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hours of youth trifted away in folly or lost in sickness cannot be restored.
Under the oppression of such melancholy, it has been found useful to take a survey of the world, to contemplate the various scenes of distress in which mankind are struggling round us, and acquaint ourselves with the terribiles visu formæ, the various shapes of misery, which make havock of terrestrial happiness, range all corners almost without restraint, trample down our hopes at the hour of harvest, and when we have built our schemes to the top, ruin their foundations.
The first effect of this meditation is, that it fur. nishes a new employment for the mind, and engages the passions on remoter objects ; as kings have sometimes freed themselves from a subject too haughty to be governed and too powerful to be crushed, -by posting him in a distant province, till his popularity has subsided or his pride been repressed. The attention is dissipated by variety, and acts more weakly upon any single part, as that torrent many be drawn off to different channels, which, pouring down in one collected body, cannot be resisted. This species of comfort is, there. fore, unavailing in severe paroxysms of corporal pain, when the mind is every instant called back to misery, and in the first shock of any sudden evil ; but will certainly be of use against encroaching melancholy, anda settled habit of gloomy thoughts.
It is further advantageous, as it supplies us with opportunities of making comparisons in our own favour. We know that very little of the pain or pleasure which does not begin and end in our senses, is otherwise than relative ; we are rich or
nor, great or little, in proportion to the number that excel us, or fall below us in any of these respects; and therefore, a man, whose uneasiness arises from reflection on any misfortune that throws him below those with whom he was once equal, is comforted by finding that he is not yet the lowest.
There is another kind of comparison, less tending towards the vice of envy, very well illustrated by an old poet, whose system will not afford many reasonable motives to content. “ It is,” says he, “ pleasing to look from shore upon the tumults of
a storm, and to see a ship strugaling with the “ billows ; it is pleasing, not because the pain of “ another can give us delight, but because we havea “stronger impression of the happiness of safety.” Thus when we look abroad, and behold the multitudes that are groaning under evils heavier than those which we have experienced, we shrink back to our own state, and instead of repining that so much must be felt, learn to rejoice that we have not more to feel.
By this observation of the miseries of others, fortitude is strengthened, and the mind bro'ght to a more extensive knowledge of her own powers. As the heroes of action catch the fiame from one another, so they to whom Providence has allotted the harder task of suffering with calmness and dignity, may animate themselves by the remembrance of those evils which have been laid on others, perhaps naturally as weak as themselves, and bear up with vigour and resolution against their own oppressions, when they see it possible that more severe afflictions
be borne. There is still another reason why, to many minds, the relation of other men's infelicity may
give a lastir:g and continual relief, Some, not well instructed in the measures by which Providence distributes happiness, are perhaps misled by divines, who, as Bellarmine makes temporal prosperity one of the characters of the true church, have represented wealth and ease as the certain concomitants of virtue, and the unfailing result of the divine approbation. Such sufferers are dejected in their misfortunes, not so much for what they feel, as for what they dread ; not because they cannot support the sorrows, or endure the wants of their
present condition, but because they consider them as only the beginnings of more sharp and lasting pains. To these mourners it is an act of the highest charity to represent the calamities which not only virtue has suffered, but virtue has incurred; to inform them that one evidence of a future state is the uncertainty of any present reward for goodness ; and to remind them, from the highest authority, of the distresses and penury of men of whom the world was not worthy.
N° 53. TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1750.
Φειδεο των κλεανων. .
There is scarcely among the evils of human life, any so generally dreaded as poverty. Every other species of misery, those who are not much accustomed to disturb the present moment with reflection can easily forget, because it is not always forced upon their regard: but it is impossible to pass a day or an hour in the confluxes of men, without seeing how much indigence is exposed to contumely, neglect, and insult : and, in its lowest state, to hunger and nakedness; to injuries against which every passion is in arms, and to wants which nature cannot sustain.
Against other evils the heart is often hardened by true or by false notions of dignity and reputation: thus we see dangers of every kind faced with willingness, because bravery, in a good or bad cause, is never without its encomiasts and admirers. But in the prospect of poverty, there is nothing but gloom and melancholy; the mind and body suffer together ; its miseries bring no alleviations ; it is a state in which every virtue is obscured, and in which no conduct can avoid reproach : a state in which cheerfulness is insensibility, and dejection sullenness ; of which the hardships are without honour, and the labours without reward.
Of these calamities there seems not to be want. ing a general conviction ; we hear on every side the noise of trade, and see the streets thronged with numberless multitudes, whose faces are clouded with anxiety, and whose steps are hurried by precipitation, from no other motive than the hope of gain : and the whole world is put in motion, by the desire of that wealth, which is chiefly to be valued as it secures us from poverty; for it is more useful for defence than acquisition, and is not so much able to procure good as to exclude evil.
Yet there are always some whose passions or follies lead them to a conduct opposite to the general maxims and practice of mankind ; some who seem to rush upon poverty, with the same eagerness with which others avoid it ; who see their revenues hourly lessened, and the estates which they inherit from their ancestors mouldering away, without resolution to change their course of life ; who persevere against all remonstrances, and go forward with full career, though they see before them the precipice of destruction.
It is not my purpose, in this paper, to expostulate with such as ruin their fortunes by expensive schemes of buildings and gardens, which they carry on with the same vanity that prompted them to begin, chusing, as it happens in a thousand other cases, the remote evil before the lighter, and deferring the shame of repentance till they incur the miseries of distress. Those for whom I intend my present admonitions, are the thoughtless, the negligent, and the dissolute ; who, having by the viciousness of their own inclinations, or the seducements of alluring companions, been engaged in habits of expence, and accustomed to move in a certain round of pleasures disproportioned to their