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It is like a sudden sunshine that awakens a secret delight in the mind, without her attending to it. The heart rejoices of its own accord, and naturally flows out into friendship and benevolence towards the person who has so kindly an effect upon it.
When I consider this cheerful state of mind in its third relation, I cannot but look upon it as a constant habitual gratitude to the great Author of nature. An inward cheerfulness is an implicit praise and thanksgiving to Providence under all its dispensations. It is a kind of acquiescence in the state wherein we are placed, and a secret approbation of the Divine Will in his conduct towards man.
There are but two things which, in my opinion, can reasonably deprive us of this cheerfulness of heart. The first of these is the sense of guilt. A man who lives in a state of vice and impenitence, can have no title to that evenness and tranquillity of mind which is the health of the soul, and the natural effect of virtue and innocence. Cheerfulness in an ill man deserves a harder name than language can furnish us with, and is many degrees beyond what we commonly call folly or madness.
Atheism, by which I mean a disbelief of a Supreme Being, and consequently of a future state, under whatsoever titles it shelter itself, may likewise very reasonably deprive a man of this cheerfulness of temper. There is something so particularly gloomy and offensive to human nature in the prospect of nonexistence, that I cannot but wonder, with many excellent writers, how it is possible for a man to outlive the expectation of it. For my own part, I think the being of a God is so little to be doubted, that it is almost the only truth we are sure of; and such a truth as we meet with in every object, in every occurrence, and in every thought. If we look into the characters of this tribe of infidels, we generally find
they are made up of pride, spleen, and cavil. It is indeed no wonder, that men who are uneasy to themselves should be so to the rest of the world; and how is it possible for a man to be otherwise than uneasy in himself, who is in danger every moment of losing his entire existence, and dropping into nothing?
The vicious man and Atheist have therefore no pretence to cheerfulness, and would act very unreasonably should they endeavour after it. It is impossible for any one to live in good-humour, and enjoy his present existence, who is apprehensive either of torment or of annihilation; of being miserable, or of not being at all.
After having mentioned these two great principles, which are destructive of cheerfulness in their own nature, as well as in right reason, I cannot think of any other that ought to banish this happy temper from a virtuous mind. Pain and sickness, shame and reproach, poverty and old age, nay death itself, considering the shortness of their duration, and the advantage we may reap from them, do not deserve the name of evils. A good mind may bear up under them with fortitude, with indolence, and with cheerfulness of heart. The tossing of a tempest does not discompose him, which he is sure will bring him to a joyful harbour.
A man who uses his best endeavours to live according to the dictates of virtue and right reason has two perpetual sources of cheerfulness, in the consideration of his own nature, and of that Being on whom he has a dependance. If he looks into himself, he cannot but rejoice in that existence which is so lately bestowed upon him, and which, after millions of ages, will be still new, and still in its beginning. How many self-congratulations naturally arise in the mind, when it reflects on this its entrance into eternity, when it takes a view of those improvable
faculties, which in a few years, and even at its first setting out, have made so considerable a progress, and which will still be receiving an increase of perfection, and consequently an increase of happiness! The consciousness of such a being spreads a perpetual diffusion of joy through the soul of a virtuous man and makes him look upon himself every moment as more happy than he knows how to conceive.
The second source of cheerfulness to a good mind is the consideration of that Being on whom we have our dependance, and in whom, though we behold him as yet but in the first faint discoveries of his perfections, we see every thing that we can imagine as great, glorious, or amiable. We find ourselves every where upheld by his goodness, and surrounded with an immensity of love and mercy. In short, we depend upon a Being, whose power qualifies him to make us happy by an infinity of means, whose goodness and truth engage him to make those happy who desire it of him, and whose unchangeableness will secure us in this happiness to all eternity.
Such considerations, which every one should perpetually cherish in his thoughts, will banish from us all that secret heaviness of heart which unthinking men are subject to when they lie under no real affliction; all that anguish which we may feel from any evil that actually oppresses us, to which I may likewise add those little cracklings of mirth and folly that are apter to betray virtue than support it; and establish in us such an even and cheerful temper, as makes us pleasing to ourselves, to those with whom we converse, and to Him whom we were made to please.-I.
N° 382. MONDAY, MAY 19, 1712.
Habes confitentem reum.-TULL.
The accused confesses his guilt.
I OUGHT not to have neglected a request of one of my correspondents so long as I have; but I dare say I have given him time to add practice to profession. He sent me some time ago a bottle or two of excellent wine to drink the health of a gentleman who had by the penny-post advertised him of an egregious error in his conduct. My correspondent received the obligation from an unknown hand with the candour which is natural to an ingenuous mind; and promises a contrary behaviour in that point for the future. He will offend his monitor with no more errors of that kind, but thanks him for his benevolence. This frank carriage makes me reflect upon the amiable atonement a man makes in an ingenuous acknowledgment of a fault. All such miscarriages as flow from inadvertency are more than repaid by it; for reason, though not concerned in the injury, employs all its force in the atonement. He that says, he did not design to disoblige you in such an action, does as much as if he should tell you, that though the circumstance which displeased was never in his thoughts, he has that respect for you that he is unsatisfied, till it is wholly out of yours. It must be confessed, that when an acknowledgment of an offence is made out of poorness of spirit, and not conviction of heart, the circumstance is quite different. But in the case of my correspondent, where both the notice is taken, and the return made in private, the affair begins and ends with the highest
grace on each side. To make the acknowledgment of a fault in the highest manner graceful, it is lucky when the circumstances of the offender place him above any ill from the resentment of consequences the person offended. A dauphin of France, upon a review of the army, and a command of the king to alter the posture of it by a march of one of the wings, gave an improper order to an officer at the head of a brigade, who told his highness, he presumed he had not received the last orders, which were to move a contrary way. The prince, instead of taking the admonition, which was delivered in a manner that accounted for his error with safety to his understanding, shaked a cane at the officer, and, with the return of opprobrious language, persisted in his own orders. The whole matter came necessarily before the king, who commanded his son, on foot, to lay his right hand on the gentleman's stirrup as he sat on horseback in sight of the whole army, and ask his pardon. When the prince touched his stirrup, and was going to speak, the officer, with an incredible agility, threw himself on the earth, and kissed his feet.
The body is very little concerned in the pleasure of sufferings of souls truly great; and the reparation, when an honour was designed this soldier, appeared as much too great to be borne by his gratitude, as the injury was intolerable to his resentment,
When we turn our thoughts from these extraordinary occurrences into common life, we see an ingenuous kind of behaviour not only make up for faults committed, but in a manner expiate them in the very commission. Thus many things wherein a man has pressed too far, he implicitly excuses, by owning, 'This is a trespass: you'll pardon my confidence: I am sensible I have no pretensions to this favour;' and the like. But commend me to those gay fellows about town who are directly impudent,