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There is such a thing as a union of condescension and firmness; and a happy thing it is. To condescend in things indifferent, in things trivial, in things that touch not the conscience, nor seriously harm or endanger one's earthly interest and welfare ; and meanwhile to go not a step farther for any persuasion whatever ; no, not to please one's nearest friends--that is the gold
As some pretend to care for none, there are those who, on the other hand, try to please all, by becomingnot in its best sense- “ all things to all men.' Some do it from selfish designs altogether; and others from a too yielding temper. These last cannot bear, in any case, to be opposed or to oppose: and so they readily fall in with the sentiments and views of their present company, and side with every man they meet. Often this pliability of mind or temper is owing to a sort of amiable weakness, but it is destructive of all respectability of character.
I know not how to illustrate this point better than by the following story, which as to substance and pith, may be regarded as undoubtedly true.
Some very long time since, Parson M- of Massachusetts (then a British colony, being at Boston, bought him a wig there, and returning home, wore it at church the next sabbath. As a wig of such a size and shape was quite a novelty in that obscure place, it gave offence to almost the whole congregation, who, both male and female, repaired the next day to their minister's house, and stated their complaint, the burden of which was, that the wig was one of the Boston notions, and had the look of fashion and pride. The good-natured minister, thereupon, brought it forth, and bade them fashion it to their own liking. This task they set about in good earnest, and with help of scissors, cropped off lock after lock, till at last they all declared themselves satisfied
-save one,—who alleged, that wearing any wig at all, was in his opinion, a breach of the commandment, which saith, “ Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath." This last objector Mr. Msilenced, by convincing him that the wig, in the condition it then was, did not resemble any thing either above or below.
Even so fares it with the characters that make it their aim to please every body. Slashed on this side and on that, and twisted into every shape and out of all shape, they finally come to the condition of his reve
A comment upon a celebrated Allegory of Antiquity.
A CELEBRATED ancient philosopher of the pagan school, has represented human nature under the similitude or analogy of a chariot drawn by two horses; the one, of excellent mettle and lively motion ; and the other sluggish and obstinate: so that while the former sprung forward, his mate hung hack. And it must be owned, there is a striking aptness in this little allegory.
Of all the animals in the whole living world, none are seen to act inconsistently, but those of Adam's race.The lower animals, acting from what we call blind instinct, are nevertheless, uniform and consistent in their conduct; while ourselves, who proudly lay claim to the high endownments of Reason, run into inconsistencies and absurdities every day of our lives. We know the right, and approve it; we see the wrong, and condemn it: and after all, very often the right we reject or forsake, and the wrong we pursue.
This marvellous phenomenon, namely, the disjointed condition of human nature and the perpetual variance of man with himself, has been plainly visible in all ages; and oft has mole-eyed philosophy puzzled herself in vain to account for it. It used to be thought by the engrossers of the wisdom of this world, that the mind and the body were unequally yoked together ; that the former, being of a celestial mould, was naturally inclined to mount upward, and that the latter ever checked the noble flights of its yoke-fellow, forcing it back to kindred earth. The wise son of Sirach seems to have
possessed a tincture of this fashionable philosophy, when he remarked, " That the corruptible body weigheth down the scul."
For which reason, the body has met with hard usage among the religionists of different schools. The bigots of paganism, and the bigots of popery in the dark age, regarding their bodies as clogs to, and polluters of, their nobler part, proceeded to treat these unworthy copartners with unmerited scorn and cruelty.
Revelation, fairly understood, sets this whole matter in a clear light. In it we see, whence sprang the strange inconsistency in human nature, and from it we learn that, as neither the soul can subsist in the present state without the body, nor the body without the soul, so they should live together in harınony-provided that the inferior be never permitted to get the upperhand, but be kept at all times in due subjection to its superior.
