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There are infinite reveries, numberlefs extravagances, and a fucceffion of vanities, which pass through both. The great difference is, that the first knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for converfation, by fuppreffing fome, and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words. This fort of discretion, however, has no place in private converfation between intimate friends. On fuch occafions, the wifeft men very often talk like the weakeft; for indeed talking with a friend is nothing elfe than thinking aloud.
Tully has therefore very juftly expofed a precept, delivered by fome ancient writers: That a man should live with his enemy in such a manner, as might leave him room to become his friend; and with his friend, in fuch a manner, that, if he became his enemy, it should not be in his power to hurt him. The first part of this rule, which regards our behaviour towards an enemy, is indeed very reasonable, as well as very prudential; but the latter part of it, which regards our behaviour towards a friend, favours more of cunning than of difcretion; and would cut a man off from the greatest pleasures of life, which are the freedoms of converfation with a bofom friend. Befides that, when a friend is turned into an enemy, the world is juft enough to accufe the perfidiousness of the friend, rather than the indifcretion of the perfon who confided in him.
Difcretion does not only fhow itself in words, but in all the circumstances of action; and is like an under-agent of Providence, to guide and direct us in the ordinary concerns of life.
There are many more fhining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none fo useful as difcretion. It is this, indeed, which gives a value to all the reft; which sets them at work in their proper times and places; and turns them to the advantage of the perfon who is poffessed of them. Without it, learning is pedantry, and wit impertinence; virtue itself looks like weaknefs; the best parts only qualify a man to be more fprightly in errors, and active to his own prejudice.
Discretion does not only make a man the mafter of his own parts, but of other men's. The difcreet man finds out the talents of thofe he converfes with; and knows how to apply them to proper ufes. Accordingly, if we look into particular communities and divifions of men, we may ob ferve, that it is the difcreet man, not the witty, nor the
reflection; have fields, and feas, and fkies of their own; are furnished with all accommodations for animal fubfiftence, and are fupposed to be the abodes of intellectual life all which, together with our earthly habitation, are dependent on that grand difpenfer of divine munificence, the fun ;receive their light from the distribution of his rays, and derive their comfort from his benign agency.
The fun, which feems to perform its daily (tages through the fky, is in this respect fixed and immoveable: it is che great axle of heaven, about which the globe we inhabit, and other more spacious orbs, wheel their stated courses. The fun, though feemingly fmaller than the dial it illumi nates, is abundantly larger than this whole earth, on which fo many lofty mountains rife, and such vast oceans roll. A line extending from fide to fide through the centre of that refplendent orb, would measure more than eight hundred thousand miles: a girdle formed to go round its cir cumference would require a length of millions. Were its folid contents to be estimated, the account would overwhelm our underbanding, and be almost beyond the power of language to exprefs. Are we startled at these reports of philofophy? Are we ready to cry out in a tranfport of furprise, "How mighty is the Being who kindled so pro-digious a fire; and keeps alive, from age to age, fo enormous a mais of flame! let us attend our philofophicals guides, and we fhall be brought acquainted with fpeculations more enlarged and more inflaming.
This fun, with all its attendant planets, is but a very little part of the grand machine of the universe; every star, though in appearance no bigger than the diamond that glitters upon a lady's ring, is really a vaft globe, like the fun in fize and glory; no lefs fpacious, no less luminous, than the radiant fource of day. So that every star is not. barely a world, but the centre of a magnificent fyftem; has a retinue of worlds, irradiated by its beams, and revolving round its attractive influence, all which are loft to our fight: in unmeafurable wilds of ether. That the itars appear like fo many diminutive, and fcarcely diftinguifhable points, is owing to their immenfe and inconceivable distance. Immenfe and inconceivable indeed it is, fince a ball, thot from the loaded cannon, and flying with unabated rapidity, must travel, at this impetuous rate, almost feven hundred thou-fand years, before it could reach the nearest of thefe twink ling luminaries.
While beholding this vaft expanfe, I learn my own exreme meanness, I would alfo difcover the abject littleness of all terrestrial things. What is the earth, with all her oftentatious venes, compared with this astonishingly grand furniture of the skies? What, but a dim fpeck, hardly perceiv able in the map of the univerfe? It is obferved by a very judicious writer, that if the fun himself, which enlightens this part of the creation, were extinguished, and all the host of planetary worlds, which move about him, were annihilated, they would not be miffed by an eye that can take in the whole compafs of nature, any more than a grain of fand upon the fea fhore. The bulk of which they confift, and the space which they occupy, are fo exceedingly little in comparLon of the whole, that their lofs would fcarcely leave a bank in the immenfity of God's works. If then, not our globe dy, but this whole fyftem, be so very diminutive, what is a kingdom or a country? What are a few lordships, or the fo much admired patrimonies of those who are styled wealthy? When I measure them with my own little pittance, they fwell into proud and bloated dimenfions: but When ake the universe for my standard, how fcanty is , how contemptible their figure! They fhrink into nothings.
