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النشر الإلكتروني

"Dubius vixi; incertus morior; quò vadam, nescio: ens entium, miserere mei!" I have lived in doubt, said a philosopher; I die in uncertainty; I know not whither I shall go; Being of Beings, have compassion upon me! One of the best springs of generous and worthy actions, it is evident, is the having generous and worthy thoughts of ourselves. Whoever has a mean opinion of the dignity of his nature, will act in no higher rank, than he has allotted himself in his own estimation. If he consider his being as circumscribed by the uncertain term of a few years, his designs will be contracted within the narrow span, which he imagines is to bound his existence. How can he exalt his thoughts to any thing really great and noble, who only believes that after a short turn on the stage of this world, he is to sink into oblivion, and to lose his consciousness for ever?

For this reason, there is not, as I have often repeated, so useful and elevated a contemplation as that of the soul's immortality. There is not a more improving exercise to the human mind, than to be frequently reviving its own great privileges and endowments; nor a more effectual means to awaken in us an ambition raised above low objects and little pursuits, than to value

value ourselves as heirs of eternity. It is a great satisfaction to hear the best and wisest of mankind in all nations and ages asserting, as with one voice, this their birth-right, and to find it ratified by an express revelation. At the same time also, if we turn our thoughts inward upon ourselves, we shall meet with a secret sense, concurring with the proofs which have thus been supernaturally given us.

A good presumptive argument, likewise, arises from the increasing appetite of the mind after knowledge; from the desire we feel of extending our faculties, which cannot be accomplished, as the more restrained faculties of lower creatures can, within the limits of a short life. Another probable conjecture, I think, is also to be raised from our appetite for existence itself, and from a reflection on our progress through the several stages of duration. We complain of the shortness of life, and yet are perpetually hurrying over the parts of it, to arrive at certain little settlements, or imaginary points of rest, which are dispersed up and down. Now what happens, when we arrive at these imaginary points of rest? Do we stop our motion, and sit down satisfied in the settlement we have gained; or are we not removing the boundary, and marking out new

points of rest, towards which we press forward with the like eagerness, and which cease to be such, as fast as we attain them? Our case is, indeed, very much like that of a traveller upon the Alps, who should fancy the top of the next hill must end his journey, because it terminates his prospect; but he no sooner arrives at it, than he sees new ground and other hills beyond it, and continues to travel on as before. *

Annihilation, then, I must firmly believe, is not to be the lot of those, who have the extraordinary inverted ambition of desiring it. But is it not beyond the power of credibility, almost, that men capable of thought, shall form to themselves the sullen satisfaction of thinking they shall sink into nothing? I will not say, that in all it amounts to a sordid hope, that they shall not be immortal, because they dare not endeavour to be so; but I will assert, that there are too many who, having degraded themselves below the character of immortality, are very willing to resign their pretensions to it; and to substitute in its room a dark negative happiness in the extinction of their being.


A drop

A drop of water, we are told by a Persian fable, fell out of a cloud into the sea, and finding itself lost in such an immensity of fluid matter, broke out into the following reflexion. Alas! what an insignificant creature am I, in this prodigious ocean of waters; my existence is of no concern to the universe, I am reduced to a kind of nothing, and am less than the least significant of the works of God. It so happened, that a shell fish, which lay in the neighbourhood of this drop, arrested it in the midst of this its humble soliloquy. The drop, says the fable, lay a great while hardening in the shell, till by degrees it was ripened into a pearl, which falling into the hand of a merchant, after a long series of adventures, is at present that famous pearl, which is fixed on the top of the Persian diadem.

The mind of man, on all occasions, adapts itself to the different nature of its objects; it is contracted and debased by being conversant in little and low things; and feels a proportionable enlargement, from the contemplation of great and sublime ideas. The greatness of things is thus merely comparative; and this not only holds good in respect of extension, but even in



respect of dignity, duration, and all kinds of perfection. Astronomy, for instance, opens the mind, and alters our judgment, with regard to the magnitude of extended beings; but Christianity, as an higher pursuit, produces an universal greatness of soul. Philosophy contributes much towards the enlargement of our views; but Christianity extends them to a degree, beyond the general light of nature. Nor is this to be thought wholly to regard the understanding. For nothing in reality is of greater force to subdue the inordinate motions of the heart, and to regulate the will. For whether a man be actuated by his passions or his reason, these are first wrought upon by some object, which stirs the soul in proportion to its apparent dimensions. Hence irreligious men, whose short prospects are filled with earth, and sense, and mortal life, are invited by these unworthy ideas to actions proportionably little and low. Whereas a mind, whose views are enlightened and extended by religion, is animated to nobler pursuits, by more sublime and captivating prospects. *

Virtue is partly a habit, and partly a science. As to its principles, it is purely a science; as to its practice and progress, it is altogether a habit;


* Addison.

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