Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER LVII.

THE FORCE OF CONSCIENCE.

IL

a man of

and confider-

"

A able wealth, having occafion in the way of his

bufinefs to travel at fome diftance from the place of his abode, took with him a servant, in order to take care of his portmanteau. He had with him fome of his best jewels, and a large sum of money, to which his fervant was likewife privy; the mafter having occafion to difmount on the road, the fervant watching his opportunity, took a piftol from his master's faddle, and shot him dead on the spot; then rifling him of his jewels and money, and hanging large stone to his neck, he threw him into the nearest canal.

2. With this booty he made off to a distant part of the country, where he had reafon to believe that neither he nor his master were known. There he began to trade in a very low way at firft, that his obfcurity might screen him from obfervation, and in the courfe of feveral years, feemed to rife by the natural progrefs of bufinefs, inte wealth and confideration;, fo that this good fortune appeared at once the effect and reward of industry and virtue.

3. Of thefe he counterfeited the appearance fo well, that he grew into great credit, married into a reputable family, and by laying out his fulden stores discreetly, as he faw occafion, and joining to all an univerfal affability, he was admitted to a fhare of the government of the town, and rose from one poft to another, till at length he was chofen chief magiftrate. In this office he maintained a fair character, and continued to fill it with no fmall applaufe, both as Governor and as a Judge; till one day as he fat on the bench with fome of his fellow judges, a criminal was brought before him, who was ac cufed of murdering his master.

4. The evidence came out full, the jury brought in their verdict that the prifoner was guilty, and the whole affemb'y waited for the fentence of the Prefident of the eourt (which he happened to be that day) with great fufpenfe. Meanwhile he appeared to be in unusual diforder

and agitation of mind, his colour often changed; at length he arofe from his feat, and coming down from the bench, placed himself just by the unfortunate man at the bar, to the aftonifhment of all the people.

5. "You fee before you," faid he, addreffing himself to his fellow judges, "you fee before you a ftriking inítance of the just awards of Heaven, which this day, after thirty years concealment, prefents to you a greater criminal than the man just now found guilty." Then he made a full confeffion of his guilt, and all its aggravations. "Nor can I feel," continued he, " any relief from the agonies of an awakened conscience, but by requiring that justice be forthwith done against me in the most public and folemn

manner."

6. Amazement feized the whole affembly, and efpecially the minds of his fellow judges. They proceeded, how. ever, upon his confeffion, to pafs fentence upon him, and he died with all the fymptoms of a penitent mind, leaving to the world this all important truth, that "the wicked ball not go unpunished."

CHAPTER LVIII.

CONSTANCY OF MIND.

CONS

ONSTANCY of mind gives a man reputation, and makes him happy under the greatest mif fortunes. After the Carthagenians had defeated the Roman army and taken Regulus, their illuftrious command. er, prifoner, they met with fuch a feries of misfortunes as induced them to think of putting an end to fo destructive a war by a speedy peace. With this view they began to foften the rigors of Regulus's confinement, and engaged him to go to Rome with their ambassadors, and to use his intereft to obtain a peace upon moderate terms, or at leaft an exchange of prifoners.

1.

2. Regulus obeyed his mafters, and embarked for Rome, after having bound himself by a folemn oath, to return to his chains, if the negociation did not fucceed. When the Senators affembled in the suburbs, he was intro duced to them with the Carthagenian ambaffadors; and

together with them, made the two propofals with which he was charged. Confcript Fathers," faid he, "being now a flave to the Carthagenians, I am come to treat with you concerning a peace, and an exchange of prifoners."

3. Having attered thefe words, he began to withdraw, and follow the ambaffadors, who were not allowed to be prefent at the deliberations and difputes of the Confcript Fathers. In vain the Senate preffed him to ftay. He gave his opinion as an old Senator and Conful, and refufed to continue in the affembly till his African masters ordered; and then the illuftrious Blave took his place among the Fathers; but continued filent, with his eyes fix. ed on the ground, while the more ancient fenators spoke. When it came to his turn to deliver his opinion, he addreffed himself to the Confcript Fathers in the following words:

4. "Though I am a flave at Carthage, yet I am free at Rome; and I will therefore declare my fentiments with freedom. Romans, it is not for your interest either to grant the Carthagenians a peace, or to exchange prifoners with them. Carthage is extremely exhaufted; and the only reafon why the fues for peace is, because she is not in a condition to continue the war. You have been vanquished but once, and that by my fault; a fault which Metellus has repaired by a fingle victory.

