S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Our actual enjoyments are so few and transient that man would be a very miserable being were he not endowed with this passion, which gives him a taste of those good things that may possibly come into his possession. We should hope for everything that is good, says the old poet Linus, because there is nothing which may not be hoped for, and nothing but what the gods are able to give us. Hope quickens all the still parts of life, and keeps the mind awake in her most remiss and indolent hours. It gives habitual serenity and good humour. It is a kind of vital heat in the soul, that cheers and gladdens her, when she does not attend to it. It makes pain easy, and labour pleasant.
My next observation is this, that a religious life is that which most abounds in a well-grounded hope, and such an one as is fixed on objects that are capable of making us entirely happy. This hope in a religious man is much more sure and certain than the hope of any temporal blessing, as it is strengthened not only by reason, but by faith. It has at the same time its eye perpetually fixed on that state, which implies in the very notion of it the most full and the most complete happiness . Religious hope has likewise this advantage above any other kind of hope, that it is able to revive the dying man, and to fill his mind not only with secret comfort and refreshment, but sometimes with rapture and transport. He triumphs in his agonies, whilst the soul springs forward with delight to the great object which she has always had in view, and leaves the body with an expectation of being reunited to her in a glorious and joyful resurrection.
It is a precept several times inculcated by Horace, that we should not entertain a hope of anything in life which lies at a great distance from us. The shortness and uncertainty of our time here makes such a kind of hope unreasonable and absurd. The grave lies unseen between us and the object which we reach after. Where one man lives to enjoy the good he has in view, ten thousand are cut off in the pursuit of it.
Hope is the principle of activity; without holding out hope, to desire one to advance is absurd and senseless. Suppose, without a sou in my hand, one were to say, Exert yourself: for there is no hope,it would be to turn me into ridicule, and not to advise me. To hold out to me the hopelessness of my condition never was a reason for exertion; for when, ultimately, equal evils attend upon exertion and rest, rest has clearly the preference.
Hope is a prodigal young heir, and Experience is his banker; but his drafts are seldom honoured, since there is often a heavy balance against him, because he draws largely on a small capital, is not yet in possession, and if he were, would die.
Human life hath not a surer friend, nor many times a greater enemy, than hope. Tis the miserable mans god, which, in the hardest gripe of calamity, never fails to yield him beams of comfort. Tis the presumptuous mans devil, which leads him awhile in a smooth way, and then makes him break his neck on the sudden. Hope is to man as a bladder to a learning swimmer,it keeps him from sinking in the bosom of the waves, and by that help he may attain the exercise; but yet it many times makes him venture beyond his height, and then, if that breaks, or a storm rises, he drowns without recovery. How many would die, did not hope sustain them! How many have died by hoping too much! This wonder we may find in hope, that she is both a flatterer and a true friend.
Every man is sufficiently discontented with some circumstances of his present state, to suffer his imagination to range more or less in quest of future happiness, and to fix upon some point of time, in which, by the removal of the inconvenience which now perplexes him, or acquisition of the advantages which he at present wants, he shall find the condition of his life very much improved.
When this time, which is too often expected with great impatience, at last arrives, it generally comes without the blessing for which it was desired; but we solace ourselves with some new prospect, and press forward again with equal eagerness.
It is lucky for a man, in whom this temper prevails, when he turns his hopes upon things wholly out of his own power; since he forbears then to precipitate his affairs, for the sake of the great event that is to complete his felicity, and waits for the blissful hour with less neglect of the measures necessary to be taken in the mean time.
Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, of sickness, or captivity, would, without this comfort, be insupportable; nor does it appear that the happiest lot of terrestrial existence can set us above the want of this general blessing; or that life, when the gifts of nature and of fortune are accumulated upon it, would not still be wretched, were it not elevated and delighted by the expectation of some new possession, of some enjoyment yet behind, by which the wish shall be at last satisfied, and the heart filled up to its utmost extent.
Hope is, indeed, very fallacious, and promises what it seldom gives; but its promises are more valuable than the gifts of fortune, and it seldom frustrates us without assuring us of recompensing the delay by a greater bounty.
The setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. The brightness of our life is gone, shadows of the evening fall around us, and the world seems but a dim reflection itself,a broader shadow. We look forward into the coming lonely night: the soul withdraws itself. Then stars arise, and the night is holy.
Hope is the ruddy morning of joy, recollection is its golden tinge; but the latter is wont to sink amid the dews and dusky shades of twilight; and the bright blue day which the former promises, breaks indeed, but in another world, and with another sun.
Used with due abstinence, hope acts as a healthful tonic; intemperately indulged, as an enervating opiate. The visions of future triumph which at first animate exertion, if dwelt upon too intensely, will usurp the place of the stern reality; and noble objects will be contemplated, not for their own inherent worth, but on account of the day-dreams they engender. Thus hope, aided by imagination, makes one man a hero, another a somnambulist, and a third a lunatic; while it renders them all enthusiasts.