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hearts. It is but to submit heroically to a little dulness at first, which habit will convert into pleasure, to encounter temptation with a resistance which will soon be rewarded with victory. They will be sensible of one surprising revolu. tion; from the period when they begin to inure themselves to their own company, they will insensibly dislike it less; not so much for the goodness they will find in themselves, as from discovering what a fund of interesting employ. ment, of which they had been so long in search, their own hearts can furnish.
from the idleness of tumult to that of ennui in one sex, and from levity to apathy in the other. The active life which we had promised to turn into contemplative life is no improvement, if a gay frivolity is only transformed into a dull vacuity. In the world we were not truly active if we did little good; in retirement we are not contemplative, if contemplation is not exercised to the best purposes. It is in vain that we retire from great affairs, if our hearts are stuffed with such as are insignificant. There is less hope of a change in the mind, because there is As the scrutiny becomes deeper, the improve- no probability of a change in the circumstances ment will become greater, till they will grow with which this projected moral alteration used not so much to endure retirement as to rejoice to be connected. Where the outset was froth, in it, not so much to subsist without dissipation and the end is feculence, there may be a differ. as to soar above it. If they are not so much di- ence, but there is no improvement. We shall verted, they will be less discomposed. If there find in retirement, under new modifications, the are fewer vanities to amuse, there will be fewer same passions, tempers, and weaknesses, which disorders to repair; there will be no longer that we had proposed to leave behind us, without the struggle between indulgence and regret, between same pretence of wanting time to watch against enjoyment and repentance, between idleness and them. If we settle down in petty systematic conscience, which distracts many amiable, but trifling, it is not the size of the concern, but the unfixed minds, who feel the right which they spirit in which it is pursued, that makes the have not courage to pursue. There will be difference. The scandal of a village, the infewer of those inequalities which cost more pain trigues of a little provincial town may be enter in filling up than they afforded pleasure in ed into with as much warmth, and as little procreating. In their habits there will be regulari-fit, as the more imposing follies of the metroty without monotony. There will be a uniform beauty in the even tissue of life; the web, though not so much spangled, will be more of a piece; if it be less glittering in patches, the design will be more elegant; if the colours are less glaring, they will wear better; their soberness will secure their permanence; if they are not gaudy when new, they will be fresh to the end.
Dangers and advantages of retirement.
Retirement, therefore, though so favourable to virtue, is not without its dangers. Taste, and, of course, conversation, is liable to degenerate. Intellect is not kept in exercise. We are too apt to give to insignificant topics an undue importance; to become arbitrary; to impose our opinions as laws; to contract, with a narrowness of thinking, an impatience of opposition. Yet, while we grow peremptory in our decisions, we are, at the same time, liable to individual influence; whereas, in the world, the injurious influence of one counsellor is soon counteracted by that of another; and if, from the collision of opposite sentiments, we do not strike out truth, we experience, at least, the benefit of contradiction. If those with whom we associate are of an inferior education and cast of manners, we shall insensibly lower our standard, thinking it sufficiently high, if it be above theirs, till we imperceptibly sink to their level. The author saw, very early in life, an illustration of these remarks, in a person who had figured in the ranks of literature. He was a scholar and a poet. Disappointed in his ambitious views of rising in the church, a profession for which he was little calculated, he took refuge in a country parsonage. Here he affected to make his fate his choice. On Sundays he shot over the heads of the inferior part of his audience, without touching the hearts of the better informed; and, during the week, paid himself for the world's neglect, by railing at it. He grew to dislike polished society for which he had been well qualified. He spent his mornings in writing elegies on the contempt of the world, or odes on the delights of retirement, and his evenings in the lowest sensuality with the most vulgar and illi
If some prefer retirement as an emancipation from troublesome duties rather than as a scene of improvement, others choose it as a deliverance from restraint, and as the surest mode of indulging their inclinations by a life of freedom; not a freedom from the dangers of the world, but of following their own will. While we continue in the active world, while our idleness is animated with bustle, decorated with splendor, and diversified with variety, we cheer our erroneous course with the promise of some day escaping from it; but when we sit down in our retreat, unprovided with the well chosen materials of which true enjoyment is alone compounded, or without proposing to dedicate our retirement to the obtaining them, we are almost in a more hopeless condition than when we lived without reflection in the world. We were then looking forward to the privacy we now enjoy, as to a scene of mental profit. We had in prospect a point which, if ever attained, would be to us the beginning of a new life, a post from which we should start in a nobler race. But the point is attained, and the end is neglected. We are setterate of his neighbours. down in our ultimate position.
