« السابقةمتابعة »
that discord or suspicion, by which the sweetness cí domestick retirement is destroyed; and must always be even more exposed, in the same degree as they are elevated above others, to the treachery of dependents, the calumny of defamers, and the violence of opponents.
Amiction is inseparable from our present state ; it adheres to all the inhabitants of this world in different proportions indeed, but with an allotment which seems very little regulated by our own conduct. It has been the boast of some swelling moralists, that every man's fortune was in his own power, that prudence lupplied the pl..ce of all other divinities, and that happiness is the unfailing consequence of virtue. But, surely, the quiver of Omnipotence is stored with arrows, against which the shield of human virtue, however adamantine it has been boufled, is held up in vain: we do not always suffer by our crimes; we are not always protected by our innocence.
A good man is by no means exempt from the danger of suffering by the crimes of others; even his goodness may raise him ene nies of implacable malice and restless perseverance: the good man has never been warranted by Heaven from the treachery of friends, the difobedience of children, or the dishonesty of a wife; he may fee his cares made uísleis by profusion, his instructions defeated by perverseness, and his kindness rejected by ingratitude; he may languish under the infamy of false accusations, or perish reproachfully by an unjust fcntence.
A good A good man is subject, like other mortals, to all the influences of natural evil; his harvest is not ípared by the tempest, nor his cattle by the mura rain ; his house flames like others in a conflagration; nor have his ships any peculiar power of resisting hurricanes: his mind, however elevated, inhabits a body subject to innumerable casualties, of which he must always share the dangers and the pains ; he bears about him the seeds of disease, and may linger away a great part of his life under the tortures of the gout or stone ; at one time groaning with insufferable anguish, at another diffolved in liftlessness and languor.
From this general and indiscriminate distribution of misery, the moralists have always derived one of their strongest moral arguments for a future state; for since the common events of the present life happen alike to the good and bad, it follows from the justice of the Supreme. Being, that there must be another state of existence, in which a just retribution shall be made, and every man shall be happy and miserable according to his works.
The miseries of life may, perhaps, afford some proof of a future state, compared as well with the mercy as the justice of God.
It is scarcely to be imagined, that Infinite Benevolence would create a being capable of enjoying so much more than is here to be enjoyed, and qualified by nature to prolong pain by remembrance, and anticipate it by terror, if he was not designed for something nobler and better than a state, in which K 3
many of his faculties can serve only for his torment; in which he is to be importuned by desires that never can be satisfied, to feel many evils which he had no power to avoid, and to fear many which he shall never feel : there will surely come a time, when every capacity of happiness shall be filled, and none shall be wretched but by his own fault.
In the mean time, it is by afiction chiefly that the heart of man is purified, and that the thoughts are fixed upon a better state. Prosperity, allayed and imperfect as it is, has power to intoxicate the imagination, to fix the mind upon the present scene, to produce confidence and elation, and to make him who enjoys afluence and honours forget the hand by which they were bestowed. It is feldom that we are otherwise, than by amiction, awakened to a sense of our own imbecillity, or taught to know how little all our acquisitions can conduce to safety or to quiet; and how justly we may ascribe to the superintendence of a higher Power, those blessings which in the wantonnels of success we considered as the attainments of our policy or courage.
Nothing confers so much ability to resist the temptations that perpetually surround us, as an habitual confideration of the shortness of life, and the uncertainty of those pleasures that solicit our pursuit; and this confideration can be inculcated only by affliction. O Death! how bitter is the re" membrance of thee, to a man that lives at ease “ in his poffeßions!" If our present state were
one continued succeflion of delights, or one uniform flow of calmness and tranquillity, we Thould never willingly think upon its end; death would then surely surprise us as “ a thief in the “ night;” and our task of duty would remain unfinished, till “ the night came when no man can «c work.”
While amiction thus prepares us for felicity, we may console ourselves under its pressures, by remembering, that they are no particular marks of divine displeasure; since all the distresses of persecution have been suffered by those, “ of whom the world « was not worthy ;” and the Redeemer of Mankind himself was
a man of sorrows and acquainted '<< with grief.”
Numb. 126. SATURDAY, January 19, 1754.
Steriles nec legit arenas
HERE has always prevailed among that part
of mankind that addict their minds to fpeculation, a propensity to talk much of the delights of retirement; and some of the most pleaf-'
ing compositions produced in every age contain descriptions of the peace and happiness of a country life.
I know not whether those who thus ambitiously repeat the prailes of solitude, have always confidered, how much they depreciate mankind by declaring, that whatever is excellent or desirable is to be obtained by departing from them; that the asistance which we may derive from one another, is not equivalent to the evils which we have to fear; that the kindness of a few is overbalanced by the malice of many; and that the protection of society is too dearly purchased, by encountering its dangers and enduring its oppressions.
These specious representations of solitary happiness, however opprobrious to human nature, have so far spread their influence over the world, that almost every man delights his imagination with the hopes of obtaining some time an opportunity of setreat. Many, indeed, who enjoy retreat only in imagination, content themselves with believing, that another year will transport them to rural tranquillity, and die while they talk of doing what, if they had lived longer, they would never have done, But many likewise there are, either of greater reSolution or more credulity, who in earnest try the state which they have been taught to think thus secure from cares and dangers; and retire to privacy, either that they may improve their happinesi, increase their knowledge, or exalt their virtue.
The greater part of the adınirers of folitude, as of all other clafles of mankind, have no higher or