BOOK XVIII. CONTAINING ABOUT SIX DAYS.
4. Chapter iv. Containing two letters...
Containing two letters in very different stiles.
"MY WORTHY FRIEND,--I informed you in my last that I was forbidden
the use of the waters, as they were found by experience rather to
increase than lessen the symptoms of my distemper. I must now
acquaint you with a piece of news, which, I believe, will afflict my
friends more than it hath afflicted me. Dr Harrington and Dr
Brewster have informed me that there is no hopes of my recovery.
"I have somewhere read, that the great use of philosophy is to learn
to die. I will not therefore so far disgrace mine as to shew any
surprize at receiving a lesson which I must be thought to have so
long studied. Yet, to say the truth, one page of the Gospel teaches
this lesson better than all the volumes of antient or modern
philosophers. The assurance it gives us of another life is a much
stronger support to a good mind than all the consolations that are
drawn from the necessity of nature, the emptiness or satiety of our
enjoyments here, or any other topic of those declamations which are
sometimes capable of arming our minds with a stubborn patience in
bearing the thoughts of death, but never of raising them to a real
contempt of it, and much less of making us think it is a real good.
I would not here be understood to throw the horrid censure of
atheism, or even the absolute denial of immortality, on all who are
called philosophers. Many of that sect, as well antient as modern,
have, from the light of reason, discovered some hopes of a future
state; but in reality, that light was so faint and glimmering, and
the hopes were so incertain and precarious, that it may be justly
doubted on which side their belief turned. Plato himself concludes
his Phaedon with declaring that his best arguments amount only to
raise a probability; and Cicero himself seems rather to profess an
inclination to believe, than any actual belief in the doctrines of
immortality. As to myself, to be very sincere with you, I never was
much in earnest in this faith till I was in earnest a Christian.