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be regardless of thofe Phænomena that are placed within our view, on purpose to entertain our faculties, and difplay the wifdom and power of their Creator, is an affront to Providence of the fame kind, ( i ope it is not impious to make fuch a fimile) as it would be to a good poet, to fit out his play without minding the plot or beauties of it.
And yet how few are there who attend to the drama of nature, its artificial ftructure, and thofe admirable machines whereby the paffions of a philofopher are gratefully agitated, and his foul affected with the fweet emotions of joy and furprize?
How many fox-hunters and rural fquires are to be found in Great Britain, who are ignorant that they have all this while lived on a planet; that the fun is feveral thousand times bigger than the earth; and that there are other worlds within our view greater and more glorious than our own. Ay, but fays fome illiterate fellow, I enjoy the world, and leave others to contemplate it. Yes, you eat and drink, and run about upon it, that is, you enjoy it as a brute; but to enjoy it as a rational being, is to know it, to be fenfible of its greatnefs and beauty, to be delighted with its harmony, and by these reflections to obtain juft fentiments of the Almighty mind that framed it.
The man who, unembarraffed with vulgar cares, leifurely attends to the flux of things in heaven, and things on earth, and obferves the laws by which they are governed, hath fecured to himself an eafy and convenient feat, where he beholds with pleasure all that paffes on the ftage of nature, while those about him are, fome faft afleep, and others ftruggling for the highest places, or turning their eyes from the entertainment prepared by providence, to play at push-pin with one another.
Within this ample circumference of the world, the glorious lights that are hung on high, the meteors in the middle region, the various livery of the earth, and the profufion of good things that distinguish the seasons, yield a profpect which annihilates all human grandeur. But when we have feen frequent returns of the fame things, when we have often viewed the heaven and the E 6
earth in all their various array, our attention flags and our admiration ceafes. All the art and magnificence in nature could not make us pleafed with the fame entertainment, prefented a hundred years fucceffively to our view.
I am led into this way of thinking by a question ftarted the other night, viz. Whether it were poffible that a man fhould be weary of a fortunate and healthy courfe of life? My opinion was, that the bare repetition of the fame objects, abftracted from all other inconveniencies, was fufficient to create in our minds a distaste of the world; and that the abhorrence old men have of death, proceeds rather from a diftruft of what may follow, than from the profpect of lofing any prefent enjoyments. For (as an antient author fomewhere expreffes it) when a man has feen the viciffitudes of night and day, winter and fummer, fpring and autumn, the returning faces of the feveral parts of nature, what is there further to detain his fancy here below?
The fpectacle indeed is glorious, and may bear viewing feveral times. But in a very few fcenes of revolving years, we feel a fatiety of the fame images; the mind grows impatient to fee the curtain drawn, and behold new fcenes difclofed; and the imagination is in this life filled with a confufed idea of the next.
Death, confidered in this light, is no more than paffing from one entertainment to another. If the present objects are grown tiresome and distasteful, it is in order to prepare our minds for a more exquifite relish of those which are fresh and new. If the good things we have hitherto enjoyed are tranfient, they will be fucceeded by thofe which the inexhauftible power of the Deity will fupply to eternal ages. If the pleafures of our prefent ftate are blended with pain and uneafinefs, our future will confift of fincere unmixed delights. Bleffed hope! the thought whereof turns the very imperfections of our nature into occafions of comfort and joy.
But what confolation is left to the man who hath no hope or profpe&t of thefe things? View him in that part of life when the natural decay of his faculties concurs with the frequency of the fame objects to make him
weary of this world, when like a man who hangs upon a precipice, his prefent fituation is uneafy, and themoment that he quits his hold, he is fure of finking: into hell or annihilation.
There is not any character fo hateful as his who in◄vents racks and tortures for mankind. The freethinkers make it their bufinefs to introduce doubts, perplexities and defpair into the minds of men, and according to the poet's rule, are moft juftly punished by their own schemes.
The Voyage of Life. An Allegory. [Ramb. N°. 1ò2.]
