Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

on the Centenary of Dr. Williams's Death.

313 all persuasions;-a central point, round by which so many excuse themselves which the friends of religious freedom from taking any active part in those in every part of Britain rally, and from public labours which are essential to which even recently a spirit has gone the improvement of the world. They, forth, by which the bigots and per- forsooth, are not public men. It is secutors of another country are abash- enough for them to attend to their ed, at least, if not finally overcome. private concerns. They leave the civil

Having thus laid before you a short and religious affairs of their country account of the objects which Dr. Wil- to princes and statesmen, and wonder liams contemplated, in a scheme so that private individuals should be offiwisely planned, so nobly endowed, cious enough to meddle in such mat. permit me to say, (and from the small ters. It is a language too common; share of merit that I can claim in the sometimes heard even in the mouth of management, I trust I may be ex. Dissenters. But from whatever quarempted from the imputation of vanity, ter it may proceed, I can never hear when I do say confidently,) that no it without indignation. True, we trust was ever discharged with more must mind our private concerns; but care, or applied with more disinterest- have we not likewise a duty to dised tidelity to fulfil the intentions of the charge to that social state of which we founder.' If that founder could have are members ? Are we not bound to foreseen that men who were to be watch over that liberty which we inthe ornaments of science as well as of herit from our fathers, and to see that religion,-the Chandlers and Kippises, this inheritance is not tarnished or -the Prices and Priestleys, — the diminished in passing down to our Reeses and Belshams of the coming posterity? And is it not by the comage; -he future champions of that bination of individual exertion that learning and freedom which he lored : all great effects must be produced : No - if he could have foreseen that such man who has enjoyed the advantage men would have given their time and of education is so insignificant, but labour to promote the objects of his that by uniting his own efforts with piety, it would have added one delight- those of others, he may withstand the ful feeling more to those which must inroads of civil and ecclesiastial power, have passed through his mind, in con- and extend the limits of that religious templating the probable effects of his knowledge and civil freedom which own beneficence.

must ultimately enlighten and bless It is difficult indeed to conceive a mankind. A Priestley in his closet more exquisite satisfaction to a pious communicates those ideas of liberty and good heart, than that which our which a Smith* carries with him into founder must have enjoyed at the close the senate, and renders triumphant, of a life devoted to virtue, and the at last, over narrow views and impoapproach of a death, after which he litic laws. And a Wood,under the was to become, under God, a powerful like influence of education and princiand constant agent in promoting the ple, goes into the magistracy, and I kingdom of his Son. It is a satisfac- trust will one day go into the legislation compared with which all the ture, with the determined purpose of pleasures of selfishness are less than becoming the advocate of popular rights nothing and vanity; a satisfaction and of the reform and improvement of which every man who is conscious of popular institutions. Thus the student having a soul to exalt and save, should co-operates with the man of active covet as his richest treasure. We may life, and from this co-operation no not, indeed, possess the means of that individual can justly plead an exempextensive usefulness which has digni- tion. He who will not lend his arm fied the name of Dr, Williams :-but to the work of purification, because, every one of us, by being an advocate forsooth, he has not the arm of a Herfor truth and freedom in his own age; cules, is a selfish dastard, who, under by speaking, acting and giving for the the cover of weakness, hides corrupsupport of those institutions by which tion, and deserves to suffer the worst knowledge is diffused and liberty promoted, may form, and is bound to

* Wm. Smith, Esq. M. P. for Norwich, form, one link in that chain upon present. which the future destiny of social man + Matthew Wood, Esq. the Right Hon, depends. Despicable are the pretences the Lord Mayor, present.

evils that the most abject slavery can our principles, and the increase and inflict upon him. What would have diffusion of civil and religious advanbeen our state if Dr. Williams and tages. In one word, let us imitate our our Puritanic ancestors had been thus founder, If we should ever grow inindolent, thus ignoble? What but different to these glorious objects, or that we should have been bending to any of the great interests of truth under the yoke of superstition, and and freedom, the spirit of Dr. Wil, consigned to dangerous or to ignomini- liams, and of the mighly dead our preous labours, by weak kings and their decessors (with whose portraits we are appropriate instruments, selfish and surrounded), would rise up to reproach bigoted priests, without the hope of our apathy, to record our condemnadeliverance? Let us think of this, lion, and io seal our disgrace. and be zealous for the maintenance of

