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The two virtues most celebrated by ancient moralists, were Fortitude and Temperance, as relating to the government of man in his private capacity, to which their schemes were generally addressed and confined; and the two instances wherein those virtues arrived at the greatest height, were Socrates and Cato. But neither those, nor any other virtues possessed by these two, were at all owing to any lessons or doctrines of a sect.
For Socrates himself was of none at all: and although Cato was called a stoic, it was more from a resemblance of manners in his worst qualities, than that he avowed himself one of their disciples. The same may be affirmed of many other great men of antiquity. Whence I infer, that those who were renowned for virtue among them, were more obliged to the good natural dispositions of their own minds, than to the doctrines of any sect they pretended to follow.
On the other side, as the examples of fortitude and patience among the primitive Christians, have been infinitely greater and more numerous, so they were altogether the product of their principles and doctrine; and were such as the same persons, without those aids, would never have arrived to. Of this truth most of the apostles, with many thousand martyrs, are a cloud of witnesses beyond exception. Having therefore spoken so largely upon the former heads, I shall dwell no longer upon this.
And, if it should here be objected, Why does not Christianity still produce the same effects? it is easy to answer, First, That although the number of pretended Christians be great, yet that of true believers, in proportion to the other, was never so small; and it is a true lively faith alone, that, by the assistance of God's grace, can influence our practice.
Secondly, We may answer, that Christianity itself has very much suffered, by being blended up with Gentile philosophy. The Platonic system, first taken into religion, was thought to have given matter for some early heresies in the church. When disputes began to arise, the Peripatetic forms were introduced by Scotus, as best fitted for controversy. And, however this may now have become necessary, it was surely the author of a litigious vein, which has since occasioned very pernicious consequences, stopped the progress of Christianity, and been a great promoter of vice; verifying that sentence given by St James, and mentioned before, “ Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work." This was the fatal stop to the Grecians, in their progress both of arts and arms; their wise men were divided under several sects, and their governments under several commonwealths, all in opposition to each other; which engaged them in eternal quarrels among themselves, while they should have been armed against the common enemy. And I wish we had no other examples, from the like causes, less foreign or ancient than that. Diogenes said, Socrates was a madman; the disciples of Zeno and Epicurus, nay of Plato and Aristotle, were engaged in fierce disputes about the most insignificant trifles. And if this be the present language and practice among us Christians, no wonder that Christianity does not still produce the same effects which it did at first, when it was received and embraced in its utmost purity and perfection : for such wisdom as this cannot“ descend from above;" but must be earthly, sensual, devilish ; full of confusion and every evil work;" whereas, “ the wisdom from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” This is the true heavenly wisdom, which Christianity only can boast of, and which the greatest of the heathen wise men could never arrive at.
A SERMON ON THE OCCASION OF WOOD'S PROJECT.*
(WRITTEN IN 1724.)
GALATIANS, vi. 10.
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto
Nature directs every one of us, and God permits us, to consult our own private good, before the private good of any other person whatsoever. We are indeed commanded to love our neighbour
*“ I did very lately, as I thought it my duty, preach to the people under my inspection, upon the subject of Mr Wood's coin; and although I never heard that my sermon gave the least offence, as I am sure none was intended, yet, if it were now printed and published, I cannot say I would insure it from the hands of the common hangman, or my person from those of a messenger." See The Drapier's Letters, No. VI.
“ I never," said the Dean some time after in a jocular conversation, "preached but twice in my life, and they were not sermons, but pamphlets. Being asked on what subject, he replied, “ They were against Wood's halfpence." See Pilkington, vol. i.
The pieces relating to Ireland are those of a public nature; in VOL. VIII,
as ourselves, but not as well as ourselves. The love we have for ourselves, is to be the pattern of that love we ought to have toward our neighbour; but, as the copy doth not equal the original, so my neighbour cannot think it hard, if I prefer myself, who am the original, before him, who is only the copy. Thus, if any matter equally concern the life, the reputation, the profit of my neighbour and my own; the law of nature, which is the law of God, obligeth me to take care of myself first, and afterward of him. And this I need not be at much pains in persuading you to; for the want of self-love, with regard to things of this world, is not among the faults of mankind. But then, on the other side, if, by a small hurt and loss to myself, I can procure a great good to my neighbour, in that case his interest is to be preferred. For example, if I can be sure of saving his life, without great danger to my own; if I can preserve him from being undone, without ruining myself; or recover his reputation, without blasting mine; all this I am obliged to do: and if I sincerely perform it, I do then obey the command of God, in loving my neighbour as myself.
But, besides this love we owe to every man in his particular capacity, under the title of our
which the Dean appears, as usual, in the best light, because they do honour to his heart as well as to his head; furnishing some additional proofs, that, though he was very free in his abuse of the inhabitants of that country, as well natives as foreigners, he had their interest sincerely at heart, and perfectly understood it. His sermon upon Doing Good, though peculiarly adapted to Ireland and Wood's designs upon it, contains perhaps the best motives to patriotism that were ever delivered within so small a compass. -Burke,