« السابقةمتابعة »
PART II. In performing the offices of beneficence to others, he may encounter with hardship or danger to himself.
But this circumftance, which feems to restrain or limit his activity, ferves rather to whet his fpirit, and increase his ardour in the performance of worthy actions. The difficulty he furmounts becomes an evidence of the difpofition which he approves, and actually endears the object for whofe fake he expofes himself. Hence it is, that ingenuous minds are confirmed in the love of virtue, in proportion as it becomes a principle of elevation, of heroifm, or magnanimity. These, it is scarcely neceffary to obferve, are primary topics of praise, and principal excellencies of human nature, while pufilanimity and cowardice are amongst the lowest subjects of contempt.
From these particulars, then, we may collect that the excellence of a man includes the following particulars: Wisdom, or skill to chufe, and to accomplish what he ought to attempt; a benevolent affection, which wisdom is fitted to direct; an application of mind, which inferior confiderations cannot divert from its purpofe; and a force, which opposition, difficulty, or danger, cannot dismay. And, as the excellent man is wife, beneficent, courageous, and temperate; the defective, on the contrary, is foolish, malicious, cowardly, and fenfual. The wife chufe, among their ends, what is beft; among the means they employ, what is most effectual. The benevolent are committed to their beft affections; the courageous are exempted from the fuffering and the weakness of fear; the temperate reserve their faculties, and their time, for the best and worthiest occupations of their nature; and, if from this statement of the excellence to which human nature is competent, we look back to what has been already obferved on the subject of pleasure
and pain, we shall have reafon to conclude, that the Author of
To be conscious of excellence, from the very nature of approbation and esteem, is a state of enjoyment; and, to be conscious of vileness or defect, a state of fuffering: Or, if these sentiments could be fuppreffed, ftill, the conftituents of man's fpecific excellence, Wisdom, Juftice, Temperance, and Fortitude, apart from reflections they may bring, are in themselves, either an exemption from pain, or an acceffion of pleasure. And providence feems to intend, that this diftinction, which is the fource of elevation, integrity, and goodness, in the mind of man, fhould be the guide, by which he is moft fecurely led to the highest enjoyments, to which his nature is competent. The excellence and beauty he admires may become an attribute of his own mind; and, whether in reflection or action, constitute the most agreeable state of his
If we thus figure to ourselves an active intelligent being in the best state of which he is fufceptible; this, in respect to him is to be virtuous. Or, if we fhould be difpofed to confider even the excellent mind, in refpect to its external relations and effects rather than in respect to its own conftitution, we may observe, that the wife, the courageous, the temperate, and the benevolent, are of all others most likely to stand well-affected to their fellow-creatures, to the univerfe, and to the Creator of the world; that none are fo likely to recognize the providence and moral government of God, or to fettle religion itself on its beft foundations of inte
PART II. grity and goodness. But before we proceed to state the conclufion of CHAP. I. this argument, in any general expreffion of the fupreme good to S. cr. IV. which human nature is competent, it is proper to take into our account also, what may occur on the subject of prosperity, or of those external advantages in which the gifts of fortune confist.
Of Profperity and Adverfity, or the Gifts and Privations of
To this title may be referred health, strength, birth, riches, and PART. II. whatever else may be fuppofed to constitute the difference of fi- CHAP. I. SECT. V. tuation or rank in fociety. The poffeffion of them is coveted, and the privation is fhunned, for reafons peculiar to each.
Health is to the animal frame, what wisdom and goodness are to the intellectual nature of man, its found and perfect state. Strength is also the measure of animal power, in furmounting difficulties, and performing the labours that require it. Birth constitutes rank, apart from any confideration of fortune or perfonal qualities. Riches confift in the store which is provided for the fupply of animal wants, accommodation, or ornament.
The reasons for which thefe advantages are feverally coveted are extremely obvious. Health is an exemption from the sufferings incident to disease; and it is a fitness of the living frame
for all its active exertions. It enhances the value of life, as im-
Strength of body is in fome measure an appurtenance of health. It is unequal in the make of different perfons; but is most entire in any given constitution, in the most profperous state of the animal functions. So far as the constituents of wealth are neceffary to the preservation of animal life, their value is evidently commenfurate to that of life itself: But it is difficult to draw the line of feparation betwixt convenience and abfolute neceffity, or between articles of convenience and thofe of mere decorum and fancy. There is a gratification proposed in the use of all or any of them feparately, which gives rife to a hasty presumption that men are happy in proportion as they have accummulated the means of fuch gratifications. The rich can purchase the services of the poor, obtain their attendance and refpect; and by these circumftances seem to rank in a superior station. Birth is attended with fimilar advantages; and, although it may have originated in the riches, as well as fome heroic diftinction of ancestors, at fome distant period, is nevertheless by a wonderful caprice in the imaginations of men, reckoned the more illuftrious the farther back that its fource, or the original merit from which it is derived is retired from the fight.
The poffeffion or privation of these advantages depend upon circumstances which mankind cannot command, nor even enu