« EelmineJätka »
What groan was that, Lorenzo ?-Furies! rise, And drown in your less execrable yell Britannia's shame. There took her gloomy flight, On wing impetuous, a black sullen soul, Blasted from Hell, with horrid lust of death. Thy friend, the brave, the gallant Altamont, So call'd, so thought—And then he fled the field. Less base the fear of death, than fear of life. O Britain, infamous for suicide! An island in thy manners, far disjoin'd From the whole world of rationals beside! In ambient waves plunge thy polluted head, Wash the dire stain, nor shock the continent. But thou be shock'd, while I detect the cause Of self-assault, expose the monster's birth, And bid abhorrence hiss it round the world. Blame not thy clime, nor chide the distant Sun; The Sun is innocent, thy clime absolv'd: Immortal climes kind Nature never made. The cause I sing, in Eden might prevail, And proves, it is thy folly, not thy fate.
The soul of man (let man in homage bow, Who names his soul,) a native of the skies! High-born, and free, her freedom should maintain, Unsold, unmortgag'd for Earth's little bribes. Th' illustrious stranger, in this foreign land, Like strangers, jealous of her dignity, Studious of home, and ardent to return, Of Earth suspicious, Earth's enchanted cup With cool reserve light touching, should indulge On immortality, her godlike taste,
There take large draughts; make her chief banquet
But some reject this sustenance divine;
To beggarly vile appetites descend;
Ask alms of Earth, for guests that came from Heaven:
Sink into slaves; and sell, for present hire,
Their rich reversion, and (what shares its fate)
Their native freedom, to the prince who sways
This nether world. And when his payments fail,
When his foul basket gorges them no more,
Or their pall'd palates lothe the basket full;
Are instantly, with wild demoniac rage,
For breaking all the chains of Providence,
And bursting their confinement; though fast barr'd
By laws divine and human; guarded strong
With horrors doubled to defend the pass,
The blackest, nature, or dire guilt can raise ;
And moated round with fathomless destruction,
Sure to receive, and whelm them in their fall.
Such, Britons! is the cause, to you unknown,
Or worse, o'erlook'd; o'erlook'd by magistrates,
Thus criminals themselves. I grant the deed
Is madness: but the madness of the heart.
And what is that? Our utmost bound of guilt.
A sensual, unreflecting life, is big
With monstrous births, and suicide, to crown
The black infernal brood. The bold to break
Heaven's law supreme, and desperately rush
Through sacred Nature's murder, on their own,
Because they never think of death, they die.
"Tis equally man's duty, glory, gain,
At once to shun, and meditate, his end.
When by the bed of languishment we sit,
(The seat of wisdom! if our choice, not fate,)
Or, o'er our dying friends, in anguish hang,
Wipe the cold dew, or stay the sinking head,
Number their moments, and, in every clock,
Start at the voice of an eternity;
See the dim lamp of life just feebly lift
An agonizing beam, at us to gaze,
Then sink again, and quiver into death,
That most pathetic herald of our own!
How read we such sad scenes? As sent to man
In perfect vengeance? No; in pity sent;
To melt him down, like wax, and then impress,
Indelible, Death's image on his heart;
Bleeding for others, trembling for himself.
We bleed, we tremble, we forget, we smile.
The mind turns fool, before the cheek is dry.
Our quick-returning folly cancels all;
As the tide rushing rases what is writ
In yielding sands, and smoothes the letter'd shore.
Lorenzo! hast thou ever weigh'd a sigh?
Or studied the philosophy of tears?
(A science, yet unlectur'd in our schools!)
Hast thou descended deep into the breast,
And seen their source? If not, descend with me,
And trace these briny rivulets to their springs.
Our funeral tears from different causes rise, As if from separate cisterns in the soul, |Of various kinds, they flow. From tender hearts, By soft contagion call'd, some burst at once, And stream obsequious to the leading eye. Some ask more time, by curious art distill'd. Some hearts, in secret hard, unapt to melt, Struck by the magic of the public eye, Like Moses' smitten rock, gush out amain. Some weep to share the fate of the deceas'd, So high in merit, and to them so dear.
