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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 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.'t It is
* Vid. Senec. De constantia sapientis, sive quod in sapientem non cadit injuria.
ti Cor. xü. 12
to be considered, that Providence in its economy regards the whole system of time and things together, so that we cannot discover the beautiful connection 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 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 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
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;
PERSIUS, Sat. iv. 50.
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 a 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
So softens and disarms the mind, That not one arrow can resistance find. First we flatter ourselves, and then the flattery of others is sure of success. It awakens our self-love within, a party which is ever ready to revolt from our better judgment, and join the enemy without. Hence it is, that the profusion of favours we so often see poured upon the parasite, are represented to us by our self-love, as justice done to the man who so agreeably reconciled us to ourselves. When we are overcome by such soft insinuations and ensnaring compliances, we gladly recompense the artifices that are made use of to blind our reason, and which triumph over the weaknesses of our temper and inclinations.
But were every man persuaded from how mean and low a principle this passion is derived, there can be no doubt but the person who should attempt to gratify it, would then be as contemptible as he is now successful. It is the desire of some quality we are not possessed of, or inclination to be something we are not, which are the causes of our giving ourselves up to that man who bestows upon us the characters and qualities of others; which perhaps suit us as ill, and were as little designed for our wearing, as their clothes. Instead of going out of our own complexionable nature into that of others, it were a better and more laudable industry to improve our own, and instead of a miserable copy become a good original; for there is no temper, no disposition so rude and untractable, but may in its own peculiar cast and turn be brought to some agreeable use in conversation, or in the affairs of life. A person of a rougher deportment, and less tied up to the usual ceremonies of behaviour will, like Manly
in the play,* please by the grace which nature gives to every action wherein she is complied with; the brisk and lively will not want their admirers, and even a more reserved and melancholy temper may at some times be agreeable.
When there is not vanity enough awake in a man to undo him, the flatterer stirs up that dormant weakness, and inspires him with merit enough to be a coxcomb. But if flattery be the most sordid act that can be complied with, the art of praising justly is as commendable ; for it is laudable to praise well : as poets at one and the same time give immortality, and receive it them. selves for a reward. Both are pleased; the one while he receives the recompense of merit, the other whilst he shews he knows how to discern it; but above all, that man is happy in this art, who, like a skilful painter, retains the features and complexion, but still softens the picture into the most agreable likeness.
There can hardly, I believe, be imagined a more desirable pleasure, than that of praise un. mixed with any possibility of fattery. Such was that which Germanicus enjoyed, when, the night before a battle, desirous of some sincere mark of the esteem of his legions for him, he is described by Tacitus, listening in a disguise to the discourse of a soldier, and wrapt up in the fruition of his glory, whilst with an undesigned sincerity they praised his noble and majestic mien, his affability, his valour, conduct and success in war. How must a man have his heart full-blown with joy in such an article of glory as this? What a spur and encouragement still to proceed in those steps which had already brought him to so pure a taste of the greatest of mortal enjoyments?
* Wycherley's comedy of the Plain Deater.