[Footnote 1: Of the poems of Simonides, contemporary of AEschylus, only fragments remain. He died about 467 B.C.]
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No. 210. Wednesday, Oct. 31, 1711. John Hughes.
Nescio quomodo inhaeret in mentibus quasi
seculorum quoddam augurium
futurorum; idque in maximis ingeniis altissimisque animis et existit
maxime et apparet facillime.
Cic. Tusc. Quaest.
To the SPECTATOR.
I am fully persuaded that one of the best Springs of generous and worthy Actions, is the having generous and worthy Thoughts of our selves. Whoever has a mean Opinion of the Dignity of his Nature, will act in no higher a Rank than he has allotted himself in his own Estimation. If he considers his Being as circumscribed by the uncertain Term of a few Years, his Designs will be contracted into the same narrow Span he imagines is to bound his Existence. How can he exalt his Thoughts to any thing great and noble, who only believes that, after a short Turn on the Stage of this World, he is to sink into Oblivion, and to lose his Consciousness for ever?
For this Reason I am of Opinion, that so useful and elevated a Contemplation as that of the Souls Immortality cannot be resumed too often. There is not a more improving Exercise to the human Mind, than to be frequently reviewing its own great Privileges and Endowments; nor a more effectual Means to awaken in us an Ambition raised above low Objects and little Pursuits, than to value our selves as Heirs of Eternity.
It is a very great Satisfaction to consider the best and wisest of Mankind in all Nations and Ages, asserting, as with one Voice, this their Birthright, and to find it ratify’d by an express Revelation. At the same time if we turn our Thoughts inward upon our selves, we may meet with a kind of secret Sense concurring with the Proofs of our own Immortality.
You have, in my Opinion, raised a good presumptive Argument from the increasing Appetite the Mind has to Knowledge, and to the extending its own Faculties, which cannot be accomplished, as the more restrained Perfection of lower Creatures may, in the Limits of a short Life. I think another probable Conjecture may be raised from our Appetite to Duration it self, and from a Reflection on our Progress through the several Stages of it: We are complaining, as you observe in a former Speculation, of the Shortness of Life, and yet are perpetually hurrying over the Parts of it, to arrive at certain little Settlements, or imaginary Points of Rest, which are dispersed up and down in it.
Now let us consider what happens to us when we arrive at these imaginary Points of Rest: Do we stop our Motion, and sit down satisfied in