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No. 186 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

Wednesday, October 3, 1711.

‘Coelum ipsum petimus stultitia.’

Hor.

Upon my Return to my Lodgings last Night I found a Letter from my worthy Friend the Clergyman, whom I have given some Account of in my former Papers. He tells me in it that he was particularly pleased with the latter Part of my Yesterday’s Speculation; and at the same time enclosed the following Essay, which he desires me to publish as the Sequel of that Discourse. It consists partly of uncommon Reflections, and partly of such as have been already used, but now set in a stronger Light.

‘A Believer may be excused by the most hardened Atheist for endeavouring to make him a Convert, because he does it with an Eye to both their Interests. The Atheist is inexcusable who tries to gain over a Believer, because he does not propose the doing himself or the Believer any Good by such a Conversion.

The Prospect of a future State is the secret Comfort and Refreshment of my Soul; it is that which makes Nature look gay about me; it doubles all my Pleasures, and supports me under all my Afflictions. I can look at Disappointments and Misfortunes, Pain and Sickness, Death itself, and, what is worse than Death, the Loss of those who are dearest to me, with Indifference, so long as I keep in view the Pleasures of Eternity, and the State of Being in which there will be no Fears nor Apprehensions, Pains nor Sorrows, Sickness nor Separation. Why will any Man be so impertinently Officious as to tell me all this is only Fancy and Delusion? Is there any Merit in being the Messenger of ill News? If it is a Dream, let me enjoy it, since it makes me both the happier and better Man.

I must confess I do not know how to trust a Man [who [1]] believes neither Heaven nor Hell, or, in other Words, a future State of Rewards and Punishments. Not only natural Self-love, but Reason directs us to promote our own Interest above all Things. It can never be for the Interest of a Believer to do me a Mischief, because he is sure upon the Balance of Accompts to find himself a Loser by it. On the contrary, if he considers his own Welfare in his Behaviour towards me, it will lead him to do me all the Good he can, and at the same Time restrain him from doing me any Injury. An Unbeliever does not act like a reasonable Creature, if he favours me contrary to his present Interest, or does not distress me when it turns to his present Advantage. Honour and Good-nature may indeed tie up his Hands; but as these would be very much strengthened by Reason and Principle, so without them they are only Instincts, or wavering unsettled Notions, [which [2]] rest on no Foundation.

Infidelity has been attack’d with so good Success of late Years, that it is driven out of all its Out-works. The Atheist has not found his Post tenable, and is therefore retired into Deism, and a Disbelief of revealed Religion only. But the Truth of it is, the greatest Number of this Set of Men, are those who, for want of a virtuous Education, or examining the Grounds of Religion, know so very little of the Matter in Question, that their Infidelity is but another Term for their Ignorance.

As Folly and Inconsiderateness are the Foundations of Infidelity, the great Pillars and Supports of it are either a Vanity of appearing wiser than the rest of Mankind, or an Ostentation of Courage in despising the Terrors of another World, which have so great an Influence on what they call weaker Minds; or an Aversion to a Belief that must cut them off from many of those Pleasures they propose to themselves, and fill them with Remorse for many of those they have already tasted.