Page images

most dreadful apprehension that all the absurdities by which I bad diminished the influence and the beauty of Christianity, would now be removed. I could not conceive that those motives which bad produced abstinence and solitude, vigils, scourg: ings, and the mortification of every appetite and every passion, would fail to produce a more reasonable service; or become ineffectual when the paths of duty appeared to be not only peaceful but pleasant. I did not, however, sit down in despair; but the knowledge which I could not repress I laboured to pervert. As the human intellect is finite, and can comprehend only finite objects, I knew that if all was rejected as incredible which was not comprehended, I should have little to fear from a relilion founded in Infinite Perfection, and connected with revelations which an Infinite Being had vouchsafed of himself. I, therefore, immediately opposed reason to faith: I threw out objects of dėbate which I knew could never be discussed; the assent of many was suspended, in expectation that impossibilities would be effected; and at last refused in the fretfulness of disappointment. Thus infidelity gradually succeeded to superstition: the hope and fear, the love, reverence, and gratitude, which had been excited by Christianity, and produced such astonishing effects, were now felt no more; and as the most forcible motives to piety and virtue were again wanting, piety was wholly neglected, and virtue rendered more easy and commodious: the bounds of moral obligation included every day less and less; and crimes were committed without compunction, because they were not supposed to incur punishment.

“ These evils, Mr. Adventurer, evils both in your estimation and mine, I am afraid will continue if they cannot increase ; disputation and scepticism


[ocr errors]

flourish without my influence, and have left no principle for me to counteract: the number of my vassals is indeed greatly increased by the unsolicited wickedness of the present time; but this increase is not equivalent to the pleasure of seduction.

“ If the importance, therefore, of Christianity to mankind shall appear from its having busied me to subvert it, and from the misery which I suffer in idleness, now my purpose is unhappily effected; I hope they are not yet so obdurate in ill as to persist in rejecting it merely in spite to me; and destroy themselves, only that I may not be amused by attempting their destruction. You see that I have sufficient benevolence to request that they would regard their own interest, at least as far as it is consistent with mine; and if they refuse me, I am confident you will think they treat me with more severity than I deserve.

“ I have the honour to be,


“ Your most obedient,
And very humble servant,


No. 61. TUESDAY, JUNE 5, 1753,

Ploravere suis non respondere favorem
Quæsitum meritis-

Each inly murmuring at the unequal meed,
Repines that merit should reward exceed.

PERHAPS there is not any word in the language less understood than honour; and but few that might not have been equally mistaken, without producing equal mischief.

Honour is both a motive and an end: as a principle of action it differs from virtue only in degree, and, therefore, necessarily includes it, as generosity includes justice; and as a reward, it can be deserved only by those actions which no other principle can produce. To say of another that be is a man of honour, is at once to attribute the principle and to confer the reward. But, in the common acceptation of the word, honour, as a principle, does not include virtue; and, therefore, as a reward, is frequently bestowed upon vice. Such, indeed, is the blindness and vassalage of human reason that men are discouraged from virtue by the fear of shame, and incited to vice by the hope of honour.

Honour, indeed, is always claimed in specious terms; but the facts upon which the claim is founded are often flagitiously wicked. Lothario arrogates the character of a man of honour, for having defended a lady, who had put herself under his protection, from insult at the risk of life; and Aleator for fulfilling an engagement, to which the law would not have obliged him, at the expense of liberty. But the champion of the lady had first seduced her to adultery; and to preserve her from the resentment of her husband, had killed him in a duel: and the martyr to his promise had paid a sum, which should have discharged the bill of a necessitous tradesman, to a gamester of quality who had given him credit at cards.

Such, in the common opinion, are men of hopour; and he who in certain circumstances should abstain from murder, perfidy, or ingratitude, would be avoided as reflecting infamy upon his company.

In these speculations I exhausted my waking powers a few nights ago; and at length sinking into slumber, I was immediately transported into the regions of fancy.

As I was sitting pensive and alone at the foot of a bill, a man, whose appearance was extremely venerable, advanced towards me with great speed; and, beckoning me to follow him, began bastily to climb the hill. My mind suddenly suggested, that this was the genius of Instruction: I, therefore, instantly rose up, and obeyed the silent intimation of his will; but not being able to ascend with equal rapidity, he caught hold of my hand, “ Linger not,” said he, “lest the hour of illumination be at an end." We now ascended together, and when we had gained the summit, he stood still. “Survey the prospect," said he, “and tell me what thou seest.' ** To the right,” replied I, “ is a long valley, and on the left a boundless plain : at the end of the valley is a mountain that reaches to the clouds; and on the summit a brightness which I cannot yet steadfastly behold." "In that valley,” said he, the disciples of Virtue press forward; and the votaries of Vice wander on the plain. In the path of Virtue are many asperities: the foot is sometimes wounded by thorns, and sometimes bruised against a stone; but the sky over it is always serene; the traveller is refreshed by the breezes of health, and invigorated by the ray of cheerfulness. The plain is adorned with flowers, which gratify the sense with fragrance and beauty ; but the beauty is transient, and the fragrance hurtful; the ground is soft and level; and the paths are so various that the turf is no where worn away; but above is perpetual gloom; the sun is not seen, nor the breeze felt; the air stagnates, and pestilential vapours diffuse drowsiness, lassitude, and anxiety. At the foot of the mountain are the bowers of Peace, and on the summit is the temple of Honour.

“ But all the disciples of Virtue do not ascend the mountain : her path, indeed, is continued beyond

the bowers : and the last stage is the ascent of the precipice: to climb is the voluntary labour of the vigorous and the bold; to desist is the irreproachable repose

of the timid and the weary. To those, however, who have surmounted the difficulties of the way, the gates of the temple have not always been opened ; nor against those by whom it has never been trodden have they always been shut: the declivity of the mountain on the other side is gradual and easy; and, by the appointment of Fate, the entrance of the temple of Honour has been always kept by Opinion. Opinion, indeed, ought to have acted under the influence of Truth; but was soon perverted by Prejudice and Custom: she admitted


who ascended the mountain without labour from the plain, and rejected some who had toiled up the precipice in the path of Virtue. These, however, were not clamorous for admittance; but either repined in silence, or exulting with honest pride in the consciousness of their own dignity, turned from Opinion with contempt and disdain; and smiled upon the world which they had left beneath them, the witness of that labour of which they had been refused the reward.

“ But the crowd within the temple became discontented and tumultuous : the disciples of Virtue, jealous of an eminence which they had obtained by the utmost efforts of human power, made some attempts to expel those who had strolled negligently up the slope, and been admitted by Opinion to pollute the temple and disgrace the assembly : those whose right was disputed were, however, all ready to decide the controversy by the sword; and as they dreaded scarce any imputation but cowardice, they treated those with great insolence who declined this decision, and yet would not admit their claim.

« PreviousContinue »