Your most obedient humble Servant,
P. S. I hope I need not tell
you that I desire this may be in your
[Footnote 1: Paradox V. on the Thesis that All who are wise are Free, and the fools Slaves.]
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No. 213. Saturday, November 3, 1711. Addison.
—Mens sibi conscia recti.
It is the great Art and Secret of Christianity, if I may use that Phrase, to manage our Actions to the best Advantage, and direct them in such a manner, that every thing we do may turn to Account at that great Day, when every thing we have done will be set before us.
In order to give this Consideration its full Weight, we may cast all our Actions under the Division of such as are in themselves either Good, Evil, or Indifferent. If we divide our Intentions after the same Manner, and consider them with regard to our Actions, we may discover that great Art and Secret of Religion which I have here mentioned.
A good Intention joined to a good Action, gives it its proper Force and Efficacy; joined to an Evil Action, extenuates its Malignity, and in some Cases may take it wholly away; and joined to an indifferent Action turns it to a Virtue, and makes it meritorious as far as human Actions can be so.
In the next Place, to consider in the same manner the Influence of an Evil Intention upon our Actions. An Evil Intention perverts the best of Actions, and makes them in reality, what the Fathers with a witty kind of Zeal have termed the Virtues of the Heathen World, so many shining Sins. It destroys the Innocence of an indifferent Action, and gives an evil Action all possible Blackness and Horror, or in the emphatical Language of Sacred Writ, makes Sin exceeding sinful.