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daughters of pleasure are too much engaged in hearing music, seeing plays, and in the endless drudgery of the card-table, to find time for getting acquainted with themselves, and regulating their minds, I can tell them one truth, and a terrible one; They must find time to die, whether they have prepared themselves for death
Before any thing can be done to purpose toward bringing the passions under due subjection, it will be necessary to bring down high swelling pride and self-opinion, and to cultivate humility, the foundation of all virtues. For this purpose, it will be our wisdom to endeavour to view our selves in the light we may suppose we appear in before that eye which sees all things exactly as they are. We are therefore to consider, that we do not appear to our Maker under the same distinctions as we do to one another. He does not regard one as a king, another as a hero, or a third as a learned man! He looks down from where he sits enthroned above all conceivable height, through the vast scale of being, and beholds innumerable different orders, all gradually descending from himself, the highest created nature infinitely inferior to his own original perfection! At a very great distance below the summit of created excellence, and at the very lowest degree of rational nature, we may suppose the All-comprehensive eye to behold our humble species just rising above the animal rank! How poor a figure must we make before him in this our infancy of being, placed on this speck of creation, creeping about like insects for a day, and then sinking into the dust! Nor is this all. For what appearance must a set of such lawless beings as we are, make before that eye which is too pure to look upon evil without abhorrence? How must we appear to perfect rectitude and purity, guilty and polluted as we are, and covered with the stains of wickedness, which are the disgrace of any rational nature! Is pride fit for such an order of creatures as we are, in our present state of humiliation and pollution? Can we value ourselves upon any thing of our own? Have we any thing that we have not received? And does any reasonable creature boast of what it owes to another? Have we not infinite reason to loathe ourselves,
and to be covered with shame and confusion? And are shame and pride, in any respect, consistent?
The few advantages we possess at present want only to be considered, to convince us how little they are to be boasted of. The whole of our bodily perfections may be summed up in two words, strength and beauty. As for the first, this is a poor qualification to boast of, in which we are, to say the least, equalled by the płodding ox or stupid ass. Besides, it is but three days sickness, or the loss of a little blood, and a Hercules becomes as manageable as a child! Who then would boast of what is so very precarious?
As to beauty, that fatal ornament of the female part of our species, which has exhausted the human wit in raptures to its praise, which so often proves the misfortune of its possessor, and the disquiet of him who gives himself to the admiration of it; which has ruined cities, armies, and the virtue of thousands: What is beauty? a pleasing glare of white and red, reflected from a skin incomparably exceeded by the glossy hue of the humble daisy, which was made to be trod upon by every quadruped. The mild glitter of an eye, outshone by every dew-drop on the grass. Is it inherent in the structure of the human frame? No: Strip off the scarf-skin to the thickness of a fish's scale, and the charming fair grows hideous to behold. A sudden fright alarms her; a fit of sickness attacks her; the roses fly from her cheeks; her eyes lose their fire; she looks haggard, pale, and ghastly. Even in all the blooming pride of beauty, what is the human frame? A mass of corruption and disease, covered over with a fair skin. When the animate spirit flies, and leaves the lovely tabernacle behind, how soon does horror succeed to admiration. How do we hasten to hide out of sight the loathsome remains of beauty! Open the charnel-house in which a very little while ago the celebrated toast was laid. Who can now bear to look on that face, shrivelled and black, and loathsome, which used to be the delight of every youthful gazer? who could now touch with one finger, her, whose very steps the enamoured youth would have kissed? Can the lover himself go near, without stopping his nose, to her who used to breathe all the perfumes of
the spring? If beauty is a subject for boasting, what is matter of mortification?
The accomplishments of the mind are likewise two, knowledge and virtue. Is there any reason to be proud of the poor attainments we can in the present state gain in knowledge, of which the perfection is, To know our own weakness? Is that an accomplishment to be boasted of, which a blow on the head, or a week's illness will destroy? As to our attainments in virtue, or religion, to be proud on those accounts, would be to be proud of what we did not possess: for pride would annihilate all our virtues, and render our religion vain. If our virtue and religion be not founded in humility, they are false and sophisticated; consequently of no value. And who would be proud of what is of no value?
