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But all their works they do for to be seen of men.
IT is strange to consider the great difference both of the principle and quality of most of those actions that in the world carry the same reputation. Of this we have here a notable instance in a sect of men amongst the Jews called the pharisees; who made as glorious an appearance, and had as high a vogue for piety, as the best. Their righteousness and good works so glistered, that they even dashed the judging faculties of those who judged more by seeing than by weighing: and doubtless they were in shew so exactly good, that no argument from appearance could decide the difference.
And yet, like those trees which are fair and flourishing at the top from the dung that lies at the root, the principle of all these good works was a sinful appetite, an appetite of glory, an ambitious desire; sinful perhaps in itself, but certainly so in its application to such a design. Yet, however sinful it was in the nature of an appetite, we see it was very strong and operative in the nature of a principle; and such an one as wrought men to great heights in the outward and splendid side of religion.
My design at this time is from these words to inquire into the force of this principle in reference to 273a virtuous and religious life; and to shew how far it is able to engage men in it.
And this I shall do under these four heads.
I. I shall shew that a love of glory is sufficient to produce all those virtuous actions that are visible in the lives of those that profess religion.
II. I shall shew whence this affection comes to have such an influence upon our actions.
III. I shall shew the inability of it to be a sufficient motive to engage mankind in virtuous actions, without the assistance of religion.
IV. I shall shew that even those actions that it does produce are yet of no value at all in the sight of God.
For the first of these, that the love of glory is able to produce all those virtuous actions that are visible in the lives of those that profess religion.
This I prove first from this, that it actually has produced them, and therefore it is able to produce them: for this, let the noblest and most virtuous of the heathens be an instance; whose outward virtues few Christians equal, but none transcend: yet they were acted in all by a thirst of that glory that followed those performances. For into what will you resolve the industry of the philosophers, the chastity of Scipio and Alexander, the liberality of Augustus, the severity of Cato, the integrity of Fabricius, but into a desire of being famous for each of these perfections? See what a round and open profession of this Tully makes in his defence of Archias the poet! We know he had behaved himself with great virtue and resolution in the behalf of his country against Clodius and Catiline; but what induced him? Was it either love of the virtuous action itself, or hopes to gain by 274 it a better place in their Elysium? Nor he nor any of the wiser sort believed any such thing. Juvenal tells you, vix pueri credunt. But what was it then? Why he tells you, that if he had not grown up in persuasion from his youth, that nothing was earnestly to be desired in this life but praise and honour, he would never have exposed himself to those enmities, dangers, and oppositions, that he underwent in the prosecution of his country’s defence.
And after that he had proved that other great men acted upon the same principle; for how came they else to be so fond of poets and historians, the great instruments and propagators of their fame? he then gathers up all into this general conclusion; Nullam virtus aliam mercedem laborum periculorumque desiderat praeter hanc laudis et gloriae: qua quidem detracta, quid est quod in hoc tam exiguo vitae curriculo, et tam brevi, tantis nos in laboribus exerceamus? You see now the springhead from whence streamed all the splendid and renowned moral actions of these persons.
Nay, in persons of a much inferior rank and apprehension, we have the same principle working them to a degree of abstinence equal to the greatest austerities and instances of mortification seen nowadays in persons religious. Those that used to run and wrestle in the public games, what strange abridgments did they suffer both as to the kind and measure of their food! what abstinence from wine and women, and all other luxury, did they constantly tie themselves up to! The apostle Paul gives them this testimony in 1 Cor. ix. 25, Every man that striveth for mastery is temperate in all things: and that with such a strict and rigorous exactness, that many 275who nowadays profess Christianity, would not deny their appetites half so much to gain a kingdom in this world, or the world to come, as the apostle says those persons did to gain a corruptible crown; that is, some pitiful garland, ready to wither and to be blasted by the breath of those applauses that attended the putting of it on.
