But was this their fault, or ours? Did they not present themselves to us in the garb of mortal flesh?—and do we not know that mortals are imperfect?—that, however the outside be fair, the interior is corrupt, and sometimes vile? He who knows all, alone knows how corrupt it is! the heart itself, enlightened by His grace, is more deeply in the secret than any without can be; but if the thing we love be mortal, something of it we must perceive; and more and more of it we must perceive as we look closer. If this is to disappoint and revolt us, and draw harsh reproaches and bitter recriminations from our lips, there is but One on whom we can fix our hearts with safety; and He is one, alas! we show so little disposition to love, as proves that, with all our complainings and bewailings of each others’ faultiness, our friends are as good as will, at present, suit us.
But are we, therefore, to say there is no such thing as friendship, or that it is not worth seeking? morosely repel it, or suspiciously distrust it? If we do, we shall pay our folly’s price in the forfeiture of that, without which, however we may pretend, we never are or can be happy; preferring to go without the very greatest of all earthly good, because it is not what, perhaps, it may be in heaven. Rather than this, it would be wise so to moderate our expectation, and adapt our conduct, as to gain of it a greater measure, or, as far as may be possible, to gather of its flowers without exposing ourselves to be wounded by the thorns it bears. This is only to be done by setting out in life with juster feelings and fairer expectations.
It is not true, that friends are few and kindness rare. No one ever needed friends, and deserved them, and found them not; but we do not know them when we see them, or deal with them justly when we have them. We must allow others to be as variable, and imperfect, and faulty, as ourselves. We do not wish our readers to love their friends less, but to love them as what they are, rather than as what they wish them to be; and instead of the jealous pertinacity that is wounded by every appearance of change, and disgusted by every detection of a fault, and ready to distrust and cast away the kindest friends on every trifling difference of behavior and feeling, to cultivate a moderation in their demands; a patient allowance for the effect of time and circumstance; an indulgence towards peculiarities of temper and character; and, above all, such a close examination of what passes in their own hearts, as will teach them better to understand and excuse what they detect in the hearts of others; ever remembering that all things on earth are earthly; and therefore changeful, perishable, and uncertain.
Oh! ask not, hope thou not
Of sympathy below;
Few are the hearts whence one same touch,
Bids the same fountain flow;
Few, and by still conflicting powers
Forbidden here to meet,
Such ties would make this life of ours
Too fair for aught so fleet.