« VorigeDoorgaan »
which of these characters he esteems the better; his, who interefts himself in the injuries of his friend, and zealously defends him with perfect calmness and ferenity of temper; or his, who pursues the fame conduct under the influence of refentment.
IF anger then is neither useful nor commendable, it is certainly the part of wisdom to fupprefs it entirely. We should rather confine it, you tell us, within certain bounds. But how shall we ascertain the limits, to which it may, and beyond which it ought not to pafs? When we receive a manifeft injury, it seems we may refent it, provided we do it with . moderation. When we fuffer a worfe abuse, our anger, I fuppofe, may rise somewhat higher. Now, as the degrees of injustice are infinite, if our anger muft always be proportioned to the occafion, it may poffibly proceed to the utmost extravagance. Shall we fet bounds to our refentment while. we are yet calm? how can we be affured, that being once let loose,it will not carry us beyond them? or shall we give paffion the reins, imagining we can refume them at pleasure, or trufting it will tire or ftop itself, as soon as it has run to its proper length? As well might we think of giving laws to a tempest; as well might we endeavour to run mad by rule and method.
In reality, it is much easier to keep ourselves void of refentment, than to restrain it from excess, when it has gained admiffion; for if Reafon, while her strength is yet entire, is not able to preferve her dominion, what can fhe do when her enemy has in part prevailed and weakened her force? To use the illuftration of an excellent author, we can prevent the beginnings of fome things, whofe progrefs afterwards we cannot hinder. We can forbear to caft ourselves down from a precipice, but if once we have taken the fatal leap,we muft defcend, H 3 whether
whether we will or no. Thus the mind, if duly cautious, may fland firm upon the rock of tranquillity; but if she afhly forfakes the fummit, fhe can fearce recover herself, but is hurried away downwards by her own paffion, with increafing violence.
Do not fay that we exhort you to attempt that which is impoffible. Nature has put it in our power to refift the motions of anger. We only plead inability, when we want an excufe for own negligence.. Was a passionate man to forfeit an hundred pounds, as often as he was angry, or was he fure he muft die the next moment after the first fally of his. paffion, we should find, he had a great command of his temper, whenever he could prevail upon himfelf to exercise a proper attention about it. And shall we not esteem it worthy of equal attention, worthy of our utmost care and. pains, to obtain that immoveable tranquillity of mind, without which we cannot relish either life itself, or any of its enjoyments?-Upon the whole then, we both may and ought,. not merely to reftrain, but extirpate anger. It is impatient of rule; in proportion as it prevails, it will difquiet our minds; it has nothing commendable in itself, nor will it anfwer any valuable purpofe in life.
VIRTUE OUR HIGHEST INTEREST.
I FIND myfelf exifting upon a little fpot, furrounded
every way by an immenfe unknown expanfion. Where am I? What fort of a place do I inhabit? Is it exactly accommodated, in every inftance, to my convenience? Is there no
excefs of cold, none of heat, to offend me? Am I never annoyed by animals, either of my own kind, or a different? Is every thing fubfervient to me, as though I had ordered all myfelf?-No-nothing like it-the fartheft from it poffible. The world appears not then originally made for the private convenience of me alone ?-It does not.-But is it not poffible so to accommodate it, by my own particular induftry-If to accommodate man and beast, heaven and earth; if this be beyond, me it is not poffible-What confequence then follows?-Or can there be any other than this-If I feek an intereft of my own, detached from that of others; I seek an interest which is chimerical, and can never have existence.
How then muft I determine? Have I no intereft at all?If I have not, I am a fool for staying here. It is a smoky house, and the fooner out of it the better.-But why no intereft ? Can I be contented with none, but one separate and detached? Is a focial intereft joined with others fuch an abfurdity, as not to be admitted ?—The bee, the beaver, and the tribes of herding animals, are enough to convince me, that the thing is, fomewhere at leaft, poffible. How then am I assured, that it is not equally true of man ?- -Admit it; and what follows ?-If fo, then Honour and Juftice are my intereft-then the whole train of Moral Virtues are my intereft; without fome portion of which, not even thieves can maintain fociety.
But farther ftill-I ftop not here-I pursue this focial intereft, as far as I can trace my feveral relations. I pass from my own flock, my own neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind, as difperfed throughout the earth.
Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce; by the general intercourfe of arts and letters; by that
common nature, of which we all participate?
Again, -I must have food and clothing-Without a proper genial warmth, I instantly perish-Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itfelf? To the diftant fun, from whose beams I derive vigour? To that ftupendous courfe and order of the infinite hoft of heaven, by which the times and feafons ever uniformly pafs on? -Were this order once confounded, I could not probably furvive a moment; fo abfolutely do I depend on this common general welfare.
WHAT then have I to do, but to enlarge Virtue into Piety? Not only honour and juftice, and what I owe to man, is my intereft; but gratitude alfo, acquiefcence, refignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great polity, and its greater Governor, our common Parent.
BUT if all thefe moral and divine habits be my intereft, I need not furely feek for a better. I have an intereft compatible with the spot on which I live-I have an intereft which may exist, without altering the plan of Providence; without mending or marring the general order of events. I can bear whatever happens with manlike magnanimity; can be contented, and fully happy in the good which I poffefs; and can pafs through this turbid, this fickle, fleeting period, without bewailings, or envyings, or murmurings, or complaints. HARRIS.
THE SAME SUBJECT.
ALL men purfue Good, and would be happy, if they
knew how not happy for minutes, and miferable for
hours; but happy, if poffibly, through every part of their existence. Either therefore there is a good of this fteady durable kind, or there is none. If none, then all good must be tranfient and uncertain; and if so, an object of the lowest value, which can little deferve either our attention or inquiry. But if there be a better good, fuch a good as we are feeking; like every other thing, it must be derived from fome cause; and that cause must be either external, internal, or mixed, in as much as except these three, there is no other poffible. Now a fteady, durable good, cannot be derived from an external cause; by reason, all derived from externals muft fluctuate, as they fluctuate. By the fame rule, not from a mixture of the two: because the part which is external will proportionally destroy its effence. What then remains but the cause internal; the very caufe which we have fuppofed, when we place the Sovereign Good in Mind-in Rectitude of Conduct.
ON THE IMMORALITY OF THE SOUL.
AMONG other excellent arguments for the immortality.
of the Soul, there is one drawn from the perpetual progrefs of the foul to its perfection, without a poffibility of ever arriving at it; which is a hint that I do not remember to have feen opened and improved by others who have written on this fubject, tho' is feems to me to carry a great weight with it. How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the foul, which is capable of fuch immenfe perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eternity, fhall fall away into nothing almost as soon as it is created! Are fuch abilities made for no H5 purpofe?