Imágenes de páginas

duty of prayer. Mr. Chubb expressly denies the doctrine of a particular providence, and not only speaks of the impropriety of praying to God, but even suggests a sufpicion that it may be displeasing to the divine being.

Bolingbroke, who has been much extolled as a writer and philosopher, blames even the Pagan theists for flattering human nature, when they taught that a good man imitates God. He will admit of no proof that God is a lover of mankind, and made man to be happy. He altogether rejects the scripture doctrine of a particular providence, and the notion that God is attentive to the prayers and wants of men. He acknowledges that God is a being of almighty power, and infinite wisdom ; but he says, that we must not pretend to ascribe to him any moral attributes, as holiness, justice, or goodness. He says that he neither has these qualities, nor any thing equivalent to them.




Of the moral sentiments of the Heathens.

L AVING taken a view of the state Il of theology in the Gentile world, I shall proceed to consider some of their general maxims relating to morals, and especially such as were patronized by the philosophers; and we cannot but be sensible that they were by no means favourable to virtue, taken in its just extent. At the close of this I shall also shew how modern unbelievers have relapsed into the same loose kind of morality.

Many of the philosophers maintained that there is nothing just or unjust by nature, but only by positive law and custom. This was the opinion of Theodorus, Archelaus, and Aristippus, of the Alexandrian school, which prevailed the most a little before the time of Christ. All the earlier philofophers allowed too much to the obligation of positive law. Even Socrates himself represents it as essential to the character of a good man to obey, without reserve, the laws of his country. On the other hand, Epicurus taught that a man is to do every thing for his own fuke, his own happiness being the great rule of life.

The most distinguished system of morals among the Greeks was that of the Stoics, and it is generaliy esteemed to have been peculiarly favourable to virtue. It carries, indeed, an air of greatness and sublimity in it; but when examined will be found to be no friend to the humane and pleasing virtues. It was the great maxim of the Stoics that the soul of man, being of the fame nature with God, is self sufficient for virtue and happiness, insomuch that it is not in the power of the Gods themselves to make a good man unhappy. Nay, so arrogantly did some of them talk, that they represented men as superior to the




Gods, saying that these are wise by the necessity of their nature, but men by choice. Such notions as these could not but lay a foundation for a very dangerous and insufferable pride.


[ocr errors]

• To support this strange hypothesis, with respect to a world in which the wisest and best of men are subject to pain and death, they were obliged to maintain, and they did it resolutely, that pain is no evil, and that length of time makes no addition to happiness. To promote an insensibility to pain, they maintained that men must suppress all paffions, whether they be of the nature of love or hatred. They would not allow of anger, even at vice or injustice ; and to make it the easier for persons to stifle their resentment on these occasions, they frequently represented all crimes as involuntary, and consequently such things as no person could have any reason to be surprized or offended at, especially since no body could be a sufferer but the injurious person himself. For it was the great maxim of Epictetus, that it is naturally impossible


[ocr errors]

for one man to be in fault, and another to be the sufferer. It is certainly very hard to conceive what real virtue such maxims as these could produce; and we shall see their mischievous tendency in several respects hereafter.

It is not difficult to point out several general maxims relating to morals, among modern unbelievers, which bear as unfriendly an aspect upon human virtue, if the idea that was given of it in the first part of these Institutes be just. Mr. Hume, the most acute of all modern unbelievers, confounds natural and moral qualities; representing virtue to consist of any agreeable disposition or accomplishment, without diftinction. Among the virtues, he particularly mentions wit, ingenuity, eloquence, quickness of conception, facility of expreslion, delicacy of taste, politeness, cleanliness, and even force of body. On the other hand he excludes from the rank of virtues bumility and self denial, saying that they are rejected by men of sense, because they serve no manner of purpose.


P 3

« AnteriorContinuar »