صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

flattery. Even some of the most depraved Roman emperors began their career with a fair promise. Tiberius set out with being mild and prudent; and even Nero, for a considerable time, either wore the mask, or did not need it. While his two virtuous friends maintained their entire influence, every thing looked favourable.—But when his sycophants had succeeded in making Seneca an object of ridicule; and when Tigel. linus was preferred to Burrhus all that followed was a natural consequence. The abject slavery of the people, the servile decrees of the senate, the obsequious acquiescence of the court, the prostrate homage of every order, all concurred to bring out his vices in their full luxuriance, and Rome, as was but just, became the victim of the monster she had pampered. Tacitus, with his usual honest indignation, declares, that as often as the emperor commanded banishments or ordered assassinations, so often were thanks and sacrifices decreed to the gods!

there are some half Christians, and half philosophers, who wish, without incurring the discredit of renouncing religion, to strip it of its value, by lowering its usefulness. They have been at much pains to produce a persuasion, that however beneficial Christianity may be to individuals, and however properly it may be taken as the rule of their conduct, it cannot be safely brought into action in political concerns; that the intervention of its spirit will rarely advance the public good, but on the contrary, will often necessarily obstruct it; and in particular, that the glory and elevation of states must be unavoidably attended with some viola. tion even of those laws of morality, which, they allow, ought to be observed in other cases.*


These assertions, respecting the political disadvantages of religion, have not been urged merely by the avowed enemies of Christian principles, the Bolingbrokes, the Hobbeses, and the Gibbons: but there is a more sober class of But, in our happier days, as subjects, it is sceptics, ranged under the banners of a very presumed, indulge no such propensities, so un- learned and ingenious sophist,† who have not der our happier constitution, have they no such scrupled to maintain, that the author of Chrisopportunities. Yet powerful, though gentler, tianity has actually forbidden us to improve the and almost unapparent means, may be employ. condition of this world, to take any vigorous ed to weaken the virtue, and injure the fame of steps for preventing its misery, or advancing its a prince. To degrade his character, he need glory. Another writer, an elegant wit, but only be led into one vice, idleness; and be at whimsical and superficial, though doubtless a tacked by one weapon, flattery. Indiscriminate sincere Christian, who would be shocked at acquiescence and soothing adulation will lay his the excess to which impiety has carried the mind open to the incursion of every evil with. position, has yet afforded some countenance to out his being aware of it; for his table is not the it, by intimating, that God has given to men a place where he expects to meet an enemy, con- religion which is incompatible with the whole sequently, he is not on his guard against him. economy of that world which he has created, And where he is thus powerfully assailed, the and in which he has thought proper to place kindest nature, the best intentions, the gentlest them. He allows, that government is essenmanners, and the mildest dispositions, cannot tial to men, and yet assorts, that it cannot be be depended on for preserving him from those managed without certain degrees of violence, very corruptions, to which the worst propensities corruption, and imposition, which yet Christilead; and there is a degree of facility, which, from anity strictly forbids. That perpetual patience softness of temper, becomes imbecility of mind. under injuries, must every day provoke new inFor there is hardly a fault a sovereign can sults, and injuries, yet is this, says he, enjoined.' commit, to which flattery may not incline him. The same positions are also repeatedly affirmIt impels to opposite vices: to apathy and egot-ed, by a later, more solid, and most admirable ism, the natural failings of the great; to ambition which inflames the heart, to anger which distorts it, to hardness which deadens, and to selfishness which degrades it. He should be taught, as the intrepid Massilon* taught his youthful prince, that the flattery of the courtier, contradictory as the assertion may seem, is little less dangerous than the disloyalty of the rebel. Both would betray him; and the crime of him who would dethrone, and of him who would debase his prince, however they may differ in a political, differ but little in a moral view: nay, the ill effects of the traitor's crime may, to the prince at least, be bounded by time, while the consequences of the flatterer's may extend to eternity.


Religion necessary to the well-being of states.

THE royal pupil should be informed, that * See Massilon's Sermons, abounding equally in the sublimest piety and the richest eloquence.

writer, whose very able defence of the divine authority of Christianity and the Holy Scriptures, naturally obtains credit for any opinions which are honoured with his support.