Dropping now the analogical exposition made of this fabulous chariot of Plato, in the prior edition, which adapted it to partners in wedlock, I will consider it in its more obvious sense, as aptly representing the strange disparity of the Mind and Heart, and the unnatural discord and strife so often existing between these two neighbouring powers. And here, to be understood, I must premise, that by the mind is meant the intellectual faculties, and by the heart, the turbulent tribe of appetites, passions, prejudices, and wayward volitions, as well as the benign family of moral virtues. The subject is no less prolific than interesting ;-and, by one of adequate abilities, might be made to compose a sizeable volume that would be both curious and useful, if the thing were treated, not in a dry, metaphysical way, but practically, or with uniform adherence to the history of Man as he is. For myself, it must suffice barely to mention two prominent particulars.
1. Not unfrequently there are yoked together minds and hearts very unequal as respects natural strength. Some have stout hearts, but feeble minds; what is called valor they possess in a high degree, but their understandings are dwarfish. On the other hand, some meu of large and powerful understandings are devoid of valor, and even remarkable for their timidity. Horace, the first of geniuses, threw away his shield in battle, and took to his heels. And Cicero, a man of a most luminous mind, had far less active courage than Pompey, who was many degrees below him on the intellectual scale.
2. There are some minds strong in understanding, and yet weak to resist the impulses of passion and appetite; and this moral defect is fatal to their characters and ruinous to their happiness. A firmness of Volition, or Will, to obey the dictates of reason in despite of the din of clamorous appetites and passions, is the parent of every thing morally good and noble. On the contrary, if this gristle be wanting to the heart, the highest degree of intellectual strength and brightness may be associated with the lowest degree of moral debasement.
How powerful and almost seraphic the mind of Bacon! How pitifully weak the fortress of his heart!
The reverse of this appalling picture may be seen in the life of him whose memory we so delight to honor. A Biographer of Washington remarks-“Possessing strong natural passions, and having the nicest sense of honor, he was in early life prone keenly to resent practices which carried the intention of injury or insult, but the reflections of maturer age gave him the most perfect government of himself.” His characteristic feature was, à persevering resolution to act, on every emergency, according to his sense of right and duty. And it is probable that there is no man, either among the living, or on the page of history, who followed more unswervingly, the dictates of his own profound and discriminating judgment; and it is that which makes his character so peculiarly venerable.
66 Illustrious man ! deriving honor less from the splendor of his situation than from the dignity of his mind; before whom all borrowed greatness sinks into insignificance, and all the princes and potentates of Europe become little and insignificant. He has had no occasion to have recourse to any tricks of policy or arts of alarm; his authority has been supported by the same means by which it was acquired, and his conduct has
uniformly been characterized by wisdom, moderation, and firmness."'*
Resolutely to deny in all cases, one's appetites, passions, and desires, when they are inconsistent with reason and duty, is a cardinal virtue in human character, which, however, is rarely seen in persons who had not been disciplined to it in their early years. Wherefore, to lead its pupils to master their appetites and passions, is one of the essential parts of a good education; nor is any thing more necessary through the whole course of life, than suppressing and subduing those rebellious emotions of the heart, which war against the law of the mind.
The goodness and wisdom of Providence, directed to the production of human happiness, puts the means, in a great measure, within our reach: “the efficacy of conduct of every sort does not depend so much on force of understanding, which is not in our power, as on integrity of Will, which is in our power.”
Of Devotedness to Pleasure.
It is an irrefragable maxim, as well of experience as of revelation, that, he that loveth pleasure shall be a poor
Indeed, scarce any maxim is so fully sanctioned by experience; since, in all ages, and among all ranks and classes, an inordinate love of pleasure has proved the certain road to want and ruin.
Most strikingly verified is this sacred text, in the instances of drunkards and debauchees, who give up themselves to the embraces of pleasure, in her grossest and most disgusting forms. Always and every where, these profligates, after a short run, come out not merely poor men, but poor wretches. Inevitably, and very shortly, they become alike destitute in circumstances and
* Charles Fox's Eulogy on Washington, in the British House of Commons, 1794.