Obrázky stránek

"Your petitioner, in consideration of his said merits and sufferings, humbly requests that he may have the place of receiver of the taxes, collector of the customs, clerk of the peace, deputy lieutenant, or whatsoever else he shall be thought qualified for. And your petitioner shall ever pray," etc.

fail of humbling or exalting the soul to any pitch of devotion. Who can hear the terrors of the Lord of Hosts described in the most expressive melody without being awed into a veneration? Or who can hear the kind and endearing attributes of a merciful Father, and not be softened into love toward him?

"As the rising and sinking of the passions, the casting soft or noble hints into the soul, is the nat

No. 630.] WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 1714. ural privilege of music in general, so more par

[blocks in formation]

"If you would be so kind to me, as to suspend that satisfaction which the learned world must receive in reading one of your speculatious, by publishing this endeavor, you will very much oblige and improve one, who has the boldness to hope that he may be admitted into the number of your correspondents.

ticularly of that kind which is employed at the altar. Those impressions which it leaves upon the spirits are more deep and lasting, as the grounds from which it receives its authority are founded more upon reason. It diffuses a calmness all around us, it makes us drop all those vain or immodest thoughts which would be a hinderance to us in the performance of that great duty of thanksgiving* which, as we are informed by our Almighty Benefactor, is the most acceptable return which can be made for those infinite stores of blessings which he daily condescends to pour down upon his creatures. When we make use of this pathetical method of addressing ourselves to him, we can scarce contain from raptures! The heart is warmed with a sublimity of goodness! We are all piety and all love!

"I have often wondered to hear men of good sense and good-nature profess a dislike to music, "How do the blessed spirits rejoice and wonder when at the same time they do not scruple to own to behold unthinking man prostrating his soul to that it has the most agreeable and improving in-his dread Sovereign in such a warmth of piety as fluences over their minds; it seems to me an un- they themselves might not be ashamed of! happy contradiction, that those persons should have an indifference for an art which raises in them such a variety of sublime pleasures.

"However, though some few, by their own or the unreasonable prejudices of others, may be led into a distaste of those musical societies which are erected merely for entertainment, yet sure I may venture to say, that no one can have the least reason for disaffection to that solemn kind of melody which consists of the praises of our Creator.

You have, I presume, already prevented me in an argument upon this occasion, which some divines have successfully advanced upon a much greater, that musical sacrifice and adoration has claimed a place in the laws and customs of the most different nations, as the Grecians and Romans of the profane, the Jews and Christians of the sacred world, did as unanimously agree in this as they disagreed in all other parts of their economy.

"I know there are not wanting some who are of opinion that the pompous kind of music which is in use in foreign churches is the most excellent, as it most affects our senses. But I am swayed by my judgment to the modesty which is observed in the musical part of our devotions. Methinks there is something very laudable in the custom of a voluntary before the first lesson: by this we are supposed to be prepared for the admission of those divine truths which we are shortly to receive. We are then to cast all worldly regards from off our hearts, all tumults within are then becalmed, and there should be nothing near the soul but peace and tranquillity. So that in this short office of praise the man is raised above himself, and is almost lost already amid the joys of futurity.

"I have heard some nice observers frequently commend the policy of our church in this particular, that it leads us on by such easy and regular methods that we are perfectly deceived into piety. When the spirits begin to languish (as they too often do with a constant series of petitions) she takes care to allow them a pious respite, and relieves them with the raptures of an anthem. Nor can we doubt that the sublimest poetry, softened in the most moving strains of music, can never

"I shall close these reflections with a passage taken out of the third book of Milton's Paradise Lost, where those harmonious beings are thus nobly described:

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"The town cannot be unacquainted that in divers parts of it there are vociferous sets of men who are called rattling clubs: but what shocks me most is, they have now the front to invade the church, and institute these societies there, as a clan of them have in late times done, to such a degree of insolence, as has given the partition where they reside, in a church near one of the city gates, the denomination of the rattling pew. These gay fellows, from humble lay professions, set up for critics, without any tincture of letters or reading, and have the vanity to think they can lay hold of something from the parson which may be formed into ridicule.

