« AnteriorContinuar »
indeed, one source of pleasure, which the enjoyment of wealth opens to a rational mind, but few there are who find it. The extension of help to the helpless, of relief to the miserable, and of comfort to those who dwell in the regions of adversity, are employments attended with the purest satisfaction. To awaken joy in countenances overspread with the gloom of sorrow, is attended with sensations of the most refined delight, and tunes the soul to the sweetest harmony. This is the noblest use to which wealth can be applied ; the essential end for which Heaven has dispensed it. But, alas ! how few are there amongst the great and opulent who exercise themselves in such benevolent, such godlike actions ! how few, whose minds are refined enough to relish the satisfaction arising from such a beneficent and praise-worthy conduct !
The generality of the rich and affluent spend their time and substance in a course of falsely-estimated pleasure, which, while it affords a momentary gratification to some desires, creates others more difficult to be satisfied. Every indulgence of the passions, beyond the boundaries of reason and temperance, either increases the appetite for more extensive enjoyment, or cloys with a languid satiety. These are effects equally destructive of true happiness. In this dilemma the mind is perpetually tossed, like a vessel without a rudder on the boisterous ocean. It is still hurried on by the gales of passion in pursuit of something yet untried, which is supposed more capable of conferring happiness : but this, when obtained, leaves us equally unsatisfied, and at an equal distance from the object of our wishes.
AN EXTRAORDINARY INSTANCE OF AVARICE,
MONSIEUR FOSCUE, one of the farmers-general of the province of Languedoc, in France, who had amassed considerable wealth by grinding the faces of the poor within his province, by which he rendered himself universally hated, was one day ordered by the government to raise à considerable sum ; upon which, as an excuse for not complying with the demand, he pleaded extreme poverty ; but, fearing lest some of the inhabitants of Languedoc should give information to the contrary, and his house should be searched, he resolved on hiding his treasure in such a manner, as to escape the most strict examination.
He dug a kind of cave in his wine cellar, which he made so large and deep that he used to go down to it with a ladder; at the entrance was a door with a spring lock on it, which on shutting would fasten of itself. Very lately, Monsieur Foscue was missing, diligent search was made after him in every place; the ponds were drawn, and every method, which human imagination could suggest, was taken for finding him, but all in vain.
In a short time after, his house was sold, and the purchaser berzinning either to rebuild it, or make some alterations in ii, die workmen discovered a door in the cellar, with a key in the lock, which he ordered to be opened, and on going dow , they found Monsieur Foscue lying dead on the ground, with a candlestick' near him, but no candle in it, which he bad eat; and on searching farther, they found the vast wealth that he had amassed. It is supposed, that, when Monsieur Foscue went into his cave, the door by some accident shut after him, and being out of the call of any person, he perished for want of food. He had gnawed the flesh off both his arms, as is supposed, for subsistence. Thus did this miser die in the midst of his treasure, to the scandal of himself, and to the prejudice of the state.
ON THE BENEFITS OF ADVERSITY.
“ Good when he gives, supremely good,
Nor less when he denies ;
Are blessings in disguise."
THE sacred writings, in almost every page, warn mankind against the insolence of prosperity, and afford the most striking pictures of men, who, having been raised from nothing to greatness, became insensible to every past office of friendship, and sinned against that very zeal or favour, to which they principally owed their elevation. On the other hand, Adversity is described in the holy volume as the salutary chastisement of an all-wise and affectionate parent, who wishes to reclaim his child, and to call back the prodigal to his Father's home.
Prosperity frequently inflates the mind, as particular diseases enlarge the circumference of the body, a change which proceeds from some powerful relaxation, and which is a symptom of danger and decay. Mental imbecility causes the one, and some kind of corporeal weakness occasions the other. But so are we made, that to bear a sudden elevation with humility and temperance, requires an almost gigantic resolution; and he must possess an eagle's eye, who can look at the sudden splendour of prosperity without winking.
To outstrip every competitor ; to soar above the malice of those who once hated us, and be shielded from the attacks of those who persecuted us; to be suddenly raised to the means of crushing those who had done us evil, and of rewarding those who had done us good; to be removed from the necessity of looking humble before the proud, and enabled to return the supercilious glance of that pride which lately had disdained us; in short, to find every wish of humble and anxious life at once realized into gratification: these, surely, are circumstances so flattering to the weakness of human nature, that it is almost impossible not to become giddy on a sudden elevation to them.
