Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

his estate be fully sufficient to defray these expenses, over what is due to the calls of charity. It is much better than to let his gold and his silver lie and rust in moth-eaten bags; for by giving employment to so many artists and laborers, he encourages and rewards industry, and becomes the prop and support of the industrious poor that are about him.

But-mark the difference-when a man that is not rich, affects the manner of the rich, the impropriety of his conduct is manifest to all but himself; and he is only laughed at for his pains. Would it were an uncommon instance! So it is not. There are thousands of this sort; thousands that are-sacrificing the first and essential necessaries of life, and sinking themselves into debt and pitiless poverty; and all for mere show. What a mass of wretchedness and misery might be prevented by a timely cure of this single folly! No kind of fascination is more generally prevalent, and there is scarcely any one that draws after it more ruinous consequences.

Secondly, the other of the two points that I proposed to notice, is, that certain things which are proper at one time of life, are improper at another. In a quali

“ to every thing there is season.” Childhood is the season for childish things, which, in the succeeding periods of life must be put away. Youth also, is the season for certain things which peculiarly belong to that age. It is the spring time of life ; and there is in it a certain undescribable hilarity of look, air and manner, that exactly fits it, but which ill suits the season of old age. A boyish old man, or a girlish old woman, is as unnatural a phenomenon, as the flowers of May in the month of December.

Few things are more difficult than to grow old with a good grace: and perhaps the difficulty lies, with a disproportioned weight, upon the female part of our

To the vainer and more superficial sort, it is bitter as death, to lose the youthful bloom, for which alone they had been admired, and for which they had so much admired themselves. And hence there are to be found many matrons, affecting in dress and manner, the frivolity of girlish years-in spite of obtrusive wrinkles and grizzly locks.

fied sense,

race.

It is far otherwise with the women whose minds and hearts have been properly cultivated and replenished with intellectual and moral treasure, along with the benignant dispositions which pure christianity inspires. The decay of their youthly bloom or personal attractions, is succeeded by self-satisfaction, and the high esteem and respect of all around them.

CHAP. XXXIX.

Of keeping children from the company of children.

He that formed man, and knew best what was in him, and what he was made for, saw that it was not good that he should be alone. This single line, or sentence, confutes the volumes of glowing declamation in favor of solitude, or total abstraction from the world. To man, the social state is the natural state; it brightens his intellects, expands his heart, strengthens his weakness, and multiplies his enjoyments; whereas habitual solitude tends to narrowness of heart and sourness of temper. Not that it is good to be always in company. That opposite extreme, which so many have run into, is quite as bad as the other. The solitary being who shuns all company, and the empty flutterer who finds no enjoyment out of company, are alike wide of the true mark-which is a due mixture of intervals of well-spent solitude, with the business and duties and enjoyments of social life.

Aš Zoologists tell us, " It has long been observed that those races of animals which live in societies, and unite their efforts for the attainment of one common end, exhibit a great superiority of intellectual faculties over those which lead a life of solitude and seclusion : and the observation applies equally to the small as to the larger animals ; although among the insect tribes the distinction is most strongly marked.” It has also been noticed by careful observers, that the gregarious races of animals, in many instances, evidently learn of one another, and so become more sagacious, and more

childish years.

expert in their operations, by reason of their living in a social state. Young singing-birds, for example, are known to improve in voice and skill, by listening to the notes of an old and experienced songster.

In human beings, the social affection seems to be nearly coeval with the first dawn of reason. An infant, not unfrequently has been seen to leap with joy in its mother's arms at the sight of another infant; reaching out its little hands to embrace the stranger. Emulation, also, is of the like early growth. Infants, that have small children constantly about them, learn to walk and to speak, earlier than those that are confined altogether to the company of men and women. Equally true is it, that children enjoy themselves better for being much in the company of their equals. Moreover, it increases the growth and strength of their minds, improves the faculties of their bodies, and furnishes them with a sort of information highly necessary to their

How much children learn from children, is beyond account. It is true, in this way, they learn some things which they must be made to unlearn. But that is not so bad as to deaden their faculties and make mopes of them, by debarring them altogether from the society of those of their own age. There is a mixture of good and evil, as in all other human affairs ; so also in any system of education which human wisdoin can devise; that being the most eligible one, in which the good most clearly preponderates: and, upon this principle, to suffer children to enjoy the company of children, and at the same time to keep a watchful eye upon them, is a much better way than wholly to immure them, as some parents have done, either from pride, or through fear of contamination.

