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THE WONDERS OF CREATION. I WAS yesterday about sunset walking in the open fields, until the night insensibly fell upon me. I at first amused myself with all the richness and variety of colours which appeared in the western parts of heaven. In proportion as they faded away and went out, several stars and planets appeared one after another, until the whole firmament was in a glow. The blueness of the ether was exceedingly heightened and enlivened by the season of the year, and by the rays of all those luminaries that passed through it. The galaxy appeared in its most beautiful white. To complete the scene, the full moon rose at length in that clouded majesty, which Milton takes notice of, and opened to the eye a new picture of nature, which was more finely shaded, and disposed among softer lights, than that which the sun had before discovered to us.
As I was surveying the moon walking in her brightness, and taking her progress among the constellations, a thought rose in me which I believe very often perplexes and disturbs men of serious and contemplative natures. David himself fell into it in that reflection: "When I consider the heavens the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou regardest him?" In the same manner, when I considered that infinite host of stars, or, to speak more philosophically, of suns, which were then shining upon me, with those innumerable sets of planets or worlds which were moving round their respective suns-when I still enlarged the idea, and supposed another heaven of suns and worlds rising still above this which we discovered, and these still enlightened by a superior firmament of luminaries, which are planted at so great a distance, that they may appear to the inhabitants of the
former as the stars do to us-in short, while I pursued this thought, I could not but reflect on that little insignificant figure which I myself bore amidst the immensity of God's works.
Were the sun which enlightens this part of the creation, with all the host of planetary worlds that move about him, utterly extinguished and annihilated, they would not be missed more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The space they possess is so exceedingly little in comparison of the whole, that it would scarce make a blank in the creation. The chasm would be imperceptible to an eye that could take in the whole compass of nature, and pass from one end of the creation to the other; as it is possible there may be such a sense in ourselves hereafter, or in creatures which are at present more exalted than ourselves. We see many stars by the help of glasses which we do not discover with our naked eyes; and the finer our telescopes are, the more still are our discoveries. Huygenius carries this thought so far, that he does not think it impossible there may be stars whose light has not yet travelled down to us since their first creation. There is no question but the universe has certain bounds set to it; but when we consider that it is the work of infinite power prompted by infinite goodness, with an infinite space to exert itself in, how can our imagination set any bounds to it?
To return, therefore, to my first thought; I could not but look upon myself with secret horror as a being that was not worth the smallest regard of one who had so great a work under his care and superintendency. I was afraid of being overlooked amidst the immensity of nature, and lost among that infinite variety of creatures which in all probability swarm through all these immeasurable regions of matter.
In order to recover myself from this mortifying thought, I considered that it took its rise from those narrow conceptions which we are apt to entertain of the divine nature. We ourselves cannot attend to many different objects at the same time. If we are careful to inspect
some things, we must of course neglect others. This imperfection which we observe in ourselves is an imperfection that cleaves in soine degree to creatures of the highest capacities, as they are creatures; that is, beings of finite and limited natures. The presence of every created being is confined to a certain measure of space, and consequently his observation is stinted to a certain number of objects. The sphere in which we move, and act, and understand, is of a wider circumference to one creature than another, according as we rise one above another in the scale of existence. But the widest of these our spheres has its circumference. When, therefore, we reflect on the divine nature, we are so used and accustomed to this imperfection in ourselves, that we cannot forbear in some measure ascribing it to Him in whom there is no shadow of imperfection. Our reason indeed assures us that his attributes are infinite; but the poorness of our conceptions is such, that it cannot forbear setting bounds to everything it contemplates, until our reason comes again to our succour, and throws down all those little prejudices which rise in us unawares, and are natural to the mind of man.
We shall, therefore, utterly extinguish this melancholy thought of our being overlooked by our Maker, in the multiplicity of his works and the infinity of those objects among which he seems to be incessantly employed, if we consider, in the first place, that he is omnipresent; and, in the second, that he is omniscient. If we consider him in his omnipresence, his being passes through, actuates, and supports the whole frame of nature. His creation, and every part of it, is full of him. There is nothing he has made that is either so distant, so little, or so inconsiderable, which he does not essentially inhabit. His substance is within the substance of every being, whether material or immaterial, and as intimately present to it as that being is to itself. It would be an imperfection in him were he able to remove out of one place into another, or to withdraw himself from anything he has created, or from any part of that space
which is diffused and spread abroad to infinity. In short, to speak of him in the language of the old philosopher, he is a being whose centre is everywhere, and his circumference nowhere.
In the second place, he is omniscient as well as omnipresent. His omniscience, indeed, necessarily and naturally flows from his omnipresence: he cannot but be conscious of every motion that arises in the whole material world, which he thus essentially pervades; and of every thought that is stirring in the intellectual world, to every part of which he is thus intimately united. Several moralists have considered the creation as the temple of God, which he has built with his own hands, and which is filled with his presence. Others have considered infinite space as the receptacle, or rather the habitation, of the Almighty. But the noblest and most exalted way of considering this infinite space is that of Sir Isaac Newton, who calls it the sensorium of the Godhead. Brutes and men have their sensoriola, or little sensoriums, by which they apprehend the presence and perceive the actions of a few objects that lie contiguous to them. Their knowledge and observation turn within a very narrow circle. But as God Almighty cannot but perceive and know everything in which he resides, infinite space gives room to infinite knowledge, and is, as it were, an organ to omniscience.
