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OF THE NATURE AND STATE OF MAN WITH RESPECT
TO HIMSELF AS AN INDIVIDUAL.
ARGUMENT. 1. The business of man not to pry into God, but to study
himself. His middle natare; his powers and frailties.The limits of his capacity.--2. The two principles of man, self-love, and reason, both necessary.--Self-love the stronger, and why.—Their end the same.--3. The passious, and their ase.--The predominant passion, and its force.-Its necessity, in directing men to different purposes. Its providential use, in fixing our principle, and ascertaining our virtue. Virtue and vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate aud evident: what is the office of reason.-5. How odious vice in itself, and how we deceive ourselves into it.6. That, however, the ends of Providence and general good are answered in our passions and imperfections.How usefully these are distributed to all orders of men : how usefui they are to society; and to the individuals, in every state, and every age of life.
1. Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus'd;
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science
Superior beings, when of late they saw A mortal man unfold all Nature's law, Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape, And slow'd a Newton as we show an ape.
Could He, whose rules the rapid comet bind, Describe or fix one movement of his mind? Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend, Explain his own beginning or his end? Alas! what wonder! man's superior part Uncheck'd may rise, and climb from art to art; But when his own great work is but begun, What reason weaves by passion is undone.
Trace science then, with modesty thy guide : First strip otf all her equipage of pride; Deduct what is but vanity or dress, Or learning's luxury, or idleness;
Or tricks to show the stretch of human brain,
2. Two principles in human nature reign,
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul;
Most strength the moving principle requires ; Active its task, it prompts, impels, inspires. Sedate and quiet the comparing lies, Form'd but to check, deliberate, and advise. Self-love, still stronger, as its objects nigh ; Reasons at distance, and in prospect lie : That sees immediate good by present sense; Reason the future and the consequence. Thicker than arguments temptations throng; At best more watchful this, but that more strong. The action of the stronger to suspend, Reason still use, to reason still attend. Attention habit and experience gains ; Each strengthens reason, and self-love restrains.
Let subtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight,
3. Modes of self-love the passions we may call;
In lazy apathy let stoics boast Their virtue fix'd ; 'tis fix'd as in a frost; Contracted all, retiring to the breast; But strength of mind is exercise, not rest; The rising tempest puts in act the soul, Parts it may ravage, but preserves the whole. On life's vast ocean diversely we sail, Reason the card, but passion is the gale; Nor God alone in the still calm we find, He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind.
Passions, like elements, though born to fight, Yet, mix'd and soften'd, in his work unite : These 'tis enough to temper and employ; But what composes man can man destroy
Suffice that reason keep to nature's road;
Pleasures are ever in our hands or eyes,
As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath Receives the lurking principle of death, The young disease, that must subdue at length, Grows with his growth, and strengthens with bis So, cast and mingled with his very frame, (strength: The mind's disease, its ruling passion came; Each vital humour, which should feed the whole, Soon flows to tbis, in body and in soul; Whatever warms the heart or fills the head, As the mind opens and its functions spread, Imagination plies her dangerous art, And pours it all upon the peccant part.
Nature its mother, habit is its nurse, Wit, spirit, faculties, but make it worse ; Reason itself but gives it edge and pow'r, As Heaven's blest beam turns vinegar more sonr.