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Some people seem resolved to spin out life as long as they can; they are anxious to live to the utmost extent of nature; and will not venture a single pulse upon any consideration. But to dote upon breathing, for it is little more, at this rate, is to turn slave to all sorts of meapness and vice. Alarm such an one but with the fear of death, and you may make him say or do what you please, however infamous or ridiculous. And if his cowardice is not tried thus far, yet this base principle will keep him servile and insignificant. He will never touch a great proposal, nor risk any generous hazard for his friends or country. And is it worth while thus to value life above the euds and purposes of living ? The resolution of Pompey was much more becoming, who being dissuaded by some of his attendants from embarking because the weather was tempestuous, replied, say no more, my voyage
necessary, my life is not so.”
The true estimate of life is not to be taken from age but action.
A man may die old at thirty, and a child at fourscore.
To nurse up the vital flame as long as the matter will last, is not always good husbandry. It is much better to cover it with an extinguisher of honour, than let it consume till burns blue, and lies agonising in the socket; and at length goes out in no
perfume. If the sun were not to rise again, methinks it would look grander to tumble from the sky at noon, with all his light and beat, than to gain a course of four or five hours only to languish and d-cline.
When a noble occasion presents, an occasion that will bear a cool debate, and stand the test of reason, and may be pleaded to advantage in the other world; when a man is called upon to offer up himself to his conscience, and to resign to justice and truth; in such a case, instead of avoiding the lists, he should rather enter with inclination, and thank God for the honour of the opportunity. He should then be more solicitous about his behaviour than his life. Then,
Fortem posce animum et mortis terrore carentem *. Let him pray for resolution to act up to the height of the occasion. That he may discover nothing of meanness or disorder: nothing that may discredit the cause, tarnish the glory, and weaken the example of the suffering.
There are some opportunities of going out of the world, which are well worth one's while to come in for. The last act of life is sometimes like the last number in a sum, ten times greater than all the rest. To slip the market when we
* Let him ask a strong mind, exempted from the fear of death,
are thus fairly offered, is great imprudence especially considering we must part with the thing afterwards for less.
But is it not a sad thing to fall thus suddenly into the grave ? to be well one minute and dead the next? Not at all. If we are prepared, the shorter the voyage the better. Is it not more eligible to come in with a smooth gale than to be tossed at sea with a storm; and then thrown on a shore when the vessel is wrecked? Is it so de-sirable a condition to run through a long course of pain, and consume by inches, and lose our blood by drops? A death-bed figure is certainly the most humbling sight to the world. To set in so dark a cloud, and to go off with languor, convulsions and deformity, is a terrible rebuke to the dignity of human nature. Besides, people are frightened by phantoms of their own raising, and imposed on by words and things ill joined together. A natural death is generally the most violent; martyrdom does the business more gently than a disease. He that can conquer his imagination, may possibly die easier of a faggot than of a fever; and had better chuse to have the fire kindled without than within him.
To say that flesh and blood cannot be reconciled to this, is a mistake. People have sometimes too much courage this way. How often
does revenge, and poverty, and disappointment, make men force their passage into another state? A slave has spirit enough to kill himself; and he that is not master of his liberty, will be master of his life. There is no age or sex, no passion or condition so dispirited and low, but affords instances of the contempt of death. The old Goths, from whom our Saxon ancestors probably descended, were so hardy, that it was part of their discipline and religion to scorn their lives : if they were afraid of any thing, it was of dying in their beds.
In the time of Alexander, the Indian philosophers, when weary of living, used to lie down upon their funeral pile without any visible concern. And Lucian mentions one Peregrinus, who jumped into a fiery furnace at the Olympic games, only to shew the company how far his vanity could carry him. At this day the Indian women offer themselves to the flames at the death of their husbands. I need not mention the primitive christians, whose fortitude was both general and extraordinary ; insomuch that Lactantius and others observed, that the women and children did not shew the least sign of complaint either in look, voice or notion, when they seemed to lie under the extremity of torture.
The way to acquire a contempt of death effectually is to live well. There is no such bravery as that of a good christian. He that can look the other world in the face peeds fear nothing. But as to the courage of bullies and town sparks, who are so hardy as to risk body and soul, upon a point of pretended honour, there is no language which can reach their extravagance: they are distempered beyond the lunacy of Bedlam, and should be taken care of accordingly.'
IT is a common saying that interest governs the world. But I believe, whoever looks narrowly into the affairs of it will find that passion, bumour, caprice, zeal, faction, and a thousand other springs, which are counter to self interest, have a considerable part in the movement of