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circumstances of brilliant fortune, successful talents, or gratified affection.
It is exceedingly natural to express our admiration of beauty whenever it meets our eyes; nay, it seems amiable to do so; but when we lavish our praise upon children in their hearing, we little consider the mischief we may be engendering. Servants, either from artful policy or good nature, take every opportunity to tell little Miss how pretty she is; too often accompanying their praise with invidious comparisons; and little Miss grows up, not only in love with her own pretty person, but prepared to hold in scorn all who do not enjoy the same advantages; uniting with these unamiable sentiments another still more unamiable, namely, jealous hatred of all competitors in personal attractions.
I will not believe that women are by nature more prone to these paltry envyings than men, though certain it is that men, in whom personal beauty is not deemed essential, are for the most part free from them.
Beauty, like birth, or quickness of intellect, ought to be represented as an accidental circumstance, a possession from which the owners ought not to arrogate to themselves any merit; a gift which must not be misused, lest the displeasure of the Almighty giver should follow.
Mortified vanity, like mortified pride, cannot but prove a fruitful source of unhappiness and
Indeed were it only out of compassion,
those who have the care of young persons ought to labour without ceasing to guard them from the effects of these two baneful passions. Pampered in infancy, puffed up with preposterous notions of their own importance, themselves incapable of sympathizing with their fellow-creatures, yet persuaded of their own claim to the sympathy of the world, of which they entertain a thoroughly false estimate; expecting, exacting, perhaps by temperament sensitive, what miserable, what pitiable creatures do they become at that period of life when education is usually considered complete! If, I repeat, it were only in consideration of these deplorable results of the selfish principle left uncorrected, parents and preceptors ought to strive to crush it in the bud.
Holding, as I ever must do, selfishness under all its various forms to be the dominant propensity of our nature, the root of all evil, the origin of almost every other unamiable quality, I shall have occasion frequently to revert to it in the ensuing pages.
The distinction between Pride and Self-RESPECT cannot be too strongly marked, since no two principles are oftener or more subtly confounded. Nevertheless, they differ entirely, the one being at variance with every precept of Christianity, gross, worldly, selfish; the other in perfect accordance
with them, perfectly consonant with Humility.
“ True dignity abides with him alone,
Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,
Self-respect, as I have said, is continually liable to be confounded with pride. The proud man flatters himself, while indulging his besetting sin, that he only manifests a proper and becoming degree of self-respect. If injured, self-respect calls upon him to resent the injury. It is self-respect that urges him on in the path of worldly ambition; self-respect gratifies his love of ostentation. Thus, by the misconstruction of a term, he plays the hypocrite towards his own conscience, and casts odium upon a virtuous principle, which, if properly understood, will be found essential in the formation and maintenance of the Christian character.
The proud and the vain, although egotistical in every sense of the word, are wholly wanting in self-respect. They content themselves with outwardly seeming to be that which they profess. Vanity, as we before asserted, will submit to actual degradation in order to attain the end desired; boasting of intimacies with the vicious and depraved, so that notoriety, that tinsel which so dazzles the eyes of the multitude, do but attach to them. He who truly respects himself will, on the contrary, shrink from an association with men of vicious character and gross propensities, though
PREVAILING DESIRE FOR GREAT ACQUAINTANCE. 43
wealth and the most exalted rank should be theirs; for self-respect, even among the lowly, is free from vulgarity.
The examination of this subject leads me to another closely connected with it; one very important in an educational point of view, since it affects not only individual character, but society at large: I allude to the proneness at the present day (already hinted at in my introductory chapter) to court the acquaintance of persons in a higher sphere of life than that in which we ourselves move. This is often done at the total sacrifice not only of self-respect, but of our respectability in the
of others. Against this species of foolishness we are expressly cautioned in the Bible. Read, for example, the thirteenth chapter of Ecclesiasticus:
“Burden not thyself above thy power while thou livest; and have no fellowship with one that is mightier and richer than thyself; for how agree the kettle and the earthen pot together? for if the one be smitten against the other it shall be broken. The rich man hath done wrong, and yet he threateneth withal: the poor is wronged, and he must intreat also. 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 will smile upon thee, and put thee in hope; he will speak thee fair, and say, What
wantest thou? And he will shame thee by his meats until he have drawn thee dry twice or thrice, and at last he will laugh thee to scorn; afterwards when he seeth thee he will forsake thee, and shake his head at thee. If thou be invited of a mighty man, withdraw thyself, and so much the more will he invite thee. Affect not to be made equal unto him in talk, and believe not his many words."
It may perhaps be urged that part of this counsel takes its tone from the caution requisite in countries where riches and power are all but synonimous with oppression, as at the present day in Persia, and other Oriental despotisms. To a certain extent this must be admitted; but I think many of the above texts will also bear the application I have put them to. Indeed it were impossible to read them without being forcibly impressed with the truth of a remark often made, that human nature has ever been the same, in all ages, and under all circumstances.
St. James, in his General Epistle, thus comments upon the same propensity to court, and render undue homage to the great and wealthy: “If there come into your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool, are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” St.