Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

attended with any the least degree of success, there being already so many treatises en CASTLE-BUILDING. What! (lays Mr. Critick CATCHUP) will this paultry CANTAP. pretend to rival the Right Reverend the Bishop of this place, His Grace of that, and the Right Worshipful the President of another ! Have we not essays on the non-existence of matter?-On the non-existence of religion ?-And rheams on the possibility of the longitude and perpetual motion? Are not all divine and moral truths reckon'd too difficult to be conceiv’d, and every thing that is incredible; absurd and unnatural, esteem'd too obvious to be neglected! Are not these things CASTLES IN THE AIR; and are not the authors so many VITRUVIUS's in the science of CASTLEBUILDING.

I am sorry it must be owned, that all this is too true to be gainsaid; but still I beg leave to observe, that this art is of such a various, capacious, anomalous nature, that the rest of the sciences differ not so much from one another, as this does from itself; and I promise my reader, however whimfical he may find me, he shall never find me either rude or indecent; and tho’I don't care how often he laughs at my owni expence, I will take proper precaution to prevent my being the occasion of his doing it at another's. Therefore, as honest QUINTILIAN says, Perfeverandum eft, quia cæpimus ; you are kindly welcome, gentlemen, and we defire the favour of your company the next chapter.

CHIMÆRICUS CASTABRIGIENSIS.

LETTER IV. in defence of Religion.

[The subject continued from Number VI.]

D Y the preceding account the reader will be enabled to

conceive, what tumults and distractions will necessarily fpring up and propagate themselves, were the present fashionable doctrine of society being able to support itself without re

ligion

ligion as generally received, as it hath been favourably and industriously recommended. For since the body politick, like, in this as it is in many other particulars, the natural one, fubsists solely and entirely by the joint labours and mutual good offices of the several members, when those have detacht and separate views, or (which is still worse) pursue such as are inconsistent with the good of the whole, the consequences will be as full of horror as they are inevitable and not to be repair’d. And this shews the languid and declining condition that each particular state must be in, and how unlikely it is that it should long continue, unless the combin'd parts are mov'd and influenc'd by some higher and more active principle than the mere dread of penal ordinances. Plutarch, in some parts of his writings, has drop'd an expression which is as true as it is pertinent to our purpose, viz. “ that he would “ sooner believe a city might be built without any foundation, “ than that a government could be fram'd and preserv'd “ without the belief of a Deity."

We took notice above how improbable it was, that the legislative, whether vested in one person or shar'd out to more, should enact laws which were extensively useful and fundamentally equitable, but that felf would be principally consulted in the planning and universally regarded in the execution of them. Let us suppose for once, that the law-making power would adapt all its acts as nigh as possible to the exigences of the government, yet after all, fo many difficulties remain unprovided for, and there are fuch oppofitions to be removed, that the blessings of a social life can be but imperfectly guess'd at, as they will be infipidly relifh'd. For, on flight reflection, I believe, it will appear, that publick happiness is as much the effect of kind offices receiv’d and return'd, as it can be of an uniform adherence to the great principle of natural equity. But the design of laws is not so much to promote and advance the positive happiness of one another by a de claration and enforcement of acts of benefiçence, ( in which

I i2

man

man is left, as indeed he ought to be, free and uncompell-d) as they are to bę bars against all invasions of natural and acą quired property. Whence a remarkable failure in civil appointments, and (what is the misfortune) fuch a failure it is, as is not to be made up by all the wit and dexterity of the magistrate. Nothing but religion can supply the deficiency. When its aid is seasonably call'd in, and skilfully apply'd, 'twill effectually do the business. It is the sense of a divine inspection which cements, actuates, and directs all the parts of this very complex machine ; without it there could be no adequate restraint upon vice, nor a fufficient incitement to virtue. For if man's prospect is once bounded by this life, and every with of his centring in the enjoyment of the good things of it, he would imagine himself no further oblig'd to contribute towards publick, than as it was the cause of private conveniency. As this proportion vary'd, mens schemes and pursuits would commence and vary accordingly. Hence the necessity of some universally prevailing tye to draw the union closer, as well as upon firmer and more solid foundations to establish mens reciprocal engagements, by exciting a sober, attention to, and influencing them to a steady and unwearied prosecution of each others welfare.

