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Notwithstanding this, it is perhaps impossible in a large government to distribute rewards and punishments strictly proportioned to the merits of every action. The Spartan commonwealth was indeed wonderfully exact in this particular; and I do not remember in all my reading to have met with so nice an example of justice as that recorded by Plutarch, with which I shall close my paper for this day.
The city of Sparta being unexpectedly attacked by a powerful army of Thebans, was in very great danger of falling into the hands of their enemies. The citizens suddenly gathered themselves into a body, fought with a resolution equal to the necessity of their affairs, yet no one so remarkably distinguished himself on this occasion, to the amazement of both armies, as Isidas, the son of Phoebidas, who was at that time in the bloom of his youth, and very remarkable for the comeliness of his person. He was coming out of the bath when the alarm was given, so that he had not time to put on his clothes, much less his armour; however, transported with a desire to serve his country in so great an exigency, snatching up a spear in one hand and a sword in the other, he flung himself into the thickest ranks of his enemies. Nothing could withstand his fury: in what part soever he fought, he put the enemies to flight without receiving a single wound. Whether, says Plutarch, he was the particular care of some god, who rewarded his valour that day with an extraordinary protection, or that his enemies, struck with the unusualness of his dress, and beauty of his shape, supposed him something more than man, I shall not de
The gallantry of this action was judged so great by the Spartans, that the Ephori, or chief magistrates, decreed he should be presented with a garland; but as soon as they had done so, they fined him a thousand drachmas for going out to the battle unarmed.
No: 565. FRIDAY, JULY 9, 1714.
-Deum namque ire per omnes
For God the whole created mass inspires,
I WAS yesterday about sun-set walking in the open fields, until the night insensibly fell upon me. I at first amused myself with all the richness and variety of colours which appeared in the western parts of heaven; in proportion as they faded away and went out, several stars and planets appeared one after another, until the whole firmament was in a glow. The blueness of the ether was exceedingly heightened and enlivened by the season of the year, and by the rays of all those luminaries that passed through it. The galaxy appeared in its most beautiful white. To complete the scene, the full moon rose at length in that clouded majesty which Milton takes notice of, and opened to the eye a new picture of nature, which was more finely shaded and disposed among · softer lights, than that which the sun had before discovered to us.
As I was surveying the moon walking in her brightness, and taking her progress among the constellations, a thought rose in me which I believe very often perplexes and disturbs men of serious and contemplative natures. David himself fell into it in that reflection, When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou regardest him!' In the same manner, when I considered that infinite host of stars, or, to speak more philosophically, of suns which were then shining upon me, with those innumerable sets of planets or worlds, which were moving round their respective suns; when I still enlarged the idea, and supposed another heaven of suns and worlds rising still above this which we discovered, and
these still enlightened by a superior firmanent of luminaries, which are planted at so great a distance, that they may appear to the inhabitants of the former as the stars do to us; in short, while I pursued this thought, I could not but reflect on that little insignificant figure which I myself bore amidst the immensity of God's works.
Were the sun, which enlightens this part of the creation, with all the host of planetary worlds that move about him, utterly extinguished and annihilated, they would not be missed more than a grain of sand upon the sea shore. The space they possess is so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, that it would scarce make a blank in the creation. The chasm would be imperceptible to an eye that could take in the whole compass of nature, and pass from one end of the creation to the other; as it is possible there may be such a sense in ourselves hereafter, or in creatures which are at present more exalted than ourselves. We see many stars by the help of glasses, which we do not discover with our naked eyes; and the finer our telescopes are, the more still are our discoveries. Huygenius carries this thought so far, that he does not think it impossible there may be stars whose light is not yet travelled down to us, since their first creation. There is no question but the universe has certain bounds set to it; but when we consider that it is the work of infinite power, prompted by infinite goodness, with an infinite space to exert itself in, how can our imagination set any bounds to it?