"It is needless to observe that the gentlemen, who every Sunday have the hard province of instructing these wretches in a way they are in no present disposition to take, have a fixed character for learning and eloquence, not to be tainted by the weak efforts of this contemptible part of their audiences. Whether the pulpit is taken by these gentlemen, or any strangers, their friends, the way of the club is this; if any sentiments are delivered too sublime for their conception; if any uncommon topic is entered on, or one in use, new modified with the finest judgment and dexterity; or any controverted point be never so elegantly handled; in short, whatever surpasses the narrow limits of their theology, or is not suited to

* A proclamation issued the day before this paper was published for a thanksgiving for King George's accession, to be ob served January 20.

their taste, they are all immediately upon the watch, fixing their eyes upon each other with as much warmth as our gladiators of Hockley-in-theHole, and waiting, like them, for a hit; if one touches, all take fire, and their noddles instantly meet in the center of the pew: then, as by beat of drum, with exact discipline, they rear up into a full length of stature, and, with odd looks and gesticulations, confer together in so loud and clamorous a manner, continued to the close of the discourse, and during the after-psalm, as is not to be silenced but by the bells. Nor does this suffice them without aiming to propagate their noise through all the church, by signals given to the adjoining seats, where others designed for this fraternity are sometimes placed upon trial to receive them.

[ocr errors]

chin to the lowest button; and the diamond upon his finger (which naturally dreaded the water) put me in mind how it sparkled among the rubbish of the mine where it was first discovered. On the other hand, the pretty quaker appeared in all the elegance of cleanliness. Not a speck was to be found upon her. A clear, clean, oval face, just edged about with little thin plaits of the purest cambric, received great advantages from the shade of her black hood; as did the whiteness of her arms from that sober-colored stuff in which she had clothed herself. The plainness of her dress was very well suited to the simplicity of her phrases; all which, put together, though they could not give me a great opinion of her religion, they did of her innocence.

This adventure occasioned my throwing together a few hints upon cleanliness, which I shall consider as one of the half virtues, as Aristotle calls them, and shall recommend it under the three following heads: as it is a mark of politeness; as it produces love; and as it bears analogy to purity of mind.


"The folly as well as rudeness of this practice is in nothing more conspicuous than this, that all that follows in the sermon is lost; for, whenever our sparks take alarm, they blaze out and grow so tumultuous that no after explanation can avail, it being impossible for themselves or any near them to give an account thereof. If anything First, It is a mark of politeness. It is univerreally novel is advanced, how averse soever it may sally agreed upon, that no one unadorned with be to their way of thinking, to say nothing of this virtue can go into company without giving a duty, men of less levity than these would be led manifest offense. The easier or higher any one's by a natural curiosity to hear the whole. fortune is this duty rises proportionably. Laughter, where things sacred are transacted, different nations of the world are as much distinis far less pardonable than whining at a conven-guished by their cleanliness as by their arts and ticle; the last has at least a semblance of grace, sciences. The more any country is civilized, the and where an affection is unseen may possibly im- more they consult this part of politeness. We need print wholesome lessons on the sincere; but the but compare our ideas of a female Hottentot and first has no excuse, breaking through all the rules an English beauty to be satisfied of the truth of of order and decency, and manifesting a remiss- what hath been advanced. ness of mind in those important matters which require the strictest composure and steadiness of thought; a proof of the greatest folly in the world. "I shall not here enter upon the veneration due to the sanctity of the place, the reverence owing to the minister, or the respect that so great an assembly as a whole parish may justly claim. I shall only tell them, that, as the Spanish cobbler, to reclaim a profligate son, bid him have some regard to the dignity of his family, so they as gentlemen (for we citizens assume to be such one day in a week) are bound for the future to repent of, and abstain from, the gross abuses here mentioned, whereof they have been guilty in contempt of heaven and earth, and contrary to the laws in this case made and provided.

"I am,

Sir, your very humble Servant,
"R. M."

[blocks in formation]

I HAD occasion to go a few miles out of town, some days since, in a stage coach, where I had for my fellow travelers a dirty beau, and a pretty young quaker woman. Having no inclination to talk much at that time, I placed myself backward, with a design to survey them, and pick a speculation out of my two companions. Their different figures were sufficient of themselves to draw my attention. The gentleman was dressed in a suit, the ground whereof had been black, as I perceived from some few spaces that had escaped the powder, which was incorporated with the greatest part of his coat; his periwig, which cost no small sum, was after so slovenly a manner cast over his shoulders, that it seemed not to have been combed since the year 1712; his linen, which was not much concealed, was daubed with plain Spanish from the

In the next place, cleanliness may be said to be the foster-mother of love. Beauty indeed most commonly produces that passion in the mind, but cleanliness preserves it. An indifferent face and person, kept in perpetual neatness, hath won many a heart from a pretty slattern. Age itself is not unamiable, while it is preserved clean and unsullied; like a piece of metal constantly kept smooth and bright, we look upon it with more pleasure than on a vessel that is cankered with rust.

