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Sensible appearances affect most men much more
than abstract reasonings ; and we daily see bodies drop around us, but the soul is invisible. The power which inclination has over the judgment, is greater than can be well conceived by those that have not had an experience of it; and of what numbers is it the sad interest that souls should not survive! The heathen world confessed, that they rather hoped, than firmly believed, immortality! And how many heathens have we still amongst us! The sacred page assures us, that life and immortality is brought to light by the Gospel : but by how many is the Gospel rejected, or overlooked ! From these considerations, and from my being accidentally privy to the sentiments of some particular persons, I have been long persuaded that most, if not all, our infidels (whatever name they take, and whatever scheme, for argument's sake, and to keep themselves in countenance, they patronise) are supported in their deplorable errour, by some doubt of their immortality, at the bottom. And I am satisfied, that men once thoroughly convinced of their immortality, are not far from being Christians. For it is hard to conceive, that a man, fully conscious eternal pain or happiness will certainly be his lot, should not earnestly, and impartially, inquire after the surest means of escaping one, and securing the other. And of such an earnest and impartial inquiry, I
well know the consequence. Here, therefore, in proof of this most fundamental
truth, some plain arguments are offered ; arguments derived from principles which infidels admit in common with believers; arguments, which appear to me altogether irresistible ; and such as, I am satisfied, will have great weight with all, who give themselves the small trouble of looking seriously in'o their own bosoms, and of observing,
with any tolerable degree of attention, what daily passes round about them in the world. If some arguments shall, here, occur, which others have declined, they are submitted, with all deference, to better judgments in this, of all points the most important. For, as to the being of a God, that is no longer disputed; but it is undisputed for this reason only ; viz. because, where the least pretence to reason is admitted, it must for ever be indisputable. And of consequence no man can be betrayed into a dispute of that nature by vanity; which has a principal share in animating our modern combatants against other articles of our belief.
She* (for I know not yet her name in Heaven)
Not early, like Narcissa, left the scene;
Nor sudden, like Philander. What avail ?
This seeming mitigation but inflames ;
This fancied medicine heightens the disease.
The longer known, the closer still she grew;
And gradual parting is a gradual death.
'T is the grim tyrant's engine, which extorts,
By tardy pressure's still increasing weight,
From hardest hearts, confession of distress.
O the long, dark approach through years of pain,
Death's gallery! (might I dare to call it so)
With dismal doubt, and sable terrour, hung:
Sick hope's pale lamp, its only glimmering ray :
There, fate my melancholy walk ordain'd,
Forbid self-love itself to flatter, there.
How oft I gaz’d, prophetically sad !
How oft I saw her dead, while yet in smiles !
In smiles she sunk her grief to lessen mine.
She spoke me comfort, and increas'd my pain,
Like powerful armies trenching at a town,
By slow, and silent, but resistless sap,
In his pale progress gently gaining ground,
Death urg'd his deadly siege ; in spite of art,
Of all the balmy blessings Nature lends
To succour frail humanity. Ye stars !
(Not now first made familiar to my sight)
And thou, O Moon ! bear witness; many a night
He tore the pillow from beneath my head,
Tied down by sore attention to the shock,
By ceaseless depredations on a life
Dearer than that he left me.
Of observation ! darker every hour!
Less dread the day that drove me to the brink,
And pointed at eternity below;
When my soul shuddered at futurity;
When, on a moment's point, th' important die,
Of life and death spun doubtful, ere it fell.
And turn’d up life; my title to more woe.
But why more woe? More comfort let it be,
Nothing is dead, but that which wish'd to die;
Nothing is dead, but wretchedness and pain ; .
Nothing is dead, but what encumber'd, gallid,
Block’d up the pass, and barr'd from real life.
Where dwells that wish most ardent of the wise ?
Too dark the Sun to see it ; highest stars
Too low to reach it; Death, great Death alone,
O'er stars and Sun triumphant, lands us there.
Nor dreadful our transition ; though the mind, An artist at creating self-alarms,
Rich in expedients for inquietude,
Is prone to paint it dreadful. Who can take
Death's portrait true? The tyrant never sat.
Our sketch all random strokes, conjecture all ;
Close shuts the grave, nor tells one single tale,
Death, and his image rising in the brain,
Bear faint resemblance; never are alike ;
Fear shakes the pencil ; Fancy loves excess ;
Dark Ignorance is lavish of her shades :
And these the formidable picture draw.
But grant the worst; 't is past; new prospects rise;
And drop a veil eternal o'er her tomb.
Far other views our contemplation claim,
Views that o'erpay the rigours of our life;
Views that suspend our agonies in death.
Wrapt in the thought of immortality,
Wrapt in the single, the triumphant thought !
Long life might lapse, age unperceiv'd come on;
And find the soul unsated with her theme,
Its nature, proof, importance, fire my song.
O that my song could emulate my soul !
Like her, immortal. No! — the soul disdains
A mark so mean; far nobler hope inflames;
If endless ages can outweigh an hour,
Let not the laurel, but the palm, inspire.
Thy nature, immortality! who knows?
And yet who knows it not? It is but life
In stronger thread of brighter colour spun,
And spun for ever ; dipt by cruel fate
In Stygian dye, how black, how brittle here !
How short our correspondence with the Sun!
And while it lasts, inglorious! Our best deeds,
How wanting in their weight! Our highest joys,
Small cordials to support us in our pain,
And give us strength to suffer.
But how great,
To mingle interests, converse amities,
With all the sons of reason, scatter'd wide
Through habitable space, wherever born,
Howe'er endow'd! To live free citizens
Of universal Nature ! To lay hold
By more than feeble faith on the Supreme !
To call Heaven's rich unfathomable mines
(Mines, which support archangels in their state)
Our own! To rise in science, as in bliss,
Initiate in the secrets of the skies !
To read creation; read its mighty plan
In the bare bosom of the Deity!
The plan, and execution, to collate !
To see, before each glance of piercing thought,
All cloud, all shadow, blown remote ; and leave
No mystery - but that of love divine,
Which lifts us on the seraph's flaming wing,
From Earth's aceldama, this field of blood,
Of inward anguish, and of outward ill,
From darkness, and from dust, to such a scene!
Love's element ! true joy's illustrious home!
From Earth's sad contrast (now deplord) more fair!
What exquisite vicissitude of fate !
Blest absolution of our blackest hour!
Lorenzo, these are thoughts that make man, man, The wise illumine, aggrandize the great. How great, (while yet we tread the kindred clod, And every moment fear to sink beneath The clod we tread; soon trodden by our son)