Another danger is that of aspiring to become But retirement, from which we promised our- the sun of our little system, since the love of selves so much, has produced no change, except | popularity is not exclusively attached to public VOL. II.
depend more immediately on himself, his understanding is left unfettered, and he has less pretence for screening himself under the necessity of falling in with the popular habits when they militate against convenience and common sense. Many of the duties of retirement are more fixed and certain, more regular in their recurrence, and obvious as to their necessity. As they are less interrupted, the neglect of them is less excusable. In the world, events and en
situations. In the world, indeed, if there be not, a real, there must at least be a spurious merit to procure it, whereas, when there are no com. petitors, it is easy to be popular; to be admired by the uncultivated, and flattered by the dependent, may be the attainment of the most mo. derately gifted. Let us not, therefore, judge of ourselves by acclamations, which would equally follow the worthless, if they filled the same situation. If we do not remember to distinguish between our merit and our place, we shall re-gagements succeed each other with such rapidceive the homage, not as a debt of gratitude or a bait for bounty, but as a tribute to excellence. From being accustomed to flattery, we shall exact it as a right; from not being opposed, we shall learn not to endure opposition.
Besides the danger of contracting supercilious habits if surrounded with inferiors, there is also that of indulging a censorious spirit on comparing our own habits with those of persons who live in the world, and of overrating our own exemption from practices, to which, from indolence, we have no inducement, and, from cireumstances, no opportunity. When we compare our hearts and lives with those of whom we know little, let us not forget to compare also, with others, our situations and temptations. The comparative estimates we make in our own favour are frequently fallacious, always dangerous. Many who live in the world have a mortified spirit, while others may bring to a cloister hearts overflowing with the love of that world from which it is easier to turn our faces than to withdraw our affections.
ity and pleasure, that the imagination has hardly time or incitement to exercise itself. Where all is interruption or occupation, fancy has little leisure to operate. But if, in retirement, where this faculty finds full leisure both for exercise and for chastisement; if the undisciplined mind is left entirely to its mercy, the guilt will be enhanced, and the benefit lost; it will be ever foraging for prey, and, like other marauders, instead of stopping to select, will pick up all the plunder that falls in its way, and bring in a multitude of vain thoughts to feed upon, as an indemnification for the realities of which it is deprived. The well-regulated mind, in the stated seasons devoted to the closet, should therefore severely discipline this vagrant faculty. They who do not make a good use of these seasons of retirement, will not be likely to make a good use of the rest. The hour of prayer or meditation is a consecration of the hours employed in the business, whether of society or solitude. In those hours we may lay in a stock of grace, which, if faithfully improved, will shed its odour on every portion of the day.
