Page images
PDF
EPUB

seated upon the top of a mountain, who, when he struck his sceptre upon the side of it, roused an hurricane, and set the whole cavern in an uproar.

It is certain the Trunk-maker has saved many a good play, and brought many a graceful actor into reputation, who would not otherwise have been taken notice of. It is very visible, as the audience is not a little abashed, if they find themselves betrayed into a clap, when their friend in the upper gallery does not come into it; so the actors do not value themselves upon the clap, but regard it as a mere brutum fulmen, or empty noise, when it has not the sound of the oaken plant in it. I know it has been given out by those who are enemies to the Trunk-maker, that he has sometimes been bribed to be in the interest of a bad poet, or a vicious player; but this is a surmise which has no foundation; his strokes are always just, and his admonitions seasonable; he does not deal about his blows at random, but always hits the right nail upon the head. That inexpressible force wherewith he lays them on, sufficiently shews the evidence and strength of his conviction. His zeal for a good author is indeed outrageous, and breaks down every fence and partition, every board and plank, that stands within the expression of his applause.

As I do not care for terminating my thoughts in barren speculations, or in reports of pure matter of fact, without drawing something from them for the advantage of my countrymen, I shall take the liberty to make an humble proposal, that whenever the Trunk-maker shall depart this life, or whenever he shall have lost the spring of his arm by sickness, old age, infirmity, or the like, some able-bodied critic should be advanced to this post, and have a competent salary settled on him for life, to be furnished with bamboos for operas, crabtree-cudgels for comedies, and oaken plants for tragedy, at the public expence. And to the end that this place

should be always disposed of according to merit, I would have none preferred to it, who has not given convincing proofs both of a sound judgment and a strong arm, and who could not, upon occasion, either knock down an ox, or write a comment upon Horace's art of poetry. In short, I would have him a due composition of Hercules and Apollo, and so rightly qualified for this important office, that the Trunk-maker may not be missed by our posterity,

No. 237. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1.

Visu carentem magna pars veri latet.

SENEC. in Oedip.

Ir is very reasonable to believe, that part of the pleasure which happy minds shall enjoy in a future state, will arise from an enlarged contemplation of the Divine Wisdom in the government of the world, and a discovery of the secret and amazing steps of Providence, from the beginning to the end of time. Nothing seems to be an entertainment more adapted to the nature of man, if we consider that curiosity is one of the strongest and most lasting appetites implanted in us, and that admiration is one of our most pleasing passions; and what a perpetual succession of enjoyments will be offered to both these, in a scene so large and various as shall then be laid open to our view in the society of superior spirits, who perhaps will join with us in so delightful a prosect!

It is not impossible, on the contrary, that part of the punishment of such as are excluded from bliss, may consist not only in their being denied this privilege, but in having their appetites at the same time vastly encreased, without any satisfaction afforded to them. In these, the vain pursuit of

knowledge shall, perhaps, add to their infelicity, and bewilder them in labyrinths of error, darkness, distraction, and uncertainty of every thing but their own evil state. Milton has thus represented the fallen angels reasoning together in a kind of respite from their torments, and creating to themselves a new disquiet amidst their very amusements: he could not properly have described the sports of condemned spirits, without that cast of horror and melancholy he has so judiciously mingled with them.

Others apart sat on a hill retir'd,

In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
Fixt fate, freewill, foreknowledge absolute,
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.

In our present condition, which is a middle state, our minds are, as it were, chequered with truth and falsehood; and as our faculties are narrow, and our views imperfect, it is impossible but our curiosity must meet with many repulses. The business of mankind in this life being rather to act than to know, their portion of knowledge is dealt to them accordingly.

From hence it is, that the reason of the inquisitive has so long been exercised with difficulties, in accounting for the promiscuous distribution of good and evil to the virtuous and the wicked in this world. From hence come all those prophetical complaints of so many tragical events, which happen to the wise and good; and of such surprizing prosperity, which is often the reward of the guilty and the foolish; that reason is sometimes puzzled, and at a loss what to pronounce upon so mysterious a dispensation.

Plato expresses his abhorrence of some fables of the poets, which seem to reflect on the gods as the authors of injustice; and lays it down as a principle,

that whatever is permitted to befal a just man, whe ther poverty, sickness, or any of those things which seem to be evils, shall either in life or death conduce to his good. My reader will observe how agreeable this maxim is to what we find delivered by a greater authority. Seneca has written a discourse purposely on this subject, in which he takes pains, after the doctrine of the Stoics, to shew that adver sity is not in itself an evil; and mentions a notable saying of Demetrius, "That nothing "That nothing would be more unhappy than a man who had never known affliction." He compares prosperity to the indulgence of a fond mother to a child, which often proves his ruin; but the affection of the Divine Being to that of a wise father, who would have his sons exercised with labour, disappointment, and pain, that they may gather strength, and improve their fortitude. On this occasion the philosopher rises into that celebrated sentiment, That there is not on earth a spectacle more worthy the regard of a Creator intent on his works, than a brave man superior to his sufferings;' to which he adds, "That it must be a pleasure to Jupiter himself to look down from heaven, and see Cato amidst the ruins of his country preserving his integrity.'

This thought will appear yet more reasonable, if we consider human life as a state of probation, and adversity as the post of honour in it, assigned often to the best and most select spirits.

But what I would chiefly insist upon here, is, that we are not at present in a proper situation to judge of the counsels by which Providence acts, since but little arrives at our knowledge, and even that little we discern imperfectly; or, according to the elegant figure in holy writ, "We see but in part, and as in a glass darkly." It is to be considered that Providence, in its œconomy, regards the whole system of time and things together, so that we cannot discover the beau

tiful connexions between incidents which lie widely separated in time, and by losing so many links of the chain, our reasonings become broken and imperfect. Thus those parts in the moral world which have not an absolute, may yet have a relative beauty, in respect of some other parts concealed from us, but open to His eyes before whom past, present, and to come, are set together in one point of view; and those events, the permission of which seems now to accuse His goodness, may, in the consummation of things, both magnify his goodness, and exalt his wisdom. And this is enough to check our presumption, since it is in vain to apply our measures of regularity to matters of which we know neither the antecedents nor the consequents, the beginning nor the end.

I shall relieve my readers from this abstracted thought, by relating here a Jewish tradition con◄ cerning Moses, which seems to be a kind of parable, illustrating what I have last mentioned. That great prophet, it is said, was called up by a voice from heaven to the top of a mountain; where, in a conference with the Supreme Being, he was permitted to propose to him some questions concerning his administration of the universe. In the midst of this divine colloquy he was commanded to look down on a plain below. At the foot of the mountain there issued out a clear spring of water, at which a soldier alighted from his horse to drink. He was no sooner gone, than a little boy came to the same place, and finding a purse of gold, which the soldier had dropped, took it up, and went away with it. Immediately after this came an infirm old man, weary with age and travelling, and having quenched his thirst, sat down to rest himself by the side of the spring. The soldier, missing his purse, returns to search for it, and demands it of the old man, who affirms he had not seen it, witness of his innocence. his protestations, kills him.

[ocr errors]

and appeals to heaven in The soldier, not believing Moses fell on his face

« EelmineJätka »