It may be expected, that those who advance such propositions, should at least produce proofs from history, that those states, in the government of which Christian principles have been most conspicuous, other circumstances being equal, have either failed through error, or sunk through impotence; or in some other way have suffered from introducing principles into transactions to which they were inapplicable.

But how little the avowed sceptic, or even the paradoxical Christian seems to understand the genius of our religon; and how erroneous is their conception of the true elementary principles of

*It were to be wished that Cromwell had been the only ruler who held, that the rules of morality must be dispensed with on great political occasions. ↑ Mr. Dayle.

↑ Soame Jenyns. It is true, he puts the remark in the mouth of refined and speculative observers.' But he afterwards affirms in his own proper person-That such is indeed the Christian Revelation.


political prosperity, we learn from one, who was
as able as either to determine on the case.
who was not only a politician but a king, and
eminently acquainted with the duties of both
characters, has assured us, that RIGHTEOUSNESS
EXALTETH A NATION. And does not every in-
stinct of the unsophisticated heart, and every
clear result of dispassionate and enlarged ob-
servation, unite in adopting as a moral axiom
this divinely recorded aphorism?

Religion teaches men to consider their lot in life, as a station assigned to them, by Him, who has a right to dispose of his creatures as he will. It therefore tends to prevent in the great mass of the community which must ever be compa ratively speaking, poor, the disposition to repine at the more favoured lot, and superior comforts of the higher orders; a disposition which is the real source of the most dangerous and deadly dissensions.

Religion, again, as prompting men to view all human events as under the divine direction, to regard the evils of life as the dispensation of Heaven, and often as capable of being rendered conducive to the most essential and lasting bene. fit, disposes men to bear all their sufferings with resignation and cheerfulness. Whereas, on the contrary, they who are not under its power, are often inclined to revenge on their rulers, the misfortunes, which unavoidably result from natural causes, as well as those which may be more reasonably supposed to have owed their existence to human imprudence and actual misconduct.

Again, if from contemplating these questions in their principles and elements, we proceed to view them, as they have been exhibited and illustrated by history and experience, we shall find the same positions established with equal clearness and force. Is there any proposition more generally admitted, than that political communities tend to decay and dissolution, in proportion to the corruption of their morals? How often has the authority of the poet been adduced (an author acute and just in his views of life, but not eminent for being the frieud of morals or religion) to prove the inefficacy of

It would, indeed, be strange, if the great Author of all things had admitted such an anomaly in his moral government; if in direct contradiction to that moral ordination of causes and effects, by which, in the case of individuals, religion and virtue generally tend, in the way of natural consequence, to happiness and prosperity, irreligion and vice, to discomfiture and misery, the Almighty should have established the directly opposite tendencies, in the case of those multiplications of individuals, which are called civil communities. It is a sup. position so contrary to the divine procedure, in every other instance, that it would require to be proved by incontestible evidence. It would indeed amount to a concession, that the moral Author of the world had appointed a premium as it were, for vice and irreligion; the very idea is profaneness. Happily it is clearly contrary also both to reason and experience. Providence, the ordinations of which will ever exhibit marks of wisdom and goodness, in proportion to the care with which they are explored, has, in this instance, as well as in others, made our duty coincident with our happiness; has furnished us with an additional motive for pursuing that course, which is indispensable to our eternal welfare, by rendering it, in the case both of in-laws, to avert the progress of a state's decline dividuals and of communities, productive also of temporal good. It was not enough to make the paths of virtue lead to the fulness of joy' hearafter, they are even now rendered to those who walk in them, 'paths of pleasantness and peace. It would not be difficult to prove, by a reference to the most established principles of human nature, that those dispositions of mind, and principles of conduct, which both directly and indirectly, tend to promote the good order of civil communities, are, in general, produced or strengthened by religion. The same temper of mind which disposes a man to fear God, prompts him to honour the king. The same pride, selfsufficiency, and impatience of controul, which are commonly the root and origin of impiety, naturally produce civil insubordination and discontent. One of the most acute of our political writers has stated, that all government rests on opinion; on the opinion entertained by the mass of the people, of the right to power in their governors, or in the opinion of its being their own interest to obey. Now, religion naturally confirms both these principles; and thereby strengthens the very foundations of the powers of government. It establishes the right to power of governors, by teaching, that there is no power but of God;' it confirms in subjects the sense of its being their interest to obey by the powerful intervention of its higher sanctions and rewards they that resist shall receive to themselves condemnation.'