The pride of riches is yet more monstrous than any of the others. To turn the good gift of providence into vanity and wantonness; to value one's self upon what is altogether foreign and accidental, and makes no part of merit, as not being the inherent qualification either of body or mind, nor any way valuable or honourable, but according as we use it: what can be conceived more remote from common sense, unless we reflect on the folly of those who take occasion to value themselves on their birth, and are proud that they can trace back a great many fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, whose virtues and vices belonged wholly to themselves, and are gone with them? It is amazing to think how poor a pretence is thought sufficient to support human folly. The family of the cottager is as ancient as that of the lord of the manor, if it could be traced. And in every family there have been scoundrels, as well as heroes, and more of the former than the latter.
As pride was the introduction to all the evil that we know of in the moral world, so humility is the only foundation upon which the structure of virtue can be raised. A submissive, tractable temper, is alone capable of being formed to obedience. A mind puffed up with self-opinion, cannot bring itself to listen to advice, or to yield to just authority. The wise man endeavours to attain such a knowledge of himself, that he may neither, on one hand,
act a part unworthy of himself, nor, on the other, forget his present humble station, and presume on any thought or action unsuitable to it.
Before we can hope to go any great length in the due regulation of our passions or inclinations, we must resolve carefully to study, and thoroughly to master, that most useful of all sciences, self-knowledge.
It is not in schools, in universities, or in the voluminous works of the learned, that we must search for this most important branch of knowledge: he who would know himself, must search carefully his own heart, must study diligently his own character: he must above all things study the peculiar weaknesses of his nature. In order to find out these, he ought to recollect often what particular follies have most frequently drawn him into difficulties and distresses. If he finds that he has been often engaged in quarrels, and disputes, he may conclude, that the passion of anger is too powerful in him, and wants to be brought under subjection. If he recollects various instances of his behaving in a lewd, an intemperate, an envious, or a malicious manner, and that he has often had occasion to blame himself for a behaviour which has brought upon him the reflections of the sober and regular part of people; it is evident where the fault lies, and what is to be corrected. But conscience, and the sacred rule of life, contained in Holy Scripture, are more certain tests by which to try one's character, than the general opinion of mankind.
Nothing is more common, than for a person's weakness to be known to every body but himself. Let a man therefore set his own conduct at a distance from himself, and view it with the same eye as he may suppose a stranger regards it; or with the same as he himself views that of another person. Let one endeavour to find out some person, whose behaviour and character comes the nearest to his own; and in that, view himself as in a mirror. And as there is generally some resemblance between the characters of those who keep up a long friendship, a man may, generally speaking, see his own likeness in that of his friend.
It will be of great consequence to you to know what character is drawn of you by your enemy, especially if
you find several agree in the same. Enemies will help you, more than friends, in discovering your faults; for they will aggravate what your friends will lessen.
Attend carefully to the general strain of your thoughts. Observe what subjects rise oftenest, and abide longest in your mind, and what you dwell upon with the greatest delight. You will by that find out what passion or appetite has the ascendant, and ought to be subdued. It is from the fulness of the heart that the mouth speaks; and from a man's eager manner of talking on certain favourite subjects, every one who spends an hour in his company, finds out his prevailing passion, while he himself perhaps is, all his life, wholly ignorant of it. Lastly, whoever means in earnest to come at the true knowledge of his own weaknesses, let him listen, with the most sacred attention, to every motion of conscience. There is more meaning in her softest whisper, than in the loudest applause of the unthinking multitude.
Another direction of the utmost consequence to our setting about the due regulation of our passions, and indeed to our behaving in general in a manner suitable to the true dignity of our nature, is, that we reverence ourselves.
The effect which a just and habitual sense of the grandeur and importance of our nature, and the high elevation we are formed capable of, would have upon us, is, to inspire us with sentiments worthy of ourselves, and suitable to the gracious designs of the Author of our being.
This is very consistent with that humility which becomes us so well in our present condition. Humility is commendable; baseness odious. Did men habitually consider themselves as formed for immortality, they would not so generally set their whole hearts upon the present life. Did they constantly keep in mind their heavenly Original, and the end of their creation, they could not thus sink their very souls into earth. Did they often reflect upon the worth of immortal minds, they would not think of satisfying them with the gross and sordid objects. of sense. Did they consider themselves as intended for companions of angels and archangels, they would not, by indulging carnal appetites, debase themselves to the level of the brutes. Did they duly reverence themselves as