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If it cano
and that his great secret was nothing else but Content.
This virtue does indeed produce, in some meafure, all those effects which the alchymift usually ascribes to what he calls the philosopher's stone; and if it does not bring riches, it does the same thing, by banishing the desire of them. not remove the disquietudes arising out of a man's mind, body, or fortune, it makes him eafy under them. It has indeed a kindly influence on the soul of man, in respect of every being to whom he stands related. It extinguishes all murmur, repining, and ingratitude towards that Being who has allotted him his part to act in this world. It destroys all inordinate ambition, and every tendency to corruption, with regard to the community wherein he is placed. It gives sweetnefs to his conversation, and a perpetual serenity to all his thoughts,
Among the many methods which might be made use of for the acquiring of this virtue, I shall only mention the two following. First of all, a man 1hould always consider how much he has more tkan he wants; and secondly, How much more unhappy he might be than he really is.
First of all, a man should always consider how much more he has than he wants. I am wonderfully pleafed with the reply which Aristippus made to one who condoled hiin upon the lofs of a farm Why, said he, I have three farms ftill, and you have but one ; so that I ought rather to be afflicted for you than you for me.
On the contrary, foolish men are more apt to consider what they have lost than what they possess; and to fix their eyes upon those who are richer than themselves, rather than on those who are under greater difficulties. All the real pleasures and conveniencies of life, lie in a narrow compass; but it is the humour of mankind to be always looking forward, and straining after one who has got the start of them in wealth and ho
of the po
nour. For this reason, as there are none can be properly called rich, who have not more than they want : There are few rich men in any liter nations but among the middle sort of people, who keep their wishes within their fortunes, and have more wealth than they know how to enjoy. Persons of a higher rank live in a kind of fplendid poverty, and are perpetually wanting, because in. stead of acquiefcing in the folid pleasures of life, they endeavour to outvy one another in shadows and appearancez. Men of sense have at all times beheld with a great deal of mirth this filly game that is playing over their heads, and by contracting their defires enjoy all that secret fatisfaction which others are always in quest of. The truth is, this ridiculous chace after imaginary pleafures cannot be sufficiently exposed, as it is the great source of those evils which generally undo a nation. Let a man's estate be what it will, he is a poor man if he does not live within it, and natural. ly sets himself to fale to any one that can give him his price. When Pittacus, after the death of his brother, who had left him a good estate, was offer. ed a great sum of money by the King of Lydia, he thanked him for his kindness, but told him he had already more by half than he knew what to do with. In short, content is equivalent to wealth, and luxury to poverty, or, to give the thought a more agreeable turn, Content is natural wealth, says Socrates ; to which I shall add, Luxury is artificial poverty. I shall therefore recommend to the confideration of those who are always aiming after superfluous and imaginary enjoyments, and will not be at the trouble of contracting their defires, an excellent saying of 'Bion the philosopher ; namely, That no man has fo much care, as he who endeavours after the nroff happiness.
In the second place, every one ought to reflect how much more unhappy he might be than he VOL. VIII
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 some pressure or misfortune. These may receive great alleviation from such a comparifon as the unhappy person may make between himfelf and others, or between the misfortune, which he suffers, and greater misfortunes which might have befallen him.
I like the story of the honest Dutchman, who, vpon breaking his Leg by a fall from the mainmast, told the standers-by, it was a great mercy that it was not his Neck. To which, fince I am got into quotations, give me leave to add the saying of an old philosopher, who, after having invited fome of his friends to dine with him, was ruffled by his wife that came into the room in a passion, and chrew down the table that stood before them: Every one, says he, bas his calamity, and he is an happy man that has no greater than this. We find an instance to the fame 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 essay without observing, that there was never any system besides that of Christianity, which could effe&tually produce in the mind of man the virtue I have been hitherto speak. ing of. In order to make us content with our present condition, many of the present philosophers tell us, that our discontent only hurts ourselves, without being able to make any alteration in our circumstances; others, that whatever evil befals us, is derived to us by a fatal neceffity, to which the gods themselves are subject; while others very gravely tell the man who is miferable, that it is ne
ceffary he should be fo 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 confiderations, rather filence than fatisfy a man. They may shew him, that his . difcontent is unreasonable, but are by no means fufficient to relieve it. They rather give dispair than confolation. In a word; a man might reply to one of these comforters, as Augustus did to his friend, who advised hinr not to grieve for the death of a perfon 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 prefcribes to a very 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 end in the removal of them : It makes him eafy 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 prefent life his happiness arises from the fubduing of his defires, it will arise in the next : from the gratification of them.
MONDAY, AUGUST 2,
-Nec morti elle locum.
Virg. Georg. iv. ver. 226. No room is left for death.
DRYDEN. A Lewd young fellow seeing an aged Hermit go by him barefoot, Father, fays he, you
are in a very miserable condition if there is not another world. True fon, faid the Hermit, but what is thy condition if there is? Man is a creature defigned for
two different states of being, or rather for two different lives. His first life is short and tranfient; his. second permanent and lasting. The question we are all concerned in, is this, In which of thofe two lives 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, 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 fide ot 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 proyitions for this life as though it were never to have an end, and for the other life as though it were pever to have a beginning.
Should a spirit of superior rank, who is a stranger to human nature,' accidentally alight 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 station, and title ? Nay, would not he believe we were forbidden poverty by threats of eternal pue nishmept, and enjoined to pursue our pleasures un. der 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 imagina• tion, 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 sted. dy eye on the end for which we were fent hither.