English Essayist, Critic, Poet, Playwright, Politician and Man of Letters
English Essayist, Critic, Poet, Playwright, Politician and Man of Letters
We would establish our souls in such a solid and substantial virtue as will turn to account in that great day when it must stand the test of infinite wisdom and justice.
There are many virtues which in their own nature are incapable of any outward representation; many silent perfections in the soul of a good man, which are great ornaments to human nature, but not able to discover themselves to the knowledge of others; they are transacted in private without noise or show, and are only visible to the great Searcher of hearts. What actions can express the entire purity of thought which refines and sanctifies a virtuous man? That secret rest and contentedness of mind which gives him a perfect enjoyment of his present condition? That inward pleasure and complacency which he feels in doing good? That delight and satisfaction which he takes in the prosperity and happiness of another?
Some virtues are only seen in affliction, and some in prosperity.
It is not the business of virtue to extirpate the affections of the mind, but to regulate them. It may moderate and restrain, but was not designed to banish gladness from the heart of man. Religion contracts the circle of our pleasures, but leaves it wide enough for her votaries to expatiate in. The contemplation of the Divine Being, and the exercise of Virtue, are, in their own nature, so far from excluding all gladness of heart, that they are perpetual sources of it. In a word, the true spirit of religion cheers, as well as composes, the soul; it banishes indeed all levity of behavior, all vicious and dissolute mirth; but in exchange fills the mind with a perpetual serenity, uninterrupted cheerfulness, and an habitual inclination to please others as well as to be pleased in itself.
A person, therefore, who is possessed with such an habitual good intention, as that which I have been here speaking of, enters upon no single circumstance of life, without considering it as well pleasing to the great Author of his being, conformable to the dictates of reason, suitable to human nature in general, or to that particular station in which Providence has placed him. He lives in a perpetual sense of the Divine Presence, regards himself as acting, in the whole course of his existence, under the observation and inspection of that Being, who is privy to all his motions and all his thoughts, who knows his “down-sitting and his uprising, who is about his path, and about his bed, and spieth out all his ways.” In a word, he remembers that the eye of his Judge is always upon him, and in every action he reflects that he is doing what is commanded or allowed by Him who will hereafter either reward or punish it. This was the character of those holy men of old, who, in that beautiful phrase of Scripture, are said to have “walked with God.”
Cunning is only the mimic of discretion, and may pass upon weak men in the same manner as vivacity is often mistaken for wit, and gravity for wisdom.
There are many more shining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none so useful as discretion; it is this, indeed, which gives a value to all the rest, which sets them at work in their proper times and places, and turns them to the advantage of the person who is possessed of them. Without it, learning is pedantry, and wit impertinence ; virtue itself looks like weakness; the best parts only qualify a man to be more sprightly in errors, and active to his own prejudice.
Good nature is more agreeable in conversation than wit, and gives a certain air to the countenance which is more amiable than beauty.
Renowned for conquest, and in council skilled, their courage dwells not in a troubled flood of mounting spirits, and fermenting blood: Lodged in the soul, with virtue overruled, inflamed by reason, and by reason cooled,in hours of peace content to be unknown. And only in the field of battle shown: To souls like these, in mutual friendship joined, Heaven dares intrust the cause of humankind.
Great souls by instinct to each other turn, demand alliance, and in friendship burn.
There is no virtue so truly great and godlike as Justice. Most of the other virtues are the virtues of created Beings, or accommodated to our nature as we are men. Justice is that which is practised by God himself, and to be practised in its perfection by none but him. Omniscience and Omnipotence are requisite for the full exertion of it. The one, to discover every degree of uprightness or iniquity in thoughts, words and actions. The other, to measure out and impart suitable rewards and punishments. As to be perfectly just is an attribute in the divine nature, to be so to the utmost of our abilities is the glory of a man. Such an one who has the publick administration in his hands, acts like the representative of his Maker, in recompencing the virtuous, and punishing the offender.
Hope calculates its scenes for a long and durable life; presses forward to imaginary points of bliss; and grasps at impossibilities; and consequently very often ensnares men into beggary, ruin and dishonor.
True happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise; it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one's self, and in the next from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.
Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to trace. Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth evil, both equally unexpected.
A good conscience is to the soul what health is to the body; it preserves constant ease and serenity within us; and more than countervails all the calamities and afflictions which can befall us from without.
Men may change their climate, but they cannot change their nature. A man that goes out a fool cannot ride or sail himself into common sense.
Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed.
Artificial intelligence will never be a match for natural stupidity.
In doing what we ought we deserve no praise, because it is our duty.
Content thyself to be obscurely good. When vice prevails and impious men bear away, The post of honor is a private station.
No oppression is so heavy or lasting as that which is inflicted by the perversion and exorbitance of legal authority.
We all of us complain of the shortness of time, saith Seneca, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives, says he, are spent either in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do: we are always complaining our days are few, and acting as though there would no end of them."- On the Right Use of Time.”