Obrazy na stronie

to fwell Men with Pride and Conceit. All other Moral Systems eafily betray'd their Imperfection, when compar'd with the Chriftian; which at length prevail'd to the utter Exclufion of the reft, by the irrefiftible Evidence of a truly modeft, fincere, and difinterefted Honefty. For no Inftitution but that of Faith ever taught a Man to appear what he is, and to be what he appears. A Chriftian, who glories in his Infitmity, has nothing that he can be asham'd of, or that he defires to conceal. He alone is the truly magnanimous Perfon; because he has always Courage enough to be open, and never Weaknefs enough to wear a Difguize. The whole Frame of Heathen Morals was fhaken and confounded by fome of the firft Words of our Bleffed

Saviour that he spoke in Publick, when in his Divine Sermon on the Mount He pronounc'd a Qui fe pro. Bleffing on the Meek, and the Poor in Spirit. For fitebantur the Sum of Pagan Doctrine is Pride, as the Sum orbis ma- of Chriftian is Humility: The one teachés a Man giftros fa- to be vain and infolent, the other obliges him to &i funt be fober-minded. And, fince Purity of Mandifcipuli bumilita ners and Sincerity of Intention are wholly of tis Chri- Chriftian Growth, it may be affirm'd that Hoftiana. nefty is confin'd within the Pale of the Church. Baron. ad For every good Refolution, how high and noble Aan. 234. foever, if impugn'd by an Intereft more powerful than the Motive of Virtue upon which it proceeds, must neceffarily yield to the Affault. It is our Religion alone, that by propofing the Interefts of Eternity, fuperiour beyond Comparison to all others, can render its Principles immovable,and its Precepts irrefiftible. And thus, without Christianity, there can be no fuch thing as true Morality, because there can be no true Virtue: And all other Probity,befides that of Chriftians, is, ordinarily speaking, no better than politick Management, and an Art of Addrefs. IX,

[ocr errors]




Indeed, the Pagan Morals appear'd to be Veteres themfelves fo weak, inftead of proving a Sup- philofo port to human Weaknefs, that they foon fell phi in into utter Contempt, with all fuch as were fe- infulis riously difpos'd to the ftudy of Vertue and a good fingunt Life. For befides that the Indifference to Plea-qualis fit fure and Pain, Glory and Infamy, Wealth and vita fapiPoverty, that Zeno pretended to teach, was ne-in naturæ entum, qui ver really found but under the Difcipline of cognitione Faith; befides that the Contentment and Felicity non folum under Sufferings, which the Heathen Sages fo beata vite much boafted, was never made good but by oblectatiChriftian Examples; the Sum of philofophical etiam leonem, fed Vertue prov'd upon, a ftrict Enquiry, to be no-vamentum thing elfe but an Art of concealing Mens Vice, miferiaand of flattering their Pride; becaufe the utmost rum. Cic. it could perform, was to fill the Mind with de Fin. 5. falfe Ideas of Conftancy and Refolution; while the Chriftian Profeffion brought them, acquainted with their real Infirmities, and taught them to restrain thofe irregular Defires, which the former Inftitutions allow'd them to indulge and enjoy. It was the Direction of thefe Lights, and the Information of thefe admirable Truths, that establish'd the new Gofpel Morals, and made fo entire a Change in the Rules of Prudence, and in the Face of the World. For when once this Heavenly Doctrine of the Law of Grace, replenish'd with all the Treafures of Divine Wisdom, had truly inftructed Men in what they ought to love, and what to hate, Humility and Poverty were judg'd preferable to Wealth and Grandour, and Chriftians admitted no other Meafure of their Efteem and Inclination, but that Eternity which God had promis'd them for their Reward. This was the moral Doctrine that the Apostles preach'd, that the Martyrs fign'd with Gg i their

