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to abate their industry, in endeavouring by honest means to acquire a comfortable subsistence for themselves and their children: on the contrary, our very nature prompts us to action and contemplation; and the indolent, listless person, who delivers himself up to idleness, and whose whole time is a blank, grows tired of himself, and is, every hour oppressed with his own lazi
What then are we to learn from our precarious, transitory condition? The most important precept of wisdom; the great document of human prudence, which we should perpetually inculcate to ourselves, from youth to age, and imprint it on our hearts as the peculiar and lasting signature of sound sense: namely, that there is no consideration in life sufficient to tempt a wise man to sacrifice one truth, or one virtue, to the folly of avarice, or the madness of ambition.
This has been the settled judgment of the men most renowned for their understanding, in all ages ; and, as it is finely expressed in the Wisdom of Solomon; I cannot recommend it with greater energy and authority, than by giving it to the reader in his own words: “ What hath pride profited us? or what good have riches with our vaunting brought us ? All those things are passed away like a shadow; and as a post that hasted by; and as a ship that passeth over the waves of the water, which, when it is gone by, the trace thereof cannot be found, neither the path-way of the keel in the waves : or as when a bird hath flown through the air, there is no token of her way to be found; but the light air being beaten with the stroke of her wings, and parted with the violent noise and motion of them, is passed through, and therein afterwards no sign where she went is to be found: or, like as when an arrow is shot at a mark, it parteth the air, which immediately cometh together again; so that a man cannot know where it went through:-even so we, in like manner, as soon as we were born, began 'to draw to our end, and had no sign of virtue to shew; but were consumed in our own wickedness."
FREE-THINKER, No. 114, Apr. 24, 1719.
Of this admirable paper, the production of Dr. Pearce, what a poetical and impressive epitome do we possess in a few lines of Gray; who, in his Ode to Spring, contrasting the human species with the insect world, emphatically remarks :
To Contemplation's sober eye,
Such is the race of man :
Shall end where they began,
Alike the busy and the gay
But flutter thro' life's little day,
Methinks I hear, in accents low,
The sportive kind reply : * Poor moralist! and what art thou?"
A solitary fly!
To blend instruction with delight,
It is said of the late Duke of Buckingham, who was famous for being equally lavish of his wit and his money, that when he invited a sprightly mixed company to dine with him, he would often have a concealed amanuensis to take minutes of the table-talk; that, in the evening, he might divert his more intimate companions with the several digressions, incoherences, and odd no, tions, which were started at dinner. It happened one day (as my story goes), that one of the guests, who was a chymist, while he was over eager in an argument, ate salt with pow. dered beef, which the rest of the company thought had lain too long in the brine. Here. upon a musician, who sat over against the chymist, asked him, if he could give a reason for his extraordinary manner of diet. The virtuoso (thinking it a reflection on his profession, to seem ignorant in the use of salts) replied, the beef was over-seasoned: and a general laughter arising upon his answer, he gravely added, that
salt beef, eaten with salt, was as fresh as fresh beef; and in some respects, fresher. This aphorism, when it came to be read at night, was (for the singularity of it) thought worthy to be recorded, as a standing jest upon the adepts.
This practice of the Duke's might be improved to very good purpose, in the eveningconversations of ingenious men; who, in the run of discourse, often strike out observations which they would be glad to recollect the next morning. To explain myself by an example : six gentlemen (well met) sat one evening over a moderate bowl of punch. “A standish and a sheet of paper lying on the table (says Bianco) will be no interruption to good fellowship: who knows but we may give the FreeThinker a holiday, by throwing one hour's conversation into some method ? We have not studied to converse only like brocaded things : do we not know, that men accustomed to think, can raise useful reflections out of the slightest hints ?” The motion was agreed to; when Fidelio proposed, for a trial of skill, that every other person should tell a short story; upon which his right hand man should be obliged to furnish some uncommon remarks. This motion was likewise assented to, and they drew lots; whereby it was Bianco's chance to begin with