Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

324. A Dilemma.--- If we pretend to attribute the existence of one thing to the power of another, and to say that this power has been transmitted from one cause to another in infinite succession, we abandon the belief of a primary cause, since nothing can be first in a series which is every way infinite.--If, on the other hand, we assume a principle, whence we wholly derive power, it follows that, we must trace all efficient causes, whether productive of good or evil, to that first principle; and this is a doctrine, which I conceive to be directly contrary to the notions which we ought to entertain of the Deity.

Drummond's Academical Questions.

325. Priests.---It is but reasonable, that all men should be judged by their actions, and reverenced or scorned, according to the goodness or wickedness of their lives, without any regard had to their titles or garbs, which signify no more than a breath of wind or the bark of a tree. There is not a greater insult upon the understandings of mankind, than for priests to challenge respect from their habit, when they have forfeited it by their behaviour. Their is no sanctity in garments. A rose in a man's hat does not enlarge his piety. Grace is not conveyed by a piece of lawn, nor charity by the wearing of a girdle. A black gown

has neither more sense or better manners than a black cloak: nor is a black cloak more edifying than a fustian frock,---no more than a cambric bib is an antidote against lewdness, or an atonement for it. This consecrating of garments, and deriving veneration from a suit of clothes, is barefaced priestcraft. It is teaching the practice of idolatry to a gown and cassock. If a little senseless pedant, who is a living contradiction to virtue and breeding, can but whip into orders and cover himself with crape, the first thing he does, is to overlook and insult all mankind, and then demand their reverence: his surplice is his citadel, and he claims the impunity of an ambassador, for being graceless and saucy. “As for the common defence that is made for their immoralities, viz. that they are flesh and blood, as well as other men,---it is a wretched piece of sophistry. If they are not better than others how are they fit to mend others? And if they cannot leave their captivity to sin and Satan, how come they to claim so near an alliance with heaven? If they have God's commission in their pockets, and yet will engage in another service, what name and treatment do they deserve? We know the fate of rebels and deserters in a lay government. Can men succeed to the apostles, with the qualities and behaviour of apostates? How will they reconcile a holy calling with infamous lives? A clergyman, who is as bad as an ill layman, is consequently worse.

In that character there is no medium between doing good and doing mischief,---since the influence of example is stronger than that of precept. As the doctrine and practice of piety make up the profession of a clergyman, he who deserts truth and holiness, deserts his profession, and ought to be no longer owned for a teacher of religion, but shunned and hated, as foe to religion and mankind.-- Thomas Gordon.

326.

Destiny.---Philosophers never stood in need of Homer, or the Pharisees, to be convinced that every thing is done by immutable laws, that every thing is settled, that every thing is a necessary effect of some previous cause.---Voltaire.

327. Reason.--- It is a great mistake in some divines, and declaimers on human nature, to imagine that reason itself is corrupted, depraved, or lost, when it is only borne down, contracted, and its free operations resisted by the contrary weight and power of the appetites and passions. These men act irrationally and destructively in moral conduct, not from the want or depravation of reason, but from the overbearing strength of appetite, which, while it prevails, will not suffer them to consult their reason or follow its dictates. But let this preternatural force of appetite be taken off, and reason presently resumes and exerts its native strength and vigour, and shines in its own light.

Morgan's Physico-Theology

328.

Fanaticism is to superstition what a delirium is to a fever, and fury to anger: He who has ecstacies and visions, who takes dreams for realities, and his imagination for prophecies, is an enthusiast; and he who sticks not at supporting his folly by murder, is a fanatic.

The only remedy for this infectious disease is a philosophical temper, which spreading through society, at length softens manners, and obviates the excesses of the distemper; for whenever it gets ground, the best

way is to fly from it, and stay till the air is purified. The laws and religion are no preservative against this mental pestilence, Religion, so far from being a salutary aliment in these cases, in infected brains becomes poison.