and fall, while it should be carried forward, too surely, in the downward road, by the general corruption of manners. We have already exemplified these truths, in enumerating the causes of the fall of Rome. On more than one occasion, that state had owed its preservation to its reverence for the awful sanction of an oath. This principle, and indeed the duty which is so closely connected with it, of truth and general fidelity to engagements, are the very cement which holds together societies, and indeed all, whether greater or smaller, associations of men; and that this class of virtues is founded and bottomed on religion, is undeniably evident.

If we pass from the page of history to a review of private life, are we not led to exactly the same conclusions? Where do the politicians, who reason from the evidence of facts, expect to find a spirit of insubordination and anarchy? Is it not in our crowded crities, in our large manufacturing towns, where wealth is often too dearly purchased at the price of morality, and virtue? And if we resort to individual instances, who is the man of peace and quietness? Who is the least inclined to meddle with them that are given to change?' Is it not the man of religious and domestic habits whose very connexions, pursuits and hopes, are so many pledges for his adherence to the cause of civil order, and to the support of the laws and institutions of his country?

[ocr errors]

* Chap. viii.


It is the more extraordinary that any writers, I too thoroughly versed in the whole history of not deliberately hostile to the cause of religion mankind, not to know, as he afterwards observes, and virtue, should have given any degree of the impossibility without some miraculous incountenance to the pernicious error, which we terposition, that a great body of men should so have been so long combating; because the oppo- unite in one nation and government, in the fear site opinion has been laid down as an incontesti- of God, and the practice of virtue; and that such ble axiom, by those who will not be suspected a government should continue unbroken for a of any extravagant zeal for the credit of religion, succession of ages; yet supposing it could be so, but, who speak the dictates of strong sense and indeed, such, he affirms, would be the certain deep observation. Hear then the able, but pro- effect. And may we not also affirm, that even fligate Machiavel-Those princes and com- allowing for all the failings and imperfections monwealths, who would keep their governments of human nature, which the prelate has excluded entire and uncorrupt, are above all things, to from his hypothesis, would not a state really have a care of religion and its ceremonies, and approach nearer to this supposed happiness, in preserve them in due veneration, for in the whole proportion as it taught and practised with more We cordially agree, with the famous Cosmo world, there is not a greater sign of imminent sedulity the principles of religion and virtue? ruin, than when God and his worship are despised.'' A prince therefore, ought most accu- di Medici that princes cannot govern their states, rately to regard, that his religion be well-founded, by counting a string of beads, or mumbling and then his government will last; for there is over paternosters.' But we are, at the same no surer way, than to keep that good and united. time, equally averse from the religion which Whatever therefore occurs, that may any way assigns such practices to any class of people; be extended to the advantages and reputation of and from that ignorance which would make the judge the religion they design to establish, by all religion of any order of men, especially of princes, means, they are to be propagated and encou- consist in mere ceremonies and observances. raged; and the wiser the prince, the more sure Charles the wise, was at least as sound a a royal character, when he declared, that, if it is to be done.' And if this care of divine as Cosmo of what constituted the perfection of worship were regarded by christian princes, according to the precepts and instructions of him there were no honour and virtue left in the rest who gave it at first, the states and common- of the world, the last traces of them should be be found in the royal character, an innate granwealths of Christendom would be much more found among princes.' There should indeed, happy and firm.'* deur; a dignity of soul which should show itself under all circumstances, and shine through every cloud of trial or difficulty. It was from such inherent marks of greatness, that the infant Cyrus, exiled and unknown, was chosen king by the shepherd's children.

Machiavel, it will be said, was at once an infidel and a hypocrite, who did not believe the truth of that religion, the observance of which he solicitously enforced. Be it so; it still deducts nothing from the force of the argument as to the political uses of religion.-For if the mere forms and institutions, the outward and visible signs, of Christianity, were acknowledged to be, as they really are, of so great value, by this shrewd politician, what might not be the effect of its inward and spiritual grace?'

