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it showed the great tendency of riches to corrupt the morals of those who possessed them.
No. 465. SATURDAY, AUGUST 23, 1712.
Quâ ratione queas traducere leniter ævum :
HOR. EPIST. i. 18, 97.
HAVING endeavoured in my last Saturday's paper to show the great excellency of faith, I shall here consider what are the proper means of strengthening and confirming it in the mind of man. Those who delight in reading books of controversy, which are written on both sides of the question on points of faith, do very seldom arrive at a fixed and settled habit of it. They are one day entirely convinced of its important truths, and the next meet with something that shakes and disturbs them. The doubt which was laid revives again, and shows itself in new difficulties, and that generally for this reason, because the mind, which is perpetually tossed in controversies and disputes, is apt to forget the reasons which had once set it at rest, and to be disquieted with any former perplexity, when it appears in a new shape, or is started by a different hand. As nothing is more laudable than an inquiry after truth,
so nothing is more irrational than to pass away our whole lives, without determining ourselves one way or other, in those points which are of the last importance to us. There are indeed many things from which we may withhold our assent; but, in cases by which we are to regulate our lives, it is the greatest absurdity to be wavering and unsettled, without closing with that side which appears the most safe and the most probable. The first rule, therefore, which I shall lay down, is this; that when by reading or discourse we find ourselves thoroughly convinced of the truth of any article, and of the reasonableness of our belief in it, we should never after suffer ourselves, to call it into question. We may perhaps forget the arguments which occasioned our conviction, but we ought to remember the strength they had with us, and therefore still to retain the conviction which they once produced. This is no more than what we do in every common art or science; nor is it possible to act otherwise, considering the weakness and limitation of our intellectual faculties. It was thus that Latimer, one of the glorious army of martyrs, who introduced the reformation in England, behaved himself in that great conference which was managed between the most learned among the protestants and papists in the reign of Queen Mary. This venerable old man, knowing how his abilities were impaired by age, and that it was impossible for him to recollect all those reasons which had directed him in the choice of his religion, left his companions, who were in the full possession of their parts and learning, to baffle and confound their antagonist by the force of reason. As for himself, he only repeated to his adversaries the articles in which he firmly believed, and in the profession of which he was determined to die. It is in this manner that the mathematician proceeds upon propositions which he has once demonstrated; and though the demonstration may have slipped out of his memory, he builds upon the truth, because he knows it was demonstrated. This rule is absolutely necessary for weaker minds, and in some measure for men of the greatest abilities; but to these last I would propose, in the second place, that they should lay up in their memories, and always keep by them in readiness, those arguments which appear to them of the greatest strength, and which cannot be got over by all the doubts and cavils of infidelity. But, in the third place, there is nothing which strengthens faith more than morality. Faith and morality naturally produce each other. A man is quickly convinced of the truth of religion, who finds it is not against his interest that it should be true. The pleasure he receives at present, and the happiness which he promises himself from it hereafter, will both dispose him very powerfully to give credit to it, according to the ordinary observation, that we are easy to believe what we wish. It is very certain, that a man of sound reason cannot forbear closing with religion upon an impartial examination of it; but at the same time it is as certain, that faith is kept alive in us, and gathers strength from practice more than from speculation. There is still another method, which is more persuasive than any of the former; and that is an habitual adoration of the Supreme Being, as well in constant acts of mental worship, as in outward forms. The devout man does not only believe, but feels, there is a Deity. He has actual sensations of him ; his experience concurs with his reason; he sees him more and more in all his intercourses with him, and even in this life almost loses his faith in conviction. The last method which I shall mention for the giving life to a man's faith, is frequent retirement from the world, accompanied with religious meditation. When a man thinks of any thing in the darkness of the night, whatever deep impressions it may make in his mind, they are apt to vanish as soon as the day breaks about him. The light and noise of the day, which are perpetually soliciting his senses, and calling off his attention, wear out of his mind the thoughts that imprinted themselves in it, with so much strength, during the silence and darkness of the night. A man finds the same difference as to himself in a crowd and in a solitude: the mind. is stunned and dazzled amidst that variety of objects which press upon her in a great city. She cannot apply herself to the consideration of those things which are of the utmost concern to her. The cares or pleasures of the world strike in with every thought, and a multitude of vicious examples give a kind of justification to our folly. In our retirements, every thing disposes us to be serious. In courts and cities, we are entertained with the works of men; in the country, with those of God. One is the province of art, the other of nature. Faith and devotion naturally grow in the mind of every reasonable man, who sees the impressions of divine power and wisdom in every object on which he casts his eye. The Supreme Being has made the best arguments for his own existence, in the formation of the heavens and the earth; and these are arguments which a man of sense cannot forbear attending to, who is out of the noise and hurry of human affairs. Aristotle says, that should a man live under ground, and there converse with works of art and mechanism, and should afterwards be brought up into the open day, and see the several glories of the heaven and earth, he would immediately pronounce them the works of such a being as we define God to be. The psalmist has very beautiful strokes of poetry to this purpose, in that
exalted strain: “ The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handy-work. One day telleth another; and one night certifieth another. There is neither speech nor language; but their voices heard
them. Their sound is gone out into all lands; and their words into the ends of the world.” As such a bold and sublime manner of thinking furnishes very noble matter for an ode, the reader may see it wrought into the following one:
The spacious firmament on high,
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
What though, in solemn silence, all