The laws likewise have proved very ineffectual against this spiritual rage; it is indeed like reading an order of council to a lunatic. The creatures are firmly persuaded

that the spirit by which they are actuated is above all laws, and that their enthusiasm is the only law they are to regard.

What can be answered to a person who tells you, that he had rather obey God than men; and who, in consequence of that choice, is certain of gaining heaven by cutting your throat?

The leaders of fanatics, and who put the dagger into their hands, are usually designing knaves; they are like the old man of the mountain, who, according to history, gave weak persons a foretaste of the joys of paradise, promising them an eternity of such enjoyments, provided they would go and murder all those whom he should name to them.

In the whole world, there has been but one religion clear of fanaticism, which is that of the Chinese literati. As to the sects of philosophers, instead of being infected with this pestilence, they were a ready and sure preservative against it: for the effect of philosophy is to compose the soul, and fanaticism is incompatible with tranquillity.---Voltaire.

Voluntary Actions..--I conceive, nothing taketh beginning from itself, but from the action of some other immediate agent without itself. And that, therefore, when first a man had an appetite or will to something, to which immediately before he had no appetite or will, the cause of his will is not the will itself, but something else not in his own disposing. So that whereas it is out of controversy that of voluntary actions the will is a necessary cause; and by this which is said the will is also caused by other things whereof it disposeth not, it followeth that voluntary actions have all of them necessary causes and therefore are necessitated.---Hobbes on Liberty and Necessity.

330. Inducements to become a Soldier.---On enlisting he (the recruit) receives the King a bounty of three guineas; he exchanges his old clothes for a handsome comfortable uniform, and his homely fare of coarse bread and vegetables for good tea or coffee, soup and beef. He no longer lives in a low confined hut or cottage, but has a fine airy large barrack-room. Instead of rolling about, and walking as if he had a load of clay at each foot, he steps smartly along with an upright air. Instead of hard labour from sun rise to sun-set, with little pay or food, he has only to clean his arms and clothes, and attend one or two parades a day. He need no longer whistle to himself, as he has a fine band of music, besides drums, fifes, and bugles. If he but behave himself well, and know anything of writing and reading, he may soon hope to be made a corporal, and then sergeant; his officers will take care he is not wronged, but will protect and promote him. If he is sick, he will receive every attention in an excellent hospital, from experienced surgeons, and be visited by his officers and chaplain. If he is married and has children, they will be educated gratis at the school of the regiment. Should the interest and honor of the nation render a war necessary, the soldier will be well provided for; he will fight beside brave men who will stand by him; and under gallant and considerate officers who will not foolishly throw away the lives of their men. If he escapes he will share in prize money and honour; should he be wounded, a grateful country will reward him by a liberal pension; and should he be killed (as we must all die sometime,) he will enjoy the satisfaction of dying in a good cause, of leaving his family to the kind care of the nation, who will provide for them, and of being buried where he fought, with the colours waving and the muskets discharged over him.---Ănon.

331. Physical and Moral Qualities.--- There are forces in all bodies, some of which cause them to unite, and others to separate. We call these attraction, affinity, adhesion, repulsion, reaction, resistance; but when applied to sentient beings, we vary the names, and denote the same qualities by the words love, friendship, sympathy, hatred, enmity, and antipathy; and we say in common language that the former belong to physical, and the latter to moral beings.--- Drummond.

