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Locke. Is there not also a weakness of a contrary nature to this you are now ridiculing? Do we not often take a pleasure in showing our own power, and gratifying our own pride, by degrading the notions set up by other men, and generally respected?
Bayle. I believe we do; and by this means it often happens, that, if one man builds and consecrates a temple to folly, another pulls it down.
Locke. Do you think it beneficial to human society, to have all temples pulled down?
Bayle. I cannot say that I do.
Locke. Yet I find not in your writings any mark of distinction, to show us which you mean
Bayle. A true philosopher, like an impartial historian, must be of no sect.
Locke. Is there no medium between the blind zeal of a seetary, and a total indifference to all religion ?
Bayle. With regard to morality, I was not in-. different.
Locke. How could you then be indifferent with regard to the sanctions religion gives to morality? How could you publish what tends so directly and apparently to weaken in mankind the belief of those sanctions? Was not this sacrificing the great interests of virtue to the little motives of vanity?
Bayle. A man may act indiscreetly, but he cannot do wrong, by declaring that, which, on a full discussion of the question, he sincerely thinks to be true.
Locke. An enthusiast, who advances doctrines
prejudicial to society, or opposes any that are useful to it, has the strength of opinion, and the heat of a disturbed imagination, to plead in alleviation of his fault; but your cool head and sound judgment can have no such excuse. I know very well there are passages in all your works, and those not few, where you talk like a rigid moralist. I have also heard that your character was irreproachably good. But when, in the most laboured part of your writings, you sap the surest foundations of all moral duties;. wliat avails it that in others, or in the conduct of your life, you appeared to respect them? How many, who have stronger passions than you had, and are desirous to get rid of the curb that restrains them, will lay hold of your scepticism, to set themselves loose from all obligations of virtue! What a misfortune is it to have made such a use of such talents! It would have been better for you and for mankind, if you had been one of the dullest of Dutch theologians, or the most credulous monk in a Portuguese convent. The riches of the mind, like those of fortune, may be employed so perversely, as to become a nuisance and pest, instead of an ornament and support, to society.
Bayle. You are very severe upon me. But do you count it no merit, no service to mankind, to. deliver them from the frauds and fetters of priestcraft, from the deliriums of fanaticism, and from the terrours and follies of superstition? Consider how much mischief these have done to the world! Even in the last age, what massacres, what civil wars, what convulsions of goverument, what confusion in society, did they produce! Nay, in that
we both lived in, though much more enlightened than the former, did I not see them occasion a violent persecution in my own country? and can you blame me for striking at the root of these eyils ?
Locke. The root of these evils, you well know, was false religion : but you struck at the true. Heaven and hell are not more different, than the system of faith I defended, and that which produced the horrours of which you speak. Why would you so fallaciously confound them together in some of your writings, that it requires much more judgment, and a more diligent attention, than ordinary readers have, to separate them again, and to make the proper distinctions ? This, indeed, is the great art of the most celebrated free. thinkers. They recommend themselves to warm and ingenuous minds, by lively strokes of wit, and by arguments really strong, against superstition, enthusiasm, and priestcraft. But, at the same time, they insidiously throw the colours of these upon the fair face of true religion; and dress her out in their garb, with a malignant intention to render her odious or despicable, to those who have not penetration enough to discern the impious fraud. Some of them may have thus deceived themselves, as well as others. Yet it is certain, no book that ever was written by the most acute of these gentlemen, is so repugnant to priestcraft, to spiritual tyranny, to all absurd superstitions, to all that can tend to disturb or injure society, as that gospel they so much affect to despise.
Bayle. Mankind are so made, that, when they have been over-heated, they cannot be brought to a proper temper again, till they have been overcooled. My scepticism might be necessary, to abate the fever and frenzy of false religion.
Locke. A wise prescription, indeed, to bring on a paralytical state of the mind, (for such a scepticism as yours is a palsy, which deprives the mind of all vigour, and deadens its natural and vital powers,) in order to take off a fever, which temperance, and the milk of the evangelical doctrines, would probably cure?
Bayle. I acknowledge that those medicines have a great power. But few doctors apply them untainted with the mixture of some harsher drugs, or some unsafe and ridiculous nostrums of their own.
Locke. What you now say is too true.-God has given us a most excellent physic for the soul, in all its diseases; but bad and interested physicians, or ignorant and conceited quacks, administer it so ill to the rest of mankind, that much of the benefit of it is unhappily lost.
THE FAILINGS OF MEN SHOULD EXCITE COM
PASSION RATHER THAN RIDICULE.
DEMOCRITUS AND HERACLITUS.
Dem. I FIND it impossible to reconcile myself to a melancholy philosophy.
Her. And I am equally unable to approve of that vain philosophy, which teaches men to depise and ridicule one another. To a wise and feeling mind, the world appears in a wretched and painful light.
Dem. Thou art too much affected with the state of things; and this is a source of misery to thee.
Her. And I think thou art too little moved by it. Thy mirth and ridicule bespeak the buffoon, rather than the pbilosopher. Does it not excite thy compassion, to see mankind so frail, so blind, so far departed from the rules of virtue?
Dem. I am excited to laughter, when I see so much impertinence and folly.
Her. And yet, after all, they, who are the objects of thy ridicule, include, not only mankind in general, but the persons with whom thou' livest, thy friends, thy family, nay even thyself.
Dem. I care very little for all the silly persons I meet with ; and think I am justifiable in diverting myself with their folly.
Her. If they are weak and foolish, it marks neither wisdom nor humanity, to insult rather than pity them. But is it certain, that thou art not as extravagant as they are?
Dem. I presume that I am not; since, in every point, my sentiments are the very reverse of theirs.
Her. There are follies of different kinds. By constantly amusing thyself with the errours and misconduct of others, thou mayst render thyzelf equally ridiculous and culpable.
Dem. Thou art at liberty to indulge such sen. timents; and to weep over me too, if thou hast any tears to spare. For my part, I cannot refrain from pleasing myself with the levities and ill conduct of the world about me. Are not all men fuolish, or irregular in their lives?