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THAT writer who aspires to immortality, should imitate the sculptor, if he would make the labours of the pen as durable as those of the chissel. Like the sculptor, he should arrive at ultimate perfection, not by what he adds, but by what he takes away; otherwise all his energy may be hidden in the superabundant mass of his matter, as the finished form of an Apollo, in the unworked solidity of the block. A friend called on Michael Angelo, who was finishing a statue; some time afterwards he called again; the sculptor was still at his work; his friend looking at the figure, exclaimed, you have been idle since I saw you last; by no means, replied the sculptor, I have retouched this part, and polished that; I have softened this feature, and brought out this muscle; I have given more expression to this lip, and more energy to this limb: Well, well, said his friend, but all these are trifles; it may be so, replied Angelo, but recollect that trifles make perfection, and that perfection is no trifle.
IF it be true, that men of strong imaginations are usually dogmatists, and I am inclined to think it is so, it ought to follow that men of weak imaginations are the reverse; in which case, we should have some compensation for stupidity. But it unfortunately happens that no dogmatist is more obstinate, or less open to conviction, than a fool; and the only difference between the two would seem to be this, the former is determined to force his knowledge upon others; the latter is equally determined that others shall not force their knowledge upon him.
THE good make a better bargain, and the bad a worse, than is usually supposed; for the rewards of the one, and the punishments of the other, not unfrequently begin on
this side of the grave; for vice has more martyrs than virtue; and it often happens that men suffer more to be lost, than to be saved. But admitting that the vicious may happen to escape those tortures of the body, which are so commonly the wages of excess, and of sin; yet in that calm and constant sunshine of the soul which illuminates the breast of the good man, vice can have no competition with virtue. "Our thoughts," says an eloquent divine, " like the waters of the sea, when exhaled towards heaven, will lose all their bitterness and saltness, and sweeten into an amiable humanity, until they descend in gentle showers of love and kindness upon our fellow men."
THERE are too many who reverse both the principles and the practice of the apostle; they become all things to all men, not to serve others, but themselves; and they try all things, only to hold fast that which is bad.
THERE are only two things in which the false professors of all religions have agreed; to persecute all other sects, and to plunder their own.
THERE is one passage in the Scriptures to which all the potentates of Europe seem to have given their unanimous assent and approbation, and to have studied so thoroughly as to have it quite at their fingers' ends. "There went out a decree in the days of Claudius Cesar, that all the world should be taxed."
IT often happens in public assemblies, that two measures are proposed, opposite in their tendency, but equal
in the influence by which they are supported, and also in the balance of good and evil, which may be fairly stated of either. In such a dilemma, it is not unusual, for the sake of unanimity, to adopt some half measure, which, as it has been emasculated of its energy to please the moderate, will often possess the good of neither measure, but the evil of both. Of this kind was the suspensive veto voted to the monarch by the national assembly of France. It made the king an object of positive jealousy, while it gave him only negative power, and rendered him unpopular, without the means of doing harm, and responsible without the privilege of doing good. And as half measures are so pregnant with danger, so the half talent by which they are often dictated, may be equally prejudicial. There are circumstances of peculiar difficulty and danger, where a mediocrity of talent is the most futal quantum that a man can possibly possess. Had Charles the First, and Louis the Sixteenth, been more wise, or more weak, more firm, or more yielding, in either case, they had both of them saved their heads.
IMPERIAL Rome governed the bodies of men, but did not extend her empire farther. Papal Rome improved upon imperial; she made the tiara stronger than the diadem; pontiffs more powerful than prætors; and the crozier more victorious than the sword. She devised a system, so complete in all its parts, for the subjugation both of body and of mind, that, like Archimedes, she asked but one thing, and that Luther denied her; a fulcrum of ignorance on which to rest that lever by which she could have balanced the world.
IN former times patriots prided themselves on two things: their own poverty, and the riches of the state. But poor as these men were, there were kings not rich enough
to purchase them, nor powerful enough to intimidate them. In modern times, it would be easier to find a patriot rich enough to buy a king, than a king not rich enough to buy a patriot. Valerius Maximus informs us, that Ælius Pætus tore to pieces, with his own teeth, a woodpecker, because the augur, being consulted, had replied, that if the bird lived, the house of Elius would flourish, but that if it died, the prosperity of the state would prevail. Modern patriots have discovered, that a roasted woodcock is a better thing than a raw woodpecker.
AS the man of pleasure, by a vain attempt to be more happy than any man can be, is often more miserable than most men are, so the sceptic, in a vain attempt to be wise, beyond what is permitted to man, plunges into a darkness more deplorable, and a blindness more incurable than that of the common herd, whom he despises, and would fain instruct. For the more precious the gift, the more pernicious ever will be the abuse of it, as the most powerful medicines, are the most dangerous, if misapplied, and no error is so remediless as that which arises, not from the exclusion of wisdom, but from its perversion. The sceptic, when he plunges into the depths of infidelity, like the miser who leaps from the shipwreck, will find that the treasures which he bears about him, will only sink him deeper in the abyss.
IT has been said, that men carry on a kind of coasting trade with religion. In the voyage of life, they profess to be in search of heaven, but take care not to venture so far in their approximations to it, as entirely to lose sight of the earth; and should their frail vessel be in danger of shipwreck, they will gladly throw their darling vices overboard, as other mariners their treasures only to fish them up again, when the storm is over. To steer a course that shall secure H
both worlds, is still, I fear, a desideratum, in ethics, a thing unattained as yet, either by the divine or the philosopher, for the track is discoverable only by the shipwrecks that have been made in the attempt. John Wesley quaintly observed,, that the road to heaven is a narrow path, not intended for wheels, and that to ride in a coach here, and to go to heaven hereafter, was a happiness too much for man! *
THE only kind office performed for us by our friends, of which we never complain, is our funeral; and the only thing which we are sure to want, happens to be the only thing which we never purchase-our coffin !
WITH respect to the goods of this world, it might be said, that parsons are preaching for them-that lawyers are pleading for them-that physicians are prescribing for them-that authors are writing for them--that soldiers are fighting for them,-but, that true philosophers alone are enjoying them.
THERE is more jealousy between rival wits than rival beauties, for vanity has no sex. But, in both cases, there must be pretensions, or there will be no jealousy Elizabeth might have been merciful, had Mary neither been beautiful, nor a queen; and it is only when we ourselves have been admired by some, that we begin thoroughly to envy those who are admired by all. But the basis of this passion must be the possibility of competition; for the rich are more envied by those who have a little, than by those who have nothing; and no monarch ever heard with indifference, that other monarchs were extending their dominions, except Theodore of Corsica-who had none !
• Yet honest John rode in his own coach before he died.