Page images
PDF
EPUB

is far more than himself.” Men have their time, and die many times in desire of some things which they principally take to heart; the bestowing of a child, the finishing of a work, or the like. If a man have a true friend, he may rest almost secure that the care of those things will continue after him; so that a man hath, as it were, two lives in his desires. A man hath a body, and that body is confined to a place; but where friendship is, all offices of life are, as it were, granted to him and his deputy; for he may exercise them by his friend. How many things are there which a man cannot, with any face, or comeliness, say or do himself ? A man can scarce allege his own merits with modesty, much less extol them; a man cannot sometimes brook to supplicate, or beg, and a number of the like: but all these things are graceful in a friend's mouth, which are blushing in a man's own. So again, a man's person hath many proper relations which he cannot put off. A man cannot speak to his son but as a father; to his wife but as a husband; to his enemy but upon terms: whereas a friend may speak as the case requires, and not as it sorteth with the person : but to enumerate these things were endless; I have given the rule, where a man cannot fitly play his own part; if he have not a friend he may quit the stage.

[Classical Tripos, 1824.]

5. WERE we to place implicit confidence in the Italian historians, no period of society has exhibited a character of darker deformity than that of Alexander the Sixth. Inordinate in his ambition, insatiable in his avarice and his lust, inexorable in his cruelty, and boundless in his rapacity; almost every crime that can disgrace humanity is attributed to him, without hesitation, by writers whose works are published under the sanction of the Roman Church. He is also accused of having introduced into his territories the detestable practice of searching for state offences by means of secret informers; a system fatal to the liberty and happiness of every country that has submitted to such a degradation. As a Pontiff he perverted his high office by making his spiritual power on every occasion subservient to his temporal interests; and he might have adopted as his emblem that of the ancient Jupiter, which exhibits the lightning in the grasp of a ferocious eagle. His vices, as an individual, although not so injurious to the world, are represented as more disgusting; and the records of his court afford repeated instances of a depravity of morals inexcusable in any station, but abominable in one of his high rank and sacred office.

[Bell Scholarships, 1824.]

6. It is not likely that Cæsar entertained any serious thoughts of restoring the commonwealth ; but it is very probable that he consulted his friends about it, and desired them to give him their opinions without reserve, which are set forth in great detail, and excellently argued by Dion. ... But if Cæsar had entertained dispositions really favourable to this object, his own experience and reflection must have taught him that the materials out of which alone a free state can be constructed and supported were wanting; and he therefore perhaps conferred the greatest benefit upon his country, which it was at that time capable of receiving, by using that power which he had obtained by the most questionable means, with moderation and justice.

At the end of a long series of sanguinary struggles the people naturally felt desirous of repose, and well inclined to submit to a temperate but firm government, which would protect without oppressing them. The republican party, if they argued rationally, must have been convinced that the death of Julius, instead of regenerating the commonwealth, plunged it into endless distresses and calamities: three tyrants started up in the place of one, while the last and best of the true Romans fell in the ineffectual combat for freedom. It was not for ordinary men to revive and reanimate a cause in which Brutus and Cassius had failed; in fact, the vital principle of liberty seemed utterly spent in the field of Philippi, and the republic was left without a party, while Cæsar and Antony divided or contested the dominion of the world. The long life of Cæsar, and the almost uninterrupted tranquillity of his reign during nearly half a century, gave consistency and the stamp of usage to the few changes which he introduced: the affected desire of retiring from the cares of government, which he renewed at stated intervals, conferred upon his power the character of a charge pressed upon him by the senate and people rather than of an authority usurped from them. If he were inferior to his great uncle in extent of talent and grandeur of character, he yielded neither to him nor to any other in solidity of parts, and maturity of judgment; conforming his government with admirable dexterity to the temper of the times, and leading the opinions of mankind with no less adroitness to conform to his government.

[Davies Scholarship, 1825.]

7. THERE are two sorts of Avarice, the one is but of a bastard kind, and that is the rapacious appetite of gain; not for its own sake, but for the pleasure of refunding it immediately through all the channels of pride

and luxury. The other is the true kind, and properly so called; which is a restless and unsatiable desire of riches, not for any farther end or use, but only to hoard, and preserve, and perpetually encrease them. The covetous man, of the first kind, is like a greedy ostrich, which devours any metal, but it is with an intent to feed upon it, and in effect makes a shift to digest and excern it. The second is like the foolish chough, which loves to steal money only to hide it. The first does much harm to mankind, and a little good too to some few: the second does good to none; no, not to himself. The first can make no excuse to God, or angels, or rational men for his actions : the second can give no reason or colour, not to the devil himself, for what he does; he is a slave to mammon without wages. The first makes a shift to be beloved; aye, and envied too by some people: the second is the universal object of hatred and contempt.

There is no vice has been so pelted with good sentences, and especially by the Poets, who have pursued it with stories, and fables, and allegories, and allusions ; and moved, as we say, every stone to fling at it: among all which, I do not remember a more fine and gentlemanlike correction, than that which was given it by one line of Ovid's; " Luxury wants many things, Avarice all things."

[Chancellor's Medals, 1825.]

8. THERE are many who have passed the age of youth and beauty, who have resigned the pleasures of that smiling season, who begin to decline into the vale of years, impaired in their health, depressed in their fortunes, stript of their friends, their children, and perhaps still more tender connexions. What resource can this world afford them? It presents a dark and dreary waste through which there does not issue a single ray of comfort. Every delusive prospect of ambition is now at an end; long experience of mankind, an experience very different from what the open and generous soul of youth had fondly dreamt of, has rendered the heart almost inaccessible to new friendships. The principal sources of activity are taken away, when those for whom we labour are cut off from us, those who animated, and those who sweetened all the toils of life. Where then can the soul find refuge, but in the bosom of religion ? There she is admitted to those prospects of Providence and futurity, which alone can warm and fill the heart. I speak here of such as retain the feelings of humanity, whom misfortunes have softened, and perhaps rendered more delicately sensible; not of such as possess that stupid insensibility, which some are pleased to dignify with the name of philosophy.

It should therefore be expected that those philosophers, who stand in no need themselves of the assistance of religion to support their virtue, and who never feel the want of its consolations, would yet have the humanity to consider the very different situation of the rest of mankind, and not endeavour to deprive them of what habit, at least, if they will not allow it to be nature, has made necessary to their morals, and to their happiness. It might be expected, that humanity would prevent them from breaking into the last retreat of the unfortunate, who can no longer be objects of their envy or resentment, and tearing from them their only remaining comfort. The attempt to ridicule religion may be agreeable to some, by relieving them from restraint upon their pleasures, and may render others very miserable, by

« PreviousContinue »