MISCELLANEOUS COMMUNICATIONS.

not

ac

On the Sources of Human Happiness. conducive to real enjoyment than a THE principal object, which I have fretful repining

disposition

It may be observed then in the is to point out some circumstances first place, that activity is a very iinwhich are eminently, conducive to portant requisite to human happiness. well-being, but which yet are The exercise of the bodily and mental commonly regarded as possessing a faculties in the pursuit of some inmoral quality, or as entitling the pos- teresting occupation, scems absolutely sessor to moral approbation or reward, essential to the enjoyment of life. It -although the improvement and is true that if we were to judge of practice of them is in a high degree the result of general experience by calculated to increase the efficacy of the general language of mankind, we those dispositions which we un:- should deduce a very different inferversally denominate virtuous.

ence; and might suppose that the If the question be proposed gene- true happiness of man consisted in rally, wherein consists human happi- indolence and inaction. For we are ness; it would be difficult, perhaps constantly complaining of the labour impossible to give an answer which and toil we are subjected tn, and exwould apply with absolute precision press ourselves as though exertion of to the character and circumstances inind and body were the greatest burof every individual. The characters, den and most grievous evil to which situations, abilities natural or our present situation exposes us. quired, and the consequent duties, When we examine human life how. of different persons, are so varions, erer a little more attentively, we shall that what would be expedient and soon be led to perceive the fallacy of desirable for one, might be imprac- any inference deduced from this al, ticable or very injurious to anoiher; most universal language of mankind. so that to lay down any one precise The most active men are invariably rule to apply to all cases would evi- the happiest; while none are more dently be a vain and absurd attempt. destitute of enjoyment than such as Some general observations however are given up to slothful indulgence. may be safely hazarded, since, though To relieve themselves from the insupthe situations of different individuals portable burden of idleness, we often are extremely various, yei the general see them have recourse to the inost principles of human nature are the childish and frivolous amusements ; same, and the influence of particular which however commonly fail to modes of conduct on the physical produce the effect, because they are and moral constitution of mar, is in incapable of exciting that degree of a great measure the same in all ages interest in the mind which is necesand nations. It can never cease to sary to rouse its powers into exertion. be true for example that the active Employment of any kind has comman cæteris parilns, is more likely to monly a surprising effect on the spibe happy than the lounger; or that riis and temper, and is highly instrua serene and cheerful temper is more mental to our improvement in bodily On the Sources of Human Happiness.

315 health and vigour as well as in many of idleness to concentrate the thoughts other things of much greater impor- on self, in a manner which is utterly tance. The idle man is commonly inconsistent with the cultivation of low-spirited, peevish and splenetic; any elevated or enlarged sentiment, every little inconvenience or obstacle and destructive of all real enjoyment; to the accomplishment of his desires, while on the other hand, an active vexes him and ruffles his temper; but disposition is continually carrying us since he is not thus excited to exert beyond these narrow bounds; and himself in its removal, his life is ren- thus, as it is often first excited by bedered an endless scene of petty trou- nevolent and amiable feelings, so it bles and vexations, which if he had has commonly the happiest effect in any habits of enterprise or activity continuing, enlivening and purifying would be removed without difficulty these feelings, converting them into as soon as they made their appearance, habitual states of mind, and ruling and before they had had time to principles of conduct.

“ The necesoccasion any material inconvenience. sity of action,” says Dr. Johnson, " is But when allowed to remain and not only demo!isirable from the fabric accumulate, they grow up to a serious of the human body, but is also evident amount; which one more accustom- from the universal practice of maned to look difficulties in the face kind; since all men, for the presermight contemplate with apprehen- vation of their health, for pleasure sion, and which fill him with ab- and enjoyment, even when exempsolute despair. Sull, though he des- ted by circumstances from the necespairs of getting rid of them, they are sity of pursuing any kind of lucrative not on that account the less felt ; they labour, have invented sports and diproduce a permanent effect upon his versions which though not equally temper, he contracts a sour, morose, useful to the world with the mechas complaining disposition; and thus, nical or menial arts, yet equal them from being at first merely indolent, in the fatigue they occasion to those he becomes a thoroughly discontent- who practise them; differing from ed, dissatisfied creature, caring for no them only as acts of choice differ from one but himself, and despised or dis- those which are attended by the pain. liked by every one else. Even when ful sense of compulsion.” Even this it does not operate in this manner; sense of compulsion which is the when circumstances are not such as general subject of complaint, may to throw any of these petty miseries nevertheless be of considerable serin his way, yet the necessary effect vice, by excluding that undecided, of laziness is to bring on ill-humour vacillating state of mind which often and disquiet; a temnper of mind which attends those who are aware that their is most destructive of his own peace, laborious exertions are merely the and must greatly impede his usefulness objects of their own free choice, and to others.