On the contrary, Adversity, however great its first shock may be, soon yields to time; and, on the recovery from it, we begin to see every thing in its true light; the false glare is at once dissipated; our true are immediately distinguished from our false friends; we are no longer dupes to the falJacy of our own hearts, and the film is soon removed which prevented us from seeing and knowing ourselves. Reflection, vigilance, and foresight, now succeed to inattention, negligence, and carelessness. We rest upon nothing that will not support us; and, finding that the best of this world's dependences are but weak and uncertain, we shall be taught to look for permanent support and comfort, in the hopes of a better, beyond the grave.
To this point Adversity is intended to conduct us; and they who patiently attend to its guidance, will soon be persuaded that it is only a blessing in disguise; the gentle corrections of a tender father, who wished to work the real good of his children; and, looking back with gratitude, mingled with disdain, to the heights from whence they fell, will exclaim with the exiled statesman of Greece, that “they should huve been utterly ruined, if they had not been undone."
THE charms of beauty give to certain individuals of both sexes a distinction impossible to be described, though easily and irresistibly felt. We are forced to add, that it is a distinction in general disadvantageous to its possessor. The folly of parents, the early adulation of interested admirers, the suggestions of self-conceit, and a thousand other enemies, conspire against those favourites of nature, and, at one time or other, render them objects of weariness, if not of disgust. Trusting entirely to external charms, every solid and permanent accomplishment is too often neglected, while we spend the inestimable days of youth in acquiring a few superficial and transitory trifles, as frail as the beauty they are meant to adorn.
How many delightful forms attract our attention, which, upon examination, we quit with a sigh of pity, or a smile of contempt; finding their minds either mere voids of nothingness, blanks of insipidity, or despicable magazines of vanity and folly. How many a young female thus steps into the world, confident of her charms as Samson of his strength, untutored by wisdom, unguarded by prudence; running wild through all the mazes of fantastic dissipation, and in the end, perhaps, drawing ruin upon herself!' How many a young man, thus depending on the graces of his person, spends his best years, utterly neglectful of every noble purpose and rational enjoyment of life, despised by every man (and woman too) of sensė, and only acceptable to beings whose frivolity equals his own!
But neither of these characters will feel all their misery during the days of youth and health; for then their society will be tolerated by most people, and even courted by many; yet by how precarious à tenure do they hold even that privilege Their enjoyment resembles his who feasted royally in a room of state with a sword over his head, suspended by a single hair. And though they should escape the strokes of sickness and of accident, yet soon will the scene of joy be closed : soon will the ruthless hand of Time crop every flower of youth and beauty; then what a disconsolate and dreary waste succeeds!
I am not able to imagine a state on earth more wretched than that of a person advanced in life, whose mind has never known the happy effects of cultivation, and whose pleasures have been merely constitutional. Better were it indeed for that man never to have been born, than to drag the languid hours of age in listless weariness; neglected, despised, and forgotten, even before his death. It is a state of desolation against which the young ought carefully to fortify themselves, by a diligent culture of their best powers, and by acquiring those accomplishments and amusements, which depend not for their relish on the fine turn of the limbs, the brilliancy of the eyes, or the polish and transparent glow of the skin.
In general, it is wrong to trust blindly for our happiness to any one natural gift, and neglect every other useful attainment. This remark greatly widens the field of instruction; we are not all beauties, but we have all received some talent in trust from Heaven, for which we are accountable. To mistake that talent; to over-rate it, or to misapply it, are the chief misfortunes to which we are exposed ; and he only fulfils the purposes of his life, who, by judicious enquiry, and by proper knowledge of himself, discovers where his strength lies; who strives to form a right estimation of it, and to enforce its exertions by every advantage in his power to obtain; who will not reveal it to the unworthy, exhaust it in vile pursuits, nor prostitute it to the advancement of such ends which religion forbids, and wisdom reprobates.
By such rational conduct we may render our characters respectable; and it will be beyond the power of our most malicious enemies to make sport of them : we may secure our happiness, at least as far as human happiness can be secured; and, while free from outward misfortune, we may enjoy every hour with relish. Age, which brings the frivolous, the idle, and the dissipated to a state of premature oblivion, will only inake us more venerable, and turn our enjoyments into a current more serene and pure. Man will admire a life so beautiful, and God himself will approve it.