They dwell on praises, which they think they share, And thus, without a blush, commend themselves. Some mourn, in proof, that something they could love :
They weep not to relieve their grief, but show.
Some weep in perfect justice to the dead,
As conscious all their love is in arrear.
Some mischievously weep, not unappriz'd.
Tears, sometimes, aid the conquest of an eye.
With what address the soft Ephesians draw
Their sable net-work o'er entangled hearts!
As seen through crystal, how their roses glow,
While liquid pearl runs trickling down their cheek!
Of hers not prouder Egypt's wanton queen,
Carousing gems, herself dissolv'd in love.
Some weep at death, abstracted from the dead,
And celebrate, like Charles, their own decease.
By kind construction some are deem'd to weep,
Because a decent veil conceals their joy.
Some weep in earnest, and yet weep in vain; As deep in indiscretion, as in woe. Passion, blind passion! impotently pours
Tears, that deserve more tears; while reason sleeps
Or gazes like an idiot, unconcern'd;
Nor comprehends the meaning of the storm;
Knows not it speaks to her, and her alone.
Irrationals all sorrow are beneath,
That noble gift! that privilege of man!
From sorrow's pang, the birth of endless joy.
But these are barren of that birth divine:
They weep impetuous, as the summer storm,
And full as short! The cruel grief soon tam'd,
They make a pastime of the stingless tale;
Far as the deep-resounding knell they spread
The dreadful news, and hardly feel it more.
No grain of wisdom pays them for their woe.
Half-round the globe, the tears pump'd up by death
Are spent in watering vanities of life;
In making folly flourish still more fair,
When the sick soul, her wonted stay withdrawn,
Reclines on earth, and sorrows in the dust;
And, first, thy youth. What says it to grey hairs? Narcissa, I'm become thy pupil nowEarly, bright, transient, chaste, as morning dew, She sparkled, was exhal'd, and went to Heaven. Time on this head has snow'd; yet still 'tis borne Aloft; nor thinks but on another's grave. Cover'd with shame I speak it, age severe Old worn-out vice sets down for virtue fair; With graceless gravity, chastising youth, That youth chastis'd surpassing in a fault. Father of all, forgetfulness of death: As if, like objects passing on the sight, Death had advanc'd too near us to be seen: Or, that life's loan time ripen'd into right; And men might plead prescription from the grave; Deathless, from repetition of reprieve. Deathless? far from it! such are dead already: Their hearts are buried, and the world their grave.
Ask thought for joy; grow rich, and hoard within.
Think you the soul, when this life's rattles cease,
Has nothing of more manly to succeed?
Contract the taste immortal: learn e'en now
To relish what alone subsists hereafter.
Divine, or none, henceforth your joys for ever,
Of age the glory is, to wish to die.
That wish is praise, and promise; it applauds
Past life, and promises our future bliss.
What weakness see not children in their sires?
Grey-hair'd authority, to faults of youth,
How shocking! it makes folly thrice a fool,
And our first childhood might our last despise.
Peace and esteem is all that age can hope.
Nothing but wisdom gives the first; the last,
Nothing, but the repute of being wise.
Folly bars both; our age is quite undone.
What folly can be ranker? Like our shadows,
Our wishes lengthen, as our sun declines.
No wish should loiter, then, this side the grave.
Our hearts should leave the world, before the knell
Calls for our carcasses to mend the soil.
Enough to live in tempest, die in port:
Age should fly concourse, cover in retreat
Defects of judgment, and the will subdue;
Walk thoughtful on the silent, solemn shore
Of that vast ocean it must sail so soon;
And put good-works on board; and wait the wind
That shortly blows us into worlds unknown;
If unconsider'd too, a dreadful scene!
