Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

“You have violent passions implanted in you by Nature for the accomplishment of her purposes; but conclude not, as many have done to their ruin, that because they are violent, they are irresistible. The same Nature which gave you passions, gave you also reason, and a love of order. Religion, added to the light of Nature and the experience of mankind, has concurred in establishing it as an unquestionable truth, that the irregular or intemperate indulgence of the passions is always attended with pain, in some mode or other, which greatly exceeds its pleasure.

“Your passions will be easily restrained from enormous excess, if you really wish and honestly endeavor to restrain them. But the greater part of young men study to inflame their fury, and give them a degree of force which they possess not in a state of nature. They run into temptation, and desire not to be delivered from evil. They knowingly and willingly sacrifice to momentary gratifications the comfort of all which should sweeten the remainder of life. Begin, then, with most sincerely wishing to conquer those subtle and powerful enemies which you carry in your bosom. Pray for divine assistance. Avoid solitude the first moment a loose thought insinuates itself, and hasten to the company of those whom you respect. Converse not on subjects which lead to impure ideas. Have courage to decline reading immoral books, even when they fall into your hands." To his pupil, whom he instructs in this strain of affectionate

regard, he strongly recommends the importance of moral courage to with. stand the shafts of ridicule, with which the baser sort are wont to assail manly virtue. Thus he proceeds :

“ Have sense and resolution enough, therefore, to give up all pretensions to those titles, of a fine fellow, a rake, or whatever vulgar name the temporary cant of the vicious bestows on the distinguished libertine. Preserve your principles, and be steady in your conduct. And though your exemplary behaviour may bring upon you the insulting and ironical appellation of à saint, a Puritan, or even a Methodist, persevere in rectitude. It will be in your power soon not indeed to insult, but to pity. Have spirit, and display it. But let it be that sort of spirit which urges you to proceed in the path in which you were placed by the faithful guide of your infancy. Exhibit a noble superiority in daring to disregard the artful and malicious reproaches of the vain and vicious, who labor to make you a convert to folly, in order to keep them in countenance. They will laugh at first, but esteem you in their hearts even while they laugh, and in the end revere your virtue.

“Let that generous courage which conscious rectitude inspires, enable you to despise and neglect the assaults of ridicule. When all other modes of attack have failed, ridicule has succeeded. The bulwark of virtue, which stood firmly against the weapons of argument, has tottered on its basis, or fallen to the ground, touched by the wand of magic ridicule. In the school, in the college, in the world at large, it is the powerful engine which is used to level an exalted character. You will infallibly be attacked with it, if you are in any respects singular; and singular in many respects you must be, if you are eminently virtuous."

To this succeeds an earnest recommendation of the love of truthof the importance of cherishing a decided and habitual abhorrence of prevarication, or the appearance of dissembling, under all circumstances, or for any cause. Take his own words :

“Love truth, and dare to speak it at all events. The man of the world will tell you, you must dissemble ; and so you must, if your objects and pursuits are, like his, mean and selfish. But your purposes are generous; and your methods of obtaining them are therefore undisguised. You mean well. Avow your meaning, if honor requires the avowal, and fear nothing. You will, indeed, do right to wish to please ; but you will be anxious to please the

morose.

worthy only, and none but worthy actions will effect that

purpose. With respect to that art of pleasing which requires the sacrifice of your sincerity, despise it, as the base quality of flatterers, sycophants, cheats, and scoundrels, An habitual liar, besides that he will be known and marked with infamy, must possess a poor and pusillanimous heart; for lying originates in cowardice. It originates also in fraud; and a liar, whatever may be his station, would certainly, if he were sure of secrecy, be a thief. Sorry am I to say, that this habit is very common in the world, even among those who make a figure in the realms of dissipation ; those whose honor would compel them to stab you to the heart, if you were to tell them plainly the mortifying truth, that you convict them of a lie.”

The following paragraphs, which show how much stress the writer lays upon the Christian virtues in the accomplishments necessary to constitute a true gentleman, close this interesting address : “With all your good qualities unite the humility of a Christian. Be not

Be cautious of overvaluing yourself. Make allowances for the vices and errors which you will daily see. Remember that all have not had the benefit of moral instruction; that a great part of mankind are in effect orphans turned loose into the wide world, without one faithful friend to give them advice ; left to find their own way in a dark and rugged wilderness, with snares, and quicksands, and chasms around them. Be candid, therefore, and, among all the improvements of education and refinements of manners, let the beautiful Christian graces of meekness and benevolence shine most conspicuous. Relieve distress, prevent mischief, and do good, wherever you can; but be neither ostentatious nor censorious.

“ Be cheerful, and gratefully enjoy the good which Providence has bestowed upon you. But be moderate. Moderation is the law of enjoyment. All beyond is nominal pleasure and real pain.

" I will not multiply my precepts. Choose good books, and follow their direction. Adopt religious, virtuous, manly principles. Fix them deeply in your bosom, and let them go with you unloosened and unaltered to the grave.

