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fall infinitely short of what he really is. “There is no end of his greatness :" the most exalted creature he has made, is only capable of adoring it ; none but himself can comprehend it.
The advice of the son of Sirach is very just and sublime in this light. “By his word all things consist. We may speak much, and yet come short; wherefore in sum, he is ali. How shall we be able to magnify Him? for he is great above all his works. The Lord is terrible and very great ; and marvellous in his power. When you glorify the Lord, exalt him as much as you can; for even yet will he far exceed. And when you exalt him, put forth all your strength, and be not weary; for you can never go far enough. Who hath seen him, that he might tell us ? and who can magnify him as he is ? there are yet hid greater things than these be, for we have seen but a few of his works.”
I have here only considered the Supreme Being by the light of reason and philosophy. If we would see him in all the wonders of his mercy, we must have recourse to revelation, which represents him to us, not only as infinitely great and glorious, but as infinitely good and just in his dispensations towards men. But as this is a theory which falls under every one's consideration, though indeed it can never be sufficiently considered, I shall here only take notice of that habitual worship and veneration which we ought to pay to this Almighty Being. We should often refresh our minds with the thoughts of him, and annihilate ourselves before him, in the contemplation of our own worthlessness, and of his transcendent excellency and perfection. This would imprint in our minds such a constant and uninterrupted awe and veneration as that which I am here recommending, and which is in reality a kind of incessant prayer, and reasonable humiliation of the soul before him who made it.
This would effectually kill in us all the little seeds of pride, vanity, and self-conceit, which are apt to shoot up in the minds of such whose thoughts turn more on those comparative advantages which they enjoy over some of their fellow-creatures, than on that infinite distance which is placed between them and the supreme model of all perfection. It would likewise quicken our desires and endeavours of uniting ourselves to him by all the acts of religion and virtue.
Such an habitual homage to the Supreme Being would, in a particular manner, banish from among us that prevailing impiety of using his name on the most trivial occasions.
I find the following passage in an excellent sermon, preached at the funeral of a gentleman who was an honour to his country, and a more diligent as well as successful inquirer into the works of nature, than any other our nation has ever produced. “He had the profoundest veneration for the Great God of heaven and earth, that I have ever observed in any person.
name of God was never mentioned by him without a pause and a visible stop in his discourse ; in which one that knew him particularly above twenty years has told me, that he was so exact, that he does not remember to have observed him once to fail in it."
Every one knows the veneration which was paid by the Jews to a name so great, wonderful, and holy. They would not let it enter even into their religious discourses. What can we then think of those who make use of so tremendous a name in the ordinary expressions of their anger, mirth, and most impertinent passions ? of those who admit it into the most familiar questions and assertions, ludicrous phrases, and works of humour ? not to mention those who violate it by solemn perjuries ? It would be an affront to reason, to endeavour to set forth the horror and profaneness of such a practice. The very mention of it exposes it sufficiently to those in whom the light of nature, not to say religion, is not utterly extinguished.
No. 535. THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13.
Spem longam reseces
HOR. My four hundred and seventy-first speculation turned upon the subject of hope in general. I design this paper as a speculation upon that vain and foolish hope, which is misemployed on temporal objects, and produces many sorrows and calamities in human life.
It is a precept several times inculcated by Horace, that we should not entertain a hope of anything in life,
which lies at a great distance from us. The shortness and uncertainty of our time here makes such a kind of hope unreasonable and absurd. The grave lies unseen between us and the object which we reach after: where one man lives to enjoy the good he has in view, ten thousand are cut off in the pursuit of it.
It happens likewise unluckily, that one hope no sooner dies in us, but another rises up in its stead. We are apt to fancy that we shall be happy and satisfied if we possess ourselves of such and such particular enjoyments; but either by reason of their emptiness, or the natural inquietude of the mind, we have no sooner gained one point but we extend our hopes to another. We still find new inviting scenes and landscapes lying behind those which at a distance terminated our view.
The natural consequences of such reflections are these; that we should take care not to let our hopes run out into too great a length; that we should sufficiently weigh the objects of our hope, whether they be such as we may reasonably expect from them what we proposel in their fruition, and whether they are such as we are pretty sure of attaining, in case our life extend itself so far. If we hope for things which are at too great a distance from us, it is possible that we may be intercepted by death in our progress towards them. If we hope for things of which we have not thoroughly considered the value, our disappointment will be greater than our pleasure in the fruition of them. If we hope for what we are not likely to possess, we act and think in vain, and make life a greater dream and shadow than it really is. Many of the miseries and misfortunes of life proceed from our want of consideration, in one or all of these particulars. They are the rocks on which the sanguine tribe of lovers daily split, and on which the bankrupt, the politician, the alchymist, and projector are cast away in every age. Men of warm imaginations and towering thoughts are apt to overlook the goods of fortune which are near them, for something that glitters in the sight at a distance; to neglect solid and substantial happiness for what is showy and superficial
1 Such as we may reasonably expect from them what we propose, &c.] As is here improperly used for that, the relative for the conjunction. It has its right use in the next sentence—such as we are pretty sure of attaining. But the whole had better been given thus—Such as are likely to yield us what we propose, 8c.—and such as we are pretty sure, &c. It may seem capricious in the author to say—whether they be such, in the first sentence, and whether they are such, in the last. But the conjunction, whether, admitting both the subjunctive and indicative mood, the ear has its choice of either; and Mr. Addison's was a very nice one. Besides, whether they be, is rather the more exact construction of the two, and therefore the repetition of it in the following sentence might appear to Mr. Addison like an affectation of exactness, or, what we call, formality, which his gracious prose is always studious to avoid. However, to palliate this change of the mood, and introduce it with less offence, he does not say,—" whether they be such”-and “are such,” which, by bringing the two moods so close together, would point out their incongruity ; but,
whether they be such," and then again, “ and whether they are such,”in two distinct complete sentences.
