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correspondent practice. Shakspeare, who is supposed to have been tolerably skilled in human nature, and may fairly be reckoned as good a philosopher as many who assume that title, remarks, that “ If to do were as easy as to tell what is fit to be done, chapels had been churches, and poor mens' cottages, princes' palaces.” “I could sooner,” says he, “ tell twenty what is fit to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow my own instructions.” Poor Shakspeare! he too, it seems, was ignorant of the irresistible efficacy, or, as some choose to speak, the omnipotency of truth.
Should we ask these political prophets, what wonder-working truths they have incommission to reveal ? they will tell us, That all men are equal in respect of their rights : that the objects of these rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance of oppression : finally, that the people are the only just source of civil authority. And are these truths, admitting them to be such, of sufficient potency 'to regenerate man, and restore him to the true dignity of his nature; which neither instruct him in his
origin or end, nor in his situation under the moral government of God, that “most ancient city and polity,” as the philosophic emperor speaks *, to whose laws all rational creatures are subject? Our sage legislators should consider this, before they presume to substitute, in the place of religion, their dubious and slippery politics. Before they take upon them to legislate for immortal man, they should learn to extend their views beyond the present stage of existence, and the tragi-comedies that are acting upon it, to a life to come, and the great system of the universe. “ The finest gentleman,” says a noble author, (and we may affirm the same of the profoundest politician) “must, after all, be considered but as an ideot, who, talking much of the knowledge of the world and mankind, has never so much as thought of the study or knowledge of himself, or of the nature and government of that great public and world whence he holds his being :
Quid sumus, et quidnam victuri gignimurt."
* Marc. Antonin. lib. ïi. sect. 16.
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· If man besides a present has a future interest, which is infinitely more important; and if religion points out the only way of securing this interest; then that policy which supplants religion, cuts off the best hopes of our nature. But the policy which tells us that to be good citizens is the sum of all our duty to God and man, evidently sets aside the first and great law of religion, which enjoins a supreme regard to the Author of our existence; without which, it teaches us, that whatever be our character in society, we can never be admitted to a participation of the divine favour in a happy immortality. Should, therefore, any government inspire a contempt or neglect of piety, it might justly be considered as an enemy to the true interest of man, though it should elevate a people to the highest pitch of greatness, or place them in any other situation which might better conduce to their temporal enjoyment. All this would prove but a miserable compensation for the danger arising from the example of those above them, which must operate alınost irresistibly to the increase of that awful disregard which
is natural to us, of a state and interest which will commence beyond the grave, and extend to eternity.
Nor can the force of this consideration be invalidated, but by the most infallible proof that such a state and interest are groundless fictions; since the bare possibility of their reality, must infinitely outweigh all the good and evil that terminates with this life.
If such then be the malignant aspect of an impious policy upon the spiritual, we cannot reasonably expect it to be very favourable to the temporal welfare of a people, as we have here supposed; but have rather cause to apprehend, that while it endeavours to intercept the view of another world, its counsels in this will be smitten with infatuation; and that the people who are deluded by it, will find themselves deprived at once of the blessings of the present, and the hopes of a better life. · It seems to have been reserved for these unhappy times, whatever may have been conceived before, to have brought forth a scheme so dire and portentous. The late
attempt, in a neighbouring country, to found a government upon atheism, is, I believe, a single instance in the history of mankind. The greatest legislators, in all former ages, have acknowledged the necessity of religion both for the establishment and well-being of civil society *; nay more, have actually
* Zaleucus thus prefaces his laws to the Locrians : “ Every inhabitant, whether of town or country, should first of all be firmly persuaded of the existence of the gods. -Every one ought to labour all he can to become good, both in practice and principle, whereby he will render himself dear and acceptable to God; ought to fear more what leads to ignominy and dishonour, than to loss of wealth and fortune; and to esteem him the happiest citizen who gives up his worldly goods, rather than renounce his honesty and love of justice. But those whose appetites are so headstrong as not to suffer them to be persuaded to these things, and whose minds are turned with a natural bias towards evil, should remember the gods, think upon their nature, and of the judgments they always have in store to inflict upon wicked men.” Charondas, who flourished about the same time, begins his laws in a similar manner. And among the Romans, Cicero, who in this, as in many other things, copied Plato, introduces his plan of a wise legislation, as follows: “Let every citizen be first of all firmly persuaded of the government and dominion of the gods; that they are the lords and masters of the uni