After his first Plunge into the Sea, he no sooner raised his Head above the Water but he found himself standing by the Side of the Tub, with the great Men of his Court about him, and the holy Man at his Side. He immediately upbraided his Teacher for having sent him on such a Course of Adventures, and betrayed him into so long a State of Misery and Servitude; but was wonderfully surprised when he heard that the State he talked of was only a Dream and Delusion; that he had not stirred from the Place where he then stood; and that he had only dipped his Head into the Water, and immediately taken it out again.
The Mahometan Doctor took this Occasion of instructing the Sultan, that nothing was impossible with God; and that He, with whom a Thousand Years are but as one Day, can, if he pleases, make a single Day, nay a single Moment, appear to any of his Creatures as a Thousand Years.
I shall leave my Reader to compare these Eastern Fables with the Notions of those two great Philosophers whom I have quoted in this Paper; and shall only, by way of Application, desire him to consider how we may extend Life beyond its natural Dimensions, by applying our selves diligently to the Pursuits of Knowledge.
The Hours of a wise Man are lengthened by his Ideas, as those of a Fool are by his Passions: The Time of the one is long, because he does not know what to do with it; so is that of the other, because he distinguishes every Moment of it with useful or amusing Thought; or in other Words, because the one is always wishing it away, and the other always enjoying it.
How different is the View of past Life, in the Man who is grown old in Knowledge and Wisdom, from that of him who is grown old in Ignorance and Folly? The latter is like the Owner of a barren Country that fills his Eye with the Prospect of naked Hills and Plains, which produce nothing either profitable or ornamental; the other beholds a beautiful and spacious Landskip divided into delightful Gardens, green Meadows, fruitful Fields, and can scarce cast his Eye on a single Spot of his Possessions, that is not covered with some beautiful Plant or Flower.
[Footnote 1: Not of himself, but in ’The Usefulness of Natural Philosophy’ (’Works’, ed. 1772, vol. ii. p. 11), Boyle quotes from the old Alchemist, Basil Valentine, who said in his ’Currus Trimnphalis Antimonii’
’That the shortness of life makes
it impossible for one man thoroughly
to learn Antimony, in which every day something of new is
[Footnote 2: ‘Essay on the Human Understanding’, Bk II. ch. 14.]
[Footnote 3: Two English Translations of Malebranche’s ’Search after Truth’ were published in 1694, one by T. Taylor of Magdalen College, Oxford. Malebranche sets out with the argument that man has no innate perception of Duration.]