But further, that even in those that profess religion, religion is not always the commanding, producing principle of their best actions, the very example of the pharisees will demonstrate. For what almost could be outwardly done, which these men did not do with great advantage, pomp, and solemnity of performance? They were frequent in prayer, they gave alms, they were exact in their tithings even to mint and cummin; they sat in the seat of Moses, and taught sometimes so well, that Christ, in Matt. xxiii. 3, charges his disciples, that whatsoever they bid them, they should observe and do: and for their zeal, they would undertake the expense and toil of compassing sea and land, to gain one proselyte to their religion. In a word, they had gained such a reputation for their piety, that it was a common saying amongst the Jews, “That if but two men in the world should be saved, one of them would be a pharisee.” Now, let any one shew me, where amongst us there is such a face of religion and concernment for it. You will say, perhaps, that the truth and body of it may be among us; but certainly it is a strange thing to see a body without a face, and reality without any shew. There is a difference in deed between the substance and the shadow, yet there is seldom a substance without the shadow. But this by digression.276
We have seen what the pharisees did; but what was the first moving cause that bore them up to such a pitch of acting? Why, that they might be talked of and admired; in a word, that they might be seen of men. They gave alms indeed, but it was with trumpets and proclamations. They prayed; but it was standing in the streets, with a design more to be seen here below, than to be heard above. They fasted; but then they disfigured themselves, wore a sad countenance and a drooping head, that they might gain notice and observation, and so feed their ambition. They pretended great zeal to the law; but carried it more in their phylacteries than their hearts, and in the borders of their garments more than their lives. All their teaching was in order to be called rabbi; to be treated with public and pompous salutations; to be cringed to in solemn meetings; to be at the top of every public feast and assembly. The whole design of all that pageantry and show of piety that they amused the world withal, was nothing but noise, and vogue, and popularity: this was the breath that blew up their devotion to such an high and a blazing flame.
And are not many Christians, though differing from them in religion, yet the very same men; and owe all those shows and forms of godliness, which they have clothed themselves withal, to the influence of the same spurious principle? How many appear devout, and zealous, and frequent in the service of God, only to court the esteem of the world, or perhaps to acquit themselves to the eye of a superior!
How vast a distance is there between their inside and their outside; between the same men as they open themselves in private, and as they sustain an 277artificial dress or person in public! The reason is, because, though they have not goodness enough to be religious, yet they have pride enough to appear so.
2. That the love of glory is sufficient to produce all those virtuous actions, that are visible in the lives of those that profess religion, appears further from hence; that there is nothing visible in the very best actions, but what may proceed from the most depraved principles, if acted by prudence, caution, and design. And if piety be not requisite to their production, I am sure the next principle, for influence and activity, is a man’s concernment for his reputation.
Now that a principle, short of piety, is able to exert the fairest performances that bear the name of pious, is clear from this, that there is no external discrimination of the hypocrite from the sincere person: what one does, the same is done by the other. He that should see a stone that is shot from a sling, and a bird fly in the air at the same time, were he ignorant of their nature, could not, by any mark of discovery inherent in the motions themselves, know one to be natural, and the other to be violent. And Christ pronounces, that in the great day of disco very, many that are first shall be last; that is, those who had the highest esteem for piety, grounded upon the gloss of an outwardly virtuous behaviour, shall be found to have had but little reality, and so be rewarded accordingly.
This therefore being proved, who can deny but a sense of honour, and a touch of ambition, may sup ply the room of a better principle in those outward 278 instances of virtue, that shine only upon the surface of men’s lives; yet sufficient to attract the estimation of those who can look no further?
We know designs much inferior to this are able to bear a man up to such a pitch. The designs of gain, which are the lowest and basest that can be, and put a man upon the most sordid and inferior practices: yet these are able to inspire him with such an impetus, as is able to raise him to a shew of piety; so that the vilest person shall appear godly, when, in a literal sense, he shall find that godliness is great gain.
Nay, the design of pleasure and sensuality may make a man undergo many religious austerities, and sacrifice a less pleasure to the hope of a greater. For in the great instance of mortification, which is fasting, what were all the fasts and humiliations of the late reformers, but the forbearing of dinners? that is, the enlarging the stowage, and the redoubling the appetite, for a larger supper; in which the dinner was rather deferred, than took away.
But now the design of glory is as much above these, as the mind of a Caesar above the mind of a farmer or an usurer; or the applauses of the learned and the knowing above the entertainments of a kitchen. And therefore, if those ignoble appetites were able to advance a man to so high a strain, certainly the other, which has the same activity, and a greater nobility, must needs do it much more. And thus much for the first thing.
II. I come now to the second, which is to shew, whence this affection comes to have such an influence upon our actions.279
The reasons, I conceive, may be these.
