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A Round of Proverbs.
A ROUND OF PROVERBS.
the wisdom of such parismony is no less foolish, than the saving of a cask of wine at the tap, while they are turning it out at the bung-hole.
Where vice goes before, vengeance follows after.
Nothing venture, nothing have. This proverb, though it does not licence an inconsiderate rashness, in running hazards against all probability of success; yet it is a spur to industry and resolution in any undertaking; it dehorts from such a pusillanimity and weakness, as to be inactive at the apprehension or appearance of ill-disposed persons to the commission of The notion of impunity often animates any danger or disappointment that may flagrant crimes, which would never have possibly occur, so as to make a person re-been perpetrated, had the verity of this nounce the very hopes of succeeding ir a proverb been impressed in the minds of preferment, profit, or acomodations of those delinquents; for certain it is, howlife, for want of courage to ask a favour to demand a right, to defend or fight for ever slowly vengeance may seem to move, a liberty or property. it will assuredly overtake the offender at last; and by how much it is the longer in coming, being once arrived, it will fall on them the heavier, according to that maxim, though justice has leaden feet, it has iron
All is well that ends well.
It is a plain matter of fact, that the end crowns all things, and that every thing is not to judged amiss that may appear so for the present. A worldly misfortune, if it quickens our diligence and industry: a severe fit of sickness, if it promotes our piety and makes us amend our lives, is well; though for the present no affliction seems joyous but grievous; for a happy death is the never failing portion of a well spent life, which always ends in eternal blissant glory. The best way of judging of things beyond mistake, is by the issue or event of them.
Cut your coat according to your cloth. This proverb contains good advice to people of several ranks and degrees, to balance accounts betwixt their expences and their income, and not to let their vanity lead them, as we say, to outrun the coilstable.
One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
is a mighty matter, and warns us not to This proverb intimates, that possession run the hazard of a certain loss, for an uncertain gain, and teaches us, that futurities are liable to disappointments; no depending on shall or will hereafter, and no commanding things out of our hand, tive tenses distant from fruition.
A burnt child dreads the fire. This proverb intimates, that it is natural for all living creatures, whether rational or irrational, to consult their own security and self-preservation; and whether they act by instinct or reason, it still tends to some care of avoiding those things that have already done them an injury.
Much falls between the cup and the lip.
This is a cautionary proverb, applicable to such sanguine persons, who too confidently depend upon future expectations, unthoughtful of the preventional contingencies that may intervene.
A shoemaker must not go beyond his last. The moral instruction of this proverb, is, that persons, though skilful intheir own art, ought not to meddle or make with things out ot their own sphere, and not presume to correct or amend what they Go not understand. The proverb is only the latin of Nesutor ultra crepidam, in an Faint heart never won fair lady. English dress; and first took its authority This proverb animates to constancy and froin a story of the celebrated painter Ap-resolution in an honourable undertaking pelles, who having drawn a famous piece, having a more extensive view than the and exposed it to public view, a cobler courting of a mistress; it intimates the incame by, and found fault with it, because juriousness of being low-spirited and dishe made too few latchets to the goloshoes; pairing, in that a dejection of mind will, Appelles mends it accordingly and sets it in all probability, frustrate the success, for, out again, and the next day the cobler, that despair is the parent of ruin; in that coming again, finds fault with the whale it dispirits a man, and enfeebles or enerteg; upon which Appelles comes out, say-vates his whole force. Le couurd n'aura ing, cobler, go home and keep to your last.
Penny wise, and pound foolish. This proverb severely lashes such persons who are thriity to an error in small but necessary expences; but profusely extravagant in unnecessary ones; inunating, that
belle amie, say the French. And indeed a low-spirited person, who is terrified with disappointments and didiculties, is as unfit for arms as amours, nay, civil affairs too. But courage, of the other hand, makes difficulties which to appearance at first sceined unsurmountable, give way.
De quo omnium natura consentit, id verum necesse est:-Cic. de Nat. Deorum, lib. i. When all men naturally agree in any opinion, it must necessarily be true.
There is no feature in the aspect of modern times more characteristic, than the undisguised contempt generally and openly entertained for all old opinions. The Demon of Novelty has proselyted thousands to her idolatry, who proudly imagine that Truth is the goddess they worship, and the discoveries of truth, and the testimonies of truth, all that they search for, and all that they believe. There are in every department of science, men too superficial in their knowledge to distinguish truth from pure error, too egotistical to acknowledge ignorance, and too dogmatical to reflect that the rules of modern philosophy are wholly inapplicable to whatever is confessedly beyond or above their province.
It is not to the "truly wise" I point these observations— those who can distinguish the paths of certainty from the regions beyond it; who act on the principle that " we know only in part," and in things too high for us, maintain a guarded and prudential silence. It is to those who no sooner escape fr the restrictions of the nursery, than they become Esprits Forts; eraze from their minds, with the most disgusting incredulity, all that is antiquated and unfashionable; assume at once their station on the summit of the "Hill of Vision," and hav.. ing entered upon the illuminated carcer of scepticism, speedily
On Supernatural Powers.
transfer to religious subjects their habits of rejecting as false, whatever is obscure, and of disbelieving whatever they cannot demonstrate by actual experiment; and thus commence as freethinkers, and too often mature into atheists.