Secluded persons are sometimes less careful to turn to profit small parcels of time, which, If general society contributes more to smooth when put together, make no inconsiderable fund. the asperities of manner, to polish roughnesses, Reckoning that they have an indefinite stock and file off sharpnesses, retirement furnishes betupon hand, they neglect to devote each portion ter means for cultivating that piety which is to its definite purpose. The largeness of their the only genuine softener of the temper. Withtreasure makes them negligent of small, but in- out this corrective, even the manners may grow cessant, expenses. For instance; instead of austere, and the language harsh. But while the light reading being used as a relief from severer benevolent affections are kept in exercise, and studies, and better employments, it is too fre- the kindly offices of humanity in operation, quently resorted to as the principal expedient there will be little danger that the mind will for getting over the tediousness of solitude; become rough and angular from the want of people slide into the indulgence to such an ex- perpetual collision with polished bodies. The cess, that it becomes no longer the relaxation, exercise of beneficence, too, in the country is but the business. The better studies, which accompanied with more satisfaction, as the good were only to be relieved, are superseded; they done is less equivocal. In great cities, and espe become dull and irksome; what was once plea- cially in the metropolis, some charitable persons sure is converted into a dry duty, and the duty chiefly content themselves with promoting pubis become a task. From this plenitude of lei- lic subscriptions, and superintending public chasure there is also a danger of falling into gene-rities, for want of knowing the actual degree of ral remissness. Business which may be done at any time, is, for that very reason, not done at all. The belief that we shall have opportunities enough to repair an omission, causes omissions to be multiplied.
individual distress or the truth of private representation. Here all the advantage lies on the side of the country resident. The characters, as well as wants, of the poor, are specifically known, and certainly the immediate vicinity of the opulent has the more natural, though not the sole claim to their bounty.
From the dangers of retirement, we come now to the more pleasant topic of its advantages. The retired man cannot even pretend that his Retirement is calculated to cure the great incharacter must of necessity be melted down in firmity, I had almost said the mortal disease, of the general mass, or cast into the general monld. not being able to be alone; it is adapted to reHe, at least, may think for himself, may form lieve the wretched necessity of perpetually hanghis own plans, keep his own hours, and, with ing on others for amusement; it delivers us little intermission, pursue his own projects. He from the habit of depending, not only for our is less enslaved to the despotism of custom, less solace, but almost for our existence on foreign driven about by the absurd fluctuations of aid, and extricates us from the bondage of subfashion. His engagements and their executionmitting to any sort of society in order to get rid
of ourselves. It is very useful sometimes thus to make experiments on our own minds, to strip ourselves of helps and supports, to cut off whatever is extrinsic, and, as it were, to be reduced to ourselves. We should thus learn to do without persons and things, even while we have them, that we may not feel the privation too strongly when they are not to be had. These self-denials constitute the true legitimate self-love, as the multiplying of indulgences is the surest way to mortification.
Those to whom change is remedy, and novel. ty gratification, though the change be for the worse, and the novelty be a loss, are the first to bewail the disappointment which every one else foresaw. We hear those complain most that they can get no quiet, whose want of it arises from the irruptions of their own passions. Peace is no local circumstance. It does not depend on the situation of the house, but of the heart. True quiet is only to be found in the extirpation of evil tempers, in the victory over unruly appetites; it is found not merely in the absence of temptation, but in the dominion of religion. It arises from the cultivation of that principle, which alone can effectually smooth down the swellings of pride, still the restlessness of envy, and calm the turbulence of impure desires. It depends on the submission of the will, on that peace of God which passeth all understanding, on the grace of Christ, on the consolations of the Spirit. With these blessings, which are promised to all who seek them, we may find tranquillity in Cheapside; without them we may live a life of tumult on the Eddystone.
more recent enthusiasts, might have been kindled by the alluring appellation of the New World. This seducing epithet might convey to his impressible mind the idea of something young and original, and uncontaminate; something that might excite the notion, not of a new found, but new created world, fresh and fair and faultless.-But even the disjunction of continents, which was then believed, produces no such distinction in the human character; the native evil pursues the man
Far as th' equator thrice to the utmost pole.
All experience, all history, especially that history which is supremely the record of truth, rouses us from the bewitching dream, and subverts the fair idea. It was in a garden, a garden too, chosen by the Sovereign Planter' that the first sin, the prolific seed of all subsequent offences, was committed. It was in a retirement more profound than any we can conceive, for it was in a world of which we know only of four inha. bitants, and those of rural occupations, that the first dreadful breach of relative duties was made; that the first murder, and that of the dearest connexion, was perpetrated. And though the treason of Gethsemane was, in the divine counsels, overruled to repair the defection of Eden, yet to show how little local circumstances influence action, and govern principle, a garden was the scene where that treason was accomplished.
