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THE MISER. Attention to our own concerns can become culpable only, when they so far enslave and engross us, as to leave us neither leisure nor inclination to promote the happiness of our fellow creatures. Then does self-love degenerate into selfishness. This, indeed, is a dark and melancholy transformation of our natural character, and the last term of its abasement. When the light of benevolence is entirely put out, man is reduced to that state of existence, which is disavowed by nature, and abhorred of God! Let one suppose him, I say, but once radically divested of all generous feelings, and entirely involved in himself; it will be impossible to say, what deeds of shame and horror he will not readily commit: in the balance of his perverted judgment, honor, gratitude, friendship, religion, yea, even natural affection, will all be outweighed by interest. The maxim of the Roman satirist will be his rule of life,
money at any rate." If the plain and beaten paths of the world, diligence and frugality, will conduct him to that end, it is well: but if not, rather than fail of his object, I will be bold to say, he will plunge, without scruple or remorse, into the most serpentine labyrinths of fraud and iniquity. Whilst his schemes are unaccomplished, fretfulness and discontent will lower on his brow ; when favorable, and even most prosperous, his unslaked and unsatisfied soul still thirsts for more.
As he is insensible to the calamities of his fellow creatures, so the greatest torment he can experience, is an application to his charity and compassion. Should he stumble, like the Levite, on some spectacle of woe, he will, like the Levite, hasten to the other side of the way, resist the finest movements of nature, and cling to the demon of inhumanity, as the guardian angel of his happiness. Suppose him, however, under the accidental necessity of listening to the petition of misery; he will endeavour to beat down the evidence of the case by the meanest shifts and evasions; or will cry
aloud, as the brutal and insensible Nabal did to the hungry soldiers of David, “Why should I be such a fool, as to
give my flesh, which I have prepared for my shearers, to men that I know not from whence they be?" But, admitting that a remnant of shame may goad him for once to an act of beneficence, so mean and inconsiderable, so unworthy of the great concern would it probably be, that the idol of his soul would appear more distinctly in the very relief he administers, than in the barbarous insensibility which habitually withholds it. Merciful and eternal God! what a passion! And how much ought the power and fascination of that object to be dreaded which can turn the human heart into such a pathless and irreclaimable desert. Irreclaimable, I say; for men inflamed with any other passion, even voluptuousness, the most impure and inveterate, are sometimes enlightened and reformed by the ministry of religion, or the sober and deliberate judgment of manhood and experience. But who will say that such a wretch as I have described, in the extremity of selfishness, was ever corrected by any ordinary resource or expedient ? Who will say that he is at any time vulnerable by reproach, or, I had almost added, even convertible by grace! No; through every stage and revolution of life he remains invariably the same; or,
any difference, it is only this, that as he advances into the shade of a long evening, he clings closer and closer to to the object of his idolatry: and while every other passion lies dead and blasted in his heart, his desire for more pelf increases with renewed eagerness, and he holds by a sinking world with an agonizing grasp, till he drop into the earth with the increased curses of wretchedness on his head, without the tribute of a tear from child or parent, or any inscription on his memory; but that he lived to counteract the distributive justice of Providence, and died without hope or title to a blessed immortality.
