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a very fatal effect upon our æconomny. We are captivated and flattered with fine ideas of liberality, generosity, hospitality, benevolence, and charity; which are indeed most excellent things, when they are found in the wise and prudent; but when they are affected by the vain or the inconsiderate, they change their nature, and become sometimes ridiculous, often mischievous, always dangerous. Real virtue will be sure to advance us sooner or later: spurious virtue may bring us to ruin, as it hath already brought many, whose profuseness, while upon its progress, did very little good to their neighbours or their country.
Prudence, therefore, is always to distinguish. It will teach us, that no man can be generous in his gifts, till he is just in his
payments. It is no better than a specious fraud, to convert that into a gift, which is due elsewhere as a debt: to purchase the character of benevolence, by feeding one man with the bread of another : or, perhaps, by sending one man to gaol, for want of that money which buys another man out of it. Sometimes it is a much greater kindness to prevent evil by timely and friendly admonition, than to cure it afterwards (perhaps very imper
fectly) by giving money. It is a good thing to shew mercy to felons and debtors, in a prison : but it would be a much better thing to keep them out of it, by teaching them the happiness of sobriety and moderation, or restraining their excesses by a seasonable execution of the laws. It is good to relieve the poor; but the passion of feeding vagrants, encouraging idleness, or promoting debauchery, is so weak and unserviceable, that we may
be called to an account for such kindness in the day of judgment. And here I must observe, moreover, that all fictitious virtue, being the child of vanity, is apt to raise an enthusiastic affection; and being chiefly resident in weak minds, who do not make proper distinctions, it has been found to eat deeper into men's fortunes, than the most heroic charity. Prudence, therefore, must save us from being cheated by specious but false virtues; to the power of which many noble and unsuspecting inirds are exposed. Before we admit, we must prove them; as the wary prove their money, before they put it into their purse, by applying it to some touchstone: and there is none better than this of prudence.
To providence and prudence, we must add, above all things, order and method, for the regulating of our daily affairs. Persons of high spirits, and volatile dispositions, look down upon order, as a low thing, fit only for dull people. But, no man's life can be either useful or pleasant, who does not live by rule in the disposing of his time. We all see the absolute necessity of order, in the marshalling, leading, and governing an army; in transacting the business of a kingdom; in regulating the
company of a ship, and carrying on the practice of navigation; without order and discipline, these things cannot be done: every man must have his post, and his work, and his time. And the reason is the same in common life: for every family is a lesser kingdom; life is a voyage, and a warfare ; in which the undisciplined must expect to suffer the inconveniences of confusion and anarchy. Such is the dignity, propriety, benefit, and beauty of order; that it is from God himself, and shines throughout the whole world which he hath made. The sun rises every morning at his time; light and darkness succeed regularly, for labour and for rest; the stars perform their courses with unerring certainty ; the tides ebb and flow at their hour; there is a season for every change, and every change is in its season.
Even brute creatures all follow their instinct in an orderly manner. Those that are made for pasture spread themselves over the hills with the rising of the sun; while those which are made for prey are then retiring to their dens. The stork in the firmament knoweth her appointed time; the turtle, the crane, and the swallow observe their seasons; the bees, the ants, are examples of the most exact order and economy. The heavens above, the earth below, the seasons and the tides, beasts, birds, and insects, all instruct us, that we are to live by rule, and be exact in allotting our time to the several works and functions of life. And let me tell all those who have such an opinion of the brightness of their parts, and depend so upon the agility of their minds as to think they are above rules, that they are the persons, who stand most in need of them ; to reduce their motions to some meaning, and oblige them to a certain time, in doing those things, which otherwise their wandering heads would never do at all. Fluid mercury is very bright, and wonderfully active; but we can make no vessel out of it for the service of a family. For all such purposes, the solid metal is better,
as well as more valuable in itself. Yet good wits may be regular, without any impeachment of their sufficiency. Our great Alfred
man of wit, learning, magnanimity and accomplishment; but, from his wisdom and piety, such was his self-government, that no man ever lived by more exact rules, or did more business by the force of them. We have seen another character of modern times; not an Alfred, but very great as a man of parts, and a prince, and a general; who made his time of incredible value, and did wonderful things, by the observation of an exact method in the economical application of his hours. It may be difficult at first to live by rule: all restraint bears hard upon the wildness of nature, like a bit in the mouth; but habit makes it pleasant, and they who have tried it find so much use in it, that they can never willingly depart from it; such is the facility with which it enables us to conduct our affairs; such the readiness with which we transact business, and pass through all the concerns of life. It renders our time of much greater effect and value: a regular man will do more business in one day, and with less trouble, than another will in two. Kings are not ashamed of regularity: the