But tho' civil institutes neither declare nor enjoin the communication of favours and mutual kindneffes, yet it may reasonably be supposed that they fully answer mens purposes in forming them. The following observations, I'm of opi. nion, will set this matter in a clear and satisfactory light.

I. Since it is the sanctions which create all the reverence that is due to, as also which enforce the authority, and induce the obligation of laws, those should ever exceed the pleasure and profit fuppofed to flow from the breach thereof. Otherwise a charge lies upon man to violate them. And such mulets on body, goods, or estatę would be inadequate to the effects they aim'd at,

II. The

II. The finiteness of the powers of the human mind, and the variety of obstructions that lie in the way of their improvement, not only retard the general progress in knowledge, but make it impofsible that men fhould in all çafes be able to explore and determine what will make for the good or hurt of each associating individual: consequently,

legiflators can neither suit their acts to the acquisition of fuch - things as may enlarge the credit and influence of fociety, nor

always provide against the perplexity and distress it may sometimes be inyolv'd in either from the agency of natural causes, or the machinations of moral ones.

III. Tho' private happiness is the true ultimate end of each particular act, men notwithstanding take different and fometimes contrary roads to it; which, as they place not their fatisfactions in the fame things, is scarce to be wonder'd at. Means must ever be conformable to their ends; when those differ, the other cannot be alike.

IV. The happiness or misery from any object or event is univerfally in a compound ratio of the good or evil in such object and event and the fufceptibility of the subject, or as the powers of producing pleafure and pain in one, and the capacity of receiving them in the other.

V. Diversity of opinions concerning the tendencies of actions ever constitutes a difference in mens defires and averfions, and therefore unequal portions of happiness or misery consequent upon their gratification or the contrary. For to use the words of the incomparable Locke, “ as pleasant

tastes depend not on the things themselves, but on their

agreeableness to this or that particular palate, wherein is ! great variety; so that the greatest happiness consists in the “ having those things which produce the greatest pleasure, " and in the absence of those which cause any disturbance, “ any pain. Now those to different men are very different

things. If men in this life only have hope ; if in this life only they can enjoy, 'tis not strange nos unreasonable that

they

pe they should seek their happiness by avoiding all things “ that disease them here, and by pursuing all that delight * them; wherein it will be no wonder to find variety and “ difference. For if there be no prospect beyond the grave, “ the inference is certainly right, let us eat and drink, let us “ enjoy what we delight in, for to morrow we die. This I " think may serve to shew us the reason why, tho' all mens “ desires tend to happiness, yet they are not all mov'd by the “ fame object.” To which I beg leave to add, that tho' all necessarily shun misery, yet what is mifery to A may not be so to B, however in a greater or lefs degree, which will opez rate and make impressions accordingly. And this clearly evinces, that certain arguments and apprehensions of things, whilst they are of force to convince and deter some, may be incapable of gaining and holding in others. Whence the impossibility of making penal assignments exactly proportion'd to the nature and extent of mens demerits.

But should we suppose this inconveniency got over, and that human laws dealt out punishments preçisely adapted to the malignity of the deviation, yet how many ways have crafty and designing rogues to escape by? And how often would an offender go on offending, and after having pass'd thro’a whole scene of villainy leave the stage with much feeming serenity and composure of mind; a wordly-minded man ftimulated by the pleasing prospect of gain, and one whom the hopes of impunity have supported and encouraged to proceed with setting danger at a distance, will certainly attempt to throw open the facred enclosure of right, and break thro' all establishments, if he is likely to find his advans tage by it.

R [ To be continued. ]

PATHETICK

« AnteriorContinuar »