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the mouth of the Straits, was frightful and terrible in the distant prospect, nor durst any one peep into it, otherwise than as they might creep along the coast of Africa, towards Sallee, or Santa Cruz. The North Sea was hid in a veil of impenetrable darkness; the White Sea, or Archangel, was a very modern discovery; not found out till Sir Hugh Willoughby doubled the North Cape, and paid dear for the adventure, being frozen to death with all his crew, on the coast of Lapland; while his companions' ship, with the famous Mr. Chancellor, went on to the gulph of Russia, called the White Sea, where no Christian strangers had ever been before him.
In these narrow circumstances stood the world's knowledge at the beginning of the 15th century, when men of genius began to look abroad, and about them. Now, as it was wonderful to see a world so full of people, and people so capable of improving, yet so stupid and so blind, so ignorant and so perfectly unimproved, it was wonderful to see, with what a general alacrity they took the alarm, almost all together, preparing themselves as it were on a sudden, by a general inspiration, to spread knowledge through the earth, and to search into every thing that it was possible to uncover.
How surprising is it to look back, so little a way behind us, and see, that even in less than two hundred years, all this (now so self-wise) part of the world did not so much as know whether there was any such place as a Russia, a China, a Guinea, a Greenland, or a North Cape! That as to America, it was never supposed there was any such place;' neither had the world, though they stood upon the shoulders of four thousand years' experience, the least thought, so much as that there was any land that way!
As they were ignorant of places, so of things also; so vast are the improvements of science, that all our knowledge of mathematics, of nature, of the brightest part of human wisdom, had their admission among us within these two last centuries.
What was the world, then, before? And to what were the heads and hands of mankind applied? The rich had no commerce, the poor no employment; war and the sword was the great field of honor, the stage of preferment; and you have scarce a man eminent in the world, for any thing before that time, but for a furious outrageous falling upon his fellow-creatures, like Nimrod, and his successors of modern memory.
The world is now daily increasing in experimental knowledge; and let no man flatter the age, with pretending we have arrived at a perfection of discoveries.
1 It is now supposed that America was actually discovered in the eleventh century by the Icelanders.—See Mallet's Northern Antiquities, vol. i., and Franklin's Private CorresponDence, Part I.'
What's now discovered, only serves to show, That nothing's known, to what is yet to know. THE WASTE OF LIFE. From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 404, 'Nov. 18, 1736.
Anergus was a gentleman of a good estate; he was bred to no business, and could not contrive how to waste his hours agreeably; he had mo relish for any of the proper works of life, nor any taste at all for the improvements of the mind; he spent generally ten hours of the four-and-twenty in his bed ; .he dozed away two or three more on his couch, and as many were dissolved in good liquor every evening, if he met with company of his own humor. Five or six of the rest he sauntered away with much indolence: the chief business of them was to contrive his meals, and to feed his fancy before-hand with the promise of a dinner and supper; not that he was so absolute a glutton, or so entirely devoted to appetite; but chiefly because he knew not how to employ his thoughts better, he let them rove about the sustenance of his body. Thus he had made a shift to wear off ten years since the paternal estate fell into his hands: and yet, according to the abuse of words in our day, he was called a man of virtue, because he was scarce ever known to be quite drunk, nor was his nature much inclined to lewdness.
One evening, as he was musing alone, his thoughts happened to take a most unusual turn,' for- they cast a glance backward, and began to reflect on his manner of life. He bethought himself what a number of living beings had been made a sacrifice to support his carcase, and how much corn and wine had been mingled with those offerings. He had not quite lost all the arithmetic that he had learned when he was a boy, and he set himself to compute what he had devoured since he came to the age of man.
"About a dozen of feathered creatures, small and great, have one week with another (said he) given up their lives to prolong mine, which in ten years amounts to at least six-thousand,
"Fifty sheep have been sacrificed in a year, withhalf a hecatomb of black cattle, that I might have the. clioicest part offered weekly upon my table. Thus a thousand beasts out of the flock and the herd have been slain in ten years' time to feed me, besides what the forest has supplied me with.Many hundreds of fishes have, in all their varieties,. been robbed of life for my repast, and of the smaller fry as many thousands.
"A measure of corn would hardly afford me fine-flour enough for a month's provision, and this arises to above six score bushels; and many hogsheads of ale and wine, and other liquors, have passed through this body of mine, this wretched strainer of meat and drink.
"And what have I done all this time for God or man? What a vast profusion of good things upon an useless life, and a worthless liver! There is not the meanest creature among all these which I have devoured, but hath answered the end of its creation better than I. It was made to support human nature, and it hath done so. Every crab and oyster I have eat, and every grain of corn I have devoured, hath filled up its place in the rank of beings with more propriety and honor than I have done: O shameful waste of life and time!"
In short, he carried on his moral reflections with so just and severe a force of reason as constrained him to change his whole course of life, to break off his follies at once, and to apply himself to gain some useful knowledge, when he was more than thirty years of age; he lived many following years, with the character of a worthy man, and an excellent Christian; he performed the kind offices of a good neighbor at home, and made a shining figure as a patriot in the senate-house; he died with a peaceful conscience, and the tears of his country were dropped upon his tomb.
The world, that knew the whole series of his life, stood amazed at the mighty change. They beheld him as a wonder of reformation, while he himself confessed and adored the Divine power and mercy which had transformed him from a brute to a man.