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No. 494 No. 494.
Friday, September 26. Sept. 26, 1712. Aegritudinem laudare, unam rem maxime detestabilem, quorum
est tandem philosophorum -Cic.
for every one that would be thought religious, to throw as much Sanctity as possible into his Face, and in particular to abstain from all Appearances of Mirth and Pleasantry, which were looked upon as the Marks of a Carnal Mind, The Saint was of a sorrowful Countenance, and generally eaten up with Spleen and Melancholy, A Gentleman, who was lately a great Ornament to the learned World, has diverted me more than once with an Account of the Reception which he met with from a very famous Independent Minister, who was Head of a College in those Times. This Gentleman was then a young Adventurer in the Republick of Letters, and just fitted out for the University with a good Cargo of Latin and Greek. His Friends were resolved that he should try his Fortune at an Election which was drawing near in the College, of which the Independent Minister, whom I have before mentioned was Governour. The Youth, according to Custom, waited on him in Order to be examined. He was received at the Door by a Servant, who was one of that gloomy Generation that were then in Fashion. He conducted him, with great Silence and Seriousness, to a long Gallery which was darkned at Noonday, and had only a single Candle burning in it. After a short Stay in this melancholy Apartment, he was led into a Chamber hung with Black, where he entertained himself for some Time by the glimmering of a Taper, 'till at length the Head of the Colledge came out to him, from an inner Room, with half a Dozen Night-Caps upon his Head, and a religious Horror in his Countenance. The young Man trembled; but his Fears encreased, when, instead of being asked what Progress he had made in Learning, he was examined how he abounded in Grace. His Latin and Greek stood him in little stead, he was to give an Account only of the State of his Soul, whether he was of the Number of the Elect; what was the Occasion of his
Conversion ; upon what Day of the Month, and Hour of No. 494. the Day it happened; how_it was carried on, and when Friday, compleated? The whole Examination was summed up 1512.
Sept. 26, with one short Question, Namely, Whether he was pre pared for Death? The Boy, who had been bred up by honest Parents, was frighted out of his Wits at the Solemnity of the Proceeding, and by the_last dreadful Interrogatory; so that upon making his Escape out of this House of Mourning he could never be brought a second Time to the Examination, as not being able to go through the Terrors of it
Notwithstanding this general Form and Outside of Religion is pretty well worn out among us, there are many Persons, who, by a natural Unchearfulness of Heart, mistaken Notions of Piety, or Weakness of Understanding, love to indulge this uncomfortable Way of Life, and give up themselves a Prey to Grief and Melancholy. Superstitious Fears, and groundless Scruples, cut them off from the Pleasures of Conversation, and all those social Enter tainments which are not only innocent but laudable ; as if Mirth was made for Reprobates, and Chearfulness of Heart denied those who are the only Persons that have a proper Title to it
Sombrius is one of these Sons of Sorrow. He thinks himself obliged in Duty to be sad and disconsolate. He looks on a sudden Fit of Laughter, as a Breach of his Baptismal Vow. An innocent Jest startles him like Blasphemy. Tell him of one who is advanced to a Title of Honour, he lifts up his Hands and Eyes; describe a Publick Ceremony, he shakes his Head; shew him a gay Equipage, he blesses himself
. All the little Ornaments of Life are Pomps and Vanities. Mirth is wanton, and Wit profane. He is scandalized at Youth for being lively, and at Childhood for being playful. He sits at a Christen ing, or a Marriage-Feast, as at a Funeral; sighs at the Conclusion of a merry Story; and grows devout when the Rest of the Company grow pleasant. After all, Sombrius is a religious Man, and would have behaved himself very properly, had he lived when Christianity was under a general' Persecution, I would by no Means presume to tax such Characters
No. 494. with Hypocrisie, as is done too frequently, that being a Friday, Vice which I think none but He, who knows the Secrets Sept. 26, of Men's Hearts, should pretend to discover in another, 1712.
where the Proofs of it do not amount to a Demonstration, On the contrary, as there are many excellent Persons, who are weighed down by this habitual Sorrow of Heart, they rather deserve our Compassion than our Reproaches. I think, however, they would do well to consider, whether such a Behaviour does not deterr Men from a religious Life, by Representing it as an unsociable State, that extinguishes all Joy and Gladness, darkens the Face of Nature, and destroys the Relish of Being it self.