1. Because glory is the proper pleasure of the mind. That which pleases is by the Latins called jucundum: and I find this jucundum, by a certain author, of some repute in the world, divided into that of the body, and that of the mind. That of the body is properly the perception of those pleasing objects that respectively belong to the five senses; but that of the mind he affirms to be glory: which, I think, may be properly defined or described, the complacency that a man finds within himself, arising from his conceit of the opinion that another has of some excellency or perfection in him. For as pride is the opinion that a man has of his own perfection, so glory is the pleasure that he takes, from the opinion that another has of it. And experience shews, that the perception of harmonious sounds do not more please the ear, nor sweet things the taste, than the opinion of this does affect and please the mind. It was the speech of Dionysius, concerning his parasites and flatterers, that though he knew that what they said was false, yet he could not but find himself pleased with it. And Themistocles, being pointed at in the public theatres and meetings, confessed, that the pleasure he took in it did amply reward all those great exploits that he had done for his country.
Now that this so intimately affects the mind with pleasure, appears from the great regret and trouble that the mind feels from its contrary, which is scorn and disgrace. There is nothing that pierces the apprehensive mind so keenly and intolerably as this. It depresses the spirits, restrains the freedom, and contracts the largeness of the thoughts. A man that 280 is under disgrace neither relishes the returns of business, nor the enjoyments of society; but desponds, and suffers himself to be trampled upon and contemned by persons much worse than himself.
From whence it follows, since glory so much enamours, and disgrace so much afflicts the soul of man, that it is no wonder, if the acquiring of one, and the avoiding of the other, so potently commands all our actions. For what are actions, but the servants of our appetites? And what are all the labours of men laid out upon, but to acquire to themselves such objects as either please their senses, or gratify their more noble desires?
And certainly there are some tempers in the world, that can set up as late, and rise as early, and endure as much trouble, to purchase the pleasure of their mind, as others do for that of the senses. Sallust, in the character that he gives of Lucius Sylla the dictator, amongst other things, sets down this, and it is for his commendation, that he was voluptatum ciipidus, sed gloriae cupidior: though he loved his cups and his women too well, yet still he commanded them as well as his army; and had rather court honour with the hardships and dangers of the field, and with hunger and thirst, and toilsome watchings, arrive at length to the glories of a triumph.
And no wonder; for the pleasures that lie in the gratifications of the senses are transient, and short, and perishing, as those gratifications are themselves: but the pleasure of a glorious object is lasting; it is treasured up in the memory, and the mind may have recourse to it as often as it will. He that eats a luscious morsel, or sees a fine picture, is pleased as 281long as he tastes the one, or beholds the other, which perhaps is a minute: but he that has done a glorious action, reflects upon it with pleasure to his dying day; it is as sure to him as his life or his being; it lasts and lives, and supplies the mind with continual, fresh perceptions, with all the delights of an active remembrance and a busy reflection.
The same also holds in the contrary of glory, which is disgrace, compared to all those pains that afflict the body, which are afflictive just so long as they actually possess the part which they aggrieve; but their influence lasts no longer than their presence. Nobody is therefore in pain to-day, because his head ached a month ago; nobody feels the torments of a cured gout, nor languishes with the remembrance of a removed sickness. Nay, he is rather so much the more refreshed, by how much a former pain gives a man a quicker sense of his present ease.
But it is otherwise in the afflictions of dishonour: this, wheresoever it fastens, leaves its marks behind it. It torments the mind with an abiding anguish. A man cannot lay it down; it incorporates into his condition. It is a pain not to be slept away, and a scar not to be worn off. He eats, he travels, he lies down and rises up with it. It is an emblem of hell, irksome and perpetual.
And being so, we need seek for no further cause why these affections so entirely command a man, as to every faculty both of body and soul. A man would do any thing to secure his honour and his reputation; that is, to live while he is alive, and not to be the scorn and laughingstock of a company of worthless, pitiful, and contemptible persons, who 282 have nothing else to make them seem honourable, so much as in their own esteem, but the disgraces of others.
2. The second reason, that this affection of glory comes to have so strong an influence upon our actions, is from this; that it is founded in the innate desire of superiority that is in every man. One man desires to be greater and better than another, and consequently to be thought so. Nature has placed us in the lower region of the world, but for all that we aspire; it has cast us upon the earth, but still we rebound.
If it be here demanded, whence this desire arises, and upon what it is founded; I answer, that it is founded upon the very natural love that we bear to our being, and the preservation of it. For every degree of superiority, or greater perfection, is a further defence set upon a man’s being: as he that is powerful, rich, wise, or the like, has those means of securing his being, that he, who is destitute of power, riches, and wisdom, has not. So much as any man is above another, so much he thinks himself safer than another.
