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« Mr. BICKERSTAFF,
"I HAVE lived a pure and undefiled virgin these twenty-seven years; and I assure you, it is with great grief and sorrow of heart I tell you, that I become weary and impatient of the derision of the gigglers of our fex; who call me old maid, and tell me, I shall lead apes. If you are truly a patron of the distressed, and an adept in altro, logy, you will advise whether I shall
, or ought to be prevailed upon, by the impertinences of my own sex, to give way to the importunities of yours. Í assure you, I am surrounded with both, though at present a forlorn.
I am, &c.' '
I must defer my answer to this lady out of a point of chronology. She says, she has been twenty-seven years a maid; but I fear, according to a common error, the dates her virginity from her birth, which is a very erroneous method; for a woman of twenty is no more to be thought chafte so many years, than a man of that age can be said to have been so long valiant. We muft not allow people the favour of a virtue, until they have been under the temptation to the contrary. A woman is not a maid until her birth-day, as we call it, of her fifteenth year. My plaintiff is therefore desired to inform me, whether the is at present in her twenty-eighth or forty-third year, and the Thall be dispatched accordingly.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 1710.
Nequeo monftrare, & fentio tantùm.
Juv. Sat. 7. ver. 56. What I can fancy, but can ne'er express.
Sunday, August 13.
If there were no other consequences of it, but barely that human creatures on this day assembled themselves before their Creator, without regard to their usual employ. ments, their minds at leisure from the cares of this life, and their bodies adorned with the best attire they can bestow on them ; I say, were this mere outward celebration of a fabbath all that is expected from men, even that were a laudable distinction, and a purpose worthy the human nalure. But when there is added to it the sublime pleafure of devotion, our being is exalted above itself; and he, who spends a seventh day in the contemplations of the next life, will not easily fall into the corruptions of this in the other fix. They, who never admit thoughts of this kind into their imaginations, lose higher and sweeter satisfactions than can be raised by any other entertain
The most illiterate man who is touched with devotion, and uses frequent exercises of it, contracts a certain greatness of mind, mingled with a noble fimplicity, that raises him above those of the same condition; and there is an indelible mark of goodness in those who fincerely poffefs it. It is hardly posible it should be otherwile.; for the fervours of a pious mind will naturally contract such an earnestness and attention towards a better being, as will make the ordinary passages of life go off with a becoming indifference. By this a man in the lowest condition will not appear mean, or in the moft splendid fortune insolent.
As to all the intricacies and viciffitudes, under which men are ordinarily entangled with the utmost forrow and passion, one who is devoted to Heaven, when he falls into such difficulties, is led by a clue through a labyrinth. As to this world, he does not pretend to skill in the mazes of it; but fixes his thoughts upon one certainty, that he shall foon be out of it. And we may ask very boldly, what can be a more sure consolation than to have an hope in death? When men are arrived at thinking of their very
diflolu. tion with pleasure, how few things are there that can be terrible to them? Certainly, nothing can be dreadful, to fucb fpirits, but what would make death terrible to them, falsehood towards man, or impiety towards Heaven. To fuch as these, as there are certainly many such, the gratifications of innocent pleasures are doubled, even with reAlections upon their imperfection. The disappointments; which naturally attend the great promises we make ourfelves in expected enjoyments, strike no damp upon such men, but only quicken their hopes of soon knowing joys, which are too pure to admit of allay or satiety. i It is thought, among the politer sort of mankind, an imperfection to want a relifh of any of thofe things which refine our lives. This is the foundation of the acceptance which eloquence, music, and poetry, make in the world; and I know not why devotion, considered merely as an exaltation of our happiness, should not at least be lo far regarded as to be considered. It is possible, the very inquiry would lead men into fuch thoughts and gratifications, as they did not expect to meet with in this place. Many a good acquaintance has been lost from a general prepoffeflion in his disfavour, and a severe aspect has often hid under it a very agreeable companion.
There are no distinguishing qualities among men to which there are not false pretenders; but though none is more pretended to than that of devotion, there are, perhaps, fewer fuccef: ful impostors in this kind than any other. There is something fo natively great and good in a person that is truly devout, that an awkward man may as well pretend to be genteel, as an hypocrite to be pious. The constraint in words and actions are equally visible in
both cases; and any thing set up in their room does but remove the endeavours the farther off their pretensions. But however the sense of true piety is abated, there is no other motive of action that can carry us through all the viciffitudes of life with alacrity and resolution. But pieai ty, like philosophy, when it is fuperficial, does but make men appear the worse for it; and a principle that is but half received does but distract, instead of guiding our behaviour. When I reflect upon the unequal conduct of Lotius, I see many things that run directly counter to his interest; therefore I cannot attribute his labours for the public good to ambition. When I confider his difregard to his fortune, I cannot esteem him covetous. How then can I reconcile his neglect of himself, and his zeal for others? I have long fuspected him to be a little pious :* but no man ever hid his vice with greater caution, than he does his virtue. It was the praise of a great Roman, that he had rather be, than appear, good.
Bat such is the weakness of Lotius, that I dare fay, he had rather be efteemed irreligious than devout. By I know not what impatience of raillery, he is wonderfully fearful of being thought too great a believer. A hundred little devices are made use of to hide a time of private devotion ; and he will allow you any fufpicion of his being ill employed, fo you do not tax him with being well. But alas ! how inean is such a behaviour! To boast of virtue is a most ridiculous way of difappointing the merit of it, but not fo pitiful as that of being athamed of it. How unhappy is the wretch, who makes the molt absolute and independent motive of action the caufe of perplexity and inconftancy? How different a figure does Cælicolo make with all who know him? His great and superior mind, frequently exalted by the raptures of heavenly meditation, is to all his friends of the fame use, as if an angel were to appear at the decision of their disputes. They very well understand, he is as much disinterested and unbiassed as such a being. He considers all applications made to him, as those addresses will affect his own application to Heaven. All his determinations are delivered with a beautiful humility;
and he pronounces his decisions with the air of one wko is more frequently a supplicant than a judge.
Thus humble, and thus great, is the man who is moved by piety, and exalted by devotion. But behold this recommended by the masterly hand of a great divine I have heretofore made bold with.
• It is such a pleasure as can never cloy or overwork the mind; a delight that grows and improves under thought and reflection; and while it exercises, does also endear itself to the mind. All pleasures that affect the body must needs weary,, because they transport; and all transportation is a violence; and no violence can be lasting; but determines upon the falling of the spirits, which are not able to keep up that height of motion that the pleasure of the senses raised them io. And therefore how inevitably does an immoderate laughter end in a figh, which is only nature's recovering itself after a force dene to it: but the religious pleasure of a well-disposed mind moves gently, and therefore constantly. It does not affect by rapture and ecstasy, but is like the pleasure of health, greater and stronger than those that call up the senses with grosser and more affe&ling impressions. No man's body is as strong as his appetites; but Heaven has. corrected the boundlessness of his voluptuous defires by stinting his strength, and contracting his capacities. The pleasure of the religious man is an easy and a portable pleasure, such an one'as he carries about in his bosom, without alarming either the eye or envy of the world. A man putting all his pleasures into this one, is like a traveller putting all his goods into one jewel; the value is the same, and the convenience greater.'