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postponed than virtues, and that greater loss is suffered by missing an opportunity of doing good, than an hour of giddy frolick and noisy merriment.
When Baxter had lost a thousand pounds, which he had laid up for the erection of a school, he used frequently to mention the misfortune as an incite. ment to be charitable while God gives the power of bestowing, and considered himself as culpable in fome degree for having left a good action in the hands of chance, and suffered his benevolence to be defeated for want of quickness and diligence.
It is lamented by Hearne, the learned antiquary of Oxford, that this general forgetfulness of the fragility of life, has remarkably infected the students of monuments and records ; as their employment consists first in collecting, and afterwards in arranging or abstracting what libraries afford them, they ought to amass no more than they can digest; but when they have undertaken a work, they go on searching and transcribing, call for new supplies, when they are already overburdened, and at last leave their work unfinished. It is, says he, the business of a good antiquary, as of a good man, to have mortality always before him.
Thus, not only in the slumber of floth, but in the dissipation of ill-directed industry, is the shortness of life generally forgotten. As some men lose their hours in laziness, because they suppose, that there is time enough for the reparation of neglect; others busy themselves in providing that no length of life may want employment; and it often happens, that sluggishness and activity are equally fur. prised by the last summons, and perish not more differently from each other, than the fowl that received the shot in her flight, from her that is killed upon the bush.
Among the many improvements made by the last centuries in human knowledge, may be numbered the exact calculations of the value of life; but whatever may be their use in traffick, they seem very little to have advanced morality. They have hitherto been rather applied to the acquisition of money, than of wisdom; the computer refers none of his calculations to his own tenure, but persists, in contempt of probability, to foretel old age to himself, and believes that he is marked out to reach the utmost verge of human existence, and see thousands and ten thou. fands fall into the grave.
So deeply is this fallacy rooted in the heart, and so strongly guarded by hope and fear against the approach of reason, that neither science nor experience can shake it, and we act as if life were without end, though we see and confess its uncertainty and short-ness.
Divines have, with great strength and ardour, shewn the absurdity of delaying reformation and repentance; a degree of folly, indeed, which fets eternity to hazard. It is the same weakness, in proportion to the importance of the neglect, to transfer any care, which now claims our attention, 10 a future time ; we subject ourselves to needless dangers from accidents which early diligence would have obviated, or perplex our minds by vain precautions, and make provision for the execution of designs, of
which the opportunity once missed never will return.
As he that lives longest lives but a little while, every man may be certain that he has no time to waste. The duties of life are commensurate to its duration, and every day brings its talk, which if neglected is doubled on the morrow, But he that has already trifled away those months and years, in which he should have laboured, must remember that he has now only a part of that of which the whole is little ; and that since the few moments remaining are to be considered as the last trust of heaven, not one is to be loft.
NUMB.72. SATURDAY, November 24, 1750.
Omnis Aristippum decuit fatus, et color, el res,
Yet Aristippus ev'ry dress became,
To the RAMBLER. SIR, THOSE who exalt themselves into the chair
of instruction, without enquiring whether any will submit to their authority, have not sufficiently considered how much of human life passes in little incidents, cursory conversation, light business, and
casual amusements; and therefore they have endeavoured only to inculcate the more awful virtues, without condescending to regard those petty qualities, which grow important only by their frequency, and which, though they produce no single acts of heroism, nor astonish us by great events, yet are every moment exerting their influence upon us, and make the draught of life sweet or bitter by imperceptible instil. lations. They operate unseen and unregarded, as change of air makes us sick or healthy, though we breathe it without attention, and only know the particles that impregnate it by their falutary or malignant effects.
You have shewn yourself not ignorant of the value of those subaltern endowments, yet have hitherto neglected to recommend good-humour to the world, though a little reflection will shew you that it is the balm of being, the quality to which all that adorns or elevates mankind must owe its power of pleasing. Without good-humour, learning and bravery can only confer that superiority which swells the heart of the lion in the desert, where he roars without reply, and ravages without resistance.
without resistance. Without good. humour, virtue may awe by its dignity, and amaze by its brightness; but must always be viewed at a distance, and will scarcely gain a friend or attract an imitator.
Good-humour may be defined a habit of being pleased; a constant and perennial softness of manner, easiness of approach, and suavity of disposition; like that which every man perceives in himself, when the first transports of new felicity have fubfided, and his thoughts are only kept in motion by a flow fuc
cession of soft impulses. Good-humour is a state between gaiety and unconcern; the act or emanation of a mind at leisure to regard the gratification of another.
It is imagined by many, that whenever they aspire to please, they are required to be merry, and to shew the gladness of their souls by flights of pleafantry, and bursts of laughter. But though these men may be for a time heard with applause and admiration, they feldom delight us long. We enjoy them a little, and then retire to easiness and good-humour, as the eye gazes a while on eminences glittering with the sun, but foon turns aching away to verdure and to flowers.
Gaiety is to good-humour as animal perfumes to vegetable fragrance; the one overpowers weak spirits, and the other recreates and revives them. Gaiety seldom fails to give some pain ; the hearers either strain their faculties to accompany its towerings, or are left behind in envy and despair. Goodhumour boasts no faculties which every one does not believe in his own power, and pleases principally by not offending.
It is well known that the most certain way to give any man pleasure is to perfuade him that
receive pleasure from him, to encourage him to freedom and confidence, and to avoid any such appearance of fuperiority as may overbear and depress him. We see many that by this art only spend their days in the midst of carefses, invitations, and civilities; and without any extraordinary qualities or attainments, are the universal favourites of both sexes, and certainly find a friend in every place. The darlings of