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and if it do no good, it is not productive of so much harm.
The desire of making converts proceeds from two different causes. . In superstitious zealots, it proceeds from an opinion, that all who differ from them are in the road to damnation : for which reason, there is a rage of making converts among Roman Catholics; who, without ceremony, deliver over to the flames of hell, every person who is not of their communion. The other cause is more natural : every man thinks himself in the right, especially in matters of consequence; and for that reason, 'he is happy to find others of his opinion (a). With respect to the first cause, I beg attention to the following considerations; not with any hope of converting zealots, but to prevent, if possible, others from becoming such. In none of the works of God is variety more happily blended with uniformity, than in the formation of man. Uniformity prevails in the human face with respect to eyes, nose, mouth, and other capital parts : variety prevails in the expressions of these parts, serving to distinguish one person from an(a) Elements of Criticisin, vol. 2. p. 493. edit. 5.
other, without hazard of error. In like manner, the minds of men are uniform with respect to their passions and principles; but the various tones and exprefsions of these, form different characters without end. A face destitute of a nose or of a mouth, is monstrous : a mind destitute of the moral sense, or of a sense of religion, is no less so. But variety of expression in different faces, is agreeable, because we relish variety; and a similar variety in the expressions or tones of pafsion, ought to be equally agreeable. Endless differences in temper, in talte, and in mental faculties, that of reason in particular, produce necessarily variety in sentiment and in opinion. Can God be displeased with such variety, when it is his own work? He requires no uniformity except with respect to an upright mind and clear conscience, which are indispenfable. Here at the same time is discovered an illustrious final cause. Different countenances in the human race, not only diftinguish one person from another, but promote society, by aiding us to chufe à friend, an associate, a partner for life. Differences in opinion and sentiment, have 3 H 2
still more beneficial effects : they rouse the attention, give exercise to the understanding, and sharpen the reasoning faculty. With respect to religion in particular, perfect uniformity, which furnisheth no subject for thinking nor for reasoning, would produce languor in divine worthip, and make us sink into cold indifference. How foolish then is the rage of making proselytes ? Let every man enjoy his native liberty, of thinking as well as of acting; free to act as he pleases, provided only he obey the rules of morality ; equally free to think as he pleases, provided only he acknowledge the great God as his maker and master, and perceive the necessary connection of religion with morality. Strict uniformity in other matters, may be compared to a spring-day, calm and ferene; neither so hot as to make us drop a garment, nor fo cold as to require an addition ; no wind to rume, nor rain to make shelter necessary. We enjoy the sweet scene for a moment: we walk, we fit, we muse-but faon fall asleep. Agitation is the element of man, and the life of society. Let us not attempt to correct the works of God: the attempt will be
tray us into absurd errors. This doctrine cannot be better illustrated than by a conversation, reported by the Jesuit Tachard, between the King of Siam, and a French ambassador, who in his master's name urged that king to embrace the Christian religion. “ I am surprised,” said his Majesty of Siam, “ that the King of France,
my good friend, should interest himself “ so warmly in what concerns God only.
He hath given to his creatures different “ minds and different inclinations, which
naturally lead them to differ in opinion. “ We admire variety in the material “ world : why not equally admire it in
matters of religion? Have we not then
reason to believe, that God takes plea“ sure in all the different forms of wor“ ship? Had it been the intention of “ God to produce uniformity in religion, " he would have formed all men with the “ fame mind.” Bernier introduces fome Gentiles of Hindoftan defending their religion much in the same manner:
they did not pretend their law to be u“ niversal ; .that they did not hold ours
to be false, as, for ought they knew, " it might be a good law for us; and
I wish my
“ that God probably made many
roads to 66 heaven.'
With respect to the other cause above mentioned, the desire of putting people in the right road. To reason others into our religious principles, is natural; but it is not always prudent. neighbour to be of my opinion, because I think my opinion right : but is there no danger of undermining his religious principles, without establishing better in their stead ? Ought I not to restrain my desire of making converts, when the attempt may possibly reduce them to abandon religion altogether, as a matter of utter uncertainty ? If a man of clear understanding has by some unhappy means been led into error, that man may be fet right by fair reasoning: but beware of endeavouring to convert people of low
who are indebted for their creed to parents, to education, or to example : it is safer to let them rest as they are,
At any rate, let us never attempt to gain profelytes by rewards or by terror: what other effect can fuch motives produce, but dissimulation and lying, pa