« PoprzedniaDalej »
in Don Quixote, where the fantastical knight is represented as loading a gentleman of good sense with praises and eulogiums. Upon which the gentleman makes this reflection to himself: How grateful is praise to human nature! I cannot forbear being secretly pleased with the commendations I receive, though I am sensible it is a madman that bestows them on me. In the same manner, though we are often sure that the censures which are passed upon us are uttered by those who know nothing of us, and have neither means nor abilities to form a right judgment of us, we cannot forbear being grieved at what they say.
In order to heal this infirmity, which is so natural to the best and wisest of men, I have taken a particular pleasure in observing the conduct of the old philosophers, how they bore themselves up against the malice and detraction of their enemies.
The way to silence calumny, says Bias, is to be always exercised in such things as are praiseworthy. Socrates, after having received sentence, told his friends, that he had always accustomed himself to regard truth and not censure, and that he was not troubled at his condemnation, because he knew himself free from guilt. It was in the same spirit that he heard the accusations of his two great adversaries, who had uttered against him the most virulent approaches. Anytus and Melitus, says he, may procure sentence against me, but they cannot hurt me. This divine philosopher was so well fortified in his own innocence, that he neglected all the impotence of evil tongues which were engaged in his destruction. This was properly the support of a good conscience, that contradicted the reports which had been raised against him, and cleared him to himself.
Others of the philosophers rather chose to retort the injury by a smart reply, than thus to disarm it with respect to themselves. They shew that it stung them, though at the same time they had the address to make their aggressors suffer with them. Of this kind was Aristotle's reply to one who pursued him with long and bitter invectives. "You," says he, "who are used to suffer reproaches, utter them with delight; I, who have not been used to utter them, take no pleasure in hearing them." Diogenes was still more severe on one who spoke ill of him. "Nobody
will believe you when you speak ill of me, any more than they would believe me should I speak well of you."
In these, and many other instances I could produce, the bitterness of the answer sufficiently testifies the uneasiness of mind the person was under who made it. I would ra ther advise my reader, if he has not in this case the secret consolation that he deserves no such reproaches as are cast upon him, to follow the advice of Epictetus: "If any one speaks ill of thee, consider whether he has truth on his side; and if so, reform thyself, that his censures may not affect thee." When Anaximander was told, that the very boys laughed at his singing; "Ay," says he, "then I must learn to sing better." But of all the sayings of philosophers which I have gathered together for my own use on this occasion, there are none which carry in them more candour and good sense than the two following ones of Plato. Being told that he had many enemies who spoke ill of him; "It is no matter," said he, "I will live so that none shall believe them." Hearing at another time that an intimate friend of his had spoken detractingly of him; "I am sure he would not do it," says he, "if he had not some reason for it." This is the surest as well as the noblest way of drawing the sting out of a reproach, and a true method of preparing a man for that great and only relief against the pains of calumny, "a good conscience."
I designed in this essay to shew that there is no happiness wanting to him who is possessed of this excellent frame of mind, and that no person can be miserable who is in the enjoyment of it: but I find this subject so well treated in one of Dr. South's sermons, that I shall fill this Saturday's paper with a passage of it, which cannot but make the man's heart burn within him, who reads it with due attention.
That admirable author having shewn the virtue of a good conscience in supporting a man under the greatest trials and difficulties of life, concludes with representing its force and efficacy in the hour of death.
"The third and last instance, in which above all others this confidence towards God does most eminently shew and exert itself, is at the time of death; which surely gives the grand opportunity of trying both the strength and worth of every principle. When a man shall be just
about to quit the stage of this world, to put off his mortality, and to deliver up his last accounts to God; at which sad time his memory shall serve him for little else, but to terrify him with a frightful review of his past life, and his former extravagances stripped of all their pleasure, but retaining their guilt: what is it then that can promise him a fair passage into the other world, or a comfortable appearance before his dreadful Judge when he is there? Not all the friends and interests, all the riches and honours, under heaven can speak so much as a word for him, or one word of comfort to him in that condition; they may possibly reproach, but they cannot relieve him.