To return therefore to my first thought. I could not but look upon myself with secret horror, as a being that was not worth the smallest regard of one who had so great a work under his care and super-intendency. I was afraid of being overlooked amidst the immensity of nature, and lost among that infinite variety of creatures, which in all probability swarm through all these immeasurable regions of matter.
In order to recover myself from this mortifying thought, I considered that it took its rise from those narrow conceptions which we are apt to entertain of the divine nature. We ourselves cannot attend to many different objects at the same time. If we are careful to inspect some things, we must of course neglect others. This imperfection, which we observe in ourselves, is an imperfection
that cleaves, in some degree, to creatures of the highest capacities, as they are creatures, that is, beings of finite and limited natures.. The presence of every created being is confined to a certain measure of space, and consequently his observation is stinted to a certain number of objects. The sphere in which we move, and act, and understand, is of a wider circumference to one creature than another, according as we rise one above another in the scale of existence. But the widest of these our spheres has its circumference. When therefore we reflect on the divine nature, we are so used and accustomed to this imperfection in ourselves, that we cannot forbear in some measure ascribing it to him in whom there is no shadow of imperfection. Our reason indeed assures us that his attributes are infinite; but the poorness of our conceptions is such that it cannot forbear setting bounds to every thing it contemplates, until our reason comes again to our succour, and throws down all those little prejudidices which rise in us unawares, and are natural to the mind of man.
We shall therefore utterly extinguish this melancholy thought, of our being overlooked by our Maker in the multiplicity of his works, and the infinity of those objects among which he seems to be incessantly employed, if we consider, in the first place, that he is omnipresent; and, in the second, that he is omniscient.
If we consider him in his omnipresence; his being passes through, actuates, and supports the whole frame of nature. His creation, and every part of it, is full of him. There is nothing he has made that is either so distant, so little, or so inconsiderable, which he does not essentially inhabit. His substance is within the substance of every being, whether material or immaterial, and as intimately present to it as that being is to itself. It would be an imperfection in him, were he able to remove out of one place into another, or to withdraw himself from any thing he has created, or from any part of that space which is diffused and spread abroad to infinity. In short, to speak of him in the language of the old philosopher, he is a Being whose centre is every where, and his circumference no where.
In the second place, he is omniscient as well as omnipresent. His omniscience indeed necessarily and natu
rally flows from his omnipresence; he cannot but be con-scious of every motion that arises in the whole material world, which he thus essentially pervades, and of every thought that is stirring in the intellectual world, to every part of which he is thus intimately united. Several moralists have considered the creation as the temple of God, which he has built with his own hands, and which
is filled with his presence. Others have considered infinite space as the receptacle, or rather the habitation of the Almighty; but the noblest and most exalted way of considering this infinite space is that of Sir Isaac Newton, who calls it the sensorium of the Godhead. Brutes and men have their sensoriala or little sensoriums, by which they apprehend the presence, and perceive the actions of a few objects that lie contiguous to them. Their knowledge and observation turn within a very narrow circle. But as God Almighty cannot but perceive and know every thing in which he resides, infinite space gives room to infinite knowledge, and is, as it were, an organ to omniscience.
Were the soul separate from the body, and with one glance of thought should start beyond the bounds of the creation, should it for millions of years continue its progress through infinite space with the same activity, it would still find itself within the embrace of its Creator, and encompassed round with the immensity of the Godhead. While we are in the body he is not less present with us, because he is concealed from us. "O that I knew where I might find him!' says Job. • Behold I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him on the left hand, where, he does work, but I cannot behold him he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him*. In short, reason as well as revelation assure us that he cannot be absent from us, notwithstanding he is undiscovered by us.
In this consideration of God Almighty's omnipresence and omniscience, every uncomfortable thought vanishes. He cannot but regard every thing that has being, especially such of his creatures who fear they are not regarded by him. He is privy to all their thoughts, and to that
*Job xxiii. 8, &c.