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fluence of christian principles, that has made such an astonishing difference between them in point of taste and sensibility ? Here a cautionary remark will be neither unneces
essary, nor out of place. The charity that casteth abroad its alms indiscriminately, that makes no distinction between helpless or unavoidable indigence, and the voluntary neediness of the idle and profligate; that feeds alike bounteously the one whom God hath rendered necessitous, and the sturdy beggar who impudently quarters himself upon alms; such charity, if it may deserve the name, encourages idleness and improvidence, and multiplies paupers and mendicants. For no truth is more fully tested by experience, than that very many will take no care to provide for themselves so long as they can by any means be provided for by others; being lost to all sense both of honor and shame.
Of Self-Ignorance and Self-Adulation.
-“ The nature of mankind is such, To see and judge of the affairs of others Much better than their own."
THE above-cited sentiment has not abated of its force, nor is it the less applicable to human nature at the present instant, though two thousand years have passed away since it came from the pen of Terence, the poet of Carthage.
In one respect, very few, if any, are altogether free from the imputation of making use of deception. It is one of the strange properties of our fallen nature, that we deceive ourselves even more easily than we are deceived by others; and that though we are highly offended when others deceive us, we are pleased with the deception which we palm upon ourselves. We love flattery, because it enables us to flatter ourselves, and we dislike honest reproof or censure, because it impels us to fix our eyes upon our own faults or frailties. We weigh our own actions, and the actions of others, not in the same balance, or else with different kinds of weights. We judge ourselves and our neighbors by different rules, which always gives the advantage to our own side. Imperfect we readily confess ourselves to be; but if one happen to impute to us any particular imperfection, we deem ourselves insulted, and instantly take fire. Mortal we know we are, and yet seem scarcely to expect either death or sickness; for these events, perhaps for the most part, come unawares. Probably there is not one well man in a hundred but secretly thinks the fatal arrow is more likely to hit almost any body else than himself. The young confidently expect they shall live to be old; and the old, who have already seen one generation pass away, are not without hopes that they shall survive the greater part of another. The mass of mankind are, in short, perpetually deluding themselves one way or the other; nor are the wisest and the best, quite free in all respects from self-delusion. Perhaps if life were not in any wise gilded by the enchanting power of imagination, there would be little relish for most of those things which God hath given us to enjoy under the sun.
A very ancient writer has told us of a poor laborer, who, fancying himself a king, repaired daily to a hillock, where, as on his throne, he sat in state, and exercised regal authority over the imaginary subjects that surrounded him; who, being at length cured of that pleasing error of the imagination, complained hard of his doctors that they had physicked him back again to poverty. Nor is he a solitary instance. The most of mankind, in some period or other of their lives, have perhaps indulged vagaries of the imagination quite as groundless, if not quite so extravagant; and which, if they led them not astray from either duty or prudence, did them benefit, by sweetening their toils and smoothing the path of life. The illusions of hope, which no sooner is disappointed than it springs anew in the human breast, constitute a large portion of the earthly happiness of mankind, and is the main spring of their exertions in worldly affairs.
# Dream after dream ensues-
However, speaking of worldly good only, their dreams afford them more satisfaction than they ever find in realities.
But when the illusion relates to the moral qualities of our hearts, flattering us that our vices are virtues, or at least that they are the less culpable for being ours ; it is then that it is pregnant with infinite mischief.
Of all human knowledge, self-knowledge is accounted the most difficult of attainment;—and why? Assuredly, it is not so very difficult in itself. We are conscious not only of our own actions, but also of the views and motives by which we are actuated.
The thoughts and affections of our hearts are all open to our own inspection. Why then is it hard for one so far to know hinself as to be able to pencil his own true picture with considerable exactness? The main difficulty arises from the blinding and deluding bias that we have toward ourselves. It is by reason of this kind of sophistry, that though we discern the mote in the eye of another, we perceive not the beam in our own; that though we are clear-sighted quite enough with respect to the faults of our neighbors, we are purblind as moles in regard to as great, or even greater faults in ourselves; that, at best, we weigh our own with more than some grains of allowance, but those of every one else, excepting our particuJar friends, without any allowance at all. Finally, to the same cause it is owing, that we magnify into shining virtues such deeds of our own doing, as we should think but lightly of if done by persons in whom we had no particular interest.
The sophistry with which we cheat ourselves runs into our social intercourse and our dealings. In estimating the characters of those about us, we are apt to judge of them according to the particular bearings they have to our own dear selves. If they are near of kin, or close friends, our favoritism blinds us to their frailties, and magnifies, in them, every thing that has the appearance of excellence; but if they are aliens from our hearts, we are apt enough to judge them with all that severity which appearances can any way justify. So, too, in matters of dealing, it is a hard thing indeed for one to determine right in one's own cause;. the opposite positions of mine and thine, not unfrequently swaying men of honest intentions. For which reason it is, that in all the intercourse and business of life, the frequent use or application of the golden rule is, in point of morals, of such immeasurable importance; since, in innumerable cases, it is only by changing places, ideally, with those we have concerns with, that we can know exactly how to do them justice.
And not only is the daily application of that divine rule so necessary in all our business, but it is alike necessary in the management of conflicting opinions. The free exercise of private judgment, is what every man claims for himself, and yet almost every man grudges it to others. And hence it is, that disputes upon matters of opinion are so commonly acrimonious. . Whereas, if we were no less willing that others should enjoy the free exercise of private judgment than to enjoy it ourselves, our disputes would be conducted with fairness, and good temper.
Of the wide difference between Wisdom and Cunning.
In one of the tragedies of Sophocles there is an admirable Moral, couched under the veil of heathen fable.
Philoctetes, to whom Hercules had bequeathed his bow and arrows, went, along with the other princes and chiefs of Greece, to the siege of Troy. He was son of the renowned Achilles, and no less distinguished for his valour than his birth. But having been bit by a serpent, an incurable and most painful ulcer ensued; and his perpetual groans and lamentations disturbed and disheartened the whole Grecian camp. For this reason the chief of the military confederacy, had him conveyed to Lemnos, a desolate island, where he remained ten
years, alone, and in intolerable anguish. At the expiration of that time, it being declared by an Oracle that Troy could never be conquered without the arrows of Hercules, then in the possession of Philoctetes, Ulysses and Neoptolemus were jointly sent to Lemnos to obtain them.
Ulysses, notorious above all men for craft and intrigue, and well knowing that Philoctetes bore the Grecians an implacable hatred for their barbarous usage toward himself, laid a cunning plan to get the arrows from him by fraud, which he communicated to Neoptolemus; at the same time insisting that he should become the instrument of its execution. Neoptolemus, an open hearted young prince, is at first struck with horror at the base proposal, and says,
"I was not born to flatter or betray,
What open arms can do,
O King, believe me,
Ulysses, however, (so easy is it for an arch deceiver to corrupt the integrity of an inexperienced youth,) gained his point at last, by his cunning sophistry and honied persuasions; and Neoptolemus submitted to an act of treachery which his soul abhorred. He first insinuated himself into the confidence of Philoctetes by a train of falsehoods, and then robbed him of his arrows, which he bore off to the ship that lay ready to sail back to the coast of Troy. But reflecting afterward upon the baseness of the deed, and stung with remorse and pity, he, notwithstanding the invectives and threats of Ulysses, went-back, and restored the arrows to Philoctetes.
After all the arts of persuasion to induce Philoctetes to go to the siege of Troy, or at least to send his arrows thither, had been used in vain, and there seemed no possibility left that that point could be gained by any human means, Hercules descended from heaven, and effected, what mere man could not do, a change of will