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prospects of impunity and safety, those practices in another dominion, which they would themselves punish in their own.
One occasion of uncertainty and hesitation, in those by whom this great rule has been commented and dilated, is the confusion of what the exacter casuists are careful to distinguish, debts of justice, and debts of charity. The immediate and primary intention of this precept, is to establish a rule of justice ; and I know not whether invention, or sophistry, can start a single difficulty to retard its application, when it is thus expressed and explained, let every mun allow the claim of right in another, which he should think himself entitled to make in the like circumstances.
The discharge of the debts of charity, or duties which we owe to others, not merely as required by justice, but as dictated by benevolence, admits in its own nature greater complication of circumstances, and greater latitude of choice. Justice is indispensably and universally necessary, and what is necessary must always be limited, uniform, and distinct. But beneficence, though in general equally enjoined by our religioni, and equally needful to the conciliation of the Divine favour, is yet, for the most part, with regard to its single acts, elective and voluntary.
We may certainly, without injury to our fellow-beings, allow in the distribotion of kindness something to our affections, and change the measure of our liberality, according to our opinions and prospects, our hopes and fears. This rule therefore is not equally determinate and absolute, with respect to offices of kindness, and acts of liberality ; because liberality and kindness, absolutely determined, wouid lose their nature; for how could we be called tender, or charitable, for
giving that which we are positively forbidden to withhold ?
Yet, even in adjusting the extent of our benefi. cence, no other measure can be taken than this precept affords us, for we can only know what others suffer for want, by considering how we should be affected in the same state; nor can we . proportion our assistance by any other rule than that of doing what we should then expect from others. It indeed generally happens that the giver and receiver differ in their opinions of generosity; the same partiality to his own interest inclines one to large expectations, and the other to sparing dise tributions. Perhaps the infirmity of human nature will scarcely suffer a man groaning under the pres. sure of distress, to judge rightly of the kindness of his friends, or think they have done enough till his deliverance is completed ; not therefore what we might wish, but what we could demand from others, we are obliged to grant, since, though we can easily know how much we might claim, it is impossible to determine what we should hope.
But in all inquiries concerning the practice of voluntary and occasional virtues, it is safest for minds not oppressed with superstitious fears to determine against their own inclinations, and secure themselves from deficiency, by doing more than they believe strictly necessary.
For of this every man may be certain, that, if he were to exchange conditions with his dependent, he should expect more than, with the utmost exertion of his ardour, he now will prevail upon himself to perform; and when reason has no settled rule, and our passions are striving to nuislead us, it is surely the part of a wise man to err en the side of safety.
No 82. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29, 1750.
Omnia Castor emit, sic fiet ut omnia vendat.
TO TIE RAMBLER.
SIR, It will not be necessary to solicit your good-will by any formal preface, when I have informed you, that I have long been known as the most laborious and zealous virtuoso that the present age has had the honour of producing, and that inconveniencies have been brought upon me by an unextinguishable ardour of curiosity, and an unshaken perseverance in the acquisition of the productions of art and nature.
It was observed, from my entrance into the world, that I had something uncommon in my disposition, and that there appeared in me very early tokens of superior genius. I was always an enemy to trides; the playthings which my mother bestowed upon me I immediately broke, that I might discover the method of their structure, and the causes of their motions: of all the toys with which children are de lighted I valued only my coral, and as soon as I could speak, asked, like Pieresc, innumerable ques. tions which the maids about me could not resolve. As I
grew older I was more thoughtful and serious, and instead of amusing myself with puerile diver
sions, made collections of natural rarities, and never walked into the fields without bringing home stones of remarkable forms, or insects of some uncommon species. I never entered an old house, from which I did not take away the painted glass, and often lamented that I was not one of that happy genera. tion who demolished the convents and monasteries, and broke windows by law.
Being thus early possessed by a taste for solid knowledge, I passed my youth with very little disturbance from passions and appetites; and having no pleasure in the company of boys and girls, who talked of plays, politicks, fashions, or love, I car. ried on my inquiries with incessant diligence, and had amassed more stones, mosses, and shells, than are to be found in many celebrated collections, at an age in which the greatest part of young men are studying under tutors, or endeavouring to recommend themselves to notice by their dress, their air, and their levities.
When I was two and twenty years old, I became, by the death of my father, possessed of a small estate in land, with a very large sum of mo. ney in the publick funds, and must confess that I did not much lament him, for he was a man of mean parts, bent rather upon growing rich than wise, lle once fretted at the expense of only ten shillings, which he happened to overhear me offering for the sting of a hornet, though it was a cold moist sum. mer, in which very few hornets had been scen. He often recommended to me the study of physick, in whic'', said he, you may at once gratify your cu.. riosity after natural history, and increase your fortune by benefiting mankind. I heard him, Mr. Rambler, with pity, and as there was no prospect of elevating a mind formed to grovel, suffered him VOL. V.
to please himself with hoping that I should some time follow bis advice. For you know that there are men with whom, when they have once settled a notion in their heads, it is to very little purpose to dispute.
Being now left wholly to my own inclinations, I very soon enlarged the bounds of my curiosity, and contented myself no longer with such rarities as required only judgment and industry, and when once found, might be had for nothing. I now turned my thoughts to Exoticks and Antiques, and became so well known for my generous patronage of inge. nious men, that my levee was crowded with visi. tants, some to see my museum, and others to in. crease its treasures, by selling me whatever they had brought from other countries.
I had always a contempt for that narrowness of conception, which contents itself with cultivating some single corner of the field of science; I took the whole region into my view, and wished it of yet greater extent.
But no man's power can be equal to his will. I was forced to proceed by slow de. grees, and to purchase what chance or kindness happened to present. I did not however proceed without some design, or imitate the indiscretion of those who begin a thousand collections, and finish none. Having been always a lover of geography, I determined to collect the maps drawn in the rude and barbarous times, before any regular surveys, or just observations; and have, at a great expense, brought together a volume, in which, perhaps, not a single country is laid down according to its true situation, and by which, he that desires to know the errors of the ancient geographers may be amply informed.
But my ruling passion is patriotism: my chief