When two able men of totally opposite principles and characters, pointedly agree in any important topic, there is a strong presumption that they meet in a truth. Such an unlooked for conformity may be found, in two writers, so decidedly opposite to each other, as our incomparable bishop Butler, and the Florentine secretary above cited. Who will suspect Butler of being a visionary enthusiast? Yet has he drawn a most beautiful picture of the happiness of an imaginary state, which should be perfectly virtuous for a succession of ages. In such a state,' he insists, there would be no faction. Public determinations would really be the result of united wisdom. All would contribute to the general prosperity, and each would enjoy the fruits of his own virtue. Injustice, force, and fraud, would be unknown-Such a kingdom would influence the whole earth; the head of it indeed would be a universal monarch, in a new sense, and all people, nations, and languages should serve him."+

The profound Butler, was indeed, too great an adept in the knowledge of human nature, and

[ocr errors]

Machiavel's Discourses on Livy.
†This is only a short abstract of this fine passage,
the whole of which the reader is referred. Butler's Ana-
logy, part first, chap. iii. p. 89, and following.

It would not, perhaps, be easy to cite an higher authority, on the point in question, the importance of religion to a state, than that of the great a common observation of his, that, religion had and excellent chancellor de L'Hospital. It was more influence upon the spirits of mankind, than all their passions put together; and that the cement, by which it united them, was infinitely stronger than all the other obligations of civil society. This was not the observation of a dreaming monk who in his cell, writes maxims for a world of which he knows nothing; but the sentiment derived from deep experience, of an illustrious statesman, whose greatness of mind, zeal, disinterestedness, and powerful talents, supported France under a succession of weak and profligate kings. Frugal for the state in times of boundless prodigality; philosophical in a period of enthusiastic fury; tolerant and candid in days of persecution, and deeply conscientious under all circumstances; worthy, in short, and it is perhaps his best eulogium, to be driven, for his virtues, by Catharine di Medici from councils, which his wisdom might have con she demanded, withdrew to an honourable litetrolled; and who, on giving up the seals which was too depraved for him to concern himself any rary retreat, with the remark, that the world longer with it. These are the men whom corrupt princes drive from the direction of those virtue might reform. states, which their wisdom might save and their

[ocr errors]

Another of the political advantages of religi-, of oaths, for which we are unhappily becoming ous rectitude in a state, is the security it affords. notorious? Let us not be deemed needlessly For, with whatever just severity we may repro- earnest in the defence of a truth of such extreme bate the general spirit of revolution, yet, it must importance.-The political value of religion ne be confessed, that it has not, on all occasions, ver can be too firmly believed, or too carefully been excited by undue discontent, by unprovoked kept in view, in the government of nations. impatience, nor even by selfish personal feel- May it be deeply rooted in the mind of every ings; but sometimes also from a virtuous sense prince, as a fundamental principle! Let it be of the evils of oppression and injustice; evils confirmed by all the various proofs and examwhich honest men resent for others as well as for ples, by which its truth can be established, and themselves. its authority enforced !*

Again, there is something so safe and tran But, to return. We most readily concede, quilizing in Christian piety, as we have already that by that exultation of a state of which Soloobserved, that, though we would be far from re- mon speaks, is not meant, that sudden flash of ducing it to a cold political calculation; yet, con- temporary splendor, which is occasioned by the tent, submission, and obedience, make so large mutable advantages of war, the plunder of foa practical part of religion, that wherever it is reign countries, the acquisition of unwieldy tertaught in the best and soundest way, it can hard-ritory, or the vertigo of domestic revolutions : ly fail to promote, in the people, the ends of true policy, any more than of genuine morality.

