Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

fins. It deftroys the innocence of an indifferent action, and gives an evil action all poffible blackness and horror, or in the emphatical language of facred writ, "makes "fin exceeding finful."

If, in the laft place, we confider the nature of an indifferent intention, we shall find that it destroys the merit of a good action; abates, but never takes away, the malignity of an evil action; and leaves an indifferent action in its natural ftate of indifference.

It is therefore of unspeakable advantage to poffefs our minds with an habitual good intention, and to aim all cur thoughts, words and actions at fome laudable end, whether it be the glory of our Maker, the gocd of mankind, or the benefit of our own fouls.

This is a fort of thrift or goed husbandry in moral life, which does not throw away any fingle action, but makes every one go as far as it can. It multiplies the means of falvation, increases the number of our virtues, and diminifhes that of our vices.

There is fomething very devout, though not folid, in Acofta's anfwer to Limborch, who objects to him the multiplicity of ceremonies in the Jewish religion, as wafhings, dreffes, meats, purgations, and the like. The reply which the Jew makes upon this occafion, is, to the beft of my remembrance, as follows: There are not duties enough (fays he) in the effential parts of the law for a zealous and active obedience. Time, place, and perfon are requifite, before you have an opportunity of putting a moral virtue into practice. We have therefore, fays he, enlarged the fphere of our duty, and made many things which are in themselves 'indifferent, a part of our religion, that we may have more occafions of fhewing our love to God, and in all ⚫ the circumftances of life be doing something to please

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• him.'

Monfieur St. Evremond has endeavoured to palliate the fuperftitions of the Roman-catholic religion with the fame kind of apology, where he pretends to confider the different fpirit of the papifts and the calvinifts, as to the great points wherein they difagree. He tells us, that the former are actuated by love, and the other by fear; and that in their expreflions of duty and

devotion towards the Supreme Being, the former feem" particularly careful to do every thing which may poffibly pleafe him, and the other to abftain from every thing which may poffibly difplease him.

But notwithstanding this plaufible reafon with which both the Jew and the Roman-catholic would excuse their refpective fuperftitions, it is certain there is fomething in them very pernicious to mankind, and destructive to religion; because the injunction of fuperfluous ceremonies: makes fuch actions duties, as were before indifferent, and: by that means renders religion more burthenfome and difficult than it is in its own nature, betrays many into fins of omiffion which they could not otherwise be guilty of, and fixes the minds of the vulgar to the fhadowy uneffential points, inftead 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 prefcribing 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 diverfions and amusements to our eternal advantage, and are pleafing him, whom we are made to please, in all the circumftances and occurrences of life.

It is this excellent frame of mind, this holy officioufnefs, if I may be allowed to call it fuch, which is recommended to us by the Apoftle in that uncommon precept, wherein he directs us to propofe to ourselves the glory of our Creator in all our moft indifferent actions, whe'ther we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do.'

[ocr errors]

A perfon therefore who is poffeffed with fuch an habitual good intention, as that which I have been here speaking of, enters upon no fingle circumftance of life, without confidering it as well-pleafing 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 fenfe of the Divine Prefence, régards himself as: acting, in the whole courfe of his exiftence, under the obfervation and infpection of that Being, who is privy to all his motions, and all his thoughts, who knows his

[ocr errors]

"down-fitting and his up-rifing, who is about his path, "and about his bed, and fpieth 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 that beautiful phrafe of Cripe are faid to have "walked with God."

When I employ myself upon a paper of morality, I genelly confider how I may recommend the particular virtue which I treat of, by the precepts or examples of the ancient heathens; by that means, if poffible, to fhame thofe who have greater advantages of knowing their duty, and therefore greater obligations to perform it, into a better courfe of life: befides that many among us are unreasonably difpofed to give a fairer hearing to a pagan philofopher, than to a chriftian writer.

I fhall therefore produce an inftance of this excellent frame of mind in a fpeech of Socrates, which is quoted by Erafmus. This great philofopher on the day of his execution, a little before the draught of poifon was brought to him, entertaining his friends with a difcourfe on the immortality of the foul, has thefe words: "Whe"ther or no God will approve of my actions, I know

not; but this I am fure 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 thefe words of that great man the habitual good intention which I would here inculcate, and with which that divine philofopher always acted. I fhall only add, that Erafmus, who was an unbigoted Roman-catholic, was fo much tranfported with this paffage of Socrates, that he could fcarce forbear looking upon him as a faint, and defiring him to pray for him; or as that ingenious and learned writer has expreffed himfelf in a much more lively manner : "When I reflect on "fuch a fpeech pronounced by fuch a perfon, I can "fcarce forbear crying out, Sandle Socrates, or a pro nobis: "O holy Socrates, pray for us.

[ocr errors]


N° 214.

Monday, November 5.


Perierunt tempora lungi

Juv. Sat. 3. ver. 124.

A long dependence in an hour is loft. DRYDEN.

I DID fome time ago lay before the world the un

happy condition of the trading part of mankind, who fuffer by want of punctuality in the dealings of persons above them; but there is a fet of men who are much more the objects of compaffion than even thofe, and thefe are the dependents on great men, whom they are pleafed to take under their protection as fuch as are to fhare in their friendship and favour. Thefe indeed, as well from the homage that is accepted from them, as the hopes which are given to them, are become a fort of creditors and thefe debts, being debts of honour, ought, according to the accuftomed maxim, to be firft dif charged.


When I speak of dependents, I would not be underftood to mean those who are worthlefs in themselves, or who, without any call, will prefs into the company of their betters. Nor, when I fpeak of patrons, do I mean. those who either have it not in their power, or have no obligation to affift their friends; but I fpeak of fuch leagues where there is power and obligation on the one part, and merit and expectation on the other.

The divifion of patron and client, may, I believe, include a third of our nation; the want of merit and real worth in the client, will ftrike out about ninetynine in an hundred of thefe; and the want of ability in patrons, as many of that kind. But however, I muft beg leave to fay, that he who will take up another's time and fortune in his fervice, though he has no profpect of rewarding his merit towards him, is as unjuft in his dealings as he who takes up goods of a tradefman without intention or ability to pay him. Of the few

of the clafs which I think fit to confider, there are not two in ten who fucceed, infomuch that I know a man of good fenfe who put his fon 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 fervices; fome through difcontent lose their speech, fome their memories, others their fenfes or their lives; and I feldom fee a man thoroughly difcontented, but I conclude he has had the favour of fome great man. I have known of fuch as have been for twenty years together within a month of a good employment, but never arrived at the happiness of being poffeffed of any thing.

There is nothing more ordinary, than that a man who is got into a confiderable ftation, fhall immediately alter his manner of treating all his friends, andfrom that moment he is to deal with you as if he were your fate. You are no longer to be confulted, even in matters which concern yourfelf; but your patron is of a fpecies 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 fhould be a behaviour a man could fall into with the worst grace imaginable; but they who know the world have feen it more than once. I have often, with fecret pity, heard the fame man who has profeffed his abhorrence against all kind of paffive behaviour, lofe 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 have one particular privilege above the reft of the world, of being flow in receiving_impreffions of kindnefs, and quick in taking offence. The elevation above the reft of mankind, except in very great minds, makes men fo giddy, that they do not fee after the fame manner they did before thus they defpife their old friends, and frive to extend their interefts to new pretenders. By this means it often happens that when you come to know how you loft fuch an employment,

« AnteriorContinuar »