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body, or estate, does the hand of time sign a release, welcome and glorious !
Insensible to the changes of boisterous elements and the revolutions of states; those who have put off the fragile armour of mortals, are calmly deposited into those mansions of peace, where in the comfortable language of him, who once so ardently prayed a change, “ The wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest."
It was the opinion of an ancient writer, ¢ that the God's concealed from men the happiness of death, that they might be the better reconciled to endure the pains of life.” A famous and warlike nation, without being instructed by teachers, but purely from their own observations of the state and circumstances of human existence, were accustomed to celebrate the birth of men with mourning, and their death with joy: and the writer of
Ecclesiastes has not scrupled to assert, that " the day of death is better than the day of one's birth.”
If the heathen Socrates, in the face of his Judges, before he was condemned to drink the fatal draught of hemlock, could tell them, that to die was a pleasure, since “ he was going to hold converse with the greatest heroes of antiquity:"-if Cato could proudly exclaim, “ Let guilt or fear disturb man's rest, Cato knows neither of them, indifferent in his choice to live or die:” if the moral Seneca, when sentenced to die by the mandate of an infamous Emperor, could, with undaunted resolution and serene countenance, watch the vital stream escaping from its channel, and before his weeping friends, during this lingering operation, could read animated and sensible discourses in the cause of virtue; take shame to thyself whoever thou art, in this age of Christian philosophy, with all these instances of fortitude, and the nobler ones of saints and martyrs at being a slave to the fears of death!
It is just as natural to die as to be born. Great indeed is the number of those, who, while sublimer thoughts should dignify the soul, and give wings to hope, are clinging about this perishing earth, as ivy does about the oak, and would greedily purchase, at an immense cost, if money could effect it, an enlargement of life, or even a short respite, from what inevitably must happen at last.
It is therefore no longer matter of astonishment, that with sentiments unworthy as these are, of candidates for a higher desig nation, that every thing, which reluctantly jogs the memory, that time is beating against them the quick march of dissolution, is received with aversion, nay, with horror! The sight of a coffin, the sound of a passing knell, the picture of a hatchment, have even with well taught minds, too much of dispiriting influence.
The anxieties of death are unquestionably lessened or augmented, according to the different forms and ceremonies of its approach. He who dies in the field of battle, is surveyed with feelings rather of emulation than of pain. The culprit, who is attended to the gallows with all the dismal forms of justice, excites in the spectator, emotions of a most painful nature: it is not therefore the simple act of dying, which produces this difference of sensation, but only the variation of its form.
To the most covetous of life, irksome and even dreadful would be that sentence, which decreed against him, an immortality on earth, or that he could never die! for though it be in the power of the weakest instrument to deprive us of life, it should be reflected on as the greatest blessing, that it is not in
the power of the strongest, to deprive us of the relief of death.
Excellent was the advice of Seneca against the fear of death, when he tells us, that to avoid the dread of it, we should frequently contemplate on that event. But like to an unwelcome guest, we elude the visit: still the lectures of time will obtrude themselves, and in spite of every artifice will be heard.
From twenty even to threescore, we are very adroit to parry off the address of age, and refer it to some one older; but when disguise will serve no longer, and we have rusted out a few years more, it is then only, with some reluctance and reserve, that we give in our names to the list of antiquity!
And at this period, where courteous and respectful attention ought chiefly to begin; to the dishonour of youth, of both sexes, it too often unfeelingly ends. We are apt to