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“ so much care as he who endeavours after " the most happiness.”
In the second place, every one ought to reflect how much more unhappy he might be than he really is. The former consideration took in all those who are sufficiently provided with the means to make themselves easy ; this regards such as actually lie under fome pressure or misfortune. These may receive great alleviation from such a comparison as the unhappy person may make between himself and others, or between the misfortunes which he suffers and greater misfortunes which might have befallen him.
I like the story of the honest Dutchman, who, upon breaking his leg by a fall from the main-mast, told the standers-by, it was a great mercy that it was not his neck. To which, since I am got into quotations, give me leave to add the saying of an old philosopher, who, after having invited some of his friends to dine with him, was ruffled by his wife that came into the room in a passion, and threw down the table that stood before them: « Every one,” says he, “ has his calamity, and he is a happy “ man that has no greater than this.” We find an instance to the same purpose in the life of Doctor Hammond, written by Bishop Fell, As this good man was troubled with a complication of distempers, when he had the gout upon him he used to thank God that it was not the stone; and when he had the stone, that he had not both these distempers on him at the same time,
I cannot conclude this Effay without observing that there never was any system besides that of Christianity, which could effectually produce in the mind of man the virtue I have hitherto been speaking of. In order to make us content with our present condition, many of the ancient philosophers tell us that our Discontent only hurts ourselves, without being able to make any alteration in our circumstances; others, that whatever evil befalls us is derived to us by a fatal necessity, to which the gods themselves are subject; while others very gravely tell the man who is miserable, that it is necessary he should be so to keep up the harmony of the universe, and that the scheme of Providence would be troubled and perverted were he otherwise. These, and the like considerations, rather silence than fatisfy a man. They may Thew him that his Discontent is unreasonable, but are by no means sufficient to relieve it. They rather give despair than confolation. In a word, a man might reply to one of these comforters, as Auguftus did to his friend who advised him not to grieve for the death of a person whom he loved, because his grief could not fetch him again: “ It is for that very reason,” said the emperor, “ that I grieve."
On the contrary, Religion bears a more tender regard to human nature. It prescribes to every miserable man the means of bettering his condition ; nay, it shews him that the bearing of his afflictions as he ought to do will naturally çnd in the removal of them: it makes him
easy here, because it can make him happy hereafter.
Upon the whole, a CONTENTED MIND is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world; and if in the present life his happiness arises from the subduing of his desires, it will arise in the next from the gratification of them.
No 575. Monday, August 2, 1714.
- Nec morti esse locum
Virg. Georg. iv. 226. No room is left for death. Dryden.
A LEWD young fellow seeing an aged A hermit go by him barefoot, « Father,” says he, “ you are in a very miserable condi
• tion if there is not another world.” “ True, 66 son," said the hermit, " but what is thy 56 condition if there is?” Man is a creature designed for two different states of being, or rather for two different lives. His first life is Thort and transient; his second permanent and lasting. The question we are all concerned in is this, in which of these two lives it is our chief interest to make ourselves happy? Or, in other words, whether we should endeavour to secure to ourselves the pleasures and gratifications of a life which is uncertain and precarious,
* By Addison, on the authority of Mr. Tho. Tickell. $ The indicative for the potential mood,
and at its utmost length of a very inconfiderable duration; or to secure to ourselves the pleasures of a life which is fixed and settled, and will never end. Every man, upon the first hearing of this question, knows very well which lide of it he ought to close with. But however right we are in theory, it is plain that in practice we adhere to the wrong side of the question. We make provisions for this life as though it were never to have an end, and for the other life as though it were never to have a beginning.
Should a spirit of superior rank, who is a stranger to human nature, accidentally light upon the earth, and take a survey of its inhabitants; what would his notions of us be? Would not he think that we are a species of beings made for quite different ends and purposes than what we really are? Must not he imagine that we were placed in this world to get riches and honours ? Would not he think that it was our duty to toil after wealth, and itation, and title? Nay, would not he believe we were forbidden poverty by threats of eternal punishment, and enjoined to pursue our pleasures under pain of damnation ? He would certainly imagine that we were influenced by a scheme of duties quite opposite to those which are indeed prescribed to us. And truly, according to such an imagination, he must conclude that we are a species of the most obedient creatures in the universe; that we are constant to our duty; and that we keep a steady eye on the end for which we were sent hither.
But how great would be his astonishment when he learned that we were beings not designed to exist in this world above threescore and ten years, and that the greatest part of this busy species fall short even of that age? How would he be lost in horror and admiration, when he should know that this set of creatures, who lay out all their endeavours for this life, which scarce deserves the name of existence; when, I say, he should know that this set of creatures are to exist to all eternity in another life, for which they make no preparations ? Nothing can be a greater disgrace to reason, than that men, who are persuaded of these two different states of being, should be perpetually employed in providing for a life of threescore and ten years, and neglecting to make provision for that, which after many myriads of years will be still new, and still beginning; especially when we consider that our endeavours for making ourselves great, or rich, or honourable, or whatever else we place our happiness in, may after all prove unsuccessful; whereas, if we constantly and sincerely endeavour to make ourselves happy in the other life, we are sure that our endeavours will succeed, and that we shall not be disappointed of our hope.
The following question is started by one of the schoolmen. Supposing the whole body of the earth were a great ball or mass of the finest fand, and that a single grain or particle of this fand should be annihilated every thousand years? Sapposing then that you had it in your choice