332. Conscience.---All the morality of our actions lies in the judgment we ourselves form of them. All the rules of morality are written in indelible characters on the heart of man. I have only to consult myself to know what I ought to do; all that I feel to be right is right; whatever I feel to be wrong, is wrong: Conscience is the ablest of all casuists, and it is only when we are trafficking with her that we have recourse to the subtilties of reason. It is pretended, that every one contributes to the public good for his own interest; but whence comes it that the virtuous man contributes to it to his prejudice? Can a man lay down his life for his own interest? The chief of our concerns, indeed is that of ourselves; yet how often have we been told by the monitor within; that to pursue our own interest at the expence of others would be to do wrong! Which is the most agreeable for us to do, and leaves the most pleasing reflection behind it, an act of benevolence or of mischief? For whom are we most interested at our theatres? Do we take pleasure in acts of villany? or do we shed tears at seeing the authors of them brought to punishment? It has been said, that every thing is indifferent to us in which we are not interested: the contrary, however, is certain, as the soothing endearments of friendship and humanity console us under afflictions; and even in our pleasures we should be too solitary, too miserable, if we had nobody to partake them with us. If there be nothing moral in the heart of man, whence arise those transports of admiration and esteem we entertain for heroic actions, and great minds? What has this virtuous enthusiasm to do with our private interest? Wherefore do I rather wish to be an expiring Cato, than a triumphant Cæsar? Of what hurt is the wickedness of a Cataline to me? Am I afraid of falling a victim to his villany? Wherefore do I then look upon him with the same horror as if he was my cotemporary? We do not hate the wicked only because their vices are hurtful, but also because they are wicked.---Rousseau.

333. Philosophers are disposed to turn all events to beneficial ends.

Zimmerman,

The Introduction of Noble Inventions seems to hold by far the most excellent place among human actions. And this was the judg. ment of antiquity, which attributed divine honours to inventors, but conferred only heroical honours upon those who deserved well in civil affairs, such as the founders of empires, legislators, and deliverers of their country. And whoever rightly considers it will find this a judi. cious custom in former ages, since the benefits of inventors may extend to all mankind, but civil benefits only to particular countries, or seats of men; and these civil benefits seldom descend to more than a few ages, whereas inventions are perpetuated through the course of time. Besides, a state is seldom amended in its civil affairs, without force and perturbation, whilst inventions spread their advantage, without doing injury, or causing disturbance.---Bacon.

335. Utility.---That useful knowledge should receive our first and chief care we mean not to dispute. But in our views of utility, we may differ from some who take this position. There are those who confine this term to the necessaries and comforts of life, and to the means of producing them. And is it true that we need no knowledge, but that which clothes and feeds us? Is it true, that all studies may

be dispensed with, but such as teach us to act on matter, and to turn it to our use? Happily human nature is too stubborn to yield to this narrow utility. It is interesting to observe how the very mechanical arts, which are especially designed to minister to the necessities and comforts of life, are perpetually passing these limits; how they disdain to stop åt mere convenience. A large and increasing proportion of mechanical labour is given to the gratification of an elegant taste. How simple would be the art of building, if it limited itself to the construction of a comfortable shelter. How many ships should we dismantle, and how many busy trades put to rest, were dress and furniture reduced to the standard of convenience. This "utility" would work great changes in town and country, would level to the dust the wonders of architecture, would annihilate the fine arts and blot out innumerable beauties, which the hand of taste has spread over the face of the earth. Happily human nature is too strong for the utilitarian. It cannot satisfy itself with the convenient. No passion unfolds itself sooner than the love of the ornamental. The savage decorates his person, and the child is more struck with the beauty than the uses of its raiment. So far from limiting ourselves to convenient food and raiment, we enjoy but little ą repast which is not arranged with some degree of order and taste; and a man who should consult comfort alone in his wardrobe, would find himself an unwelcome guest in circles which he would very reluctantly forego. We are aware that the propensity to which we have referred, often breaks out in extravagant and ruinous luxury. We know that the love of ornament is often vitiated by vanity, and that when so perverted, it impairs, sometimes destroys, the soundness and simplicity of the mind, and the relish for true glory. Still, it teaches, even in its excesses, that the idea of beauty is an indestructive principle of our nature, and this single truth is enough to put us on our guard against vul. gar notions of utility.--W. E. Channing, D.D.

336. Cardinal Bellarmine patiently and humbly allowed fleas and other odious vermin-to prey upon him. We shall have heaven,

said he, to reward us for our sufferings: but these poor creatures have nothing but the enjoyment of the present life.--Bayle's Dictionary.

LONDON: Printed and Published by J. H. STARIE, 59, Museum Street,

and to be had of all Booksellers:

« PoprzedniaDalej »