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Frank again quoted from Hannah More.
“ The mild forbearance at a brother's fault,
suppress'd, the taunting thought
The almost sacred joys of home depend."
Well, then, a spirit of selfishness is continually embroiling a man in contentions and litigations about what he shall grasp, and what he shall hold, while his own interests are made paramount to the interests and happiness of all the world beside. Such a man is anything rather than inoffensive ; no, if we would attain this character, we must take a benevolent pleasure in the happiness of others, and by sometimes forgetting our own, we shall find that we have most effectually promoted it. A truly benevolent man is in a constant good humour with himself and all around him.
Then a spirit of candour is necessary to regulate our conduct towards those who differ from us in sentiment or practice. Bigotry is always quarrelsome; but candour and liberality, without any compromise of truth, will render us inoffensive, by teaching us to give credit for sincerity and rationality even to those who differ from us; to abstain from rude and illiberal interference with, or reflection on their practices, and even their prejudices; to cherish good-will to them in all things ; cordially to co-operate with them, as far as we consistently can do so ; and, if really called upon to differ from them, to take care that we speak the
truth in love, and that we are actuated not by a desire for victory, but by a love of truth, and that cordial love of our brother, which a genuine love of truth would dictate. One fruitful source of offence in society is, the habit of indiscriminate and often undeserved censure of the principles, conduct, and motives of those who differ from us, especially in politics or religion ; and such a habit the Christian and the gentleman should carefully guard against, if he wishes to maintain a conscience and a deportment void of offence.
FRANK.-I am always sorry when people get to disputing in company. Instead of convincing each other, they generally leave off with worse feelings, and more bitter prejudices, than they began.
UNCLE.-Yes, I have seen a whole company set scowling at one another, and almost ready to fulminate anathemas against friends whom they really love and esteem, by one ill-natured and illtimed remark of an angry zealot ; especially if the remark was clothed in the garb of ridicule or
This reminds me of another feature in the character of the inoffensive man.
If he happens to possess wit, he will be sure to chasten it by virtue. One who possesses a talent for repartee, and lays the reins on the neck of his imagination, and gives utterance to his sallies as fast as they present themselves, will not be long without giving offence, and inflicting wounds which he may
bitterly regret, but cannot easily repair ; and
Who, for the poor renown of being smart,
Would plant a dagger in a brother's heart ? ” Here Frank again took out his book, and read the following passages from the same amiable author.
“ The hint malevolent, the look oblique,
The obvious satire, or implied dislike;
“What lively pleasure to divine
The thought implied, the hinted line ;
Shall stand recorded and admired,
With some hesitation I ventured to repeat a few lines, which I thought applicable, from the beautiful poems of Cowper. In general, I found it much better, when in
uncle and Frank, to listen to what they had to say, than to interpose remarks of my own. When I did speak, they treated me with candour and encouragement; and on that occasion particularly commended my apposite quotation.
"Is sparkling wit the world's exclusive right?
The fix'd fee simple of the vain and light?
CowPER. After these quotations had been made and approved, my uncle proceeded to observe, that an inoffensive man would be observant of his habits. He is not an inoffensive man who selfishly engrosses the fireside seat, or stands in front of the fire on a cold day; who greedily appropriates an undue share of the greatest delicacy at table ; who exposes a whole company to inconvenience, or breaks
AN INOFFENSIVE MAN.
up an agreeable party for the sake of some personal indulgence ; who insists on having all his whims gratified, whatever expense, inconvenience, or fatigue may be thereby entailed on others; who obtrudes subjects of conversation which are either offensive or uninteresting to others; who, in a word, fills up the character of a selfish man. A selfish man cannot be inoffensive.
The same remarks my uncle applied to persons of indolent and unpunctual habits. He who does not discharge his own duties, and fulfil his own engagements in due time, must be continually clashing with those of others; and as it is really injurious, so it is justly offensive to those who know the value of time, to be robbed of it by the indolence and irregularity of others.
Habits of discontent and ingratitude were alluded to, as forfeiting the character of an inoffensive man. He who richly shares the undeserved bounties of Heaven ; and whom all around him kindly exert themselves to serve, and please, and make happy ; and yet indulges a fretful, repining, murmuring spirit; sins against his best Benefactor, destroys his own peace, and renders himself offensive to those in whose eyes he ought to make himself amiable, by a spirit of gratitude and cheerfulness.
My uncle next remarked, that for a man to be inoffensive, he must maintain uniform consistency with his religious profession. The inoffensive man, he said, will be sacredly fearful of injuring the honour of religion, and causing the way of truth to be evil spoken of; he will be tender of the purity of another's mind, the peace of another's conscience, and the honour of another's name. It is enjoined on Christians to be harmless and