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it! How had his breast glowed with pleasure, when the whole compass of futurity lay open and exposed to his view! How would his imagination have hurried him on in the pursuit of the mysteries of the incarnation! How would he have entered, with the force of lightning, into the affections of his hearers, and fixed their attention, in spite of all the opposition of corrupt nature, upon those glorious themes which his eloquence hath painted in such lively and lasting colours!
This advantage Christians have; and it was with no small pleasure I lately met with a fragment of Longinus, which is preserved as a testimony of that critic's judg ment, at the beginning of a manuscript of the New Testament, in the Vatican library. After that author has numbered up the most celebrated orators among the Grecians, he says, "Add to these Paul of Tarsus, the. patron of an opinion not yet fully proved." As a hea then, he condemns the Christian religion; and, as an impartial critic, he judges in favour of the promoter and preacher of it. To me it seems that the latter part of his judgment adds great weight to his opinion of St. Paul's abilities, since, under all the prejudice of opinions directly opposite, he is constrained to acknowledge the merit of that apostle. And no doubt such as Longinus describes St. Paul, such he appeared to the inhabitants of those countries which he visited and blessed with those doctrines he was divinely commissioned to preach. Sacred story gives us, in one circumstance, a convincing proof of his eloquence, when the men of Lystra called him Mercury, because he was the chief speaker," and would have paid divine worship to him, as to the god who invented and presided over eloquence. This one account of our apostle sets his character, considered as an orator only, above all the celebrated relations of the skill and influence of Demosthenes and his contemporaries. Their power in speaking was admired, but still it was thought human; there eloquence warmed and ravished the hearers, but still it was thought the voice of man, not the voice of God. What advantage then had St. Paul above those of Greece or Rome? I confess I can ascribe this excellence to nothing but the power of the doctrines he delivered, which may have still the same influence on the hearers; which have still the same power,
when preached by a skilful orator, to make us break out in the same expressions as the disciples, who met our Saviour in their way to Emmaus, made use of, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?" I may be thought bold in my judgment by some, but I must affirm, that no one orator has left us so visible marks and footsteps of his eloquence as our apostle. It may perhaps be wondered at that, in his reasonings upon idolatry at Athens, where eloquence was born and flourished, he confines himself to strict argument only; but my reader may remember, what many authors of the best credit have assured us, that all attempts upon the affections and strokes of oratory were expressly forbidden by the laws of that country in courts of judicature. His want of eloquence therefore here, was the effect of his exact conformity to the laws; but his discourse on the resurrection to the Corinthians, his harangue before Agrippa upon his own conversion, and the necessity of that of others, are truly great, and may serve as full examples to those excellent rules for the sublime, which the best of critics has left us. The sum of all this discourse is, that our clergy have no farther to look for an example of the perfection they may arrive at, than to St. Paul's harangues; that when he, under the want of several advantages of nature, as he himself tells us, was heard, admired, and made a standard to succeeding ages by the best judges of a dif ferent persuasion in religion; I say, our clergy may learn that, however instructive their sermons are, they are capable of receiving a great addition; which St. Paul has given them a noble example of, and the Christian religion has furnished them with certain means of attaining to'
[DE. PEARCE, afterwards Bp. of Rochester.]
No. 634. FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1714.
̔Ο ἐλαχίσων δεόμενα ἔ[γισα θεῶν.
SOCRATES apud XEN.
The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Ir was the common boast of the heathen philosophers, that, by the efficacy of their several doctrines, they made human nature resemble the divine. How much mistaken soever they might be in the several means they proposed for this end, it must be owned that the design was great and glorious. The finest works of invention and imagination are of very little weight when put in the balance with what refines and exalts the rational mind. Longinus excuses Homer very handsomely, when he says the poet made his gods like men, that he might make his men appear like the gods. But it must be allowed that several of the ancient philosophers acted as Cicero wishes Homer had done; they endeavoured rather to make men like gods, than gods like men.
