« ForrigeFortsett »
Wednesday, November 3, 1714.
HOR. 4 Od. ix. 47, · Who spend their treasure freely, as 'twas giv’n * By the large bounty of indulgent heav'n : 6 Who in a fix'd unalterable state
• Smile at the doubtful tide of Fate, · And scorn alike her friendship and her hate :
• Who poison less than falsehood fear,
' Loth to purchase life so dear ; • But kindly for their friend enibrace cold death, « And seal their country's love with their departing 6 breath.'
T must be owned that Fear is a very power
ful passion, since it is esteemed one of the greatest of virtues to subdue it. It being implanted in us for our preservation, it is no wonder that it sticks close to us as long as we have any thin we are willing to preserve. But as life, and all its enjoyments, would be scarce worth the keeping, if we were under a perpetual dread of losing them, it is the business of religion and philosophy to free us from all unnecessary anxieties, and direct our fear to its proper object.
If we consider the painfulness of this passion, and the violent effects it produces, we thall see how dangerous it is to give way to it upon flight occasions. Some have frightened themfelves into madness, cthers have given up their lives to these apprehensions. The story of a man who grew grey in the space of one night's anxiety is very famous.
0! nox quàm longa es, quæ facis una senem! • A tedious night indeed, that makes a young man
old !' These apprehensions, if they proceed from a consciousness 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 paffion sublimely represented in the punishment of the Egyptians, tormented with the plague of darknets, in the apocryphal book of Wisdom afcribed 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 fecret fins, they were fcattered under a dark veil of forgetfulness
, being horribly astonished and troubled with strange apparitions. — For wickedness, condemned by her own witness, is very timorous and, being oppressed with confcience, always forecaíteth grievous things. For fear is
• nothing else but a betraying of the succours 6 which reason offereth-For the whole world • shineth with clear light, and none were hin• dered in their labour. Over them only was
spread a heavy night, an image of that darko ness which should afterwards receive them; . but yet were they unto themselves more
grievous than the darkness *.'
To fear fo justly grounded no remedy can be proposed; but a man (who hath no great guilt hanging 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 paflion) 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 pain 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 inconfiftent with himtelf if he delivers himself
up any incidental anxiety.
The intrepidity of a just good man is so nobly set forth by Horace, that it cannot be too often repeated : * Wird. xvii. paffim.
“ 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 tyrants 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 foul can move; “ Not the red arm of angry Jove, “ That flings the thunder from the sky, “ And gives it rage to roar, and strength to fly. 6. 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 father 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 project, 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 upon our laudable actions; our minds, when for some time accustomed to these pressures, are sensible of secret flowings of comfort, the present reward 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 lecurely; whereas an imprudent or cowardly glance on either side will infallibly destroy us.*
* From the intrinsic evidence in this paper, it appears to have been writen by ADDISON.