the gods fend him in anfwer to his petitions, might turn to his deftruction: this, fays he, may not only happen when a inan prays for what he knows is mifchievous in its own nature, as Oedipus implored the gods to fow diffention between his fons; but when he prays for what he believes would be for his good, and against what he believes would be to his detriment. This the philofopher fhews must neceffarily happen among us, fince most men are blinded with ignorance, prejudice, or paffion, which hinder them from feeing fuch things as are really beneficial to them. For an inftance, he asks Alcibiades, Whether he would not be thoroughly pleafed and satisfied, if that god, to whom he was going to address himself, should promise to make him the fovereign of the whole earth? Alcibiades anfwers, That he should doubtless look upon fuch a promise as the greatest favour that could be bestowed upon him. Socrates then asks him, if after receiving this great favour, he would be contented to lofe his life; or if he would receive it though he was fure he should make an ill ufe of it? To both which questions Alcibiades anfwered in the negative. Socrates then fhews him, from the example of others, how thefe might very probably be the effects of fuch a blessing. He then adds, that other reputed pieces of good-fortune, as that of having a fon, or procuring the highest poft in a government, are fubject to the like fatal cenfequences; which nevertheless, says he, men ardently defire, and would not fail to pray for, if they thought their prayers might be effectual for the obtaining of them.

HAVING established this great point, that all the most apparent blessings in this life are obnoxious to fuch dreadful confequences, and that no man knows what in its events would prove to him a blessing or a curfe, he teaches Alcibiades after what manner he ought to pray. :'

IN the first place he recommends to him, as the model of his devotions, a fhort prayer, which a Greek poet com. pofed for the ufe of his friends, in the following words;

Jupiter, give us thofe things which are good for us, whether they are fuch things as we pray for, or fuch things as we do not pray for and remove from us thofe things which are hurtful, though they are fuch things as we pray for.

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In the fecond place, that his difciple may ask fuch things as are expedient for him, he fhews him, that it is abfolutely neceffary to apply himself to the ftudy of true wif dom, and to the knowledge of that which is his chief good, and the most fuitable to the excellency of his nature.

In the third and last place, he informs him, that the best methods he could make ufe of to draw down bleffings upon himself, and to render his prayers acceptable, would be to live in a constant practice of duty towards the gods, and towards men. Under this head he very much recommends a form of prayer the Lacedemonians made ufe of, in which they petition the gods, to give them all good things, fo long as they were virtuous. Under this head likewife he gives a very remarkable account of an oracle to the following purpose.

WHEN the Athenians, in the war with the Lacedemos nians, received many defeats both by fea and land, they fent a meffage to the oracle of Jupiter Ammon, to afk the rea fon why they, who erected fo many temples to the gods, and adorned them with fuch coftly offerings; why they who had inftituted fo many feftivals, and accompanied them with fuch pomp and ceremonies: in fhort, why they, who had flain fo many hecatombs at their altars, fhould be lefs fuccessful than the Lacedemonians, who fell fo fhort of them in all these particulars. To this, fays he, the oracle made the following reply; I am better pleased with the prayers of the Lacedemonians, than with all the oblations of the Greeks. As this prayer implied and encouraged vir tue in those who made it; the philofopher proceeds to fhew how the most vicious man might be devout, fo far as victims could make him, but that his offerings were regarded by the gods as bribes, and his petitions as blafphemies. He likewife quotes on this occafion two verfes out of Homer, in which the poet fays, That the fcent of the Trojan facrifices was carried up to heaven by the winds; but that it was not acceptable to the gods, who were dif pleafed with Priam and all his people.

THE conclufion of this dialogue is very remarkable. Fo crates having deterred Alcibiades from the prayer and facrifice which he was going to offer, by fetting forth the above-mentioned difficulties of performing that duty as he ought, adds these words, We must therefore wait till VOL. III. N



'fuch time as we may learn how we ought to behave ourfelves towards the gods, and towards men.' But when will that time come, fays Alcibiades, and who is it that will inftruct us? For I would fain fee this man, whoever he is. It is one, fays Socrates, who takes care of you; but as Homer tells us, that Minerva removed the mist from Diomedes his eyes, that he might plainly discover both gods and men; fo the darkness that hangs upon your mind must be removed before vou are able to difcern what is good and what is evil. Let him remove mind, fays Alcibiades, the darkness, and what elfe he pleases, I am determined to refuse nothing he fhall order me, whoever he is, fo that I may become the better man by it. The remaining part of this dialogue is very obfcure: there is fomething in it that would make us think Socrates hinted at himself, when he spoke of this divine teacher who was to come into the world, did not he own that he himfelt was, in this refpect, as much at a lofs, and in as great diftrefs as the rest of mankind.


