Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

trust in God. And when I observe that there is great frugality, as well as wisdom, in his works, since he has been evidently sparing both of labour and materials ; for by the various wonderful inventions of propagation, he has provided for the continual peopling of his world with plants and animals, without being at the trouble of repeated new creations; and by the natural reduction of compound substances to their original elements, capable of being employed in new compositions, he has prevented the necessity of creating new matter; so that the earth, water, air, and perhaps fire, which being compounded form wood, do, when the wood is dissolved, return, and again become air, earth, fire, and water; I say that when I see nothing annihilated, and not even a drop of water wasted, I cannot suspect the annihilation of souls, or believe that he will suffer the daily waste of minds ready made that now exist, and put himself to the continual trouble of making new ones. Thus finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall, in some shape or other, always exist : and with all the incon. veniences human life is liable to, I shall not object to a new edition of mine; hoping however that the errata of the last may be corrected.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The more I see the impossibility, from the num. ber and extent of his crimes, of giving equivalent punishment to a wicked man in this life, the more I am convinced of a future state, in which all that here appears to be wrong shall be set right, all that is crooked made straight.

GRATITUDE.

He smiled, and would have turned the conversation : but I gave him a little more of my sentiments on the general subject of benefits, obligation, and gratitude. I said I thought people had often imperfect notions of their duty on those points, and that a state of obligation was to many so uneasy a state, that they became ingenious in finding out reasons and arguments to prove they had been laid under no obligation at all, or that they had discharged it: and they too easily satisfied themselves with such arguments. To explain clearly my ideas on the subject, I stated a case. A. a stranger to B. sees him about to be imprisoned for debt by a merciless cre. ditor. He lends him the sum necessary to preserve his liberty. B. then becomes the debtor of A. and after some time repays the money. Has he then discharged the obligation ? No; he has discharged the money debt, but the obligation remains, and he is debtor for the kindness of A. in lending the same so seasonably. If B. should afterwards find A. in the same circumstances that he B. had been in when A. lent him the money, he may then discharge this obligation or debt of kindness in part by lending him an equal sum. In part, I said, and not wholly, because when A. lent B. the money, there had been no prior benefit received to induce him to it. And therefore, if A. should a second time need the same assistance, I thought B., if in his power, was in duty bound to afford it to him.

ON TRUE HAPPINESS.

The desire of happiness in general is so natural to us, that all the world are in pursuit of it; all have this one end in view, though they take such different methods to attain it, and are so much divided in their notions of it,

Evil, as evil, can never be chosen ; and though evil is often the effect of our own choice, yet we never desire it, but under the appearance of an imaginary good.

Many things we indulge ourselves in may be con. sidered by us as evils, and yet be desirable; but then they are only considered as evils in their effects and consequences, not as evils at present, and attended with immediate misery.

Reason represents things to us, not only as they are at present, but as they are in their whole nature and tendency ; passion only regards them in their former light: when this governs us, we are regardless of the future, and are only affected with the present.

It is impossible ever to enjoy ourselves rightly, if our conduct be not such as to preserve the harmony and order of our faculties, and the original frame and constitution of our minds; all true happiness, as all that is truly beautiful can only result from order,

While there is a conflict betwixt the two principles of passion and reason, we must be miserable in proportion to the struggle ; and when the victory is gained, and reason so far subdued as seldom to trouble us with its remonstrances, the happiness we have then is not the happiness of our rational nature, but the happiness only of the inferior and sensual part of us, and consequently a very low and imperfect happiness, to what the other would have afforded us.

If we reflect upon any one passion and disposition of mind, abstract from virtue, we shall soon see the disconnexion between that and true solid happiness. It is of the very essence, for instance, of envy to be uneasy and disquieted. Pride meets with provocations and disturbances upon almost every occasion. Covetousness is ever attended with solicitude and anxiety. Ambition has its disappointments to sour us, but never the good fortune to satisfy us; its appetite grows the keener by indulgence, and all we can gratify it with at present serves but the more to inflame its insatiable desires.

The passions, by being too much conversant with earthly objects, can never fix in us a proper composure and acquiescence of mind. Nothing but an indifference to the things of this world, an entire submission to the will of Providence here, and a well-grounded expectation of happiness hereafter, can give us a true satis factory enjoyment of ourselves. Virtue is the best guard against the many unavoidable evils incident to us; nothing better alleviates the weight of the afflictions, or gives a truer relish of the blessings of human life.

What is without us has not the least connexion with happiness, only so far as the preservation of our lives and health depends upon it. Health of body, though so far necessary that we cannot be perfectly happy without it, is not sufficient to make us happy of itself. Happiness springs immediately from the mind ; health is but to be considered as a candidate or circumstance, without which this happiness cannot be tasted pure and unabated.

Virtue is the best preservative of health, as it prescribes temperance, and such a regulation of our pas sions as is most conducive to the well-being of the animal economy, so that it is, at the same time, the only true happiness of the mind and the best means of preserving the health of the body.

If our desires are to the things of this world, they are never to be satisfied ; if our great view is upon

those of the next, the expectation of them is an in. finitely higher satisfaction than the enjoyment of those of the present.

There is no happiness, then, but in a virtuous and self-approving conduct ; unless our actions will bear the test of our sober judgments, and reflections upon them, they are not the actions, and consequently not the happiness, of a rational being.

HEREDITARY HONOURS.

Your care in sending me the newspapers is very agreeable to me. I received by Captain Barney those relating to the Cincinnati. My opinion of the insti. tution cannot be of much importance. I only wonder that, when the united wisdom of our nation had, in the articles of confederation, manifested their dislike of establishing ranks of nobility, by authority either of the congress or of any particular state, a number of private persons should think proper to distinguish themselves and their posterity from their fellow-citi. zens, and form an order of hereditary knights, in direct opposition to the solemnly declared sense of their country! I imagine it must be likewise contrary to the good sense of most of those drawn into it, by the persuasion of its projectors, who have been too much struck with the ribands and crosses they have seen hanging to the button-holes of foreign officers. And I suppose those who disapprove of it have not hitherto given it much opposition, from a principle somewhat like that of your good mother, relating to punctilious persons, who are always exacting little observances of respect; that “if people can be pleased with small matters, it is a pity but they should have them.” In

« ZurückWeiter »