« AnteriorContinuar »
to the injury of those who have suffered by his crimes ; thus inducing all parties to separate in a kind of good humour, as if they had nothing more than a verbal dispute to settle, or a slight quarrel over a table to compromise; while nations, whole suffering nations, are left to beat the empty air with cries of misery and anguish, and to cast forth to an offended heaven the imprecations of disappointment and despair.
181. BELISARIUS, HIS REPULSE OF THE GOTHS FROM ROME. Eighteen days were employed by the besiegers, to provide all the instruments of attack which antiquity had invented. Fascines were prepared to fill the ditches, scalingladders to ascend the walls. The largest trees of the forest supplied the timbers of four battering-rams: their heads were armed with iron : they were suspended by ropes, and each of them was worked by the labour of fifty men. The lofty wooden turrets moved on wheels or rollers, and formed a spacious platform of the level of the rampart. On the morning of the nineteenth day, a general attack was made from the Prænestine gate to the Vatican: seven Gothic columns, with their military engines, advanced to the assault: and the Romans, who lined the ramparts, listened with doubt and anxiety to the cheerful assurances of their commander. As soon as the enemy approached the ditch, Belisarius himself drew the first arrow : and such was his strength and dexterity, that he transfixed the foremost of the barbarian leaders. A shout of applause and victory was re-echoed along the wall. He drew a second arrow, and the stroke was followed with the same success and the same acclamation. The Roman general then gave the word that the archers should aim at the teams of oxen: they were instantly covered with mortal wounds: the towers which they drew remained useless and immoveable: and a single moment disconcerted the laborious projects of the king of the Goths.
182. MORAL SLAVERY. No man is completely miserable without the loss of his liberty, and in the loss of that all comforts that can be supplied are but shadows and without relish. We are all sensible enough of this kind of loss of our liberty, and need no aggravations to make a prison odious to us; we think it too great a punishment when we most deserve it, and are ready to rescue ourselves from it by greater offences than those which make us liable to it. There needs no eloquence to raise our understanding to the sharpest apprehension of the miseries of such a captivity or of the affliction of banishment, though all the world be open to us but our own country: our liberty is sweet to us, and our country is sweet; we would part with neither. But there is a loss of this precious liberty, that is more in one's own power to prevent; there is a captivity more mischievous and destroying than the subjection of a foreign nation, which we may free ourselves from; and yet we are so far from using that power, from a desire to preserve our liberty, that we give ourselves up, and effect and contribute to our own captivity.
183. EXCESS OF CARE. Care will sometimes betray to the appearance of negligence. He that is catching opportunities which seldom occur, will suffer those to pass by unregarded which he expects hourly to return; he that is searching for rare and remote things, will neglect those that are obvious and familiar. Thus it happens, that in things difficult there is danger from ignorance, and in things easy from confidence; the mind afraid of greatness and disdainful of littleness hastily withdraws herself from painful searches, and passes with scornful rapidity over tasks not adequate to her powers, sometimes too secure for caution and again too anxious for vigorous effort; sometimes idle in a plain path, and sometimes distracted in labyrinths and dissipated by different intentions. A large work is difficult because it is large, even though all its parts might singly be performed with facility; where there are many things to be done, each must be allowed its share of time and labour in the
proportion only which it bears to the whole, nor can it be expected that the stones which form the dome of a temple should be squared and polished like the diamond of a ring.
184. CONTEMPLATION OF DEATH. There is a sort of delight, which is alternately mixed with terror and sorrow, in the contemplation of death. The soul has its curiosity more than ordinarily awakened, when it turns its thoughts upon the conduct of those who have behaved themselves with an FOL. CENT.
equal, a resigned, a cheerful, a generous or heroic temper in that extremity. We are affected with these respective manners of behaviour, as we secretly believe the part of the dying person imitable by ourselves, or such as we imagine ourselves more particularly capable of. Men of exalted minds march before us like princes, and are to the ordinary race of mankind rather subjects for admiration than example. However, there are no ideas strike more forcibly upon our imaginations, than those which are raised from reflections upon the exits of great and excellent men. Innocent men who have suffered as criminals, though they were benefactors to human society, seem to be persons of the highest distinction among the vastly greater number of the human race, the dead.
