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whom every reasonable creature ought to imitate. The young man, in a heathen comedy, might justify his lewdness by the example of Jupiter; as, indeed, there was scarce any crime that might not be countenanced by those notions of the deity, which prevailed among the common people in the heathen world. Revealed religion sets forth a proper object for imitation in that Being who is the pattern, as well as the source, of all spiritual perfection.
While we remain in this life we are subject to innumerable temptations, which, if listened to, will make us deviate from reason and goodness, the only things wherein we can imitate the Supreme Being. In the next life we meet with nothing to excite our inclinations that doth not deserve them. I shall therefore dismiss my reader with this maxim, viz. "Our happiness in this world proceeds from the suppression of our desires, but in the next world from the gratification of them."
No. 635.] MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 1714. Sentio te sedem hominum ac domum contemplari; quæ si tibi parva (ut est) ita videtur, hæc cœlestia semper spectato; illa humana contemnito.-CICKRO SOmn. Scip.
I perceive you contemplate the seat and habitation of men; which if it appears as little to you as it really is, fix your eyes perpetually upon heavenly objects, and despise earthly. THE following essay comes from the ingenious author of the letter upon novelty, printed in a late Spectator: the notions are drawn from the Platonic way of thinking; but, as they contribute to raise the mind, and may inspire noble sentiments of our own future grandeur and happiness, I think it well deserves to be presented to the public :
"If the universe be the creature of an intelligent mind, this mind could have no immediate regard to himself in producing it. He needed not to make trial of his omnipotence to be informed what effects were within its reach: the world, as existing in his eternal idea, was then as beautiful as now it is drawn forth into being; and in the immense abyss of his essence are contained far brighter scenes than will be ever set forth to view; it being impossible that the great author of nature should bound his own power by giving existence to a system of creatures so perfect that he cannot improve upon it by any other exertions of his almighty will. Between finite and infinite there is an unmeasurable interval not to be filled up in endless ages; for which reason the most excellent of all God's works must be equally short of what his power is able to produce as the most imperfect, and may be exceeded with the same ease.
"This thought hath made some imagine (what it must be confessed is not impossible), that the unfathomed space is ever teeming with new births, the younger still inheriting a greater perfection than the elder. But, as this doth not fall within my present view, I shall content myself with taking notice that the consideration now mentioned proves undeniably, that the ideal worlds in the divine understanding yield a prospect incomparably more ample, various, and delightful, than any created world can do: and that therefore, as it is not to be supposed that God should make a world merely of inanimate mattor, however diversified, or inhabited only by creatures of no higher an order than brutes, so the end for which he designed his reasonable offspring is the contemplation of his works, the enjoyment of himself, and in both to be happy; having, to this purpose, endowed them with correspondent faculties
and desires. He can have no greater pleasure from a bare review of his works than from the survey of his own ideas; but we may be assured that he is well pleased in the satisfaction derived to beings capable of it, and for whose entertainment he hath erected this immense theatre. Is not this more than an intimation of our immortality? Man, who, when considered as on his probation for a happy existence hereafter, is the most remarkable instance of divine wisdom; if we cut him off from all relation to eternity, is the most wonderful and unaccountable composition in the whole creation. He hath capacities to lodge a much greater variety of knowledge than he will be ever master of, and an unsatisfied curiosity to tread the secret paths of nature and providence; but with this, his organs, in their present structure, are rather fitted to serve the necessities of a vile body, than to minister to his understanding: and from the little spot to which he is chained, he can frame but wandering guesses concerning the innumerable worlds of light that encompass him; which, though in themselves of a prodigious bigness, do but just glimmer in the remote spaces of the heavens: and when, with a great deal of time and pains, he hath laboured a little way up the steep ascent of truth, and beholds with pity the grovelling multitude beneath, in a moment his foot slides, and he tumbles down headlong into the grave. Thinking on this, I am obliged to believe, in justice to the Creator of the world, that there is another state when man shall be better situated for contemplation, or rather have it in