Abbildungen der Seite

The saying of Brutus,“ 0! wretched virtųe ; thou art regarded as nothing, &c. "* is well known; as are also those elegant verses of the poet, containing a lively picture of the perplexity of a mind wavering, and at a loss upon this subject : “My mind, says he, has often been perplexed with difficulties and doubts, whether the gods regard the affairs of this earth, or whether there was no Providence at all, &c.--for when I considered the order and disposition of the world, and the boundaries set to the sea I thenceconcluded, thatallthings were secured by the providence of God, &c. But when I saw the affairs of men involved in so much darkness and confusion, &c.ft"

But not to insist upon a great many other considerations, which even the philosophy of the heathens suggested, in vindication of the doctrine of Providence; there is one consideration of great weight to be set in opposition to the whole of this prejudice, viz. that it is an evidence of a rash and forward mind, to pass sentence upon things that are not yet perfect and brought to a final conclusion,


* ω τλήμων αρετή ώς εδέν, &c.
† Sepe mihi dubiam traxit sententia mentem

Curarent superi terras, &c.
Nam cum dispositi quæsissem fædera mundi
Præscriptosq; miris fines

-hinc omnia rebar
Consilia firmata Dei, &c.
Sed cum res hominum tanta caligene volvi
Aspicerem, &c.

Claudian in Rufinum, lib. 1.

which even the Roman stoic, and the philosopher of Cheronea insist upon, at large, on this subject. If we will judge from events, let us put off the cause, and delay sentence, till the whole series of these events come before us; and let us not pass sentence upon a successful tyrant, while he is tri. umphant before our eyes, and while we are quite ignorant of the fate that may be awaiting himself or his son, or at least his more remote posterity. The

ways of divine justice are wonderful. « Punishment stalks silently, and with a slow pace: it will, however, at last overtake the wicked * But, after all, if we expect another scene of things to be exhibited, not here, but in the world to come, the whole dispute, concerning the events of this short and precarious life, immediately disappears, and comes to nothing. And to conclude, the consent of wise men, states, and nations on this subject, though it is not quite unanimous and universal, is very great, and ought to have the greatest weight.

But all these maxims, we have mentioned, are more clearly taught, and more firmly believed in the Christian religion, which is of undoubted truth; it has also some doctrines peculiar to itself t, annexed to the former, and most closely connected with them, in which the whole Christian world, though by far too much divided with regard to other disputed articles, are unanimously agreed, and firmly united together ; but of this hereafter.

* Σιγά και βραδεί ποδι φέιχεσα μαρψει τις κακές όταν τύχη * Κυρίας. Ειδόξας.


Of the Pleasure and Utility of RELIGION.

Though the Author of the following passage was a great proficient in the mad philosophy of Epicurus, yet he had truth strongly on his side, when he said, “ That nothing was more pleasant than to be stationed on the lofty temples, well defended and secured by the pure and peaceable doctrines of the wise philosophers *.”

Now, can any doctrine be imagined more wise, more pure and peaceable, and more sacred, than that which flowed from the most perfect fountain of wisdom and purity, which was sent down from heaven to earth, that it might guide all its followers to that "happy place whence it took its rise ? It is, to be sure, the wisdom of mankind to know God, and their indispensible duty to worship him : without this, men of the brightest parts, and greatest learning, seem to be born with excellent talents, only to make themselves miserable; and, according to the expression of the wisest of kings, “ He that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow t,” We must, therefore, first of all, consider this as a sure and settled point, that religion is the sole

[ocr errors]

-Bene quam munita tenere
Edita doctrina sapientum ternpla serena.

LUCRET. * Qui scientiam, auget cruciatum. Eccles. i. 18.

[ocr errors]

foundation of human peace and felicity. This even the profane scoffers at religion are, in some sort, obliged to own, though much against their will, even while they are pointing their wit against it; for nothing is more common to be heard from them, than that the whole doctrine of religion was invented by some wise men, to encourage the practise of justice and virtue through the world. Surely then religion, whatever else may be said of it, must be a matter of the highest value, since it is found necessary to secure advantages of so very great importance; but, in the mean time, how unhappy is the case of integrity and virtue; if what they want to support them is merely ficticious, and they cannot keep their ground but by means of a monstrous forgery? But far be it from us to entertain such an absurdity! for the first rule of righteousness cannot be otherwise than right, nor is there any thing more nearly allied, nor more friendly to virtue than truth.

But religion is not only highly conducive to all the great advantages of human life, but is also, at the same time, most pleasant and delightful. Nay, if it

is so useful, and absolutely necessary to the inte· rests of virtue, it must, for this very reason, be also pleasant, unless one will call in question a maxim universally approved by all wise men, “ That life cannot be agreeable without virtue * :” a maxim of such irrefragable and undoubted truth, that it was adopted even by Epicurus himself.

* έκ ειναι ή δεως ζήν ανέν της αρετής.

How great, therefore, must have been the madness of that noted Grecian philosopher, who, while he openly maintained the dignity and pleasantness of virtue, at the same time employed the whole force of his understanding, to ruin and sap its foundations ? For that this was his fixed purpose, Lucretius not only owns, but also boasts of it, and loads him with ill-advised praises, for endeavouring, through the whole course of his philosophy, to free the minds of men from all the bonds and ties of religion; as if there was no possible way to make them happy and free, without involving them in the guilt of sacrilege and atheism : as if to eradicate all sense of a deity out of the mind, were the only way to free it from the heaviest chains and fetters; though, in reality, this would be effectually robbing man of all his valuable jewels, of his golden crown and chain, all the riches, ornaments, and pleasures of his life : which is inculcated at large, and with great eloquence, by a greater and more divine master of wisdom, the royal author of the Proverbs, who, speaking of the precepts of religion, says, “ They shall be an ornament of grace unto thine head, and chains about thy neck* :" and of religion, under the name of wisdom, “ If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hidden treasuret." Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof * Prov. i. 9.

+ Prov. ii. 4.

« ZurückWeiter »