Imatges de pÓgina
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yourselves, from acknowledging no other guide of life, but impérious fashion !

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2. A graver set of men come next, and tell us, “That fashion is indeed a very uncertain guide of life: But that law, the result of the public wisdom, armed with the public force, is an adequate rule of human action ; that the legislator's province is to enact such salutary law's, and the magistrate's duty, to carry them into exécution, as shall be sufficient to secure the peace

and order of society ; And that every other rule of life is at once unnecessary and ineffectual : unnecessary, because the interests of virtue are amply provided for by the wisdom of law; and ineffectual, because no other principle has force enough to exact obedience : That, in particular, the fear of God is too remote a consideration to restrain the tumultuous passions of men, which are held in subjection by nothing but the instant terrors of civil justice ; in a word, that where the law of the state is duly enforced, there is no need of other restraints; and that, lastly, to lay a stress on the religious principle is to weaken the operation of law, as it opens a door to fanaticisin and superstition."

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This plea of the politician' receives an apparent force from this certain truth, That law is

indeed of indispensable necessity, and that the general virtue and happiness of a people cannot be maintained without it. We join him theres fore very cordially in this encomium on civil justice; but must remind him, withal, that neither is the religious principle superseded by it, nor can civil justice itself maintain its due course, without the support of the religious principle: That, when the authority of law has done its best, there will be much for religion to controul and regulate ; much, that is not within the reach of law, and without its jurisdiction : That the fear of the Lord penetrates deeper and farther, than the sword of the magistrate; and that, even within his own province, all his policy and all his take a very imperfect effect, without the concurrence of a higher principle; as he himself is abundantly convinced from the necessity of fortifying his own most important constitutions, by the religion of an oath ; which is nothing else but an appeal to the fear of God, under a sense of its being à needful supplement to the fear of the magistrate.

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Yet society, they say, is entirely upheld by the authority of law; at least, the world may go on very well, by virtue of that only. Yes ; It

may go on, as we see it does, full of open

VOL. VIC

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violence, 'which all its terrors cannot restrain and of secret frauds, for which it cannot so much as project a remedy : It may go on, indeed, but polluted by vices of all sorts, which are not the objects of law, and even by crimes, which are often too strong for it: It may go on indeed, till the religious principle be quite effaced from the minds of men (if we may have leave for a moment, to put so desperate, and, thank God, so impossible a case); but, when that dreadful time comes, society itself, with all its bulwark of laws, must inevitably be swept away

with it.

Universal history bears testimony to this awful truth ; there being no account of any

state on the face of the earth, which could ever support itself in general virtue, or general happiness, by the mere force of its civil institutions. And how should it be otherwise, when the fear of God is requisite to enforce the law, as well as to observe it; to supply the state with faithful magistrates, as well as with obedient subjects ?

If then this vital principle of religion, so necessary to the conservation of all states, cannot be kept free from some mixture of fana. ticism or superstition, we are surely to endure

the inconvenience, as we can, rather than put the interests of society to hazard by suspending them all on the weak and false supports of an irreligious policy.

3. Lastly, the Philosopher's plea, though specious at first sight, is of all others the weakest. For fashion, if it chance to be on the side of virtue, will be punctually followed: And the sword of the magistrate can, in part, at least, enforce obedience. But what coercive power is there in philosophy ? It may see and determine right: but who, or what shall compell this supreme directress of life to observe its own determinations ? “ The fitness, it may be said, of those determinations themselves ; the very reason of the thing being the proper restraint of reasonable natures." tion returns, What if I am disposed to throw off this restraint? I act against conviction, indeed, and am self-condemned, which to a liberal mind is no small punishment. But look into the world, and see if that punishment be sufficient to induce the bulk of mankind, nay the

gross body of philosophers themselves, to depart from evil.

Still the ques

And what, after all, is this magnified reason? One man admits no other rule of life but ab.

stract truth, or what he calls the differences of things : Another, will hear of none, but an instinctive moral sense : And a third, entrenches himself within the narrow circle of private happiness. These several systems have been laid down, each in its turn, as the only proper basis of moral action : But could the patrons of them be made to agree in any one; or could their several schemes be made, as perhaps they might, to consist together : still, they could only serve to acquaint us what the nature of virtue is ; they do but slenderly provide for the practice of it.

Let the philosophers, then, debate this matter among themselves. It is enough for us to learn of Solomon, to fear God: To fear HIM, who is everywhere and essentially present, who is conscious to all our actions and all our thoughts; from whose knowledge there is no escape, from whose justice there is no appeal, and to whose power there is no hope, or pose sibility of resistance.

With this principle, an unquestioned principle of reason, if there be any, deeply rooted in the mind, we have indeed an adequate rule of life; or, what is better, a controuling motive to put in practice whatever rule of life we

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