« VorigeDoorgaan »
of his prefence, as are more delightful than any thing that can be met with in the converfation of his creatures. Even in the hour of death, he confiders the pains of his diffolution to be nothing elfe but the breaking down of that partition, which stands betwixt his foul, and the fight of that being who is always prefent with him, and is about to manifest itself to him in fulness of joy.
If we would be thus happy, and thus fenfible of our Maker's prefence, from the fecret effects of his mercy and goodness, we must keep fuch a watch over all our thoughts, that in the language of the fcripture, his foul may have pleasure in us. We must take care not to grieve his holy fpirit, and endeavour to make the meditations of our hearts always acceptable in his fight, that he may delight thus to refide and dwell in us. The light of
fouls, when they are difembodied, or placed in glorified bodies, will by this faculty, in whatever part of space they refide, be always fenfible of the divine prefence. We, who have this veil of flesh ftanding between us and the world of fpirits, must be content to know the fpirit of God is prefent with us by the effects which he produceth in us. Our outward fenfes are too grofs to apprehend him; we may however taste and fee how gracious he is, by his influence upon our minds, by thofe virtuous thoughts which he awakens in us, by thofe fecret comforts and refreshments which he conveys into our fouls, and by thofe ravishing joys and inward fatisfactions which are perpetually springing up, and diffufing themselves among all the thoughts of good mcn. He is lodged in our very effence, and is as a foul within the foul, to irradiate its understanding, rectify its will, purify its paf-nature could direct Seneca to this doctrine, in fions, and enliven all the powers of man. How happy therefore is an intellectual being, who by prayer and meditation, by virtue and good works, opens this communication between God and his own foul! Though the whole creation frowns upon him, and all nature looks black about him, he has his light and fupport within him, that are able to cheer his mind, and bear him up in the midft of all thofe horrors which encompafs him. He knows that his helper is at hand, and is always nearer to him than any thing elfe can be, which is capable of annoying or terrifying him. In the midft of calumny or contempt, he attends to that Being who whispers better things within his foul, and whom he looks upon as his defender, his glory, and the lifter-up of his head. In his deepest folitude and retirement, he knows that he is in company with the greateft of beings; and perceives within himself fuch real fenfations
a very remarkable paffage among his epiftles: Sacer incest in nobis fpiritus, bonorum malorumque cuftos et obfervator; et quemadmodum nos illum tractamus, ita et ille nos. There
is a holy spirit refiding in us, who watches and obferves both good and evil men, and will treat us after the fame manner that we treat him.' But I thall conclude this difcourfe with thofe more emphatical words in divine revelation; If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.' Spectator.
§ 4. On the Immortality of the Soul.
I was yesterday walking alone in one of my friend's woods, and loft myself in it very agreeably, as I was running over in my mind the feveral arguments that eftablish this great point, which is the bafis of morality, and the fource of all the pleafing hopes and
fecret joys that can arife in the heart of a reasonable creature. I confidered those feveral proofs drawn,
Firft, from the nature of the foul itself, and particularly its immateriality; which, though not abfolutely neceffary to the eternity of its duration, has, I think, been evinced to almoft a demonftration.
Secondly, from its paffions and fentiments, as particularly from its love of existence, its horror of annihilation, and its hopes of immortality, with that fecret fatisfaction which it finds in the practice of virtue, and that uneafinefs which follows in it upon the commiffion of vice.
Thirdly, from the nature of the Supreme Being, whofe juftice, goodness, wifdom, and veracity, are all concerned in this point.
But among these and other excellent arguments for the immortality of the foul, there is one drawn from the perpetual progrefs of the foul to its perfection, without a poffibility of ever arriving at it; which is a hint that I do not remember to have feen opened and improved by others who have written on this fubject, though it feems to me to carry a very great weight with it. How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the foul, which is capable of fuch iminenfe perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eternity, fhall fall away into nothing almost as soon as it is created? Are fuch abilities made for no purpofe? A brute arrives at a point of perfection that he can never pass: in a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of; and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the fame thing he is at prefent. Were a human foul thus at a ftand in her accomplishments, were her faculties to be full blown, and incapable of farther enlargements, I could imagine it might fall away infenfibly, and
drop at once into a state of annihilation. But can we believe a thinking being, that is in a perpetual progrefs of improvements, and travelfing on from perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad into the works of its Creator, and made a few difcoveries of his infinite goodnefs, wisdom, and power, must perish at her first fetting out, and in the very beginning of her enquiries?
