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Title: Occasional Thoughts in Reference to a Vertuous or Cristian life
Author: Masham, Lady Damaris Cudworth, 1659-1708
Language: English
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              OCCASIONAL THOUGHTS


              In reference to a


             Vertuous or Christian


                   LIFE.



                   LONDON,


       Printed for A. and J. Churchil at the
            Black Swan in Pater-noster Row.
                    1705.



THE PREFACE.



_The following discourse was written some Years since, not without the
thought that, possibly, it might be of farther use than for the
entertainment of the Writer: Yet so little express Intention was there
of Publishing the Product of those leisure Hours it employ'd, that
these Papers lay by for above two Years unread, and almost forgotten.
After which time, being perus'd and Corrected, they were communicated
to some Friends of the Authors, who judging them capable to be useful,
they are now sent into the World in that Hope.

There is nothing pretended or suppos'd to be in them which is not
obvious: but Truths the most evident, are sometimes overlook'd, or not
sufficiently and universally attended to: And where these are Truths
of moment, it is no ill Service, by frequent representations of them,
to procure them attention.

I think there can be few heartily concerned for the Vice and
Immorality that abounds amongst us, who have not sometimes reflected
upon loose or careless Education, as one cause thereof: But yet the
great weight that right Instruction and Discipline of Youth, is of, in
respect both of Peoples present and future Felicity, is (as I take it)
far from being generally so settl'd in the Minds of Parents, as to be
steadily look'd upon by them as the one thing to that degree
necessary, that without due care taken thereof, all other indeavours,
to render their Children happy, either in this Life, or in that which
is to come, are likely to be very inefficacious.


That right Instruction, in regard of Vertue, consists in joining
together, inseparably, good Principles with early Habits, either of
these being insufficient without the other, is likewise, I presume, no
new Thought: But is yet what appears to me to be very little reflected
upon. When this is duly consider'd, People cannot, I think, but be
soon convinc'd from what Hands the right Instruction spoken of, ought
to come; for nothing can, in my Opinion, be more obvious than that is.
If these_ OCCASIONAL THOUGHTS _shall produce better digested ones
from any other Hand; or shall themselves be any way serviceable to
the reducing or directing of one single Soul into the paths of Vertue,
I shall not repent the Publishing them: And however useless they may
be to this end (sincerely aim'd at) yet the very Design will intitle
them to no unfavourable reception: For but to indeavour to contribute,
in the least degree, to the Honour of God, or Good of Mankind, can
never stand in need of Pardon. And such a Modesty or Fear of
displeasing any as withholds Men from enterprising the one, or the
other of these, where nothing but their own Credit is hazarded, should
the design not succeed, is, on the contrary, very blameable.

Besides these two Motives, could I need any other to ingage me in the
defence of Vertue, I should find yet a very powerful one in that
dutiful Affection which I pay, and which every Subject ows to a_ GOOD
PRINCE: _Since the_ QUEEN, _I am fully perswaded, would not so much
rejoyce in the Accession of great Kingdoms to her Dominions, as to see
the People, already happy in Her Government over them, indeavouring to
make themselves and one another so, in following the great Example
which She sets them of Vertue and Piety._


       *       *       *       *       *



                  OCCASIONAL THOUGHTS


                   In reference to a


                 Vertuous or Christian


                        LIFE.



There is no so constant and satisfactory a Pleasure, to those who are
capable of it, as Rational Conversation gives: And to me, depriv'd of
that Enjoyment, the remembrance thereof, is, in my present Solitude,
the most delightful Entertainment: Wherein some of my leisure hours
will not, I hope, be mispent, should this engage me to prosecute such
Thoughts as were lately suggested to me by others. The which taking
their rise from a particular Enquiry, and thence proceeding to a
general Consideration of the Folly and Madness of Rational Creature's
acting, as if they had no other Principle to direct or determin them,
than the Incitements of their Passions and Appetites, comprehended at
once the unhappiness of Mankind, both Here and Hereafter. Since those
Breaches of the Eternal Law of Reason, which disorder Common-wealths
and Kingdoms; disturb the Peace of Families; and make by far the
greatest part of the Private Infelicities of Particular Persons in
this World, are what the Sovereign Disposer of all things has
ordain'd, shall render Men miserable in a future Life also.

A survey of which Moral Irregularities, as bringing into view a large
Scene of Human Depravity, does indeed furnish matter for melancholy,
rather than pleasing Contemplations: But the Mind is sometimes no less
affected with Delight, wherein there is a mixture of sadness on
Subjects, which in themselves consider'd are ungrateful, than on
occasions the most welcome to us: And such a just zeal in any for the
interests of Vertue, as makes them, with a Charitable concern, reflect
on the miscarriages of others, and thence take occasion to examine
their own Actions by the true Rules and Measures of their Duty,
expresses a disposition of Mind too becoming Rational Creatures, and
too seldom met withal, not to please, tho' excited by Representations
which are disagreeable; provided they are of such a matter as is not
then new to our Thoughts.

That the Gross of Mankind do every where live in opposition to that
Rule of Nature which they ought to obey, is a sad Truth; but that we
who have this Rule enforc'd by a clearer Light, are included herein,
and do in this find the source of many Evils, not only fear'd, but
which we actually feel, are Considerations yet more affecting, and not
a little aggravated in that, within Memory, this heretofore sober
Nation has been debauch'd from Principles of Vertue and Religion, to
such an excess of Vice and Prophaneness, that it has been Fashionable
to have no shame of the grossest Immoralities; and Men have thought
even to recommend themseves by avow'd Impiety. A Change which could
not be consider'd without extream regret by all who either were in
earnest Christians, or who truly lov'd the Prosperity of their
Country: And as upon this occasion there was reason to be sensible
that nothing operates so powerfully as the example of Princes; some
have been of later Years induc'd to hope for a revolution in our
Manners, no less advantageous than what has hitherto secur'd those
Civil and Religious Liberties, without which it is impossible for
Vertue to subsist among any People whatsoever. But Experience shows
that Humane Nature is much easier led into Evil, than reduc'd from it;
and that inveterate Maladies are difficultly cur'd.

When Men's Practices have infected their Principles and Opinions; and
these have had time again reciprocally to confirm them in their
Vicious Habits and Customs, the whole Constitution is corrupted; and
the Personal Vertue then of the Prince (however conspicuous) will not,
without a concurrence of other means, influence farther than to make
(it may be) some change in the Garb, or Fashion of Men's Vices.

A due and vigorous Execution of proper Laws against Immorality and
Prophaneness, is that alone which will effectually restrain them: And
a right care had of Education, is the only humane means of making
People truly Vertuous. Whenever our inferiour Magistrates shall be
such as will be _a terror to Evil doers, and encouragers of those who
do well_, and when Parents shall be perswaded that it is in their
power to procure to their Children more valuable Treasures than Riches
and Honours; the ancient Vertue of our Ancestors will then quickly be
equall'd, if not surpass'd, by that of their Posterity: But till then,
it is in vain to expect that any great Advances should be made towards
an Amendment, as necessary to our present and National, as to our
Personal and Future Happiness.

What the force of Education is upon our Minds, and how by a due regard
had to it, Common-wealths and Kingdoms have flourished, and become
famous; and how much this has been recommended by Wise Men in all
Ages, requires but a small consideration of Humane Nature, and
Acquaintance with History to inform us; nor is any thing more obvious
to observe than the power of Education. This matter yet has no where
been ordinarily look'd after, proportionably to the moment it is
visibly of: And even the most sollicitous about it, have usually
employ'd their care herein but by halves with respect to the Principal
Part in so great a concernment; for the information and improvement of
the Understanding by useful Knowledge, (a thing highly necessary to
the right regulation of the Manners) is commonly very little thought
of in reference to one whole Sex; even by those who in regard of the
other, take due care hereof. But to this omission in respect of one
Sex, it is manifestly very much to be attributed, that that pains
which is often bestow'd upon the other, does so frequently, as it
does, prove ineffectual: Since the actual assistance of Mothers, will
(generally speaking) be found necessary to the right forming of the
Minds of their Children of both Sexes; and the Impressions receiv'd in
that tender Age, which is unavoidably much of it passed among Women,
are of exceeding consequence to Men throughout the whole remainder of
their Lives, as having a strong and oftentimes unalterable influence
upon their future Inclinations and Passions.

As those Persons who afforded that agreeable Conversation I have
mention'd, were the greater part of them Ladies, it was not strange if
they express'd much displeasure at the too general neglect of the
Instruction of their Sex; a Reflection not easily to be avoided by
them, when their thoughts upon the miscarriages and unhappiness of
Mankind in general, terminated in a more peculiar Consideration of
that part which those of their own Condition had in the one, and the
other. Wherein the Conversation concluded where it had begun; the
occasion which introduced it having been the Enquiry of a Lady, What
was the Opinion of one in the Company concerning a Book Intitled
_Conseils d'Ariste sur les Moyens de conserver sa Reputation_? Of
which (she said) she had heard divers Persons of Merit and Quality,
speak very differently: Some as if it contained the most useful
Instructions that could be given for the rendring any young Lady such
as her best Friends could wish she should be; and others, as relishing
too much of an Antiquated severity, not indulgent enough either to the
natural and agreeable Gaiety of Youth, or to that innocent Liberty now
in use, deriv'd like most of our other Fashions, from that Nation
where these _Counsels_ were thought needful.

I remember not the Book you speak of enough to answer to your desire,
(reply'd the Person to whom this Enquiry was address'd) but what you
say is objected to these _Conseils_ is without doubt impertinent,
unless the Precepts therein meant to be condemn'd, are shown to be in
themselves faulty; it being certainly otherwise no matter of exception
to them that they are not Indulgent to what an Age, the Manners
whereof they were intended to correct, had establish'd or found
agreeable. This Objection yet can hardly (I think) be less just, than
such a Character of any Book of this Nature, as some it seems give of
this: the Author whereof pretended not (as I suppose) to so much in
his Design, as these People find in his Performance. And the nature
and extent of a Christian's Duty is but little in their thoughts, who
think that any Rules dictated by Prudence, or Experience of the World,
and directed to the Glory of a good Name, are such Instructions as can
render any one what they ought to be. A _solid Vertue_ can alone do
this; the Possession whereof is infinitely preferable to that of
Reputation; with which yet it is so rarely unattended, that one may
affirm there is no so secure and easie a way (especially for a Lady)
to acquire and conserve the Reputation of being Vertuous, as really to
be so.

But Vertue is not (tho often so misrepresented) included in Innocency;
or does consist in a partial Practice of Actions praiseworthy; for its
extent is equal to our liberty of Action; and its Principle the most
Active one of the Mind; Vertue being the natural result of a sincere
desire to conform in all things to the Law set us by our Maker; which
who so truly endeavours, will not find much occasion for such kind of
Advices as the above-mentioned ones, either to correct their Faults,
or teach them to put a mask over them; an ill use sometimes made of
this sort of Instructions: However a better might be, since it is
true, that young People from the Experience of others may learn many
things in reference to their Conduct, the knowledge whereof they would
buy too dear at their own. The difficulty yet that there is in
applying general Rules to particular Cases, makes (I presume) Books of
this sort, how good soever in the kind, of less advantage to those who
most need them, than some imagine them to be.

This which was then said on the Subject of these _Conseils_ (lying by
accident in the way) suggests to me now two things, wherein the
Documents ordinarily given to such young Ladies, as are intended to
have the best care taken of their Instruction, are, I think, very
defective; and the fitter to be redress'd, as being of peculiar ill
consequence in a Sceptical, loose and unthinking Age; wherein Wit is
apt to pass upon many for Reason.

The first of these is, That those Notions, or Ideas of Vertue, and
consequent Rules of Action, which are usually given to such young
Persons, do rarely carry along with them an entire conviction of their
Truth and Reasonableness: Whence if these Instructions at any time
happen strongly to cross the Inclinations of those to whom they are
given, it will appear rational to question their Solidity: And when
Principles that thwart People's passions or interests, come once to be
doubted of by them, it is great odds, that they will sooner be
slighted, than better examin'd.

Now, this want of apparent Truth and Reasonableness, is not only
where the _Notions_ and _Precepts_ giv'n, are in themselves such as
either in Whole, or in Part, are not True or Rational; but also
(oftentimes) where they are altogether conformable to right Reason: In
which cases, the want of apparent Reasonableness, proceeds from a
defect of such Antecedent Knowledge in those who are design'd to be
instructed, as is necessary to the seeing their Reasonableness of the
Instructions giv'n them; that is to say, To their discerning the
conformity with, or evident deduction of such Instructions from some
Truths which are unquestion'd by them: the which should be the
Principles of True Religion, so clearly made out to them, as to be by
them acknowledg'd for Verities. Religion being (as I shall take it at
present for granted) the only sufficient ground or solid support of
Vertue; For the belief of a Superior, Omnipotent Being, inspecting
our Actions, and who will Reward or Punish us accordingly, is in all
Men's Apprehensions the strangest, and in truth the only stable and
irresistible Argument for submitting our Desires to a constant
Regulation, wherein it is that Vertue does consist.

How far Natural Religion alone is sufficient for this, is very fit to
be consider'd: But I conclude that among us, there are few who pretend
to recommend Vertue, but who do so either with no respect at all to
Religion, and upon Principles purely Humane, or else with reference to
the Christian Religion. The first of these, it is already said, will
be ineffectual; and it is no less certain that the Christian Religion
cannot be a solid Foundation for Vertue, where Vertue being inculcated
upon the Declarations of the Gospel, those who are thus instructed,
are not convinc'd of the Authority and Evidence of that Revelation;
which but too commonly is the Case: Instructors, instead of Teaching
this necessary previous Knowledge of Religion, generally, supposing it
to be already in them whom they instruct, who in reality neither have
it, or have ever been so before-hand Taught, as to make it a
reasonable Presumption that they should have it. Whence all the
Endeavours of making them Vertuous in consequence of their
Christianity, are but attempting to raise a real Superstructure upon
an only imaginary Foundation; for Truths receiv'd upon any other
Ground than their own Evidence, tho' they may, perhaps, find
entertainment, yet will never gain to themselves a sure hold upon the
Mind; and so soon as they become troublesome, are in great danger of
being question'd; whereby whatever is Built upon them, must be
likewise liable to be suspected for fallacious: And however empty
Declamations do often-times make livelier impressions upon Young
People than substantial Reasoning, yet these impressions are, for the
most part, easily effac'd; and especially are so out of their Minds
who naturally are the capablest of right Reason; as among other
instances appears in this, that prophane Wits do often even railly
Women of the Best Parts (Religiously Bred as they call it) out of
their Duty: These not seeing (as they should have been early Taught to
do) that what they have learn'd to be their Duty is not grounded upon
the uncertain and variable Opinion of Men, but the unchangeable nature
of things; and has an indissolvable Connection with their Happiness or
Misery.

Now those who have the Direction of Young Ladies in their Youth, so
soon as past Child-hood, whether they be the Parents, Governesses, or
others, do not, most commonly, neglect the Teaching them That which is
the Ground and Support of all the Good Precepts they give them;
because that Principles of Religion are by them believed to be
unnecessary; or are not in their Thoughts; but because they presume,
as has been said, that those now under their Care are already
sufficiently instructed herein; viz. When their Nurses, or Maids,
Taught them their Catechisms; that is to say, Certain Answers to a
Train of Questions adapted to some approv'd System of Divinity.

That this is sufficient Instruction in Religion, is apparently a
Belief pretty general: And not only such Young Ladies as have newly
put off their Bibs and Aprons, but even the greatest Number of their
Parents, and Teachers themselves, would, yet less than They, be
pleas'd if one should tell them that those who know so much as this,
may nevertheless be very Ignorant concerning the Christian Religion;
these Old People no more than the Young Ones, being able to give any
farther Account thereof than they have thus been taught. It is yet
true that many who have Learn'd, and who well remember long
Catechisms, with all their pretended Proofs, are so far from having
that Knowledge which Rational Creatures ought to have of a Religion
they profess to Believe they can only be Sav'd by, as that they are
not able to say, either what this Religion does Consist in, or why it
is they Believe it; and are so little instructed by their Catechisms,
as that, oftentimes, they understand not so much as the very Terms
they have Learn'd in them: And more often find the Proportions therein
contain'd, so short in the Information of their Ignorance; or so
unintelligible, to their Apprehensions; or so plainly contradictory of
the most obvious Dictates of common Sense; that Religion (for the
which they never think of looking beyond these Systems) appears to
them indeed a thing not Built upon, or defensible by Reason: In
consequence of which Opinion, the weakest attaques made against it,
must needs render such Persons (at the least) wavering in their Belief
of it; Whence those Precepts of Vertue, which they have receiv'd as
bottom'd thereon, are, in a Time wherein Scepticism and Vice, pass for
Wit and Gallantry, necessarily brought under the suspicion of having
no solid Foundation; and the recommenders thereof, either of
Ignorance, or Artifice.

But the not making Young People understand their Religion, is a fault
not peculiar in regard to the instruction of one Sex alone, any
otherwise than as consider'd in its Consequences; whereby (ordinarily
speaking) Women do the most inevitably suffer; as not having the like
Advantage (at least early enough) of Correcting the Ignorance, or
Errors of their Child-hood that Men have.

The other thing which I imagine faulty, does more peculiarly concern
the Sex, but is yet chiefly practic'd in regard of Those of it who are
of Quality, and that is, the insinuating into them such a Notion of
Honour as if the praise of Men ought to be the Supreme Object of their
Desires, and the great Motive with them to Vertue: _A Term_ which when
apply'd to Women, is rarely design'd, by some People, to signifie any
thing but the single Vertue of Chastity; the having whereof does with
no more Reason intitle a Lady to the being thought such as she should
be in respect of Vertue, than a handsome Face, unaccompany'd by other
Graces, can render her Person truly Amiable. Or rather, _Chastity_ is
so essential to, singly, so small a part of the Merit of a Beautiful
Mind, that it is better compar'd to Health, or Youth, in the Body,
which alone have small Attractions, but without which all other
Beauties are of no Value.

To perswade Ladies then that what they cannot want without being
contemptible, is the chief Merit they are capable of having, must
naturally either give them such low thoughts of themselves as will
hinder them from aspiring after any thing Excellent, or else make them
believe that this mean Opinion of them is owing to the injustice of
such Men in their regard as pretend to be their Masters. A belief too
often endeavour'd to be improv'd in them by others.

But whether any Natural, or Design'd ill consequence follow from
hence or no, this is certain, that a true Vertue is the best Security
against all the Misfortunes that can be fear'd, and the surest Pledge
of all the Comforts that can be hop'd for in a Wife, _viz._ such a
Vertue whose Foundation is a desire above all things, of approving our
selves to God; the most opposite Principle whereunto is the making the
Esteem of Men the chief End, and Aim of our Actions; as it is propos'd
to be of Their's who have the empty Idea of Glory set before them as
the great Motive to, and high Reward of that particular Duty, which
(as if it included all others) does ordinarily ingross the Name of
Vertue, with regard to Women. A very wrong Motive this, to Those who
aim at what is truely Honourable, and such as may (and often does) as
well produce an ill, as a good effect.

But these wrong or partial Notions of Vertue, and Honour, are the
Product only of such Men's Inventions as are unwilling to regulate
their own Actions by the Universal, and Eternal Law of Right; and
therefore are ever desirous to find out such Rules for other People,
as will not reach themselves, and as they can extend and contract as
they please. In saying of which, it is not deny'd, that the love of
Praise may be sometimes usefully instill'd into very Young Persons, to
give them the desire of Eminence in things wherein they should
endeavour to excel: But as this ought never to be made the incitement
to any Vertue but in the earliest Childhood of our Reason, so also at
no time should Glory (which is the Reward only of Actions
transcendently Good, either in kind, or degree) be represented as the
purchase of barely not meriting Infamy: The apprehension of which, is
a much stronger perswasive to most People not to do amiss, than that
of Glory, which cannot consist with it: For no Body can rationally
think that Glory can be due to them for doing that, which it would be
shameful in them not to do. But there is yet a farther Folly and ill
Consequence in Men's intitling Ladies to Glory on account of Chastity
which is, that the conceit hereof (especially in those who are
Beautiful) does ordinarily produce in them a Pride and Imperiousness,
that is very troublesome to such as are the most concern'd in them.

One whose business it was to remark the Humours of the Age, and of
Mankind in general, has, I remember, made a Husband on this occasion
to say,


     _Such Vertue is the Plague of Human Life,
     A Vertuous Woman, but a Cursed Wife._


And he adds,


     _In Unchaste Wives,
     There's yet a kind of recompencing Ease,
     Vice keeps 'em Humble, gives 'em care to please.
     But against clamorous Vertue, what Defence?_


If Mr. _Dryden_ did distinguish herein, between real Vertue and that
Idol one of Men's Invention, he was, perhaps, not much in the wrong in
what he suggests: But if he design'd in this a Satyr against Marriage,
as a state in the which a Man can no way be happy, it appears then how
much Vertue is prejudiced by this foreign Support, whilst it becomes
thereby expos'd to such a Censure; which if it may be Just in
reference to a vain Glorious Chastity, yet can never be so of a truly
Vertuous one: Obedience to the Law of God, being an Universal
Principle, and admitting of no Irregularity in one thing any more than
in another, which falls under it's Direction.

