« ZurückWeiter »
heart, which are natural to you, wanted nothing from literature, but to refine and direct the application of them. After I have boasted I had some share in your familiarity, I know not how to do you the justice of celebrating you for the choice of an elegant and worthy acquaintance, with whom you live in the happy communication of generous sentiments, which contribute, not only to your own mutual entertainment and improvement, but to the honour and service of your country. Zeal for the public good is the characteristic of a man of honour, and a gentleman, and must take place of pleasures, profits, and all other private gratifications. Whoever wants this motive, is an open enemy, or an inglorious neuter to mankind, in proportion to the misapplied advantages with which nature and fortune have blessed him. But you have a soul animated with nobler views, and know that the distinction of wealth and plenteous circumstances, is a tax upon an honest mind, to endeavour, as much as the occurrences of life will give him leave, to guard the properties of others, and be vigilant for the good of his fellow-subjects.
This generous inclination, no man possesses in a warmer degree than yourself; which that heaven would reward with long possession of that reputation into which you have made so early an entrance, the reputation of a man of sense, a good citizen, and agreeable companion, a disinterested friend, and an unbiassed patriot, is the hearty prayer of,
Your most obliged
and most obedient
N° 83. TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 1713.
Nimirum insanus paucis videatur, eò quòd
HOR. 2. Sat. iii. 120.
-Few think these mad; for most, like these,
THERE is a restless endeavour in the mind of man after happiness. This appetite is wrought into the original frame of our nature, and exerts itself in all parts of the creation that are endued with any degree of thought or sense. But as the human mind is dig. nified by a more comprehensive faculty than can be found in the inferior animals, it is natural for men not only to have an eye, each to his own happiness, but also to endeavour to promote that of others in the same rank of being: and in proportion to the generosity that is ingredient in the temper of the soul, the object of its benevolence is of a larger and narrower extent. There is hardly a spirit upon earth so mean and contracted, as to centre all regards in its own interest,
exclusive of the rest of mankind. Even the selfish man has some share of love, which he bestows on his family and his friends. A nobler mind hath at heart the common interest of the society or country of which he makes a part. And there is still a more diffusive spirit, whose being or intentions reach the whole mass of mankind, and are continued beyond the present age, to a succession of future generations.
The advantage arising to him who hath a tincture of this generosity on his soul, is, that he is affected with a sublimer joy than can be comprehended by one who is destitute of that noble relish. The happiness of the rest of mankind hath a natural connection with that of a reasonable mind. And in proportion as the actions of each individual contribute to this end, he must be thought to deserve well or ill, both of the world, and of himself. I have, in a late paper', observed that men who have no reach of thought do often misplace their affections on the means, without respect to the end'; and by a preposterous desire of things in themselves indifferent, forego the enjoyment of that happiness which those things are instrumental to obtain. This observation has been considered with regard to critics and misers; I shall now apply it to free-thinkers.
Liberty and truth are the main points which these gentlemen pretend to have in view; to proceed therefore methodically, I will endeavour to shew in the first place that liberty and truth are not in themselves desirable, but only as they relate to a farther end. And secondly, that the sort of liberty and truth (allowing them those names) which our free-thinkers use all their industry to promote, is destructive to that end, viz. human happiness: and consequently that
• N° 77.
species, as such, instead of being encouraged or esteemed, merit the detestation and abhorrence of all honest men. In the last place, I design to shew, that under the pretence of advancing liberty and truth, they do in reality promote the two contrary evils.
As to the first point, it has been observed, that it is the duty of each particular person to aim at the happiness of his fellow-creatures; and that as this view is of a wider or narrower extent, it argues a mind more or less virtuous. Hence it follows, that a liberty of doing good actions which conduce to the felicity of mankind, and a knowledge of such truths as might either give us pleasure in the contemplation of them, or direct our conduct to the great ends of life, are valuable perfections. But shall a good man, therefore, prefer a liberty to commit murder or adultery, before the wholesome restraint of divine and human laws? Or shall a wise man prefer the knowledge of a troublesome and afflicting truth, before a pleasant error that would cheer his soul with joy and comfort and be attended with no ill consequences? Surely no man of common sense would thank him, who had put it in his power to execute the sudden suggestions of a fit of passion or madness, or imagine himself obliged to a person, who by forwardly informing him of ill news, had caused his soul to anticipate that sorrow which she would never have felt, so long as the ungrateful truth lay concealed.
Let us then respect the happiness of our species, and in this light examine the proceedings of the freethinkers. From what giants and monsters would these knight-errants undertake to free the world? From the ties that religion imposeth on our minds, from the expectation of a future judgment, and from the terrors of a troubled conscience, not by reforming men's lives, but by giving encouragement to their
vices. What are those important truths of which they would convince mankind? That there is no such thing as a wise and just Providence; that the mind of man is corporeal; that religion is a state-trick, contrived to make men honest and virtuous, and to procure a subsistence to others for teaching and exhorting them to be so; that the good tidings of life and immortality, brought to light by the gospel, are fables and impostures; from believing that we are made in the image of God, they would degrade us to an opinion that we are on a level with the beasts that perish. What pleasure or what advantage do these notions bring to mankind? Is it of any use to the public that good men should lose the comfortable prospect of a reward to their virtue; or the wicked be encouraged to persist in their impiety, from an assurance that they shall not e punished for it hereafter?
Allowing, therefore, these men to be patrons of liberty and truth, yet it is of such truths and that sort of liberty which make them justly be looked upon as enemies to the peace and happiness of the world. But upon a thorough and impartial view it will be found, that their endeavours, instead of advancing the cause of liberty and truth, tend only to introduce slavery and error among men. There are two parts in our nature; the baser, which consists of our senses and pas sions, and the more noble and rational, which is properly the human part, the other being common to us with brutes. The inferior part is generally much stronger, and has always the start of reason, which, if in the perpetual struggle between them it were not aided from heaven by religion, would almost universally be vanquished, and man become a slave to his passions, which as it is the most grievous and shameful slavery, so it is the genuine result of that liberty which is proposed by overturning religion. Nor is