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

Aptissima quæque 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.

But tho the sacred Story is every where full of Miracles not inferior to this, and tho in the midst of those Acts of Divinity he never gave the least Hint of a Design to become a Secular Prince, yet had not hitherto the Apostles themselves any other than Hopes of worldly Power, Preferment, Riches and Pomp; for Peter, upon an Accident of Ambition among the Apostles, hearing his Master explain that his Kingdom was not of this World, was so scandaliz'd [6] that he whom he had so long follow'd should suffer the Ignominy, Shame, and Death which he foretold, that he took him aside and said, Be it far from thee, Lord, this shall not be unto thee: For which he suffered a severe Reprehension from his Master, as having in his View the Glory of Man rather than that of God.

The great Change of things began to draw near, when the Lord of Nature thought fit as a Saviour and Deliverer to make his publick Entry into Jerusalem with more than the Power and Joy, but none of the Ostentation and Pomp of a Triumph; he came Humble, Meek, and Lowly: with an unfelt new Ecstasy, Multitudes strewed his Way with Garments and Olive-Branches, Crying with loud Gladness and Acclamation, Hosannah to the Son of David, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! At this great Kings Accession to his Throne, Men were not Ennobled, but Sav'd; Crimes were not Remitted, but Sins Forgiven; he did not bestow Medals, Honours, Favours, but Health, Joy, Sight, Speech. The first Object the Blind ever saw, was the Author of Sight; while the Lame Ran before, and the Dumb repeated the Hosannah. Thus attended, he Entered into his own House, the sacred Temple, and by his Divine Authority expell'd Traders and Worldlings that profaned it; and thus did he, for a time, use a great and despotic Power, to let Unbelievers understand, that twas not Want of, but Superiority to all Worldly Dominion, that made him not exert it. But is this then the Saviour? is this the Deliverer? Shall this Obscure Nazarene command Israel, and sit on the Throne of David? [7] Their proud and disdainful Hearts, which were petrified [8] with the Love and Pride of this World, were impregnable to the Reception of so mean a Benefactor, and were now enough exasperated with Benefits to conspire his Death. Our Lord was sensible of their Design, and prepared his Disciples for it, by recounting to em now more distinctly what should befal him; but Peter with an ungrounded Resolution, and in a Flush of Temper, made a sanguine Protestation, that tho all Men were offended in him, yet would not he be offended. It was a great Article of our Saviours Business in the World, to bring us to a Sense of our Inability, without Gods Assistance, to do any thing great or good; he therefore told Peter, who thought so well of his Courage and Fidelity, that they would both fail him, and even he should deny him Thrice that very Night.

But what Heart can conceive, what Tongue utter the Sequel? Who is that yonder buffeted, mock'd, and spurn'd? Whom do they drag like a Felon? Whither do they carry my Lord, my King, my Saviour, and my God? And will he die to Expiate those very Injuries? See where they have nailed the Lord and Giver of Life! How his Wounds blacken, his Body writhes, and Heart heaves with Pity and with Agony! Oh Almighty Sufferer, look down, look down from thy triumphant Infamy: Lo he inclines his Head to his sacred Bosom! Hark, he Groans! see, he Expires! The Earth trembles, the Temple rends, the Rocks burst, the Dead Arise: Which are the Quick? Which are the Dead? Sure Nature, all Nature is departing with her Creator.


[Footnote 1: Good Friday.]

[Footnote 2: From the words In plain and apt parable to the end, this paper is a reprint of the close of the second chapter of Steele's Christian Hero, with the variations cited in the next six notes. The C. H. is quoted from the text appended to the first reprint of the Tatler, in 1711.]

[Footnote 3:

--wiser than they: Is not this the Carpenters Son, is not his Mother called Mary, his Brethren, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? They could not--

Christian Hero.]

[Footnote 4:

He had compassion on em, commanded em to be seated, and with Seven Loaves, and a few little Fishes, Fed four thousand Men, besides Women and Children: Oh, the Ecstatic--

Christian Hero.]

[Footnote 5: [Good God] in first Issue and in Christian Hero.]

[Footnote 6: In the Christian Hero this passage was:

become a Secular Prince, or in a Forcible or Miraculous Manner to cast off the Roman Yoke they were under, and restore again those Disgraced Favourites of Heavn, to its former Indulgence, yet had not hitherto the Apostles themselves (so deep set is our Natural Pride) any other than hopes of worldly Power, Preferment, Riches and Pomp: For Peter, who it seems ever since he left his Net and his Skiff, Dreamt of nothing but being a great Man, was utterly undone to hear our Saviour explain to em that his Kingdom was not of this World; and was so scandalized--]

[Footnote 7:

Throne of David? Such were the unpleasant Forms that ran in the Thoughts of the then Powerful in Jerusalem, upon the most Truly Glorious Entry that ever Prince made; for there was not one that followed him who was not in his Interest; their Proud--

Christian Hero.]

[Footnote 8:

Putrified with the--

Christian Hero.]

Translation of motto:
JUV. Sat. x. 349.
--The gods will grant
What their unerring wisdom sees they want;
In goodness, as in greatness, they excel;
Ah! that we loved ourselves but half as well!'