It is indeed only a Rational Fear of God, and desire to approve our
selves to him, that will teach us in All things, uniformly to live as
becomes our Reasonable Nature; to inable us to do which, must needs be
the great Business and End of a Religion which comes from God.

But how differently from this has the Christian Religion been
represented by those who place it in useless Speculations, Empty
Forms, or Superstitious Performances? The Natural Tendency of which
things being to perswade Men that they may please God at a cheaper
Rate than by the Denial of their Appetites, and the Mortifying of
their Irregular Affections, these Misrepresentations of a pretended
Divine Revelation have been highly prejudicial to Morality: And,
thereby, been also a great occasion of Scepticism; for the Obligation
to Vertue being loosen'd, Men easily become Vicious; which when once
they are, the Remorse of their Consciences bringing them to desire
that there should be no future Reckoning for their Actions; and even
that there should be no God to take any cognizance of them; they often
come (in some degree at least) to be perswaded both of the one, and
the other of these. And thus, many times, there are but a few steps
between a Zealous Bigot, and an Infidel to all Religion.

_Scepticism,_ or rather _Infidelity,_ is the proper Disease our Age,
and has proceeded from divers Causes: But be the remoter or original
ones what they will, it could never have prevail'd as it has done, had
not Parents very generally contributed thereto, either her by
negligence of their Children's Instruction; or Instructing them very
ill in respect of Religion.

It might indeed seem strange to one who had no experience of Mankind,
that People (however neglected in their Education) could, when they
came to years of Judgment, be to such a degree wanting to themselves,
as not to seek right Information concerning Truths of so great Moment
to them not to be Ignorant of, or mistaken in, as are those of
Religion. Yet such is the wretched Inconsideration Natural to most
Men, that (in fact) it is no uncommon thing at all to see Men live day
after day, in the pursuit of their Inclinations, without ever exerting
their Reason to any other purpose than the gratification of their
Passions; and no wonder can it then be if they give in to the belief,
or take up with a blind Perswasion of such Opinions as they see to be
most in Credit; and which will also the best suit their turn?

_Absolute Atheism_ does no doubt the best serve Their's, who live as
if there was no God in the World; but how far so great Non-sense as
this, has been able to obtain, is not easie to say: downright Atheism
being what but few Men will own. To me it appears (in that Those who
will expose themselves to argue against the Existence of a God, do
rarely venture to produce any Hypothesis of their own to be fairly
examin'd and compar'd with that which they reject: But that their
opposition to a Deity, consists only in Objections which may as well
be retorted upon themselves, and which at best prove nothing but the
shortness of Humane Understanding) to me, I say, it appears from hence
probable that the greatest part of Atheistick Reasoners, do rather
desire, and seek to be Atheists, than that in reality they are so.
Men, who are accustom'd to Believe without any Evidence of Reason for
what they Believe, are, it is likely, more in earnest in this wild
Opinion: And in all appearance very many there are among us of such as
a Learned Man calls _Enthusiastick Atheists, viz._ who deny the
Existence of an Invisible, Omniscient, Omnipotent, first Cause of all
things, only through a certain Sottish disbelief of whatsoever they
cannot either see or feel; never consulting their Reason in the Case.
That there are some who do thus, their Discourses assure us: The
Actions of many others, are unaccountable without supposing them to be
of this Number; and it is very suspicious that to this Atheism as to a
secret Cause thereof, may be attributed the avow'd Averseness of many
Men to reveal'd Religion, since in a Country where People are
permitted to read the Scriptures, and to use their Reason freely in
matters of Religion; and where, in effect, there are so many Rational
Christians, 'tis hard to conceive that Men can be long Scepticks in
regard of Christianity, if they are indeed hearty Deists; and fully
perswaded of the Truths of Natural Religion.

But it being sufficiently obvious that want of Instruction concerning
Religion does in a Sceptical Age dispose Men to Scepticism and
Infidelity, which often terminates in downright Atheism; let us see
whether, or no, Ill, by which I mean, all irrational Instruction in
regard of Religion, has not the same Tendency.

It is as undeniable as the difference between Men's being in, and out
of their Wits, that Reason ought to be to Rational Creatures the Guide
of their Belief: That is to say, That their Assent to any thing,
ought to be govern'd by that proof of its Truth, whereof Reason is the
Judge; be it either Argument, or Authority, for in both Cases Reason
must determine our Assent according to the validity of the Ground it
finds it Built on: By Reason being here understood that Faculty in us
which discovers, by the intervention of intermediate Ideas, what
Connection Those in the Proposition have one with another: Whether
_certain_; _probable_; or _none at all_; according whereunto, we ought
to regulate our Assent. If we do not so, we degrade our selves from
being Rational Creatures; and deprive our selves of the only Guide God
has given us for our Conduct in our Actions and Opinions.

Authority yet is not hereby so subjected to Reason, as that a
Proposition which we see not the Truth of, may not nevertheless be
Rationally assented to by us.

For tho' Reason cannot from the Evidence of the thing it self induce
our assent to any Proposition, where we cannot perceive the Connexion
of the Ideas therein contain'd; yet if it appears that such a
Proposition was truly reveal'd by God, nothing can be more Rational
than to believe it: since we know that God can neither Deceive, nor be
Deceived: That there are Truths above our Conception, and that God may
(if he so pleases) communicate these to us by Supernatural Revelation.

The part of Reason then, in regard of such a Proposition as this, is,
only to examine whether it be indeed a Divine Revelation: which should
Reason not attest to the Truth of; it is then evidently Irrational to
give, or require assent to it as being so.

And as plainly Irrational must it be to give, or require assent to
any thing as a Divine Revelation, which is evidently contrary to
Reason; no less being herein imply'd than that God has made us so as
to see clearly that to be a Truth, which is yet a Falshood; the which,
were it so, would make the Testimony of our Reason useless to us; and
thereby destroy also the Credit of all Revelation; for no stronger
proof can be had of the Truth of any Revelation than the Evidence of
our Reason that it is a Revelation.

Now if the Christian Religion be very often represented as teaching
Doctrines clearly contrary to Reason; or as exacting belief of what we
can neither perceive the Truth of, nor do find to be reveal'd by
Christ, or his Apostles: And, (what is still more) that this pretended
Divine Religion does even consist in such a Belief as This; so that a
Man cannot be a Christian without believing what he neither from
Arguments or Authority has any Ground for believing; what must the
Natural Consequence of this be upon all whoever so little consult
their Reason, when in riper Years they come to reflect hereupon, but
to make them recal, and suspend, at least, their assent to the Truth
of a Religion that appears to them thus Irrational? since an
Irrational Religion can never Rationally be conceived to come from
God.

And if Men once come to call in question such Doctrines as (tho' but
upon slender Grounds for it) they had received for unquestionable
Truths of Religion, they are ordinarily more likely to continue
Scepticks, or to proceed to an intire disbelief of this Religion, than
to take occasion from hence to make a just search after its Verity:
The want either of Capacity, Leisure or Inclination for such an
inquiry, disposing Men, very generally, to neglect it; and easily to
satisfy themselves in so doing, from a perswasion that the Christian
Religion is indeed self condemn'd: Those whom they imagine to have
understood it as well as any Men, having never taught them that this
Religion does so much as pretend to any Foundation in, or appeal to
Reason, that Faculty in us which distinguishes us from Beasts, and the
Actual use thereof from Mad-Men; but indeed Taught them the contrary:
And thus prejudg'd, it truly is that the Christian Religion, by those
who disbelieve it, has usually come to be rejected; without ever
having been allow'd a fair Examination.

From what has been said, I think it does appear, that Ill, that is to
say, Irrational Instruction concerning Religion, as well as want of
Instruction, disposes to Scepticism: And this being so, what wonder
can it be that Scepticism having once become fashionable, should
continue so? the un-instructed, and the ill-instructed, making by so
great odds, the Majority. For Those who have no Religion themselves,
do not often take care that others should have any: And They who
adhere to a misgrounded Perswasion concerning Religion, retaining a
Reverence for their Teachers, do, in consequence thereof, commonly
presume that their Children cannot be better taught than they have
been before them; which is generally (as has been said) only by the
learning of some approved Catechism; wherein, commonly enough, the
first principles of Religion are not, as they should be, laid down,
but suppos'd: and from whence Those who learn them, learn nothing
except that certain Propositions are requir'd to be Believed, which
perhaps, they find inconceivable by them; or (at best) whereof they
see neither use, nor certainty: These Catechisms yet being
represented to Children by those whom they the most Esteem, and
Credit, as containing Sacred verities on the Belief of which Salvation
does depend, they quickly become afraid to own that they are not
convinc'd of the Truth of what is deliver'd in them: For the greater
part among our selves are instructed in Religion much after the same
manner that that good Lady of the Church of _Rome_ instructed her
Child; who when the Girl told her, she _could not believe
Transubstantiation_; Reply'd, _What? You do you not believe
Transubstantiation? You are a naughty Girl, and must be whip'd._

Instead of having their reasonable Inquiries satisfy'd, and
incourag'd, Children are ordinarily rebuk'd for making any: from
whence not daring in a short time to question any thing that is taught
them in reference to Religion; they, (as the Girl above-mention'd was)
are brought to say, that they _do Believe_ whatever their Teachers
tell them they must Believe; whilst in Truth they remain in an
ignorant unbelief, which exposes them to be seduc'd by the most
pitiful Arguments of the Atheistical, or of such as are disbelievers
of reveal'd Religion.

The Foundation of All Religion is the belief of a God; or of a Maker
and Governour of the World; the evidence of which, being visible in
every thing; and the general Profession having usually stamp'd it with
awe upon Children's Minds, they ought perhaps most commonly to be
suppos'd to Believe This, rather than have doubts rais'd in them by
going about to prove it to them: because those who are uncapable of
long deductions of Reason, or attending to a train of Arguments, not
finding the force thereof when offer'd to prove what they had always
taken for a clear, and obvious verity, would be rather taught thereby
to suspect that a Truth which they had hitherto look'd on as
unquestionable, might rationally be doubted of, than be any ways
confirm'd in the belief of it. But if any doubts concerning the
Existence of God, do arise in their Minds, when they own this, or that
this, can be discover'd by discoursing with them: such doubts should
always be endeavour'd to be remov'd by the most solid Arguments of
which Children are capable. Nor should They ever be rebuk'd for having
those doubts; since not giving leave to look into the grounds of
asserting any Truth, whatever it be, can never be the way to establish
that Truth in any rational Mind; but, on the contrary, must be very
likely to raise a suspicion that it is not well grounded.

The belief of a Deity being entertain'd; what should be first taught
us should be what we are in the first place concern'd to know.

Now it is certain that what we are in the first place concern'd to
know, is that which is necessary to our Salvation; and it is as
certain that whatever God has made necessary to our Salvation, we are
at the same time capable of knowing. All Instruction therefore which
obtrudes upon any one as necessary to their Salvation, what they
cannot understand or see the evidence of, is to that Person, wrong
Instruction; and when any such unintelligible, or unevident
Propositions are delivered to Children as if they were so visible
Truths that a reason, or proof of them was not to be demanded by them,
what effect can this produce in their Minds but to teach them betimes
to silence and suppress their Reason; from whence they have afterwards
no Principle of Vertue left; and their practices, as well as
opinions, must needs (as is the usual consequence hereof) become
expos'd to the Conduct of their own, or other Men's Fancies?

The existence of God being acknowledg'd a Truth so early receiv'd by
us, and so evident to our Reason, that it looks like Natural
Inscription; the Authority of that Revelation by which God has made
known his Will to Men, is to be firmly establish'd in People's Minds
upon its clearest, and most rational evidence; and consequentially
They are then to be refer'd to the Scriptures themselves, to see
therein what it is that God requires of them to _believe_ and _to do_;
the great Obligation they are under diligently to study these Divine
Oracles being duly represented to them. But to exhort any one to
search the Scriptures to the end of seeing therein what God requires
of him, before he is satisfy'd that the Scriptures are a Revelation
from God, cannot be rational: since any ones saying that the
Scriptures are God's Word, cannot satisfy a rational and inquisitive
Mind that they are so: and that the Books of the Old and New Testament
were dictated by the Spirit of God, is not a self evident Proposition,
but a Truth that demands to be made out, before it can be rationally
assented to.

It should also be effectually Taught, and not in Words alone, That it
is our Duty to study and examine the Scriptures, to the end of seeing
therein what God requires of us to _believe_, and to _do_. But none
are effectually, or sincerely taught this, if notwithstanding that
this is sometimes told them, they are yet not left at liberty to
believe, or not believe, according to what, upon examination, appears
to them to be the sense of the Scriptures: for if we must not receive
them in that sense, which, after our best inquiry, appears to us to be
their meaning, it is visible that it signifies nothing to bid us
search, and examine them.

These two things, _viz._ a rational assurance of the Divine Authority
of the Scriptures, and a liberty of fairly examining them, are
absolutely necessary to the satisfaction of any rational Person,
concerning the certainty of the Christian Religion, and what it is
that this Religion does consist in: and He who when he comes to be a
Man, shall remember that being a Boy he has been check'd for doubting,
instead of being better inform'd when he demanded farther proof than
had been given him of the Divine Authority of the Scriptures: or that
he has been reprehended for thinking that the Word of God contradicted
some Article of his Catechism; has just ground, when he reflects
thereupon, to question, whether or no, the Interaction of his
Childhood has not been an Imposition upon his Reason; which he will no
doubt be apt to believe the more, when others shall confidently affirm
to him that it has been so: And in that Age of Men's Lives when they
are in the eagerest pursuit of Pleasure, it is great odds (as has been
already observ'd) that if, in regard of Religion, they come to lose
the belief of what they have once thought unquestionable, they will
more often be perswaded that there is no Truth at all therein, than
set themselves seriously to find out what is so.

How dangerous a thing then is such Instruction in Religion, as teaches
nothing unless it be to stifle the Suggestions of our Natural Light?
But that such Instruction as this, is all that the far greatest Number
of People have, there is too much ground to conclude, from the
visible Ignorance even of the most of Those who are Zealous in some
Profession of Christian Faith, and Worship: Few of These not being at
a loss to answer, if ask'd, either, _What the Faith of a Christian
does consist in_? Or, _Why they believe such Articles concerning it,
as they profess to believe_?

That their God-fathers, and God-mothers ingag'd for them that they
should believe so; is a reason for their doing it that I suppose,
there are but Few who would not be asham'd to give; as seeing that a
_Mahumetan_ could not be thought to assert his Faith more absurdly in
the Opinion of any indifferent By-stander, and yet it is evident that
no better a reason than this have very many for their Belief.

_What is the chief and highest end of Man_? is a Question which,
methinks, supposes the resolution of more antecedent Questions, than
Children, untaught, can be presum'd to be resolv'd in. But be this
Question ever so proper to begin a Catechism withal, the answer
hereto, _viz. That Man's chief and highest end is to glorifie God, and
enjoy him for ever_; is not surely very instructive of an ignorant
Child. It is a good Question in the same Catechism; _How doth it
appear the Scriptures are the Word of God_? But who would imagine that
for the information of any one who wanted to be inform'd herein, it
should be answer'd, _That the Scriptures manifest themselves to be the
Word of God by their Majesty and Purity: by the consent of all the
Parts, and by the scope of the whole; which is to give all Glory to
God: by their Light and Power to convince, and convert Sinners; to
comfort and build up Believers to Salvation: But the Spirit of God
bearing Witness by and with the Scriptures, in the Heart of Man is
alone able fully to perswade that they are the very Word of God._ One
would almost be tempted to suspect that Men who talk'd thus, were not
themselves thorowly perswaded that the Scriptures were indeed the Word
of God; for how is it possible not only for a Young Boy, or Girl, but
even for an _Indian_ Man, or Woman, to be by this answer more
convinc'd than they were before, of the Scriptures being what they are
pretended to be? To assure any rational inquirer of Which, it is
necessary they should be satisfied, That the Scriptures were indeed
written by those whose Names they bear; That these Persons were
unquestionable Witnesses, and Faithful Historians of the matters they
relate; and that they had such a Guidance, and Direction from the
Spirit of God as led them to deliver all necessary Truth, and to
preserve them from all error prejudicial thereunto: which Things have
so good evidence, that none who are not manifestly prejudic'd, can
refuse assent thereto, when they are duly represented to them: but
without having weigh'd this evidence, the Divine Authority of the
Scriptures may, possibly, be by some firmly believ'd, but cannot be so
upon the conviction of their Reason.

The Instruction then of most Peoples Younger Years being such as we
have seen in regard of Religion: and _Vertue_, viz. The right
regulation of our Passions, and Appetites, having (as has been
abovesaid) no other sufficient inforcement than the Truths of
Religion; can it reasonably be thought strange, that there is so
little Vertue in the World as we find there is? or that
correspondently to their Principles, Peoples Actions generally are (at
best) unaccountable to their Reason? For Time, and more Years, if they
give strength to our Judgments whereby we may be thought able to
inform our selves, and correct the errors and defects of our
Education, give also strength to our Passions; which grown strong, do
furnish and suggest Principles suited to the purposes and ends that
they propose; besides, that Ill Habits once settl'd, are hardly
chang'd by the force of any principles of which Reason may come to
convince Men at their riper Age: A Truth very little weigh'd; tho'
nothing ought more to be so with respect to a vertuous Education;
since rational Religion, so soon as they are capable thereof, is not
more necessary to the ingaging People to Vertue, than is the fixing,
and establishing in them good Habits betimes, even before they are
capable of knowing any other reason for what they are taught to do,
than that it is the Will of Those who have a just power over them that
they should do so. For as without a Knowledge of the Truths of
Religion, we should want very often sufficient Motives, and
Encouragements to submit our Passions and Appetites to the Government
of Reason; so without early Habits establish'd of denying our
Appetites, and restraining our Inclinations, the Truths of Religion
will operate but upon a very few, so far as they ought to do.

By Religion I understand still _Reveal'd Religion_. For tho' without
the help of Revelation, the Commands of Jesus Christ (two positive
Institutions only excepted) are, as dictates likewise of Nature,
discoverable by the Light of Reason; and are no less the Law of God to
rational Creatures than the injunctions of Revelation are; yet few
would actually discern this Law of Nature in its full extent, meerly
by the Light of Nature; or if they did, would find the inforcement
thereof a sufficient Ballance to that Natural love of present
pleasure which often opposes our compliance therewith; since before we
come to such a ripeness of understanding as to be capable by
unassisted Reason to discover from the Nature of Things the just
measures of our Actions, together with the obligations we are under to
comply therewithal; an evil indulgence of our Inclinations has
commonly establish'd Habits in us too strong to be over-rul'd by the
Force of Arguments; especially where they are not of very obvious
deduction. Whence it may justly be infer'd that the Christian Religion
is the alone Universally adapted means of making Men truly Vertuous;
the _Law of Reason, or the Eternal Rule of Rectitude_ being in the
Word of God only, to those of all capacities, plainly, and
Authoritatively deliver'd as the Law of God, duly inforc'd by Rewards
and Punishments.

Yet in that Conformity with, and necessary support which our Religion
brings to the Law of Reason, or Nature, that is to say, to Those
dictates which are the result of the determinate and unchangeable
Constitution of things (and which as being discoverable to us by our
rational Faculties, are therefore sometimes call'd the Law of Reason,
as well as the Law of Nature) Christianity does most conspicuously and
evidently appear to be a Divine Religion; _viz._ to be from the Author
of Nature; however incongruous some Men may phancy it to be for God
supernaturally to reveal to Men what is naturally discoverable to
them, by those Faculties he has given them: The which conceit together
with not considering, or rightly weighing the inforcements which
Natural Religion needs, and receives from Revelation, has very much
dispos'd many to reject reveal'd Religion. Whereunto such Notions of
Christianity as agree not to the Attributes of an Infinitely Wise and
Good Being, which Reason teaches the first cause of all things to be,
have also not a little contributed; for from hence many Men, zealous
for the Honour of God and lovers of Mankind, have been prejudic'd
against the Truth of the Christian Religion: In consequence whereof
they have reasonably concluded that there was no such thing as
reveal'd Religion; and from thence have again infer'd that Men had no
need thereof to the Ends of Natural Religion.

