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tion is taken from the evils, which the most virtuous societies suffer, and we have acknowledged, that this world will always be to public bodies what it is to individuals, a place of misery, and we have contented ourselves with affirming, that the most solid happiness, which can be enjoyed here, hath righteousness for its cause. The narrow limits, to which we are confined, will not allow us to carry our reflections any further. They, however, who meditate profoundly on the matter, will easily perceive that all these objections are, if not abundantly refuted, at least sufficiently precluded by our explications.
We will now proceed to shew the grounds of the maxim of the wise man.. We will open six sources of reflections; an idea of society in general; the constitution of each government in particular; the nature of arts and sciences; the conduct of providence; the promises of God himself; and the history of all ages. These articles make up the remainder of this discourse.
II. 1. Let us first form an idea of society in general, and consider the motives, which induced mankind to unite themselves in society, and to fix themselves in one place. By doing this we shall perceive, that righteousness is the only thing that can render nations happy. Every individual hath infinite wants but only finite faculties to supply them. Each individual of mankind hath need of knowledge to inform him, laws to direct him, property to support him, medicine to relieve him, aliments to nourish him, clothing and lodging to defend himself against the injury of the seasons. How easy would it be to enlarge this catalogue! Similar interests form a similar design. Divers men unite themselves together, in order that the
industry of all may supply the wants of each. This is the origin of societies and public bodies of
It is easy to comprehend that, in order to enjoy the blessings proposed by this assemblage, some fixed maxims must be laid down and inviolably obeyed. It will be necessary for all the members of this body to consider themselves as naturally equal, that by this idea they may be inclined to afford each other mutual succor. It will be necessary that they should be sincere to each other, lest deceit should serve for a vail to conceal the fatal designs of some from the eyes of the rest. It will be necessary for all to observe the rules of rigid equity, that so they may fulfil the contracts, which they bound themselves to perform, when they were admitted into this society. It will be neces sary, that esteem and benevolence should give life and action to righteousness. It will be necessary, that the happiness of all should be preferred before the interest of one; and that in cases, where public and private interests clash, the public good should always prevail. It will be necessary that each should cultivate his own talents, that he may contribute to the happiness of that society, to which he ought to devote himself with the utmost sincerity and zeal.
Now, my brethren, what can be more proper to make us observe these rules than religion, than righteousness? Religion brings us to feel our natural equality; it teacheth us, that we originate in the same dust, have the same God for our Creator, are all descended from the same first parent, all partake of the same miseries, and are all doomed to the same last end. Religion teacheth us sincerity to each other, that the tongue should be a faithful interpreter of the mind, that we should
should speak every man truth with his neighbor, Eph. iv. 25. and that, being always in the sight of the God of truth, we should never depart from the laws of truth. Religion teacheth us to be just, that we should render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor; that whatsoever we would that men should do unto us, we should do even so unto them, Rom. xiii. 7. Matt. vii. 12. Religion requireth us to be animated with charity, to consider each other as creatures of one God, subjects of the same king, members of one body, and heirs of the same glory. Religion requireth us to give up private interest to public good, not to seek our own, but every one another's wealth; it even requireth us to lay down our lives for the brethren. Thus by considering nations in these primitive views, it is righteousness alone that exalts them.
2. But all this is too vague. We proceed next to consider each form of government in particular. It is impracticable for all the members of society, on every pressing occasion, to assemble together and give their suffrages. Public bodies
therefore agree to set apart some of their number, who are accounted the soul, the will, the determination of the whole. Some nations have committed the supreme power to one, whom they call Monarch; this is a monarchial state. Others have committed the supreme power to a few of their own body called Magistrates, Senators, Nobles, or some other honorable appellation; this is a republic, called in the schools an aristocracy. Others have diffused supreme power more equally among all the members of their society, and have placed it in all heads of families; this is a popular government, usually called a democracy. Society
gives its authority and privileges into the hands of these persons; it intrusts and empowers them to make laws, to impose taxes, to raise subsidies, to make peace or declare war, to reward virtue, to punish vice, in one word, to do whatever may be beneficial to the whole society, with the felicity of which they are intrusted.
If we consider these various forms of government, we shall find, that each nation will be more or less happy in its own mode of governing, will more or less prevent the inconveniencies, to which it is subject, according as it shall have more or less attachment to religion or righteousness.
What are the particular inconveniencies of a monarchial government? In what cases is monarchy fatal to the liberty and so to the felicity of a nation? When the monarch, instead of making the good of the people his supreme law, follows nothing but his own caprice. When he thinks himself vested with supreme power for his own glory, and not for the glory of his kingdom. When, by stretching his authority beyond its lawful bounds, he endeavors arbitrarily to dispose of the lives and fortunes of his subjects. When, in order to avenge a private quarrel, or to satiate his thirst for a glory, from which his people derive no benefit, he engageth them in bloody wars, and sacrificeth them to a vain and imaginary grandeur. When he wastes the substance of his people in superb buildings, in excessive embellishments, and in sumptuous equipages. When he imposes on them enormous tributes, and exorbitant taxes. When he is inaccessible to the widow and the orphan. When he gives himself up to indolence, and doth not study the wants of his subjects. When though he appropriates to himself the advantages of empire, yet, in order to free himself from the fatigue of go
neglected to conciliate the favor of God before a battle, they would be persuaded, even in the heat of it, that the best way to please him would be to discharge the duty of their office; whereas when soldiers feel their consciences agitated, when amidst the discharge of the artillery of their enemies they discover eternal flames, when they see hell opening under their feet, and the horrors of eternal punishment succeeding those of the field of battle, they will always fight with reluctance, and endeavor to avoid future misery by fleeing away from present death
In a virtuous state commerce will flourish, because the merchant, always speaking the truth, and dealing with good faith, will attract general credit and confidence; always following the rules of wisdom and prudence, he will never engage in rash undertakings, which ruin families and subvert whole houses; not being animated with avarice or vain glory, he will not first acquire riches by injustice, and next waste them with indiscretion; depending on the blessings of heaven, all his labors will be enlivened with courage and joy.
In such a state divinity will flourish, because each, burning with zeal for the glory of God, will carefully cultivate a science, which hath God for its object; because, being free from a party spirit, he will receive the truth, whatever hand may present it to him; because, by referring religion to its chief end, he will not spend his life in the pursuit of trifles; because, full of zeal for his salvation, he will be attentive to every step towards it; because, not being enslaved by his passions, hé will not be enveloped in the darkness produced by them; or, to express myself in the language of scripture, because by doing the will of God, he will know whether such and such doctrines comes.