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Flavia is very idle, and yet very fond of fine works this makes her often sit working in bed until noon; and be told many a long story before she is up; so that I need not tell you that her morning devotions are not always rightly performed.
Flavia would be a miracle of piety, if she was but half so careful of her soul as she is of her body. The rising of a pimple in her face, the sting of a gnat, will make her keep her room two or three days, and she thinks they are very rash people, that do not take care of things in time. This makes her so over-careful of her health, that she never thinks she is well enough ; and so overindulgent, that she never can be really well. So that it costs her a great deal in sleeping-draughts, and wakingdraughts, in spirits for the head, in drops for the nerves, in cordials for the stomach, and in saffron for her tea.
If you visit Flavia on the Sunday, you will always meet good company, you will know what is doing in the world, you will hear the last lampoon, be told who wrote it, and who is meant by every name that is in it. You will hear what plays were acted that week, which is the finest song in the opera, who was intolerable at the last assembly, and what games are most in fashion. Flavia thinks they are atheists that play at cards on the Sunday, but she will tell you the nicety of all the games, what cards she held, how she played them, and the his tory of all that happened at play, as soon as she comes from church. If you would know who is rude and illnatured, who is vain and foppish, who lives too high, and who is in debt; if you would know what is the quarrel at a certain house, or who and who are in love; if you would know how late Belinda comes home at night, what clothes she has bought, how she loves compliments, and what a long story she told at such a place ; if
you would know how cross Lucius is to his wife, what ill-natured things he says. to her when nobody hears him; if you would know how they hate one another in their hearts, though they appear so kind in public; you must visit Flavia on the Sunday. But still she has so great a regard for the holiness of the Sunday, that she has turned a poor old widow out of her house, as a
profane wretch, for having been found once mending her clothes on the Sunday night.
Thus lives Flavia; and if she lives ten years longer, she will have spent about fifteen hundred and sixty Sundays after this manner. She will have wore about two hundred different suits of clothes. Out of this thirty years of her life, fifteen of them will have been disposed of in bed; and of the remaining fifteen, about fourteen of them will have been consumed in eating, drinking, dressing, visiting, conversation, reading and hearing plays and romances, at operas, assemblies, balls and diversions. For you may reckon all the time she is up, thus spent, except about an hour and a half, that is disposed of at church, most Sundays in the year. With great management and under mighty rules of economy, she will have spent sixty hundred pounds upon herself, bating only some shillings, crowns, or half-crowns, that have gone. from her in accidental charities.
I shall not take upon me to say, that it is impossible for Flavia to be saved; but thus much must be said, that she has no grounds from Scripture to think she is in the way of salvation. For her whole life is in direct opposition to all those tempers and practices, which the Gospel has made necessary to salvation.
If you was to hear her say, that she had lived all her life like Anne the prophetess, who departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day, you would look upon her as very extravagant; and yet this would be no greater an extravagance, than for her to say, that she had been striving to enter in at the straight gate, or making any one doctrine of the Gospel, a rule of her life.
She may as well say, that she lived with our Saviour when he was upon earth, as that she has lived in imitation of him, or made it any part of her care to live in such tempers, as he required of all those that would be his disciples. She may as truly say, that she has every day washed the saint's feet, as that she has lived in Christian humility, and poverty of spirit; and as reasonably think, that she has taught a charity-school, as that sho: has lived in works of charity. She has as much reason to think, that she has been a centinel in an army, as that
she has lived in watching and self-denial. And it may as fairly be said, that she lived by the labour of her hands, as that she had given all diligence to make her calling and election sure.
And here it is well to be observed, that the poor, vain turn of mind, the irreligion, the folly and vanity of this whole life of Flavia, is all owing to the manner of using her estate. It is this that has formed her spirit, that has given life to every idle temper, that has supported every trifling passion, and kept her from all thoughts of a prudent, useful, and devout life.
When her parents died, she had no thought about her two hundred pounds a year, but that she had so much money to do what she would with, to spend upon herself, and purchase the pleasures and gratifications of all her passions.