A man, confidered in his prefent ftate, feems only fent into the world to propagate his kind. He provides himself with a fucceffor, and immediately quits his post to make room for him.
Hæredem alterius, velut unda fupervenit undam.
-Heir crowds heir, as in a rolling flood
doth not seem born to enjoy life, but to deliver it down to others. This is not furprifing to confider in animals, which are formed for our ufe, and can finish their businefs in a fhort life. The filk-worm, after having fpun her task, lays her eggs and dies. But a man can never have taken in his full measure of knowledge, has not time to fubdue his paffions, eftablish his foul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurried off the stage. Would an infinitely wife being make fuch glorious crcatures for fo mean a purpofe? Can he delight in the production of fuch abortive intelligences, fuch fhort-lived reasonable beings? Would he give us talents that are not to be exerted? capacities that are never to be gratified? How can we find that wisdom which shines through all his works, in the formation of man, without looking on this world as only a nursery for the next, and be B 5
lieving that the feveral generations of rational creatures, which rife up and disappear in fuch quick fucceffions, are only to receive their first rudiments of exiftence here, and afterwards to be transplanted into a more friendly climate, where they may spread and flourish to all eternity?
There is not, in my opinion, a more pleafing and triumphant confideration in religion, than this of the perpetual progrefs which the foul makes towards the perfection of its nature, without ever arriving at a period in it. To look upon the foul as going on from strength to ftrength, to confider that The is to shine for ever with new acceffions of glory, and brighten to all eternity; that the will still be adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge to knowledge; carries in it fomething wonderfully agreeable to that ambition which is natural to the mind of man. Nay, it must be a profpect pleafing to God himself, to fee his creation for ever beautifying in his eyes, and drawing nearer to him, by greater degrees of refemblance.
to it, and fhine forth in the fame degree of glory.
With what aftonishment and veneration may we look into our own fouls, where there are fuch hidden ftores of virtue and knowledge, fuch inexhaufted fources of perfection! We know not yet what we shall be, nor will it ever enter into the heart of man to conceive the glory that will be always in referve for him. The foul, confidered with its Creator, is like one of those mathematical lines that may draw nearer to another for all eternity without a poffibility of touching it: and can there be a thought fo tranfporting as to confider ourselves in these perpetual approaches to him, who is not only the ftandard of perfection, but of happiness ! Spe&ator. $5. The Duty of Children to their Parents,
I am the happy father of a very towardly fon, in whom I do not only fee my life, but alfo my manner of life renewed. It would be extremely beneficial to fociety, if you would frequently refume fubjects which serve to Methinks this fingle confideration, of the bind thefe fort of relations fafter, and endear progrefs of a finite fpirit to perfection, will be the ties of blood with thofe of good-will, fufficient to extinguifh all envy in inferior protection, obfervance, indulgence, and ve natures, and all contempt in fuperior. That neration. I would, methinks, have this done cherubim, which now appears as a God to after an uncommon method; and do not a human foul, knows very well that the pe- think any one, who is not capable of writing riod will come about in eternity, when the hu- a good play, fit to undertake a work wherein man foul fhall be as perfect as he himself now there will neceffarily occur fo many fecret is nay, when the fhall look down upon that inftincts and biaffes of human nature, which degree of perfection as much as the now falls would pafs unobferved by common eyes. I fhort of it. It is true, the higher nature ftill thank Heaven I have no outrages offence advances, and by that means preferves his against my own excellent parents to anfwer diftance and fuperiority in the fcale of being; for; but when I am now and then alone, and but he knows that, how high foever the fta- look back upon my past life, from my carlieft tion is of which he ftands poffeffed at prefent, infancy to this time, there are many faults the inferior nature will at length mount up which I committed that did not appear to me,
even until I myself became a father. I had not until then a notion of the yearnings of heart, which a man has when he fees his child do a laudable thing, or the fudden damp which feizes him when he fears he will act fomething unworthy. It is not to be imagined what a remorfe touched me for a long train of childish negligences of my mother, when I faw my wife the other day look out of the window, and turn as pale as afhes upon feeing my younger boy fliding upon the ice. Thefe flight intimations will give you to understand, that there are numberlefs little crimes, which children take no notice of while they are doing, which, upon reflection, when they fhall themfelves become fathers, they will look upon with the utmost forrow and contrition, that they did not regard, before those whom they offended were to be no more feen. How many thousands things do I remember, which would have highly pleafed my father, and I omitted for no other reafon but that I thought what he propofed the effect of humour and old age, which I am now convinced had reafon and good fenfe in it! I cannot now go into the parlour to him, and make his heart glad with an account of a matter which was of no confequence, but that I told it and acted in it. The good man and woman are long fince in their graves, who used to fit and plot the welfare of us their children, while, perhaps, we were fometimes laughing at the old folks at another end of the house. The truth of it is, were we merely to follow nature in thefe great duties of life, though we have a strong instinct towards the performing of them, we fhould be on both fides very deficient. Age is fo unwelcome to the generality of mankind, and growth towards manhood fo defirable to all, that refignation to decay is too diffi