IFE," fays Seneca," is a voyage, in the progrefs of which, we are perpetually changing 66 our fcenes; we firft leave childhood behind us, then "youth, then the years of ripened manhood, then the "better and more pleafing part of old age." The perufal of this paffage, having excited in me a train of reflections on the state of man, the inceffant fluctuation · of his wifhes, the gradual change of his difpofition to all external objects, and the thoughtlefnefs with which he floats along the ftream of time, I funk into a slumber amidst my meditations, and, on a fudden, found my ears. filled with the tumult of labour, the fhouts of alacrity,. the fhrieks of alarm, the whistle of winds, and the dafh of waters.
My aft onishment for a time repreffed my curiofity; but foon recovering myself fo far as to enquire whither we were going, and what was the cause of fuch clamour and confufion, I was told that they were launching out into the ocean of life; that we had already paffed the freights of infancy, in which multitudes had perished, fome by the weakness and fragility of their veffels, and more by the folly, perverfenefs, or negligence of those who undertook to fteer them; and that we were now on the main fea, abandoned to the winds and billows, without any other means of fecurity, than the care of the pilot, whom it was always in our power to choose
among great numbers that offered their direction and affiftance.
I then looked round with anxious eagerness: and first turning my eyes behind me, faw a ftream flowing through flowery iflands, which every one that failed along feemed to behold with pleasure; but no fooner touched, than the current, which, though not noify or turbulent, was yet irrefiftible, bore him away. Beyond thefe iflands all was darkness, nor could any of the paffengers describe the shore at which he firft embarked.
Before me, and on each fide, was an expanfe of waters violently agitated, and covered with fo thick a mist, that the most perfpicacious eye could fee but a little way. It appeared to be full of rocks and whirlpools, for many funk unexpectedly while they were courting the gale with full fails, and infulting those whom they had left behind. So numerous, indeed, were the dangers, and fo thick the darkness, that no caution could confer fecurity. Yet there were many, who by falíe intelligence, betrayed their followers into whirlpools, or by violence pushed those whom they found in their way, against the rocks.
The current was invariable and infurmountable; but though it was impoffible to fail against it, or to return to the place that was once paffed, yet it was not fo violent as to allow no opportunities for dexterity or courage, fince, though none could retreat back from danger, yet they might often avoid it by oblique direction.
It was, however, not very common to fteer with much care or prudence; for by fome univerfal infatuation, every man appeared to think himself fafe, though he faw his conforts every moment finking round him; and no fooner had the waves clofed over them, than their fate and their misconduct were forgotten; the voyage was purfued with the fame jocund confidence; every man congratulated himself upon the foundnefs of his veffel, and believed himself able to ftem the whirlpool in which his friend was fwallowed, or glide over the rocks on which he was dashed; nor was it often obferved that the fight of a wreck made any man change his courfe; if he turned aside for a moment, he foon
forgot the rudder, and left himself again to the difpofal of chance.
This negligence did not proceed from indifference, or from weariness of their prefent condition; for not. One of thofe, who thus rushed upon deftruction, failed when he was finking, to call loudly upon his associates for that help which could not now be given him; and many fpent their laft moments in cautioning others against the folly, by which they were intercepted in the midst of their courfe. Their benevolence was sometimes praised, but their admonitions were unregarded.
The veffels in which we had embarked, being confeffedly unequal to the turbulence of the stream of life, were visibly impaired in the course of the voyage; fo that every paflenger was certain, that how long foever he might, by favourable accidents, or by inceffant vigilance, be preferved, he muft fink at laft.
This neceffity of perifhing might have been expected to fadden the gay, and intimidate the daring, at least to keep the melancholy and timorous in perpetual torments, and hinder them from any enjoyment of the varieties and gratifications which nature offered them as the folace of their labours; yet in effect none feemed lefs to expect deftruction than thofe to whom it was most dreadful; they all had the art of concealing their danger from themselves; and thofe who knew their inability to bear the fight of the terrors that embarrassed their way, took care never to look forward, but found fome amufement for the prefent moment, and generally entertained themselves by playing with HOPE, who was the conftant affociate of the voyage of life.
Yet all that HOPE ventured to promife, even to those whom the favoured moft, was, not that they should escape, but that they fhould fink laft; and with this promise every one was fatisfied, though he laughed at the reft for feeming to believe it. HOPE, indeed, apparently mocked the credulity of her companions; for in proportion as their veffels grew leaky, the redoubled her affurances of fafety, and none were more busy in making provifions for a long voyage, than they, whom all but themselves faw likely to perish foon by irreparable decay.