« PreviousContinue »
This important principle is, wisdom applied to practice. It is one of those terms that many measure by the sliding scale, so much in use by those whose judgments are warped by circumstances, who are men of principle according to their own interest; whose consciences are as elastic as India rubber ; who wind themselves
up in self, like a cocoon, and run counter to the design of their creation; mere automatons in the scale of being, so far as usefulness is concerned. The party man deems it discreet to do all within his
power to advance the interests of his party, right or wrong. The applicant for an office, in many instances, deems it discreet to resort to wire working, pipe laying, and all other means within the compass of his ingenuity, to accomplish his object. Many incumbents of elective offices, consider it discreet to use every exertion to make capital for their reëlection; others, who hold their places at the will of a superior, crouch and fawn, like spaniels, before their master.
Each religious sect is prone to deem it discreet to make all the proselytes in its power, seeming more anxious to increase numbers, than Christian graces, especially, when coldness has paralyzed the hearts of its members, and nothing but the form of godliness is left. The man of ambition deems it discreet to gratify his desires, by turning every occurrence to his advantage, that will forward his designs. The miser deems it discreet to hoard up his gold from every source from which it can be drawn; starve and freeze his body, and neglect the interests of his immortal soul. Some deem it discreet to use
alcohol moderately every day; others, to have a real spree now and then; and others think they are discreet, if they do not drown their mental powers with this deadly poison, more than once a month. There are many other degrees on this sliding scale, that the reader is left to figure out.
Do you ask, what is DISCRETION ? I will first answer negatively. It is not that grasping propensity, that imposes increasing toil without enjoyment; it is not that narrow, selfish disposition that starves those around it, and spurns the hungry poor when they approach ; it is not the calculating spirit, that studies the rule of loss and gain, more than the Bible; it is not that jealousy, that keeps a feline watch over all around, and distrusts every one; it is not that cunning, that prefers intrigue to manly openness; it is not that want of moral courage, that shrinks from any call of duty; in short, nothing is discretion, that is adverse to wisdom.
Affirmatively; discretion is the development of a sound and wise judgment—a benevolent and good heart. It seeks a happy equilibrium in all things; it aims at pure happiness in time, and in eternity; it pursues noble ends by honorable means; it shuns all appearance of evil, and meets, with fortitude and resignation, the ills flesh is heir to; it applies the touchstone of plain, common sense, aided by Revelation, to every thing; it is practical in all its operations ; it rigidly tests fine spun theories, before it adopts them; it induces rational enjoyments—but considers no pleasures rational, that disqualify the soul for the enjoyment of a blissful immortality beyond the grave; it clearly discerns what is right, and has sufficient moral force
and energy to pursue the right and shun the wrong; it is cool, deliberate, reflective; but resolute, strong, and efficient; it is economy, without parsimony ; liberality, without prodigality ; benevolence, without ostentation; wealth, without pride; sincerity, without dissimulation; and goodness, without affectation.
Parents should teach it to their children by precept and example. Teachers should enforce it upon their pupils; it should take its appropriate place in the political arena---in the departments of State—in our legislative halls-in the cabinet-in the executive chamber -in our international negotiations and intercoursein our courts of justice in our seminaries of learning -in our pulpits—in our social meetings—in the domestic circle-in family government–in the juvenile nursery-in match making-in short, discretion should regulate all our conduct for time, and in view of eternity. Let it be the helm to guide our bark on the sea of life, that we may be safely wafted to the haven of lasting rest.
Am I to set my life upon a throw,
FALSE honor, like false religion, is worse than none. They both lead to destruction, and are deprecated by all good men. The one is a relic of the barbarous ages—the other is somewhat older, having first been imposed on old mother Eve, by the devil.
That cool, deliberate murder should be tolerated in this land of gospel light and moral reform, is as astonishing, as it is humiliating and disgraceful. And that the murderer should afterwards be countenanced, and even caressed, and honored with places of public trust and emolument; is shocking to every man, who has a proper sense of moral obligations. He who can calmly make up his mind to take the life of his fellow man, on the field of false honor, is an enemy to God and the human race, and, if he succeeds in his cowardly purpose, should be treated as an outlaw, and have the mark of Cain branded, in blazing capitals, on his bloodstained forehead. The man who has not genuine courage enough to refuse a challenge, forfeits his native dignity, insults Deity, violates reason, betrays the trust reposed in him by his great Creator, and is guilty of prolonging this barbarous practice. By refusing, he punishes him who seeks his life, in the severest manner. The man who refuses the first challenge, is seldom annoyed with a second. Those who are known to be opposed to this hellish practice, are not interfered with by the gentlemen “bears" of false honor.' Let public opinion, uniformly and universally, point the finger of withering scorn at the duellist-this would do more to cure him of his fighting mania, than any other thing, except the want of subjects.
I recollect many cutting answers to challenges, that inflicted severer wounds than to be shot with the blue pill. Here is one, “Sir, Your desire to have me shoot you, cannot be complied with. My father taught me, when a boy, never to wąste powder on game not worth bringing "home.” Another, “Sir, I am opposed to murder in any form-of course I cannot consent to shoot you, or volunteer to be shot myself. To gratify your strong desire for burning powder, mark out my full length portrait on a barn—if you can hit that, consider me shot, and your honor vindicated.” Another, “Sir, I fear not your sword, but the sword of God's anger. I dare venture my life in a good cause, but cannot venture my soul in a bad one. I will charge upon
the cannon's mouth for my country, but I want courage to storm hell." No man, who is engaged in duelling, is a Christian or a philosopher.
In one of my former publications, I referred to the increasing errors on this subject—that of overshooting the mark. Too many have imbibed the idea, that to obtain a sufficient education to enable a man to appear advantageously upon the theatre, especially of public life; his boyhood and youth must be spent within the walls of some classical seminary of learning, that he may commence his career under the high floating banner of a collegiate diploma-with them, the first round in the ladder of fame.
That a refined classical education is desirable, and one of the accomplishments of a man, I admit—that it is indispensably necessary, and always makes a man more useful, I deny. He who has been incarcerated, from his childhood, up to his majority, within the limited circumference of his school and boarding room, although he may have mastered all the classics, is destitute of that knowledge of men and things, indispensably necessary to prepare him for action, either in private or public life. Classic lore and polite literature, are very different from that vast amount of com