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less Vices, as well as Uneafinesses, of past Times are foon forgot; and the most flagrant, notorious ones only appear upon Record: that we are apt to judge those Evils greatest, which we feel ourselves ; and that Good least, which seems to rival and eclipse our own, and raises Envy in the room of Admiration :- and that hence, one of them is often aggravated, the other extenuated most undulya. On which account, Vices probably be greater now in general, but we more immediately concern'd with them, and suffering under them; especially the reigning ones, (of which there always have been some*) as those of Faction and Corruption, Luxury and Lewdness seem to be at present ; and great ones indeed they are, especially in our own Country;

which

yet perhaps are not worse than the reigning ones of former Times aa: and 'tis to be remember'd, that

may not

a See Bp. Fleetwood's 2d Charge, p.6, &c. Ibbot's Serm. on Eccl.7.10: Le Clerc, ib. Brown's Causes of Common Errors, B.1. c.6, &c. That the same Principle, i.e. of Envy, is at all times no less apt to prevail in the decrying of the present State of Literature, may be seen in an ingenious Author's Note on Hor. A.P. 1.408. p.213. 2 Ed.

* • There is a certain List of Vices committed in all Ages, and declaimed against by all Authors, which will lait as • long as Human Nature; or digested into common places

may serve for any Theme, and never be out of date until • Dooms-day.' Vulg. Err. p. 22.

aa “They who will take the pains to look into the Records • of former Times, and view the Religion and Policy of our

own and our Neighbour Nations, from the Time that Chri• stianity was first planted in them; and God knows, the « Prospect that we have in most of them before that blessed

Season, is very dark and unpleasant; will be beft able to judge and prescribe what Veneration is in truth due to Antiquity: and it may be, he who taketh the best Survey of

them, will hardly find a Time in which he would with ra

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they come attended with the foremention'd Advantages of Light and Liberty, in fuch a degree, as we can never be too thankful for ; and which we hope will speedily correct them; the one eenabling Men foon to see their evil consequences, the other allowing them full scope to cenfure, and expose them; and through both these, it may be that each other Vice becomes more open, and apparent now, rather than of superior size, and strength. So that concerning the present Times, we have some room to think that they are not absolutely worse than all before them, as to Morals b. Perhaps I may be allow'd to advance a step farther, and suppose them better in some re..

ther to have been born, or Persons with whom he could

more usefully and happily have conversed, than in this very · Time in which he hath been born, how vicious and wicked foever; or those worthy Persons with whom he hath, or might have lived, how depraved so ever the greater Number is, as it hath always been. Ld Clarendon, El. p. 227.

b I believe it would be hard to produce modern instances of Cruelty and Barbarity in any civilized State, whether in War or Peace, equal to such as were decreed publickly, and executed without the least seeming remorse, by the politeft People of Antiquity: Witness their frequent refusing Quarter, and Naying all the Males; their Triumphs, torturing of Slaves; their Profcriptions, Poisonings, exposing Children, Rapes, &c. which need no aggravation. There is even at this day a fort of Decency in all our public Councils and Deliberations: and I believe the boldest of our Demagogues would hardly undertake, in a popular Assembly, to propose any thing parallel to the Rape of the Sabines, the most unjust usage of L.T. Collatinus, or the ungrateful Treatment of Ca. millus ; which, as a learned Father observes, were pieces of Iniquity agreed to by the public Body of the Romans. Instances of the same kind with the two laft every one knows occur frequently among the Greeks, as well as Romans, in the politeft Ages of their Government. See Sir T. P. Blount, Ed. p.145. or Hume's Political Disc. 10.

spects; {pects; that we have certain Virtues now in greater Perfection, particularly more of true Chan rity, or Universal Benevolence, than ever since the time of primitive Christianity. - But if this be deem'd a mistake, and too partial fondness for the present Times, I trust it will be also judg'd a pardonable one, amid so much most evident Partiality against them; especially as it is on the

I may add, that there seems to be a more perfect resignation to the Will of God, and acquiescence in his Providence, among all Ranks of Men; a greater Firmness in enduring Pain;

more Chearfulness and Courage in submitting to Death, among the generality, even of lowest Education: in fhort, that Mankind may be said to grow more spiritual and intellectual, in these and many other respects, than they have been in former Ages. I think it may be said, in Honour of the • present Age, that (with a few exceptions] Controversy is • carried on with more Decency and good Manners, than in any former Period of time that can be named; which, together with the Toleration granted by Law, in this and other Protestant Countries, for all Persons to worship God in their own way; and that Christian Charity and Moderation, which is generally shewn towards those that differ from us, seems already to be attended with good Effect. -The lett ing up of so many Charity-Schools as have of late Years been erected in these Kingdoms—the forming of Religious Societies and other good means, have greatly contributed to the promoting the Knowledge and Practice of Virtue and Re·ligion among us.' Worthington, El. p. 157, 158.

