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poverty and general contempt. In this situation, however, he seems to have been brought to a sense of his folly, and the danger of his condition, from the letter which he wrote to Dr. Barrow, of whom he had an high opinion, on his death-bed, and which is worthy the attention of every man of pleasure and dissipation.
" DEAR DOCTOR, I always looked upon you as a man of true virtue; and know you to be a person of sound judgment. For, however I may act in opposition to the principles of religion, or the dictates of reason, I can honestly assure you, I had always the highest veneration for both. The world and I may shake hands; for. I dare affirm, we are heartily weary of each other. O whæ a prodigal have I been of the most valuable of all possessions, time! I have squandered it away, with a persuasion it was lasting; and now, when a few days would be worth a hecatomb of worlds, I cannot flatter myself with a prospect of half a dozen hours. How despicable is that man who never prays to God, but in the time of his distress! In what manner can he supplicate that omnipotent Being in his affliction, with reverence, whom in the tide of his prosperity, he never remembered with dread? Do not brand me with infidelity, when I tell you, I am almost ashamed to offer up my petitions to the throne of grace; or of imploring that divine mercy in the next world, which I have so
scandalously abused in this. Shall ingratitude to man be looked on as the blackest of crimes, and not ingratitude to God? Shall an insult offered to the king be looked on in the most offensive light; and yet no notice taken when the King of kings is treated with indignity and disrespect? The companions of my former libertinism, would scarce believe their eyes, were you to shew them this epistle. They would laugh at me as a dreaming enthusiast, or pity me as a timorous wretch, who was shocked at the appearance of futurity. They are more entitled to my pity than my
resentment. A future state may very well strike ter
any man who has not acted well in this life: and he must have an uncommon share of courage indeed, who does not shrink at the presence of his God. You see the apprehensions of death, will soon bring the most profligate to a proper use of their understanding. I am haunted by remorse, despised by my acquaintance, and, I fear, forsaken by my God. There is nothing so dangerous, as extraordinary abilities. I cannot be accused of vanity now, by being sensible that I was once possessed of uncommon qualifications; as I sincerely regret that I ever was blest with any at all. My rank in life still made these accomplishments more conspicuous; and, fascinated with the general applause which they procured, I never considered about the proper means by which they should be displayed. Hence, to purchase a smile from a blockhead whom I despised, I have frequently treated the virtuous with disrespect; and sported with the holy name of heaven, to obtain a laugh from a parcel of fools, who were entitled to nothing but my contempt. Men of wit look on themselves as discharged from the du. ties of religion ; and confine the doctrines of the gospel to people of meaner understandings; and look on that man to be of a narrow genius who studies to be good. What a pity that the holy writings are not made the criterion of true judgment !-Favour me with a visit as soon as possible. Writing to you gives
I am of opinion this is the last visit I shall ever solicit from you. My distemper is powerful. Come and pray for the departing spirit of the
me some ease.
(8) This nobleman was a gay, capricious person, of some wit, and great vivacity. He was the minister of riot, and counsellor of infamous practices; the slave of intemperance, a pretended atheist, without honour or principle, economy or discretion. At last deserted by all his friends, and despised by all the world, he died in the greatest want and obscurity. It is of himn that Pope says:
We have also an uncommon alarm given us in a letter from another nobleman on his death-bed, to an intimate companion; which no man can seriously read, and not be deeply affected.
" In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half hung,
Dryden describes this nobleman as being,
Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking." Dillon, earl of Roscommon, contemporary with Buckinghant, was also a man of considerable learning and abilities, but a man of dissipation and licentious principles. He addicted himself im. moderately to gaming, by which he was engaged in frequent quarrels and brought into no little distress. But, however we may be disposed to play the devil when we are in no apparent danger, there is a tiñe coming, when we shall see all things in a more serious point of view. Accordingly, we are told, at the moment this merry nobleman expired, he was constrained to utter, with an energy of voice that expressed the most ardent devotion
-“ My God, my Father, and my Friend,
Do not forsake me in the end." Something like the case of Buckingham and Roscommon, wise, was the last scene of Sheffield, duke of Buckingham, who died in the reign of George the First, if we may credit the lines inscribed by his owh order on his monument:
“ Dubius, sed non improbus vixi.
Ens entium, miserere mei.”
6 DEAR SIR, Before
you receive this, my final state will be determined by the judge of all the earth. In a few days at most, perhaps in a few hours, the inevitable sentence will be past that shall raise me to the heights of happiness, or sink me to the depths of misery. While you read these lines, I shall be either groaning under the agonies of absolute despair, or triumphing in fulness of joy
It is impossible for me to express the present disposition of my soul--the vast uncertainty I am struggling with! No words can paint the force and vivacity of my apprehensions. Every doubt wears the face of horror, and would perfectly overwhelm me, but for some faint beams of hope, which dart across the tremendous gloom! What tongue can utter the anguish of a soul suspended between the extremes of infinite joy, and eternal misery? I am throwing my last stake for eternity, and tremble and shudder for the important event.
Good God! how have I employed myself! what enchantment hath held me? In what delirium hath my life been past? What have I been doing, while the sun in its race, and the stars in their courses, have lent their beams, perhaps, only to light me to perdition!
I never awakened till now. I have but just commenced the dignity of a rational being. Till this instant I had a wrong apprehension of every thing in nature. I have pursued shadows, and entertained myself with dreams. I have been treasuring up dust, and sporting myself with the wind. I look back on my past life, and but for some memorials of guilt and infamy, it is all a blank—a perfect vacancy! I might have grazed with the beasts of the field, or sung with the winged inhabitants in the woods to much better purpose, than
for which I have lived. And oh! but for some faint hope, a thousand times more blessed had I been, to have slept with the clods of the valley, and never
heard the Almighty's fiat, nor waked into life at his command ! I never had a just apprehension of the solemnity of
I am to act till now. I have often met death insulting on the hostile plain, and, with a stupid boast, defied his terrors ; with a courage as brutal as that of the warlike horse, I have rushed into the field of battle, laughed at the glittering spear, and rejoiced at the sound of the trumpet ; nor had a thought of any state beyond the grave, nor the great tribunal to which I must have been summoned ;
" Where all my secret guilt had been reveal'd,
Nor the minutest circumstance conceal'd." It is this which arms death with all its terrors; else I could still mock at fear, and smile in the face of the gloomy monarch. It is not giving up my breath; it is not being forever insensible, that is the thought at which I shrink : it is the terrible hereafter, the something beyond the grave at which I recoil. Those great realities, which, in the hours of mirth and vanity, I have treated as phantoms, as the idle dreams of superstitious beings; these start forth, and dare me now in their most terrible demonstration. My awakened conscience feels something of that eternal vengeance I have often defied.
To what heights of madness is it possible for human nature to reach? What extravagance is it to jest with death! to laugh at damnation! to sport with eternal chains, and recreate a jovial fancy with the scenes of infernal misery!
Were there no impiety in this kind of mirth, it would be as ill-bred as to entertain a dying friend with the sight of an harlequin, or the rehearsal of a farce. Every thing in nature seems to reproach this levity in human creatures. The whole creation, inan excepted, is serious : man, who has the highest reason to be so, while he has affairs of infinite consequence depending on this short uncertain duration.