his power to remove from object to object, and from world to world; and be accommodated with senses and other helps, for making the quickest and most amazing discoveries. How doth such a genius as Sir Isaac Newton, from amidst the darkness that involves human understanding, break forth, and appear like one of another species! The vast machine we inhabit lies open to him; he seems not unacquainted with the general laws that govern it: and while with the transport of a philosopher he beholds and admires the glorious work, he is capable of paying at once a more devout and more rational homage to his Maker. But, alas! how narrow is the prospect even of such a mind! And how obscure to the compass that is taken in by the ken of an angel, or of a soul but newly escaped from its imprisonment in the body! For my part, I freely indulge my soul in the confidence of its future grandeur; it pleases me to think that I, who know so small a portion of the works of the Creator, and with slow and painful steps creep up and down on the surface of this globe, shall ere long shoot away with the swiftness of imagination, trace out the hidden springs of nature's operations, be able to keep pace with the heavenly bodies in the rapidity of their career, be a spectator of the long chain of events in the natural and moral worlds, visit the several apartments of creation, know how they are furnished and how inhabited, comprehend the order, and measure the magnitudes and distance of those orbs, which to us seem disposed without any regular design, and set all in the same circle; observe the dependance of the parts of each system, and (if our minds are big enough to grasp the theory) of the several systems upon one another, from whence results the harmony of the universe. In eternity a great deal may be done of this kind. I find it of use to cherish this generous ambition; for besides the secret refreshment it diffuses through my soul, it engages me in an endeavour to improve my faculties, as well as to exercise them conform
ably to the rank I now hold among reasonable beings, and the hope I have of being once advanced to a more exalted station.
sociable beings, that of conversing with and knowing each other? What would they have done had matter never been created? I suppose, not have "The other, and that the ultimate end of man, is lived in eternal solitude. As incorporeal substances the enjoyment of God, beyond which he cannot form are of a nobler order, so be sure their manner of ina wish. Dim at best are the conceptions we have tercourse is answerably more expedite and intimate. of the Supreme Being, who, as it were, keeps his This method of communication we call intellectual creatures in suspense, neither discovering nor hiding vision, as somewhat analogous to the sense of seeing, himself: by which means, the libertine hath a which is the medium of our acquaintance with this handle to dispute his existence, while the most are visible world. And in some such way can God make content to speak him fair, but in their hearts prefer himself the object of immediate intuition to the every trifling satisfaction to the favour of their blessed; and as he can, it is not improbable that he Maker, and ridicule the good man for the singularity will, always condescending, in the circumstances of of his choice. Will there not a time come when the doing it, to the weakness and proportion of finite Freethinker shall see his impious schemes over- minds. His works but faintly reflect the image of turned, and be made a convert to the truths he hates? his perfections; it is a second-hand knowledge: to when deluded mortals shall be convinced of the folly have a just idea of him it may be necessary that we of their pursuits; and the few wise, who followed see him as he is. But what is that? It is somethe guidance of Heaven, and, scorning the blandish- thing that never entered into the heart of man to ments of sense, and the sordid bribery of the world, conceive; yet, what we can easily conceive, will be aspired to a celestial abode, shall stand possessed of a fountain of unspeakable, of everlasting rapture. their utmost wish in the vision of the Creator? All created glories will fade and die away in his preHere the mind heaves a thought now and then to- seuce. Perhaps it will be my happiness to compare wards him, and hath some transient glances of his the world with the fair exemplar of it in the Divine presence; when, in the instant it thinks itself to Mind; perhaps, to view the original plan of those have the fastest hold, the object eludes its expecta-wise designs that have been executing in a long suctions, and it falls back tired and baffled to the cession of ages. Thus employed in finding out his ground. Doubtless, there is some more perfect way works, and contemplating their Author, how shall I of conversing with heavenly beings. Are not spirits fall prostrate and adoring, my body swallowed up in capable of mutual intelligence, unless immersed in the immensity of matter, my mind in the infinitude budies, or by their intervention? Must superior of his perfections !" natures depend on inferior for the main privilege of