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THE WASTE OF LIFE.
ANERGUS was a gentleman of a good estate; he was bred to no business, and could not contrive how to waste his hours agreeably; he had no relish for any of the proper works of life, nor any taste at all for the improvements of the mind; he spent, generally, ten hours of the four-and-twenty in his bed; he dozed away two or three more on his couch, and as many were dissolved in good liquor every evening, if he met with company of his own humour. Five or six of the rest he sauntered away with much indolence; the chief business of them was to contrive his meals, and to feed his fancy before
with the promise a dinner and supper; not that he was so absolute a glutton or so entirely devoted to his appetite, but, chiefly because he knew not how to employ his thoughts better, he let them rove about the sustenance of his body. Thus he had made a shift to wear off ten years since the paternal estate fell into his hands; and yet, according to the abuse of words in our day, he was called a man of virtue, because he was scarce ever known to be quite drunken, nor was his nature much inclined to licentiousness.
One evening, as he was musing alone, his thoughts happened to take a most unusual turn, for they cast a glance backward, and began to reflect on his manner of life. He bethought himself what a number of living beings had been made a sacrifice to support his carcass, and how much corn and wine had been mingled with those offerings. He had not quite lost all the arithmetic that he had learned when he was a boy, and he set himself to compute
what he had devoured since he came to the age of man.
“ About a dozen of feathered creatures, small and great, have, one week with another,” said he, “given up their lives to prolong mine, which in ten years amounts to at least six thousand.
Fifty sheep have been sacrificed in a year, with half a hecatomb of black cattle, that I might have the choicest part offered weekly upon my table. Thus a thousand beasts out of the flock and the herd have been slain in ten years' time to feed me, besides what the forest has supplied me with. Many hundreds of fishes have, in all their varieties, been robbed of life for my repast, and of the smaller fry as many thousands.
“A measure of corn would hardly afford me fine flour enough for a month's provision, and this arises to above six score bushels; and many hogsheads of ale and wine, and other liquors, have passed through this body of mine, this wretched strainer of meat and drink.
“ And what have I done all this time for God or man? What a vast profusion of good things upon a useless life and a worthless liver! There is not the meanest creature among all these which I have devoured, but hath answered the end of its creation better than I. It was made to support human nature, and it hath done so. Every crab and oyster I have ate, and every grain of corn I have devoured, hath filled up its place in the rank of beings with more propriety and honour than I have done. Oh shameful waste of life and time!"
In short, he carried on his moral reflections with so just and severe a force of reason, as constrained him to change his whole course of life, to break off his follies at once, and to apply himself to gain some useful knowledge, when he was more than thirty years of age. He lived many following years with the character of a worthy man and an
excellent Christian; he performed the kind offices of a good neighbour at home, and made a shining figure as a patriot in the senate-house; he died with a peaceful conscience, and the tears of his country were dropped upon his tomb.
The world, that knew the whole series of his life, stood amazed at the mighty change. They beheld him as a wonder of reformation, while he himself confessed and adored the Divine power and mercy, which had transformed him from a brute to
But this was a single instance; and we may almost venture to write MIRACLE upon it. Are there not numbers of both sexes among our young gentry, in this degenerate age, whose lives thus run to utter waste, without the least tendency to usefulness ?
When I meet with persons of such a worthless character as this, it brings to my mind some scraps of Horace:
“Nos numerus sumus, et fruges consumere nati,
There are a number of us creep
SELF-DENIAL NOT THE ESSENCE OF
It is commonly asserted, that without self-denial there is no virtue, and that the greater the self-denial the greater the virtue.
If it were said that he who cannot deny himself anything he inclines to, though he knows it will be to his hurt, has not the virtue of resolution or fortitude, it would be intelligible enough; but, as it stands, it seems obscure or erroneous.
Let us consider some of the virtues singly.
If a man has no inclination to wrong people in his dealings, if he feels no temptation to it, and, therefore, never does it, can it be said that he is not a just man? If he is a just man, has he not the virtue of justice ?
If to a certain man idle diversions have nothing in them that is tempting, and, therefore, he never relaxes his application to business for their sake, is he not an industrious man ? Or has he not the virtue of industry?
I might in like manner instance in all the rest of the virtues; but, to make the thing short, as it is certain that the more we strive against the temptation to any vice, and practise the contrary virtue, the weaker will that temptation be, and the stronger will be that habit, till at length the temptation has no force or entirely vanishes; does it follow from thence that, in our endeavours to overcome vice, we grow continually less and less virtuous, till at length we have no virtue at all ?
If self-denial be the essence of virtue, then it follows that the man who is naturally temperate, just, &c., is not virtuous ; but that, in order to be
virtuous, he must, in spite of his natural inclination, wrong his neighbours, and eat, and drink, &c., to
But perhaps it may be said, that by the word virtue in the above assertion is meant merit; and so it should stand thus : Without self-denial there is no merit, and the greater the self-denial the great
merit. The self-denial here meant must be when our inclinations are towards vice, or else it would still be nonsense.
By merit is understood desert; and when we say a man merits, we mean that he deserves praise or reward.
We do not pretend to merit anything of God, for he is above our services; and the benefits he confers on us are the effects of his goodness and bounty.
All our merit, then, is with regard to one another, and from one to another.
Taking, then, the assertion as it last stands,
If a man does me a service from a natural benev. olent inclination, does he deserve less of me than another, who does me the like kindness against his inclination?
If I have two journeymen, one naturally industrious, the other idle, but both perform a day's work equally good, ought I to give the latter the most wages ?
Indeed, lazy workmen are commonly observed to be more extravagant in their demands than the industrious; for, if they have not more for their work, they cannot live as well. But though it be true to a proverb that lazy folks take the most pains, does it follow that they deserve the most money?
If you were to employ servants in affairs of trust, would you not bid more for one you knew was naturally honest than for one naturally roguish, but who has lately acted honestly? For currents, whose