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much the mind, as well as the eye, is deceived by diftance; and, perhaps, it will be found, that of many imagined bleffings it may be doubted, whether he that wants or poffeffes them has more reafon to be fatisfied with his lot.
The dignity of high birth and long extraction, no man, to whom nature has denied it, can confer upon himself; and, therefore, it deferves to be confidered, whether the want of that which can never be gained, may not eafily be endured. It is true, that if we confider the triumph and delight with which most of those recount their ancestors who have ancestors to recount, and the artifices by which fome who have rifen to unexpected fortune endeavour to infert themfelves into an honourable stem, we fhall be inclined to fancy, that wisdom or virtue may be had by inheritance, or that all the excellencies of a line of progenitors are accumulated on their defcendant. Reason, indeed, will foon inform us, that our estimation of birth is arbitrary and capricious, and that dead ancestors can have no influence but upon imagination : let it then be examined, whether one dream may not operate in the place of another; whether he that owes nothing to forefathers, may not receive equal pleafure from the confciousness of owing all to himfelf; whether he may not, with a little meditation, find it inore honourable to found than to continue a family, and to gain dignity than tranfmit it; whether, if he receives no dignity from the virtues of his family, he does not likewife efcape the danger of being difgraced by their crimes; and whether he that brings a new name into the world, has not the convenience of playing the game of life without a stake, an opportunity of winning much, though he has nothing to lose.
There is another opinion concerning happiness, which approaches much more nearly to univerfality, but which may, perhaps, with equal reafon, be difputed. The pretenfions to ancestral honours many of the fons of earth eafily fee to be ill-grounded; but all agree to celebrate the advantage of hereditary riches, and to confider thofe as the minions of fortune, who are wealthy from
their cradles, whofe eftate is "res non parta labore fed "relicta," "the acquifition of another, not of them"felves;" and whom a father's induftry has difpenfed from a laborious attention to arts or commerce, and left at liberty to dispose of life as fancy. fhall direc them.
If every man were wife and virtuous, capable to difcern the best use of time, and refolute to practise it; it might be granted, I think, without hefitation, that total liberty would be a bleffing; and that it would be defirable to be left at large to the exercife of religious and focial duties, without the interruption of impor tunate avocations.
But fince felicity is relative, and that which is the means of happiness to one man may be to another the caufe of mifery, we are to confider, what ftate is best adapted to human nature in its prefent degeneracy and frailty. And, furely, to far the greater number it is highly expedient, that they fhould by fome fettled. fcheme of duties be refcued from the tyranny of caprice,that they should be driven on: by neceffity through the paths of life with their attention confined to a stated talk, that they may be lefs at leisure to deviate into mifchief at the call of folly.
When we observe the lives of those whom an ample inheritance has let loofe to their own direction, what do we discover that can excite our envy? Their time feems not to pass with much applaufe from others, or fatisfaction to themselves: many fquander their exuberance of fortune in luxury and debauchery, and have no other use of money than to inflame their paffions, and riot in a wider range of licentioufnefs; others, lefs criminal indeed, but, furely, not much to be praised, lie down to fleep and rife up to trifle, are employed every morning in finding expedients to rid themfelves of the day, chafe pleasure through all the places of public refort, fly from London to Bath and from Bath to London, without any other reafon for changing place, but that they go in queft of company as idle and as vagrant as themselves, always endeavouring to raife fome new defire that they may have fomething to
purfue, to re-kindle fome hope which they know will be disappointed, changing one amusement for another which a few months will make equally infipid, or finking into languor and disease for want of fomething to actuate their bodies or exhilarate their minds.
Whoever has frequented thofe places, where idlers affemble to escape from folitude, knows that this is generally the ftate of the wealthy; and from this ftate it is no great hardship to be debarred. No man can be happy in total idleness: he that should be condemned to lie torpid and motionlefs, " would fly for recreation," fays SOUTH, "to the mines and the gallies;" it is well when nature or fortune find employment for those, who would not have known how to procure it for themselves.
