« 上一頁繼續 »
garded by the gods as bribes, and his petitions as blasphemies. He likewise quotes on this occasion two verses out of Homer, in which the poet says, that the scent of the Trojan sacrifices was carried up to heaven by the winds; but that it was not acceptable to the gods, who were displeased with Priam and all his people.
The conclusion of this dialogue is very remarkable. Socrates having deterred Alcibiades from the prayers and sacrifice which he was going to offer, by setting forth, the above-mentioned difficulties of performing that duty as he ought, adds these words, "We must therefore wait until such time as we may "learn how we ought to behave ourselves towards "the gods, and towards men." But when will that time come, says Alcibiades, and who is it that will instruct us? For I would fain see this man, whoever he is. It is one, says Socrates, who takes care of you; but as Homer tells us, that Minerva removed the mist from Diomedes' eyes, that he might plainly discover both gods and men; so the darkness that hangs upon your mind must be removed before you are able to discern what is good and what is evil. Let him remove from my mind, says Alcibiades, the darkness, and what else he pleases, I am determined to refuse nothing he shall order me, whoever he is, so that I may become the better man by it. The remaining part of this dialogue is very obscure : there is something in it that would make us think Socrates hinted at himself, when he spoke of this Divine Teacher who was to come into the world, did not he own that he himself was in this respect as much at a loss, and in as great distress as the rest of mankind.
Some learned men. look upon this conclusion as a prediction of our Saviour, or at least that Socrates, like the high-priest, prophesied unknowingly, and pointed at that Divine Teacher who was to come into
However that may
the world some ages after him. be, we find that this great philosopher saw, by the light of reason, that it was suitable to the goodness of the Divine Nature, to send a person into the world who should instruct mankind in the duties of religion, and, in particular teach them how to pray.
Whoever reads this abstract of Plato's Discourse on Prayer, will, I believe, naturally make this reflection, that the great Founder of our religion, as well by his own example, as in the form of prayer which he taught his disciples, did not only keep up to those rules which the light of nature had suggested to this great philosopher, but instructed his disciples in the whole extent of this duty, as well as of all others. He directed them to the proper object of adoration, and taught them, according to the third rule abovementioned, to apply themselves to him in their closets, without show or ostentation, and to worship him "in spirit and in truth.” As the Lacedæmonians in their form of prayer implored the gods in general to give them all good things so long as they were virtuous, we ask in particular, " that our offen❝ces may be forgiven, as we forgive those of others." If we look into the second rule which Socrates has prescribed, namely, that we should apply ourselves to the knowledge of such things as are best for us; this too is explained at large in the doctrines of the gospel, where we are taught in several instances to regard those things as curses, which appear as bles sings in the eye of the world; and on the contrary, to esteem those things as blessings, which to the generality of mankind appear as curses. Thus in the form which is prescribed to us we only pray for that happiness which is our chief good, and the great end of our existence, when we petition the Supreme Being for "the coming of his kingdom," being solicitous for no other temporal blessings but our" daily sustenance." On the other side, we pray against
nothing but sin, and against evil in general, leaving it to Omniscience to determine what is really such. If we look into Socrates' first rule of prayer, in which he recommends the abovementioned form of the ancient poet, we find that form not only comprehended, but very much improved by the petition, wherein we pray to the Supreme Being that "his will may be done:" which is of the same force with that form which our Saviour used, when he prayed against the most painful and ignominious of deaths, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." This comprehensive petition is the most humble, as well as the most prudent, that can be offered up from the creature to his Creator, as it supposes the Supreme Being wills nothing but what is for our good, and that he knows better than ourselves what is so. L.
No. CCVIII. MONDAY, OCTOBER 29.
..Veniunt spectentur ut ipsæ.
To be themselves a spectacle, they come.
I HAVE several letters from people of good sense, who lament the depravity or poverty of taste the town is fallen into with relation to plays and public spectacles. A lady in particular observes, that there is such a levity in the minds of her own sex, that they seldom attend any thing but impertinences. It is indeed prodigious to observe how little notice is taken of the most exalted parts of the best tragedies of Shakspeare; nay, it is not only visible that sensuality has devoured all greatness of soul, but the under passion, as I may so call it, of a noble spirit, pity, seems to be a stran
ger to the generality of an audience. The minds of men are indeed very differently disposed; and the reliefs from care and attention are of one sort in a great spirit, and of another in an ordinary one. The man
of a great heart and a serious complexion, is more pleased with instances of generosity and pity, than the light and ludicrous spirit can possibly be with the highest strains of mirth and laughter: it is therefore a melancholy prospect when we see a numerous assembly lost to all serious entertainments, and such incidents, as should move one sort of concern, excite in
them a quite contrary one. In the tragedy of Macbeth, the other night, when the lady, who is conscious of the crime of murdering the king, seems utterly astonished at the news, and makes an exclamation at it, instead of the indignation which is natural to the occasion, that expression is received with a loud laugh: they were as merry when a criminal was stabbed. It is certainly an occasion of rejoicing when the wicked are seized in their designs; but I think it is not such a triumph as is exerted by laughter.
You may generally observe, that the appetites are sooner moved than the passions: a sly expression which alludes to bawdry, puts a whole row into a pleasing smirk; when a good sentence that describes an inward sentiment of the soul, is received with the greatest coldness and indifference. A correspondent of mine, upon this subject, has divided the female part of the audience, and accounts for their prepossessions against this reasonable delight in the following manner. The prude, says he, as she acts always in contradiction, so she is gravely sullen at a comedy, and extravagantly gay at a tragedy. The coquette is so much taken up with throwing her eyes around the audience, and considering the effect of them, that she cannot be expected to observe the actors but as they are her rivals, and take off the observation of the men from herself. Besides these species of women there
are the examples, or the first of the mode: these are to be supposed too well acquainted with what the actor is going to say to be moved at it. After these one might mention a certain flippant set of females who are mimics, and are wonderfully diverted with the conduct of all the people around them, and are spectators only of the audience. But what is of all the most to be lamented, is the loss of a party whom it would be worth 'preserving in their right senses upon all occasions, and these are those whom we may indifferently call the innocent or the unaffected. You may sometimes see one of these sensibly touched with a well-wrought incident; but then she is immediately so impertinently observed by the men, and frowned at by some insensible superior of her own sex, that she is ashamed, and loses the enjoyment of the most laudable concern, pity. Thus the whole audience is afraid of letting fall a tear, and shun as a weakness the best and worthiest part of our sense.
'AS you are one that doth not only pretend to re' form, but effect it amongst people of any sense, makes 'me (who am one of the greatest of your admirers) give 6 you this trouble, to desire you will settle the me'thod of us females knowing when one another is in town for they have now got a trick of never send'ing to their acquaintance when they first come; and if one does not visit them within the week which 'they stay at home, it is a mortal quarrel. Now, dear Mr. Spec, either command them to put it in the ad'vertisement of your paper, which is generally read by our sex, or else order them to breathe their saucy 'footmen, who are good for nothing else, by sending 'them to tell all their acquaintance. If you think to print this, pray put it in a better stile, as to the spelling part. The town is now filling every day, and it cannot be deferred, because people take advantage