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LESSONS

[PART 1.

actually lain under our observation. A man acquainted with history, may, in some respects, be said to have lived from the beginning of the world, and to have been making continual additions to his stock of knowledge, in every century.

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There is also an advantage in that knowledge which is acquired by history,above what is learned by the prac tice of the world, that it brings us acquainted with hu man affairs, without diminishing in the least from the most delicate sentiments of virtue. And, to tell the truth, I scarce know any study or occupation so unexceptionable as history, in this particular. Poets can paint virtue in the most charming colors; but, as they address themselves entirely to the passions, they often become advocates to vice. Even philosophers are apt to bewilder themselves in the subtilty of their speculations; and we have seen some go so far, as to deny the reality of all moral distinctions. But I think it a remark worthy the› attention of the speculative reader, that the historians have been, almost without exception, the true friends of virtue, and have always represented it in its proper col-ors however they may have erred in their judgments of particular persons. Nor is this combination of historians, in favor of virtue, at all difficult to be accounted for. When a man of business enters into life, and action, he is more apt to consider the characters of men as they have relation to his interest,than as they stand in themselves, and has his judgment warped on every occasion, by the violence of his passion. When a philosopher contemplates character and manners, in his closet, the general abstract view of the objects leaves the mind so cold and unmoved, that the sentiments of nature have no room to play, and he scarce feels the difference be→→ tween vice and virtue. History keeps in a just medium betwixt these extremes, and places the objects in their true point of view. The writers of history, as well as the readers, are sufficiently interested in the characters and events, to have a lively sentiment ofblame or praise; and, at the same time, have no particular interest of concern to pervert their judgment.

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SECT. III.]

IN READING.

137

In reality, what more agreeable entertainment to the mind, than to be transported into the remotest ages of the world, and to observe human society,'in its infancy,making the first faint essays towards the arts and sciences? To see the policy of government and the civility of con versation refining by degrees, and every thing that is ornamental to human life advancing towards its perfection? To mark the rise, progress, declension, and final extinction of the most flourishing empires; the virtues which contributed to their greatness, and the vices which drew on their ruin ? In short, to see all the human race, from the beginning of time,pass as it were in review before us, appearing in their true colors, without any of those disguises, which, during their lifetime, so much perplexed the judgment of the beholders? What spectacle can be imagined so magnificent, so various, so interesting? What amusement, either of the senses or imagination, can be compared with it? Shall our trifling pastimes, which engross so much of our time, be preferred, as more satisfactory, and more fit to engage our attention? How perverse must that taste be, which is capable of so wrong a choice of pleasure?

But history is a most improving part of knowledge, as well as an agreeable amusement; and, indeed, a great part of what we commonly call erudition, and value so highly, is nothing but an acquaintance with historical facts. An extensive knowledge of this kind belongs to men of letters; but I must think it an unpardonable ignorance in persons, of whatever sex or condition, not to be acquainted with the histories of their own country, along with the histories of ancient Greece and Rome.

I must add, that history is not only a valuable part of knowledge, but opens the door to many other parts of knowledge, and affords materials to most of the sciences. And, indeed, if we consider the shortness of human life, and our limited knowledge, even of what passes in our own time, we must be sensible that we should be forever children in understanding, were it not for this invention, which extends our experience to all past ages, and to most distant nations, making them contribute as. much to our improvement in wisdom, as if they had

fection! We know not yet what we shall be, nor will'it ever enter into the heart of man to conceive the glory that will be always in reserve for him. The soul, considered in relation to its Ceator, is like one of those mathematical lines, that may draw nearer to another for all eternity, without a possibility of touching it; and can there be a thought so transporting, as to consider ourselves in these perpetual approaches to Him, who is not only the standard of perfection, but of happiness!

XIII.—The combat of the Horatii and the Curiatii.
LIVY.

THE combat of the Horatii and Curiatii is painted in a very natural and animated manner by Livy. The cause was this. The inhabitants of Alba and Rome, roused by ambition and mutual complaints, took the field,and were on the eve of a bloody battle. The Alban general, to prevent the effusion of blood, proposed to Hostilius, then king of Rome, to refer the destiny of both nations to three combatants of each side, and that empire should be the prize of the conquering party. The proposal was accepted. The Albans named the Curiatii, threebrothers, for their champions. The three sons of Horatius were chosen for the Romans.

The treaty being concluded, the three brothers, on each side, arrayed themselves in armor, according to agreement. Each side exhorts its respective champions; representing to them, that their gods, their country, their parents, every individual in the city and army, now fixed their eyes on their arms and valor. The generous combatants, intrepid in themselves, and animated by such exhortations, marched forth, and stood between the two armies. The armies placed themselves before the respective camps, and were less solicitous for any present danger, than for the consequence of this action. They therefore gave their whole attention to a sight, which could not but alarm them. The signal is given. The combatants engage with hostile weapons, and show themselves inspired with the intrepidity of two mighty armies. Both parties, equally insensible of their own danger, had nothing in view but the slavery or liberty of their country, whose destiny depended upon their con

I must add, that history is not only a valuable part of knowledge, but opens the door to many other parts of knowledge, and affords materials to most of the scien ces. And, indeed, if we consider the shortness of humana life, and our limited knowledge, even of what passes in our own time, we must be sensible that we should be fort ever children in understanding, were it not for this invention, which extends our experience to all past ages, and to most distant nations, making them contribute as. much to our improvement in wisdom, as if they had

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