« ZurückWeiter »
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, aud as many were dissolved in good liquor every evening, if he met with company of his own homour. Five or sis of the rest he sauntered away with much indolence : the chief business of them was to contrive his meals, and to feed his fancy beforehand with the promise of a dinner or a supper. Not that he was so absolute a glutton, or so entirely devoted to appetite; but chiefly because he knew not how to employ his thoughts better, he let them rore about the sustenance of his body. Tus 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 drunk, vor was his nature much inclined to lewdness.
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 upon his manner' of life. He bethought himself what a niumber of living beings had been made a sacrifice to support his carcase, and how much corn and wine had been mingled with those offerings. He had not quite lost all the arithmetic he had learned when he was a boy, and he set bimself to compute what he had devoured siuce lie came to the age of man,
« 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 hare 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 mauy 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 an 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 eat, 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. O shameful waste of life and time!"
lo 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 very 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 a man.
But this was a single instance, and we may almost venture to write MIRACLE upon it. Are there 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
"Nos numerus sumus, et fruges consumere nati.
There are a number of us creep
Though crows and ravens do the same,
Then if their tombstone, when they die,
There are other fragments of that heathen poet, which occur on such occasions; one in the first of his Satires, the other in the last of his Epistles, which seem to represent life only as a season of luxury:
“.... exacto contentus tempore vitæ,
Tempus abire tibi."
Life's but a feast; and when we die,
THE WAY TO WEALTH, As clearly shown in the Preface of an old Pennsyl
vania Almanack, entitled, Poor Richard Im. proved.*
COURTEOUS READER, I HAVE heard, that nothing gives an author so great
• Dr. Franklin for many years published the Pennsylvania Almanack, called Poor Richard, (Saunders) and furnished it with various sentences and proverbs, which had principal relation to the topics of « industry, attention to one's own business, and frugality." The whole or chief of these sentences and proverbs he at last collected and digested in the above general preface, which his countrymen read with much avidity and profit.
pleasure as to find his works respectfully quoted by others. Judge, then, how much I must have been gratified by an incident I am going to relate to you. I stopped my horse lately, where a great number of people were collected, at an auction of merchants' goods. The hour of the sale not being come, they were conversing on the badness of the times; and one of the company called to a plain clean old man, with white locks, “ Pray, father Abraham, what think you of the times ? Will not these heavy taxes quite ruin the country? How shall we ever be able to pay them? What would you advise us to ?”— Father Abraham stood up, and replied, “ If you would have my advice, I will give it you in short; ' for a word to the wise is enough,' as Poor Richard says.” They joined in desiring him to speak his mind, and, gathering round him, he proceeded as follows:
“Friends," says he,“ the taxes are, indeed, very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us, by allowing an abatement. However, let us hearken to good advice, and something may be done for us : ‘God helps them that help them. selves,' as poor Richard says. :: “I. It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part of their time, to be employed in its service : but idleness taxes many of us much more; sloth, by bringing on dis