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who have fearched into human nature obferve, that nothing more fhews the nobleness of the foul, than that its felicity confifts in action. Every man has fuch an active principle in him, that he will find out fomething to employ himfelf upon, in whatever ftate of life he is pofted. I have heard of a gentleman who was under clofe confinement in the Bofille feven years; during which time he amufed himfelf in fcattering pins about his chamber, gathering them up again, and placing them in different figures in the arm of a great chair. He often told his friends afterwards, that unlefs he had found out this piece of exercife, he verily believed that he should have Loft his fenfes.SPECTATOR, Vol. II. No. 116. T.
We fhould caft all our actions under the divifion of fuch as are in themselves good, bad, or indifferent; and to direct them in fuch a manner, that every thing we do, may turn to account at that great day when every thing we have done will be fet before us.
A good intention joined to a good action, gives it its proper force and efficacy; joined to an evil action, extenutes its malignity, and in fome cafes may take it wholly away; and joined to an indifferent action, turns it to a virtue, and makes it meritorious, as far as human actions can be fo..
In the next place, to confider in the fame manner the influence of an evil intention upon our actions. An evil intention perverts the beft of actions, and makes them in reality what the fathers have termed the virtues of the heathen world, fo many shining fins. It deftroys the innocence of an indifferent action; and gives an evil action all poffible blackness and horror; or, in the emphatical language of Holy Writ, makes fin exceeding finful.
It is then of unspeakable advantage to poffefs our minds with an habitual good intention, and to aim all our thoughts, words, and actions at fome laudable end, whether it be the glory of our Maker, the good of mankind, or the benefit of our own fouls.
This is a fort of thrift or good husbandry in moral life, which does not throw away any fingle action, but makes every one go as far as it can; it multiplies the means of falvation, increases the number of our virtues, and diminishes that of our vices.
It is this excellent frame of mind, this holy officioufnefs, which is recommended to us by the Apostle in. that uncommon precept, wherein he directs us to propofe to ourselves the glory of our Creator in all our moft indifferent actions, whether we eat, or drink, or whatfoever we do..
A perfon therefore who is poffeffed with fuch an habitual good intention, as that which I have been here fpeaking of, enters upon no fingle circumftance of life without confidering it as well pleafing to the great Author of his Being, conformable to the dictates of reason, suitable to human nature in general, or to that particular station in which Providence has placed him. He lives in a perpetual fenfe 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 motions and all his thoughts, who knows his down-fitting and his uprising, who is about his path, and about his bed, and Spieth out all his ways. In a word, he remembereth 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 ieward or punish it: this was the character of those holy men of old, who in that beautiful phrafe in fcripture are faid to have walked with God.
There is an excellent fpeech of Socrates: This great philofopher, on the day of his execution, a little before the draught of poifon was brought to him, entertaining his friends with a difcourfe on the immortality of the foul, has thefe words:-Whether o God will approve of my actions, I know not; but this I am fure of, that I have at all times made it my endeavour. 10 pleafe 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 intenion which I would
here inculcate, and with which that divine philofopher always acted. I fhall only add, that Erafmus, who was an unbigoted Roman-Catholic, was fo much tranfported with this paffage of Socrates, that he could fcarce forbear looking upon him as a Saint, and defiring him to pray for him, or as that learned and ingenious writer has expreffed himself in a much more lively manner: When I reflect on fuch a speech pronounced by fuch a perfon, I can hardly forbear crying out, Sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis: O ́holy Socrates, pray for us.
SPECTATOR, Vol. III. No. 213. L..
HERE is nothing which we receive with fo much reluctance as advice. We look upon the man who gives it us, as offering an affront to our understanding, and treating us like children or idiots. There is nothing fo difficult as the art of making advice agreeable : the pens of the ancients and moderns have been exercifed upon this occafion. How many devices have been made ufe of to render this bitter potion palatable! Some convey their inftruction to us in the best chofen words, others in the most harmonicus numbers; fome in points of wit, and others in fhort proverbs.
But among all the different ways of giving counfel, that which pleases the moft univerfally, is Fable; it excels all others, because it is the leaft fhocking, and therefore the most delicate. This will appear, if we reflect, that upon the reading of a Fable, we are made to believe we advise ourfelves: We perufe the author for the fake of the ftory, and confider the precepts rather as our own conclufions than his inftructions. This is confirmed by the examples of the wife men of old, who chofe to give counfel to their princes in this method; an inftance of which we have in a Turkish Tale, which informs us, that the Sultan
Mahamoud, by his perpetual wars abroad, and his tyranny at home, had filled his dominions with ruin and defolation, and half unpeopled the Perfian Empire. The Vifier to this great Sultan pretended to have learned of a certain Dervife, to understand the language of birds, fo that there was not a bird that could open his mouth, but the Vifier knew what it faid. As he was one evening with the Empe-. ror, in their return from hunting, they faw a couple of owls upon a tree that grew near an old wall out of a heap of rubbish. I would fain know, fays the Sultan, what thefe two owls are faying to one another;, liften to their difcourfe, and give me an account of it. The Vifier approached the tree, pretending to be very attentive to the two owls. Upon his return to the Sultan-Sir, fays he, I have heard part of their con verfation, but dare not tell you what it is.. The Sultan would not be fatisfied with fuch an anfwer, but forced him to repeat, word, for word, every thing the owls had faid. You must know then, faid the Vifier, that one of thefe owls has a Son, and the other a Daughter, between whom they are now upon a treaty of marriage. The father of the fon faid to the father of the daughter, in my hearing, brother I con-. fent to this marriage, provided you will fettle upon. your daughter fifty ruined Villages for her portion. To which the father of the daughter replied, instead! of fifty, I will give her five hundred, if you please. God grant a long life to Sultan Mahamoud; whilft he reigns over us, we fhall never want ruined Villages.
The story says, the Sultan was. fo touched with the Fable, that he rebuilt the towns and villages which had been deftroyed, and from that time forward con-. fulted the good of his people. SPECTATOR, Vol. VII, No. 5.12. O..
PLATO expreffes his abhorrence of some Fables of
the Poets, which feem to reflect on the gods as the authors of Injustice; and lays it down as a principle, that whatever is permitted to befall a juft man, whether poverty, fickness or any of thofe things which feem to be evils, fhall either in life or death conduce to his good. My reader will, obferve how agreeable this maxim is to what we find delivered by a greater authority. Seneca has written a difcourfe purpofely on this fubject, in which he takes pains, after the doctrine of the Stoicks, to fhew that adverfity 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 Profperity to the indulgence of a fond mother to a child, which often proves its ruin; but the affection of the divine Being, to that of a wife father, who would have his fons, exercifed with hard labour, disappointment, and pain, that they may gather ftrength and improve their fortitude. On this oc-. cafion the Philofopher rifes into that celebrated fentiment, that there is not on earth a fpectacle more worthy the regard of a Creator intent on his works, than a brave man fuperior to his fufferings; to which he adds, that it must be a pleasure to Jupiter himfelf, to look down from Heaven, and fee Cato amid the ruins of his country preferving his integrity. SPECTATOR, Vol. III. No. 237.
When the mind has been perplexed with anxious : cares and paffions, the best method of bringing it to its usual state of tranquility, is, as much as we poffibly can, to turn our thoughts to the adverfities of perfons of higher confideration in virtue and merit than ourselves. By this means, all the little incidents of our own lives, if they are unfortunate, feem to be the effect of Justice upon our faults and indifcretions.. When those whom we know to be excellent and de