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pofed to trespass on this rule, and to judge of other men by the
Trojani belli fcriptorem, maxime Lolli,
Dum tu declamas Romæ, Prænefte relegi;
Qui quid fit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non,
This latitude of judgement, however, relating to the variety of manners, which may be admitted, as confiftent with equal or fuperior degrees of merit in different nations, hath limits beyond which it cannot be fafely carried. Should we suppose a nation to reject what is evidently falutary, and to prefer a custom which
"D'avoir chanté des heros groffiers." This expreffion is to be found fomewhere in Voltaire's Works.
which is pernicious; this, no doubt, would come under the de-
Virtue is fo far from being valuable, merely on account of its
Fashion sometimes leads to effeminacy, fervility, prodigality, and debauchery. Where nations differ from one another in thefe refpects, they are juftly faid to exhibit, not a difference of manners merely, but certain degrees of corruption and depravity. If they should be ignorant or infenfible of the pernicious tendency of what they do, even this ignorance or infenfibility is a heavy article in the charge of corruption or vice to which they are exposed, and it must be admitted, that the fingularity of an individual, which in any instance of mere arbitrary manners were an error and a blemish, would in fuch inftances as these be a merit and a juft topic of praife. Among the faithless faithful only he, is made the distinction of an angel of light *.
It must no doubt therefore be established as a rule of action,
See Paradife Loft.
PART II. CHAP. II. SECT. V.
PART II. that wherever the manners of our country are dangerous to its fafety or have a tendency to enfeeble or to corrupt the minds of men; to deprive the citizen of his rights; or the innocent of his fecurity; it is our duty to do what is for the good of our fellow creatures, even in oppofition to the fashion and custom of the times in which we live.
Some rites in religion, as well as obfervances in the ceremonial of life, are of a nature phyfically indifferent, and fit to be retained as mère arbitrary figns or expreffions of the affection, which religion or good manners require. But, as there is a merit in refifting practices extremely inconvenient, though required under the notion of good manners; fo there is wisdom in abstaining from acts of cruelty, though required under the notion of devotion or fanctity.
The human facrifice performed, or the cruel perfecutions that have been practiced under this notion, did not proceed, like the voluntary fufferings of the enthusiast, upon an idea, that it was good for himself to fuffer; but upon an idea, that the Deity who requires fuch victims is jealous, vindictive, and cruel; or is to be gratified with the infliction of human misery: And such practices, therefore, are to be counteracted, not merely as a mistake of what is beneficial or falutary, but as a corruption of religion itself; and as a substitution of malice or cruelty, where the mind fhould be taught only to form to itself models of perfection and goodness, as incitements to veneration and love.
Of the fame Subject, continued.
IT is obfervable that, in many things, whether useful or ne-
It is not uncommon to confider virtue itself as a mean between two extremes towards either of which any deviation from the middle path is vice. Thus liberality is confidered as a mean betwixt prodigality and avarice; bravery as a mean betwixt temerity and cowardice; temperance as a mean betwixt hurtful abstinence and pernicious excess.
Eft modus in rebus, funt certi denique fines,
This method is adopted in one of the most elegant and masterly productions of antiquity, on the fubject of ethics or manners † ; and there is no doubt, that propriety of conduct may be rendered perceptible and evident, not only when fingle actions are feparately defcribed, but alfo when placed in contraft with any deviation from what is right, whether on the fide of defect or excess.
Such illuftrations, however, if useful in treating of the external effects of virtue, may rather ferve to mislead, in confidering the excellency or depravity of mind, from which thofe effects proceed.
Wisdom and goodness are abfolute, not relative, subjects of efteem. There may be a defect of either, but no excefs. In the defects of intelligence, there is folly; but, in the highest measure of which it is fufceptible, there is no blameable extreme of wif dom. There is no extreme of justice; nor in the mind, be the quality of whatever denomination, is there any extreme of what is right.
+ Ariftotle's Ethics.
In practice, indeed, beneficent intention may produce too much or too little effect. The proper medium or mean, betwixt the extremes, to be found by obfervation or experience, is itself