« VorigeDoorgaan »
Archbishop Laud, to punish this their negligence, laid a considerable fine upon that company in the star-chamber.
By the practice of the world, which prevails in this degenerate age, I am afraid that very many young profligates of both sexes are possessed of this spurious edition of the Bible, and observe the commandment according to that faulty reading.
Adulterers in the first ages of the church, were excommunicated for ever, and unqualified all their lives from bearing a part in Christian assemblies, notwithstanding they might seek it with tears, and all the appearances of the most unfeigned repentance.
I might here mention some ancient laws among the heathens, which punished this crime with death; and others of the same kind, which are now in force among several governments that have embraced the reformed religion. But, because a subject of this nature may be too serious for my ordinary readers, who are very apt to throw by my papers when they are not enlivened with something that is diverting or uncommon, I shall here publish the contents of a little manuscript lately fallen into my hands, and which pretends to great antiquity; though, by reason of some modern phrases and other particulars in it, I can by no means allow it to be genuine, but rather the production of a modern sophist.
It is well known by the learned, that there was a temple upon mount Etna dedicated to Vulcan, which was guarded by dogs of so exquisite a smell, say the historians, that they could decern whether the persons who came thither were chaste or otherwise. They used to meet and fawn upon such as were chaste, caressing them as the friends of their master Vulcan; but flew at those who were polluted, and never ceased barking at them till they had driven them from the temple.
My manuscript gives the following account of these dogs, and was probably designed as a comment upon this story.
These dogs were given to Vulcan by his sister Diana, the goddess of hunting and of chastity, having bred them out of some of her hounds, in which she had observed this natural instinct and sagacity. It was thought she did it in spite to Venus, who, upon her return home, always found her husband in a good or bad humour, ac
cording to the reception which she met with from his dogs. They lived in the temple several years, but were such snappish curs that they frighted away most of the votaries. The women of Sicily made a solemn deputation to the priest, by which they acquainted him, that they would not come up to the temple with their annual offerings unless he muzzled his mastiffs, and at last compromised the matter with him, that the offering should always be brought by a chorus of young girls, who were none of them above seven years old. It was wonderful, says the author, to see how different the treatment was which the dogs gave to these little misses, from that which they had shewn to their mothers. It is said that the prince of Syracuse, having married a young lady, and being naturally of a jealous temper, made such an interest with the priests of this temple, that he procured a whelp from them of this famous breed. The young puppy was very troublesome to the fair lady at first, insomuch that she solicited her husband to send him away; but the good man cut her short with the old Sicilian proverb, “ Love me, Love my dog." From which time she lived very peaceably with both of them. The ladies of Syracuse were very much annoyed with him, and several of very good reputation refused to come to court till he was discarded. There were indeed some of them that defied his sagacity; but it was observed, though he did not actually bite them, he would growl at them most confoundedly. To return to the dogs of the temple; after they had lived here in great repute for several years, it so happened, that as one of the priests, who had been making a charitable visit to a widow who lived on the promontory of Lilybeum, returned home pretty late in the evening, the dogs flew at him with so much fury, that they would have worried him if his brethren had not come in to his assistance: upon which, says my author, the dogs were all of them hanged, as having lost the original instinct.'
I cannot conclude this paper without wishing that we had some of this breed of dogs in Great Britain, which would certainly do justice, I should say honour, to the ladies of our country, and shew the world the difference between pagan women and those who are instructed in sounder principles of virtue and religion.
No. 580. FRIDAY, AUGUST 13, 1714.
-Si verbo audacia detur,
Non metuam magni dixisse palatia cæli.
This place, the brightest mansions of the sky,
* See also Nos. 565, 571, 590, and 628.