Those yet who think Revelation to be needless in this regard, how well
soever they may, possibly, intend to Natural Religion, do herein
entertain an Opinion that would undermine it: Experience shewing us
that Natural Light, unassisted by Revelation, is insufficent to the
Ends of Natural Religion: A Truth necessary to be acknowledg'd to the
having a due value for the benefit that we receive by the Revelation
of Jesus Christ; and many, who profess belief in him, have not a right
estimation of that benefit on this very account, _viz._ as thinking
too highly, or rather wrongly of Natural Light: notwithstanding that
nothing is more undeniably true than that from the meer Light of
Nature Men actually were so far from discovering the Law of Nature in
its full extent or force, as that they did not generally own, and but
very imperfectly discern, its prescriptions or obligation. 'Tis also
alike evident that as Christianity has prevail'd, it has together with
Polytheism, and (in great measure) Idolatry, beaten out likewise the
allow'd Practice of gross Immorality; which in the Heathen World was
countenanc'd, and incourag'd by the examples of their very Gods
themselves; and by being frequently made even a part in Religious
Worship. For the Truth of this effect of Christianity we must appeal
to History; from whence if any one should imagine they could oppose
any contrary example, it could (I think) be taken but from one only
Country; wherein (if the Historian says right) Morality was more
exemplary than in any other that we know of for near 400 Years that
its Pagan Natives possess'd it; whose exterminators (calling
themselves Christians) made it a most deplorable Scene of Injustice,
Cruelty and Oppression, bringing thither Vices unknown to those former
Inhabitants. But what only can follow from this example is, That a
People, having a continu'd Succession of Princes, who study to advance
the good of the Community, making that the sole Aim of their
Government; and directing all their Laws, and Institutions to that
End (which was the peculiar felicity of those happy _Americans_) will
without other than Natural Light much better practice all social
Vertues, than Men set loose from Law and Shame; who tho' Baptiz'd into
the Name of Christ have not yet so much as a true Notion of
Christianity, to the which, may certainly be added, or than any other
People, who tho' they have the Light of the Gospel among them, yet are
not govern'd by the Laws thereof; and a truly Christian Common-wealth
in this sense, remains yet to be seen in the World; which when it is,
the Vertue, and Felicity of such a People will be found much to
surpass the (perhaps partial) account which we have of that of the
_Peruvians_; whose so long uninterrupted Succession of Excellent
Princes, is what only is admirable in the account we have of them; and
not the Force of the Light of Nature in those People, who being
apparently of tractable, gentle dispositions, and tir'd with the
Miseries of a Life to the last degree Brutish, did from the visible
wretchedness and inconveniences thereof, gladly obey such whom they
believed were (as they told them they were) Divinely sent to teach
then a happier way of living. And in the Vertues which these their
first Lawgivers taught them, their Successors easily retain'd them;
continuing still to maintain in them a perswasion of their Divine
Extraction, and Authority. From the which it will be found that this
instance of the _Peruvian_ Morality makes for the need of Revelation
to inforce Natural Religion, and not against it. But how far
Revelation is needful to assist Natural Light, will be the best seen
in reflecting a little upon what we receive from each of these Guides
that God has given us. And if it shall appear from thence that
Natural Religion has need of Revelation to support it; and that the
Revelation which we have by Jesus Christ is exquisitely adapted to the
end of inforcing Natural Religion; this will both be the highest
confirmation possible, that to inforce Natural Religion or Morality,
was the design of Christianity; and will also shew that to the want of
their being in earnest Christians, is to be attributed the immorality
of such who, professing Christianity, live immoral Lives. The
consequence from whence must be, That to reclaim a Vicious People, it
should be consider'd, as the most effectual means of doing so, how to
make Men really, and in earnest Christians.

To see what light we receive from Nature to direct our Actions, and
how far we are Naturally able to obey that Light; Men must be
consider'd purely as in the state of Nature, _viz._ as having no
extrinsick Law to direct them, but indu'd only with a faculty of
comparing their distant Ideas by intermediate Ones, and Thence of
deducing, or infering one thing from another; whereby our Knowledge
immediately received from _Sense_, or _Reflection_, is inlarg'd to a
view of Truths remote, or future, in an Application of which Faculty
of the mind to a consideration of our own Existence and Nature,
together with the beauty and order of the Universe, so far as it falls
under our view, we may come to the knowledge of a _First Cause_; and
that this must be an _Intelligent Being, Wise_ and _Powerful_, beyond
what we are able to conceive. And as we delight in our selves, and
receive pleasure from the objects which surround us, sufficient to
indear to us the possession and injoyment of Life, we cannot from
thence but infer, that this _Wise_ and _Powerful Being_ is also most
_Good_, since he has made us out of nothing to give us a Being wherein
we find such Happiness, as makes us very unwilling to part therewith.

And thus, by a consideration of the Attributes of God, visible in the
Works of the Creation, we come to a knowledge of his Existence, who is
an Invisible Being: For since _Power, Wisdom_ and _Goodness,_ which we
manifestly discern in the production and conservation of our selves,
and the Universe, could not subsist independently on some substance
for them to inhere in, we are assur'd that there is a substance where
unto they do belong, or of which they are the Attributes.

Which Attributes of God would not be discoverable by us, did we not
discern a difference in Things; as between _Power_ and _Weakness,
Benevolence_ and _no Benevolence_, or its contrary; and betwixt
directing means to an End, and acting at hap-hazard without any
design, or choice: A knowledge, which, by whatever steps convey'd into
the mind, is no other than a seeing things to be what they are, and
that they cannot but be what they are.

From which diversity and immutability in the Nature of things, there
necessarily arises a diversity of respects and relations between them,
as unchangeable as the things themselves: wherein the Will of the
Creator in reference hereunto is reveal'd to every intelligent Agent,
so far as he is made capable of discerning these relations,
dependencies and consequences; and whatsoever with respect to his own
Actions, such a Being finds resulting from any of these as most
conformable to the design of his Creator in making him such a part as
he is of the whole, he cannot but consider as the Will of God, thereby
dictated to him; since otherwise, God would act contradictiously to
his Wisdom in making him what he is.

We being then indu'd, as we are, with a capacity of perceiving and
distinguishing these differences of Things; and also with a liberty of
acting, or not, suitably and agreeably hereunto; whence we can
according to the preference of our own minds, act either in conformity
to, or disconformity with, the Will of the Creator (manifested in his
Works no less than the Will of any Humane Architect is in his) it
follows, That to act answerably to the nature of such Beings as we
are, requires that we attentively examine, and consider the several
natures of Things, so far as they have any relation to our own
actions.

Which attentive consideration of the Works of God objected to our
view, implies an exercise thereupon of that Faculty in us by which we
deduce, or infer, one thing from another: Whence (as has been said)
our knowledge immediately deriv'd to us from sensation, or reflection,
is inlarg'd by the perception of remote, or distant Truths. The more
obviously eminent advantages accruing to us from which faculty of
reason, plainly make known the Superiority of its Nature; and that its
suggestions, ought to be hearken'd to by us preferably to those of
Sense; where these (as it too often happens) do not concur. For did we
know nothing by _Inference_ and _Deduction_, both our knowledge and
injoyment would be very short of what they now are; many considerable
pleasures depending almost intirely upon Reason; and there being none
of the greatest Enjoyments of Sense which would not lose their best
Relish, separated from those concomitant satisfactions which
accompany them only as we are rational Creatures. Neither is it our
greatest happiness alone which is manifestly provided for in our being
indu'd with this Faculty; but our much greater safety, and
preservation likewise; since _these_ require a capacity in us of
foreseeing distant Events, and directing means to an End, oftentimes
through a long train of Actions; which is what we can only do by that
in us, whereby the Relations, Dependencies and Consequences of things
are discoverable to us.

But as _Reason_ is that which either in kind or degree, differences
Men from Brutes; and that there are few, if any, who would lose this
distinction, it is by common consent acknowledg'd that Reason is in
respect of all others, a preferable indowment. And if Beasts, only
inferiour to Men in the advantages of this Faculty, appear hereby
intended to be subjected to Men, it cannot be less evident That that
part in Men which they have in common with Beasts, was likewise
design'd by their Maker to be subjected to their Reason also. From All
which, it undeniably follows that we do not act answerably to the
Will, or pleasure of God, in making us such Creatures as we are, if we
either neglect the Search of those Measures of our Actions prescrib'd
to us by the discernable Natures of Things; or, if seeing these, we
yet conform not our selves thereunto.

Now for any Creature knowingly to oppose the Will of its Creator, is
not only disingenuity in regard of what is owing from it to its
Sovereign Benefactor, and Folly in respect of that dependence which it
has on him for its Being, as it is commonly represented to us to be;
but is also in the Nature of Things (simply consider'd) so repugnant
to right Reason, that were such a Creature consistent with it self
herein, and could act pursuantly to That Will, it would operate to its
own destruction; since its Existence evidently depends upon That of
its Maker; whose Will, as reveal'd to us, being but a different
consideration of his Attributes, the knowledge whereof is all the
Knowledge we have of God, cannot be so much as conceiv'd by us
separable from the Being of God; unless the God, which we conceive, be
a Fiction of our own Imagination, and not the Creator of All Things;
who is an invisible Being only knowable to us in, and by, the
exemplifications of his Attributes: The infinite Perfection, and the
inseparable Correspondence, and Harmony of which (discernable in the
Frame and Government of the Universe) plainly tells us, That the
Divine Will cannot be (like ours) successive Determinations without
dependance, or connection one upon another; much less inconsistent,
contradictory, and mutable; but one steady, uniform, unchangeable
result of infinite Wisdom and Benevolence, extending to, and including
All his Works. So that Sin, or disobedience to our Maker is manifestly
the greatest Nonsense, Folly and contradiction conceivable, with
regard purely to the immutable perfection of the Divine Nature; and to
the Natural constitution of things, independently upon any positive
command of God to us, or his irresistible power over us.

But as without a capacity in The Creature to act contrary to the will
of the Creator there could be no defect, or self-excellency in any
Created Being; contrariety to the Will of God is therefore permitted
in the Universe as a necessary result of Creaturely imperfection,
under the greatest endowment that a Created Being is capable of
having, viz. _That of Freedom or Liberty of Action_: And as the
constitution of such Creature, as this, implies that what is _best_ in
reference to the design of the Creator, and of its own Happiness,
should not be always necessarily present to the Mind as Best; such a
Creature may oppose the Will of his Maker with various degrees of
Guilt in so doing; or (possibly) with none at all; for no Agent can
offend farther than he wilfully abuses the Freedom he has to act.

But God having made Men so as that they find in themselves, very
often, a liberty of acting according to the preference of their own
Minds, it is incumbent upon them to study the Will of their Maker; in
an application of the Faculty of Reason which he has given them, to
the consideration of the different respects, consequences, and
dependencies of Things, so as to discern from thence, the just
measures of their actions in every circumstance and relation they
stand plac'd in; which _measures_ are nothing else but the dictates
resulting from those views which such a consideration of things as
this gives us, of what is consonant, or not so, to the design of the
Creator in every particular, wherein we are concern'd to act. And
these manifestations of his Will, thus discoverable to us, ought to be
regarded by us, as his Commands.

Yet however certain it is, that the dictates of _Reason_, or _Nature_,
discernable by our natural Faculties, are the commands of God to us,
as rational Creatures; it is equally true that the love of happiness
(which consists in pleasure) is the earliest, and strongest principle
of Humane Nature; and therefore whatever measures Reason does, or
might, prescribe, when particular occasions occur, the sentiment of
what Men find pleasing or displeasing to them, however contrary to
those dictates of right Reason, is very apt to determine their choice.
God yet who is the Author of Order, and not of Confusion, has fram'd
all things with Consistency, and Harmony; and however, in Fact, it too
often happens that we are misled by that strong desire of happiness
implanted in us, yet does this no way necessarily interfere with our
acting in an intire conformity to the prescriptions of the Law of
Reason; but the contrary: For from hence it is that this Law has its
Sanction, _viz._ That, duly considering it, we shall evidently find
our happiness, and misery, are annex'd to the observance, or neglect,
of that unalterable Rule of Rectitude, discoverable to us by the
Nature of Things; so that this Rule of Rectitude, or Eternal Will of
God, has also the force of a Law given to it by that inseparable
accord that there is betwixt our happiness or misery, with our
obedience, or disobedience, hereunto. Thus our duty and happiness, can
never be divided, but when we prefer a less happiness to a greater;
and therein act not conformably to the dictates of our natural desire
of happiness, or pleasure; which two Terms differ only in this, that
we apply the Term _Pleasure_ to any agreeable Sentiment, or Sensation,
how small, or short soever in its duration; but that of _Happiness_,
only to such degrees of pleasure, as do, in some considerable degree,
out-ballance our Evils.

That we are many ways capable of receiving pleasure, we experimentally
find; every sense furnishes something to delight, and please us, in
its Application to Objects suited to a grateful exercise thereof. And
the operations of our own Minds upon the Ideas presented to them by
our Senses, afford us also other pleasures, oftentimes preferable by
us to those that we receive immediately from Sense. But be our
pleasures excited how they will; or whatsoever they consist in, Those
that Men receive from the Gratification of antecedent desire, are the
pleasures that they have the strongest relish of. _A Good_ not
desir'd, making (comparatively) but a small Impression upon us.

Now the Gratification of their desires is not always in Men's Power,
but oftentimes it is so. It is then often in their choice to procure
to themselves pleasure, or not. Whence it is reasonable for them to
inquire, since happiness consists in pleasure; and the Gratification
of their Desires, and Appetites, always gives them pleasure; whether,
or no, to Gratifie _These_ should not therefore always be that which
should determine their actions in pursuance of this their chief End?

That happiness consisting in pleasure, we are so much the happier as
we enjoy more pleasure, must unquestionably, be found true; but that
the Gratification of Men's Desires and Appetites cannot therefore be
that which should always, as they are rational Agents, determine, or
regulate their actions in pursuit of happiness, is no less evident; in
that we perceive our selves, and the Things to which we have relation,
to be so fram'd, and constituted, in respect one of another, that the
Gratification of our present Desires and Appetites, does sometimes for
a short, or small pleasure, procure to us a greater, and more durable
Pain: and that on the contrary, the denial, or restraint of our
present Desires, and Appetites, does sometimes for a short, or small
Pain, procure to us a greater, or more durable Pleasure. Since then
that we should act contrary to our own end therein, and prefer less
pleasure to greater, it is apparent that the Gratification of our
present Appetites cannot be that which always, as we are rational
Agents, proposing to our selves happiness for our chief end, should
determine, or regulate our voluntary actions; present Appetite telling
us only what will give us present pleasure; not what will, in the
whole, procure to us the most pleasure. What else then appears to be
the Rule, or Measure of Men's actions acting purely with respect to
the pursuit of happiness as their chief End, but the determinations of
that Faculty in them which, in reference to the different properties
and relations discernable in Things, can alone be the Judge what will,
in the whole, procure to them the most pleasure? And thus the very
desire of happiness, or love of pleasure, rightly pursu'd, does oblige
us to make the determinations or dictates of Reason, and not the
suggestions of present Appetite, the Measure, and Rule of our actions
in our pursuit after happiness. Which that we might possess was no
doubt the end of our Creator in giving us Being; since he could not
stand in need of, or be better'd by our Existence. And if that we
might be happy was the end for which God made us, it is most certain
that he has neither set any such measures to our Actions, or put any
such unhappy Biass upon our Minds, as shall necessarily contradict
this his end. Whence it again appears that the love of Pleasure
implanted in us (if we faithfully pursue it in prefering always that
which will, on the whole, procure to us the most pleasure) can never
mislead us from the observance of the Law of Reason: And that this Law
enjoyns only a right regulation of our natural desire of pleasure, to
the end of our obtaining the greatest happiness that we are capable
of: so that there is an inseparable connection, or relation of Moral
Good and Evil, with our Natural Good, and Evil. To assert therefore
that our chief Good does consist in pleasure, is far from drawing
after it any such consequence as many have pretended it does, in
prejudice to the Law of Reason, that Natural Revelation of Gods Will
to us; since no Man can upon due consideration thereof Judge, That the
Gratification of his present Appetites ought to be to him the Measure
or Rule of his Actions in consequence of Pleasures being his chief
Good: experience it self, we see, contradicting such a consequence:
and that so evidently that I think we do not in fact find that even
Those, who the most indulge to their Passions and Appetites, do so as
believing upon a cool examination thereof, that to do thus is the
truest Wisdom, in consequence of our greatest Good consisting in
pleasure; but such Men indulge to their present Appetites meerly as
being strongly induc'd (contrary oftentimes to the suggestions of
their own minds therein) thro' the love of pleasure, and abhorrence of
pain, to do, or forbear whatever they find will procure to them the
one, or free them from the other at the present Time; the
Gratification whereof They prefer to that which is Future. It is
however true that such declamations as are sometimes made against
pleasure absolutely (not the irregular pursuit of it) as if pleasure
was in its own Nature, a false, and deceitful, not a real and solid
Good, have produc'd this ill effect, that many from the absurdity
hereof are confirm'd in an evil indulgence of their Appetites, as if
to Gratifie These was indeed the truest Wisdom of a rational Creature,
in consequence of pleasure, being his chief Good. But they judge not
thus from a due examination, or any examination at all of the nature
of Things, but from a Reason (if it may be call'd so) of opposition.
For so ridiculously weak are a great part of Men in their Reasoning,
that seeing they are in the wrong who oppose them, they become from
thence as much perswaded, and as well satisfy'd that the contrary to
such Mens Assertions is true; or that themselves are in the right, as
if they saw that these things really were so. This arguing yet is no
more irrational than that whereby a palpable Truth is deny'd, only
because some have indeavour'd to draw, or have been thought to have
drawn ill consequences from it: Which is yet all the ground of not
allowing that Pleasure, and Pain, are truly Good, and Evil; the
denying of which, can be of no Service to Morality, but the contrary,
since Moral Good, and Evil, consider'd antecedently to any positive
Law of our Maker, are apt to be thought but a Notion where that
inseparable Relation is overlook'd which there is between actions
denominated by us vertuous, or vicious, and the Natural Good, and Evil
of Mankind.

Christians, perhaps, need not the confederation of this to inforce
their obedience to the Will of their Maker; but as it is a great
recommendation of the Precepts of the Gospel to find that they have an
exact correspondence with, and conformity to the Nature of Things: So
also those who are not influenc'd by, as not being yet thorowly
perswaded of this Divine Revelation, will sooner be induced to imbrace
Vertue, and contemn the allurements of Vice, when they see These to
have the very same reality, in Nature as their Happiness and Misery
have; than when (tho' ever so pompously set out) Vertue appears
founded only upon nice, or subtle Speculations. But some Men there
are so far from approving of any Notion or Theorem being advanc'd with
respect to Deists whereby, as such, they may be induc'd to the love of
Vertue (which is the best predisposition to the entertainment of
Christianity) that they are ready to treat as not being themselves
Christians if not as Atheists, any one who in the view of gaining thus
much upon these Men assert Vertue by any other Arguments than such as
they will not admit of, _viz._ those drawn from Revelation.

However true yet it is that happiness, or our chief Good, does consist
in pleasure; it is no less true that the irregular Love of pleasure is
a perpetual source to us of Folly, and Misery. That we are liable to
the which irregularity, is but a necessary result of our Creaturely
imperfection: for we cannot love pleasure, and not love present
pleasure: and the love of present pleasure it is which misleads our
narrow, and unattentive Minds from a just comparison of the present,
with what is future. Nor is it a wonder if we are oftentimes thus
mislead; since we frequently wander from the right way with less
excuse for doing so: Men, not seldom, going astray from Reason, when
the love of present pleasure is so far from misguiding their variously
frail Natures, that its allurements will not retain them in the paths
of Vertue; and tho' Reason only has Authority to set Bounds to their
desires, they subject both Them, and Her to an Unjust and Arbitrary
Dominion, equally Foreign to both: A thing manifest, not only in
instances here and there, but in the examples of whole Nations; who
either by positive institution, or allow'd of Custom, have
transgressed against the plainest prescriptions of Reason, in things
so far from gratifying their Appetites, as that they are contrary,
and even sometimes grievous to Mens natural desires. To account for
which, will not here be impertinent; nor (in order to the doing so) to
consider first what the Terms _Vertue_ and _Religion_ have, in their
vulgar acceptation, every where generally stood for.