“ If you follow such advice as, from the pure motive of serving you most essentially, I have given you, I will not, indeed, promise that you shall not be unfortunate, according to the common idea of the word ; but I will confidently assure you that you shall not be unhappy. I will not promise you worldly success, but I will engage that you shall deserve it, and shall know how to bear its absence."

What an immense amount of benefit would a young man derive, by & strict observance of these few maxims and precepts from the commencement. And what a salutary influence would one exert upon society, who had made these precepts the foundation of his character, and practiced on them through life.

The extracts above are from the first chapter or essay. The next is “On the Importance of a Good Character.” This the author shows to be of the highest value, if viewed in no other light than as a matter of interest. If so, how much is its importance enhanced, when we add the moral and religious influence it enables one to exert.

In the third essay, the author offers a variety of important “ Hints to those who are designed for a Mercantile Life,” in which he treats on the folly of parents making choice of a profession for their children, to which they are induced by incidental and frivolous considerations. After briefly descanting upon the whims and errors of parents in this respect, and ridiculing the too commonly received idea, that, because a boy admires a soldier's or a sailor's habit, he gives certain indica. tions of excelling in the profession or employment for which he thus shows early predilection; he proceeds to lay down a series of maxims, or rules of action, by which persons who intend to lead a mercantile life should be governed. And here we are at a loss which most to admire, the affectionate feelings which the author exhibits in his style of address, or the intrinsic merits of the advice he gives. With the solicitude of a parent, he proceeds to urge as essential to hono. rable distinction in this extensive branch of human employments, a strict attention to one's particular business; to admonish against the fear of ridicule as a spiritless plodder, and against inactivity ; to recommend the cultivation of a taste for good books; and to remon. strate against entertaining the affectation of shining as a fine gentle. man and a man of pleasure. An important item in this train of reflections, and one which especially commends itself to the consider. ation of young gentlemen, for whose special benefit the work is designed, is the paragraph on the mode of spending the Sabbath by many clerks and apprentices. He says,

“I consider the manner in which a Sunday is spent in a great city, by the young men who are trained to trade and merchandise, as a matter of the highest consequence to their happiness. The master and mistress of the family are then usually at their country-house, or engaged in some rural excursion. There is no restraint, and no amusement at home. The apprentice or clerk is glad to make use of his liberty, and to fly from the solitude of a deserted house. Parties of pleasure are formed ; improper and even vicious connections made ; and the poor young man often dates his greatest misfortunes from that day, the institution of which was designed to increase the virtue and happiness of mankind. Sunday affords a fine opportunity for indulging an inclination for reading; and I have no doubt, but that in few hours spent in this decent and profitable manner, there would be more pleasure than in galloping about the country, or driving a curricle to some place of amusement."

True indeed it is, too true, that young men in our large cities date from their Sabbath-day excursions their greatest misfortunes—often the loss of reputation, and connected with this, as a consequence, a blasting of their own expectations, and of the hopes of their friends. Vice may at first be abhorrent; but let one give way to temptation, and he w soon find it easy to embrace the very vices which at first struck him with almost insupportable horror.

“ Vice is a monster of such frightful mien
As, to be hated, needs but to be seen;
Yet, seen too oft, familiar with her face,

We first endure, then pity, then embrace.” Look for the good, the wealthy, the influential among our commercial citizens; you will find them, not among those who, in early life, spent their time and money in going the round of pleasure, but among those who were firm to resist temptations of this kind.

We cannot do the justice to the work before us that we would wish, without protracting our remarks to an unwarrantable extent. Of this the reader will be satisfied, when he is informed that all the subjects named in the following table of contents are sufficiently amplified, and the principles they involve illustrated and enforced, to the extent

ܪ

which is necessary for practical and popular effect, in a small volume of 288 pages. The author has indeed a most happy faculty of con. densing; so much so, that a line of superfluous matter can scarcely be found. He writes briefly, but pointedly, urging his advice and admonitions on the attention of young men by the most earnest appeals to their sense of the moral duty they owe not only them. selves, but mankind generally; and in all his precepts he does not fail to place foremost the obligation they owe to the Almighty Giver of good-their God and Saviour. Besides those named already, the following are the subjects of which Mr. B. treats, viz:

