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sophisms tending to the confusion of all principles, and the evacuation of all duties, that they may not appear to act what they are not able to defend.
Let every man, who finds vanity so far predominant, as to betray him to the danger of this last degree of corruption, pause a moment to consider what will be the consequences of the plea which he is about to offer for a practice to which he knows himself not led at first by reason, but impelled by the violence of desire, surprised by the suddenness of passion, or seduced by the soft approaches of temptation, and by imperceptible gradations of guilt. Let him consider what he is going to commit, by forcing his understanding to patro. nise those appetites, which it is its chief business to hinder and reform.
The cause of virtue requires so little art to defend it, and good and evil, when they have been once shown, are so easily distinguished, that such apologists sel dom gain proselytes to their party, nor have their fallacies power to deceive any but those whose desires have clouded their discernment. All that the best faculties thus employed can perform is, to persuade the hearers that the man is hopeless whom they only thought vicious, that corruption has passed from his manners to his principles, that all endeavors for his recovery are without prospect of success, and that no thing remains but to avoid him as infectious, or hunt him down as destructive.
But if it be supposed that he may impose on his audience by partial representations of consequences, intricate deductions of remote causes, or perplexed com. binations of ideas, which having various relations, ap+ pear different as viewed on different sides; that he may sometimes puzzle the weak and well meaning, and now and then seduce, by the admiration of his abilities,
a young mind still fluctuating in unsettled notions, and neither fortified by instruction, nor enlightened by experience; yet what must be the event of such a triumph! A man cannot spend all his life in frolic: age or disease, or solitude, will bring some hours of serious consideration, and it will then afford no comfort to think, that he has extended the dominion of vice, that he has loaded himself with the crimes of others, and can never know the extent of his own wickedness, or make reparation for the mischief that he has caused. There is not, perhaps, in all the stores of ideal anguish, a thought more painful, than the consciousness of having propagated corruption by vitiating princi ples, of having not only drawn others from the paths of virtue, but blocked up the way by which they should return, of having blinded them to every beauty but the paint of pleasure, and deafened them to every call but the alluring voice of the syrens of destruction.
There is yet another danger in this practice: men who cannot deceive others, are very often successful in deceiving themselves; they weave their sophistry till their own reason is entangled, and repeat their positions till they are credited by themselves; by often contending, they grow sincere in the cause; and by long wishing for demonstrative arguments, they at last bring themselves to fancy that they have found them. They are then at the uttermost verge of wickedness, and may die without having that light rekindled in their minds, which their own pride and contumacy have extinguished.
The men who can be charged with fewest failings, either with respect to abilities or virtue, are generally most ready to allow them; for, not to dwell on things of solemn and awful consideration, the humility of confessors, the tears of saints, and the dying terrors of
persons eminent for piety and innocence, it is well known that Cæsar wrote an account of the errors committed by him in his wars of Gaul, and that Hippocrates, whose name is perhaps in rational estimation greater than Cæsar's, warned posterity against a mistake into which he had fallen. So much, says Celsus,
does the open and artless confession of an error become a man, conscious that he had enough remaining to support his character.
As all error is meanness, it is encumbent on every man who consults his own dignity, to retract it as soon as he discovers it, without fearing any censure so much as that of his own mind. As justice requires that all injuries should be repaired, it is the duty of him who has seduced others by bad practices or false notions, to endeavor that such as have adopted his errors should know his retraction, and that those who have learned vice by his example, should by his example be taught amendment.
No. 32. SATURDAY, JULY 7, 1750.
Οσσά τε δαιμονίησι τύχαις βροτοὶ ἀλγὲ ἔχεσιν,
Of all the woes that load the mortal state,
So large a part of human life passes in a state con
trary to our natural desires, that one of the principal topics of moral instruction is the art of bearing calamities. And such is the certainty of evil, that it is the duty of every man to furnish his mind with those prin
ciples that may enable him to act under it with decency and propriety.
The sect of ancient philosophers, that boasted to have carried this necessary science to the highest perfection, were the stoics, or scholars of Zeno, whose wild enthusiastic virtue pretended to an exemption from the sensibilities of unenlightened mortals, and who proclaimed themselves exalted, by the doctrines of their sect, above the reach of those miseries which embitter life to the rest of the world. They therefore removed pain, poverty, loss of friends, exile, and violent death, from the catalogue of evils; and passed, in their haughty style, a kind of irreversible decree, by which they forbade them to be counted any longer among the objects of terror or anxiety, or to give any disturbance to the tranquillity of a wise man.
This edict was, I think, not universally observed; for though one of the more resolute, when he was tortured by a violent disease, cried out, that let pain harass him to its utmost power, it should never force him to consider it as other than indifferent and neutral; yet all had not stubbornness to hold out against their senses: for a weaker pupil of Zeno is recorded to have confessed in the anguish of the gout, that he now found pain to be an evil.
It may however be questioned, whether these philosophers can be very properly numbered among the teachers of patience; for if pain be not an evil, there seems no instruction requisite how it may be borne; and therefore, when they endeavor to arm their followers with arguments against it, they may be thought to have given up their first position. But such inconsistencies are to be expected from the greatest underStandings, when they endeavor to grow eminent by
singularity, and employ their strength in establishing opinions opposite to nature.
The controversy about the reality of external evils is now at an end. That life has many miseries, and that those miseries are, sometimes at least, equal to all the powers of fortitude, is now universally confessed; and therefore it is useful to consider not only how we may escape them, but by what means those which either the accidents of affairs, or the infirmities of nature, must bring upon us, may be mitigated and lightened, and how we may make those hours less wretched, which the condition of our present existence will not allow to be very happy.
The cure for the greatest part of human miseries is not radical, but palliative. Infelicity is involved in corporeal nature, and interwoven with our being; all attempts therefore to decline it wholly are useless and vain : The armies of pain send their arrows against us on every side, the choice is only between those which are more or less sharp, or tinged with poison of greater or less malignity; and the strongest armor which reason can supply, will only blunt their points but cannot repel them.
The great remedy which heaven has put in our hands is patience, by which, though we cannot lessen the torments of the body, we can in a great measure preserve the peace of the mind, and shall suffer only the natural and genuine force of an evil, without heightening its acrimony, or prolonging its effects.
There is indeed nothing more unsuitable to the nature of man in any calamity than rage and turbulence, which, without examining whether they are not sometimes impious, are at least always offensive, and incline others rather to hate and despise than to pity and