« EdellinenJatka »
The mortifications of vice greater than those of virtue.
1. THOUGH no condition of human life is free from uneasiness, yet it must be allowed, that the uneasiness belonging to a sinful course, is far greater, than what attends a course of well-doing. If we are weary of the labours of virtue we may be assured, that the world, whenever we try the exchange, will lay upon us a much heavier load.
2. It is the outside only, of a licentious life, which is gay and smiling. Within, it conceals toil, and trouble, and deadly sorrow. For vice poisons human bappiness in the spring, by introducing disorder into the heart. Those passions which it seems to indulgé,« it only feeds with imperfect gratifications, and thereby strengthens them for preying, in the end, on their unhappy victims.
3. It is a great mistake to imagine, that the pain of self-denial is confined to virtue. He who follows the world, as much as he who follows Christ, must “ take up his cross;" and to him assuredly, it will prove a more oppressive burden. Vice allows all our passions to range uncontrolled ; and where each claims to be superior, it is impossible to gratify all. T'he predominant desire can only be indulged at the expense of its rival.
4. No mortifications which virtue exacts, are more seTere than those, which ambition imposes upon the love of ease, pride upon interest, and covetousness upon van. ity. Self-denial, therefore, belongs, in commun, to vice and virtue; but with this remarkable difference, that the passions which virtue requires us to mortify, it tends to weaken ; whereas, those which vice obliges us to deny, it, at the same time, strengthens. The one diminishes the pain of self-denial, by moderating the demand of passion ; the other increases it, by rendering those demands imperious and violent.
5. What distresses that occur in the calm life of virtue, can be compared to those tortures, which remorse of conscience inflicts on the wicked ; to those severe bumiliations, arising from guilt combined with misfortunes, which sink them to the dust; to those violent agitations of shame and disappointment, which sometimes drive them to the most fatal extremities, and make them abhor their existence! How often, in the midst of those disastrousd situations, into which their crimes have brought them, have they execrated the seductions of vice; and,
with bitter regret, looked back to the day on which they first forsook the path of innocence !
SECTION XI. , á Al-chy-mist, al'-ke-mist, one whoje Con-dole, kôn-ddle', to lament with
professes the science of alchymy f Ac-qui-esce, ak-kwe-do', to remain 6 Ban-ish, bån’-nish, to drive away, to satisfied exile
g Out-vie, důt-vt', to exceed, surpass • Ex-tin-guish, ék-sting'-gwish, to push Com-pli-ca-tion, kôm-ple-ka'-skon, a out, destroy
mixture d In-or-di-nate, In-er-de-náto, irregular, i Es-say, ès-sa', attempt, trial, to sto odd
On Contentment. 1. CONTENTMENT produces, in some measure, all those effects which the alchymiste usually ascribes to what he calls the philosopher's stone; and if it does not bring, riches, it does the same thing, by banishing the desire of them. If it cannot remove the disquietudes arising from a man's mind, body, or fortune, it makes him easy under them. It has indeed a kindly influence on the soul of man, in respect of every being to whom he stands related.
2. It extinguishes all murmur, repining; and ingratitude, towards that Being who has allotted him his part to act in this world. It destroys all inordinated ambition, and every tendency to corruption, with regard to the community wherein he is placed. It gives sweetness to his conversation, and a perpetual serenity to all his thoughts.
3. Among the many methods which might be made use of for acquiring this virtue, I shall mention only the two following First of all, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants; and, secondly, how much more unhappy he might be than he really is.
4. First, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants. I am wonderfully pleased with the reply which Aristippus made to one, who condolede with him upon the loss of a farm: “Why," said he, “ ! have three 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 pleasures and conveniencies of life lie in a narrow compass; but it is the humour of man
kind 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 ķind of splendid poverty; and are perpetually wanting, because, instead of acquiescings in the solid pleasures of life, they endeava our to outvies 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 ses cret satisfaction which others are always in quest of,
8. The truth is, this ridiculous chase after imaginary pleasures, 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 to sale to any one that can give him his price.
9. 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 ho 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 imagi, nary 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 provided with the means to make themselves easy ; this regards such as actually lie under some pressure or misfortune. Thesc 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, up-, on 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 hav. ing invited some of his friends to dine with him, was ruffiled by a person that came into the room in a passion, and threw down the table that stood before them: “ Ev. ery one,” says he,
" has his calamity; and he is a happý man that has no greater than this.”
13. We find an instance to the same purpose, in the lise 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 effectúally, produce in the mind of man the virtue I have been hitherto speaking of. In order to inake us contented with our condition, many of the present philosophers, tell us, that our discontent only hurts curselves, without being able to make any alteration in our circumstances; others, that whatever evils befalls us is derived to us by a fatal necessity, to which superior beings themselves are subject; while others, very grävely, tell the man who is miserable, that it is necessary that 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 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, " that I grieve." 16. On the contrary, religion bears a more tender regard to human nature. It prescribes to every miserable man the means of bettering his condition : nay, it shows
him, that bearing his afflictions as he ought to do, will naturally end in the removal of them. It makes hinz easy here, because it can make him happy hereafter.
SECTION XII. a Ma-lig-ni-ty, má-lig'-ne-tè, malice, ill to the honse will
e Ret-i-nue, rêt'-d-nů, a train of atten6 Em-bar-rass-ment, ém-bár'-rås-ment, dants perpl
Ti-tle, :l'-t), name, claim of right c List-less-ness, list-les-nes, inattention Op-u-lent, op’-pu-lint, rich, wealthy d Du-mes-tick, do měs'-tik, belonging!
Rank and riches afford no ground for envy. 1. Of all the grounds of envy among men, superiority in 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 scrutinize those 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.
3. The poor man possesses not, it is true, some of the conveniences 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 bim to their fill.