ADVICE TO PARENTS. If our insensibility to the pressing claims of the rising generation proceed from our corruption, that cor
ruption has its chief source in the very
education have received. If the people are victims, because absolutely untutored, so are we, because the stress in our education is not laid where it ought to be. Nothing indeed is usually omitted that can fit the youth of both sexes to play a part in the world; the one to climb by their talents; the other to triumph in the wretched circles of vanity by the grace
of inanners. But a deep and indelible sense of their duty to God, a fixed horror of vice, and noble disdain of folly, where is the parent who thinks sufficiently of inspiring? But admitting that some pains are employed on this head, of what use can they be, if, from their infrequency and langour, they are considered by children rather as a debt paid to custom and routine, than a thing of serious and awful necessity ? How shall the superficial tincture of religion and virtue hold against the rising passions of youth ? No; when the season of their hurricane comes, what lies merely on the surface of the heart, will be torn up and swept away like chaff before the winds. No; if impressions penetrate not to the very bottom of the soul, are not united with our very being, never shall man resist, for any time, the power of the enemy within, or of the world without. The evidence of this is on every side of us. Besides, of what use are instructions, even assiduously and fervently conveyed, without unceasing vigilance to cut off all danger of corruption? We know, that to relax in this particular but a moment, is sometimes fatal. Remember that our Saviour scarce slumbered when the tempest arose to overwhelm the vessel that bore his disciples. Remember the counsel of the Wise Man, “Never lose sight of what you value, and are in danger of losing." Remember the fate of the unfortunate Dinah, “who went out without being accompanied.” What tears the compliance of a moment cost the afflicted Jacob, and what torrents of blood were shed to repair the injury he received. Indefatigable attention then to this point is indispensably necessary:
But who at this day, make it a rule never to admit their children
to improper intercourse? How often, on the contrary, are they permitted to pass warm from the lesson of piety and virtue into circles of pleasure and dissipation, where every thing they hear and see tends to enervate the mind and corrupt the heart? It will easily, I believe, be admitted, that the world possesses the secret of making perfect proselytes to vice without giving any direct lessons on the subject; and that many a youth may be thought a saint at home, who is known among his associates as a libertine of the
very first hope; and who secretly laughs at the imbecility of his parents, who could rely on theory, and overlook the force of example.
I cannot omit reprobating on this head the too familiar intercourse to which children are admitted with servants. For to say nothing of the coarse and grovelling habits they must consequently imbibe; nothing of those arrogant, and supercilious notions that are necessarily contracted from being flattered and fawned on; the great danger is, that as servants, in general, have not been blessed with the advantage of education, and are under no sori of restraint, but what arises merely from the dread of dismission, they will often utter language, and betray principles, that sink deep into the recollection of young minds, and naturally produce the most deplorable effects.
I would remind parents, how infinite are the qualities necessary to succeed in seducing, I may say, the understanding and the hearts of children to the knowledge and love of virtue. There should be tenderness to en. gage their affection ; bounty to attract their confidence; gravity to draw their respect; authority to hold them in submission; affability to render their dependence amiable; severity that has nothing revolting; compliance that has nothing base ; mildness that knows how to forgive; firmness that can punish and repress; wisdom that can sometimes dissemble, and seem ignorant of what it sees; deep attention to discover their ruling passions ; attention, if possible, still more deep, to naunteract them, and yet conceal the discovery ; in fine,
almost as many forms of proceeding as there are children to educate; for as every plant requires not the same kind of culture, so, what would be useful in form. ing the mind of one child, would be dangerous, or even fatal in forming that of another. But where are the parents who would know themselves in this represen. tation ? Sensible they may be of its justice, but such a tax on their time and attention, is found incompatible with their ordinary pursuits; incompatible with a life of pleasure ; of tranquility and repose. What is the consequence? Why in the little they may do to forward this great work, they fall into a thousand errors ; being directed more by humor and impatience, than by sound and serious reflection.
Some are even brutal to excess in the treatment of their children; converting an occupation in which tenderness and insinuation should take the lead, into a system of downright persecution. When called on to reprehend, they do it in words of wormwood and gall. When forced to approve, their manner is cold and discouraging. They neither do justice to the virtues, nor can forgive the weakness of youth. No entreaties can molify, no tears disarm them. Their families are the region of eternal tempests, where nothing is heard but the moans of the oppressed, and the bellow of the ty. rant. The unhappy victims may be truly said to feed on the bread of tears and wretchedness. They consider their parents as the most cruel enemies; loathe and detest their precepts; and never can be induced to consider that virtue amiable which is recommended in accents of terror, and enforced by insupportable anthority:
Hence the most ardent longing for emancipation. Hence do the youth of one sex plunge early and openly into vice, more, perhaps, from rage against their persecutors, than from natural inclination, and those of the other, often at the tenderest age, fly into the arms of the first man who offers to be their deliverer; form unequal and inglorious matches; or become victims of a far more deplorable misfortune. There may be, however, and often is, a defect in the