The origin of all mankind was the same: it is only a clear and a good conscience that makes a man noble, for that is derived from heaven itself. It was the saying of a great man that, if we could trace our descents, we should find all slaves to come from princes, and all princes from slaves; and fortune has turned all things topsy-turvy in a long series of revolutions: beside, for a man to spend his life in pursuit of a trifle that serves only when he dies to furnish out an epitaph, is below a wise mans business.
The body being only the covering of the soul, at its dissolution we shall discover the secrets of naturethe darkness shall be dispelled, and our souls irradiated with light and glory; a glory without a shadow, a glory that shall surround us; and from whence we shall look down, and see day and night beneath us: and as now we cannot lift up our eyes towards the sun without dazzling, what shall we do when we behold the divine light in its illustrious original?
The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depends upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance,and so quit a certainty for an uncertainty.
As gratitude is a necessary and a glorious, so also is it an obvious, a cheap, and an easy virtue: so obvious, that wherever there is life there is place for it; so cheap, that the covetous man may be grateful without expense; and so easy, that the sluggard may be so likewise without labour.
The greatest man is he who chooses right with the most invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptation from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menaces and frowns; whose reliance on truth, on virtue, and on God is most unfaltering.
The true felicity of life is to be free from perturbations; to understand our duties towards God and man; to enjoy the present without any serious dependence upon the future. Not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears, but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is abundantly sufficient; for he that is so, wants nothing. The great blessings of mankind are within us, and within our reach; but we shut our eyes, and, like people in the dark, we fall foul upon the very thing we search for, without finding it. Tranquillity is a certain equality of mind, which no condition of fortune can either exalt or depress. Nothing can make it less, for it is the state of human perfection; it raises us as high as we can go, and makes every man his own supporter; whereas he that is borne up by anything else, may fall. He that judges aright, and perseveres in it, enjoys a perpetual calm; he takes a true prospect of things; he observes an order, measure, a decorum, in all his actions; he has a benevolence in his nature; he squares his life according to reason, and draws to himself love and admiration. Without a certain and an unchangeable judgment all the rest is but fluctuation; but he that always wills, and wills the same thing, is undoubtedly in the right. Liberty and serenity of mind must necessarily ensue upon the mastering of those things which either allure or affright us, when instead of those flashing pleasures (which, even at the best, are most vain and hurtful together) we shall find ourselves possessed of joys transporting and everlasting.
As there are no laws extant against ingratitude, so it is utterly impossible to contrive any that in all circumstances shall reach it. If it were actionable, there would not be courts enough in the whole world to try the causes in. There could be no setting a day for the requiting of benefits as for the payment of money; nor any estimate upon the benefits themselves; but the whole matter rests in the conscience of both parties: and then there are so many degrees of it, that the same rule will never serve all.
There is no benefit so large but malignity will still lessen it; none so narrow which a good interpretation will not enlarge. No man can ever be grateful that views a benefit on the wrong side, or takes a good office by the wrong handle. The avaricious man is naturally ungrateful, for he never thinks he has enough, but, without considering what he has, only minds what he covets. Some pretend want of power to make a competent return, and you shall find in others a kind of graceless modesty, that makes a man ashamed of requiting an obligation, because it is a confession that he has received one.
True joy is a serene and sober motion; and they are miserably out that take laughing for rejoicing: the seat of it is within, and there is no cheerfulness like the resolutions of a brave mind, that has fortune under its feet.
The manner of saying or of doing anything goes a great way in the value of the thing itself. It was well said of him that called a good office that was done harshly and with an ill will, a stony piece of bread: it is necessary for him that is hungry to receive it, but it almost chokes a man in the going down.
Shun no toil to make yourself remarkable by some talent or other. Yet do not devote yourself to one branch exclusively. Strive to get clear notions about all. Give up no science entirely, for science is but one.
A great, a good, and a right mind is a kind of divinity lodged in flesh, and may be the blessing of a slave as well as of a prince. It came from heaven, and to heaven it must return; and it is a kind of heavenly felicity which a pure and virtuous mind enjoys in some degree even upon earth.