Page images
PDF
EPUB

by finer principles, by an exquifite fenfe of virtue, of moral beauty and turpitude. The impropriety of Gertrude's behaviour, her ingratitude to the memory of her former husband, and the depravity she difcovers in the choice of a fucceffor, afflict his foul, and caft him into utter agony. Here then is the principle and spring of all his actions: Let us obferve it closely, as it excites other feelings and affections, unites or contends with him, is inflamed as they are inflamed, and governed as they are governed.

It is acknowledged, even by men of corrupted manners, that there is in human nature, a fupreme, and, in many cases, a powerful principle that pronounces fentence on the conduct of mankind, and, in well-regulated tempers, is a fource of anguish or of delight. In minds uncommonly excellent, it is more frequently a fountain of bitter fuffering, than of immediate pleasure. This may feem a para

.

dox

dox; but, by reflecting on the following brief obfervations, the difficulty will dif appear. If our fenfe of virtue is exceedingly refined, or, in other words, if our ftandard of moral excellence is exceedingly elevated, comparing our own conduct with this exalted measure, and perceiving the difference, our joy on acting agreeably to the dictates of reafon will fuffer abatement. Add to this, that ingenuous minds, happy in the confcioufness of their integrity, yet afraid of arrogating too much honour to themselves, will diminish the value of their good actions rather than augment it. The fame delicacy of moral fentiment, the fame elevated idea of perfection, will heighten the mifery of a good man, if he accuses himself of any trespafs. It is not the dread of punishment, for punishment is not always inflicted; it is not the pain of infamy, for wicked deeds may be done in fecret; but it is the

rebuke

[ocr errors]

rebuke of an internal cenfor, who will nei÷ ther be flattered nor deceived.

Oimé fon io fon io.

Che giova ch' io non oda e non paventi

I ditti 'el mormorar dell folle volgo,
O l'accufe de faggi, o i fieri morfi
Di troppo acuto o velenofo dente?
Se la mia propria confcienza immonda
Altamente nel cor rimbomba e mugge.
Il Torrifmondo dell Taffe

The man whofe fenfe of moral excellence is uncommonly exquifite, will find it a fource of pleasure and of pain in his commerce with mankind. Sufceptible of every moral impreffion, the display of virtuous actions will yield him delight, and the contrary excite uneafinefs. He will not receive that genuine and fupreme felicity in affociating with the wealthy and the magnificent, the gay and the loquacious, if they have nothing in their hearts to recommend them, that he will enjoy in the fociety of gentle, benevolent, and enlightened spirits, though they are not the favourite

favourites of fortune, and have not that glitter and falfe brilliancy of intellectual endowments, that dazzle without being ufeful, yet often recommend men of flender abilities, and lefs virtue, to the attention of mankind. As moral qualities are thofe, principally, that produce and cement his attachments, the esteem he entertains for his affociates will be exactly proportioned to their degree of merit. To eraze an established affection, and substitute averfion, or even indifference, in its ftead, does unutterable violence to our nature; and to fee those, for whom we have contracted habits of attachment and regard, act inconfiftently with their former conduct, and appear with difpofitions of an immoral kind, and fo lay the ax to the root of our fairest friendships, overwhelms us with cruel anguish: Our affliction will bear an exact proportion to our former tenderness, and confequently, to our idea of former merit. Add to this, that even a flight

a flight tranfgreffion in those we esteem, if it is evidently a tranfgreffion, will affect us more fenfibly than a grofs enormity committed by a perfon indifferent to us. So delicate is your affection, and so refined your sense of moral excellence, when the moral faculty is foftened into a tender attachment, that the fanctity and purity of the heart you love muft appear to you without a stain. The triumph and inward joy of a fon, on account of the fame and the high defert of a parent, is of a nature very fublime and tender. His forrow is. no less acute and overwhelming, if those, united to him by a connection fo intimate, have acted unbecomingly, and have incurred difgrace. Such is the condition of Hamlet. Exquifitely fenfible of moral beauty and deformity, he difcerns turpitude in a parent. Surprize, on a discovery. fo painful and unexpected, adds bitternefs to his forrow; and led, by the fame. moral principle, to admire and glory in the

high

« PreviousContinue »