Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

gentle, encouraging behaviour and conversation. We may say and do the most trivial things, in such a manner as to give almost as much pleasure to those with whom we constantly live and converse, as we could do by the most substantial acts of kindness. And let not this be thought unworthy the attention of a Christian assembly. Scripture itself commands us to be courteQus *, and the manners of our blessed Lord were not only mild and gentle, but graceful and captivating. This was the natural result of his unbounded benevolence, which is indeed the best, the only sure and solid foundation of true URBANITY. Without real undissembled good-will to others, either from principle or constitution, there can be no such thing as a constant desire to please; and without such a desire always present to our minds, it is impossible we should please. Whoever, therefore, wishes to render himself universally beloved and admired, must not merely seem benevolent; he must be really so. When once he is, every thing else will generally follow of course without difficulty, without effort, without the least occasion for art, disguise, or management.* When all is goodness within, all must be gracious and engaging without. When there is a fountain of genuine kindness in the soul, it will naturally and spontaneously diffuse itself to every the minutest part of our behaviour.

* 1 Pet. iii. S.

III. They who have had much experience in the world, may be of infinite use to those who have had but little, by giving them wise, and seasonable, and salutary advice; by rectifying their crude mistaken notions of men and things; by instructing them in the real value of the blessings and the evils both of this life and the next; by pointing out to them the road they are to take, the objects they are to pursue ; by guarding them against those hasty friendships, and ruinous connections, which they are but too apt to form; by teaching them, in fine, to distinguish properly between trivial, showy, superficial accomplishments, and those solid, substantial attainments, both intellectual, moral and religious, which ought to engage the chief attention of a rational and immortal being. This world is a wide and turbulent ocean, full of rocks and shoals; and there cannot be a kinder or more useful thing than to furnish those who are ready to lanch out upon it with a proper chart and compass to direct their course. There are few persons who have not, in some part of their lives, abundant opportunities of exercising their benevolence and good-nature, in this way, towards the thoughtless and inexperienced. And they must have little feeling indeed, who can see a poor giddy wretch running headlong down a precipice, without stretching out a friendly hand to snatch him from destruction.

* Such as we see recommended in the Letters of a late noble Earl to his Son.

IV. But if we are afraid of being thought meddling and officious, and of provoking enmity, where friendship only was meant, there is another method of instructing and benefiting others, which cannot possibly give offence; and that is, A GOOD EXAMPLE. A regular, virtuous, religious life, besides all the good it does in other respects, is a constant lesson of morality to all around us. It is a silent, insinuating kind of advice, which steals unobserved into the mind; and its

operations, though imperceptible, are commonly most effectual. Living under the influence of a bright example is to the soul, what breathing a pure and wholesome air is to the body. We find ourselves mended and improved and invigorated by both, without any sensible impression made upon us, without perceiving how the happy change is brought about. When people offer us advice in form, it seems to argue a kind of superiority which sometimes piques and offends us. We are apt to set ourselves, out of mere pride, to fence and fight against it, and can scarce ever be ingenuous enough to own ourselves in the wrong when any one presumes to tell us that we are so. But we cannot possibly be angry at a man for taking care of his own conduct, for going on in the right road himself, and leaving us to follow him or not, as we think fit. When virtue is thus made visible in human form, its charms are too powerful to be resisted. Instead of applying to the understanding, it makes its way directly to the heart ; and when that is once gained over, all difficulty is at an end. Here, then, is a way of doing good, which is VOL. II.

B B

equally in the power of the greatest man and the meanest. He has nothing to do but to go quietly on in the path of duty, and he will be followed by multitudes, on whom neither argument, nor persuasion, would ever have made the slightest impression.

But though every one may thus make his light shine most usefully before men, yet the higher this light is placed, the wider will be its sphere, and the more extensive its influence. They, therefore, who, by their birth, their station, their power, theirwealth, their profession, their abilities, are set, as it were, upon an eminence, and held up to the observation of the world, are more especially bound to take heed to their ways, since the good or the harm they may do by their conduct is inconceivable. It is very well known, that the lower orders of men almost constantly take the cast and colour of their lives from those above them. The manners of the people, therefore, are to a great degree in the hands of their superiors, and may be moulded by them into whatever form they please. What a noble opportunity of doing good does this afford to those

« FöregåendeFortsätt »