Imatges de pÓgina
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beneficial. The experience of Augustus added weight to these salutary reflections, and effectually convinced him, that by the prudent vigour of his counsels, it would be easy to secure every concession, which the safety or the dignity of Rome might require from the formidable barbarians." Such is the testimony of Mr. Gibbon, an author, I presume, not to be condemned for his attachment to the cause I plead. Well may I ask, why did so rare a character exist at all? but why did this consummate politician live at this moment? why did he become sole master of the Roman world? why not Marc Antony or Lepidus? why did he now succeed in a project, which, at an earlier period of the Roman empire, would have cost him his life, and so dexterously, that monarchy was not during his life oppressive; but he, who had dared to new-model the state, was as a god worshipped after his decease? How was it, that, after seven centuries, just at this needed moment, universal peace was established? How was it, that, after the calamities which exhibited themselves from the time of Marius, which were filled with recitals of sanguinary proscriptions, and crowded with images of martial horror, that peace, and happiness, and order, should be restored? How was it, that, just at this moment, a man should arise, who preferred the use, to the abuse of power, on whom the smiles of fortune acted so marvellously, that they turned the sanguinary tyrant into a mild and generous prince?

All this was subservient to the consummation of the work, commenced by Alexander. He had built cities, introduced wholesome laws, and had instituted the means of communication with the most distant provinces, so that

* Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. i. page 2.

they could be apprised of every occurrence of interest, that transpired in the known world; among the rest, of the incarnation of man's Restorer to bliss. And it is not simply to be considered a natural occurrence, but also as a designed and merciful selection by the Deity, that He, who was to come, chose not the confines of Alexander's conquests for his abode, but the spot as nearly as possible central between Macedon and India. But the evil disposition of man, for ever at variance with the benevolent plans of the Deity, creating wars, shattered the kingdom consolidated by Alexander, and thus it continued till this mighty empire was swallowed up by the surpassing majesty of Rome. Then, again, a free intercourse existed all over the world; and, lest any barrier should present itself, to oppose the knowledge of the Saviour's birth, a period of universal peace was selected for his coming; as an evidence of which the bloody portal of war was shut, the gates of the temple of Janus were closed. But still the descendant of David, from whom our Redeemer sprang, was in obscurity. What shall draw her thence? Shall he, before whom tributary kings cast their crowns, think of her? no; but in the gratification of his ambition, the end shall be secured. All heaven is on the move to make way for the descent of the Son of Righteousness. Earth feels the impulse, Augustus sends forth the decree, that all the world shall be taxed; but though the movement is made, a few more rising, a few more setting suns must intervene! But Augustus has made the decree! What can be done? The world is to be taxed, all the names are to be registered, and the names of Joseph and Mary not be recorded there! Something perfectly natural must inter

vene.

Yes, there is time! one more bloody war may be commenced, and be closed; the Germans may issue from their forests, and from their morasses, and yet the gates of Janus be shut, when the Prince of Peace shall appear. Yes; Augustus shall lose a Varus and his three legions; he shall be reminded of the vicissitudes of fortune; seven and twenty years shall roll by, and then, in the republication of the decree, the pride of Augustus shall be gratified, and the ends of heaven shall be answered. Thus do natural occurrences evidently fall under some grand general law of Infinite Wisdom, though with those laws we are unacquainted.

NOTE III.—Page 341.

I Shall present to the reader two specimens of the character which the age of chivalry furnishes: the first, of Edward the Black Prince; the second, of Sir Philip Sidney. Mr. Hume says, of the former, "Soon after the glorious battle of Poictiers in 1356, he landed at Southwark, and was met by a great concourse of people of all ranks and stations. His prisoner, John, king of France, was clad in royal apparel, and mounted on a white steed, distinguished by its size and beauty, and by the richness of its furniture. The conqueror rode by his side in meaner attire, and carried by a black palfrey. In this situation, more glorious than all the insolent parade of a Roman triumph, he passed through the streets of London, and presented the king of France to his father, who received him with the same courtesy, as if he had been a neighbouring potentate that had voluntarily come

to pay him a friendly visit. It is impossible, on reflecting on this noble conduct, not to perceive the advantages which resulted from the otherwise whimsical principles of chivalry, and which gave, even in those rude times, some superiority even over people of a more cultivated age and nation *."

Mr. Kett has thus epitomized the character of the latter individual: "Sir Philip Sidney, descended from John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, by the mother's side, was born at Penshurst in Kent in 1554, and died at the age of 32. During his education at Shrewsbury and Oxford, he made an astonishing proficiency in all branches of learning. His conduct was, upon all occasions, such as to do honour to a true knight. He could not brook the least affront, even from persons of the highest rank, as he proved by his spirited behaviour to the haughty Earl of Oxford, a nobleman very high in the favour of Queen Elizabeth.

"This quarrel occasioned his retirement from court, during which he wrote his romance called Arcadia, which he dedicated to his sister, the Countess of Pembroke. At the grand tournament held in 1581, for the entertainment of the Duke of Anjou, when he came to London to solicit the Queen in marriage, Sir Philip went through his feats of arms with great ability, and gained singular commendation. Such was his fame for relieving all who were in distress, that when the Spaniards had seized the kingdom of Portugal, Don Antonio, the chief competitor for the crown, applied to him for his assistance. He was appointed governor of Flushing, one of the towns delevered by the Dutch to the Queen, and in several

* Hume, vol. iii. p. 460.

actions with the enemy, behaved with extraordinary courage, and with such mature judgment, as would have done credit to the most experienced commanders. His high renown and great deserts were so well known throughout Europe, that he was put in nomination for the crown of Poland upon the death of Stephen Batori; but the Queen refused to further his promotion. On the 22d of September 1586, being sent out to intercept a convoy that was advancing to Zutphen, he fell into an ambuscade, and received a fatal wound in the thigh. In his sad progress from the field of battle, passing by the rest of the army, where his uncle, Robert Earl of Leicester was, and being thirsty with excessive loss of blood, he called for drink, which was soon brought him: but, as he was putting the bottle to his mouth, he saw a poor soldier carried along who had been wounded at the same time, eagerly fixing his eyes upon it. it. As soon as Sir Philip perceived his inclination, he delivered the bottle to him with these words-Thy necessity is greater than mine.1 This action discovered a disposition so tender, a mind so fortified against pain, a heart so overflowing with generosity to relieve distress, in opposition to the most urgent call of his own necessities, that none can read a detail of it without the highest admiration, Finding himself past all hope of recovery, he prepared for death with the greatest composure, and assembled the clergymen of divers nations, before whom he made a full confession of his Christian faith. The closing sceneof his life was the parting with his brother Sir Robert Sidney, of whom he took leave in these words: Love my memory, cherish my friends; their faith to me may assure you they are sincere: but, above all, govern your will and affections by the will and word of your Creator,

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