« ПредишнаНапред »
who interests himself in the injuries of his friend, and zealously defends him with perfect calmness and serenity of temper; or his, who pursues the same conduct under the influence of resentment. If anger
then is neither useful nor commendable, it is certainly the part of wisdom to suppress it entirely. We should rather confine it, you tell us, within certain bounds. But how shall we ascertain the limits, to which it may, and beyond which it ought not to pass ? When we receive a manifest injury, it seems we may resent it, provided we do it with moderation. When we suffer a worse abuse, our anger, I suppose, may rise somewhat higher. Now as the degrees of injustice are infinite, if our anger must always be proportioned to the occasion, it may possibly proceed to the utmost extravagance. Shall we set bounds to our resentment, while we are yet calm? how can we be assured, that, being once let loose, it will not carry us beyond them? or shall we give passion the reins, imagining we can resume them at pleasure, or trusting it will tire or stop itself, as soon as it has run to it's proper length ? As well might we think of giving laws to a tempest; as well might we endeavour to run mad by rule and method.
In reality, it is much easier to keep ourselves void of resentment, than to restrain it from excess, when it has gained admission; for if Reason, while her strength is yet entire, is not able to preserve her dominion, what can she do when her enemy has in part prevailed, and weakened her force? To use the illustration of an excellent author, we ca prevent the beginnings of some things, whose progress
afterward we cannot hinder: We can forbear to cast ourselves down from a precipice, but if once we have taken the fatal leap, we must descend, whether we will or no. Thus the Mind, if duly cautious, may stand firm upon the rock of tranquillity; but if she rashly forsake the summit, she can scarce recover herself, but is hurried away downward by her own passion with increasing violence.
Do not say, that we exhort you to attempt that which is impossible. Nature has put it in our power, to resist the motions of anger. We only plead inability, when we want an excuse for our own negligence. Was a passionate man to forfeit a hundred pounds, as often as he was angry, or was he sure he must die the next moment after the first sally of his passion, we should find he had a great command of his temper, whenever he could prevail upon himself to exercise a proper attention about it. And shall we not esteem it worthy of equal attention, worthy of our utmost care and pains, to obtain that immovable tranquillity of mind, without which we cannot relish either life itself, or any of it's enjoyments ?-Upon the whole then, we both may and ought, not merely to restrain, but extirpate anger. It is impatient of rule; in proportion as it prevails, it will disquiet our minds; it has nothing commendable in itself, nor will it answer any valuable purpose in life.
VIRTUE OUR HIGHEST INTEREST.
I find myself existing upon a little spot, surrounded every way by an immense unknown expansion.—Where am I? What sort of place do I inhabit? Is it exactly accommodated, in every instance, to my convenience? Is there no excess of cold, none of heat, to offend me? Am I never annoyed by animals, either of my own kind, or a different? Is every thing subservient to me, as though I had ordered all myself ?--No --nothing like it--the farthest from it possible. The world appears not then originally made for the private convenience of me alone ?- It does not.—But is it not possible so to accommodate it, by my own particular industry ?-If to accommodate man and beast, heaven and earth; if this be beyond me, it is not possible-What consequence then follows ? Or can there be any other than this—If I seek an interest of my own, detached from that of others; I seek an interest which is chimerical, and can never have existence.
How then must I determine? have I no interest at all? --- If I have not, I am a fool for staying here, 'Tis a smoky house, and the sooner out of it the better.-But why no interest:--Can I be contented with none, but one separate and detached ?—Is a social interest joined with others such an absurdity, as not to be admitted? The bee, the beaver, and
the tribes of herding animals, are enough to convince me, that the thing is, somewhere at least, possible. How then am I assured, that it is not equally true of man?-Admit it; and wbat follows?
If so, then Honour and Justice are my interest—then the whole train of Moral Virtues are my interest; without some portion of which not even thieves cap maintain society.
