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a greater length of time, and refined upon it more exquisitely, than perhaps any man else that is now among the living or the dead. Yet, setting aside all the awful considerations of futurity, no one that reads the story of his life with any degree of sound reflection, will be led to think that he had more real enjoyment of it, or even near so much, as falls to the ordinary lot of mankind. A biographer of Nash, in speaking of the latter stages of his life, observes: "He was now past the period of giving or receiving pleasure, for he was poor, old and peevish; yet still he was incapable of turning from his former manner of life to pursue happiness. The old man endeavored to practise the follies of the boy; and he seemed willing to find lost appetite among the scenes where he was once young."
A remarkable counterpart to the life of Mr. Nash, is that of Mademoiselle de Lespenasse; which clearly shows that the most unhappy of women are those who have no taste for simple domestic comforts.
It is related of this most accomplished French lady, who had been the unrivalled leader of the fashion in France, during a part of the last century, "That she not only lived, but almost died, in public; that while she was tortured with disease, and her heart so torn with agonizing passions as frequently to turn her thoughts on suicide, she dined out and made visits every day: and that, when she was visibly within a few weeks of her end, and was wasted with coughs and with spasms, she still had her saloon filled twice a day with company, and dragged herself out to supper with all the Countesses of her acquaintance."
To be Temperate in all things, is as really a matter of interest as of duty. If there were even no unlawfulness in excess, nor any punishment following it in the coming world, yet it ever brings with it a punishment here; a punishment that more than countervails the enjoyment. And, on the other hand, if there were neither virtue nor duty in the moderation of enjoying the pleasures of sense, yet it carries along with it its own reward, as it is the only way of deriving from those pleasures all the satisfaction which it is of their nature to give. So that, to enjoy innocently and in strict con
formity to the rules of reason and of our holy religion, terminates ordinarily in a greater amount of real pleasure than is to be found by the epicure or the voluptuary.
It is excellently observed by Doctor Reid, on the Mind-"If one could by a soft and luxurious life, acquire a more delicate sensibility to pleasure, it must be at the expense of a like sensibility to pain, from which he can never promise himself exemption; and at the expense of cherishing many diseases which produce pain."
Beware of Pleasure! The envenomed serpent couches under the gay and fragrant flower.
"HE that would seriously set upon the search of truth,"
These weighty sentiments, so worthy to be carried along with us in all our secular, and in all our moral and religious concerns, are particularly applicable to the subject of evil thinking. Downright wilful slander is considered on all hands as a detestable vice; and a person habitually guilty of it, in its grossness, is marked as a foe to society. A man, a woman, or a family, that is notoriously infected with this foul malady, is watched
as carefully as is a pick-pocket, or a common cheat. But it unhappily falls out, that although gross, wilful slander, commonly meets with the reprobation it merits, yet, what is nearly related to it passes with very little censure or remorse. I mean one's taking up a reproach against one's neighbor, or believing an ill report of another upon slight grounds, or without sufficient evidence.
The commonness of this fault seems to evince a strong predisposition to it in our very nature. It is a remark of the great British moralist, Dr. Johnson, that "there are two causes of belief: Evidence and Inclination." When we are in no manner inclined to believe a thing, we naturally require full evidence of it before we yield our credence; and, on the other hand, when we are powerfully inclined to believe, we can do so, not only without evidence, but against it. Hence it would seem, that we naturally have a strong inclination to believe or think ill of others, since we so often do it on no real proof, or on what is next to none.
How happens it, that even in well-ordered society, scandal flies as upon the wings of the wind? That it so quickly spreads over a whole neighborhood, parish, or town? That it continues to widen its circle from day to day, till every body knows it, save one, to wit, the very person scandalized?-Does not this argue a general love of scandal?-Perhaps you will say No; and will hold, that two or three tale-bearers or busy bodies may have done the whole mischief. But how could they have done it if they had not found a multitude of ears to listen to their tale, and a multitude of tongues to aid them in its circulation? As there would be no thieves of one kind, if there were no receivers of stolen goods, so there would be no tale-bearers, if there were no eager listeners to their buzz: and as the receiver is as bad as the thief, so the eager listener to groundless scandal is well nigh as bad as its author, or at least possesses some portion of the same depravity of feeling and temper.
No one has travelled very far upon the journey of life, and been an observant traveller, who has not noticed the manner in which, for a while, this "pestilence walketh in darkness," and then burts forth into open
day. The foul report is for some time communicated in whispers, accompanied with solemn injunctions of secrecy. Every one professes to hope it is not true, and yet every one whispers it to every one's acquaintance. If it be a young female that the story is about, one that is distinguished by some personal attractions; lo, the rueful faces of the rival young sisterhood and their good mothers! Crumpling up their mouths while they are spreading it, and every now and then venting a deep sigh, they hope, forsooth, the thing is not quite so bad, but are sorely afraid there is too much truth in it. At length it becomes a common report; a matter of public notoriety. It is in every body's mouth, and every body must believe it; because, according to one orthodox old saying, "What every body says, must be true;" and, according to another of equally sacred authority, "Where there is much smoke, there must be some fire." It is a settled point. In the public opinion, the case is decided, and the defamed party is cast. All are of one mind, that there must be something in it; though, here and there, one charitable body or another expresses a faint hope that the affair may not turn out to be quite so scandalous as it is represented.
Last of all, after the lapse of months, or perhaps of a year, it reaches the astonished ears of the person most immediately concerned. It is sifted, and turns out a sheer fabrication, invented and first put in circulation, by Nobody. Search is made in vain for the author, who lies snugly concealed amidst the multitude.
Well, then, the matter is cleared up, and all the slur is wiped away at least from the character of the defamed. Not exactly so, nor indeed can it be. Some are no less loath to disbelieve, than they were forward to believe. Some who pretend to be mighty glad at the result, secretly wish it had been a little otherwise. Some have their doubts still, but charitably believe that, in the main, the poor girl "is more sinned against than sinning." And some again, have no inclination to examine the disproof of the calumny, though they had swallowed it with a voracious appetite. "If she have cleared herself of the aspersion, it is well; we wish the girl no harm: but, for our part, we have our own opinion
about that matter, and leave it to others to think as they please."-At the same time they look wonderful wise, and not a little mysterious.
Of Brevity in relation to sundry particulars.
DR. COTTON MATHER, of venerated memory, in order to escape the calamity of tedious visits, wrote over the door of his study, in large letters, BE SHORT. A pithy sentence in truth it is, and well worthy of remembrance in a great many more cases than I can now enumerate.
The interchange of friendly visits is one of the most precious sweets of life. But then, it must not be overdone; else it becomes irksome and disgusting. Hence, in the book of the Wise Man, we meet with the following wholesome counsel: "Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbor's house, lest he be weary of thee." Now the necessary discipline of the foot, which is here inculcated, is, if I may presume to comment, of the following import:-Beware of spinning out your friendly visits beyond due length. Retire, if you perceive any necessary business which your stay might interrupt; retire, ere the family, after an hour's yawning, begin to steal off, one by one, to bed; retire, ere plain symptoms of weariness appear in the countenances of the little circle you are visiting; retire, ere, in some undescribable manner or other, it be manifested that your room would be more welcome than your company. When you have made your friends glad by your coming, stay not so long as to make them still more glad by your going away.
In time long past, the lord of a manor upon one of the banks of the Hudson, is said to have had a way of his own to clear his house of visitants. When his tenants, to whom he was affable and courteous, seemed disposed to prolong the visits which they now and then made him, he dropped the Dutch tongue, and began speaking to them in English: whereupon the honest Dutchmen, understanding the signal, hied away.