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ed by their censures.
How little therefore is the happiness of an ambitious man, who gives every one a dominion over it, who thus subjects himself to the good or ill speeches of others, and puts it in the power of every malicious tongue to throw him into a fit of melancholy, and destroy his natural rest and repose of mind ? Especially when we consider that the world is more apt to cen: sure than applaud, and himself fuller of imperfections than virtues.
We may further observe, that such a man will be more grieved for the loss of fame, than he could have been pleased with the enjoyment of it. For though the presence of this imaginary good cannot make us happy, the absence of it may make us mis. erable; because in the enjoyment of an object we only find that share of pleasure which it is capable of giving us, but in the loss of it we do not proportion our grief to the real value it bears, but to the value our fancies and imaginations set upon it.
. So inconsiderable is the satisfaction that Fame brings along with it, and so great the disquietudes to which it makes us liable. The desire of it stirs up very uneasy motions in the mind, and is rather inflamed than satisfied by the presence of the thing desired. The enjoyment of it brings but very little pleasure, though the loss or want of it be very sensible and afflicting; and even this little happiness is so very precarious, that it wholly depends on the will of others. We are not only tortured by the reproaches which are offered us, but are disappointed by the silence of men when it is unexpected; and humbled even by their praises.
No. 257. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25.
Ουχ εύδει Διός
INCERT. EX STOB.
That I might not lose myself upon a subject of so great extent as that of fame, I have treated it in a particular order and method. I have first of all considered the reasons why Providence may have implanted in our minds such a principle of action. I have in the next place shewn, from many considera. tions, first, that Fame is a thing difficult to be obtained, and easily lost; secondly, that it brings the ambitious man very little happiness, but subjects him to much uneasiness and dissatisfaction. I shall in the last place shew, that it hinders us from obtaining an end which we have abilities to acquire, and which is accompanied with fulness of satisfaction. I need not tell my reader, that I mean by this end, that happiness which is reserved for us in another world, which every one has abilities to procure, and which will bring along with it fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
How the pursuit after Fame may hinder us in the attainment of this great end, I shall leave the reader to collect from the three following considerations.
First, because the strong desire of Fame breeds several vicious habits in the mind.
Secondly, because many of those actions, which are apt to procure Fame, are not in their nature conducive to this our ultimate happiness.
Thirdly, because if we should allow the same actions to be the proper instruments both of acquiring Fame, and of procuring this happiness, they would nevertheless fail in the attainment of this last end, if they proceeded from a desire of the first.
These three propositions are self-evident to those who are versed in speculations of morality. For which reason I shall not enlarge upon them, but proceed to a point of the same nature, which may open to us a more uncommon field of speculation.
From what has been already observed, I think we may make a natural conclusion, that it is the greatest folly to seek the praise or approbation of any being, besides the Supreme, and that for these two reasons, because no other being can make a right judgment of us, and esteem us according to our merits ; and because we can procure no considerable benefit or advantage from the esteem and approbation of any other being.
In the first place, no other being can make a right judgment of us, and esteem us according to our merits. Created beings see nothing but our outside, and can therefore only frame a judgment of us from our exterior actions and behaviour ; but how unfit these are to give us a right notion of each other's perfections, may appear from several considerations. There are many virtues, which in their own nature are incapable of any
outward representation ; many silent perfections in the soul of a good man, which are great ornaments to human nature, but not able to discover themselves to the knowledge of others; they are transacted in private, without noise or show, and are only visible to the great searcher of hearts. What actions can express the entire purity of thought which refines and sanctifies a virtuous man? That secret rest and contentedness of mind, which gives him a perfect enjoyment of his present condition? That inward pleasure and complacency, which he feels in doing good ? That delight and satisfaction which he takes in the prosperity and happiness of another ? These and the like virtues are the
hidden beauties of a soul, the secret graces which cannot be discovered by a mortal eye, but make the soul lovely and precious in His sight, from whom no secrets are concealed. Again, there are many virtues which want an opportunity of exerting and shewing themselves in actions. Every virtue requires time and place, a proper object, and a fit conjuncture of circumstances, for the due exercise of it. A state of poverty obscures all the yirtues of liberality and munificence. The patience and fortitude of a martyr or confessor lie concealed in the flourishing times of Christianity. Some virtues are only seen in affliction, and some in prosperity; some in a private, and others in a public capacity. But the great sovereign of the world beholds every perfection in its obscurity, and not only sees what we do, but what we would do. He views our behaviour in every concurrence of affairs, and sees us engaged in all the possibilities of action. He discovers the martyr and confessor without the trial of flames and tortures, and will hereafter entitle many to the reward of actions, which they had never the opportunity of performing Another reason why men cannot form a right judg. ment of us is, because the same actions may be aimed at different ends, and arise from quite contrary principles. Actions are of so mixt a nature, and so full of circumstances, that as men pry into them more or less, or observe some parts more than others, they take different hints, and put contrary interpretations on them; so that the same actions may represent a man as hypocritical and designing to one, which make him appear a saint or hero to another. He, therefore, who looks upon the soul through its outward actions, often sees it through a deceitful medium, which is apt to discolour and pervert the object : 80 that on this account also, he is the only proper judge of our perfections, who does not guess at the sincerity of our intentions from the goodness of our actions; but weighs the goodness of our actions by the sincerity of our intentions.
But further; it is impossible for outward actions to represent the perfections of the soul, because they can never shew the strength of those principles from whence they proceed. They are not adequate expressions of our virtues, and can only shew us what habits are in the soul, without discovering the de. gree and perfection of such habits. They are at best but weak resemblances of our intentions, faint and imperfect copies, that may acquaint us with the general design, but can never express the beauty and life of the original. But the great Judge of all the earth knows every different state and degree of human improvement, from those weak stirrings and tendencies of the will which have not yet formed themselves into regular purposes and designs, to the last entire finishing and consummation of a good habit. He beholds the first imperfect rudiments of a virtue in the soul, and keeps a watchful eye over it in all its progress, until it has received every grace it is capable of, and appears in its full beauty and perfection. Thus we see that none but the Supreme Being can esteem us according to our proper merits, since all others must judge of us from our outward actions, which can never give them a just estimate of us, since there are many perfections of a man which are not capable of appearing in actions ; many which, allowing no natural incapacity of shewing themselves, want an opportunity of doing it; or should they all meet with an opportunity of appearing by actions, yet those actions may be misinterpreted, and applied to wrong principles ; or though they plainly discovered the principles from whence they proceeded, they could never shew the degree, strength, and perfection of those principles.
And as the Supreme Being is the only proper judge of our perfections, so is he the only fit rewarder of them. This is a