According to this general maxim in philosophy, some of them have endeavoured to place men in such a state of pleasure, or indolence at least, as they vainly imagined the happiness of the Supreme Being to consist in. On the other hand, the most virtuous sect of philosophers have created a chimerical wise man, whom they made exempt from passion and pain, and thought it enough to pronounce him all-sufficient.
This last character, when divested of the glare of human philosophy that surrounds it, signifies no more than that a good and a wise man should so arm himself with patience, as not to yield tamely to the violence of passion and pain; that he should learn so to suppress and contract his desires as to have few wants; and that he should cherish so many virtues in his soul, as to have a perpetual source of pleasure in himself.
The Christian religion requires that, after having framed the best idea we are able of the Divine nature, it should be our next care to conform ourselves to it as far as our imperfections will permit. I might mention seve
ral passages in the sacred writings on this head, to which I might add many maxims and wise sayings of moral authors among the Greeks and Romans.
I shall only instance a remarkable passage, to this purpose, out of Julian's Cæsars.* That emperor having represented all the Roman emperors, with Alexander the Great, as passing in review before the gods, and striving for the superiority, lets them all drop, excepting Alexander, Julius Cæsar, Augustus Cæsar, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, and Constantine. Each of these great heroes of antiquity lays his claim for the upper place; and, in or der to it, sets forth his actions after the most advantageous manner. But the gods, instead of being dazzled with the lustre of their actions, inquire by Mercury into the proper motive and governing principle that influenced them throughout the whole series of their lives and exploits. Alexander tells them that his aim was to conquer; Julius Cæsar, that his was to gain the highest post in his country; Augustus, to govern well; Trajan, that his was the same as that of Alexander, namely, to conquer. The question, at length, was put to Marcus Aurelius, who replied, with great modesty, that it had always been his care to imitate the gods. This conduct seems to have gained him the most votes and best place in the whole assembly. Marcus Aurelius, being afterwards asked to explain himself, declares, that, by imitating the gods, he endeavoured to imitate them in the use of his understanding, and of all other faculties; and, in particular, that it was always his study to have as few wants as possible in himself, and to do all the good he could to others.
Among the many methods by which revealed religion has advanced morality, this is one, that it has given us a more just and perfect idea of that Being whom every reasonable creature ought to imitate. The young man, in a heathen comedy, might justify his lewdness by the example of Jupiter; as, indeed, there was scarce any crime that might not be countenanced by those notions of the deity which prevailed among the common people in the heathen world. Revealed religion sets forth a
* Spanheim, Les Cesars de L'Empereur Julien, 4to. 1728. j
proper object for imitation in that Being, who is the pattern, as well as the source, of all spiritual perfection.
While we remain in this life we are subject to innumerable temptations, which, if listened to, will make us deviate from reason and goodness, the only things wherein we can imitate the Supreme Being. In the next life we meet with nothing to excite our inclinations that doth not deserve them. I shall therefore dismiss my reader with this maxim, viz. Our happiness in this world proceeds from the suppression of our desires, but in the next world from the gratification of them.'
[The Author uncertain.]
No. 635. MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 1714.
Sentio te sedem hominum ac domum contemplari; quæ si tibi parva (ut est) ita videtur, hæc cœlestia semper spectato; illa humana contemnito. CICERO Somn. Scip.
I perceive you contemplate the seat and habitation of men; which, if it appears as little to you as it really is, fix your eyes perpetually upon heavenly objects, and despise earthly.
T HE following essay comes from the ingenious author of the letter upon Novelty, printed in a late Spectator: the notions are drawn from the Platonic way of thinking; but, as they contribute to raise the mind, and may inspire noble sentiments of our own future grandeur and happiness, I think it well deserves to be presented to the public.
Ir the universe be the creature of an intelligent mind, this mind could have no immediate regard to himself in producing it. He needed not to make trial of his omnipotence to be informed what effects were within its reach; the world, as existing in his eternal idea, was then as beautiful as now it is drawn forth into being; and in the immense abyss of his essence are contained far brighter scenes than will be ever set forth to view; it being im
* NO. 626.