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and societies, relations and endearments; and by something or other we relate to all the world; there is enough in every man that is willing to make him become our friend; but when men contract friendships, they inclose the commons; and what nature intended should be every man's, we make proper to two or three. Friendship is like rivers, and the strand of seas, and the air-common to all the world; but tyrants, and evil customs, wars, and want of love, have made them proper and peculiar. But when Christianity came to renew our nature, and to restore our laws, and to increase our privileges, and to make our aptness to become religion, then it was declared that our friendships were to be as universal as our conversation; that is, actual to all with whom we converse, and potentially extended unto those with whom we did not. For he who was to treat his enemies with forgiveness and prayers, and love and beneficence, was indeed to have no enemies, and to have all friends.
So that to your question, "how far a dear and perfect friendship is authorised by the principles of Christianity," the answer is ready and easy: it is warranted to extend to all mankind; and the more we love, the better we are; and the greater our friendships are, the dearer we are to God. Let them be as dear, and let them be as perfect, and let them be as many as you can; there is no danger in it; only where the restraint begins, there begins our imperfection. It is not ill that you entertain brave friendships and worthy societies; it were well if you could love and if you could benefit all mankind; for I conceive that is the sum of all friendship. I confess this is not to be expected of us in this world; but as all our graces here are but imperfect, that is, at the best they are but tendencies to glory, so our friendships are imperfect too, and but beginnings of a celestial friendship by which we shall love every one as much as they can be loved. But then so we must here in our proportion; and indeed that is it that can make the difference; we must be friends to all, that is, apt to do good, loving them really, and doing to them all the benefits which we can, and which they are capable of. The friendship is equal to all the world, and of itself hath no difference; but is differenced only by accidents, and by the capacity or incapacity of them that receive it.
Nature and religion are the bands of friendships; excellency and usefulness are its great endearments: society and neighbourhood, that is, the possibilities and the circumstances of converse, are the determinations and actualities of it. Now when men either are unnatural or irreligious, they will not be friends: when they are neither excellent nor useful, they are not worthy to be friends; when they are strangers or unknown, they cannot be friends actually and practically; but yet, as any man hath any thing of the good, contrary to those evils, so he can have and must have his share of friendship.
For thus the sun is the eye of the world; and he is indifferent to the negro, or the cold Russian, to them that dwell under the line and them that stand near the tropics, the scalded Indian, or the poor boy that shakes at the foot of the Riphean hills. But the fluxures of the heaven and the earth, the conveniency of abode, and the approaches to the north or south respectively, change the emanations of his beams; not that they do not pass always from him, but that they are not equally received below, but by periods and changes, by little inlets and reflections, they receive what they can. And some have only a dark day and a long night from him, snows and white cattle, a miserable life, and a perpetual harvest of catarrhs and consumptions, apoplexies and dead palsies. But some have splendid fires and aromatic spices, rich wines and well-digested fruits, great wit and great courage; because they dwell in his eye, and look in his face, and are the courtiers of the sun, and wait upon him in his chambers of the east. Just so is it in friendships; some are worthy, and some are necessary; some dwell hard by, and are fitted for converse;
nature joins some to us, and religion combines us with others; society and accidents, parity of fortune, and equal dispositions, do actuate our friendships: which of themselves and in their prime disposition, are prepared for all mankind according as any one can receive them. We see this best exemplified by two instances and expressions of friendships and charity: viz., alms and prayers; every one that needs relief is equally the object of our charity; but though to all mankind in equal needs we ought to be alike in charity, yet we signify this severally and by limits and distinct measures: the poor man that is near me, he whom I meet, he whom I love, he whom I fancy, he who did me benefit, he who relates to my family, he rather than another because my expressions, being finite and narrow, and cannot extend to all in equal significations, must be appropriate to those whose circumstances best fit me and yet even to all I give my alms, to all the world that needs them; I pray for all mankind, I am grieved at every sad story I hear; I am troubled when I hear of a pretty bride murdered in her bridechamber by an ambitious and enraged rival; I shed a tear when I am told that a brave king was misunderstood, then slandered, then imprisoned, and then put to death by evil men: and I can never read the story of the Parisian massacre, or the Sicilian vespers, but my blood curdles, and I am disordered by two or three affections. A good man is a friend to all the world; and he is not truly charitable that does not wish well, and do good to all mankind in what he can. But though we must pray for all men, yet we say special litanies for brave kings and holy prelates, and the wise guides of souls, for our brethren and relations, our wives and children.
The effect of this consideration is, that the universal friendship of which I speak must be limited, because we are so. In those things where we stand next to immensity and infinity, as in good wishes and prayers, and a readiness to benefit all mankind, in these our friendships must not be limited; but in other things which pass under our hand and eye, our voices and our material exchanges; our hands can reach no further but to our arm's end, and our voices can but sound till the next air be quiet, and therefore they can have intercourse but within the sphere of their own activity; our needs and our conversations are served by a few, and they cannot reach at all; where they can, they must, but where it is impossible, it cannot be necessary. It must therefore follow, that our friendships to mankind may admit variety as does our conversation; and as by nature we are made sociable to all, so we are friendly but as all cannot actually be of our society, so neither can all be admitted to a special, actual friendship. Of some intercourses all men are capable, but not of all; men can pray for one another, and abstain from doing injuries to all the world, and be desirous to do all mankind good, and love all men : now this friendship we must pay to all, because we can; but if we can do no more to all, we must show our readiness to do more good to all, by actually doing more good to all them to whom we can.