Tell me, some god! my guardian angel! tell, What thus infatuates? what enchantment plants The phantom of an age, 'twixt us and death Already at the door? He knocks, we hear, And yet we will not hear. What mail defends Our untouch'd hearts? What miracle turns off The pointed thought, which from a thousand quivers Is daily darted, and is daily shunn'd? We stand, as in a battle, throngs on throngs Around us falling; wounded oft ourselves; Though bleeding with our wounds, immortal still! We see Time's furrows on another's brow, And Death intrench'd, preparing his assault. How few themselves in that just mirror see! Or, seeing, draw their inference as strong! There death is certain; doubtful here: he must, And soon; we may, within an age, expire. [green; Though grey our heads, our thoughts and aims are Like damag'd clocks, whose hand and bell dissent; Folly sings six, while Nature points at twelve.
Absurd longevity! More, more, it cries: More life, more wealth, more trash of every kind. And wherefore mad for more, when relish fails? Object, and appetite, must club for joy; Shall folly labor hard to mend the bow, Baubles, I mean, that strike us from without, While Nature is relaxing every string?
All should be prophets to themselves; foresee
Their future fate; their future fate foretaste;
This art would waste the bitterness of death.
The thought of death alone, the fear destroys.
A disaffection to that precious thought
Is inore than midnight darkness on the soul,
Which sleeps beneath it, on a precipice,
Puff'd off by the first blast, and lost for ever.
Dost ask, Lorenzo, why so warmly prest,
By repetition hammer'd on thine ear,
The thought of death? That thought is the machine,
The grand machine! that heaves us from the dust,
And rears us into men. That thought, plied home,
Will soon reduce the ghastly precipice
O'er-hanging Hell, will soften the descent,
And gently slope our passage to the grave;
How warmly to be wish'd! What heart of flesh
Would trifle with tremendous? dare extremes?
Yawn o'er the fate of infinite? What hand,
Beyond the blackest brand of censure bold,
(To speak a language too well known to thee,)
Would at a moment give its all to chance,
And stamp the die for an eternity?
Aid me, Narcissa, aid me to keep pace
With Destiny; and ere her scissars cut
My thread of life, to break this tougher thread
Of moral death, that ties me to the world.
Sting thou my slumbering reason to send forth
A thought of observation on the foe;
To sally; and survey the rapid march
Of his ten thousand messengers to man;
Who, Jehu-like, behind him turns them all.
All accident apart, by Nature sign'd,
My warrant is gone out, though dormant yet;
Perhaps behind one moment lurks my fate.
Must I then forward only look for Death?
Backward I turn mine eye, and find him there
Man is a self-survivor every year.
| Man, like a stream, is in perpetual flow
Death's a destroyer of quotidian prey.
My youth, my noon-tide, his; my yesterday,
The bold invader shares the present hour.
Each moment on the former shuts the grave.
While man is growing, life is in decrease;
And cradles rock us nearer to the tomb.
Our birth is nothing but our death begun;
As tapers waste that instant they take fire.
Shall we then fear, lest that should come to pass,
Which comes to pass each moment of our lives?
If fear we must, let that death turn us pale,
Which murders strength and ardor; what remains
Should rather call on death, than dread his call.
Ye partners of my fault, and my decline!
Thoughtless of death, but when your neighbor's
(Rude visitant!) knocks hard at your dull sense,
And with its thunder scarce obtains your ear!
Be death your theme, in every place and hour;
Nor longer want, ye monumental sires!
A brother tomb to tell you ye shall die.
That death you dread (so great is Nature's skill!)
Know, you shall court before you shall enjoy.
But you are learn'd; in volumes, deep you sit;
In wisdom, shallow: pompous ignorance!
Would you be still more learned than the learn'd?
Learn well to know how much need not be known,
And what that knowledge, which impairs your sense.
Our needful knowledge, like our needful food,
Unhedg'd, lies open in life's common field;
And bids all welcome to the vital feast.
