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FOOD FOR A COUNTRY LIFE.
A GOOD conscience is a port which is landlocked on every side; and where no winds can possibly invade, no tempests can arise. There a man may stand upon the shore, and not only see his own image, but that of his Maker, clearly reflected from the undisturbed and silent waters. Reason was intended for a blessing, and such it is to men of honour and integrity, who desire no more than what they are able to give themselves, like the happy old Corycian, whom Virgil describes in his fourth Georgic, whose fruits and sallads, on which he lived contented, were all of his own growth and his own plantation. Virgil seems to think that the blessings of a country life, are not complete without an improvement of knowledge, by contemplation and reading.
O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,
O happy if he knew his happy state
It is but half possession, not to understand that happiness which we possess: a foundation of good sense, and a cultivation of learning, are required to give a seasoning to retirement, and make us taste the blessing. Eden was not made for beasts, although they were suffered to live in it; but for their master, who studied God in the works of his creation. Neither could Satan have been happy there with all his knowledge, for he wanted innocence to make him so. He brought envy, malice, and ambition into paradise, which soured to him the sweetness of the place.
Such only can enjoy the country, who are capable of thinking when they are there, and have left their passions behind them in the town. Then they are prepared for solitude, and that solitude is prepared for them.
Et secura quies, et nescia fallere vita.
ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
(Sir Richard Blackmore.)
THIS mortal life in its full bloom and vigour is so precarious, and in its utmost extent is so short and transient, that in the opinion of men of prudence and reflection, it mightily abates the value of our most desirable enjoyments; and it is just matter of astonishment, that since all have a perfect assurance, that their state of existence here is so uncertain, and flies away with such rapidity that the present satisfactions and delights which they must leave so soon and for ever, should not fall under greater and more universal contempt.
The longest life is a fugitive and inconsiderable duration; but if we abstract from it those parts in which we have but a naked, or undelightful, or miserable being, and therefore not to be valued, upon such a calculation, how great must the discount be? If we do not reckon the life of man
to begin till he is in possession of himself, and can exercise the faculties and powers peculiar to his species, we must not only cut off the stage of infancy and childhood from it, but likewise that of old age, which for the greater part is only the flat leavings of life, decayed and drawn off to the lees; when though the animal survives, the man scarcely exists. And yet by how many other ways is our short time contracted? Acute pains, languishing sickness, and wasting labour, besides tormenting envy and anxious care, uneasy malice, and exquisite grief, the violent perturbations and tempests of the soul, arising from a thousand various causes, reduce its duration to very scanty limits. Add to these interruptions the necessary returns of sleep, which suspends the exercise of our intellectual and sensitive faculties; and it will appear that all together they defraud us of two thirds of our time. If these allowances are made, what a mean balance will remain, as the claim of life, if taken in the view before described?
So short is the extent of our present existence, if considered in an absolute sense; but how momentary will it seem when compared with ages that will never end? What is this span of life, when we reflect upon interminable duration. What is time but a little rill or drop, compared with the boundless ocean of eternity?
As this terrestial globe is reduced to a despicable spot, when we contemplate the immense body of the sun, and as the sun itself loses its magnitude, and is no more than a glowing atom, when we consider the amazing circumference of the universe; so the whole system of the universe is contracted to the minutest size if set in competition with the gulphs of space that lie beyond it, and the unlimited expanse of vast immensity. In like manner should the life of man continue many ages, even as long as the sun and moon endured, yet when measured with immortality, it would shrink to an unextended point. What is man but the tenant of a mould of clay, endowed indeed with angelic faculties, but a perishing wight, and an insect in duration! What is this intelligent creature who thus dissolves like the morning cloud, and as the evening dew vanishes away! and what is life but a tender flower that unfolds its beauty and dies in its bloom, an empty vapour of the air, that as soon as kindled glances on our sight and disappears like a sudden flash. So short is the continuance of man in this mortal state, if compared with endless duration.