Page images
PDF
EPUB

in such as consist entirely of males, that the conversation turns upon obscene ambiguities, which inflame the imagination of young people, and spread farther the corruption of morals.

6 An honest man ought not to contribute the least thing in the world to this general corruption of morals; he rather is bound to display his aversion to it in the strongest manner, without shewing any respect of persons; and if he cannot correct people who walk in the path of vice by amicable admonitions, and by directing their activity to nobler objects, at least to convince them that he values decency and virtue, and that innocence must be respected in his presence.

7 People who believe without any sufficient ground in certain doctrines and obligations, or in supernatural causes, agencies and apparitions, who for instance believe that God is an irascible and revengeful being, that those who are heretics, in their opinion, ought to be deprived of all civil privileges, that future events can be foretold from omens and signs, that ghosts and superior beings can appear to men, &c. and who regard these objects of their faith as highly sacred and inviolable are called superstitious.

8 It is a certain criterion of superstition to believe too much, i. e. more than sound reason warrants. People who are given to superstition do not therefore listen to the voice of reason, but are deaf to sober arguments, and believe the most contradictory tenets. They never give up an opinion which they have once adopted, how absurd and incomprehensible soever it may be, and the firmness of their faith is founded merely on habit.

9 They have heard for instance a certain tenet asserted in their youth, it was recommended to them as a religious truth, and they have believed in it for many years; or something was inculcated into their mind as an invariable duty and obligation; or they were taught to believe that certain invisi. ble powers produce certain effects, and now they continue to adhere to that opinion, because they have accustomed themselves so much to believe it, that the contrary of it appears to them a daring violation of truth, which they are bound to abhor or to hate : and as reason opposes to their belief incontrovertible doubts, their commodiousness leads them to think that the voice of reason ought not to be listened to in matters of faith.

10 Superstition undoubtedly is a source of numerous evils, and productive of great misery; and it is extremely painful and distressing for every individual to be connected with its votaries : for the superstitious abhors every one that is of a different opinion.

11 And what motive can a person have to suspect the truth of a doctrine of which he is as firmly convinced, as he is of the reality of his existence? Is it not natural that a person who is to examine a doctrine which he believes, should first think it possible that it may be erroneous ? But if he think it impossible he cannot be reasonably expected to examine it.

12 From this it appears, that the superstition of many people is very excusable, and that those who are infected with it have a just claim to our forbearance. It would therefore be as unjust and inhumane to hate a man for his superstition, as it would be to hate another because he is infected with some constitutional disease. The superstitious is therefore justly entitled to compassion, and we ought to tolerate him with fraternal love.

SECTION IV. On the conversation with people of a different age. 1 Many sensations, which nature has impressed on the soul, are reasoned away in our enlightened age, which is so carefully cleared of all the rubbish of antiquated prejudices. One of these prejudices is the sense of regard for hoary age. Our youth ripen sooner, grow sooner wise and learned than those of former times did.

2 They repair by diligent reading, particularly of magazines, pamphlets and novels, their want of experience and study. This renders them so intelligent as to be able to decide upon subjects which our forefathers thought could only be clearly comprehended after a close and studious application of many years.

3 Thence arises that noble self-sufficiency and confidence which inferior geniuses mistake for impudence and arrogance, that consciousness of internal worth with which the beardless boys of our age look down upon old men, and decry every thing that happens to come in their way.

4 The utmost that a man of riper years may expect nowadays, from his children and grand-children is, kind indulgence, chastening censure, being tutored by them and pitied, because he is so unfortunate as not to have been born in our happy age, in which wisdom rains from heaven, unsown and uncultivated, like manna in the desert.

5 There are many things in this world which can be learnt only by experience; there are sciences which absolutely

[ocr errors]

require close and long study, reiterated reflection and medi. tation, coolness of temper and mature judgment; and therefore I think the most brilliant and acute genius, in most eases, ought to pay some attention and deference to an old man, whose inferiority of faculties, is compensated by age and experience.

6 It must be acknowledged in general, that the store of experience which a man gathers in a long course of years, enables him to fix his ideas, to awaken from ideal dreams, to avoid being led astray by a lively imagination, the warmth of blood and the irritability of nerves, and to behold the objects with which he is surrounded in their proper point of view.

7 It is, besides, so noble and amiable, to render the latter days of the pilgrimage of life, in which cares and sorrows generally increase, and enjoyment takes its flight, as easy as possible to those that soon are to bid an eternal farewell to the treasures and gratifications of this world, that I feel myself impelled to exclaim, with additional energy, to youth of every description ,

8" Rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old. Court the society of old and experienced people! Do not despise the counsel of cool reason, nor the advice of experience. Treat the hoary as you wish to be treated, when your hair shall be bleached by old age. Respect them, and do not desert them, when wild and thoughtless youths shun their company."

