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Of the Nature and State of Man with respect to Himself as an Individual.
1. The business of man not to pry into God, but to study himself. His middle nature; his powers and frailties.-The limits of his capacity.-2. The two principles of man, self-love, and reason, both necessary.-Self-love the stronger, and why. Their end the same.-3. The passions, and their use. The predominant passion, and its force.Its necessity, in directing men to different purposes. Its providential use in fixing our principle, and ascertaining our virtue.-4. Virtue and vice joined in our mixed nature; the limits near, yet the things separate and evident: what is the office of Reason.-5. How odious vice in itself, and how we deceive ourselves into it.-6. That, however, the ends of Providence and general good are answered in our passions and imperfections. -How usefully these are distributed to all orders of men: how useful they are to society; and to individuals, in every state; and every age, of life.
J. KNOW then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man. Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise and rudely great; With too much knowledge for the skeptic side, With too much weakness for the stoic's pride; He hangs between, in doubt to act or rest; In doubt to deem himself a god or beast; In doubt his mind or body to prefer; Born but to die, and reasoning but to err; Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little or too much: Chaos of thought and passion all confused; Still by himself abus'd or disabus'd; Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides;
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Superior beings, when of late they saw
Could He, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Or tricks to show the stretch of human brain,
Then see how little the remaining sum,
Which serv'd the past, and must the times to come!
Self-love, the spring of motion, acts the soul; Reason's comparing balance rules the whole.
Man but for that no action could attend,
Most strength the moving principle requires;
Form'd but to check, deliberate, and advise.
Each strengthens reason, and self-love restrains.
And grace and virtue, sense and reason split,
Wits, just like fools, at war about a name,
3. Modes of self-love the passions we may call;
Their virtue fix'd; 'tis fix'd as in a frost;
The rising tempest, puts in act the soul,
These mix'd with art, and to due bounds confin'd,
So cast and mingled with his very frame,
As heav'n's blest beam turns vinegar more sour. We, wretched subjects, though to lawful sway, In this weak queen, some favourite still obey; Ah! if she lend not arms as well as rules, What can she more than tell us we are fools! Teach us to mourn our nature, not to mend, A sharp accuser, but a helpless friend? Or from a judge turn pleader, to pesuade The choice we make, or justify it made : Proud of an easy conquest all along, She but removes weak passions for the strong; So when small humours gather to a gout, The doctor fancies he has driv'n them out. Yes, nature's road must ever be preferr'd; Reason is here no guide, but still a guard; "Tis he's to to rectify, not overthrow, And treat this passion more as friend than foe A mightier pow'r the strong direction sends, And several men impels to several ends; Like varying winds, by others passions tost This drive them constant to a certain coast. Let pow'r or knowledge, gold or glory, please, Or (oft more strong than all) the love of ease; Through life 'tis follow'd, ev'n at life's expense The merchant's toil, the sage's indolence, The monk's humility, the hero's pride, All, all alike find reason on their side. Th'eternal art educing good from ill, Grafts on this passion our best principle; 'Tis thus the mercury of man is fix'd, Strong grows the virtue with his nature mix'd; The dross cements what else were too refin'd, And in one interest body acts with mind. As fruits ungrateful to the planter's care, On savage stocks inserted, learn to bear; The surest virtues thus from passions shoot, Wild nature's vigour working at the root. What crops of wit, and honesty appear From spleen, from obstinacy, hate or fear! See anger zeal and fortitude supply; Ev'n avarice prudence, sloth philosophy; Lust, through some certain strainers well refin'd Is gentle love, and charms all womankind; Envy, to which th'ignoble mind's a slave,