No. 537. Saturday, November 15, 1712. J. Hughes.

[Greek: Tou mèn gàr génos esmén--]



'It has been usual to remind Persons of Rank, on great Occasions in Life, of their Race and Quality, and to what Expectations they were born; that by considering what is worthy of them, they may be withdrawn from mean Pursuits, and encouraged to laudable Undertakings. This is turning Nobility into a Principle of Virtue, and making it productive of Merit, as it is understood to have been originally a Reward of it.

'It is for the like reason, I imagine, that you have in some of your Speculations asserted to your Readers the Dignity of Human Nature. But you cannot be insensible that this is a controverted Doctrine; there are Authors who consider Human Nature in a very different View, and Books of Maxims have been written to shew the Falsity of all Human Virtues. The Reflections which are made on this Subject usually take some Tincture from the Tempers and Characters of those that make them. Politicians can resolve the most shining Actions among Men into Artifice and Design; others, who are soured by Discontent, Repulses, or ill Usage, are apt to mistake their Spleen for Philosophy; Men of profligate Lives, and such as find themselves incapable of rising to any Distinction among their Fellow-Creatures, are for pulling down all Appearances of Merit, which seem to upbraid them: and Satirists describe nothing but Deformity. From all these Hands we have such Draughts of Mankind as are represented in those burlesque Pictures, which the Italians call Caracatura's; where the Art consists in preserving, amidst distorted Proportions and aggravated Features, some distinguishing Likeness of the Person, but in such a manner as to transform the most agreeable Beauty into the most odious Monster.

'It is very disingenuous to level the best of Mankind with the worst, and for the Faults of Particulars to degrade the whole Species. Such Methods tend not only to remove a Man's good Opinion of others, but to destroy that Reverence for himself, which is a great Guard of Innocence, and a Spring of Virtue.

'It is true indeed that there are surprizing Mixtures of Beauty and Deformity, of Wisdom and Folly, Virtue and Vice, in the Human Make; such a Disparity is found among Numbers of the same Kind, and every Individual, in some Instances, or at some Times, is so unequal to himself, that Man seems to be the most wavering and inconsistent Being in the whole Creation. So that the Question in Morality, concerning the Dignity of our Nature, may at first sight appear like some difficult Questions in Natural Philosophy, in which the Arguments on both Sides seem to be of equal Strength. But as I began with considering this Point as it relates to Action, I shall here borrow an admirable Reflection from Monsieur Pascal, which I think sets it in its proper Light.

'_It is of dangerous Consequence_, says he, _to represent to Man how
near he is to the Level of Beasts, without shewing him at the same
time his_ Greatness. _It is likewise dangerous to let him see his
Greatness, without his_ Meanness. _It is more dangerous yet to leave
him ignorant of either; but very beneficial that he should be made
sensible of both._ [1]

Whatever Imperfections we may have in our Nature, it is the Business of Religion and Virtue to rectify them, as far as is consistent with our present State. In the mean time, it is no small Encouragement to generous Minds to consider that we shall put them all off with our Mortality. That sublime Manner of Salutation with which the Jews approached their Kings,

O King, _live for ever!_

may be addressed to the lowest and most despised Mortal among us, under all the Infirmities and Distresses with which we see him surrounded. And whoever believes the Immortality of the Soul, will not need a better Argument for the Dignity of his Nature, nor a stronger Incitement to Actions suitable to it.

'I am naturally led by this Reflection to a Subject I have already touched upon in a former Letter, and cannot without pleasure call to mind the Thoughts of Cicero to this purpose, in the close of his Book concerning Old Age. Every one who is acquainted with his Writings, will remember that the elder Cato is introduced in that Discourse as the Speaker, and Scipio and Lelius as his Auditors. This venerable Person is represented looking forward as it were from the Verge of extreme Old Age, into a future State, and rising into a Contemplation on the unperishable Part of his Nature, and its Existence after Death. I shall collect Part of his Discourse. And as you have formerly offered some Arguments for the Soul's Immortality, agreeable both to Reason and the Christian Doctrine, I believe your Readers will not be displeased to see how the same great Truth shines in the Pomp of Roman Eloquence.