I might observe further, that as cleanliness renders us agreeable to others, so it makes us easy to ourselves; that it is an excellent preservative of health; and that several vices, destructive both to mind and body, are inconsistent with the habit of it. But these reflections I shall leave to the leisure of my readers, and shall observe, in the third place, that it bears a great analogy with purity of mind, and naturally inspires refined sentiments and passions.

We find from experience that through the prev alence of custom, the most vicious actions lose their horror by being made familiar to us. On the contrary, those who live in the neighborhood of good examples, fly from the first appearances of what is shocking. It fares with us much after the same manner as to our ideas. Our senses, which are the inlets to all the images conveyed to the mind, can only transmit the impression of such things as usually surround them. So that pure and unsullied thoughts are naturally suggested to the mind, by those objects that perpetually encompass us when they are beautiful and elegant in their kind.

"In the East, where the warmth of the climate makes cleanliness more immediately necessary than in colder countries, it is made one part of their religion; the Jewish law, and the Mahometan which in some things copies after it, is filled with bathings, purifications, and other rites of the like nature. Though there is the above-named convenient reason to be assigned for these ceremonies,

the chief intention undoubtedly was to typify in- | Spectators, because, as he said, he thought seven ward purity and cleanliness of heart by those out- a very odd number. On the other side several ward washings. We read several injunctions of grave reasons were urged on this important subthis kind in the Book of Deuteronomy, which con- ject; as, in particular, that seven was the precise firm this truth; and which are but ill accounted number of the wise men, and that the most beaufor by saying, as some do, that they were only insti-tiful constellation in the heavens was composed tuted for convenience in the desert, which otherwise could not have been habitable for so many years.

I shall conclude this essay with a story which I have somewhere read in an account of Mahometan superstitions.

A dervise of great sanctity one morning had the misfortune as he took up a crystal cup, which was consecrated to the prophet, to let it fall upon the ground, and dash it in pieces. His son coming in some time after, he stretched out his hands to bless him, as his manner was every morning; but the youth going out stumbled over the threshold and broke his arm. As the old man wondered at these events, a caravan passed by in its way from Mecca; the dervise approached it to beg a blessing; but as he stroked one of the holy camels, he received a kick from the beast that sorely bruised him. His sorrow and amazement increased upon him until he recollected that, through hurry and inadvertency, he had that morning come abroad without washing his hands.

No. 632.] MONDAY, DECEMBER 13, 1714.
-Explebo numerum, reddarque tenebris.
VIRG. Æn. vi. 545.
the number I'll complete,

Then to obscurity, well pleas'd, retreat. THE love of symmetry and order, which is natural to the mind of man, betrays him some times into very whimsical fancies. "This noble principle," says a French author, "loves to amuse itself on the most trifling occasions. You may see a profound philosopher," says he, "walk for an hour together in his chamber, and industriously treading, at every step, upon every other board in the flooring." Every reader will recollect several instances of this nature without my assistance. I think it was Gregorio Leti, who had published as many books as he was years old; which was a rule he had laid down and punctually observed to the year of his death. It was, perhaps, a thought of the like nature which determined Homer himself to divide each of his poems into as many books as there are letters in the Greek alphabet. Herodotus has in the same manner adapted his books to the number of the Muses, for which reason many a learned man hath wished that there had been more than nine of that sisterhood.

Several epic poets have religiously followed Virgil as to the number of his books; and even Milton is thought by many to have changed the number of his books from ten to twelve for no other reason; as Cowley tells us it was his design, had he finished his Davideis, to have also imitated the Eneid in this particular. I believe every one will agree with me that a perfection of this nature hath no foundation in reason; and, with due respect to these great names, may be looked upon as something whimsical.

I mention these great examples in defense of my bookseller, who occasioned this eighth volume of

This voluminous writer boasted that he had been the author of a book and the father of a child for twenty years successively. Swift counted the number of steps he had made from London to Chelsea. And it is said and demonstrated in the Parentalia, that Bishop Wren walked round the earth while a prisoner in the Tower of London.

of seven stars. This he allowed to be true, but still insisted that seven was an odd number; suggesting at the same time that, if he were provided with a sufficient stock of leading papers, he should find friends ready enough to carry on the work. Having by this means got his vessel launched and set afloat, he hath committed the steerage of it, from time to time, to such as he thought capable of conducting it.

