« PreviousContinue »
like Polyphemus" in the fable, strong and blind; endued with an irresistible force, which, for want of sight, is of no use to him. Though a man has all other perfections, yet if he wants discretion, he will be of no great consequence in the world; on the contrary, if he has this single talent in perfection, and but a common share of others, he may do what he pleases in this particular station of life.
8. At the same time that I think discretion the most useful talent a man can be master of, I look upon cunning to be the accomplishment of little, mean, ungenerous minds. Discretion points out the noblest ends to us; and pursues the most proper and laudable methods of attaining them; cunning has only private selfish aims; and sticks at nothing which may make them succeed.
9. Discretion has large and extended views; and, like a well-formed eye, commands a whole horizon: cunning is a kind of short-sightedness, that discovers the minutest objects which are near at hand, but is not able to discern things at a distance. Discretion, the more it is discovered, gives a greater authority to the person who possesses it: cunning, when it once detected, loses its force, and makes a man incapable of bringing about even those events which he might have done, had he passed only for a plain
10. Discretion is the perfection of reason; and a guide! to us in all the duties of life: cunning is a kind of instinct,m that only looks out after our immediate interest and welfare. Discretion is only found in men of strong sense and good understandings: cunning is often to he met with in brutes themselves; and in persons who are but the fewest removes from them. In short, cunning is only the mimick" of discretion; and it may pass upon weak men, in the same manner as vivacity is often mistaken for wit, and gravity, for wisdom.
- 11. The cast of mind which is natural to a discreet man, makes him look forward into futurity, and consider what will be his condition millions of ages hence, as well as what it is at present. He knows that the misery or happiness which is reserved for him in another world, loses nothing of its reality, by being placed at so great a disa tance from him. : The objects do not appear little to him because they are remote.
12. He considers, that those pleasures and pains which lie hid in eternity, approach nearer to him every moment;
and will be present with him in their full weight and measure, as much as those pains and pleasures which he feels at this very instant. For this reason, he is careful to secure to himself that which is the proper happiness of his nature, and the ultimate design of his being.
13. He carries his thoughts to the end of every action; and considers the most distant, as well as the most immediate effects of it. He supersedeso every little prospect of gain and advantage which offers itself here, if he does not find it consistent with his views of an hereafter. In a word, his hopes are full of immortality; his schemese are large and glorious; and his conduct suitable to one who knows his true interest, and how to pursue it by proper methods.
SECTION V. a Ac-coun-ta-ble, åk-kðůn -tå-bl,jl Re-miss, ré-mis', slack, slothful,
responsible, of whom an account idle. may be required.
m Un-re-strain-ed, ůn-ré-strån'd', 6 Vol-un-ta-ry, vòl'-un-tå-ré, acting loose, not limited. by choice.
n In-ces-sant, in-sés'-sänt, contin6 O-rig-i-nal-ly, d-rid/-je-nål-lé, pri ual.
marily, at first, as the first author.Jo Per-ma-nent, pêr'-må-nënt, durad Re-cep-tion, ré-sép'-shül, the act ble, lasting. of receiving, remission.
p De-vise, de-vize', to contrive, to e Su-pine, sů-pine', lying with the grant by will.
face upwards, indolent. 9 Per-pe-trate, për/-pė-tråte,to comf Re-lax-a-tion, ré-láks-d'-shûn, a mit a crime.
remission from business or study.fr Mis-ap-pli-ca-tion, mis-dp-ple-ka'8 Rove, rove, to ramble, to wander. shủn, a wrong application. h En-tire, én-tire', whole,undivided. s In-tel-lec-tu-al, in-tel-lèk'-tshu-ål, ¿ Pros-ti-tute, prðsf-te-túte, to dis- relating to the mind.
pose of upon wicked terms, a hire-t I-de-al, i-de'-al, mental, intellecling.
tuale k Ex-pul-sion, eks-půl'-shủn, the act of expelling.
On the government of our thoughts. 1. A MULTITUDE of cases occur, in which we are no less accountablea for what we think, than for what we do. As, first, when the introduction of any train of thought depends upon ourselves, and is our voluntaryb act, by turning our attention towards such objects, awakening such passions, or engaging in such employments, as we know must give a peculiar determination to our thoughts. Next, when thoughts, by whatever accident they may have been originallye suggested, are indulged with delibera. tion and complacency.
2. Though the mind has been passive in their reception, and, therefore, free from blame; yet, if it be active in their continuance, the guilt becomes its own. They may have intruded at first, like unbidden guests; but if, when entered, they are made welcome, and kindly entertained, the case is the same as if they had been invited from the beginning.
3. If we are thus accountable to God for thoughts either voluntarily introduced, or deliberately indulged, we are no less so, in the last place, for those which find admittance into our hearts from supinee negligence, from total relaxation' of attention, from allowing our imagination to rove, with entireh license, “ like the eyes of the fool, towards the end of the earth."
4. Our minds are, in this case, thrown open to folly and vanity. They are prostituted to every evil thing which pleases to take possession. The consequences must all be charged to our account; and in vain we plead excuse from human infirmity. Hence it appears, that the great ohject at which we are to aim in governing our thoughts, is, to take the most effectual measures for preventing the introduction of such as are sinful; and for hastening their expulsion, if they shall have introduced themselves without consent of the will.
