[Footnote 1: [Sun-shine], and in the first reprint.]
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No. 207. Saturday, October 27, 1711. Addison.
Omnibus in terris, quoe sunt a Gadibus
Auroram et Gangem, pauci dignoscere possunt
Vera bona, atque illis multum diversa, remota
In my last Saturdays Paper I laid down some Thoughts upon Devotion in general, and shall here shew what were the Notions of the most refined Heathens on this Subject, as they are represented in Plato’s Dialogue upon Prayer, entitled, Alcibiades the Second, which doubtless gave Occasion to Juvenal’s tenth Satire, and to the second Satire of Persius; as the last of these Authors has almost transcribed the preceding Dialogue, entitled Alcibiades the First, in his Fourth Satire.
The Speakers in this Dialogue upon Prayer, are Socrates and Alcibiades; and the Substance of it (when drawn together out of the Intricacies and Digressions) as follows.
Socrates meeting his Pupil Alcibiades, as he was going to his Devotions, and observing his Eyes to be fixed upon the Earth with great Seriousness and Attention, tells him, that he had reason to be thoughtful on that Occasion, since it was possible for a Man to bring down Evils upon himself by his own Prayers, and that those things, which the Gods send him in Answer to his Petitions, might turn to his Destruction: This, says he, may not only happen when a Man prays for what he knows is mischievous in its own Nature, as OEdipus implored the Gods to sow Dissension between his Sons; but when he prays for what he believes would be for his Good, and against what he believes would be to his Detriment. This the Philosopher shews must necessarily happen among us, since most Men are blinded with Ignorance, Prejudice, or Passion, which hinder them from seeing such things as are really beneficial to them. For an Instance, he asks Alcibiades, Whether he would not be thoroughly pleased and satisfied if that God, to whom he was going to address himself, should promise to make him the Sovereign of the whole Earth? Alcibiades answers, That he should doubtless look upon such a Promise as the greatest Favour that he could bestow upon him. Socrates then asks him, If after [receiving ] this great Favour he would be content[ed] to lose his Life? or if he would receive it though he was sure he should make an ill Use of it? To both which Questions Alcibiades answers in the Negative. Socrates then shews him, from the Examples of others, how these might very probably be the Effects of such a Blessing. He then adds, That other reputed Pieces of Good-fortune, as that of having a Son, or procuring the highest Post in a Government, are subject to the like fatal Consequences;