God would not have provided so ill for the welfare of his creatures, who, from the constitution of their nature, could not have subsisted but Those who are more conversant with poetic in communities if seclusion had been necessary than pious composition; who have fed their to salvation. That it is the most favourable fancy with the soothing dreams of pastoral scene for the production of virtue and the probards; who figure to themselves a state of pure motion of piety we have fully admitted. In the felicity among the guileless beings with whom world temptations meet us at every corner. In a fond imagination peoples the scene of rural retirement, it is we who make the advances. He life, expect when they retire into the country, who had tried the extremes of public and private to meet with a new race of mortals, pure as the life, who had been a shepherd and a king, and fabled inhabitants of the golden age-spotless who knew the dangers of both conditions, has beings, who were not included in the primeval given no exclusive instructions to the cottage or curse, creatures who have not only escaped the the throne. He gives a general exhortation to contamination of the world, but the original in-commune with our own hearts, and be still;' fection of sin, that sin, which they allow may be caught by contact, but which they do not know is a home-born, home-bred disease. It is indeed a most engaging vision, to associate indivisibly with the lovely scenes of nature the lovelier form of purity: but, alas! such scenes were never!' The groves and lawns of the country no more make men necessarily virtuous, than the brick and mortar of the church make them necessarily pious. The enthusiast of nature, while he enjoys even to rapture her unpolluted But whether we are in public or retired life, charms, must not, however, expect to find in re- our inattention to the reason why we were sent tirement that unsullied innocence which the into our present state, is one grand cause of the disappointed Cowley looked for in his retreat at miseries we endure in it. In the world, as we Chertsey; which, after his woeful failure there, before observed, we are more governed by our he continued to persuade himself he should find senses; in solitude, by our imagination. Both in America; which his own Claudian vainly be. have a tendency to mislead us. The latter tells lieved might be obtained by his interesting Old us we were not sent into this state to suffer, man of Verona, on escaping from that city; but to enjoy ; and the senses revolt at the sufferwhich even the patriarch Lot found not, in esca-ings which the imagination had not taught us ping from a worse city than Verona.
Perhaps the vivid imagination of Cowley, in his eager longings for America, like that of some
an injunction equally applicable to the sceptre and the crook; and, in his own case, he says, I have poured out my heart by myself;' but neither is the injunction or the example limited to the world or to retirement, for such pious practices equally belong to both. Yet it must be confessed he dwells on pastoral scenes and rural images with a fondness of which no traces are to be found in his allusion to courts and cities.
to expect. To think of exempting ourselves from pain, instead of expecting it and preparing for it, is the common error of those who
overlook or mistake the end of their being. In, be pointed at their conduct; that of ridicule,
the hope of this exemption, we fly to one resource after another, thinking, that the ease which has hitherto eluded us, is not attained only because we have not sought it in the right way; that all expedients have not yet been tried; that all resources are not yet exhausted. Thus we take fresh comfort from the persuasion, that if we have missed of happiness, it is not because happiness is not the proper state of mortal man, nor the prohibited condition of his being, but because we have erred in our pursuit, and shall still find it in the scheme we are next about to adopt.
A bad judgment contributes to our infelicity almost as much as bad dispositions. It is by these false estimates of life, that life is made unhappy. It is from expecting from any state more than it has to bestow, that so little is enjoyed in any. He who is discontented in retirement had perhaps previously amused his vacant hours in collecting all the possibilities of happiness; but had generally caught and fixed her most alluring image in that projected retirement for which his worldly indulgences were every day more disqualifying him.
Far be it from me to aim at inspiring disgust at human life, or any despair of the real happiness which is attainable in it. This attainment is a simple process; to contract our desires, that they may be always fewer than our wants; not to expect from this life more than God meant we should find in it; neither to be governed by sense or fancy, but by the unerring word and will of God; to think constantly that the happiness of a Christian will always be more in hope than in possession; to remember that though deep and bitter sufferings are incident to our frame and state, yet the heaviest and the worst are those which man inflicts on man, or his own passions on himself; that we are only truly and irremediably unhappy when we fasten our desires on objects unsuitable or unattainable-objects neither commensurate to our higher nature, nor adapted to our future hope.
