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by reflection. Thus morals, manners, and every thing that appears externally, may in part be acquired by imitation and example, which have little or no connection with the reasoning faculty. And hence it is, that in judging of right and wrong, the outward act only draws the attention of the ignorant and illiterate, who cannot penetrate into the will or intention; and also, that in religion, such preponderating weight is laid upon forms and ceremonies, without much regarding their end or effect.
The bias, however, acquired from Aristotle kept reason in chains for ages. Scholastic divinity was, in particular, most extensively hurtful. Aristarchus, we know, having taught that the earth moved round the sun, was accused, by the Heathen priests, for troubling the repose of their household gods. Copernicus, for the same doctrine, was accused by Christian priests as contradicting the Scriptures, which talk of the sun's moving. And Galileo, for adhering to Copernicus, was condemned to prison and penance; and even made to recant his doctrine upon his knees, in the most humiliating manner. Lastly, Tycho Brahe suffered a most rigorous persecu tion for maintaining the heavens to be so far empty of matter, as to give free course to the comets,
comets, contrary to Aristotle, who taught the heavens to be harder than a diamond. For how dared any simple mortal, he was asked, to differ from the authority of Aristotle?
During the infancy of reason, it is too true, authority is the prevailing argument, both in philosophy and religion. And though moral sense, and I may even say taste, are born with us; yet both of them require much cultivation. Among savages, for instance, the moral sense is faint and obscure; and taste still more so.* Even in the most enlightened ages, it requires both education and experience, to perceive accurately the various modifications of right and wrong. And to ac quire a delicacy of taste, a man must be in some degree familiar in the examination of beauties and deformities. Thus, in Rome, abounding with productions of the fine arts, a valet de place is a much more correct judge of statues, of pictures and buildings, than the best educated citizen of London or Paris. And thus, in a word, taste goes hand in hand with the moral sense, in their progress towards maturity; and they ripen equally by the same sort of culture.
Elements of Criticism.
Enthusiasm, in general, and in all other points but those of religion, is a beneficial turn of mind. No matter what the object be, whether pleasures or business, or the fine arts; whoever pursues them to any purpose, must do so con amore; and inamoratos, you know, of every kind, are enthusiasts. To strike this spirit, therefore, out of the human constitution, and to reduce things to their precise philosophical standard, would be to check some of the main wheels of society, and to fix the world in an useless apathy.
From none would I expel enthusiasm, then, but from religious communities; for fanaticism, on such ground, is her natural offspring. And what so detestable as fanaticism? What so full of horrors? Never have men been so ambitious, so rapacious, so cruel, so seditious, or so inhu manly monstrous, as when they have been persuaded that religion either ordered, required, or permitted them to be so. A passion for voluntary martyrdom, also, as one senseless species of it, must gradually destroy the sensibility both of mind and body. Nor can it be presumed, that those who torment themselves, can be susceptible of any lively affection for the rest of mankind. A severe unfeeling temper, accordingly, has distinguished
guished the monks of every age and country; as it inevitably must all undomesticated philosophers. Their stern indifference, which is too seldom mollified by personal friendship, or any more tender ties, is inflamed by religious hatred; and their merciless zeal has strenuously administered the holy office of the inquisition.*
Every conduct, which disclaims the ordinary maxims of reason, excites our suspicion, and demands our inquiry. Whenever the spirit of fanaticism, in this manner, at once so credulous. and so crafty, has insinuated itself even into a noble mind, it insensibly begins to corrode the vital principles of virtue and veracity. May the gratitude of the world at large, therefore, be upon the heads of those who so early strove, and who still so mercifully labour to destroy it! For what have not bigots and fanatics made of Christianity? Yet, let me ask, does the gospel enjoin or forbid any thing in moral practice, which is not equally enjoined or forbidden in what is called the religion of nature? Moreover, does not St. Paul say, " Finally, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely
lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, think on these things ?"*
Counterfeit virtues are always the most successful vices. For void, as in truth he is, of every principle, the simulant hypocrite, nevertheless, has too much policy, not to pretend to the most sublime. But as Solomon says, "Righteousness doth exalt, while sin is a reproach." Thus let the wicked ask their own hearts, what their inclinations are towards such persons as they believe to be truly virtuous; not only to such among them as may be their particular acquaintance and friends, but likewise to strangers, nay, to their very enemies; whether they do not esteem them, and wish them well? Has the direful proposition ever, yet been systematically supported, that virtue is naturally an enemy to happiness; or, in other words, that virtue is the natural ill, and vice the natural good?
Fool hardiness, it has been said, leads to atheism, and cowardice to superstition. But the affectation of singularity, the vanity of superior knowledge, and the sense of the miseries of fanaticism, have, most frequently I imagine, inclined
* Divine Legation.