You scorn what lies before you in the page
Of Nature, and Experience, moral truth:
Of indispensable, eternal fruit ;
Fruit, on which mortals feeding, turn to gods:
And dive in science for distinguish'd names,
Dishonest fomentation of your pride!
Sinking in virtue, as you rise in fame.
Your learning, like the lunar beam, affords
Light, but not heat; it leaves you undevout,
Frozen at heart, while speculation shines.
Awake, ye curious indagators! fond
Of knowing all, but what avails you known.
If you would learn Death's character, attend.
All casts of conduct, all degrees of health,
All dies of fortune, and all dates of age,
Together shook in his impartial urn,
Come forth at random: or, if choice is made,
The choice is quite sarcastic, and insults
All bold conjecture, and fond hopes of man.
What countless multitudes not only leave,
But deeply disappoint us, by their deaths!
Though great our sorrow, greater our surprise.
Like other tyrants, Death delights to smite,
What, smitten, most proclaims the pride of power,
And arbitrary nod. His joy supreme,
To bid the wretch survive the fortunate;
The feeble wrap th' athletic in his shroud;
And weeping fathers build their children's tomb:
Me thine, Narcissa!-What though short thy date?
Virtue, not rolling suns, the mind matures.
That life is long, which answers life's great end.
The time that bears no fruit, deserves no name;
The man of wisdom is the man of years.
In hoary youth Methusalems may die;
O how misdated on their flattering tombs!
Narcissa's youth has lectur'd me thus far. And can her gaiety give counsel too? That, like the Jews' fam'd oracle of gems, Sparkles instruction; such as throws new light,
And opens more the character of death;
Ill-known to thee, Lorenzo! this thy vaunt:
Give Death his due, the wretched, and the old ;
E'en let him sweep his rubbish to the grave;
Let him not violate kind Nature's laws,
But own man born to live as well as die."
Wretched and old thou giv'st him; young and gay
He takes; and plunder is a tyrant's joy.
What if I prove, That furthest from the fear,
Are often nearest to the stroke of fate ?"
All more than common, menaces an end.
A blaze betokens brevity of life:
As if bright embers should emit a flame,
Glad spirits sparkled from Narcissa's eye,
And made youth younger, and taught life to live
As Nature's opposites wage endless war,
For this offence, as treason to the deep
Inviolable stupor of his reign,
Where lust, and turbulent ambition, sleep,
Death took swift vengeance. As he life detests,
More life is still more odious; and, reduc'd
By conquest, aggrandizes more his power.
But wherefore aggrandiz'd? By Heaven's decree,
To plant the soul on her eternal guard,
In awful expectation of our end.
Thus runs Death's dread commission: "Strike, but so
As most alarms the living by the dead."
Hence stratagem delights him, and surprise,
And cruel sport with man's securities.
Not simple conquest, triumph is his aim:
And, where least fear'd, there conquest triumphs most.
This proves my bold assertion not too bold.
What are his arts to lay our fears asleep?
Tiberian arts his purposes wrap up
In deep dissimulation's darkest night.
Like princes unconfest in foreign courts,
Who travel under cover, Death assumes
The name and look of life, and dwells among us.
He takes all shapes that serve his black designs:
Though master of a wider empire far
Than that o'er which the Roman eagle flew.
Like Nero, he's a fiddler, charioteer,
Or drives his phaeton in female guise;
Quite unsuspected, till, the wheel beneath,
His disarray'd oblation he devours.
He most affects the forms least like himself,
His slender self. Hence burly corpulence
Is his familiar wear, and sleek disguise.
Behind the rosy bloom he loves to lurk,
Or ambush in a smile; or wanton dive
In dimples deep; love's eddies, which draw in
Unwary hearts, and sink them in despair.
Such, on Narcissa's couch he loiter'd long
Unknown; and, when detected, still was seen
To smile; such peace has innocence in death!