An inquiry why some good sort of people are not better.
THERE is a class of pleasing and amiable persons whom it would be difficult not to love, and unjust not to respect; but of whom, though candour obliges us to entertain a favourable hope, yet we are compelled to say, that their general conduct is rather blameless than excellent; their practice rather unoffending than exemplary; that their character rather exhibits a capacity for higher attainments, than any demonstration that such attainments are actually made.
These are the people who, from their sobriety of deportment and orderly habits, we should be naturally led to expect would make a great proficiency in religion. They are seldom hurried into irregularities; discretion is their cardinal virtue; they are frequently quoted as patterns of decorum; the finger of reproach can seldom
never.-They are not seldom kind and humane, feeling and charitable; they fill many relative duties in a manner which might put to the blush, not a few, from whose higher profession better things might have been expected.
'You have sketched a perfect character,' methinks I hear some angry reader exclaim. What more does society demand? What more would the most correct man require in his son or his wife, his sister or his daughter?
We are indeed most ready to allow, that few, comparatively, go so far; we grant that the world would be a much less disorderly and vexatious scene than it is, if the greater number reached these heights which we yet presume to consider as inadequate to the requisitions of the Gospel, as insufficient to answer the claims of Christianity. Would it not be a very melancholy consideration, if this most encouraging circumstance, of their being not far from the kingdom of God, should ever-which Heaven avert!-prove a possible reason for their not entering into it; if their being almost Christians, should be the very preventing cause of their becoming altogether such ?
Their education has been governed rather by proprieties than principles. They have learned to disapprove of hardly any thing in the way of pleasure for its own sake, but highly to reprobate the extremes to which disorderly people carry it. They censure a thing not so much for being wrong in itself, as for being immoderate in the degree.-They condemn all the improper practices against which the world sets its face, but have not very distinct ideas of the right and the wrong in any thing which it tolerates.-Religion, which has made a part of their early instruction, took its turn with the usual accomplishments, though subordinately with respect to the earnestness with which it was inculcated, and with about the same proportion of the time allotted to it, as minutes bears to hours. It was taught as a needful thing, but not as the one thing needful. Religion, however, continues to maintain its appropriate place in their reading, and, to a certain degree, to be adopted into their practice, bearing nearly the same proportion to other objects as it did when they were initiated into its elements. They were bred in its forms, and in its forms they persist to live, if the term live can be properly applied to any thing which is destitute of the characters and properties of life. They live, it is true, but it is as the vegetable world lives in the winter's frost, which does not indeed kill it, but benumbs its powers, and suspends its vitality.
They make a conscience of reading the Scripturos, but sometimes interpret them too much in their own favour, intead of judging of the duties they inculcate by such properties and results as they promise to produce. In making it their study, they neglect to make it their standard.
They deceive themselves on many points by taking their measures from rules that are not legitimate. One makes his own taste and inclination his measure of practice, another the example of an accredited friend: almost all
plead the dread of singularity, the vanity of opposing your judgment to that of the world, and the absurdity of setting up a standard which you know to be unattainable. If you censure the thoughtlessness of the dissipated, they censure it too; lamenting that there should ever be an abuse of things so innocent and lawful. If you represent the beauty of piety, they approve of every kind of excellence in the abstract, but when you appeal to particular instances, refer them to actual exemplifications, they intimate, that, in respect to whatever exceeds their own measure, it carries in it somewhat of assumption and pretence; or else they insinuate, that how ever proper the thing may be in the person alluded to, their situation admits of an exemption; that what may be justifiable in others differently situated, would be objectionable under their circumstances. Thus we involve ourselves in the flimsy web of a delusive sophistry till the error becomes destructive before it is discerned.
