網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

consider the different spirit of the papists and the calvinists, as to the great points wherein they disagree. He tells us, that the former are actuated by love, and the other by fear; and that in their expressions of duty and devotion towards the Supreme Being, the former seem particularly careful to do every thing which may possibly please him, and the other to abstain from every thing which may possibly displease him.

But notwithstanding this plausible reason with which both the Jew and the Roman catholic would excuse their respective superstitions, it is certain there is something in them very pernicious to mankind, and destructive to religion; because the injunction of superfluous ceremonies

makes such actions duties, as were before indifferent, and by that means renders religion more burthensome and difficult than it is in its own nature, betrays many into sins of omission which they could not otherwise be guilty of, and fixes the minds of the vulgar to the shadowy unessential points, instead of the more weighty and more important matters of the law.

This zealous and active obedience however takes place in the great point we are recommending ; for if

, instead of prescribing to ourselves indifferent actions as duties, we apply a good intention to all our most indifferent actions, we make our very existence one continued act of obedience, we turn our diversions and amusements to our eternal advantage, and are pleasing him, whom we are made to please, in all the circumstances and occurrences of life.

It is this cxcellent frame of mind, this holy officiousness, if I may be allowed to call it such, which is recommended to us by the Apostle in that uncommon precept wherein he directs us to propose to our selves the glory of our Creator in all our most indifferent actions, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do.'

A person therefore who is possessed with such an habitual good intention, as that which I have been here speaking of, enters upon no single circumstance of life, without considering it as well-pleasing to the great Author of his being, conformable to the dictates of reason, suitable to human nature in general, or to that particular station in which Providence has placed him. He lives in a perpetual sense of the Divine Presence, regards himself as acting, in the whole course of his existence, under the observation and inspection of that Being, who is privy to all his motions, and all his thoughts, who knows his “ down-sitting and his up-rising, who is about his " path, and about his bed, and spieth out all his

ways.” In a word, he remembers that the eye of his judge is always upon him, and in every action he reflects that he is doing what is commanded or allowed by him who will hereafter either reward or punish it. This was the character of those holy men of old, who, in the beautiful phrase of Scripture are said to have 6 walked with God.”

When I employ myself upon a paper of morality, I generally consider how I may recommend the particular virtue which I treat of, by the precepts or ex. amples of the ancient heathens; by that means, if possible, to shame those who have greater advantages of knowing their duty, and therefore greater obligations to perform it, into a better course of life : besides that many among us are unreasonably disposed to give a fairer hearing to a pagan philosopher, than to a christian writer.

I shall therefore produce an instance of this excellent frame of mind in a speech of Socrates, which is quoted by Erasmus. This great philosopher the day of his execution, a little before the draught of poison was brought to him, entertaining his friends with a discourse on the immortality of the soul, hias these words : '* Whether or no God will approve of

on

my actions, I know not ; but this I am sure of, “ that I have at all times made it my endeavour to

please him, and I have a good hope that this my “ endeavour will be accepted by him.” We find in these words of that great man the habitual good intention which I would here inculcate, and with which that divine philosopher always acted. I shall only add, that Erasmus, who was an unbigotted Roman catholis, was so much transported with this passage of Socrates, that he could scarce forbear looking upon him as a saint, and desiring him to pray for him ; or as that ingenious and learned writer has expressed himself in a much more lively manner :

6 When I 56 reflect on such a speech pronounced by such a

person, I can scarce forbear crying out, sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis : O holy Socrates, pray for

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

us,"

No. CCXIV. MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5,

Perierunt tempora longi
Servitij...............

Juv.

A long dependence in an hour is lost.

DRYDEN

I DID some time ago lay before the world the unhappy condition of the trading part of mankind, who suffer by want of punctuality in the dealings of persons above them ; but there is a set of men who are much more the objects of compassion than even those, and these are the dependents on great men, whom they are pleased to take under their protection as such as are to share in their friendship and favour. These indeed, as well from the homage that is accepted from them, as the hopes which are given to them, are become a sort of creditors; and these debts, being debts of honour, ought, according to the accustomed maxim, to be first discharged.

When I speak of dependents, I would not be understood to mean those who are worthless in themstlves, or who, without any call, will press into the company of their betters. Nor, when I speak of patrons, do I mean those who either have it not in their power, or have no obligation to assist their friends ; but I speak of such leagues where there is power and obligation on the one part, and merit and expectation on the other.

The division of patron and client, may, I believe, include a third of our nation ; the want of merit and real worth in the client, will strike out about ninetynine in' an hundred of these ; and the want of ability in the patrons, as many of that kind. But however, I must beg leave to say, that he who will take up another's time and fortune in his service, though he has no prospect of rewarding his merit towards him, is as unjust in his dealings as he who takes up goods of a tradesman without intention or ability to pay þım. Of the few of the class which I think fit to consider, there are not two in ten who succeed, insomuch that I know a man of good sense who put his son to a blacksmith, though an offer was made him of his being received as a page to a man of quality. There are not more cripples come out of the wars than there are from those great services; some through discontent lose their speech, some their memories, others their senses or their lives ; and I seldom see a man thoroughly discontented, but I conclude he has had the favour of some great man. I have known of such as have been for twenty years together within a month of a good employment, but never arrived at the happiness of being possessed of any thing.

There is nothing more ordinary, than that a man who is got into a considerable station, shall immediately alter his manner of treating all his friends, and from that moment he is to deal with you as if he were your fate. You are no longer to be consulted, even in matters which concern yourself; but your patron is of a species above you, and a free communication with you is not to be expected. This perhaps may be your condition all the while he bears office, and, when that is at an end, you are as intimate as ever you were, and he will take it very ill if you keep the distance he prescribed you towards him in his grandeur. One would think this should be a behaviour a man could fall into with the worst grace imaginable ; but they who know the world have seen it more than once. I have often, with secret pity, heard the same man who has professed his abhorrence against all kind of passive behaviour, lose minutes, hours, days, and years, in a fruitless attendance on one who had no inclination to befriend him. It is very much to be regretted that the great hare one particular privilege above the rest of the world, of being slow in receiving impressions of kindness, and quick in taking offence. The elevation above the rest of mankind, except in very great ininds, makes men so giddy, that they do not see after the same manner they did before : thus they despise their old friends, and strive to extend their interests to new pretenders. By this means it often happens that when you come to know how you lost such an employment, you will find the man who got it never dreamed of it; but, forsooth, he was to be surprised into it, or perhaps solicited to receive it. Upon such occasions as these, a man may, perhaps, grow out of humour; if you are 80, all mankind will fall in with the patron, and you are an humourist, and untractable, if you are capable of being sour at a disappointment: but it is the same thing, whether you do or do not resent ill-usage, you

VOL. III.

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »