It is a very melancholy Reflection, that Men are usually so weak, that it is absolutely necessary for them to know Sorrow and Pain to be in their right Senses. Prosperous People (for Happy there are none) are hurried away with a fond Sense of their present Condition, and thoughtless of the Mutability of Fortune: Fortune is a Term which we must use in such Discourses as these, for what is wrought by the unseen Hand of the Disposer of all Things. But methinks the Disposition of a Mind which is truly great, is that which makes Misfortunes and Sorrows little when they befall our selves, great and lamentable when they befall other Men. The most unpardonable Malefactor in the World going to his Death and bearing it with Composure, would win the Pity of those who should behold him; and this not because his Calamity is deplorable, but because he seems himself not to deplore it: We suffer for him who is less sensible of his own Misery, and are inclined to despise him who sinks under the Weight of his Distresses. On the other hand, without any Touch of Envy, a temperate and well-govern'd Mind looks down on such as are exalted with Success, with a certain Shame for the Imbecility of human Nature, that can so far forget how liable it is to Calamity, as to grow giddy with only the Suspence of Sorrow, which is the Portion of all Men. He therefore who turns his Face from the unhappy Man, who will not look again when his Eye is cast upon modest Sorrow, who shuns Affliction like a Contagion, does but pamper himself up for a Sacrifice, and contract in himself a greater Aptitude to Misery by attempting to escape it. A Gentleman where I happened to be last Night, fell into a Discourse which I thought shewed a good Discerning in him: He took Notice that whenever Men have looked into their Heart for the Idea of true Excellency in human Nature, they have found it to consist in Suffering after a right Manner and with a good Grace. Heroes are always drawn bearing Sorrows, struggling with Adversities, undergoing all kinds of Hardships, and having in the Service of Mankind a kind of Appetite to Difficulties and Dangers. The Gentleman went on to observe, that it is from this secret Sense of the high Merit which there is in Patience under Calamities, that the Writers of Romances, when they attempt to furnish out Characters of the highest Excellence, ransack Nature for things terrible; they raise a new Creation of Monsters, Dragons, and Giants: Where the Danger ends, the Hero ceases; when he won an Empire, or gained his Mistress, the rest of his Story is not worth relating. My Friend carried his Discourse so far as to say, that it was for higher Beings than Men to join Happiness and Greatness in the same Idea; but that in our Condition we have no Conception of superlative Excellence, or Heroism, but as it is surrounded with a Shade of Distress.
It is certainly the proper Education we should give our selves, to be prepared for the ill Events and Accidents we are to meet with in a Life sentenced to be a Scene of Sorrow: But instead of this Expectation, we soften our selves with Prospects of constant Delight, and destroy in our Minds the Seeds of Fortitude and Virtue, which should support us in Hours of Anguish. The constant Pursuit of Pleasure has in it something insolent and improper for our Being. There is a pretty sober Liveliness in the Ode of Horace to Delius, where he tells him, loud Mirth, or immoderate Sorrow, Inequality of Behaviour either in Prosperity or Adversity, are alike ungraceful in Man that is born to die. Moderation in both Circumstances is peculiar to generous Minds: Men of that Sort ever taste the Gratifications of Health, and all other Advantages of Life, as if they were liable to part with them, and when bereft of them, resign them with a Greatness of Mind which shews they know their Value and Duration. The Contempt of Pleasure is a certain Preparatory for the Contempt of Pain: Without this, the Mind is as it were taken suddenly by any unforeseen Event; but he that has always, during Health and Prosperity, been abstinent in his Satisfactions, enjoys, in the worst of Difficulties, the Reflection, that his Anguish is not aggravated with the Comparison of past Pleasures which upbraid his present Condition. Tully tells us a Story after Pompey, which gives us a good Taste of the pleasant Manner the Men of Wit and Philosophy had in old Times of alleviating the Distresses of Life by the Force of Reason and Philosophy. Pompey, when he came to Rhodes, had a Curiosity to visit the famous Philosopher Possidonius; but finding him in his sick Bed, he bewailed the Misfortune that he should not hear a Discourse from him: But you may, answered Possidonius; and immediately entered into the Point of Stoical Philosophy, which says Pain is not an Evil. During the Discourse, upon every Puncture he felt from his Distemper, he smiled and cried out, Pain, Pain, be as impertinent and troublesome as you please, I shall never own that thou art an Evil.
Mr. Spectator, Having seen in several of your Papers, a Concern for the Honour of the Clergy, and their doing every thing as becomes their Character, and particularly performing the publick Service with a due Zeal and Devotion; I am the more encouraged to lay before them, by your Means, several Expressions used by some of them in their Prayers before Sermon, which I am not well satisfied in: As their giving some Titles and Epithets to great Men, which are indeed due to them in their several Ranks and Stations, but not properly used, I think, in our Prayers. Is it not Contradiction to say, Illustrious, Right, Reverend, and Right Honourable poor Sinners? These Distinctions are suited only to our State here, and have no place in Heaven: We see they are omitted in the Liturgy; which I think the Clergy should take for their Pattern in their own Forms of [Devotion. ] There is another Expression which I would not mention, but that I have heard it several times before a learned Congregation, to bring in the last Petition of the Prayer in these Words, O let not the Lord be angry and I will speak but this once; as if there was no Difference between Abraham's interceding for Sodom, for which he had no Warrant as we can find, and our asking those Things which we are required to pray for; they would therefore have much more Reason to fear his Anger if they did not make such Petitions to him. There is another pretty Fancy: When a young Man has a Mind to let us know who gave him his Scarf, he speaks a Parenthesis to the Almighty, Bless, as I am in Duty bound to pray, the right honourable the Countess; is not that as much as to say, Bless her, for thou knowest I am her Chaplain?
Your humble Servant,
[Footnote 1: Devotion. Another Expression which I take to be improper, is this, the whole Race of Mankind, when they pray for all Men; for Race signifies Lineage or Descent; and if the Race of Mankind may be used for the present generation, (though I think not very fitly) the whole Race takes in all from the Beginning to the End of the World. I don't remember to have met with that Expression in their sense anywhere but in the old Version of Psal. 14, which those Men, I suppose, have but little Esteem for. And some, when they have prayed for all Schools and Nurserys of good Learning and True Religion, especially the two Universities, add these Words, Grant that from them and all other Places dedicated to thy Worship and Service, may come forth such Persons. But what do they mean by all other Places? It seems to me that this is either a Tautology, as being the same with all Schools and Nurserys before expressed, or else it runs too far; for there are general Places dedicated to the Divine Service which cannot properly be intended here.]