_Religion_ has, I think, been rightly defin'd to be _the knowledge how
to please God_, and thus taken, does necessarily include vertue, that
is to say, _Moral Rectitude_; but as Men have usually apply'd these
Terms _Vertue_ and _Religion_, they stand for things very different
and distinct, one from another. For by a Vertuous Man, in all
Countries of the World, or less Societies of Men, is commonly meant,
by those who so call any one, such a Man as steadily adheres to that
Rule of his Actions which is establish'd for a Rule in his Country
Tribe, or Society, be that what it will. Hence it has been that
_Vertue_ has in different Times and Places chang'd Face; and sometimes
so far, as that what has been esteem'd Vertuous in one Age, and in one
Country, has been look'd upon as quite the contrary in others: tho' in
all Times and Places, wherein Men have not degenerated into a
downright Brutish, or altogether Animal Life (as some whole Nations
have done) but have set any Rules, or Measures to their Actions, the
dictates of right Reason have more, or less, taken Place with them, so
far as the manifest advantages, or rather necessity thereof to the
subsistence or convenience of Society, has directed Men. And so much
as Custom, or the Injunctions of some Lawgiver inforc'd these dictates
of Reason, or Nature, so far and no further, did obedience thereunto
denominate Men Vertuous; without any distinction made in reference to
these prescriptions, as being Precepts of the Eternal Law of Right, or
as obligatory any other ways than as being part of the Law, or Fashion
of that Country, or Society, wherein these Rules had prevail'd or were
establish'd. A firm and steady adherence to which, whether
conformable, or not, to the Law of Reason, being alike that which ever
intitled Men to be esteem'd Vertuous among those who profess'd to live
by the same Rule.

Now since Man is a Creature that has variable, and disagreeing
Inclinations, as having passions very changeable, and oftentimes
contradictory one to another, there is not any fix'd Rule, or Measure,
whatsoever that can possibly be set to his Actions, which can
constantly be adher'd to by him, without some difficulty, or
uneasiness; because any steady, and unalterable Rule must necessarily
oftentimes, thwart and cross his changeable Appetites, and differing
Inclinations; even altho' that Rule was contriv'd, and intended ever
so much, to be indulgent to the Passions, and Desires of Humane Nature
in general.

Conformity therefore of Mens actions to any fix'd, and unvariable
Rule, is a thing of some difficulty, be the Rule what it will: And
therefore Transgression against that Rule which Men profess'd
themselves oblig'd to act by, has always, every where been; and but
few Men comparatively, were strictly Vertuous: That is, did in all
things conform, or sincerely endeavour to conform their Actions to
that, which they acknowledged for the Rule of them.

Those yet who believ'd a Superior Invisible Power that made them,
could not be satisfy'd with themselves in Transgressing against that
which they thought ought to be their Rule: For however they
understood this Rule to be deriv'd, they yet believ'd it carry'd with
it, some way or other, an obligation upon them to Obedience; since
otherwise they would not have look'd upon it as a Rule. Now, as they
could not know that God would not punish their Disobedience to That
which they look'd upon as obliging them to Obedience; but, on the
contrary, had more, or less, Reason to apprehend that he would do so,
They therefore (thinking him to be an exorable as well as an
Omniscient, and Omnipotent Being) were hereby on These occasions
taught to deprecate his Vengeance, and implore his Mercy: And hence
the more Guilty and Fearful came to invent Attonements, Expiations,
Penances and Purgations, with all that various Train of Ceremonies
which attended those Things; Naturally imagining that the Divine
Nature resembled their own; and thence believing that they should the
more easily appease his Anger, and avert the effects of his Wrath, if
by such means, as these, they did, as it were, in Gods behalf Revenge
upon themselves their Disobedience to him. And as the Solemnity of
these Matters requir'd peculiar Hands to Execute them; and Devotion
exacted that such should be liberally rewarded, and highly respected
for their Pious performances; from hence the profit which some reap'd
by these things, as well as the satisfaction that others found
therein, who were unwilling to be rigorously restrain'd by the Rule of
their Actions, yet were uneasie under the reproaches of their
Consciences when they transgressed against it, made these Inventions,
and the value set upon them, to be daily improv'd; till Men at last
have sought to be, and have effectually been perswaded that they
might render themselves acceptable to God without indeavouring
sincerely to obey the Rule by which they profess'd to believe they
were oblig'd to live; and that even when they did think that this was
a Law giv'n them by God himself.

Now the great practicers, and promoters of the abovesaid things, are
every where Those who are generally esteem'd, and call'd _Religious_.
Whence the Term _Religion_ appears ordinarily to have stood for
nothing else, but _some Expedient, or other, found out to satisfy Men
that God was satisfied with them, notwithstanding that their
Consciences reproach'd them with want of Conformity to the
acknowledg'd Rule, or Law of their Actions._

Having premis'd thus much concerning the Notions Men vulgarly have had
of _Vertue_ and _Religion,_ let us now proceed to see how it has come
to pass, That they have with Allowance, Approbation, and oftentimes,
with injunction of their Lawmakers and Governours, transgress'd
against the most visible Dictates of the Law of Nature, or Reason, in
Things not favourable to their Natural Passions and Appetites; but
even, sometimes, contrary thereunto; as are denying themselves the
lawfullest Enjoyments of Life; Macerating their Bodies; Prostituting
their Wives; and exposing their Off-spring and Themselves to cruel
Torments, and even Death it self. The cause of which I think appears
plainly to be; that Mankind having been generally convinc'd that there
was a Maker of themselves and of the World, who they concluded was as
well able to take cognisance of what they did, as to produce them into
Being; and to whom they could not believe that all the Actions of his
Creatures were alike pleasing, or displeasing; they became fearful
(as has been said) of incurring his displeasure, whenever they did
any thing which their Consciences reproach'd them for: From the which
Fear of a Superior invisible Power, inspecting their Actions, they
were early induc'd to hearken to, and follow such who profess'd
themselves to have some Knowledge Supernaturally reveal'd to them of
God's Will. And we find, in the Histories of all Nations, that the
generality of Mankind were perswaded (contrary to the Sentiments of
some Modern Deists) That it was a thing very congruous to the Divine
Being, that he should in this way reveal to Men his pleasure
concerning them; since the greatest part, every where, did with little
difficulty give Credit to such who had the confidence to affirm to
them, that they were sent by God to teach them what he required of
them: the which being so, a submission of Mens Reason to the dictates
of suppos'd inspir'd Teachers must necessarily follow: and they from
thence become liable to be impos'd upon, all the ways that could serve
the ends of such who made use of this pretence to promote thereby any
Interest of their own, or others.

And as there is scarce any Country can be nam'd where there has not
been these pretences to Revelation; so no Instance, I believe, can be
found of any Institution or generally approv'd of Practice, opposite
to the obvious Dictates of Nature, or Reason, and not in Favour of
Mens Appetites, which does not appear, or on good ground may not be
presumed to have been receiv'd on this pretence of Supernatural
Revelation; which has ever procur'd the firmest adherence to any New
Institution whatsoever; and was very sufficient to make the absurdest
things be swallow'd equally with the most reasonable; it being
undeniably true, that whatever God does Command, his Creatures are
under an equal Obligation of Obedience thereunto.

Some Men, it is likely, there have, in all Ages and Places, been, who
were too Sagacious to admit of that as Revelation from God, which
manifestly oppos'd Natural Light; and who needed a proof of the Divine
Mission of such pretenders as these. But the unthinking Multitude were
ever Credulous; and thence have been always practic'd upon in various
kinds, and measures, as has best suited the occasion: Those who have
had vicious Inclinations, or little Aims, and short views, having
impos'd upon them suitably to their Ends: And such as have had larger
comprehensions, generous designs, and Minds above Vulgar, Base and
Sordid Passions, having answerably to their Aims, serv'd themselves of
the same credulity. Of the last kind were such who have propos'd the
reclaiming of Men from vices more obviously prejudicial to Society,
and civil Government; thereby to erect or restore some flourishing
Kingdom, or common-wealth; And these, tho' they have deceived Men, in
making them believe that their Laws were Divinely inspir'd, have yet
deservedly been Honour'd by them as Benefactors, because of that
happiness which they procur'd to them thereby, in this World; beyond
which, their views extended not, as having no knowledge of a future
Life. The which sort of Men, however rational, and Vertuous they were,
yet (like other pretenders to Revelation) that they might the better
procure Authority to their Dictates, did with their civil
Institutions, mix Holy Mysteries; and that usually as peculiar Secrets
taught them by some Divinity. They also, how much soever they,
perhaps, secretly contemn'd such things, did yet generally pay a great
outward regard to matters of Religion; which have ever abounded in the
best Govern'd, and most Flourishing Kingdoms, and Common-wealths.

Now (as has been already said) the exact observers of the civil
Institutions of their Country, or Customs of their Ancestors, were
look'd upon as Men of Vertue; and whoso apply'd himself eminently to
the observation of such superstitions as consisted of Sacrifices,
Processions, Lustrations, &c. with a various Train of Pompous
Ceremonies, diversify'd according to the Phancies of their Authors,
was look'd upon as a Religious Man; whilst there was a third sort of
Men (inconsiderable always in their Number) who judged, by the true
rule of Reason, what was right, and what was wrong, in the first of
these; and who contemning the Fopperies of the last, were oftentimes
(thro' their means who most found their Account in those Matters) in
danger of passing with the silly People for Atheists: such as search
for their opinions, and the Measures of their Actions in the Reason
and Truth of Things, having always been very unacceptable to Those
whose Interest it has been to keep up the Credit and Authority of vain
Traditions and Superstitious Practices; because if _These_ should be
hearken'd to, _Those_ Apprehended that they should become useless.

Men of this third sort are They who are vertuous in a Rational and
Christian estimation; for if adherence to the Rule of Mens Actions (be
that what it will) denominates Men vertuous among those of their own
perswasion therein; then That which denominates a Man vertuous amongst
Those who take the prescriptions of right Reason, or of the Gospel
(for these are but one, and the same, differently promulg'd) for the
Rule of their Actions, must be an adherence to the Law of right
Reason, or of this Revelation: Which Rule, is not (as all others are)
a changeable, because (as we have seen) no Arbitrary thing; it being
founded in Relations, and Connexions, which are as immutable as that
determinate constitution in Things, which makes every thing what it
is. From whence it has been that such Men in all Ages, and Places, as
were above the prejudices of their Country Religion, and Manners,
_viz._ such as we have now spoken of, have ever had much the same
Sentiments in respect of Vertue. But these have always been but a
small Number: Custom, and blind Opinion, have ever govern'd the World;
and the light of Reason has neither appear'd to Men to be, nor in
Fact been any where sufficient to direct the generality of Mankind to
Truth; as some imagine it capable of doing; who because of that clear
Evidence which Reason gives to those verities that Revelation has
already taught them, think that they owe, or might have ow'd to this
light of Reason what they are not indebted to it for; and what it is a
Thousand to One odds they would not have receiv'd from it, had they
been Born where there was no other than Natural Light.

For we find not any Country in any Age of the World, wherein Men did
generally acknowledge, by the meer force of Reason, Natural Religion
in its full extent; or where the Law of Nature was by the Light of
Nature universally own'd. Some Dictates of it as suggested by
necessity, or convenience, having only been receiv'd, (as has been
already said) but not distinguish'd from the most Arbitrary
Institutions of Men; altho' it is probable that the greater Conformity
any Law had to the dictates of right Reason, it did the more
universally and easily obtain Belief of its being divinely reveal'd to
him who pretended so to have receiv'd it; and this apparently it was
which gave so great Success to the _Peruvian_ Lawgivers; whose
Idolatry was the most specious that was possible; and whose Rules of
Living (pretended to have been receiv'd by them from the Sun, their
Father, and Vicegerent of _Pachacama_, the Supream Invisible and
Unapproachable God) were highly suitable to the dictates of right
Reason.

This Law nevertheless not being receiv'd by that People but as a
Supernatural Revelation, the great Morality of the _Peruvians_ affords
no Argument against, but (on the contrary) proves strongly the need
of Revelation; since whatever Force of Reason these Natural Truths did
appear to this People to carry with them, when represented as divine
Commands, this light had never yet attracted their sight purely by its
own Brightness; nor ever has any where done so, but here and there in
a few Instances of Persons of more than ordinarily inquisitive Minds;
and (probably) for the most part, exempted by a happy priviledge of
Nature from the servitude of sensual, and sordid Passions.

And tho' nothing can be more evident to those who reflect thereupon,
than that Mens Actions should be regulated, and directed by that
Faculty in them which shows them the different properties, relations,
and dependencies of things, and not by their Appetite, which only can
tell what will at the present please, or offend them; not what will,
upon the whole, procure to them the most pleasure, or uneasiness; yet
such appears to be the unreflecting Nature of the generality of
Mankind, and such their fondness of present pleasure, as either not to
consider this Truth, or when they do so, to be induc'd (in consequence
thereof) to obey the most manifest dictates of Reason, or Natural
Light, which will lay any restraint upon their pleasing, and,
oftentimes, violent Inclinations: Much less will they be at pains to
search for any such Measures of their Actions in the Constitution and
dependances of things; which is indeed what the far greater part of
Men have not the Capacity, or Leisure to do: Neither are Any able to
do this so early as to prevent their irregular Inclinations from being
first strengthen'd and confirm'd by ill habits: which when once they
are, Reason does in vain oppose them, how clear soever her dictates
appear. On the contrary, our Passions grown strong, do usually so far
corrupt our Reason as to make her joyn parties with them against her
self; we not only doing amiss, but likewise finding Arguments to
justify our so doing, even to our selves as well as others.

But there is still, beyond this, a farther impediment to Mens obeying
the Law of Nature, by vertue of the meer Light of Nature; which is,
that they cannot, in all circumstances, without Revelation, make
always a just estimate in reference to their happiness. For, tho' it
is demonstrable that the Law of Reason is the Law of God, yet the want
of an explicite knowledge of the penalty incur'd by the breach of that
Law, makes it not to be evident to all Men that the incuring of this
penalty shall (in all cases) make the preference of breaking this Law,
an ill Bargain: which it may, sometimes not be to many, in regard of
the discernable natural consequences of such a Transgression. For tho'
observance of the Law of Reason is, in the constitution of Natural
Causes, visibly to those who consider it (generally speaking) the
means of our greatest happiness, even in this present World, yet if
there be no future Life (which that there is, is made certain to us,
only by the Revelation thereof in the Gospel) to answer in for
Transgression of this Law; the breach of it may, tho' not naturally,
yet accidentally, in some cases, conduce to Mens greater happiness;
and, very often, notwithstanding that to have obey'd the Law of Reason
they may discern would have been better for them than to have follow'd
their Appetites, had they been early so accustom'd, yet now that they
have contracted different Habits, which are like a _Right Hand_, or
_Eye_ to them, the difficulty of a new course of Life may appear too
great for the attempt of it to be adviseable; since the consideration
of the shortness and uncertainty of Life may make Men apt to say to
themselves on such occasions,


     _Who would lose the present Hour,
     For one that is not in his Power?
     Or not be happy now he may,
     But for a Future Blessing stay:
     Who know not he shall live a Day?_


The Revelation of an Eternal Life after this, with an express
Declaration of Everlasting Rewards and Punishments annex'd to our
Obedience, or Disobedience, to the Law of Nature (tho' such a Future
State may be reasonably infer'd from all things happening alike to the
Good, and to the Bad in this World, and from Men's Natural desire of
Immortality) is yet but a necessary inforcement of the Law of Nature
to the far greatest part of Mankind, who stand in need of this
knowledge, and are uncapable of an Inference so repugnant to what
their Senses daily tell them in the case; and wherein the Truth
asserted has scarcely ever procur'd an unwavering assent from the most
rational of the Heathen Philosophers themselves. Now the
unquestionable certainty of a Future State, wherein Men shall receive
Everlasting Rewards, and Punishments, we alone owe the knowledge of to
Jesus Christ, _who only has brought Life and Immortality to Light_.
The willingest to believe the Souls Immortality were before our
Saviours coming, at best, doubtful concerning it; and the generality
of Mankind, were yet far less perswaded of it.

Fables indeed concerning a life hereafter (wherein there were Rewards
and Punishments) the _Greeks_ had; and from them, they were deriv'd
to some other Nations; but that for Fables they were taken is evident,
and we are expressly told so by _Diodorus Siculus_, who applauding the
Honours done to Good Men at their Funerals, by the _Egyptians, because
of that warning and encouragement which it gave to the Living to be
mindful of their Duty_, says, _That the Greeks, as to what concern'd
the Rewards of the Just, and the Punishment of the Impious, had
nothing among them but invented Fables and Poetical Fictions which
never wrought upon Men for the Amendment of their Lives; but on the
contrary, were despis'd and laugh'd at by them_.

Whether, or no, Men should subsist after Death depending plainly upon
the good Pleasure of their Maker, the Pagan World (to whom God had not
reveal'd his Will herein) could not possibly have any certainty of a
Life after this. Arguments there were (as has been said) that might
induce rational Men to hope for a future Existence as a thing
probable; and they did so: But the Gross of Mankind saw not the Force
of these Reasonings to be perswaded thereby of a thing so
inconceivable by them as that the Life of the Person was not totally
extinguish'd in the Death of the Body; and a Resurrection to Life, was
what they thought not of, the certainty of which, together with future
Reward and Punishment, by enabling us to make a right estimate
concerning what will most conduce to our happiness, plainly brings
this great encouragement to our Observance of the Law of God, that it
lets us see our happiness, and our Duty, are inseparably united
therein; since whatever pleasure we voluntarily deprive our selves of
in this World from preference of Obedience to God's Commands, it
shall be recompenced to us manifold in the World that is to come: So
that now we can find our selves in no Circumstance, wherein our
Natural Desires of Happiness, or love of Pleasure, can rationally
induce us to depart from the Rule of our Duty.

The little which has been said, do, methinks, sufficiently evince the
need of Revelation both to Teach and inforce Natural Religion: But the
defectiveness of the Light of Nature to this end, is a Verity of so
great use to be establish'd, that the consideration thereof should not
be left upon such short Reflections as these; was not this Truth at
large made out in a late Treatise intitled, _The reasonableness of
Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures_.

A work which the unhappy mistakes and disputes among us concerning the
Christian Religion, makes useful to all Men; and which has been
peculiarly so to many, as the only Book wherein they have found the
insufficiency of Natural Light to Natural Religion, has been fully
shewed, although that to reconcile Men to, or establish them in the
belief of Divine Revelation, nothing was more requisite to make this
appear, in an Age wherein the prevalency of Deism has been so much and
so justly complain'd of.

But against the insufficiency of Natural Light to the ends of Natural
Religion, the World having been so many Ages without it, is, by some,
thought an Objection: For, if Supernatural Light had been so needful
as is pretended to be, how could it comport, say they, with the Wisdom
of God not to have given it to Men sooner and more universally?

To judge of all the Ends and Designs of the Divine Wisdom in the
Creation or Government of the World, is to suppose that we have a
comprehension of God's Works, adequate or commensurate thereunto;
which is not only to conceive of his Wisdom as not being infinite, but
even to circumscribe it within very narrow bounds. If the Wisdom of
God, (like his other Attributes) does infinitely surpass our reach,
his Views must, for that reason, be necessarily oftentimes, as much
beyond our short Sight. For us then, when we see not the reason why
any thing is, to take upon us to say that such a thing does, or does
not comport with the Wisdom of God, must needs be the highest Folly
that can be, since it implies a presumption, that we see all in
respect of such a Subject that God sees: And the Objection here made
turns only upon the _unaccountableness_ of the Divine Wisdom herein
to our Understandings. For God's dealing thus with Men, can by no
means be said by us to imply any _contradiction_ to his Wisdom. Whilst
we having an assurance highly Rational (from those numberless Worlds
which surround us) that we are but a small part of the Intellectual
Creation of our Maker; and being certain that our abode here bears but
a very inconsiderable proportion of Time to millions of Ages, and is
as nothing to Eternity, cannot tell but that to know much more than we
do, in this State, of the intire Scheme of Providence with respect to
the whole extent of intelligent Beings, may be necessary to our seeing
the Beauty of anyone part of the design of our Creator. And it is the
most suitable to the All-comprehensive Wisdom of God for us to
conceive, that without having this knowledge, we may be far less able
to judge of the Divine oeconomy, in reference to his Dealings with us
here, than he who should see but one Scene of a Dramma, would thereby
be capacitated to judge of the Plot or Design of the whole. In
Objecting therefore against the need of Revelation to support Natural
Religion, because that we understand not why, if Revelation was
necessary to this end, the World had it no sooner: Men are guilty of
so great an Absurdity as to argue from a Matter only unknown to them
against the reality of that evidently _is_: Which is always irrational
to do; but is especially so, when, if we cannot answer what is
Objected, we yet see plainly that That Objection may be very
answerable, and accountable for, even to our Conceptions; were but our
views a little more enlarged, and such as, perhaps, they shall be
hereafter.

But in urging this consideration as sufficient to silence any
Objection to the needfulness of Revelation from its lateness and want
of Universality; I suppose not that the Divine, oeconomy is herein
actually incomprehensible by Men; or at least, may not be accounted
for, if not demonstratively aright, yet suitably to the Divine
Attributes: and a due reflection upon the intire design of
Christianity, so far as it is reveal'd to us, will, it is likely,
conduct us best to a sight hereof. But our present business is not
this inquiry, but to see what those advantages are which we receive by
the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the design of whole coming into the
World appears to have been, to inforce the Rule of Rectitude, by
setting it in a clearer Light, with the manifest Attestation of Divine
Authority, and promulging it as the Law of God, by Declaration of
eternal Rewards and Punishments, annexed to the observance or breach
thereof.

