Imatges de pÓgina
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THOUGHTS

ON

THE IMPORTANCE

OF THE

MANNERS OF THE GREAT

TO

GENERAL SOCIETY.

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" You are the Makers of Manners."

SHAKESPEARE.

THOUGHTS

ON THE

MANNERS OF THE GREAT.

To a large and honourable class of the community, to persons considerable in reputation, important by their condition in life, and commendable for the des cency of their general conduct, these slight hints are respectfully addressed. They are not intended as ą, satire upon vice, or a ridicule upon folly, being written neither for the foolish nor the vicious. The subject is too serious for ridicule ; and those to whom it is add ressed are too respectable for satire. It is recommended to the consideration of those who, filling the higher ranks in life, are naturally regarded as patterns, by which the manners of the rest of the world are to be fashioned.

The mass of mankind, in most places, and especi: ally in those conditions of life which exempt them from the temptation to shameful vices, is perhaps

chiefly

mo

chiefly composed of what is commonly termed by the courtesy of the world good kind of people ; for persons of very flagitious wickedness are almost as rare as those of very eminent piety. To the latter of these, admonition were impertinent; to the former it were superfluous. These remarks, therefore, are principally written with a view to those persons of rank and fortune who live within the restraints of ral obligation, and acknowledge the truth of the Christian religion ; and who, if in certain instances they allow themselves in practices not compatible with a strict profession of Christianity, seem to do it rather from habit and want of reflection, than either from disbelief of its doctrines, or contempt of its precepts.

Inconsideration, Fashion, and the World, are three confederates against Virtue, with whom even good kind of people often contrive to live on excellent terms: and the fair reputation which may be obtain- , ed by a complaisant conformity to the prevailing practice, and by mere decorum of manners, without a strict attention to religious principle, is a constant source of danger to the rich and great. There is something almost irresistibly seducing in the contagion of general example : hence the necessity of that, vigilance, which it is the business of Christianity to quicken by incessant admonition, and which it is the business of the world, to lay asleep by the perpetual opiates of ease and pleasure.

A fair reputation is among the laudable objects of human ambition ; yet this really valuable blessing is sometimes converted into a snare, by inducing a treacherous security as soon as it is obtained ; and by leading him who is too anxious about obtaining it, to stop short without aiming at a higher motive of action. A fatal indolence is apt to creep in upon the soul when it has once acquired the good opinion of mankind, if

the

1

use.

the acquisition of that good opinion was the ultimate end of its endeavours. Pursuit is at an end when the object is in possession; for he is not likely to “ press forward” who thinks he has already “attained.” The love of worldly reputation, and the desire of God's favour, have this specific difference, that in the latter, the possession always augments the desire ; and the spiritual mind accounts nothing done while any thing remains undone.

But after all, a fair fame, the support of numbers, and the flattering concurrence of human opinion, is obviously a deceitful dependance ; for as every

indi. vidual must die for himself, and answer for bimself, both these imaginary resources will fail, just at the moment when they could have been of any

A good reputation, even without internal piety, would be worth obtaining, if the tribunal of heaven were fashioned after the manner of human courts of judicature. If at the general judgment we were to be tried by a jury of our fellow mortals, it would be but common prudence to secure their favour at any price. But it can stand us in little stead in the great day of decision, it being the consummation of infinite goodness not to abandon us to the mercy

of each other's sentence ; but to reserve us for his final judgment who knows every motive of every action ; who will make strict inquisition into singleness of heart, and uprightness of intention : in whose eyes the sincere prayer of powerless benevolence will outweigh the most splendid profession, or the most dazzling action.

We cannot but rejoice in every degree of humau virtue which opcrates favourably on society, whatever be the motive, or whoever be the actor ; and we should gladly commend every degree of goodness, though it be not exactly squared by our own rules and notions. Even the good actions of such persons as are too much actuated by a regard to appearances,

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