« הקודםהמשך »
would have been alarmed, had they heard him aétually throwing out such a storm of eloquence.
How cold and dead a figure, in comparison of these two great men, does an orator often inake at the British bar, holding up his head with the moft insipid ferenity, and stroking the sides of a long wig that reaches down to his middle! Nothing can be more ridiculous than the gestures of most of our English fpeakers. You fee Some of them running their hands into their pockets as far as ever they can thrust them, and others looking with great attention on a piece of pap:r that has nothing written on it: you may see many a smart rhetorician turning his hat in his hands, moulding it into several different cocks, examining sometimes the lining of it, and fometimes the bụtton, during the whole course of his harangue. A deaf man would think he was cheapening a beaver, when perhaps he is talking of the fate of the British nation. I remember, when I was a young man, and used to frequent Westminster-hall, there was a counsellor who never pleaded without a piece of packthread in his hand, which he used to twist about a thumb or finger all the wbile he was fpeaking : the wags of those days used to call it the thread of liis discouríe, for he was not able to utter a word without it. One of his clients, who was more merry than wile, stole it frem him one day in the midft of his pleading ; but he had beiter have let it alone, for lie lost his caufe by the jeit.
XI. Advantages of History. THE "HE advantages found in history seem to be of three
kinds ; as it anules the fancy, as it improves the understanding, and as it strengthens virtue.
In reality, what more agreeable entertainment to the mind than to be transported into ihe remoteft ages of the world, and to obferve human society, in its infancy, making the first farit effays towards the arts and sciences ? To see the policy of government and the civility of conversation refining by degrees, and every thing that is or. namental to human life advancing towards its perfection? To mark the rise, progress, declension, and extinc. tion of the moft flourishing empires; the virtues which contributed to their greatness, and the vices which drew
on their ruin? In short, to see all human race, from the beginning of time, pais as įt were in review before us, appearing in their true colours, withont any of those difguises, which, during their lifetime, so much perplexed the judgments of the beholders? What spectacle can be imagined so magnificent, so various, so interesting! What amusement, either of the fenses or imagination, can be compared with it? Shall those trifling pastimes, which engross fo much of our time, be preferred as more fatisfactory, and more fit to engage our attention? How perverse must that taste be which is capable of so wrong a choice of pleasures !
But history is a moft improving part of knowledge, as well as an agreeable amusement; and indeed a great part of what we commonly call erudition, and value fo highly, is nothing but an acquaintance with hiftorical facts. An extensive knowlerige of this kind belongs to men of letters; but I must think it an unpardonable ig. norance in persons, of whatever fex or condition, not to be acquainted with the history of their own country along with the histories of ancient Greece and Rome.
I must add, that history is not only a valuable part of knowledge, but opens the door to many other parts of knowledge, and affords materials to most of the scien.
And indeed, if we consider the shortness of human life, and our limited knowledge, even of what passes in our own time, we must be serefible that we should be for ever children in understanding, were it not for this invention; which extends our experience to all past ages and to the most distant nations, inaking them contribute as much to our improvement in wisdom as if they had actually lain under our observation. A man acquainted with history inay, in some respect, bę said to have lived from the beginning of the world, and to have been making continual additions to his stock of knowledge in every century.
There is also an advantage in that knowledge which is acquired by history, above what is learned by the practice of the world, that it brings us acquainted with hu• man affairs, without diminishing in the least from the most delicate sentiments of virtue. · And, to tell the truth, 1 scarce know any ftudy or occupation so unexcep
Part I. tionable as history in this particular. Poets can paint virtue in the most charming colours; but, as they address themselves entirely to the paflions, they often become advocates for vice. Even philofophers are apt to bewilder themselves in the subtity of their speculations; and we have seen fome go so far as to deny the reality of all moral distinctions. But I think it a remark worthy the attention of the speculative reader, that the bittorians have been, almost without exception, the true friends of virtue, and have always represented it in its proper colours, however they may have erred in their judgments of particular persons. Nor is this combination of historians in favour of virtue at all difficult to be accounted for. When a man of business enters into life and action, he is more apt to consider the characters of men as they have relation to his interest than as they stand in themselves, and has his judgment warped on every occafion by the violence of his passion. When a philofo. pher contemplates characters and manners in this closet, the general abstract view of the objects leaves the mind so cold and unmoved, that the fentiments of nature have no room to play, and he scarce. feels the difference be. twixt vice and virtue. History keeps in a just medium betwist these extremes, and places the objects in their true point of view. The writers of history, as well as the readers, are sufficiently interested in the characters and events, to have a lively sentiment of blame or praise; and, at the same time, have no particular interest or concern to pervert their judgment.