Yet to deliver clearer and more excellent Precepts of Morality; to
attest to the Divinity hereof by Miracles; or to bring Immortalitie to
light, were not (as the means of inforcing Natural Religion) the whole
business for which Christ took our Nature upon him. It was a Decree as
immutable as the Divine Nature, that no unrighteous thing should have
everlasting Life: Wherefore all, both Jews and Gentiles having broken
the Law, and being thereby condemn'd (since the Law necessarily
requir'd perfect Righteousness, and could admit of no abatement
thereof) Christ came to establish betwixt God and Man, a Covenant of
Grace in order to Mens obtaining eternal Life, which they could not
obtain by the Works of the Law. The which Covenant of Grace was, that
to as many as believe in his Son, taking him for their King, and
submitting to his Law, God would grant remission of their Sins; and
that this _their Faith should be imputed to them for Righteousness_;
that is, accepted of by him, in lieu of perfect Obedience, in all such
who sincerely indeavour'd to live up to the Precepts of Christ, their
Lord.

Men have ever been solicitous, to reconcile Pardon of Sin to the
Purity of God's Nature, which has expos'd them (as we have seen) to
divers Delusions, and to wearisome and costly Superstitions; even
sometimes to the giving _the Fruit of their Bodies to attone for the
sins of their Souls_. All the Forms of Pagan Religion have abounded
with Institutions of this Nature; and that of the Jews consisted very
much of tiresome and unpleasant performances; which being Types and
Shadows of him that was to come, were practis'd to the same purpose.
All which things we are freed from by the Gospel; _Christ having
offer'd up himself once for all, through whom forgiveness of Sin is
preached to as many as believe in him_, truly repenting of their past
Sins, and _walking in newness of Life_, conformably to the Law of him
their Master; but and if, thro' humane Weakness or Imbecillity, we do
Sin, he is our _Advocate with the Father_, who for the sake of him his
Beloved Son, will justify, or accept as Righteous, those who truly
believe in him, whence we are justify'd by God's free Grace or Favour,
and not by the Works of the Law, against which all have transgressed,
and fail'd of a perfect Obedience.

The great end then of Christianity is (in short) to teach us
effectually to _renounce all Ungodliness and every evil work_, by
declaring to us, that if we sincerely repent of our Sins past, and
indeavour, for the time to come, to obey the Law of our Lord and
Master Jesus Christ, which is no other than the Law of Reason, or the
eternal Rule of Right, we need not despair of God's Mercy from the
Imperfection of our Obedience; since he will for the sake of his Son,
pardon their Sins who believe in him: Sincere indeavours after perfect
Righteousness being accepted in those who believe in Christ as if they
attained it, which is call'd, _the Righteousness of Faith_. And thus
our Blessed Lord, that he might _purchase to himself a peculiar people
zealous of good Works_, has propos'd to his Followers the strongest
Motives and Encouragements that are conceivable to induce free Agents
to Obedience, putting them at once upon using their utmost Diligence
to _fullfil_ _the Law_; yet, at the same time, delivering them from
the fear that their defective _Righteousness should_ render their
Labour vain in the Lord, by assuring them that he will be merciful to
their Sins.

The which Christian Doctrine concerning the forgiveness of Sins
(contrary to that of other Religions) effectually obliges Men to use
their utmost care not to commit Sin, and leaves no room for the Lusts
of their Hearts, or devices of cunning Men to deceive them by any
Superstitious Inventions of expiating or attoning for Transgression;
whereby Vertue (as we have seen) was always undermin'd. For, tho' in
the Christian Religion, there is an abatement of the rigour and
severity of the Law, which could not but require an unsinning
Obedience; yet we are therein taught, that Jesus Christ is the only
Attonement for Sin: And such a Faith in him as makes us to become his
obedient Subjects, is the only means to us of Salvation: An
inforcement of the Law of Righteousness which was wanting to the Pagan
World; whose persuasion of the placability of the Divine Nature (as we
have seen) generally taught them, only to find out such imaginary ways
of appeasing God's Anger, and expiating for their Sins, as did more or
less supersede their indeavours after Obedience to the Law.

Whence it appears that the assurance of future Existence, with the
knowledge of eternal Rewards and Punishments annex'd to Mens
Observance, or not observance of the Law of Reason had Men had it,
without the Revelation of the Gospel, would not have been so universal
or powerful an inforcement of Obedience to them as it is to us; to
whom together with this, is preach'd also the Doctrine of forgiveness
of Sins, through Faith in Jesus Christ. For the consciousness of
transgression against this Law, which, under such a Penalty exacted
their Obedience, must either have driven Men into despair of being
accepted by God, whence they would have given over the indeavours of
obeying him as a fruitless Labour; or else if they believ'd that God
would accept of some Compensation for their defective Righteousness,
they would have been induc'd no less, but even more strongly from
their knowledge of a future Life, than they were without it, to seek
to attone the Divine Wrath by such ways as would inevitably draw on a
neglect of conformity to his Law. Whereas Christianity doth provide
against both these Mistakes, in that it assures us that God will
accept of our imperfect Obedience for the sake of his Son, if we
believe in him, and withal sincerely indeavour to obey him; whereby
Faith does plainly _not make void, but establish the Law_, it laying
the highest Obligation as well as Encouragement that is possible upon
Men to do their utmost to live up to the Prescriptions of it.

And thus the Christian Religion, we find, is every way admirably
adapted by the Divine Wisdom, to the end of inforcing the eternal Law
of Reason or Nature; which evidently needed this inforcement. From
whence it is manifest, that whoso directly or indirectly teaches Men
to look upon Christianity as separable from Morality, does the most
that is possible misrepresent it; and therein (as effectually as they
can do so) undermine both Natural and Reveal'd Religion; the latter of
which dispences not with any breach of the former; and exempts us only
from the burthen of such outward performances as have no Efficacy to
the making Men better, but often do make them very much worse; they
conceiving that they are able, thereby, to expiate or attone for their
Sins; whence they become less careful in regard of their Duty: A
Natural effect of all those things, beneficial alone to the contrivers
or directors of them; who, by means thereof, have liv'd in Ease and
Plenty upon other Peoples Labours, whilst they (instead of repining
thereat) were skilfully taught to reverence them for their usefulness.

Such Men as these profited not a little by the superstition of the
People; and therefore could not but always have an interest opposite
to that of Vertue: Since the more vertuous Men were, the less they
stood in need of, or minded those Matters, of which these managers of
Mysteries and Ceremonies had the gainful direction. No wonder then at
all was it that the Gospel found so much opposition, whose design was
so Diametrically contrary to the interest of a Party every where in
such Power and Credit; and whose Author so expresly declared, that his
coming was to abolish all such Institutions and Practices.

The Power of God yet prevail'd in spight of that of Men; and
Christianity in a little time had spread itself through the Roman
Empire.

What remedy then remain'd more fit to be devis'd by the Devil or evil
Men, to make the Gospel of no effect, than under specious pretences of
owning and honouring it, to corrupt it with the old Pagan Principles
and Practices, introduc'd under a Christian Disguise? But it being so
plainly deliver'd in the whole Tenour of the New Testament, that
_Christ being once for all offer'd up, there remained no more
Sacrifice for Sin_; and that he came to teach Men _to worship God in
Spirit and, in Truth_. There was no room left for the searchers for
their Religion in these Holy Oracles to be led into the formerly
mention'd Pagan Superstitions. The Scriptures therefore must be
discarded, or, what was the same thing, shut up from vulgar Readers:
Which were all but those who had made it their interest to mislead
others by their Explications: The which, together with vain
Traditions, supported by the Authority of reverend Names, coming in
the place of Scripture, were enjoyn'd to be receiv'd equally with
Divine Truths on Terrour of eternal Punishment to as many as could be
so persuaded, but to be sure of Temporal Penalty to all who durst
withstand this violence done to the common reason of Mankind.

The which Spirit of Imposition and Persecution began to shew itself
very early among the Professors of Christianity: And so soon as these
were arm'd with secular Power, they fail'd not to make use of it one
against another, for imposing of Humane Inventions to the neglect of
what all profess'd to believe God indispensibly requir'd of them. The
which _Mystery of Iniquity_, tho' it _already worked_, in the Apostles
Days, yet could not be reveal'd even 'till the power of Heathen _Rome_
was taken out of the way: And Christianity had Civil as well as
Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, by their Religions, becoming that of the
Empire: Which, when it did, Antichrist soon appear'd in his full
Dimensions; and the Christian World became a very Aceldama; A History
of which (sad as it is) might perhaps, with some pleasure, be perus'd,
were those Tragedies now at an end; or the Reformed part of
Christendom had no share in the Guilt.

We generally indeed exclaim against the Cruelties of the _Roman_
Church exercis'd over Men, on account or pretence of Religion: And it
is true, that they have excell'd herein; yet all Parties among us,
proportionally to the extent of their Power, have practis'd the same
thing; and the _Best_, when restrain'd from it by the Civil
Magistrate, make it evidently appear, that they bear that restraint
uneasily.

But whilst the first Spring, which moves such _Animosities_ is a
desire in _ambitious_ and _ill_ Men or _Dominion_; well-meaning
ignorant People are misled by these from the Truth of the Gospel, to
such Zeal for some distinguishing Tenets or Forms as if the stress of
Christianity lay in those things: And that our Religion consisted not
in such a Faith in Jesus Christ, as to receive him for our King,
becoming his obedient Subjects; but in the belief of Opinions, which
have no influence upon our Practice, to the making us live more
vertuously; or in Worshipping God after some peculiar Mode or Fashion.
And thus among us Christians, as heretofore in the Heathen World,
_Vertue_ and _Religion_ are again distinguish'd; and Religion as
something more excellent (and, to be sure, more easy) does still, as
formerly it did, eat out Vertue.

Among our selves it is true, that those of the Establish'd Church do
generally dislike a distinction often made by some others of a _Moral_
and a _Religious_ Man; Nor, usually, are our Divines wanting to
represent from the Pulpit the necessity there is of a good Life to
render Men acceptable to God. But many who condemn such a Doctrine as
separates Religion from Morality, do yet in their practices make the
like distinction, which may well be presum'd to have been one great
cause of their having preach'd up Vertue so ineffectually as they have
done. That which People _say_ having ordinarily less influence upon
others, than what they see them _Do_. And in regard of our earliest
Apprehensions concerning Vertue and Religion, it is certain that these
are form'd in Children much more from what they observe in the
Conversations or Actions of such Persons as they esteem, than by set
Discourses that they now and then hear from the Pulpit; which they can
neither understand nor attend to early enough to receive from those
Principles that shall influence them. But so soon (at the least) as
they are capable of minding and understanding Sermons, they (where the
thing is remarkable by others) do also take notice of it, if he who
frequently recommends a good Life to them, does not in his own
Conversation, and in the respect he expresses for Vertue in the
Persons of others, shew that he indeed prefers it answerably to the
Praises he gives it. And if such a Preacher, as this, shall openly
live in the practice of any known Immorality; or not doing so himself
shall yet manifestly prefer in his esteem those who do so, is it not
natural, for them who look upon this Man as a guide to Heaven, to
conclude from hence, that in reference to the obtaining of Eternal
Happiness, Vertue is not the thing, the most essentially requisite;
and much less certainly will they think it to be so with respect to
this present World, if they find their pious Instructor not only to
choose the Society of Persons Profligate and Debauch'd for his Friends
and Companions; but also (on all occasions) to labour the promotion of
the like Men to Employments of the highest Truth, in preference of
others of acknowledg'd Integrity and Sobriety of Life: The avow'd
Reason whereof being only that the first of these are by the Doctor
held the more Orthodox in Religion; is it not unavoidable, even to a
Child, to conclude, that Vertue is not the best recommendation in his
Opinion, whatever he sometimes seems to assert, when he is shewing his
Rhetorick in the Pulpit. And since he is an Authoriz'd Teacher of
Religion, will not (so far as his example influences) Vertue and
Religion be probably consider'd as distinct things, the latter of
which, as it always has had, always will have the preference.

The same Consequence with this must needs, in like manner, follow,
where Parents (whose Practices have usually the greatest Authority
with their Children) do in this manner express their uncharitable
Zeal for their Opinions, by them call'd Orthodoxy: And such, no less
effectually, teach the separating of Religion from Vertue, than those
whom they, perhaps, greatly condemn for making this distinction in
Terms; tho' it is true, that That sort of Men who do use this
distinction in their Discourses, do seldom fail of practising
accordingly: None having usually a more fiery Zeal than such People
have for their Orthodox, or, what is call'd by them, sound Doctrine;
and the only difference is, that these Men are herein more consistent
with themselves than the former, since their Words and their Actions
correspond.

Nor less consentaneous to their Opinions are they, in not taking much
Pains to inculcate into their Children (as they not often do) the
Principles and early Habits of Vertue: For if Vertue, or Morality is
so far from being any way that which shall intitle Men to Salvation,
that it is not so much as a means, or good predisposition to what
shall do so, (God oftentimes to shew his Free Grace preferring the
greatest Persons to the most Moral Reasons) which is what these
Peoples Teachers frequently tell them; as there appears indeed but
little Reason why they should be vertuous, so there cannot be any more
why they should indeavour to make others so. Those of these Sentiments
are yet generally (tho' not methinks alike conformable to their
Doctrines) very Solicitous for what they call _Religious Education_.
But how little this will supply the defect of early Principles, and
Habits of Vertue, will be visible when we reflect upon what that,
which they esteem to be Religious Education does consist in; for
commonly it is only in Teaching Children some Form of sound Words as
they conceive them to be; in the greatest part, unintelligible to
their Learners, or uninstructive of their Ignorance; and in
accustoming them to hear many Sermons; which do as little inform them;
and wherein Morality is too often represented as, no ways, available
to Salvation: and, what is still worse, even (sometimes) as that which
shall rank Men among the hateful to, and accursed of God.

The reading of the Bible is, I presume (at the least) as much
practic'd by those as by the generality of any other Perswasion; but
they study no more than others do to understand it; and (on the
contrary) are rather with greater tenaciousness so possess'd by the
Sentiments and Opinions of their Teachers, as to be almost uncapable
of consulting the word of God without prejudice; or observing any
thing therein that is contrary to the Doctrines of their Sect: that
_Analogy of Faith_ by which they are sure the Scriptures ought always
to be interpreted; the obscurest parts whereof their Teachers insist
the most upon; whence the Ignorantest Persons of these as well as the
more knowing, are usually far less conversant in the plain Doctrines
of Jesus Christ, than in St. _Pauls_ difficult Epistles; which, as
heretofore, _many who are unlearn'd wrest to their own Destruction_,
tho' their needs, I think, no skill but that of Attention to what the
Apostle is speaking of, to see that he teaches none of those Doctrines
which many are taught to believe he delivers to the prejudice of
Morality, or good Works; but quite the contrary.

Now what help can such Instruction as this give to the subduing the
corrupt Affections, and the bridling betimes the inordinate Desires
and Appetites of Humane Nature, whereby Men are inabled to live like
rational Creatures, and to acquit themselves well in all the Relations
they shall be hereafter plac'd in, in the World? When it does not so
much as perswade them, or even allow them to think that these are the
things by which they shall be judg'd at the Last Day; but substitutes
in the place hereof groundless Conceits, and a presumptious, Faith,
which so far teaches them to neglect Obedience as that if they pursu'd
the just consequence of their own Doctrine (a thing few People do)
they would have no Morality at all: And how rarely soever these
consequences are follow'd so far as they would lead Men, yet that they
are too much so, is visible in that little concern which such People
take (as has been now observ'd) in training up their Children betimes
in the knowledge and practice of Vertue; so necessary to the making
them hereafter Vertuous, that rarely are any found eminently to be so,
where this means has been neglected; even many who are always very
sincere in the Profession of Religion, having (thro' the want of this
early care taken of them) their Passions never subjected to their
Reason; which renders them all their Lives long uneasie to themselves,
and others: Whereby also the very profession of Religion is
dishonour'd, and evil spoken of.

In the Church of _England_, (whatever her Articles may be thought to
teach) there are not many now who hold these Opinions; and such as do
not so, rightly looking upon Vertue as the great perfection of Humane
Nature, and the End which Christianity is intended to promote, do
accordingly (if they are serious in their Religion) instruct their
Children much better than those abovementioned are wont to do theirs;
at least, they design it: For it is true that the performance does
often fall short; because (as has been said) their Actions correspond
not with their Instructions; and also from hence That Zeal for
Morality makes some, in recommending thereof, too forgetful of that
Doctrine of Faith, without which, as works avail not, so also the
greatest encouragement to, and inforcement of Morality, is lost. And
when any who are profess'd Teachers of the Christian Religion do this,
such Men do frequently confirm in their wrong Apprehensions concerning
it, those whom they would convince of mistaking the design of the
Gospel; since _Faith_ is so evidently therein the Doctrine of
Salvation, that They who never preach it, are not altogether without
Reason suspected either of not understanding Consequences, or else of
not being in earnest Christians, but conceal'd Deists, and Betrayers
of the Christian Religion. Altho' the Truth herein for the most part
is, that one Error unhappily produces another, and the partial regard
of some to the Doctrine of Faith (which yet they misrepresent) as if
the whole business of our Salvation consisted in That, has been an
occasion to other Men of as partially espousing the Doctrine of Good
Works; whilst in their heat against what is contrary to Truth in
respect thereof, they establish not sufficiently that Justifying Faith
of the Gospel, by which alone Men shall obtain Eternal Life, and not
by their Works: the best Men's Obedience having (as has been already
observ'd) imperfection in it; from whence all are necessarily
condemn'd by the Rigour of the Law, and must accordingly be found
Guilty, by him, _Who is of Purer Eyes than to behold Iniquity_; had
not God, in Mercy to Mankind, been pleas'd to establish _a New
Covenant of Grace_ in compliance with the Terms whereof, _viz._ Faith
in his Son, they may obtain Eternal Life. A Doctrine (as has been
seen) the most highly conducing that is possible to the making Men
labour after the perfectest Obedience. The Exalters of _Faith_
therefore in opposition to _Good Works_ do not more undermine
_Morality,_ than the Advancers of the Doctrine of _Good Works_ to the
Exclusion of _Free Grace,_ do undermine Reveal'd, and in consequence
thereof, Natural Religion also. The which two sort of Men divide, if
one may so say, a good Christian betwixt them; the latter whereof take
the Soul and Spirit of Christianity, but cannot be acquitted of
neglecting what is not less essential in the Doctrine of our
Salvation; and that not only because what God has joyn'd Man cannot
disjoyn; but also because it is an Eternal Verity, that such Creatures
as we are, cannot consistently with the Attributes of God, any other
way than that of Justification by Faith, be intitled to Eternal Life.
For the Dispensation of the Gospel is not a meerly Arbitrary thing;
but is the result of Infinite Wisdom, and Goodness, for the Salvation
of Men. And if the Beauty and Harmony of its Divine Contrivance is not
to all Men evident, it is because they search not for the Christian
Religion purely, as it is deliver'd in the Scriptures, but take it up
together with the mixtures of Humane inventions, and conceits; wherein
Additions and Substractions have been made to the Truth of God, at
Mens Pleasure: Whose several Systems and Notions, whilst every one yet
indeavours to support by Scripture Authority, many become thereby
discourag'd from the study of those Holy Oracles, as being perswaded
from hence that the Bible is (at best) a Book too difficult to be
understood by them; if not truly, a Rhapsodie of contradictions, that
may be brought alike to assert any thing that shall come into Men's
Fancies to prove from thence.

