صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


the poffeffor to pass his time agreeably. To be reasonably and properly occupied about them is enough: but this occupation may take place in any state of their diftribution; and, although it feems to be the institution of nature, relating to mankind, that their active exertions fhould originate from the want of a fupply to their animal neceflities; yet is it provided, alfo, that their felicity fhould be a quality of their own affections and actions, not of the fupply they have obtained; that it should not depend on events, or on circumstances in which the conditions of men are fo unequal, and fo little at their own command.

In confidering man's place and distinction in the system of nature, we have had occasion to observe; that, being disposed to enjoy his own active exertions, and to improve by the exercise of his faculties, many apparent comparative defects of his animal frame, and the wants to which he is subjected, have a signal propriety in his lot. To him, difficulty, delay, and danger, are the occafions of ingenuity, perfeverance, and courage. He is master of his own actions; but the circumstances, in which he is to act, are wifely withheld from his difpofal. For it being the nature of an active difpofition to prefs towards every advantage; and to haften the removal of every obftruction, and of every inconvenience; if this could be done by a wish, there would not any longer be an occafion for active exertions: And if, on the contrary, the laws of nature were infcrutable, and events no way affected by any means in the power of man to employ, there would be nothing for him to study and nothing to be done.

The scene of nature, indeed, is in both these respects well fuited to man. The powers that operate connot be controuled by his will; but the laws, according to which they proceed, may be known, and measures taken to influence the refult of their opera



[ocr errors]


tions. He is encouraged to ply his industry and his fkill; and PART II.
his work is not accomplished in fingle efforts. Upon a difap- CHAP. I.
pointment, he must renew his endeavours; and, even when most
fuccefsful, repeat or follow them up with fomewhat farther in
the line of his purfuits. The mixed fcene of disappointment and
fuccefs ever presents him with a spur to his exertion, with admo-
nitions to care, and incitements to industry, with encouragements
to hope or apprehenfions of failure; and, furnishes him with
occafions, and with the materials of beneficence to others, as
well as of profit to him felf.

It is particularly happy, in respect to this inftitution of his nature, that the conduct, tranfaction, and intercourse, in which the materials of art engage mankind, are agreeable to their active difpofition, while the measure in which these materials accrue to any one, is in fome measure indifferent. All the best or the worst affections or paffions of the human mind, are to be found indifferently wherever mankind are placed. As the active scenes of life may be fupported by the healthful and vigorous, the virtues of equanimity, patience, and fortitude, may be practised by those who labour under all the infirmities of disease or a fickly constitution. As candour and humanity may be practifed by the powerful, towards those who depend on them; fo may the corresponding virtues of respect and good will be practifed by the dependent towards their superiors. Although the gifts of fortune are to those who poffefs them materials of beneficence, yet they are not the fole materials, nor is this use of them limited to any measure or degree of the poffeffion. The poor man who kindly fhews the benighted traveller on his way, may have done an office of more real moment, than fortune may have given the rich occafion to perform in any circumstance of his life. The


greatest benefactors to mankind have been poor; and the great-
eft benefits have been done by with-holding, not by lavishing
the communications of wealth. Socrates and Epaminondas,
even in times when poverty was frequent, were distinguished a-
their fellow citizens, by this disadvantage: But the one, by
his fuperior abilities, not only faved his country from a foreign
yoke, but raised it to a pitch of glory, which filled the mind of
its citizens with fentiments of elevation and of honour. From
the other originate the pursuits of moral wisdom, in which all
the nations who spoke the language of his country became fo e-
minent; and to him, perhaps, we owe that we are now employed,
not in gratifying a mere curiofity, in matters over which we have
not any controul; but in studying the powers of our own nature,
the province in which they ought to be exerted.


It was by with-holding, not by an easy payment of a trifling tax, that Hampden laid the foundations of that political freedom which his country now enjoys: And we may conclude, from the whole of these observations on the gifts of fortune, that they are valuable only in the use which is made of them; and that the proper use is equally valuable in whatever measure those gifts are bestowed or with-held. Providence, in our apprehenfion has indefinitely varied the fituations of men: But to an observer, who can penetrate through the first appearance of things, there is a condition common to all mankind; that is, a fit scene in which they are to act, and a felicity to be obtained by proper action.



Of Happiness and Mifery.

IN the variety of denominations which we have been confidering, PART. II. whether pleasure, virtue, or profperity, the object of those who CHAP. I. SECT. VI. employ these terms, is to mark, in particular inftances, the object of choice; or, in the greatest possible measure of all these particulars united together, to express what they conceive to be happinefs.

If we have understood the terms aright, and fairly eftimated what is beft, in the different denominations of good, and what is worst, or most to be dreaded, under the different denominations of evil, the conclufion of reafon, as formed in the confideration of any article apart, will be the fame throughout: That the preferable pleasure, as well as the highest merit, is found in the courfe of a virtuous life; and the pain moft to be dreaded, or the specific defect or debafement of human nature, confifts in folly, malice, or cowardice. The gifts of fortune have their use in VOL. II. H


PART II. being the means of life and the inftruments of virtue, or in fur


SECT. VI. nifhing a scene for the exercise of good fenfe and beneficence; but


they are fo far from being an occafion of good to those who abuse them, that this abuse contaminates every other fource of enjoyment, difappoints the mind of its better and higher qualifications, impairs its faculties, and multiplies its fufferings and its defects.

The only queftion that remains therefore is, under what title we are to select this fupreme or principal good, which is the genuine standard of eftimation to mankind, whether under the title of pleasure, the proper uses of fortune, or virtue.

The general term, Pleafure, includes many particulars of unequal value, and in common language is employed frequently to fignify fenfuality and diffipation. in contradiftinction to business or any serious application of the mind. It behoves us, therefore, to specify our pleasure, before we refer to it as the object of choice. And when we have done fo, the particular we have felected, not pleasure at large, is the proper ftandard of estimation.

Happiness has its feat in the temper, or is an agreeable state of the mind; and cannot always be confidered as a proper use of external advantages; for it does not always proceed to the production of any external effect. As virtue is the preferable pleafure, fo is it also the proper use of the fortune or fituation in which we are placed. It is beft, then, that we fix our attention immediately on the real good qualities of our own nature, and the virtuous life they fupport, as the conftituents of happiness; and that we confider the debafements of folly, malice, cowardice, intemperance, and a vicious life, as the constituents of mifery.


« السابقةمتابعة »