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to others at church, by their repetition of the prayers after the minister; and that not only in the prayers, but also in the absolution; and the commandments fare no better, which are in a particular manner the priest's office : this I have known done in so audible a manner, that sometimes their voices have been as loud as his. As little as you would think it, this is frequently done by people seemingly devout. This irreligious inadvertency is a thing extremely offensive : but I do not recommend it as a thing I give you liberty to ridicule, but hope it may be amended by the bare mention. Sir, your very humble servant,
No 237. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1, 1711.
Visu carentem magna pars veri latet.-Seneca in Edip.
They that are dim of sight see truth by halves. It is very reasonable to believe, that part of the pleasure which happy minds shall enjoy in a future state, will arise from an enlarged contemplation of the Divine Wisdom in the government of the world, and a discovering of the secret and amazing steps of Providence, from the beginning to the end of time. Nothing seems to be an entertainment more adapted to the nature of man, if we consider that curiosity is one of the strongest and most lasting appetites implanted in us, and that admiration is one of our most pleasing passions; and what a perpetual succession of enjoyments will be afforded to both these, in a scene so large and various as shall then be laid open to our view in the society of superior spirits, who perhaps will join with us in so delightful a prospect !
It is not impossible, on the contrary, that part of
the punishment of such as are excluded from bliss, may consist not only in their being denied this privilege, but in having their appetites at the same time vastly increased without any satisfaction afforded: to them. In these, the vain pursuit of knowledge shall, perhaps, add to their infelicity, and bewilder. them into labyrinths of error, darkness, distraction, and uncertainty of every thing but their own evil. state. Milton has thus represented the fallen angels reasoning together in a kind of respite from their; torments, and creating to themselves a new disquiet amidst their very amusements : he could not properly have described the sport of condemned spirits, without that cast of horror and melancholy he has. so judiciously mingled with them !
Others a part sat on a hill retir'd,
And found no end in wandering mazes lost*. In our present condition, which is a middle state, our minds are as it were checkered with truth and falsehood : and as our faculties are narrow, and our views imperfect, it is impossible but our curiosity must meet with many repulses. The business of mankind in this life being rather to act than to know, their portion of knowledge is dealt to them accordingly.
From hence it is, that the reason of the inquisitive has so long been exercised with difficulties, in accounting for the promiscuous distribution of good and evil to the virtuous and the wicked in this world. From hence come all those pathetic complaints of so many tragical events which happen to the wise and the good; and of such surprising prosperity, which is often the lott of the guilty and the foolish;
* Parad. Lost, b. ij. v. 557.
Spect. in folio ; for reward, &c.
.m follo; for reward e
that reason is sometimes puzzled, and at a loss what to pronounce upon so mysterious a dispensation.
Plato expresses his abhorrence of some fables of the poets, which seem to reflect on the gods as the authors of injustice; and lays it down as a principle, that whatever is permitted to befal a just man, whether poverty, sickness, or any of those things which seem to be evils, shall either in life or death conduce to his good. My reader will observe how agreeable this maxim is to what we find delivered by a greater authority. Seneca has written a discourse purposely on this subject *; in which he takes pains, after the doctrine of the Stoics, to shew that adversity is not in itself an evil; and mentions a noble saying of Demetrius, that nothing would be more unhappy than a man who had never known affliction. He compares prosperity to the indulgence of a fond mother to a child, which often proves his ruin; but the affection of the Divine Being to that of a wise father, who would have his sons exercised with labour, disappointments, and pain, that they may gather strength and improve their fortitude. On this occasion, the philosopher rises into that celebrated sentiment, that there is not on earth a spectacle more worthy the regard of a Creator intent on his works than a brave man superior to his sufferings; to which he adds, that it must be a pleasure to Jupiter himself to look down from heaven, and see Cato amidst the ruins of his country preserving his integrity.
This thought will appear yet more reasonable, if we consider human life as a state of probation, and adversity as the post of honour in it, assigned often to the best and most select spirits. · But what I would chiefly insist on here is, that we are not at present in a proper situation to judge of
* Vid. Senec. De constantiâ sapientis, sive quod in sapientem non cadit injuria, ..
the councils by which Providence acts, since but little arrives at our knowledge, and even that little we discern imperfectly; or according to the elegant figure in holy writ,' we see but in part, and as in a glass darkly*.' It is to be considered that Providence in its economy regards the whole system of time and things together, so that we cannot discover the beautiful connexion between incidents which lie widely separate in time; and by losing so many links: of the chain, our reasonings become broken and imperfect. Thus those parts of the moral world which have not an absolute, may yet have a relative beauty, in respect of some other parts concealed from us, but open to his eye before whom past,': present,' and 'to come,' are set together in one point of view: and those events, the permission of which seems now to. accuse his goodness, may in the consummation of things both magnify his goodness, and exalt his wisdom. And this is enough to check our presumption, since it is in vain to apply our measures of regularity to matters of which we know neither the antecedents nor the consequents, the beginning nor the end.
I shall relieve my readers from this abstracted thought, by relating here a Jewish tradition concerning Moses, which seems to be a kind of parable, illustrating what I have last mentioned. That great prophet, it is said, was called up by a voice from heaven to the top of a mountain; where, in a conference with the Supreme Being, he was admitted to propose to him some questions concerning his administration of the universe. In the midst of this divine colloquy he was commanded to look down on the plain below. At the foot of the mountain there issued out a clear spring of water, at which a soldier alighted from his horse to drink. He was no sooner gone than a little boy came to the same place, and
* 1 Cor. xiii. 1%.
finding a purse of gold which the soldier had dropped, took it up and went away with it. Immediately after this came an infirm old man, weary with age and travelling, and having quenched his thirst, sat down to rest himself by the side of the spring. The soldier missing his purse returns to search for it, and demands it of the old man, who affirms he had not seen it, and appeals to Heaven in witness of his innocence. The soldier, not believing his protestations, kills him. Moses fell on his face with horror and amazement, when the Divine voice thus prevented his expostulation : 'Be not surprised, Moses, nor ask why the Judge of the whole earth has suffered this thing to come to pass. The child is the occasion that the blood of the old man is spilt; but know that the old man whom thou sawest was the murderer of that child's father.'
No 238. MONDAY, DECEMBER 3, 1711.
Nequicquam populo bibulas donaveris aures ;
Eager to driok the praise which is not thine.—BREwster. Among all the diseases of the mind, there is not one more epidemical or more pernicious than the love of flattery. For as where the juices of the body are prepared to receive the malignant influence, there the disease rages with most violence; so in this distemper of the mind, where there is ever a propensity and inclination to suck in the poison, it cannot be but that the whole order of reasonable action must be overturned; for, like music, it