Page images

fortune. One of the favourite characters of liberty, is the independence it bestows. He who is truly a freeman is above all scrvile compliances, and abject subjection. He is able to rest upon himself; and while he regards his superiors with proper deference, neither debases himself by cringing to them, nor is tempted to purchase their favour by dishonourable means. But the sinner has forfeited every privilege of this nature. His passions and habits render him an absolute dependant on the world, and the world's favour; on the uncertain goods of fortune, and the fickle humours of men. For it is by these he subsists, and among these his happiness is songht ; according as his passions determine him to pursue pleasures, riches, or preferments. Having no fund within himself whence to draw enjoyment, his only resource is in things without. His hopes and fears all hang upon the world. He partakes in all its vicissitudes ; and is moved and shaken by every wind of fortune. This is to be, in the striciest sense, a slave to the world.

Religion and virtue, on the other hand, confer on the mind principles of noble independence. “ The upright man is satisfied from himself.” He despises not the advantages of fortune, but he centres not his happiness in them. With a moderate share of them he can be contented ; and contentment is felicity. Happy in his own integrity, conscious of the esteem of good men, reposing firm trust in the providence, and the pr mises of God, he is exempted from servile dependence on oher things. He can wrap himself up in a good conscience, and look forward, without terror, to the change of the world. Let all things shift around him as they please, he believes that, by the Divine ordination, they shall be made to work together in the issue for his good : and therefore, having much to hope from God, and little to fear from the world, he can be easy in every state. One who possesses within himself such an establishment of mind, is truly free. But shall í call that man free, who has nothing that is his own, ng property assured ; whose very heart is not bis own, but ren. dered the appendage of external things, and the sport of for tune? Is that man free, let his outward condition be ever so splendid, whom his imperious passions detain at their call, whom they send forth at their pleasure, to drudge and toil, and to beg his only enjoyment from the casualties of the world? Is he free, who must flatter and lie to compass his ends, who must bear with this man's caprice, and that man's icorn ; puse profesi siendship where he hates,

and respect

[ocr errors][merged small]


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

where he contemns; who is not at liberty to appear in his own colours, nor to speak his own sentiments ; who dares not be honest, lest he should be poor !-Believe it, no chans bind so hard, no fetiers are so heavy, as those which fasten the cor. rupted heart to this treacherous world ; no dependence is more contemptible than that under which the voluptuous, the covetous, or the ambitious man, lies to the means of pleasure, gain, or power. Yet this is the boasted liberly which vice promises, as the recompense of setting us free from the salutary restraints of virtue.


The man of integrity. It will not take much time to delineate the character of the man of integrity, as by its nature it is a plain one, and easily understood. He is one, who makes it his constant rule to fol. low. the road of duty, according as the word of God, and the voice of his conscience, point it out to him. He is not guided merely by affections, which may sometimes give the colour of virtue to a loose and unstable character. The upright man is guided by a fixed principle of mind, which determines him to esteem nothing but what is honourable ; and to abhor whatever is base or unworthy, in moral conduct. Hence we him ever the same ; at all times, the trusty friend, the af fectionate relation, the conscientious man of business, the pious worshipper, the public spirited citizen. He assumes no borrowed appearance. He seeks no mask to cover him

for he acts no studied part ; but he is indeed what he appears to be, full of truth, candour, and humanity. In all his pursuits, he knows no path, but the fair and direct one; and would much rather fail of success, than attain it by reproachful means. He never shows us a smiling countenance, while he meditates evil against us in his heart. He never praises us among our friends; and then joins in traducing us among our enemies. We shall never find one part of his character at variance with another. In his manners, he is simple and unatected ; in all his proceedings, open and consistent




Gentleness. I BEGIN with distinguishing true gentleness from passive tameness of spirit, and from unlimited compliance with the manners of others. That passive tameness, which submits,

without opposition, to every encroachment of the violent and assuming, forms no part of Christian duty ; but, on the contrary, is destructive of general happiness and order. That unlimited complaisance, which, on every occasion, falls in with the opinions and manners of others, is so far from being a virtue, that it is itself a vice, and the parent of many vices. It overtbrows all steadiness of principle ; and produces that sinful conformity with the world, which taints the whole character. In the present corrupted state of human manners, always to assent and to comply, is the very worst maxim w can adopt. It is impossible to support the purity and dig nity of Christian morals, without opposing the world on va. rious occasions, even though we should stand alone. That gentleness therefore which belongs to virtue, is to be carefully distinguished from the mean spirit of cowards, and the fawning assent of sycophants. It renounces no just right from fear. It gives up no important truth from fattery. It is indeed not only consistent with a firm mind, but it necessarily requires a manly spirit and a fixed principle, in order to give it any real value. Upon this solid ground only, the polish of gentleness can with advantage be superinduced.

It stands oppoge, not to the most determined regard for virtue and truth, but to harshness and severity, to pride and arrogance, to violence and oppression. It is properly, that part of the great virtue of charity, which makes us unwilling to give pain to any of our brethren. Compassion prompts us to relieve their wants. Forbearance prevents us from retaliating their injuries. Meekness restrains our angry passions ; candour, our severe judgments. Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manners ; and, by a constant train of humane attentions, studies to alleviate the burden of common misery. Its office, therefore, is extensive. It is not, like some other virtues,called forth only on peculiar emergencies; but it is continually in action, when we are engaged in intercourse with men. It ought to form our address, to regulate our speech, and to diffuse itself over our whole behaviour.

We must not, however, confound this gentle“wisdom which is from above,” with that artificial courtesy, that studied smoothness of manners, which is learned in the school of the world Such accomplishments, the most frivolous and empty may possess. Too often they are employed by the artful, as a snare ; too often affected by the hard and unfeeling, as a cover to the baseness of their minds. We cannoi, at the same time, avoid observing the homage, which, even in such in



stances, the world is constrained to pay to virtue. In order to render society agreeable, it is found necessary

to assume somewhat, that may at least carry


appearance. Virtue is the universal charm. Even its shadow is courted, when the substance is wanting. The imitation of its form has been re. duced into an art; and, in the commerce of life, the first study of all who would either gain the esteem, or win the hearts of others, is to learn the speech, and to adopt the manners, of candour, gentleness, and humanity. But that gentleness which is the characteristic of a good man, has, like every other virtue, its seat in the heart ; and let me add, no. thing except what flows from the heart, can render even ex. ternal manners truly pleasing. For no assumed behaviour can at all times hide the real character. In that unaffected civility which springs from a gentle mind, there is a charm infinitely more powerful, than in all the studied manners of the most finished courtier.

True gentleness is founded on a sense of what we owe to Him who made us, and to the common nature of which we all share. It arises from reflection on our own failings and wants ; and from just views of the condition, and the duty of nan. It is native feeling, heightened and improved by principle. It is the heart which easily relents ; which feels for every thing that is human ; and is backward, and slow to in. flict the least wound. It is affable in its address, and mild in its demeanour; ever ready to oblige, and willing to be obliged by others; breathing habitual kindness towards friends, courtesy to strangers, long-suffering to enemies. It exercises authority with moderation ; administers reproof with tenderness ; confers favours with ease and modesty. It is unassun. ing in opinion, and temperate in zeal. It contends not eagerly about trifles ; slow to contradict, and still slower to blame

i but prompt to allay dissension, and to restore peace. It neither intermeddles unnecessarily with the affairs, nor pries inquisitively into the secrets of others. It delights above all things to alleviate distress; and, if it cannot dry up the falling tear, to sooth at least the grieving heart. Where it has not the power of being useful, it is never burdensome. It secks to please, rather than to shine and dazzle ; and conceals with care that superiority, either of talents or of rank, which is cppressive to those who are beneath it. In a word, it is that spirit and that tenour of manners, which the gospel of Christ enjoins, when it commands us, us to bear one another's burdens; to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep wita

those who weep; to please every one his neighbour for his good ; to be kind and tender-hearted ; to be pitiful and courteous ; to support the weak, and to be patient towards all



[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


Trial and execution of the Earl of STRAFFORD, who fell a

sacrifice to the violence of the times, in the reign of CHARLES
the First.

The earl of Strafford defended himself against the accusatons of the house of Commons, with all the presence of mind, udgment, and sagacity, that could be expected from innocence and ability. His children were placed beside him, as he was thus defending his life, and the cause of his royal master. After he had, in a long and eloquent speech, delivered without premeditation, confuted all the accusations of his ene. mies, he thus drew to a conclusion. “ But, my lords, I have troubled you too long : longer than I should have done, but for the sake of these dear pledges, which a saintin heaven has left me.”_Upon this he paused; dropped a tear; looked upon his children ; and proceeded.--" What I forfeit for myself is a trifle : that my indiscretions should reach my posterity, wounds me to the heart. Pardon my infirmity.--Something I should have added, but I am not able ; and therefore I let it pass. And now, my lords, for myself. I have long been taught, that the afflictions of this life are overpaid by that eternal weight of glory, which awaits the innocent. And so, my lords, even so, with the utmost tranquillity, I submit myself to your judgment, whether that judgment be life or death : not my will, but thine, O God, be done !"

His eloquence and innocence induced those judges to pity, who were the most zealous to condemn him, The king himzelf went to the house of lords, and spoke for some time in his defence ; but the spirit of vengeance, which had been chained for eleven years, was now roused ; and nothing but his blood could give the people satisfaction. He was condemned by both houses of parliament; and nothing remained but for the king to give his consent to the bill of attainder But in the present commotions, the consent of the king

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »