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of adamant.” 1 The Genius making me no answer, I turned about to address him a second time, but I found that he had left me. I then turned again to the vision which I had been so long contemplating; but instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, and the happy islands, I saw nothing but the long hollow valley of Bagdad, with oxen, sheep, and camels grazing upon the sides of it.
The immortality 2 of the soul is a subject on which I always meditate with great delight. I was yesterday walking alone in one of my friend's 3 woods, and lost myself in it very agreeably, as I was running over in my mind the several arguments that establish this great point, which is the basis of morality, and the source of all the pleasing hopes 4 and secret joys that can arise in the heart of a reasonable creature. I considered those several proofs, drawn —
First, From the nature of the soul itself, and particularly its immateriality; which, though not absolutely necessary to the eternity of its duration, has, I think, been evinced 5 to almost a demonstration.
Secondly, From its passions and sentiments, as particularly from its love of existence, its horror of anni
on the other
adamant. my friends: that is, Sir Roger What is the meaning?
de Coverley's. 2 immortality=im (for in)+ mor 4 pleasing hopes. Point out the tal+ity. Give the meaning of root, same expression in the extract from prefix, and suffix. Would deathless Cato" following this. ness express the same idea?
5 evinced, proved.
hilation, and its hopes of immortality, with that sweet satisfaction which it finds in the practice of virtue, and that uneasiness which follows in it upon the commission of vice.
Thirdly, From the nature of the Supreme Being, whose justice, goodness, wisdom, and veracity are all concerned in this point.
But among these and other excellent arguments for the immortality of the soul, there is one drawn from the perpetual progress of the soul to its perfection, without a possibility of ever arriving at it; which is a hint that I do not remember to have seen opened and improved? by others who have written on this subject, though it seems to me to carry a great weight 3 with it.
How can it enter into the thoughts of man, that the soul, which is capable of such immense perfections, and of receiving new improvements to all eternity, shall fall away into nothing almost as soon as it is created ? Are such abilities made for no purpose ? 4 A brute arrives at a point of perfection that he can never pass: in a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of; and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the same thing he is at present. Were a human souls thus at a stand in her accomplishments, were her faculties to be full blown, and incapable of
I hopes of immortality. How
4 Are such ...
purpose? Has expressed in the “Cato"?
this interrogation all the force of a 2 opened and improved. Ex- negative statement? Change into plain.
such. a great weight. Should we
What pronouns show now use the article? Substitute a that “soul" is personified? synonymous expression.
6 full blown. Explain.
farther enlargements, I could imagine it might fall away insensibly, and drop at once into a state of annihilation1
But can we believe a thinking being that is in a perpetual progress of improvements, and traveling on from perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad into the works of its Creator, and made a few discoveries of his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power, must perish at her first setting out, and in the very beginning of her inquiries?
A man, considered in his present state, does not seem born to enjoy life, but to deliver it down to others. This is not surprising to consider in animals, which are formed for our use, and can finish their business in a short life. The silkworm, after having spun her task, lays her eggs and dies. But a man can never have taken in his full measure of knowledge, has not time to subdue his passions, establish his soul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurried off the stage.?
Would an infinitely wise Being make such glorious creatures for so mean a purpose ? Can he delight in the production of such abortiveintelligences, such short-lived reasonable beings? Would he give us talents that are not to be exerted, capacities that are never to be gratified? How can we find that wisdom which shines through all his works, in the formation of man, without looking on this world as only a
1 annihilation. See Glossary. pare Shakespeare's“ All the world's
2 hurried off the stage. Sub- a stage.” stitute a plain expression. Com 3 abortive. See Webster.
nursery 1 for the next, and believing that the several generations of rational creatures, which rise up and disappear in such quick successions, are only to receive their first rudiments of existence here, and afterwards to be transplanted 2 into a more friendly climate, where they may spread and flourish to all eternity?
There is not, in my opinion, a more pleasing and triumphant consideration in religion than this, of the perpetual progress which the soul makes towards the perfection of its nature, without ever arriving at a period 3 in it. To look upon the soul as going on from strength to strength, to consider that she is to shine for ever with new accessions of glory, and brighten to all eternity; that she will be still adding virtue to virtue and knowledge to knowledge, carries 4 in it something wonderfully agreeable to that ambition which is natural to the mind of man. Nay, it must be a prospect pleasing to God himself, to see his creation ever beautifying in his eyes, and drawing nearer to him by greater degrees of resemblance.
Methinks 5 this single consideration of the progress of a finite spirit to perfection will be sufficient to extinguish all envy in inferior natures, and all contempt in superior.
1 a nursery. What is the figure period. Explain. of speech? (See Def. 3.) In which 4 carries. Does not strict gramof its meanings is “ nursery” here mar require the verb to be in the used?
plural? Why? 2 to be transplanted. This shows 5 methinks. See Glossary. the sense in which“ nursery” is 6 all envy... superior. Which used. What other words in the nouns and adjectives are contrasted same sentence carry out the figure? l in this sentence?
That cherubin," which now appears as a god to a human soul, knows very well that the period will come about in eternity, when the human soul shall be as perfect as he himself now is : nay, when she shall look down upon that degree of perfection as much as she now falls short of it. It is true, the higher nature still advances, and by that means preserves his distance and superiority in the scale of being; but he knows that, how high soever the station is? of which he stands possessed at present, the inferior nature will at length mount up to it, and shine forth in the same degree of glory.
With what astonishment and veneration may we look into our own souls, where there are such hidden stores of virtue and knowledge, such inexhausted forces of perfection !3 We know not yet what we shall bu, nor will it ever enter into the heart of man to coriceive the glory that will be always in reserve for him. The soul, considered with its Creator, is like one of those mathematical lines 4 that may draw nearer to another without the possibility of touching it: and can there be a thought so transporting, as to consider ourselves in these perpetual approaches to Him who is not only the standard of perfection but of happiness?
1 cherubin. See Webster. Which | What kind of sentence grammatform does Milton use?
ically? 2 is. Would it improve the ar- 4 those mathematical lines. rangement to place the verb before These lines are considered in treaits subject ?
tises on Conic Sections: they are 8 With what ... perfection! I called asymptotes.