« PreviousContinue »
surrounding enviers, dunces, and detractors. Ridicule is the weapon made use of at school, as well as in the world, when the fortresses of virtue are to be assailed. You will effectually repel the attack by a dauntless spirit and unyielding perseverance. Though numbers are against you, yet, with truth and rectitude on your side, you , mayi though alone, be equal to an army.
By laying in a store of useful knowledge, adorning your mind with elegant literature, improving and establishing your conduct by virtuous principles, you can. not fail of being a comfort to those friends who have supported you, of being happy with yourself, and of being well received by mankind. Honor and success in life will probably attend you. Under all circumstances, you will have an internal source of consolation and entertainment, of which no sublunary vicissitude can deprive you. Time will show how much wiser has been your choice, than that of your idle companions, who would gladly have drawn you into their association, or rather int« their conspiracy, as it has been called, against good manners, and against all that is honorable and useful. While you appear in society as a respectable and valuable member of it, they will, perhaps, have sacrificed at the shrine of vanity, pride and extravagance, and false pleasure, their health and their sense, their fortune and their characters. XXIII.—Advantages of, and Motives to Cheerfulness.
Spectator. CHEERFULNESS is in the first place the best promoter of health. Repinings, and secret inurmurs of the heart, give imperceptible strokes to those delicate fibres of which the vital parts are composed, and wear out the machine insensibly ; not to mention those violent ferments which t ey stir up in the blood, and those irregular, disturbed motions which they raise in the animal spirits. I scarce remember, in my own observation, to have met with many old men, or with such who, (to use our English phrase) wear well that had not at least a certain indolence in their humor, if not a more than ordinary gaiety and cheerfulness of heart. The truth of it is, health and cheerfulness mutually beget each other,
with this difference, that we seldom meet with a great degree of health, which is not attended with a certain cheerfulness, but very often see cheerfulness where there is no degree of health.
Cheerfulness bears the same friendly regard to the mind as to the body ; it banishes all anxious care and discontent, soothes and composes the passions and keeps the soul in a perpetual calm.
If we consider the world in its subserviency to man, one would think it was made for our use ; but if we consider it in its natural beauty and harmony, one would be apt to conclude, it was made for our pleasure. The sun, which is the great soul of the universe, and produces all the necessaries of life, has a particular influence in cheering the mind of man, and making the heart glad.
Those several living creatures which are made for our service or sustenance, at the same time either fill the woods with their music, furnish us with game, or raise pleasing ideas in us by the delightfulness of their appear.
Fountains, lakes and rivers are as refreshing to the imagination, as to the soil through which they pass.
There are writers of great distinction, who have made it an argument for Providence, that the whole earth is covered with green, rather than with any other color, as being such a right mixture of light and shade, that it comforts and strengthens the eye, instead of weakening or grieving it. For this reason, several painters have a green cloth hanging near them, to ease the eye upon, after too great an application to their coloring. A famous modern philosopher accounts for it in the following manner : All colors that are more luminous overpower and dissipate the animal spirits which are employed in sight ; on the contrary, those that are more obscure, do not give the animal spirits a sufficient exercise ; whereas, the rays that produce in us the idea of green, fall upon the eye in such a due proportion, that they give the animal spirits their proper play, and by keeping up the struggle in a just balance, excite a very pleasing and agreeable sensation. Let the cause be what it will, the effect is, certain ; for which
reason the poets ascribe to this particular color, the epithet of cheerful.
To consider further this double end in the works of nature and how they are at the same time both useful and entertaining, we find that the most important parts in the vegetable world, are those which are the most beautiful. These are the seeds by which the several races of plants are propagated and continued, and which are always lodged in fowers or blossoms. Nature seems to hide her principal design, and to be industrious in making the earth gay and delightful, while she is carrying on her great work, and intent upon her own preservation. The husbandman, after the same manner, is employed in laying out the whole country into a kind of garden or landscape, and making every thing smile about him, whilst, in reality he thinks of nothing, but of the harvest and increase which is to arise from it.
We may further observe how Providence has taken rare to keep up this cheerfulness in the mind of man, by having formed it after such a manner, as to make it capable of conceiving delight from several objects which seem to have very little use in them ; as from the wildness of rocks and deserts, and the like grotesque parts of nature. Those who are versed in philosophy, may still carry this consideration higher, by observing, that if matter had appeared to us endowed only with those real qualities which it actually possesses, it would have made but a very joyless and uncomfortable figure ; and why has Providence given it a power of producing in us such imaginary qualities, as tastes and colors, sounds and smells, heat and cold, but that man, while he is conversant in the lower stations of nature, might have his mind cheered and delighted with agreeable sensations ? In short, the whole universe is a kind of theatre, filled with objects that either raise in us pleasure, amusement or admiration.
The readers owp thoughts will suggest to him the vicissitudes of day and night, the change of seasons, with all that variety of scenes which diversify the face of nature, and fill the mind with a perpetual succession of beautiful and pleasing images.
I shall not here mention the several entertainments of art, with the pleasures of friendship, books, conversation and other accidental diversions of life, because I would only take notice of such incitements to a cheerful tem. per, as offer themselves to persons of all ranks and conditions, and which may sufficiently shew us that Provi. dence did not design this world should be filled with murmurs and repinings, or that the heart of man should be involved in gloom and melancholy.
I the more inculcate this cheerfulness of temper, as it is a virtue in which our countrymen are observed to be more deficient than any other nation. Melancholy is a kind of demon that haunts our island, and often conveys herself to us in an easterly wind. A celebrated French novelist, in opposition to those who begin their roman. ces with the flowery seasons of the year, enters on his story thus: "In the gloomy month of November, when the people of England hang and drown themselves, a disconsolate lover walked out into the fields," &c.
Every one ought to fence against the temper of his climate or constitution, and frequently to indulge in himself those considerations which may give him a serenity of mind and enable him to bear up cheerfully, against those little evils and misfortunes, which are coinmon to human nature, and which, by right improvement. of them will produce a satiety of joy, and uninterrupted happiness.
At the same time that I would engage my reader toconsider the world in its most agreeable lights, I must own there are many evils which naturally spring up, amidst the entertainments that are provided for us; but these if rightly considered, should be far from overcast. ing the mind with sorrow, or destroying that cheerful. ness of temper which I have been recommending. This interspersion of evil with good, and pain with pleasure, in the works of nature, is very truly ascribed, by Mr. Locke, in his essay on human understanding, to a moral reason, in the following words :
“Beyond all this, we may find another reason why God hath scattered up and down several degrees of pleasure and pain, in all the things that environ and af,
fect us, and blended them together in almost all that our thoughts and senses have to do with ; that we, finding imperfection, dissatisfaction, and want of complete happiness in all the enjoyments which the creatures can af. ford us, might be led to seek it in the enjoyment of Him, with whom there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore."