Abbildungen der Seite

friends. The time never lies heavy upon him ; it is inpossible for him to be alone.

10. His thoughts and passions are the most busied at such hours when those of other men are the most inactive ; he no sooner steps out of the world, but his heart burns witli devotion, swells with hope, and triumphs in the consciousness of that presence which every where surrounds him; or on the contrary, pours out its fears, its sorrows, its appre bensions, to the great supporter of its existence.

11. I have here only considered the necessity of a man's being virtuous, that he may have something to do ; but if we consider further, that the exercise of virtue is not only an amusement for the time it lasts, but that its influence extends to those parts of our existence which lie beyond the grave, and that our whole eternity is to take its color from those hours which we here employ in virtue or in vice, the argument redoubles upon us, for putting in practice this method of passing away our time.

12. When a man has but a little stock to improve, and has opportunities of turning it all to good account, what shall we think of him, if he suffers nineteen parts of it to lie dead, and perhaps employs even the twentieth to his ruin or disadvantage? But because the mind cannot be always in its fervor nor strained up to a pitch of virtue, it is necessary to find out proper employments for it in its relaxations.

13. The next method, therefore, that I would propose to fill up our time, should be useful and innocent diversion. I must confess I think it is below reasonable creatures to be altogether conversant in such diversions as are merely innocent, and have nothing else to recommend them, but that there is no hurt in them.

14. Whether any kind of gaming has even thus much to say for itself, I shall not determine ; but I think it is very wonderful to see persons of the best sense, passing away a dozen hours together, in shuffling and dividing a pack of cards, with no other conversation but what is made up of a few game phrases, and no other ideas but those of black or red spots, ranged together in different figures. Would not a man laugh to hear any one of his species complaining that life is short ?

15. But the mind never unbends itself so agreeably, as "he conversation of a well chosen friend. There is, in

d, no blessing of life that is any way comparable to the

enjoyment of a discreet and virtuous friend. It eases and unloads the mind, clears and improves the understanding, engenders thoughts and knowledge, animates virtue and good resolutions, sooths and allays the passions, and finds employment for most of the vacant hours of life.

16. Next to such an intimacy with a particular person, one would endeavor after a more general conversation with such as are able to entertain and improve those with whom they converse, which are qualifications that seldom go asunder.

17. There are many other useful amuseinents of life, which one would endeavor to multiply, that one might on all occasions have recourse to something rather than suffer the mind to lie idle or run adrift with any passion that chances to rise in it.

18. A man that has a taste in music, painting, or architecture is like one that has another sense when compared with such as have no relish of those arts. The florist, the planter, the gardener, the husbandman, when they are only as accomplishments to the man of fortune, are great reliefs to a country life, and many ways useful to those who are possessed of thein.

OF CHEERFULNESS. HAVE always preferred cheerfulness to mirth. The 1.

latter I consideras an act, the former as a habit of the mind. Mirth is short and transient, cheerfulness fixed and permanent. Those are often raised into the greatest transports of mirth, who are subject to the greatest depressions of melancholy ; on the contrary, cheerfulness, though it does not give the mind such an exquisite gladness, prevents us from falling into any depths of sorrow. Mirth is like a Aash of lightning that breaks thrcugh a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment ; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity,

2. Men of austere principles look upon mirth as too wan ton and dissolute for a state of probation, and as filled with a certain triumph and insolence of heart that is inconsistent with a life which is every moment obnoxious to the greatest dangers. Writers of this complexion have observed, that the sacred person who was the great pattern of perfection was never seen to laugh.

R 2

3. Cheerfulness of mind is not liable to any of these exceptions ; it is of a serious and composed nature ; it does not throw the mind into a condition improper for the present state of humanity, and is very conspicuous in the characters of those who are looked upon as the greatest philosophers among the heathens, as well as among those who have been deservecily esteenied as saints and holy men mong christians.

4. If we consider cheerfulness in three lights, with regard to ourselves, to those who converse with, and to the great Author of our being, it will not a little recommend it. self on each of these accounts. The man who is possessed of this excellent frame of mind is not only easy in his thoughts but a perfect master of all the powers and faculties of the soul ; his imagination is always clear, and his judgment undisturbed ; his temper is even and unruffled, whether in action or solitude. He comes with a relish to all those goods which nature has provided for him, tastes all the pleasures of the creation which are poured about him, and does not feel the full weight of those accidental evils which may beR.1 him.

