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their parents twenty years ago, and have since that time spent their estate as they pleased.
Flavia has been the wonder of her friends, for her excellent management, in making so surprising a figure on so moderate a fortune. Severel ladies, that have twice her fortune, are not able always to be so genteel, and so constant at all places of pleasure and expense. She has every thing in fashion, and is in every place, where there is any diversion. Flavia is very orthodox; she talks warmly against heretics, and schismatics, is generally at church, and often at the sacrament. She once commended a sermon against the pride and vanity of dress; and thought it was very just against Lucinda, wbom she takes to be a great deal finer than she need be. If any one ask Flavia, to do something in charity; if she like the person, who makes the proposal, or happen to be in a right temper; she will toss him a crown, and tell him, if he knew, what a long milliner's bill she had just received, he would think it a great deal for her to give. A quarter of a year after this she hears a sermon upon the necessity of charity; she thinks the man preaches well, that it is a very proper subject, that people want much to be put in mind of it; but she applies nothing to herself, because she remembers that she gave a crown some time ago, when she could so ill
As for poor people, she will admit no complaints from them; she is very positive, they are all cheats and liars, and will say any thing, to get relief; and therefore it must be a sin, to encourage them in their evil ways.
You would think Flavia had the tenderest conscience in the world, if you saw, how scrupulous and apprehensire she is of the danger of giving amiss.
She buys all books of wit and humor; and has made an expensive collection of all our English Poets. For, she says, one cannot have a true taste of any of them, without being very conversant with them all.
She will sometimes read a book of piety; if it is a
short one ; if it is much commended for style and language, and she can tell where to borrow it.
Flavia is very idle, and yet very fond of fine works; this makes her often sit working in bed until noon, and be told many a long story before she is up; so that I need not tell you, that her morning devotions are not always rightly performed.
Flavia would be a miracle of piety, if she were half so careful of her soul, as she is of her body. The rising of a pimple in her face, will make her keep her room two or three days; and she thinks they are very rash people, that do not take care of things in time. This makes her so overcareful of her health, that she never thinks she is well enough; and so overindulgent, that she never can be really well. So that it costs her a great deal in sleeping draughts, and waking draughts, in spirits for the head, in drops for the nerves, in cordials for the stomach, and in saffron for her tea.
you visit Flavia on Sunday; you will always meet good company; you will know, what is doing in the world ; you will hear the last lampoon ; be told, who wrote it, and who is meant by every name in it. You will hear, what plays were acted that week; which is the finest song in the opera, and what games are most in fashion. Flavia thinks they are atheists, that play at cards on Sunday; but she will tell you the nicety of all the games, what cards she held, how she played them, and all, that happened at play as soon, as she comes from church. If you would know, who is rude, who is vain and foppish, who lives too high, and who is in debt; if you would know, what is the quarrel at a certain house, or who and who are in love; if you would know, how late Belinda comes home at night, what clothes she has bought, and what a long story, she told at such a place ; if you would know, how cross Lucius is to his wife, what ill-natured things he says to her, when nobody hears him; if you would know, how they hate one another in their hearts, though they appear so kind in public ; you must visit Flavia on Sunday. But still she has so great a regard for the holiness of the day,
that she has turned a poor old widow out of her house, as a profane wretch, for having been found once mending her clothes on Sunday night.
Thus lives Flavia ; and, if she live ten years longer, she will have spent about fifteen hundred and sisty Sun days after this manner. She will have wore about two hundred different suits of clothes. Out of this thirty years of her life, fifteen of them will have been disposed of in bed ; and of the remaining fifteen, about fourteen of them will have been consumed in eating, drinking, dressing, visiting, reading and hearing plays and romances, at operas, assemblies, balls, and diversions. For you may reckon all the time, she is up, thus spent, except about an hour and a half, that is disposed of at church most Sundays in the year. With great management and economy, she will have spent sixty hundred pounds upon herself, bating only some shillings, in accidental charities.
