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thier person, at the same time that he cannot come up to his perfection. This we find exemplified in that trite passage which we see quoted in almost every system of ethics, though upon another occasion:
-Video meliora, proboque;
OVID. MET. vii. 20.
I see the right, and I approve it too;
On the contrary, it is certain, if our zeal were true and genuine, we should be much more angry with a sinner than a heretic; since there are several cases which may excuse the latter before his great Judge, but none which can excuse the former.
Interest is likewise a great inflamer, and sets a man on persecution under the colour of zeal. For this reason we find none are so forward to promote the true worship by fire and sword, as those who find their present account in it. But I shall extend the word interest to a larger meaning than what is generally given it, as it relates to our spiritual safety and welfare, as well as to our temporal. A man is glad to gain numbers on his side, as they serve to strengthen him in his private opinions. Every proselyte is like a new argument for the establishment of his faith." It makes him believe that his principles carry conviction with them, and are the more likely to be true, when he finds they are conform able to the reason of others, as well as to his own. And that this temper of mind deludes a man very often into an opinion of his zeal, may appear from the common behaviour of the atheist, who maintains and spreads his opinions with as much heat as those who believe they do it only out of a passion for God's glory.
Ill-nature is another dreadful imitator of zeal. Many a good man may have a natural rancour and malice in his heart, which has been in some measure quelled and subdued by religion; but if it finds any pretence of breaking out, which does not seem to him inconsistent with the duties of a Christian, it throws off all restraint, and rages in its full fury. "Zeal is, therefore, a great ease to a malicious man, by making him believe he does God service, whilst he is gratifying the bent of a perverse revengeful temper. For this reason we find, that most of the massacres and devastations which have been in the world, have taken their rise from a furious pretended zeal.
I love to see a man zealous in a good matter, and. especially when his zeal shows itself for advancing morality, and promoting the happiness of mankind. But when I find the instruments he works with are racks and gibbets, galleys and dungeons; when he imprisons men's persons, confiscates their estates, ruins their families, and burns the body to save the soul, I cannot stick to pronounce of such a one, that, whatever he may think of his faith and religion, his faith is vain, and his religion unprofitable.
After having treated of these false zealots in religion, I cannot forbear mentioning a monstrous species of men, who one would not think had any existence in nature, were they not to be met with in or dinary conversation, I mean the zealots in atheism. One would fancy that these men, though they fall short, in every other respect, of those who make a profession of religion, would at least outshine them in this particular, and be exempt from that single fault which seems to grow out of the imprudent fervours of religion. But so it is, that infidelity is propagated with as much fierceness and contention,
wrath and indignation, as if the safety of mankind depended upon it. There is something so ridiculous and perverse in this kind of zealots, that one does not know how to set them out in their proper colours. They are a sort of gamesters who are "eternally upon the fret, though they play for nothing. They are perpetually teasing their friends to come over to them, though at the same time they allow that neither of them shall get any thing by the bargain. In short, the zeal of spreading atheism is, if possible, more absurd than atheism itself.
Since I have mentioned this unaccountable zeal which appears in atheists and infidels, I must farther observe, that they are likewise in a most particular manner possessed with the spirit of bigotry. They are wedded to opinions full of contradiction and impossibility, and at the same time look upon the smallest difficulty in an article of faith as a sufficient reason for rejecting it. Notions that fall in with the common reason of mankind, that are conformable to the sense of all ages, and all nations, not to mention their tendency for promoting the happiness of societies, or of particular persons, are exploded as errors and prejudices; and schemes erected in their stead that are altogether monstrous and irrational, and require the most extravagant credulity to embrace them. I would fain ask one of these bigoted infidels, supposing all the great points of atheism, as the casual or eternal formation of the world, the materiality of a thinking substance, the mortality of the soul, the fortuitous organization of the body, the motions and gravitation of matter, with the like particulars, were laid together and formed into a kind of. creed, according to the opinions of the most celebrated atheists; I say, supposing such a creed as this were formed, and imposed upon any one people in
the world, whether it would not require an infinitely greater measure of faith, than any set of articles which they so violently oppose. Let me therefore advise this generation of wranglers, for their own and for the public good, to act at least so consistently with themselves, as not to burn with zeal for irreligion, and with bigotry for nonsense.
No. 186. WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1711.
Caelum ipsum petimus stultitiâ.
High Heaven itself our impious rage assails.
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 inclosed 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
HOR. OD. i. 3. 38.
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 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 interests 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 accounts 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 an 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 in