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advantages of fortune, cannot take from us the more valuable advantages of the mind and the body, when we have them; and if it is able to restore us to them when we have lost them, adversity is a very slight misfortune to those who are already under the dominion of reason, and a very great blessing to those who are still plunged in vices which ruin the health both of body and mind. It is to be wished for, in favour of such as these, and to be feared by none. If we are in this case, let us second the designs of Providence in our favour, and make some amends for neglecting former opportunities by not letting slip the last.
"Si nolis sanus, curres hydropicus."
We may shorten the evils which we might have prevented; and as we get the better of our disorderly passions, and vicious habits, we shall feel our anxiety diminish in proportion.
All the approaches to virtue are comfortable. With how much joy will the man, who improves his misfortunes in this manner, discover that those evils which he attributed to any particular species of adversity, sprung from his vanity and folly, and vanish with them? He will see, that in his former temper of mind, he resembled the effeminate prince who could drink no water but that of
the river Choaspes; or the simple queen in one of the tragedies of Euripides, who complained bitterly, that she had not lighted the nuptial torch, and that the river Ismenus had not furnished the water at her son's wedding. Seeing his former state in this ridiculous light, he will labour on with pleasure towards another, as contrary as possible to it; and when he arrives there, he will be convinced by the strongest of all proofs, that he was unfortunate because he was vicious.
These are some of those reflections which may serve to fortify the mind under the misfortunes of life, which it is every man's interest to prepare for, because they are common to all: I say they are common to all; because even they who escape them are equally exposed to them. The darts of adverse fortune are always levelled at our heads. Some reach us, some graze against us, and fly to wound our neighbours.
Let us therefore impose an equal temper on our minds, and pay without murmuring the tribute which we owe to humanity. The winter brings cold, and we must freeze. The summer returns with heat, and we must melt. The inclemency of the air disorders our health, and we must be sick. Here we are exposed to wild beasts, and there to men more savage than the beasts; and if we escape the inconveniences and
dangers of the air and the earth, there are perils by water, and perils by fire.
This established course of things it is not in our power to change; but it is in our power to assume such a greatness of mind as becomes wise and virtuous men; as may enable us to encounter the accidents of life with fortitude, and conform ourselves to the order of nature, who governs her great kingdom, the world, by continual mutations. Let us submit to this order; let us be persuaded that whatever does happen ought to happen, and never be so foolish as to expostulate with nature. The best resolution we can take is to suffer what we cannot alter, and to pursue without repining, the road which Providence, who directs every thing, has marked out to us; for it is not enough to follow, and he is but a bad soldier who sighs, and marches on with reluctancy. We must receive the orders with spirit and chearfulness, and not endeavour to slink out of the post which is assigned us in this beautiful disposition of things, whereof even our sufferings make a necessary part.
Let us address ourselves to God who governs all, as Cleanthes did in those admirable verses, which are going to lose part of their grace and energy in my translation of them.
Parent of Nature! Master of the world!
My steps with chearful resignation turn.
Fate leads the willing, drags the backward on,
Thus let us speak, and thus let us act. Resignation to the will of God is true magnanimity. But the sure mark of a pusillanimous and base spirit, is to struggle against, to censure the order of Providence, and instead of mending our own conduct, to set up for correcting that of our Maker.
WEARINESS OF LIFE.
To learn to accommodate our taste to that portion of happiness which Providence has set before us, is of all the lessons of philosophy surely the most necessary. High and exquisite gratifications are not consistent with the appointed lot of human nature; and perhaps, if we would fully enjoy the relish of our being, we should rather consider the miseries we escape, than too nicely examine the intrinsic worth of the happiness we possess. It is, at least, the business of true wisdom to bring together every circumstance, which may light up a flame of chearfulness in the mind: and though we must be insensible if it should perpetually burn with the same unvaried brightness; yet prudence should preserve it as a sacred fire, which is never to be totally extinguished.