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find them, in the next breath, applauding or condemning every measure or institution, according to its supposed tendency to increase or diminish wealth. You will find them not only readily accepting wealth themselves from any honourable source, and anxious to secure from poverty their children and all most dear to them (for this might be referred to the prevalence of passion over principle), but even offering up solemn prayers to Heaven for the prosperity of their native country ; and contemplating with joy a flourishing condition of her agriculture, manufactures, or commerce; in short, of the sources of her wealth. Seneca's discourses in praise of poverty would, I have no doubt, be rivalled by many writers of this island, if one half of the revenues he drew from the then inhabitants of it, by lending them money at high interest, were proposed as a prize. Such declaimers against wealth resemble the Harpies of Virgil, seeking to excite disgust at the banquet of which they are themselves eager to partake.'
• Have no abstract or friarly contempt of them.' • The goods of this world are not at all a trifling concern to Christians, considered as Christians. Whether, indeed, we ourselves shall have enjoyed a large or a small share of them, will be of no importance to us a hundred years hence; but it will be of the greatest importance whether we shall have employed the faculties and opportunities granted to us, in the increase and diffusion of those benefits among others. For, in regard to wealth, as well as all those objects which the great moralist of antiquity places in the class of things good in themselves (at lôs åyalà), more depends, as he himself remarks, on the use we make of these bounties of Providence, than on the advantages themselves. They are, in themselves, goods ; and it is our part, instead of affecting ungratefully to slight or to complain of God's gifts, to endeavour to make them goods to us (ņuiv åyalà), by studying to use them aright, and to promote, through them, the best interests of ourselves and our fellow-creatures. Every situation in which Man can be placed has, along with its own peculiar advantages, its own peculiar difficulties and trials also; which we are called on to exert our faculties in providing against. The most fertile soil does not necessarily bear the most abundant harvest; its weeds, if neglected, will grow the rankest. And the servant who has received but one talent, if he put it out to use, will fare better than he who has been intrusted with five, if he squander or bury them. But still, this last does not suffer because he received five talents; but because he has not used them to advantage.'
1 Arist. Eth. b. v. c. 3.
ESSAY XXXV. OF PROPHECIES.
T MEAN not to speak of divine prophecies, nor of heathen
oracles, nor of natural predictions, but only of prophecies that have been of certain memory, and from hidden causes. Saith the Pythonissa' to Saul, To-morrow thou and thy sons shall be with me." Virgil hath these verses from Homer:
• At domus Æneæ cunctis dominabitur oris,
& prophecy, as it seems, of the Roman empire. Seneca the tragedian hath these verses :
a prophecy of the discovery of America. The daughter of Polycrates dreamed that Jupiter bathed her father, and Apollo anointed him ; and it came to pass that he was crucified in an open place, where the sun made his body run with sweat, and the rain washed it. Philip of Macedone dreamed he sealed up his wife's belly; whereby he did expound it, that his wife should be barren; but Aristander the soothsayer told him his wife was with child, because men do not use to seal vessels that are empty. A phantom that appeared to M. Brutus in his tent, said to him, Philippis iterum me videbis." Tiberius said to Galba, “Tu quoque, Galba, degustabis imperium.'8 In Vespasian's time there went a prophecy in the East, that those that should come forth of Judea should reign over the world ; which, though it may be was meant of our Saviour, yet Tacitus expounds it of Vespasian.' Domitian dreamed, the night before he was slain, that a golden head was growing out of the nape of his neck; and, indeed, the succession that followed him, for many years, made golden times. Henry VI. of England said of Henry VII. when he was a lad, and gave him water, • This is the lad that shall enjoy the crown for which we strive.' When I was in France, I heard from one Dr. Pena, that the queen-mother, who was given to curious arts, caused the king her husband's nativity to be calculated under a false name, and the astrologer gave a judgment that he should be killed in a duel ; at which the queen laughed, thinking her husband to be above challenges and duels; but he was slain upon a course at tilt, the splinters of the staff of Montgomery going in at his beaver. The trivial prophecy which I heard when I was a child, and Queen Elizabeth was in the flower of her years, was,
i Pythonissa. Pythoness.
i 1 Sam. xxviji. 19. 3 Over every shore the house of Æneas shall reign; his children's children, and their posterity likewise.'- Æneid, iii. 97.
4 • There shall come a time, in later ages, when Ocean shall relax his chains, and a vast continent appear; and a pilot shall find new worlds, and Thule shall be no more earth's bound.'-Sen. Med. xi. 375. 5 Hesiod. iii. 24.
6 Plut. Vit. Alexan, 2. 7 Thou shalt see me again at Philippi.'- Appian, Bell. Civ. iv. 134. 8. Thou, also, Galba, shall taste of empire.'--Stat. Vit. Galba.
. When hempe is spun,
England's done : whereby it was generally conceived, that after the princes had reigned which had the principal letters of that word hempe, which were Henry, Edward, Mary, Philip, and Elizabeth, England should come to utter confusion; which, thanks be to God, is verified in the change of the name, for the king's style is now no more of England, but of Britain. There was also another prophecy before the year of eighty-eight, which I do not well understand:
• There shall be seen upon a day,
For after wars shall you have none.' It was generally conceived to be meant of the Spanish fleet that came in eighty-eight; for that the king of Spain's surname, as they say, is Norway. The prediction of Regiomontanus,
Octogesimus octavus mirabilis annus ;'* was thought likewise accomplished in the sending of that great fleet, being the greatest in strength, though not in number, of all that ever swam upon the sea. As for Cleon's dream,' I think it was a jest—it was, that he was devoured of? a long dragon; and it was expounded of a maker of sausages, that troubled him exceedingly. There are numbers of the like kind, especially if you include dreams, and predictions of astrology; but I have set down these few only of certain credit, for example.
1 Tacit. Hist. v. 13.
2 Suet. Vit. Domit. 23.
My judgment is, that they ought all to be despised, and ought to serve but for winter-talk by the fireside. Though when I say despised, I mean it as for belief—for otherwise, the spreading or publishing of them is in no sort to be despised for they have done much mischief, and I see many severe laws made to suppress them. That that hath given them grace, and some credit, consisteth in three things. First, that men mark when they hit, and never mark when they miss; as they do, generally, also of dreams. The second is, that probable conjectures, or obscure traditions, many times turn themselves into prophecies : while the nature of Man, which coveteth divination, thinks it no peril to foretell that which indeed they do but collect, as that of Seneca's verse; for so much was then subject to demonstration, that the globe of the earth had great parts beyond the Atlantic, which might be probably conceived not to be all sea, and adding thereto the tradition in Plato's Timceus and his Atlanticus, it might encourage one to turn it to a prediction. The third and last, which is the great one, is, that almost all of them, being infinite in number, have been impostures, and by idle and crafty brains, merely contrived and feigned, after the event past.
Aristoph. Equit. 195. 2 Of. By. Lest a more bonourable man than thou be bidden of him.'-Luke xiv. 8.