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existence, and see thousands and ten thousands fall into the grave. So deeply is this fallacy rooted in the heart, and so strongly guarded by hope and fear against the approach of reason, that neither science nor experience can shake it; and we act as if life were without end, though we see and confess its uncertainty and shortness. Divines have, with great strength and ardour, shewn the absurdity of delaying reformation and repentance: a degree of folly, indeed, which sets eternity to hazard. It is the same weakness, in proportion to the importance of the neglect, to transfer any care which now claims our attention, to a future period. We subject ourselves thereby to needless dangers from accidents which early diligence would have obviated, or perplex our minds by vain precautions, and make provision for the execution of designs, of which the opportunity, once missed, never will return.
As he that lives longest lives but a little while, every man may be certain that he has no time to waste. The duties of life are commeasurate to its duration, and every day brings its task, which, if neglected, is doubled on the morrow. But he that has already trified away those months and years in which he should have laboured, must remember that he has now only a part of that of which the whole is little; and that, since the few moments remaining are to be considered as the last trust of beaven, not one is to be lost.
What is the world itself? thy world?-a grave.
MISTAKES RESPECTING PLEASURE--continued..
The world is still deceiv'd with ornament-
ALTHOUGH I have enumerated, in the course of this volume, such a variety of objects from which gratification is to be derived, as cannot fail in convincing us how many blessings are intermingled with the unavoidable evils of life, yet few persons are actually found to agree in their estimate of human happiness, on account of the deceptive medium through which, either from natural frailty or imperfect education, its possession is generally viewed. The world delights so much in appearances, and is in general so easily captivated by a flattering exterior, that the judgment has no opportunity of presenting her microscopic glass, and the passions are vehemently hurried into an eager pursuit of the supposed advantage, ere reason can possibly have calculated the consequences of its attainment. Not only in the high departments of political rule, in the weighty responsibilities of civil justice, and in the awful concerns of a future state, is this disposition to be led away by plausibilities occasionally apparent, but even in the commonest affairs of life, and oftenest in those which most intimately concern our private happiness and interests.
Now although it is generally found, that nothing but a strong and lucid judgment, combined with a cool temperament of mind, will effectually guard against this commonest of all delusions, yet the facilities of obtaining knowledge, and of studying the best models of character, are now so greatly extended, that few persons are debarred from attaining a tolerably correct knowledge of men and things—at least, such an acquaintance with each, as may compensate, in a degree, for the deficiencies of natural judgment, and supply a desirable code for personal government. And although, for the very constitution of our body, and from the natural blemish which will rest to the end of time on our immortal souls, the best of us will occasionally deviate from the path to which alone happiness belongs, yet nothing will more effectually preserve us from the vanities and vexations consequent on limited or mistaken views, than an endeavour, by the blessing of God, to form an unbiassed estimate of human character; for that is the best philosophy which enables us to subdue our passions, and lay aside our prejudices.
And as there is nothing more false and unjust than to judge of men in the gross, (who are such a composition of virtues and vices, of good and evil, so the reflection may be carried still further, and made to
extend to most of their actions. If, on the one hand, we fairly weighed every circumstance, we should frequently find them obliged to do that action we at first sight condemn, in order to avoid another we should have been more displeased with. If, on the other hand, we nicely examined such actions as appear most dazzling to the eye, we should find most of them either deficient and lame in several parts, produced by a bad ambition, or directed to an ill end. The very same action may sometimes be so oddly circumstanced, that it is difficult to determine whether it ought to be rewarded or punished. Those who.compiled the laws of England were so sensible of this, that they laid it down as one of their first maxims, 'It is better suffering a mischief than an inconvenience;' which is as much as to say, in other words, that, since no law can take in or provide for all cases, it is better private men should have some injustice done them, than that a public grievance should not be redressed. This is usually pleaded in defence of all those hardships which befall particular persons on particular occasions, which could not be foreseen when the law. was made. To remedy this, however, as much as possible, the court of chancery was erected, which frequently mitigates and breaks the teeth of the common law in cases of men's properties; and, in criminal cases, there is a power of pardoning still lodged in the crown.
Notwithstanding this, it is perhaps impossible, in a large government, to distribute rewards and punishments strictly proportioned to the merits of every action. The Spartan commonwealth was indeed wonderfully exact in this particular; and Plutarch records a nice example of justice, which was shewn after the city of Sparta had been attacked by the Thebans, and been in great danger of falling into their hands. At, the moment of attack, the citizens suddenly gathered themselves into a body, and fought with a resolution equal to the necessity of their affairs; but no one so remarkably distinguished himself on this occasion, to the amazement of both armies, as Isidas, the son of
Phebidas, who was at that time in the bloom of youth, and very remarkable for the comeliness of his person. He was coming out of the bath when the alarm was given, so that he had not time to put on his clothes, much less his armour; however, transported with a desire to serve his country in so great an emergency, snatching up a spear in one hand, and a sword in the other, he flung himself into the thickest ranks of his enemies. Nothing could withstand his fury; in what part soever he fought, he put the enemies to flight, without receiving a single wound. Whether, says Plutarch, he was the particular care of some god, who rewarded his valour that day with an extraordinary protection, or that his enemies, struck with the unusualness of his dress, and beauty of his person, -supposed him something more than man, I shall not determine. The gallantry of this action was judged so great by the Spartans, that the ephori, or chief magistrates, decreed he should be presented with a garland; but, as soon as they had done so, they fined bim a thousand drachmas, for going out to the battle unarmed.
Those who search thoroughly into human nature will find it very difficult to determine the value of their fellow creatures, and that men's characters are not lightly to be judged by the world. There is, indeed, no such thing as a person entirely good or bad ; virtue and vice are blended and mixed together in a great or less proportion, in every one; and if you would search for some particularly good quality, in its most eminent degree of perfection, you will often find it in a mind where it is darkened and eclipsed by an hundred other irregular passions.
Men have either no character at all, says a celebrated author, or it is that of being inconsistent with themselves. They find it easier to join extremes, than to be uniform and of a piece. This is finely illustrated in Xenophon's Life of Cyrus the Great. The author tells us, that Cyrus, having taken a most beautiful lady, named Panthea, the wife of Abradatas, committed her to the custody of Araspes; a Persian