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empty speculation, as such pleasures have their origin in vanity, luxury, or avarice, we are too good to pursue them. « All this may be right,» says Asem; « but methinks I observe a solitary disposition prevail among the people; each family keeps separately within their own precincts, without society, or without intercourse.» « That indeed is true,» replied the other ; « here is no established society; nor should there be any; all societies are made either through fear or friendship: the people we are among are too good to fear each other; and there are no motives to private friendship, where all are equally meritorious.» « Well, then,» said the sceptic, « as I am to spend my time here, if I am to have neither the polite arts, nor wisdom, nor friendship, in such a world, I should be glad at least of an easy companion, who may tell me his thoughts, and to whom I may communicate mine.» « And to what purpose should either do this?» says the Genius : « flattery or curiosity are vicious motives, and never allowed of here; and wisdom is out of the question.»
Still, however,» said Asem, « the inhabitants must be happy; each is contented with his own possessions, nor avariciously endeavours to heap up more than is necessary for his own subsistence ; each has therefore leisure for pitying those that stand in need of his compassion. » He had scarcely spoken when his ears were assaulted with the lamentations of a wretch who sat by the way-side, and, in the most deplorable distress, seemed gently to murmur at his own misery. Asem immediately ran to his relief, and found him in the last stage of a consumption. « Strange,” 'cried the son of Adam, « that men who are free from vice should thus suffer so much misery without relief!» « Be not surprised,» said the wretch who was dying: « would it not be the utmost injustice for beings, who have only just
sufficient to support themselves, and are content with a bare subsistence, to take it from their own mouths to put it into mine? They never are possessed of a single meal more than is necessary; and what is barely necessary cannot be dispensed with.» « They should have been supplied with more than is necessary,» cried Asem; «and yet I contradict my own opinion but a 'moment before ;-all is doubt, perplexity, and confusion. Even the want of ingratitude is no virtue here, since they never received a favour. They have, however, another excellence yet behind; the love of their country is still I hope one of their darling virtues.» « Peace, Asem,» replied the Guardian, with a countenance not less severe than beautiful, forfeit all thy pretensions to wisdom: the same selfish motives by which we prefer our own interest to that of others, induce us to regard our country preferably to that of another. Nothing less than universal benevolence is free from vice, and that you see is practised here.» «Strange! » cries the disappointed pilgrim, in an agony of distress; « what sort of a world am I now introduced to? There is scarcely a single virtue, but that of temperance, which they practise; and in that they are no way superiour to the very brute creation. There is scarcely an amusement which they enjoy; fortitude, liberality, friendship, wisdom, conversation, and love of country, all are virtues entirely unknown here: thus it seems that to be acquainted with vice is not to know virtue. Take me, O my Genius, back to that very world which I have despised : a world which has Alla for its contriver is much more wisely formed than that which has been projected by Mahomet. Ingratitude, contempt, and hatred, I can now suffer, for perhaps I have deserved them. When I arraigned the wisdom of Providence, 1 only showed my own ignorance : henceforth let me keep from vice myself, and pity it in others. »
He had scarcely ended, when the Genius, assuming an air of terrible complacency, called all his thunders around him, and vanished in a whirlwind. Asem, astonished at the terror of the scene, looked for his imaginary world; when, casting his eyes around, he perceived himself in the very situation, and in the very place, where he first began to repine and despair; his right foot had been just advanced to take the fatal plunge, nor had it been yet withdrawn; so instantly did Providence strike the series of truths just imprinted on his soul. He now departed from the water-side in tranquillity, and leaving his horrid mansion, travelled to Segestan, his native city; where he diligently applied himself to commerce, and put in practice that wisdom he had learned in solitude. The frugality of a few years soon produced opulence; the number of his domestics increased ; his friends came to him from every part of the city; nor did he receive them with disdain : and a youth of misery was concluded with an old age of elegance, affluence, and ease.
It is allowed on all hands, that our English divines receive a more liberal education, and improve that education by frequent study, more than any others of this reverend profession in Europe. In general also it may be observed, that a greater degree of gentility is affixed to the character of a student in England than elsewhere; by which means our clergy have an opportunity of seeing better company while
young, and of sooner wearing off those prejudices which they are apt to imbibe even in the best regulated universities, and which may be justly termed the vulgar errors of the wise.
Yet, with all these advantages, it is very obvious, that the clergy are no where so little thought of by the populace as here: and though our divines are foremost with respect to abilities, yet they are found last in the effects of their ministry; the vulgar in general appearing no way impressed with a sense of religious duty. I am not for whining at the depravity of the times, or for endeavouring to paint a prospect more gloomy than in nature; but certain it is, no person who has travelled will contradict me when I aver, that the lower orders of mankind, in other countries, testify on every occasion the profoundest awe of religion ; while in England they are scarcely awakened into a sense of its duties, even in circumstances of the greatest distress.
This dissolute and fearless conduct, foreigners are apt to attribute to climate and constitution : may not the vulgar, being pretty much neglected in our exhortations from the pulpit, be a conspiring cause? Our divines seldom stoop to their mean capacities; and they who want instruction most, find least in our religious assemblies. Whatever
may become of the higher orders of mankind, who are generally possessed of collateral motives to virtue, the vulgar should be particularly regarded, whose behaviour in civil life is totally hinged upon their hopes and fears. Those who constitute the basis of the great fabric of society should be particularly regarded; for in policy, as in architecture, ruin is most fatal when it begins from the bottom.
Men of real sense and understanding prefer a prudent mediocrity to a precarious popularity; and, fearing to outdo their duty, leave it half done. Their discourses from the pulpit are generally dry, methodical, and unaffecting; delivered with the most insipid calmness ; insomuch, that should the peaceful preacher lift his head over the cushion, which alone he seems to address, he might discover his audience, instead of being awakened to remorse, actually sleeping over his methodical and laboured composition.
This method of preaching is, however, by some called an address to reason, and not to the passions ; this is styled the making of converts from conviction : but such are indifferently acquainted with human nature, who are not sensible, that men seldom reason about their debaucheries - till they are committed ; reason is but a weak antagonist when headlong passion dictates ; in all such cases we should arm one passion against another: it is with the human mind as in nature, from the mixture of two opposites the result is most frequently neutral tranquillity. Those who attempt to reason us out of our follies begin at the wrong end, since the attempt naturally presupposes us capable of reason; but to be made capable of this, is one great point of the cure.
There are but few talents requisite to become a popular preacher, for the people are easily pleased if they perceive any endeavours in the orator to please them; the meanest qualifications will work this effect, if the preacher sincerely sets about it. Perhaps little, indeed very little, more is required than sincerity and assurance; and a becoming sincerity is always certain of producing a becoming as
« Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum tibi ipsi,» is so trite a quotation, that it almost demands an apology to