5. But when we descend into our breasts, and examine how far we have studied to keep this object in view, who cari tell, “how oft he hath offended?” In no article of religion or morals are men more culpably remiss,' than in the unrestrainedm indulgence they give to fancy; and that too, for the most part, without remorse.
Since the time that reason began to exert her powers, thought, during our waking hours, has been active in every breast, without a moment's suspension or pause. 6. The current of ideas has been always flowing.
The wheels of the spiritual engine have circulated with perpetual motion. Let me ask, what has been the fruit of this incessant' activity, with the greater part of mankind? Of the innumerable hours that have been employed in thought, how few are marked with any permanent or useful effect? How many have either passed away in idle dreams; or have been abandoned to anxious discontented musings, to unsocial and malignant passions, or to irregular and criminal desires?
7. Had I power to lay open that storehouse of iniquity which the hearts of too many conceal; could I draw out and
read to them a list of all the imaginations they have devised, and all the passions they have indulged in secret; what a picture of men should I present to themselves! What crimes would they appear to have perpetrated in secrecy, which to their most intimate companions they durst not reveal!
8. Even when men imagine their thoughts to be innocently employed, they too commonly suffer them to run out into extravagant imaginations, and chimerical plans of what they would wish to attain, or choose to be, if they could frame the course of things according to their desire. Though such employments of fancy come not under the same description with those which are plainly criminal, yet wholly unblamable they seldom are.
9. Besides the waste of time which they occasion, and the misapplication' which they indicate of those intellectual powers that were given to us for inuch nobler
purposes, such romantick speculations leail us always into the neighbourhood of forbidden regions. They place us on dangerous ground. They are, for the most part, connected with some one bad passion, and they always nourish a giddy and frivolous turn of thought.
10. They unfit the mind for applying with vigour to rational pursuits, or for acquiescing in sober plans of conduct. Froin that ideal' world in which it allows itself to dwell, it returns to the cornmerce of men, unbent and relaxed, sickly and tainted, averse to discharging the duties, and sometimes disqualified even for relishing the pleasures of ordi
SECTION V!. a Re-volt, ré-volt', to fall off, desert.jh Se-duce, sè-duse', to tempt, mis 6 Re-bel, ré-bel', to revolt, to rise lead. in opposition.
i Calm-ly, kảm'-le, without noise or c Im-pet-u-os-i-ty, im-pétsh-u-ðs'- passion. tė, violence, fury.
k Fer-tile, fér -til, fruitful, abund Pur-suit, pår-süte', the act of pur
dant. suing, chase.
2 As-sas-sin, ås-sås'-sin,a murderer. e Dis-com-pose, dis-kom-poze', to m Co-pi-ous, ko’-pe-ús, plentiful, disorder, offend.
abundant. f Dis-qual-i-ty, dis-kwoll-e-fi, to n Trag-i-cal, tråd'-je-kål, monrnful,
make unfit, to disable by some calamitous.
natural or legal impediment. o Bane-ful, båne'-fůl, poisonous, de g In-fat-u-a-tion, in-lātsh-'-''-shin, structive.
the act of striking with folly, de- p Li-cen-tious, li-sên'-shủs, unreprivation of reason.
strained by law or morality. On the evils which flow from unrestrained passions. 1. When man revolted from his Maker, his passion's
rebelled against himself; and from being originally the ministers of reason, have become the tyrants of the soul. Hence, in treating of this subject, two things may be as
sumed as principles: first, that through the present weak: ness of the understanding, our passions are often directed
towards improper objects; and next, that even when their direction is just, and their objeets are innocent, they perpetually tend to run into excess; they always hurry us towards iheir gratification, with a blind and dangerous impetuosity..
2. On these two points then turns the whole government of vur passions: first, to ascertain the proper objects of their pursuit;d and next, to restrain them in that pursuit, when they would carry us beyond the bounds of reason. If there is any passion which intrudes itself unseasonably into our mind, which darkens and troubles our judgment, or habitually discomposes our temper; which unfits us for properly discharging the duties, or disqualifies' us for cheerfully enjoying the comforts of life, we may certainly conclude it to have gained a dangerous ascendant.
3. The great object which we ought to propose to ourselves is, to acquire a firm and steadfast mind, which the infatuation of passion shall not seduce," nor its violence shake; which, resting on fixed principles, shall, in the midst of contending emotions, remain free, and master of itself; able to listen calmly to the voice of conscience, and prépared to obey its dictates without hesitation.
4. To obtain, if possible, such command of passion, is one of the highest attainments of the rational nature.-Arguments to show its importance crowd upon us from every quarter. If there be any fertile source of mischief to human life, it is, beyond doubt, the misrule of passion, It is this which poisons the enjoyment of individuals, overturns the order of society, and strews the path of life with so many miseries, as to render it indeed the vale of tears.
5. All those great scenes of publick calamity, which we behold with astonishment and horrour, have originated from the source of violent passions. These hare overspread the earth with bloodshed. These have pointed the assassin's! dagger, and filled the poisoned bowl.-These, in every age, hare furnished too copious materials for the orator's pathetic declamation, and
for the poet's tragical" song. 6. When from publick life we descend to private conduct, though passion operates not there in so wide and