their Blood, that the holy Virgins adorn'd with the Purity and Chastity of their Lives, that the publick Laws inforc'd, and that at length gain'd a full Establishment in the World, by the invincible Powers of Integrity and Truth. Among the Fathers, who have been the most eminent Expofitors of this divine Morality, St. Bafil, St. Chryfoftom, St. Jerom, St. Ambrofe, St. Auftin, St. Gregory, St. Bernard and Thomas Aquinas, are efpecially diftinguifh'd. St. Bafil has handled it as a Confeffor and Cafuift, in his afcetick Difcourfes; St. Chryfoftom as a Preacher in his Sermons, and in his Remarks upon St. Paul's Epiftles, in which he has left us one of the most perfect Ideas of practical Christianity, and an admirable Model for the Pulpit, worthy to be ftudied by all of the facred Profeffion. St. Jerom, St. Ambrofe and St. Auftin have explain'd it, in the Quality of Interpreters of Scripture, and Doctors of the Church; St. Gregory in his Allegories, as a Philofopher; St. Bernard as a Writer in the contemplative Way, and Thomas Aquinas as a Divine. The Secunda Secunda of the last of thefe great Men, is the most rational, the jufteft, and the best manag'd Syftem, that ever was compos'd. In it we have all Ariftotle's Ethicks reduc'd to the moft exact and accomplifh'd Method. Favellus, a Professor of the fame Order with Aquinas, has, next to him, written beft on this Part of Philofophy. Petrarch's Difcourfes of the various Accidents of Life, have fome Appearance of a moral Treatife: But as these are no more than fo many curious Reflections upon Fortune, they are of very fmall Ufe when applied to Conduct: They dif cover a great Fertility of Invention, but as great a Barrennefs of Reafon and Argument. There is a nobler Spirit in Bacon's moral Essays, than

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

than in any other of his Works: Every Thing there is finely thought; but I know not whether every Thing be truly afferted. Cardan's Subtilty was never more at a Lofs than about the Manners: He has advanc'd nothing upon this Subject, but wild and roving Ideas, no way fit for the Government of Life; and that Knowledge of the World, which he promises to teach, is calculated for Oftentation, not for Practice. Descartes has only touch'd upon a moral Principle or two, in his Method: the Study of Nature being his favourite Care. I forbear to speak of a Number of other Authors,who have appear'd with Succefs in this Field, efpecially the Italians and Spaniards, who are inclin'd to moral Reflections beyond most Men; as is evident from the great and juft Reputation of their cafuiftick Writers. X.

Yet in these laft Times we have been prefented with fome Schemes of Morals, of which the Leffons were admirable, but the Principles deteftable. Men have fuffer'd themfelves to be mifguided by these fair Appearances, only because they would not examine them to the Bottom, but blindly ran after the Leffons without regarding the Principles. The best and pureft Morality can never be true, unless it be founded on a found and orthodox Belief; and none is fo founded, but the moral Doctrine of the Catholick Church of Chrift, which how foever oppofite to the Propenfions of Senfe, has fo well preferv'd its first Vigour, as to remit nothing of the Severity of its Precepts, in a Courfe of fo many hundred Years. And this faithful and uniform Perfeyerance, amidst the perpetual Viciffitude of human Things, is one of the most evident Demonstrations of its Truth and Certainty. But it is greatly to be lamented,

Gg 3



that this excellent Doctrine, which might be fo ready an Aid, and fo fure a Support to its Profeffors, under the most difficult Circumftances of Life, fhould be defeated, and rendred almost ufelefs, by Mens Ignorance of its wholesome Inftructions, and their Neglect of fo Divine a Philofophy. This noble Prefervative falls fhort of its Effect, through the Levity of our Minds which are bufie in the Purfuit of human Confolations, and through that natural, but vitious Curiosity, which fills the Soul with barren Notions, but extinguishes its heavenly Flame. Happy is that Initium Chriftian, who under a juft and hearty Perfuafapientia fion of the Truth of his Religion, knows no timor Do other Philofophy but the Fear of God, the Beginning of all true Wisdom! But that we may, once for all, be fatisfied as to the general Vanity of profane and fecular Science; let us confider, how cold and languid all the Succours of Pagan Morality muft prove, to a Man that was Yesterday ador'd, and is to Day abandon'd by all the World; and fuch Examples have not been wanting in the prefent Age. At the fame Time let us reflect, what Affiftance our Religion affords to a Perfon under Misfortune, and Diftrefs; how it redoubles his Faith, by the Senfe of his Calamity; affuring him that Affliction is a Bleffing and Favour, and temporal Pain an Earneft of future and endless Joy. Tis in this that the fovereign Good or Happinefs, fo vainly fought after by the Heathen Sages, does really confift; as being alone the Fruit of fo pure and holy a Religion. But there is no greater Argument of human Weakness, than to know this fupreme Good, and yet not to love and defire it; not to have Courage enough to follow the Evidence of our own Reafon; always to be ftudying, and never to be convinc'd.


« PoprzedniaDalej »