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pect. A troubled ocean, to a man who sails upon it, is, I think, the biggest object that he can see in motion, and consequently gives his imagination one of the highest kinds of pleasure that can arise from greatness. I must confess, it is impossible for me to survey this world of fluid matter, without thinking on the hand that first poured it out, and made a proper channel for its reception. Such an object naturally raises in my thoughts the idea of an Almighty Being, and convinces me of his existence as much as a metaphysical demonstration. The imagination prompts the understanding, and by the greatness of the sensible object, produces in it the idea of a Being who is neither circumscribed by time nor space.
As I have made several voyages upon the sea, I have often been tossed in storms, and on that occasion have frequently reflected on the descriptions of them in ancient poets. I remember Longinus highly recommends one in Homer, because the poet has not amused himself with little fancies upon the occasion, as authors of an inferior genius, whom he mentions, had done, but because he has gathered together those circumstances which are the most apt to terrify the imagination, and which really happen in the raging of a tempest. It is for the same reason, that I prefer the following description of a ship in a storm, which the psalmist has made, before any other I have ever met with. They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these men see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waters thereof. They mount up to heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then they are glad because they be quiet, so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.' By the way, how much more comfortable, as well as rational, is this system of the psalmist, than the pagan scheme in Virgil, and other poets, where one deity is represented as raising a storm, and another as laying it! Were we only to consider the sublime in this piece of poetry, what can be nobler than the idea it gives us of the Supreme Being thus
raising a tumult among the elements, and recovering them out of their confusion, thus troubling and becalming nature? "Great painters do not only give us landscapes of gardens, groves, and meadows, but very often employ their pencils upon sea-pieces: I could wish you would follow their example. If this small sketch may deserve a place among your works, I shall accompany it with a divine ode, made by a gentleman' upon the conclusion of his travels.
'How are thy servants blest, O Lord!
How sure is their defence!
'In foreign realms, and lands remote,
Through burning climes I passed unhurt,
"Thy mercy sweetened every soil,
'Think, O my soul, devoutly think,
Thou saw'st the wide extended deep
'Confusion dwelt in every face,
And fear in every heart;
When waves on waves, and gulfs in gulfs,
O'ercame the pilot's art.
'Yet then from all my griefs, O Lord,
Thy mercy set me free,
Whilst in the confidence of prayer
My soul took hold on thee.
'For though in dreadful whirls we hung
High on the broken wave,
I knew thou wert not slow to hear,
Nor impotent to save.
1i.e. by himself. So early had a spirit of piety taken possession of this excellent man's mind!
Ægritudinem laudare, unam rem maximè detestabilem, quorum est tandem Philosophorum ? CIC.
ABOUT an age ago it was the fashion in England, for every one that would be thought religious, to throw as much sanctity as possible into his face, and, in particular, to abstain from all appearances of mirth and pleasantry, which were looked upon as the marks of a carnal mind. The saint was of a sorrowful countenance, and generally eaten up with spleen and melancholy. A gentleman, who was lately a great ornament to the learned world, has diverted me more than once with an account of the reception which he met with from a very famous Independent minister, who was head of a college in those times. This gentleman was then a young adventurer in the republic of letters, and just fitted out for the university with a good cargo of Latin and Greek. His friends were resolved that he should try his fortune at an election which was drawing near in the college, of which the Independent minister, whom I have before mentioned, was governor. The youth, according to custom, waited on him in order to be examined. He was received at the door by a servant, who was one of that gloomy generation that were then in fashion. He conducted him, with great silence and seriousness, to a long gallery which was darkened at noon-day, and had only a single candle burning in it. After
a short stay in this melancholy apartment, he was led into a chamber hung with black, where he entertained himself for some time by the glimmering of a taper, till at length the head of the college came out to him, from an inner room, with half a dozen night-caps upon his head, and religious horror in his countenance. The young man trembled; but his fears increased, when, instead of being asked what progress he had made in learning, he was examined how he abounded in grace. His Latin and Greek stood him in little stead; he was to give an account only of the state of his soul, whether he was of the number of the elect; what was the occasion of his conversion; upon what day of the month and hour of the day it happened; how it was carried on, and when completed. The whole examination was summed up with one short question, namely, "Whether he was prepared for death?" The boy, who had been bred up by honest parents, was frighted out of his wits at the solemnity of the proceeding, and especially by the last dreadful interrogatory; so that upon making his escape out of this house of mourning, he could never be brought a second time to the examination, as not being able to go through the terrors of it.
Notwithstanding this general form and outside of religion is pretty well worn out among us, there are many persons, who, by a natural uncheerfulness of heart, mistaken notions of piety, or weakness of understanding, love to indulge this uncomfortable way of life, and give up themselves a prey to grief and melancholy. Superstitious fears and groundless scruples cut them off from the pleasures of conversation, and all those social entertainments, which are not only innocent, but laudable; as if mirth was made for reprobates, and cheerfulness of heart denied those who are the only persons that have a proper title to it.
He thinks him
Sombrius is one of these sons of sorrow. self obliged in duty to be sad and disconsolate. He looks on a sudden fit of laughter as a breach of his baptismal vow. An innocent jest startles him like blasphemy. Tell him of one who is advanced to a title of honour, he lifts his hands and eyes; describe a public ceremony, he shakes his head; show him a gay equipage, he blesses himself. All the little ornaments of life are pomps and vanities. Mirth is wanton, and wit profane. He is scandalized at youth for being lively, and at childhood for being playful. He sits at a christening,
or a marriage-feast, as at a funeral; sighs at the conclusion of a merry story, and grows devout when the rest of the company grow pleasant. After all, Sombrius is a religious man, and would have behaved himself very properly, had he lived when Christianity was under a general persecution.
I would by no means presume to tax such characters with hypocrisy, as is done too frequently; that being a vice which I think none but he, who knows the secrets of men's hearts, should pretend to discover in another, where the proofs of it do not amount to a demonstration. On the contrary, as there are many excellent persons who are weighed down by this habitual sorrow of heart, they rather deserve our compassion than our reproaches. I think, however, they would do well to consider, whether such a behaviour does not deter men from a religious life, by representing it as an unsocial state, that extinguishes all joy and gladness, darkens the face of nature, and destroys the relish of being itself.
I have, in former papers, shown how great a tendency there is to cheerfulness in religion, and how1 such a frame of mind is not only the most lovely, but the most commendable in a virtuous person. In short, those who represent religion in so unamiable a light, are like the spies sent by Moses to make a discovery of the Land of Promise, when by their reports they discouraged the people from entering upon it. Those who show us the joy, the cheerfulness, the good-humour, that naturally spring up in this happy state, are like the spies bringing along with them the clusters of grapes, and delicious fruits, that might invite their companions into the pleasant country which produced them.
An eminent Pagan writer has made a discourse to show that the atheist, who denies a God, does him less dishonour than the man who owns his being, but at the same time believes him to be cruel, hard to please, and terrible to human nature. "For my own part, (says he,) I would rather it should be said of me, that there was never any such man as
1 The two hows in this sentence do not correspond to each other, either, in sense or construction. I have shown how great-that is in what degree; I have shown how such a frame of mind is—that is-on what account. The first how is applied to the adjective; the second how, to the verb. Both these anomalies may be avoided by altering thus-“ I have shown how great a tendency there is to cheerfulness in religion, and how lovely, and even commendable, such a frame of mind is, in a virtuous person."