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by religious culture, and taught to fear and obey Almighty God, places him in this unhappy situation. His natural ignorance likewise, not only of religion, but a thousand other articles of knowledge, necessary to him in every condition of life, makes it still more evident, that, unless he hath the benefit of instruction, which God and society only can give him, he must perish, long before he can possibly acquire a competency of knowledge. Hence it may appear, that he is as absolutely dependent on society, as society is on God, for subsistence. We cannot live out of society; nor can society subsist without laws and sanctions; nor is that to be expected without magistrates. And after all, there is no integrity to be expected from the magistrates, nor honesty and obedience from the people, unless an infinitely wise, just, and powerful Being, is believed to superintend and govern the whole.
So then religion is so far from dwindling down into mere human laws, and civil government, or vanishing into mere morality, according to the senseless and wicked notion now in vogue, that civil government is no government, and morality an empty name, if they do not both borrow their very soul and being from religion. When we say civil derived from God, we do not mean, that, like a person who once founded a kingdom, and dying, left it to his successors, he hath retired from the government, and given up his supreme authority to a succession of men. No; he is always on the throne. He interferes in all that passes ; and, were it not generally believed that he does so, the race of mankind must either perish off the earth ; or God must, contrary to the infinite majesty of his being, and contrary to the whole scheme of nature, assume a sensible appearance, and interpose miraculously on every particular occasion. But, without doing this, the very subsistence of society shews, he not only was the origin, but still is, and must be, the basis, of civil power; insomuch that it is impossible to assign any one act of authority in the community, wherein God is not visible to a thinking mind. From what hath been said, it follows, that the utmost care ought to be taken, in every society, to turn the attention of all its magistrates and members strongly on God's continual inspection, and future judgment.
This is undoubtedly the only true foundation to build the peace, the security, and happiness, of any state on.
First, Because no nation, nor form of government, can either long or happily subsist without virtue; nor virtue, at all, without religion. The history of all the commonwealths and kingdoms in the world verify this undeniably to us. The power of any constitution has always grown and declined, according to the rise and fall of frugality, industry, courage, and justice.
Again, It is as observable, that these virtues have always flourished exactly in proportion to the strength of religion, where any thing like a rational scheme of religion hath obtained ; and still, as reverence for a divine nature, and faith in a future life, have abated, so virtue too, by the same steps, hath decreased.
All lawgivers, whether made sensible of this by maturely weighing the nature of man, or by observations made on what happened to other states before theirs, have used their utmost endeavours to propagate the expectation of a future distribution of punishments to vice, and rewards to virtue, among their people.
Some have made this observation to create a suspicion, that all religion, and the Christian among the rest, is a state trick, and owes its being to the invention of politicians. But to suppose this, is to suppose that God, who knows we cannot live out of society, and that society cannot subsist without religion, would leave us to support ourselves and society upon falsehood and imposture. But, however, this suspicion can never be rationally fixed on Christianity; since it is so well known to the knowing part of the world, that this religion, contrary to the manner of introducing and establishing all other religions, made its way into the world, and at length attained to establishment, in opposition to kings and emperors, to state-stratagem and power.
However, it is only our business at present to observe, that there hath never yet been a constitution put together, without great regard had to the establishment of some kind of religion or other; that, while that religion supported its credit, and was zealously adhered to, the virtue of particular men, and the strength of the state, grew and rested secure, in proportion to the soundness of that religion, and the
strength of that faith wherewith it was believed in ; but that dissolution of manners and government both hath soon followed the contempt of religion.
From this distant view, we may easily see the stately pile of civil power, firmly founded, and highly exalted, by the influence of religion and virtue; and thrown to the again by the malignant effects of infidelity and vice. We may see it rise in a rude age of religion and rigid virtue ; and moulder away to nothing in another refined age of religious incredulity and luxury.
But, if we afford it a nearer inspection, we shall soon perceive, that these effects are unavoidable; that, to the credit of religion, no constitution ever ros
to any considerable height, without its necessary assistance; and that, to the eternal shame of infidelity, no constitution was ever ruined, but by forgetting, that there is a God who judgeth the earth ;' and this, not so much by bringing the wrath of God on it (for God could never be moved to revenge the contempt of a false and idolatrous religion), as by a consequence absolutely necessary in the nature of things.