1; and to contemn that good which lies within their reach, for that which they are not capable of attaining. Hope calculates its schemes for a long and durable life; presses forward to imaginary points of bliss; and grasps at impossibilities; and consequently very often insnares men into beggary, ruin, and dishonour.
What I have here said, may serve as a moral to an Arabian fable, which I find translated into French by Monsieur Galland. The fable has in it such a wild, but natural simplicity, that I question not but my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and that he will consider ħimself, if he reflects on the several amusements of hope
· The fable has in it such a wild, but natural simplicity, that I question not but my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and that he will consider himself, &c.] This sentence deserves to be well considered: 1. The repetition of but "such a wild, but natural”—“I questioned not but”-has an ill effect. 2. But, in “ I question not but” may seem equivalent to that, for so it follows in the next sentence—“and that he will consider," i. e. I question not, that he will consider.—Why then did he not say—Í question not that, in the first instance ? Certainly, to avoid the repetition of that—that I question not that. After the intervention of a whole sentence, he ventures to assume the regular form-and that he will consider; still the fault is only palliated, not removed. Taking the construction in this light, he had better have expressed himself thus:“ The fable has in it such a wild, but natural simplicity, that I question not but my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and will consider himself," &c. But, 3. But is not equivalent to that.-The sense of this particle is, according to its name, always adversative, though the use of it, in our language, be frequently such as may lead a careless reader to think otherwise. The mystery is only this : but, refers very often to something that passes in the writer's or speaker's mind; and is not expressed. In all cases, the sentence in which it occurs is elliptical ; as that before us, which, when filled up, would run thus-I question not but [believe that] my reader, &c. Sometimes, the ellipsis is only of the verb, as when we say—I question not but that.--All the forms of speaking in which but occurs, and in a sense seemingly not adversative, may be explained in the same manner. The sentence before us is, then, not
which have sometimes passed in his mind, as a near relation to the Persian glass-man.
Alnaschar, says the fable, was a very idle fellow, that never would set his hand to any business during his father's life. When his father died, he left him to the value of a hundred drachmas in Persian money. Alnaschar, in order to make the best of it, laid it out in glasses, bottles, and the finest earthenware. These he piled up in a large open basket, and having made choice of a very little shop, placed the basket at his feet, and leaned his back upon the wall, in expectation of customers. As he sat in this posture with his eyes upon the basket, he fell into a most amusing train of thought, and was overheard by one of his neighbours as he talked to himself in the following manner: This basket (says he) cost me at the wholesale merchant's a hundred drachmas, which is all I have in the world. I shall quickly make two hundred of it, by selling it in retail. These two hundred drachmas will in a very little while rise to four hundred, which of course will amount in time to four thousand. Four thousand drachmas cannot fail of making eight thousand. As soon as by this means I am master of ten thousand, I will lay aside my trade of glass-man, and turn jeweller. I shall then deal in diamonds, pearls, and all ungrammatical ; and is only faulty because it is long and complicated, and something unharmonious, by what could not be avoided, the repetition of that in the last part of it; for, I question not, to which but is opposed, being at a considerable distance, he could not say—but he will consider—as he had said before, but my reader will ; and even then, the sound of but, thus repeated, had been offensive. The way of rectifying the whole passage, is this :-" The fable has in it a very wild and natural air; and I question not but [or but that] my reader will be as much pleased with it as I have been, and will consider himself (if he reflects on the several amusements of hope, which have sometimes passed in his mind) as a near relation to the Persian glass-man.”
As for the ellipsis, it is very frequent, and natural in all languages; the mind hastening to its main conclusion, without stopping to deduce explicitly its intervening ideas : as in the following passage of Euripides
βλέψον προς ημάς, όμμα δός φίλημά τε,
IphIG. IN AUL. 1238. -Yet, the perspicuity of a sentence is something hurt by elliptical forms, and the main character of a polished language is perspicuity. One would, therefore, as much as may be, and when custom has not made them necessary, or sufficiently intelligible, always avoid them.