I do not mean, by what I have here said, that I think any one to blame for taking due Care of their Health. On the contrary, as Cheerfulness of Mind, and Capacity for Business, are in a great measure the Effects of a well-tempered Constitution, a Man cannot be at too much Pains to cultivate and preserve it. But this Care, which we are prompted to, not only by common Sense, but by Duty and Instinct, should never engage us in groundless Fears, melancholly Apprehensions and imaginary Distempers, which are natural to every Man who is more anxious to live than how to live. In short, the Preservation of Life should be only a secondary Concern, and the Direction of it our Principal. If we have this Frame of Mind, we shall take the best Means to preserve Life, without being over-sollicitous about the Event; and shall arrive at that Point of Felicity which Martial has mentioned as the Perfection of Happiness, of neither fearing nor wishing for Death.
In answer to the Gentleman, who tempers his Health by Ounces and by Scruples, and instead of complying with those natural Sollicitations of Hunger and Thirst, Drowsiness or Love of Exercise, governs himself by the Prescriptions of his Chair, I shall tell him a short Fable.
Jupiter, says the Mythologist, to reward the Piety of a certain Country-man, promised to give him whatever he would ask. The Country-man desired that he might have the Management of the Weather in his own Estate: He obtained his Request, and immediately distributed Rain, Snow, and Sunshine, among his several Fields, as he thought the Nature of the Soil required. At the end of the Year, when he expected to see a more than ordinary Crop, his Harvest fell infinitely short of that of his Neighbours: Upon which (says the fable) he desired Jupiter to take the Weather again into his own Hands, or that otherwise he should utterly ruin himself.
[Footnote 1: Dr. Thomas Sydenham died in 1689, aged 65. He was the friend of Boyle and Locke, and has sometimes been called the English Hippocrates; though brethren of an older school endeavoured, but in vain, to banish him as a heretic out of the College of Physicians. His ‘Methodus Curandi Febres’ was first published in 1666.]