The close of this volume, which the town may now expect in a little time, may possibly ascribe each sheet to its proper author.

It were no hard task to continue this paper a considerable time longer by the help of large contributions sent from unknown hands.

I cannot give the town a better opinion of the Spectator's correspondents than by publishing the following letter, with a very fine copy of verses upon a subject perfectly new:

[ocr errors]

MR. SPECTATOR, Dublin, Nov. 30, 1714. "You lately recommended to your female readers the good old custom of their grandmothers, who used to lay out a great part of their time in needlework. I entirely agree with you in your sentiments, and think it would not be of less advantage to themselves and their posterity, than to the reputation of many of their good neighbors, if they passed many of those hours in this innocent entertainment which are lost at the tea-table. I would, however, humbly offer to your consideration the case of the poetical ladies; who, though they may be willing to take any advice given them by the Spectator, yet cannot so easily quit their pen and ink as you may imagine. Pray allow them, at least now and then, to indulge themselves in other amusements of fancy when they are tired with stooping to their tapestry. There is a very particular kind of work, which of late several ladies here in our kingdom are very fond of, which seems very well adapted to a poetical genius; it is the making of grottoes. I know a lady who has a very beautiful one, composed by herself; nor is there one shell in it not stuck up by her own hands. I here send you a poem to the fair architect, which I would not offer to herself, until I knew whether this method of a lady's passing her time were approved of by the British Spectator; which, with the poem, I submit to your censure, who am, "Your constant Reader "and humble Servant,

[blocks in formation]

A grotto so complete, with such design,
What hands, Calypso, could have form'd but thine?
Each chequer'd pebble, and each shining shell,
So well proportion'd and dispos'd so well,
Surprising luster from thy thought receive,
Assuming beauties more than nature gave.
To her their various shapes and glossy hue,
Their glorious symmetry they owe to you.
Not fam'd Amphion's lute, whose powerful call
Made willing stones dance to the Theban wall,
In more harmonious ranks could make them fall.
Not evening cloud a brighter arch can show,
Nor richer colors paint the heavenly bow.

Where can unpolish'd nature boast a place
In all her mossy cells exact as this?
At the gay parti-color'd scene we start,
For chance too regular, too rude for art.

Charm'd with the sight, my ravish'd breast is fir'd
With hints like those which ancient bards inspir'd;
All the feign'd tales by superstition told,
All the bright train of fabled nymphs of old

Th' enthusiastic Muse believes are true,
Thinks the spot sacred, and its genius you;
Lost in wild raptures would she fain disclose
How by degrees the pleasing wonder rose;
Industrious in a faithful verse to trace
The various beauties of the lovely place,
And, while she keeps the glowing work in view,
Through every maze thy artful hand pursue.

0, were I equal to the bold design,
Or could I boast such happy art as thine,
That could rude shells in such sweet order place,
Give common objects such uncommon grace;
Like them, my well chose words in every line
As sweetly temper'd should as sweetly shine.
So just a fancy should my numbers warm,
Like the gay piece should the description charm.
Then with superior strength my voice I'd raise,
The echoing grotto should approve my lays,
Pleas'd to reflect the well-sung founder's praise.

No. 633.] WEDNESDAY, DEC. 15, 1714. Omnia profecto, cum se a cœlestibus rebus referet ad hu

manas excelsius magnificentiusque et dicet et sentiet.


The contemplation of celestial things will make a man both speak and think more sublimely and magnificently when

he descends to human affairs.

THE following discourse is printed as it came to my hands, without variation:"

"Cambridge, Dec. 12. "It was a very common inquiry among the ancients why the number of excellent orators, under all the encouragements the most flourishing states could give them, fell so far short of the number of those who excelled in all other sciences. A friend of mine used merrily to apply to this case an observation of Herodotus, who says that the most useful animals are the most fruitful in their generation; whereas the species of those beasts that are fierce and mischievous to mankind are but scarcely continued. The historian instances a hare, which always either breeds or brings forth; and a lioness which brings forth but once, and then loses all power of conception. But leaving my friend to his mirth, I am of opinion that in these latter ages we have greater cause of complaint than the ancients had. And since that solemn festival is approaching, which calls for all the power of oratory, and which affords as noble a subject for the pulpit as any revelation has taught us, the design of this paper shall be to show, that our moderns have greater advantages toward true and solid eloquence, than any which the celebrated speakers of antiquity enjoyed.