And it is this setting out, this false judgment, and indiscreet use of their fortune, that has filled her whole life with the same indiscretion, and kept her from thinking of what is right, and wise, and pious in every thing else.
If you have seen her delighted in plays and romances, in scandal and backbiting, easily flattered, and soon affronted; if you have seen her devoted to pleasures and diversions, a slave to every passion in its turn, nice in every thing that concerned her body or dress, careless of every thing that might benefit her soul, always wanting some new entertainment, and ready for every happy invention, in shew or dress, it was because she had purchased all these tempers with the yearly revenue of her fortune.
She might have been humble, serious, devout, a lover of good books, an admirer of prayer and retirement, careful of her time, diligent in good works, full of charity and the love of God, but that the imprudent use of her estate forced all the contrary tempers upon her.
And it was no wonder that she should turn her time, her mind, her heaith and strength to the same uses that she turned her fortune. It is owing to her being wrong in so great an article of life, that you can see nothing wise, or reasonable, or pious in any other part of it.
Now though the irregular trifling spirit of this character belongs, I hope, but to few people, yet many may here learn some instruction from it, and perhaps see something of their own spirit in it.
For as Flavia seems to be undone by the unreasonable use of her fortune, so the lowness of most people's virtue, the imperfections of their piety, and the disorders of their passions, is generally owing to their imprudent use and enjoyment of lawful and innocent things.
More people are kept from a true sense and state of religion by a regular kind of sensuality and indulgence, than by gross drunkenness. More men live regardless of the great duties of piety, through too great a concern for worldly goods, than through direct injustice.
This man would perhaps be devout, if he was not so great a 'virtuoso. Another is deaf to all the motives to piety, by indulging an idle, slothful temper.
Could you cure this man of his great curiosity and inquisitive temper, or that of his false satisfaction and thirst after learning, you need do no more to make them both become men of great piety.
If this woman would make fewer visits, or that not be always talking, they would neither of them find it half so hard to be affected with religion.
For all these things are only little, when they are compared to great sins; and though they are little in that respect, yet they are great, as they are impediments, and hindrances of a pious spirit.
For as consideration is the only eye of the soul, as the truths of religion can be seen by nothing else, so whatever raises a levity of mind, a trifling spirit, renders the soul incapable of seeing, apprehending, and relishing the doctrines of piety.
Would we therefore make a real progress in religion, we must not only abhor gross and notorious sins, but we must regulate the innocent and lawful parts of our behaviour, and put the most common and allowed actions of life under the rules of discretion and piety.
How the wise and pious use of an estate, naturally carrieth us to
great perfection in all the virtues of the Christian life ; represented in the character of Miranda.
ANY one pious regularity of any one part of our life, is of great auvantage, not only on its own account, but as it uses us to live by rule, and think of the government of ourselves.
A man of business, that has brought one part of his affairs under certain rules, is in a fair way to take the same care of the rest.
So he that has brought any one part of his life under the rules of religion, may thence be taught to extend the same order and regularity into other parts of his life.
If any one is so wise to think his time too precious to be disposed of by chance, and left to be devoured by any thing that happens in his way; if he lays himself under a necessity of observing how every day goes through his hands, and obliges himself to a certain order“ of time in his business, his retirements, and devotions, it is hardly to be imagined, how soon such a conduct would reforın, improve, and perfect the whole course of his life. He that once knows the value, and
the advantage of a well-ordered time, will not long be a stranger to the value of any thing else that is of any real concern: to him.
A rule that relates even to the smallest part of our life, is of great benefit to us, merely as it is a rule..
For, as the proverb saith, He that has begun well, has half done : so he that has begun to live by rule, has gone a great way towards the perfection of his own life..
By rule, must here be constantly understood, a religious rule, observed upon a principle of duty to God.
For if a man should oblige himself to be moderate in his meals, only in regard to his stomach, or abstain from drinking, only to avoid the head-ach ; or be maderate in: