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The common sort . . . mostly seem to hold themselves to be free in proportion as they may do after their own lusts, and to be deprived of their right in proportion as they are bound to live after the commandment of God's law. So they hold piety and religion, and generally everything that belongs to firmness of mind, to be burdens, and hope after death to cast them off and have the reward of their service, that is of piety and religion. But not merely this hope, but likewise (and chiefly) fear, to wit of being punished with grievous torments after death, doth move them to live after God's law, so far as their poverty and weakness of spirit doth admit. And if men had not this hope and fear, but held that the mind perishes with the body, and no longer life remains for poor mortals (worn out forsooth with the burden of pious living), they would go back to their own desires, guide their actions by the desire of the moment, and be ruled rather by hazard than by themselves. ...
JOHN LOCKE ALL the use to be made
of it is that this life is a
LL the use to be made of it is that this life is a scene of vanity that soon passes away
and affords no solid satisfaction but in the consciousness of doing well and in the hopes of another life. This is what I can say upon experience, and what you will find when you come to make up the account.2
1 From the Ethic (trans. by F. Pollock), Part v., Prop. 41, Schol.
2 From letter written to Anthony Collins, August 1704.
Look on this world only as a state of preparation for a better. As for me, I have lived long enough, and I thank God I have enjoyed a happy life; but, after all, this life is nothing but vanity. . I heartily thank God for all his goodness and mercies to me, but, above all, for his redemption of me by Jesus Christ.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON
DO not know what I may appear to the world,
but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.2
WILLIAM PENN (1644–about 1718) I
HAVE often wondered at the unaccountableness of
Man in this, among other things; that tho’ he loves Changes so well, he should care so little to hear or think of his last, great, and best Change too, if he pleases.
Being, as to our Bodies, composed of changeable Elements, we, with the World, are made up of, and subsist by Revolution. But our Souls being of another and nobler Nature, we should seek our Rest in a more enduring Habitation.
1 Spoken the evening before his death.
The truest end of Life is to know the Life that never ends.
He that makes this his Care will find it his Crown at last.
Life else were a Misery rather than a Pleasure, a Judgment, not a Blessing.
For to Know, Regret, and Resent; to Desire, Hope, and Fear more than a Beast, and not live beyond him, is to make a Man less than a Beast.
It is the Amends of a short and troublesome Life that Doing well and Suffering ill Entitles Man to One Longer and Better. . ,
And this is the Comfort of the Good that the Grave cannot hold them, and that they live as soon as they die.
For Death is no more than a Turning of us over from Time to Eternity.
Nor can there be a Revolution without it; for it supposes the Dissolution of one form in order to the Succession of another.
Death, then, being the Way and Condition of Life, we cannot love to live, if we cannot bear to die.1
DANIEL DEFOE .. (1663–1731)
KNOW too much of the World to expect good in
it, and have learnt to value it too little to be concerned at the evil. I have gone through a life of wonders, and am the subject of a vast variety of
1 From Some Fruits of Solitude, Part i. (Religion).
providences; I have been fed more by miracle than Elijah when the ravens were his purveyors. I have, some time
life in this distich :
No man has tasted differing fortunes more,
In the school of affliction I have learnt more philosophy than at the academy, and more divinity than from the pulpit; in prison I have learnt to know that liberty does not consist in open doors and the free egress and regress of locomotion.
of locomotion. I have seen the rough side of the world as well as the smooth, and have, in less than half a year, tasted the difference between the closet of a king and the dungeon of Newgate. I have suffered deeply for cleaving to principles.
I have a large family—a wife and six children—who never want what they should enjoy, or spend what they ought to save. Under all these circumstances, and many more, my only happiness is this: I have always been kept cheerful, easy, and quiet, enjoying a perfect calm of mind. ... If any man ask me how I arrived at it, I answer him, in short, by a constant, serious application to the great, solemn, and weighty work of resignation to the will of heaven.1
I am so near my journey's end, and am hastening to the place where the weary are at rest, and where the wicked cease to trouble ; be it that the
is rough and the day stormy, by what way soever He
1 From Preface to A Review of the State of the British Nation, vol. viii. 1712.
please to bring me to the end of it, I desire to finish life with this temper of soul in all cases : Te Deum Laudamus.1
JONATHAN SWIFT (1667–1745)
(DEAN OF ST. PATRICK's) IFE is not a farce; it is a ridiculous tragedy, which
is the worst kind of composition.2
(1688–1732) Awhat is life with ills
encompass'd round, Amidst our hopes, Fate strikes the sudden wound: To-day the statesman of new honour dreams, To-morrow death destroys his airy schemes ; Is mouldy treasure in thy chest confined ? Think all that treasure thou must leave behind. ... Should certain fate th’ impending blow delay, Thy mirth will sicken and thy bloom decay ; Then feeble age will all thy nerves disarm, No more thy blood its narrow channels warm. Who then would wish to stretch this narrow span, To suffer life beyond the date of man?
The virtuous soul pursues a nobler aim, And life regards but as a fleeting dream: She longs to wake and wishes to get free, To launch from earth into eternity.3
1 From letter to Henry Baker, August 12, 1750.
2 Letter written to Pope in April 1731.
3 From “ A Thought on Eternity.”