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fee the world change before them without the least sense of their own fhare in the viciffitude. In youth, when all the appetites are ftrong, and every gratification is heightened by novelty, the mind refifts mournful impreffions with a kind of elastic power, by which the fignature that is forced upon it is immediately effaced : when this tumult firft fubfides, while the attachment to life is yet strong, and the mind begins to look forward, and concert measures by which those enjoyments may be fecured which it is folicitous to keep, or others obtained to atone for the disappointments that are past, then death starts up like a spectre in all his terrors, the blood is chilled at his appearance, he is perceived to approach with a conftant and irrefiftible pace, retreat is impoffible, and refiftance is vain.
The terror and anguish which this image produces whenever it first rushes upon the mind, are always complicated with a sense of guilt and remorfe; and generally produce fome hafty and zealous purposes of more uniform virtue and more ardent devotion, of fomething that may fecure us, not only from the worm that never dies and the fire that is not quenched, but from total mortality, and admit hope to the regions beyond the grave.
This purpose is feldom wholly relinquished, though it is not always executed with vigour and perfeverance; the reflection which produced it often recurs, but it still recurs with less force; defire of immediate pleasure becomes predominant; appetite is no longer reftrained; and either all attempts to fecure future happiness are deferred to a more convenient feason," or fome expedients are fought to render fenfuality and virtue compatible, and to obtain every object of hope without leffening the treasures of poffeffion. Thus vice naturally becomes the difciple of infidelity; and the wretch who dares not afpire to the heroic virtues of a CHRISTIAN, liftens with eagerness to every objection against the authority of that law by which he is condemned, and labours in vain to establish another that will acquit him: he forms many arguments to justify natural defires; he learns at length to impofe upon himself, and affents to principles which yet in his heart he does not believe;
he thinks himself convinced, that virtue must be happinefs, and then dreams that happiness is virtue.
Thefe frauds, though they would have been impoffible in the hour of conviction and terror, are yet prac→ tifed with great ease when it is paft, and contribute very much to prevent its return. It is, indeed, fcarce poffi ble that it should return with the fame force, because the power of novelty is neceffarily exhausted in the first onfet. Some incidents, however, there are, which renew the terror; and they feldom fail to renew the purpofe upon the death of a friend, a parent, or a wife, the comforts and the confidence of fophiftry are at an end; the moment that fufpends the influence of temptation, reftores the power of confcience, and at once rectifies the understanding. He who has been labouring to explain away thofe duties which he had not fortitude to practise, then fees the vanity of the attempt; he regrets the time that is paft, and refolves to improve that which remains: but if the firft purpose of reformation has been ineffectual, the fecond is feldom executed; as the fenfe of danger by which it is produced is not fo ftrong, the motive is lefs; and as the power of appetite is increased by habitual gratification, the oppofition is more; the new conviction wears off; the duties are again neglected as unneceffary which are found to be unpleafant; the lethargy of the foul returns, and as the danger increases the becomes lefs fufceptible of fear.
Thus the dreadful condition of him, "who looks "back after having put his hand to the plough," may be refolved into natural caufes; and it may be affirmed," upon mere philofophical principles, that there is a call which is repeated no more, and an apoftacy from which it is extremely difficult to return.
Let those who fill delay that which they yet believe to be of eternal moment, remember, that their motives to effect it will still grow weaker, and the difficulty of the work perpetually increafe; to neglect it now, therefore, is a pledge that it will be neglected for ever: and if they are rouzed by this thought, let them instantly improve its influence: for even this thought when it
returns, will return with less power, and though it should rouze them now will perhaps rouze them no more. But let them not confide in fuch virtue as can be practifed without a ftruggle, and which interdicts the gratification of no paffion but malice; nor adopt principles which could never be believed at the only time when they could be useful; like arguments which men fometimes form when they flumber, and the moment they awake discover to be absurd.
Let those who in the anguish of an awakened mind have regretted the paft, and refolved to redeem it in the future, perfift invariably to do whatever they then wished to have done. Let this be eftablished as a conftant rule of action, and oppofed to all the cavils of fophiftry and sense; for this with will inevitably return when it must for ever be ineffectual, at that awful moment, when "the fhadow of death fhall be ftretched "over them, and that night commence in which no man can work."
On the Antiquity of Fables, with the Fable of Pleasure and Pain. [Spec. No. 183.]
ABLES were the first pieces of wit that made their appearance in the world, and have been still highly valued not only in times of the greateft fimplicity, but among the polite ages of mankind. Jotham's fable of the tree is the oldest that is extant, and as beautiful as any which have been made fince that time. Nathan's fable of the poor man and his lamb is likewife more antient than any that is extant, beside the abovementioned, and had fo good an effect, as to convey inftruction to the ear of a king without offending it, and to bring the man after God's own heart to a right fenfe of his guilt and his duty. We find sop in the most diftant ages of Greece; and if we look into the very beginnings of the commonwealth of Rome, we fee a mutiny among the common people appeafed by a fable of the belly and the limbs, which was indeed very proper to
gain the attention of an incenfed rabble, at a time when, perhaps, they would have torn to pieces any man who had preached the fame doctrine to them in an open and direct manner. As fables took their birth in the very infancy of learning, they never flourished more than when learning was at its greateft height. To juf tify this affertion, I fhall put my reader in mind of Horace, the greatest wit and critic in the Auguftan age; and of Boileau, the moft correct poet among the mcderns: not to mention La Fontaine, who, by this way of writing, is come more into vogue than any other author of our times.
The fables I have here mentioned are raised altogether upon brutes and vegetables, with fome of our own fpecies mixt among them, when the moral hath fo required. But befides this kind of fable, there is another in which the actors are paffions, virtues, vices, and other imaginary persons of the like nature. Some of the antient critics will have it, that the Iliad and OdyЛley of Homer are fables of this nature; and that the feveral names of gods and heroes are nothing else but the affections of the mind in a visible shape and character. Thus they tell us, that Achilles, in the firft Iliad, reprefents anger, or the irafcible part of human nature; that upon drawing his fword against his fuperior in a full affembly, Pallas is only another name for reason, which checks and advises him upon that occafion; and at her first appearance touches him upon the head, that part of the man being looked upon as the feat of reafon. And thus the rest of the poem. As for the Odyfey, I think it is plain, that Horace confidered, it as one of these allegorical fabies, by the moral which he has given us of feveral parts of it. The greateft Italian wits have applied themselves to the writing of this latter kind of fables: as Spenfer's Fairy-Queen is one continued series of them from the beginning to the end of that admirable work. If we look into the fineft profe authors of antiquity, fuch as Cicero, Plato, Xenophon, and many others, we hall find that this was likewife their favourite kind of fable. I fhall only farther observe upon it, that the first of this fort that made any confi
derable figure in the world, was that of Hercules meeting with Pleasure and Virtue; which was invented by Prodicus, who lived before Socrates, and in the first dawnings of philofophy. He used to travel through Greece by the virtue of this fable, which procured him a kind reception in all the market towns, where he never failed telling it as soon as he had gathered an audience about him.
After this fhort preface, which I have made up of fuch materials as my memory does at prefent fuggeft to me, before I prefent my reader with a fable of this kind, which I defign as the entertainment of the present paper, I muft, in a few words, open the occafion of it.
In the account which Plato gives us of the converfation and behaviour of Socrates, the morning he was to die, he tells the following circumstance.
When Socrates his fetters were knocked off (as, was ufual to be done on the day that the condemned perfon was to be executed) being feated in the midst of his difciples, and laying one of his legs over the other, in a very unconcerned pofture, he began to rub it where it had been galled by the iron; and whether it was to fhew the indifference with which he entertained the thoughts of his approaching death, or, after his usual manner, to take every occafion of philofophizing upon fome ufeful fubject, he obferved the pleasure of that fenfation which now arose in thofe very parts of his leg, that just before had been fo much pained by the fetter. Upon this he reflected on the nature of pleasure and pain in general, and how conftantly they fucceed one another. To this. he added, that if a man of a good genius for a fable were to represent the nature of pleasure and pain in that way of writing, he would probably join them together after such a manner, that it would be impoffible for the one to come into any place without being followed by the other.
It is poffible that if Plato had thought it proper at fuch a time to defcribe Socrates launching out into a difcourfe which was not of a piece with the bufinefs of the day, he would have enlarged upon this hint, and have drawn it out into fome beautiful allegory or fable.