« PoprzedniaDalej »
known. It is not unusual now for notorious finners to enjoy, undisturbed, the fatire they sometimes incur by their crimes : for individuals will still reproach them on that account.- No, it is not only “ a 6 sport to them to do mischief," but to be censured when they have done it. They pride themselves on facing the graver part of the world down, and laughing with perfect ease at those things, as frolics and trifles, which, to speak in their language, none but vulgar or narrow spirits condemn as vices and enormities. Let bribery, for example, or venality, or gaming, or adultery, or profaneness, or filial impiety, or base ingratitude, or ruining of innocence, or betraying under trust, let any of these be held up to just infamy: it matters not : the turpitude strikes but few in a sensible manner: a few may loudly condemn: but those against whom the sentence is pointed, comfort themselves with reflecting, that the most are no longer shocked at such things, however they may not approve of them ;
and that if one has riches, or rank, or ability, or expectations, or what sometimes supplies the want of them all, a proper stock of effrontery, he may do what he pleases, and not doubt of ftill meeting with marks of respect in abundance.
As to a life of luxury and dissipation, of effeminacy and insignificance; the neglect of business, of study, of improvement; a habit of licentious, or censorious conversation; a disrespect to authority, to age, to experience, and a contemptuous rejection of wise and pious advice— these are all become so common as to excite, in our days of easy forbearance, and philosophic coolness, very little disapprobation, except from quarters where it is considered as mere professional talk, for which the men are paid, and which can only pass with the ignorant or the illiberal.
If here and there a moral writer among the laity steps forth to instruct the world,
what does he effect ? Suppose that to the widest knowledge of men, and the truest judgement of things, with a strict regard for religion and goodness, he joins the finest taste, the greatest.vigour of expression, and the utmost brilliancy of imagination; ftill it matters not: perhaps he is read, perhaps applauded by many : but then he is forgotten by most. In the mean time, the productions of the wanton or infipid novellist, the unfeeling sceptic, the filly witling, or the gay licentious man of fafhion, are devoured with insatiable avidity, and unceasing delight.
God be thanked, however, many of you, my young friends, have yet escaped the contagion. The ministers of fin and infidelity have not yet had power over you. Those are still your favourite authors, who have consecrated genius, learning, wit, and eloquence, to the service of truth and morality. The stated advocates for both may ftill, as you conceive, be sincere in their office, though they are enabled to live by it, and are therefore with you still objects of respectful attention, so long as their doctrines are not manifestly contradicted by their lives: when unhappily they are, you have yet the sense to distinguish between the former and the latter, and also the candour not to conclude, that those are false because these are unworthy: while you abhor the last, you continue to venerate the first. Perhaps indeed you venerate them so much, and retain fo strong a tincture of native modesty, that you cannot without surprise and disgust reflect on many scenes, characters, and complications of iniquity, as they meet your eyes or ears in the different walks of life. Nor can you yet behold with unconcern those modes of behaviour, which, though apparently less criminal and pernicious, are notwithstanding far from being harmless or innocent, and frequently prove the forerunners of great, if not the greatest, guilt and misery. How such numbers can
seem to throw off all regard for the esteem of the sober and the discerning, you are unable to comprehend ; and yet more, how so many can, often at the expence of health and fortune, or even at the hazard of life itself, court the plaudit of libertines, of knaves, and of fools, not merely in preference to the suffrage of the best men and the wiseft judges, but with affected Scorn, and open abuse of them -this fills you with amazement. For your parts, you reckon the approbation of such among the sweetest pleasures, and highest honours, the heart can enjoy.
These, my dear youths, are very promising symptoms. And yet- hall I tell you ?- all these have been frequently found at your agreeable age, and, after encouraging the faireft hopes, have only produced the greater disappointment. Such young persons, relying on themselves, and ignorant of the world, ventured among temptations to which they were unequal.