Слике страница


VIRTUE is of intrinsic value and good desert, and of indispensible obligation; not the creature of will, but necessary and immutable; not local or temporary, but of equal extent and antiquity with the Divine Mind; not a mode of sensation, but everlasting truth; not dependent on power, but the guide of all power.

Virtue is the foundation of honour and esteem, and the source of all beauty, order, and happiness, in nature. It is what confers value on all the other endowments and qualities of a reasonable being, to which they ought to be absolutely subservient, and without which, the more eminent they are, the more hideous deformities and the greater curses they become. The use of it is not confined to any one stage of our existence, but reaches through all the periods and circumstances of our being. Many of the endowments and talents we now possess, and of which we are too apt to be proud, will cease entirely with the present state; but this will be our ornament and dignity in every future state to which we may be removed. Beauty and wit will die, learning will vanish away, and all the arts of life be soon forgotten; but virtue will remain for ever. This unites us to the whole rational creation, and fits us for conversing with any order of superior natures, and for a place in any part of God's works. It procures us the love of all wise and good beings, and renders them our allies and friends. But what is of unspeakably greater consequence is, that it makes God our friend, assimilates and unites our mind to his, and engages his almighty power in

our defence. Superior beings of all ranks are bound by it no less than ourselves. It has the same authority in all worlds that it has in this. The further any being is advanced in excellence and perfection, the greater is his attachment to it, and the more he is under its influence. It is the law of the whole universe; it stands first in the estimation of the Deity; its origin is his nature; and it is the very object that makes him lovely.

[ocr errors]

Such is the importance of virtue. Of how much consequence therefore is it, that we practise it! There is no argument or motive that is at all fitted to influence a reasonable mind, which does not call us to this. One virtuous disposition of soul is preferable to the greatest natural accomplishments and abilities, and of more value than all the treasures of the world.-If you are wise, then, study virtue, and contemn every thing that can come in competition with it. Remember, that nothing else deserves one anxious thought or wish. Remember, that this alone is honour, glory, wealth, and happiness. Secure this, and you secure every thing. Lose this, and all is lost.



I CONSIDER a human soul, without education, like marble in the quarry; which shows none of its inherent beauties, until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discovers every ornamental cloud, spot, and vein, that runs through the body of it. Educa

tion, after the same manner, when it works upon a noble mind, draws out to view every latent virtue and perfection, which, without such helps, are never able to make their appearance.

If my reader will give me leave to change the allusion so soon upon him, I shall make use of the same instance to illustrate the force of education, which Aristotle has brought to explain his doctrine of substantial forms, when he tells us, that a statue lies hid in a block of marble; and that the art of the statuary only clears away the superfluous matter, and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone, and the sculptor only finds it. What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero, the wise, the good, or the great man, very often lies hid and concealed in a plebeian, which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light. I am therefore much delighted with reading the accounts of savage nations, and with contemplating those virtues which are wild and uncultivated: to see courage exerting itself in fierceness, resolution in obstina cy, wisdom in cunning, patience in sullenness and despair.

Men's passions operate variously, and appear in different kinds of actions, according as they are more or less rectified and swayed by reason. When one hears of negroes, who, upon the death of their masters, or upon changing their service, hang themselves upon the next tree, as it sometimes happens in our American plantations, who can forbear admiring their fidelity, though it expresses itself in so dreadful a manner? What might not

that savage greatness of soul, which appears in these poor wretches on many occasions, be raised to, were it rightly cultivated? And what colour of excuse can there be, for the contempt with which we treat this part of our species; that we should not put them upon the common foot of humanity; that we should only set an insignificant fine upon the man who murders them; nay, that we should, as much as in us lies, cut them off from the prospects of happiness in another world, as well as in this; and deny them that which we look upon as the proper means for attaining it?

It is therefore an unspeakable blessing to be born in those parts of the world where wisdom and knowledge flourish; though it must be confessed, there are, even in these parts, several poor uninstructed persons, who are but little above the inhabitants of those nations of which I have been here speaking; as those who have had the advantages of a more liberal education, rise above one another by several different degrees of perfection. For, to return to our statue in the block of marble, we see it sometimes only begun to be chipped, sometimes rough-hewn, and but just sketched into a human figure; sometimes we see the man appearing distinctly in all his limbs and features; sometimes, we find the figure wrought up to great elegancy; but seldom meet with any to which the hand of a Phidias or a Praxiteles could not give several nice touches and finishings.



A BILL, for ninety pounds sterling, was brought me, the other day, said to be drawn upon me by you. I scrupled paying it at first, not upon account of the sum, bnt because you had sent me no letter of advice, which is always done in those transactions; and still more, because I did not perceive that you had signed it. The person who presented it, desired me to look again, and that I should discover your name at the bottom; accordingly I looked again, and with the help of my magnifying glass, did perceive, that what I had first taken only for somebody's mark was, in truth, your name, written in the worst and smallest hand I ever saw in my life. However, I paid it at a venture; though I would almost rather lose the money, than that such a signature should be yours. All gentlemen, and all men of business, write their names always in the same way, that their signature may be so well known as not to be easily counterfeited, and they generally sign in rather a larger character than their common hand: whereas your name was in a less, and a worse than your common writing. This suggested to me the various accidents which may very probably happen to you, while you write so ill. For instance, if you were to write in such a character to the secretary's office, your letter would immediately be sent to the decypherer, as containing matters of the utmost secresy, not fit to be trusted to the common character. If you were to write so to an antiquarian, he (knowing you to be a man of learning) would certainly try it by the

« ПретходнаНастави »