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Thirdly, Because morality gives a greater perfection to human nature, by quieting the mind, moderating the passions, and advancing the happiness of every man in his private capacity.
Fourthly, Because the rule of morality is much more certain than that of faith, all the civilized nations of the world agr eing in the great points of inorality, as much as they differ in those of faith.
Fifthly, Because infidelity is not of so malignant a nature as immorality; or to put the same reason in another light, because it is generally owned, there may be salvation for a virtuous infidel, (particularly in the case of invincible ignorance) but none for a vícious believer.
Sixtbly, Because faith seems to draw its principal, if not all its excellency, from the influence it has upon mosality ; as we shall see more at large, if we consider whieiein confifts the excellency of faith, or the belief of revealed religion ; and this I think is,
Firit, In explaining, and carrying to greater heights feveral points of morality.
Secondly, In furnishing new and stronger motives to enforce the practice of morality.
Thirdly, in giving us more amiable ideas of the Supreme Being, more endearing notions of one another, and a truer Itate of ourselves, both in regard to the grandeur and vileness of our natures.
Fourthly, By shewing us the blackness and deformity of vice, which in the christian system is so very great, that he who is possessed of all perfection and the sovereign judge of it, is represented by several of our divines as hating fin to the fame degree that he loves the sacred
person who was made the propitiation of it.
Fiftbly, In being the ordinary and prescribed method of making morality effectual to salvation,
I have only touched on these several heads, which every one who is conversant in discourses of this nature will easily enlarge upon in his own thoughts, and draw conclusions from them which may be useful to him in the conduct of his life. One I am sure is so obvious, that he cannot miss it, namely, that a man canot be perfect in his scheme of morality, who does L 4
not strengthen and support it with that of the chriftian faith
Besides this, I fhall lay down two or three other maxims which I think we may deduce from what has been said.
First, That we should be particularly cautious of making any thing an article of faith, which does not contribute to the confirmation or improvement of mo. rality.
Secondly, That no article of faith can be true and authentic, which weakens or fubverts the practical part of religion, or what I have hitherto called morality.
Thirdly, That the greateft friend of morality and natural religion cannot possibly apprehend any danger from embracing christianity, as it is preserved pure and uncorrupt in the do&trines of our national church.
There is likewise another maxim which I think may be drawn from the foregoirg. confiderations, which is this, that we should, in all dubious points, consider any ill consequences that may arise from them, fuppofing they should be erroneous, before we give up our affent to them.
For example, In that disputable point of perfecuting, men for conscience sake, besides the imbittering their minds with hatred, indignation, and all the vehemence of resentment, and in snaring them to profefs what they do not believe; we cut them off from the pleasures and advantages of society, affli&t their bodies, distress their fortunes, hurt their reputations, ruin their families, make their lives painful, or put an end to them. Sure when I see such dreadful consequences rising from a principle, I would be as fully convinced of the truth of it, as of a mathematical demonstration, before I would venture to act upon it, or make it a part of my religion.
In this case the injury done our neighbour is plain and evident; the principle that puts us upon doing it, of a dubious and disputable nature. Morality seems highly violated by the one, and whether or no a zeal for what a man thinks the true system of faith may justify it, is very uncertain. I cannot but think, if our religion produces charity as well as zeal, it will not be for shewing
itself by such cruel instances. But to conclude with the words of an excellent author, We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
UR defects and follies are too often unknown to us; nay, they are so far from being known to us,
that they pass for demonstrations of our worth. This makes us easy in the midst of them, fond to shew them, fond to improve in them, and to be efiemed for them. Then it is that a thousand unaccountable conceits, gay inventions, and extravagant actions must afford us pleasures, and display' us to others in the colours which we ourselves take a fancy to glory in: And indeed there is something so amusing for the time in this state of va. nity and ill-grounded satisfaction, that even the wiser world has chosen an exalted word to describe its inchantments, and called it The Paradise of Fools.
Perhaps the latter part of this reflexion may seem a false thought to fome, and bear another turn than what I have given ; but it is at present none of my business to look after it, who am going to confess that I have been lately amongst them in a vision.
