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Exulted each a nymph :. forsake the sand,
. The common opinion concerning the nymphs, whom the ancients called Hamadryads, is more to the honour * of trees than any thing yet mentioned. It was thought
the fate of these nymphs had so near a dependance on • fome trees, more especially oaks, that they lived and ‘died together. For this reason they were extremely
grateful to such persons who preserved those trees with · which their being subsisted. Apollonius tells us a very * remarkable story to this purpose, with which I shall ' conclude my letter.
'A CERTAIN man, called Rh sculs, observing an old soak rcady to fall, and being moved with a sort of com
passion towards the tree, ordered his servants to pour in 'fresh earth at the roots of it, and set it upright. The
Han:udryad or nymph, who must necessarily have pe'rished with the tree, appeared to him the next day, and 'üfter having returned him her thanks, told him, she was ready to grant whaterer he should ask. As she was ex
tremely beautiful, Rhæcus desired he might be enter'tained as her lover. The Hamadı yad, not much dis
pleased with the request, promised to give him a meeting, but commanded him for some days to abstain from
the embraces of all other women, adding that she would • send a bee to him, to let him know when he was to be “happy. Rhæcus was, it seems, too much addicted to
gaming, and happened to be in a run of ill luck when • the faithful bee came buzzing about liim; so that in• stead of minding his kind invitation, he had like to have • killed him for his pains. The Hamadrzad was so pro'voked at her own disappointment, and the ill usage of • her messenger, that the deprived Rhircus of the use of • his limbs. Howerer, says the story, he was not so much
• a cripple, but he made a shift to cut down the tree, and consequently to fell his mistress.'
Monday, September 6.
-Asiduo libuntur temporia 1:. stil Non fecus ac fumen. Neque enim confijt?re fumer, Nec levis hora poteft : fed ut und impellitur inte, Urgeturque prior venienti, urgetque pricrem, Tempora fic fugiunt pariter, pariterque fequuntur; Et nova sunt semper. Num quod fuit ante, relitun eft; Fitque quod haud fuerat: moment.quecunétungcantur.
Ovid. Víct. 1. 15. 1. 179,
E'en times are in perpetual flux, and run,
And inriccato: fine alt till then unknown. . Dryden. The following difosurse comes from the firme hand with
ihe clans upon infinitude.. Wei confider infinite Space as an expanfion without a ration, as a line that has neither a beginning nor an ind. In our speculations of infinite fpace, we conlider that
particular place in which we exist, as a kind of centre to the whole expansion. In our speculations of cternity, we confider the time which is present to us as the middle, which divides the whole ling into two cqual parts. For this reason, many witty authors compare the present time to
an isthmus or narrow neck of land that rises in the midst of an ocean, immeasurably diffused on either side of it.
PHILOSOPHY, and indeed common sense, naturally throws eternity under two divisions; which we may call in English, that eternity which is past, and that eternity which is to come. The learned terms of ceternitas a parte ante, and æternitas a parte post, may be more amusing to the reader, but can have no other idea affixed to them than what is conveyed to us by those words, an eternity that is past, and an eternity that is to come. Each of these eternities is bounded at the one extreme ; or, in other words, the former has an end, and the latter a beginning.
Let us first of all consider that eternity which is past, reserving that which is to come for the subject of another paper. The nature of this eternity is utterly inconceivable by the mind of man: our reason demonstrates to us that it has been, but at the same time can frame no idea of it, but what is big with absurdity and contradiction. We can have no other conception of any duration which is past, than that all of it was once present; and whatever was once present, is at some certain distance from us, and whatever is at any certain distance from us, be the distance nerer so remote, cannot be eternity. The very notion of any duration's being past, implies that it was once prefent; for the idea of being once present, is acrally included in the idea of its being past. This therefore is a depth not to be founded by human understanding. We are sure that there has been an eternity, and yet contradict ourselves when we measure this eternity by any
notion which we can frame of it. If we go to the bottom of this matter, we shall find, that the difficulties we meet with in our conceptions of eternity proceed from this fingle reason, that we can have no other idea of any kind of duration, than that by which we ourselves, and all other created beings, do exist; which is a succeslive duration, made up of past, present, and to come. There is nothing which exists after this manner, all the parts of whose existence were not once actually present, and consequently may be reached by a certain number of years applied to it. We may ascend as
high as we please, and employ our being to that eternity which is to come, in adding millions of years to millions of years, and we can never come up any
fountain-head of duration, to any beginning in eternity : but at the same time we are sure, that whatever was once present, does lie within the reach of numbers, though perhaps we can never be able to put enough of them togсther for that purpose. We may as well say, that any thing may be actually present in any part of infinite space, which does not lie at a certain distance from us, as that any part of infinite duration was once actually present, and does not also lie at some determined distance from us. The diItance in both cases may be immeasurable and indefinite af to our faculties, but our reason tells us that it cannot be so in itself. Here therefore is that difficulty which human understanding is net capable of surmounting. Tie are sure that something must have exifted from eternity, and are at the same time unable to conceive, that any thing which exists according to our notion of existence, can have existed from eternity.
It is hard for a reader, who has not rolled this thought in his own mind, to follow in such an abstracted fpcculation; but I have been the longer on it, because I think it is a demonstrative argument of the being and eternity of a God: and though there are many other demonstrations which lead us to this great truth, I do not think we ought to lay aside any proofs in this matter, which the light of reason has suggested to us, especially when it is such a ore as has been urged by men famous for their
penetration and force of understanding, and which appears altogether conclusive to those who will be at the pains to examine it.
HAVING thus considered that eternity which is past, according to the best idea we can frame of it, I Mall now
those several articles on this subject, which are dictated to us by the light of reason, and which may be looked upon as the creed of a philosopher in this great point.
FIRST, It is certain that no being could have made itself; for if so, it must have acted before it was, which is a contradiction.
SECONDLY, That therefore some being must have existed from all eternity.
THIRDLY, That whatever exists after the manner of created beings, or according to any notions which we have of existence, could not have existed from eternity.
FOURTHLY, That this eternal Being must therefore be the great Author of nature, the ancient of days, who, being at an infinite distance in his perfections from all finite and created beings, exists in a quite different manner from them, and in a manner of which they can have no idea.
I KNOW that several of the schoolmen, who would not be thought ignorant of any thing, have pretended to explain the manner of God's existence, by telling us, that he comprehends infinite duration in every moment; that eternity is with him a punétum ftans, a fixed point; or, which is as good sense, an infinite instant; that nothing, with reference to his existence, is either past or to come : to which the ingenious Mr Cowley alludes in his description of heaven.
Nothing is there to come, and nothing past,
For my own part, I look upon these propositions as words that have no ideas annexed to them; and think men had better own their ignorance, than advance doctrines by which they mean nothing, and which, indeed, are self-contradictory. We cannot be too modest in our disquisitions, when we meditate on him, who is environed with so much glory and perfection, who is the fource of being, the fountain of all that existence which we and his whole creation derive from him. Let us therefore with the utmost humility acknowledge, that as some being muft necessarily have exifted from eternity, so this being does exist after an incomprehensible manner, fince it is impossible for a being to have existed from eternity after our manner or notions of existence. Revelation confirms these natural dictates of reason in the accounts which it gives us of the divine existence, where it tells us, that he is the faine yesterday, to-day, and for ever ;