Excess of every kind is what they carefully avoid; and excess in religion as much as in any other thing. Under this head they expunge zeal from their catalogue of virtues. The establishment of a correct character is their first object, and the good opinion of the world the instruments by which they establish it. This keeps their views low; though it costs as much pains and precaution to keep up a high reputation on worldly grounds as it would to cultivate the principle itself, whose results would, in some respects, be nearly the same as what they are labouring to attain. To be the thing would be a shorter cut to comfort, than by inces. sant study and effort to keep up its appearance. Propriety and order, virtues in themselves, obtain for them the reputation of still higher virtues; all that appears is so amiable, that the world readily gives them credit for qualities which are supposed to lie behind, and are only prevented by diffidence from appearing. They carry on with each other an intercourse of reciprocal, but measured flattery; this serves to promote kindness to each other, and esteem for themselves. Self-complacency is rather kept out of sight by the delicacy of good breeding, than subdued by religious conviction. They are rather governed by certain of the more sober worldly maxims, than by the strictness of Christian discipline. Though they fear sin, and avoid it, yet it is to be suspected they most "carefully avoid those faults which are most dis reputable, and that its impropriety has its full share in their abhorrence, with its turpitude.
As to religion, they rather respect, than love it. They seem to intimate, that there is something of irreverence in any familiarity with the subject, and place it at an awful distance, as a thing whose mysterious grandeur would be diminished by a too near approach. Another reason why they consider religion rather as an object of veneration than affection, is because they erroneously conceive it to be an enemy to innocent pleasure.
If they are not perfectly good Christians, it is not because they are good Jews, for they do not 'talk of the words' which were commanded under that dispensation, when they sit in their house, and when they walk by the way, and when
they lie down, and when they rise up. Religion engages their regard somewhat in the way in which the laws of the land engage it, as some thing sacred, from being established by custom and precedent; as a valuable institution for the preservation of the public good; but it does not interest their feelings; they do not consider it so much a thing of individual concern, as of general protection. Of its establishment by authority they think more highly, than of its business with their own hearts, of its influence in maintaining general order, than of its efficacy in promoting in themselves peace and joy. In short, they carve out an image of religion not altogether unorthodox, but which, like the uninformed statue of the enamoured artist, though a beautiful figure, is without life, or power, or motion.
The more obvious duties being discharged, they are a little inclined to think, that too con. siderable a portion of their time and talents are left at their own disposal. Large intervals of leisure are rather assumed to be a necessary repose and refreshment from right employments and benevolent actions, and as purchased by their performance, than as having any specific application of their own. In short things which they call indifferent, make up too large a portion of their scheme of life, and in their distribution of time.
The class we are considering are apt to be very severe in their censures of those who have lost their reputation, while they are rather too charitable to those who only deserve to lose it. This excessive valuation of externals is-not likely to be accompanied with great candour in judging the discredited and the unfortunate. Errors which we ourselves have had no temptation to commit, we are too much disposed to think out of the reach of pardon: and, while we justly commend innocence, we give too little credit to repentance.
The misfortune is, they do not so much as suspect that there is any higher state of being, any degree of spiritual life, beyond what they have attained. They consider religion rather as a scheme of rules, than a motive principle, as a stationary point, than a perpetual progress. They consider its observances rather as an end, than a means. It is not so much natural presumption which roots them where they are, for, in ordinary cases, they are perhaps diffident and modest; it is not always conceit which prevents their minds from shooting upwards: it is the low notion they entertain of the genius of Christianity; it is the inadequateness of their views with its requirements; it is their unacquaintedness with the spirit of that religion which they profess honestly, but understand indistinctly. This ignorance makes them rest satisfied with a state which did not satisfy the great apostle. While they think they have made a progress sufficient to justify them in believing they have already attained,' his vast attainments served only to prevent his looking back on them, served only to stimulate him to press forward towards the mark. Some good sort of people, on the contrary, act as if they were afraid of being different from what they are, or of being surprised into becoming better than they intended.