To forego the pleasures of sense, and undergo the hardships that attend a holy life, is such a kind of mercenariness as none but a resigned believing soul is likely to be guilty of; if fear itself, and even the fear of hell, may be one justifiable motive of mens actions.
The opportunities of making great sacrifices for the good of mankind are of rare occurrence, and he who remains inactive till it is in his power to confer signal benefits or yield important services is in imminent danger of incurring the doom of the slothful servant. It is the preference of duty to inclination in the ordinary course of life, it is the practice of self-denial in a thousand little instances, which forms the truest test of character, and secures the honour and the reward of those who live not to themselves.
But if there were no such consideration as the good effect which self-denial has upon the sense of other men towards us, it is of all qualities the most desirable for the agreeable disposition in which it places our own minds. I cannot tell what better to say of it, than that it is the very contrary of ambition; and that modesty allays all those passions and inquietudes to which that vice exposes us. He that is moderate in his wishes, from reason and choice, and not resigned from sourness, distaste, or disappointment, doubles all the pleasures of his life. The air, the season, a sunshiny day, or a fair prospect, are instances of happiness; and that which he enjoys in common with all the world (by his exemption from the enchantments by which all the world are bewitched), are to him uncommon benefits and new acquisitions. Health is not eaten up with care, nor pleasure interrupted by envy.
The great foundation of civil virtue is self-denial; and there is no one above the necessities of life, but has opportunities of exercising that noble quality, and doing as much as his circumstances will bear for the ease and convenience of other men; and he who does more than ordinary men practise upon such occasions as occur in his life, deserves the value of his friends, as if he had done enterprises which are usually attended with the brightest glory. Men of public spirit differ rather in their circumstances than their virtue; and the man who does all he can, in a low station, is more a hero than he who omits any worthy action he is able to accomplish in a great one.