Sidor som bilder

fortitude. It is her province, through some of her dependants, to try, when the vexation or calamity falls, whether, like as the philosopher's stone was said to do, she cannot change the thing from bad to good, transmute the base metal to gold. For this intent she must act, and act upon the emergency, with promptitude, spirit, and vigour. Fortitude is here beheld as the power of acting well on emergency ; and this brings us to the contemplation of resolution, courage, boldness, confidence, bravery, and other attributes of fortitude, when she is roused to the action of resistance.

Perhaps the greatness of mind and beauty of soul with which courage loves to associate, like generosity, is a gift of nature : for we generally find those of little minds bow down before every difficulty, and every disappointment, not with patience and resignation, but with murmuring, fury, discontent, or fear; while the magnanimous, the lofty, and the highly gifted, make virtuous struggles to rise and overcome what may be lawfully baffled with, and stand undaunted even amidst the wreck and ruin of their dearest hopes. This we do see in people among whom civilization is scarcely known, as the early history of nations fully proves ; with them has risen in

proportion to the weight of misery and difficulty laid on. But though this be the fact in many instances, and that great qualities and splendid virtues seem here and there companions in a soul, let us not imagine that any virtue may not be acquired by care, industry, and habit, from earliest infancy, which we may please to engraft on the stock. The difficulty, as has

for courage

often been repeated, is greater to implant goodness in some soils than others; nevertheless it may, in nearly every case, be successful, and at any rate ought in every one to be attempted. One woman has a finer person than another ; one child has finer abilities than another, or a nobler disposition. Virtue seems born with one ; vice, or an inclination to do wrong, strongly marks another from his cradle. But is all to be given up for lost, when inferiority, or mediocrity in the person, mind, or heart is perceived ? The inferior diamonds in Golconda are not thrown away : they are cut and polished with the same precious materials, whereof the most splendid ones are shaped ; and though they shine with lesser lustre, yet are they preserved with care, are prized in their class; and after the polish and efforts of art bestowed on them will always bear a value. We may as well attempt to discover why every diamond that is dug up in the same mine is not of the same brilliancy, although it be of great size, as why one child in a family is dull, plain, or much niore inclined to evil than good, whilst his brother or sister is quick or beautiful, or of sweet, benevolent dispositions. Great qualities may therefore be engrafted into the soul, though that soul will not admit genius from any but nature. The reason is plain: for virtue being parts of perfection, and the soul originally made perfect, it has only to feel virtue by a glance within itself, or to see her by having her fairly introduced to notice, if she be not lodged within, to be attracted to love, and to admire. He who has practised virtue, finds it necessary to his happiness. Talents, on the other hand, are engag


ing, and commanding, but they are not, like virtue, of vital importance. Great moral qualities must consequently be implanted where they grow not spontaneously, and they must and will thrive with care and attention, though in different degrees; for the soil, however wasted and corrupted, is notwithstand. ing the parent one ; and it is congenial to the growth of them.

When evils, then, assail under any form which he may by exertion overcome, palliate, or repel, the naturally stout-hearted, courageous man appears to rise up

and advance to meet them, undaunted, firm, fearless, and full of hope for victory. This strong hope begets a confidence in his own strength and powers; and, thus roused, he promptly decidęs upon the weapons he must use, and the means, offensive or defensive, which he must employ. This quick determination in the moment of necessity is termed presence of mind : a fine quality of the soul, which, united with a bold resolution and steady decision, produces the efforts in acts of courage, bravery, valour, and intrepidity. To illustrate fortitude, thus put into action, is perhaps superfluous : however, one or two instances shall be given.

A gentleman in some way accidentally injured his finger, which, being unskilfully treated, festered and mortified. The disease spread rapidly through the hand, and the limb was declared to be in a state for amputation. A surgeon of great eminence was called in to perform the operation. After having examined the affected parts, “ There is," said he," a faint hope of being able to save the limb by cutting them away

in every direction : but the operation will be long, and the torture extreme; and even afterwards, it is probable that the whole limb may have to be severed. What say you?"

« That I consent," replied the gentleman, with calm determination ; " there is my

nd: do with it as you think best.” “I will, then, send for several men to hold your arm,” replied the surgeon, « lest in your suffering you should move, and do yourself an injury by disturbing me." “ Send for no man to support me,” replied the bold patient. “ Trust me; I give you my hand; I will neither move nor withdraw it.”

The surgeon accordingly began the tedious and cruel operation. With a profound knowledge of his art, he intersected every vein and tendon, paring away every particle of tainted flesh, while not even a syllable of complaint escaped the lip of the noble minded sufferer. After a length of time, the operation was finished; the mangled limb was dressed and bound up; and this great act of fortitude was rewarded. The band healed; it was frightfully disfigured and scarred, but it possessed all the play of motion with the sound one; and thus was conquered an evil, which the timid, the weak, the irresolute, or the prejudiced, would at once have sunk under : repining in the loss, and murmuring at Providence.

Fear, or a weak and vain timidity of the soul, is opposed to the disposition to active fortitude. A person allowed to grow up under the influence of irresolution, dread, and pusillanimous doubts, has no idea how he should act in any emergency. Vain scruples, cowardly apprehensions, and a wavering mind, which

can decide upon nothing, leave him fluctuating in the midst of danger, with scarcely a chance of escape, or hope of victory, but through the efforts of others. If the child of such a one should fall on the ground in a convulsion, the father will wring his hands in his agony, and stand wavering between the expediency of lifting him up, chafing his temples, loosening the clothes, and that of running away to fetch the doctor : in the mean time, the child is perhaps suffocated. A wife shall attend a husband in a dangerous sickness. Just as the crisis is expected, she hears that her son is lost at sea. This woman has neither the resolution to keep from the sick chamber during a few hours, till she has composed herself, nor has she the fortitude to hold a command over her own feelings. The consequences are, that the sick man is alarmed, and agitated ; questions her, and discovers all that should have been kept from him. The crisis is hastened, and his weak frame bends under the struggle. The woman's trouble is thus twofold.

A man, whose great riches are vested in lands in a distant country, hears that a hurricane has destroyed his houses ; lightning scorched his plantation ; disease carried off his cattle,

A young woman places her affection upon a man of her own age, who has solicited her hand in marriage. After several years of correspondence, news is brought her that her lover has married another woman.

The merchant first mentioned receives the blow without an effort to parry or resist it ; for he knows not more of fortitude than the name.

He droops and sinks; his intellects become deranged; and upon

« FöregåendeFortsätt »