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The fame Subject continued.
'Α τες μεν ειδότας καλες και αγαθες ήγειτο ειναι: Τες δε αγνοώντας ανδραποδώδεις αν δικαιως κεκλησθαι.
PART II. IF, to avoid the imputation of visionary schemes, it be required SECT.VIII to keep in view the actual state of men's minds, as well as the ab
stract idea of what they ought to be, we may continue to offer a specimen of the opinions, or habits of thinking, in which the characters of men commonly originate; trusting that a few examples may be fufficient to lead every person in pursuing the fame tract of obfervation for himself.
There are perfons, we know, who do not fo much reprobate the vices to which mankind are subject, as depreciate human na
ture itself. This is an unhappy turn of thought, tending to stifle PART II.
There is an error feemingly oppofite to this depreciation of human nature; but, in its defects, alfo productive of mifery. Such is an overweaning conception or imagination of what men actually are, producing an ill founded confidence in the fuppofed prevalence of generofity, magnanimity, truth, and fincerity, of which the undistinguishing affumption not only exposes the mind to folly, disappointment, and other effects of miftake; but leads, in the sequel, to the very oppofite extreme of distruft of mankind, and despair of virtue.
To the well-informed and the well-difpofed, virtue is not the lefs real that vice is frequently oppofed to it. The mixed fcenes of human life are its proper ftation. Here, it is equally fignaliz
ed in withstanding the evil, as in co-operating with the good; and its happiness depends, not upon the confent or participation of others, but on the degree in which it exerts itself.
It is unhappy to rest our choice of good qualities on the fuppofition that we are to meet with corresponding qualities in other men; to apprehend that candour and humanity are due only to the candid and the humane; or, that want of merit in others will dispense with that justice or liberality of conduct, which it is our happiness to maintain for ourselves.
In confequence of fuch conceptions, we fometimes repent of the good we have done, when, (as we suppose), the parties concerned appear unworthy of kindness: And, in such instances, the rule of our conduct is taken from what others deferve, not from what is becoming in ourselves. Want of merit in the world is alledged, as an excuse for indifference to mankind; and what is perhaps in us a defire to shift our own duty, is mistaken for the feverity of virtue. Inftead of ingenuous actors, we become fqueamish obfervers of other men; and, taking offence at their behaviour, indulge animofities little fhort of malice.
It is unhappy to confider perfection, more as the standard by which we may cenfure others, than as the rule by which we are to conduct ourselves.
We are by nature enabled to conceive a measure of excellence beyond what we are able to attain. This, when the standard is applied to ourselves, may become a fource of indefinite progresfion; but, when applied only to other men, is a pretence for invi
dious cenfure; infomuch that, a principle, which ought to incite PART II.
It is a wretched opinion, that happiness confifts in exemption. from labour, or in having nothing to do.
This opinion is taken up, perhaps, from the abuse of words, when we contraft the enjoyment of fome fuppofed good with the expectation and pursuit of it. In this contrast, we fancy that enjoyment begins only when labour has ceased; and, in this apprehenfion, the world is full of expectants, who think, that their happiness is deferred by the labours and toils they undergo in finishing the task which Providence has prescribed to them. They figh for relief from trouble, and fometimes obtain it; when, fortunately for the instruction of mankind, they show, by their example, that the languors of in-occupation are more grievous than toil.
The wish to have nothing to do, is most excufeable in persons who, having labours prescribed by neceffity, are frequently urged on to fatigue. The powers of human nature are limited, and require alternate periods of repofe as well as exertion; but, as the too long continuance of labour is grievous, fo the continuance of inaction, beyond the time that is required for repofe, is attended with a wearinefs and languour, no lefs diftrefsful than fatigue.
The notion, that happiness confifts in relief from any active SECT. VIII. engagements, is eafily accounted for, alfo, in the cafe of those who, having a tafk to perform, never engage in it willingly. The task poffibly confines them, and prevents their application to any thing else, while it does not fupply those real exertions of mind, which never fail to make the time that is well employed pafs away with delight. The perfon who is thus confined, without being occupied, mistakes his averfion to confinement for an averfion to business; and his longing for a change of occupation he mistakes for a dislike to exertion. Thus, while the school-boy is confined on his form, his heart and his mind are in the playfield. As he does not apply to his leffon, nor even attend to it, while he reads it, he is only confined, not occupied. What we term his averfion to application, and his longing for the hour of difmiffion, is an ardor for employment; and, in fact, when free to chufe for himfelf, he betakes him to a labour, in which every muscle of the body, and every faculty of the mind, is strained or exerted to obtain the object of fome hazardous or toilfome contest.
It is thus common, through life, to be reluctant in business, and fond of amufement: But, while in declining business men feem to reckon any kind of employment a grievance, they, by recourse to hazardous fports and diverfions, make ample confeffion that fome kind of active and even ferious engagement is indifpenfably neceffary.
The distinction between business and amusement is perhaps not eafily fettled, or confifts intirely in this, that business is prescribed by fome confideration of interest or duty; and amusement is taken up, in the beginning at least, without any fuch serious concern.