Графични страници
PDF файл

death conduce to his good. My reader will observe how agreeable this maxim is to what we find delivered by a greater authority. Seneca has written a discourse purposely on this subject, in which he takes pains, after the doctrine of the Stoics, to show that adversity is not in itself an evil; and mentions a notable saying of Demetrius, "That nothing would be more unhappy than a man who had never known affliction." He compares prosperity to the indulgence of a fond, mother to a child, which often proves his ruin; but the affection of the Divine Being to that of a wise father, who would have his sons exercised with labour, disappointment, and pain, that they may gather strength, and improve their fortitude. On this occasion the philosopher rises into that celebrated sentiment, "That there is not on earth a spectacle more worthy the regard of a Creator intent on his works, than a brave man superior to his sufferings;" to which he adds, "That it must be a pleasure to Jupiter himself to look down from heaven, and see Cato amidst the ruins of his country preserving his integrity."

This thought will appear yet more reasonable, if we consider human life as a state of probation, and adversity as the post of honour in it, assigned often to the best and most select spirits.

But what I would chiefly insist upon here, is, that we are not at present in a proper situation to judge of the counsels by which Providence acts, since but little arrives at our knowledge, and even that little we discern imperfectly; or, according to the elegant figure in holy writ, "We see but in part, and as in a glass darkly." It is to be considered that Providence, in its oeconomy, regards the whole system of time and things together, so that we cannot discover the beautiful connexions between incidents which lie widely separated in time, and by losing so many links of the chain our reasonings become broken and imperfect. Thus those parts in the moral world which have not an absolute, may yet have a relative beauty, in respect of some other parts concealed from us, but open to His eyes before whom "past, present," and "to come,' are set together in one point of view; and those events, the permission of which seems now to accuse His goodness, may, in the consummation of things, both magnify his goodness and exalt his wisdom. And this is enough to check our presumption, since it is in vain to


[ocr errors]


apply our measures of regularity to matters of which we know neither the antecedents nor the consequents, the beginning nor the end.

I shall relieve my readers from this abstracted thought, by relating here a Jewish tradition concerning Moses, which seems to be a kind of parable, illustrating what I have last mentioned. That great prophet, it is said, was called up by a voice from heaven to the top of a mountain; where, in a conference with the Supreme Being, he was permitted to propose to him some questions concerning his administration of the universe. In the midst of this divine colloquy he was commanded to look down on the plain below. At the foot of the mountain there issued out a clear spring of water, at which a soldier alighted from his horse to drink. He was no sooner gone, than a little boy came to the same place, and finding a purse of gold, which the soldier had dropped, took it up, and went away with it. Immediately after this came an infirm old man, weary with age and travelling, and having quenched his thirst, sat down to rest himself by the side of the spring. The soldier, missing his purse, returns to search for it, and demands it of the old man, who affirms he had not seen it, and appeals to heaven in witness of his innocence. The soldier, not believing his protestations, kills him. Moses fell on his face with horror and amazement, when the Divine Voice thus prevented his expostulation; "Be not surprised, Moses, nor ask why the Judge of the whole earth has suffered this thing to come to pass: the child is the occasion that the blood of the old man is spilt; but know, that the old man whom thou sawest, was the murderer of that child's father."


-Bella, horrida bella! VIRG.

I HAVE sometimes amused myself with considering the several methods of managing a debate, which have obtained in the world.

The first races of mankind used to dispute, as our ordinary people do now-a-days, in a kind of wild logic, uncultivated by rules of art.

Socrates introduced a catechetical method of arguing.

He would ask his adversary question upon question, till he had convinced him out of his own mouth that his opinions were wrong. This way of debating drives an enemy up into a corner, seizes all the passes through which he can make an escape, and forces him to surrender at discretion.

Aristotle changed this method of attack, and invented a great variety of little weapons, called syllogisms. As in the Socratic way of dispute you agree to everything which your opponent advances, in the Aristotelic you are still denying and contradicting some part or other of what he says. Socrates conquers you by stratagem; Aristotle by force: the one takes the town by sap, the other sword in hand.

The universities of Europe, for many years, carried on their debates by syllogism, insomuch that we see the knowledge of several centuries laid out into objections and answers, and all the good sense of the age cut and minced into almost an infinitude of distinctions.

