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lated for perpetuity by periodical renovations *. No nation was ever so eminently the care of heaven, nor any other country so highly favoured with the bounties of nature, as the land of Judea. A land, says Moses, of brooks of waters, of fountains, and depths that spring out of vallies and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines and figtrees, and pomegranates ; a land of oil-olive and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brasst. Yet amidst all these blessings and advantages, both natural and political, the people tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies, but turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers † ; they were ungrateful and rebellious, and in consequence became a prey to the sword of their enemies, and to other sore calamities.
If, then, the provisions made by infinite
* I scarce need to observe, that this refers to the sabbatical year, and the year of jubilee.
+ Deut. viii. 7-9. I Psal. Ixxviii. 56, 57.
wisdom failed to secure the obedience and prosperity of a highly distinguished nation, what can be expected from the laws and regulations of men ? If, under a theocracy, a perverse people brought distress and ruin upon themselves, we cannot wonder if the same should happen under the best human form and administration of government. Should you say, We are not Jews,—it is true,-but we are men; and therefore subject to like passions with other men, whether Jews or Gentiles.
It is granted, indeed, that a nation may sometimes be raised above its natural level, and a better order of things may commence, and proceed for a season; but this, I apprehend, is oftner to be ascribed to the ascendant genius of particular individuals, or to the influence of some extraordinary conjuncture, than to any plans of systematic policy: it is some patriot king, or some powerful and disinterested minister, who inspires a people with a fresh portion of public spirit; or a sense of common danger suspends private competitions and state factions, and unites all parties in a regard to the general interest; or a people having emancipated themselves, and asserted, their just rights and liberties, after a hard struggle against oppression, are borne on for a while under the generous impulsion of true patriotism; yet these causes being only transient and occasional, the selfish passions, which are sure always to be at work, though not always openly, will not fail to recover in the end their former influence.
This secret tendency to prefer the individual to the general interest, and which, I fear, is prevalent in the far greater part of the human race, should teach us (since no art can act beyond the capacity of the matter) not to expect too much from the wisest polity operating upon so untoward a subject as man. We should not expect legislators to be invested with the powers of Amphion, who, by the music of his harp, is said to have reared the walls of Thebis ; nor imagine that the erection of a state is like the composition of a poem, in which the author is at liberty to cull or create his matter, and to work it up to the height of his genius; whereas the politician must take
his materials as he finds them, and be content to give them such forms as they are willing to receive.
Indeed had men no natural repugnance to reason, and to reasonable laws and government, as some have imagined; and would fall into their proper places in society at the voice of a wise legislation, and go on in the quiet discharge of their proper duties; then might we expect to see political fabrics rising in all the proportions of moral mathematics, whose duration would be commensurate with time itself. But. the case is far otherwise; and has so been uniformly considered before the present times. “Political writers,” says Machiavel, “ have laid it down as a first principle, of which all history demonstrates th that whoever would found a state, and enact proper laws for the government of it, must presuppose that all men are naturally corrupt, and will not fail to discover their depravity whenever a fair opportunity offers; for though it may possibly lie concealed awhile, on account of some secret reason which does not then appear to men of small
experience, yet time (which is therefore called the father of truth) commonly brings it to light in the end *” “Would to heaven,” says Helvetius, “ that virtue was our natural inheritance! What pleasure would it give me to find all men good! But by persuading them that they are good already, I should slacken their ardour to become so; I should call them good, and help to render them wicked t." It is this universal
* Polit. Disc. on Livy, 61. C. 3.-To the same purpose Hooker speaks in his Ecclesiastical Polity. “ Laws politic, (says he) ordained for external order and regiment amongst men, are never framed as they should be, unless presuming the will of man to be inwardly obstinate, rebellious, and averse from all obedience to the sacred laws of his nature: in a word, unless presuming man to be in regard of his depraved mind, little better than a wild beast, they do accordingly provide notwithstanding so to frame his outward actions, that they be no hindrance to the common good, for which societies are instituted; unless they do this, they are not perfect.” B. i. p. 85.
+ Helv. de l'homme, sect. v. ch. 2.-Yet this natus ral privation of virtue is no insuperable difficulty in the way of modern policy, which, it seems, has every resource within itself; and can teach virtue, as well as govern the virtuous. Socrates, it is true, when he is introduced discoursing with Meno upon the question,