« AnteriorContinuar »
the historians were actually inspired, and where, by a particular scheme of Providence, the kings were distinguished by judgments or blessings, according as they promoted idolatry or the worship of the true God.
I cannot but look upon this manner of judging upon misfortunes, not only to be very uncharitable in regard to the person on whom they fall, but very presumptuous in regard to him who is supposed to inflict them. It is a strong argument for a state of retribution hereafter, that in this world virtuous persons are very often unfortunate, and vicious persons prosperous; which is wholly repugnant to the nature of a Being who appears infinitely wise and good in all his works, unless we may suppose that such a promiscuous and undistinguishing distribution of good and evil, which was necessary for carrying on the designs of Providence in this life, will be rectified and made amends for in another. We are not, therefore, to expect that fire should fall from heaven in the ordinary course of Providence; nor when we see triumphant guilt or depressed virtue in particular persons, that omnipotence will make bare its holy arm in the defence of the one, or punishment of the other. It is sufficient that there is a day set apart for the hearing and requiting of both according to their respec. tive merits.
The folly of ascribing temporal judgments to any particular crimes, may appear from several considerations. I shall only mention two: first, that generally speaking, there is no calamity or affliction, which is supposed to bave happened as a judgment to a vicious man, which does not sometimes happen to men of approved religion and virtue. When Diagoras the atheist was on board one of the Athenian ships, there arose a very violent tempest; upon which the mariners told him, that it was a just judgment upon them for having taken so impious a man on board. Diagoras begged them to look upon the rest of the ships that were in the same distress, and asked them whether or no Diagoras was on board every vessel in the fleet. We are all involved in the same calamities, and subject to the same accidents; and when we see any one of the species under any particular oppression, we should look upon it as arising from the common lot of human nature, rather than from the guilt of the person who suffers.
Another consideration, that may check our presumption in putting such a construction upon a misfortune, is this, that it is impossible for us to know what are calamities and what are blessings. How many accidents have passed for misfortunes, which have turned to the welfare and prosperity of the persons in whose lot they have fallen ? how many disappointments have, in their consequences, saved a man from ruin? If we could look into the effects of every thing, we might be allowed to pronounce boldly upon blessings and judgments; but for a man to give his opinion of what he sees but in part, and in its beginnings, is an unjustifiable piece of rashness and folly. The story of Biton and Clitobus, which was in great reputation among the heathens, for we see it quoted by all the ancient authors, both Greek and Latin, who have written upon the immortality of the soul, may teach us a caution in this matter. These two brothers, being the sons of a lady who was priestess of Juno, drew their mother's chariot to the temple at the time of a great solemnity, the persons being absent, who by their office were to have drawn her chariot on that occasion. The mother was so transported with this instance of filial duty, that she petitioned her goddess to bestow upon them the greatest gift that could be given to men ; upon which they were both cast into a deep sleep, and the next morning found dead in the temple. This was such an event, as would have been construed into a judgment, had it happened to the two brothers after an act of disobedience, and would doubt
less have been represented as such by any ancient historian who ' had given us an account of it.
No. 487. THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18.'
Cum prostrata sopore
While sleep oppresses the tir'd limbs, the mind
Though there are are many authors who have written ou dreams, they have generally considered them only as revelations of what has already happened in distant parts of the world, or as presages of what is to happen in future periods of time.
I shall consider this subject in another light, as dreams may give us some idea of the great excellency of a human soul, and some intimations of its independency on matter.
In the first place, our dreams are great instances of that activity which is natural to the human soul, and which it is not in the power of sleep to deaden or abate. When the man appears tired and worn out with the labours of the day, this active part in his composition is still busied and unwearied. When the organs of sense want their due repose and necessary reparations, and the body is no longer able to keep pace with that spiritual substance to which it is united, the soul exerts herself in her several faculties, and continues in the action till her partner is again qualified to bear her company. In this case dreams look like the relaxations and amusements of the soul, when she is disencumbered of her machine, her sports and recreations, when she has laid her charge asleep.
lately experienced to their cost. If Monsieur What-d'ye-callhim's domestics will not come to an accommodation, I do not know how the quarrel can be ended, but by a religious war.'
Why truly,' says a wiseacre that sat by him,' were I as the king of France, I would scorn to take part with the footmen of either side: here's all the business of Europe stands still, because Monsieur Mesnager's man has had his head broke. If Count Rectrum had given them a pot of ale after it, all would have been well, without any of this bustle; but they say he is a warm man, and does not care to be made mouths at.'
Upon this, one, that had held his tongue hitherto, began to exert himself; declaring that he was very well pleased the plenipotentiaries of our Christian princes took this matter into their serious consideration ; for that lacqueys were never so saucy and pragmatical, as they are now-a-days, and that he should be glad to see them taken down in the treaty of peace, if it might be done without prejudice to the public affairs.
One, who sat at the other end of the table, and seemed to be in the interest of the French king, told them, that they did not take the matter right, for that his most Christian Majesty did not resent this matter because it was an injury done to Monsieur Mesnager's footmen; ' for (says he) what are Monsieur Mesnager's footmen to him? but because it was done to his subjects. Now (says he) let me tell you, it would look very odd for a subject of France to have a bloody nose, and his sovereign not to take notice of it. He is obliged in honour to defend his people against hostilities; and if the Dutch will be so insolent to a crowned head, as in any wise to cuff or kick those who are under his protection, I think he is in the right to call them to an account for it.'
This distinction set the controversy upon a new foot, and seemed to be very well approved by most that heard it, till a little warm fellow, who declared himself a friend to the house of Austria, fell most unmercifully upon his Gallic Majesty, as encourag. ing his subjects to make mouths at their betters, and afterwards skreening them from the punishment that was due to their insolence. To which he added that the French nation was so addicted to grimace, that if there was not a stop put to it at the gene. ral congress, there would be no walking the streets for them in a time of peace, especially if they continued masters of the West Indies. The little man proceeded with a great deal of warmth, declaring, that if the allies were of his mind, he would oblige the French king to burn his gallies, and tolerate the Protestant religion in his dominions, before he would sheath his sword. He concluded with calling Monsieur Mesnager an insignificant prig.
The dispute was now growing very warm, and one does not know where it would have ended, had not a young man of about one and twenty, who seems to have been brought up with an eye to the law, taken the debate into his hand, and given it as his opinion, that neither Count Rechteren nor Monsieur Mesnager had behaved themselves right in this affair. Count Rechteren, (says be) should have made affidavit that his servants bad been affronted, and then Monsieur Mesnager would have done him justice, by taking away their liveries from them, or some other way that he might have thought the most proper; for let me tell you, if a man makes a mouth at me, I am not to knock the teeth out of it for his pains. Then again, as for Monsieur Mesnager, upon his servant's being beaten, why, he might have had his action of assault and battery. But as the case now stands, if you will have my opinion, I think they ought to bring it to referees.'
I heard a great deal more of this conference, but I must confess with little edification ; for all I could learn at last from these honest gentlemen, was that the matter in debate was of too high a nature for such heads as theirs, or mine, to comprehend.