But farther still—I stop not here— pursue this social interest, as far as I can trace my several relations. I pass from my own stock, my own neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind; as dispersed throughout the earth.—Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce; by the general intercourse of arts and letters ; by that common nature, of which we all participate ?-Again -I must have food and clothing-Without a proper genial warmth I instantly perish-Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itself? To the distant sun, from whose beams I derive vigour? To that stupendous course and order of the infinite host of Heaven, by which the times and seasons ever uniformly pass on ?-Were this order once confounded, I could not probably survive a moment; so absolutely do I depend on this common general welfare.
What then have I to do, but to enlarge Virtue into Piety? Not only honour and justice, and what I owe to man, are my interest; but gratitude also, acquiescence, resignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great polity, and it's greater Governor, our common Parent.
But if all these moral and divine habits be my interest, I need not surely seek for a better. I have an interest compatible with the spot on which I live-I have an interest which may exist, without altering the plan of Providence, without mending or marring the general order of events.
- I can bear whatever happens with manlike magnanimity; can be contented, and fully happy in the good which I possess; and can pass through this túrbid, this fickle, fleeting period, without bewailings, or envyings, or murmurings, or complaints.
ON THE SAME SUBJECT.
All men pursue Good; and would be happy, if they knew how; not happy for minutes, and miserable for hours ; but happy; if possible, through every part of their existence Either therefore there is a good of this steady durable kind, or there is none. If none, then all good must be transient and uncertain : and if so, an object of lowest value, which can little deserve either our attention or inquiry. But if there be a better good, such a good as we are seeking ; like
every other thing it must be derived from some cause, and that cause must be either external, internal, or mixed, in as much as, except these three, there is no other possible. Now a steady, durable good cannot be derived from an external cause, by reason all derived from externals must fluctuate, as they fluctuate. By the same rule, not from a mixture of the two; because the part which is external will proportionally destroy it's essence. What then remains but the cause internal; the very cause which we have supposed, when we place the Sovereign Good in Mind--in Rectitude of Conduct?
ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
AMONG other excellent arguments for the immortality of the soul, there is one drawn from the perpetual progress of the soul to it's perfection without a possibility of ever arriva ing at it; which is a hint that I do not remember to have seen opened and improved by others who have written on this subject, though it seems to me to carry a great weight with it. How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the soul, which is capable of such immense perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eternity, shall fall away into nothing almost as soon as it is created! Are such abilities made for no purpose ? A brute arrives at a point of perfection, that he can never pass; in a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of, and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the same thing he is at present. Were a human soul thus at a stand in her accomplishments, were her faculties to be full blown, and incapable of farther enlargement, I could imagine she might fall away insensibly, and drop at once into a state of annihilation. But can we believe a thinking being, that is in a perpetual progress of improvement, and travelling on from perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad into the works of her Creator, and made a few discoveries of his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power, must perish at her first setting out, and in the very beginning of her inquiries ?
Man, considered in his present state, seems only sent into the world to propagate his kind. He provides himself with a successor, and immediately quits his post to make room for him.
He does not seem born to enjoy life, but to deliver it down to others. This is not surprising to consider in animals, which are formed for our use, and can finish their business in a short life. The silkworm, after having spun ber task, lays her eggs and dies. But in this life, man can never take in his full measure of knowledge ; nor has he time to subdue his passions, establish his soul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurried off the stage. Would an infinitely wise Being make such glorious creatures for so mean a purpose ? can he delight in the production of such abortive intelligencies, such shortlived reasonable beings ? Would he give us talents that are not to be exerted? capacities that are never to be gratified: How can we find that wisdom, which shipes through all his works, in the formation of man, without looking on this world as only a nursery for the next; and believing, that the several generations of rational creatures, which rise up and disappear in such quick succession, are only to receive their first rudiments of existence here, and afterward to be transplanted into a more friendly climate, where they may spread and flourish to all eternity?
There is not, in my opinion, a more pleasing and triumphant consideration in religion, than this of the perpetual pro