What then should those who would cure, or prevent all Mistakes
prejudicial to the right understanding the Christian Religion so
carefully do, as to perswade and ingage People diligently and with
unprejudic'd Minds to study the Scriptures; and not (as is usual) to
embrace Opinions concerning Religion first, and then consult the
Scriptures only to fortifie from thence their preconceiv'd Sentiments?
for doing thus they do in effect, but rely blindly upon the Teachings
of Men, and such Men too (as God knows have themselves for the most
part) as blindly follow'd others; whilst here and there some few (as
having more refin'd Wits, and disdaining such Shackles as the
generality like to wear, yet not loving the Truth in the Simplicity
thereof) have sought to improve and adorn it by their Philosophical
Conceits, and Notions; a Thing no less dangerous than the Former. For
to such as are better pleas'd with curious Speculations, than plain
and obvious Verities, it is very apt to happen that a Favourite
Hypothesis, or Opinion, shall run quite away with their Reason and
Judgment: which when it does, the Scriptures are sure to be
interpreted with conformity to that as if it were an Eternal, and
Unquestionable Principle of Truth. And thus too often is it seen that
the Sacred Doctrines of Divine Revelation are submitted to be try'd by
Philosophical Fancies, as a Criterion of their Truth; which is truly a
more direct disservice to Christianity than the above-mentioned
implicite Faith, since this evidently exposes even the Divine
Authority of the Christian Religion to be question'd. For when any,
especially if such whose profession it is to be Teachers of this
Religion, shall either argue against the plain Sense of what is
deliver'd in the Scriptures, meerly because it is not reconcileable to
their preconceiv'd Sentiments: or to those of their Admir'd Masters of
Reason; or else shall insist upon some of their own or these Mens
Theorems as necessary to be believ'd in confirmation of any thing
taught by our Saviour, or his Apostles; what can the Natural effect of
this be, but to make such as have not the leisure, or inclination to
examine the Truth of this Revelation, Sceptical in regard thereof; by
perswading them that those themselves who are rational Men amongst the
very Teachers of the Christian Religion, are not very clearly and
fully convinc'd of its Divine Authority; since if they were, they
would certainly submit their Opinions to be try'd by the Scriptures,
and not warp the Scriptures to a compliance with their Opinions; or
think the Doctrines contain'd in them needed any other confirmation to
support them. And wherefore must it be thought that such Men, as
these, are not convinc'd of the divine Revelation of the Christian
Religion, but from hence, that they (who will be presum'd to have
examin'd this matter the best of any Men) do find indeed some flaw or
just cause of doubt in the evidence thereof? From whence it is that
they prefer their Natural Reason as a surer Teacher than that
Revelation; however on some occasions they speak highly of it. And as
Men of this Philosophical Genius have usually more Vertue than those
who hoodwink'd follow their Leaders; or than such who look upon
Vertue as no part of Religion; there will, on this account, as also
for the Reputation of their uncommon Science, be probably a
distinguishing esteem had of such: Whence the apparent want of
deference in these Men to the Scriptures (liable to be look'd upon as
some degree of Scepticism) is of dangerous Example; which is obviously
manifest in that direct tendency this has to satisfie those in their
infidelity, who cannot, or will not, find leisure to examine for
themselves the Truths of Religion. But there is also a farther ill
influence which apparent want of deference to Scripture Authority in
those who pretend to believe (and, much more, to teach the Gospel)
has: And that is to the countenanceing too much that Multitude who
preferring the Christian Religion, do in their Practical that which
these Men do in their Speculative Opinions, _viz._ make the dictates
of the Gospel their Rule so far only, as they are vouch'd for and
Authoriz'd by their Reason, infected, as it is, by Custom, Passion, or
Worldly Interest; which is done by very many who would be offended to
have their belief of the Scriptures Question'd. But however they
profess to own them, none who act thus can be rationally thought to be
sincerely perswaded of their divine Authority, altho' it is possible
that many such Men may have no intire disbelief thereof neither; it
being barely not assenting, which is the Natural Effect of Ignorance
in those who have good Sense enough to see that it is irrational, to
be confidently assur'd of what they have not sufficient Reason to be
so assur'd of.

Now this want of a firm assent to the Divine Authority of the
Scriptures in such as yet profess to own them for the word of God, is
unquestionably evident when such Men acquiesce not in the Precepts of
the Gospel, as the Rule of their Actions, any farther than they find
those Precepts to be Authoriz'd by the Testimony of their Reason: Of
which manner of acting many very common examples may be easily
brought.

It is true that how much soever a Man is perswaded of the Authority of
any Rule, a strong Passion, or Apparent Interest may yet seduce him
from the Obedience due to its prescriptions; but such a Transgression
being accompanied with Regret, or followed with Repentance, the Rule
is still as much acknowledg'd as if it were obey'd; and none, on the
score of a contrary practice, are chargeable with a disbelief thereof,
but such who do, on a deliberate Choice and without Remorse,
transgress against it; which many professing to be Christians not
only themselves do, but even teach their Children the like: in which
latter case it cannot be suppos'd that they are misled by the strength
of any prevailing Passion.

That we should forgive our Enemies and be patient under injuries (for
instance) are, as plainly as words can make them so, commanded in the
Scriptures; yet how many are there professing to believe that the
Scriptures are the Word of God, who, as if no such Commands as these
were deliver'd by Christ, or his Disciples, do both Practice and
Teach, the not putting up Affronts unreveng'd; and this only because
the Fashion of the Country has establish'd it, that a Gentleman cannot
do so with _Honour_? A Term which herein signifies nothing, but
agreeably to certain measures of acting that Men have Arbitrarily made
for themselves, and which are not founded upon any Principle of right
Reason; however to be obey'd, it seems, by a Gentleman preferably to
the Commands of Christ. If there are Cases wherein from want of a due
provision in Governments against some sort of Injuries it may be
thought that Men are excusable in asserting their own Cause, yet thus
much is at the least certain, That this Precept of Forgiveness could
not be transgress'd against, as it very frequently is, by Men
professing to believe the Authority of the Scriptures, if such were
indeed fully perswaded that it was a divine Command which prohibited
the avenging of our selves.

But others there are (contrary to these Men) who would find it
altogether condemnable for a Man to hazard his own, and anothers Life
in a Duel, or Rencounter (tho' caus'd by the Transport of ever so just
a provocation) who would see no Evil in his mispending of his Time,
consuming Day after Day, and Year after Year, uselesly to himself, or
others, in a course of continual Idleness and Sauntring; as if he was
made only to Eat and to Drink, or to gratifie his Senses. And how few
Parents are there of Quality, even among such as are esteem'd the most
vertuous, who do not permit their Daughters to pass the best part of
their Youth in that Ridiculous Circle of Diversions, which is pretty
generally thought the proper business of Young Ladies; and which so
ingrosses them that they can find no spare Hours, wherein to make any
such improvements of their understanding, as the leisure which they
have for it exacts from them as rational Creatures; or as is requisite
or useful to the discharging well their present, or future Duties?

Some formal Devotions are (perhaps) necessary to some of These, to
preserve them even in their own good esteem; and they that can
regularly find half an Hour, or an Hour in a Day to employ in private
upon this, and in reading some pious Book, together with, it may be, a
certain Number of Chapters in the Bible, need nothing more to make
them be cry'd up for great examples to the Age they live in; as if all
this while there were no Precepts for these People in the Gospel,
concerning the improvement of their Time, and Talents, as things
whereof they must one Day be accountable. For others it may be they
cannot but see that there are such Commands; but the Sacred Law of
Fashion has made endless Idle Visits, and less Innocent
Entertainments, the indispensibly constant Employment of those of
their Condition: and when they are grown Old in the perpetually
repeated round of such Impertinence and Folly, they have but labour'd
much in their Calling.

Another Instance how little many, who profess to believe the
Scriptures, do apparently look upon them as the Rule of their Actions,
we have in regard of the Precept _not to Covet_; which is as much
forbidden by the Law of God as _not to Steal_, or Cozen a Man of what
is his property: And yet the same Parents who have bred their Children
in such a Sense of the Enormity of these last Vices, as that they
oftentimes seem to them like things that they are Naturally uncapable
of, are so far from teaching them to restrain their Exorbitant
Desires, that very oft they themselves with care inspire these into
them: Whence it is sufficiently clear that the difference made between
Stealing and Cheating, or Coveting (alike forbidden by the Law of God)
is from hence, That Ambition is thought a Passion becoming some Ranks
of Men, but Cheating or Stealing not Vices proper for a Gentleman. A
distinction that must needs refer to some other Rule than that of the
Gospel; which therefore is not That which, as a Divine Law, does
prescribe to such Men the Measures of their Actions.

To bring but one instance more of the Commands of Christ being
comply'd with but so far only, as they do comply with some other Rule
prefer'd thereto by such as yet pretend to be Christians; _Chastity_
(for example) is, according to the Gospel, a Duty to both Sexes, yet a
Transgression herein, even with the aggravation of wronging another
Man, and possibly a whole Family thereby, is ordinarily talk'd as
lightly of, as if it was but a Peccadillo in a Young Man, altho' a far
less Criminal Offence against this Duty in a Maid shall in the
Opinion of the same Persons brand her with perpetual Infamy: The
nearest Relations oftentimes are hardly brought to look upon her after
such a dishonour done by her to their Family; whilst the Fault of her
more guilty Brother finds but a very moderate reproof from them; and
in a little while, it may be, becomes the Subject of their Mirth and
Raillery. And why still is this wrong plac'd distinction made, but
because there are measures of living establish'd by Men themselves
according to a conformity, or disconformity with which, and not with
the Precepts of Jesus Christ, their Actions are measur'd, & judg'd of?
A thing which would be unaccountable if Men were indeed heartily
perswaded of the Divine Revelation of our Saviours Doctrine; and did
not profess to believe this but because it is the Fashion of their
Country so to do; and that their Parents have done so before them;
or, at most, that possibly they may have receiv'd from their Education
some impressions which will not permit them to reject the Christian
Religion, any more than firmly induce their Assent to the Truth of it.

That Men who have any Vertue, or Sobriety, and who are not intirely
destitute of good Sense, can suffer in themselves such an uncertainty
about what is of so great moment to them as the Truths of the
Christian Religion, is indeed strange; but as the slightest Arguments
against any Truth have some weight to those who know not the Evidence
of that Truth, so also such as have never been accustom'd, whilst
Young, to exercise themselves in any Rational Inquiry, do usually in a
more advanc'd Age look upon the easiest Labour of this kind as
painful: And thence (for the most part) do either lazily think it
best to acquiesce, as well as they can, in such Mens Sentiments as
they have imagin'd the best to understand this matter; or else are
readily inclin'd from the disagreement, and contrariety of Peoples
thoughts about it, to take a Resolution of not troubling themselves at
all concerning it; as being a thing wherein there is no certainty to
be found, and probably therefore but little Truth: An Opinion which
the too commonly avow'd Scepticism of the Age helps much to confirm
unthinking People in; and that the more, because to doubt of what the
most believe (tho' few have any other Reason for so doubting but that
others do not doubt) has very much prevail'd in our Days to intitle
Men to the Reputation of more than ordinary Wit and Sagacity. But the
Scepticism among us has truly been so far from being the effect of
uncommon Light, and Knowledge; as that it has been, and is much owing
to the preceding fashionableness of a very general Ignorance, both in
regard of Religion, and also of other useful Sciences; for Men's not
knowing how profitably, and with pleasure to employ their Time, is
apparently one great cause of their Debauchery; and so long as the
Consciousness and Shame of not acting like rational Creatures is not
extinguished in them, the uneasiness of that remorse puts them
Naturally upon seeking out Principles to justifie their Conduct upon;
few Men being able to indure the constant Reproaches of their own
Reason: Whence if they do not conform their Actions to the dictates of
that, they will Naturally indeavour to warp their Reason to a
compliance with their practices: A reconcilement one way, or other,
between these, being necessary to the making Men, that are not very
profligate indeed, in good conceit, or even at Peace with themselves.

By that want of Knowledge which I have ventur'd to say is fashionable,
I understand not only ignorance among Men, who have leisure for it, of
Arts and Sciences in general; but also, and especially the want of
such particular Knowledge as is requisite to every one for the well
discharging either their Common or peculiar Business and Duty; wherein
Religion is necessarily included, as being the Duty of all Persons to
understand, of whatever Sex, Condition, or Calling they are of. Now to
affirm that the greater part of People are ignorant concerning that
which is not only their Duty to know, but which also many are so
sensible they ought to know, as that they pretend to understand it
enough to be either zealous about, or else to contemn it; and to
assert likewise that they want the knowledge of what is peculiarly
belonging to them, in their particular Station, to understand; are
such Charges as ought not to be alledg'd, if they are not so evidently
true, as that we cannot open our Eyes without seeing them to be so.

In respect of Religion, it is, I think, universally allow'd to be true
of the common People of all sorts (tho' surely not without Matter of
Reproach to some, or other, whose Care their better Instruction ought
to be) that they are very ignorant. But we will consider here only
such superior Ranks of Persons, in reference to whom what has already
been said, has been spoken: And to begin with the Female Sex, who
certainly ought to be Christians; how many of these, comparatively,
may it be presum'd that there are, from the meanest Gentlewoman to the
greatest Ladies, that can give any such account of the Christian
Religion, as would inform an inquisitive Stranger what it consisted
in; and what are the grounds of believing it? Such Women as understand
something of the distinguishing Opinions of that Denomination they
have been bred up in, are commonly thought highly intelligent in
Religion; but I think there are but very few, even of this little
number, who could well inform a rational Heathen concerning
Christianity itself: Which is an Ignorance inexcusable in them, tho',
perhaps, it is very often the effect only of the want of other useful
Knowledge, for the not having whereof, Women are much more to be
pitty'd than blam'd.

The improvements of Reason, however requisite to Ladies for their
Accomplishment, as rational Creatures; and however needful to them for
the well Educating of their Children, and to their being useful in
their Families, yet are rarely any recommendation of them to Men; who
foolishly thinking, that Money will answer to all things, do, for the
most part, regard nothing else in the Woman they would Marry: And not
often finding what they do not look for, it would be no wonder if
their Off-spring should inherit no more Sense than themselves. But be
Nature ever so kind to them in this respect, yet through want of
cultivating the Tallents she bestows upon those of the Female Sex, her
Bounty is usually lost upon them; and Girls, betwixt silly Fathers and
ignorant Mothers, are generally so brought up, that traditionary
Opinions are to them, all their lives long, instead of Reason. They
are, perhaps, sometimes told in regard of what Religion exacts, That
they must _Believe_ and _Do_ such and such things, because the Word
of God requires it; but they are not put upon searching the Scriptures
for themselves, to see whether, or no, these things are so; and they
so little know why they should look upon the Scriptures to be the Word
of God, that but too often they are easily perswaded out of the
Reverence due to them as being so: And (if they happen to meet with
such bad examples) are not seldom brought from thence, even to scoff
at the Documents of their Education; and, in consequence thereof, to
have no Religion at all. Whilst others (naturally more dispos'd to be
Religious) are either (as divers in the Apostles Days were) _carry'd
away with every wind of Doctrine, ever learning and never coming to
the knowledge of the Truth_; Weak, Superstitious, Useless Creatures;
or else, if more tenacious in their Natures, blindly and conceitedly
weded to the Principles and Opinions of their Spiritual Guides; who
having the direction of their Consciences, rarely fail to have that
also of their Affairs and Fortunes. A Wife of which sort proves, very
often, no small unhappiness to the Family where she comes; for this
kind of ignorant Persons are, of all others, the most Arrogant; and
when they are once intitl'd to Saintship for their blind Zeal, as
nothing is more troublesome than they in finding fault with, and
censuring every one that differs from them, so to their Admirers (who
lead them as they please) they think they can never pay enough for
that Incence which is offer'd them: The dearest Interests of Humane
Life being, oftentimes, thus sacrific'd to a vain Image of Piety;
_whilst makers of long Prayers_ have _devour'd Widows Houses_.

But what is here said implying that Ladies should so well understand
their Religion, as to be able to answer both to such who oppose, and
to such who misrepresent it; this may seem, perhaps, to require that
they should have the Science of Doctors, and be well skill'd in
Theological Disputes and Controversies; than the Study of which I
suppose there could scarce be found for them a more useless
Employment. But whether such Patrons of Ignorance as know nothing
themselves which they ought to know, will call it Learning, or not, to
understand the Christian Religion, and the grounds of receiving it; it
is evident that they who think so much knowledge, as that, to be
needless for a Woman, must either not be perswaded of the Truth of
Christianity; or else must believe that Women are not concern'd to be
Christians. For if Christianity be a Religion from God, and Women
have Souls to be sav'd as well as Men; to know what this Religion
consists in, and to understand the grounds on which it is to be
receiv'd, can be no more than necessary Knowledge to a Woman, as well
as to a Man: Which necessary Knowledge is sufficient to inable any one
so far to answer to the Opposers or Corrupters of Christianity, as to
secure them from the danger of being impos'd upon by such Mens
Argumentations; which is all that I have thought requisite for a Lady;
and not that she should be prepar'd to challenge every Adversary to
Truth.

Now that thus much knowledge requires neither Learned Education, or
great Study, to the attaining of it, appears in that the first
Christians were mean and illiterate People; to which part of Mankind
the Gospel may rather be thought to have had a more especial regard
than that they are any way excluded from the Benefits thereof by
incapacity in them to receive it. In the Apostles Days _there were not
many Wise who were call'd_, and he tells us that _after that the World
by Wisdom knew not God: it pleased God by the foolishness of Preaching
to save them that believe_, and tho' _to the perfect_ the same Apostle
says, he did _Preach Wisdom_, yet it was the simplicity and plainness
of the Christian Religion that made it _to the Jews a stumbling block,
and to the Greeks foolishness_. From whence, we see that all Theorems
too abstruse for Vulgar Apprehensions, which Christianity is believ'd
to Teach, however Divine Truths, are yet no part of the Doctrine of
Salvation. There is not therefore this pretence to impose upon any one
the belief of any thing which they do not find to be reveal'd in
Scripture; the doing of which, has not only caus'd deplorable
dissentions among Christians, but also been an occasion to multitudes
of well meaning People of having so confus'd and unsatisfactory
conceptions and apprehensions concerning the Christian Religion as
tho' perhaps not absolutely, or immediately prejudicial to their
Salvation, yet are so to their seeing clearly that Christianity is a
rational Religion; without which few will be very secure from the
infection of Scepticism, or Infidelity, where those are become
fashionable, and prevailing. A danger to which many Women are no less
expos'd than Men, and oftentimes, more so. Whence it is but needful
that they should so well understand their Religion as to be Christians
upon the Convictions of their Reason; which is indeed no more than one
would think it became every Christian, as a rational Creature, to be;
were this not requisite in regard of Scepticism, and Infidelity, as
to some it is not; there being, no doubt, many a Country Gentlewoman
who has never in her Life heard Question'd, or once imagined that any
one in their Wits could Question the Articles of her Faith; which yet
she her self knows not why she believes.

From the too Notorious Truth of what has been said in reference to the
little that Women know concerning Religion, it must be granted that
the generality of them are shamefully Ignorant herein. As for other
Science, it is believ'd so improper for, and is indeed so little
allow'd them, that it is not to be expected from them: but the cause
of this is only the Ignorance of Men.

The Age, we live in, has been, not undeservedly, esteem'd a knowing
one: But to the Learned Clergy much has been owing for its having
obtain'd that Character; and tho' some few Gentlemen have been the
greatest advancers of Learning amongst us; yet they are very rare who
apply themselves to any Science that is curious: And as for such
knowledge as is no less than requisite for Men of Families, and
Estates to have in regard of the proper business of their Station; it
may, I think, be said that never was this more neglected than at
present; since there is not a commoner complaint in every County than
of the want of Gentlemen Qualified for the Service of their Country,
_viz._ to be Executors of the Law, and Law Makers; both of which it
belonging to this Rank of English Men to be, some insight into the Law
which they are to see Executed, and into that Constitution which they
are to support, cannot but be necessary to their well dischargeing
these Trusts: Nor will this Knowledge be sufficiently Servicable to
the Ends herein propos'd, without some Acquaintance likewise with
History, Politicks, and Morals. Every one of these then are parts of
Knowledge which an English Gentleman cannot, without blame, be
Ignorant of, as being essential to the duly Qualifying him for what is
his proper business.

But whether we farther look upon such Men as having Immortal Souls
that shall be for ever Happy or Miserable, as they comply with the
Terms which their Maker has propos'd to them; or whether we regard
them as Protestants, whose Birthright it is not blindly to _Believe_,
but to Examine their Religion; Or consider them only as Men whose
ample Fortunes allow them leisure for so important a Study, they are
without doubt oblig'd to understand the Religion they profess. Adding
this then to what it is above concluded a Gentleman ought to know,
let us examine how common such Knowledge only is amongst our
Gentlemen, as we see, without just matter of Reproach to them, they
cannot want: No one, I think, will deny that so much knowledge as this
is so little ordinary, as that those are apparently the far greater
number who have never consider'd any part hereof as an Acquisition,
which they ought to make; and that they are but a few comparatively,
and pass among us for Men extraordinary, who have but a competent
knowledge in any one of the above-mention'd things.

What is by the Obligations of their Duty exacted from them in this
regard, seems to be very little reflected on by them; and as for other
Considerations, which, as Gentlemen, might be thought to induce them,
their Ancestors care has distinguish'd them from their Tenants, and
other inferior Neighbours, by Titles and Riches; and that is all the
distinction which they desire to have; believing it, in respect of
Knowledge, sufficient, if they did once understand a little Latin or
Logick in the University; which whoso still retains, altho' he has
made no use thereof to the real improvement of his understanding, is
yet thought very highly accomplish'd, and passes (in the Country) for
Learned.

As to Religion, by the little which most Gentlemen understand of that,
and by the no shame which they ordinarily enough have in avowing this
their ignorance, one cannot but suppose that it is pretty commonly
thought by them a matter, the understanding whereof does not concern
them: That the Publick has provided others to do this for them: And
that their part herein is but to maintain (so far as by their
Authority they can) what those Men assert.

