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tion of established practice implies in its own nature a rejection of the common opinion, a defiance of common cenfure, and an appeal from general laws to private judgment: he, therefore, who differs from others without apparent advantage, ought not to be angry if his arrogance is punished with ridicule;' if those, whose example he superciliously overlooks, point him out to derision, and hoot hiin back again into the common road.
The pride of singularity is often exerted in litt! things, where right and wrong are indetermin and where, therefore, vanity is without there are occasions on which it is í
S, and stand alone. To be pious among infidels, to be disinterested in a time of general venality, to lead a life of virtue and reason in the midst of sensualifts, is a proof of a mind intent on nobler things than the praise or blame of men, of a foul fixed in the contemplation of the highest good, and superior to the tyranny of custom and example.
In moral and religious questions only, a wise man will hold no consultations with fashion, because these duties are constant and immutable, and depend not on the notions of men, but the commands of Heaven : yet even of these, the external mode is to be in some measure regulated by the prevailing taste of the age in which we live; for he is certainly no 'friend to virtue, who neglects to give it any lawful attraction, or suffers it to deceive the eye or alienate the affections for want of innocent compliance with fashionable decorations.
It is yet remembered of the learned and pious Nelson, that he was remarkably elegant in his man
ners, and splendid in his dress. He knew, that the eininence of his character drew many eyes upon him; and he was careful not to drive the young or the gay away from religion, by representing it as an enemy to any distinction or enjoyment in which human nature may innocently delight.
In this censure of singularity, I have, therefore, no intention to subject reason or conscience to custom or example. To comply with the notions and practices of mankind, is in some degree the duty of a social being; because by compliance only he can please, and by pleasing only he can become useful: but as the end is not to be lost for the sake of the means, we are not to give up virtue to complaisance; for the end of complaisance is only to gain the kindness of our fellow-beings, whose kindness is desirable only as instrumental to happiness, and happiness must be always loft by departure from virtue.
NUMB. 137. Tuesday, February 26, 1754.
To da ipiča
S man is a being very sparingly furnished with
the power of prescience, he can provide for the future only by considering the past; and as futurity is all in which he has any real interest, he ought very diligently to use the only means by which he can be enabled to enjoy it, and frequently to revolve the experiments which he has hitherto made upon life, that he may gain wisdom from his mistakes, and caution from his miscarriages.
Though I do not so exactly conform to the precepts of Pythagoras, as to practise every night this folemn recollection, yet I am not so loft in diffipation as wholly to omit it; nor can I forbear sometimes to enquire of myself, in what employment my life has passed away. Much of my time has sunk into nothing, and left no trace by which it can be diftinguished; and of this I now only know, that it was once in my power, and might once have been improved.
Of other parts of life memory can give some account; at some hours I have been gay, and at others ferious; I have sometimes mingled in conversation, and sometimes meditated in folitude; one day has L 3
been spent in consulting the ancient sages, and another in writing Adventurers.
At the conclusion of any undertaking, it is usual to compute the loss and profit. As I shall foon ceale to write Aiventurers, I could not forbear lately to consider what has been the consequence of my labours; and whether I ain to reckon the hours laid out in these compositions, as applied to a good and laudable purpote, or suffered to fume away in useless evaporations.
That I have intended well, I have the attestation of my own heart: but good intentions may be frustrated, when they are executed without suitable skill, or directed to an end unattainable in itself.
Some there are, who leave writers very little room for self-congratulation; some who afħrm, that books have no influence upon the publick, that no age was ever made better by its authors, and that to call upon mankind to correct their manners, is like Xerxes, to scourge the wind, or shackle the torrent.
This opinion they pretend to support by unfailing experience. The world is full of fraud and corruption, rapine or malignity; intereit is the ruling motive of mankind, and every one is endeavouring to increase his own stores of happiness by perpetual accumulation, without reflecting upon the numbers whom his luperfuity condemns to want : in this ftate of things a book of morality is published, in which charity and benevolence are strongly enforced; and it is proved beyond opposition, that men are happy in proportion as they are virtuous, and rich as they are literal. The book is applauded, and the au
thor is preferred; he imagines his applause deserved, and receives less pleasure from the acquisition of reward than the consciousness of merit. Let us look again upon mankind : interest is still the ruling motive, and the world is yet full of fraud and corruption, malevolence and rapine.
The difficulty of confuting this assertion arises merely from its generality and comprehension: to overthrow it by a detail of distinct facts, requires a wider survey of the world than human e, es can take; the progress of reformation is gradual and silent, as the extension of evening shadows; we know that they were short at noon, and are long at sun-set, but our senses were not able to discern their increase: we know of every civil nation, that it was once savage, and how was it reclaimed but by a preceptand admonition ?
Mankind are universally corrupt, but corrupt in different degrees; as they are universally ignorant, yet with greater or less irradiations of knowledge. How has knowledge or virtue been increased and preserved in one place beyond another, but by diligent inculcation and rational inforcement?
Books of morality are daily written, yet its influence is ftill little in the world; so the ground is annually ploughed, and yet multitudes are in want of bread. But, surely, neither the labours of the moralist nor of the husbandman are vain : let them for a while neglect their tasks, and their usefulness will be known; the wickedness that is now frequent would become universal, the bread that is now scarce would wholly fail. L 4