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EPHES. V. 15, 16.
See that ye walk circumfpectly, not as fools, but as wife, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
THAT HAT focial life has a particular value, that it is good and defirable, is a matter whereof no one doubts; of this, my pious hearers, our own experience affures us. But how it is to be ordered, what we are to observe, and what avoid in it, if we desire it to be of great value: and what peculiarly gives it this value, are questions we do not often enough confider, though the folution of them is of the utmost importance in the use and enjoyment of it. The first of these questions I have answered in my preceding difcourfe. We thence faw what good qualities, what virtues, we are to bring with us into social life, and there employ, and at the fame time what faults we should avoid, if we defire it to afford us real pleafure and folid advantage. It muft be, namely, honefty and opennefs of heart, but not rudeness; generous freedom, but not licentioufnefs and arrogances polite, elegant, engaging manners, but not foppishnefs or formal and constrained behaviour; it must be benevolence and philanthropy, but not coldness and jealousy, not flattery, not artificial fenfibility; it must
be rational and difcreet affability, but not babbling and loquacity; innocent mirth, but not petulance and diffolute merriment; that must prevail in focial life, if it be to procure us pleasures no lefs diverfified than pure, advantages no lefs durable than folid.
The questions that ftill remain to be answered are, What confers this value on focial life? Wherein does it confift? What is the utility, what are the pleafures it procures us? To reply expressly to these queftions is the object of my prefent difcourfe. Happy he who fhall learn from it more juftly to prize, and more circumfpectly to use, the value of the riches it poffeffes, the means of improvement and happiness it offers!
Social life is, first, the most natural and the most abundant fource of the knowledge of mankind. And, without the knowledge of characters, we can neither be so useful to our brethren nor they to us, as our duty and our common intereft require. The fage, who in the filence of retirement reflects upon mankind, and at the fame time narrowly obferves himself, may certainly make great progrefs in the knowledge of human nature: he may make acute and just remarks on the capacities and powers of the human mind, on the process and connection of its ideas, on its present and future destination, on human paffions, prejudices, virtues and vices; he may investigate the motives of human actions, and weigh the intrinfic value of their fentiments and actions. But it is only in intercourse with them, it is only in focial life, that he
he will learn to apply the principles and rules by which he judges of mankind, to a thousand particu-lar perfons and occurrences, and put their precifion to the proof: There will he first learn to judge of the infinite variety of human minds, the difference of manners, of human difpofitions and tempers. There he perceives every feature of human nature multiplied and diversified a thousand ways, fees every faculty of the human mind as differently exerted; every human propensity and passion fhew itself under the most variegated and diffimilar afpects, and produce as manifold and different effects. There will he find combinations and mixtures of ftrength and weakness, of wisdom and folly, of good and bad qua lities, of virtues and failings, which, remote from the actual world, he would fcarcely have thought poffible. And how much muft not this extend and rectify his knowledge of mankind! How many phanomena in the moral world will it not elucidate, how many mysteries unravel, which were inexplicable to him, and which by mere meditation he could never have folved!
In fociety we learn, not only to know mankind in general, but in particular thofe perfons among whom we live, and with whom we are obliged to afsociate, our acquaintance, our fellow-citizens, our friends, every person with whom we are connected by business, by office and employment, and by ordinary affairs. There, on numberlefs occafions, their principles, their prejudices, their errors, their i VOL. II.
propenfities, their paffions, their found and their weak fide, difcover themselves to us by degrees. There we learn to know the measure of their mental faculties, the fphere of their comprehenfion, their way of acting, the proportions of their ftrength or their weakness, the avenues to their heart, and the influence which certain perfons or things have on them. There we may confequently learn, how far we may reckon upon them, or whether reckon upon them at all, truft ourselves to them or not, what we have and what we have not to expect from them.
And how useful, how neceffary to us is this knowledge, if we would neither deal unjustly by ourselves or others, require neither too much nor too little of any, injure none by ungrounded diftruft, nor by too much confidence tempt or perplex them, if we would -profecute our affairs with prudence and fuccefs, difcharge our duty towards every man by the fittest means, make ufe of others to promote our defigns, and in return contribute our means to the advancement of theirs, afford others the most useful fervices, and obtain fimilar fervices from them! From how many mistakes and errors fhould we not be faved by fuch a knowledge of mankind! How much more fpeedily and fecurely, in numberlefs cafes, fhould we not gain our ends! How much more certainly know where to be firm, and where to yield; when we fhould go ftrait forward, and where reach our aim by a circuitous way; what maxims we should here use, and what there, for producing the best ef
fects; how take in hand fuch a cafe, how manage fuch a business, how deal with fuch a perfon, how behave in fuch an occurrence! With how much greater eafe and fafety discharge our duty on one hand, and on the other promote our own lawful and honest designs! How much more good be able to perform, and how much more to enjoy! And must not then the focial life that enables us to acquire this knowledge of mankind be of great value to us? Yes, certainly great is its value! For, at the fame time that it improves us in the knowledge of mankind, it in the second place fupplies us with the most excellent means of exercifing our mental faculties, of enlarging the sphere of our views, of rectifying and bringing into action the knowledge we have already acquired, and of increasing it with new discoveries. If we wish to impart our fentiments on any fubject to others, in a manner fatisfactory to them: then we must reprefent the cafe at the fame time in a more perfpicuous method to ourselves, and more precifely difcriminate our conceptions of it, and weigh them apart, than we commonly do when we reflect upon them only for ourfelves. If we would hearken to others with intelligence, perfectly understand them, and apprehend their opinion or their judgment on any fubject with full conviction, or oppose them with folid arguments: then must we more strenuously exert our attention, and more strictly investigate the matter, than if we were to determine upon it merely for ourselves by the fuggeftions of fenfations