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some hundred years in this world, yet I should think fifty or threescore years abundantly enough for slaves and beggars; enough to spend in hunger and want, in a jail and a prison. And those who are so foolish as not to think this enough, owe a great deal to the wisdom and goodness of God that he does. So that the greatest part of mankind have great reason to be contented with the shortness of life, because they have no temptation to wish it longer.
2dly, The present state of this world requires a more quick succession. The world is pretty well peopled, and is divided amongst its present inhabitants : and but very few in comparison, as I observed before, have any considerable share in the division. Now, let us but
suppose that all our ancestors, who lived a hundred or two hundred years ago, were alive still, and possessed their old estates and honours, what had become of this present generation of men, who have now taken their places, and make as great a show and bustle in the world as they did ? And if you look back three, or four, or five hundred years, the case is still so much the worse; the world would be over-peopled; and where there is one poor miserable man now, there must have been five hundred; or the world must have been common and all men reduced to the same level; which I believe the rich and happy people, who are so fond of long life, would not like very well. This would utterly undo our young prodigal heirs, were their hopes of succession three or four hundred years off, who, as short as life is now, think their fathers make very little haste to their graves. This would spoil their trade of spending their estates before they have them, and make them live a dull sober life, whether they would or no; and such a life, I know, they don't think worth having. And therefore, I hope at least they will not make the shortness of their fathers' lives an argument against providence; and yet such kind of sparks as these are commonly the wits that set up for atheism, and, when it is put into their heads, quarrel with everything which they fondly conceive will weaken the belief of a God and a Providence; and, among other things, with the shortness of life; which they have little reason to do, when they so often outlive their estates.
3dly, The world is very bad as it is ; so bad, that good men scarce know how to spend fifty or threescore years in it; but consider how bad it would probably be, were the life of man extended to six, seven, or eight hundred years. If so near a prospect of the other world, as forty or fifty years, cannot restrain men from the greatest villanies, what would they do if they could as reasonably suppose death to be three or four hundred years off? If men make such improvements in wickedness in twenty or thirty years, what would they do in hundreds ? And what a blessed place then would this world be to live in! We see in the old world, when the life of men was drawn out to so great a length, the wickedness of mankind grew so insufferable, that it repented God he had made man; and he resolved to destroy that whole generation, excepting Noah and his family. And the most probable account that can be given how they came to grow so universally wicked, is the long and prosperous lives of such wicked men, who by degrees corrupted others, and they others, till there was but one righteous family left, and no other remedy left but to destroy them
all; leaving only that righteous family as the seed and future hopes of the new world.
And when God had determined in himself, and promised to Noah never to destroy the world again by such an universal destruction, till the last and final judgment, it was necessary by degrees to shorten the lives of men, which was the most effectual means to make them more governable, and to remove bad examples out of the world, which would hinder the spreading of the infection, and people and reform the world again by new examples of piety and virtue. For when there are such quick successions of men, there are few ages but have some great and brave examples, which give a new and better spirit to the world.
[DR. ROBERT SOUTH, sometimes reputed the wittiest of English divines, was a man of great, though somewhat irregular talents. He was an ultra loyalist in his principles, and a zealous advocate of the doctrines of passive obedience, and the divine right of kings. He had a long and acrimonious controversy with Sherlock.
Ill-natured and Good-natured Men.
A stanch resolved temper of mind, not suffering a man to sneak, fawn, cringe, and accommodate himself to all humours, though never so absurd and unreasonable, is commonly branded with, and exposed un
der the character of, pride, morosity, and ill-nature: an ugly word, which you may from time to time observe many honest, worthy, inoffensive persons, and that of all sorts, ranks, and professions, strongly and unaccountably worried and run down by. And therefore I think I cannot do truth, justice, and common honesty better service, than by ripping up so malicious a cheat, to vindicate such as have suffered
Certain it is that, amongst all the contrivances of malice, there is not a surer engine to pull men down in the good opinion of the world, and that in spite of the greatest worth and innocence, than this imputation of ill-nature; an engine which serves the ends and does the work of pique and envy both effectually and safely. Forasmuch as it is a loose and general charge upon a man, without alleging any particular reason for it from his life or actions; and consequently does the more mischief, because, as a word of course, it passes currently, and is seldom looked into or exa. mined. And, therefore, as there is no way to prove a paradox or false proposition but to take it for granted, so, such as would stab any man's good name with the accusation of ill-nature, do very rarely descend to proofs or particulars. It is sufficient for their purpose that the word sounds odiously, and is believed easily; and that is enough to do any one's business with the generality of men, who seldom have so much judgment or charity as to hear the cause before they pronounce sentence.
But that we may proceed with greater truth, equity, and candour in this case, we will endeavour to find out the right sense and meaning of this terrible confounding word, ill-nature, by coming to particulars.
And here, first, is the person charged with it false or cruel, ungrateful or revengeful? is he shrewd and unjust in his dealings with others? does he regard no promises, and pay no debts? does he profess love, kindness, and respect to those whom, underhand, he does all the mischief to that possibly he can? is he unkind, rude, or niggardly to his friends? Has he shut up his heart and his hand towards the poor, and has no bowels of compassion for such as are in want and misery? is he insensible of kindnesses done him, and withal careless and backward to acknowledge or requite them! or, lastly, is he bitter and implacable in the prosecution of such as have wronged or abused him?
No; generally none of these ill things (which one would wonder at) are ever meant, or so much as thought of, in the charge of ill-nature; but, for the most part, the clean contrary qualities are readily acknowledged. Ay, but where and what kind of thing, then, is this strange occult quality, called ill-nature, which makes such a thundering noise against such as have the ill luck to be taxed with it?
Why, the best account that I, or any one else, can give of it, is this: that there are many men in the world who, without the least arrogance or self-conceit, have yet so just a value both for themselves and others, as to scorn do flatter, and gloze, to fall down and worship, to lick the spittle and kiss the feet of any proud, swelling, overgrown, domineering huff whatso
And such persons generally think it enough for