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turned to our disadvantage; he is less destructive to mankind that plunders cowardice, than he that preys upon compassion.
I believe, Mr. Adventurer, you will readily confess, that though not one of these, if tried before a commercial judicature, can be wholly acquitted from imprudence or temerity; yet that, in the eye of all who can consider virtue as distinct from wealth, the fault of two of them, at least, is outweighed by the merit; and that of the third is so much extenuated by the circumstances of his life, as not to deserve a perpetual prison : yet must these, with multitudes equally blameless, languish in confinement, til) malevolence shall relent, or the law be changed,
NUMB. 69. TUESDAY, July 3, 1753.
Ferà libenter homines id quod volunt credunt.
Men willingly believe what they with to be true.
TULLY has long ago observed, that no man,
however weakened by long life, is so conscious of his own decrepitude, as not to imagine that he may yet hold his station in the world for another year.
Of the truth of this remark every day furnishes new confirmation: there is no time of life, in which men for the most part seem less to expect the stroke of death, than when every other eye sees it impending; or are more busy in providing for another year than when it is plain to all but themselves, that at another year they cannot arrive. Though every funeral that passes before their eyes evinces the deceitfulness of such expectations, since every man who is born to the grave thought himself equally certain of living at least to the next year; the survivor still continues to flatter himself, and is never at a loss for some reason why his life should be protracted, and the voracity of death continued to be pacified with some other prey.
But this is only one of the innumerable artifices practised in the universal conspiracy of mankind against themselves: every age and every condition indulges some darling fallacy; every man amuses 5
himself with projects which he knows to be improbable, and which, therefore, he resolves to pursue without daring to examine them. Whatever any man ardently desires, he very readily believes that he shall fome time attain : he whose intemperance has overwhelmed him with diseases, while he languishes in the spring, expects vigour and recovery from the summer fun; and while he melts away in the summer, transfers his hopes to the froits of winter : he that gazes upon elegance or pleasure, which want of money hinders him from imitating or partaking, comforts himself that the time of distress will soon be at an end, and that every day brings him nearer to a state of happiness; though he knows it has passed not only without acquisition of advantage, but perhaps without endeavours after it, in the formation of schemes that cannot be executed, and in the contemplation of prospects which cannot be approached.
Such is the general dream in which we all Number out our time: every man thinks the day coming, in which he thall be gratified with all his wishes, in which he fall leave all those competitors behind, who are now rejoicing like himself in the expectation of victory; the day is always coming to the servile in which they shall be powerful, to the obscure in which they fhall be eminent, and to the deformed in which they shall be beautiful.
If any of my readers has looked with so little attention on the world about him, asto imagine this representation exaggerated beyond probability, let him reflect a little upon his own life; let him consider what were his hopes and prospects ten years ago, and what additions he then expected to be made by ten years to his happiness: those years are now elapsed; have they made good the promise that was extorted from them, have they advanced his fortune, enlarged his knowledge, or reformed his conduct, to the degree that was once expected ? I am afraid, every man that recollects his hopes, must confess his disappointment; and own that day has glided unprofitably after day, and that he is still at the same distance froin the point of happiness.
With what consolations can those, who have thus miscarried in their chief design, elude the memory of their ill success ? with what amusements can they pacify their discontent, after the loss of so large a portion of life? they can give themselves up again to the same delusions, they can form new schemes of airy gratifications, and fix another period of felicity; they can again resolve to trust the promise which they know will be broken, they can walk in a circle with their eyes shut, and persuade themselves to think that they go forward.
Of every great and complicated event, part de. pends upon causes out of our power, and part must be effected by vigour and perseverance. With regard to that which is stiled in common language the work of chance, men will always find reasons for confidence or distrust, according to their different tempers or inclinations; and he that has been long accustomed to please himself with possibilities of fortuitous happiness, will not easily or willingly be reclaimed from his mistake. But the effects of hu. man industry and skill are more easily subjected to calculation : whatever can be completed in a year, Vol. IX. E
is divisible into parts, of which each may be performed in the compass of a day; he, therefore, that has passed the day without attention to the task assigned him, may be certain that the lapse of life has brought him no nearer to his object; for whatever idlenels may expect from time, its produce will be only in proportion to the diligence with which it has been uled. He that floats lazily down the stream, in pursuit of something borne along by the same current, will find himlelf indeed move forward; but unless he lays his hand to the oar, and increases his speed by his own labour, must be always at the same distance from that which he is following.
There have happened in every age some contingencies of unexpected and undeserved success, by which those who are determined to believe whatever favours their inclinations, have been encouraged to zelight themselves with future advantages; they support confidence by considerations, of which the only proper use is to chase away despair : it is equally absurd to sit down in idleness because some have been enriched without labour, as to leap a precipice because some have fallen and escaped with life, or to put to sea in a storm because some have been driven from a wreck upon the coast to which they are bound.
We are all ready to confess, that belief ought to be proportioned to evidence or probability : let any man, therefore, compare the number of those who hüve been thus favoured by fortune, and of those who have failed of their expectations, and he will easily determine, with what justness he has registered limfelt in the lucky catalogue.