Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

gular passions, which may be said to reside in the soul, there are others that dwell in the senses, equally capable of destroying the body; particularly an inordinate indulgence of indolence, sleeping, eating, drinking, and many other things in their nature not only innocent in themselves, but indispensably necessary under due regulation; which yet by their abuse, become the fatal instruments of our destruction.

The natural marks by which we discern that a man is made for long life, are principally as follow:

1. To be descended, at least on one side, from longlived parents.

2. To be of a calm, contented, and cheerful disposition.

3. To have a just symmetry, or proper conformation of parts; a full chest, well formed joints and limbs, with a neck and head large, rather than small, in proportion to the size of the body.

4. A firm and compact system of vessels and stamina ; not too fat; veins large and prominent; a voice somewhat deep, and a skin not too white and smooth.

5. To be a long and sound sleeper.

The great assistance which art affords towards attaining long life, arises from the benefit of good air, and good water; from a frugal and simple diet, from the wise government of our appetites and passions; and, in a word, from a prudent choice and proper use of all the instruments of life, and rules of health, of which we have already said something, and as we proceed, intend to say more.

As the enjoyment of health is the greatest blessing mortals can possess, and the source of every pleasure, to explore the regions where it grows, the springs that feed it, and the customs and methods by which it is best cultivated and preserved, are objects as gratifying to the mind, as they are meritorious in the pursuit. For this purpose, the first consideration will be to attend to the examples or instances we meet with of health and long life, and what it may be considered a consequence of; and to observe the places, customs, and conditions of those who enjoyed them in any extraordinary degree; by which means the causes will be better ascertained, and the fairest conclusions drawn.

Relative to what transpired before the flood, little is known from Scripture, except the length of the antediluvian life; although at that period, as some imagine, men used neither animal food nor drank wine ; for it appears that it was to Noah the first privilege of feeding upon living creatures was given, as well as the prerogative of planting the vine. Since that time we meet with comparatively few instances of extraordinary longevity, either in sacred or profane history, with the exception of the patriarchs of the Hebrews, the Brachmans, among the old Indians, and the Brazilians, at the time that country was first discovered by the Europeans. Many of these are said to have lived to two or three hundred years. The same terms of life are attributed to the ancient Brachmans; and those of the patriarchs are recorded in Scripture history. As regards the latter, it may be observed that they did not dwell in cities, but in open countries and fields ; that they led a pastoral life, or employed themselves in agricultural labours ; that they were of the same race, to which their marriages were generally confined ; that their diet was simple, as that of the ancients is generally represented, among whom animal food and wine seldom constituted a part, except at sacrifices or solemn feasts.

The Brachmans were all of the same race; they lived in fields and woods, after they had finished their course of studies, and fed only on rice, milk, or herbs. The Brazilians, when first discovered, lived the most natural and original life of mankind, so frequently described in ancient countries, before either laws, property, or arts made their appearance among them; hence these customs may be concluded to have been still more simple than those of either of the other two. They lived without business or labour, further than was necessary to procure them the means of subsistence, by gathering fruits, herbs, and plants: water was their only drink: they were not tempted to drink beyond common thirst, nor to eat, but with a natural appetite; they were troubled with neither public nor domestic cares; nor did they know any pleasures but those of the most simple and natural kind.

From such examples and customs it may probably be inferred, that the common ingredients of health and long life, with the exception of congenial infirmities, are strict temperance, pure open air, easy labour, little care, simplicity of diet, fruits and herbs, in preference

to animal food, which easier corrupts; and water, which preserves the radical moisture, without increasing too much the natural heat; whereas sickness, decay, and death, commonly proceed from the one preying too fast upon the other, and at length wholly extinguishing it.

Sir William Temple observes, “ I have often wondered that the vigour of so much health and so long lives, were all under very hot climates; whereas the more temperate are allowed to produce the strongest and most vigorous bodies. But weaker constitutions may last as long as the strong, if better preserved from accidents ; so may a Venice glass as long as an earthen pitcher, if carefully kept; and for one life that ends by mere decay of nature or age, millions are interrupted by accidents from without or sickness from within; by untimely deaths, or decays from the effects of excess and luxury, immoderate repletion, or exercise, the preying of our minds upon our bodies, by long passions, or consuming cares, as well as those accidents which are called violent.”

It is possible that men may be betrayed into all these dangers by a naturally strong and vigorous constitution, by more appetite and larger fare, in colder climates. In warm countries

excesses of

kind are more pernicious to health, and are more avoided ; and if experience and reflection do not promote temperance among them, it is forced upon them by the faintness of appetite.

every

[ocr errors]

SECTION XVIII.

COMPARISON BETWEEN THE LONGEVITY OF

THE AN

CIENTS AND MODERNS,

MANY have been led from a desire of life, to envy the length of days with which the early inhabitants of the world were favoured. Under the complicated circumstances of natural and moral evil, to which man in the modern ages, at least, is liable, longevity is little to be desired. It will be curious and entertaining, however, to examine into this subject; and this, as we have now proceeded so far, we shall do in somewhat of an historical manner.

A very common notion has obtained, that in the early periods of the world its inhabitants were both more juvenile and more perfect; that they were of a gigantic nature, incredible strength, as well as of an amazing length of life. In consequence of these notions many romantic fictions have been broached, such as, that Adam attained to the height of 900 yards, and almost to the age of a thousand years. But philosophy has converted the supposed bones of giants, discovered in different places, into those of the elephant and the rhinoceros ; and divines have proved, that the chronology of the early time was not the same

« ForrigeFortsæt »