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

The great received Articles of the Christian Religion have been so clearly proved, from the Authority of that Divine Revelation in which they are delivered, that it is impossible for those who have Ears to hear, and Eyes to see, not to be convinced of them. But were it possible for any thing in the Christian Faith to be erroneous, I can find no ill Consequences in adhering to it. The great Points of the Incarnation and Sufferings of our Saviour produce naturally such Habits of Virtue in the Mind of Man, that I say, supposing it were possible for us to be mistaken in them, the Infidel himself must at least allow that no other System of Religion could so effectually contribute to the heightning of Morality. They give us great Ideas of the Dignity of human Nature, and of the Love which the Supreme Being bears to his Creatures, and consequently engage us in the highest Acts of Duty towards our Creator, our Neighbour, and our selves. How many noble Arguments has Saint Paul raised from the chief Articles of our Religion, for the advancing of Morality in its three great Branches? To give a single Example in each Kind: What can be a stronger Motive to a firm Trust and Reliance on the Mercies of our Maker, than the giving us his Son to suffer for us? What can make us love and esteem even the most inconsiderable of Mankind more than the Thought that Christ died for him? Or what dispose us to set a stricter Guard upon the Purity of our own Hearts, than our being Members of Christ, and a Part of the Society of which that immaculate Person is the Head? But these are only a Specimen of those admirable Enforcements of Morality, which the Apostle has drawn from the History of our blessed Saviour.

If our modern Infidels considered these Matters with that Candour and Seriousness which they deserve, we should not see them act with such a Spirit of Bitterness, Arrogance, and Malice: They would not be raising such insignificant Cavils, Doubts, and Scruples, as may be started against every thing that is not capable of mathematical Demonstration; in order to unsettle the Minds of the Ignorant, disturb the publick Peace, subvert Morality, and throw all things into Confusion and Disorder. If none of these Reflections can have any Influence on them, there is one that perhaps may, because it is adapted to their Vanity, by which they seem to be guided much more than their Reason. I would therefore have them consider, that the wisest and best of Men, in all Ages of the World, have been those who lived up to the Religion of their Country, when they saw nothing in it opposite to Morality, and [to] the best Lights they had of the Divine Nature. Pythagoras’s first Rule directs us to worship the Gods as it is ordained by Law, for that is the most natural Interpretation of the Precept. [3] Socrates, who was the most renowned among the Heathens both for Wisdom and Virtue, in his last Moments desires his Friends to offer a Cock to AEsculapius; [4] doubtless out of a submissive Deference to the established Worship of his Country. Xenophon tells us, that his Prince (whom he sets forth as a Pattern of Perfection), when he found his Death approaching, offered Sacrifices on the Mountains to the Persian Jupiter, and the Sun, according to the Custom of the Persians; for those are the Words of the Historian. [5] Nay, the Epicureans and Atomical Philosophers shewed a very remarkable Modesty in this Particular; for though the Being of a God was entirely repugnant to their Schemes of natural Philosophy, they contented themselves with the Denial of a Providence, asserting at the same Time the Existence of Gods in general; because they would not shock the common Belief of Mankind, and the Religion of their Country.’


[Footnote 1: that]

[Footnote 2: that]

[Footnote 3: Which is motto to No. 112.]

[Footnote 4: Phaedon.]

[Footnote 5: Cyropaedia, Bk. viii.]