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those who cannot accommodate themselves to our sentiments : if they are deceived, we have no right to attribute their mistake to obstinacy or negligence, because we likewise have been mistaken; we may, perhaps, again change our own opinion; and what excuse shall we be able to find for aversion and malignity conceived against him, whom we shall chen find to have comunitted no fault, and who offended us only by refusing to follow us into error?
It may likewise contribute to soften that resentment which pride naturally raises against opposition, if we consider, that he who differs froin us, does not always contradict us; he has one view of an object, and we have another; cachi describes what he sees with equal fidelity, and each regulates his steps by his own eyes: one man, with Posidippus, looks on .celibacy as a state of gloomy folitude, without a partner in joy or a comforter in sorrow; the other considers it, with Metrodorus, as a state free from incuinbrances, in which a man is at liberty to choose his own gratifications, to remove from place to place in quest of pleasure, and to think of nothing but merriment and diverfion: full of these notions one haitens to choose a wife, and the other laughs at his ralhness, or pities his ignorance; yet it is poffible that each is right, but that each is right only for himself. .
Life is not the object of science; we see a little, very little; and what is beyond we only can conjec. ture. If we enquire of those who have gone before us, we receive small satisfaction; some have travelled life without observation, and some willingly mislead us. The only thought, therefore, on which we can
repofe with comfort, is that which presents to us the care of Providence, whose eye takes in the whole of things, and under whose direction all involuntary errors will terininate in happiness.
NUMB. 108. SATURDAY, November 17, 1753.
Nobis, cum fimul occidit brevis lux,
TT may have been observed by every reader, that
there are certain topicks which never are exhausted. Of some images and sentiments the mind of man may be said to be enamoured; it meets them, however often they occur, with the same ardour which a lover feels at the light of his mistress, and parts from them with the same regret when they can no longer be enjoyed,
Of this kind are many descriptions which the poets have transcribed from each other, and their successors will probably copy to the end of time, which will continue to engage, or, as the French term it, to flatter the imagination, as long as human nature fhall remain the famę.
When a poet mentions the spring, we know that the zephyrs are about to whisper, that the groves are to recover their verdure, the linnets to warble forth their notes of love, and the flocks and herds
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to frisk over vales painted with flowers : yet, who is there so insensible of the beauties of nature, so little delighted . with the renovation of the world, as not to feel his heart bound at the mention of the spring?
When night overshadows a romantick scene, all is stillness, filence, and quiet; the poets of the grove cease their melody, the moon towers over the world in gentle majesty, men forget their labours and their cares, and every passion and pursuit is for a while suspended. All this we know already, yet we hear it repeated without weariness; because such is generally the life of man, that he is pleated to think on the time when he shall pause from a sense of his condition.
When a poetical grove invites us to its covert, we know that we shall find what we have already seen, a limpid brook murmuring over pebbles, a bank diversified with flowers, a green arch that ex. cludes the fun, and a natural grot shaded with myrtles; yet who can forbear to enter the pleasing gloom, to enjoy coolness and privacy, and gratify himself once more by scenes with which nature has formed him to be delighted ?
Mary moral sentiments likewise are so adapted to our ftare, that we find approbation whenever they folicit it, and are feldom read without exciting a gentle emotion in the mind : such is the comparison of the life of man with the duration of a flower, a thought which, perhaps, every nation has heard warbled in its own language, from the inspired poets of the Hebrews to our own tiines: yet this comparison must always please, because every heart feels
its justness, and every hour confirms it by example.
Such, likewise, is the precept that directs us to use the present hour, and refer nothing to a distant time, which we are uncertain whether we shall reach: this every moralist may venture to inculcate, because it will always be approved, and because it is always forgotten.
This rule is, indeed, every day enforced, by arguments more powerful than the dissertations of moralists: we see men pieasing themselves with future happiness, fixing a certain hour for the com- . pletion of their wishes, and perishing some at a greater and some at a less distance from the happy time; all complaining of their disappointments, and lainenting that they had suffered the years which Heaven allowed them, to pass without improvement, and deferred the principal purpose of their lives to the time when life itself was to forsake them.
It is not only uncertain, whether, through all the casualties and dangers which beset the life of man, we shall be able to reach the time appointed for happiness or wisdom; but it is likely, that whatever now hinders us from doing that which our reason and conscience declare necessary to be done, will equally obstruct us in times to come. It is easy for the įmagination, operating on things not yet existing, to please itself with scenes of unmingled felicity, or plan ouf courses of uniform virtue: but good and evil are in real life inseparably united ; habits grow stronger by indulgence ; and reason loses her dignicy, in proportion as she has oftener yielded to temptation ; “ he that cannot live well
" to-day,” says Martial, “ will be less qualified to « live well to-morrow.”
Of the uncertainty of every human good, every human being seems to be convinced; yet this uncertainty is voluntarily increased by unnecessary delay, whether we respect external causes, or consider the nature of our own minds. He that now feels a defire to do right, and wishes to regulate his life according to his reason, is not sure that, at any future time assignable, he shall be able to rekindle the same ardour; he that has now an opportunity offered him of breaking loose from vice and folly, cannot know, but that he shall hereafter be more entangled, and struggle for freedom without obtaining it.
We are so unwilling to believe any thing to our own disadvantage, that we will always imagine the perspicacity of our judgment and the strength of our resolution more likely to increase than to grow less by time; and, therefore, conclude, that the will to pursue laudable purposes, will be always seconded by the power.
But however we may be deceived in calculating the strength of our faculties, we cannot doubt the uncertainty of that life in which they must be employed : we see every day the unexpected death of our friends and our enemies, we see new graves hourly opened for men older and younger than ourfelves, for the cautious and the careless, the diffolute and the temperate, for men who like us were providing to enjoy or improve hours now irreversibly cut off; we see all this, and yet, instead of living, Jet year glide after year in preparations to live.