Most happy they! whom least his arts deceive.
One eye on Death, and one full fix'd on Heaven,
Becomes a mortal, and immortal man.
Long on his wiles a piqu'd and jealous spy,
I've seen, or dreamt I saw, the tyrant dress;
Lay by his horrors, and put on his smiles.
Say, Muse, for thou remember'st, call it back,
And show Lorenzo the surprising scene;
If 'twas a dream, his genius can explain.
"Twas in a circle of the gay I stood.
Death would have enter'd; Nature push'd him back,
Supported by a doctor of renown,
His point he gain'd. Then artfully dismist
The sage; for Death design'd to be conceal'd.
He gave an old vivacious usurer
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His meagre aspect, and his naked bones;
In gratitude for plumping up his prey,
A pamper'd spendthrift; whose fantastic air,
Well-fashion'd figure, and cockaded brow,
He took in change, and underneath the pride
Of costly linen, tuck'd his filthy shroud.
His crooked bow he straiten'd to a cane;
And hid his deadly shafts in Myra's eye.
The dreadful masquerader, thus equipt,
Out-sallies on adventures. Ask you where?
Where is he not? For his peculiar haunts,
Let this suffice; sure as night follows day,
Death treads in pleasure's footsteps round the world.
When pleasure treads the paths which reason shuns.
When, against reason, riot shuts the door,
And gaiety supplies the place of sense,
Then, foremost at the banquet and the ball,
Death leads the dance, or stamps the deadly die;
Nor ever fails the midnight bowl to crown.
Gaily carousing to his gay compeers,
Inly he laughs, to see them laugh at him,
As absent far; and when the revel burns,
When fear is banish'd, and triumphant thought,
Calling for all the joys beneath the Moon,
Against him turns the key, and bids him sup
With their progenitors--he drops his mask;
Frowns out at full; they start, despair, expire.
Scarce with more sudden terror and surprise,
From his black mask of nitre, touch'd by fire,
He bursts, expands, roars, blazes, and devours.
And is not this triumphant treachery,
And more than simple conquest, in the fiend?
And now, Lorenzo, dost thou wrap thy soul
In soft security, because unknown
Which moment is commission'd to destroy?
In death's uncertainty thy danger lies.
Is death uncertain? Therefore thou be fit;
Fixt as a sentinel, all eye, all ear,
All expectation of the coming foe.
Ronse, stand in arms, nor lean against thy spear;
Lest slumber steal one moment o'er thy soul,
And fate surprise thee nodding. Watch, be strong;
Thus give each day the merit, and renown,
Of dying well; though doom'd but once to die.
Nor let life's period hidden, (as from most,)
Hide too from thee the precious use of life.
Early, not sudden, was Narcissa's fate. Soon, not surprising, Death his visit paid. Her thought went forth to meet him on his way, Nor gaiety forgot it was to die : Though fortune too, (our third and final theme,) As an accomplice, play'd her gaudy plumes, And every glittering gewgaw, on her sight, To dazzle, and debauch it from its mark. Death's dreadful advent is the mark of man; And every thought that misses it, is blind. Fortune, with youth and gaiety, conspir'd To weave a triple wreath of happiness (If happiness on Earth) to crown her brow. And could Death charge through such a shining shield?
That shining shield invites the tyrant's spear,
As if to damp our elevated aims,
And strongly preach humility to man.
O how portentous is prosperity!
How, comet-like, it threatens, while it shines!
Few years but yield us proof of Death's ambition,
To cull his victims from the fairest fold,
And sheath his shafts in all the pride of life.
When flooded with abundance, purpled o'er
With recent honors, bloom'd with every bliss,
Set up in ostentation, made the gaze,
The gaudy centre, of the public eye,
When fortune thus has toss'd her child in air,
Snatcht from the covert of an humble state,
How often have I seen him dropt at once,
Our morning's envy! and our evening's sigh!
