« EelmineJätka »
perfect characters to degenerate into a turbulent ferocity. The more social and softer virtues are there chiefly to be regarded. These are always good and amiable*.
The principal advantage which Juvenal discovers in the extensive capacity of the human species, is that it renders our benevolence also more extensive, and gives us larger opportunities of spreading our kindly influence, than what are indulged to the inferior creation +.
It must indeed be confessed, that by doing good only, a man can truly enjoy the advantages of being eminent. His exalted station of itself but the more exposes him to danger and tempest. His sole prerogative is to afford shelter to inferiors, who repose themselves under his cover and protection.
But I forget, that it is not my present business to recommend generosity and benevolence, or to paint in their true colours all the genuine charms of the social virtues. These indeed sufficiently engage every heart, on the first apprehension of them, and it is difficult to abstain from some sally of panegyric, as often as they occur in discourse or reasoning.
But our object here being more the speculative
*Cic. de Off. lib. 1.
Sat. 4. 139. et seq.
than the practical part of morals, it will suffice. to remark (what will readily I believe be allowed) that no qualities are more entitled to the general good will and approbation of mankind than beneficence and humanity, friendship and gratitude, natural affection and public spirit; or whatever proceeds from a tender sympathy with others, and a generous concern for our kind and species. These, wherever they appear, seem to transfuse themselves into each beholder, and to call forth, in their own behalf, the same favourable and affectionate sentiments which they exert on all around.
We may observe, that in displaying the praises of any humane beneficent man, there is one circumstance which never fails to be amply insisted on, namely, the happiness and satisfaction derived to society from his intercourse and good offices. To his parents, we are apt to say, he endears himself by his pious attachment and duteous care, still more than by the connections of nature. His children never feel his authority, but when employed for their advantage. With him, the ties of love are consolidated by beneficence and friendship. The ties of friendship approach, in a fond observance of each obliging His office, to those of love and inclination. domestics and dependents have in him a sure resource, and no longer dread the power of for
tune, but so far as she exercises it over him. From him the hungry receive food, the naked clothing; the ignorant and slothful, skill and industry. Like the sun, an inferior minister of Providence, he cheers, invigorates and sustains the surrounding world.
If confined to private life, the sphere of his activity is narrower; but his influence is all benign and gentle. If exalted into a higher station, mankind and posterity reap the fruit of his la
It seems then undeniable, that nothing can bestow more merit on any human creature than the sentiment of benevolence in an eminent degree; and that a part, at least, of its merit arises from its tendency to promote the interest of our species, and bestow happiness on human society. We carry our view into the salutary consequences of such a character and disposition; and whatever has so benign an influence, and forwards so desirable an end, is beheld with complacency and pleasure.
The social virtues are never regarded without their beneficial tendencies, nor viewed as barren and unfruitful. The happiness of mankind, the order of society, the harmony of families, the mutual support of friends, are always considered as the result of their gentle dominion over the breasts of men.
A BUSY BODY.
I HAVE often observed with concern that your Essays are not always equally entertaining: with more concern have I continually observed the growing vices and follies of my country folk; and though reformation is properly the concern of every man, that is, every one ought to mend one, yet it is too true in this case, that what is every body's business, is no body's business, and the business is done accordingly. I, therefore, upon mature deliberation, think fit to take no body's business wholly into my own hands; and out of zeal for the public good, design to erect myself into a kind of censor morum; purposing with your allowance to make use of your selection as a vehicle in which my remonstrances shall be conveyed to the world.
I am sensible I have undertaken a very un
thankful office, and expect little besides my labour for my pains. Nay it is very probable I may displease a great number of your readers, who will not very well like to pay a few shillings to be told of their faults. But as most people delight in censure, when they are not themselves the objects of it; if any are offended at my publicly exposing their private vices, I promise they shall soon have the satisfaction of seeing their good friends and neighbours in the same circum
However, let the fair sex be assured, that I shall always treat them and their affairs with the utmost decency and respect. I intend now and then to dedicate a chapter wholly to their service, and if my lectures any way contribute to the embellishment of their minds and brightening of their understandings, without offending their modesty, I doubt not of having their favour and encouragement.
It is certain that no country in the world produces naturally finer spirits than ours; men of genius for every kind of science, and capable of acquiring in perfection every qualification that is in esteem among mankind. But as few here have the advantage of good books, for want of which good conversation is still more scarce; it is therefore acceptable to your readers, that you have