The Illustrated London Reading Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about The Illustrated London Reading Book.

We must not, however, confound this gentle “wisdom which is from above” with that artificial courtesy, that studied smoothness of manners, which is learned in the school of the world.  Such accomplishments the most frivolous and empty may possess.  Too often they are employed by the artful as a snare; too often affected by the hard and unfeeling as a cover to the baseness of their minds.  We cannot, at the same time, avoid observing the homage, which, even in such instances, the world is constrained to pay to virtue.  In order to render society agreeable, it is found necessary to assume somewhat that may at least carry its appearance.  Virtue is the universal charm.  Even its shadow is courted, when the substance is wanting.  The imitation of its form has been reduced into an art; and in the commerce of life, the first study of all who would either gain the esteem or win the hearts of others, is to learn the speech and to adopt the manners of candour, gentleness, and humanity.  But that gentleness which is the characteristic of a good man has, like every other virtue, its seat in the heart; and let me add, nothing except what flows from the heart can render even external manners truly pleasing.  For no assumed behaviour can at all times hide the real character.  In that unaffected civility which springs from a gentle mind there is a charm infinitely more powerful than in all the studied manners of the most finished courtier.

True gentleness is founded on a sense of what we owe to HIM who made us, and to the common nature of which we all share.  It arises from reflections on our own failings and wants, and from just views of the condition and the duty of man.  It is native feeling heightened and improved by principle.  It is the heart which easily relents; which feels for every thing that is human, and is backward and slow to inflict the least wound.  It is affable in its address, and mild in its demeanour; ever ready to oblige, and willing to be obliged by others; breathing habitual kindness towards friends, courtesy to strangers, long-suffering to enemies.  It exercises authority with moderation; administers reproof with tenderness; confers favours with ease and modesty.  It is unassuming in opinion, and temperate in zeal.  It contends not eagerly about trifles; slow to contradict, and still slower to blame; but prompt to allay dissension and to restore peace.  It neither intermeddles unnecessarily with the affairs, nor pries inquisitively into the secrets of others.  It delights above all things to alleviate distress; and if it cannot dry up the falling tear, to sooth at least, the grieving heart.  Where it has not the power of being useful, it is never burdensome.  It seeks to please rather than to shine and dazzle, and conceals with care that superiority, either of talent or of rank, which is oppressive to those who are beneath it.  In a word, it is that spirit and that tenour of manners which the Gospel of Christ enjoins, when it commands us “to bear one another’s burdens; to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep; to please every one his neighbour for his good; to be kind and tender-hearted; to be pitiful and courteous; to support the weak, and to be patient towards all men.”

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The Illustrated London Reading Book from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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