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But when I have looked into the matter more closely, I have found that this aversion to repose, and to the society of self, originates in a very powerful cause, namely, in the natural evils of our weak and mortal state,
-a state so completely wretched, that whenever nothing hinders us from thinking of it, and we thoroughly survey ourselves, we are utterly inconsolable. Of course, I speak only of those who meditate on themselves without the aid of religion. For most assuredly it is one of the wonders of the Christian religion, that it reconciles man to himself in reconciling him to his God; that it makes self-examination bearable, and solitude and silence more interesting than the tumults and the busy intercourse of men. But religion does not produce this mighty change by confining man to the survey of himself. It does this only by leading him up to God, and sustaining him, even in the consciousness of his present misery, with the hope of another existence, in which he shall be freed from it for ever.
But as for those who act only according to the impulse of those natural motives, that they find within them, it is impossible that they can live in that tranquility which favors self-examination, without being instantly the prey of chagrin and melancholy. The man who loves nothing but self, dislikes nothing so much as being with himself only. He seeks nothing but for himself; yet he flies from nothing so eagerly as self; for when he sees himself, he is not what he wishes; and he finds in himself an accumulation of miseries that he cannot shun, and a vacuity of all real and substantial good which he cannot fill.
Let a man choose what condition he will, and let him accumulate around him all the goods and all the gratifications seemingly calculated to make him happy in it; if that man is left at any time without occupation or amusement, and reflects on what he is, the meagre languid felicity of his present lot will not bear him up. He will turn necessarily to gloomy anticipations of the future; and except, therefore, his occupation calls him out of himself, he is inevitably wretched,
But is not royal dignity sufficient of itself to make its possessor happy, by the mere contemplation of what he is as a king ? Must he too be withdrawn from this thought the 'same as other men ? plainly that it makes a, man happy to turn him away from the thought of his domestic sorrows, and to engage all the energy of his mind in the attaining of some light accomplishments, even such as dancing: but is it so with a king? Would he be happier in a devotion to these vain amusements, than in the thought of his own greatness; What object more satisfying can be given to him? Would it not be thwarting his joy, to degrade his mind to the thought how to regulate his steps by the cadence of a fiddle, or how to strike a billiard ball ; instead of leaving him to enjoy ni tranquillity, the contemplation of the glory and the majesty with which he is invested? Try it: leave a king to himself without any delight accruing to him through the senses ; leave him without any care upon his mind, and without society, to think at his leisure of himself, and you will see that a king who looks within, is a man equally full of miseries, and equally alive to them, with other men. Hence they carefully avoid this; and there is always about the person of kings, a number of menials, whose concern it is to provide diversion when business is done, and who watch for their hours of leisure to supply them with pleasures and sports, that they may never feel vacuity; that is, in fact, they are surrounded by persons who take the most scrupulous care, that the king shall not be left alone to be his own companion, and in a situation to thinķ of himself; because they know that if he does, with all his royalty, he must be wretched.
The principal thing which bears men up under those weighty concerns, which are, in other respects, so oppressive, is that they are thus perpetually kept from thinking of themselves.
For instance: What is the being a governor, a chan!! cellor, a prime minister, but the having a number of attendants flocking on every side to prevent them from
having a single hour in the day in which they can think of self? And when such men are out of favor, and are banished to their country-seats, where they have no want of either money or servants to supply their real wants, then indeed they are wretched, because then they have leisure to think of self without hindrance.
Hence it is that so many persons fly to play or to field sports, or to any other amusement which occupies the whole soul. Not that they expect happiness from any thing so acquired, or that they suppose that real bliss centres in the money that they win, or the hare that they catch. They would not have either as a gift. The fact is, they are not seeking for that mild and peaceful course which leaves a man leisure to speculate on his unhappy condition, but for that incessant hurry which renders this impracticable.