He, whofe mind is engaged by the acquifition or improvement of a fortune, not only efcapes the infipidity of indifference, and the tedioufnefs of inactivity, but gains enjoyment wholly unknown to thofe, who live lazily on the toil of others; for life affords no higher pleasure, than that of furmounting difficulties, paffing from one step of fuccefs to another, forming new wishes and feeing them gratified. He that labours in any great or laudable undertaking, has his fatigues first fupported by hope, and afterwards rewarded by joy; he is always moving to a certain end, and when he has attained it, an end more distant invites him to a new pursuit.
It does not, indeed, always happen, that diligence is fortunate the wifeft fchemes are broken by unexpected accidents; the moft conftant perfeverance fometimes toils through life without a recompence; but labour, though unfuccessful, is more eligible than idlenefs; he that profecutes a lawful purpofe by lawful means, acts always with the approbation of his own reafon; he is animated through the course of his endeavours by an expectation which, though not certain, he knows to be juft; and is at last comforted in his difappointment, by the confcioufnefs that he has not failed by his own fault.
That kind of life is most happy which affords us most opportunities
opportunities of gaining our own efteem; and what can any man infer in his own favour from a condition o which, however profperous, he contributed nothing, 2 nd which the vilest and weakest of the fpecies would Have obtained by the fame right, had he happened to e the fon of the fame father.
To ftrive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity; the next, is to strive, and deferve to conquer: but he whofe life has paffed without a contest, and who can boaft neither fuccefs nor merit, can furvey himself only as a useless filler of exiftence; and if he is content with his own character, muft owe his fatisfaction to infenfibility.
Thus it appears that the fatirist advised rightly, when he directed us to refign ourselves to the hands of HEAVEN, and to leave to fuperior powers the determination of our lot:
Permittes ipfis expendere Numinibus, quid
Intruft thy fortune to the pow'rs above:
What state of life admits most happiness is uncertain ; but that uncertainty ought to reprefs the petulance of comparison, and filence the murmurs of difcontent.
Danger of Relapfe after Purposes of Amendment.
T was faid by RALEIGH, when some of his friends lamented his confinement under a sentence of death, which he knew not how foon he might fuffer, “That "the world itself was only a larger prifon, out of "which fome were every day felected for execution." That there is a time when every man is ftruck with a
fenfe of this awful truth, I do not doubt, and, perhaps, a hafty fpeculatift would conclude, that its influence would be stronger in proportion as it more frequently Occurred: but upon every mind that is become familiar with calamity, calamity lofes its force; and mifery grows lefs only by its continuance, because those who have long fuffered lofe their fenfibility.
If he, who lies down at night in the vigour and health of five and twenty, fhould rife in the morning with the infirmities of fourfcore, it is not improbable that he would fink under a sense of his condition; regret of enjoyments which could never return, would preclude all that remained; and the laft mournful effects of decay would be haftened and aggravated by anticipation. But those who have been enfeebled by degrees, who have been shaken ten years by the palley, or crippled by the gout, frequently totter about upon their crutches with an air of waggish jocularity, are always ready to entertain their company with a jeft, meet their acquaintance with a toothlefs grin, and are the first to toaft a young beauty when they can scarce lift the glafs to their lips. Even criminals, who knew that in the morning they were to die, have often flept in the night; though very few of those who have been committed for a capital offence, which they knew would be eafily proved, have flept the firft night after they were confined. Danger fo fudden and fo imminent, alarms, confounds, and terrifies; but after a time ftupor fupplies the want of fortitude; and as the evil approaches, it is in effect lefs terrible, except in the moment when it arrives; and then, indeed, it is common to lament that infenfibility, which before perhaps was voluntarily increased by drunkenness or diffipation, by folitary intemperance or tumultuous company.
There is fome "afon to believe, that this " power "of the world to come," as it is expreffed in the fublimity of Eaftern metaphor, is generally felt at the fame age. The dread of death has feldom been found to intrude upon the chearfulness, fimplicity and innocence of children; they gaze at a funeral proceffion with as much vacant curiofity as at any other fhew, and