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one whom, sooner or later, we shall certainly resemble.
It is, perhaps, for the same kind of reason, that few books, written in English, have been so much perused as Dr. Sherlock's Discourse upon Death; though at the same time I must own, that he who has not perused this excellent piece, has not perhaps read one of the strongest persuasives to a religious life that ever was written in any language.
The consideration with which I shall close this essay upon death, is one of the most ancient and most beaten morals that has been recommended to mankind. But its being so very common, and so universally received, though it takes away from it the grace of novelty, adds very much to the weight of it, as it shews that it falls in with the general sense of mankind. In short, I would have every one consider, that he is in this life nothing more than a passenger, and that he is not to set up his rest here, but to keep an attentive eye upon that state of being to which he approaches every moment, and which will be for ever fixed and permanent. This single consideration would be sufficient to extinguish the bitterness of hatred, the thirst of avarice, and the cruelty of ambition.
I am very much pleased with the passage of Antiphanes, a very ancient poet, who lived near an hundred years before Socrates, which represents the life of man under this view, as I have here translated it word for word. “ Bé not grieved," says he, “ above measure for thy deceased friends : They are not dead, but have only finished that journey which it is necessary for every one of us to take : we ourselves must go to that great place of reception in which they are all of them assembled, and in this general rendezvous of mankind, live together in another state of being:
I think I have, in a former paper, taken notice of those beautiful metaphors in scripture, where life is termed a pilgrimage, and those who pass through it are called strangers and sojourners upon earth. I shall conclude this with a story which I have some where read in the Travels of Sir John Chardin ; that gentleman, after having told us, that the inns which receive the caravans in Persia, and the eastern countries, are called by the name of caravansaries, gives us a relation to the following purpose.
A dervise, travelling through Tartary, being arrived at the town of Balk, went into the king's palace by a mistake, as thinking it to be a public inn, or caravansary. Having looked about him for some time, he entered into a long gallery, where he laid down his wallet, and spread his carpet, in order to repose himself upon it after the manner of the eastern nations. He had not been long in this posture before he was discovered by some of the guards, who asked him what was his business in that place. The dervise told them, he intended to take up his night's lodging in that caravansary. The guards let him know, in a very angry manner, that the house he was in, was not a caravansary, but the king's palace. It happened that the king himself passed through the gallery during this debate, and smiling at the mistake of the dervise, asked him how he could possibly be so dull, as not to distinguish a palace from a caravansary? “Sir, (says the dervise,) give me leave to ask your majesty a question or two. Who were the persons that lodged in this house when it was first built?” The king replied, his ancestors. “ And who (says the dervise) was the last person that lodged here?” The king replied, his father. “ And who is it (says the dervise) that lodges here at present?” The king told him, that it was he himself. “ And who (says the dervise) will be here after you
;” The king answered, the young prince,
" Ah, Sir, (says the dervise,) a house that changes its inhabitants so often, and receives such a perpetual succession of guests, is not a palace, but a caravansary.
No. 293. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5.
Πάσιν γαρ ευφρονύσι συμμαχι τύχη.
FRAG. VET. Poet.
The famous Gratian, in his little book wherein he lays down maxims for a man's advancing himself at court, advises his reader to associate himself with the fortunate, and to shun the company of the unfortunate; which, notwithstanding the baseness of the precept to an honest mind, may have something useful in it for those who push their interest in the world.
It is certain, .a great part of what we call good or ill fortune, rises out of right or wrong measures and schemes of life. When I hear a man complain of his being unfortunate in all his undertakings, I shrewdly suspect him for a very weak man in his affairs. În conformity with this way of thinking, Cardinal Richlieu used to say, that unfortunate and imprudent were but two words for the same thing. As the cardinal himself had a great share both of prudence and good fortune, his famous antagonist, the Count d'Olivarez, was disgraced at the court of Madrid, because it was alledged against him, that he had never any success in his undertakings. This, says an eminent author, was indirectly accusing him of imprudence.
Cicero recommended Pompey to the Romans for their general, upon three accounts, as he was a man of courage, conduct, and good fortune. It was, perhaps, for the reason above-mentioned, namely, that a series of good fortune supposes a prudent management in the person whom it befalls, that not only Sylla, the dictator, but several of the Roman emperors, as is still to be seen upon their medals, among their other titles, gave themselves that of Felix, or fortunate. The heathens, indeed, seem to have valued a man more for his good fortune than
other quality, which I think is very natural for those who have not a strong belief of another world. For how can I conceive a man crowned with many distinguishing blessings, that has not some extraordinary fund of merit and perfection in him, which lies open to the Supreme eye, though perhaps it is not discovered by my observation ? What is the reason Homer's and Virgil's heroes do not form a resolution, or strike a blow, without the conduct and direction of some deity? Doubtless because the poets esteemed it the greatest honour to be favoured by the gods; and thought the best way of praising a man was, to recount those favours which naturally implied an extraordinary merit in the person on whom they descended.
Those who believe a future state of rewards and punishments, act very absurdly, if they form their opinions of a man's merit from his successes. But certainly, if I thought the whole circle of our being was concluded between our births and deaths, I should think a man's good fortune the measure and standard of his real merit, since Providence would have no opportunity of rewarding his virtue and perfections, but in the present life. A virtuous unbeliever, who lives under the pressure of misfortunes, has reason to cry out, as they say Brutus did a little before his death, “0, Virtue, I have worshipped thee as a substantial good, but I find thou art an empty name.'
But to return to our first point. Though prudence does undoubtedly in a great measure produce our good or ill fortune in the world, it is certain there are many unforeseen accidents and occurrences, which very often pervert the finest schemes that can be laid by human wisdom. The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Nothing less than infinite wisdom can have an absolute command over fortune; the highest degree of it which man can possess, is by no means equal to fortuitous events, and to such contingencies as may rise in the prosecution of our affairs. Nay, it very often happens, that prudence, which has always in it a great mixture of caution, hinders a man from being so fortunate as he might possibly have been without it. A person who only aims at what is likely to succeed, and follows closely the dictates of human prudence, never meets with those great and unforeseen successes, which are often the effect of a sanguine temper, or a more happy rashness; and this perhaps may be the reason that, according to the common observation, Fortune, like other females, delights rather in favouring the young than the old.
Upon the whole, since man is so short-sighted a creature, and the accidents which may happen to him so various, I cannot but be of Dr. Tillotson's opinion in another case, that were there any doubt of a Providence, yet it certainly would be very desirable there should be such a Being of infinite wisdom and goodness, on whose direction we might rely in the conduct of human life.
Ít is a great presumption to ascribe our successes to our own management, and not to esteem ourselves upon any blessing, rather as it is the bounty of heaven, than the acquisition of our own prudence. I am very well pleased with a medal that was struck by Queen Elizabeth a little after the defeat of the invincible Armada, to perpetuate the memory of that extraordinary event. It is well known how the King of Spain and others, who were enemies of that great princess, to derogate from her glory, ascribed the ruin of their fleet rather to the violence of storms and tempests, than to the bravery of the English. Queen Elizabeth, instead of looking upon this as a diminution of her honour, valued herself upon such a signal favour of Providence, and accordingly, in the reverse of the medal abovementioned, has represented a fleet beaten by a tempest, and falling foul upon one another, with that