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N° 213. Saturday, November 3..
Mens sibi confcia recti.
TT is the great Art and Secret of Christianity, if I may
use that. Phrase, to manage our Actions to the best
Advantage, and direct them in such a manner, that every thing we do may turn to Account at that great Day, when every thing we have done will be set before us.
IN order to give this Consideration its full Weight, we may cast all our Actions under the Division of such as are in themselves either Good, Evil, or Indifferent. If we divide our Intentions after the fame Manner, and consider them with regard to our Actions, we may discover that great Art and Secret of Religion which I have here mentioned.
A good Intention joined to a good Action, gives it its proper Force and Efficacy i joined to an Evil Action, .extenuates its Malignity, and in some Cafes may take it wholly away; and joined to an indifferent Action, turns it to Virtue, and makes it meritorious as far as humane Actions can be fo. 1. IN the next Place, to consider in the same manner the Influence of an Evil Intention upon our Actions. An cvil Intention perverts the best of Actions, and makes them in reality what the Farhers with a witty kind of Zeal have termed the Virtues of the Heathen World, fo many hining Sins. It destroys the Innocence of an in-1 different Action, and gives an evil Action all possible '. Blackness and Horrour, or in the emphatical Language of Sacred Writ, makes Sin exceedling (inful.
IF, in the laft Place, we consider the Nature of an indifferent Intention, we shall find that it deltroys the Merit of a good Action n; abates, but never takes away, the Malignity of an evil Action; and leaves
an indifferent Action in its natural State of Indifference.
It is therefore of unspeakable Advantage to postess our Minds with an habitual good Intention, and to aim all our Thoughts, Words, and Actions at some laudable End, whether it be the Glory- of our Makers, the Good of Mankind, or the Benefit of our own Souls.
THIS is a sort of Thrift or Good-Husbandry in moral Life, which does not throw away any single Action, but makes every one go as far as it can. If multiplies the Means of Salvation, encreases the Number of our Virtues, and diminishes that of our Vis ces.
THERE is something very devout, though not so folid, in Acofta's Answer to Limborch, who objects to him the Multiplicity of Ceremonies in the Fewish Religion, as Washings, Dresses, Meats, Purgations, and the like, The Reply which the 7ew makes upon this Occa-fion, is, to the best of my Remembrance, as follows: “There are not Daties enough (says:he) in the essential • Parts of the Law for a zealous and active Obedience. • Time, Place, and Person are requisite, before you have • an Opportunity of putting a moral Virtue into Practice. • We have therefore, says he, enlarged the Sphere of our • Duty, and made many things which are in themselves • indifferent a part of our Religion, that we may have . more Occasion of Thewing our Love to God, and in • all the Circumstances of Life be doing something to please
MONSIEUR St. Evremont has endeavoured to palliate the Superstitions of the Roman Catholick Religion with the same kind of Apology, where he pretends to consider the different Spirit of the Papists and the Calvinists, as to the great Points wherein: they disagree. He tells us, that the former are actuated by Love, and the other by Fear; and that in their Expressions of Duty and Devotion towards the Supreme Being, the former feem particularly careful to do every thing which may possibly please bim,
and the other to abłtain from every thing that may poss fbly displease him.
BUT notwithstanding this plausible Reafon with which both the Jew and the Roman Catholick would excuse their refpe&tive Superstitions, it is certain there is fomething in them very pernicious to Mankind, and destructive to Religion; because the Injunction of fuperAuous Ceremonies makes such actions Duties, as were before indifferent, and by that means renders Religion more burthensome and difficult than it is in its own Na'ture, betrays many into Sins of Omission which they could not otherwise be guilty of, and fixes the Minds of the Vulgar to the fhadowy unessential Points, instead of the more weighty and more important Matters of the Law.
