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one to acknowledged eminence above others of the same species; what always creates esteem, and in its highest degree produces veneration. The question now before us is, From what cause this eminence arises? By what means is it to be attained ?
I say, first, from riches it does not arise. These, we all know, may belong to the vilest of mankind. Providence has scattered them among the crowd with an undistinguishing hand, as of purpose to show of what small account they are in the sight of God. Experience every day proves that the possession of them is consistent with the most general contempt. On this point therefore I conceive it not necessary to insist any longer.
NEITHER does the honour of man arise from mere dignity of rank or office. Were such distinctions always, or even generally, obtained in consequence of uncommon merit, they would indeed confer honour on the character. But, in the present state of society, it is too well known that this is not the case. They are often the consequence of birth alone. They are sometimes the fruit of mere dependence and assiduity. They may be the recompence of fattery, versatility, and intrigue; and so be conjoined with meanness and baseness of character. To persons graced with noble birth, or placed in high stations, much external honour is due. This is what the subordination of society necessarily requires; and what every good member of it will cheerfully yield. But how often has it happened that such persons, when externally respected, are, nevertheless, despised by men in their hearts; nay, sometimes execrated by the public? Their elevation, if they have been unworthy of it, is so far from procuring them true honour, that it only renders their insignificance, perhaps their infamy, more conspicuous. By drawing attention to their conduct, it discovers in the most glaring light how little they deserve the station which they possess.
I must next observe, that the proper honour of man arises not from some of those splendid actions and abilities which excite high admiration. Courage and prowess, military renown, signal victories and conquests, may render the name of a man famous, without rendering his character truly honourable. To many brave men, to many heroes renowned in story, we look up with wonder. Their exploits are recorded. Their praises are sung. They stand as on an eminence, above the rest of mankind. Their eminence, nevertheless, may not be of that sort before which we bow with inward esteem and respect. Something more is wanted for that purpose, than the conquering arm and the intrepid mind. The laurels of the warrior must at all times be dyed in blood, and bedewed with the tears of the widow and the orphan. But if they have been stained by rapine and inhumanity; if sordid avarice has marked his character, or low and gross sensuality has degraded his life; the great hero sinks into a little man. What at a distance, or on a superficial view we admire, becomes mean, perhaps odious, when we examine it more closely. It is like the colossal statue, whose immense size struck the spectator afar off with astonishment; but when nearly viewed, it appears dispro. portioned, unshapely, and rude,
Observations of the same kind may be applied to all the reputation derived from civil accomplishments; from the refined politics of the statesman; or the literary efforts of genius and erudition. These bestow, and, within certain bounds, ought to bestow, eminence and distinction on men.
They discover talents which in themselves are shining, and which become highly valuable, when employed in advancing the good of mankind. Hence, they frequently give rise to fame. But a distinction is to be made between fame and true honour. The former is a loud and noisy applause; the latter a more silent and internal homage. Fame floats on the breath of the multitude; Honour rests on the judgment of the thinking. Fame may give praise while it withholds esteem ; True honour implies esteem mingled with respect. The one regards particular distinguished talents; the other looks up to the whole character. Hence the statesman, the orator, or the poet, may be famous; while yet the man himself is far from being honoured. We envy his abilities. We wish to rival them. But we would not choose to be classed with him who possessed them. Instances of this sort are too often found in every record of ancient or modern history,
From all this it follows, that, in order to discern where man's true honour lies, we must look, not to any adventitious circumstance of fortune; not to any single sparkling quality; but to the whole of what forms a man; what entitles him, as such, to rank high among that class of beings to which he belongs; in a word, we must look to the mind and the soul. A mind superiour to fear, to selfish interest and corruption; a mind governed by the principles of uniform rectitude and integrity; the same in prosperity and adversity; which no bribe can seduce, or terror overawe; neither by pleasure melted into effeminacy, nor by distress sunk into dejection; such is the mind which forms the distinction and eminence of men. One, who in no situation of life is either ashamed or afraid of discharging his duty, and acting his
proper part with firmness and constancy; true to the God whom he worships, and true to the faith in which he professes to believe; full of affection to his brethren of mankind; faithful to his friends, generous to his enemies, warm with compassion to the unfortunate; self-denying to little private interests and pleasures; but zealous for public interests and happiness; magnanimous, without being proud; humble, without being mean; just, without being harsh; simple in his manners, but manly in his feelings; on whose word you can entirely rely; whose countenance never deceives you; whose professions of kindness are the effusions of his heart; one, in fine, whom, independent of any views of advantage, you would choose for a superiour, could trust in as a friend, and could love as a brother:- This is the man, whom in your heart above all others, you do, you must, honour.
Such a character, imperfectly as it has now been drawn, all must acknowledge to be formed solely by the influence of steady religion and virtue. It is the effect of principles which, operating on conscience, determine it uniformly to pursue whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise. By those means, wisdom, as the text asserts, bringeth us to honour.
In confirmation of this doctrine it is to be observed, that the honour which man acquires by religion and virtue is more independent and more complete, than what can be acquired by any other means. It is independent of any thing foreign or external. It is not partial, but entire respect which it procures. Wherever fortune is concerned, it is the station or rank which commands our deference. Where some shining quality attracts admiration, it is only to a part of the character that we pay homage. But when a person is distinguished for eminent worth and goodness, it is the man, the whole man whom we respect. The honour which he possesses is intrinsic. Place him in any situation of life, even an obscure one; let room only be given for his virtues to come forth and show themselves, and you will revere him as a private citizen; or as the father of a family. If in higher life he appear more illustrious, this is not owing merely to the respect created by rank. It is, because there a nobler sphere of action is opened to him ; because his virtues are brought forth into more extended exertion; and placed in such conspicuous view, that he appears to grace and adorn the station, which he fills. Even in the silence of retirement, or in the retreat of old age, such a man sinks not into forgotten obscurity; his remembered virtues continue to be honoured, when their active exertions are over : and to the last stage of life he is followed by public
Philip. iv. s.