than which nothing can be more To correct this unhappy disposition, montifying and humiliating to those there is no remedy more effectual than who are conscious of its influence employment; perhaps no sovereign re- yet cannot shake off its power. This medy but this. In so far as its effi- is another reason why it is a most cacy' in promoting this object is con- wise and excellent appointment of cerned it is of litile consequence what Providence, that in most cases it is the employment is; provided it in- not left to our own choice whether terests the mind and presents it with we will exert ourselves or no; but some other object on which it can that we are most of us compelled, in dwell with more complace.cy than order to gain the means of comforton its own grievances and complaints. able subsistence, to devote ourselves If the employment be one which is to some regular employment. Dr. fitted at the same time to answer Johnson hiiseli seems to have fur. some valuable end, to contribute to nished a striking illustration of the his own comfort or convenience; to truth of this remark ;--though abunpromote his improvement in useful dantly active in the earlier part of knowledge; or sell more to promote his life, his latter years which were the comfort or relief of others; so spent in ease and comparative afflumuch the better. It is scarcely neces- ence were clouded with melancholy, sary to dwell on the obvious tendency occasioned it would scém in a great

measure by the absence of imperious ever, these qualities are sometimes seen inotive to exertion. I have no doubt separated, and may easily be distinthat he was much happier when guished from each other. There are compiling his Dictionary, or even many persons of great and eminent when writing the parliamentary de- worth, and who possess abundance bates in a garret'in Grub Street, of benevolence, or who are at least than in the luxurious indolence of continually performing acts of the Streatham.

most disinterested and even profuse I have said that employment, con- beneficence, who are yet destitute of stant regular employment of any kind, all command of temper; who either cannot fail to have a most beneficial administer their good offices with a effect upon the spirits and temper; sour moroseness of manner which but it is evident that this effect must takes from them their most powerful be greatly heightened, if it be direct- charms, or are liable to sudden fits ed towards honourable pursuits, or and starts of passion which sometimes arise from the prosecution of objects induce them to inflict serious evils suggested by a generous and benevo- upon the very persons whom but a lent disposition. It may therefore moment before they had cherished be added in the second place, that the and assisted. Thus their kindness happiness of man must materially even towards those whom they wish depend on the gratification of the to serve, is interrupted or prevented, more enlarged and benevolent feels and all its happy effects both on ings of his nature. It is scarce pos- the giver and the receiver are in a sible for any man to be happy in a great measure destroyed. A temper state of absolute solitude. I do not of this kind is one of ihe greatest bars speak here of those occasional seclu- to happiness in those who are afflicted sions from social intercourse which with it :-it becomes therefore one of are useful to promote meditation and our most important personal duties to thought, and which may thus tend be strenuous in our endeavours to regreatly to exalt and improve the be- strain and sweeten it. There is an nevolent feelings, and suggest to us apology, but a very imperfect one, additional opportunities and modes which is sometimes made for this unof calling them into action, but an happy irritability of temper, which entire and permanent separation from ascribes it to a morbid sensibility in all intercourse with our fellow-crea- the original constitution of such pertures. The happiest men probably sons. This apology might be made are they who enjoy the most frequent with nearly equal justice for every moand constant opportunities of culti- ral defect and for every intellectual vating the sentiments which belong folly whatever; and if admitted, puts to and arise out of domestic society. a stop to all sorts of improvement. What picture of human felicity can It is true that original temperament, equal that which is often enjoyed in or rather, perhaps, improper managethe simple scenes of private life; ment in early life, may occasionally where every one is deeply interested give rise to an unusual degree of this in the general welfare; where every disposition ; but this can be no justiheart glows with delight in contem- tication of it; it cannot render it less plating the enjoyment of all; where inconsistent with our enjoyment of every one is actively employed in mic life and society; and rather furnishes nistering to the general good of the an additional motive to such persons little society. Such feelings thus as have laboured under these disadgenerated and improved, in a mind vantages, to be more than ordinarily Otherwise well disposed, are the best solicitous to keep it in check. And nicans of introducing and nourishing let no one inagine that this is imposinore exalted and extensive affections sible ;—that his own case is so pecuond of leading to a complete forget- liar as not to yield to the ordinary in. fulness of se!' in an habitual regard fluence of moral medicine. There is through the whole conduct of life a course of discipline before which the to the general welfare and improve niost inveterate mental disorders will ment of the human race.

