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faction rooted in mens hearts to deeper than phrases borrowed from religion, or founded upon no firmer principles? And is our language so poor, that we cannot find other terms to express them? Are envy, pride, avarice, and ambition, fuch ill nomenclators, that they cannot furnish appellations for their owners? Will not Hejdukes and Mamalukes, Mandarines and Pat baws, or any other words formed at pleasure, ferve to diItinguish those who are in the ministry, from 0thers who would be in it if they could? What, for instance, is easier than to vary the form of Speech? and, instead of the word church, make it a question in politics, whether the monument be in danger ? Because religion was nearest at hand to furnish a few convenient phrases, is our inven. tion so barren, we can find no other? Suppose, for argument's sake, that the Tories favoured Marwanita, the Whig's Mrs. Tofts, and the Trimmers Valentini ; * would not Margaritans, Toftians, and Valentinians, be very tolerable marks of diTinction? The Prahni and Veniti, two most virulent factions in Italy, began (if I remember right) by a distinction of colours in ribbands : and we might contend, with as good a grace, about the dignity of the blue and the green ; which would serve as properly to divide the court, the parliament, and the kingdom between them, as any terms of art whatsoever borrowed from reli
gion. * Italian singers then in vogue. Margarita was afterwards married to Dr. Pepusche.
gion. And therefore I think there is little force in this objection against Christianity, or profpect of so great an advantage as is proposed in the abolishing of it.
It is again objected, as a very absurd ridiculous custom, That a set of men should be suffered, much less employed, and hired, to bawl one day in seven, against the lawfulness of those methods most in use towards the pursuit of greatness, riches, and pleasure, which are the constant practice of all men alive on the other fix. But this objection is, I think, a little unworthy so refined an age as ours. Let us argue this matter calmly. I appeal to the breast of any polite freethinker, whether, in the pursuit of gratifying a predominant passion, he hath not always felt a wonderful incitement, by reflecting it was a thing forbidden: and therefore we see, in order to cultivate this taste, the wisdom of the nation hath taken special care, that the ladies should be furnished with prohibited filks, and the men with prohibited wine. And, indeed, it were to be wilhed, that some other prohibitions were promoted, in order to improve the pleasures of the town, which, for want of such expedients, begin already, as I am told, to flag and grow languid, giving way daily to cruel inroads from the spleen.
It is likewise proposed, as a great advantage to the public, That if we once discard the system of the gospel, all religion will, of course, be banish
ed for ever; and consequently, along with it, those grievous prejudices of education; which, under the names of virtue, conscience, honour, justice, and the like, are so apt to disturb the peace of human minds; and the notions whereof are so hard to be eradicated by right reason or free-thinking, sometimes during the whole course of our lives.
Here, first, I observe how difficult it is to get rid of a phrase, which the world is once grown fond of, though the occasion that first produced it be entirely taken away. For several years past, if a man had but an ill-favoured nose, the deepthinkers of the age would, some way or other, contrive to impute the cause to the prejudice of his education. From this fountain are said to be derived all our foolish notions of justice, piety, love of our country; all our opinions of God, or a future state, heaven, hell, and the like : and there might formerly, perhaps, have been some pretence for this charge. But fo effectual care hath been since taken to remove those prejudices, by an entire change in the methods of education, that (with honour I mention it to our polite innovators) the young gentlemen who are now on the scene, seem to have not the least tincture left of thofe infusions, or string of those weeds : and, by consequence, the reason for abolishing nominal Christianity upon that pretext, is wholly ceased..
For the rest, it may perhaps admit a contro- . versy, whether the banishing all notions of religion whatfoever would be convenient for the vulgar. Not that I am, in-the least, of opinion with those who hold religion to have been the invention of politiciatis, to keep the lower part of the world in awe, by the fear of invisible powers; unless mankind were then very different from what it is now: for I look upon the mass or body of our people here in England to be as free-thinkers, that is to fay, as stanch unbelievers, as any of the highest rank. But I conceive fome scattered notions about a superior power, to be of fingular use for the common people, as furnishing excellent materials to keep children quiet, when they grow peevish, and providing topics of amusement in a tedious winter night.
Lastly, It is proposed, as a fingular advantage, That the abolishing of Christianity will very much contribute to the uniting of Protestants, by enlarging the terms of communion, so as to take in all sorts of diflenters; who are now shut out of the pale upon account of a few ceremonies, which all sides confess to be things indifferent : that this alone will effectually answer the great ends of a fcheme for comprehenfion, by opening a large noble gate, at which all bodies may enter; whereas the chaffering with diffenters, and dodging about this or the other ceremony, is but like opening a few wickets, and leaving them ar jar, by which no more than one can get in at a
time, and that not without stooping, and fideling, and squeezing his body.
To all this I answer, That there is one darling inclination of mankind, which usually affects to be a retainer to religion, though she be neither its parent, its godmother, or its friend; I mean the spirit of opposition, that lived long before Christianity, and can easily subsist without it. Let us, for instance, examine wherein the oppofition of sectaries among us consists. We shall find Christianity to have no share in it at all. Does the gospel any where prescribe a starched, squeezed, countenance, a stiff formal gait, a singuJarity of manners and habit, or any affected modes of speech, different from the reasonable part of mankind ? Yet, if Christianity do not lend its name to stand in the gap, and to employ or divert these humours, they must, of necessity, be spent in contraventions to the laws of the land, and disturbance of the public peace. There is a portion of enthusiasm assigned to every nation, which, if it hath not proper objects to work on, will burst out, and set all in a flame. If the quiet of a state can be bought by only flinging men a few ceremonies to devour, it is a purchase no wise man would refuse. Let the mastiffs amuse themselves about a sheep's skin stuffed with hay, provided it will keep them from worrying the flock. The institution of convents abroad, feems, in one point, a strain of great wisdom ; there being few irregularities in human passions,