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Paul's abilities, since, under all the prejudice of opinions directly opposite, he is constrained to ac« knowledge the merit of that apostle. And no doubt such as Longinus describes 6U Paul, such he appeared to tlie inhabitants of those countries which he visited and blessed with those doctrines he was divinely commissioned to preach. Sacred storygives us, in one circumstance, a convincing proof o! bis eloquence, when the men of Lystra called him Mercury "because he was the chief speaker," and would have paid divine worship to him, as to theGod who invented and presided over eloquence. .This one account of our apostle sets his character, considered as an orator only, above all the celebrated relations of the skill and influence of Demosthenes and his contemporaries. Their power in speaking was admired, but still it was thought human: their eloquence warmed and ravished the hearers, but still it was thought the voice of man, not the voice of God. What advantage then had St. Paul above those of Greece or Rome? I con,fess I can ascribe this excellence to nothing but the power of the doctrines he delivered, which may have still the same influence: on his hearers, which have still the power when preached by a skilful orator, to make us break out in the same expressions as the disciples who met our Saviour in their way to Einmaus made Use of; " Did not our hearts burn within us when he talked to us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" I may be thought bold in my judgment by sorne^ but I must affirm that no one orator has left us so visible marks and footsteps of his eloquence as out" apostle. It may perhaps be wondered at, that, in his reasonings upon idolatry at Athens, where eloquence was born and flourished, he confine*
himself to.strict argument only; but my reader may remember what many authors of the best eredit have assured us, that all attempts upon the affections, and strokes of oratory, were expressly forbidden by the laws of that country in courts of judicature. His want of eloquence therefore here was the effect of his exact conformity to the laws; but his discourse on the resurrection to the Corinthians, his harangue before Agrippa upon his own conversion, and the necessity of that of others, are truly great, and may serve as full examples to those excellent rules for the sublime, which the best of critics has left us. The sum of all this discourse is, that our clergy have no farther to look for an example of the perfection they may arrive at than to St, Paul's harangues; that when he, under the want of several advantages of nature, as he himself tells us, was heard, admired, and made a standard to succeeding ages by the best judges of a different persuasion in religion; I say, our clergy may learn that, however instructive their sermons are, they are capable of receiving a great addition; which St. Paul has given them a noble example of, and the Chi-istian religion has furnished them with certain? means of attaining to.'
N°634. FRIDAY, DECEMBER n, 1714.
O iXxyitrruv otcptvot lyyitrra. ©em/.
SOCRATES ap'id Xr«.
The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the Gork.
It 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 godslike 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 Tvishes Homer had done: they endeavoured rather to m ike men like gods than gods like men.
According to this general maxim in philosophy, some of them have endeavoured toplace men in such a state of pleasure, or indolence at least, as they vainly imagined the happiness of the Supreme Being to consist in. Onthe other hand, the most virtuous sect of philosophers have created a chimerical wise man, whom they made exempt from passions and pain, and thought it enough to pronounce him allsufficient.
This last character, when divested of the glare of human philosophy that surrounds it, signifies no more than that a good and wise man should so arm himself with patience, as not to yield tamely to the violence of passion and p;iin i 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 several passages in the sacred writings on this head, to which I might add many maxims and wise sayings of moral authors among the Greek? and Romans.
I shall only instance a remarkable passage, to this purpose, out of Julian's Caesars. 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 Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, and Constantine. Each of these great heroes of antiquity lays in 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 Caesar, that his was to gain the highest post inhis 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, andall 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 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.'