9 As for the rest, it cannot be denied that there are many old fools, as there are also wise young men who have eared already when others scarcely have begun to sow.

10 The conversation with children is highly interesting to a sensible man. He beholds in them the book of nature in an uncorrupted edition. Children appear as they really are, and as they are not misled by systems, passions or learning, judge of many things better than grown persons; they receive many impressions much sooner, and are not guided by so many prejudices as the latter.

11 In short, if you wish to study men you must not neglect to mix with the society of children. However, the conversation with them requires considerations which are not necessary in the society of people of maturer years.

12 It is a sacred duty to give them no offence whatever, to abstain in their company from all wanton discourses and actions, and to display in their presence benevolence, faith, sincerity, decency and every other virtue; in short, to contribute as much as possible to their improvement; for their ductile and uncorrupted mind is as ready to receive good impressions, as it is open to the seeds of vice, and I may safely maintain that the degeneracy of mankind is greatly owing to the imprudence and inconsideration with which people of a maturer age deport themselves in the presence of children.

SECTION V. On the conversation between parents and children. i It is not uncommon in our days to see children neglect their parents, or even treat them ill. The principal ties of human society grow laxer every day; young men think that their fathers are not wise, entertaining and enlightened enough, and girls yawn in the company of their hoary mother, not refleeting how many tedious hours their parent spent at their cradle in attending and nursing them when they were stretched on a sick bed, or in performing the most disagreeable and offensive labors, to render them comfortable and to ease their pains, and that she denied herself many pleasures, to take care of the little helpless being, who without her tender attendance, perhaps, would have perished.

2 Children forget but too often how many cheerful hours they have imbittered to their parents by their stunning clamor; how many sleepless nights they have caused to their careful father, who exerted himself to the utmost of his abilities to provide for his family, and was obliged to deny. himself many comforts for their benefit. Well disposed minds, however, will never be so totally devoid of all sense of gratitude as to be in want of my advice, and for mean and unfeel. : ing souls I do not write.

3 It is only necessary to observe, that if children really should have reason to be ashamed of the weakness or the vices of their parents, they will do much better to conceal their defects, as much as possible, than to neglect paying them that external regard which they owe them in many respects. The blessings of Heaven, and the approbation of all good men, are the certain rewards of the attention which sons and daughters pay to the comfort and happiness of their parents.

4 It is a great misfortune to a child to be tempted by the discord in which his parents live, or by other causes, to take the part of one against the other. Prudent parents, however, will carefully avoid involving their children in such altercations; and on such occasions good children will behave with

that circumspection and tenderness which probity and pru. dence require.

SECTION VI. On conversation between masters and servants. 1 It is lamentable enough that the greater part of mankind is forced by weakness, poverty, tyranny and other causes, to be subservient to the smaller number, and that the honest man frequently must obey the nod of the villain. What, therefore, can be more just than that those whom Providence has entrusted with the power to sweeten the life of their fellow men, and to render its burdens easier, should make the best use of that fortunate situation ?

2 It is, however, also true, that the majority seem to have been born to be dependent on others for guardianship and employment, and noble and truly magnanimous sentiments to be the inheritance of a small number only. But let us consider that the ground of this truth is founded rather on the defective education which the rising generation generally eceive than on their natural disposition.

3 Luxury, and its concomitant train, the despoilers of every age in which they are fostered, create an enormous number of wants, which render the majority of mankind dependant on a few. The insatiable thirst for gain and gratification produces mean passions, and forces us to beg, as it were, for those things which we imagine to be necessary for our existence; whereas temperance and moderation are the source of all virtues, and the precursors of true happiness.

4 Although most people should be callous against more refined sentiments, yet are they not all ungrateful towards those that treat them with generosity, nor are they entirely blind to all intrinsic worth.

5 A benevolent, serious, firm, and consistent conduct, which must not be confounded with stiff and overbearing solemnity; good and prompt payment, which is proportionate to the importance of their services; rigorous punctuality in enforcing the regularity to which they have bound themselves; kindness and affection, when they make a modest and reasonable request; moderation in the exercise of our authority.

6 A just regard to their abilities in the distribution of labor; a proper allowance of time for innocent recreations, and the improvement of their abilities ; attention to their wants ; rigorous injunction of cleanliness in their dress and propriety in their conduct; readiness to sacrifice our own interest,

« PreviousContinue »