But now it is the great effect of glory and fame thus to raise a man: hence the very word, by which we express the praising of one, is to extol him; that is, to lift him up: for honour properly sets a man above the crowd; it makes him, like Saul, higher by the head than the rest of his brethren.
Hereupon, since the desire of superiority is such a restless affection, engaging a man in the highest and hardest attempts; and since the desire of glory is grafted upon it, and indeed is subservient to it; it is a matter of no hard resolution to find out, whence 283the desire of glory comes to exercise such a control over us, as to compel us to do this, abstain from that, endure another thing, and that with such success, as to carry its commands victorious through any reluctances whatsoever.
For what is it that makes the practice of religion irksome and difficult, but that it thwarts the inferior appetites of sense? which being thwarted, will be sure to make a considerable opposition. But now, if an appetite stronger and more active than those of sense strikes in with religion, it will render its conquest over them easy and effectual: and such an one I affirm to be the appetite of glory; which certainly rules more or less in every one, who has not degenerated into a brute so far, as to have fastened his designs to the earth, and his desires to his trencher.
But besides a desire of superiority, there is also a desire of greatness, (for I know no other name to give it,) which is equally predominant in men, and equally served and promoted by fame and honour: for does not this, as it were, diffuse a man, and extend him to the wideness and capacity of the world? That little bulk that is contained in this or that room, in its fame carries a circumference greater and larger than a nation. Glory makes a man present in ten thousand places at once, and gives him a kind of ubiquity, and that without labour or motion: while he sits still, he travels over the universe; he crosses the seas, and yet never passes the continent; he visits all nations, and perhaps never stirs abroad. But his fame, like lightning, makes him shine from one end of the heavens to the other. No wonder therefore, since glory itself is able thus to 284 stretch a man to a kind of omnipresence, if the desire of glory has over his life and actions a kind of omnipotence.
3. The third and last reason that I shall assign, why this affection of glory comes to have such an influence upon our actions, is, because it is indeed the great instrument of life to have a fair reputation, and really opens a man a way into all the advantages of it. For who would employ a profane person, or trust a known atheist? And he that is counted neither fit to be employed or trusted, may go out of the world, for he is like to find but little happiness in it. The repute of a man’s principles, his conscience and honesty, is that which represents a man worthy to be used and preferred; and the repute of a man’s principles grows out of the external fairness of his practices.
All the accommodations of life, as power, wealth, offices, and friends, are often derivable from the good opinion that men have procured themselves by the outward and seeming piety of their behaviour. For the proof of which, take but the instance of the late times: more than a show of piety I think none will allow them, that well understood them; but a show they had, and so wisely did they manage it, that the opinion which the vulgar had of their saintship was such an engine in their hands, that by it they could turn and wield them to all their designs and purposes as they pleased. They plundered, and oppressed, and robbed men of their estates: yes, but they did it preaching and praying, and abstaining from swearing, drinking, and the like, and composing themselves to the rigours of an appearing virtue and sobriety. Not but that they had an appetite to 285have lashed out into all that looseness, gawdery, and debauchery, that sometimes bewitches other men. But they were too wise: they knew that would have vilified their persons, and consequently have dashed their designs: their villainy was sober, and therefore successful. And I am afraid that experience is like to convince us, that the face of a dissembled piety gave them a greater credit and authority with the generality, than others are like to gain by a better cause managed with seemingly worse manners. So much does the appearance, the opinion, and the noise of things govern the world!
Let this therefore pass for another great cause, why the affection of glory so engages and rules the practices of men, viz. that it does indeed serve a real interest, and is resolved into the utile, the idol of profit so much adored by mankind. It is to very great purpose for a man to be esteemed; for he that is so, will at length be something more. Fame is indeed but a breath and a wind; yet even the wind is that which carries the ship, and brings the treasure into the merchant’s bosom.
And thus much for the second general head proposed for the handling of the words, viz. to shew whence this affection comes to have such an influence upon men’s actions.
III. Pass we now to the third; which is to shew the inability of it to be a sufficient motive to engage mankind in virtuous actions without the assistance of religion.
In order to the proof of which, I shall premise two considerations.
1. That virtue and a good life determines not in outward practices, but respects the most inward actions 286 of the mind. Virtue dwells not upon the tongue, nor consists in the due motion of the hands and the feet: but it is the action of the soul, and there it resides. Whatsoever we behold of it in the external behaviour of men is but the manifestation, not the being of virtue; as the action of the body is not the principle, but only the discovery of life. They are inward, secret wheels, that set the outward and the visible a-work.
