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necessary, because, by the exactness of the method, we get a habit of using our minds to the best advantage. And it is remarkable, that, all men being capable by nature to reason and understand the sciences, the less acute, by studying this, though useless to them in every other respect, will gain this advantage, that their minds will be improved in reasoning aright; for no study employs it more, nor makes it susceptible of attention so much; and those, who we find have a mind worth cultivating, ought to apply themselves to this study."
ON TRUE HAPPINESS.
'ROM THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE, NOV. 20, 1735.
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 considered 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.
Whilst 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 satisfactory 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 condition 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 passions 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 infinitely 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.
FROM THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE, OCT. 14, 1736.
The world but a few ages since was in a very poor condition, as to trade and navigation; nor indeed were they much better in other matters of useful knowledge. It was a green-headed time; every useful improvement was hid from them; they had neither looked into heaven nor earth, into the sea nor land, as has been done since. They had philosophy without experiments, mathematics without instruments, geometry without scale, astronomy without demonstration.
They made war without powder, shot, cannon, or mortars; nay, the mob made their bonfires without squibs or crackers. They went to sea without compass, and sailed without the needle. They viewed the stars without telescopes, and measured latitudes without observation. Learning had no printing-press, writing no paper, and paper no ink. The lover was forced to send his mistress a deal board for a love-letter, and a billet-doux might be about the size of an ordinary trencher. They were clothed without manufacture, and their richest robes were the skins of the most formidable monsters. They carried on trade without books, and correspondence without posts; their merchants kept no accounts, their shopkeepers no cashbooks; they had surgery without anatomy, and physicians without the materia medica; they gave emetics without ipecacuanha, drew blisters without cantharides, and cured agues without the bark.
As for geographical discoveries, they had neither seen the North Cape, nor the Cape of Good Hope south. All the discovered inhabited world, which they knew and conversed with, was circumscribed within
very narrow limits, viz. France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Greece; the lesser Asia, the west part of Persia, Arabia, the north parts of Africa, and the islands of the Mediterranean sea, and this was the whole world to them; not that even these countries were fully known either, and several parts of them not inquired into at all. Germany was known little further than the banks of the Elbe; Poland as little beyond the Vistula, or Hungary as little beyond the Danube; Muscovy or Russia perfectly unknown, as much as China beyond it; and India only by a little commerce upon the coast, about Surat and Malabar. Africa had been more unknown, but by the ruin of the Carthaginians; all the western coast of it was sunk out of knowledge again, and forgotten; the northern coast of Africa, in the Mediterranean, remained known, and that was all; for the Saracens overrunning the nations which were planted there, ruined commerce, as well as religion. The Baltic sea was not discovered, nor even the navigation of it known; for the Teutonic knights came not thither till the thirteenth century.
America was not heard of, nor so much as a suggestion in the minds of men that any part of the world lay that way. The coasts of Greenland, or Spitsbergen, and the whale-fishing, not known; the best navigators in the world, at that time, would have fled from a whale, with much more fright and horror, than from the Devil, in the most terrible shapes they had been told he appeared in.
The coasts of Angola, Congo, the Gold and the Grain coasts, on the west side of Africa, whence, since that time, such immense wealth has been drawn, not discovered, nor the least inquiry made after them. All the East India and China trade, not only undiscovered, but out of the reach of expectation! Coffee and tea