Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

of factitious delicacy for food offensive to plain-fed nature ! the frightful conflict between the force of affection, and the frenzy of want!—but fruitful seasons, and shouting reapers, and hearts filled with food and gladness, are the cheerful forms with which mankind have been familiar.

We have trembled to contemplate the terrible figure of Pestilence "walking in darkness,” travelling through the air in awful invisibility, striking with an unseen hand, and strewing the street, with dead: but the accounts, that have most occupied our attention, have been of benignant constitutions in nature; of qualities in things that are calculated to recall departed health, and heal the diseases of man; of restorative temperatures of air; of kindly and genial climes; of medicinal herbs, and of physical fountains.

“A melancholy proportion of mankind have perished by the sword; or taken from its edge the worse than mortal wound; or pined in the sickness attendant on its way; or deplored the plunder and desolation it has spread over its plains; or, at a distance from the theatre of its ravages, been pierced through, by its stroke, with sorrows far sharper than its point: but the greater part of mankind have passed their days in the seat of peace, -sat under their roofs in serenity and security,---reaped their fields without any fear of the soldier's sickle or his flame,-exercised their affections in social unions,—that have felt no cut but from Nature's hand, -and resigned their breath, at last, in the quiet and domestic bed.

“ If we thus survey the checkered face of human life at large, we shall find its bright spaces more numerous than its shadows. Congratulation is more exercised than pity. The countenances that have sorrow upon them, are fewer than the faces which do not want to be wiped. And if the whole histories of individuals, whom we see in circumstances of distress, were to be laid before us, perhaps we should find few of them, in which there was not a greater number of pleasant than painful passages ;-in which there was not, upon the whole, more cheerfulness than depression; more tranquillity than trouble ; more corporal ease than suffering."

Thus pleasure dwells with man;--her smiles illume

The exile's desert, and the captive's gloom. A contented mind makes all things pleasant, or at least tolerable.

Content gives freshness to the fields of air,

With every sweet the breath of zephyr fills;
Can make our common viands dainty fare,

And yield a flavour to the fountain's rills.

Who can enumerate the agreeable ideas and sensations, which only one man has in one year,—which only one man has in the whole course of his life? Who is able to reckon up the multitude of agreeable ideas and sensations which at once exist in all the living, in every hour, in every moment? To what a sum of happiness must the whole result amount! and how often do these sensations proceed to transport! how often do they burst forth in tears of joy, in hearty mirth, in shouts of jubilation! and how often do whole years, and still longer periods of life, glide away in calm satisfaction, and freedom from complaint! Indeed, at the same time a thousand sorts of unpleasant ideas and sensations take place among mankind; the tears of pain and sorrow are flowing from a thousand eyes: but if this seem to diminish the bulk of human happiness, yet does it not remove it; it still remains not only great, but preponderatively great. Where is the man, who, in the aggregate, has had more disagreeable than agreeable ideas and sensations, that has experienced more pain than pleasure? And if there be such persons, how small is their number in comparison with those that have had the contrary to rejoice in! No! the preponderance of happiness above that of misery is great; and that as surely as there is more life than death, more health than sickness, more superfluity and satiety than hunger and want, more free and unimpeded exertion of mental and bodily powers than total inaction or painful restriction of them, more love than hatred, more hope than fear, more desire for prolongation of life than for its abbreviation, amongst mankind! No! for one dismal hour we pass in sighs, we may serenely and cheerfully live an hundred; for one tear extorted by pain, we may shed a thousand tears of generous sensibility, or of sedate and pious joys; for one misfortune that happens to us, a thousand known and unknown benefits fall to our lot.