Piety lodges in the regions of the heart; and when the body is immured in prison, or withered by sickness, an active soul feels none of those impediments, but is free to the exercise of virtue or vice; and by inward volitions or aversations can supply the want of outward performances.
A man may act like a saint before men, and like a devil before God; and on the contrary, appear but mean outwardly, and yet be all-glorious within. Otherwise virtue would be but an outside, and sit but as a varnish upon the forehead; and he that looked upon the body would be as competent a judge of it, as he that searched the heart. But colour is not health; he that looks pale, may be sound and vigorous; and he that wears the rose upon his cheeks may have rottenness in his bones.
Virtue and vice are the perfection and pollution of the soul; that is, of a being in its nature spiritual, and consequently invisible; whereupon they must be such also themselves. The scene of their acting is the conscience; and conscience has an eye over a man’s most inward and retired behaviour; it spies out the first infant essays and inclinations of virtues, and encourages them, and discerns the first movings and ebullitions of concupiscence, and severely checks 287and condemns them. And thus it judges of a man’s estate before ever the soul comes to communicate with the body, in the external production of any of those actions; and so to alarm the notice and observation of the world.
So that a man is indeed condemned before the world knows him to be an offender, and has made a very great progress in sin before he comes to execute and declare it by visible practices. But yet the man is a vile person, a stranger to virtue and goodness, as well when he is concealed, as when the light shews him to a public detestation. The swine is as filthy when he lies close in his stye, as when he comes forth and shakes his nastiness in the street. Let this therefore be the first previous consideration, that virtue and vice chiefly respect the inward, invisible behaviours of the soul.
2. The second consideration is this; that the principle of honour or glory governs a man’s actions entirely by the judgment and opinion of the world concerning them. The grand proposals, that a man acted by this principle makes to himself upon every undertaking, and which either licenses or rescinds his designed action, is, What will the world say of me, if I do thus or thus? He never says, Is it pious, or generous, or suitable to a rational soul? or is it contrary to all these, and unbecoming the strictness of the religion I profess, and the ingenuity of being really what I am thought to be? Is it such an action as would blush in the dark, and needs not the sun and the day to discover its deformity?
No, these are none of the questions or the demurs, that such an one troubles himself withal; if the action be safe and secret, let it be dirty, and ill-favoured. 288 All actions, he thinks, are the same, and are discriminated with these different appellations, by custom, by received prejudices, and common opinion. And if he can but secure himself as to these, he may enjoy the reputation of virtue, while he reaps the sweetness of his vice.
Now these two considerations premised, I affirm that the principle of honour is utterly insufficient to engage and argue men into the practice of virtue, in these following cases.
1. When by ill customs and perverse discourses a vice comes to have a reputation, or at least no disreputation in the judgment of a nation: and that this so falls out sometimes is evident. Some nations have allowed of simple fornication; some have so far perverted that which we call nature, as to count it lawful, nay laudable, for a son to have his own mother in marriage, as Quintus Curtius reports of some of the Persians. The Lacedemonians would commend and reward their children when they could thieve and rob dexterously. Many have counted self-murder in many cases an heroic action, and be coming a man of courage and philosophy. For a son to defraud his parents, and to give that which he purloined from them, or at least withheld from them in their indigence and necessity, to holy uses, was, in the judgment of our Saviour, a great sin, and a perversion of the divine law: yet the pharisees from Moses’s chair authorized it, as hugely suitable to that law, and an action of sublime devotion.
Now that the forementioned practices were highly unlawful, and inconsistent with piety and virtue, is most certain; yet passing current in the world by public warrant, and the countenance of general use, 289I demand upon what rational ground any man, acted by a bare principle of honour, could be kept from them, if either his inclination or convenience prompted him to them? That which he was only a slave to, the opinion and vogue of the world, that could not withhold him, for that would own and credit him in the practice; and any other restraint upon him be sides this, we suppose to be none.
But now, God would have made but very short provisions to engage men in duty, if he had not bound it upon them by such a principle, as should universally be able to oblige them in all cases, and in all circumstances of condition, in which it concerned them to be virtuous, and to abhor and shun the contrary vices. But it is clear, that a man’s tenderness of his honour cannot be that principle; for that looks only upon what is allowed and countenanced: but sin is sin, and consequently damnable, whether custom revenges it with a gibbet, or adorns it with a garland. And the divine tribunal will punish an incestuous person, a pilfering Lacedemonian, a self-murdering Roman or Athenian, and an undutiful Jew, as much as it would a person guilty of these crimes in any of those nations, where they are cried down, detested, and revenged by the hand of public justice; did not the infamy of such actions in those places by accident state the guilt of the persons that committed them under an higher aggravation.
