Mankind is divided into two Parts, the Busie and the Idle. The Busie World may be divided into the Virtuous and the Vicious. The Vicious again into the Covetous, the Ambitious, and the Sensual. The idle Part of Mankind are in a State inferior to any one of these. All the other are engaged in the Pursuit of Happiness, though often misplaced, and are therefore more likely to be attentive to such Means, as shall be proposed to them for that End. The Idle, who are neither wise for this World, nor the next, are emphatically called by Dr. Tillotson, Fools at large. They propose to themselves no End, but run adrift with every Wind. Advice therefore would be but thrown away upon them, since they would scarce take the Pains to read it. I shall not fatigue any of this worthless Tribe with a long Harangue; but will leave them with this short Saying of Plato, that Labour is preferable to Idleness, as Brightness to Rust.
The Pursuits of the Active Part of Mankind, are either in the Paths of Religion and Virtue; or, on the other Hand, in the Roads to Wealth, Honours or Pleasure. I shall therefore compare the Pursuits of Avarice, Ambition and sensual Delight, with their opposite Virtues; and shall consider which of these Principles engages Men in a Course of the greatest Labour, Suffering and Assiduity. Most Men, in their cool Reasonings, are willing to allow that a Course of Virtue will in the End be rewarded the most amply; but represent the Way to it as rugged and narrow. If therefore it can be made appear, that Men struggle through as many Troubles to be miserable, as they do to be happy, my Readers may perhaps be perswaded to be Good, when they find they shall lose nothing by it.
First, for Avarice. The Miser is more Industrious than the Saint: The Pains of getting, the Fears of losing, and the Inability of enjoying his Wealth, have been the Mark of Satyr in all Ages. Were his Repentance upon his Neglect of a good Bargain, his Sorrow for being over-reached, his Hope of improving a Sum, and his Fear of falling into Want, directed to their proper Objects; they would make so many different Christian Graces and Virtues. He may apply to himself a great Part of St. Paul's Catalogue of Sufferings. In journeying often; in Perils of Water, in Perils of Robbers, in Perils among false Brethren. In Weariness and Painfulness, in Watchings often, in Hunger and Thirst, in Fastings often,--At how much less Expence might he lay up to himself Treasures in Heaven; or if I may, in this Place, be allowed to add the Saying of a great Philosopher, he may provide such Possessions, as fear neither Arms, nor Men, nor Jove himself.
In the second Place, if we look upon the Toils of Ambition, in the same Light as we have considered those of Avarice, we shall readily own that far less Trouble is requisite to gain lasting Glory, than the Power and Reputation of a few Years; or, in other Words, we may with more Ease deserve Honour, than obtain it. The Ambitious Man should remember Cardinal Woolsey's Complaint.
'Had I served God, with the same Application, wherewith I served my King, he would not have forsaken me in my old Age.'
The Cardinal here softens his Ambition by the specious Pretence of serving his King: Whereas his Words in the proper Construction, imply, that if instead of being acted by Ambition, he had been acted by Religion, he should have now felt the Comforts of it, when the whole World turned its Back upon him.
Thirdly, Let us compare the Pains of the Sensual, with those of the Virtuous, and see which are heavier in the Balance. It may seem strange, at the first View, that the Men of Pleasure should be advised to change their Course, because they lead a painful Life. Yet when we see them so active and vigilant in quest of Delight; under so many Disquiets, and the Sport of such various Passions; let them answer, as they can, if the Pains they undergo, do not outweigh their Enjoyments. The Infidelities on the one Part between the two Sexes, and the Caprices on the other, the Debasement of Reason, the Pangs of Expectation, the Disappointments in Possession, the Stings of Remorse, the Vanities and Vexations attending even the most refined Delights that make up this Business of Life, render it so silly and uncomfortable, that no Man is thought wise till he hath got over it, or happy, but in proportion as he hath cleared himself from it.
The Sum of all is this. Man is made an active Being. Whether he walks in the Paths of Virtue or Vice, he is sure to meet with many Difficulties to prove his Patience, and excite his Industry. The same if not greater Labour, is required in the Service of Vice and Folly, as of Virtue and Wisdom: And he hath this easie Choice left him, whether with the Strength he is Master of, he will purchase Happiness or Repentance.Translation of motto: