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however I may act in opposition to the principles of religion, or the dictates of reason, I can honestly assure you I had always the highest veneration for both. The world and I may shake hands, for I dare affirm we are heartily weary of each other. O Ductor, what a prodigal have I been of the most valuable of all possessions, Time! I have squandered it away with a persuasion it was lasting: and now, when a few days would be worth a hecatomb of worlds, I cannot flatter myself with a prospect of half a dozen hours.
How despicable is that man who never prays to his God but in the time of his distress! In what manner can he supplicate that omnipotent Being in his affliction with reverence, whom, in the tide of his prosperity, he never remembered with dread? Do not brand me with infidelity, when I tell you I am almost ashamed to offer up my petitions to the throne of grace; or of imploring that divine mercy in the next world which I have so scandalously abused in this. Shall ingratitude to man be looked on as the blackest of crimes, and not ingratitude to Gon: Shall an insult offered to the king be looked on in the most offensive light; and yet no notice taken when the King of kings is treated with indignity and disrespect.
The companions of my former libertinism would scarce believe their eyes were you to shew them this episile. They would laugh at me as a dreaming enthusiast, or pity me as a timorous wretch, who was shocked at the
appearance of futurity. They are more entitled to my pity than my resentment. A future state may very well strike terror into any man who has not acted well in this life: and he must have an uncommon share of courage indeed who does not shrink at the presence of his God.
You see, my dear Doctor, the apprehensions of death will soon bring the most profligate to a proper use of their understanding. I am haunted by remorse, despised by my acquaintance, and, I fear, forsaken by my God. There is nothing so dangerous, my clear Doctor, as extraordinary abilities. I cannot be accused of vanity now, by being sensible that I was once possessed of uncommon qualiti
cations; as I sincerely regret that I was ever blest with any at all. My rank in life still made these accomplishments more conspicuous; and, fascinated with the
geo neral applause which they procured, I never considered about the proper means by which they should be displayed. Hence, to purchase a smile from a blockhead, whom I despised, I have frequently treated the virtuous with disrespect; and sported with the holy name of Heaven, to obtain a laugh from a parcel of fools, who were entitled to nothing but my contempt.
Your men of wit, my dear Doctor, look on themselves as discharged from the duties of Religion; and confine the doctrines of the Gospel to people of meaner understandings; and look on that man to be of a narrow genius who studies to be good. What a pity that the Holy Writings are not made the criterion of true judgement! Favour me, my dear Doctor, with a visit as soon as possible. Writing to you gives me some ease. I am of opinion this is the last visit I shall ever solicit from you. My distemper is powerful. Come, and pray for the departing spirit of the unhappy-BUCKINGHAM*.
* This Nobleman is described to have been a gay, capricious person, of some wit, and great vivacity. He was the minister of riot, and counsellor of infamous practices; the slave of intemperance, a pretended Atheist, without honour or principle, economy or discretion. "At last, deserted by all his friends, and despised by all the world, he died in the greatest want and obscurity. It is of him that Mr. Pope says:
“ In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half hung,
Mr. Dryden describes this Nobleman as being
“ A man so various, that he seem'd to be
33. We have also an uncommon alarm given us in a Letter from another Nobleman, but whose name is concealed from motives of delicacy, on his death-bed, to an intimate companion ; which no man can seriously read, and not find himself deeply affected. I will produce it at length:
Before you receive this, my final state will be determined by the JUDGE of all the earth. In a few days at most, perhaps in a few hours, the inevitable sentence will be past, that shall raise me to the heights of
“ But, in the course of one revolving moon,
WENTWORTH DILLON, Earl of Roscommon, contemporary with BUCKINGHAM, was also a man of considerable learning and abilities, but a man of dissipation and licentious principles. He addicted himself immo. derately to gaming, by which he was engaged in frequent quarrels, and brought into no little distress. But, however we may be disposed to play the devil when we are in no apparent danger, there is a time coming, whan we shall all see things in a more serious point of view. Accordingly, are told, at the moment this merry Nobleman expired, he was constrained to utter, with an energy of voice, that expressed the most ardent devotion
“ My God, my Father, and my FRIEND,
Something like the case of BUCKINGHAM and Roscommon, likewise, was the last scene of John SHEFFIELD, Duke of Buckingham, who died in the reign of George the First, if we may credit the lines inscribed by his own order on his monument :..
“ Dubius, sed non improbus vixi.
“ Ens Entium, miserere mei!"
Sir RICHARD Steel hath given us another affecting confession of a dying Infidel in No. LXXXI of the Guardian; and a humorous account of two other gentlemen of the same cast in Nos. CXI and CXXXV of the Tatler, which the reader may consult at his pleasure,
happiness, or sink me to the depths of misery. While you read these lines, I shall be either groaning under the agonies of absolute despair, or triumphing in fulness of joy.
It is impossible for me to express the present disposition of my soul—the vast uncertainty I am struggling with! No words can paint the force and vivacity of my apprehensions. Every doubt wears the face of horror, and would perfectly overwhelm me, but for some faint beams of hope, which dart across the tremendous gloom ! What tongue can utter the anguish of a soul suspended between the extremes of infinite joy and eternal misery? I am throwing my last stake for eternity, and treinble and shudder for the important event:
Good God! how have I employed myself! what enchantment hath held me? In what delirium has my life been past? What have I been doing, while the sun in its race, and the stars in their courses, have lent their beams, perhaps, only to light me to perdition !
I never awaked till now. I have but just commenced the dignity of a rational being. Till this instant I had a wrong apprehension of every thing in nature. I have pursued shadows, and entertained myself with dreams. I have been treasuring up dust, and sporting myself with the wind. I look back on my past life, and but for some memorials of infamy and guilt, it is all a blanka perfect vacancy! I might have grazed with the beasts of the field, or sung with the winged inhabitants in the woods, to much better purpose than any for which I have lived. And, Oh! but for some faint hope, a thousand times more blessed had I been, to have slept with the clods of the valley, and never heard the Almighty's fiat, nor waked into life at his command !
I never had a just apprehension of the solemnity of the part
I am to act till now. I have often met death insulting on the hostile plain, and, with a stupid boast, defied his terrors ; with a courage, as brutal as that of the warlike horse, I have rushed into the battle, laughed at the glittering spear, and rejoiced at the sound of the trumpet, nor had a thought of any state beyond the E 22
grave, nor the great tribunal to which I must have been summoned;
Where all my secret guilt had been revealid,
It is this which arms death with all its terrors; else I could still nock at fear, and smile in the face of the gloomy monarch. It is not giving up my breath; it is not being for ever insensible, is the thought at which I shrink : it is the terrible hereafter, the something beyond the grave at which I recoil. Those great realities, which, in the hours of mirth and vanity, I have treated as phantoms, as the idle dreams of superstitious beings; these start forth, and dare me now in their most terrible demonstration. My awakened conscience feels something of that eternal vengeance I have often defied.
To what heights of madness is it possible for human nature to reach? What extravagance is it to jest with death ! to laugh at damnation ! to sport with eternal chains, and recreate a jovial fancy with the scenes of infernal misery !
Were there no impiety in this kind of mirth, it would be as ill-bred as to entertain a dying friend with the sight of an Harlequin, or the rehearsal of a Farce. Every thing in nature seenis to reproach this levity in human creatures. The whole creation, man excepted, is serious : man, who has the highest reason to be so, while he has affairs of infinite consequence depending on this short uncertain duration. A condemned wretch may with as good grace go dancing to his execution, as the greatest part of mankind go on with such a thoughtless gaiety tu their graves.
Oh! my friend, with what horror do I recall those hours of vanity we have wasted together! Return, ye lost neglected moments ! How should I prize you above the Eastern treasures ! Let me dwell with hermits ; let me rest on the cold earth; let me converse in cottages; may I but once more stand a candidate for an immortal crown, and have my probation for ceJestial happiness.