Or the Power of Custom, and the Uses to which it may be applied THERE is not a common faying, which has a better turn of fente in it, than what we often hear in the mouths of the vulgar, that "Cuftom is a fecond nature." It is indeed able to form the man anew; and give him inclinations and capacities altogether different from thofe he was born with. A perfon who is addicted to play or gaming, though he took but little delight in it at firft, by degrees contracts fo teng an inclination towards it, and gives himself up fo erly to it, that it feems the only end of his being. The of a retired or bufy life will grow upon a man
Robaly, as he is converfant in the one or the other, till be as uterly unqualified for relishing that to which he has F. f fome time difufed. Nay, a man may fmoke, or crick or take fnuff, till he is unable to pafs away his time wicet it; not to mention how our delight in any parAudy, art, or science, rifes and improves, in pronotion to the application which we beftow upon it. Thus, what was at firft an exercise, becomes at length an Leviament. Our employments are changed into di
verfions. The mind grows fond of those actions it is accustomed to; and is drawn with reluctancy from those paths in which it has been used to walk.
If we attentively confider this property of human nature, it may inftruct us in very fine moralities. In the first place, I would have no man difcouraged with that kind of life, or series of action, in which the choice of others, or his own neceffities, may have engaged him. It may perhaps be very difagreeable to him, at firft; but ufe and application will certainly render it not only lefs painful, but pleafing and fatisfactory.
In the fecond place, I would recommend to every one, the admirable precept which Pythagoras is faid to have given to his disciples, and which that philofopher must have drawn from the observation I have enlarged upon; "Pitch upon that course of life which is the most excellent, and custom will render it the most delightful Men, whofe circumstances will permit them to choose their own way of life, are inexcufable if they do not puriue that which their judgment tells them is the most laudable. The voice of reason is more to be regarded, than the bent of any prefent inclination; fince, by the rule abovementioned, inclination will at length come over to reafon, though we can never force reafon to comply with clination.
In the third place, this obfervation may teach the most fenfual and irreligious man, to overlook thofe hardships and difficulties, which are apt to discourage him from the prosecution of a virtuous life. "The gods." faid Hefiod, "have placed labour before virtue; the way to her is at first rough and difficult, but grows more smooth and eafy the farther we advance in it. The man who proceeds in it with fteadiness and refolution, will, in a little time, find that her " ways are ways of pleafantness, and that all her paths are peace."
To enforce this confideration, we may further obferve, that the practice of religion will not only be attended with that pleasure which naturally accompanies thofe actions to which we are habituated, but with thofe fupernumerary joys of heart, that rife from the confcioufnefs of fuch a pleafure; from the fatisfaction of acting up to the dictates of reafon; and from the profpect of a happy immortality.
In the fourth place, we may learn from this obfervation, which we have made on the mind of man, to take particu
ar care, when we are once fettled in a regular courfe of ife, how we too frequently indulge ourselves in even the noft innocent diverfions and entertainments; fince the mind may infenfibly fall off from the relish of virtuous actions, and, by degrees, exchange that pleasure which it takes in the performance of its duty, for delights of a much inferior and an unprofitable nature
The last use which I fhall make of this remarkable property in human nature, of being delighted with those actions to which it is accustomed, is, to fhow how abfolutely neceffary it is for us to gain habits of virtue in this life, if we would enjoy the pleasures of the next. The state of bliss, we call heaven, will not be capable of affecting those minds which are not thus qualified for it: we muft, in this world, gain a relish of truth and virtue, if we would be able to tafte that knowledge and perfection, which, are to make us happy in the next. The feeds of those. fpiritual joys and raptures, which are to rife up and flourish in the foul to all eternity, must be planted in it during this its prefent state of probation. In fhort, heaven is not to belooked upon only as the reward, but as the natural effect of a religious life.
The Pleafures refulting from a proper Use of our Faculties. HAPPY that man, who, unembarraffed by vulgar çares, mafter of himself, his time, and fortune, fpends his time in making himself wifer; and his fortune, in making others (and therefore himself) happier; who, as the will and understanding are the two ennobling faculties of the foul,. thinks himself not complete, till his understanding is beau tified with the valuable furniture of knowledge, as well as his will enriched with every virtue; who has furnished himself with all the advantages to relish folitude and enliven conversation; who, when ferious, is not fullen; and when cheerful, not indifcreetly gay; whofe ambition is, not to be admired for a falfe glare of greatnefs, but to be beloved for the gentle and fober luftre of his wifdom and goodness.
The greatest minister of state has not more business to do, in a public capacity, than he, and indeed every other man, may find, in the retired and ftill fcenes of life. Even in his private walks, every thing that is vifible convinces him there is prefent a Being invifible. Aided by natural philofophy, he reads plain legible traces of the Divinity in every thing he meets; he fees the Deity in every tree, as