페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

hidden beauties of a soul, the secret graces which cannot be discovered by a mortal eye, but make the soul lovely and precious in His sight, from whom no secrets are concealed. Again, there are many virtues which want an opportunity of exerting and shewing themselves in actions. Every virtue requires time and place, a proper object, and a fit conjuncture of circumstances, for the due exercise of it. A state of poverty obscures all the virtues of liberality and munificence. The patience and fortitude of a martyr or confessor lie concealed in the flourishing times of Christianity. Some virtues are only seen in affliction, and some in prosperity; some in a private, and others in a public capacity. But the great sovereign of the world beholds every perfection in its obscurity, and not only sees what we do, but what we would do. He views our behaviour in every concurrence of affairs, and sees us engaged in all the possibilities of

action. He discovers the martyr and confessor without the trial of flames and tortures, and will hereafter entitle many to the reward of actions, which they had never the opportunity of performing. Another reason why men cannot form a right judgment of us is, because the same actions may be aimed at different ends, and arise from quite contrary principles. Actions are of so mixt a nature, and so full of circumstances, that as men pry into them more or less, or observe some parts more than others, they take different hints, and put contrary interpretations on them; so that the same actions may represent a man as hypocritical and designing to one, which make him appear a saint or hero to another. He, therefore, who looks upon the soul through its outward actions, often sees it through a deceitful medium, which is apt to discolour and pervert the object: so that on this account also, he is the only proper judge of our perfections, who does not guess at the sincerity of our intentions from the goodness of our actions; but weighs the goodness of our actions by the sincerity of our intentions. But further; it is impossible for outward actions to represent the perfections of the soul, because they can never skew the strength of those principles from whence they proceed. They are not adequate expressions of our virtues, and can only shew us what habits are in the soul, without discovering the degree and perfection of such habits. They are at best but weak resemblances of our intentions, faint and imperfect copies, that may acquaint us with the general design, but can never express the beauty and life of the original. But the great Judge of all the earth knows every different state and degree of human improvement, from those weak stirrings and tendencies of the will which have not yet formed themselves into regular purposes and designs, to the last entire finishing and consummation of a good habit. He beholds the first imperfect rudiments of a virtue in the soul, and keeps a watchful eye over it in all its progress, until it has received every grace it is capable of, and appears in its full beauty and perfection. Thus we see that none but the Supreme Being can esteem us according to our proper merits, since all others must judge of us from our outward actions, : which can never give them a just estimate of us, since there are many perfections of a man which are not capable of appearing in actions; many which, allowing no natural incapacity of shewing themselves, want an opportunity of doing it; or should they all meet with an opportunity of appearing by actions, yet those actions may be misinterpreted, and applied to wrong principles; or though they plainly discovered the principles from whence they proceeded, they could never shew the degree, strength, and perfection of those principles. And as the Supreme Being is the only proper judge of our Perfections, so is he the only fit rewarder of them. This is a

consideration that comes home to our interest, as the other adapts itself to our ambition. And what could the most aspiring, or the most selfish man desire more, were he to form the notion of a being to whom he would recommend himself, than such a knowledge as can discover the least appearance of perfection in him, and such a goodness as will proportion a reward to it? Let the ambitious man, therefore, turn all his desire of Fame this way; and, that he may propose to himself a Falne worthy of his ambition, let him consider, that if he employs his abilities to the best advantage, the time will come, when the Supreme Governor of the world, the great Judge of mankind, who sees every degree of perfection in others, and possesses all possible perfection in himself, shall proclaim his worth before men and angels, and pronounce to him in the presence of the whole creation, that best and most significant of applauses, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into thy Master's joy.” 0.

[merged small][ocr errors]

My father, whom I mentioned in my first speculation, and whom I must always name with honour and gratitude, has very frequently talked to me upon the subject of marriage. I was in my younger years engaged, partly by his advice, and partly by my own inclinations, in the courtship of a person who had a great deal of beauty, and did not at my first approaches seem to have any aversion to me; but as my natural taciturnity hindered me from shewing myself to the best advantage, she by degrees began to look upon me as a very silly fellow, and being resolved to regard merit more than any thing else in the persons who made their applications to her, she married a captain of dragoons who happened to be beating up for recruits in those parts. This unlucky accident has given me an aversion to pretty fellows ever since, and discouraged me from trying my fortune with the fair sex. The observations which I made in this conjuncture, and the repeated advices which I received at that time from the good old man above-mentioned, have produced the fol. lowing Essay upon Love and Marriage. * The pleasantest part of a man's life is generally that which passes in courtship, provided his passion be sincere, and the party beloved kind with discretion. Love, desire, hope, all the pleasing motions of the soul, rise in the pursuit. It is easier for an artful man, who is not in love, to persuade his mistress he has a passion for her, and to succeed in his pursuits, than for one who loves with the greatest violence. True love hath ten thousand griefs, impatiences, and resentments, that render a man unamiable in the eyes of the person whose affection he solicits; besides, that it sinks his figure, gives him fears, apprehensions, and poorness of spirit, and often makes him appear ridiculous where he has a mind to recommend himself. Those marriages generally abound most with love and constancy, that are preceded by a long courtship. The passion should strike root, and gather strength before marriage be grafted on it. A long course of hopes and expectations fixes the idea in our minds, and habituates us to a fondness of the person beloved. There is nothing of so great importance to us, as the good qualities of one to whom we join ourselves for life; they do not only make our present state agreeable, but often determine our happiness to all eternity. Where the choice is left to friends, the chief point under consideration is an estate; where the par. ties choose for themselves, their thoughts turn most upon the person. They have both their reasons. The first would procure many conveniences and pleasures of life to the party whose interests they espouse; and at the same time may hope that the wealth of their friend will turn to their own credit and advantage. The others are preparing for themselves a perpetual feast. A good person does not only raise, but continue love, and breeds a secret pleasure and complacency in the beholder, when the first heats of desire are extinguished. It puts the wife or husband in countenance both among friends and strangers, and generally fills the family with a healthy and beautiful race of children. I should prefer a woman that is agreeable in my own eye, ana not deformed in that of the world, to a celebrated beauty. If you marry one remarkably beautiful, you must have a violent passion for her, or you have not the proper taste of her charms; and if you have such a passion for her, it is odds but it will be imbittered with fears and jealousies. Good-nature, and evenness of temper, will give you an easy companion for life; virtue and good sense, an agreeable friend; love and constancy, a good wife or husband. Where we meet one person with all these accomplishments, we find an hundred without any one of them. The world, notwithstanding, is more intent on trains and equipages, and all the showy parts of life; we love rather to dazzle the multitude, than consult our proper interest; and, as I have elsewhere observed, it is one of the most unaccountable passions of human nature, that we are at greater pains to appear easy and happy to others, than really to make ourselves so. Of all disparities, that in humour makes the most unhappy marriages, yet scarce enters into our thoughts at the contracting of them. Several that are in this respect unequally yoked, and uneasy for life, with a person of a particular character,

« 이전계속 »