Imatges de pàgina
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edifice will be found, on the closest examination, to arise from an opinion of exalted merit.

Ist, From superiority of affluence and power.

adly; From superior parts, genius, wisdom, and knowledge.

zdly, From a notion of superior virtue.

If, from a candid examination into each of these pretensions, they should be found wanting in the balance, it might surely teach us to behave with meekness and humility, and not (aş the apofle fays) to be wise in our own conceits.

And first then, amongst all those advantages which constitute a fancied pre-eminence amongst men, and tend to nourish and increase the pride of the human heart, riches and power have a claim to the highest and most exalted ftation: from the general conduct of the rich and grčat towards their inferiors, from the pride and infolence of their behaviour, one would imagine that they were a higher order of beings, adorned with nobler faculties and accomplishments, possessed of many more virtues and perfections than those whom they trample on, and defpise; that they were not liable to accidents, fickness, and misfortune, or, in short, subject to the common laws of mortality: we cannot easily bring ourselves to fuppofe, that such assumed superiority is owing merely to the caprice of a deluded multitude, or the files of fortune; that the poffeffors are indebted for it to the vigilance (at best) of lucky industry; or it may be to the undeservcd success of active vice; and hence it arises that pride is fed and nourished by flatterers;

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the haughtiness and vain-glory of one half of mankind is supported by the ignorance, meanness, and servility of the other.

There is certainly no realon to be proud of that which neither bestows real merit nor implies any. If riches and power could bestow real happiness, if they were a mark of superior excellence, or a certain token of the divine fa. vour; they would not be bestowed fo frequent-, ly as they are, on the worst and most abandoned of mankind. Shall we then be proud of that which is given to those whom we despise and abhor? of that which is dangerous, fleeting, and transitory? of that which has no intrinsic value, or certainty of duration ?

Pass we on then to the 2d part which I proposed to consider; namely, fuperior knowledge and wisdom: and with regard to this it may with great truth be observed, that there is no part of mankind more subjest to pride and vanity, than thofe favourites on whom nature hath conferred these so much envied, so much boasted privileges. It muit indeed be acknowledged, that to be wiser than our fellow-crea. tures, to excel in that which fo eminently dir. tinguishes us from the inferior part of the crcation, must be of all things the most desirable: but what degree of knowledge, after all, can man arrive at, that should make him proud ? If we could look around us without prejudice and partiality, if we could dive a little decper, than we generally do, into the hearts and niinds of others, we should most certainly discover that our God is much more equitable in the dilpen

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fation of his gifts, than the pride and petulance of man will allow him to be; and that knowledge, as well as happiness, is more equally divided amongst us, than we were at first inclined to think it. . It haih always been matter of reproach against the learned, that they are vain and fell-fufficient, great admirers of themfelves, and great contemners of others. The truth is, we are too apt to imagine, that be, cause we are consantly pouring in, our vefsel must be fuller than our neighbours; but do not at the fame time refiect that we are pouring into a fieve, which lets as much through as it can possibly retain: our bodies, we know, undergo perpetual change, some particles every day go off by perspiration, and other fresh ones fucceed; and so it is with our minds also, one branch of science is seldom learned but another is forgotten, and as much perhaps is lost as acquired. Were it possible for an inhabitant of the earth to place himself in the very centre of the universe, from whence he inight behold all the planets moving around him, what improvements might lie make! how well acquainted would he be with the whole glorious fyftem! As it is, his guesses muít be very imperfect, and his knowledge very superficial; and all for this plain reason, because he does not fand in the right place. And as it is with the natural, so it is also in regard to the moral and intellcétual world; we do not stand in the middle of things, our eye cannot take in the whole, but is confined to an inconfiderable part. The limits of human knowledge are

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much contracted, her zones quickly terminated, and all our wisdom is comprehended in a very narrow circle. The wiseit will, upon serious and mature reflection, find themselves but a little less ignorant, and the most innocent discover themselves to be only a little less guil. ty than their fellow creatures.

There is a knowledge indeed which makes many very wise in their own conceits, and which is very greedily fought after, though we have no reason to glory in it; and that is, the knowledge of the world; but of this, when we glory, we may be truly said to glory in our shame: for what is this knowledge? and wherein does it consist? To know the world, is only to have arrived at a greater proficiency than others in fraud and diffimulation, to be so well acquainted with the tempers and dispositions of men, as to make them fubfervient to our own interest and advantage; to know the deformities and imperfections of human nature, and thus to contract a disgust at, and abhorrence of it: to see the good success of those who thrive by treachery and vice, and from thence to form a desire of imitating them; it, is but to know, in short, what a good man would wish to be ignorant of, and to see that which a wise man would wish to shut his eyes against. After all, the only real and valuable knowledge which we acquire, is that which is gained by experience: but how dearly this is bought, we need not be reminded. Our fortune, our fame, our peace, and happiness, even our innocence and virtue are too often sacrificed

in the pursuit: this is an acquisition, therefore, which, whild it promotes our intereft, reproaches severely our folly; and where we ought to blush at the expence of our purchase, we have surely very little reason to be proud of the bargain.

The last kind of self-conceit I purposed to consider, is that which springs from the notion of fuperior virtue. That fo frail and sinful a creature, as man, should lay claim to any merit on this article; that such unprofitable servants as we are, should boast of our labour, is both impious and absurd, and must doubtless fubject us to the displeasure of our great Lord and Master. Yet such is our pride and prefumption, that every audacious hypocrite, who lias but the appearance, demands that respect which is not due even to the realiiy of virtue. Every self-sufficient enthusiast who abftains from vices which have no temptations for him, or performs duties which give him no trouble to comply with, will boast his superior goodness and piety, and, like the proud Pharisee, thank God that he is not like other men.

To say the truth, the triumphs of human knowledge over human ignorance; of human virtue over human frailty; are like many other triumphs, more easy to be gained than deserved. They are not so much owing to the bravery of the conqueror, as to the want of it in the vanquished." But whilst every thing about us seems to reproach our weakness, we are boasting of our strength: like those absurd Stoics, who pretended to sinile in the midst of

anguish,

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