« AnteriorContinuar »
most, or some of them), yet for a demonstration to us that God intended this world to be uneasy, to convince us that a perfect state of happiness is not to be had here below, we often see in experience that those who seem to be in a condition as happy as this world can put them into, by the greatest accommodations towards it, are yet as far or farther from happiness as those who are destitute of most of those things wherein the greatest felicity of this world is thought to consist. Many times it so happens, that they who have all the furniture and requisites, all the materials and ingredients of a worldly felicity at their command, and in their power, yet have not the skill and ability out of all these to frame a happy condition of life to themselves. They have health, and friends, and reputation, and estate in abundance, and all outward accommodations that heart can wish; and yet, in the midst of all these circumstances of outward felicity, they are uneasy in their minds, and, as the wise man expresseth it, in their sufficiency they are in straits, and are, as it were, surfeited even with happiness itself, and do so fantastically and unaccountably nauseate the good condition they are in, that though they want nothing to make them happy, yet they cannot think themselves so; though they have nothing in the world to molest and disgust them, yet they can make a shift to create as much trouble to themselves out of nothing, as they who have the real and substantial causes of discontent.
CONSIDER him in himself, as compounded of soul and body. Consider man in his outward and worse part, and you shall find that to be admirable, even to astonishment; in respect of which the Psalmist cries out (Psal. cxxxix. 14), 'I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. The frame of our bodies is so curiously wrought, and every part of it so full of miracle, that Galen (who was otherwise backward enough to the belief of a God), when he had anatomized man's body, and carefully surveyed the frame of it, viewed the fitness and usefulness of every part of it, and the many several intentions of every little vein, and bone, and muscle, and the beauty of the whole; he fell into a pang of devotion, and wrote a hymn to his Creator. And those excellent books of his, De Usu Partium, of the usefulness and convenient contrivance of every part of the body,' are a most exact demonstration of the Divine wisdom, which appears in the make of our body; of which books, Gassendus saith, the whole work is writ with a kind of enthusiasm. The wisdom of God, in the frame of our bodies, very much appears by a curious consideration of the several parts of it; but that requiring a very accurate skill in anatomy, I choose rather wholly to forbear it, than by my unskilfulness to be injurious to the Divine wisdom.
But this domicilium corporis, the house of our body,' though it be indeed a curious piece, yet it is nothing to the noble inhabitant that dwells in it. The cabinet, though it be exquisitely wrought, and very rich; yet it comes infinitely short in value of the jewel, that is hid and laid up in it. How does the glorious faculty of reason and understanding exalt us above the rest of the creatures ! Nature hath not made that particular provision for man, which it hath made for other creatures, because it hath provided for him in general, in giving him a mind and
Man is not born clothed, nor armed with any
considerable weapon for defence; but he hath reason and understanding to provide these things for himself; and this alone excels all the advantages of other creatures: he can keep himself warmer and safer; he can foresee dangers, and provide against them; he can provide weapons that are better than horns, and teeth, and paws, and, by the advantage of his reason, is too hard for all other creatures, and can defend himself against their violence.
If we consider the mind of man yet nearer, how many arguments of divinity are there in it! That there should be at once in our understandings distinct comprehensions of such variety of objects; that it should pass in its thoughts from heaven to earth in a moment, and retain the memory of things past, and take a prospect of the future, and look forward as far as eternity! Because we are familiar to ourselves, we cannot be strange and wonderful to ourselves; but the great miracle of the world is the mind of man, and the contrivance of it an eminent instance of God's wisdom.
Consider man with relation to the universe, and you shall find the wisdom of God doth appear, in that all things are made so useful for man, who was designed to be the chief inhabitant of this visible world, the guest whom God designed principally to entertain in this house which he built. Not that we are to think, that God hath so made all things for man, that he hath not made them at all for himself, and possibly for many other uses than we imagine; for we much overvalue ourselves, if we think them to be only for us; and we diminish the wisdom of God, in restraining it to one end: but the chief and principal end of many things is the use and service of man; and in reference to this end, you shall find that God hath made abundant and wise provision.
More particularly we will consider man, in his natural capacity as a part of the world. How many things are there in the world for the service and pleasure, for the use and delight of man, which, if mąn were not in the world, would be of little use? Man is by nature a contemplative creature, and God has furnished him with many objects to exercise his understanding upon, which would be so far useless and lost, if man were not. Who should observe the motions of the stars, and the courses of those heavenly bodies, and all the wonders of nature? Who should pry into the secret virtues of plants, and other natural things, if there were not in the world a creature endowed with reason and understanding? Would the beasts of the field study astronomy, or turn chymists, and try experiments in nature ?
What variety of beautiful plants and flowers is there ! which can be imagined to be of little other use but for the pleasure of man. And if man had not been, they would have lost their grace, and been trod down by the beasts of the field, without pity or observation; they would not have made them into garlands and nosegays. How many sorts of fruits are there which grow upon high trees, out of the reach of beasts ! and, indeed, they take no pleasure in them. What would all the vast bodies of trees have served for, if man had not been to build with them, and make dwellings of them? Of what use would all the mines of metal have been, and of coal, and the quarries of stone? would the mole have admired the fine gold? would the beasts of the forest have built themselves palaces, or would they have made fires in their dens ?
JOHN DRYDEN, born in 1631, was the most popular and (putting aside Milton, who belongs to an earlier period) most eminent poet of the latter half of the seventeenth century. His works consist of plays, satires, translations, and occasional poems. Of these, the plays are much the most voluminous, and in their time were doubtless considered the most important; but later generations have bestowed very little attention on them. They, however, gave occasion to several of those compositions which have made him distinguished as a prose writer, critical prefaces, explaining the nature of the works they introduce, and vindications, rebutting the attacks of literary rivals or political opponents. These prose pieces have had very warm admirers, including Gray and Charles James Fox; and are characterised by Johnson in words that may be worth quoting: 'Criticism, either didactic or defensive, occupies almost all his prose, except those pages
which he has devoted to his patrons: but none of his prefaces were ever thought tedious. They have not the formality of a settled style, in which the first half of the sentence betrays the other. The clauses are never balanced, nor the periods modelled; every word seems to drop by chance, though it falls into its proper place. Nothing is cold or languid; the whole is airy, animated, and vigorous; what is little is gay; what is great is splendid. He may be thought to mention himself too frequently: but while he forces himself upon our esteem, we cannot refuse him to stand high in his own. Everything is excused by the play of images and the sprightliness of expression. Though all is easy, nothing is feeble; though all seems careless, there is nothing harsh; and though, since his earlier works, more than a century has passed,