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I don't mean perfect happiness, which is not to be enjoyed here ; but such a degree of happiness as our Maker has put in our power. The art of living happily does not lie in stoical apathy; for as to the real and sharp afflictions of life, while one ought “ to bear them like a man, he should also feel them like a man.” Nor does he know the sweets of friendship, who feels little or no pain at being sunder'd from a near friend. Much less does it lie in the nauseating lap of gross sensuality; for the enjoyment of the mere sensualist is no higher than that of the pampered horse in the stable or stud, or the fattening pig in the sty. Indeed the brute has much the advantage, as it lives according to its nature and destination, while the man is haunted with a perpetual consciousness of the shameful degradation of his moral and intellectual faculties.
The following maxims or rules of action might, it strictly observed, go far to increase the happiness, or at least, to diminish the inquietudes and miseries of life.
Live constantly in the unshaken belief of the overruling Providence of an infinitely wise and good, as well as Almighty Being; and prize his favour above all things.
Observe, inviolably, truth in your words, and integrity in your actions.
Accustom yourself to temperance, and be master of your passions.
Be not too much out of humour with the world ; but remember, 'tis a world of God's creating, and however sadly it is marred by wickedness and folly, yet you have found in it more comforts than calamities, more civilities than affronts, more instances of kindness toward you than of cruelty.
Try to spend your time usefully both to yourself and others.
Never make an enemy, or lose a friend, unnecessarily.
Cultivate such an habitual cheerfulness of mind and evenness of temper as not to be ruffled by trivial incon. veniences and crosses.
Be ready to heal breaches in friendship and to make up differences; and shun litigation yourself, as much as possible ; for he is an ill calculator who does not perceive that one amicable settlement is better than two law suits.
Be it rather your ambition to acquit yourself well in your proper station, than to rise above it.
Despise not small honest gains, nor risk what you have on the delusive prospect of sudden riches. If you are in a comfortable thriving way keep in it, and abide in your own calling rather than run the chance of another.
In a word, mind to 5 use the world as not abusing it," and probably you will find as much comfort in it as is most fit for a frail being, who is merely journeying through it toward an immortal abode.
Of self-inflicted tortures.
NOTHING is more common than the discontent of those who have not even a shadow of cause for discontent. They are neither sick, nor pinched with poverty, nor called to sustain distressing hardships. They enjoy both food and appetite. They have raiment to put on, and friends to converse with ; and if not rich, have fully enough for the moderate supply of all their real wants : yet these enjoyments, these bounties of indulgent heaven, are poisoned as it were by the discontent of their minds, so that they are wretched amidst health and competence.
What are the illusions that thus obstruct the sources of enjoyment, and, in this favoured country cheat so many men and women out of the happiness of which Providence had put them in possession ?-They are such as usually spring from one or other of the three following causes--Perverseness of Temper-False theories of worldly happiness—the influence of opinion.
With respect to enjoying ourselves well or ill in life, a great deal more depends upon Temper than upon circumstances. Not but that our enjoyments are always considerably affected by our worldly circumstances and sometimes in a very great degree ; but if they are such that we are able to supply ourselves with all the real necessaries and essential comforts of life, it is not our circumstances, but our tempers that are in fault, if we are not too happy to complain and too grateful to repine. The root of our uneasiness is altogether in our own minds, and without a thorough change there, no change of place or of outward circumstances could quiet us. What though all our present ideal wants were satisfied ? Other ideal wants would presently start up, and we should still be weaving for ourselves the web of misery. A temper that inclines to be satisfied with its present lot, is worth more than thou sands a year; whereas utter restlessness of temper is one of the greatest of misfortunes. A full half of human troubles would vanish, and the rest be lightened, if there were a thorough cure of this one scrofulous disease of the heart.
Our False Theories of worldly happiness constitute another huge class of troubles of our own making : and the effects of these false theories are the more deplorable, inasmuch as the disappointinents inevitably resulting from them sour the disposition, and thereby enhance the numbers of the wretched victims of temper. Corporeal enjoyments are few and simple : neither wealth, nor any of the arts of refinement, can add considerably to their number, or any thing at all to their relish. The pleasures of sense are limited by narrow boundaries which never can be passed without instantly turning pleasure into pain : and however much we may refine upon the pleasures of sense, our refinements can increase them but
little. The most refined epicure, for example, has scarcely any more enjoyment of the pleasures of the table, than one who confines himself to the plainest viands. Wherefore nothing is more plain and easy of comprehension than the true notion of mere worldly happiness :
-the whole sum of it results from Health, Competence, the friendly Society of neighbours and acquaintance, and the pure joys of Domestic-Life. He that has these, though he have neither wealth nor rank, enjoys about all the world can bestow. But these real and unsophisticated enjoyments, which are bestowed in fully as large measure upon the peasant as upon the prince, are too vulgar for the fastidious taste of visionary speculatists : they must find a something that is quite above and beyond the blessings common to Adam's children, else they are determined not to enjoy themselves at all. Thus they lose the good that lies fairly within their reach, by laying out their endeavours to grasp an abstract something, that is conceivable indeed, but not attainablean Ignis Fatuus, which the eye plainly sees, but which evades the touch and baffles all pursuit.";
The last brood of artificial troubles which I proposed to notice, are those that are generated by the influence of Opinion : I mean not one's own opinion, but the opinion of others. We are such strange and unaccountable creatures, that we are more solicitous to appear happy than really to be so; and hence we willingly abridge our real enjoyments for the sake of seeming to possess enjoyments superior to those that are altogether common to mankind. Now the general opinion of society (a very erroneous one indeed) makes the pomp of show a prerequisite for being deemed happy, or at least for obtaining the credit of refined enjoyment ; and this general opinion, how much soever we may despise it in our judgments, has an astonishing influence upon our conduct and our feelings : an influence that precipitates hundreds and tens of hundreds from a conJition of competence to that of poverty.
That apt Remarker, Dr. Franklin, observes, " The eyes of other people are the eyes that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.”—It is even so : and it is this supreme regard to the eyes
of others, that leads multitudes into extravagant and ruinous expenses. Without adequate funds, they build them fine houses and purchase them fine furniture and array themselves with costly apparel, that others may gaze upon them as persons possessed of taste and of refined enjoyments : and by these means they are presently stripped of the very necessaries of life.
Of greedy ambitiousness after wealth—ominously the
master passion of the times,
AMBITION's thorny path is too narrow for two to go abreast. Each struggles hard to get forward of each ; and the one that is foremost of all must press onward with might and main, else some other will rush by