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will do no good, ought not to receive or enjoy any. As we all are joint traders and partners in life, he forfeits his right to any share in the common stock of happiness, who does not endeavour to contribute his quota or allotted part to it: the public happiness being nothing, but the sum total of each individual's contribution to it. An easy fortune does not set men free from labour and industry in general; it only exempts them from some particular kinds of labour. It is not a blessing, as it gives them liberty to do nothing at all; but as it gives them liberty wisely to choose and steadily to prosecute the most ennobling exercises, and the most improving employments, the pursuit of truth, the practice of virtue, the service of that God, who giveth them all things richly to enjoy, in short the doing and being everything that is commendable: though nothing merely in order to be commended. That time, which others must employ in tilling the ground (which often deceives their expectation) with the sweat of their brow, they may lay out in cultivating the mind, a soil always grateful to the care of the tiller. The sum of what I would say is this: That, though you are not confined to any particular calling, yet you have a general one: which is to watch over your heart, and to improve your head; to make yourself master of all those accomplishments, viz. an enlarged compass of thought, that flowing humanity, and generosity, which are necessary to become a great fortune; and of all those perfections, viz. moderation, humility, and temperance, which are necessary to bear a small one patiently; but especially it is your duty to acquire a taste for those pleasures, which, after they are tasted, go off agreeably, and leave behind them a grateful and delightful flavour on the mind.
Happy that man, who, unembarrassed by vulgar cares, master of himself, his time and fortune, spends his time in making himself wiser, and his fortune in making others (and therefore himself), happier; who, as the will and understanding
are the two ennobling faculties of the soul, thinks himself not complete, till his understanding be beautified with the valuable furniture of knowledge; as well as his will enriched with every virtue: who has furnished himself with all the advantages to relish solitude, and enliven conversation; when serious, not sullen; and when cheerful, not indiscreetly gay; his ambition not to be admired for a false glare of greatness, but to be beloved for the gentle and sober lustre of his wisdom and good
The greatest minister of state has not more business to do in a public capacity, than he, and indeed every man else, may find in the retired and still scenes of life. Even in his private walks, everything that is visible convinceth him, there is present a being invisible. Aided by natural philosophy,
he reads plain legible traces of the Divinity in everything he meets: he sees the Deity in every tree, as well as Moses did in the burning bush, though not in so glaring a manner : and when He sees him, He adores him with the tribute of a grateful heart.
He who endeavours to oblige the company by his good-nature, never fails of being beloved : he who strives to entertain it by his good sense, never fails of being esteemed: but he who is continually aiming to be witty, generally miscarries of his aim: his aim and intention is to be admired, but it is his misfortune either to be despised or detested; to be despised for want of judgment, or detested for want of humanity. For we seldom admire the wit, when we dislike the man. There are a great many, to whom the world would be so charitable, as to allow them to have a tolerable share of common sense; if they did not set up for something more than common, something very uncommon, bright and witty. If we would trace the faults of conversation up to their original source, most of them might, I believe, be resolved into this, that men had rather
appear shining, than be agreeable in company. They are endeavouring to raise admiration, instead of gaining love and good-will: whereas the latter is in everybody's power, the former in that of
Degenerate souls, wedded to their vicious habits, may disclaim all commerce with heaven, refusing to invoke Him, whose infinite wisdom is ever prompt to discern, and His bounty to relieve the wants of those who faithfully call upon him; and neglecting to praise Him, who is great and marvellous in His works, just and righteous in His ways, infinite and incomprehensible in His nature: but all here, I would persuade myself, will daily set apart some time to think on Him, who gave us power to think: He was the author, and He should be the object of our faculties.
And to do this the better, let us take care that every morning, as soon as we rise, we lay hold on this proper season of address, and offer up to God the first-fruits of our thoughts, yet fresh, unsullied, and serene, before a busy swarm of vain images crowd in upon the mind, when the spirits just refreshed with sleep are brisk and active, and rejoice, like that sun, which ushers in the day, to run their course; when all nature just awakened into being from insensibility pays its early homage; then let us join in the universal chorus, who are the only creatures in the visible creation capable of knowing to whom it is to be addressed.
And in the evening, when the stillness of the night invites to solemn thoughts, after we have collected our straggling ideas, and suffered not a reflection to stir, but what either looks upward to God, or inward upon ourselves, upon the state of our minds; then let us scan over each action of the day-fervently entreat God's pardon for what we have done amiss, and
the gracious assistance of His spirit for the future: and, after having adjusted accounts between our Maker and ourselves, commit ourselves to His care for the following night.
Thus beginning and closing the day with devotion, imploring His direction, every morning as we rise, for the following day; and recommending ourselves every night before we lie down, to His protection, who neither slumbers nor sleeps; the intermediate spaces will be better filled up: each line of our behaviour will terminate in God, as the centre of our actions. Our lives all of a piece will constitute one regular whole, to which each part will bear a necessary relation and correspondence, without any broken and disjointed schemes, independent of this grand end, the pleasing of God. And while we have this one point in view, whatever variety there may be in our actions, there will be an uniformity too, which constitutes the beauty of life, just as it does of everything else; an uniformity without being dull and tedious, and a variety without being wild and irregular.
How would this settle the ferment of our youthful passions, and sweeten the last dregs of our advanced age! How would this make our lives yield the calmest satisfaction, as some flowers shed the most fragrant odours, just at the close of the day! And perhaps there is no better way to prevent a deadness and flatness of spirit from succeeding, when the briskness of our passions goes off, than to acquire an early taste for those spiritual delights, whose leaf withers not, and whose verdure remains in the winter of our days.
And when this transitory scene is shutting upon us, when the soul stands upon the threshold of another world, just ready to take its everlasting flight; then may we think with unallayed pleasure on God, when there can be little or no pleasure to think upon anything else. And our souls may undauntedly follow to that place, whither our prayers and affections, those forerunners of the spirit, are gone before.
One of the greatest philosophers of this age* being asked by a friend, who had often admired his patience under great provocations, by what means he had suppressed his anger? answered, “ that he was naturally quick of resentment; but that he had by daily prayer and meditation attained to this mastery over himself. As soon as he arose in the morning, it was, throughout his life, his daily practice to retire for an hour to private prayer and meditation. This, he often told his friends, gave him spirit and vigour for the business of the day. This he therefore recommended as the best rule of life. For nothing he knew could support the soul in all distresses but a confidence in the Supreme Being. Nor can a rational and steady magnanimity flow from any other source than a consciousness of the Divine favour.”
Of Socrates, who is said to have gained an ascendant over his passions, it is reported that his life was full of prayers and addresses to God.
And of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, another great example of virtue, it is expressly recorded, that (contrary to a fashion now prevailing) he never did eat of anything, but he first prostrated himself, and offered thanks to the supreme Lord of heaven.
Leave not off praying, said a pious man: for either praying will make thee leave off sinning, or sinning will make thee leave off praying. If we say our prayers in a cold, supine, lifeless manner now and then, I know no other effect they will have, but to enhance our condemnation. In effect we do not pray, we only say our prayers. We pay not the tribute of the heart, but an unmeaning form of homage; we draw near to God with our lips, while our heart is far from him. And without perseverance in prayer, the notions of the amendment of our lives, and a sacred regard to the Deity, will only float for a while in the head without sinking deep, or dwelling long