A good man is the best friend, and therefore soonest to be chosen, longer to be retained; and indeed never to be parted with, unless he cease to be that for which he was chosen.
For the good man is a profitable, useful person, and that is the band of an effective friendship. For I do not think that friendships are metaphysical nothings, created for contemplation, or that men or women should stare upon each other's faces, and make dialogues of news and prettinesses, and look babies in one another's eyes. Friendship is the allay of our sorrows, the ease of our passions, the discharge of our oppressions, the sanctuary to our calamities, the counsellor of our doubts, the charity of our minds, the emission of our thoughts, the exercise and improvement of what we meditate. And although I love my friend because he is worthy, yet he is not worthy if he can do me no good; I do not speak of accidental hinderances
and misfortunes by which the bravest man may become unable to help his child; but of the natural and artificial capacities of the man. He only is fit to be chosen for a friend, who can do those offices for which friendship is excellent. For (mistake not) no man can be loved for himself; our perfections in this world cannot reach so high; it is well if we would love God at that rate; and I very much fear that if God did us no good we might admire his beauties, but we should have but a small proportion of love towards him; all his other greatnesses are objects of fear and wonder, it is his goodness that makes him lovely. And so it is in friendships. He only is fit to be chosen for a friend who can give counsel, or defend my cause, or guide me right, or relieve my need, or can and will, when I need it, do me good: only this I add, into the heaps of doing good, I will reckon, loving me, for it is a pleasure to be beloved; but when his love signifies nothing but kissing my check, or talking kindly, and can go no further, it is a prostitution of the bravery of friendship to spend it upon impertinent people who are (it may be) loads to their families, but can never ease any loads; but my friend is a worthy person when he can become to me, instead of God, a guide or a support, an eye or a hand, a staff or a rule.
Can any wise or good man be angry if I say, I choose this man to be my friend, because he is able to give me counsel, to restrain my wanderings, to comfort me in my sorrows; he is pleasant to me in private, and useful in public; he will make my joys double, and divide my grief between himself and me? For what else should I choose? For being a fool and useless? for a pretty face and a smooth chin? I confess it is possible to be a friend to one that is ignorant, and pitiable, handsome and good for nothing, that eats well, and drinks deep, but he cannot be a friend to me; and I love him with a fondness or a pity, but it cannot be a noble friendship.
Plutarch calls such friendships "the idols and images of friendship." True and brave friendships are between worthy persons; and there is in mankind no degree of worthiness, but is also a degree of usefulness, and by every thing by which a man is excellent I may be profited: and because those are the bravest friends which can best serve the ends of friendships, either we must suppose that friendships are not the greatest comforts in the world, or else we must say, he chooses his friend best, that chooses such a one by whom he can receive the greatest comforts and assistances.
This being the measure of all friendships; they all partake of excellency, according as they are fitted to this measure: a friend may be counselled well enough, thougł his friend be not the wisest man in the world; and he may be pleased in his society, though he be not the best natured man in the world; but still it must be, that something excellent is, or is apprehended, or else it can be no worthy friendship; because the choice is imprudent and foolish. Choose for your friend him that is wise and good, and secret and just, ingenuous and honest; and in those things which have a latitude, use your own liberty; but in such things which consist in an indivisible point make no abatements; that is, you must not choose him to be your friend that is not honest and secret, just and true to a tittle; but if he be wise at all, and useful in any degree, and as good as you can have him, you need not be ashamed to own your own friendships; though sometimes you may be ashamed of some imperfections of your friend.
But if you yet inquire, further, whether fancy may be an ingredient in your choice? I answer, that fancy may minister to this as to all other actions in which there is a liberty and variety. And we shall find that there may be peculiarities, and little partialities, a friendship improperly so called, entering upon accounts of an innocent passion and a pleased fancy; even our blessed Saviour himself loved St. John and Lazarus by a special love, which was signified by special treatments; and of the young man that spake well and wisely to Christ it is affirmed, Jesus loved him, that
is, he fancied the man, and his soul had a certain cognation and similitude of temper and inclination. For in all things where there is a latitude, every faculty will endeavour to be pleased, and sometimes the meanest persons in a house have a festival : even sympathies and natural inclinations to some persons, and a conformity of humours, and proportionable loves, and the beauty of the face, and a witty answer, may first strike the flint and kindle a spark, which if it falls upon tender and compliant natures may grow into a flame; but this will never be maintained at the rate of friendship unless it be fed by pure materials, by worthinesses which are the food of friendship: where these are not, men and women may be pleased with one another's company, and lie under the same roof, and make themselves companions of equal prosperities, and humour their friend; but if you call this friendship, you give a sacred name to humour or fancy; for there is a Platonic friendship, as well as a Platonic love but they being but the images of more noble bodies, are but like tinsel dressings, which will show bravely by candle-light, and do excellently in a mask, but are not fit for conversation and the material intercourses of our life. These are the prettinesses of prosperity and good-natured wit; but when we speak of friendship, which is the best thing in the world (for it is love and beneficence, it is charity that is fitted for society), we cannot suppose a brave pile should be built up with nothing; and they that build castles in the air, and look upon friendship as upon a fine romance, a thing that pleases the fancy but is good for nothing else, will do well when they are asleep, or when they are come to Elysium; and for aught I know in the meantime may be as much in love with Mandana in the Grand Cyrus, as with the Infanta of Spain, or any of the most perfect beauties and real excellencies of the world: and by dreaming of perfect and abstracted friendships, make them so immaterial that they perish in the handling and become good for nothing.
