« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Fathers, Paulus and Africanus, or the Father of Afri. canus, or many excellent men, whose names I need not enumerate, would have meditated, or achieved those great things, the memory of which is for the interest of Posterity, if they had not been animated with the belief that Posterity belonged to them. Or do you think, (if after the manner of old men, I may be allowed to boast a little of myself) do you think, I say, that I would have undertaken, or endured, such Labours, by Night and by Day, in Peace and War, at home and abroad, if I had believed that my Name and Glory would have the same Termination with my Life? Would it not have been better, in t is case, to have led an easy and quiet Life, with jut any Labour, Strife or Contention? But I knon not how it is—the Soul, spurning and flying, as it were, from Inactivity, expands and erects herself in pride, grasps posterity and the future; presaging that she shall then only begin to live, when she escapes from the Life that now is! And if it was not so, that Souls are immortal, we should hardly see that the Souls of all the best of men, are striving or struggling most for the acquisition of immortal glory!
" Whence, otherwise is it, that everyone, amongst the wisest of men, is seen to Die with the easiest and most undisturbed mind; whilst those amongst the foolish, and the least given to reflection, die with the most inequal and disturbed mind? Does it not appear to you, that the Soul which discerns most and at the greatest distance, perceives itself proceeding, or approaching towards the acquirement of better things; but that the Soul whose
edge is blunter and more dull, perceives nothing of this ? Indeed, my Scipio, I am transported with the mighty desire of seeing again your ancestors, whom I loved and courted—nor themonly should I rejoice to meet, whom I myself knew; but those also of whom I have heard, or read, or have written concerning them; and when I shall be casted by Death to begin my journey, no one shall easily stop me, or arrest my progress. Nay, if some God was bountifully to offer me, that from my present age, I should grow young again, and wail in the cradle, I would reject the boon with all my might. For what has life of any great advantage? Nay, rather, what has it that belongs not to Labour and Toil?–But it is not for me to deplore my lot in life, as many, and those even learned men, have done. I do not repent that I have lived, and so lived, that I cannot esteem myself to have been born in vain; and I can depart from this world, as from an Inn or Lodging-place; and not as from a settled Abode or Dwelling-place.
“Oh! happy and propitious day, when I shall “ begin my journey, to join that divine company, or “ assembly of Souls, who are above; and shall depart “ from the filthy croud or mob of this life;—when I 66 shall join not only those illustrious men spoken of " before, but also my beloved Cato; than whom a “ better or more excellent man was never born.56 I lamented his death, (and paid all the honours in “ my power to his ashes). His body I committed " to the funeral Pile; which, for his usefulness, He,
alas! ought to have lived, to have done by mine. 4 Yet his Soul did not forsake me, but keeping me
<< still in view, his departure was to those abodes, to “ which he perceived I was soon to follow. I borę “ the affliction, as to outward appearance, patiently 16 and with the magnanimity that became my.charac. “ ter; although inwardly the pangs of separation were “ severely felt; but I consoled myself with the be. “ lief that our separation was not to any great dis. “ tance, and would not continue long; but that we " should shortly and happily meet again.”
It is by reflections such as these, my dear friends, that I make my Old Age sit easy and light upon me; and not only disarm it of every thing that would give mental pain, but render it even sweet and delight. ful-And if I am mistaken, or err in my belief of the Soul's Immortality, it is a pleasing Error; nor, while I live, shall I suffer any man easily to undeceive me, or wrest an opinion from me, that yields me so solid a comfort, and a satisfaction so durable.-And if it be, when I am Dead (as some minute Philosophers imagine), that I am deprived of all perception and sensation; I am safe in this, that, beyond the Grave, these little Philosophists will have no oppor. tunity to laugh at my Credulity. For whether immortal or not, and whatever is to be our future condition; it is proper and even desirable, that as nature has produced nothing that is permanent, and has set limits to all her works, the frail body of man should drop back into the dust, from whence it was gathered. It is moreover proper* " that as the whole course of Life but too much resembles a Farce, of which Old Age is the last act,” we should not too fondly press forward, when we have had enough of it, but prudently retire, without making a Fatigue of what we should endeavour to make only an entertainment.
* The passage in italics, as well as some others are from a translation of the learned James Logan, Esq. made 60 years ago, printed by Ben. jamin Franklin, at Philadelphia, in the year 1744; who informs us in the
“ Thus far I have written concerning Old Age, to which I wish you may all arrive, that your own Experience may justify, what you have heard from me!"
If St. Paul had stood in need of any aid from the Philosophy of those who knew not the True God, as was suggested before, this book of Cicero de Senectute, would have been a treasure to him. But he wanted no such aid. His arguments on the Resur. rection of the Borly from the Grave, rest on a more solid foundation than the guesses and presages of natural Reason, unenlightened by divine Revelation; namely, the proofs and certainty of Christ's own Resurrection*. Besides the Apostle's reasonings on the
Preface, that “ Mr. Logan, (in the 60th year of his age, which was about the age of Cicero when he wrote his book), undertook the translation, partly for his own amusement, but principally for the entertainment of a neighbour, then in his grand Climacteric; and, that the notes were drawn up solely on that neighbour's account, who was not so well acquainted as himself with the Roman History and Language. Some other friends, however, continues Mr. Franklin, (among whom I had the honour to be ranked), obtained copies of it in MS. and as I believed it to be in itself equal at least, if not far superior to any other translation of the same piece (then) extant in our language, besides the advantage it has of so many valuable notes, which, (at the same time that they clear up the Text,) are highly instructive and entertaining.-1 resolved to give it an impression, in a large and fair Character, that those who begin to think on the subject of Old-Age, (which seldom happens till their Sight is somewhat impaired by its approaches) may not, in Reading, by the Pain which small I etters give the eyes, feel the pleasure of the Mind in the least alla yed."
* See St. Matthew, Chap. XXVIII; with the Arguments and Proofs of Christian Writers, such as Wesr and LITTLETON, DITTOx, &c.
subjects of a Resurrection from the dead and a Judgment to come, we find him particularly engaged on these subjects, viz. bearing Testimony at Jerusalem to the great offence of the Jews, that Jesus whom they had slain on the Cross and had buried, was risen again, and through Him there would be a Resurrection of the dead from the grave. Being persecuted for his opinions, and allowed to plead his own cause, he avows this testimony first before Ananias the High Priest*, when he cried out, in the Council,-“ Men “ and Brethren! I am a Pharisee and the son of a “ Pharisee-of the Hope and Resurrection of the “ dead, I am called in question;":—and afterwards before Felix the Roman governorf. His arguments on this head, were so powerful and piercing that they shook the conscience and the very inmost feeling of his Judge himself. Forf “ as he reasoned “ of Righteousness, Temperance and Judgment to “ come, Felix trembled and answered-Go thy way “ for this time; when I have a convenient season I “ will call for thee.” On this passage of holy Scripture, it may be profitable to speak more at large; and, indeed my Brethren, if ever since I had the honour of being a Preacher of the Gospel, I have, at one time more than another, wished that I had all that profound Knowledge of the Christian Systein, all that commanding Force of Eloquence which distin
And St. Paul's own arguments and conclusions, grounded on this Certainty, (as recorded by St. Matthew). See our Text, also, 2 Corin. Chap. V. Ver. 1, 2, 3, 4. Rom. Chap. VIII. Ver. 21, 22, 23. 1 Corin. Chap. XV. from verse 35, to verse 58.
* Acts, Chap. XXIII. Ver. 6. + Acts, Chap. XXIV. Ver. 14, 15. | Acts, Chap. XXIV. Ver. 25.