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If my reader will give me leave to change the allusion so soon upon him, I shall make use of the same instance to illustrate the force of education, which Aristotle has brought to explain his doctrine of substantial forms, when he tells us that a statue lies hid in a block of marble; and that the art of statuary only clears away the superfluous matter, and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone, and the sculptor only finds it.
What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero, the wise, the good, or the great man, very often lies hid and concealed in a plebian, which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light. I am therefore much delighted with reading the accounts of savage nations; and with contemplating those virtues which are wild and uncultivated; to see courage exerting itself in fierceness, resolution in obstinacy, wisdom in cunning, patience in sullenness and despair.
Men's passions operate variously, and appear in different kinds of actions, according as they are more or less rectified and swayed by reason. When one hears of negroes, who, upon the death of their masters, or upon changing their service, hang themselves upon the next tree, as it sometimes happens in our American plantations, who can forbear admiring their fidelity, though it expresses itself in so dreadful a manner ?
What might not that savage greatness of soul, which appears in these poor wretches on many occasions, be raised to were it rightly cultivated ? And what colour of excuse can there be, for the contempt with which we treat this part of our species; that we should not
put them upon the common footing of humanity; that we should only set an insignificant fine upon the man who murders them; nay, that we should, as much as in us lies, cut them off from the prospects of happiness in another world, as well as in this; and deny them that which we look upon as the proper means for altaining it?
It is therefore an unspeakable blessing, to be born in those parts of the world where wisdom and knowledge flourish; though, it must be confessed, there are, even in these parts, several poor uninstructed persons, who are but little above the inhabitants of those nations of which I have been here speaking; as those who have had the advantages of a more liberal education, rise above one another by several different degrees of perfection.
For to return to our statue in the block of marble, we see it sometimes only begun to be chipped, sometimes rough hewn, and but just sketched into a human figure; sometimes we see the man appearing distinctly in all his limbs and features; sometimes we find the figure wrought up to a great elegancy; but seldom ineet with any to which the hand of a Phidias or a Praxiteles could not give several nice touches and finishings.
There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind, than gratitude. It is accompanied with so great inward satisfaction, that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance. It is not like the practice of
many other virtues, difficult and painful, but attended with so much pleasure, that were there no positive command which enjoined it, nor any recompense laid up for it hereafter, a generous mind would indulge in it for the natural gratification which it affords.
If gratitude is due from man to man, how much more from man to his Maker? The Supreme Being does not only confer upon us those bounties which proceed more immediately from his hand, but even those benefits which are conveyed to us by others. Every blessing we enjoy, by what means soever it may be conferred upon us, is the gift of him who is the great Author of good, and the Father of mercies.
If gratitude, when exerted towards one another, naturally produces a very pleasing sensation in the mind of a grateful man, it exalts the soul into rapture, when it is employed on this great object of gratitude ; on this beneficent Being, who has given us everything we already possess, and from whom we expect everything we yet hope for.
Contentment produces, in some measure, all those effects which the alchymist usually ascribes to what he calls the philosopher's stone; and if it does not bring riches, it does the same thing, by banishing the desire of them. If it cannot remove the disquietudes arising from a man's mind, body or fortune, it makes him easy under them. It has indeed a kindly influence on the soul of man, in respect of every being to whom he stands related.
It extinguishes all murmur, repining, and ingratitude towards that Being who has allotted him his part to act in this world. It destroys all inordinate ambition, and every tendency to corruption, with regard to the community wherein he is placed. It gives sweetness to his conversation, and a perpetual serenity to all his thoughts.
Among the many methods which might be made use of for acquiring this virtue, I shall mention only the two following. First of all, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants; and secondly, how much more unhappy he might be than he really is.
First, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants. I am wonderfully pleased with the reply which Aristippus made to one, who condoled with him upon the loss of a farm : “Why," said he, “ I have three farms still, and you have but one; so that I ought rather to be afflicted for you, than you
for me.” On the contrary, foolish men are more apt to consider what they have lost, than what they possess; and to fix their eyes upon those who are richer than themselves, rather than those who are under greater difficulties. All the real pleasures and conveniences of life lie in a narrow compass ; but it is the humour of mankind to be always looking forward, and straining after one who has got the start of them in wealth and honour.
For this reason, as none can be properly called rich, who have not more than they want, there are few rich men in any of the politer nations, but among the middle sort of people who keep their wishes within
their fortunes, and have more wealth than they know how to enjoy.
Persons of a higher rank, live in a kind of splendid poverty; and are perpetually wanting, because, instead of acquiescing in the solid pleasures of life, they endeavour to outvie one another in shadows and appearances. Men of sense have at all times beheld, with a great deal of mirth, this silly game that is playing over their head; and, by contracting their desires, they enjoy all that secret satisfaction which others are always in quest of.
The truth is, this ridiculous chase after imaginary pleasures cannot be sufficiently exposed, as it is the great source of those evils which generally undo a nation. Let a man's estate be what it may, he is a poor man if he does not live within it: and naturally sets himself to sale to any one that can give him his price.
When Pittacus, after the death of his brother, who left him a good estate, was offered a great suin of money by the king of Lydia, he thanked him for his kindness; but told him, he had already more by half than he knew what to do with. In short, content is equivalent to wealth, and luxury to poverty; or, to give the thought a more agreeable turn, “ Content is natural wealth,” says Socrates ; to which I shall add, luxury is artificial poverty.
I shall therefore recommend to the consideration of those who are always aiming at superfluous and imaginary enjoyments, and who will not be at the trouble of contracting their desires, an excellent saying of Bion, the philosopher, namely, “ That no man has so