But I know not whither I am going: I did only mean to say that because friendship is that by which the world is most blessed and receives most good, it ought to be chosen amongst the worthiest persons, that is, amongst those that can do greatest benefit to each other. And though in equal worthiness I may choose by my eye, or ear, that is, into the consideration of the essential, I may take in also the accidental and extrinsic worthinesses; yet I ought to give every one their just value: when the internal beauties are equal, these shall help to weigh down the scale, and I will love a worthy friend that can delight me as well as profit me, rather than him who cannot delight me at all, and profit me no more: but yet I will not weigh the gayest flowers, or the wings of butterflies, against wheat; but when I am to choose wheat, I may take that which looks the brightest. I had rather see thyme and roses, marjoram and July flowers, that are fair and sweet and medicinal, than the prettiest tulips that are good for nothing: and my sheep and kine are better servants than race-horses and greyhounds. And I shall rather furnish my study with Plutarch and Cicero, with Livy and Polybius, than with Cassandra and Ibrahim Bassa; and if I do give an hour to these for divertisement or pleasure, yet I will dwell with them that can instruct me, and make me wise and eloquent, severe and useful to myself and others. I end this with the saying of Lælius in Cicero: "Amicitia non debet consequi utilitatem, sed amicitiam utilitas." When I choose my friend, I will not stay till I have received a kindness: but I will choose such a one that can do me many if I need them: but I mean such kindnesses which make me wiser, and which make me better: that is, I will, when I choose my friend, choose him that is the bravest, the worthiest, and the most excellent person; and then your first question is soon answered. To love such a person, and to contract such friendships, is just so authorised by the principles of Christianity, as it is warranted to love wisdom and virtue, goodness and beneficence, and all the impresses of God upon the spirits
of brave men.
[WHO has not heard of The Natural History of Selborne,'-one of the most delightful books in the English language! The author was the Reverend Gilbert White, who for forty years lived in the retirement of his beautiful native village, Selborne, in Hampshire, diligently observing the appearances of nature, and recording them in letters to his friends. He was the first to take Natural History out of the hands of the mere classifiers, and to show how full of interest is the commonest object of creation, when carefully examined, and diligently watched through its course of growth, of maturity, and of decay. Mr. White was born in 1720, and died in 1793.]
THE HOUSE-MARTIN.-In obedience to your injunctions I sit down to give you some account of the house-martin, or martlet; and, if my monography of this little domestic and familiar bird should happen to meet with your approbation, I may probably soon extend my inquiries to the rest of the British hirundines-the swallow, the swift, and the bank-martin.
A few house-martins begin to appear about the sixteenth of April; usually some few days later than the swallow. For some time after they appear, the hirundines in general pay no attention to the business of nidification, but play and sport about, either to recruit from the fatigue of their journey, if they do migrate at all, or else that their blood may recover its true tone and texture after it has been so long benumbed by the severities of winter. About the middle of May, if the weather be fine, the martin begins to think in earnest of providing a mansion for its family. The crust or shell of this nest seems to be formed of such dirt or loam as comes most readily to hand, and is tempered and wrought together with little bits of broken straws to render it tough and tenacious. As this bird often builds against a perpendicular wall without any projecting ledge under, it requires its utmost efforts to get the first foundation firmly fixed, so that it may safely carry the superstructure. On this occasion the bird not only clings with its claws, but partly supports itself by strongly inclining its tail against the wall, making that a fulcrum; and, thus steadied, it works and plasters the materials into the face of the brick or stone. But then, that this work may not, while it is soft and green, pull itself down by its own weight, the provident architect has prudence and forbearance enough not to advance her work too fast; but by building only in the morning, and by dedicating the rest of the day to food and amusement, gives it sufficient time to dry and harden. About half an inch seems to be a sufficient layer for a day. Thus careful workmen when they build mud-walls (informed at first perhaps by this little bird) raise but a moderate layer at a time, and then desist lest the work should become top-heavy, and so be ruined by its own weight. By this method in about ten or twelve days is formed an hemispheric nest with a small aperture towards the top, strong, compact, and warm; and perfectly fitted for all the purposes for which it was intended. But then nothing is more common than for the house-sparrow, as soon as the shell is 1ST QUARTER.