No. 634. FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 1714.

Ὁ ἐλαχίσων δεόμεν@ ἔγγισα θεῶν.

SOCRATES apud Xen.

The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods.

Ir was the common boast of the heathen philosophers, that, by the efficacy of their several doctrines, they made human nature resemble the divine. How much mistaken soever they might be in the several means they proposed for this end, it must be owned that the design was great and glorious. The finest works of invention and imagination are of very little weight when put in the balance with what refines and exalts the rational mind. Longinus excuses Homer very handsomely, when he says the poet made his gods like men, that he might make his men appear like the gods. But it must be allowed that several of the ancient philosophers acted as Cicero wishes Homer had done; they endeavoured rather to make men like gods, than gods like men.

According to this general maxim in philosophy, some of them have endeavoured to place men in such a state of pleasure, or indolence at least, as they vainly imagined the happiness of the Supreme Being to consist in. On the other hand, the most virtuous sect of philosophers have created a chimerical wise man, whom they made exempt from passion and pain, and thought it enough to pronounce him all-sufficient.

This last character, when divested of the glare of human philosophy that surrounds it, signifies no more than that a good and a wise man should so arm himself with patience, as not to yield tamely to the violence of passion and pain; that he should learn so to suppress and contract his desires as to have few wants; and that he should cherish so many virtues in his soul, as to have a perpetual source of pleasure in himself.

The Christian religion requires that, after having framed the best idea we are able of the Divine nature, it should be our next care to conform ourselves to it as far as our imperfections will permit. I might mention seve

ral passages in the sacred writings on this head, to which I might add many maxims and wise sayings of moral`authors among the Greeks and Romans.

I shall only instance a remarkable passage, to this purpose, out of Julian's Cæsars.* That emperor having represented all the Roman emperors, with Alexander the Great, as passing in review before the gods, and striving for the superiority, lets them all drop, excepting Alexander, Julius Cæsar, Augustus Cæsar, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, and Constantine. Each of these great heroes of antiquity lays his claim for the upper place; and, in order to it, sets forth his actions after the most advantageous manner. But the gods, instead of being dazzled with the lustre of their actions, inquire by Mercury into the proper motive and governing principle that influenced them throughout the whole series of their lives and exploits. Alexander tells them that his aim was to conquer; Julius Cæsar, that his was to gain the highest post in his country; Augustus, to govern well; Trajan, that his was the same as that of Alexander, namely, to conquer. The question, at length, was put to Marcus Aurelius, who replied, with great modesty, that it had always been his care to imitate the gods. This conduct seems to have gained him the most votes and best place in the whole assembly. Marcus Aurelius, being afterwards asked to explain himself, declares, that, by imitating the gods, he endeavoured to imitate them in the use of his understanding, and of all other faculties; and, in particular, that it was always his study to have as few wants as possible in himself, and to do all the good he could to others.

Among the many methods by which revealed religion has advanced morality, this is one, that it has given us a more just and perfect idea of that Being whom every reasonable creature ought to imitate. The young man, in a heathen comedy, might justify his lewdness by the example of Jupiter; as, indeed, there was scarce any crime that might not be countenanced by those notions of the deity which prevailed among the common people in the heathen world. Revealed religion sets forth a

* Spanheim, Les Cesars de L'Empereur Julien, 4to. 1728.

proper object for imitation in that Being, who is the pattern, as well as the source, of all spiritual perfection.

While we remain in this life we are subject to innumerable temptations, which, if listened to, will make us deviate from reason and goodness, the only things wherein we can imitate the Supreme Being. In the next life we meet with nothing to excite our inclinations that doth not deserve them. I shall therefore dismiss my reader with this maxim, viz. Our happiness in this world proceeds from the suppression of our desires, but in the next world from the gratification of them.' [The Author uncertain.]

No. 635. MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 1714.

Sentio te sedem hominum ac domum contemplari; quæ si tibi parva (ut est) ita videtur, hæc cœlestia semper spectato; illa humana contemnito. CICERO Somn. Scip.

I perceive you contemplate the seat and habitation of men; which, if it appears as little to you as it really is, fix your eyes perpetually upon heavenly objects, and despise earthly.


