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prayers might be effectual for the obtaining of them. • Having established this great point, That all the most apparent blessings in this life are obnoxious to such dreadful consequences, and that no man knows. what in its events would prove to him a blessing or a curse, he teaches Alcibiades after what manner he ought to pray.
In the first place, he recommends to him, as the model of his devotions, a fhort prayer, which a Greek Poet compored for the ufe of his friends, in the following words ; Jupiter, give us those things which are good for us, whether they are fuch things as we pray for, or such things as we do not pray for ; and remove from us those things which are hurtful, though they are such things as we pray
In the second place, that his Disciple may ask fuch things as are expedient for him, he shews him, that it is absolutely necessary to apply himself to the study of true wisdom, and to the knowledge of that which is his chief good, and the most suitable to the excellency of his nature.
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In the third and last place he informs him, that the best methods he could make use of to draw down blessings upon -himself, and to render his prayers acceptable, would be to live in a conItant practice of his duty towards the Gods, and towards men. Under this head he very much recommends a form of Prayer the Lacedæmonians made use of, in which they petition the Gods, to give them all good things, so long as they were virtuous. Under this head likewise he gives a very remarkable account of an Oracle to the following purpose.
When the Athenians in the war with the Lacedæmonians received many defeats both by fea and land, they fent a message to the oracle of Jupiter Ammon, to ask the reason why they who erected so many temples to the Gods, and adorned *them with such costly offerings; why they who had instituted so many festivals, and accompanied them with such pomps and ceremonies ; in short, why they who had sain so many Hecatombs at their altars, should be less successful than the Lacedemonians, who fell fo short of them in all these particulars. To this, says he, the Oracle made the following
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reply; I am better pleased with the prayer. of the Lacedæmonians than with all the oblations of the Greeks, ' As this prayer implied and encouraged virtue in those who made it ; the Philosopher proceeds to shew how the most vicious man might : be devout, so far as victims could make him, but that his offerings were regarded by the Gods as bribes, and his petiti-, ons as blasphemies. · He likewise quotes on this occasion two verses out of Homer, in which the Poet says that the scent of the Trojan sacrifices was carried up to heaven by the winds, but that it was not acceptable to the Gods, who were displeased with Priam and all his people.
The conclusion of this dialogue is very remarkable. Socrates having deterred
Alcibiades from the prayers and sacrifice which he was going to offer, by setting forth the above mentioned difficulties of performing that duty as he ought, adds these words, We must therefore wait 'till such time as we may learn how we ought to behave ourselves towards the Gods and towards men. But when will that time. come, says Alcibiades, and who is it will instruct us ? For I would fain see this man, whoever he is. It is one, says. 14.
Socrates, who takes care of you ; but as Homer tells us, that Minerva removed the mist from Diomedes his eyes, that he might plainly discover boch Gods and men; so the darkness that hangs upon your mind must be removed, before you are able to discern what is good and what is evit. Let him remove from my mind, fiys Alcibiades, the darkness, and what elfe he pleafes; I am determined to refufe noching he shall order me, whóever he is, fo that I may become the better man by it. The remaining part of this dialogue is very obfcure: There is something in it that would make us think Socrates hinted at himfelf, when he spoke of this Divine Teacher who was to come into the world, did he not own that he himself was in this respect as much at a loss, and in as great distress as the rest of mankind.
Some learned men look upon this conclusion as a prediction of our Saviour, or at least that Socrates, like the High-priest, prophefied unknowingly, and pointed at that Divine Teacher who was to come into the world, fome agès after him. However that may be, we find that this great Philosopher faw, by the
light of reason, that it was suitable to the goodness of the Divine Nature, to fend a person into the world who should instruct mankind in the duties of religion, and, in particular, teach them how to pray.
Whoever reads this abstract of Plato's discourse on Prayer, will, I believe, naturally make this reflection, That the great Founder of our religion, as well by his own example, as in the form of prayer which he taught his disciples, did not only keep up to those rules which the light of nature had fuggested to this great Philosopher, but instructed his difciples in the whole extent of this duty, as well as of all others. He directed them to the proper object of adoration, and taught them according to the third rule above-mentioned, to apply themselves to him in their closets, without show. or oftentation ; and to worship him in spirit and in truth. As the Lacedemonians in their form of Prayer implored the Gods in general to give them all good things fo long as they were virtuous, we ask in particular that our offences may be forgiven as we forgive those of others. If we look into the second Rule which Socrates has