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On Disinterested Friendship.
I AM informed that certain Greek writers (philosophers, it seems, in the opinion of their countrymen) have advanced some very extraordinary positions relating to friendship ; as, indeed what subject is there, which these subtle geniuses have not tortured with their sophistry?
The authors to whom I refer, dissuade their disciples from entering into any strong attachments, as unavoidably creating supernumerary disquietudes to those who engage in them; and, as every man has more than sufficient to call forth his solicitude, in the course of his own affairs, it is a weakness, they contend, anxiously to involve himself in the concerns of others. They recommend it also, in all connexions of this kind, to hold the bands of union extremely loose; so as always to have it in one's power to straiten or relax them, as circumstances and situations shall render most expedient. They add, as a capital article of their doctrine, that, "to live exempt from cares, is an essential ingredient to constitute human happiness: but an ingredient, however, which he, who voluntarily distresses himself with cares, in which he has no necessary and personal interest, must never hope to possess."
I have been told likewise, that there is another set of pretended philosophers, of the same country, whose tenets concerning this subject, are of a still more illiberal and ungenerous cast.
The proposition they attempt to establish, is, that "friendship is an affair of self-interest entirely; and that the proper motive for engaging in it, is not in order to gratify the kind and benevolent affectious, but for the benefit of that assistance and support which are to be derived from the connexion." Accordingly, they assert, that those persons are most disposed to have recourse to auxiliary alliances of this kind, who are least qualified by nature, or fortune, to depend upon their own strength and powers: the weaker sex, for instance, being generally more inclined to engage in friendships, than the male part of our species; and those who are depressed by indigence, or labouring under misfortunes, than the wealthy and the prosperous.
Excellent and obliging sages, these, undoubtedly! Tostrike out the friendly affections from the moral world, would be like extinguishing the sun in the natural; each of them being the source of the best and most grateful satisfac
tions that heaven has conferred on the sons of men. should be glad to know, what the real value of this boasted exemption from care, which they promise their disciples, justly amounts to? an exemption flattering to self love, confess; but which, upon many occurrences in human life, should be rejected with the utmost disdain. For nothing, surely, can be more inconsistent with a well-poised and manly spirit, than to decline engaging in any laudable action, or to be discouraged from persevering in it, by an apprehen sion of the trouble and solicitude with which it may probably be attended. Virtue herself, indeed, ought to be totally renounced, if it be right to avoid every possible means that may be productive of uneasiness; for who, that is actuated by her principles, can observe the conduct of an opposite character, without being affected with some degree of secret dissatisfaction? Are not the just, the brave, and the good, necessarily exposed to the disagreeable emotions of dislike and aversion, when they respectively meet with instances of fraud, of cowardice, or of villainy ? It is an essential prop erty of every well constituted mind, to be affected with pain, or pleasure, according to the nature of those moral áppear. ances that present themselves to observation.
If sensibility, therefore, be not incompatible with true wis dom, (and it surely is not, unless we suppose that philoso phy deadens every finer feeling of our nature) what just rea son can be assigned, why the sympathetic sufferings which may result from friendship, should be a sufficient induce ment for banishing that generous affection from the human breast? Extinguish all emotions of the heart, and what dif ference will remain, I do not say between man and brute, but between man and a mere inanimate clod? - Away thea with those austere philosophers, who represent virtue as hardening the soul against all the softer impressions of hu manity! The fact, certainly, is much otherwise. A truly good man is, upon many occasions, extremely susceptible tender sentiments; and his heart expands with joy, or shrinks with sorrow, as good or ill-fortune accompanies his friend Upon the whole, then, it may fairly be concluded, that, as in the case of virtue, so in that of friendship, those painful sensations, which may sometimes be produced by the one, a well as by the other, are equally insufficient grounds -for ex cluding either of them from taking possession of our bosoms.
They who insist that "utility is the first and prevailing motive, which induces mankind to enter into particular friendships," appear to me to divest the association of y
ost amiable and engaging principle. To a mind rightly isposed, it is not so much the mere receiving of benefits, as e affectionate zeal from which they flow, that gives them heir best and most valuable recommendation. It is so far ideed from being verified by fact, that a sense of our wants › the original cause of forming these amicable alliances: lat on the contrary, it is observable, that none have been ore distinguished in their friendships than those, whose ower and opulence, but, above all, whose superiour virtue, much firmer support,) have raised them above every neessity of having recourse to the assistance of others.
The true distinction then, in this question, is, that " alLough friendship is certainly productive of utility, yet utily is not the primary motive of friendship." Those selfish nsualists, therefore, who, lulled in the lap of luxury, preme to maintain the reverse, have surely no claim to attenon; as they are neither qualified by reflection, nor experince, to be competent judges of the subject.
Is there a man upon the face of the earth, who would deberately accept of all the wealth, and all the affluence this world can bestow, if offered to him upon the severe terms of is being unconnected with a single mortal whom he could ove, or by whom he should be beloved? This would be to ad the wretched life of a detested tyrant, who amidst peretual suspicions and alarms, passes his miserable days a tranger to every tender sentiment; and utterly precluded rom the heartfelt satisfactions of friendship.
Melmoth's translation of Cicero's Lælius.
On the Immortality of the Soul.
I WAS yesterday walking alone, in one of my friend's oods, and lost myself in it very agreeably, as I was runing over, in my mind, the several arguments that establish ais great point; which is the basis of morality, and the ource of all the pleasing hopes and secret joys, that can aise in the heart of a reasonable creature. I considered Jose several proofs drawn.
First, from the nature of the soul itself, and particularly s immateriality; which, though not absolutely necessary the eternity of its duration, has, I think, been evinced to Imost a demonstration.
Secondly, from its passions and sentiments: as, particuwly, from its love of existence; its horror of annihilation;
and its hopes of Immortality; with that secret satisfaction which it finds in the practice of virtue; and that uneasiness which follows upon the commission of vice.
Thirdly, from the nature of the Supreme Being, whose justice, goodness, wisdom, and verasity, are all concerned in this point.
But among these, and other excellent arguments for the immorality of the soul, there is one drawn from the perpet ual progress of the soul to its perfection, without a possibil ity of ever arriving at it: which is a hint that I do not re member to have seen opened and improved by others, wh have written on this subject, though it seems to me to carry a very great weight with it. How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the soul, which is capable of immens perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eter nity, shall fall away into nothing, almost as soon as it is created? Are such abilities made for no purpose? A brute arrives at a point of perfection, that he can never pass; a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the same thing he is at present. Were a human soul thus at a stand in her accomplishments; were her faculties to be full blown and incapable of farther enlargements; I could imagine sh might fall away insensibly, and drop at once into a state annihilation. But can we believe a thinking being, that in a perpetual progress of improvement, and travelling o from perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad into the works of her Creator, and made a few discoverie of his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power, must perish her first setting out, and in the very beginning of her inqu ries ?
Man, considered only in his present state, seems sent ial the world merely to propagate his kind. He provides hin self with a successor; and immediately quits his post make room for him. He does not seem born to enjoy life but to deliver it down to others. This is not surprising consider in animals, which are formed for our use, and whic can finish their business in a short life. The silkworm, a ter having spun her task, lays her eggs and dies. But man cannot take in his full measure of knowledge, has time to subdue his passions, establish his soul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurri off the stage. Would an infinitely wise Being make su glorious creatures for so mean a purpose? Can he delight the production of such abortive intelligences, such short
reasonable beings? Would he give us talents that are not be exerted? Capacities that are never to be gratified? ›w can we find that wisdom which shines through all his rks, in the fo.ation of man, without looking on this rld, as only a nursery for the next; and without believ5 that the several generations of rational creatures, which e up and disappear in such quick successions, are only to eive their first rudiments of existence here, and afterrds to be transplanted into a more friendly climate, where ey may spread and flourish to all eternity?
There is not, in my opinion, a more pleasing and triumant consideration in religion, than this of the perpetual ogress, which the soul makes towards the perfection of its (ure, without ever arriving at a period in it. To look on the soul as going on from strength to strength; to conler that she is to shine forever with new accessions of glo
and brighten to all eternity: that she will be still adding rtue to virtue, and knowledge to knowledge; carries in it mething wonderfully agreeable to that ambition which is tural to the mind of man. Nay, it must be a prospect easing to God himself, to see his creation forever beautiing in his eyes and drawing nearer to him, by greater egrees of resemblance.
Methinks this single consideration, of the progress of a nite spirit to perfection, will be sufficient to extinguish all nvy in inferior natures, and all contempt in superior.". That herub, which now appears as a ged to a human soul, knows ery well that the period will come about in eternity, when he human soul shall be as perfect as he himself now is: ay, when she shall look down upon that degree of perfecon as much as she now falls short of it. It is true, the igher nature still advances, and by that means preserves is distance and superiority in the scale of being; but he nows that, how high soever the station is of which he stands ossessed at present, the inferior nature will at length mount ip to it: and shine forth in the same degree of glory.
With what astonishment and veneration, may we look nto our own souls, where there are such hidden stores of irtue and knowledge, such inexhausted sources of perfecion! We know not yet what we shall be ; nor will it ever enter into the heart of man, to conceive the glory that will be always in reserve for him. The soul, considered with its Creator, is like one of those mathematical lines, that may draw nearer to another for all eternity, without a possibility of touching it; and can there be a thought so' transporting,