« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Notwithstanding this general division of Christian duty into morality and faith, and that they have both their peculiar excellencies, 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
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 or natural reli gion, cannot possibly apprehend any danger from embracing Christianity, as it is preserved pure and uncorrupt in the doc trines 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 ensnaring 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 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 produce 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 religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."1 C.
The conclusion of this paper is a quotation from Archbishop Tillotson or Dr. Whitchcote.-C.
Disputable point. It had been more exact, as well as more agreeable to the principles of the writer, to say-disputed-than-disputable.—H.
No. 463. THURSDAY, AUGUST 21.
Omnia quæ sensu volvuntur vota diurno,
Mens tamen ad sylvas et sua lustra redit.
Vanaque nocturnis meta cavotur equis.
In sleep, when fancy is let loose to play,
Smacks the vain whip, and shuns the fancy'd goal.
Me too the muses in the silent night,
With wonted chimes of jingling verse delight.
I WAS lately entertaining myself with comparing Homer's balance, in which Jupiter is represented as weighing the fates of Hector and Achilles, with a passage of Virgil, wherein that deity is introduced as weighing the fates of Turnus and Æneas. I then considered how the same way of thinking prevailed in the eastern parts of the world, as in those noble passages of scripture, where we are told, that the great king of Babylon, the day before his death, had been weighed in the balance, and been found wanting. In other places of the holy writings, the Almighty is described as weighing the mountains in scales, making the weight for the winds, knowing the balancings of the clouds, and, in others, as weighing the actions of men, and laying their calamities together in a balance. Milton, as I have observed in a former paper, had an eye to several of these foregoing instances, in that beautiful description wherein he represents the archangel and the evil spirit as addressing themselves for the combat, but
1 No. 321.
parted by the balance which appeared in the heavens, and
weighed the consequences of such a battle.
Th' Eternal to prevent such horrid fray,
Hung forth in heav'n his golden scales, yet seen
The pendulous round earth with balanc'd air
The latter quick up flew, and kickt the beam;
Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know'st mine,
Than Heav'n permits, nor mine, though doubled more
And read thy lot in yon celestial sign,
Where thou art weigh'd, and shown, how light, how weak,
His mounted scale aloft; nor more, but fled
Murm'ring, and with him fled the shades of night.
These several amusing thoughts having taken possession of my mind some time before I went to sleep, and mingling themselves with my ordinary ideas, raised in my imagination a very odd kind of vision. I was, methought, replaced in my study, and seated in my elbow chair, where I had indulged the foregoing speculations, with my lamp burning by me, as usual. Whilst I was here meditating on several subjects of morality, and considering the nature of many virtues and vices, as materials for those discourses with which I daily entertain the public; I saw,. methought, a pair of golden scales hanging by a chain in the same metal over the table that stood before me; when, on a sudden, there were great heaps of weights thrown down on each side of them. I found upon examining these weights, they shewed the value of every thing that is in esteem among men. VOL. V.-19