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preacher, perhaps I might have continued, notwithstanding the occasion I had for the Sunday's leisure in my course of study; but his discourses were chiefly either polemic arguments, or explications of the peculiar doctrines of our sect, and were all to me very dry, uninteresting, and unedifying; since not a single moral principle was inculcated or enforced; their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens.
At length he took for his text that verse of the fourth chapter to the Philippians, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, think on these things." And I imagined, in a sermon on such a text, we could not miss of having some morality. But he confined himself to five points only, as meant by the apostle; 1. Keeping holy the Sabbath Day. 2. Being diligent in reading the holy Scriptures. 3. Attending duly the public worship. 4. Partaking of the Sacrament. 5. Paying a due respect to God's ministers. These might be all good things; but, as they were not the kind of good things that I expected from that text, I despaired of ever meeting with them. from any other, was disgusted, and attended his preaching no more. I had some years before composed a little liturgy, or form of prayer, for my own private use, (in 1728,) entitled, Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion.* I returned to the use of this, and went no more to the public assemblies. My conduct might be blamable, but I leave it, without attempting further to excuse it; my present purpose being to relate facts, and not to make apologies for them.†
*See Vol. II. p. 1.
In Mr. Walsh's "Life of Franklin," published in Delaplaine's Repository, there is an extract, copied from an original paper in Franklin's
It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time, and to conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company, might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my attention was taken up, and care employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded at length, that the mere speculative conviction, that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits.
handwriting, which claims insertion in this place, as connected with the subject upon which the author is now about to speak.
"Those, who write of the art of poetry," says Franklin, "teach us, that, if we would write what may be worth reading, we ought always, before we begin, to form a regular plan and design of our piece; otherwise we shall be in danger of incongruity. I am apt to think it is the same as to life. I have never fixed a regular design in life, by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one; let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that henceforth I may live in all respects like a rational creature.
"1. It is necessary for me to be extremely frugal for some time, till I have paid what I owe.
"2. To endeavour to speak truth in every instance, to give nobody expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every word and action; the most amiable excellence in a rational being.
"3. To apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty.
"4. I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and, upon proper occasions, speak all the good I know of everybody."-Editor.
must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore tried the following method.
In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking; while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition. I proposed to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annexed to each, than a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues, all that at that time occurred to me as necessary or desirable; and annexed to each a short precept, which fully expressed the extent I gave to its meaning.
These names of virtues, with their precepts, were; 1. TEMPERANCE.-Eat not to dulness; drink not to elevation.
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. ORDER.Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY.-Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY.-Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. 7. SINCERITY. - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. JUSTICE. - Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLIness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
11. TRANQUILLITY. - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
13. HUMILITY. - Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then to proceed to another; and so on, till I should have gone through the thirteen. And, as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arranged them with that view, as they stand above. Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and a guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits, and the force of perpetual temptations. This being acquired and established, Silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain knowledge at the same time that I improved in virtue, and considering that in conversation it was obtained rather by the use of the ear than of the tongue, and therefore wishing to break a habit I was getting into of prattling, punning, and jesting, which only made me acceptable to trifling company, I gave Silence the second place. This and the next, Order, I expected would allow me more time for attending to my project and my studies. Resolution, once become habitual, would keep me firm in my en
deavours to obtain all the subsequent virtues; Frugalily and Industry relieving me from my remaining debt, and producing affluence and independence, would make more easy the practice of Sincerity and Justice, &c. &c. Conceiving then, that, agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in his Golden Verses, daily examination would be necessary, I contrived the following method for conducting that examination.
I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the virtues. I ruled each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I crossed these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues; on which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed respecting that virtue, upon that day.*
This little book is dated Sunday, 1st July, 1733. — W. T. F. In a letter written by the author to Lord Kames, in November, 1761, he thus alludes to the scheme here mentioned, and to the design he then had of expanding it into a treatise on the Art of Virtue. In that letter he says; "To produce the number of valuable men necessary in a nation for its prosperity, there is much more hope from schemes of early institution than from reformation. And, as the power of a single man to do national service, in particular situations of influence, is often immensely great, a writer can hardly conceive the good he may be doing, when engaged in works of this kind. I cannot, therefore, but wish you would publish it ["Elements of Criticism"] as soon as your other important employments will permit you to give it the finishing hand. With these sentiments you will not doubt my being serious in the intention of finishing my Art of Virtue. It is not a mere ideal work. I planned it first in 1732. I have from time to time made, and caused to be made, experiments of the method with success. The materials have been growing ever since. The form only is now to be given; in which I purpose employing my first leisure, after my return to my other country." This project, as will be seen hereafter, was never carried into effect. -EDITOR.