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into morality and faith, and that they have both their peculiar excellences, the first has the pre-eminence in several respects.
First, Because the greatest part of morality (as I have stated the notion of it) is of a fixed eternal nature, and will endure when faith shall fail, and be lost in conviction. Secondly, Because a person may be qualified to do greater good to mankind, and become more beneficial to the world, by morality without faith, than by faith without morality.
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 agreeing in the great points of morality, 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 vicious believer.
Sixthly, Because faith seems to draw its principal, if not all its excellency, from the influence it has upon morality; as we shall see more at large, if we consider wherein consists the excellency of faith, or the belief of revealed religion; and this I think is,
First, In explaining and carrying to greater heights several 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 state 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 sin to the same degree that he loves the sacred person who was made the propitiation of it.
Fifthly, 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 cannot be perfect in his scheme of morality, who does not strengthen and support it with that of the Christian faith.
Besides this, I shall 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 morality.
Secondly, That no article of faith can be true and authentic, which weakens or subverts the practical part of religion, or what I have hitherto called morality.
Thirdly, That the greatest friend of morality and natural religion cannot possibly apprehend any danger from embracing Christianity, as it is preserved pure and uncorrupt in the doctrines of our national church.*
There is likewise another maxim which I think may be drawn from the foregoing considerations, which is this, that we should, in all dubious points, consider any ill consequences that may arise from them, supposing they should be erroneous, before we give up our assent to them.
For example, In that disputable point of persecuting men for conscience sake, besides the imbittering their minds with hatred, indignation, and all the vehemence of resentment, and insnaring them to profess what they do not believe, we cut them off from the pleasures and advantages of society, afflict 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 * The Gospel...
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 of religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love, one another." C.
N° 460. MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 1712.
Decipimur specie recti.-HOR. Ars Poet. v. 25.
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 them, and to be esteemed 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. Indeed there is something so amusing for the time in the state of vanity and ill-grounded satisfaction, that even the wiser world has chosen an exalted word to describe its enchantments, and called it "The Paradise of Fools."
Perhaps the latter part of this reflection may seem a false thought to some, 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 ascent. Upon the broad top of it resided squint-eyed Error, and Popular Opinion with many heads; two that dwelt in sorcery, and were famous for bewitching people with the love of themselves. To these repaired multitude from every side, by two different paths w lead towards each of them. Some who had the mos suming air went directly of themselves to Error,
expecting a conductor; others of a softer nature went first to Popular Opinion, from whence, as she 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: she breathed odours as she 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 she 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 sat 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 she 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 solemnly, and, muttering to himself, bid the glories which he kept under enchantment 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 mist goes off, and the palace of Vanity appeared to sight.
The foundation seemed hardly a foundation, but a set of curling clouds, which it stood upon by magical contrivance. The way bywhich we ascended was painted like rainbow and as we went, the breeze that played about bewitched the senses. The walks were gilded all for v; the lowest set of pillars were of the slight fine Coian order, and the top of the building being rounded, far the resemblance of a bubble.
At the gate the travellers neither met with a porter, nor waited till one should appear; every one thought his merits a sufficient passport, and pressed forward. In the hall we met with several phantoms, that roved among us, and ranged the company according to their sentiments. There was decreasing Honour, that had nothing to shew, but an old coat, of his ancestor's achievements. There was Ostentation, that made himself his own constant subject, and Gallantry strutting upon his tiptoes. At the upper end of the hall stood a throne, whose canopy glittered with all the riches that gaiety could contrive to lavish on it; and between the gilded arms sat Vanity, decked in the peacock's feathers, and acknowledged for another Venus by her votaries. The boy who stood beside 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 about 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 shot at the soldier, was fledged 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 statesmen 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 inflame them with their own glories. At the foot of the throne sat three false Graces: Flattery with a shell of paint, Affectation with a mirror to practise at, and Fashion ever changing the posture of her clothes. These applied themselves 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 said, were not vulgar; and Fashion both concealed some home defects, and added some foreign external beauties.
As I was reflecting upon what I saw, I heard a voice in the crowd bemoaning the condition of mankind, which is thus managed by the breath of Opinion, deluded by Error, fired by Self-Conceit, and given up to be trained in all the courses of Vanity, till Scorn or Poverty come