« AnteriorContinua »
factions than can be raised by any other entertainment. The most illiterate man who is touched with devotion, and uses frequent exercises of it, contracts a certain greatness of mind, mingled with a noble simplicity, that raises him above those of the same condition; and there is an indelible mark of goodness in those who sincerely possess it. It is hardly possible it should be otherwise ; for the fervours of à pious mind will naturally contract such an earnestness and attention towards a better being, as will make the ordinary passages of life go off with a becoming indifference. By this a man in the lowest condition will not appear mean, or in the most splendid fortune insolent.
As to all the intricacies and vicissitudes, under which men are ordinarily entangled with the utmost sorrow and passion, one who is devoted to Heaven, when he falls into such difficulties, is led by a clue through a labyrinth. As to this world, he does not pretend to skill in the mazes of it; but fixes his thoughts upon one certainty, that he shall soon be out of it. And we may ask very boldly, what can be a more sure consolation than to have a hope in death? When men are arrived at thinking of their very dissolution with pleasure, how few things are there that can be terrible to them! Certainly, nothing can be dreadful to such spirits, but what would make death terrible to them, falsehood towards man, or impiety towards Heaven. To such as these, as there are certainly many such, the gratifications of innocent pleasures are doubled, even with reflections upon their imperfection. The disappointments, which naturally attend the great promises we make ourselves in expected enjoyments, strike no damp upon such men, but only quicken their hopes of soon knowing joys, which are too pure to admit of allay or satiety.
It is thought, among the politer part of mankind, an imperfection to want a relish of any of those things which refine our lives. This is the foundation of the acceptance which eloquence, music, and poetry, make in the world; and I know not why devotion, considered merely as an exaltation of our happiness, should not at least be so far regarded as to be considered. It is possible, the very inquiry would lead men into such thoughts and gratifications, as they did not expect to meet with in this place. Many a good acquaintance has been lost from a general prepossession in his disfavour, and a severe aspect has often hid under it a very agreeable companion.
There are no distinguishing qualities among men to which there are not false pretenders; but though none is more pretended to than that of devotion, there are, perhaps, fewer successful impostors in this kind than any other. There is something so natively great and good in a person that is truly devout, that an awkward man may as well pretend to be genteel, as a hypocrite to be pious. The constraint in words and actions are equally visible in both cases ; and any thing set up in their room does but remove the endeavours the further off their pretensions. But, however the sense of true piety is abated, there is no other motive of action that can carry us through all the vicissitudes of life with alacrity and resolution. But piety, like philosophy, when it is superficial, does but make men appear the worse for it ; and a principle that is but half received does but distract, instead of guiding our behaviour. When I reflect upon the unequal conduct of Lotius, I see many things that run directly counter to his interest; therefore I cannot attribute his labours for the public good to ambition. When I consider his disregard to his fortune, I cannot esteem him covetous.
How then can I reconcile his neglect of himself, and his zeal for others? I have long suspected him to
- little pious ;' but no man ever hid his vice with greater caution, than he does his virtue. It was the praise of a great Roman, that he had rather be, than appear, good. But such is the weakness of Lotius, that I dare say he had rather be esteemed irreligious than devout. By I know not what impatience of raillery, he is wonderfully fearful of being thought too great a believer. A hundred little devices are made use of to hide a time of private devotion ; and he will allow you any suspicion of his being ill employed, so you do not tax him with being well. But alas ! how? mean is such a behaviour ! To boast of virtue, is a most ridiculous way of disappointing the merit of it, but not so pitiful as that of being ashamed of it. How unhappy is the wretch, who makes the most absolute and independent motive of action the cause of perplexity and inconstancy! How different a figure does Cælicolo make with all who know him! His great and superior mind, frequently exalted by the raptures of heavenly meditation, is to all his friends of the same use, as if an angel were to appear at the decision of their disputes. They very well understand, he is as much disinterested and unbiassed as such a being. He considers all applications made to him, as those addresses will affect his own application to Heaven. All his determinations are delivered with a beautiful humility; and he pronounces his decisions with the air of one who is more frequently a supplicant than a judge.
Thus humble, and thus great, is the man who is moved by piety, and exalted by devotion. But behold this recommended by the masterly hand of a great divine I have heretofore made bold with.
“ It is such a pleasure as can never cloy or overwork the mind; å delight that grows and improves under thought and reflection; and while it exercises
, does also endear itself to the mind. All pleasures that affect the body must needs weary, because they transport; and all transportation is a violence; and no violence can be lasting; but determines upon
the falling of the spirits, which are not able to keep up that height of motion that the pleasure of the senses raises them to. And therefore how inevitably does an immoderate laughter end in a sigh, which is only nature's recovering itself after a force done to it! but the religious pleasure of a well-disposed mind moves gently, and therefore constantly. It does not affect by rapture and ecstasy, but is like the pleasure of health, greater
and stronger than those that call up the senses with grosser
and pressions. No man's
body is as strong as his appetites; but Heaven has corrected the boundlessness of his voluptuous desires, by stinting his strength
, and contracting his capacities.-The pleasure of the
religious man is an easy and a portable pleasure,
of the world.
out alarming either the
, is like
value is the same, and the convenience greater."
* Dr. South.
I HAVE had much importunity to answer the following letter.
MR. BICKERSTAFF, Reading over a volume of yours, I find the words Simplex Munditiis mentioned as a description
very well-dressed woman. I beg of you, for the sake of the sex, to explain these terms. I cannot comprehend what
brother means, when he tells me, they signify my own name, which is, Sir,
“ Your humble servant,
« PLAIN ENGLISH."
I think the lady's brother has given us a very good idea of that elegant expression, it being the greatest beauty of speech to be close and intelligible. To this end, nothing is to be more carefully consulted than plainness. In a lady's attire this is the single excellence; for to be, what some people call, fine, is the same vice in that case, as to be florid is in writing or speaking. I have studied and writ on this important subject, till I almost despair of making a reformation in the females of this island, where we have more beauty than in any spot in the universe, if we did not disguise it by false garniture, and detract from it by impertinent improvements. I have by me a treatise concerning