasing sensation in the mind of a grateful man, it exalts the soul into rapture, when it is employed on this great object of gratitude ; on this beneficent Being, who has given us every thing we already possess, and from whom we expect every thing we yet hope for.
The most plain and natural sentiments of equity concur with divine authority, to enforce the duty of forgiveness. Let him who has never in his life done wrong, be allowed the privilege of remaining inexorable. But let such as are conscious of frailties and crimes, consider forgiveness as a debt which they owe 10 others. Common failings are the strongest lesson of mutual forbearance. Were this virtue unknown among men, order and comfort, peace and repose, would be strangers to human life. Injuries retaliated according to the exorbitant measure which passion prescribes, would excite resentment in return. The injured person would become the injurer ; and thus wrongs, retaliations, and fresh injuries, would circulate in endless succession, till the world was rendered a field of blood. Of all the passions which invade the human breast, revenge is the most direful. When al. lowed to reign with full dominion, it is more than suficient to poison the few pleasures which remain to man in his present state.
How much soever a person may suffer from injustice, he is always in hazard of suffering more from the prosecution of revenge. The violence of an enemy cannot inflict what is equal to the torment he creates to himself, by means of the fierce and desperate passions which he aliows to rage in his soul.
Those evil spirits who inhabit the regions of misery, are represented as delighting in revenge and cruelty. But all that is great and good in the universe, is on the side of clemency and mercy. The almighty Ruler of the world, though for ages offended by the unrighteousness, and insulted by the impiety of men, is “longsuffering and slow to anger." His Son, when he appeared in our nature, exhibited, both in his life and his death, the most illustrious example of forgiveness which the world ever beheid. If we look into the history of mankind, we shall find that, in every age, they who have been respected as worthy, or admired as great, have been distinguished for this virtue. Revenge dwells in little minds. A noble and magnanimous spirit is always superior to it. This spirit suffers not from the injuries of men those severe shocks which others feel.
Collected within itself, it stands unmoved by their im. potent assaults ; and with generous pity, rather than with anger, looks down on their unworthy conduct. It has been truly said, that the greatest man on earth can no sooner commit an injury, than a good man can make himself greater, by forgiving it.
Motives to the practice of gentleness.
To promote the virtue of gentleness, we ought to view our character with an impartial eye; and to icara from our own failings, to give that indulgence, which in our turn we claim. It is pride which fills the world with so much harshness and severity. In the fulness of self-estimation, we forget what we are. We claim attentions to which we are not entitled. w are rigorous to offences, as if we had never offended unfeeling to distress, as if we knew not what it was to suffer. From those airy regions of pride and folly, let us descend to our proper level. Let us survey the natural equality on which Providence has placed man with man, and reflect on the infirmities common to all. If the reflection on natural equality and mua tual offences, be insufficient to prompt humanity, let us at least remember what we are in the sight of our Creator. Have we none of that forbearance to give one another, which we all so earnestly intreat from Heaven? Can we look for clemency or gentleness from our Judge, when we are so backward to show it to our own brother?
Let us also accustom ourselves, to reflect on the small moment of those things, which are the usual incentives to violence and contention. In the ruffled and angry hour, we view every appearance through a false medium. The most inconsiderable point of interest, or honour, swells into a momentous object; and
the slightest attack seems to threaten immediate ruin. But after passion or pride has subsided, we look around in vain for the mighty mischiefs we dreaded. The fabric which our disturbed imagination had reared, totally disappears. But though the cause of contention has dwindled away, its consequences remain. We have alienated a friend ; we have imbittered an enemy; we have sown the seeds of future suspicion, malevolence, or disgust.-Let us suspend our violence for a moment, when causes of discord occur. anticipate that period of coolness, which, of itself, will soon arrive. Let us reflect how little we have any prospect of gaining by fierce contention ; but how much of the true happiness of life we are certain of throwing away. Easily, and from the smallest chink, the bitter waters of strife are let forth ; but their course cannot be foreseen ; and he seldom fails of suffering most from their poisonous effect, who first allowed them to flow.
A suspicious temper the source of misery to its possessor,
As a suspicious spirit is the source of many crimes and calamities in the world, so it is the spring of certain misery to the person who indulgesit. His friends will be few ; and small will be his comfort in those whom he possesses. Believing others to be his enemies, he will of course make them such. Let his cau. tion be ever so great, the asperity of his thoughts will often break out in his behaviour ; and in return for pecting and haring, he will incur suspicion and hatted. Besides the external evils which he draws upon himself, arising from alienated friendship, broken confidence, and open enmity, the suspicious temper itself is one of the worst evils which any man can suffer. If, in all, feet there is torment,” hów miserable must be his state
who by living in perpetual jealousy, lives in perpetual dread! Looking upon himself to be surrounded with spies, enemies, and designing men, he is a stranger to reliance and trust. He knows not to whom to open himself. He dresses his countenance in forced smiles, while his heart throbs within from apprehensions of secret treachery. Hence fretfulness and ill-humour, disgust at the world, and all the painful sensations of an ir. ritated and imbittered mind.
So numerous and great are the evils arising from a suspicious disposition, that of the two extremes, it is more eligible to expose ourselves to occasional disadvantage from thinking too well of others, than to suffer continual misery by thinking always ill of them. It is better to be sometimes imposed upon, than never to trust. Safety is purchased at too dear a rate, when, in order to secure it, we are obliged to be always clad in armour, and to live in perpetual hostility with our fel. lows. This is, for the sake of living, to deprive ourselves of the comfort of life. The man of candour enjoys his situation, whatever it is, with cheerfulness and peace. Prudence directs his intercourse with the world; but no black suspicions haunt his hours of rest. Accustomed to view the characters of his neighbours in the most favourable light, he is like one who dwells amidst those beautiful scenes of nature, on which the eye rests with pleasure. Whereas the suspicious man, having his imagination filled with all the shocking forms of human falsehood, deceit, and treachery, resembles the traveller in the wilderness, who discerns no objects around him but such as are either dreary or terrible; caverns that open, serpents that hiss, and beasts of prey that howl.