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God's mercy is over all his works; but divines of all sorts lessen that mercy too much.
I look upon myself, in the capacity of a clergyman, to be one appointed by Providence for defending a post assigned me, and for gaining over as many enemies as I can. Although I think my cause is just; yet one great motive is my subinitting to the pleasure of Providence, and to the laws of my country.
I am not answerable to God for the doubts that arise in my own breast, since they are the consequence
of that reason which he has planted in me; if I take care to conceal those doubts from others, if I use my best endeavours to subdue them, and if they have no influence on the conduct of my life.
I believe that thousands of men would be orthodox enough in certain points, if divines had not been too curious, or too narrow, in reducing orthodoxy within the compass of subtleties, niceties, and distinctions, with little warrant from scripture, and less from reason or good policy.
I never saw, heard, nor read, that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the country. Nothing can render them popular, but some degree of persecution.
Those fine gentlemen, who affect the humour of railing at the clergy, are, I think, bound in honour to turn parsons themselves, and show us better examples.
Miserable mortals ! can we contribute to the honour and glory of God? I could wish that expression were struck out of our prayer books.
Liberty of conscience, properly speaking, is no more than the liberty of possessing our own thoughts and opinions, which every man enjoys without fear of the magistrate : but how far he shall publicly act in pursuance of those opinions, is to be regulated by the laws of the country. Perhaps, in my own thoughts, I prefer a well-instituted commonwealth before a monarchy; and I know several others of the same opinion. Now, if, upon this pretence, I should insist upon liberty of conscience, form conventicles of republicans, and print books preferring that government, and condemning what is established, the magistrate would, with great justice, hang me and my disciples. It is the same case in religion, although not so avowed; where liberty of conscience, under the present acceptation, equally produces revolutions, or at least convulsions and disturbances, in a state ; which politicians would see well enough, if their eyes were not blinded by faction, and of which these kingdoms, as well as France, Sweden, and other countries, are flaming instances. Cromwell's notion upon that article was natural and right; when, upon the surrender of a town in Ireland, the popish governor insisted upon an article for liberty of conscience. Cromwell said, “ He meddled with no man's conscience; but if, by liberty of conscience, the governor meant the liberty of the mass, he had express orders from the parliament of England against admitting any such liberty at all.”
It is impossible that any thing so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death, should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.
Although reason were intended by Providence to govern 'our passions; yet it seems that in two points of the greatest moment to the being and continuance of the world, God has intended our passions to prevail over reason. The first is, the propagation of our species; since no wise man ever married from the dictates of reason. The other is, the love of life; which, from the dictates of reason, every man would despise, and wish it at an end, or that it never had a beginning
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON RELIGION.
HE scripture-system of man's creation is what Christians are bound to believe, and seems most agreeable of all others to probability and reason. Adam was formed from a piece of clay, and Eve from one of his ribs. The text mentioneth nothing of his Maker's intending him for, except to rule over the beasts of the field and birds of the air. As to Eve, it doth not appear that her husband was her monarch; only she was to be his help-mate, and placed in some degree of subjection. However, before his fall, the beasts were his most obedient subjects, whom he governed by absolute power. After his eating the forbidden fruit, the course of nature was changed; the animals began to reject his government; some were able to escape by flight, and others were too fierce to be attacked. The scripture mentioneth no particular acts of royalty in Adam over his posterity who were contemporary with him, or of any monarch until after the flood; whereof the first was Nimrod, the mighty hunter, who, as Milton expresseth it, made men, and not beasts, his prey : for men were easier caught by promises, and subdued by the folly or treachery of their own species; whereas the brutes prevailed only by their courage or strength, which, among
them, are peculiar to certain kinds. Lions, bears, elephants, and some other animals, are strong or valiant; and their species never degenerates in their native soil, except they happen to be enslaved or destroyed by human fraud: but men degenerate every day, merely by the folly, the perverseness, the avarice, the tyranny, the pride, the treachery, or inhumanity, of their own kind,