give way. The remedy, however, it Closely allied to benevolence is must be admitted, is ofien more easily what is commonly called a good tem- perceived and pointed out than applied. per. Though nearly connected, how. To perceive it only requires good sense On the Sources of Human Happiness.

817 and discerninent; to apply it steadily disposition to observe with satisfaction and effectually requires often a great and duly to appreciate such good quashare of self-government and self- lities as are possessed even by the denial, and the frequent mortification worst men, and to place in their due and disappointment of our strongest light all the excellencies of the really propensities.

deserving, and which when justly esBy the unreflecting at all times, and timated are sufficient to cast into the by some sects among pilosophers, shade the infirmities or failings by much more than their jor weight is which they may be accompanied. attributed to original disserences in Candour in acknowledging all these mental and bodily constitutions. That would greatly contribute to the formasuch differences do exist, no one I tion of an even and gentle disposition. think can doubt who observes the very Again, a habit, which may soon be great variety of character and disposi- acquired by care and practice, of tion, which frequently appear in per. checking the external signs of those sons whose circumstances and educa- emotions of contempt and anger to tion, so far as we have been able to which we feel ourselves peculiarly liatrace, or as human means were able ble, will succeed in time in preventing to controul them, have been as nearly the inordinate rise of the emotions similar as possible. We are not either themselves. Such efforts at first proformed or educated after one common duce nothing more than the external standard ; nor is it desirable that we appearance of decorum and propriety should: a dull, uniform sameness of behaviour; but the influence soon would doubtless take away greatly becomes more extensive. Between the from the enjoyment of human life, outward signs and the feelings which and would be inconsistent with the are represented by then, there is a surproper discharge of the various duties prising connection ; and as, on the one which the convenience or the subsis- hand, the assumed language of violent tence of mankind requires. Though emotion will, in many cases, excite. however we admit that such original a considerable degree of the emotion diversities do exist, yet by inuch the itself—so, on the other, the constant greater part of the actual diversity ob- endeavour to check the external sympservable in human character is to be toms, soon chokes up and even enascribed to those circumstances which tirely removes the source frem whenco we call accidental or adventitious; they flow. that is, they are the result of educa. The species of ill-humour which tion and experience, and are in some arises from a morbid sensibility to our considerable measure subject to go- own miseries, is equally inconsistent vernment and controul. The contrary with real enjoyment. Nothing is opinion appears not only inconsistent more destructive of pleasure than a with a just theory of the history of the constant liabit of coinplaining and human mind, but also leads to dan. grumbling; which leads a man to look gerous practical consequences, and in preference on those circumstances ought therefore to be diligently guard- of his lot which are the least inviting, ed against. But to return to our pro and is eternally branding over tirem go per subject.

as to preclude all attention to those The weakness and irritability of which are more favourable and encoutemper which I have alluded to, is so teuing, and to magnify the others to inconsistent with our happiness, that such a degree in his disordered imagiit is necessary to take all possible me- nation, that what might have been but thods to restrain it. For this purpose trifting grievances are exalted into it is very desirable to cultivate a habit evils of the first magnitude. A habit of looking always in preference on the therefore of dwelling on whatever is bright side of every character, and in- in its nature fitted to give pleasure, deed of every object which attracts our and of endeavouring to look out for notice. I would not recommend a the beneficial consequences witch are total blindness to the defects und errors to flow even from those which cannot of others, for that might be fatal to in the first instance, be regarded with our own personal security, and inju- satisfaction, is exceedingly well cal. rious to the important interests of wulated to secure and inércase our those whose welfare it is our more happiness. This is the disposition immediate duty to promote ; but a which every sincere Christian, every VOL. XI.

21

« AnteriorContinua »