but that sober and solid glory, which is the result of just laws; of agriculture, and sobriety, Our wisest sovereigns, partly, perhaps for this which promote population; of industry and comreason, have paid the deepest attention to the merce, which increase prosperity; of such well moral instruction of the lower classes of their regulated habits in private life, as may serve to subjects. Alfred and Elizabeth,* among others, temper that prosperity, and by strict consewere too sound politicians to lose this powerful quences, give direction and steadiness to public hold on the affections of their people. In addi- manners. For it never can be made a question, tion to their desire to promote religion, they had whether the solidity of the parts must not conno doubt discerned, that it is gross vice, that it tribute to the firmness of the whole; and whether is brutal ignorance, which leave the lower class the virtue exercised by collective bodies, can a prey to factious innovators, and renders then any farther be hoped for, than as it exists in the the blind tools of political incendiaries. When individuals who compose them. But, on what the youth of this class are carefully instructed basis can this superstructure rest, by what prinin religion by their rightful teachers, those ciple can individual virtue be either substantially teachers have the fairest opportunities of instill-promoted or lastingly secured, except by that ing into them their duty to the state, as well as to the church; and they will find that the same lessons which form good Christians, tend to make good subjects. But, without that moderate measure of sound and sober instruction, which should be judiciously adapted to their low Far be it indeed, from us to deny, that this demands, they will be likely neither to honour religious principle may not frequently oppose itthe king, reverence the clergy, nor obey the ma- self to apparent means of aggrandizement, both gistrate. While, on the contrary, by inter-personal and national.-Doubtless it will often weaving their duty to their governors, with their duty to God, they will at once be preserved from mischief in politics, and delusion in religion. The awful increase of perjury among us is of itself a loud call sedulously to pursue this object. How should those who are not early instructed in the knowledge of their Maker, fear to offend him, by that common violation of the solemnity

See a letter of archbishop Whitgift to the bishops, of which the following is an extract:

sense of an invisible, almighty, and infinitely just, and holy Sovereign of the universe, which revelation alone has effectually disclosed to us, and reason has recognized as the essence of religion?

condemn that to which human pride would aspire. Even when an object might in itself be fairly desirable, it will forbid the pursuit, except through lawful paths. But in the severest of such restrictions, it only sacrifices what is shadowy to what is substantial, the evanescent triumphs of a day to the permanent comfort of successive generations.

But though we do not assert that national prosperity is always, and infallibly, an indication of virtue, and of the distinguishing favour of God, yet we conceive, that such outward marks of divine favour may more generally be expected, in the case of communities, than of in

Your lordship is not ignorant, that a great part of the dissoluteness of manners, and ignorance in the common sort, that reigneth in most parts of this realm, even in this clear light of the gospel, ariseth hereof, for, that the youth, being as it were, the frie and seminary of the church and commonwealth, through negligence, both of natural and spiritual fathers, are not, as were meet, *Mr. Addison speaks of the religious instruction of trained up in the chief and necessary principles of the poor as the best means of recovering the country Christian religion, whereby they might learn their duty from its degeneracy and depravation of manners, And, to their God, their prince, their country, and their neigh-after drawing an animated picture of a procession of bours; especially in their tender years, when these things might best be planted in them, and would become most hardly to be afterwards removed. This mischief might well, in mine opinion, be redressed, if that which in this behalf hath been godly and wisely provided, were as carefully called on and executed, nainely, by catechizing and instructing in churches the youth of both sexes, on the Sabbath days, in the afternoon. And, that if it may be convenient, before their parents, and others of the several parishes, who thereby may take comfort and instruction also.'-Strype's Life of Whitgift.

charity children on a day of thanksgiving for the triumphs obtained by the queen's arms, he adds, for my part, I can scarce forbear looking on the astonishing victories our arms have been crowned with, to be, in some measure, the blessings returned upon these charities; and that the great successes of the war, for which we lately offered up our thanks, were, in some measure, occasioned by the several objects (of religiously instructed children) which then stood before us.'-GUARDIAN, No. 105. These were the scntiments of a Secretary of State!

dividuals. In communities we see not so much the effect of each particular act of virtue, as of the generally diffused principle. Though virtue is often obstructed in labouring to obtain for itself the advantages which belong to it, this is no proof against its having a tendency to obtain them. The natural tendency indeed, being to produce happiness, though it may fail to do it in certain expected cases.

