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That the temper, the sentiments, the morality, and, in general, the whole conduct and character of men, are infliienced by the example and disposition of the persons with 'whom they associate, is a reflection which has long since passed into a proverb, and been ranked among the standing maxims of human wisdom, in all ages of the world.
SECTION III. The desire of improvement discovers a liberal mind, and is connected with many accomplishments, and many virtues,
Innocence confers ease and freedom on the mind; and leaves it open to every pleasing sensation.
Moderate and simple pleasures relish high with the temperate : in the midst of his studied refinements, the voluptuary languishes.
Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manners; and, by a constant train of humane attentions, studies to alleviate the burden of common misery.
That gentleness which is the characteristic of a good man, has, like every other virtue, its seat in the heart : and, let me add, nothing, except what Aows from the heart, can render even external manners truly pleasing,
Virtue, to become either vigorous or useful, must be habitually active; not breaking forth occasionally with a transient lustre, like the blaze of a comet; but regular in its returos, like the light of day: not like the aromatic gale, which sometimes feasts the sense ; but like the ordinary breeze, which purifies the air, and renders it healthful.
The happiness of every man depends more upon the state of his own mind, than upon any one external circumstance: nay, more than upon all external things put together.
In no station, in no period, let us think ourselves secure from the dangers which spring from our passions. Every age, and every station they beset; from youth to gray hairs, and from the peasant to the prince,
Riches and pleasures are the chief temptations to criminal deeds. Yet those riches, when obtained, may very possibly overwhelm us with unforeseen miseries. Those pleasures may cut short our health and life,
He who is accustomed to turn aside from the world, and commune with himself in retirement, will, sometimes at least, hear the truths which the multitude do not tell him. A more sound instructer will lift his voice, and awaken within the heart those latent suggestions, which the world had overpowered and suppressed.
Amusement often becomes the business, instead of the relaxation, of young persons : it is then bighly pernicious.
He that waits for an opportunity, to do much at once, may breathe out his life in idle wishes; and regret, in the last bour, bis useless intentions and barren zeal.
The spirit of true religion breathes mildness and affability, It gives a native, unaffected ease to the behaviour. It is social, kind, and cheerful : far removed from that gloomy and illiberal superstition, which clonds the brow, sharpens the temper, dejects the spirit, and teaches men to fit themselves for another world, by neglecting the concerns of this.
Reveal none of the secrets of thy friend. Be faithful to his interests. Forsake him not in danger. Abhor the thought of acquiring any advantage by his prejudice.
Man, always prosperous, would be giddy and insolent: always afflicted, would be sullen or despondent. Hopes and fears, joy and sorrow, are, therefore, so blended in his life, as both to give room for worldly pursuits, and to recall, from time to time, the admonitions of conscience.
SECTION IV. Time opce past never returns: the moment which is lost, is lost forever.
There is nothing on earth so stable, as to assure us of undisturbed rest; nor so powerful, as to afford us constant protection,
The house of feasting too often becomes an avenue to, the house of mourning. Short, to the licentious, is the interval between them.
It is of great importance to us, to form a proper estimate of human life; without either loading it with imaginary evils, or expecting from it greater advantages than it is able to yield.
Among all our corrupt passions, there is a strong and intimate connexion. When any one of them is adopted into our family, it seldom quits until it has fathered upon us all its kindred.
Charity, like the sun, brightens every object on which it shines; a censorious disposition casts every character into the darkest shade it will bear,
Many men mistake the love, for the practice of virtue ; and are not so much good men, as the friends of goodness,
Genuine virtue has a language that speaks to every heart throughout the world. It is a language which is understood by all. In every region, every climate, the homage paid to it is the same. In no one sentiment were ever mankind more generally agreed.
The appearances of our security are frequently deceitful. When our sky seems most settled and serene,
in some unobserved quarter gathers the little black cloud in which the tempest ferments, and prepares to discharge itself on our head.
The man of true fortitude may be compared to the castle built on a rock, which defies the attacks of surrounding waters: the man of a feeble and timorous spirit, to a but placed on the shore, which every wind shakes, and every wave overflows.
Nothing is so inconsistent with self-possession as violent anger. It overpowers reason ; confounds our ideas ; distorts the appearance, and blackens the colour of every object. By the storms which it raises within, and by the mischiefs which it occasions without, it generally brings on the passionate and revengeful man, greater misery than he can bring on the object of his resentment,
The palace of virtue has, in all ages, been represented as placed on the summit of a hill ; in the ascent of which, Jabour is requisite, and difficulties are to be surmounted ; and where a conductor is needed, to direct our way, and to aid our steps.
