Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

of a whirlpool, with a heart and mind too enervated to force his way back. Perhaps he remains, however, on the extremity, and never, in his whole life time, is drawn to the fatal centre, where is utter wreck of reputation and of the whole moral frame. Perhaps he escapes the grosser vices. Perhaps no foul blot cleaves to his character, and the worst which can be said of him is, that he is a careless, imprudent, and improvident man, a mighty lover of jolly company; that he is here, and there, and every where, except at home and about his own proper

business. Lucky indeed, if he be no worse off: but lucky as he is, he must needs be a poor man ; poor in worldly circumstances, and of a character almost worthless at the best. If left with a fortune, it melts away in his improvident hands. If he begins the world without fortune, he lays up nothing for sickness and old age ; instead of which, be ever lives beyond his income, by leeching his friends, and abusing the confidence of his creditors. If he have a family, his wife mingles her scanty meal with her tears, while their children receive little from him but an example that powerfully tends to lead them astray. In short, he is exactly such as no downright honest and honourable man would choose to be. If all were like him, poverty, wretchedness and misery, would pervade the whole fabric of human society.

It needs scarcely be added, that a lover of pleasure (even one of the comparatively innocuous sort last mentioned) seldom enjoys his proportionable share of that commodity. At best, his empty pleasure is so mixt

up with vexation of spirit, that he more abundant'iy feels the one than enjoys the other. Not to mention, that an idle, useless life, however free from gross immorality, is, in the siglat of heaven, a criminal life; it

is burying the talent that ought to have been employed diligently, and to useful purposes.

We have received our earthly existence, not on conditions of our own prescribing, but on the conditions prescribed by him who made us. With respect to the present life, as well as the future one, it is to be expected that the quality of the harvest will be the same as that of the seed. If we eat up the seed, we prevent the crop. If we sow the tares of idleness and prodigality, we shall reap the tares of poverty and shame.There is no such thing as abolishing, or bending, or evading the fixed laws of nature ; whether we like them or not, they will go steadily into effect.

See you a young man diligent in his business, frugal, provident and sober ? You see one who will be respect. ed and respectable, who, in all probability, will enjoy, through life, at least a competence, and who will be a blessing to his family, to his friends, and to society at large. On the other hand, when you see young men idle, improvident, extravagant, averse from all regular and close attention to useful business, and practically saying, in the general course of their lives, “ Go to now, let us enjoy pleasure ;" you then see such as are speeding, if not into atrocious crimes, at least into the condition of beggarly want; such as will wring the hearts of fathers, mothers, wives and children ; such as will be moths upon society, rather than its useful and worthy members.

Even worldly interest, imperiously requires selfdenial. One who can deny himself of nothing, will be good for nothing, however excellent be his talents, and however great his advantages. To learn youths the art of self-denial, is one of the essential branches of good education. That is best done by storing their minds, seasonably, with the precepts, prohibitions, and

warnings, contained in the Holy Bible. Next to this, they should by all means be kept from contracting habits of idleness and dissipation, and be so inured to some kind or other, of laudable industry, that their very toil, whether of business or of study, will at length be a pleasure.

NUMBER LXVIII.

Of Vainness, or Vanity, as making part of the warp

of our general nature.

VANITY, or the undefinable human quality called by that name, being the subject now under consideration, the following plain little story is somewhat proper to

open with.

The Baron de Tott, happening to come, of a sudden, into the company of a knot of Turkish ladies, who from the usage of their country and the precepts of their religion, were in duty bound to be veiled always in the presence of strangers of the other sex; he remarks, in the book of his travels, that the elderly matrons made haste to veil themselves, but the young and the handsome remained with their faces uncovered for some time after his entrance.

Now if this be a notable instance of female nature, it springs, nevertheless, from a principle belonging to the general nature of our species, and which operates with nearly equal force, in both sexes. It is not Woman alone that is vain :- Surely every Man walketh in a vain show” at least in some one respect or other.

There scarcely is any single ingredient that more thoroughly pervades human nature, than the one that goes by the general name of Vanity. Hence it was to

vanity that the cunning tempter addressed his temptation in the garden, with such deplorable success ; and to vanity he addressed his temptations in the wilderness, where he was so signally foiled. He knew the weakest side of humanity, and there made his attacks.

The strange quality called vanity, is a particular modification of the general principle of selfishness, and is exactly the reverse of the scriptural precept, Let each esteem other better than himself. It would be difficult to define it, and still more difficult to describe it in all its symptoms, and trace it throughout all its numerous branches : and yet, if you observe, with a close and discriminating eye, it is impossible to mistake it; for to the mind's ken, it is clearly visible, in its every shape, however undefinable and indescribable.

Vanity is as it were 6 the froth of pride," and is distinguishable from downright unmixed pride, which is stiff and unbending: whereas vanity is flexible, and bends any way, and every way, to set itself off.* But though vanity is different in some respects from pride, it has, in its nature, perhaps quite as much selfishness; self-display being its constant and invariable object, or rather the pole-star, towards which its every thought and every action tend.

Although the principal food of vanity, is wealth, rank, learning, wit, beauty, eloquence, strength, valour, or the whatever something that distinguishes the individual from the multitude ; yet it can live, and thrive, on food of almost every kind and nature.

66 We may see vanity living in a hovel, vanity clothed in rags, vanity begging by the way, vanity conjoined with bodily ugliness and deformity :" it is to be found, as well in sav. age, as in civilized life, as well amongst the squalid

* Unmiogled pride is portrayed with no less truth than genius, in the Coriolanus of Shakespeare, and in the Priuces of the fallen angels, ot Milton.

and beggarly race of gypsies, as in polished society. In a word, it can find nourishment and gratification in all extremes—in the haggard looks and squalid habiliments of a hermit, provided they confer distinctionas much as in brocades, pearls and diamonds. It is quite as much gratified with the distinction of Humility, as with that of loftiness and splendor. If a Cardinal of the Romish church is vain of the lofty title, His Eminence, the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople is probably no less vain of the humble title, His Lowliness. Nor was the vanity of the most lordly and aspiring of all the Popes of Rome, ever more gratified, perhaps, than when, under the gaze of the public, they were employed, upon their knees, in washing the feet of some of their beggarly vassals. In sober truth, vanity is never more conveniently lodged, than when she lies concealed under the disguise of eminent humility.

Sometimes, Vanity, to gain her point, disclaims even her own existence. I say it without vanity-I spealc. is without the least ostentation is often made the

prelude to self-commendation.

It is questionable whether man would be a laughing animal, if he were not a vain one. But, without all question, it is vanity that most generally affects his risibles when he laughs at his fellow man.

In many instances, Public Virtue would never have gone so far, if Vanity had not borne it company. Jehu, for example, never had driven so furiously to carry forward a holy cause, had not vanity rode with him.

zeal!" What is called Liberality, frequently is nothing more than the vanity of giving. We are exceedingly prone to give, (whenever we give at all) hoping to receive if not in kind, at least in credit and honour. So, also, Vanity gives praise, in hopes of receiving it back again with interest.

[ocr errors]

66 Come see my

« ПредишнаНапред »