I have, in former Papers, shewn how great a Tendency there is to Chearfulness in Religion, and how such a Frame of Mind is not only the most lovely, but the most commendable in a virtuous Person. In short, those who represent Religion in so unamiable a Light, are like the Spies sent by Moses to make a Discovery of the Land of Promise, when by their Reports they discouraged the People from entering upon it. Those who shew us the Joy, the Chearfulness, the good Humour, that naturally springs up in this happy State, are like the Spies bringing along with them the Clusters of Grapes, and delicious Fruits, that might invite their Companions into the pleasant Country which
produced them. An eminent Pagan Writer has made a Discourse, to shew that the Atheist, who denies a God, does him less Dishonour than the Man who owns his Being, but at the same Time believes him to be cruel, hard to please, and terrible to humane Nature. For my own Part, says he, I would rather it shou'd be said of me, that there was never any such Man as Plutarch, than that Plutarch was ill-natured, capricious or inhumane.
If we may believe our Logicians, Man is distinguished from all other Creatures, by the Faculty of Laughter. He has an Heart capable of Mirth, and naturally disposed to it. It is not the Business of Virtue to extirpate the Affections of the Mind, but to regulate them. It may moderate and restrain, but was not designed to banish Gladness from the Heart of Man, Religion contracts the Circle of our Pleasures, but leaves it wide enough for her
Votaries to expatiate_in. The Contemplation of the No. 494. Divine Being, and the Exercise of Virtue, are in their own Friday, Nature so far from excluding all Gladness of Heart, that Sept.26,
1712. they are perpetual Sources of it. In a Word, the true Spirit of Religion cheers, as well as composes the Soul : It banishes indeed all Levity of Behaviour, all vicious and dissolute Mirth, but in Exchange fills the Mind with a perpetual Serenity, uninterrupted Chearfulness, and an habitual Inclination to please others, as well as to be pleased in itself.
Saturday, September 27.
Ducit opes animumque ferro.-Hor.
look into all kinds of Men, there are none whom I consider with so much Pleasure, as those who have any Thing new or extraordinary in their Characters, or Ways of Living. For this Reason I have often amused my self with Speculations on the Race of People called Jews, many of whom I have met with in most of the considerable Towns which I have passed through in the Course of my Travels. They are, indeed, so disseminated through all the trading Parts of the World, that they are become the Instruments by which the most distant Nations converse with one another, and by which Mankind are knit together in a general Correspondence. They are like the Pegs and Nails in a great Building, which, though they are but little valued in themselves, are absolutely necessary to keep the whole Frame together.
That I may not fall into any common beaten Tracks of Observation, I shall consider this people in three Views; First, with Regard to their Number: Secondly, their Dispersion; and Thirdly their Adherence to their Religion; and afterwards endeavour to shew, first what natural Reasons, and secondly what providential Reasons may be assigned for these three remarkable Particulars.
No. 495. The Jews are looked upon by many to be as numerous Saturday, at present, as they were formerly in the Land of Canaan. Sept. 27, This is wonderful, considering the dreadful Slaughter 1712.
made of them under some of the Roman Emperors, which Historians describe by the Death of many Hundred Thousands in a War, and the innumerable Massacres and Persecutions they have undergone in Turkey, as well as in all Christian Nations of the
World. Their Rabbins, to express the great Havock which has been sometimes made of them, tell us, after their usual Manner of Hyperbole, that there were such Torrents of holy Blood shed, as carried Rocks of an hundred Yards in Circumference above three Miles into the Sea.
Their Dispersion is the second remarkable Particular in this people. They swarm over all the East, and are settled in the remotest Parts of China. They are spread through most of the Nations of Europe and Africk, and many Families of them are established in the Weste Indies. Not to mention whole Nations bordering on Prester John's Country, and discovered in the inner Parts of America, if we may give any Credit to their own Writers.
Their firm Adherence to their Religion, is no less remarkable than their Numbers and Dispersion, especially considering it as persecuted or contemned over the Face of the whole Earth. This is likewise the more remarkable, if we consider the frequent Apostacies of this people, when they lived under their Kings, in the Land of Promise, and within Sight of their Temple.
If in the next Place we examine, what may be the natural Reasons for these three Particulars, which we find in the Jews, and which are not to he found in any other Religion or People, I can in the first place attribute their Numbers to Nothing, but their constant Employment, their Abstinence, their Exemption from Wars, and, above all, their frequent Marriages; for they look on Celibacy as an accursed State, and generally are married before Twenty, as hoping the Messiah may descend from them,
The Dispersion of the Jews into all the Nations of the Earth, is the second remarkable Particular of that people, though not so hard to be accounted for. They were