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one of that society who assist me in my speculations. It is a “ Thought in Sickness,” and of a very serious nature, for which reason I give it a place in the paper of this day.
The indisposition which has long hung upon me is at last grown to such a head, that it must quickly make an end of me, or of itself.
You may imagine, that whilst I am in this bad state of health, there are none of your works which I read with greater pleasure than your Saturday's papers. I should be very glad if I could furnish
hints for that day's entertainment. Were I able to dress several thoughts of a serious nature, which have made great impressions on my mind during a long fit of sickness, they might not be an improper entertainment for that occasion.
Among all the reflections which usually rise in the mind of a sick man, who has time and inclination to consider his approaching end, there is none more natural than that of his going
naked and unbodied before him who made him. When a man considers, that as soon as the vital union is dissolved, he shall see that Supreme Being, whom he now contemplates at a distance, and only in his works : or, to speak more philosophically, when by some faculty in the soul he shall apprehend the Divine Being, and be more sensible of his presence than we are now of the presence of any object which the eye beholds, a man must be lost in carelessness and stupidity, who is not alarmed at such a thought. Dr. Sherlock, in his excellent treatise upon death, has represented, in very strong and lively colours, the state of the soul in its first separation from the body, with regard to that invisible world which everywhere surrounds us, though we are not able to discover it through this grosser world of matter, which is accommodated to our senses in this life. His words are as follow.
“That death, which is our leaving this world, is nothing else but our putting off these bodies, teaches us that it is only our union to these bodies which intercepts the sight of the other world: the other world is not at such a distance from us as we may imagine; the throne of God, indeed, is at a great remove from this earth, above the third heavens, where he displays his glory to those blessed spirits which encompass his throne; but as soon as we step out of these bodies, we step into the other world, which is not so properly another world, (for there is the same heaven and earth still,) as a new state of life. To live in these bodies is to live in this world; to live out of them, is to remove into the next : for while our souls are confined to these bodies, and can look only through these material casements, nothing but what is material can affect us; nay, nothing but what is so gross, that it can reflect light, and convey the shapes and colours of things with it to the eye : so that though within this visible world there be a more glorious scene of things than what appears to us, we perceive nothing at all of it; for this veil of flesh parts the visible and invisible world : but when we put off these bodies, there are new and surprising wonders present themselves to our view; when these material spectacles are taken off, the soul with its own naked eyes sees what was invisible before ; and then we are in the other world, when we can see it, and converse with it: thus St. Paul tells us, “That when we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; but when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord, 2 Cor. v. 6, 8. And, methinks, this is enough to cure us of our fondness for these bodies, unless we think it more desirable to be confined to a prison, and to look through a grate all our lives, which gives us but a very narrow prospect, and that none of the best neither, than to be set at liberty to view all the glories of the world. What would we give now for the least glimpse of that invisible world, which the first step we take out of these bodies will present us with! There are such things as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered
into the heart of man to conceive: death opens our eyes, enlarges our prospect, presents us with a new and more glorious world, which we can never see while we are shut up in flesh; which should make us as willing to part with this veil
, as to take the film off of our eyes which hinders our sight.'
“ As a thinking man cannot but be very much affected with the idea of his appearing in the presence of that Being, . whom none can see and live,' he must be much more affected, when he considers that this Being whom he appears before will examine all the actions of his past life, and reward or punish him accordingly. I must confess, that I think there is no scheme of religion besides that of Christianity, which can possibly support the most virtuous person
under this thought. Let a man's innocence be what it will, let his virtues rise to the highest pitch of perfection attainable in this life, there will be still in him so many secret sins, so many human frailties, so many offences of ignorance, passion, and prejudice, so many unguarded words and thoughts, and, in short, so many defects in his best actions, that without the advantages of such an expiation and atonement as Christianity has revealed to us, it is impossible that he should be cleared before his Sovereign Judge, or that he should be able to stand in his sight. Our holy religion suggests to us the only means whereby our guilt may be taken away, and our imperfect obedience accepted.
“ It is this series of thought that I have endeavoured to express in the following hymn, which I have composed during this my sickness.
O’erwhelmed with guilt and fear,
And mercy may be sought,
Who does her sins lament,
Ere yet it be too late;
Her pardon to procure,
To make her pardon sure.
“There is a noble hymn in French, which Monsieur Bayle has celebrated for a very fine one, and which the famous author of the Art of Speaking calls an admirable one, that turns upon a thought of the same nature. If I could bave done it justice in English, I would have sent it you
translated; it was written by Monsieur Des Barreaux, who had been one of the greatest wits and libertines in France, but in his last years was as remarkable a penitent.
Grand Dieu, tes jugemens sont remplis d'equité:
Qui ne soit tout couvert du sang de Jesus Christ. “ If these thoughts may be serviceable to you, I desire
would place them in a proper light; and am ever, with great sincerity,
Sir, Yours," &c.
No. 517. THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23.
Heu pietas! heu prisca fides !- VIRG. WE last night received a piece of ill news at our club, which very sensibly afflicted every one of us. I question not but my
readers themselves will be troubled at the hearing of it. "To keep them no longer in suspense, Sir Roger de Coverley is dead. He departed this life at his house in the country, after a few weeks' sickness. Sir Andrew Freeport has a letter from one of his correspondents in those parts, that informs him the old man caught a cold at the country sessions, as he was very warmly promoting an address of his own penning, in which he succeeded according to his wishes. But this particular comes from a Whig justice of peace, who was always Sir Roger's enemy and antagonist. I have let
ters both from the chaplain and Captain Sentry, which mention nothing of it, but are filled with many particulars to the honour of the good old man. I have likewise a letter from the butler, who took so much care of me last summer when I was at the knight's house. As my friend the butler mentions, in the simplicity of his heart, several circumstances the others have passed over in silence, I shall give my reader a copy of his letter, without any alteration or diminution.
“ HONOURED SIR,
Knowing that you was my old master's good friend, I could not forbear sending you the melancholy news of his death, which has afflicted the whole country, as well as his poor servants, who loved him, I may say, better than we did our lives. I am afraid he caught his death the last county sessions, where he would go to see justice done to a poor widow woman, and her fatherless children, that had been wronged by a neighbouring gentleman; for you know, my good master was always the poor man's friend. Upon his coming home, the first complaint he made was, that he had lost his roastbeef stomach, not being able to touch a sirloin, which was served up according to custom: and you know he used to take great delight in it. From that time forward he grew worse and worse, but still kept a good heart to the last. Indeed we were once in great hopes of his recovery, upon a kind
message that was sent him from the widow lady whom he had made love to the forty last years of his life ; but this only proved a lightning before his death. He has bequeathed to this lady, as a token of his love, a great pearl necklace, and a couple of silver bracelets set with jewels, which belonged to my good old lady his mother: he has bequeathed the fine white gelding, that he used to ride a hunting upon, to his chaplain, because he thought he would be kind to him, and has left you all his books. He has, moreover, bequeathed to the chaplain a very pretty tenement with good lands about it. It being a very cold day when he made his will
, he left for mourning, to every man in the parish, a great frieze coat, and to every woman a black riding-hood. It was a most moving sight to see him take leave of his poor servants, commending us all for our fidelity, whilst we were not able to speak a word for weeping. As we most of us are