For, wheresoever the sense of a divine presence, and the expectation of immortality, have prevailed, there honesty, humanity, and virtue of every kind, have, for the same reason, prevailed ; there trade has flourished, supported by frugality and industry, the constant attendants of religion and virtue, and nourished by the security of property, in the midst of integrity and universal credit. How cheerfully could they, who believed in God and a future judgment, believe and trust each other? There the laws must have been strictly obeyed, because the obedience proceeded not from the fear of human justice, which may be biassed ; not from the fear of temporal punishments, which may be evaded; but of divine justice, which there is no evading; and of eternal penalties, which there is no avoiding. There the laws must have been faithfully and impartially put in execution; because the magistrates and judges, afraid of appeals to God's judgment, could not but have had particular regard to the justice of their own. There alone the sanctity of oaths, by which all laws operate, and without which no nation can subsist, must have been religiously preserved, where religion itself was zealously cultivated.
Now, as it is unreasonable to expect virtue where there is no religion, so it is, humanly speaking, impossible that a society should not thrive apace, where religion has planted the virtues of industry and frugality among the lower kind of people, and temperance and justice among the higher ; and those of honesty, humanity, and universal trust, among all. Each member of such a society must, in his private capacity, effectually promote the public welfare, because he pursues his own particular benefit by such a life as tends directly to the profit of the public. He only is to be suffered in any society, whose good coincides with that of his country : now this is never to be expected, but where religion and honesty are to be found. Whosoever is void of these, will be apt to set up a separate and inconsistent interest of his own. The religiously honest, therefore, is the best friend to his country in the time of peace and prosperity
Nor does he less distinguish himself in its service, when wars attack, or other public calamities afflict it. As he has no way of securing his own person or fortune, but by protecting his country; so he is always ready to share the one with it, and hazard the other for it. He looks upon it as the storehouse of all his temporal peace, and wealth, and happiness. He, therefore, loves it; he, therefore, fights with resolution round it; and, like a wise as well as honest man, does all he can to defend it. It is not so with the irreligious and dishonest. He hath interests that may be secured, without securing his country; nay, his notions of interest will suffer him to sell his country, he having no religion to tie his conscience to the prospect of a higher and more lasting interest, than such as may be made here by direct or indirect means, as either shall serve his turn.
That country or society must undoubtedly be in the fairest way to be powerful and happy, whose members consider themselves as qualifying their souls for an infinitely more glorious society, by serving, promoting, and protecting, the present; and whose religion and virtue have assigned them, for their own private interests, a share of the public good.
If experience had not proved it to us, reason itself might shew us, that this must be the case. But, if it be otherwise,
all history must be false, and all observation wrong. It is certain, any constitution that provides sufficiently for the cultivation of religion, must, in so doing, make the best provision for its own security and welfare every way; and must accordingly flourish secure and happy, if it be not very deficient in other respects. So, on the other hand, when once faith, and religious principles, begin to be generally disregarded by the people of any nation, that nation must decline apace. And if the legislative part of it shall make laws prejudicial to its credit and efficacy, or take no care about it, as a matter unworthy their regard, that nation must rush headlong to its own destruction; no wealth, no power, no policy, being sufficient to stay it.
In a constitution like ours, liberty is only to be preserved by an exact balance of power among the several constituent parts. But how shall such a balance be preserved without religion? What is there else to hinder the ambition of one part from swelling and encroaching upon the other, or the avarice and servility of the other from selling that share of power it is trusted with ? And when ambition hath actually raised a competition, for instance, between prerogative and privilege, what is there to moderate that ambition, or so to decide the difference, that liberty and the constitution may be preserved? Are we to call in a foreign power? Or are we to make the sword our umpire? From neither of these can we safely hope for a just decision. The influence of conscience and religion only over the great, and over the bulk of the people, can keep the balance even.
Nor is there any safety for property, where there is no religion. Locks and bolts, and human laws, are no sufficient defence against fraud, which can evade the laws; and force, that can easily break through the slight security of a bolt or door; when there is no conscience to manacle the one, nor fear of Divine justice to restrain the other. Nay, there can be no fear of even human laws; because truth can never be known, nor facts proved, without oaths ; nor can oaths, without a sense of religion, prove any thing.
Peace, too, is as little to be expected in an infidel constitution. Wrath and resentment, and false notions of honour, must prevail, and fill the minds of those, who ought to live in harmony and good neighbourhood, with fury and revenge,