« PoprzedniaDalej »
tion had very little connection with virtue, was indeed an opinion which I propagated with great diligence; and with such success, that Boniface, the apostle of Germany, declared the benefit of Sacraments to depend upon the qualifications of those by whom they were ad. ministered; and that a Bavarian monk having ignorantly baptized in these words, “ Baptizo te in nomine “ patria filia et spiritua fancta," all fuch baptisms were invalid. Against knowledge, however, I never failed to oppose zeal; and when Virgilius afferted, that the earth being a sphere, there were people upon it the foles of whose feet were directly apposite to each other; the same father Boniface represented him to the pope as a corrupter of the Chriftian Faith; and the
pope, concurring with Boniface, foon after excommunicated a bishop for adopting fo dangerous an opinion, declaring him an heretic, and a blafphemer against God and his own soul. In these instances my fuccefs was the more remarkable, as I verily believe Boniface himself intended well, because he died a martyr with great conItancy.
I found, however, that while the Gospels were pubticly read, the superstructure which I had built upon them was in perpetual danger: I, therefore, exerted all my influence to discontinue the practice, and at length fucceeded, though Aristotle's Ethics were substituted for them in fome northern churches: but against Ariftotle's Ethics I had not equal objections.
During this period, therefore, my powers were neither dissipated by unsuccessful labour, nor rendered use. less by unnecessary idleness: I had perplexed and confounded the most fimple and falutary doctrines, with abfurd subtleties and extravagant conceits; and I had
armed with the weapons of superstition, and disguised with the tinsel of ceremony, that Religion which comprehended every precept in Love to God, and to Man; which gave no direction about divine worship, but that it should be performed in Spirit and in Truth; or about Social Virtue, but that love of self should be the measure of bounty to others. But there was still personal fanctity, though the doctrine and the discipline of the church were become corrupt and ridiculous : zeal was still animated by integrity, though it was no longer directed by knowledge: the service and the honour of God were still intended, though the means were mistaken. Many, indeed, gladly fubftituted gain for godliness; and committed every species of wickedness, because they hoped to appropriate works of supererogation that were performed by others : but there were some who practised all the severities of erroneous piety, and suffered the mortification which they recom. mended: so that I had still something to do, and was still encouraged to diligence by success.
But all these advantages depended upon ignorance: for the security of ignorance, therefore, I affirmed, that she was the mother of devotion; a lie so successful, that it passed into a proverb.
The period, however, arrived, when knowledge could be no longer suppressed; and I was under the mofi dreadful apprehensions that all the absurdities, by which I had diminished the influence and the beauty of Chriftianity, would now be removed: I could not conceive that those motives which had produced abftinence and folitude, vigils, scourgings, and the mortification of every appetite and every passion, would fail to produce a more reasonable service; or become inefVOL. II.
fectual, when the paths of duty appeared to be not only peaceful but pleasant. I did not, however, fit down in despair; but the knowledge which I could not repress, I laboured to pervert. As the human intellect is finite, and can comprehend only finite objects, I knew that if all was rejected as incredible which was not comprehended, I should have little to fear from a religion founded in Infinite Perfection, and connected with revelations which an Infinite Being had vouchsafed of himself. I, therefore, immediately opposed reason to faith : I threw oat subjects of debate which I knew could never be difcuffed ; the affent of many was fuspended, in expectation that impoffibilities would be effected; and at laft refused in the fretfulness of disappointment. Thus infidelity gradually succeeded to fuperftition: the hope and fear, the love, reverence, and gratitude, which had been excited by Christianity, and produced such astonishing effects, were now felt no more ; and as the most forcible motives to piety and virtue were again wanting, piety was wholly neglected and virtue rendered more easy and commadious: the bounds of moral obligation included every day less and less; and crimes were committed without compunction, because they were not supposed to incur punishment.
These evils, Mr. Adventurer, evils both in esc timation and mine, I am afraid will continue if they cannot increase : disputation and scepticism flourish without my influence, and have left no principle for me to counteract : the number of my vassals is indeed greatly increased by the unfolicited wickedness of the present time; but this increase is not equivalent to the pleasure of seduction
If the importance, therefore, of Christianity to mankind, shall appear from its having busied me to fubvert it, and from the misery which I suffer in idleness, now my purpose is unhappily effected; I hope they are not yet fo obdurate in ill, as to perfift in rejecting it merely in spight to me; and destroy themselves, only that I may not be amused by attempting their destruction. You see, that I have sufficient benevolence to request, that they would regard their own interest, at least as far as it is confiftent with mine ; and if they refuse me, I am
you will think they treat me with more severity than I deferve.
No. LXI. Tuesday, June 5, 1753.
Ploravere suis non respondere favorem
Each inly murm'ring at the unequal meed,
PERHAPS there is not any word in the language less understood than Honour; and but few that might not
: have been equally mistaken, without producing equal mischief.
Honour is both a motive and an end : as a principle of action it differs from virtue only in degree, and therefore, necessarily includes it, as generosity includes justice : and as a reward, it can be deserved only by those actions which no other principle can produce. To fay of another that he is a Man of Honour, is at once to attribute the principle and to confer the reward. But in the common acceptation of the word, Honour, as a principle, does not include virtue; and, therefore, as a reward, is frequently bestowed upon vice. Such indeed, is the blindness and vaffalage of human reason, that men are discouraged from virtue by the fear of shame, and incited to vice by the hope of honour.
Honour, indeed, is always claimed in specious terms; but the facts upon which the claim is founded,