temporary success of guilty nations for the accomplishment of his general scheme, or the promotion of a particular purpose, of humbling and correcting other, perhaps less guilty nations; or it is because the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full; and the punishment of the more corrupt states is delayed, to make their ruin more signal and tremendous, and their downfall a more portentous object, for the instruction of the world. God, without any impeachment of his moral government, may withhold retribution, because it is always in his power: he may be long-suffering, because he is everlasting. He may permit the calamity which we see, in order to extract from it the good which we see not.He is never the author of moral evil, and the natural evil which he does authorise, is both the punishment and the corrective of the moral. Though God never intended this world for such a complete state of retribution, as entirely to hinder either vice or virtue from occasionally receiving the recompences, and the penalties due to the other; yet there is this obvious differ

In the case, therefore, of communities and states, where the result of many actions, rather than the particular effect of each, is seen, it may not altogether unfairly be asserted, that virtue is its own reward. Perhaps it also may be affirmed, that the system of temporal rewards and punishments, which, though chiefly exemplified in the Jewish dispensation, was by no means confined to it, has not equally passed away, with respect to states and nations, as with respect to individuals. The learned Bossuet has observed, that while the New Testament manifests to us the operation of God's grace, the Old Testament exhibits to us his providential government of the world. We will not dwell on this remark fur-ence, between nations and individuals, that, ther than to suggest, that even in this view the study of the Old Testament may not be without its uses, even to the modern statesman, as we know that the Jewish law has clearly been held important, by some of our wisest legislators.

whereas individuals the most virtuous are often the most visited with temporal misfortunes, the best governed empires are, on the whole, the most secure of prosperity. And if, in the calamities brought on corrupt states, the innocent On the whole, we need not hesitate to assert, always unavoidably suffer with the guilty, this that in the long course of events, nothing, that furnishes no just charge against the equity of is morally wrong, can be politically right. No- divine Providence, who here reckons trementhing that is inequitable, can be finally success-dously with the state as a state, but will, sepaful. Nothing, that is contrary to religion, can rately and ultimately, reckon with every indibe ultimately favourable to civil policy. We vidual; and thus finally and fully vindicate his may therefore confidently affirm, that impiety own infinite, and much calumniated justice.'* and vice, sooner or later, bring states, as well as individuals, to misery and ruin. That, though vice may sometimes contribute to temporary exaltation; in the same degree, it will, in the end, contribute to promote decay, and accelerate the inevitable period of dissolution.


Integrity the true political wisdom.

than remarkable success.


Let it then be ever kept in view, that the truc exaltation is, in fact, that prosperity which arises THE tendency of a religious temper to exalt from the goodness of the laws, and the firmness and impartiality with which they are executed; trated by the single instance of Louis the ninth. a prince into a hero, might be sufficiently illuswhich results from moderation in the govern. It is notorious, that nothing more severely tries ment, and obedience in people; from wisdom the character of princes as well as of individuals, and foresight in council, from activity and integrity in commerce, from independence of na- this circumstance precisely, that the prince just It was, however, in tional character, from fortitude in resisting fo- mentioned evinced how completely his christian reign attack, and zeal in promoting domestic harmony; from patience under sufferings, hardi- temper had corrected, both the selfishness natuness in danger, zeal in the love of civil, and viral to man, and the arrogance habitual to prosgour in the reprobation of savage liberty; from When, under the unfortunate reign of our a spirit of fairness and liberality in making Henry the third, the affairs of England were retreaties, and from fidelity in observing them: duced to a low condition, while those of France Above all, from a multiplication of individual instances of family comfort and independence, making a treaty with England, generously rewere in a highly flourishing state; Louis, in from the general prevalence, throughout the fused to take an unfair advantage of the misforgreat mass of the people, of habits of industry, tunes of this country, or to avail himself to the sobriety, and good order, from the practice in short, of the social and domestic virtues; of all utmost of his own superiority. His concessions to the depressed enemy were liberal; and he those relative duties and kindnesses, which give body and substance to the various charities of in the confidence which it inspired. Louis was soon after reaped the reward of his moderation, life, and the best feelings of our nature. the differences between them. In consequence chosen, both by Henry and his nobles, to settle

If sinful nations appear prosperous for a time, it is often because there has been some proportion of good mixed with the evil; or it is because the Providence of God means to use the

* See bishop Butler's Analogy, a work which cannot be too strongly recommended.`

« السابقةمتابعة »