Upon the whole, we have reason to conclude, that the ReRoration of Letters was so far from being fatal to Christianity, or that this has been in decay ever since (as a late noble Writer, much more conversant with some kinds of Politicks and polite Literature, than the present Subject, has been pleased to affirm) [Letters on the Study of History, p. 175.) that on the contrary, this, where-ever it took place, has greatly tended both to the Illustration of its Evidence, and the Increase of its Power over the Minds and Consciences of Men; and that in many respects it has really fourished more from this, than from any other Period of Time since its original Establinament.

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charitable fide; and tends to make them really better than they would be, did worse opinions of them universally prevail ::

Which brings me, in the last place, to the Consequences that attend the other way of thinking.

These have been hinted at in the beginning of this Discourse, and might be shewn more particularly to affect the Honour of God, our own Happiness, and that of others ; in as much as the foregoing supposition casts a Cloud over all the Works of God, — confounds our Notions of his Wisdom, Power, and Goodness;-raises Distrust, if not a Disbelief of his Perfections, and thereby deadens our Devotion toward him;- damps and discourages all Study; and destroys the pleasure that would arise from a Survey of both the Natural, and Moral World, and from Reflections on the Station we hold in them; - renders us far less sensible of the Happiness within our power, and by consequence makes us receive less from them; — not only hinders Men from growing better, but actually makes them worse ; and suffers the World daily to decline, through a perfwasion that it is design'd to do so ; ;- it having been obsery'd, that those Writings which villanize Mankind, have a pernicious tendency towards propagating, and protecting villany, and help the most of all to teach, and encourage itd; in the

d In proof of the foregoing Observation, not to mention here such foreign Authors as Esprit, Rochefoucauld, and Bayle, who seem to have taken a deal of perverse pains to eradicate all feeds of Humanity out of the Human Breast;- sufficient evidence may be had from a famous writer of our own, the Author of the Fable of the Bees, who by a few of fuperior penetration into the low Motives and ignoble Paffions which

arc

of late years.

fame manner as those which perpetually dwell on the dark side of things, and the difficulties that are too apt to sway People ;-by pointing at the means whereby a politician may sometimes avail himself of these, as well as serve some present Interest of the Public in indulging them ;--by a droll way of describing things, and a due mixture of some very ill-natured Truths, that looks like more than ordinary Sagacity and a fhrewd knowledge of the world, and serves to gratify a man's own Vanity, or Spleen, while it appears to be exposing that of others;-in fine, by dwelling altogether on the Foibles and the Follies of the worft and weakelt of mankind;-has drawn such an horrid, and at the fame time humourous Picture of the Species, as has at once diverted, and debauch'd the Principles of more persons of the beft understandings amongst us, than perhaps any other writer

And tho'we allow the Observation of an abler Author of the fame stamp, viz. that Principles have seldom such an immediate influence on Men's behaviour, or their tempers, as a predominant Pafion, or a settled Habit; yet we may infift upon it, that the former of these, when perverted, help very much to strengthen and encourage any kind of irregularity in the latter; at least they are exceedingly apt to discourage and debilitate any attempt to subdue an exorbitant Paffion, or inveterate Habit: they destroy all vigorous Endeavours toward establishing right methods of self-government; they indispofe us for attending to that moral Discipline which is so necessary to conduct ourselves with innocence and usefulness thro’Life, and yet so difficult when opposed to the stream of evil Custom, or the tide of vicious Inclination. Such Principles especially as are advanc'd in the fore-mention’d Book, instead of exciting us to love, partake of, and strive to promote the Happiness of our Fellow-Creatures, and to delight in paying a grateful Homage to our common Parent, must rather bring us to a fix'd contempt and hatred of the generality of these; give us unworthy narrow notions of the Creator and Governour of this world, and cut off the least prospect of enlarging or improving them in any other. They must cause a Decay of public Spirit, and a want of public Faith; a Decline and a gradual Diffolution of private Honour, Truth, and common Honesty: the very least that can be expected from them is an indolent unsatisfying state of mind within one's self, and an averfion towards any pains or

trouble

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