As if her bounties were the signal given,
The flowery wreath to mark the sacrifice,
And call Death's arrows on the destin'd prey.
High fortune seems in cruel league with fate. Ask you for what? To give his war on man The deeper dread, and more illustrious spoil; Thus to keep daring mortals more in awe. And burns Lorenzo still for the sublime Of life? To hang his airy nest on high, On the slight timber of the topmost bough, Rockt at each breeze, and menacing a fail? Granting grim Death at equal distance there; Yet peace begins just where ambition ends. What makes man wretched? Happiness denied? Lorenzo no: "Tis happiness disdain'd. She comes too meanly drest to win our smile; And calls herself Content, a homely name! Our flame is transport, and content our scorn. Ambition turns, and shuts the door against her, And weds a toil, a tempest, in her stead; A tempest to warm transport near of kin. Unknowing what our mortal state admits, Life's modest joys we ruin, while we raise; And all our ecstasies are wounds to peace; Peace, the full portion of mankind below.
And since thy peace is dear, ambitious youth! Of fortune fond! as thoughtless of thy fate! As late I drew Death's picture, to stir up Thy wholesome fears; now, drawn in contrast, see Gay Fortune's, thy vain hopes to reprimand. See, high in air, the sportive goddess hangs, Unlocks her casket, spreads her glittering ware, And calls the giddy winds to puff abroad Her random bounties o'er the gaping throng. All rush rapacious; friends o'er trodden friends; Sons o'er their fathers; subjects o'er their kings; Priests o'er their gods; and lovers o'er the fair, (Still more adorn'd) to snatch the golden shower.
Gold glitters most, where virtue shines no more;
As stars from absent suns have leave to shine.
O what a precious pack of votaries
Unkennel'd from the prisons, and the stews,
Pour in, all opening in their idol's praise;
All, ardent, eye each wafture of her hand,
And, wide expanding their voracious jaws,
Morsel on morsel swallow down unchew'd,
Untasted, through mad appetite for more;
Gorg'd to the throat, yet lean and ravenous still.
Sagacious all, to trace the smallest game,
And bold to seize the greatest. If (blest chance!)
Court-zephyrs sweetly breathe, they lanch, they fly,
O'er just, o'er sacred, all-forbidden ground,
Drunk with the burning scent of place or power,
Staunch to the foot of lucre, till they die.
Or, if for men you take them, as I mark
Their manners, thou their various fates survey.
With aim mis-measur'd, and impetuous speed,
Some darting, strike their ardent wish far off,
Through fury to possess it: some succeed,
But stumble, and let fall the taken prize.
From some, by sudden blasts, 'tis whirl'd away,
And lodg'd in bosoms that ne'er dreamt of gain.
To some it sticks so close, that, when torn off,
Torn is the man, and mortal is the wound.
Some, o'er-enamour'd of their bags, run mad,
Groan under gold, yet weep for want of bread.
Together some (unhappy rivals!) seize,
And rend abundance into poverty;
Loud croaks the raven of the law, and smiles: Smiles too the goddess; but smiles most at those, (Just victims of exorbitant desire!)
Who perish at their own request, and, whelm'd
Beneath her load of lavish grants, expire.
Fortune is famous for her numbers slain;
The number small, which happiness can bear.
Though various for a while their fates; at last
One curse involves them all: at Death's approach,
All read their riches backward into loss,
And mourn, in just proportion to their store.
And Death's approach (if orthodox my song) Is hasten'd by the lure of Fortune's smiles. And art thou still a glutton of bright gold? And art thou still rapacious of thy ruin? Death loves a shining mark, a signal blow; A blow which, while it executes, alarms; And startles thousands with a single fall. As when some stately growth of oak, or pine, Which nods aloft, and proudly spreads her shade, The Sun's defiance, and the flock's defence; By the strong strokes of laboring hinds subdued, Loud groans her last, and, rushing from her height In cumbrous ruin, thunders to the ground: The conscious forest trembles at the shock, And hill, and stream, and distant dale, resound.