THE following essay comes from the ingenious author of the letter upon Novelty, printed in a late Spectator: the notions are drawn from the Platonic way of thinking; but, as they contribute to raise the mind, and may inspire noble sentiments of our own future grandeur and happiness, I think it well deserves to be presented to the public.

Ir the universe be the creature of an intelligent mind, this mind could have no immediate regard to himself in producing it. He needed not to make trial of his omnipotence to be informed what effects were within its reach; the world, as existing in his eternal idea, was then as beautiful as now it is drawn forth into being; and in the immense abyss of his essence are contained far brighter scenes than will be ever set forth to view; it being im

* NO. 626.

possible that the great Author of nature should bound his own power, by giving existence to a systein of creatures so perfect that he cannot improve upon it by any other exertions of his almighty will. Between finite and infinite there is an unmeasured interval not to be filled up in endless ages; for which reason the most excellent of all God's works must be equally short of what his power is able to produce as the most imperfect, and may be exceeded with the same ease.

This thought hath made some imagine (what it must be confessed is not impossible) that the unfathomed space is ever teeming with new births, the younger still inheriting a greater perfection than the elder. But, as this doth not fall within my present view, I shall content myself with taking notice, that the consideration now mentioned proves undeniably, that the ideal worlds in the Divine understanding yield a prospect incomparably more ample, various, and delightful, than any created world can do: and that therefore, as it is not to be supposed that God should make a world merely of inanimate matter, however diversified or inhabited only by creatures of no higher an order than brutes, so the end for which he designed his reasonable offspring is the contemplation of his works, the enjoyment of himself, and in both to be happy; having, to this purpose, endowed them with correspondent faculties and desires. He can have no greater pleasure from a bare review of his works than from the survey of his own ideas; but we may be assured that he is well pleased in the satisfaction derived to beings capable of it, and for whose entertainment he hath erected this immense theatre. Is not this more than an intimation of our immortality? Man, who, when considered as on his probation for a happy existence hereafter, is the most remarkable instance of Divine wisdom, if we cut him off from all relation to eternity, is the most wonderful and unaccountable composition in the whole creation. He hath capacities to lodge a much greater variety of knowledge than he will be ever master of, and an unsatisfied curiosity to tread the secret paths of nature and providence: but, with this, his organs, in their present structure, are rather fitted to serve the necessities of a vile body, than to minister to his understanding; and, from the little spot to which he is chained, he can frame

but wandering guesses concerning the innumerable worlds of light that encompass him, which, though in themselves of a prodigious bigness, do but just glimmer in the remote spaces of the heavens; and when, with a great deal of time and pains, he hath laboured in a little way up the steep aseent of truth, and beholds with pity the grovelling multitude beneath, in a moment his foot slides, and he tumbles down headlong into the grave.

Thinking on this, I am obliged to believe, in justice to the Creator of the world, that there is another state when man shall be better situated for contemplation, or rather have it in his power to remove from object to object, and from world to world; and be accommodated with senses, and other helps, for making the quickest and most amazing discoveries. How doth such a genius as Sir Isaac New ton, from amidst the darkness that involves human understanding, break forth, and appear like one of another species! The vast machine we inhabit lies open to him; he seems not unacquainted with the general laws that govern it; and while with the transport of a philosopher he beholds and admires the glorious work, he is capable of paying at once a more devout and more rational homage to his Maker. But, alas! how narrow is the prospect even of such a mind! And how obscure, to the compass that is taken in by the ken of an angel, or of a soul but newly escaped from its imprisonment in the body! For my part, I freely indulge my soul in the confidence of its future grandeur; it pleases me to think that I, who know so small a portion of the works of the Creator, and with slow and painful steps creep up and down on the surface of this globe, shall ere long shoot away with the swiftness of imagination, trace out the hidden springs of nature's operations, be able to keep pace with the heavenly bodies in the rapidity of their career, be a spectator of the long chain of events in the natural and moral worlds, visit the several apartments of the creation, know how they are furnished and how inhabited, comprehend the order, and measure the magnitudes and distances of those orbs, which to us seem disposed without any regular design, and set all in the same circle; observe the dependence of the parts of each system, and (if our minds be big enough, to grasp the theory) of the several systems upon one another, from whence results the

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