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But when almost the whole of religion is made to consist in the pious fooleries of penances and sufferings, as is practised in the church of Rome, (did no other evil attend it); yet, since it is put ting religion upon a wrong scent, placing it more in these, than in inward purity and integrity of heart, one cannot guard too much against this, as well as all other such abuses of religion, as make it to consist in something which it ought not. How such mockery became a part of religion at first, or upon what motives they were imagined to be services acceptable to GoD, is hard to give a better account of, than what was hinted above;
—namely,—that men of melancholy and morose tempers, conceiving the Deity to be, like themselves, a gloomy, discontented, and sorrowful Being,believed he delighted, as they did, in splenetic and mortifying actions, and therefore, made their religious worship to consist of chimeras, as wild and barbarous as their own dreams and vapors.
What ignorance and enthusiasm at first introduced, now tyranny and imposture continue to support. So that the political improvement of these delusions, to the purposes of wealth and power, is made one of the strongest pillars which upholds the Romish religion ;-which, with all its pretences to a more strict mortification and sanctity, when you examine it minutely, is little else than a mere pecuniary contrivance. And the truest definition you can give of popery,-is, that it is a system put together and contrived to operate upon mens weaknesses and passions,-and thereby to pick their pockets,and leave them in a fit condition for its arbitrary designs.
And indeed that church has not been wanting in gratitude for the good offices of this kind, which the doctrine of penances has done them; for, in consideration of its services-they have raised it
above the level of moral duties,—and have at length, complimented it into the number of their sacraments, and made it a necessary point of salvation.
By these, and other tenets, no less politic and inquisitional,popery has found out the art of making men miserable in spite of their senses, and the plenty with which GOD has blessed them. So that in many countries where popery reigns
-but especially in that part of Italy where she has raised her throne, though, by the happiness of its soil and climate, it is capable of producing as great variety and abundance as any country upon earth; yet so successful have its spiritual directors been in the management and retail of these blessings, that they have found means to allay, if not entirely to defeat them all, by one pretence or other. Some bitterness is officiously squeezed into every man's cup, for his soul's health, till, at length, the whole intention of nature and providence is destroyed. It is not surprising, that where such unnatural severities are practised and heightened by other hardships, the most fruitful land should be barren, and wear a face of poverty and desolation ;- -or that many thousands, as have been observed, should fly from the rigors of such a government, and seek shelter rather amongst rocks and deserts, than lie at the mercy of so many unreasonable task-masters, under whom they can hope for no other reward of their industry, but rigorous slavery, made still worse by the tortures of unnecessary mortifications. -I say, unnecessary ;- -because where there is a virtuous and good end proposed, from any sober instances of self-denial and mortification -God forbid we should call them unnecessary, or that we should dispute against a thing-from the abuse to which it has been put ;-and therefore, what is said in general upon this head, will
be understood to reach no farther than where the practice is become a mixture of fraud and tyranny; but will nowise be interpreted to extend to those self-denials which the discipline of our holy church directs at this solemn season,-which have been introduced by reason and good sense at first, and have since been applied to serve no purposes -but those of religion :-These, by restraining our appetites for a while, and withdrawing our thoughts from grosser objects,—do, by a mechanical effect, dispose us for cool and sober reflections,-incline us to turn our eyes inward upon ourselves, and consider what we are—and what we have been doing ;- -for what intent we were sent into the world, and what kind of characters we were designed to act in it.
It is necessary, that the mind of man, at some certain periods, should be prepared to enter into this account; and, without some such discipline, to check the insolence of unrestrained appetites, and call home the conscience, the soul of man, capable as it is of brightness and perfection, would sink down to the lowest depths of darkness and brutality.However true this is, there still appears no obligation to renounce the innocent delights of our beings, or to affect a sullen distaste against them ;-nor, in truth, can even the supposition of it be well admitted :For pleasures arising from the free and natural exercise of the faculties of the mind and body, to talk them down, is like talking against the frame and mechanism of human nature, and would be no less senseless than the disputing against the burning of fire, or falling downwards of a stone. Besides this,man is so contrived, that he stands in need of frequent repairs ;-both mind and body are apt to sink and grow inactive under long and close attention; and, therefore, must be restored by proper recruits.- -Some part of our
time may doubtless innocently and lawfully be employed in actions merely diverting ;-and whenever such indulgencies become criminal, it is seldom the nature of the actions themselves,-but the excess, which makes them so.
But some one may here ask,-By what rule are we to judge of excess in these cases?If the enjoyment of the same sort of pleasures may be innocent or guilty, according to the use or abuse of them, how shall we be certified where the boundaries lie?- or be speculative enough to know how far we may go with safety ?—I answer, there are very few who are not casuists enough to make a right judgment in this point.For, since one principal reason, why GoD may be supposed to allow pleasure in this world, seems to be for the refreshment and recruit of our souls and bodies, which, like clocks, must be wound up at certain intervals,every man understands so much of the frame and mechanism of himself, to know how and when to unbend himself, with such relaxations as are necessary to regain his natural vigor and cheerfulness,without which it is impossible he should either be in a disposition or capacity to discharge the several duties of his life.- -Here then the partition becomes visible.
Whenever we pay this tribute to our appetites, any farther than is sufficient for the purposes for which it was first granted,the action proportionably loses some share of its innocence. The surpiusage of what is unnecessarily spent on such occasions, is so much of the little portion of our time negligently squandered, which, in prudence, we should apply better; because it was allotted us for more important uses, and a different account will be required of it at our hands hereafter.
For this reason, does it not evidently follow, that many actions and pursuits, which are irreproachable in their own natures, may be rendered
blameable and vicious, from this single consideration, "That they have made us wasteful of the "moments of this short and uncertain fragment "of life, which should be almost one of our last "prodigalities, since of them all, the least retriev"able.”—Yet how often is diversion, instead of amusement and relaxation, made the art and business of life itself?-Look round,-what policy and contrivance is every day put in practice, for pre-engaging every day in the week, and parcelling out every hour of the day for one idleness or another,―for doing nothing, or something worse than nothing; and that with so much ingenuity, as scarce to leave a minute upon their hands to reproach them?-Though we all complain of the shortness of life,-yet how many people seem quite overstocked with the days and hours of it, and are continually sending out into the high-ways and streets of the city, for guests to come and take it off their hands?- -If some of the more distressful objects of this kind were to sit down and write a bill of their time, though partial as that of the unjust steward, when they found in reality, that the whole sum of it, for many years, amounted to little more than this,-that they had rose up to eat,—to drink, to play, and had laid down again, merely because they were fit for nothing else :-When they looked back and beheld this fair space, capable of such heavenly improvements, all scrawled over and defaced with a succession of so many unmeaning cyphers,-good GOD!-how would they be ashamed and confounded at the account?
With what reflections will they be able to support themselves in the decline of a life so miserably cast away,should it happen, as it sometimes does that they have stood idle even unto the eleventh hour? We have not always power, and are not always in a temper, to impose