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1T seems, evident, that where a quality, or habit is subjected to our examination, if it appear, in any respect, prejudicial to the person possessed, of it, or such as incapacitates, him for business and, action, it is instantly blamed, and ranked among his faults and imperfections. Indolence, negligence, want of order and method, obstinacy, : fickleness, credulity; these qualities ». were never esteemed by: any one indifferent to a character; , much less, extolled as accomplishments or virtues. The prejudice, resulting from them, immediately strikes, our eyes and gives us the sentiment of pain and disapprobation.
No quality, it is allowed, is absolutely either blameable or praise-worthy. It is all according to, its degree. A due medium, say the Peripatetics, is the characteristic of virtue. But this medium is chiefly, determined by utility. A proper celerity, for instance, and dispatch in businefs, is commendable. When defective, no progress is ever made in the execution of any purpose: When excessive, it engages us in precipitate and ill-concerted measures and enterprises :
By such reasonings, we fix the proper and commendable mediocrity in all inoral and prudential disquisitions; and never lose view of the advantages, which result from any character or habit.
Now as these advantages are enjoyed by the person possessed of the character, it can never be self-love which renders the prospect of them agreeable to us, the spectators, and prompts our esteem and aprobation. No force of imagination can convert us into another person, and make us fancy, that we being that person, reap benefit from those valuable qualities, which belong to him. Or if it did, no celerity of imagination could immediately transport us back, into ourselves, and make us love and esteem the person, as different from us. Views and sentiments, so opposite to known truth, and to each other, could never have place, at the same time, in the same person. All suspicion, therefore, of felfish regards, is here totally excluded. · It is a quite different principle, which actuates our • bosom, and interests us in the felicity of the perfon whom we contemplate. Where his natural ta-jents and acquired abilities give us the prospect of elevation, advancement, a figure in life, profperous success, a steady command over fortune, and the connexion of great or advantageous undertakings; we are struck with such agreeable images, and feel a complacency and regard immediately arise towards himn. The ideas of happiness, joy, triumph, profperity, are connected with every circumstance of his character, and diffuse over our minds a pleasing sentiment of fympathy and humanity*.
Let us suppose a person originally framed so as to have no manner of concern for his fellow-creatures, but to regard the happiness and
misery • See NOT E [FF].
and hire a part of co the h
misery of all sensible beings with greater indifference than even two contiguous Thades of the fame colour. Let us suppose, if the prosperity of nations were laid on the one hand, and their ruin on the other, and he were desired to choose; that he would stand, like the schoolman's ass, irresolute and undetermined, between equal motives; or rather, like the same ass between two pieces of wood or marble, without any inclination or propensity to either side. The consequence, I believe, must be allowed just, that such a person, being absolutely unconcerned, either for the public good of a community or the private utility of others, would look on every quality, however pernicious, or however beneficial, to society, or to its poffeffor, as on the most common and uninteresting object.
But if, instead of this fancied monster, we suppose a man to form a judgment or determination in the case, there is to him a plain foundation of preference, where every thing else is equal; and however cool his choice may be, if his heart be selfish, or if the persons interested be remote from him ; there must still be a choice or distinction between what is useful, and what is pernicious. Now this distinction is the same in all its parts, with the moral distinction, whose foundation has been so often, and so much in vain, enquired after. The same endowments of the mind, in every circumstance, are agreeable to the sentiment of morals and to that of humanity; the saine temper is susceptible of high degrees of the one sentiment and of the other; and the same alteration in the objects, by their nearer approach or by connexion's, enlivens the one and the other. By all the rules of philosophy, therefore, we must conclude, that these sentiments are originally the same; since, in each particular, even the most minute, they
the same that the moon iter, with the
are governed by the faine laws, and are moved by the same objects.
Why do philosophers infer, with the greatest certainty, that the moon is kept in its orbit by: the same force of gravity, that makes bodies fall near the surface of the earth, but, because these effects are, upon computation, found fiinilar and equal ? And must not this argument bring as strong conviction, in moral as in natural disquisitions ?. . .P inas
To prove, : by any long detail, that all, the , qualities, useful to the possessor, are approved of, : and the contrary censured, would be superfluous. The least reflection on what is every day expe-, rienced in life, will be sufficient. We fhall only mention a few instances, in order to remove, if possible, all doubt and hesitation, ici.
The quality, the most necessary for the execution' of any useful enterprise, is Discretion; by which we carry on a safe intercourse with others, give due attention to our own and to their character, weigh each circumstance of the business which we undertake, and employ the surest' and safeft' means for the attainment of any end or purpose. To a Cromwell, perhaps, or a De Retz, discretion inay appear. an alderman-like virtue, asy: Dr. Swift calls it; and being incompatible with those. vaft designs, to which their courage and ambition prompted them, it might really, in them, be, a fault, or imperfection. But in the conduct of ordinary life, no virtye is more requisite, not only to obtain fuccefs, but to avoid the most fatal miscarriages and disappointments. The greatest parts without it, as observed by an elegant writer, may be, fatal to their owner; as Polyphemus, deprived of his eye, was only the more exposed, on account of his enormous. strength and ftature.
The best character, indeed, were it not rather
too perfect for human nature, is that which is : not swayed by temper. of any kind; but alter
nately employs enterprise and caution, as each is useful to the particular purpose intended. Such is the excellence which St. Evremond afcribes to mareschal Turenne, who displayed every campaign, as he grew older, inore temerity in his military enterprises; and being now, from long experience, perfectly acquainted with every incident in war, he advanced with greater firmness and security, in a road so well known to hiin. Fabius, says Machiavel, , : was cautious; Scipio enterprising: And both succeeded, because the situation of the Roman affairs, during the command of each, was peculiarly adapted to his genius? but both would have failed, had these situations been reversed. He is happy, whose circumstances suit:his temper; but he is more excellent, who can suit his temper to any circumstances.
What need is there to display the praises of Industry, and to extol its advantages, in the acquisition of power and riches. or in raising what we call a fortune in the world? The tortoise,
according to the fable, by his perseverance, gain:ed the race of the hare, though possessed of much superior swiftness. A man's time, when well hurbanded, is like a cultivated field, of which a few acres produce more of what is useful to life, than extensive provinces, even of the richest foil, when over-run with weeds and brambles.
But all prospect of success in life, or even of tolerable subsistence, muit fail, where a reasonable Frugality is wanting. The heap, instead of encreasing, diminishes daily, and leaves its polfeffor so much more unhappy, as, not having been able to confine his expences to a large revenue, he will still less be able to live contentedly on a finall one. The souls of men, according to