THIS zealous and active Obedience however takes Place in the great Point we are recommending; for if, instead of prescribing to our felves indifferent Actions as Duries, we apply a good Intention to all our most indifferent A&ions, we make our very Exifence onc continued Act of Obedience, we turn our. Diversions and Amufements to our eternal Advantage, and are pleasing him (whom we are made to please) in all the Circumfrances and Occurrences of Life.
IT is this excellent Frame of Mind, this holy of fíciousness ( if I may be allowed to call it fuch) which is sccommended to us. by the Apostle in that uncommon Precept, wherein he directs us to propose to our felves the Glory of our Creator in all our most indifferent Actions, whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever We do.
A Perfon therefore who is pofleffed with such an habitual good Intention, as that which I have been here fpeaking of, enters upon no single Circumstance of Life, without confidering it as well pleasing to the great Author of his Being, conformable to the DiČtates of Reafon, suitable to human Nature in general, or to the particular Station in which Providence has placed him." He lives in a perpetual Sense of the Divine Prefence, regards himself as acting, in the whole Course of his Existence, under the Observation
and Infpection of that Being, who is privy to all his Mo-tions and all bis Thoughts, who knows his Down-fitting and bis Up-rising, who is abeut his Path, and about his Bed, and spisth out all his Ways. In a word, he remembers that the Eye of his Judge is always upon him, and in every Action he reflects that he is doing what is commanded or allowed by Him who will hereafter either reward or pupish it. This was the Character of those holy Men of old, who in that beautiful Phrafe of Scripture are faid to have walked with God. ,
WHEN I employ my self upon a Paper of Morality, I generally consider how I may recommend the parei. cular Virtue which I treat of, by the Precepts or Examples of the ancient Heathens; by that Means, if poffible, to shame those who have greater Advantages of knowing their Duty, and cherefore greater Obligations to perform it, into a better Course of Life: Besides, that many among us are unreasonably disposed co give a fairer "Hearing to a Pagan Philosopher, than to a Christian Writer.
I fall therefore produce an Instance of this excellent Frame of Mind in a Speech of Socrates, which is quoted by Erasmus. This great Philosopher on the Day of his Execution, a little before the Draught of Poison was brought to him, entertaining his Friends with a Dife course on the Immortality of the Soul, has these Words: Whether or no God will approve of my Actie ons, I know not ; but this I am sure of, that I have at all. Times made it my Endeavour to please him, and I have a good Hope that this my Endeavour will be accepted by him. We find in these Words of that great Man the habitual good Intention which I would here inculcate, and wih which that Divine Philosopher always acted. I fall only add, that Erafmus, who was an unbigotted Roman Catholick, was so much transported with this Passage of Socrates, that he could Scarce forbear looking upon him as a Saint, and desiring him to pray for him ; or as that ingenious and learnied Writer has expressed himself in a much more lively Manner. When I reflect on such a Speech pronounced:
by such a Person, I can scarce forbear crying out, Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis. Ó holy Socrates, pray for us..
N° 214. Monday, November 5.
Perierunt tempor a longi
suffer for want of Punctuality in the Dealings of Perfons above them; but there is a Set of Men who are much more the Objects of Compassion than cyen thofe, and these are the Dependants on great Men, whom they are pleased to take under their Protection as such as are to share in their Friendship and Favour. These indeed, as well from the Homage that is accepted from them, as the Hopes which are given to them, are become a Sort of Creditors; and these Debts, being Debts of Honour, ought, according to the accustom'd Maxim, to be first discharged.
WHEN I speak of Dependants, I would not be understood to mean those who are worthless in themselves, or who, without any Call, will press into the Company of their Betters. Nor, when I speak of Patrons, do 1 mean those who either have it not in their Power, or have no Obligation to assist their Friends ; but I. fpeak of such Leagues where there is Power and Obligation on the one Part, and Merit and Expectation on the other.
THE Division of Patron and Client, may, I believe, include a Third of our Nation; the Want of Merit and real Worth in the Client, will strike out abour Ninety nine in a Hundred of these ; and the Want of Ability in Patrons, as many of that Kind. Bur however, I must beg Leave to say, that he who