Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

contrast with the foibles of other women, she no sooner finds that a female acquaintance has said or acted a lit. tle so so, than her passions are let loose, and she talks herself into a sore throat. In the meanwhile she mistakes her fastidiousness of humour for delicacy of taste, and her censorious, irritable temper, for extreme sensibility.

Were one to admit the old absurd notion of our being born under some particular planet, or constellation, one could hardly help exclaiming, “ What a pity that the birth of Sempronia, a woman of some very respectable qualities, instead of the constellation of the crab, had not been under the sweet influences of Pleiades !"'*

* Job xxxviji, 31.

NUMBER LXXXVIII.

Of enjoying Independence as to worldly circumstances

without possessing wealth.

INDEPENDENCE in regard to worldly condition, is an object of rational desire and laudable pursuit. But the word Independence must here be understood in a qualified and very limited sense. Strictly speaking, no man living is independent. For not to mention, that all depend alike on Him in whom we live and have our being; there is amongst mankind, a mutual dependence, from the lowest even up to the highest point in the scale of society :. so that the rich man needs his poor but industrious neighbours, well nigh as much as they need him. Should they refuse to sell him their labour, he would be fain to drudge for himself, notwithstanding the vastness of his wealth. This mutual dependence is a salutary restraint both upon the rich and the poor; it curbe the pride of the one and the envy of the other, and even tends to link them together in mutual amity.

Moreover, that independence of circumstances which should be made the object of general desire and pursuit, does in no wise imply large possessions. So far otherwise, one possessed of but barely competent means of support, provided he lives within his means, is hardly less independent than if he were in the enjoyment of a fortune. Does the possessor of an ample fortune enjoy personal independence ? So also does the possessor of a small farm, which furnishes him with only the necessaries of life : and so also does the useful labourer, whose labour affords a supply to his real wants. But if the small farmer must needs be a man of fashion or pleasure, he loses his farm, and withal his independence. Or, if the labourer neglects his calling, or spends faster than he earns, his independence is quickly gone. Nay, even though the labourer should support himself, independently throughout all the days of his health and vigour, yet assuredly he must fall into a condition of dependence at last, unless he have the foresight and prudence to lay up some part of his earnings against the seasons of sickness and old age.

“ Our views in life," says the celebrated British Junius, “ should be directed to a solid, however moderate independence; for without it no man can be happy nor even honest."

This sentiment has in it, however, as I humbly conceive, some mixture of error. Virtuousness of disposition depends not upon exterior circumstances. In the deepest shades of poverty, and even in situations of abject dependence, there are persons not only very hon. est but very pious, and who are happy in the daily enjoyment of the banquet of contentment. There are those, and not a few, in almost every part of the christianized world, of whom the following lines in a Scotch ballad are no less descriptive, than of the happy old couple in whose mouths they are put.

“We have lived all our life time contented,
Since the day we became first acquainted ;

True, we've been but poor,

And we are so to this hour, Yet we never l'epin'd nor lamented." Nevertheless, our views in life should be directed to a solid kowever moderate independence. It is as much our duty as our interest, to employ diligent and prudent endeavours to escape poverty and want; to provide “ things honest” for ourselves and families; to lay up against seasons of sickness and the decays of age ; and even to strive hard to put ourselves in a condition, in which we can be rather the dispensers than the receivers of charity. Utter negligence in these matters, so far from evincing nobleness of spirit, is, for the most part, dishonourable and mean, and commonly terminates in abjectness both of circumstances and of mind. The loss or destitution of personal independence, or the condition of beggarly want, has no little aptness and likelihood to occasion the loss of integrity and of all moral principle. It was when Esau came from the field at the point to die of famishment, that he sold his birth-right.

It would be impossible to tell what precise quantity of worldly estate is just sufficient, and no more than sufficient ; since it would depend upon a variety of circumstances growing out of the particular state of society, and on a number of other items which could not be calculated to a hair. The best rule is, to take up satisfied with the appointment which providence makes, and, having food and 'raiment, therewith to be content

The middle state of life has been thought, by the wise, to afford the best means both for the enjoyment of comfort and for the practice of virtue. Under this impression, a pious sage of old made the following petition to heaven, “ Give me neither poverty nor riches." I know of none among the moderns, however much they may differ in points of religion or of politics, who have any objection to the first clause of this prayer of Agur ; but in this money-loving age, it is questionable whether many can be found, either male or female, who pray heartily that riches may not fall to their lot, or who would run with all their might to escape from a shower of gold that should threaten to fall into their laps. It is, however, certain, that riches and poverty are two extremes, each encompassed with peculiar evils ; and without saying, what none will believe, that extreme riches is as much to be dreaded as extreme poverty, I would wish to impress this useful truth, that people in middling circumstances if they would only think so themselves, have enough, and have reason to be thankful for their lot, rather than to repine at it.

In no country else perhaps, is a moderate independence so fairly within the reach of the people, as in the one we inhabit. And a pity it truly is, that so many of us sell as it were this our birthright, not for pottage to assuage hunger, but for what can only feed oar vanity. In short, the times are come, which imperiously demand, especially of the commonalty as well as of the poorer classes, a close attention to saving economy. No longer will it be optional with us, of the poorer, or even of the middling sort, whether we shall live in this style or that; the only style of living left us, will be the plain and frugal one. No other alternative shall we have, but either to economize, after the manner of our

prudent ancestors, or else to sink into the hapless condition of pinching poverty and abject dependence.

NUMBER LXXXIX.

Of the early and ardent desire for Power.

The love of power is as natural as to breathe. It shows itself in the first dawn of reason. How soon the infant begins to struggle to have his will and way! Ere he can speak, or walk, in the tone of his cry, and in his visage and motions, you may plainly read the stout words, I will and I wont. With impotent violence he squirms in his mothers’ arms, in order to command the utmost of her attentions. The oftener he gains his point, with the more resolute boisterousness does he proceed to assert his claims to her submission, and to the devotion of all her time and faculties to the service of his single self.

Having brought under him his nursing mother, no sooner is he able to run about upon his legs, than he strives to extend his dominion. He exacts, of the other children, and of all about him, an implicit compliance with his will. When opposed or thwarted, he regards it as downright rebellion against his rightful authority; and accordingly swells with rage, which he deals out by blows, or vents off in barsh and grating music.

Moreover, among the earliest of his covetings is that of property. Scarcely any thing is more common than for little children to ask, with peculiar earnestness, May we have this for our own? Nor are they willing to take

up

with any thing short of such a covenant. And why is it, that, not content with the mere use of

« ПредишнаНапред »