« AnteriorContinuar »
own unsupportable bürthen. This' variety may in part be accounted for by the vivacity and decay of the faculties; but I believe is chiefly owing to this, that the longer we have been in possession of being, the less sensible is the gust we have of it; and the more it requires of adventitious amusements to relieve us from the satiety and weariness it brings along with it.
And as novelty is of a very powerful, so is it of a most extensive influence. Moralists have long since observed it to be the source of admiration, which lessens in proportion to our familiarity with objects, and upon a thorough acquaintance is utterly extinguished. But I think it hath not been so commonly remarked, that all the other passions depend considerably on the same circumstance, What is it but novelty that awakens desire, enhances delight, kindles anger, provokes envy, inspires horror ? To this cause we must ascribe it, that love languishes with fruition, and friendship itself is recommended by intervals of absence: hence monsters, by use, are beheld without loathing, and the most enchanting beauty without rapture. That emotion of the spirits, in which passion consists, is usually the effect of surprise, and, as long as it continues, heightens the agreeable or disagreeable qualities of its object; but as this emotion ceases (and it ceases with the novelty) things appear in another light, and af. fect us even less than might be expected from their proper energy, for having moved us too much before. It
may not be an useless inquiry how far the love of novelty is the unavoidable growth of nature, and in what respects it is peculiarly adapted to the present state. To me it seems impossible that a reasonable creature should rest absolutely satisfied in any acquisitions whatever, without endeavouring farther for, after its highest improvements, the
mind hath an idea of an infinity of things still behind worth knowing, to the knowledge of which therefore it cannot be indifferent; as by climbing up a hill in the midst of a wide plain a man hath his prospect enlarged, and, together with that, the bounds of his desires." Upon this account, I cannot think he detracts from the state of the blessed, who con. ceives them to be perpetually employed in fresh searches into nature, and to eternity advancing into the fathomless depths of the divine perfections. In this thought there is nothing but what doth honour to these glorified spirits ; provided still it be remem, bered, that their desire of more proceeds not from their disrelishing what they possess; and the pleasure of a new enjoyment is not with them measured by its novelty (which is a thing merely foreign and accidental), but by its real intrinsic value. After an acquaintance of many thousand years with the works of God, the beauty and magnificence of the creation fills them with the same pleasing wonder and profound awe which Adam felt himself seized with as he first oponed his eyes upon this glorious scene. Truth captivates with unborrowed charms, and whatever hath once given satisfaction will always do it. In all which they have manifested the advan. tage of us, who are so much governed by sickly and changeable appetites, that we can with the greatest coldness behold the stupendous displays of Omnipotence, and be in transports at the puny essays of human skill; throw aside speculations of the sub. limest nature and vastest importance into some oba scure corner of the mind, to make room for new notions of no consequence at all; are even tired of health, because not enlivened with alternate pain; and prefer the first reading of an indifferent author to the second or third perusal of one whose merit and reputation are established.
Our being thus formed serves many useful purposes in the present state. It contributes not a little to the advancement of learning; fos, as Cicero takes notice, that which makes men willing to un. dergo the fatigues of philosophical disquisitions, is pot so much the greatness of objects as their no. velty. It is not enough that there is field and game for the chase, and that the understanding is prompted with a restless thirst of knowledge, effec. tually to rouse the soul sunk into the state of sloth and indolence; it is also necessary that there be an uncommon pleasure annexed to the first appear. ance of truth in the mind. This pleasure being exquisite for the time it lasts, but transient, it here. by comes to pass that the mind grows into an in. difference to its former notions, and passes on after new discoveries, in hope of repeating the delight. It is with knowledge as with wealth, the pleasure ‘of which lies more in making endless additions than in taking a review of our old store. There are some inconveniences that follow this temper, if not guarded against, particularly this, that, through too great an eagerness of something new, we are many times impatient of staying long enough upon a question that requires some time to resolve it; or, which is worse, persuade ourselves that we are masters of the subject before we are so, only to be at the liberty of going upon a fresh scent: in Mr. Locke's words, “ We see a little, presume a great deal, and so jump to the conclusion."
"A farther advantage of our inclination for novelty as at present circumstantiated, is, that it annihilates all the boasted distinctions among man kind. Look not up with envy to those above thee! Sounding titles, stately buildings, fine gardens, gilded chariots, rich équipages what are they They dazzle every one but the possessor: to him that is accustomed to them they are cheap and regardless things; they supply him not with brighter images or more sublime satisfactions, than the plain man may have whose small estate will just enable him to support the charge of a simple unencuma bered life. He enters heedless into his rooms of state, as you or I do under our poor sheds. The noble paintings and costly furniture are lost on him; he sees them not; as how can it be other. wise, when by custom a fabric infinitely more grand and finished, that of the universe, stands unobseryed by the inhabitants, and the everlasting lamps of heaven are lighted up in vain, for any notice that mortals take of them? Thanks to indulgentona. ture, which not only placed her children originally upon a level, but still, by the strength of this prin. ciple, in a great measure preserves it, in spite of all the care of man to introduce artificial distinctions.
« To add no more—is not this fondness for noa velty, which makes us out of conceit with all we already have, a convincing proof of a future state? Either man was made in vain, or this is not the only. world he was made for: for there cannot be a greater instance of vanity than that to which man is liable, to be deluded from the cradle to the grave with fleeting shadows of happiness. His pleasures, and those not considerablé neither, die in the pos.. session, and fresh enjoyments do not rise fast enough to fill up half his life with satisfaction. When I see persons sick of themselves any longer than they are called away by something that is of force to chain down the present thought; when I see them hurry from country to town, and then from the town back again into the country, conti. nually shifting postures, and placing life in all the different lights they can think of ; " Surely,” say I
to myself, “ life is vain, and the man beyond expression stupid or prejudiced, who from the vanity of life cannot gather that he is designed for immor. tality.”
N° 627. WEDNESDAY, DEC. 1, 1714.
Tantum inter densas umbrosa cacumina fagos
VIRG. Ecl. ii. s.
He underneath the beaten shade, alone,
The following account, which came to my hands some time ago, may be no disagreeable entertainwent to such of my readers as have tender hearts, and nothing to do.
"A FRIEND of mine died of a fever last week, which he caught by walking too late in a dewy evening amongst his reapers. I must inform you that his greatest pleasure was in husbandry and gardening. He had some humours which seemed inconsistent with that good sense he was otherwise master of. His uneasiness in the company of wo. men was very remarkable in a man of such perfect good-breeding; and his avoiding one particular walk in his garden, where he had used to pass the great, est part of his time, raised abundance of idle conjectures in the village where he lived. Upon louk. ing over his papers we found out the reason, which