Methought I was transported to a hill, green, flowery, and of an easy afcent. Upon the broad top of it refided squint eyed Error, and popular Opinion with many heads; two that dealt in forcery, and were famous for bewitching people with the love of themselves. To these repaired a multitude: from every side, by two different paths which lead towards each of them. Some who had the most assuming air, went directly of themselves to Error, without expecting a conductor ;
others of a softer nature went first to popular opinion, from whence as the influenced and engaged them with their own praises, she delivered them over to his government.
When we had ascended to an open part of the summit where Opinion abode, we found her entertaining several who had arrived before us. Her voice was pleasing ; the breathed odours as the spoke : She seemed to have a tongue for every one; every one thought he heard of something that was valuable in himself, and expected a paradise which the promised as the reward of his merit. Thus were we drawn to follow her, till she should bring us where it was to be bestowed : And it was observable that all the way we went, the company was either praising themselves for their qualifications, or one another for those qualifications which they took to be conspicuous in their own characters, or dispraising others for wanting theirs, or vying in the degrees of them.
At last we approached a bower, at the entrance of which Error was seated. The trees were thick-woven, and the place where he fat artfully contrived to darken him a little. He was disguised in a whitish robe, which he had put on, that he might appear to us with a nearer resemblance to Truth: And as the has a light whereby she manifests the beauties of nature to the eyes of her adorers, so he had provided himself with a magical wand, that he might do something in imitation of it, and please with delusions. This he lifted folemnly, and muttering to himself, bid the glories which he kept under inchantment to appear before us. Immediately we cast our eyes on that part of the sky to which he pointed, and observed a thin blue prospect, which cleared as mountains in a summer morning when the mists go off, and the
palace of Vanity appeared to fight.
The foundation hardly seemed a foundation, but a set of curling clouds, which it ftood upon by magical contrivance. The way by which we ascended was painted like a rainbow; and as we went, the breeze that played about us bewitched the fenfes. The walls were gilded all for show; the lowest set of pillars were of the flight fine Corinthian order, and the top of the building being rounded, bore so far the resemblance of a bubble.
At the gate the travellers neither met with porter, nor waited till one should appear; every one thought his merit a sufficient passport, and pressed forward. In the hall we met with several phantoms, that rov'd amongst us, and ranged the company according to their fenti
There was decreasing Honour, that had nothing to thew in but an old coat of his ancestors atchievements: There was Oftentation, that made himself his own conftant subject, and Galantry ftrutting upon his tip-toes. At the upper end of the hall stood a throne, whose canopy glitter'd with all the riches that gaiety could contrive to lavish on it; and between the gilded arms fat Vanity, deck'd in the peacock's feathers, and acknowledged for another Venus by her votaries. The boy who stood before her for a Cupid, and who made the world to bow before her, was called Self-Conceit. His eyes -had every now and then a cast inwards to the neglect of all objects almout him ; and the arms which he made use of for conquest
, were borrowed from those against whom he had a design. The arrow which he hot at the soldier, was fledg’d from his own plume of feathers ; the dart he directed against the man of wit, was winged from the quills he writ with ; and that: which he sent against those who presumed upon their riches, was headed with gold out of their treasuries : He made nets for ftatesmen from their own contrivances ;; he took fire from the eyes of ladies, with which he melted their hearts ; and lightning from the tongues of the eloquent, to enflame them with their own glories. At the foot of the throne sat three false graces; Flattery. with a fhell of paint, Affectation with a mirrour to practise at, and Fashion ever changing the posture of her clothes. These applied themielves to secure the conquests which Self-Conceit had gotten, and had each of them their particular polities. Flattery gave new colours and complexions to all things, Affectation new airs and appearances, which, as she faid, were not vulgar, and Fashion both concealed some home defects, and added fome foreign external beauties.
As I was reflecting upon what I saw, I heard a voice in the croud, bemoaning the condition of mankind, which is thus managed by the breath of Opinion, deluded