And this, in my judgment, may be one reason amongst others, why God is so severely angry at national sins; or such sins as have at least an influence upon the manners of a nation, though committed by a few persons, viz. that by this means there is a reputation given to sin, and the shame 290 that God has annexed to it in a great measure took from it: for nothing is shameful that is fashionable. And when a thing comes to be practised by all, or by such as are eminent, public, and leading persons, it gains credit, and easily passes into a fashion.
But now by this, one of the great instruments by which Providence governs the societies of men, and controls the course of sin, is made utterly frustrate to this purpose. This instrument is the shame that attends upon base and wicked actions; a great curb to the fury of some men’s inclinations, and consequently a great mound and bank against that torrent of villainy, that would otherwise break in upon society: for the better understanding of which, we must observe, that as God, in the great work of governing the world, has several purposes upon several men, so he effects those purposes by several means.
Some men he intends to save, and to prepare for another world, and their hearts he renews and changes by a supernatural, ineffable, and prevailing operation of his grace. But others he intends only to civilize, and to fit them to converse in this world; and these he governs, not by any supernatural change wrought upon them, but by the principles of natural affections, as fear, shame, and the like; which shall suit them to society, by restraining their extravagant and furious appetites within bounds and measures. And of all these principles, there is none such a bridle in the jaws of an unregenerate person, as the dread of shame upon the commission of things unlawful and indecent. But now, if custom and countenance takes off the shame, and paints the Jezebel, and gives a gloss and a reputation to a vile action, why this cord is snapt asunder; and the principle 291of honour can be no argument to keep a man from a creditable villainy and a splendid sin.
If to have been a rebel is no shame, provided a man be rich, potent, or factious; and to have been loyal is no honour; but to be poor, though loyalty were the cause of it, is a great dishonour; I would fain know, what principles of honour could engage a man to draw his sword in his prince’s defence, or tie his hands when it lies fair for his advantage to rebel. Nothing but conscience and a sense of duty can have any obliging influence upon him in this case; for all arguments from credit or reputation dissolve, and break, and vanish into air.
Now certainly the thought of this should add caution to the behaviour of persons of eminence, and such as sit at the top of affairs, and attract the eyes of a nation: for their practice of any sin leaves a colour, and imprints a kind of an authority upon it; so that the shame of it comes at length to be took away, and with that the strongest dissuasive that averts the natural ingenuity of man from vile and enormous practices.
And this is the first case in which a principle of honour, without the aid of religion, is insufficient to engage men in the practice of virtue, viz. when the contrary vice comes, in the general judgment of a people, to lose its infamy and disrepute.
2. Another case, in which the same principle is in sufficient for the same purpose, is, when a man can pursue his vice secretly and indiscernibly; and that he may do two ways.
(1.) When he entertains it in his thoughts, affections, and desires. These are the cabinet councils of the soul; and it is certain that God does not take 292 his estimate of a man from any thing so much as from the regular or irregular behaviour of these: for as a man thinks or desires in his heart, such indeed he is; for then most truly, because most incontrollably, he acts himself.
But now, if a man shall take a pleasure to gratify and cherish a corrupt humour by the services of fancy, and desire, and imagination representing to it suitable sinful objects; why he knows himself out of the reach, and consequently out of the awe, of any moral inspection; there is no prying into the transactions of thought, no overhearing the whispers of fancy, no getting into the little close cabals of desires and affections, when they contrive and reflect upon their own pleasures, and laugh at all external spectators. And if so, what influence can the care of credit and honour have upon them, which only regards and fears those eyes that can look no further than the body? The credit of any action is safe, where it is not discerned; for as no vicious person, though ever so slavishly tender of his credit, would be afraid to do an indecent thing before a blind man, or to speak indecent words before the deaf; so the greatest enormities may be securely thought over and desired even in the concourse of theatres and the face of the world.