Thus wretchedly destitute of all that Knowledge which they ought to
have, are (generally speaking) our English Gentlemen: And being so,
what wonder can it be, if they like not that Women should have
Knowledge; for this is a quality that will give some sort of
superiority even to those who care not to have it? But such Men as
these would assuredly find their account much better therein, if
tenderness of that Prerogative would teach them a more legitimate way
of maintaining it, than such a one as is a very great impediment or
discouragement, at the least, to others in the doing what God requires
of them. For it is an undeniable Truth that a Lady who is able but to
give an account of her Faith, and to defend her Religion against the
attaques of the Cavilling Wits of the Age; or the Abuses of the
Obtruders of vain Opinions: That is capable of instructing her
Children in the reasonableness of the Christian Religion; and of
laying in them the Foundations of a solid Vertue; that a Lady (I say)
no more knowing than this does demand, can hardly escape being call'd
Learned by the Men of our days; and in consequence thereof, becoming a
Subject of Ridicule to one part of them, and of Aversion to the other;
with but a few exceptions of some vertuous and rational Persons. And
is not the incuring of general dislike, one of the strongest
discouragements that we can have to any thing?

If the assistance of Mothers be, as I have already affirm'd it is,
necessary to the right forming of the Minds, and regulating of the
Manners of their Children; I am not in the wrong in reckoning (as I
do) that this care is indispensibly a Mothers Duty. Now it cannot, I
think, be doubted, but that a Mothers Concurrence and Care is thus
necessary, if we consider that this is a work which can never be too
soon begun, it being rarely at all well performed, if not betimes
undertaken; nothing being so effectual to the making Men vertuous, as
to have good Habits and Principles of Vertue establish'd in them
before the Mind is tainted with any thing opposite or prejudicial
hereunto. Those therefore must needs much over-look the chief Business
of Education, or have little consider'd the Constitution of Humane
Nature, that reckon for nothing the first eight or ten Years of a Boys
Life; an Age wherein Fathers, who seldom are able to do it at any
time, can neither charge themselves with the care of their Children,
nor be the watchful inspectors of those that they must be trusted to;
who usually and unavoidably by most Parents, are a sort of People far
fitter to be Learners than Teachers of the Principles of Vertue and
Wisdom; the great Foundation of both which consists in being able to
govern our Passions, and subject our Appetites to the direction of our
Reason: A Lesson hardly ever well learnt, if it be not taught us from
our very Cradles. To do which requires no less than a Parents Care and
Watchfulness; and therefore ought undoubtedly to be the Mothers
business to look after, under whose Eye they are. An exemption from
which, Quality (even of the highest degree) cannot give; since the
Relation between the Mother and Child is equal amongst all Ranks of
People. And it is a very preposterous Abuse of Quality to make it a
pretence for being unnatural. This is a Truth which perhaps would
displease many Ladies were it told them, and therefore, probably, it
is that they so seldom hear it: But none of them could be so much
offended with any one for desiring hereby to restrain them from some
of their expensive and ridiculous Diversions, by an employment so
worthy of Rational Creatures, and so becoming of maternal tenderness,
as it is just to be with them for neglecting their Children: A Fault
that women of Quality are every way too often guilty of, and are
perhaps more without excuse for, than for any other that they are
ordinarily taxable with. For tho' it is to be fear'd that few Ladies
(from the disadvantage of their own Education) are so well fitted as
they ought to be, to take the care of their Children, yet not to be
willing to do what they can herein, either as thinking this a matter
of too much pains for them, or below their Condition, expresses so
senseless a Pride, and so much want of the affectionate and
compassionate Tenderness natural to that Sex and Relation, that one
would almost be tempted to question whether such Women were any more
capable of, than worthy to be the Mothers of Rational Creatures.

But natural Affection apart, it should be consider'd by these, that no
one is Born into the World to live idly; enjoying the Fruit and
Benefit of other Peoples Labours, without contributing reciprocally
some way or other, to the good of the Community answerably to that
Station wherein God (the common Father of all) has plac'd them; who
has evidently intended Humane kind for Society and mutual Communion,
as Members of the same Body, useful every one each to other in their
respective places. Now in what can Women whose Condition puts them
above all the Necessities or Cares of a mean or scanty Fortune, at
once so honourably and so usefully, both to themselves and others, be
employ'd in as in looking after the Education and Instruction of their
own Children? This seems indeed to be more particularly the Business
and Duty of such than of any others: And if example be necessary to
perswade them that they will not herein do any thing mis-becoming
their Rank, the greatest Ladies amongst us may be assur'd that those
of a Condition superior to theirs, have heretofore been so far from
thinking it any abasement to them to charge themselves with the
instruction of their own Children, that (to their Immortal Honour)
they have made it part of their Business to assist to that of other
Peoples also, who were likely one day to be of consequence to the
Common-wealth. And could the bare Love of their Country induce, among
many more, the great _Cornelia_, Mother of the _Gracchi_, and
_Aurelia_ the Mother of _Julius Caesar_, to do this for the Sons of
Noble-men of _Rome_ to whom they had no Relation but that of their
common Country, and shall not the like consideration, or what is
infinitely beyond this, that of their Children being hereafter for
ever happy or miserable, accordingly as they live in this World,
prevail with the Ladies of our Days, who call themselves Christians,
to employ some of their Time and Pains upon their own Off-spring? The
care of which (as has been said) should begin with the first Years of
Childrens Lives, in curbing at the earliest appearance thereof, every
their least evil inclination; and accustoming them to an absolute,
constant, and universal Submission and Obedience to the Will of those
who have the disposal of them: Since they will hardly ever after
(especially in a great Fortune) be govern'd by their own Reason, who
are not made supple to that of others, before they are able to judge
of fit and unfit, by any other measure than as it is the Will, or not,
of such whom they believe to have a just Power over them. As they do
become capable of examining and determining their Actions by Reason,
they should be taught never to do any thing of consequence heedlesly;
and to look upon the Dictates of their Reason as so inviolable a Rule
of their Determinations, that no Passion or Appetite must ever make
them swerve therefrom. But instead of following this Method, it is
commonly thought too soon to correct Children for any thing, 'till the
Season is past for this sort of Discipline; which, if it come too
late, is commonly so far from producing the good it was design'd for,
that losing the benefit of Correction (which, if duly apply'd, is of
infinite use) it turns to a Provocation; and renders stiff and
incorrigible a Temper it was meant to supple. Nor is it seldom that
through this wrong tim'd Discipline, together with that remisness and
inequality wherewith Childrens Inclinations are over-rul'd, their
Parents Government over them seems to them not a Natural, and just
right establish'd for their benefit, but a Tyrannick and Arbritary
Power, which accordingly they without Remorse disobey, whenever they
believe that they can do so with Impunity: And what is still worse,
their evil Dispositions, for the most part, are not only not timely
enough restrain'd, but Children are actually taught to indulge to
their naturally irregular Inclinations, by those Vicious or wretchedly
ignorant People, who are plac'd about them; and who almost
universally instil down-right Vice into them, even before they can
well speak; as Revenge, Covetousness, Pride and Envy: Whilst the silly
Creatures who do them so unspeakable Mischiefs are scarce capable of
being made to understand the harm that they do; but think Parents
ill-natur'd, or that they have fancies fit only to be smil'd at, who
will deny their Child a thing for no other reason, it may be, but
because he has desir'd it: And who before he is trusted to go alone
will check his Resentment, Impatience, Avarice, or Vanity, which they
think becomes him so prettily; neither will suffer him to be rewarded
for doing what they bid him to do.

This I am sure, that who so has try'd how very little Sense is to be
met with, or can be infus'd into Nurses, and Nurse-Maids; and with
what difficulty even the best of them by those who make it their
business to watch over them, are restrain'd from what they are
perswaded has no hurt in it, will soon be satisfy'd how little fit it
is to trust Children any more than is necessary, in such Hands. And no
wiser than such, if not much worse, are the greatest part of those who
are usually their immediate Successors, _viz._ young Scholars and
French Maids, erected into Tutors and Governesses, only for the sake
of a little Latin and French.

In Mr. L---- s excellent _Treatise of Education_, he shews how early
and how great a Watchfulness and Prudence are requisite to the forming
the Mind of a Child to Vertue; and whoso shall read what he has writ
on that Subject, will, it is very likely, think that few Mothers are
qualify'd for such an undertaking as this: But that they are not so
is the Fault which should be amended: In the mean time nevertheless,
their presum'd willingness to be in the right, where the Happiness of
their Children is concerned in it, must certainly inable them, if they
were but once convinc'd that this was their Duty, to perform it much
better than such People will do, who have as little Skill and Ability
for it as themselves; and who besides, that they rarely desire to
learn any more than they have, are not induc'd by Affection to do for
those under their care all the Good that they can. Since then the
Affairs either of Men's Callings, or of their private Estates, or the
Service of their Country (all which are indispensibly their Business)
allows them not the leisure to look daily after the Education of their
Children; and that, otherwise, also they are naturally less capable
than Women of that Complaisance and Tenderness, which the right
Instruction and Direction of that Age requires; and since Servants are
so far from being fit to be rely'd upon in that great concern, that to
watch against the Impediments they actually bring thereto, is no small
part of the care that a wise Parent has to take; I do presume that
(ordinarily speaking) this so necessary a Work of forming betimes the
Minds of Children so as to dispose them to be hereafter Wise and
Vertuous Men and Women, cannot be perform'd but by Mothers only. It
being a thing practicable but by a very few to purchase the having
always Wise, Vertuous and well Bred People, to take the place of a
Parent in governing their Children; and together with them such
Servants and Teachers, as must peculiarly be employ'd about them; For
the World does not necessarily abound with such Persons as these, and
in such circumstances as not to pretend to more profitable
employments than Men of one or two thousand Pounds a Year (and much
less those great numbers who have smaller Estates) can often afford to
make the care of governing their Children from their Infancy to be.
The procuring of such a Person as this may (by accident) sometimes be
in such a ones Power; but to propose the ingaging for reward whenever
there shall be need for them, vertuous, wife, and well-bred Men and
Women, to spend their time in taking care of the Education of young
Children, is what can be done but by a very few; since the doing this
would not be found an easy charge to the greater part of almost any
rank amongst us; unless they would be content for the sake hereof to
abridge themselves of some of their extravagant Expences; which are
usually the last that Men will deny themselves.

It is indeed wonderful (if we consider Men as rational Creatures) to
see how much Mony they will often bestow, not upon their Vices only,
(for this is not so unaccountable) but upon meerly fashionable
Vanities, which give them more Trouble than Pleasure in the enjoyment:
Yet at the same time be as sparing, as is possible, of cost upon a
Child's Education; and it is certain, that for Rewards considerable
enough to make it worth their while, those of a far different
Character from such as for the most part undertake it, would be
induc'd to accept even the early charge of Childrens Instruction. But
every Gentleman of a good Family, or good Estate also, is not in
Circumstances to propound such sufficient Rewards; and for what the
most can afford to give, very few capable of performing this matter
well, will trouble themselves about it; at least with such Pupils as
must be attended with Nurses or Maids. Wherefore no other remedy, I
believe, can be found but in returning still to our Conclusion, That
this great concernment, on which no less than Peoples Temporal and
Eternal Happiness does mightily depend, ought to be the Care and
Business of Mothers. Nor do Women seem less peculiarly adapted by
Nature hereunto, than it can be imagin'd they should be, if the Author
of Nature (as no doubt he did) design'd this to be their Province in
that division of Cares of Humane Life, which ought to be made between
a Man and his Wife. For that softness, gentleness and tenderness,
natural to the Female Sex, renders them much more capable than Men are
of such an insinuating Condescention to the Capacities of young
Children, as is necessary in the Instruction and Government of them,
insensibly to form their early Inclinations. And surely these
distinguishing Qualities of the Sex were not given barely to delight,
when they may, so manifestly, be profitable also, if joyn'd with a
well informed Understanding: From whence, _viz._ from Womans being
naturally thus fitted to take this care of their little Ones, it
follows, that besides the injustice done to themselves thereby, it is
neglecting the Direction of Nature for the well breeding up of
Children, when Ladies are render'd uncapable hereof, through the want
of such due improvements of their Reason as are requisite hereunto.

That this has been no more reflected upon from a Principle of Pitty to
that tender Age of Children which so much requires help, seems very
strange: For what can move a juster Commiseration than to see such
poor innocents, so far from having the Aid they stand in need of, that
even those who the most wish to do them good, and who resent, with
the deepest Compassion, every little Malady which afflicts their
Bodies, do never attempt to rescue them from the greatest evils which
attend them in this Life, but even themselves assist to plunge them
therein, by cherishing in them those Passions which will inevitably
render them miserable? A thing which can never be otherwise whilst
Women are bred up in no right Notions of Religion and Vertue; or to
know any use of Reason but in the service of their Passions and
Inclinations; or at best of their (comparatively trivial) Interests.

To assert upon this occasion, that Ladies would do well, if, before
they came to the care of Families, they did imploy some of their many
idle Hours in gaming a little Knowledge in Languages, and the useful
Sciences, would be, I know, to contradict the Sense of most Men; but
yet, I think, that such an Assertion admits of no other Confutation
than the usual one which opposite Opinions to theirs are wont to
receive from People who Reason not, but live by Fancy, and Custom;
_viz._ being laugh'd at: For it cannot be deny'd that this Knowledge
would hereafter be more, or less, useful to Ladies, in inabling them
either themselves to teach their Children, or better to over-see and
direct, those who do so: And tho' Learning is perhaps the least part
in Education, it is not to be neglected; but even betimes taken some
care of, least a Habit of Idleness, or Inapplication of the Mind be
got, which once contracted, is very hardly cur'd.

This being so, and that the beginnings of all Science are difficult to
Children (who cannot like grown People fix their Attention) it is
justly to befear'd that they should by the ill usage they receive from
the impatience and peevishness of such Teachers, as Servants, or Young
Tutors, take an Aversion to Learning (and we see in effect, that this
very frequently happens). For the Teaching of little Children so as
not to disgust them, does require much greater Patience and Address,
than common People are often capable of; or than most can imagine, who
have not had experience hereof. But should such Teachers as we have
spoke of, have the necessary complaisance for those they Teach, there
is then, on the other side, a yet greater danger to be apprehended
from them, which is that their Pupils will become fond of them; the
bad effect of which will be, That by an Affectation Natural in
Children of imitating those they Love, they will have their Manners
and Dispositions Tinctur'd and Tainted by those of Persons so dear to
them.

Now both the inconveniences here mention'd, might, at least in great
measure, if not wholly, be Remedy'd, would Mothers but be at so much
Pains as to Teach their Children either altogether, or in good part
themselves, what it is fit for them to learn in the first Eight or Ten
Years of their Lives. As to Read English perfectly; To understand
ordinary Latin; and Arithmetick; with some general knowledge of
Geography, Chronology, and History. Most, or all of which things may
at the above-said Age be understood by a Child of a very ordinary
capacity; and may be so taught Children as that they may learn them
almost insensibly in Play, if they have skilful Teachers: It seems to
me therefore that Young Ladies cannot better employ so much of their
Time as is requisite hereto, than in acquiring such Qualifications as
these, which may be of so great use to them hereafter; however, if any
who have not made this early Provision of such Science, are yet truly
desirous to do their Children all the good that is in their Power to
do them, they may, tho' not with the same Facility, yet be able to
instruct them alike, notwithstanding that disadvantage; and Mr. L----
on the Experience thereof, has asserted, That a Mother who understands
not Latin before hand, may yet teach it to her Child; which, if she
can, it is not to be doubted but that she may do the same of all the
rest; for such a Superficial Knowledge as will serve to enter any one
in every of the above-named Sciences, is much easier attain'd than the
Latin Tongue; and if a Mother have ever so little more Capacity than
her Child, she may easily keep before him, in teaching both him and
her self together; whereby she will make herself the best Reparation
that she can for her past neglect, or that of her Parents herein: Who
yet, perhaps, not from negligence may have declin'd giving her this
advantage. For Parents sometimes do purposely omit it from an
apprehension that should their Daughters be perceiv'd to understand
any learned Language, or be conversant in Books, they might be in
danger of not finding Husbands; so few Men, as do, relishing these
accomplishments in a Lady. Nor, probably, would even the example of a
Mother herself who was thus qualify'd, and likewise understood, as is
afore-said, her Religion, be any great incouragement to her Daughters
to imitate her example, but the contrary. For this Knowledge, one part
whereof is so strictly the Duty of a Christian, and the other so
inconsiderable to those whose Time commonly lies upon their Hands,
would in itself, or in the consequences of it, expose a young Woman of
Quality (especially if not thought unfit for the fashionable Commerce
of the World) to be characteriz'd or censur'd, as would not be very
pleasing to her. For if it be consider'd, that she who did seriously
desire to make the best use of what she knew, would necessarily be
oblig'd (for the gaining of Time wherein she might do so) to order the
Course, and manner of her Life something differently from others of
her Sex and Condition, it cannot be doubted but that a Conduct, which
carry'd with it so much Reproach to Woman's Idleness, and
disappointment to Men's Vanity, would quickly be judg'd fit to be
ridicul'd out of the World before others were infected by the example.
So that the best Fate which a Lady thus knowing, and singular, could
expect, would be that hardly escaping Calumny, she should be in Town
the Jest of the _Would-be-Witts_; tho wonder of Fools, and a Scarecrow
to keep from her House many honest People who are to be pitty'd for
having no more Wit than they have, because it is not their own Fault
that they have no more. But in the Country she would, probably, fare
still worse; for there her understanding of the Christian Religion
would go near to render her suspected of Heresy even by those who
thought the best of her: Whilst her little Zeal for any Sect or Party
would make the Clergy of all sorts give her out for a _Socinian_ or a
_Deist_: And should but a very little Philosophy be added to her other
Knowledge, even for an Atheist. The Parson of the Parish, for fear of
being ask'd hard Questions, would be shy of coming near her, were his
Reception ever so inviting; and this could not but carry some ill
intimation with it to such as Reverenc'd the Doctor, and who, it is
likely, might be already satisfy'd from the Reports of Nurses, and
Maids, that their Lady was indeed a Woman of very odd Whimsies. Her
prudent Conduct and Management of her affairs would probably secure
her from being thought out of her Wits by her near Neighbours; but the
Country Gentlemen that wish'd her well, could not yet chuse but be
afraid for her, lest too much Learning might in Time make her Mad.

The saving of but one Soul from Destruction, is, it is true, a noble
recompense for ten Thousand such Censurers as these; but it is
wondrous strange that only to be a Christian, with so much other
Knowledge as a Child of Nine or Ten Years Old may, and ought to have,
should expose a Lady to so great Reproaches; And what a shame is this
for Men whose woful Ignorance is the alone Cause thereof? For it is
manifestly true that if the inimitable Author of _Les Caracteres, ou
les Moeurs de ce Siecle_, had demanded in _England, who forbids
Knowledge to Women_? It must have been answer'd him, the Ignorance of
the Men does so; and the same Answer I think he might have receiv'd in
his own Country.

_Monsieur Bruyere_ says indeed, and likely it is, _That Men have made
no Laws, or put out any Edicts whereby Women are prohibited to open
their Eyes; to Read; to Remember what they Read, and to make use
thereof in their Conversation, or in composing of Works_. But surely
he had little Reason to suppose, as he herein does, that Women could
not otherwise than _by Laws and Edicts_ be restrain'd from Learning.
It is sufficient for this that no body assists them in it; and that
they are made to see betimes that it would be disadvantageous to them
to have it. For how few Men are there, that arrive to any Eminence
therein? tho' Learning is not only not prohibited to them _by Laws and
Edicts;_ but that ordinarily much Care, and Pains, is taken to give it
them; and that great Profits, oftentimes, and, always, Honour attends
their having it.

The Law of Fashion, establish'd by Repute and Disrepute, is to most
People the powerfullest of all Laws, as Monsieur _Bruyere_ very well
knew; whose too Satyrical Genius makes him assign as Causes of Womens
not having Knowledge, the universally necessary consequences of being
bred in the want thereof. But what on different occasions he says of
the Sex, will either on the one part vindicate them, or else serve
for an Instance that this Ingenious Writers Reflections, however
witty, are not always instructive, or just Corrections. For either
Women have generally some other more powerful Principle of their
Actions than what terminates in rendering themselves pleasing to Men
(as he insinuates they have not) or else they neglect the improvement
of their Minds and Understandings, as not finding them of any use to
that purpose; whence it is not equal in him to charge it peculiarly
(as he does) upon that Sex (if it be indeed so much chargeable on them
as on Men) that they are diverted from Science by _une curiosité toute
differente de celle qui contente l'Espirt: ou un tout autre gout que
celuy d'exercer leur Memoire_.