I shall not say, it is impossible for Flavia to be saved ; but thus much must be said, that she has ro grounds from Scripture to think she is in the way of salvation. For her whole life is in direct opposition to those tempers and practices, which the Gospel has made necessary to salvation.
If you were to hear her say that she had lived all her life, like Anne the prophetess, who departed not from the temple ; but served God with fastings and prayers night and day; you would look upon her as very extravagant ; and yet this would be no greater an extravagance, than for her to say, that she had been striving to enter in at the strait gate, or making any one doctrine of the Gospel a rule of her life.
She may as well say that she lived with our Saviour, when he was upon earth, as that she has lived in imi: tation of him, or made it her care, to live in such a temper, as he required of all his disciples. She may as truly say, she has every day washed the saints' feet, as that she has lived in Christian humility and poverty of spirit; and as reasonably think that she has taught a charity-school, as that she has lived in works of charity. She has as much reason to think that she has been a cen.
tipel in an army, as that she has lived in self denial. It may as fairly be said, she lived by the labor of her hands, as that she had given all diligence to make her calling and election sure.
Here it is well to be observed, that the vain turn of mind, the irreligion, the folly and vanity of this whole life of Flavia, is all owing to the manner of using her estate. It is this, that has formed her spirit; that has supported every trifling passion, and kept her from all thought of a prudent, useful, and devout life.
When her parents died, she had no thought about her two hundred pounds a year, but that she had so much money to do, what she would with, to spend upon herself, and purchase the gratification of her passions.
It is this setting out, this false judgment, and indiscreet use of her fortune, that has filled her whole life with indiscretion, and kept her from thinking, what is right, and wise, and pious in every thing.
If you have seen her delighted in plays and romances, in scandal and backbiting, easily flattered, and soon affronted: if you have seen her devoted to pleasure and diversion, a slave to every passion, nice in every thing, that concerned her body or dress, careless of every thing, that might benefit her soul, always wanting some new entertainment: it was because she had purchased these tempers with the yearly revenue of her fortune.
She might have been humble, serious, devout, a lover of prayer and retirement, careful of her time, diligent in good works, full of charity and the love of God; had not the imprudent use of her estate forced the contrary tempers upon her.
It is no wonder, that she turned her time, her mind, ber health and strength to the same uses, she turned her fortune. It is owing to her being wrong in so great an article of life, that you can see nothing wise, or reasonable, or pious in any other part of it.
Now, though the irregular trilling spirit of this character belongs, I hope, but to few people ; yet many may here learn some instruction from it, and perhaps see something of their own spirit in it.
For, as Flavia was undone by the unreasonable use of her fortune ; so the lowness of most people's virtue, the imperfections of their piety, and the disorders of their passions, is generally owing to their imprudent use and enjoyment of lawful and innocent things.
More people are kept from a true sense of religion by a regular kind of sensual indulgence, than by gross drunkenness. More men live regardless of the great duties of piety, through too great a concern for worldly goods, than through direct injustice.
This man would perhaps be devout, if he were not so great a virtuoso. Another is deaf to all motives to pi. ety, by indulging a slothful temper.
Could you cure this man of his curiosity, or that of his false thirst after learning; you need do no more, to make them both men of great piety.
If this woman would make fewer visits, or that not be always talking; they would neither of them find it half so hard, to be affected with religion.
For all these things are only little, when they are compared to great sins; and, though they are little in that respect, yet they are great, as they are hindrances of a pious spirit.
For, as consideration is the only eye of the soul; as the truths of religion can be seen by nothing else ; so, whatever raises levity of mind, a trifling spirit, renders the soul incapable of apprehending and relishing the doctrines of piety.
Would we therefore make real progress in religion ; we must not only abhor gross sins ; but we must regu. late the innocent and lawful parts of our behaviour, and put the most common actions of life under the rules of discretion and piety.