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relying on a superior power who espouses all my quarrels, I put no bounds to my resentment, and every moral duty in opposition is trampled under foot. The following creed of the inhabitants of the Marian or Ladrone islands, is a great encouragement to cowardice. Heaven, according to that creed, is a region under the earth, filled with cocoa-trees, sugar canes, and variety of other delicious fruits. Hell is a vast furnace, constantly red-hot. Their condition in the other world depends not on good or bad actions, but on the manner of their death. Those who die a natural death, go straight to heaven: they may sin freely, if they can but secure their persons against violence. But war and bloodshed are their aversion, because those who suffer a violent death go straight to hell. In many ancient nations, a goddess was worshipped, whose province it was to promote animal love without regard to matrimony. That goddess was in Greece termed Aphrodite, in Rome Venus, and in Babylon Mylitta. To her was sacrificed, in some countries, the virginity of young women; which, it was believed, did secure their chastity for ever after. Justin mentions a custom in the island of Cyprus, of sending young women at stated times to the sea shore; where they prostituted themselves as a tribute to Venus, that they
might be chaste the rest of their lives. His words are," Pro reliqua pudicitiæ libamenta Veneri soBb 4
“luturas *.” In other nations, a small number only were prostituted, in order to secure to the remainder, a chaste and regular life. This explains a custom among the Babylonians, which, far from being thought a religious act, is held as a proof of abandoned debauchery. The custom was, That every woman once in her life should prostitute herself in the temple of the goddess Mylitta. Herodotus reports, that thereby they became proof against all temptation. And Elian observes the same of the Lydian ladies. Credat Judaus apelJa. Margaret Poretta, who in the fourteenth century made a figure among the Beguines, preached a doctrine not a little favourable to incontinence, She undertook to demonstrate, "That the soul, " when absorbed in the love of God, is free from "the restraint of law, and may freely gratify every "natural appetite, without contracting guilt;" a cordial doctrine for a lady of pleasure. That crazy person, instead of being laughed at, was burnt alive at Paris. In the fifteenth century, a sect termed brethren and sisters of the free spirit, held, That modesty is a mark of inhering corruption; and that those only are perfect, who can behold nakedness without emotion. These fanatics appeared at publie worship, without the least covering, Many tenets professed by the Jesuits, open a door to every immorality. "Persons truly wick“ed, and void of the love of God, may expect dandoned "eternal
* Lib. xviii. cap. 5.
"eternal life in heaven; provided only they be "impressed with fear of divine anger, and avoid "heinous crimes through the dread of future pu"nishment." Again, "Persons may transgress "with safety, who have auy plausible argument
For example, an simony by pur
for transgressing. A judge for example, may "decide for the least probable side of a question, " and even against his own opinion, provided he "be supported by any tolerable authority." Again, "Actions intrinsically evil, and contrary to "divine law, may however be innocently per'formed, by those who can join, even ideally, a "good end to the performance, "ecclesiastic may safely commit "chasing a benefice, if to the unlawful act, he join the innocent purpose of procuring to him"self a subsistence. A man who runs another through the body for a slight affront, renders "the action lawful, if his motive be honour, not revenge." A famous Jesuit taught, that a young man may wish the death of his father, and even rejoice at his death, provided the wish proceed not from hatred, but from fondness of his father's And another Jesuit has had the effrontery to maintain, that a monk may lawfully assassinate a calumniator, who threatens to charge his order with scandalous practices. Among the negroes of Sanguin on the river Sestro in Guinea, it is an article of faith that dextrous robbery is no less lawful than beneficial.
The Quakers, a sect generated during the civil wars in the reign of Charles I., contracted such an aversion to war as to declare it unlawful even in self-defence; a doctrine that soars high above morality, and is contradictory to human nature. But by what magic has a tenet so unnatural subsisted so long? The Quakers exclude pride, admitting no difference of rank, but considering all men as their brethren. And they exclude vanity by simplicity and uniformity of dress. Thus by humility and temperance, they have preserved their institutions alive. But these passions cannot always be kept in subjection:, vanity is creeping in, especially among the females, who indulge in silks, fine linen, bone-lace, &c. Vanity and pride will reach the males; and the edifice will totter and fall.
A doctrine that strikes at the foot of every moral duty, as well as of religion itself, is, That God will accept a composition for sin; a doctrine that prevailed universally during the days of ignorance. Compositions for crimes were countenanced by law in every country*; and men, prone to indulge their passions, flattered themselves, that they might compound with God for sinning against him, as with their neighbours for injuring them: those who have no notion of any motive but interest, naturally think it to be equally powerful with the Deity. An opinion prevailed universally in the Christian
Historical Law Tracts, Tract 1.
Christian church, from the eighth century down to the Reformation, that liberal donations to God, to a saint, to the church, would procure pardon even for the grossest sins. During that period, the building churches and monasteries was in high vogue. This absurd, or rather impious doctrine, proved a plentiful harvest of wealth to the clergy; for the great and opulent, who are commonly the boldest sinners, have the greatest ability to compound for their sins. There needs nothing but such an opinion to annihilate every duty, whether moral or religious; for what wicked man will think either of restitution or of reformation, who can purchase a pardon from Heaven with so little trouble? Louis XI. of France was remarkably superstitious, even in a superstitious age. To ingratiate himself with the Virgin Mary, he surrendered to her the county of Boulogne with great solemnity. Voltaire remarks, that godliness consists, not in making the Virgin a Countess, but in abstaining from sin. Composition for sins, is a doctrine of the church of Rome, boldly professed without disguise. A book of rates, published by authority of the Pope, contains stated prices for absolutions, not excepting the most heinous sins. So true is the observation of Æneas Silvius, afterwards Pope Paul II. "Nihil est quod absque "argento Romana curia det: ipsa manuum impositio, et Spiritus Sancti dona, venduntur; nec