"The first great and substantial difference is, that their common-places, in which almost the whole force of amplification consists, were drawn from the profit or honesty of the action, as they regarded only this present state of duration. But Christianity, as it exalts morality to a greater perfection, as it brings the consideration of another life into the question, as it proposes rewards and punishments of a higher nature and a longer continuance, is more adapted to affect the minds of the audience, naturally inclined to pursue what it imagines its greatest interest and concern. If Pericles, as historians report, could shake the firmest resolutions of his hearers, and set the passions of all Greece in a ferment, when the present welfare of his country, or the fear of hostile invasions, was the subject; what may be expected from that orator who warns his audience against those evils which have no remedy, when once undergone, either from prudence or time? As much greater as the evils in a future state are


than these at present, so much are the motives to persuasion under Christianity greater than those which mere moral considerations could supply us with. But what I now mention relates only to the power of moving the affections. There is another part of eloquence which is indeed its masterpiece: I mean the marvelous, or sublime. In this the Christian orator has the advantage beyond contradiction. Our ideas are so infinitely enlarged by revelation, the eye of reason has so wide a prospect into eternity, the notions of a Deity are so worthy and refined, and the accounts we have of a state of happiness or misery so clear and evident, that the contemplation of such objects will give our discourse a noble vigor, an invincible force, beyond the power of any human consideration. Tully requires in his perfect orator some skill in the nature of heavenly bodies; because, says he, his mind will become more extensive and unconfined; and when he descends to treat of human affairs he will both think and write in a more exalted and magnificent manner. For the same reason that excellent master would have recommended the study of those great and glo rious mysteries which revelation has discovered to us; to which the noblest parts of this system of the world are as much inferior as the creature is less excellent than its Creator. The wisest and most knowing among the heathens had very poor and imperfect notions of a future state. They had indeed some uncertain hopes, either received by tradition, or gathered by reason, that the existence of virtuous men would not be determined by the separation of soul and body; but they either disbelieved a future state of punishment and misery; or, upon the same account that Apelles painted Antigonus with one side only toward the spectator, that the loss of his eye might not cast a blemish upon the whole piece; so these represented the condition of man in its fairest view, and endeavored to conceal what they thought was a deformity to human nature. I have often observed, that whenever the above-mentioned orator in his philosophical discourses is led by his argument to the mention of immortality, he seems like one awaked out of sleep; roused and alarmed with the dignity of the subject, he stretches his imagination to conceive something uncommon, and, with the greatness of his thoughts, casts, as it were, a glory round the sentence. Uncertain and unsettled as he was, he seems fired with the contemplation of it. And nothing but such a glorious prospect could have forced so great a lover of truth as he was to declare his resolution never to part with his persuasion of immortality, though it should be proved to be an erroneous one. But had he lived to see all that Christianity has brought to light, how would he have lavished out all the force of eloquence in those noblest contemplations which human nature is capable of, the resurrection, and the judgment that fol lows it! How had his breast glowed with pleas ure, when the whole compass of futurity lay open and exposed to his view! How would his imagin ation 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 colors!

"This advantage Christians have; and it was with no small pleasure I lately met with a frag ment of Longinus, which is preserved, as a testimony of that critic's judgment, 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 heathen he condemns the Christian religion; and, as an impartial critic, he judges in favor 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 cotemporaries. Their power in speaking was admired, but still it was thought human; their 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 power, when preached by a skillful orator, to make us break out in the same expressions as the disciples who met our Savior in their way to Emmaus made use of: 'Did not our hearts burn within us when he talked to 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 further 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 different 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."

No. 634.] FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1714. The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. IT 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 endeavored rather to make men like gods than gods like men. •

According to this general maxim in philosophy, some of them have endeavored 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 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 several 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. The 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 Caesar, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, and Constantine. Each of these great heroes of antiquity lays in his claim for the upper place; and, in order to it, sets forth his actions after the most advantageous manner. But the gods, instead of being dazzled with the luster 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 assembly. Marcus Aurelius being afterward asked to explain himself, declares that, by imitating the gods, he endeavored 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

« PředchozíPokračovat »