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their mistrusting ill of all about them, furnishes a powerful opiate to their own consciences.
It has been boasted by some men of business, that they never in all their lifetime suffered by imposition or imposture; that they had always accustomed themselves to keep so sharp an eye upon mankind that no body could cheat or deceive them. This is not, however, any great matter of boasting ; for it is scarcely possible they should have been so constantly upon their guard against deception, if they had not had a vigilant monitor and prompter in their own hearts. Upon the same ground, it is an ill mark in any one, to decry apparent virtue in others, and assign bad motives to their good deeds ; since it argues that the only motives that can fall within the ken of his own mental eye are generally faulty, if not totally corrupt. In short, it is better now and then to be deceived, and even duped, than never to confide.
On the contrary, persons, of honest, benevolent views, are apt, from that very circumstance, to run into the opposite extreme. Conscious of their own uprightness and probity, they are hard to suspect that any who wear the semblance of these virtues should have it in their hearts to beguile them; and, of course, for want of prudent caution, are peculiarly liable, through an amiable weakness, to be ensnared, and sometimes desperately injured. It is especially in youth that we find this error : which is commonly cured by time and experience. An unsuspecting youth, soured by bitter experience, may become too suspicious in old age ; whilst a youth of an excessive jealousy of temper, commonly grows more jealous or suspicious as he advan
ces in years.
There are two classes of men who are often betrayed by an excess of confidence : these are creditors and
debtors. As it respects the former, the remark is too obvious to need proof or illustration. The error of giving indiscriminate credit, is too visible in its deplorable consequences not to be generally seen. But the opposite error, that is, the error of taking too large credit, is not quite so manifest, though equally fatal.
As the creditor trusts the debtor, so, on the other hand, does the debtor trust the creditor, except in instances in which he is morally certain of making punctual payment. If one runs in debt beyond his ability to pay in good season, he has to trust to the mercy of his creditor, not merely as to his house and land, goods and chattels, but even for the liberty of going at large. The creditor has a mastery over his personal liberty, as well as over his property. If he exact the last farthing of the debt the very instant it becomes due, and that notwithstanding the plea of inability, he may perhaps be called hard and unfeeling, but not unjust. The promise in the note or bond, entitles him to be thus rigorous, and the law is on bis side. Neither is any debtor entitled, ordinarily, to expect any thing short of this rigour from his creditor, except on principles of compassion : and surely it evinces too much of confidence, as well as too litte of spirit, for one to place himself, unnecessarily, in circumstances to need the compassion of fellow man as his only earthly resource.
Of sunshine friends.
An ancient naturalist tells us, that the rats will leave a house which is about to fall.
But whether it be so or not, there is in some hamam
animals a sort of instinct very nearly like it :-they are your sunshine-friends, who stick to you closely in prosperity ; but no sooner do they perceive a bleak storm of adversity hover over you, than they estrange them. selves and stand aloof.
Nor is this an upstart race of modern origin. Contrariwise, we find it distinctly noted and described in writings of early antiquity ; but in none more admirably than in the following passages of the Son of Sirach : -“ For” (says that skilful remærker on mankind)
some man is a friend før his own occasion, and will not abide in the day of thy trouble. And there is a friend, who, being turned to enmity and strife, will discover thy reproach. Again, some friend is a companion at the table, and will not continue in the day of thy affliction. But in thy prosperity he will be as thyself, and will be bold over thy servants. If thou be brought low, he will be against thee, and will hide himself from thy face.” So also, in another part of his admirable book, the same writer further describes this sort of gentry :-“ If thou be for his profit, he will use thee : but if thou have nothing, he will forsake thee. If thou have any thing, he will live with thee : yea, he will make thee bare, and will not be sorry for it. If he have need of thee, he will deceive thee, and smile upon thee, and put thee in hope ; he will speak fair, and say, What wantest thou ? He will shame thee by his meats, until he have drawn thee dry twice or thrice, and at the last he will laugh thee to scorn : afterward when he seeth thee, he will forsake thee, and shake his head at thee."*
The common saying, Prosperity makes friends, is admissible only in a qualified sense. Most of the friends of prosperity's making scarcely deserve the name ; for
* Ecclesiasticus, 6th and 13th chapters.
no sooner do they perceive your fortune falling, than they make off with themselves, like the rats from a fal. ling house.
To exemplify this truth, instances almost without number might be drawn from history ancient and modern, sacred and profane. But narrowing the subject to a single point, my object will be the rectification of a very prevalent error, namely, the idle notion of attracting regard by a style of living too expensive for our condition.
Nothing more distinctly marks the age and the country we live in, than this species of folly. If the former days were not better than these in other respects, yet in this one respect they were a great deal better : they were times of sober, prudent economy. Poverty was not arrayed in costly attire ; mediocrity did not ape the splendor and expense of wealth ; industry was coupled with frugality; the great bulk of the yeomanry were plain in their living, and accustomed their children to plainness of food, and raiment ; the trader made it a point to win gold ere he wore it ; it was fashionable for families to live within their incomes : it was creditable to be provident and economical.
Marvellous is the change, which the short term of a single age has brought forth. Now, the general language of practice is, “ Away with the old-fashioned maxims of frugal economy, and up with the expenses of high life.”
The distinctions of wealth are lost in the general blaze; all being alike fine, all alike accustomed to sumptuous fare. The two extremes in society, to wit, Wealth and Pauperism, as it were meet together ; the middle class, of such magnitude and might in other times, having lost its distinctive marks of genealogy.
This ruinous course is entered upon, and obstinately persisted in, not unfrequently in the full view of some
of its baleful consequences. It needs very little of arithmetic to calculate how it will end. The youth must know that if, in his days of health and vigour, he spends all as he goes, he will, in the seasons of sickness and decrepit age, be a forlorn dependant upon charity. All must needs know the inevitable effects produced by the outgoes exceeding the incomes.
But as an offset to the disadvantages of embarrassment, poverty, and debt, a great many, peradventure, are soothed with the idea that they are obtaining notice and regard, or, in other words, are making to themselves friends. In the estimate of their own imaginations, they do not waste their substance : they only barter it for honourable connection, for distinguished rank in society, for a close alliance with wealth and fashion, for obtaining ties upon the hearts of a large circle of respectable ladies and gentlemen. These they are confident, will never abjure their friendship, nor forsake them, come what will.
Alas! too late are they undeceived. Too late are they taught by rueful experience, that the companions at the table abide not when they are brought low--that they are sooner forsaken by none, than those who had lived upon them, and drawn then dry--that these flesh-pot friends are among the first to laugh them to scorn, and to shake the head at them. After squeezing the orange, they throw away the peel.
Harmanicus I have known him well-Ilarmanicus, of proverbial hospitality, had made to himself an endless train of friends. His house was for all the world like a public inn, except that the customers had not a farthing to pay ;-a precious circumstance which gave it the decided preference. Farand near was Harmanicus known, and for his profuse liberality far and near was he admired. Fashion, and Wealth, and Rank,