Sayfadaki görseller

ture, deposing to the evidence of life's deceitful tenure from the beginning of things to the moment present, will neither gain audience nor belief, what can the moralist expect?

Which of all those headlong voluptuaries, who seem in such haste to get to the end of life, is possessed of the art of prolonging it at pleasure ? To whom has the secret been imparted ? Either they are deceived by a vain hope of evading death, or . there is something in a life of dissipation not worth preserving. I am astonished at the stupidity of any man, who can deny himself the gratification of conscious integrity. The proud man must be a consummate blockhead, to take such wearisome pains for a little extorted flattery, of the most servile sort, and overlook the ready means of gaining general respect upon the noblest terms. Is it not an abuse of language, and an insult to common sense, for a silly fellow to announce himself to the world as a man of pleasure, when there is not an action in his life but leaves a sting behind it, to belie the character he professes ? Can one fellow-creature find amusement in tormenting another? Is is possible there can be a recreation in malice, when it slanders the innocent; in fraud, when it cheats the unsuspecting ? in perfidy, when it betrays a benefactor? If any being, who does me wrong, will justify himself against the wrong, by confessing that he takes delight in injury, I will own to one instance of human depravity, which, till that shall happen, I will persist to hope is not in existence.

The fact is, that all men have that respect for justice, that they attempt to shelter their very worst actions under its defence; and even those con.. temptible pilferers of reputation, who would be as much unknown by their names, as they are by the concealment of them, qualify (I am persuaded) the dirty deed they are about by some convenient phantom of offence in the character they assault ; even their hands cannot be raised to strike without prefacing the blow by saying to themselves—This man deserves to die. Foolish wretches, what computation must they make of life, who devote so great a: portion of it to miseries and reproaches of their own creating!

Let a rational creature for once talk common sense to himself, and, if no better words than the following occur to his thoughts, let him make use of them: he is heartily welcome to the loan.

• I know there is a period in approach, when I must encounter an enemy to my life, whose power is irresistible. This is a very serious thing for me to reflect upon, and, knowing it to be a truth infallible, I am out of hope, that I can so far forget the terms of my existence, as totally to expel it from my thoughts. If I could foresee the precise hour, when this enemy will come, I would provide against it as well as I am able, and fortify my mind to receive him with such complacency as I could muster: But of this hour I have, alas! no foresight; it may be this moment, or the next, or years may intervene before it comes to pass : it behoves me, then, to be upon my guard. He may approach in terrors, that agonize me to think of; he


my soul in the commission of some dreadful act, and transport it to a place whose horrors have no terminațion: I will not then commit that dreadful act, because I will not expose myself to that dreadful punishment: it is in my own choice to refrain from it, and I am not such a desperate fool to make choice of misery :: if I act with this precaution, will he still appear in this shape of terror! Certainly he will not; nor can he in justice transport me to a place of punishment, when I have committed nothing to deserve it. Whither then will he convey me? To the mansions of everlasting happiness. Where are my fears ? What is now become of his terrors? He is my passport, my conductor, my friend: I will welcome him with embraces : I will smile upon him with gratitude, and accompany him with exultation.'


I would wish no man to deceive himself with opinions, which he has not thoroughly reflected upon in his solitary hours. Till he has communed with his own heart in his chamber, it will be dangerous to commit himself to its impulses amidst the distractions of society. In solitude he will hear another voice than he has been used to hear in the colloquial scenes of life; for conscience, though mute as the ancient chorus in the bustle of the drama, will be found a powerful speaker in soliloquy. If I could believe that any man in these times had seriously and deliberately reasoned himself into an absolute contempt of things sacred, I should expect that such a being should uniformly act up to his principles in all situations, and, having thrown aside all the restraints of religion, should discharge from his mind all those fears, apprehensions, and solicitudes, that have any connection with the dread of futurity. But, without knowing what passes in the private thoughts of men, who profess these daring notions, I cannot help observing, that, if noisy clamour be a mark of cowardice, they also have the symptoms strongly upon them of belying their own conscience. They are bold in the crowd, and loudest in the revels of the feast; there they can echo the insult, dash the ridicule in the very face of Heaven, and stun their consciences in the roar of the carousal.

Let me picture to myself a man of this description, surprised into unexpected solitude after the revels of an evening, where he has been the wit of the company, at the expence of decency and religion; here his triumphs are over; the plaudits of his comrades no longer encourage him; the lights of the feast are extinguished, and he is surrendered to darkness and reflection: Place him in the midst of a desart heath, a lonesome traveller in some dark tempestuous night, and let the elements subscribe their terrors to encounter this redoubted champion

Who durst defy the Omnipotent. If consistency be the test of a man's sincerity, he ought now to hold the same language of defiance, and with undaunted spirit cry out to the elements• Do your worst, ye blind tools of chance! Since there can be neither intelligence nor direction in your rage, I set you at nought. You may indeed subject me to some bodily inconvenience, but you can raise no terrors in my mind, for I have said you have no master : There is no hand to point the lightning, and the stroke of its flash is directed to no aim: If it smites the oak, it perishes; if it penetrates my breast, it annihilates my existence, and there is no soul within me to resume it. What have I to fear? The worst you threaten is a momentary extinction, without pain or struggle; and as I only wait on earth till I am weary of life, the most you can do is to forestall me in the natural

rights of suicide. I have lived in this world as the only world I have to live in, and have done all things therein as a man, who acts without account to an hereafter. The moral offices, as they are called, I have sometimes regarded as a system of worldly wisdom, and, where they have not crossed my purposes, or thwarted my pleasures, I have occasionally thought fit to comply with them. My proper pride, in some instances, and self-interest in others, have dissuaded me from the open violation of a trust, for it is inconvenient to be detected; and though I acknowledge no remonstrances from within, upon the score of infamy, I do not like the clamours of the crowd. As for those mercenary inducements, which a pretended revelation holds forth as lures for patience under wrongs, and tame resignation to misfortune, I regard them as derogatory to my nature; they sink the very character of virtue by meanly tendering a reversionary happiness, as the bribe for practising it: the doctrine therefore of a future life, in which the obedient are to expect rewards, and the disobedient are threatened with punishments, confutes itself by its own internal weakness, and is a system so sordid in its principle, that it can only be calculated to dupe us into mental slavery, and frighten us out of that generous privilege, which is our universal birthright, the privilege of dismissing ourselves out of existence, when we are tired with its conditions.'

Had I fabricated this language for infidelity, with the purpose of stamping greater detestation upon its audacity, I had rather bear the blame of having overcharged the character, than to be able (as I now am) to point out a recent publication, which openly avows this shameless doctrine : But as I do not wish to help any anonymous blasphemer into notice, let the toleration of the times bę his shelter,

« ÖncekiDevam »