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The friend whom I have lost was a man eminent for genius, and, like others of the same class, sufficiently pleased with acceptance and applause. Being caressed by those who have preferments and riches in their disposal, he considered himself as in the direct road to advancement, and had caught the flame of ambition by approaches to its object. But in the midst of his hopes, his projects, and his gaieties, he was seized by a lingering disease, which, from its first stage, he knew to be incurable. Here was an end of all his visions of greatness and happiness. From the first hour that his health declined, all his former pleasures grew tasteless. His friends expected to please him by those accounts of the growth of his reputation, which were formerly certain of being well receiv. ed: but they soon found how little he was now affected by compliments, and how vainly they attempted, by flattery, to exhilirate the languor of weakness, and relieve the solicitude of approach ing death. Whoever would know how much piety and virtue surpass all external goods, might here have seen them weighed against each other : where all that gives motion to the active, and elevation to the eminent; all that sparkles in the eye of hope, and pants in the bosom of suspicion, at once became dust in the balance, without weight and without regard. Riches, authority, and praise, los: all their influence when they are considered as riches which tomorrow shall be be. stowed upon another: authority which shall this night expire for ever, and praise which, however merited, or however sincere, shall, after a few moments, be heard no more.
• In those hours of seriousness and wisdom, every thing that terminated on this side of the grave was received with coldness and indiffera ence; and regarded rather in consequence of the habit of valuing it, than from any opinion that it deserved value. It had little more prevalence over his mind than a bubble that was new bro. ken, a dream from which he was awake. His whole powers were engrossed by the considerae tion of another state, and all conversation was tedious, that had not some tendency to disengage him from human affairs, and open his prospects into futurity.
' It is now past: we have closed his eyes,
and heard him breathe the groan of expiration. At
the sight of this last conflict, I felt a sensation, never known to me before, a confusion of
passions, an awful stillness of sorrow, a gloomy terrour without a name. The thoughts that entered my soul were too strong to be diverted, and too piercing to be endured; but such violence cannot be lasting: the storm subsided in a short time. I wept, retired, and grew calm.
'I have, from that time, frequently revolved in my mind, the effects which the observation of death produces in those who are not wholly without the power and use of reflection ; for, by far the greater part, it is wholly unregarded; their friends and their enemies sink into the grave without raising any uncommon emotion, or reminding them that they are themselves on the edge of the precipice, and that they must soon plunge into the gulph of eternity.
Surely, nothing can so much disturb the
passions, or perplex the intellects of man, as the disruption of his union with visible nature; a separation from all that has hitherto delighted or engaged him; a change not only of the place,
but the manner of his being; an entrance into a state, not simply which he knows not, but which, perhaps, he has not faculties to know; an immediate and perceptible communication with the supreme Being, and, what is above adl distressful and alarming, the final sentence, and unalterable allotment.
*Yet we, to whom the shortness of life has given frequent occasions of contemplating mortality, can, without emotion, see generations of men pass away, and are at leisure to establish modes of sorrow, and adjust the ceremonial of death. look upon
pomp as a common spectacle in which we have no concern, and turn away from it to trifles and amusements, without dejection of look, or inquietude of heart.
• It is, indeed, apparent from the constitution of the world, that there must be a time for other thoughts; and a perpetual meditation upon the last hour, however it may become the solitude of a monastery, is inconsistent with many duties of common life. But surely the remembrance of death ought to predominate in our minds as an habitual and settled principle, always operating though not always perceived ; and our attention should seldom wander so far from our own condition, as not to be recalled and fixed by the sight of an event, which must soon, we know not how soon, happen likewise to ourselves, and of which, though we cannot appoint the time, we may secure the
"Every instance of death may justly awaken our fears, and quicken our vigilance; but its frequency so much weakens its effect, that we are seldom alarmed, unless some close connexion is broken, some scheme frustrated, or some hope defeated. Many, therefore, seem to pass on from youth to decrepitude without any reflection on the end of life, because they are wholly involved within themselves, and look on others' only as inhabitants of the common earth, without any expectation of receiving good, or intention of bestowing it.
'Custom so far regulates the sentiments of common minds, that I believe men may be generally observed to grow less tender as they advance in age. He who, when life was new, melted at