« PreviousContinue »
11. I remember I was once in a mixt assembly, that was fuli of noise and mirth, when on a sudden and old woman unluckily observed there were thirteen of us in company. This remark struck a panic terror into several who were present, insomuch that one or two of the ladies were going to leave the room; but a friend of mine taking notice that one of our female companions was pregnant, affirmed there were fourteen in the room, and that, instead of portending one of the company should die, it plainly foretold one of them should be born. Had not my friend found out this expedient to break the omen, I question not but half the women in the company would have fallen sick that very night.
12. An old maid, who is troubled with the vapours, produces infinite disturbances of this kind among her friends and neighbours. I know a maiden aunt, of a great family who is one of these antiquated Sibyls, who forebodes and prophesies from one end of the year to the other. She is always seeing apparitions, and hearing death-watches; and was the other day almost frightened out of her wits by the great house-dog, that howled in the stable at a time when she lay ill of the tooth-ache
13. Such an extravagant cast of mind engages multitudes of people not only in impertinent terrors, but in supernumary duties of life; and arises from that fear and ignorance which are natural to the soul of man.
14. The horror with which we entertain the ihoughts of death (or indeed of any future evil) and the uncertainty of its approach, hill a melancholy mind with innumerable apprehensions and suspicions, and consequently dispose it to the observation of such groundless prodigies and predictions. For as it is the chief concern of wise men, to retrench the evils of life by the reasonings of philosophy; it is the employment of fools to multiply them by the sentiments of superstition.
15. For my own part, I should be very much troubled were I endowed with this divining quality, though it should inform me truly of every thing that can befal me. I would not anticipate the relish of any happiness, nor feel the weight of any misery, before it actually arrives.
16. I know but one way of fortifying my soul against these gloomy presages and terrors of mind; and that is, by securing to myself the friendship and protection of that Being, who disposes of events and governs futurity. He sees at one view, the whole thread of my existence, not only that part of it which I have already passed through, but that which runs forward into all the depth of eternity.
17. When I lay me down to sleep, I recommend myself to his care; when I awake, I give myself up to his direction. Amidst all the evils that thrtaten me, I will look up to him for
help, and question not but. he will either avert them, or turn them to my advantage. . Though I know neither the time nor the manner of the death I am to die, I am not at all solicitous about it; because I am sure that he knows them both, and that he will not fail to comfort and support me under them.
A good Conscience the best Security against Calumny and
GUARDIAN, No. 135.
body; it preserves the constant ease and serenity within us, and more than countervails all the calamities and afflictions which can possibly befal us. I know nothing so hard for a generous mind to get over as calumny and reproach, and cannot find any method of quieting the soul under them, besides this single one, of our being conscious to ourselves that we do not deserve them.
2. I have been always mightily pleased with that passage in Don Quixotte, where the fantastical knight is represented as loading a gentleman of good sense with praises and.eulogiums. Upon which the gentlemanı makes this reflection to himself: how grateful is praise to human nature !
3. I cannot forbear being secretly pleased with the conimendations I receive, though, I am sensible, it is a madman who 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 connot forbear being grieved at what they say.
4. 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.
5. The way to silence calumny, says Bias; is to be always exercised in such things as are praise-worthy. 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 hìm the most virulent reproaches.
6. 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 importance of evil tongues which were engaged in his destructions: This property, the support of a good conscience that contradict him to himself.
7. Others of the philosophers rather choose to retort the injury by a smart reply, thanthus 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 is 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."
8. 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 tlie uneasiness of mind the person was under who made it.
9. I would rather 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 speak ill of thee, consider whether he has truth on his side; and if so, reform thyself, that his censures may not effect thee.?
10. When Anaximander was told that the very boys laughed at his singing: Aye, 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.
11. 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.
12. 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."
13. 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 one 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. When a man shall be just about to quit the stage of this world, to put off this mortality, and to deliver up his last accounts to God; at which sad time his memory shall serve him for little else, but terrify him with a frightful review of his past life, and its former extravagancies stripped of all their pleasure, but retaining their guilt: what is it then that can promise him a fair passage into the other workil, or a comfortable appearance before his dreadful judge when he is there?
17. 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.
18. No, at this disconsolate time, when the busy temper shall be more than usually apt to vex and troubled 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.
19. 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 to go out of the body undauntedly, 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 till it comes to be felt.
20. 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 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."
SPECTATOR, No. 574. WAS once engaged in discourse with a Rosicrucian about
1. I the
them wbo are not professed cheats) are over-run with enthusi. asm and philosophy, it was very amusing to hear this religious adept descanting on his pretended discovery. He talked of the secret as of a spirit which lived within an emerald, and converted every thing that was near it to the highest perfection it is capable of.
2. It gives a lustre, says he, to the sun, and water to the diamond. It irradiates every metal, and enriches lead with all the properties of gold. It heightens smoke into flame, flame into light, and light into glory. He further added, that a single ray of it dissipates pain and care, and melancholy, from the person on whom it falls. In short, says he, its presence naturally changes every place into a kind of heaven.
3. After he had gone on for some time in this unintelligible cant, I found that he jumbled natural and moral ideas together, in the same discourse, and that his great secret was nothing else but content.
4. This virtue does indeed produce, in some measure all those effects which the alchymist usually ascribes to what he calls the philosopher's stone; and if it does not bring riches, it does the same thing, by banishing the desire of them. If it cannot remove the disquietudes arising out of a man's mind, body or fortune, it makes him casy under them. It has indeed a kindly influence on the soul of man, in respect to every being to whom he stands related. It extinguishes all murmuring, repining and ingratitude towards that Being who has alloted him his part to act in this world. It destroys all inordinate ambition, and every tendency to corruption, with regard to the community wherein he is placed. It gives sweetness to his conversation and a per. petual serenity to all his thoughts.
5. Among the many methods which might be made use of for the acquiring this virtue, I shall only mention the two following: First of all, a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants: and secondly how much more unhappy he might be than he really is.
6. First of all a man should always consider how much he has more than he wants. I am wonderfully pleased with the reply which Aristippus made to one who condoled him upon the loss of a farm: 'Why,' said he, 'I have three farms still, and you have but one; so that I ought rather to be afflicted for you
than you for me. On the contrary foolish men are more apt to consider what they have lost thạn what they possess; and to fix their eyes upon those who are richer than themselves, rather than on those who are under greater difficulties.
7. All the real pleasures and conveniences of life lie in a narrow compass; but it is the humour of mankind, to be always