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Chremylus, who was an old and a good man, and withal exceeding poor, being desirous to leave some riches to his son, consults the oracle of Apollo upon the subject. The oracle bids him follow the first man he should see upon his going out of the temple. The person he chances to see was to appearance an old sordid blind man, but upon his following him from place to place, he at last found by his own confession, that he was Plutus the god of riches, and that he was just come out of the house of a miser. Plutus further told him, that when he was a boy he used to declare, that as soon as he came to age, he would distribute wealth to none but virtuous and just men; upon which Jupiter, considering the pernicious consequences of such a resolution, took his sight away from him, and left him to stroll about the world in the blind condition wherein Chremylus beheld him. With much ado Chremylus prevailed upon him to go to his house, where he met an old woman in a tattered raiment, who had been his guest for many years, and whose name was Poverty. The old woman refusing to turn out so easily as he would have her, he threatened to banish her not only from his own house, but out of all Greece, if she made any more words upon the matter. Poverty on this occasion pleads her cause very notably, and represents to her old landlord, that should she be driven out of the country, all their trades, arts, and sciences, would be driven out with her; and that if every one was rich, they would never be supplied with these pomps, ornaments, and conveniencies of life which made riches desirable. She likewise represented to him the several advantages which she bestowed upon her votaries, in regard to their shape, their health, and their activity, by preserving them from gouts, dropsies, unwieldiness, and intemperance. But whatever she had to say for herself, she was at last forced to troop off. Chremylus immediately considered how he might restore Plutus to his sight; and in order to it conveyed him to the temple of Æsculapius, who was famous for cures and miracles of this nature. By this means the deity recovered his eyes, and begun to make a right use of them, by enriching every one that was distinguished by piety towards the gods, and justice towards men; and at the same time by taking away his gifts from the impious and undeserving. This produces several merry incidents, 'till in the last act Mercury descends with great complaints from the gods, that since the good men were growing rich, they had received no sacrifices, which is confirmed by a priest of Jupiter, who enters with a remonstrance, that since this late innovation he was reduced to a starving condition, and could not live upon his office. Chremylus, who in the beginning of the play was religious in his poverty, concludes it with a proposal which was relished by all the good men who were now grown rich as well as himself, that they should carry Plutus in a solemn procession to the temple, and instal him in the place of Jupiter. This allegory instructed the Athenians in two points; first, as it vindicated the conduct of Providence in its ordinary distributions of wealth; and in the next place, as it shewed the great tendency of riches to corrupt the morals of those who possessed them.
No. 465. SATURDAY, AUGUST 23.
Quâ ratione queas traducere leniter ævum;
Hot. 1 Ep. xvir, 07.
HAVING endeavoured in my last Saturday's paper to shew the great excellency of faith, I shall here consider what are the proper means of strengthening and confirming it in the mind of man. Those who delight in reading books of controversy, which are written on both sides of the question in points of faith, do very seldom arrive at a fixed and settled habit of it. They are one day entirely convinced of its important truths, and the next weet with something that shakes and disturbs them. The doubt which was laid revives again, and shews itself in new difficulties, and that generally for this reason, because the mind which is perpetually tost in controversies and disputes, is apt to forget the reasons which had once set it at rest, and to be disquieted with any former perplexity, when it appears in a new shape, or is started by a different hand. As nothing is more laudable than an inquiry after truth, so nothing is more irrational than to pass away our whole lives, without determining ourselves one way or other in those points which are of the last importance to us.
There are indeed many things from which we may withhold our assent; but in cases by which we are to regulate our lives, it is the greatest absurdity to be wavering and unsettled, without closing with that side which appears the most safe and the most probable. The first rule, therefore, which I shall lay down is this, that when by reading or discourse we find ourselves thoroughly convinced of
the truth of any article, and of the reasonableness of our belief in it, we should never after suffer ourselves to call it into ques. tion. We may perhaps forget the arguments which occasioned our conviction, but we ought to remember the strength they had with us, and therefore still to retain the conviction which they once produced. This is no more than what we do in every common art or science, nor is it possible to act otherwise, considering the weakness and limitation of our intellectual faculties. It was thus that Latimer, one of the glorious army of martyrs who in. troduced the reformation in England, behaved himself in that great conference which was managed between the most learned among the Protestants and Papists in the reign of Queen Mary. This venerable old man knowing how his abilities were impaired by age, and that it was impossible for him to recollect all those reasons which had directed him in the choice of his religion, left his companions who were in the full possession of their parts and learning, to baffle and confound their antagonists by the force of
As for himself, he only repeated to his adversaries the articles in which he firmly believed, and in the profession of which he was determined to die. It is in this manner that the mathe.matician proceeds upon propositions which he has once demonstrated; and though the demonstration may have slipt out of his memory, he builds
upon the truth, because he knows it was demonstrated. This rule is absolutely necessary for weaker minds, and in some measure for men of the greatest abilities; but to these last I would propose in the second place, that they should lay up in their memories, and always keep by them in readiness, those arguments which appear to them of the greatest strength, and which cannot be got over by all the doubts and cavils of infidelity.
But, in the third place, there is nothing which strengthens faith more than morality. Faith and morality naturally produce
each other. A man is quickly convinced of the truth of religion, who finds it is not against his interest that it should be true. The pleasure he receives at present, and the happiness which he promises himself from it hereafter, will both dispose him very powerfully to give credit to it, according to the ordinary observation, that we are easy to believe what we wish.' It is very certain, that a man of sound reason cannot forbear closing with religion upon an impartial examination of it ; but at the same time it is as certain, that faith is kept alive in us, and gathers strength from practice more than from speculation.
There is still another method which is more persuasive than any of the former, and that is an habitual adoration of the Supreme Being, as well in constant acts of mental worship, as in outward forms. The devout man does not only believe but feels there is a Deity. He has actual sensations of him; his experience concurs with his reason; he sees him more and more in all his intercourses with him, and even in this life almost loses his faith in conviction.
The last method which I shall mention for the giving life to man's faith, is frequent retirement from the world, accompanied with religious meditation. When a man thinks of any thing in the darkness of the night, whatever deep impressions it may make in his mind, they are apt to vanish as soon as the day breaks about him. The light and noise of the day, which are perpetually soliciting his senses, and calling off his attention, wear out of his mind the thoughts that imprinted themselves in it, with so much strength, during the silence and darkness of the night. A man finds the same difference as to himself in a crowd and in a solitude : the mind is stunned and dazzled amidst that variety of objects which press upon her in a great city: she cannot apply herself to the consideration of those things which are of the utmost concern to her. The cares or pleasures of the world strike