XII. On the Immortality of the Soul. AMONG other excelleut arguments for the immorta.
ity of the foul, there is one drawn from the perpetual progress of the soul to its perfection, without a possibility of ever: arriving at it'; which is a hint that I do not remember to have seen opened and improved by others who have written on this subject, though it feems to me to carry a great weight with it. How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the foul whichi is capable of such immense perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eternity, thall fall away into pothing almost as soon as it is created! Are such abis
lities made for no purpose ? A brute arrives at a point of perfection that he can never pass: in a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of; and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the same thing he is at present. Were a human soul thus at a stand in her accomplishments ; were her faculties to be full blown, and incapable of farther enlargements ; I could imagine it might fall away insensibly, and drop at once into a state of annihilation. But can we believe a thinking being, that is in a perpetual progress of improvements, and travelling on from perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad into the works of its Creator, and made a few discoveries of His infinite goodness, wisdom, and power, must perish-at her first setting out, and in the very beginning of her inquiries ?
Man, considered in his present state, does not seem born to enjoy life, but to deliver it down to others. This is not surprising to consider in animals, which are formed for our use, and can finish their hufiness in a fhort life. The filk-worm, after having spun her tafk, Jays her eggs and dies. But in this life man can never take in his full measure of knowledge'; nor has he time to subdue his paffions, establish his foul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurried off the stage. Would an infinitely wise Being make such glorious creatures for so mean a purpofe Can lie delight in the production of such abortive intelligences, such fhort-lived reasonable beings? Would he give us talents that are not to be exerted ? capacities that are never to be gratified ? How can we find that wisdom which shines through all bis works, in the formation of man, without looking on this world as only a nursery for the next; and believing that the several generations of rational creatures, which rise up and difappear in such quick successions, are only to receive their first rudiments of existence here, and afterwards to be transplanted into a more friendly climate, where they may spread and flourish to all eternity:
There is not, in my opinion, a more pleasing and triumphant consideration in religion than this, of the perpetual progress which the soul makes towards the perfection of its nature without ever arriving at a period
in it. To look upon the soul as going on from strength to strength; to consider that she is to fine, with new accessions of glory, to all eternity; that she will be still adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge to know. ledge ; carries in it something wonderfully agreeable to that ambition which is natural to the mind of man. Nay, it must be a prospect pleasing to God himself, to see his creation for ever beautifying in his eyes, and drawing nearer to him, by greater degrees of resemblance.
Methinks this single consideration, of the progress of a finite fpirit to perfection, will be sufficient to extinguish all envy in inferiorir natures, and all contempt in luperiour. That cherubim, which now appears as a God to a human soul, knows very well that the period will come about in eternity, when the human fon Ball be as perfect as he himself now is ; nay, when she thall look down upon that degree of perfection as much as she now falls short of it. It is true, the higher nature. itill advances, and by that means preserves his distance and superiority in the scale of being ; but he knows, that, how high foever the station is of which he stands poffeled at present, the inferiour nature will at length mount up to it, and thine forth in the same degree of glory.
With what astonishment and veneration may we look into our souls, where there are such hidden stores of virtue and knowledge, such inexhausted sources of perfection! We know not yet what we shall be, nor will it ever enter into the heart of man to conceive the glory that will be always in reserve for him. The foul, considered in relation to its Creator, is like one of those mathematical lines that may draw nearer to another for all eternity, without a possibility of touching it and can there be a thought so transporting, as to consider ourselves in these perpetual approaches to Him who is not only the standard of perfection but of happiness?
XIII. The Combat of the Horatii and the Curiati;. THE combat of the Horatii and Curiatii is painted in
a very natural and animated manner by Livy, The cause was this.--The inhabitants of Alba and Rome, rouled by ambition and mutual complaints, took the field, and