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because it is the great Rule of such Men, that they may lawfully follow the Dictates of Nature, where-ever their Safety, Health, and Fortune are not injured. So that, upon the Whole, there is hardly one Vice which a meer moral Man may not, upon some Occasions, allow himself to practise.
The other false Principle, which some Men fet up
in the Place of Conscience, to be their Director in Life, is what those who pretend to it, call Honour.
This Word is often made the Sanction of an Oath; it is reckoned a great Commendation to be a Man of strict Honour; and it is commonly understood, that a Man of Honour can never be guilty of a base Action. This is usually the Stile of military Men; of Persons with Titles, and of others who pretend to Birth and Quality. It is true, indeed, that in ancient Times, it was universally understood, that Honour was the Reward of Virtue ; but if fuch Honour, as is now-a-days going, will not permit a Man to do a base Action, it must be allowed, there are very few such Things as base Actions in Nature. No Man of Honour, as that Word is usually understood, did ever pretend that his Honour obliged him to be chaste or temperate ; to pay his Creditors; to be useful to his Country ; to do good to Mankind; to endeavour to be wise or learned regard his Word, his Promise, or his Oath; or, if he hath any of these Virtues, they were
never learned in the Catechism of Honour which containeth but two Precepts, the punctual Payment of Debts contracted at Play, and the right understanding the several Degrees of an Affront, in order to revenge it by the Death of an Adversary
But suppose this Principle of Honour, which some Men so much boast of, did really produce more Virtues than it ever pretended to ; yet, since the very Being of that Honour dependeth upon the Breath, the Opinion, or the Fancy of the People, the Virtues derived from it could be of no long or certain Duration, For Example: Suppose a Man, from a Principle of Honour, should refolve to be just, or chaste, or temperate, and yet the censuring World should take a Humour of refusing him those Characters, he would then think the Obligation at an End; or, on the other side, if he thought he could gain Honour by the falsest and vilest Actions, (which is a Cafe that very often happeneth) he would then make no Scruple to perform it. And God knoweth, it would be an unhappy State, to have the Religion, the Liberty, or the Property of a People lodged in such Hands, which, however, hath been too often the Case,
What I have said upon this Principle of Honour may, perhaps, be thought of small Concernment to most of you who are my Hearers; however, a Caution was not altogether unneceffary, since there is nothing by which not
only the Vulgar, but the honest Tradesman, hath been so much deceived, as this infamous Pretence to Honour in too many of their Betters.
Having thus shewn you the Weakness and Uncertainty of those Principles which some Men set up in the Place of Conscience to direct them in their Actions, I shall now endeavour to prove to you, that there is no solid, firm Foundation of Virtue, but in a Conscience directed by the Principles of Religion.
There is no Way of judging how far we may depend upon the Actions of Men, otherwise than by knowing the Motives and Grounds, and Causes of them; and, if the Motives of our Actions be not resolved and determined into the Law of God, they will be precarious and uncertain, and liable to perpetual Changes. I will shew
what I mean, by an Example: Suppose à Man thinketh it his Duty to obey his Parents, because Reason telleth him so, because he is obliged by Gratitude, and because the Laws of his Country command him to do so; But, if he stoppeth here, his Parents can have ng lasting Security i for an Occasion may happen, wherein it may be extremely his Interest to be disobedient, and where the Laws of the Land can lay no hold upon him: Therefore, before such a Man can safely be trusted, he must proceed farther, and consider, that his Reason is the Gift of God; that God commanded him to bę obedient to
the Laws; and did moreover, in a particular Manner, enjoin him to be dutiful to his Parents ; after which, if he layeth a due Weight upon those Confiderations, he will probably continue in his Duty to the End of his Life
३ Because no' earthly Interest çan ever come in Competition to balance the Danger of offending his Creator, or the Happiness of pleasing him. And of all this his Conscience will cer tainly inform him, if he hath any Regard to Religion.
SECONDLY, Fear and Hope are the two greatest natural Motives of all Men's Actions but neither of these Passions will ever put us in the Way of Virtue, unlefs they be directed by Conscience. For although virtuous Men do sometimes accidentally make their way to Preferment, yet the World is so corrupted, that no Man can reasonably hope to be rewarded in it, merely upon Account of his Virtue, And consequently, the Fear of Punisha ment in this Life, will preserve Men from very few Vices, fince some of the blackest and basert do. often prove the surest Steps to Favour such as Ingratitude, Hypocrisy, Treachery, Malice, Subornation, Atheism, and many more which human Laws do little concern themfelves about. But when Conscience placeth before us the Hopes of everlasting Happiness, and the Fears of everlasting Misery, as the Reward and Punishment of our good or evil Actions, our Reason can find no Way to avoid
the Force of such an Argument, otherwise than by running into Infidelity.
LASTLY, Conscience will direct us to love God, and to put our whole Trust and Confidence in him. Our Love of God will inspire us with a Detestation for Sin, as what is of all Things most contrary to his divine Nature and, if we have an entire Confidence in him, that will enable us to subdue and despise all the Allurements of the World.
It may here be objected, If Conscience be so sure a Director to us Christians in the Conduct of our Lives, how cometh it to pass, that the ancient Heathens, who had no other Lights but those of Nature and Reason, should so far Exceed us in all manner of Virtue, as plainly appeareth by many Examples they have left on Record ?
To which it may be answered : First, those Heathens were extremely strict and exact in the Education of their Children; whereas, amongst us, this Care is so much laid aside, that the more God hath blessed
Man with Estate or Quality, just so much less in Proportion is the Care he taketh in the Education of his Children, and particularly of that Child which is to inherit his Fortune; of which the Effects are visible enough among the Great Ones of the World. Again, those Heathens did, in a particular Manner, instil the Principle into their Children of loving their Country, which is so far otherwise now-a-days, that of