(2.) The other instance of a man’s pursuing his vice secretly is, when though it passes from desire into practice, yet it is acted with such circumstances of external concealment, that it is out of the notice and arbitration of all observers. This, I confess, from the very nature of the thing, is not altogether so secure as the former; yet it is sufficient to render all checks or restraints from credit utterly inefficacious.293
There is none indeed who loves his sin so well, as to dare to own the satisfaction of it in the market place, in a church, or upon an exchange; common sense of honour is able to overrule the luxuriancies of vice upon these occasions and places: for there is no generally condemned practice so impudent, as to desire to be public, to be gazed and pointed at, and run down by an universal outcry and detestation.
But when a man has contrived and cast the commission of his sin into such opportunities of darkness and retirement, that, in the sinful satisfaction of his flesh, he acts as invisibly as if he was a spirit; what stop can the fear of shame give to him in such practices? For shame never reaches beyond sight; and we suppose the sinner now to have placed himself out of the eye of every thing but of omniscience and of conscience; which also, in the present case, we suppose him not to fear.
For he that has no principle to withhold him from villainy, but the dread of infamy, has no God but public opinion, and no conscience but his own convenience. And therefore having, by much dress, and secrecy, and dissimulation, as it were periwigged his sin, and covered his shame, he looks after no other innocence but concealment, nor counts any thing a sin, provided it be a work of darkness; nor cares to be thought a sheep for any other purpose, but that he may act the wolf, and worry with more reputation.
And thus I have shewn the cases in which a bare principle of honour, unassisted by religion, has no efficacy at all to engage men in virtuous practices: in a word, he that does all such works, only that he may be seen of men, will do none, when he is sure 294 that he cannot be seen. But now, before I proceed any further, I cannot but add this withal, that honour is the strongest motive that mere nature has to enforce virtue by; so that if this is found feeble, and impotent, and inferior to so great a purpose, it is in vain to attempt such a superstructure upon any weaker foundation.
It is possible indeed, that some tempers have so degenerated, as to be acted by principles much inferior, when arguments from honour make no impression upon them at all: as there are some who follow no lure like that of gain; and others who are tempted by no bait like that of pleasure. But for the first of these, the desire of gain is but the quality of some men, or at least but of some ages; for youth is little prevailed upon by it: so that this is an unfit instrument of virtue, the motive to which ought to be universal. And for designs of pleasure, they cannot constantly carry the mind to virtuous practices, be cause, when those designs arrive to enjoyment, such enjoyments are for the most part contrary to a virtuous course, which is never more exercised than in the severities of abstinence and great abridgments. These principles therefore, are unable to effect that, in which the principle of honour is deficient.
Concerning which it is to be observed, that I take it not only in the positive sense, according to which, honour is a desire of a further degree and access to a man’s reputation; but also, nay chiefly, in the negative sense, as it imports an abhorrency of shame. Now, though the former of these is principally no table in minds of a more noble and refined mould, vulgar tempers being seldom concerned to heighten and propagate their fame; yet the latter sense of 295honour, as it is a flying from shame, seems universally to have fixed itself in the breasts of all man kind: there being no man in his wits, of so sottishly depressed a soul, as to endure to be trampled, spit upon, and avoided like a walking infection, without a strange grief, anguish, and inward resentment. But however, that this also is short of being an universal engagement to virtue, the precedent arguments have sufficiently evinced.
IV. I proceed now to the fourth and last particular; viz. to shew, that even those actions that a principle of honour does produce are of no value in the sight of God; and that upon the account of a double defect.
1. In respect of the cause from which they flow.
2. In respect of the end to which they are directed.
1. And first of all, they are deficient in respect of their producing cause, which should be a real love to virtue itself, upon the score of its worth and excellency; otherwise they are forced and violent, and proceed only upon the apprehension of a present interest, which when it ceases, the fountain of such actions is dried up, and then the actions themselves must needs fail.
But when the heart is carried forth to duty by an inward, vital principle of love to the thing it practises, it renders every such performance free and connatural to the soul, and consequently of value in the sight of God, who in every action requires not only what it is, but whence it comes; and never accepts the bare deed, but as it is animated and spiritualized by the desire. But interest and design are a kind of force upon the soul, bearing a man often times besides the ducture of his native propensities 296 and the first outgoings of his will. But the fruits of righteousness grow not in such forced soils; and a man never acts piously, according to the measures of the gospel, but when his action becomes also his inclination.
If care of my credit brings my body to church, when in the mean time my choice and my will places me either at the table of the epicure or in the embraces of an harlot, will God, think we, value this shadow and surface of devotion, and be satisfied with the attendance of the body, when the free, natural, uncontrolled flight of my desires has carried away my soul to an infinite distance from it? Yet honour can command only the former; but the spirit, with which only he that is a spirit will be served, is wholly out of its reach and dominion.