5. If we consider him in relation to the persons whom ho converses with, it naturally produces love and good will towards ķim. A cheerful mind is not only disposed to be affable and obliging, but raises the same good humor in those who come within its influence. A man finds himself pleased, he does not know why, with the cheerfulness of his companion : it is like a sudden sunshine that awakens a sea cret delig!t in the mind without her attending to it. The hear, rejoices of its own accord, and naturally flows out into. friendship and benevolence towards the person who has so. Kindly an effect upon it.

6. When I consider this cheerful state of mind in its third relation, I cannot but look upon it as a constant habitual gratitude to the great Author of nature. An inward cheer fulness is an impiicit praise and thanksgiving to Providence under all its dispens.icions. It is a kind of acquiescence in the state wherein we are placed, and a secret approbation of the Divine will in his conduct towards man.

7. There are but two things, which in my opinion, can reasonal y deprive us of this cheerfulness of heart. The first of these is the sense of guilt. A man who lives in a state of vice and impenitence can bare po tille to that

evemess and tranquility of mind which is the health of the soul, and the natural effect of virtue and innocence. Cheerfulness in an ill man deserves a harder name than language can furnish us with, and is many degrees beyond what we commonly call folly or madness.

8. Atheism, by which I mean a disbelief of a Supreme Being, and consequently of a future state, under whatsoever uitle it shelters itself, may likewise very reasonably deprive a man of his cheerfulness of temper. There is something so particularly gloomy and offensive to human nature in the

prospect of non-existence, that I cannot but wonder, with many excellent writers, how it is possible for a man to outlive the expectation of it. For my own part, I think the being of a God is so little to be doubted that it is almost the only truth we are sure of, and such a truth as we meet with in every object, in every occurrence, and in every thought.

9. If we look into the characters of this tribe of infidels, we generally find they are made up of pride, spleen and cavil ; it is indeed no wonder, that men, who are uneasy to themselves should be so to the rest of the world; and how is it possible for a man to be otherwise than uneasy in himself, who is in danger every moment of losing his entire existence, and dropping into nothing ?

10. The vicious man and Atheist have therefore no pretense to cheerfulness, and would act very unreasonably, should they endleavor after it. It is impossible for any one to live in good humor and enjoy his present existence, who is apprehensive either of torment or of annihilation ; of being miserable, or of not being at all.

il. After having mentioned these two great principles, which are destructive of cheerfulness in their own nature, as well as in right reason, I cannot think of any other that ought to banish this happy temper from a virtuous mind.-Pain and sickness, shame and reproach, poverty and old age, nay death itself, considering the shortness of their duration, and the advantage we may reap from them, do not deserve the name of evils.

12. A good mind may bear up under them with fortitude, with independence, and with cheerfulness, of heart: the tossing of a tempest does not discompose him, which he is. sure will bring him to a joyful harbor.

13. A man who uses his best endeavors to live according to the dictates of virtue and right reason has two perpetual sources of cheerfulness, in the consideration of hiown nature, and of that Being on whom he has a depends ence.

14. If he looks into himself, he cannot but rejoice in that existence, which is so lately bestowed upon him, and which after millions of ages will be still new, and still in its beginning. How many self congratulations naturally arise in the mind, when it reflects on this its entrance into eternity, when it takes a view of those improveable faculties, which in a few years, and even at its first setting out have made so considerable a progress, and which will be still receiving an increase of perfection, and consequently an increase of happiness?

15. The conciousness of such a being spreads a perpetu. al diffusion of joy through the soul of a virtuous man, and makes him look upon himself every moment as more happy than he knows how to conceive.

16. The second source of cheerfulness to a good mind is, its consideration of that Being on whom we have our dependence, and in whom though we behold him as yet in the first faint discoveries of his perfections, we see every thing that we can imagin as great, glorious, or amiable. We find ourselves every where upheld by his goodness, and surrounded by an immensity of love and mercy,

17. In short, we depend upon a being, whose power qualifies him to make us happy by an infinity of means, whose goodness and truth engage him to make those happy who desire it of him, and whose unchangeableness will secure us in this happiness to all eternity.

18. Such considerations which every one should perpetually cherish in his thoughts, will banish from us all that secret heaviness of heart which unthinking men are subject to when they lie under no real affliction, all that anguish which we may feel from any evil that actually opposes us, to which I may likewise add those little cracklings of mirth and foliy, that are apter to betray virtue than s&pport it ; and establish in us such an even and cheerful temper as makes us pleasing to ourselves, to those with whom we converse, and to him whom we are made tos please.

« ZurückWeiter »