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THE love of happiness is a passion predominant in the human breast, and for the enjoyment of which individuals of every description are anxiously concerned.
To say in what happiness consists, or how it may certainly be had, is an invidious task; because men of different tastes, dispositions, and capacities, not only view the subject in different lights, but adopt opposite means to obtain it. There can however, it is presumed, be little risk of censure to him who shall assert, That whatever has a natural tendency to irradiate the mind, to regulate the affections, and to meliorate the conduct, must be friendly to happiness.
Such is the wisdom, and such the goodness of the great Parent of the universe, that he has provided sources of pleasure exactly suited to the compound nature of man. But
it is the indelible opprobrium of our species, that those enjoyments which are merely sensual, and of which, in subserviency to higher ends, we might lawfully partake, engross too frequently the whole of our attention; while those of a refined and exquisite nature, and in which felicity might be more reasonably expected, are entirely neglected or forgotten. This is the effect of a vitiated taste which has precipitated thousands into inextricable difficulties, and into which it had nearly hurried my fair Correspondent, of whom some account will be found in the following Introduction, and to whom the Letters subjoined are addressed.
To him who is conscious of danger and anxious for help, deliverance must be acceptable. This was once the situation of the amiable Lavinia. Her importunate entreaties could not be heard with indifference—she was directed to the REFUGE where protection was known to be certain ; and where she not only found security, but the rest and the happiness she wanted.
Of all the passions that agitate the human mind, there is perhaps no one more grateful in itself, or more useful to man, than sympathy.
Virtue in distress is sure to attract notice and excite commiseration. The sufferings of others, it is true, cannot be witnessed without painful emotions; but these emotions we neither wish to suppress nor attempt to diminish: for such is the wonderful construction of our nature, and such the delightful tendency of this passion, that instead of endeavouring to avoid, we take pleasure in approaching the object of misery. The ear is open to the cry of calamity: the tale of woe is heard with melting tenderness: we instantly participate the grief: we mingle sigh with sigh, tear with tear, and wish, anxiously wish, to alle
viate, if we cannot remove, the cause of inquietude.
To sympathy we are indebted for a thousand endearments in social life: it is the bond of society: we feel ourselves interested in the general good: we experience more pleasure in communicating than in receiving the means of happiness; and in contemplating its benign influence, perceive both the propriety and the excellency of that divine aphorism–It is more blessed to give than to receive.
But though such be the general tendency of this benevolent affection, there are objects of wretchedness on which the world has no compassion to bestow. Men whose consciences are burdened with guilt, and harassed with painful apprehensions respecting futurity, seldom meet with sympathetic tenderness. But how are we to account for the dereliction of human nature in this case? Is not the anguish arising from a consciousness of moral turpitude equally pungent with that which the loss of terrestrial comforts may incidentally occasion? Surely the cause of sorrow in the former as far exceeds the latter, as the perpetual favour of heaven transcends the mo
mentary calamities of life! “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?
It may be said in answer to this inquiry, that pain of conscience has relation to guilt, and is the effect of sin operating against a known rule prescribed for the regulation of moral conduct. In order therefore to sympathize with the contrite sufferer, we must have the same ideas respecting the equity of God's government, the detestable nature of sin, and the justice of that punishment with which it is connected. But natural men see things in a very different light. Their consciences are not under the authority of the law of God, no beauty is beheld in the divine precepts, nor do they, it is to be feared, really believe that the commission of moral evil will be attended with those dreadful consequences which the scriptures constantly affirm. It is therefore impossible, in the very nature of the case, that men with such ideas should feel for a soul tortured with guilt: the distress endured will be considered rather as chimerical than real, or at least as the effect of superstitious credulity, and as deserving raillery more than commiseration, or severe rebuke rather than serious expostulation.