« AnteriorContinuar »
him, and of which he may make the most frequent use for his own benefit, or for that of others.”
A military officer, who is obliged to seek resources within himself, and in the superior ranks to' watch over the welfare of those under his command, to expose himself like them to all the accidents and all the diseases arising from the insalubrity, the inclemency, or frequent changes and variations of the climate and atmosphere, has more need than any other to acquire at least general notions on the subject of the art of preserving health. How would that colonel or general be adored by his men, who should be able occasionally to mitigate their sufferings, to guide their inexperience in their infirmities, to direct the proper applications or mode of treatment in cases of emergency that admit not of delay; and, in short, to compensate, by solicitude to relieve their afflictions, for the necessity which his duty imposes of appearing prodigal of their lives!
XVII. OF THE MORAL JOURNAL OR ACCOUNT.
The moral journal or account will contain all that relates to the moral conduct, the duties to be performed, the virtues to be practised, and the means of being constantly satisfied with ourselves, and at peace with our own consciences. It should
contain a kind of experimental course on men and society, a real course of practical morality, and may bear this title: Moral Report ; Study of myself and Knowledge of the human heart ; Review of my own life.
To this journal we should consign the results of the observations made on our own characters, which we thus learn to study and become thoroughly acquainted with. We penetrate into the deepest recesses of our hearts, into the secrets of our propensities and inclinations, of our most hidden affections, of our defects, and of our vices; we create within ourselves a reason and a conscience, which are ever enlightened, active, and powerful. We acquire a thorough knowledge of ourselves and of men in general, a salutary command, in the first place, over our own will and passions, and, in the next, over others. We collect a number of curious and instructive particulars connected with morals. We record and preserve the really useful and practically applicable reflections, which daily occur to us; the principles and rules of conduct which we deem it right to adopt; the portraits and characters of persons whom we have thought worthy of notice; the varied, frequently delicate and almost imperceptible shades of the human heart, exhibited in
all the conditions and situations of life. We fix in writing for our benefit and instruction remarkable traits, acts of courage, disinterestedness, heroism, and virtue; acts of cowardice, knavery, pusillanimity, and treachery; interesting and remarkable anecdotes; new and ingenious ideas : in short, all that relates to characters, manners, and customs—to the knowledge of the world, an essential part of education.
By pursuing this method of observing, and faithfully recording all that is worthy of notice in your daily intercourse with your fellow-creatures, you surprise nature in the fact ; you delineate persons and events, whose characteristic forms and features you preserve with care, and you easily catch the likeness. You follow the order recommended by Bacon for gradually forming an excellent treatise of practical morality. You place each truth, which is to serve as a rule of conduct, immediately after the description or sketch of the most painful disease for which it points out the remedy. Your very faults and misfortunes serve to instruct you ;* the faults and misfortunes of others become ever present lessons, which, in due time and place, you do not fail to put in practice.
* Application of the Law of Obstacles.
You study the human heart in your own and in the hearts of your fellow-creatures ; you pene. trate into all the secrets of their desires, and of your own passions ; you seize these, as it were, in their flight, and paint them to the life.
“At that moment,” says a modern writer, “when the soul, divided between sensation and reflection, begins to be so tranquil as to feel itself agitated, and is capable of scrutinizing all its impressions; if man were then to commit to paper the fugitive ideas, the extraordinary reflections, the sudden illuminations, which pass before his mind; if he were to allow his sentiments to burst forth without restraint, and to delineate themselves ; what energy! what novelty of expressions and ideas ! and what force would be given to the eloquent lessons of morality and virtue!”
Morality, which, according to Locke, consists in discovering the rules and measures of the human actions which lead to happiness, and the means of putting those rules in execution,* is the practical science by way of eminence, which proposes for its end not the mere speculation and knowledge of the truth, but what is right, and a conduct conformable with justice and wisdom.
* Morality governs the will; the law governs actions.
This science, which teaches us to make a good use of all the rest, we study every moment of our lives, in all the classes of society. Here is displayed a hideous passion, the full deformity of which it is necessary for us to see in others, that we may be more strongly disposed to guard against it in ourselves : there we observe the influence of an unruly and ill-curbed propensity; the progress and the ravages of a vicious inclination, which is not watched or checked; the effects of a culpable imprudence, of an indiscreet temerity, of too great haste in speaking or acting, of irresolution of character, of a neglect of order and economy in domestic affairs. We take warning from the faults which we have remarked to avoid them, and appropriate to ourselves good actions and praiseworthy examples as guides for our own conduct.
We thus learn to correct and remodel our disposition, to subdue our passions, or to control and to give them a right direction; to distrust and to watch strictly over ourselves; to be silent unless we can speak to the purpose ; and to place, as it were, vigilant sentinels over the lips, the eyes, and the heart. We accustom ourselves to study and