These high-aim'd darts of Death, and these alone,
Should I collect, my quiver would be full.
A quiver, which, suspended in mid air,
Or near Heaven's Archer, in the zodiac, hung,
(So could it be,) should draw the public eye,
The gaze and contemplation of mankind!
A constellation awful, yet benign,
To guide the gay through life's tempestuous wave;
Nor suffer them to strike the common rock,
"From greater danger, to grow more secure,
And, wrapt in happiness, forget their fate."
Lysander, happy past the common lot, Was warn'd of danger, but too gay to fear. He woo'd the fair Aspasia: she was kind: In youth, form, fortune, fame, they both were blest; All who knew, envied; yet in envy lov'd: Can fancy form more finisht happiness? Fixt was the nuptial hour. Her stately dome Rose on the sounding beach. The glittering spires Float in the wave, and break against the shore: So break those glittering shadows, human joys. The faithless morning smil'd: he takes his leave, To re-embrace, in ecstasies, at eve.
The rising storm forbids. The news arrives:
Untold, she saw it in her servant's eye.
She felt it seen (her heart was apt to feel);
And, drown'd, without the furious ocean's aid,
In suffocating sorrows, shares his tomb.
Now, round the sumptuous, bridal monument,
The guilty billows innocently roar;
And the rough sailor, passing, drops a tear;
A tear? Can tears suffice?-But not for me.
How vain our efforts! and our arts how vain!
The distant train of thought I took to shun,
Has thrown me on my fate-These died together;
Happy in ruin! undivorc'd by death!
Or ne'er to meet, or ne'er to part, is peace-
Narcissa! Pity bleeds at thought of thee.
Yet thou wast only near me; not myself.
Survive myself?—That cures all other woe.
Narcissa lives; Philander is forgot.
O the soft commerce! O the tender ties,
Close-twisted with the fibres of the heart!
Which, broken, break them; and drain off the soul
Of human joy; and make it pain to live-
And is it then to live? When such friends part,
"Tis the survivor dies-My heart, no more.
NIGHT THE SIXTH.
THE INFIDEL RECLAIMED.
Containing the Nature, Proof, and Importance, of Immortality.
Where, among other Things, Glory and Riches are particularly considered.
TO THE RIGHT HON. HENRY PELHAM, FIRST LORD COMMISSIONER of the TREASURY, AND CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER.
Few ages have been deeper in dispute about religion than this. The dispute about religion, and the practice of it, seldom go together. The shorter, therefore, the dispute, the better. I think it may be reduced to this single question, Is man immortal, or is he not? If he is not, all our disputes are mere amusements, or trials of skill. In this case, truth, reason, religion, which give our discourses such pomp and solemnity, are (as will be shown) mere empty sound, without any meaning in them. But if man is immortal, it will behove him to be very serious about eternal consequences; or, in other words, to be truly religious. And this great fundamental truth, unestablished, or unawakened in the minds of men, is, I conceive, the real source and support of all our infidelity; how remote soever the particular objections advanced may seem to be from it.
Sensible appearances affect most men much more than abstract reasonings; and we daily see bodies drop around us, but the soul is invisible. The power which inclination has over the judgment, is greater than can be well conceived by those that have not had an experience of it; and of what numbers is it the sad interest that souls should not survive! The heathen world confessed, that they rather hoped, than firmly believed, immortality! And how many heathens have we still amongst us! The sacred page assures us, that life and immortality is brought to light by the Gospel: but by how many is the Gospel rejected, or overlooked! From these considerations, and from my being accidentally privy to the sentiments of some particular persons, I have been long persuaded that most, if not all, our infidels (whatever name they take, and whatever scheme, for argument's sake, and to keep themselves in countenance, they patronize) are supported in their deplorable error, by some doubt of their immortality, at the bottom. And I am satisfied, that men once thoroughly con