Were I to address such men in language as consequential and opinionative as their own, I would say, as the very reverse of their favourite dogmas, that there is a respect, a virtuous respect, for the serious and solemn opinions of our forefathers, to be devoid of which manifests a weakness of judgment no less than a perverseness of heart: I would say, that the progress of light has not detected in our progenitors grosser ignorance, than, in all probability, its farther advances will reveal in us; and that, however short those who preceded us might fall in their attempts to investigate the secrets of nature, the opinions for which they are, in general, ridiculed, belong to a different province; and are, in fact, such as no science can falsify, any more than by future discoveries they may be expected to be confirmed.—I allude to the belief in supernatural powers, once so prevalent, and, though the tide of fashion has swept it away, still so congenial to our feelings. Whether that belief is to be pronounced wholly unfounded, is a question that deserves more consideration than is often given to it; a question which, if properly considered, would produce greater discrepancy of opinion than obtains at present respecting it. Even to doubt on
such a subject is regarded as a test of weakness and credulity; while those who are most positive and opinionative in pronounc ing it in all its departments absurd, are esteemed both by themselves and others, as persons of superior intellect, and the soundest judgment.. Without arraigning the whole age of rashness and ignorance, I may, at least, be permitted to warn those of mature understanding to beware, lest by expunging what they are pleased to call the absurdities of superstition, they expunge along with them those natural impressions which, because natural, were intended for our benefit; and which, in all likelihood, were implanted within us to strengthen the dictates of conscience; we know that they do strengthen them, and among the irreligious part of mankind, constitute the most powerful, and the most frequently recurring of their incitements to good, and discouragements from evil.
It is not my intention to enter into a formal proof that all the stories related of apparitions, and dreams, and presentiments,
On Supernatural Powers.
and, in ancient times, of oracles and prodigies, are true. there are many arguments, which, if they do not lead us to believe, to a certain extent, in preternatural appearances, and supernatural powers actually at work around us, must, at least, have the effect of cautioning us to think before we speak on such a subject, and to beware of ridiculing or undervaluing any man for his opinions respecting so difficult a question.
My observations do not refer exclusively to any one, but rather to the whole class of these opinions usually styled Superstitions. They are, in general, supported by the same arguments, and, without exception, they are all met by the same objections. These objections, if objections they can be called, which are principally founded in the charges of weakness and ignorance brought against those who entertain them; and which are principally supported and propagated by the air and the reputation of intelligence, that the objectors have assumed, on the one hand, by pretending to account for every thing on easy principles, and on the other, have obtained, by the unquestioned admission that their pretensions are well founded-these will be most satisfactorily refuted by conducting the inquiry in such a way as to render them futile.
The argument I mean at present to insist on, arises from universal consent.
The implicit belief children repose in tales of apparitions, the difficulty they uniformly find in eradicating the impressions thereby received, the congeniality of such belief both to the conclusions of unprejudiced reason, and the natural feelings of the human mind, coincide wonderfully with the belief, and the reasonings, and the feelings, of all past generations on this same subject. The nearer a nation approaches in manners and opinions to the simplicity of nature, this belief is found to be firmer and more prevalent;-the farther we penetrate into the annals and traditions of former times, the more of this belief do we find in the histories and revolutions that distinguish them; the more we listen to the testimony of uneducated and undesigning men, the more undeviating is the answer they give us, and the more is their conviction the deep and irradicable feeling of the conscience. To discover the commencement of this belief baffles every investigation of the antiquary, and every speculation of the philosopher. To the fullest extent it has antiquity to support it. To say it has universality also, seems a bolder but it is
On Supernatural Powers.
not a rasher assertion. It stands yet in the creed of all unenlightened nations; it is avowedly entertained by multitudes in our own country; and I do not fear contradiction when I say, there is not one of my readers who is completely free from what are called superstitious feelings. Even when natural impressions are blunted by long habits of desperate or criminal adventure; even when all the powers of the mind are steeled by the principles of a sceptical philosophy-even when a mistaken piety, and erroneous deductions from what revelation teaches, have associated something wrong with holding this belief-I will not be contradicted when I say, that there is not one, however assisted by these or other circumstances, who, amid the darkness of midnight, and the awfulness of solitude, does not feel, on the waste heath, or on the scene of murder, or near the receptacle of the dead, such impressions of unaccountable terror as awaken all his doubts, and triumph over all his professions of unbelief and incredulity.
On such a subject, the agreement of all ages and countries affords more than a presumptive argument. To deny its force in this instance, is to act a part inconsistent with all pretensions to candid reasoning, and impartial philosophizing; it is to disarm ourselves of an argument against infidelity and scepticism in higher questions, which has never been evaded; and to the proper inferences from which, more than any other single circumstance, we should attribute the near approaches that some of the wisest men of antiquity made to that knowledge which Revelation alone could elucidate or confirm.
"What seems true to some wise men, is somewhat probable," (said Aristotle, the wisest perhaps of ancient philosophers, a man whose opinions were for many centuries deemed infallible, and who was not more distinguished for the extent of his learning, than for the soundness of his understanding) "what seems to the most or to all wise men is very probable & what most men both wise and unwise assent unto, doth still more resemble truth: but what men generally consent in, possesses the highest proba bility, and in point of authority, has almost the force of demon strative truth;" so much so, indeed, that, as he elsewhere observes, "it may pass for ridiculous arrogance and self-conceitedness, or for intolerable obstinacy and perverseness to deny it. For no one man's opinion is sufficient to balance the general opinions of men." Indeed," in the words of the celebrated