cult a task in the father; and deference, amidst the impulfe of gay defires, appears unreasonable to the fon. There are fo few who can grow old with a good grace, and yet fewer who can come flow enough into the world, that a father, were he to be actuated by his defires, and a fon, were he to confult himfelf only, could neither of them behave himself as he ought to the other. But when reafon interpofes against inftinct, where it would carry either out of the interefts of the other, there arifes that happiest intercourse of good offices between thofe dearest relations of human life. The father, according to the opportunities which are offered to him, is throwing down bleffings on the fon, and the fon endeavouring to appear the worthy offfpring of fuch a father. It is after this manner that Camillus and his first-born dwell together. Camillus enjoys a pleafing and indolent old age,inwhich paffion is fubdued and reafon exalted. He waits the day of his diffolution with a refignation mixed with delight,and the fon fears the acceffion of his father's fortune with diffidence, left he should not enjoy or become it as well as his predeceffor. Add to this, that the father knows he leaves a friend to the children of his friends, an eafy landlord to his tenants, and an agreeable companion to his acquaintance. fon's behaviour will make him frequently remembered, but never wanted. This commerce is fo well cemented, that without the pomp of faying, Son, be a friend to fuch a one when I am gone; Camillus knows, being in his favour is direction enough to the grateful youth who is to fucceed him, without the admonition of his mentioning it. Thefe gentlemen are honoured in all their neighbourhood, and the fame effect which the court has on the manners of a kingdom, their chaB 6
He believes his
racters have on all who live within the influence of them.
My fon and I are not of fortune to communicate our good actions or intentions to fo many as thefe gentlemen do; but I will be bold to fay, my fon has, by the applaufe and approbation which his behaviour towards me has gained him, occafioned that many an old man, befides myfelf, has rejoiced. Other men's children follow the example of mine; and I have the inexpreffible happinefs of overhearing our neighbours, as we ride by, point to their children, and fay, with a voice of joy, "There they go." Spectator.
§ 6. The Importance of Time, and the proper Methods of spending it.
We all of us complain of the fhortnefs of time, faith Seneca, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives, fays he, are spent either in doing nothing at all, or d ing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them. That noble philofopher has defcribed our inconfiftency with ourselves in this particular by all thofe various turns of expreflion and thought which are peculiar in his writings.
I often confider mankind as wholly inconfiftent with itself, in a point that bears fome affinity to the former. Though we feem grieved at the fhortnefs of life in general, we are withing every period of it at an end. The minor longs to be at age, then to be a man of bufinefs, then to make up an estate, then to arrive at honours, then to retire. Thus, although the whole of life is allowed by every ne to be short, the feveral divifions of it appear
long and tedious. We are for lengthening our fpan in general, but would fain contract the parts of which it is compofed. The usurer would be very well fatisfied to have all the time annihilated that lies between the present moment and the next quarter-day. The politician would be contented to loofe three years in his life, could he place things in the pofture which he fancies they will ftand in after fuch a revolution of time. The lover would be glad to ftrike out of his existence all the moments that are to pafs away before the happy meeting. Thus, as faft as our time runs, we fhould be very glad, in moft parts of our lives,
that it ran much fafter than it does. Several hours of the day hang upon our hands; nay,
we with away whole years, and travel through
time, as through a country filled with many wild and empty waftes which we would fain hurry over, that we may arrive at those several little fettlements or imaginary points of reft which are difperfed up and down in it.
If we divide the life of moft men into twenty parts, we thall find that at least nineteen of them are mere gaps and chafms, which are neither filled with pleasure nor business. I do not however include in this calculation the life of thofe men who are in a perpetual hurry of affairs, but of thofe only who are not always engaged in fcenes of actions; and I hope I fhall not do an unacceptable piece of fervice to thefe perfons, if I point out to them certain methods for the filling up their empty spaces of life. The methods I shall propofe to them are as follow:
The first is the exercife of virtue, in the most general acceptation of the word. That particular scheme which comprehends the focial virtues, may give employment to the most industrious temper, and find a man bufinefs more than the most active station of life.