Hence it is, that men love so ardently the whirl and the tumult of the world; that imprisonment is so fearful a punishment; and that so few persons can endure solitude.
This, then, is all that men have devised to make themselves happy. And those who amuse themselves by shewing the emptiness and the poverty of such amusements, have certainly a right notion of a part of human misery; for it is no small evil to be capable of finding pleasure in things so low and contemptible ; but they do not yet know the full depth of that misery which renders these same miserable and base expedients absolutely necessary to man, so long as he is not cured of that internal natural evil, the not being able to endure the contemplation of himself. The hare that he buys in the market, will not call him off from himself, but the chase of it may. And therefore, when we tell them that what they seek so ardently will not satisfy them, and that nothing can be more profitless, we know that, if they answered as they would do if they thought seriously of it, they would so far agree with us at once; only that they would say also, that they merely seek in these things a violent
impetuous occupation, which shall divert them from themselves, and that with this direct intention, they choose some attractive object which engages and occupies them entirely. But then they will not answer in this way, because they do not know themselves. A gentleman believes sincerely that there is something noble and dignified in the chace. He will say it is a royal sport. And it is the same with other things which occupy the great mass of men. They conceive that there is something really and substantially good in the object itself. A man persuades himself that if he obtained this employment, then he would enjoy repose. But he does not perceive the insatiability of his own desires; and while he believes that he is in search of rest, he is actually seeking after additional
Men have a secret instinct leading them to seek pleasure and occupation from external sources, which originates in the sense of their continual misery. But they have also another secret instinct, a remnant of the original grandeur of their nature, which intimates to them that happiness is to be found only in repose ; and from these opposite instincts, there emanates a confused project, which is hidden from their view in the very depth of the soul, and which prompts them to seek repose by incessant action; and ever to expect that the fulness of enjoyment, which as yet they have not attained, will infallibly be realized, if, by overcoming certain difficulties which immediately op pose them, they might open the way to rest.
And thus the whole of life runs away. We seek repose by the struggle with opposing difficulties, and the instant we have overcome them, that rest becomes insupportable. For generally we are occupied either with the miseries which now we feel, or with those which threaten ; and even when we see ourselves sufficiently secure from the approach of either, still fretfulness, though unwarranted by either present or expected affliction, fails not to spring up from the deep recesses of the heart, where its roots naturally grow, and to fill the soul with its poison.
And hence it is plain, that when Cineas said to Pyrrhus, who proposed to himself, after having conquered a large portion of the world, then to sit down and and enjoy, repose with his friends, that he had better hasten forward his own happiness now, by immediately enjoying repose, than seek it through so much fatigue ; he advised a course which involved serious difficulties, and which was scarcely more rational than the project of this hero's youthful ambition. Both plans assumed that man can be satisfied with himself, and with his present blessings, and not feel a void in his heart, which must be filled with imaginary hopes : and here they were both in error. Pyrrhus could not have been happy either before or after the conquest of the world; and most probably the life of indolent repose which his minister recommended, was less adapted to satisfy him than the restless hurry of his intended wars and wanderings.
We are compelled then to admit, that man is so wretched, that he will vex himself, independently of any external cause of vexation, from the mere circumstances of his natural condition; and yet with all this he is so vain and full of lévity, that in the midst of a thousand causes of real distress, the merest trifle serves to divert him. So that on serious reflection, we see that he is far more to be commiserated that he can find enjoyment in things so frivolous and so temptible, than that he mourns over his real sorrows. His amusements are infinitely less rational than his lamentations.
2. Whence is it that this man, who lost so lately an only son, and who, under the pressure of legal processes and disputes, was this morning so harrassed, now thinks of these things no more? Alas! it is no wonder. He is wholly engrossed in watching the fate of a poor deer, that his dogs have been chasing for six hours. And nothing more than this is necessary for a man, though he is brimful of sorrows! If he can but be induced to apply himself to some source of recreation, he is happy for the time; but then it is with a false