Were the soul separate from the body, and with one glance of thought should start beyond the bounds of the creationshould it for millions of years continue its progress through infinite space with the same activity-it would still find itself within the embrace of its Creator, and encompassed round with the immensity of the Godhead. While we are in the body, he is not less present with us because he is concealed from us. "Oh that I knew where I might find him!" says Job. "Behold I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand where he does work, but I cannot behold him he hideth himself on the right hand that I cannot see him.” In short, reason
as well as revelation assures us that he cannot be absent from us, notwithstanding he is undiscovered by us.
In this consideration of God Almighty's omnipresence and omniscience, every uncomfortable thought vanishes. He cannot but regard everything that has being, especially such of his creatures who fear they are not regarded by him. He is privy to all their thoughts, and to that anxiety of heart in particular which is apt to trouble them on this occasion: for as it is impossible he should overlook any of his creatures, so we may be confident that he regards with an eye of mercy those who endeavour to recommend themselves to his notice, and in an unfeigned humility of heart think themselves unworthy that he should be mindful of them.-The Spectator.
[SIR RICHARD STEELE. 1671-1729.] FLATTERERS AND THE LOVE
AN old acquaintance who met me this morning, seemed overjoyed to see me, and told me I looked as well as he had known me do these forty years; but, continued he, not quite the man you were when we visited together at Lady Brightly's. Oh! Isaac, those days are over. Do you think there are any such fine creatures now living as we then conversed with? He went on with a thousand incoherent circumstances, which, in his imagination, must needs please me; but they had the quite contrary effect. The flattery with which he began, in telling me how well I wore, was not disagreeable; but his indiscreet mention of a set of acquaintance we had outlived, recalled ten thousand things to my memory, which made me reflect upon my present condition with regret. Had he indeed been so kind, after a long absence, to felicitate me upon an indolent and easy old age, and mentioned how much he and I had to thank for, who at our time of day could walk firmly, eat heartily, and converse cheerfully, he had
kept up my pleasure in myself. But of all mankind, there are none so shocking as these injudicious civil people. They ordinarily begin upon something that they know must be a satisfaction; but then, for fear of the imputation of flattery, they follow it with the last thing in the world of which you would be reminded. It is this that perplexes civil persons.
The reason that there is such a general outcry among us against flatterers, is, that there are so very few good ones. It is the nicest art in this life, and is a part of eloquence which does not want the preparation that is necessary to all other parts of it, that your audience should be your well-wishers; for praise from an enemy is the most pleasing of all commendations.
It is generally to be observed, that the person most agreeable to a man for a constancy, is he that has no shining qualities, but is a certain degree above great imperfections, whom he can live with as his inferior, and who will either overlook or not observe his little defects. Such an easy companion as this, either now and then throws out a little flattery, or lets a man silently flatter himself in his superiority to him. If you take notice, there is hardly a rich man in the world who has not such a led friend of small consideration, who is a darling for his insignificancy. It is a great ease to have one in our own shape a species below us, and who, without being listed in our service, is by nature of our retinue. These dependents are of excellent use on a rainy day, or when a man has not a mind to dress; or to exclude solitude, when one has neither a mind to that or to company. There are of this good-natured order who are so kind to divide themselves, and do these good offices to many. Five or six of them visit a whole quarter of the town, and exclude the spleen, without fees, from the families they frequent. If they do not prescribe physic, they can be company when you take it. Very great benefactors to the rich, or those whom they call people at their ease, are your persons of no consequence. I have known some of them, by the help of a little cunning,
make delicious flatterers. They know the course of the town, and the general characters of persons; by this means they will sometimes tell the most agreeable falsehoods imaginable. They will acquaint you that such one of a quite contrary party said, that though you were engaged in different interests, yet he had the greatest respect for your good sense and address. When one of these has a little cunning, he passes his time in the utmost satisfaction to himself and his friends; for his position is never to report or speak a displeasing thing to his friend. As for letting him go on in an error, he knows advice against them is the office of persons of greater talents and less discretion.
The Latin word for a flatterer (assentator) implies no more than a person that barely consents; and indeed such a one, if a man were able to purchase or maintain him, cannot be bought too dear. Such a one never contradicts you, but gains upon you, not by a fulsome way of commending you in broad terms, but liking whatever you propose or utter; at the same time he is ready to beg your pardon, and gainsay you, if you chance to speak ill of yourself. An old lady is very seldom without such a companion as this, who can recite the names of all her lovers, and the matches refused by her in the days when she minded such vanities (as she is pleased to call them, though she so much approves the mention of them). It is to be noted, that a woman's flatterer is generally elder than herself, her years serving to recommend her patroness's age, and to add weight to her complaisance in all other particulars.
We gentlemen of small fortunes are extremely necessitous in this particular. I have, indeed, one who smokes with me often; but his parts are so low, that all the incense he does me is to fill his pipe with me, and to be out at just as many whiffs as I take. This is all the praise or assent that he is capable of, yet there are more hours when I would rather be in his company than that of the brightest man I know. It would be a hard matter to give an account of this inclination to be
flattered; but if we go to the bottom of it, we shall find that the pleasure in it is something like that of receiving money which lay out. Every man thinks he has an estate of reputation, and is glad to see one that will bring any of it home to him; it is no matter how dirty a bag it is conveyed to him in, or by how clownish a messenger, so the money is good. All that we want to be pleased with flattery, is to believe that the man is sincere who gives it us. It is by this one accident that absurd creatures often outrun the most skilful in this art. Their want of ability is here an advantage, and their bluntness, as it is the seeming effect of sincerity, is the best cover to artifice.
Terence introduces a flatterer talking to a coxcomb, whom he cheats out of a livelihood, and a third person on the stage makes on him this pleasant remark, "This fellow has an art of making fools madmen. The love of flattery is indeed sometimes the weakness of a great mind; but you see it also in persons who otherwise discover no manner of relish of anything above mere sensuality. These latter it sometimes improves, but always debases the former.
A fool is in himself the ob
ject of pity till he is flattered. By the force of that, his stupidity is raised into affectation, and he becomes of dignity enough to be ridiculous. I remember a droll, that upon one's saying the times are so ticklish that there must great care be taken what one says in conversation, answered with an air of surliness and honesty, If people will be free, let them be so in the manner that I am, who never abuse a man but to his face. He had no reputation for saying dangerous truths; therefore when it was repeated, You abuse a man but to his face? Yes, says he, I flatter him.
When flattery is practised upon any other consideration, it is the most abject thing in nature; nay, I cannot think of any character below the flatterer, except he that envies him. You meet with fellows prepared to be as mean as possible in their condescensions and expressions; but they want persons and talents to rise up to such a baseness. As a coxcomb is
a fool of parts, so a flatterer is a knave of further, and affirm that the success of a parts.-The Spectator.
story very often depends upon the make of the body, and the formation of the features of him who relates it.
THE ART OF STORY-TELLING.
TOM LIZARD told us a story the other day, of some persons which our family know very well, with so much humour and life, that it caused a great deal of mirth at the tea-table. His brother Will, the Templar, was highly delighted with it; and the next day being with some of his Inns-of-court acquaintance, resolved (whether out of the benevolence or the pride of his heart, I will not determine) to entertain them with what he called "a pleasant humour enough." I was in great pain for him when I heard him begin; and was not at all surprised to find the company very little moved by it. Will blushed, looked round the room, and with a forced laugh, "Faith, gentlemen, said he, "I do not know what makes you look so grave: it was an admirable story when I heard it."
When I came home, I fell into a profound contemplation upon story-telling, and, as I have nothing so much at heart as the good of my country, I resolved to lay down some precautions upon this subject.
I have often thought that a story-teller is born, as well as a poet. It is, I think, certain that some men have such a peculiar cast of mind, that they see things in another light than men of grave dispositions. Men of a lively imagination and a mirthful temper will represent things to their hearers in the same manner as they themselves were affected with them. Story-telling is not an art, but what we call a "knack;" it doth not so much subsist upon wit as upon humour; and I will add, that it is not perfect without proper gesticulations of the body, which naturally attend such merry emotions of the mind. I know very well that a certain gravity of countenance sets some stories off to advantage, where the hearer is to be surprised in the end. But this is by no means a general rule; for it is frequently convenient to aid and assist by cheerful looks and whimsical agitations. I will go yet
Those who are thus adorned with the gifts of nature, are apt to show their parts with too much ostentation. I would therefore advise all the professors of this art never to tell stories but as they seem to grow out of the subject-matter of the conversation, or as they serve to illustrate or enliven it. Stories that are very common are generally irksome; but may be aptly introduced, provided they be only hinted at and mentioned by way of allusion. Those that are altogether new, should never be ushered in without a short and pertinent character of the chief persons concerned, because, by that means, you may make the company acquainted with them; and it is a certain rule, that slight and trivial accounts of those who are familiar to us, administer more mirth than the brightest points of wit in unknown characters. A little circumstance in the complexion or dress of the man you are talking of, sets his image before the hearer, if it be chosen aptly for the story. Besides the marking distinct characters, and selecting pertinent circumstances, it is likewise necessary to leave off in time, and end smartly; so that there is a kind of drama in the forming of a story; and the manner of conducting and pointing it is the same as in an epigram.
As the choosing of pertinent circumstances is the life of a story, and that wherein humour principally consists, so the collectors of impertinent particulars are the very bane and opiates of conversation. Old men are great transgressors this way. Poor Ned Poppy-he's gone! -was a very honest man, but was so excessively tedious over his pipe, that he was not to be endured. He knew SO exactly what they had for dinner when such a thing happened, in what ditch his bay horse had his sprain at that time, and how his man John-no, it was Williamstarted a hare in the common field, that he never got to the end of his tale. Then he was extremely particular in marriages and intermarriages, and cousins twice or