Yet since I think it is but Natural, and alike so in both Sexes, to
desire to please the other, I may, I suppose, without any Injurious
Reflexion upon Ladies, presume, that if Men did usually find Women the
more amiable for being knowing, they would much more commonly, than
now they are, be so.

But the Knowledge hitherto spoken of has a nobler Aim than the
pleasing of Men, and begs only Toleration from them; in granting
whereof they would at least equally consult their own advantage: as
they could not but find, did They not by a common Folly, incident to
Humane Nature, hope that contradictions should subsist together in
their Favour; from whence only it is that very many who would not that
Women should have Knowledge, do yet complain of, and very impatiently
bear the Natural, and unavoidable consequences of their Ignorance.

But what sure Remedy can be found for Effects whose Cause remains? and
on what ground can it be expected that Ignorance and uninstructed
Persons should have the Venues which proceed from a rightly inform'd
Understanding, and well cultivated Mind? or not be liable to those
Vices which their Natures incline them to? And how should it otherwise
be than that they, who have never consider'd the Nature and
Constitution of Things, or weigh'd the Authority of the Divine Law,
and what it exacts of them, should be perswaded that nothing can be so
truly profitable to them as the Indulgence of their present Passions,
and Appetites? Which whoso places their Happiness in the satisfaction
of, cannot fail of being themselves miserable, or of making those so
who are concern'd in them.

Humane Nature is not capable of durable satisfaction when the Passions
and Appetites are not under the direction of right Reason: And whilst
we eagerly pursue what disappoints our expectation, or cloys with the
Enjoyment, as all irregular pleasures, however Natural, do; and whilst
we daily create to our selves desires still more vain, as thinking
thereby to be supply'd with new Delights, we shall ever (instead of
finding true Contentment) be subjected to uneasiness, disgust and
vexation: The unhappy state more, or less, of all who want that
Knowledge which is requisite to direct their Actions suitably to the
Ends which as rational Creatures they ought to propose: and as can
inable them profitably to employ their Time.

But since Examples do the best perswade, let us see, with respect to
Women, in the most considerable Instances, what plainly are the
Natural consequences of that Ignorance which they usually are bred in;
and which Men think so advantageous to themselves. We will suppose
then a Lady bred, as the generality of Men think she should be, in a
blind belief concerning Religion; and taught that it is even
ridiculous for a Lady to trouble her Head about this matter; since it
is so far from being a Science fit for her, that it indeed properly
belongs only to Gown-Men: and that a Woman very well Merits to be
laugh'd at who will act the Doctor: Her Duty in the case being plain
and easie; as requiring only of her to believe and practice what she
is taught at Church, or in such Books of Piety as shall be recommended
to her by her Parents, or some Spiritual Director.

This is generally, I think, the Sense of Men concerning the Knowledge
which Ladies ought to have of Religion: And thus much, I doubt not may
suffice for their Salvation. But the saving of their Souls (tho' it
were herein as sure as it is possible) is not, I suppose, all that
Men are Solicitous for in regard of their Wives; their own Honour in
that of those so near to them, does I think, much more frequently and
sensibly employ their Care: And that, too often, appears to be but
very weakly secur'd by such an implicit Faith as this. For these
Believers (especially if they are thought to have any Wit, as well as
Beauty) will hardly escape meeting some time or other, with those who
will ask them _why they Believe_; and if they find then that they have
no more Reason for going to Church than they should have had to go to
Mass, or even to the Synagogue, had they been bred amongst Papists or
Jews, they must needs, at the same time, doubt whether, or no, the
Faith they have been brought up in, is any righter than either of
these; from whence they will, (by easy steps) be induc'd to question
the Truth of all Religion, when they shall be told by those who have
insinuated themselves into their Esteem and good Graces, that indeed
All Religions are, alike, the Inventions and Artifices of cunning Men
to govern the World by; unworthy of imposing upon such as have their
good Sense: That Fools only, and Ignorants are kept in Awe, and
restrain'd by their Precepts; which, if they observe it, they shall
ever find, are the lest obey'd by those who pretend the most to
obtrude them upon others.

That this is Language which Women often hear is certain: And such a
one as knows no reason for what she has been taught to believe, but
has been reprov'd, perhaps, for demanding one, can very hardly avoid
being perswaded that there is much appearance of Truth in this; whence
she will soon come to conclude, that she has hitherto been in the
wrong, if upon any scruple of Religion, she has not gratify'd her
Inclination, in whatever she imagines might tend to make her Life more
pleasing to her. And should a young Lady, thus dispos'd, find a Lover
whom she thinks has a just value for all her good Qualities, which at
best, perhaps, procure her but the cold Civility of her Husband, it is
odds that she may be in danger of giving him cause to wish she had
been better instructed, than may possibly suffice for her Salvation:
Which, whatever happens, none can pronounce, may not be secur'd from
the allowances due to so great Ignorance, or at least by any timely
Repentance: Whilst Honour, if not intirely Ship-wrack'd, it is scarce
reasonable to hope, should suffer no Diminution on such an occasion;
the which, that Women the most vertuously dispos'd, may never be
within distance of, will, in an Age like this, be best provided for
by their being betimes instructed in the true Reasons and Measures of
their Duty; since those, who are so, are not only better able to
defend their Vertue, but have also the seldomest occasion for such a
defence. Men, how ill soever inclin'd, being aw'd by, and made asham'd
to attaque with so pittiful Arguments, as Vice admits of, such as they
see are rationally Vertuous; whilst easy ignorance is look'd upon as a
Prey expos'd to every bold Invader: And whatever Garb of Gravity or
Modesty it is cloath'd withal, invites such very often, even where the
Charms of the Person would not otherwise attract them.

But as such Men who think that the understanding of Religion is a
thing needless to Women, do commonly much more believe all other
rational Knowledge to be so; let us see how reasonably these same Men
who willingly allow not to Ladies any employment of their Thoughts
worthy of them as rational Creatures, do yet complain, that either
Play is their daily and expensive pastime; or that they love not to be
at home taking care of their Children, as did heretofore Ladies who
were honour'd for their Vertue; but that an eternal round of idle
Visits, the Park, Court, Play-houses and Musick Meetings, with all the
costly Preparations to being seen in publick, do constantly take up
their Time and their Thoughts. For how heavy an Accusation soever
this, in itself, is, may it not justly be demanded of such Men as we
have spoken of, what good they imagine Mothers who understand nothing
that is fit for their Children to know, should procure to them by
being much in their Company: And next, whether they indeed think it
equitable to desire to confine Ladies to spend the best part of their
Lives in the Society and company of little Children; when to play with
them as a more entertaining sort of Monkeys or Parroquets, is all the
pleasing Conversation that they are capable of having with them? For
no other Delight can ignorant Women take in the Company of young
Children; and if to desire this, is not equitable or just, must it not
be concluded, that the greatest part of those, who make the
above-mention'd Complaints, do really mean nothing else thereby, but,
by a colourable and handsome pretence, to oblige their Wives, either
to be less expensive, or to avoid, it may be, the occasions of gaining
Admirers which may make them uneasy? Neither can such, possibly, be
presum'd upon any Principle of Vertue, to disapprove those ways of
anothers spending their Time, or Mony, which themselves will either
upon no consideration forbear; or else do so only, from a preference
of things as little, or yet less reasonable; as Drinking, Gaming, or
Lew'd Company. Such Persons of both Sexes as These, are indeed but fit
Scourges to chastise each others Folly; and they do so sufficiently,
whilst either restraint on the one side begets unconquerable hatred
and aversion; or else an equal indulgence puts all their Affairs into
an intire confusion and disorder: Whence Want, mutual ill Will,
Disobedience of Children, their Extravagance, and all the ill effects
of neglected Government, and bad Example follow; till they make such a
Family a very Purgatory to every one who lives in it. And as the
Original cause of all these mischiefs is Peoples not living like
rational Creatures, but giving themselves up to the blind Conduct of
their Desires and Appetites; so all who in any measure do thus, will
accordingly, more or less, create vexation to each other, because it
is impossible that they should ever be at ease, or contented in their
own Minds.

There being then so very few reasonable People in the World, as are,
that is to say, such who indeavour to live conformably to the Dictates
of Reason, submitting their Passions and Appetites to the Government
and Direction of that Faculty which God has given them to that end;
what wonder can it be that so few are happy in a Marry'd Estate? And
how little cause is there to charge their Infelicity, as often is
done, upon this Condition, as if it were a necessary Consequence
thereof?

The necessities of a Family very often, and the injustice of Parents
sometimes, causes People to sacrifice their Inclinations, in this
matter, to interest; which must needs make this State uneasy in the
beginning to those who are otherways ever so much fitted to live well
in such a Relation; yet scarce any vertuous and reasonable Man and
Woman who are Husband and Wife, can know that it is both their Duty
and Interest (as it is) reciprocally to make each other Happy without
effectually doing so in a little time. But if no contrary Inclination
obstruct this Felicity, a greater cannot certainly be propos'd, since
Friendship has been allow'd by the wisest, most vertuous, and most
generous Men of all Ages to be the solidest and sweetest pleasure in
this World: And where can Friendship have so much advantage to arrive
to, and be maintain'd in its Perfection, as where two Persons have
inseparably one and the same Interest; and see themselves united, as
it were, in their common Off-spring? All People, it is certain, have
not a like fitness for, or relish of this pleasure of Friendship,
which therefore, however preferable to others in the real advantages
of it, cannot be equally valuable to all. But where there is mutually
that predominant Disposition to vertuous Love, which is the
Characteristick of the most excellent Minds, I think we cannot frame
an Idea of so great Happiness to be found in any thing in this Life,
as in a Marry'd State.

It seems therefore one of the worst Marks that can be of the Vice and
Folly of any Age when Mariage is commonly contemn'd therein; since
nothing can make it to be so but Mens Averseness to, or incapacity for
those things which most distinguish them from Brutes, Vertue and
Friendship.

But it were well if Mariage was not become a State almost as much
fear'd by the Wise, as despis'd by Fools. Custom and silly Opinion,
whose consequences yet are (for the most part) not imaginary, but real
Evils, do usually make it by their best Friends thought adviseable for
those of the Female Sex once to Marry; altho' the Risque which they
therein run of being wretched, is yet much greater than that of Men;
who (not having the same inducements from the hazard of their
Reputation, or any uneasie dependance) are, from the examples of
others Misfortunes, often deter'd from seeking Felicity in a condition
wherein they so rarely see, or hear of any who find it; it being too
true that one can frequent but little Company, or know the Story of
but few Families, without hearing of the publick Divisions, and
Discords of Marry'd People, or learning their private Discontents from
their being in that state. But since the cause of such unhappiness
lies only in the corruption of Manners, were that redress'd, there
would need nothing more to bring _Mariage_ into credit.

Vice and Ignorance, thus, we see, are the great Sources of those
Miseries which Men suffer in every state. These, oftentimes, mingle
Gall even in their sweetest Pleasures; and imbitter to them the
wholesomest Delights. But what remedy hereto can be hop'd for, if
rational Instruction and a well order'd Education of Youth, in respect
of Vertue and Religion, can only (as has been said) rectify these
Evils? For vicious and ignorant Parents are neither capable of this,
or generally willing that their Children should be instructed or
govern'd any other ways, than as themselves have been before them.

One might hence therefore, it may be, reasonably believe, that God
reserves to himself, by some extraordinary interposition of his
providence, that Reformation which we are assur'd, will some time be
effected. But yet if all Persons, eminent by their Quality, who merit
not to be rank'd among the Vicious and Ignorant, would give the
Example, much would thereby be done towards the introducing of a
general amendment: Since these could make a greater care of Education
in the above-mention'd Respects, become, in some degree, Fashionable:
And even a reasonable thing will not want Followers, if it be once
thought the Fashion. We have seen also that Mothers, in regard of
their Childrens Instruction, ought to take upon themselves, as their
proper Business, a very great part in that concernment; and one would
think that there were no inconsiderable number of Ladies amongst us,
who might, with hopes of success, be address'd to, that they would
indeavour to acquit themselves herein of their Duty. I mean all such
as are unhappily Marry'd; for what so good Reparation can they find
for the misfortune of having foolish and vicious Husbands, who neglect
or treat them ill, as the having Children honour'd for their Vertue,
and who shall honour and love them, not only as their Parents, but as
those to whom they owe much more than their Being?

To perswade such whose Heads are full of Pleasure, and whose Hours
pass gaily, to seek their satisfaction in things of which they have
never yet had any tast, could not reasonably be thought other than a
vain Attempt: But they who are wretched, one would think, should be
easily prevail'd with to hearken to any Proposition, which brings but
the least glimpse of Happiness to them; and were that tenderness of
their Children, which ingages Mothers to do them all the good they
can, less natural than it is to Vertuous Women, one would imagine,
that when from these alone they must expect all their Felicity in
this Life, they should readily contribute what is in their Power to
the securing to themselves this only Blessing which they can propose;
and which they cannot miss of, without the greatest increase
imaginable to their present unhappiness: Childrens Ill-doing being an
Affliction equal to the Joy of their doing well. Which must be an
unspeakable one to such Parents as are conscious, that this is in
great measure the Fruit and Effect of their right direction. Nor is
there any thing which a vertuous Man or Woman does not think they owe,
or is too much for them to return to those to whom they believe
themselves indebted for their being such. How great a Felicity then
may a Mother, unhappy in the Relation of a Wife, (by procuring to
herself such Friends as these) lay up for her declining Age, which
must otherwise be more miserable than her unfortunate Youth? And how
much better would she employ her time in this care, than in the
indulging to a weakness, very incident to tender Minds, which is to
bemoan themselves, instead of casting about for Relief against their
Afflictions, whereby they become but yet more soften'd to the
Impressions of their Sorrow, and every day less able to support them?

They are usually (it is true) the most Vertuous Women who are the
aptest to bear with immoderate Grief, the ill Humour, or unkindness of
their Husbands: But it is pitty that such, who (in an Age wherein the
contrary is too often practis'd) have more Vertue than to think of
returning the Injuries they receive, should want so much Wit as not to
repay unkindness, with a just contempt of it: But instead thereof,
foolishly sacrifice their Lives, or the Comforts of them (which is our
All in this World) to those who will not sacrifice the least
inclination to their reasonable Satisfaction: And how much wiser and
more becoming Christians would it be for such Ladies to reflect less
upon what others owe to them, and more upon what they owe to
themselves and their Children, than to abandon themselves, as too many
do, to a fruitless Grief; which serves for nothing else, but to render
them yet less agreeable to those whom they desire to please; and
useless in the World: Diseases, and, in time, constant ill Health
being the almost never failing Effects of a lasting Discontent upon
such feeble Constitutions. But I take leave to say, that the fault of
those who make others thus miserable, and the weakness of such who
thus suffer their Minds to think under Adversity, are in a great
measure both owing to one and the same Cause, viz. Ignorance of the
true Rules and Measures of their Duty; whereby they would be taught
to correct every excess; together with the want of such other
Knowledge (suitable to the Capacity and Condition of the Person) as
would both usefully and agreably employ their Time: This Knowledge,
tho' not perhaps of a Nature immediately conducing to form, or rectify
the Manners, yet doing so, in a great measure, by restraining or
preventing the irregularities of them. For as ill natur'd and vicious
Men, if they know but how pleasantly and profitably to employ those
tedious hours which lye upon their Hands, would be generally less
Vicious, and less ill Humour'd than they are; so Women of the most
sensible Dispositions would not give up themselves to sorrow that is
always hurtful, and sometimes dangerous both in their Honour and
Salvation (excess of Tenderness, when abus'd, too often producing
Hatred, and that Revenge) if they were not only very little inform'd
as to what God requires of them; but also very Ignorant in regard of
any kind of Ingenious Knowledge, whereby they might delightfully
employ themselves, and divert those displeasing Thoughts which
(otherwise) will incessantly Torment, and Prey upon their Minds. She
who has no Inclinations unbecoming a Vertuous Woman, who prefers her
Husbands Affection to all things in the World; and who can no longer
find that pleasure in the ordinary Circle of Ladies Diversions, which
perhaps, they gave her in her first Youth, is but very ill provided to
bear Discontent where she proposes her greatest satisfaction, if she
has nothing within her self which can afford her pleasure,
independently upon others: Which is what none can lastingly have,
without some improvement of their rational Faculties; since as
Childhood, and Youth, wear off, the relish of those pleasures that
are suited to them, do so too; on which account the most happy would
not ill consult their advantage, if by contracting betimes a Love of
Knowledge (which is ever fruitful in delight to those who have once a
true taste of it) they provide in their Youth such a Source of
Pleasure for their Old Age as Time will not dissipate, but improve; by
rendring their Minds no less vigorous, and its Beauties yet more
attracting, when the short Liv'd ones of their Faces are impair'd, and
gone. Whilst those whose Youthful Time has been devoted to Vanities,
or Trifles, Age does inevitably deliver over either to melancholy
Repentance, or (at best) to the wearisome Languishings which attend a
Life deprived of Desire and Enjoyment.

Now in the pursuit of that Pleasure which the exercise and improvement
of the understanding gives, I see no Reason why it should not be
thought that all Science lyes as open to a Lady as to a Man: And that
there is none which she may not properly make her Study, according as
she shall find her self best fited to succeed therein; or as is most
agreeable to her Inclination: provided ever, that all such Knowledge
as relates to her Duty, or is, any way, peculiarly proper to her Sex,
and Condition, be principally, and in the first place her Care: For it
is indeed very preposterous for a Woman to employ her Time in
enquiries, or speculations not necessary for her, to the neglect of
that for Ignorance whereof she will be guilty before God, or blameable
in the Opinion of all Wise Men; And to do this, is plainly no less
irrational and absurd, than for one destitute of necessary Cloathing,
to lay out what should supply that want upon things meerly of
Ornament. There is yet, methinks, no difference betwixt the Folly of
such Learned Women, and that of Learned Men, who do the same thing,
except that the one is the greater Rarity.

But it is not perhaps very seasonable to propose that Ladies should
have any greater Accomplishments or Improvements of their
Understandings than the well discharging of their Duty requires, till
it is thought fit for them to have that: The advantages of which to
Men themselves, and the necessity thereof to a right Education of
their Children of both Sexes are too evident, when reflected upon, not
to obtain Encouragement of so much Knowledge in Women from all who are
Lovers of Vertue, were it not true that Conviction does not always
operate. The Law of Fashion or Custom, is still to be obey'd, let
Reason contradict it ever so much: And those bold Adventurers are
look'd upon but as a sort of _Don Quixots_; whose Zeal for any
Reformation puts them upon Combating generally receiv'd Opinions, or
Practices; even tho' the Honour of their Maker be concern'd therein:
Or (what is nearer to most) their own Private and Temporal Interests.
I am sure that a just consideration of both these furnishes every one
with very cogent inducements to make what opposition they can to
Immorality, both by amending their own faults, and by indeavouring to
prevail upon others to correct whatever has contributed to the making
us a vicious People. For, not to say that it is a rational as well as
Pious Fear that God by some signal Judgment upon such as have abus'd
many Mercies, should make an example of them for the deterring of
others, it is more certain (tho' usually less reflected upon) that it
is no way necessary to the punishment of any Wicked Ungrateful Nation,
that God should interpose, by some extraordinary act of his
Providence, to inflict upon them the due Reward of their
Disobedience, and Ingratitude: Since so fitly are all things dispos'd
in their Original Constitution, and the order of Nature to the
All-wise ends of their Maker, that (without his especial Interposition
in the case) the establish'd course of things does bring to pass the
effects that he sees fit in respect of the Moral, as well as of the
Natural World; nor scarcely can any People from the avenging Hand of
the Almighty, in the most astonishing Judgments which can render them
an eminent example of his Displeasure, receive any severer
Chastisement, than what they will find in the Natural result and
consequences of their Moral Corruption when grown to an Extremity.

It would be to enter into a large Field of Discourse to shew how
experience has always attested this. And we perceive, but too
sensibly, that Vice proportionably to its measure, carries along with
it, its own Punishment, to need that we should search for Foreign, or
Remote examples in proof hereof.

A general Contempt of Religion towards God: Want of Truth and Fidelity
amongst Men: Luxury and Intemperance, follow'd with the neglect of
industry, and application to useful Arts and Sciences, are necessarily
attended with misery, and have been usually also, the Fore-runners of
approaching Ruine to the best and most flourishing Governments which
have been in the World. And as in the same proportion that these
things do any where prevail, so must naturally the unhappiness of such
a People; it is evident, that for any Prophane, Debauch'd, or Vicious
Nation to expect a durable Prosperity, is no other than to hope that
God will in their Favour (who have justly incur'd his Indignation)
withhold the natural Effects of that Constitution and Order of things,
which he has with infinite Wisdom Establish'd: A Conceit too
contradictious to Reason, as well as too Presumptuous for any one, I
suppose, to entertain.

FINIS.





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