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PRUDENCE.

In human breasts we various Papions find.
Torregulate them is an act of mind.

From constitucion vice and virtue riser: muruniirunance mark the foolish from the wider

TITUT

Lency dark soulp?

Published by I. Parsons. Nou. Paternoster Row..

w.May -1796.

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of certainty. She firmly adheres to such as are evident; those that are not evident, she ranks among probabilities; and, with respect to some, she absolutely suspends her assent. But, if there happen to be a mixture of the marvellous, she becomes less credulous, and begins to doubt, apprehending some fraud or illusion.

The laws of prudence are somewhat less rigid with respect to practical dogmas. The heart does not wait for a complete evidence to resolve, but it must have probable motives, at least, to make a rational determination. To desire objects, which very likely may prove contrary to our happiness, would be a pernicious imprudence; to desire those that are contrary to good morals, would be absolutely criminal, Now, whatever is criminal must necessarily be productive of misery, because there is an avenger in heaven, who, sooner or later, leaves no crime unpunished.

The prudence relating to points of mere speculation does not fall within our province, but belongs to the metaphysician. That which éomes under our examination, is the wise circumspection which regulates our Affections, Words, and Actions.

AFFECTIONS,

Our affections are not free, any more than our thoughts; they generally rise without the concurrence of the will. The most consummate prudence cannot eradicate thein. Beside, the attempt itself would be vain; for, as they are not voluntary, they cannot be criminal. But, though they are innocent, still they are always dangerous, if they incline us toward objects prohibited by the divine iaw. We ought to be afraid, lest, by rising too often in our breasts, they should gain too great an influence over the soul, and occupy it entirely; and lest, by seducing it with flattering hopes, or stunning it with tumultuous clamours, they should render it, at length, inattentive or deaf to the counsels of reason.

The affections over which we should have a guard, either spring up in the soul without the concurrence of the body, are excited by the senses, or raised by external objects. In the first class we place those vain and presumptuous affections, which are the seeds of pride; in the second, all corporeal appetites, which are the source of intemperance; in the third, those desires, whose objects are valuable in our eyes, only because of our prejudices; such as those which riches and honours excite, and which in time, when they have taken root, produce avarice and ambition: for all these different desires, by frequent repetition, become habits, and these habits are what we call passions.

The passions themselves, were they even to have a tendency to illicit objects, would not be criminal, without the consent of the will ; because the repeated desires that form them are not criminal, when the heart, by which they are produced, instantly disavows them. But there is reason to fear, lest they shake the mind by continued efforts, which, weakening it by degrees, will reduce it, at length, to a state of entire subjection,

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By watching, therefore, over our desires, we must hinder, as much as in us lies, the rise or progress of disorderly passions. We must even have an eye over those that seem innocent, because they soon cease to be so by becoming immoderate.

WORDS.

To know how to govern the tongue, is a rare, but necessary and useful science. A person who has brought his soul under proper discipline, by regulating his thoughts, desires, and affections, must have made a considerable proficiency in this science; for the tongue is only the interpreter of the mind. The remaining part is a trifle in comparison of this: the work, however, is not completed; for we are still to observe, that there are thoughts, desires, and affections, of such a nature, that, though they are innocent while confined within our breasts, yet become indecent and culpable by being divulged by the tongue.

Indiscretion in discourse is a fault in which injustice is added to imprudence. To reveal the secret either of a friend, or of any other person, is disposing of another man's property ; 'tis abusing a trust, an abuse so much the more criminal, as it is always irreparable. If you lavish a sum of money with which you were entrusted, perhaps you will be able some time or other to make restitution ; but how is it po. sible to make a secret, once divulged, return into the recesses of darkness?

Whether you have or have not promised to be silent, your obligation to secrecy is the same, if the confidence be of such a nature as to require it: to hear the story out, is engaging not to reveal it.

To recommend discretion to a confidant who is prudent and circumspect, is an unnecessary precaution; because, without your recommendation, he knows how to be silent: to charge a fool with secrecy, is likewise a superfluous trouble; you can have no security from his promise. He does not think himself obliged to secrecy, if he has not given his word ; and, if by chance he is silent, it is owing to want of memory or opportunity. But, if unluckily he has promised to be discreet, neither opportunity nor memory will fail him. After his promise is made, he weighs and examines it, which before he did not; he thinks he has gone too far, and wants to recal his word, What a heavy burden must a secret be to a fool! He is sure not to forget what you have committed to his trust: for how is it possible for him to carry so ponderous a load, without thinking of it? He imagines every one perceives the confusion which he inwardly feels, that they penetrate into the recesses of his breast, and there read the secret. To save himself, therefore, the vexation of having it found out, he at length resolves to betray his trust, after strictly charging his new confidant to remember, that what he has disclosed to him is an affair of the utmost importance.

Be then always upon your guard; for, though you be only a confidant, you may meet with some prying meddlers, who, pretending to share the confidence of your friend, may inform themselves from your mouth of what they only surmised before. Notwithstanding this is so common a stratagem, so usual a snare, yet there are daily instances of people being caught in it.

But were it even true, that the person who entrusted his secret to you had reposed the same confidence in others, this is not a reason that discharges you from your obligation of secrecy: you should always inviolably observe it, without disclosing the affair even to those. who have equally shared in your friend's confidence. How do you know but it is a matter of importance, that in company with those very persons you should appear to know nothing of the matter?

• But some of them,” you may say, “ have spoken of it already." What do you pretend to infer from thence ? Does another person's infidelity justify yours. Again I repeat it, you have accepted a trust, and none but the person who reposed it can discharge you from it: he alone wlio cominunicated the secret to you has a right to untie your tongue.

Even a rupture between two friends does not annul the obligation of secrecy; you cannot get rid of your debts by quarrelling with your creditor. How detestable a perfidy is it to employ for your resentment the arms you have drawn from the bosom of friendship ! Though we should cease to be united by the ties of affection, are we therefore discharged from those of honesty and rectitude ?

In vain would you alledge, that the wretch whom you detest has merited your aversion, merely through his own indiscretion in disclosing your secret. A fine project of revenge! to punish a treachery, you are to become yourself a traitor!

You ought to lodge another person's secret in the most impene, trable recess of your bosom ; you should conceal it, if possible, from yourself

, for fear of being ever tempted to make a bad use of it. To, apply this knowledge either to the prejudice of the person who confided in you, or to your own particular emolument, is usurping another person's property : an usurpation which even the desire of revenge, already criminal in itself, is incapable to justify.

How much more flagitious a crime would it be, to make use of the very benefits conferred upon you, in order to betray your benefactor! There are favours which ought always to be concealed; and the same principle of gratitude which prompts us to publish others obliges us yet more strongly. to conceal these. But too often the reverse falls out; those which we ought to divulge, through ingratitude we conceal; and those which we ought to conceal, we divulge through vanity.

ACTIONS. If God alone were witness to our actions, our heart being irreproachable, irreproachable also would be our conduct; for he judges us only by the heart. But mankind, on the contrary, seeing no more than externals, judge of our intention by our actions; and weigh and estimate us by the testimony of their senses. It is, therefore, both our interest and duty to avoid giving any voluntary occasion to suspicions that may injure our reputation. It is our interest, because, having

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