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fectionate husband, or the generous friend. It may be remarked, for the comfort of honest poverty, that this desire reigns most in those who have but few good qualities to recommend them. This is a weed that will grow in a barren soil. Humanity, good nature, and the advantages of a liberal education, are incompatible with avarice. It is strange to see how suddenly this abject passion kills all the noble sentiments and generous ambitions that adorn human nature; it renders the man who is over-run with it a peevish and cruel master, a severe parent, an unsociable husband, a distant and mistrustful friend. But it is more to the present purpose, to consider it as an absurd passion of the heart rather than as a vicious affection of the mind. As there are frequent instances to be met with of a proud humility, so this passion, contrary to most others, affects applause, by avoiding all show and appearance; for this reason it will not sometimes endure even the common decencies of apparel. "A covetous man will call himself poor, that you may sooth his vanity by contradicting him. Love and the desire of glory, as they are the most natural, so they are capable of being refined into the most delicate and rational passions. It is true, the wise man, who strikes out of the secret paths of a private life, for honour and dignity, allured by the splendour of a court, and the unfelt weight of public employment, whether he succeeds in his attempts or no, usually comes near enough to this painted greatness to discern the daubing: he is then desirous of extricating himself out of the hurry of life, that he may pass away the remainder of his days in tranquillity and retirement.
It may be thought then but common prudence in a man not to change a better state for a worse, nor ever to quit that which he knows he shall take up again with pleasure: and yet, if human life be not a little moved with the gentle gales of hopes and fears, there may be some danger of its stagnating in an unmanly indolence and security. It is a known story of Domitian, that after he had possessed himself of the Roman empire, his desires turned upon catching flies. Active and masculine spirits, in the vigour of youth, neither can nor ought to remain at rest; if they debar themselves from aiming at noble objects, their desires will move downwards, and they will feel themselves actuated by some low and ahject passion. Thus if you cut off the top branches of a tree, and will not suffer it to grow any higher, it will not therefore cease to grow, but will quickly shoot out at the bottom. The man, indeed, who goes into the world only with the narrow views of self-interest, who catches at the applause of an idle multitude, as he can find no solid contentment at the end of his journey, so he deserves to meet with disappointments in his way: but he who is actuated by a noble principle, whose mind is so far enlarged as to take in the prospect of his country's good; who is enamoured with that praise which is one of he fair attendants of virtue, and values not those acclamations which are not seconded by the impartial testimony of his own mind; who repines not at the low station which Providence has at present allotted him, but yet would willingly advance himself by justifiable means to a more rising and advantageous ground; such a man is warmed with
a generous emulation; it is a virtuous movement in him to wish and to endeavour that his power of doing good may be equal to his will.
The man who is fitted out by nature, and sent into the world with great abilities, is capable of doing great good or mischief in it. It ought therefore to be the care of education to infuse into the untainted youth early notions of justice and honour, that so the possible advantages of good parts may not take an evil turn, nor be perverted to base and unworthy purposes. It is the business of religion and philosophy not so much to extinguish our passions, as to regulate and direct them to valuable well chosen objects: when these have pointed out to us which course we may lawfully steer, it is no harm to set out all our sail; if the storms and tempests of adversity should rise upon us, and not suffer us to make the haven where we would be, it will however prove no small consolation to us in these circumstances that we have neither mistaken our course, nor fallen into calamities of our own procuring.
Religion, therefore, (were we to consider it no farther than as it interposes in the affairs of this life) is highly valuable, and worthy of great veneration, as it settles the various pretensions, and otherwise interfering interests of mortal men, and thereby consults the harmony and order of the great community; as it gives a man room to play his part, and exert his abilities; as it animates to actions truly laudable in themselves, in their effects beneficial to society; as it inspires rational ambition, correct love, and elegant desire. HUGHES.
No. 225. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17.
Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia Juv.
I HAVE often thought if the minds of men were laid open, we should see but little difference between that of the wise man and that of the fool. There are infinite reveries, numberless extravagancies, and a perpetual train of vanities which pass through both. The great difference is, that the first knows how to pick and cull his thoughts for conversation, by suppressing some and communicating others; whereas the other lets them all indifferently fly out in words. This sort of discretion, however, has no place in private conversation between intimate friends. On such occasions the wisest men very often talk like the weakest; for indeed the talking with a friend is nothing else but thinking aloud.
Tully has therefore very justly exposed a precept delivered by some ancient writers, that a man should live with his enemy in such a manner as might leave him room to become his friend; and with his friend in such a manner, that if he became his enemy, it should not be in his power to hurt him. The first part of this rule, which regards our behaviour towards an enemy, is indeed very reasonable, as well as very prudential; but the latter part of it, which regards our behaviour towards a friend, savours more of cunning than of discretion, and would cut a man off from the greatest pleasures of life, which are the freedoms of conversation with a bosom friend. Besides that, when a friend is turned into an enemy, and (as the son of Sirach calls him)* a bewrayer of secrets, the world is just enough to accuse the perfidiousness of the friend, rather than the indiscretion of the person who confided in him.
Discretion does not only show itself in words, but in all the circumstances of action; and is like an under agent of Providence, to guide and direct us in the ordinary concerns of life.
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.
Nor does discretion only make a man the master of his own parts, but of other men's. The discreet man finds out the talents of those he converses with, and knows how to apply them to proper uses. Accordingly, if we look into particular communities and divisions of men, we may observe that it is the discreet man, not the witty, nor the learned, nor the brave, who guides the conversation, and gives measures to the society. A man with great talents, but void of discretion, is like Polyphemus in the fable, strong and blind, endued with an irresistible force, which, for want of sight, is of no use to him.
* Eccl. vi. 9. ---xxvü. 17.