5. "But the Carthagenians have been fo overcome, that they have not the courage to look Rome in the face. Your allies continue peaceable, and ferve you with zeal. But your enemy's troops confift only of mercenaries, who have no other tie than that of intereft, and will foon be difobliged by the republic they ferve; Carthage being al ready deftitute of money to pay them. No, Romans, a peace with Carthage does not, by any means, fuit your intereft, confidering the condition to which the Carthagenians are reduced; I therefore advise you to pursue the war with greater vigor than ever. As for the exchange of prifoneis, you have among the Carthagenian captives feveral officers of distinction, who are young, and may one day command the enemy's armies; but as for me, I ana advanced in years, and my misfortunes have made me ufelefs.

6. Besides, what can you expect from foldiers whe have been vanquished and made flaves? Such men, like timorous deer that have escaped from the hunter's toils, will ever be upon the alarm, and ready to fly." The Senate greatly affected with his difinterestedaefs, magna. nimity, and contempt of life, would willingly have preferved him, and continued the war in Africa. Some were of opinion, that in Rome he was not bound to keep an oath which had been extorted from him in an enemy's country.

7. The Pontifex Maximus himself, being confulted in the cafe, declared, that Regulus might continue at Rome without being guilty of perjury. But the noble captive, highly offended at this decifion, as if his honour and cour age were called in question, declared to the Senate, who trembled to hear him speak, that he well knew what torments were referved for him at Carthage; but that he had fo much of the true fpirit of a Roman, as to dread less the tortures of a cruel rack, than the fhame of a difhonorable action, which would follow him to the grave. "It is my duty," faid he, "to return to Carthage; to Provi dence I fubmit the reft."

[ocr errors]

8. This intrepidity made the Senate ftill more defirous to save fuch an hero. Every mean was used to detain him, both by the people and the Senate. He would not even fee his wife, nor fuffer his children to take their leave of him. Amidst the lamentations and tears of the whole city, he embarked with the Carthagenian ambaffadors, to return to the place of his flavery, with as ferene and cheer. ful a countenance, as if he had been going to his country seat for diverfion.

9. The Carthagenians were fo enraged against him, that they invented new torments to fatisfy their revenge. First they cut off his eye lids; keeping him fome time in a dark dungeon, and then bringing him out and exposing him to the fun at noon day. After this, they shut him up in a kind of chest, ftuck with nails, having their points inwards, fo that he could neither fit nor lean, without great torment; and there they fuffered him to die with hunger, anguish, and quant of fleep, giving this great leffon, that

"He dies in fame who dies in virtue's cause."

CHAPTER LIX.

HAPPINESS NOT FOUNDED ON WEALTH.

"DA

AMOCLES, one of the courtiers of Dionyfius, tyrant of Syracufe, was perpetually extolling with raptures his treasures, grandeur, the number of his troops, the extent of his dominions, the magnificence of his palaces, and the univerfal abundance of all good things and enjoyments in his poffeffion; always repeating that "never man was happier than Dionyfius."

2. "Because you are of that opinion," faid the tyrant, "will you taste, and make proof of my felicity in perfon?" The offer was accepted with joy; Damocles was placed upon a golden bed, covered with carpets of inestimable value. The fide-boards were loaded with, veffels of gold and filver. The most beautiful flaves in the most fplendid habits flood around him watching the least signal to ferve him. The most exquifite effence and perfumes had not been spared. The table was fpread with proportionable magnificence.

3. Damocles was all joy, and looked upon himself as the happiest man in the world; when unfortunately cafting up his eyes, he beheld over his head the point of a dagger fufpended from the ceiling only by a fingle horsehair. He was immediately feized with a cold fweat, every thing loft its power to pleafe; he could fee nothing but the dagger, nor think of any thing but his dan ger. In the height of his fear, he defired permiffion to retire, and declared he would be happy no longer.

CHAPTER LX.

I.

A PORTRAIT OF MANKIND.

·V

ANITY bids all her fons to be generous and brave, and her daughters to be chaste and Courteous. But why do we want her inftructions? ask the Comedian, who is taught a part he feels not. Is it that the principles of religion want ftrength, or that the real paffion for what is good or worthy will not carry us highenough?—God! thou knoweft they carry us too high, we want not to be, but to feem.

L

« ZurückWeiter »