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All that is wanted, is that the ranks of society may cease to measure, in the scale of contempt, the inabilities of each other, that they may accept from friends of moderate fortunes, who have merit and taste, an economy of table, infinitely more grateful than all the luxuries of food and wine, where merit and taste is not.
It might reasonably be expected that, if any people ought to know the best means of being happy, and of enjoying life, it should be those whose education and circumstances set them above the prejudices and necessities that so much hurt the manners of the lower orders; and it would be so, if the great did not, as it were, invent plagues, and cares, totally abstracted from their condition, as if purposely to assist in equalizing the dispensations of Providence, and to make themselves common sharers of anxiety with the rest of mankind.
MAN IN THE MOON.
Wednesday, 30th Nov. 1803. It would be for the happiness of man if he could be once engaged to a fair and honest consideration of those differences of opinion in religious matters, which have for so many ages disturbed and dismembered society, and nourished the poisonous scions of hatred sprung up with prejudice and error. And yet nothing appears to be more easy among the truly good, than to determine what is pure religion; they will have little else to do than to examine its analogy with nature, and reason, and that affected difference of opinion, which has so long shaken and destroyed the happiness of society, would be made to yield to certain and fixed principles of truth, on which none could differ, and an universal assent give peace to the world. The modes of faith would then be no more than different ways of giving praise to God, and of promoting his grand design, the happiness of his creatures.
I confess that when I see the Protestant in his church, the Roman Catholic in his chapel, or the
Bramin in his mosque, all addressing the same deity, I feel love and respect for each, and venerate the duty they are engaged in, without any comparisons whatever; and I believe, that if the different religions of the universe were fairly appreciated, few or none would be found that do not contain large portions of good for the happiness of man. They all possess a sovereign power over his mind, and he acts under a delightful impression that connects him with the deity and a future state, things agreeable to his nature, and that make him cheerful, and satisfied under the misfortunes of life.
To a truly philosophical mind it is by no means a vain hypothesis, that the soul is an emanation of the divine nature; since it does appear, when abstracted from worldly pursuits, to contain a great share of purity. The mind of man is not then, perhaps, what the great Mr. Locke has conceived it to be, å mere tabula rasa, a blank sheet; but rather a space occupied by the divine essence, and which contains the attributes of the divinity love and truth. Hence, perhaps, our lively impression of a deity, which is the effect of outward perception acting on a predisposition to receive what is true. The attributes of the deity, engraven as the characters of a talisman on the mind of man, may then be gradually called forth from childhood by a proper education, which may en. courage the predisposition to good, or it
become injured and defaced by improper education, bad examples, or habitual vice. Another strong argument
in favour of this doctrine is, that the principle of good appears primary, and agreeable to the nature of man, and the principle of evil, negative and contrary; for the mind ever receives a bad impulse unwillingly, and merely consents, a sufficient proof surely that evil is not congenial to the mind of man.
On the contrary, a good impulse is entertained without reluctance, we do not blush or hesitate, and we feel that it is right. The principle of good also frequently exerts itself in the most depraved minds, and struggles for its lawful sovereignty, and, perhaps, gains it for an instant, until its activity is again destroyed by fresh temptations, or the habits of vice.
The pure and sublime conceptions to which the human mind reaches at times, when abstracted from the business of the world, or engaged in contemplation, is a proof of the existence of a creator ; when the mind becomes thus pure, it seems to mix with the nature of the deity, and evil retires altogether, as if unable to exist in so pure a state of the mind; it is then that man feels that he is immortal.
The principle of truth fills and pervades the universe; it governs and directs the movements of nature; it has given instinct to the animal creation; it instructs men in the shape of reason, and flows still more plenteously into his mind through the medium of religion. In nature it displays itself in the symmetry and harmony of her works ; in man, in the harmony of his mind, and wherever one or the other is
disturbed, a shock is felt in the organization, which it appears to be the great business of providence to restore and replace.
The principle of truth is so valuable and benign in its nature to man, that were it possible for him to regulate his actions by it, moral and physical evil would almost become extinct. This from the weakness of his nature cannot happen. The principle of truth might however become more known and established in the world, and moral and physical evil would decrease in an equal ratio. If men were better agreed in the business of their own happiness, ambition would have nothing to do, blood would be no longer spilt in war, man would not oppose his brother man in the ranks of slaughter, and the invading foe, in disgust with their leader, would lay down their arms and present the olive branch. The family of the common, wealth would enjoy itself, the poor would have their comforts, and the rich cherish the substantial blessings of life, morals would guard the actions of men better than laws, adultery, drunkenness, profaneness and fraud would be forsook, and to do unto another as you would wish he should do unto you, become the wisdom of the world,
It is then from the want of fixed principles that we are wretched, nor is there any thing that can temper the mind like religion; since the proposition is self evident, that whatever tends to the happiness of man is good, and that therefore if religion, by its pre