"No, at this disconsolate time, when the busy tempter shall be more than usually apt to vex and trouble him, and the pains of a dying body to hinder and discompose him, and the settlement of worldly affairs to disturb and confound him; and, in a word, all things conspire to make his sick-bed grievous and uneasy; nothing can then stand up against all these ruins, and speak life in the midst of death, but a clear conscience.
"And the testimony of that shall make the comforts of heaven descend upon his weary head, like a refreshing dew or shower upon a parched ground. It shall give him some lively earnests, and secret anticipations of his approaching joy. It shall bid his soul go out of the body undaunted, and lift up his head with confidence before saints and angels. Surely the comfort which it conveys at this season, is something bigger than the capacities of mortality, mighty and unspeakable, and not to be understood until it comes to be felt.
"And now, who would not quit all the pleasures, and trash, and trifles, which are apt to captivate the heart of man, and pursue the greatest rigours of piety, and austerities of a good life, to purchase to himself such a conscience, as at the hour of death, when all the friendship in the world shall bid him adieu, and the whole creation turn its back upon him, shall dismiss the soul and close his eyes with that blessed sentence, Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.""
N° 136. MONDAY, AUGUST 17, 1713.
Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis.-VIRG. Æn. vi. 127.
OME of our quaint moralists have pleased themselves
coming into the world, but a thousand to go out of it. I have seen a fanciful dream written by a Spaniard, in which he introduces the person of Death+metamorphosing himself like another Proteus into innumerable shapes and figures. To represent the fatality of fevers and agues, with many other distempers and accidents that destroy the life of man, Death enters first of all in a body of fire; a little after he appears like a man of snow, then rolls about the room like a cannon-ball, then lies on the table like a gilded pill; after this he transforms himself all of a sudden into a sword, then dwindles successively to a dagger, to a bodkin, to a crooked pin, to a needle, to a hair. The Spaniard's design by this allegory, was to shew the many assaults to which the life of man is exposed, and to let his reader see that there was scarce any thing in nature so very mean and inconsiderable, but that it was able to overcome him, and lay his head in the dust. I remember Monsieur Pascal, in his reflections on Providence, has this observation upon Cromwell's death: "That usurper," says he, "who had destroyed the royal family in his own nation, who had made all the princes of Europe tremble, and struck a terror into Rome itself, was at last taken out of the world by a fit of the gravel. An atom, a grain of sand," says he, "that would have been of no significancy in any other part of the universe, being lodged in such a particular place, was an instrument of Providence to bring about the most happy revolution, and to remove from the face of the earth this troubler of mankind." In short, swarms of distempers are every where hovering over us; casualties, whether at home or abroad, whether we wake or sleep, sit or walk, are planted about us in ambuscade; every element, every climate, every season, all nature, is full of death.
There are more casualties incident to men than women,
as battles, sea-voyages, with several dangerous trades and professions that often prove fatal to the practitioners. I have seen a treatise written by a learned physician on the distempers peculiar to those who work in stone or marble. It has been therefore observed by curious men, that upon a strict examination there are more males brought into the world than females. Providence, to supply this waste of the species, has made allowance for it by a suitable redundancy in the male sex. Those who have made the nicest calculations have found, I think, that taking one year with another, there are about twenty boys produced to nineteen girls. This observation is so well grounded, that I will at any time lay five to four, that there appear more male than female infants in every weekly bill of mortality. And what can be a more demonstrative argument for the superintendency of Providence?
There are casualties incident to every particular station and way of life. A friend of mine was once saying, that he fancied there would be something new and diverting in a country bill of mortality. Upon communicating this hint to a gentleman who was then going down to his seat, which lies at a considerable distance from London, he told me he would make a collection, as well as he could, of the several deaths that had happened in his country for the space of a whole year, and send them up to me in the form of such a bill as I mentioned. The reader will here see that he has been as good as his promise. To make it the more entertaining he has set down, among the real distempers, some imaginary ones, to which the country people ascribe the deaths of some of their neighbours. I shall extract out of them such only as seem almost peculiar to the country, laying aside fevers, apoplexies, smallpox, and the like, which they have in common with towns and cities.
Of a six-bar gate, fox-hunters
Of a quick-set hedge
Two duels, viz.
First, between a frying-pan and a pitch-fork
Of an evil tongue