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No. 356 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 356
Friday, [1] April 18, 1712. Steele.

Aptissima quaeque dabunt Dii,

Charior est illis homo quam sibi.


It is owing to Pride, and a secret Affectation of a certain Self-Existence, that the noblest Motive for Action that ever was proposed to Man, is not acknowledged the Glory and Happiness of their Being. The Heart is treacherous to it self, and we do not let our Reflections go deep enough to receive Religion as the most honourable Incentive to good and worthy Actions. It is our natural Weakness, to flatter our selves into a Belief, that if we search into our inmost thoughts, we find our selves wholly disinterested, and divested of any Views arising from Self-Love and Vain-Glory. But however Spirits of superficial Greatness may disdain at first sight to do any thing, but from a noble Impulse in themselves, without any future Regards in this or another Being; upon stricter Enquiry they will find, to act worthily and expect to be rewarded only in another World, is as heroick a Pitch of Virtue as human Nature can arrive at. If the Tenour of our Actions have any other Motive than the Desire to be pleasing in the Eye of the Deity, it will necessarily follow that we must be more than Men, if we are not too much exalted in Prosperity and depressed in Adversity: But the Christian World has a Leader, the Contemplation of whose Life and Sufferings must administer Comfort in Affliction, while the Sense of his Power and Omnipotence must give them Humiliation in Prosperity.

It is owing to the forbidding and unlovely Constraint with which Men of low Conceptions act when they think they conform themselves to Religion, as well as to the more odious Conduct of Hypocrites, that the Word Christian does not carry with it at first View all that is Great, Worthy, Friendly, Generous, and Heroick. The Man who suspends his Hopes of the Reward of worthy Actions till after Death, who can bestow unseen, who can overlook Hatred, do Good to his Slanderer, who can never be angry at his Friend, never revengeful to his Enemy, is certainly formed for the Benefit of Society: Yet these are so far from Heroick Virtues, that they are but the ordinary Duties of a Christian.

When a Man with a steddy Faith looks back on the great Catastrophe of this Day, with what bleeding Emotions of Heart must he contemplate the Life and Sufferings of his Deliverer? When his Agonies occur to him, how will he weep to reflect that he has often forgot them for the Glance of a Wanton, for the Applause of a vain World, for an Heap of fleeting past Pleasures, which are at present asking Sorrows?

How pleasing is the Contemplation of the lowly Steps our Almighty Leader took in conducting us to his heavenly Mansions! In plain and apt Parable, [2] Similitude, and Allegory, our great Master enforced the Doctrine of our Salvation; but they of his Acquaintance, instead of receiving what they could not oppose, were offended at the Presumption of being wiser than they: [3] They could not raise their little Ideas above the Consideration of him, in those Circumstances familiar to them, or conceive that he who appear’d not more Terrible or Pompous, should have any thing more Exalted than themselves; he in that Place therefore would not longer ineffectually exert a Power which was incapable of conquering the Prepossession of their narrow and mean Conceptions.

Multitudes follow’d him, and brought him the Dumb, the Blind, the Sick, and Maim’d; whom when their Creator had Touch’d, with a second Life they Saw, Spoke, Leap’d, and Ran. In Affection to him, and admiration of his Actions, the Crowd could not leave him, but waited near him till they were almost as faint and helpless as others they brought for Succour. He had Compassion on them, and by a Miracle supplied their Necessities. [4] Oh, the Ecstatic Entertainment, when they could behold their Food immediately increase to the Distributer’s Hand, and see their God in Person Feeding and Refreshing his Creatures! Oh Envied Happiness! But why do I say Envied? as if our [God [5]] did not still preside over our temperate Meals, chearful Hours, and innocent Conversations.