Page images
PDF
EPUB

nary length, as it must contain all the particulars

that are fuppofed to have paffed in his imagina. tion during so long a fleep. He is said to have * gone already through three days and three nights * of it, and to have comprised in them the most * remarkable passages of the four first enpires of • the world. If he can keep free from party• strokes, his work may be of use; but this I much

doubt, having been informed by one of his friends

and confidents, that he has spoken some things of · Nimrod with too great

freedom. L

I am ever, Sir, &c.'

6

NO 185. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2.

-Tantæne animis cæleftibus irae?

Virg. Æn. i. ver. 15. And dwells such fury in celestial breasts? THIERE "Here is nothing in which men more deceive

themselves than in what the world call Zeal. There are so many passions which bide themselves under it, and so many mischiefs arising from it, that fame have gone so far as to fay, it would have been for the benefit of mankind if it had never been reckoned in the catalogue of virtues. It is certain, where it is once laudable and prudential, it is an hundred times criminal and erroneous; 'nor can it be otherwise, if we consider that it operates with equal violence in all religions, however opposite they may be to one another, and in all the fubdivitions of each religion in particular.

We are told by fone of the Jewish Rabbins, that the first murder was occafioned by a religious controversy; and if we had the whole history of zeal from the days of Gain to our own times, we should see it filled with so many scenes of slaughter and bloodfred, as would inake a wise man very careful

how

[ocr errors]

how he suffers himself to be actuated by such a principle, when it only regards matters of opinion and fpeculation.

I would have every zealous man examine his heart thoroughly, and, I believe, he will often find, that what he calls a zcal for his religion, is either pride, interest, or ill-nature. A man who differs from another in opinion, sets himself above him in his own judgment, and in several particulars pretends to be the wiser perfon. This is a great provocation to the proud man, and gives a very keen edge to what he calls his zeal. And that this is the case very often, we may observe from the behaviour of forne of the most zealous for orthodoxy, who have often great friend thips and intimacies with vicious immo. ral men, provided they do but agree with them in the same scheme of belief. The reason is, because the vicious believer gives the precedency to the virtuous man, and allows the good Christian to be the worthier person, at the same time that he cannot come up to his perfections. This we find cxempli.

fied in that crite passage which we fee quoted in al-
most every system of ethicks, though upon another
occasion.

--Video meliora provoque,
Detcriora fequor ---- Ovid. Met. 1. 7. ver. 20.
I see the right, and I approve it too ;
Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue.

TATE. On the contrary, it is certain, if our zeal were true and genuine, we should be much inore angry with a finner than a heretick; since there are several cases which may excuse the latter before his great judge, but none which can excuse the former.

Interest is likewise a great inflamer, and sets a man on profecution under the colour of zeal. For is reason, we find none are fo forward to promote the true worship by fire and sword, as those who find VOL. III.

G

their

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

their present account in it. But I shall extend the word Interest to a larger meaning than what is generally given it, as it relates to our fpiritual safety and well-fare, as well as to our temporal. A man is glad to gain numbers on his fide, as they serve to strengthen him in his private opinions. Every profelyte is like a new argument for the establishment of his faith.; It makes him believe that his principles carry conviction with them, and are the more likely to be true, when he finds they are conformable to the reason of others, as well as to his own. And that this temper of mind deludes a man very often into an opinion of his zeal, may appear from the common behaviour of the Atheist, who mainrains and spreads his opinions with as much heat as those who believe they do it only out of a paflion for God's glory.

Ill-nature is another dreadful imitator of zeal. Many a good man may have a natural rancour and inalice in his heart, which has been in some nieasure quelled and subdued by religion ; but if it finds any pretence of breaking out, which does not seem to him inconsistent with the duties of a Christian, it throws off all restraint, and rages in full fury. Ze:i is therefore a great ease to a malicious man, by making him believe he does God service, whilft he is gratifying the bent of a perverse' revengeful tumper. For this reason we find, that most of the massacres and devastations, which have been in the world, have taken their rise from a furious pretended zeal.

I love to see a man zealous in a good matter, and especially when his zeal shews itself for advancing morality, and promoting the happiness of mankind: But when I find the instruments he works with are Tacks and gibbets, gallies and dungeons; when he imprisons inens perfons, confiscates their cstates, ruins their families, and burns the body to save the foul, I cannot stick to pronounce of such a

one

that one does not know how to set thema

one that (whatever he may think of his faith and religion) his faith is vain, and his religion unprofitable.

After having treated of these false zealots in re. ligion, I cannot forbear mentioning a monstrous fpecies of men, who one would not think had any existence in nature, were they not to be met with in ordinary conversation, I mean the zealots in atheisin. One would fancy that these men, though they fall short in every other respect of those who make a profeffion of religion, would at least outshine them in this particular, and be exempt from that single fault which seems to grow out of the imprudent fervours of religion : But so it is, that infidelity is propagated with as much fierceness and contention, wrath and indignation, as if the safety of mankind depended upon it. There is something so ridiculous and perverse in this kind of zealots,

out in their proper colours. They are a sort of gamefters who are eternally upon the fret, though they play for nothing. They are perpetually reizing their friends to come over them, though at the same time they allow that neither of them fhall get any thing by the bargain. In short, the zeal of spreading atheism is, if possible, more absurd than atheism itself.

Since I have mentioned this unaccountable zeal which appears in atheists and infidels, I must farther observe that they are likewise in a most particular manner pofseffed with the spirit of bigotry. They are wedded to opinions full of contradiction and impoffibility, and at the fame time look upon the smallest difficulty in an article of faith as a sufficient reason for rejecting it. Notions that fall in with the common reason of mankind, that are con. formable to the sense of all ages and all nations, not to mention their tendency for promoting the happiness of societies, or of particular persons, are

exploded

to

G 2

exploded as errors and prejudices ; ånd scheme's erected in their stead that are altogether moitftrous and irrational, and require the most extravilgant credulity to embrace them. I would fain ask: one of these bigotted infidels, fuppofing all the grcat points of atheism, as the casual or eternal formation of the world, the materiality of a thinking fub tance, the mortality of the foul, the fortuitous organization of the body, thë morins and gravitation of inatter, with the like particulars, were laid together and formed into a kind of freed, according to the opinions of the most celebrated atheists; I say, fuppofing such a créed as this were formed, and imposed upon any one people in the world, whether it would not require an infinitely greater measure of faith, than any fet of articles which they fo violently oppose. Let me therefore advise this generation of wranglers, for their own and for the publié good, to act at least fo confift. cntly with themselves, as nor to burn with zeal for irreligion, and with bigotry for nonsenfe.

NO 186. WEDNESDAY, OC ÎÓB'ER 3.

Cælum ipfum petimus ftultitia-in*

Hor. Od. III. I. i. v. 38. Scarce the Gods and heav'nly climes, Are safe from our audacious crimes. DRYDEN. UPox my return to my lodgings laft night!

found a letter from my worthy friend the clergyman, whom I have given fome account of in my former papers. He reils iné in it that he was particularly pleased with the latter part of my yelterday's speculation; and at the fame time inclofea the following effay, which he desires me to publith as the sequel of that discourse. It' confifts partly of uncommon reflections, and partly of such as

« PreviousContinue »