« AnteriorContinuar »
it, and discernment to direct these happy propensions to their proper objects. I must own I am a ftrenuous advocate for its success; tho'I am no farther interested in it than every good man ought to be: but as wishes are the only affittance I can lend, those I most sincerely offer.
I am, SIR,
Your very humble fervant,
LETTER II. in Defence of RELIGION.
The subject continued from Number IV. p. 133
who can say that it is not a fair and genuine one ?) it is plain, not a single individual could be safe either in person or property from his neighbour; men would shew themselves to be greater savages than the brute creation, and grow more fierce and outrageously cruel and encroaching for being reasonable. The intellectual powers they are possess'd of point out many advantages, which may several ways be made of their fellow-creatures, and because self-love prompts them to every thing connected with private good, hereupon C invariably becomes D's enemy, that is, violently opposes or fraudulently circumvents him, when it is presumed such force or fraud will operate to his own emolument. And thus would mankind reciprocally, put each other into the most deplorable state of tircumvention and rapine that can be conceived. For as a very learned prelate of our church judiciously observes, “ The flood-gates to oppression, violence, “ and every injuriaus work are opened, as the restraints
upon conscience and motives to duty are taken away.”
But were we to suppose A would abstain from hurting B in character, body, or goods, (which, the true in theorys would be no common effect, since the preventive principle only acts with steadiness when A could not be a rogue without being detected, which, considering the various lucky escapes secret injustice has, the subtle and intriguing spirit it is actuated by, and the engines it usually works with, would but seldom happen) suppoting, I say, A and others would intentionally avoid all acts of Aagitiousness and villany, yet would B’s life (notwithstanding it was thus secured from external violence) be little or no blessing to him, but, on the whole, rather matter of aversion than of choice. For as man is a weak dependent creature, it is impossible that he should live without the good offices of others. This every one knows by a fad and woeful experience. His wants, which are of various kinds and almost infinite in number, and whose importunity he is neither able to resist nor to satisfy, compel him to treat and tranfact with others; but no equal and lasting correspondence can commence or be conducted, excepting on a principle of natural justice, that is, without a sense of religion. And it is farther observable, that man's happiness is not barely the effect of a strict adherence to the rule of right, but arises partly thence, and in part from the kindness and benevolence of others; which he is not to expect otherwise than as their interest is suppos'd to depend on his and to flow from it. But those, one may fafely affirm, would oftener interfere than coincide ; since in promoting another's happiness a man would neglect his own, unless acts of benificence continually reciprocated, which under those circumstances there is no ground to expect. For allowing that A would do B a favour in hopes of exciting him to repay it with another, yet if he expects not any more favours froin A, no confideration of what is past could induce him to make such a return, especially if the doing of it was in the least in: confistent with his future views. Because no one would think himself obliged to prefer another's welfare to his own; or, in other words, gratitude (in the light we have plac'd it above) would be an impracticable, if not an impoffible duty.
Some are of opinion, that man best pursues his own ada vantage by directing all his movements and acts to the extension and advancement of the great interest of the whole, because, if this be provided for, the parts which compose it are not overlooked. In answer to which it is proper to take notice, that if each particular would be virtuous, and ever do to others as he could wish to be done by in like fituations, then all must be happy, and concord and harmony would in fact prevail over the whole earth. But here lies the case; since men are free agents, they always have it in their power to move as profit; pleasure, or inclination shall draw them: and tho' some may promote the general as being productive of private happiness; yet the bulk of individuals will act otherwise. And when particular motions are in contrary and opposite directions, from such a collision pursuits, what but disorder and embarrass can be thought to refult? And if moral observances come once to lead more to misery than to happiness, and there is nothing in this life or the next to be set over against it; in all such instances; it cannot be deemed strange, if men desert the cause of virtue and join her adversary ; 'twould be a wonder indeed if they did not. For I presume, it will never be afferted, that pure
absolute pain can at any time be more eligible to a human being than pleasure.
This little which has been said is enough to shew what would be the miserable and distracted ftate of mankind; void of all sense of a superiour Being inviting them to virtue, and discouraging them from vice, by rewards and punishments to be impartially dispensed in some period or other of man's du-ration. It is the not living in the belief of a divine, superintendency, that has been the cause of the mischief which has triumphed in the world.
you seem to be ari understanding man in the world,
I should be glad of your advice. 'Tis concerning a difference, which has for some time fubfifted between my brother Tom and me. I am, you must know, the youngerg and on that account had little learning given me, and was put to a trade in London ; but Tom was bred among you at college, and there supported in great dignity by my father, whose fondness, poor man! would often induce him to call him the 'fquire, and the young lord of the manour, expreffions not so agreeable to me, you may imagine. I'mn fure, I have often wilhed, that I had been in bed with an ague when he was born; for no-body can bear to be slighted, Mr. STUDENT. My father indeed, when I came home at holidaytime, would often stroke me down the head with a seeming affection and fay, poor Will! Will's a good boy, and may make an honest tradesman ; but whenever my brother came in view, no more notice was taken of me. No, he was the object in which all their hopes were centered. This was enough to drive a man of spirit beyond all bounds. However I pursued my business, and have among my neighbours preserved a good character (which you know is a good step towards a fortune) and so advanc'd my credit, that my word at any time will pass for double the worth of my capital, which is but sender.
Brother Tom about the middle of my apprenticeship left college, where he had learnt Latin, and Greek, and Logick, and such sort of things, (but knew nothing cf the world) and came up to Londirio Here he considered himself as one of the most considerable: you'll excuse my homely wit, Mr, STUDENT, for I ain but a tradesman. In short, he improved from drinking to gaming, and from gaming to
whoring to that degree, that in less than a month he was obliged to call for the assistance of a furgeon. He had spent a hundred guineas, which my father gave him to come to town with, and was taken into custody for five hundred more, on his note of hand given under the Piazza in CoventGarden, from whence I received the following letter.
Coming to town t'other day to see you, I fell in with a « parcel of villanous sharpers, who brought me to Covent“ Garden, and there plunder'd my pockets, and us'd me
every way too ill to be describ'd in a letter. For heaven's " sake, come to me as soon as possible, for I shall be on the “ rack till I see you. Yours affectionately,
“ P. S. If you love me, don't let a tittle of this “ drop to any of your family."
As I never wanted affection for my brother, you may suppose that I foon run to his assistance. But low was I surpriz'd and mortify’d! when the messenger led me up a narrow dirty alley, to an ill-looking house, and then up two pair of dark stairs, into a filthy stinking room, barricaded with iron bars, and without glass to the windows, where fat poor Tom without meat or drink or any of those things that are necessary for the support of life. No sooner was I enter'd, but in bolted two unchristian-looking fellows : D-nye, says one, what d’ye call for ? people don't keep such houses upor the air. I call for, honest friend, faid I, I call for—and hesitated, for my heart was ready to break; and before I could express my meaning, Zounds, says the other, turn him out, and take the prisoner to jail, we have no business to keep him here, as I know of. I took the hint immediately, and in crder to satisfy their voracious appetites, calld for a five shilling bowl of punch, which they brought up in a small flop-basen. Z 2