God treats every object, every person, in such a manner as is befitting its nature and constitution, its capacities and faculties, its circumstances, wants, and connection with other things, its' end and destination, in conformity to truth. He treats, therefore, the weak, as weak; the strong, as strong; requires not from the one, what he requires from the other, and charges it not so high to the one, if he stumble and fall, as to the other. He treats the erroneous differently from him who knows the truth; of the former he demands not that reasonable worship, not that pure, liberal devotion and piety, which he demands of the latter. He takes one course with the fallen, another with him who stands firm. To the former he reaches out his hand with offers of assistance; the latter he encourages to a stedfast prosecution of his career. The good he treats as good, and the wicked as wicked, causing the former to feel the consolation of a good conscience, and sooner or later to enjoy the fruits of his works; and the latter to experience the pernicious effects of his folly, in order to strengthen and confirm the one, and, by bringing the other to his senses, lead him to amendment. He chastens and punishes the unfortunate and improvident in one way; the wicked and obstinate, in another. He differently rewards him who, in the most favourable conjunctions, has answered his obligations, and lived virtuously; and him who, experiencing the most violent opposition, amidst the strongest inducements and temptations, has nevertheless remained faithful to duty and to virtue. Thus will he, from him to whom he has given much, require much; from him to whom he has entrusted much, demand much in return; and thus reward every man according to his works. As different as are the capacities and abilities of mankind; as different their outward circumstances and their lot in life; as different their relative position, and their connection with the rest of the world; as different their particular appointment;-so different is, likewise, the manner how God beholds, judges, and treats them, how he assigns to them reward and punishment, and conducts them onward to the point of perfection.

Mankind are not so bad as some gloomy persons represent them to be. Good and evil are intermingled with all characters, more or less. In the investigation of character, we are to recollect, that the most depraved retain some remains of goodness; that temptations have, in many cases, a stronger influence on a good head, than on a bad one. The vilest have their moments of compassion: it has been known that the wicked have shed tears at distress, while good people have been unmoved. Men are not so false of heart as is generally supposed. They are inconsistent, and this gives their conduct the air of falsehood; and this inconsistency often arises from a weakness of disposition, from the want of resolution to oppose, and from the desire of being every man's friend. The vehemence with which every vice is reprobated, is no proof that the exclaimer is exempt from it: the presumption is rather against him. The most mild and moderate are generally the most free from the crime that is censured. To blush at the perception of any thing shameful, is a most excellent token. The man that is shameless, cannot be supposed to have any other restraint. The man of virtue blushes at being praised. Strong and frequent asseverations arise from a consciousness that we do not deserve to be believed. When a friend or lover expresses his affection in an extravagant and rodomontade manner, all his love sits on his tongue-his heart is as cold as death. Of this he is conscious; and it is in this manner that he seeks to repair the defect, like the scanty shopman, who exhibits all his goods at the window, to conceal the emptinecs behind. Sudden starts of conversation are to be observed; they frequently indicate what is the favourite object. Much laughter is a sign of levity; never to laugh, is no sign of virtue. A composed earnestness, occasionally tempered with innocent vivacity, is an ornament to man. A man of sense has a smile or laugh to himself: but, on the other hand, he enjoys nothing, where the multitude laugh the loudest. The fair sex are more risibly disposed than men, and they laugh much more gracefully. Sudden silence, and a downcast eye, manifest ennui. The man who looks at you with a half-concealed eye, has no friendly intentions ; but this may be the effect of modesty, in a woman.

Our judgments are rash, when from a single action, or some few actions, of a man, we conclude upon his whole moral character, which properly consists in the predominant affections of his mind,- in his ordinary habits of thought and action. The hypocrite may apparently excel others by truly brilliant virtues, without deserving the appellation of a truly good man. He may be beneficent, liberal, kind, and obliging, without being actuated by real philanthropy. He may lead a very austere life, without being continent and chaste; he may, even as the Apostle observes, become a martyr, and discover a wonderful patience, without honouring religion by a due sincerity. On the other hand, a good man may likewise have certain weaknesses adhering to him, which he is never able entirely to get rid of; he may, from imprudence, from want of intellectual vigilance, occasionally commit considerable faults; he may sometimes be overcome by temptations to sin, carried away by the force of his natural propensity or of his temperament, without being vicious, because he bitterly laments his fall, recovers himself from it without delay, and labours with double diligence, and renovated ardour, at his amendment and sanctification. Should we not then act in the highest degree unjustly, if we omitted to take into consideration his penitential remorse, his contrition, and his general integrity,--were we to class him with the hardened sinner, who has wilfully devoted himself to the service of vice, and is its wretched captive? Where is the man who would obtain mercy of his almighty Judge, were he to deal thus with his creatures?

I shall take the liberty of inserting, in this place, the following choice observations, from the Spectator, on the difference between natural and fantastical pleasures :--

" It is of great use to consider the pleasures which constitute human happiness, as they are distinguished into natural and fantastical. Natural pleasures I call those, which, not depending on the fashion and caprice of any particular age or nation, are suited to human nature in general, and were in

« ПредишнаНапред »