« AnteriorContinuar »
N°267. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23,1710.
Sul gemus humamom ingenia superault, 11 umnas
LI CR. III 1056.
From my ou'n Apartment, December 22. I lave board Hout it in a rule among the conventuals of several orders in the Rominh church to shut them. salvru tp at a certain time of the yrar, not only from the world in general, but from the members of their own fraternity; and to pull away several days Ivy tienselves ill mittling accounts betweru their Maker and thrir own words, in cancelling unrepentach crimwa, and renewing thrir contracts of obedience for the future. Such stated times for particular acts of devotion, or the exercise of certain religious duties, have been enjoined in all civil governments, whatever deity they worshipped, or whatever religion they prófcmed. That which may be done at all times, I often totally neglected and forgotten), undens fixed and determined to sine time more than avotier, and thierrforc, though several duties may by suitable to every day of our lives, they are most likely to be performed, if some days are more particularly set apart for the practice of them. Our church has accordingly instiiuted several scasons of
devotion, when time, custoin, prescription, and, if I may so say, the fashion itself, call upon a man to be serious, and attentive to the great end of his being.
I have hinted in some former Papers, that the greatest and wisest of men in all ages and countries, particularly in Rome and Greece, were renowned for their piety and virtue. It is now my intention to shew, how those in our own nation, that have been unquestionably the most eminent for learning and knowledge, were likewise the most eminent for their adherence to the religion of their country.
I might produce very shining examples from among the clergy; but because priest-craft is the common cry of every cavilling, empty scribbler, I shall shew that all the laynien who have exerted a more than ordinary genius in their writings, and were the glory of their times, were men whose hopes were filled with immortality, and the prospect of future rewards, and men who lived in a dutiful submission to all the doctrines of revealed religion.
I shall, in this paper, only instance Sir Francis Bacon, a man who, for greatness of geuils, aid compass of knowledge, did honour to his age and country; I could almost say to human nature itself. He possessed at once all those extraordinary talents, which were divided amongst the greatest authors of antiquity. He had the sound, distinct, comprehensive knowledge of Aristotle, with all the beautiful lights, graces, and embellishments of Cicero. One does not know which to admire most in his writings, the strength of reason, force of style, or brightness ot imagination.
This anthor has remarked in several parts of his works, that a thorough insight into philosophy makes a goo.I believer, and that a smattering in ii naturally
produces such a race of despicable infidels as the little profligate writers of the present age, whom, I must confess, I bave always accused to myself, not so much for their want of faith as their want of learning.
I was infinitely pleased to find, among the works of this extraordinary man, a prayer of his own composing, which, for the elevation of thought, and greatness of expression, seems rather the devotion of an angel than a man. His principal fault seems to have been the excess of that virtue which covers a multitude of faults. This betrayed him to so great an indulgence towards bis servants, who made a corrupt use of it, that it stripped him of all those riches and bonours which a long series of merits had heaped upon him. But in this prayer, at the same time that we find him prostrating himself before the great mercy-seat, and humbled under amfictions, which at that time lay heavy upon him, we see him supported by the sense of his integrity, his zeal, bis devotion, and his love to mankind; which give him a much higher figure in the minds of thinking men, than that greatness had done from which he was fallen. I shall beg leave to write down the prayer itself, with the title to it, as it was found amongst his lordship’s papers, written in his own hand; not being able to furnish my readers with an entertaina ment more suitable to this solemn time*. A Prayer, or Psalm, made by my Lord BACON,
Chancellor of England. “ Most gracious Lord God, my merciful Father'; from my youth up my Creator, my Redeemer, piy Comforter. Thou, O Lord, soundest and searchest
* The approach of Christm.s.
the depths and secrets of all hearts; thou acknowJedgest the upright of heart; thou judgest the hypocrite; thou ponderest mens thoughts and doings as in a balance; thou measurest their intentions as with a line; vanity and crooked ways cannot be hid from thee.
“ Remember, O Lord! how thy servant hath walked before thee; remember what I have first sought, and what hath been principal in my intentions. I have loved thy assemblies, I have mourned for the divisions of thy church, I have delighted in the brightness of thy sanctuary. This vine, which thy right-hand hath planted in this nation, I have ever prayed unto thee that it might have the first and the latter rain, and that it might stretch her branches to the seas, and to the floods. The state and bread of the poor and oppressed have been precious in mine eyes ; I have hated all cruelty and hardness of heart; I have, though in a despised weed, procured the good of all men. If any have been my enemies, I thought not of them, neither bath the sun almost set upon my displeasure; but I have been, as a dove, free from superfluity of maliciousness. Thy creatures have been my book3, bat thy scriptures much more. I have sought thee in the courts, fields, and gardens; but I have found thee in thy temples.
“ Thousands have been my sins, and ten thousands my transgressions, but thy sanctifications have remained with me, and my heart, thro' thy grace, hath been an unquenched coal upon thine altar.
“ O Lord, my strength! I have since my youth met with thee in all my ways, by thy fatherly compassions, by thy comfortable chastisements, and by ihy most visible providence. As thy favours have increased upon me, so have thy corrections, so
me of the contrary ; for one or two fop-women shall not make a balance for the crowds of coxcombs among ourselves, diversified according to the ditferent pursuits of pleasure and business.
Returning home this evening a little before my usual bour, I scarce had seated myself in my easy chair, stirred the fire, and stroaked my cat, but I heard somebody come rumbling up stairs. I saw my door opened, and a human tigure advancing towards me, so fantastically put together, that it was some minutes before I discovered it to be my old and intimate friend Sam Trusty. Immediately I rose up, and placed him in my own seat; a compliment I pay to few. The first thing he uttered was, “ Isaac, feuch me a cup of your cherry-brandy before you offer to ask any question.” He dranka lusty drauglit, sat silent for some time, and at last broke out ;
“I am come," quoth he, “to insult thee for an old fantastic dotard, as thou art, in ever defending the women. I have this evening visited two widows, who are now in that state I have otten Bicard
call an after-life; I suppose you mean by it, an existence which grows out of past entertainments, and is an untimely delight in the satisfactions which they once set their hearts upou too much to be ever able to relinquish. Have but patience," continued he, until I give you a succinct account of my ladies, and of this night's adventure. They are n:uch of an age, but very diferent in their characters. The one of them, with all the advances which yours have made upon her, goes on in a certain romantic road of love and friendship which she fell into in her teens; the other has transferred the amorous passions of her first years to the love of cronics, petts, and favourites, with which she is always surrounded ; but the genius of each of thein will best appear by the account of what happened to