Page images
PDF
EPUB

meeting-house, and in. the end to the palace. But let us be careful to check its further progress. The more zealous we are to support Christianity, the more vigilant should we be in maintaining tolleration. If we bring back persecution we bring back the anti-christian spirit of popery, and when the spirit is here, the whole system will soon follow. Tolleration is the basis of all public quiet. It is a character of feeedom given to the mind, more valuable, I think, than that which secures our persons and estates. Indeed, they are inseparably connected together : for, where the mind is not free, where the conscience is enthralled, there is no freedom. Spiritual tyranny puts on the galling chains; but civil tyranny is called in, to rivet and fix them. We see it in Spain, and many other countries; we have formerly both seen and felt it in England. By the blessing of God, we are now delivered from all kinds of oppression. Let us take care, that they never return.

CHAP. XIL
IN PRAISE OF VIRTUE.

VIRTUE is of intrinsic value and good desert, and of indispensable obligation; net 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 ever lasting 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 greatercurses they become. The use of it is not confined to any one stage of our existence, or to any particular situation we can be in, but reaches through all the periods and circumstances of our beings—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 forgot ; but virtue will remain ior 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 approbation and 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 minds to his-y and engages his almighty power in our dtfi-nce.—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 gi eater is his attachment to it,

and the more he is under its influence. To say no

more; 'Tis the Law of the whole universe ; it- stands first in the estimation of the Deity; its original is his nature; and it is the very object that makes him lovely. Such is the importance of Virtue. Of what tonsequence, thercfori-, is it that we practise it!—There is no argument or motive which 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^

And was his Highness- in his infancy
Crowned in Paris, in despite of foes?
And shall these labours and these honours die?
Shall Henry's conquest, Bedford's vigilance,
Your deeds of war, and all our counsel die?
O Peers of England, shameful is this league,
Fatal this marriage ; cancelling your fame,
Blotting your names from books of memory;
Razing the characters of your renown,
Defacing monuments of conquer'd France,
Undoing all, as all had never been.

Shakspeare.

BOOK VI.

CHAP, t,

ON HAPPINESS.

IT was at a time, when a certain friend, whom I highly value was my guest. We had been sitting together, entertaining ourselves with Shakspeare. Among «iany of his characters, we had looked into that of Wol.sey. How soon, says my- friend, does the cardinal .in disgrace abjure that happiness which he was lately so fond of! Scarcely out of office, but he begins to exclaim,

Vain pomp and glory of the world ! I hate ye. So true is it, that our sentiments ever vary with the season ; and that in adversity we are of one mind, in prosperity of-another. As for his mean opinion, said I, of human happiness, it is a truth, which small reflection might have taught him long before. There seems little need of distress 4o inform us of this. I rather commend the seeming wisdom of that eastern monarch, who in the affluence of prosperity, when he was proving every pleasure, was yet so sensible of their emptinefS, their insufficiency to make him happy, that he proclaimed a reward to the man, who should invent a new delight.— The reward indeed was proclaimed, but the delight was not to be found. If by delight, said he,' you mean some good; something conducing to real happiness ; it might have been found perhaps, and yet not hit the monarch's fancy. Is that, said I, possible? It is possible, replied lie, though it had been the sovereign good itself. And indeed what wonder? Is it probable that such a mortal as an eastern monarch; such a pampered, flattered, idle mortal, should have attention or capacity for a subject so delicate? A subject, enough to exercise the subtlest and most acute?

What then is it you esteem, said I, the sovereign good to be ? It should seem, by your representation, to be something very uncommon. Ask me not the question, said he, you know not where it will carry us. Its general idea indeed is easy and plain; but the detail of particulars is, perplexed and long; passions and opinions for ever thwart us; a paradox appears in almost every advance. Besides, did our inquiries succeed ever so happily, the very subject itself is always enough to give me pain. That, replied I, seems a paradox indeed. It is not, said he, from any prejudice which I have conceived against it; for to man I esteem it the noblest in the world. Nor is it for being a subject, to which my genius does not lead me; for no subject at all times has more employed my attention. But the truth is, I can scarce ever think of it, but an unlucky story still occurs to my mind. "A certain star-gazer with his telescope "was once viewing the moon; and describing her seas, "her mountains, and her territories. Says a clown to "his companion, Let him spy what he pleases; we are "as near to the moon, as he and all his brethren." So fares it, alas! with these our moral speculations. Practice too often creeps, where theory can soar. The philosopher proves as weak, as those whom he most contemns. A mortifving thought to such as will attend it. T

« PreviousContinue »