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tion of established practice implies in its own nature. a rejection of the common opinion, a defiance of common cenfure, and an appeal from general laws to private judgment: he, therefore, who differs from others without apparent advantage, ought not to be angry if his arrogance is punifhed' with ridicule; 'if thofe, whofe example he fuperciliously overlooks, point him out to derifion, and hoot him back again into the common road.
The pride of fingularity is often exerted in littl things, where right and wrong are indetermir and where, therefore, vanity is withou there are occafions on which it is i stand alone. To be pious among infidels, to be. difinterested in a time of general venality, to lead a life of virtue and reafon in the midst of fenfualifts, is a proof of a mind intent on nobler things than the praife or blame of men, of a foul fixed in the contemplation of the highest good, and fuperior to the tyranny of custom and example.
In moral and religious queftions only, a wife man will hold no confultations with fashion, because thefe duties are conftant and immutable, and depend not on the notions of men, but the commands of Heaven: yet even of thefe, the external mode is to be in fome measure regulated by the prevailing taste of the age in which we live; for he is certainly no friend to virtue, who neglects to give it any lawful attraction, or fuffers it to deceive the eye or alienate the affections for want of innocent compli ance with fashionable decorations.
It is yet remembered of the learned and pious Nelfon, that he was remarkably elegant in his man
ners, and fplendid in his dress. He knew, that the eminence of his character drew many eyes upon him; and he was careful not to drive the young or the gay away from religion, by representing it as an enemy to any diftinction or enjoyment in which human nature may innocently delight.
In this cenfure of fingularity, I have, therefore, no intention to fubject reafon or confcience to custom or example. To comply with the notions and practices of mankind, is in fome degree the duty of a focial being; becaufe by compliance only he can please, and by pleafing only he can become useful: but as the end is not to be loft for the fake of the means, we are not to give up virtue to complaifance; for the end of complaifance is only to gain the kindnefs of our fellow-beings, whofe kindness is defirable. only as inftrumental to happinefs, and happiness muft be always loft by departure from virtue.
NUMB. 137. TUESDAY, February 26, 1754.
Τι δ ̓ ἔριξα
What have I been doing?
S man is a being very sparingly furnished with the power of prescience, he can provide for the future only by confidering the paft; and as futurity is all in which he has any real interest, he ought very diligently to use the only means by which he can be enabled to enjoy it, and frequently to revolve the experiments which he has hitherto made upon life, that he may gain wisdom from his mistakes, and caution from his miscarriages.
Though I do not fo exactly conform to the precepts of Pythagoras, as to practise every night this folemn recollection, yet I am not fo loft in diffipation as wholly to omit it; nor can I forbear fometimes to enquire of myself, in what employment my life has paffed away. Much of my time has funk into nothing, and left no trace by which it can be diftinguished; and of this I now only know, that it was once in my power, and might once have been improved.
Of other parts of life memory can give some account; at fome hours I have been gay, and at others serious; I have sometimes mingled in converfation, and fometimes meditated in folitude; one day has L 3 been
been spent in confulting the ancient fages, and another in writing Adventurers.
At the conclufion of any undertaking, it is ufual to compute the lofs and profit. As I fhall foon cease to write Adventurers, I could not forbear lately to confider what has been the confequence of my labours; and whether I am to reckon the hours laid out in thefe compofitions, as applied to a good and laudable purpofe, or fuffered to fume away in ufelefs evaporations.
That I have intended well, I have the attestation of my own heart: but good intentions may be fruftrated, when they are executed without fuitable fkill, or directed to an end unattainable in itself.
Some there are, who leave writers very little room for felf-congratulation; fome who affirm, that books have no influence upon the publick, that no age was ever made better by its authors, and that to call upon mankind to correct their manners, is like Xerxes, to scourge the wind, or fhackle the torrent.
This opinion they pretend to fupport by unfailing experience. The world is full of fraud and corrup tion, rapine or malignity; intereft is the ruling motive of mankind, and every one is endeavouring to increase his own ftores of happiness by perpetual accumulation, without reflecting upon the numbers whom his fuperfluity condemns to want in this ftate of things a book of morality is published, in which charity and benevolence are ftrongly enforced; and it is proved beyond oppofition, that men are happy in proportion as they are virtuous, and rich as they are literal. The book is applauded, and the au
thor is preferred; he imagines his applause deserved, and receives lefs pleasure from the acquifition of reward than the confcioufnefs of merit. Let us look again upon mankind: intereft is ftill the ruling motive, and the world is yet full of fraud and corruption, malevolence and rapine.
The difficulty of confuting this affertion arifes merely from its generality and comprehenfion: to overthrow it by a detail of diftinct facts, requires a wider furvey of the world than human eyes can take; the progrefs of reformation is gradual and filent, as the extenfion of evening fhadows; we know that they were short at noon, and are long at fun-fet, but our senses were not able to difcern their increase: we know of every civil nation, that it was once savage, and how was it reclaimed but by a preceptand admonition?
Mankind are univerfally corrupt, but corrupt in different degrees; as they are univerfally ignorant, yet with greater or lefs irradiations of knowledge. How has knowledge or virtue been increafed and preferved in one place beyond another, but by diligent inculcation and rational inforcement?
Books of morality are daily written, yet its influence is ftill little in the world; fo the ground is annually ploughed, and yet multitudes are in want of bread. But, furely, neither the labours of the moralift nor of the hufbandman are vain let them for a while neglect their tasks, and their usefulness will be known; the wickedness that is now frequent would become univerfal, the bread that is now scarce would wholly fail.