In judging of others, let us always think the best, and employ the spirit of charity and candour. But in judging of ourselves, we ought to be exact and severe.
Let him, who desires to see others happy, make haste to. give while his gist can be enjoyed; and remember, that every moment of delay takes away something from the value of his benefaction. And let him who proposes his own happiness reflect, that while he forms his purpose, the day rolls on, and the night cometh, when no man can work."
To sensual persons, hardly any thing is what it appears to be : and what flatters most, is always farthest from reality. There are voices which sing around them, but whose strains allure to ruin. There is a banquet spread, where poison is in every dish. There is a couch which invites them to repose ; but to slumber upon it is death.
If we would judge whether a man is really happy, it is not solely to his houses and lands, to bis equipage and his
retinue we are to look. Unless we could see farther, and discern what joy, or what bitterness, his heart feels, we can pronounce little concerning him,
The book is well written; and I have perused it with pleasure and profit. It shows, first, that true devotion is rational and well founded; next, that it is of the highesti importance to every other part of religion and virtue ; and, lastly, that it is most conducive to our happiness.
There is certainly no greater felicity, than to be able to look back on a life usefully api virtuously employed; to trace our own progress in existence, by such tokens as excite neither shame por sorrow. It ought therefore to be the care of those who wish to pass the last hours with comfort, to lay up such a treasure of pleasing ideas, as shall support the expenses of that time, which is to depend wholly upon the fuod already acquired.
SECTION V. What avails the show of external liberty, to one who has lost the government of himself?
He that cannot live well to-day, (says Martial,) will be less qualified to live well to-morrow.
Can we esteem that man prosperous, who is raised to a situation which flatters his passions, but which corrupts his principles, disorders his temper, and finally oversets his virtue ?
What misery does the vicious man secretly endure !--. Adversity ! how blunt are all the arrows of thy quiver, in comparison with those of guilt!
When we have no pleasure in goodness, we may with certainty conclude the reason to be, that our pleasure is all derived from an opposite quarter.
How strangely are the opinions of men altered, by a change in their condition !
How many have had reason to be thankful, for being dis.. appointed in designs which they earnestly pursued, but' which, if successfully accomplished, they have afterwards seen would have occasioned their ruin !
What are the actions which afford in the remembrance a: rational satisfaction ? Are they the pursuits of sensual plea-. 'sure, the riots of jollity, or the displays of show and vanity? No : I appeal to your hearts, my friends, if what you re.. collect with inost pleasure, are not the innocent, the viriųeous, the honourable parts of your past life.
The present employment of time should frequently be an object of thought. About what are we now busied ? What is the ultimate scope of our present pursuits and cares? Can we justify them to ourselves ? Are they likely to produce any thing that will survive the moment, and bring forth some fruit for futurity ?
Is it not strange (says an ingenious writer,) that some persons should be so delicate as not to bear a disagreeable picture the house, and yet, by their behaviour, force every face they see about them, to wear the gloom of uneasiness and discontent?
If we are now in health, peace, and safety; without any particular or uncommon evils to afflict our condition ; what more can we reasonably look for in this vain and uncertain world? How little can the greatest Prosperity add to such a state? Will any future situation ever make us happy, if now, with so few causes of grief, we imagine ourselves miserable? The evil lies in the state.of our mind, not in our condition of fortune; and by no alteration of circumstances is likely to be remedied.
When the love of unwarrantable pleasures, and of vicious companions, is allowed to amuse youog persons, to engross their time, and to stir up their passions ; the day of ruin, let them take heed, and beware! the day of irrecoverable ruin begins to draw nigh. Fortune is squandered; health is broken; friends are offended, affronted, estranged ; aged parents, perhaps, sent afflicted and mourning to the dust.
On whom does time hang so heavily, as on the slothful and lazy? To whom are the hours so‘lingering ? Who are 80 often devoured with spleen, and obliged to fly to every expedient, which can help them to get rid of themselves? Instead of producing tranquillity, indolence produces a fretful restlessness of mind; gives rise to cravings which are never satisfied ; nourishes a sickly, effeminate delieacy, which sours and corrupts every pleasure.
SECTION VI. We have seen the husbandman scattering his seed upon the furrowed ground! It springs up, is gathered into his barns, and crowns his labours with joy and plenty.-Thus the man who distributes his fortune with generosity and prudence, is amply repaid by the gratitude of those whom he obliges, by the approbation of his own mind, and by the favour of Heaven.