* CONSIDERED in my two last letters that awful and tremendous subject, the ubiquity or omnipresence of the Divine Being. I have shewn that he is equally present in all places throughout the whole extent of infinite space. This doctrine is so agreeable to reason, that we meet with it in the writings of the enlightened heathens, as I might shew at large, were it not already done by other hands. But though the Deity be thus essentially present through all the immensity of space, there is one part of it in which he discovers himself in a most transcendent and visible glory; this is that place which is marked out in scripture under the different appellations of " paradise, the third heaven, the throne of God, and the habitation of his glory." It is here where the glorified body of our Saviour resides, and where all the celestial hierarchies, and the innumerable host of angels, are represented as surrounding the seat of God with hallelujahs and hymns of praise. This is that presence of God which some of the divines call his glorious, and others his majestic, presence. He is indeed as essentially present in all other places as in this; but it is here where he resides in a sensible magnificence, and in the midst of all those splendours which can affect the imagination of created beings.
It is very remarkable, that this opinion of God Almighty's presence in heaven, whether discovered by the light of nature, or by a general tradition from our first parents, prevails among all the nations of the world, whatsoever different notions they entertain of the God
head. If you look into Homer, the most ancient of the Greek writers, you see the Supreme Power seated in the heavens, and encompassed with inferior deities, among whom the Muses are represented as singing incessantly about his throne. Who does not here see the main strokes and outlines of this great truth we are speaking of? The same doctrine is shadowed out in many other heathen authors, though at the same time, like several other revealed truths, dashed and adulterated with a mixture of fables and human inventions. But to pass over the notions of the Greeks and Romans, those more enlightened parts of the Pagan world, we find there is scarce a people among the late-discovered nations who are not trained up in an opinion that heaven is the habitation of the divinity whom they worship.
As in Solomon's temple there was the Sanctum Sanctorum, in which a visible glory appeared among the figures of the cherubims, and into which none but the high-priest himself was permitted to enter, after having made an atonement for the sins of the people; so if we consider the whole creation as one great temple, there is in it this Holy of Holies, into which the High-priest of our salvation entered, and took his place among angels and archangels, after having made a propitiation for the sins of mankind.
With how much skill must the throne of God be erected! with what glorious designs is that habitation beautified, which is contrived and built by him who inspired Hiram with wisdom: how great must be the majesty of that place, where the whole art of creation has been employed, and where God has chosen to shew himself in the most magnificent manner! What must be the architecture of infinite power under the direction of infinite wisdom? A spirit cannot but be transported after an ineffable manner with the sight of those objects which were made to affect him by that Being who knows the inward frame of a soul, and how to please and ravish it in all its most secret powers and faculties. It is to this majestic presence of God we may apply those beautiful expressions in holy writ: Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea the stars, are not pure in his. sight." The light of the sun, and all the glories of the world in which we live, are but as weak and sickly glim
merings, or rather darkness itself, in comparison of those splendours which encompass the throne of God.
As the glory of this place is transcendent beyond imagination, so probably is the extent of it. There is light behind light, and glory within glory. How far that space may reach, in which God thus appears in perfect majesty, we cannot possibly conceive. Though it is not infinite, it may be indefinite: and, though not immeasurable in itself, it may be so with regard to any created eye or imagination. If he has made these lower regions of matter so inconceivably wide and magnificent for the habitation of mortal and perishable beings, how great may we suppose the courts of his house to be; where he makes his residence in a more especial manner; and displays himself in the fulness of his glory, among an innumerable company of angels and spirits of just men made perfect?'
This is certain, that our imaginations cannot be raised too high when we think on a place where omnipotence and omniscience have so signally exerted themselves, because that they are able to produce a scene infinitely more great and glorious than what we are able to imagine. It is not impossible but at the consummation of all things these outward apartments of nature, which are now suited to those beings who inhabit them, may be taken in and added to that glorious place of which I am here speaking, and by that means made a proper habitation for beings who are exempt from mortality, and cleared of their imperfections: for so the scripture seems to intimate, when it speaks of" new heavens, and of a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
I have only considered this glorious place with regard to the sight and imagination, though it is highly probable that our other senses may here likewise enjoy their highest gratifications. There is nothing which more ravishes and transports the soul than harmony; and we have great reason to believe, from the descriptions of this place in holy scripture, that this is one of the entertainments of it. And if the soul of man can be so won, derfully affected with those strains of music which human art is capable of producing, how much more will it be raised and elevated by those, in which is exerted the whole power of harmony! The senses are faculties of the