When our universities found that there was no end of wrangling this way, they invented a kind of argument, which is not reducible to any mood or figure of Aristotle. It was called the Argumentum Basilinum, (others write it Bacilinum or Baculinum,) which is pretty well expressed in our English word "club-law." When they were not able to confute their antagonist, they knocked him down. It was their method, in these polemical debates, first to discharge their syllogisms, and afterwards to betake themselves to their clubs, till such time as they had one way or other confounded their gainsayers. There is in Oxford a narrow defile, (to make use of a military term,) where the partisans used to encounter, for which reason it still retains the name of "Logic Lane." I have heard an old gentleman, a physician, make his boasts, that when he was a young fellow, he marched several times at the head of a troop of Scotists, and cudgelled a body of Smiglesians half the length of High Street, till they had dispersed themselves for shelter into their respective garrisons.

This humour, I find, went very far in Erasmus's time. For that author tells us, that upon the revival of Greek letters, most of the universities in Europe were divided into Greeks and Trojans. The latter were those who bore a mortal hatred to the language of the Grecians, insomuch that if they met with any who understood it, they did not fail to treat

him as a foe. Erasmus himself had, it seems, the misfortune to fall into the hands of a party of Trojans, who laid him on with so many blows and buffets, that he never forgot their hostilities to his dying day.

There is a way of managing an argument not much unlike the former, which is made use of by states and communities, when they draw up a hundred thousand disputants on each side, and convince one another by dint of sword. A certain grand monarch was so sensible of his strength in this way of reasoning, that he writ upon his great guns-Ratio ultima Regum, "The Logic of Kings;" but, God be thanked, he is now pretty well baffled at his own weapons. When one has to do with a philosopher of this kind, one should remember the old gentleman's saying, who had been engaged in an argument with one of the Roman emperors. Upon his friend's telling him, that he wondered he would give up the question, when he had visibly the better of the dispute, "I am never ashamed (says he) to be confuted by one who is master of fifty legions."

[ocr errors]

I shall but just mention another kind of reasoning, which may be called arguing by poll; and another, which is of equal force, in which wagers are made use of as arguments, according to the celebrated line in Hudibras.

But the most notable way of managing a controversy, is that which we call " Arguing by torture." This is a method of reasoning which has been made use of with the poor refugees, and which was so fashionable in our country during the reign of Queen Mary, that in a passage of an author quoted by Monsieur Bayle, it is said, the price of wood was raised in England by reason of the executions that were made in Smithfield. These disputants convince their adversaries with a sorites, commonly called a pile of faggots. The rack is also a kind of syllogism which has been used with good effect, and has made multitudes of converts. Men were formerly disputed out of their doubts, reconciled to truth by force of reason, and won over to opinions by the candour, sense, and ingenuity of those who had the right on their side; but this method of conviction operated too slowly. Pain was found to be much more enlightening than reason. Every scruple was looked upon as obstinacy, and not to be removed but by several engines invented for that purpose. In a word, the

application of whips, racks, gibbets, galleys, dungeons, fire and faggot in a dispute, may be looked upon as popish refinements upon the old heathen logic.

There is another way of reasoning which seldom fails, though it be of a quite different nature to that I have last mentioned. I mean, convincing a man by ready money, or, as it is ordinarily called, bribing a man to an opinion. This method has often proved successful, when all the others have been made use of to no purpose. A man who is furnished with arguments from the mint, will convince the antagonist much sooner than one who draws them from reason and philosophy. Gold is a wonderful clearer of the understanding; it dissipates every doubt and scruple in an instant; accommodates itself to the meanest capacities: silences the loud and clamorous, and brings over the most obstinate and inflexible. Philip of Macedon was a man of most invincible reason this way. He refuted by it all the wisdom of Athens, confounded their statesmen, struck their orators dumb, and at length argued them out of all their liberties.

Having here touched upon the several methods of disputing, as they have prevailed in different ages of the world, I shall very suddenly give my reader an account of the whole art of cavilling; which shall be a full satisfactory answer to all such papers and pamphlets as have yet appeared against the SPECTATOR.


-Semperque relinqui

Sola sibi, semper longam incomitata videtur

Ire viam




Though you have considered virtuous love in most of its distresses, I do not remember that you have given us any dissertation the absence of lovers, or. laid down any methods how they should support themselves under those long separations which they are sometimes forced to undergo. I am at present in this unhappy circumstance, having parted with the best of husbands, who is abroad in the service of his country, and may not possibly return for some years.

« ПредишнаНапред »