“Supporting the Dignity of the Commercial Character. The Selfishness of Men of the World. The Value of an Honest Man. A Short System of Virtue and Happiness. The Influence of Fashion. The Peculiar Propriety of exciting Personal Merit and Manly Virtue in a time of Public Distress and Difficulty. The Propriety of adorning Life, and serving Society, by Laudable Exertion. Religious and Moral Principles not only consistent with, but promotive of, True Politeness and the Art of Pleasing. The Fear of appear. ing singular. That kind of Wisdom which consists in Accommodation and Compliance, without any Principles but those of Selfishness. The Influence of Politics, as a Subject of Conversation, on the state of Literature. The Peculiar Danger of falling into Indolence in a Literary and Retired Life. The Beauty and Happiness of an Open Behavior and an Ingenuous Disposition. A Life of Literary Pursuits usually a Life of Comparative Innocence. The Folly of sacrificing Comfort to Taste. The Superior Value of Solid Accomplishments. The Guilt of incurring Debts without either a Prospect or an Intention of Payment. The Folly of being anxiously curious to inquire what is said of us in our Absence. Affectation of the Vices and Follies of Men of Eminence. The Means of rendering Old Age honorable and comfortable. The Necessity of Temperance to the Health of the Mind. The Vanity and Folly of departing from our proper Sphere to become Authors and Orators, without previous and sufficient Preparation. Forming Connections without Friendship. Forming a Taste for Simple Pleasures. A Cultivaled Mind necessary to render Retirement agreeable. An excessive and indiscriminate Love of Company, and an Abhorrence of occasional Solitude. The Pleasures of a Garden. The Pleasures of Reflection. Taste for the Cultivation of Flowers, and of beautiful Shrubs and Trees. Happiness of Domestic Life.”

In all these the Christian graces are held out as the most fitting adornments to the character of a true gentleman. So uniformly excellent is the writer on all these topics, that one scarcely knows how to make selections for a brief review of his work, much less to present the substance of any thought he advances in a more con. densed form than that in which he has expressed it. We will furnish one or two more extracts, as specimens of the style and pervading spirit of the production, and leave the reader to become better ac. quainted with it, by procuring, and reading it himself.

We could not help being struck with the truth and justness of the remarks on the universal selfishness of gentlemen, educated in the Chesterfieldian school. After describing some of the most prominent features of their outward character, and clearly deducing the natural consequences of the maxims which they adopt for the regulation of their conduct, the writer says,

“But I cannot help thinking, that however they are admired, and whatever success they may obtain, they are both despicable and unhappy. By servilely Vol. X.Jan., 1889.

12

cringing to all, and especially to the great, without in the least attending to personal deserts and characters, they render themselves, in effect, absolute slaves, and their minds soon contract all the meanness and cowardice of slavery. Such meanness is certainly contemptible ; nor can I conceive that such slavery, with any fortune or connections whatever, can by any means be capable of manly enjoyment. Liberty, independence, and a consciousness of having acted uprightly, will render a state of indigence sweet, and the want of them must embitter the envied blessings of rank and opulence. Providence has, indeed, so ordered it, for the sake of promoting the important ends of society, that they who live to self-interest and self-love, exclusively of all social regards, should be disappointed in their purposes. Immoderate selfishness, like all other greedy dispositions, sacrifices the present for that future enjoyment which never comes to mortal man. But the selfishness of the mere man of the world has this aggravation, that it leads to the neglect of some of the most amiable virtues, and sometimes to the commission of crimes of the blackest dye. So that the character I have delineated is incompatible with a good conscience; and without a good conscience what a phantom is all human bliss! After all the triumphs of worldly wisdom, and the contempt in which simplicity is held, I am convinced, that it is far better to be the deceived than the deceivers.

“At the same time, it is certainly right to warn young men of the deceits of the world, and teach them not rashly to believe those characters the most excellent which appear the most specious and plausible. I would briefly advise them, whenever they see a man remarkably studious of external appearances, devoted to the graces of dress and address, pretending great friendship and regard for persons he never saw before, promising liberally, perpetually smiling, and always agreeable-to beware of counterfeits, for such are abroad."

Certainly, this picture, drawn by the hand of a master, is little to the credit of gentlemen of this class. But is it caricature-is it not drawn to the life?

One of the most useful portions of this little work,—and which it will be well for every young gentleman, setting out in the world, to commit to memory, and adopt for himself—is the “Short System of Virtue and Happiness.” On this subject the writer says,

"I will suppose a virtuous young man forming in his mind the principles of his future conduct, and uttering the result of his reflections in the following soliloquy :

“At the age when I am approaching to maturity of reason, I perceive myself placed in a world abounding with external objects ; and I also perceive within me faculties and passions, formed to be powerfully excited and affected by them. I am naturally tempted to interrogate myself—What am I ?Whence came I?—And whither am I going ?'”

He represents the young man, of whom he is speaking, as taking counsel of those who have obtained a reputation for wisdom, in satisfying himself as to these important queries ; and on the result of his inquiries forming his plan of life, to guide and govern his conduct. He divides his duties into three parts ;—the obligations which he owes to himself; those which he owes to others; and those which he owes to his Creator. On the latter division he remarks :

“With respect to my duty to my Creator, I derive an argument in favor of religion from the feelings of my own bosom, superior to the most elaborate subtleties of human ingenuity. In the hour of distress, my heart as naturally flies for succor to the Deity, as, when hungry and thirsty, I seek food and water, or, when weary, repoge. In religion I look for comfort, and in relia

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »