Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

humour, and fing every member of it into the vapours. If therefore we would be happy in ourselves, and are desirous of communicating that happiness to all about us, these minutia of conversation ought to be attended to. The brightness of the sky, the lengthening of the days, the increasing verdure of the spring, the arrival of any little piece of good news, or whatever carries with it the most distant glimpse of joy, shall frequently be the parent of a social and happy conversation. Good manners exact from us this regard to our company. The clown may repine at the sunshine that ripens his harvest, because his turnips are burnt up by it; but the man of refinement will extract pleasure from the thunder-storm to which he is exposed, by remarking on the plenty and refreshment which may be expected from such a shower.

“ Thus does good manners, as well as good-sense, direct us to look at every object on the bright side; and by thus acting, we cherish and improve both the one and the other. By this practice it is that Melissa is become the wisest and the best bred woman living; and by this practice may every man and woman arrive at that easy benevolence of temper, which the world calls Good-nature, and the scripture Charity, whose natural and never-failing fruit is happiness.”

At the same time that I am a firm advocate for piety and virtue, I am an enemy to unnecessary austerity: there is a line to be drawn between lawful and unlawful amusements and recreations. Indiscriminate censure of them, under all their forms and in every degree, is alike inconsistent with reason and unsupported by religion. Innocent pleasures and harmless diversions, in moderate proportion, are sanctioned by both. Then only do they consider amusements as sinful, when their nature and tendency are such as to awaken improper associations in the mind; or, when their repetition is so frequent, as to interfere with more rational and necessary pursuits, with the useful business of life, and the essential services of religion. Man, necessarily subjected to much evil, both physical and moral, requires, and is intended by his Creator, to be solaced with occasional relaxation. The bountiful and good God who made him, is pleased to see him cheerful and happy ; to behold him applying the means of felicity which He has prepared for him, with a grateful and a joyful heart. But then it is to be recollected, that all the streams of comfort and delight temples, to enjoy a delightful prospect, she observes to you, that there is too much wood, or too little water; that the day is too sunny, or too gloomy; that it is sultry or windy; and finishes with a long harangue upon the wretchedness of our climate. When you return with her to the company, in hopes of a little cheerful conversation, she casts a gloom over all, by giving you the history of her own bad health, or of some melancholy accident that has befallen one of her daughter's children. Thus she insensibly sinks her own spirits, and the spirits of all around her, and at last discovers, she knows not why, that her frieuds are grave.

Melissa is the reverse of all this. By constantly habituating herself to look only on the bright side of objects, she preserves a perpetual cheerfulness in herself, which, by a kind of happy contagion, she communicates to all about her. If any misfortune has befallen her, she considers it might have been worse, and is thankful to providence for an escape. She rejoices in solitude, as it gives her an opportunity of knowing herself; and in society, because she can communicate the happiness she enjoys. She opposes every man's virtues to his failings, and can find out something to cherish and applaud in the very worst of her acquintance. She opens every book with a desire to be entertained or instructed, and therefore seldom misses what she looks for. Walk with her, though it be but on a heath or a common, and she will discover numberless beauties unobserved before, in the hills, the dales, the broom, the brake, and the variegated flowers of weeds and poppies. She enjoys every change of weather and of season, as bringing with it something of health or convenience. In conversation it is a rule with her never to start a subject that leads to any thing gloomy or disagreeable; you therefore never hear her repeating her own grievances, or those of ber neighbours, or, what is worst of all, their faults and imperfections. If any thing of the latter kind be mentioned in her hearing, she has the address to turn it into entertainment, by changing the most odious failing into a pleasing raillery. Thus Melissa, like the bee, gathers honey from every weed; while Arachne, like the spider, sucks poison from the fairest Aowers. The consequence is, that of two témpers, once very nearly allied, the one is for ever sour and dissatisfied, the other always gay and cheerful; the one spreads an universal gloom, the other a continual sunshine.

“There is nothing more worthy of our attention than this art of happiness. In conversation, as well as life, happiness very often depends on the slightest incidents. The taking notice of the badness of the weather, a north wind, the approach of winter, or any trifling circumstance of the disagreeable kind, shall insensibly rob a whole company of its goodhumour, and fling every member of it into the vapours. If therefore we would be happy in ourselves, and are desirous of communicating that happiness to all about us, these minutiæ of conversation ought to be attended to. The brightness of the sky, the lengthening of the days, the increasing verdure of the spring, the arrival of any little piece of good news, or whatever carries with it the most distant glimpse of joy, shall frequently be the parent of a social and happy conversation. Good manners exact, from us this regard to our company. The clown may repine at the sunshine that ripens his harvest, because his turnips are burnt up by it; but the man of refinement will extract pleasure from the thunder-storm to which he is exposed, by remarking on the plenty and refreshment which may be expected from such a shower.

Thus does good manners, as well as good-sense, direct us to look at every object on the bright side ; and by thus acting, we cherish and improve both the one and the other. By this practice it is that Melissa is become the wisest and the best bred woman living; and by this practice may every man and woman arrive at that easy benevolence of temper, which the world calls Good-nature, and the scripture Charity, whose natural and never-failing fruit is happiness.”

At the same time that I am a firm advocate for piety and virtue, I am an enemy to unnecessary austerity: there is a line to be drawn between lawful and unlawful amusements and recreations. Indiscriminate censure of them, under all their forms and in

every degree, is alike inconsistent with reason and unsupported by religion. Innocent pleasures and harmless diversions, in moderate proportion, are sanctioned by both. Then only do they consider amusements as sinful, when their nature and tendency are such as to awaken improper associations in the mind; or, when their repetition is so frequent, as to interfere with more rational and necessary pursuits, with the useful business of life, and the essential services of religion. Man, necessarily subjected to much evil, both physical and moral, requires, and is intended by his Creator, to be solaced with occasional relaxation. The bountiful and good God who made him, is pleased to see bim cheerful and happy ; to behold him applying the means of felicity which He has prepared for him, with a grateful and a joyful heart. But then it is to be recollected, that all the streams of comfort and delight

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

which thus spring from the Deity, must be supposed to partake, in some degree, of the nature of their original fountain, to be pure, refined, innocent, and virtuous, and consequently, that no enjoyments are sanctioned by God's approbation, which do not bear upon them the impression of his amiable characteristics. Hence it follows, as an undeniable conclusion, that all those pleasures and diversions, which, though not essentially vicious in themselves, yet operate either immediately or indirectly as incentives to vice; which gradually wean the mind from useful, honourable, and serious pursuits; which, by little and little, extinguish its fire, deaden its energies, and destroy its elasticity; which excite a distaste for the pursuits of virtue and the offices of piety, a disgust at the composed pleasures of domestic life, and an horror at the necessary duties of solitary meditation and secret self-examination; that all these pleasures, diversions, and amusements, are neither pure nor refined, neither innocent nor virtuous; that they are unhallowed, pernicious, and dangerous to the soul, and that no intimacy can be found with them, without incurring the enmity of God.

Sorry am I, that the authoritive voice of truth compels me to confess, that if we may judge of the nature and tendency of modern amusements from the tinge which they give to the public character, we are bound to declare, that, for the most part, they deserve to be comprehended under one sweeping sentence of condemnation; since to their destructive influence must be attributed, in a great degree, that graceful frivolity and effeminacy of manners, that total want of steadiness and consideration, that general laxity or dissolution of firm, manly, and upright principles, which all perceive, which most condemn, but from whose contamination few, alas ! escape. Hence it is, that home is considered as little better than a melancholy prison, unless it be filled with crowds whom its wretched thoughtless inmates can neither love, esteem, or respect. Hence it is, that the dear delights of family intercourse, the gentle charities of private life, the

sweet emanations of conjugal attachments, are ridiculed, despised, or forgotten. Hence it is, that the votaries of pleasure perpetually rush together into public crowds, to renew a stimulus, without whose action they would be wretched, and under whose operation they still find themselves dissatisfied and forlorn, experiencing the feeling of desolation in the midst of multitudes, and suffering the pains of disappointment in the very lap of expected enjoyment. Hence it is, that in the one sex the most licentious principles and profligate habits have been generated, matured, and stamped with the sanction of fashion, adopted in almost general circulation : in the other sex, the fine delicacy, the retiring diffidence, the feminine softness, and the attractive sensibility, which address at the same time the heart and the understanding, the feelings and the judgment, are in too many instances exchanged for boldness, confidence, and masculine affectation. The mistaken female, dropping all the peculiar graces of her sex, imitates, in levity of manners and impropriety of attire, the pitiable daughters of public pollution, who “forsaking the guide of their youth, and forgetting the covenant of their God,” have fallen from their attractiveness, as well as their virtue and religion, and are at once rejected of society and condemned of Heaven.

The following excellent observations are extracted, with various alterations, from a sermon on the Necessity of Moderation in our Enjoyments, by the late Dr. Knox.

“ Hast thou found honey; eat so much as is sufficient for thee. Neither reason nor religion require thee to throw it away, or to abstain from the enjoyment. It commands thee to eat, and to eat till thou art satisfied. There have been gloomy moralists, and austere teachers in religion, who have forbidden pleasure as inconsistent with virtue. But such hibitions are often the effects, either of folly, hypocrisy, or enthusiasm. Enjoy pleasure with moderation. Happy would it be, if the united voice of reason and religion could be heard and obeyed in the eager enjoyment of pleasure and worldly prosperity. Pleasure loses its essence, when pursued beyond à certain boundary; and prosperity ceases to confer happiness,

pro

« ПредишнаНапред »