Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

sions. The story of a man who grew grey in the space of one night's anxiety is very famous.

"O! nor quàm longa es, quæ facis una senem!' • A tedious night indeed, that makes a young man old!

These apprehensions, if they proceed from a con. sciousness of guilt, are the sad warnings of reason; and may excite our pity, but admit of no remedy. When the hand of the Almighty is visibly lifted against the impious, the heart of mortal man cannot withstand him. We have this passion sublimely represented in the punishment of the Egyptians, tormented with the plague of darkness, in the apocryphal book of Wisdom ascribed to Solomon.

For when unrighteous men thought to oppress the holy nation; they being shut up in their houses, the prisoners of darkness, and fettered with the bonds of a long night, lay there exiled from the eternal Providence. For while they supposed to lie hid in their secret sins, they were scattered under a dark veil of forgetfulness, being horribly astonished and troubled with strangeapparitions.-Forwickedness, condemned by her own witness, is very timorous, and, being pressed with conscience, always forecasteth grievous things. For fear is nothing else but a betraying of the succours which reason offeréth-For the whole world shined with clear light, and none were hindered in their labour. Over them only was spread a heavy night, an image of that darkness which should afterwards receive them; but yet were they unto themselves more grievous than the darkness*.!

To fear so justly grounded no remedy can be proposed; but a man (who hath no great guilt hanging

* Wisd. xvii. passim.

upon his mind, who walks in the plain path of justice and integrity, and yet, either by natural complexion, or confirmed prejudices, or neglect of serious reflection, suffers himself to be moved by this abject and unmanly passion) would do well to consider that there is nothing which deserves his fear, but that beneficent Being who is his friend, his protector, his father. Were this one thought strongly fixed in the mind, what calamity would be dreadful? What load can infamy lay upon us when we are sure of the approbation of him who will repay the disgrace of a moment with the glory of eternity? What sharpness is there in rain and diseases, when they only hasten us on to the pleasures that will never fade? What sting is in death, when we are assured that it is only the beginning of life? A man who lives so as not to fear to die, is inconsistent with himself if he delivers himself up to any incidental anxiety.

The intrepidity of a just good man is so nobly set forth by Horace, that it cannot be too often re. peated :

• The man resolv'd and steady to his trust,
Inflexible to ill, and obstinately just,
May the rude rabble's insolence despise,
Their senseless clamours and tumultuous cries :
The tyrant's fierceness he beguiles,
And the stern brow, and the harsh voice defies,
And with superior greatness smiles.

Not the rough whirlwind, that deforms
Adria's black gulf, and vexes it with storms,
The stubborn virtue of his soul can move;
Not the red arm of angry Jove,
That Alings the thunder from the sky,
And gives it rage to roar, and strength to fly.

"Should the whole frame of nature round him break,
In ruin and confusion hurl'd,
He, unconcern'd, would hear the mighty crack,
And stand secure amidst a falling world.'

The vanity of fear may be yet further illustrated if we reflect,

First, What we fear may not come to pass. No human scheme can be so accurately projected, but some little circumstance intervening may spoil it. He who directs the heart of man at his pleasure, and understands the thoughts long before, may by ten thousand accidents, or an immediate change in the inclinations of men, disconcert the most subtle pro. ject, and turn it to the benefit of his own servants.

In the next place we should consider, though the evil we imagine should come to pass, it may be much more supportable than it appeared to be. As there is no prosperous state of life without its calamities, so there is no adversity without its benefits. Ask the great and powerful, if they do not feel the pangs of envy and ambition. Inquire of the poor and needy, if they have not tasted the sweets of quiet and contentment. Even under the pains of body, the infidelity of friends, or the misconstructions put npon our laudable actions; our minds, when for some time accustomed to these pressures, are sensible of secret flowings of comfort, the present re. ward of a pious resignation. The evils of this life appear like rocks and precipices, rugged and barren at a distance; but at our nearer approach we find little fruitful spots, and refreshing springs, mixed with the harshness and deformities of nature.

In the last place we may comfort ourselves with this consideration, that, as the thing feared may not reach us, so we may not reach what we fear. Our lives may not extend to that dreadful point which we have in view. He who knows all our failings, and will not suffer us to be tempted beyond our strength, is often pleased, in his tender severity, to separate the soul from its body and miseries together.

If we look forward to him for help, we shall never be in danger of falling down those precipices which our imagination is apt to create. Like those who walk upon a line, if we keep our eye fixed upon one point, we may step forward securely ; whereas an imprudent or cowardly glance on either side will infallibly destroy us.

N° 616. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1714.

Qui bellus homo est, Cotta, pusillus homo est.

MART, Epig. X. 1.

A pretty fellow is but half a man.

Cicero hath observed, that a jest is never uttered with a better grace than when it is accompanied with a serious countenance. When a pleasant thought plays in the features before it discovers itself in words, it raises too great an expectation, and loses the advantage of giving surprise. Wit and humour are no less poorly recommended by a levity of phrase, and that kind of language which may be distinguished by the name of Cant. Ridicule is never more strong than when it is concealed in gravity. True humour lies in the thought, and arises from the representation of images in odd circumstances and uncommon lights. A pleasant thought strikes us by the force of its natural beauty; and the mirth of it is generally rather palled than heightened, by that ridiculous phraseology which is so much in fashion among the pretenders to humour and pleasantry. This tribe of men are like our mountebanks; they make a man a wit by putting him in a fantastic habit.

Our little burlesque authors, who are the delight of ordinary readers, generally abound in these pert phrases, which have in them more vivacity than wit.

I lately saw an instance of this kind of writing, which gave me so lively an idea of it, that I could not forbear begging a copy of the letter from the gentleman who showed it to me. It is written by a country wit, upon the occasion of the rejoicings on the day of the king's coronation.

Past two o'clock and a Dear JACK,

frosty morning.' • I have just left the right worshipful and his myrmidons about a sneaker of five gallons. The whole magistracy was pretty well disguised before I

gave them the slip. Our friend the alderman was half-seas over before the bonfire was out. We had with us the attorney, and two or three other bright fellows. The doctor plays least in sight.

• At nine o'clock in the evening we set fire to the whore of Babylon. The devil acted his part to a mi. racle. He has made his fortune by it. We equipped the young dog with a tester apiece Honest old Brown of England was very drunk, and showed his loyalty to the tune of a hundred rockets. The mob drank the king's health, on their marrowbones, in mother Day's double. They whipped us half a dozen hogsheads. Poor Tom Tyler had like to have been demolished with the end of a skyrocket, that fell upon the bridge of his nose as he was drinking the king's health, and spoiled his tip. The mob were very loyal until about midnight, when they grew a little mutinous for more liquor. The had like to

« ForrigeFortsett »