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No. 55-122.



No 55. THURSDAY, MAY 14, 1713.

-quis enim virtutem amplectitur ipsam,

Præmia si tollas ?

Juv. Sat. 10. v. 141.

For who would virtue for herself regard,

Or wed, without the portion of reward?-DRYDEN.

Ir is usual with polemical writers to object ill designs to their adversaries. This turns their argument into satire, which, instead of shewing an error in the understanding, tends only to expose the morals of those they write against. I shall not act after this manner with respect to the freethinkers. Virtue, and the happiness of society, are the great ends which all men ought to promote; and some of that sect would be thought to have at heart above the rest of mankind. But supposing those who make that profession to carry on a good design in the simplicity of their hearts, and according to their best knowledge, yet it is much to be feared, those wellmeaning souls, while they endeavoured to recommend virtue, have in reality been advancing the interests of vice; which, as I take to proceed from their ignorance of human nature, we may hope, when they become sensible of their mistake, they will, in consequence of that beneficent principle they pretend to act upon, reform their practice for the future.

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The sages, whom I have in my eye, speak of virtue as the most amiable thing in the world; but at the same time that they extol her beauty, they take care to lessen her portion. Such innocent creatures are they, and so great strangers to the world, that they think this a likely method to increase the number of her admirers.

Virtue has in herself the most engaging charms; and Christianity, as it places her in the strongest light, and adorned with all her native attractions, so it kindles a new fire in the soul, by adding to them the unutterable rewards which attend her votaries in an eternal state. Or if there are men of a saturnine and heavy complexion, who are not easily lifted up by hope, there is the prospect of everlasting punishments to agitate their souls, and frighten them into the practice of virtue, and an aversion from vice.

Whereas your sober freethinkers tell you, that virtue indeed is beautiful, and vice deformed; the former deserves your love, and the latter your abhorrence; but then it is for their own sake, or on account of the good and evil which immediately attend them, and are inseparable from their respective natures. As for the immortality of the soul, or eternal punishments and rewards, those are openly ridiculed, or rendered suspicious by the most sly and laboured artifice.

I will not say these men act treacherously in the cause of virtue; but will any one deny that they act foolishly, who pretend to advance the interest of it by destroying or weakening the strongest motives to it, which are accommodated to all capacities, and fitted to work on all dispositions, and enforcing those alone which can affect only a generous and exalted mind,

Surely they must be destitute of passion them

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