SOME learned men look upon this conclufion as a prediction of our Saviour, or at least that Socrates, like the high-prieft, prophefied unknowingly, and pointed at that divine Teacher who was to come into the world fome ages after him. However that may be, we find that this great philofopher faw, by the light of reason, that it was fuitable to the goodness of the divine nature, to fend a perfon into the world, who should instruct mankind in the duties of religion, and, in particular, teach them how to pray.

WHOEVER reads this abftract of Plato's difcourfe on prayer, will, I believe, naturally make this reflection, That the great founder of our religion, as well by his own example, as in the form of prayer which he taught his disciples, did not only keep up to thofe rules which the light of nature had fuggefted to this great philofopher, but inftructed his difciples in the whole extent of this duty, as well as ofall others. He directed them to the proper object of adoration, and taught them, according to the third rule above-mentioned, to apply themselves to him in their clofets, without fhew or oftentation, and to worship him in fpirit and in truth. As the Lacedemonians, in their form of prayer, implored the gods in general to give them all good things fo long as they were virtuous, we ask in particular, 'that our offences


may be forgiven, as we forgive thofe of others.' If we look into the fecond rule which Socrates has prescribed, namely, that we should apply ourselves to the knowledge of fuch things as are beft for us, this too is explained at large in the doctrines of the gospel, where we are taught in feveral instances to regard those things as curfes which appear as bleffings in the eye of the world; and on the contrary, to esteem those things as bleffings, which to the generality of mankind appear as curfes. Thus, in the form which is prefcribed to us, we only pray for that happiness which is our chief good, and the great end of our existence, when we petition the Supreme Being for the coming of his kingdom, being folicitous for no other temporal bleffing but our daily fuftenance. On the other fide, we pray against nothing but fin, and against evil in general, leaving it with omniscience to determine what is really fuch. If we look into the first of Socrates his rules of prayer, in which he recommends the above-mentioned form of the ancient poet, we find that form not only comprehended, but very much improved in the petition, wherein we pray to the Supreme Being that his will may be done which is of the fame force with that form which our Saviour used, when he prayed against the most painful and moft ignominious deaths, Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done. This comprehenfive petition is the most humble, as well as the moft prudent, that can be offered up from the creature to his Creator, as it fuppofes the Supreme Being wills nothing but what is for our good, and that he knows better than ourfelves what is fo.

No 208. Monday, October 29.


--Veniunt fpectentur ut ipfe.

Ovid. Ars. Am. 1. 1. v. 99.

To be themselves a fpectacle, they come..

HAVE feveral letters from people of good fenfe, who lament the depravity or poverty of taste the town is fal-s len into with relation to plays and public fpectacles. A lady in particular obferves, that there is fuch a levity

in the minds of her own fex, that they feldom attend any thing but impertinences. It is indeed prodigious to obferve how little notice is taken of the most exalted parts of the beft tragedies in Shakespear; nay, it is not only visible that fenfuality has devoured all greatnefs of foul, but the underpaffion (as I may fo call it) of a noble fpirit, Pity, feems to be aftranger to the generality of an audience. The minds of men are indeed very differently difpofed; and the reliefs from care and attention are of one fortin a great spirit, and of another in an ordinary one. The man of a great heart and a ferious complexion, is more pleased with inftances of generofity and pity, than the light and ludicrous fpirit can poffibly be with the highest strains of mirth and laughter: it is therefore a melancholy profpect when we fee a numerous affembly loft to all serious entertainments, and fuch incidents as should move one fort of concern, excite in them a quite contrary one. In the tragedy of Macbeth, the other night, when the lady who is confcious of the crime of murdering the king, feems utterly astonished at the news, and makes an exclamation at it: instead of the indignation which is natural to the occafion, that expreffion is received with a loud laugh: they were as merry when a criminal was ftabbed. It is certainly an occafion of rejoicing when the wicked are seized in their designs; but I think, it is not fuch a triumph as is exerted by laughter.

You may generally obferve, that the appetites are fooner moved than the paffions: a fly expreffion which alludes to bawdry, puts a whole row into a pleafing finirk; when a good fentence that defcribes an inward fentiment of the foul, is received with the greateft coldness and indifference. A correfpondent of mine, upon this fubject, has divided the female part of the audience, and accounts for their prepoffeffions against this reafonable delight in the following manner. The prude fays he, as fhe acts always in contradiction, fo fhe is gravely fullen at a comedy, and extravagantly gay at a tragedy. The coquette is so much taken up with throwing her eyes around the audience, and confidering the effect of them, that the cannot be expected to obferve the actors but as they are her rivals, and take off the observation of the men from herfelf. Befides thefe fpecies of women, there are the examples, or the first of the mode: these are to be supposed too well acquainted with


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