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spect, in which of all others there is the most danger, and by which men are drawn into such confirmed habits of universal profligacy as are dreadful to observe.
Men are perpetually complaining that they resolve against these vices, but that their resolutions, in the time of trial, never stand out : and how should they? They have never used any of those cautions-put in practice any of those preservatives, which are absolutely necessary to keep up self-government, or a command over their passions, and to give stability and success to any resolutions. Their virtue does not take the alarm in time. They take up with an idle life: they see no harm in that, if they can afford it—or if they cannot, it is their own concern. Profaneness, drunkenness, unreasonable hours, are only so much frolic, which is over the next morning. They find out, or are found out, by dissolute companions. They are courted for their mirth, or vivacity, or humour, or entertaining qualities, without any care about the danger of the consequences. A habit of vicious thoughts is suffered to grow upon us, because, if it do not lead to a habit of acting, where is the mischief? And then all vice, or entry to vice, is laid open-every precaution neglected, every incentive excited or inflamed, and we are surprised that we are overcome.
1 TIM. VI. 6, 7, 8.
Godliness with contentment is great gain—for we
brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out—and having food and rai. mend, let us be therewith content.
RESTLESSNESS and impatience in the situation of life they are placed in, is in some men a disposition, in others a habit ; in others, again, a false calculation of the advantages and disadvantages of different conditions. But it is in all a temper of mind extremely prejudicial to a man's happiness, as it will not suffer him to acquiesce in, or enjoy, the satisfactions which are within the reach of his present situation; and is no mean whatever of procuring him a better. It has an ill effect upon his virtue ; as no man accommodates himself
properly to the duties of a station with which he is discontented—which he is labouring only to get rid of. Although there may be no reflections, perhaps, which can compose the fretfulness of his disposition, or correct a confirmed habit of being out of humour with every thing that belongs to himself, and pleased with whatever he sees others possess; yet where discontent proceeds, as it sometimes does, from mistaken notions of the happiness and minory of different conditions, a little just reasoning and consideration may help to cure it.
Now what deceives most men in comparing their own situation with that of others, is this; that they are perfectly sensible of their own cares, their griefs and difficulties, the hardships and inconveniences of their own situation, and know little or nothing of those of others. A man's happiness or misery, so far, I mean, as it is affected by outward condition, depends almost always upon invisible circumstances—secret particulars which others are not acquainted with, and never suspect. Few can truly estimate the real circumstances in the condition of others, the evils and inconveniences they suffer ; nor if they do, will they trouble themselves to confess what they believe.
Besides, evils are never known till they are passed ; that is, there is such a difference between our judgement of the evils which we experience, and those which we are only told of, that the smallest of our own sufferings seems to outweigh the greatest we observe in others. Add to this, that such is also the infirmity or the perverseness of the human mind, that pain of all kind makes a much greater impression than pleasure-inconveniences than advantages--the irksome part of a man's condition, than the benefits and privileges of it. So that when we come to reflect on our own situation, the evil of it is always uppermost. Instead of taking the good and the bad together, and fairly balancing both sides of the account, we dwell, for example, upon the fatigue, or the confinement, or the humiliation, or the indigence, or other disadvantages of our condition, which are remembered distinctly, and with all their
aggravations; whilst the comfort and advantages, the peace, quietness, and security and independence, the freedom from care and from danger, and many substantial
blessings we enjoy, we either forget, or overlook as familiar and inconsiderable, and so miss the common benefit of every situation. Discontent, then, in fact is delusion.
We see nothing but the outside, and fair side, of a man's condition ; we see not the secret of the real difficulties and inconveniences; or if we hear their complaint, we do not feel their sufferings : whereas our own situation is understood to the bottom, the evils and hardships of it are all found out; and not only so, but these evils and hardships perpetually return upon our thoughts, whilst the comforts which should balance them are left out of the comparison. With such prejudices, it is no wonder we form very false computations, and are betrayed, without reason, into complaint and injustice; into a dislike of our own condition, and envy of other men's— into a restlessness and discontent, which confine our merit and damp our activity, and make us both uneasy in our condition and useless. That there is some very great deception in men's judgement of one another's happiness, and one another's station in life, is probable from two facts, which all moralists of all ages have taken
, notice of; one is, that the man who is discontented in one situation is generally discontented in every other. This is a fair experiment—Suppose a man who is dissatisfied with his condition to be able to change it. Suppose him, if you will, advanced to the very station he coveted, and would have carved out for himself; if you find this man from thenceforward easy and satisfied, his former uneasiness and impatience were not without foundation ; if, on the other hand, you find, that after the novelty of the change, and the first triumph of success is over, the man returns to his wonted illhumour-that his discontent continues, though the
subject of it be altered--that new causes produce new complaints--that he still murmurs and still repines ;if this be the case, it is a reasonable conclusion that the man was originally wrong in his calculation-deceived in his estimation of the happiness of a condition which he had not tried. And this so often is the case, that it furnishes good reason to suppose, that such deceptions are extremely common. The greater part of mankind get nothing by a change, but to regret advantages which they despised, or did not even perceive, whilst they possessed them; and to discover new sources of anxiety and complaint.
Another fact of the same kind, and which I mention for the same purpose, is that the envy of mankind is commonly mutual; I mean, that you shall meet with twenty persons who all envy the other's condition. Now they cannot all be right. The greatest part must necessarily be under a delusion, when they judge of their neighbour's happiness. This mutual envy is to be found amongst all orders and professions. The poor man envies the plenty, the appearance, and accommodation of the rich; and sees them with envy,
l because he sees nothing else. He compares them with the fatigue he undergoes, with the scanty provision which his own condition affords. The pains and pressure of his own distress he feels, and can therefore judge of them; the delight and pleasure of his rich neighbour's luxury he only imagines; and ten to one he is deceived in his imagination, because he places to the account the pleasure that he himself should receive from it, which is very different from what the
possessor actually receives. The rich man, in return, when he observes the health and activity, the cheerful countenance and vigorous spirits of the labourer whom he