SIR R. STEELE
185. SUPERFICIAL, NOT SOUND LEARNING INIMICAL TO RELIGION. It is an assured truth and a conclusion of experience, that a little or superficial knowledge of philosophy may incline the mind of man to atheism, but a farther proceeding therein doth bring the mind back again to religion ; for in the entrance of philosophy, when the second causes, which are next unto the senses, do offer themselves to the mind of man, if it dwell and stay there, it may induce some oblivion of the highest cause; but when a man passeth on farther, and seeth the dependence of causes and the works of Providence; then, according to the allegory of the poets, he will easily believe that the highest link of nature's chain inust needs be tied to the foot of Jupiter's chair. To conclude therefore, let no man, upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an ill-applied moderation think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God's word or in the book of God's works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both; only let men beware that they apply both to charity, and not to swelling; to use, and not to ostentation; and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together.
186. THE CAVALIERS, THEIR CLAIMS ON ROYAL FAVOUR. The feeling of the cavaliers was widely different. During eighteen years they had, through, all vicissitudes, been faithful to the crown. Having shared the distress of their prince, were they not to share his triumph? was no distinction to be made between them and the disloyal subject who had fought against his rightful sovereign, and who had never concurred in the restoration of royalty, till it appeared that nothing else could save the nation from the tyranny of the army? Grant that such a man had, by his recent services, fairly earned his pardon. Yet was he to be ranked with men who had no need of the royal clemency, with men who had in every part of their lives merited the royal gratitude? Above all, was he to be suffered to retain a fortune raised out of the substance of the ruined defenders of the throne? Was it not enough that his head and his patrimonial estate, a hundred times forfeited to justice, were secure, and that he shared, with the rest of the nation, in the blessings of that mild government of which he had long been the foe? Was it necessary that he should be rewarded for his treason at the expense of men whose only crime was the fidelity with which they had observed their oath of allegiance? And what interest had the king in gorging his old enemies with prey torn from his old friends? What confidence could be placed in men who had opposed their sovereign, made war on him, imprisoned him, and who even now vindicated all that they had done, and seemed to think that they had given an illustrious proof of loyalty by just stopping short of regicide? It was true that they had lately assisted to set up the throne: but it was not less true that they had previously pulled it down, and that they still avowed principles which might impel them to pull it down again.
Neither party wanted strong arguments for the measures which it was disposed to take. The reasonings of the most enlightened Royalists may be summed up thus :—'It is true that great abuses have existed; but they have been redressed. It is true that precious rights have been invaded; but they have been vindicated and surrounded with new securities. The sittings of the estates of the realm have been, in defiance of all precedent and of the spirit of the constitution, intermitted during eleven years; but it has now been provided that henceforth three years shall never elapse without a parliament. The lord lieutenant aimed at establishing military despotism; but he has answered for his treason with his head. The primate tainted our worship with Popish rites, and punished our scruples with Popish cruelty ; but he is awaiting in the Tower the judgment of his peers. The lord keeper sanctioned a plan, by which the property of every man in England was placed at the mercy of the crown; but he has been disgraced, ruined, and compelled to take refuge in a foreign land. The ministers of tyranny have expiated their crimes. The victims of tyranny have been compensated for their sufferings. Under such circumstances it would be most unwise to persevere in that course which was justifiable and necessary when we first met, after a long interval, and found the whole administration one mass of abuses. It is time to take heed that we do not so pursue our victory over despotism as to run into anarchy. It was not in our power to overturn the bad institutions which lately afflicted our country, without shocks which have loosened the foundations of government. Now that those institutions have fallen, we must hasten to prop the edifice which it was lately our duty to batter. Henceforth it will be our wisdom to look with jealously on schemes of innovation, and to guard from encroachinent all the prerogatives with which the law has, for the public good, armed the sovereign.'
187. ARGUMENTS OF THE ROYALISTS.
188. He was exactly civil, rather to ceremony: and though he felt, that his easiness of access, and the desires of many, strangers in particular, to be much with him, made great wastes on his time, yet as he was severe in that, not to be denied when he was at home, so, he said, 'he knew the heart of a stranger,' and how much eased his own had been while travelling, if admitted to the conversation of those he desired to see : therefore he thought his obligation to strangers was more than bare civility, it was a piece of religious charity in him. He had, for almost forty years, laboured under such feebleness of body, and such lowness of strength and spirits, that it will appear a surprising thing to imagine, how it was possible for him to read, to meditate, to try experiments and to write, as he did. He bore all his infirmities and some sharp pains with the decency and submission, that became a Christian and philosopher. He had about him all that unaffected neglect of pomp in clothes, lodgings, furniture and equipage, which agreed with his grave and serious course of life. He was advised to a very un