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placing it more in these than in inward purity and integrity of heart, one cannot guard too much against this, as well as all other abuses of religion, as make it to consist in something which it ought not.-How such mockery became a part of religion at first, or upon what motives they were imagined to be services acceptable to God, is hard to give a better account of than what was hinted above; namely,—that men of melancholy and morose tempers, conceiving the Deity to be like themfelves, a gloomy, discontented and sorrowful being,-believed he delighted, as they did, in fplenetic and mortifying actions, and therefore made their religious worihip to consist of chimeras as wild and barbarous, as their own dreams and vapours.
What ignorance and enthusiasm at first introduced, now tyranny and imposture continue to fupport.So that the political improvement of these delusions to the purposes of wealth and power, is made one of the strongeft pillars which upholds the Romih religion; which, with all its pretences to a more strict mortification and sanctity, when you examine it minutely, is little else than a mere pecuniary contrivance.--And the truest definition you can give of popery-is-that it is a system put together and contrived to operate upon men's weaknesses and paffions, and thereby to pick their pockets,-and leave them in a fit condition for its arbitrary designs.
And indeed that church has not been wanting in gratitude for the good offices of this kind, which the doctrine of penances has done them ;-for, in confideration of its services, they have raised it above the level of moral duties,--and have at length complimented it into the number of their sacraments, and made it a necessary point to salvation.
By these, and other tenets, no less, politic and inquisitional, popery has found out the art of making men miserable in spite of their senses, and the plenty with which God has blessed them.
So that in many countries where popery reigns,—but especially in that part of Italy where she has raised her throne,-though by the happiness of its foil and climate, it is capable of producing as great variety and abundance as any country upon earth ;-yet so successful have its spiritual directors been in the management and retail of these blessings, that they have found means to allay, if not entirely to defeat, them all, by one pretence or 0ther.—Some bitterness is officiously squeezed into every man's cup
for his soul's health, till, at length, the whole intention of nature and providence is destroyed. It is not surprizing, that where such unnatural severities are practised and heightened by other hardships,--the most fruitful land should be barren, and wear a face of poverty and desolation ;- or that many thousands, as have been observed, should fly from the rigours of such a government, and seek shelter rather amongst rocks and defarts, than lie at the mercy of many unreasonable task-masters, under whom they can hope for no other reward of their industry, but rigorous slavery, made still worse by the tortures of unnecessary mortifications.--I say, unnecessary,--because where there is a virtuous and good end proposed from any sober instances of self-denial and mortification, God forbid we should call them unnecessary, or that we should dispute against a thing—from the abuse to which it has been put;-and, therefore, what is said in general upon this head, will be understood to reach no farther than where the practice is become a mixture of fraud and tyranny, but will no ways be interpreted to ex. tend to those felf-denials which the discipline of our holy church directs at this solemn season; which have been introduced by reason and good sense at first, and have fince been applied to serve no purposes,—but those of religion :—these, by restraining our appetites for a while, and withdrawing our thoughts from grosser objects,—do, by a mechanical effect, dispose us for cool and sober reflections, incline us to turn our eyes inwards upon ourselves, and consider what we are,—and what we have been doing ;--for what intent we were sent into the world, and what kind of characters we were designed to act in it.
It is necessary that the mind of man, at some certain periods, should be prepared to enter into this account; and without some such discipline, to check the infolence of unrestrained appetites, and call home the conscience,-the foul of man, capable as it is of brightness and perfection, would fink down to the lowest depths of darkness and brutality.—However
true this is,--there still appears no obligation to renounce the innocent delights of our beings, or to affect a sullen diítaste against them.-Nor, in truth,
---can even the supposition of it be well admitted :-for pleasures arising from the free and natural exercise of the faculties of the mind and body, to talk them down, is like talking against the frame and mechanism of human nature, and would be no less senseless than the disputing against the burning of fire, or falling downwards of a stone.—Besides this, man is so contrived, that he stands in need of frequent repairs ;-both mind and body are apt to sink and grow unactive under long and close attention; and, therefore, must be restored by proper recruits.--Some part of our time may doubtless innocently and lawfully be employed in actions merely diverting ;-and whenever such indulgencies become criminal, it is seldom the nature of the actions themselves, but the excess which makes them fo.
But some one may here ask,—By what rule are we to judge of excess in these cases ? - If the enjoyment of the same sort of pleasures may be either innocent or guilty, according to the use or abuse of them,-how shall we be