"This, says _Cato_, my firm Persuasion, that since the human Soul
exerts it self with so great Activity, since it has such a
Remembrance of the Past, such a Concern for the Future, since it is
enriched with so many Arts, Sciences and Discoveries, it is
impossible but the Being which contains all these must be Immortal.
"The elder _Cyrus_, just before his Death, is represented by
XENOPHON speaking after this Manner."
'_Think not, my dearest Children, that when I depart from you I
shall be no more, but remember, that my Soul, even while I lived
among you, was invisible to you; yet by my Actions you were
sensible it existed in this Body. Believe it therefore existing
still, though it be still unseen. How quickly would the Honours of
illustrious Men perish after Death, if their Souls performed
nothing to preserve their Fame? For my own part, I never could
think that the Soul while in a mortal Body, lives, but when
departed out of it, dies; or that its Consciousness is lost when
it is discharged out of an unconscious Habitation. But when it is
freed from all corporeal Alliance, then it truly exists. Further,
since the Human Frame is broken by Death, tell us what becomes of
its Parts? It is visible whither the Materials of other Beings are
translated, namely to the Source from whence they had their Birth.
The Soul alone, neither present nor departed, is the Object of our
Eyes._' [2]
"Thus _Cyrus_. But to proceed. No one shall persuade me, _Scipio_,
that your worthy Father, or your Grandfathers _Paulus_ and
_Africanus_, or _Africanus_ his Father, or Uncle, or many other
excellent Men whom I need not name, performed so many Actions to be
remembered by Posterity, without being sensible that Futurity was
their Right. And, if I may be allowed an old Man's Privilege, to
speak of my self, do you think I would have endured the Fatigue of
so many wearisome Days and Nights both at home and abroad, if I
imagined that the same Boundary which is set to my Life must
terminate my Glory? Were it not more desirable to have worn out my
days in Ease and Tranquility, free from Labour, and without
Emulation? But I know not how, my Soul has always raised it self,
and looked forward on Futurity, in this View and Expectation, that
when it shall depart out of Life, it shall then live for ever; and
if this were not true, that the Mind is immortal, the Souls of the
most worthy would not, above all others, have the strongest Impulse
to Glory.
"What besides this is the Cause that the wisest Men die with the
greatest Æquanimity, the ignorant with the greatest Concern? Does it
not seem that those Minds which have the most extensive Views,
foresee they are removing to a happier Condition, which those of a
narrower Sight do not perceive? I, for my part, am transported with
the Hope of seeing your Ancestors, whom I have honoured and loved,
and am earnestly desirous of meeting not only those excellent
Persons whom I have known, but those too of whom I have heard and
read, and of whom I myself have written: nor would I be detained
from so pleasing a Journey. O happy Day, when I shall escape from
this Croud, this Heap of Pollution, and be admitted to that Divine
Assembly of exalted Spirits! When I shall go not only to those great
Persons I have named, but to my _Cato_, my Son, than whom a better
Man was never born, and whose Funeral Rites I my self performed,
whereas he ought rather to have attended mine. Yet has not his Soul
deserted me, but, seeming to cast back a Look on me, is gone before
to those Habitations to which it was sensible I should follow him.
And though I might appear to have born my Loss with Courage, I was
not unaffected with it, but I comforted myself in the Assurance that
it would not be long before we should meet again, and be divorced no
_I am, SIR, &c._"'

I question not but my Reader will be very much pleased to hear, that the Gentleman who has obliged the World with the foregoing Letter, and who was the Author of the 210th Speculation on the Immortality of the Soul, [the 375th on Virtue in Distress,] the 525th on Conjugal Love, and two or three other very fine ones among those which are not lettered at the end, will soon publish a noble Poem, Intitled An Ode to the Creator of the World, occasioned by the Fragments of Orpheus.

[Footnote 1: Pensées. Part I. Art. iv. 7.]

[Footnote 2: Cyropædia, Book viii.]

Translation of motto:
For we are his offspring.'
(Acts xvii. 28.)