« PreviousContinue »
because I was a child ; and because I commit them still, I am yet an infant. Therefore I perceive a man may be twice a child before the years of dotage ; and stand in need of Æson's bath before threescore.
[Queens' College, 1843.]
103. We term sleep a death, and yet it is waking that kills us, and destroys those spirits that are the house of life. 'Tis indeed a part of life that best expresseth death ; for every man truly lives, so long as he acts his nature, or some way makes good the faculties of himself. It is that death by which we may literally be said to die daily; a death which Adam died before his mortality; a death whereby we live a middle and moderating point between life and death. In fine, so like death, I dare not trust it without my prayers, and an half adieu unto the world, and take my farewell in a colloquy with God.
[Queens' College, 1843.]
104. It is hardly possible to say, how vastly the human mind excels the brutes, with regard to its wonderful powers, and next to these, in its works, devices, and intentions. For it performs such great and wonderful things, as the brutes, even those of the greatest sagacity, can neither imitate, nor at all understand. Nay man, though he is much less in bulk, and inferior in strength to many of them, yet as lord and king of them all, he can, by surprising means, bend and apply the strength and industry of all other creatures, and all the parts and powers of this visible world, to the convenience and accommodation of his own life. He also builds cities, erects commonwealths, makes laws, conducts armies, fits out fleets, measures not only the earth, but the heavens also, and investigates the motions of the stars. He foretells eclipses many years before they happen; and with little difficulty, sends his thoughts to a great distance, bids them visit the remotest cities and countries, and mount above the sun and the stars, and even the heavens themselves.
But all these things are small, compared with that surpassing dignity which results to the human mind from its being capable of religion. It acknowledges a God, and worships Him; it builds temples to His honour; it celebrates His never enough exalted Majesty, with sacrifices, prayers, and praises. It depends on His bounty, implores His aid ; and so carries on a constant intercourse with heaven; and which is a strong proof of its being originally from heaven, it hopes at last to return thither. Truly, in my judgment, this previous impression and hope of immortality, and these earnest desires after it, are a very strong evidence that the soul is immortal.
[Trinity College, 1843.]
105. With respect to any final aim or end, the greater part of mankind live at hazard. They have no certain harbour in view, nor direct their course by any fixed star, But to him that knoweth not the port to which he is bound, no wind can be favourable; neither can he who has not yet determined at what mark he is to shoot, direct his arrow aright. It is not, however, the less true that there is a proper object to aim at; and if this object be meant by the term happiness, (though I think that not the most appropriate term for a state, the perfection of which consists in the exclusion of all hap, that is, chance), I assert that there is such a thing as human happiness, as summum bonum, or ultimate good.
It is one main point of happiness, that he that is happy doth know and judge himself to be so. This being the peculiar good of a reasonable creature, it is to be enjoyed in a reasonable way, It is not as the dull resting of a stone, or any other natural body in its natural place; but the knowledge and consideration of it is the fruition of it, the very relishing and tasting of its sweetness.
[Trinity College, 1843.]
106. NEVERTHELESS there being three principal things, without which all praising is but courtship and flattery, first, when that only is praised which is solidly worth praise; next, when the greatest likelihoods are brought, that such things are truly and really in those persons, to whom they are ascribed ; the other, when he who praises, by shewing that such his actual persuasion is of whom he writes, can demonstrate that he flatters not; the former two of these I have heretofore endeavoured, rescuing the employment from him who went about to impair your merits with a trivial and malignant encomium; the latter, as belonging chiefly to mine own acquittal, that whom I so extolled I did not flatter, hath been reserved opportunely to this occasion. For he who freely magnifies what hath been nobly done, and fears not to declare as freely what might be done better, gives ye the best covenant of his fidelity; and that his loyalest affection and his hope waits on your proceedings. His highest praising is not flattery, and his plainest advice is a kind of praising; for, though I should affirm and hold by argument, that it would fare better with truth, with learning, and the commonwealth, if one of your published orders, which I should name, were called in; yet at the same time it could not but much redound to the lustre of your mild and equal government, whenas private persons are hereby animated to think ye better pleased with public advice, than other statists have been delighted heretofore with public flattery.
[Trinity College Fellowships, 1843.]
107. In every thing that is offered to the eyes or ears, the design should always be, to convey either some utility, or some pleasure. All history especially should be directed constantly to these two ends. But an exaggerated description of astonishing accidents is certainly neither useful nor pleasing. It cannot be useful, since no one would wish to imitate what is contrary to reason: nor pleasing, because none can be delighted either with the sight or the relation of such events as are repugnant both to nature and to the common apprehensions of men. We may desire indeed once, and for the first time only, to see or to hear of such disasters; for the sake of being assured, that some things may happen which we conceived to be impossible. But when we have this assurance, any lengthened repetition, forced upon us, only fills us with disgust. An historian therefore should be contented barely to relate, what may serve for imitation, or may be heard with pleasure. An enlarged description of calamity, which exceeds those bounds, may be proper indeed for tragedy, but not for history. Some indulgence however may be allowed perhaps to those historians, who, because they neither have considered the works of nature, nor are acquainted with the general course of things in the world, are ready to regard the events which themselves have seen, or which they have greedily received from others, as the greatest and most wonderful that have happened in any age. Misled by this persuasion, and not sensible of the mistake into which they have fallen, they set themselves to relate with large exaggeration transactions, which have not even the praise of novelty, since they have before been recounted by others, and from which their readers also never can derive either advantage or delight.
[Craven Scholarship, 1844.]
108. THE discomposures, jealousies, and disgusts, which reigned at Oxford, produced great inconveniences; and as, many times, men in a scuffle lose their weapons, and light upon those which belonged to their adversaries, who again arm themselves with those which belonged to the others, such, one would have thought, had been the fortune of the king's army in the encounters with the enemy's: for those under the king's commanders grew insensibly into all the licence, disorder, and impiety, with which they had reproached the rebels; and they, into great discipline, diligence, and sobriety; which begot courage and resolution in them, and notable dexterity in achievements and enterprises. Insomuch as one side seemed to fight for monarchy, with the weapons of confusion, and the other to destroy the king and government, with all the principles and regularity of monarchy. Nor there wanted not examples of many, who, having lain under a just imputation of not daring, even to an irresistance of injuries, yet, being once engaged, and acquainted with the face and custom of danger, proved hardy and forward to wonder, and, like butchers in a fence-school, with their rude fury, discountenanced and discomposed the cunning, skill, and resolution of any adversary; and we have been told of others, who, having been nursed up in war, and eaten the bread only of