No topics have become more trite, than those relating to the comforts, benefits and blessings, of society ; topics that have been the standing theme from time immemorial; and been treated of so often, and in some instances so ably, as almost to preclude the possibility of adding a single thought altogether new. There is one important particular, however, which seems to have been less heeded than the rest; and that is the salutary restraints which well-regulated society imposes upon its members : I mean not the restraints of law, but merely those of opinion. If there be persons who care not at all what any

think of them, their minds are either far above, or far below, the natural feelings of humanity. Indeed, it is more than doubtful whether any person of this description exists, unless among the vilest and most abandoned. It is human nature to love esteem and abhor reproach; and, for this reason, no law has so general influence over civilized man, as the law of Decency; inasmuch as it governs the external conduct or the manners, of even those who have little or no regard for moral principle. A sense of shame is one of the most powerful checks upon the atrocious vices which society deems scandalous; so that decency of manners in society is owing, not so much to its laws, as to public sentiment, or the authority of opinion.

How happens it that they who emigrate from places in which public sentiment is decidedly in favor of the virtues and the decencies of life, and settle themselves down in a solitary situation, or among neighbors of corrupted sentiments; how happens it, that often they are so changed, so strangely degenerated in their morals and manners ? The reason is, that they have lost, or thrown off, what had been the main check

upon

their behavior. As they are no longer under the stern, scrutinizing eye of virtuous society, they no longer scruple to indulge freely the irregular propensities of their minds and hearts.

There are those in private life, who are capable of doing nearly, if not quite as much good, as can be done by legislators and magistrates: they are persons possessed of great or considerable wealth. In our country, there is no one thing that confers so much weight of personal influence as riches. The rich have a matchless influence upon the morals and manners of society. They are looked up to; they are imitated ; in things pertaining to manners, they take the lead, and have considerably the direction. Happy were it, if their influence were always directed to shame vice, and to make virtue fashionable.

CHAP. XL.

Of habitual discontent, arising from imaginary wants.

The following short apologue of Sadi, an Asiatic sage, is full of valuable instruction :-“I never complained of my wretched forlorn condition, but on one occasion when my feet were naked, and I had not wherewithal to shoe them. Soon after, meeting a man without feet, I was thankful for the bounty of Providence to myself, and with perfect resignation submitted to my want of shoes."

The true secret of living happily, lies in the philosophy of contentment, which is of more value than the imagined stone of the alchymist, which turns every thing to gold. It is to be lamented, however, that, in this age

of boasted light and improvement, the philosophy of contentment is very little studied or regarded. From various corrupted sources we have learned, not to be content, but dissatisfied, with the ordinary conditions of life. And though neither, shoeless, nor destitute of any essential article of raiment or food, we are ready to consumne our hearts with vexation because we have not the superfluities of fashion. The semblance of happiness is more sought after than the reality; the mere phantom of it, rather than the substance. The simple plainness of former days is despised. Plain apparel, plain fare, and plain houses and furniture, such as our worthy progenitors were quite contented with and very thankful for, our fastidious delicacy regards with scorn, and we must be fine, and fashionable, else pine our lives' away in grief and shame.

Nor would it be either so alarming, or so lainenţa ble, were this the folly of only a few, But the worst of it is, it has spread, like an epidemic, over the whole land, and throughout almost every class of society Many thousands, embracing both sexes alike, are the miserable victims of a morbid sensibility, and dash from their lips the cup of ordinary comfort which they are presented wịth, because it is not filled to the brim, or

« PredošláPokračovať »