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character be high and applauded by the world, --yet, if into the heart of this man there has stolen some dark, jealous suspicion,-some rankling envy, some pining discontent--that instant his temper is soured, and poison is scattered over all his joys. He dwells in secret upon his vexations and cares ; and while the crowd admire his prosperity, he envies the more peaceful condition of the peasant and the hind.
5. If his passions chance to be of the more fierce and outrageous nature, the painful feelings they produce will be still more intense and acute. By violent passions the heart is not only wounded, but torn and rent. As long as a man is under the workings of raging ambition, disappointed pride, and keen thirst for revenge, he remains under immediate torment. Over his dark and scowling mind, gloomy ideas continually brood. His transienta fits of merriment and joy, are like beams of light, breaking occasionally from the black cloud that carries the thunder.
6. What greatly aggravates the misery of such persons, is, that they dare make no complaints. When the body is diseased or wounded, to our friends we naturally fly, and from their sympathy or assistance expect relief. But the wounds given to the heart by ill-governed passions, are of an opprobriousb nature, and must be stified in secret. The slave of passion can unbosom himself to no friend; and, instead of sympathy, dreads meeting with ridicule or contempt.
Of Curiosity concerning the affairs of others. 1. That idle curiosity,—that inquisitived and meddling spirit, which leads men to pry into the affairs of their neighbors,-is reprehensible on three accounts. It interrupts the good order, and breaks the peace of society. It brings forward and nourishes several bad passions. It draws men aside from a proper attention to the discharge of their own duty.
2. It interrupts, I say, the order, and breaks the peace of society. In this world we are linked together by many ties. We are bound by duty, and we are prompted by interest, to give mutual assistance, and to perform friendly offices tro each other. But those friendly offices are perforined to the most advantage, when we avoid to interfere, unnecessarily, in the concerns of our neighbor. Every man has his own part a Tran'-sient, passing, hasty.
d In-quis'-i-tive, aven to inquiry. Op-pro'-bri-ous, reproachful, disgrace e Rep-re-hen'-si-ble, censurable.
Mu'-tu-al, acting in return c Sym-pa-thy, a fellow feeling
to act-has his own interest to consult,-has affairs of his, own to manage --which his neighbor has no call to scrutinize.
3. Human life then proceeds in its most natural and orderly train, when every one keeps within the bounds of his
proper province --when, as long as his pursuits are fair and lawful, he is allowed, without disturbance, to conduct them in his
own way. That ye study to be quiet, and do your own business, 1 is the apostolic rule, and indeed the great rule for the preservation of harmony and order.
4. But so it is, that in every age a set of men have existed, who, driven by an unhappy activity of spirit, oftener, perhaps, than by any settled design of doing ill, or any motives of ambition or interest, love to intermeddle where they have no concern,—to inquire into the private affairs of others, and, from the imperfect information they collect, to form conclusions respecting their circumstances and character. These are they who, in Scripture, are characterized as tattlers and busy bodies in other men's matters, and from whom we are called to turn away.
5. Though persons of this description should be prompted hy nothing but vain curiosity, they are, nevertheless, dangerous troublers of the world. While they conceive themselves to be inoffensive, they are sowing dissension and feuds.b Crossing the lines in which others move, they create confusion, and awaken resentment.--For every man conceives himself to be injured, when he finds another intruding into his affairs, and, without any title, taking upon him to examine his conduct. Being improperly and unnecessarily disturbed, he claims the right of disturbing, in his turn, those who have wantonly troubled him.
6. Hence many a friendship has been broken; the peace of many a family has been overthrown; and much bitter and lasting discord has been propagated through society. While this spirit of meddling curiosity ajures so considerably the peace and good order of the world, it also nourishes, among individuals who are addicted to it, a multitude of bad passions. Its most frequent source is mere idleness, which, in itself a vice, never fails to engender many vices more. The mind of man cannot be long without some food to nourish the activity of its thoughts.
7. The idle who have no nourishment of this sort within themselves, feed their thoughts with inquiries into the conduct of their neighbors. The inquisitive and curious are al ways talkative. What they learn, or fancy themselves to have learned, concerning others, they are generally in haste a Scruf-ti-nize, to examine closely.
l'euds, quarrels, contentions.
to divulge.“ A tale which the malicious have invented, and the credulous have propagated,"—a rumor, which arising among the multitude, ană transmitted by one to another has in every step of its progress gained fresh additions,—becomes in the end the foundation of confident assertion, and of rash and severe judgment.
8. It is often by a spirit of jealousy and rivalry, that the researches of such persons are prompted. They wish to discover something that will bring down their neighbor's character, circumstances, or reputation, to the level of their own or that will flatter them with an opinion of their own sopa riority.
9. A secret malignity lies at the bottom of their inquiries. It may be concealed by an affected show of candor and impartiality. It may even be veiled with the appearance of a friendly concern for the interest of others, and with affected apologies for their failings. “But the hidden rancor is easily discovered.-While, therefore, persons of this description trouble the peace of society, they at the same time poisor. their own minds with malignant passions.
10. Their disposition is entirely the reverse of that amiable spirit of charity, on which our religion lays so great a stress. Charity covereth the multitude of sins; but this prying and meddling spirit seeks to discover and divulge them. Charity thinketh no evil; but this temper inclines us always to suspect the worst. Charity rejoiceth noi in iniquity; this temper tri umphs in the discovery of errors and failings. Charity, like the sun, brightens every object upon which it shines : a censorious disposition casts every character into the darkest shade it will bear.
11. To be entirely unemployed and idle, is the prerogative of no one in any rank of life. Even that sex, whose task is not to mingle in the labors of public and active business, have their own part assigned them to act. In the quiet of domestic shade, there are a variety of virtues to be exercised, and of important duties to be discharged. Much depends on them for the maintenance of private economy and order,—for the education of the young, and for the relief and comfort of those whose functionse engage them in the toils of the world.
12. Even where no such female duties occur to be perforin od, the care of preparing for future usefulness, and of attaining such accomplishments as procure just esteem, is laudable. In such duties and cares, how far better is time employed, than in that search into private concerns,—that circulation of Dl-vulge', to disclose, publish.
c Functions, offices, employmenta Prop'-a-gated, generated, spread. d. Land'a:ble, praiseworthy.
rumors,—those discussions of the conduct, and descants on the character of,others which engross conversation so much, und which end, for the most part, in severity of censure,
13. In whatever condition we are placed, to act always in character should be our constant rule. He who acts in cha racter is above contempt, though his station be low. He who acts out of character is despicable, though his station be ever so high. What is that to thee what this or that man does ? Think of what thou ought to do thyself, or what is suitable to thy character and place -of what the world has a title to expect from thee. Every excursion of vain curiosity about others, is a subtraction from that time and trought which are due to ourselves, and due to God.
14. In the great circle of human affairs, there is room for every one to be busy and well employed in his own province, without encroaching upon that of others. Art thou poor? Show thyself active and industrious, peaceable and contented. Art thou wealthy ?-Show tiyself beneficent and charitable, condescending and humane. If thou livest much in the world, it is thy duty to make the light of a good example, shine con spicuously before others.
15. There is, indeed, no man so sequestered from active life, but within his own narrow sphere he may find some opportunities of doing good,--of cultivating friendship, promoting peace, and discharging many of those lesser offices of humanity and kindness, which are within the reach of every one, and which we owe to one another.-In all the various relations which subsist among us in life, as husband and wife, master and servant, parents and children, relations and friends, innumerable duties stand ready to be performed ; innumerable calls to virtuous activity present themselves on every hand, sufficient to fill up, with advantage and honor, the whole time of man.
Blair. SECTION IX. The miseries of Men mostly of their own procuring. 1. As far as inward disquietude arises from the stings of conscience, and the horrors of guilt, there can be no doubt of its being self-created misery,- which it is altogether impossible to impute to Heaven. But even when great crimes and deep remorse are not the occasions of torment, how often is poison infused into the most flourishing conditions of fortune, by the follies and the passions of the prosperous ?
2. We see them peevish and restless,-corrupted with lux& Des'-cants, comments, remarks 0 Se-ques -ter-ed, secluded, set apan
ury, and enervated by ease,-impatient of the smallest disappointment,-oppressed with low spirits, and complaining of every thing around them. Dare such men, in their most discontented moments, charge the providence of Heaven with miseries of their own procuring ? Providence had put into their hands the fairest opportunity of passing their lives with comfort. But they themselves blasted every comfort that was afforded, and verified the prediction, that the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
3. As it is man's own foolishness which ruins his prosperity, we must not omit to remark, that it is the same cause which aggravates and imbitters his adversity. That you suffer from the external afflictions of the world, may often be owing to God's appointment; but when in the midst of these you also suffer from the disorders of your mind and passions, this is owing to yourselves; and they are those inward disorders which add the severest sting to external afflictions.
4. Many are the resources of a good and wise man under the disasters of life. In the midst of them, it is always in his power to enjoy peace of mind and hope in God.' He may suffer ; but under suffering he will not sink, as long as all is sound within. But when the spirit has been wounded by guilt and folly, its wounds open and bleed afresh, upon every blow that is received from the world. The mind becomes sensible and sore to the slightest injuries of fortune; and a small reverse is felt as an insupportable calamity.
5. On the whole, the farther you search into human life, and the more you observe the manners and the conduct of inen, you will be the more convinced of this great truththat of the distresses which abound in the world, we are the chief authors. Among the multitudes who are at this day bewailing their condition and lot, it will be found to hold of far the greater part, that they are reaping the fruit of their own doings.
6. Unattainable objects foolishly pursued, intemperate pas sions nourished, vicious pleasures and desires indulged, these are the great scourges of the world -the great causes of the life of man being so embroilev and unhappy. God has ordained our state on earth to be a inixed aud imperfect state. We have ourselves to blame for its becoming an insupportable one. If it bring forth nothing io us but vexation and vanity, we have sown the seeds of that vanity and vexation; and as we have sown we must rcap.
@ En er-va-teri, deprived of vigor.
b Verill-ed, provou to be true.