2. All actions of virtue, performed from a principle of honour, are deficient in respect of the end to which they are directed. This end is self; whereas it should be the glory of God, a thing diametrically, irreconcileably opposed to it. God’s displeasure is never so high, as when it arrives to jealousy: and then God is properly jealous, when he finds that man thrusts his own glory into the place of his; which he never does more than when he makes the divine worship the instrument and engine of his own reputation, and uses piety only as a handmaid to fame, and a convenient means to slide him into the esteem and acceptance of the world. This is properly for a man, instead of serving God, to make God serve him.
But it is great reason, that a servant, whose condition declares him not his own, but another’s, should be concerned only to serve the interest and occasions 297of his lord; and then, certainly, the creature much more, who stands accountable to God, not only upon the score of his inferiority, but his very existence and production. But he, that employs all his actions for the advance of his own glory, has renounced the condition of a creature and a servant, sets up for himself, becomes his own master, and, what is more, his own god.
It was for the two forementioned defects, that the most sublime moral performances of the heathen have been always arraigned and condemned by Christian divinity; namely, that they proceeded from an heart unrenewed and unsanctified, and so under the pollutions of original pravity; and withal were designed only to derive a reputation and fair esteem upon their names and persons, to make so many glorious pages in their story, or so many glittering epitaphs upon their monuments. Thus were managed their best actions. But whether an arrow be shot from an ill bow, or levelled and directed by a false aim, it must both ways equally miss of the mark.
Now, from the subject hitherto discoursed of, by way of corollary and conclusion, I shall infer these two things.
1. First, the worth and the absolute necessity of religion in the world, even as to the advantages of civil society. I have shewn how weak, and short, and insignificant, as to these effects, the best and noblest principle, that grows upon the stock of bare nature, will be found. It is not able to abash a secret sinner; and yet the greatest and the most mischievous villainies in the world are contrived in darkness and concealment. But religion never leaves a man with out a thousand witnesses, and that in his own breast: 298 it places him under a perpetual awe of that justice that sees in secret, and rewards openly. The religious man carries those principles and persuasions about him, that tie him up from those practices, to which his interest, and the eye of the world, would let him loose. It is he alone that uses the night only for the necessities of nature, and scorns it as a covering; that dares venture his heart upon his forehead; and in a word, is not afraid to be seen.
But now let any one tell me, what hold can be took of an atheist in these opportunities of secrecy? His principles are as large and wide as hell itself. What can make him restore a trust, if he can safely and dexterously conceal it? What can make him true to his prince, his friend, or any relation of human life, if his reputation conspire with his advantage so, as to serve one without endangering the other?
Surely there is no such pest to society as such a person, who owns no concernment beyond himself; but having shook off the bonds of those principles and persuasions by which mankind are governed, and by which they are, as it were, put upon equal grounds, in reference to a common intercourse, he ought to be exterminated like a wolf, or a tiger, and as a common enemy to human converse: for such is the scope that the atheist gives himself, that nothing can keep him from doing his neighbour mischief, but shame or impossibility.
2. The other thing that we infer from the precedent discourse is, the inexcusableness of those persons, who, professing religion, yet live below a principle much inferior to religion. We need not repair to Christianity for arguments to run down a drunkard, 299a swearer, a noted adulterer, or a rebel. A generous heathenism, ruled by maxims of credit and shame, is virtue and piety compared to the lives of such Christians. Self-love, acted by prudence and caution, is enough to mortify and shame such enormities out of the world. Nothing but grace can extinguish sin; but honour and discretion is enough to prevent scandal. He is a fool that says but in his heart, There is no God; but he is sottishly and in corrigibly so, who proclaims such a belief by the open and visible actions of his life.
He that pursues his vice notoriously, has not so much religion as the fear of men would suggest to the discourses of an ordinary reason. To perjure one’s self publicly, to talk obscenely or profanely in company, it may be condemned out of the lives of the pharisees, and the writings of Cicero or Seneca: it is to be short of that perfection which will carry many to hell, viz. a form of godliness. It is to have all the venom and malignity without the wisdom of the serpent: for surely no wise atheist ever, in his discourse, thought it becoming to speak irreverently of God, or to scoff at religion.
Those, who do so, have cause to make this prayer, if ever they make any; That God would give them so much discretion as to fit them for this life, since he denies them grace to prepare them for a better.300
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