« PreviousContinue »
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
10. Cease then, nor order imperfection name;
Of the Nature and State of Man with respect
to Himself as an Individual.
ARGUMENT. 1. The business of man not to pry into God, but to study
himself. His middle nature ; his powers and frailties.The limits of his capacity.--2. The two principles of man, self-love, and reason, both necessary.--Self love the stronger, and why.---Their end the same.-3. The passions, and their use.---The predominant passion, and its force.--Its necessity, in directing men to different purposes.-Its providential use, in fixing our principle, and ascertaining ou virtue.--4. Virtue and vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate and evident . what is the office of Reason.-5. How odious vice in itself, and how we deceive ourselves into it.--6. That, however, the ends of Providence and general good are answered in our passions and imperfections.---How usefully these are distributed to all orders of men: how useful they are to society; and to the
individuals, in every state, and every age, of life. 1. - K NOW then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides;
Superior beings, when of late they saw
Could He, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Trace science then, with modesty thy guide:
2. Two principles in human nature reign, Self-love to urge, and reason to restrain ;
Nor this a good, nor that a bad we call,
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul;
Most strength the moving principle requires ; Active its task, it prompts, impels, inspires. Sedate and quiet the comparing lies, Form'd but to check, deliberate, and advise. Self-love, still stronger, as its object's nigh, Reasons at distance, and in prospect lie: That sees immediate good by present sense ; Reason the future and the consequence. Thicker than arguments temptations throng; At best more watchful this, but that more strong. The action of the stronger to suspend, Reason still use, to reason still attend. Attention habit and experience gains ; Each strengthens reason, and self-love restrains. Let suhtle schoolmen teach these friends to fight, More studious to divide than to unite ; And grace and virtue, sense and reason split, With all the rash dexterity of wit. Wits, just like fools, at war about a name, Have full as oft no meaning, or the same. Self-love and reason to one end aspire, Pain their aversion, pleasure their desire; But greedy that, its object would devour; This taste the honey, and uot wound the flow'r : Pleasure, or wrong or rightly understood, Our greatest evil or our greatest good.
3. Modes of self-love the passions we may call; Tis real good or seeming moves them all : But since not every good we can divide, And reason bids us for our own provide, Passions, though selfish, if their means be fair, List under reason, and deserve her care; Those that imparted court a nobler aim, Exalt their kind, and take some virtue's name.
In lazy apathy let stoics boast Their virtue fix'd ; 'tis fix'd as in a frost; Contracted all, retiring to the breast; But strength of mind is exercise, not rest; The rising tempest puts in act the soul, Parts it may ravage, but preserves the whole. On life's vast ocean diversely we sail, Reason the card, but passion is the gale; Nor God alone in the still calm we find, He mounts the storm, and walks upon the wind. Passions, like elements, though born to fight, Yet, mix'd and soften'd, in his work unite : These 'tis enough to temper and employ ; But what composes man can man destroy ? Suffice that reason keep to nature's road; Subject, compound them, follow her and God. Love, hope, and joy, fair pleasure's smiling train, Hate, fear, and grief, the family of pain. These mix'd with art, and to due bounds confin'd, Make and maintain the balance of the mind; The lights and shades, whose well-accorded strife Gives all the strength and colour of our life.
Pleasures are ever in our hands or eyes, And when in act they cease, in prospect rise; Present to grasp, and future still to find, The whole employ of body and of mind. All spread their charms, but charm not all alike; On different senses different objects strike : Hence different passions more or less inflame, As strong or weak the organs of the frame; And hence one master-passion in the breast, Like Aaron's serpent, swallows up the rest.
As man, perhaps, the moment of his breath Receives the lurking principle of death,