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study and fpeculation; or if they become accidental topicks of converfation and argument, yet rarely fink deep into the heart, but give occafion only to fome fubtilties of reasoning, or elegancies of declamation, which are heard, applauded, and forgotten.
It is, indeed, not hard to conceive how a man accustomed to extend his views through a long concatenation of caufes and effects, to trace things from their origin to their period, and compare means with ends, may difcover the weakness of human schemes; detect the fallacies by which mortals are deluded; fhew the infufficiency of wealth, honours, and power, to real happiness; and please himself, and his auditors, with learned lectures on the vanity of life.
But though the speculatift may fee and fhew the folly of terrestrial hopes, fears, and defires, every hour will give proofs that he never felt it. Trace him through the day or year, and you will find him acting upon principles which he has in common with the illiterate and unenlightened, angry and pleased like the loweft of the vulgar, purfuing, with the fame ardour, the fame defigns, grafping, with all the eagerness of transport, thofe riches which he knows he cannot keep, and fwelling with the applause which he has gained by proving that applaufe is of no value.
The only conviction that rushes upon the foul, and takes away from our appetites and paffions the power of refiftance, is to be found, where I have received it, at the bed of a dying friend. To enter this fchool of wifdom is not the peculiar privilege of geometricians; the most fublime and important precepts require no uncommon opportunities, nor laborious
laborious preparations; they are enforced without the aid of eloquence, and understood without skill in analytick science. Every tongue can utter them, and every understanding can conceive them. He that wishes in earnest to obtain just fentiments concerning his condition, and would be intimately acquainted with the world, may find inftructions on every fide. He that defires to enter behind the scene, which every art has been employed to decorate, and every paffion labours to illuminate, and wishes to fee life stripped of those ornaments which make it glitter on the stage, and exposed in its natural meannefs, impotence, and nakednefs, may find all the delufion laid open in the chamber of disease: he will there find vanity divested of her robes, power deprived of her fceptre, and hypocrify without her mask.
The friend whom I have loft was a man eminent for genius, and, like others of the fame clafs, fufficiently pleased with acceptance and applaufe. Being careffed by those who have preferments and riches in their difpofal, he confidered himself as in the direct road of advancement, and had caught the flame of ambition by approaches to its object. But in the midft of his hopes, his projects, and his gaieties, he was feized by a lingering difeafe, which, from its firft ftage, he knew to be incurable. Here was an end of all his vifions of greatnefs and happiness; from the first hour that his health declined, all his former pleasures grew taftelefs. His friends expected to please him by thofe accounts of the growth of his reputation, which were formerly certain of being well received; but they foon found how little he was now affected by compliments, and how vainly they attempted
by flattery, to exhilarate the languor of weakness, and relieve the folicitude of approaching death. Whoever would know how much piety and virtue furpass all external goods, might here have feen them weighed against each other, where all that gives motion to the active, and elevation to the eminent, all that sparkles in the eye of hope, and pants in the bofom of fufpicion, at once became duft in the balance, without weight and without regard. Riches, authority, and praise, lose all their influence when they are confidered as riches. which to-morrow fhall be beftowed upon another, authority which fhall this night expire for ever, and praise which, however merited, or however fincere, fhall, after a few moments, be heard no
In thofe hours of ferioufnefs and wifdom, nothing appeared to raise his spirits, or gladden his heart, but the recollection of acts of goodness, nor to excite his attention, but fome opportunity for the exercife of the duties of religion. Every thing that terminated on this fide of the grave was received with coldnefs and indifference, and regarded rather in confequence of the habit of valuing it, than from any opinion that it deferved value; it had little more prevalence over his mind than a bubble that was now broken, a dream from which he was awake. His whole powers were engroffed by the confideration of another state, and all converfation was tedious, that had not some tendency to difengage him from human affairs, and open his profpects into futurity.
It is now paft, we have clofed his eyes, and heard him breathe the groan of expiration. At the fight of this laft conflict, I felt a fenfation never
known to me before; a confufion of paffions, an awful ftillness of forrow, a gloomy terrour without a name. The thoughts that entered my foul were too ftrong to be diverted, and too piercing to be endured; but fuch violence cannot be lasting, the ftorm fubfided in a fhort time, I wept, retired, and grew calm.
I have from that time frequently revolved in my mind, the effects which the obfervation of death produces, in those who are not wholly without the power and use of reflection; for by far the greater part it is wholly unregarded, their friends and their enemies fink into the grave without raifing any uncommon emotion, or reminding them that they are themselves on the edge of the precipice, and that they must foon plunge into the gulph of eternity.
It feems to me remarkable that death increases our veneration for the good, and extenuates our hatred of the bad. Thofe virtues which once we envied, as Horace obferves, because they eclipfed our own, can now no longer obstruct our reputation, and we have therefore no interest to suppress their praife. That wickedness, which we feared for its malignity, is now become impotent, and the man whofe name filled us with alarm, and rage, and indignation, can at laft be confidered only with pity, or contempt.
When a friend is carried to his grave, we at once find excufes for every weakness, and palliations of every fault; we recollect a thousand endearments, which before glided off our minds without impreflion, a thousand favours unrepaid, a thousand duties unperformed, and wish, vainly wifh for his return, not fo much that we may receive,
receive, as that we may bestow happiness, and recompence that kindness which before we never understood.
There is not, perhaps, to a mind well inftructed, a more painful occurrence, than the death of one whom we have injured without reparation. Our crime feems now irretrievable, it is indelibly recorded, and the ftamp of fate is fixed upon it. We confider, with the most afflictive anguish, the pain which we have given, and now cannot alleviate, and the loffes which we have caufed, and now cannot repair.
Of the fame kind are the emotions which the death of an emulator or competitor produces. Whoever had qualities to alarm our jealoufy, had excellence to deferve our fondnefs, and to whatever ardour of oppofition intereft may inflame us, no man ever outlived an enemy, whom he did not then wish to have made a friend. Those who are verfed in literary hiftory know that the elder Scaliger was the redoubted antagonist of Cardan and Erafmus; yet at the death of each of his great rivals he relented, and complained that they were fnatched away from him before their reconciliation was completed.
Tu-ne etiam morieris? Ah! quid me linquis Erafme,
Art thou too fall'n? ere anger could fubfide
Such are the fentiments with which we finally review the effects of paffion, but which we fometimes delay till we can no longer rectify our errors. Let us therefore make hafte to do what we fhall