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and ignorance contended for, have not been more free than others from this depravity.
If the oppression and ignorance specified were indeed the causes of this corruption, then the corruption ought not to be extended to those subjects who were neither ignorant nor oppressed. But we do not find these men, in fact, any better than their fellow-subjects.
On the contrary, the more thạt men have possessed the means of pleasure and sin, the more wealth, independence, and self-controul they have enjoyed, the more corrupt they have usually been. How often do we see a youth, or a poor man, by coming suddenly to opulence and high personal independence, lose his former sober, decent character, and become at once grossly immoral. So common is this fact as to be proverbially remarked, and to be the foundation of important prudential maxims concerning the management of our children. All observing men, even of the most ordinary education, hold it as a fundamental doctrine of experience, that it is harder to bear prosperity than adversity.
Men of science, learning and extensive information have, in the mean time, been to a great extent exceedingly corrupt and wicked; incomparably more so, in degree, than the ignorant; and proportionally as much so in the number of instances. The ancient philosophers, the most learned and intelligent men of the heathen world, were very generally gross examples of sin. Infidel philosophers in modern times have, in this respect, certainly not fallen behind them. Of the former of these assertions Cicero, Plutarch, Lucian, Seneca, and Diogenes Laertius, themselves philosophers, are ample and unimpeachable witnesses; of the latter, the writings and lives of the philosophers themselves. The truth is, as any man who knows any thing of the subject readily discerns, knowledge is a thing entirely distinct from virtue, not necessarily connected with it, and without virtue, is but too often the means of ingenious, powerful, and dreadful iniquity. There is not a reason furnished by experience to induce a belief, that the increase of knowledge is of course the increase of virtue.
3. In those states of society where rulers have the least influence which is possible in the present world, men are not less vicious in proportion to their power of being vicious, than they are where rulers have the greatest influ.
For complete proof of this assertion I appeal to the state of the aboriginal Americans. In the state of society existing among these people, men are as independent, and as little influenced by power, authority and governmental example, as men living together can be. Here neither kings, nor nobles, nor priests, have any other weight or controul than that which springs of course from the mere gathering together of human beings. Yet no man who knows any thing of the morals of these people, can hesitate to acknowledge them corrupt in a degree enormous and dreadful. Fraud, falsehood, lewdness, drunkenness, treachery, malice, cruelty and murder, acted out in the most deplorable manner, are strong and dreadful features of the whole savage character. Here then the vice exists anterior to artificial society, and in the state nearest to that which is called • the state of nature.' What is true of the American savages is true of all others; and universally furnishes undeniable proof of fearful depravity, originally inherent in man, and wholly independent of the causes alleged in this objection.
4. Republics have been equally corrupt with monarchies.
In republics the influence and the oppression of kings are unknown. If then republics have been no less corrupt than monarchies, regal oppression and influence are falsely alleged as the proper and original causes of human depravity; since here they do not exist. In the most absolute freedom ever found in republics, wickedness has been as truly the character of men as in kingdoms. This character also has been equally depraved, not in all instances I readily grant, but in more than enough to establish the doctrine. Carthage, Rome, Athens, Sparta, Venice, the Grison states, and republican France, are undeniable examples. It ought particularly to be remarked, that republics have usually oppressed their provinces with more unfeeling cruelty than monarchies. Their own freedom, therefore, has not made them at all more friendly, but less so, to the freedom and happiness of their fellow-men. The deplorable vassalage, existing in our own country to an enormous extent, is a flagrant and melancholy, although it may be thought an invidious proof of this asser
tion. If then some republics have been distinguished by a higher degree of virtue, as has undoubtedly been the fact, the cause was not their freedom, for that has universally existed and operated, but something peculiar to themselves.
5. In the republics which have been most distinguished for virtue, ministers of the gospel have had the greatest influence.
Switzerland, Holland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have long by general acknowledgment, been placed among the most virtuous republics. But in all these, clergymen have had more influence than in any other. On the contrary, where clergymen have had little influence, there has been comparatively but very little virtue. Of this truth instances are numerous and at hand. They are also too clear to admit of a doubt. The general voice of mankind has decided this point, and from this voice there can be no appeal.
Hence it is evident, that the influence of clergymen is so far from contributing to the corruption of mankind, upon the whole, that it has meliorated their character most where it has most prevailed, and rendered them materially better than they have been elsewhere. I speak here, it will be observed, only of Protestant ministers of the Gospel. I know it has been the custom of infidels to groupe them together with Romish priests, to whom of all men they have been most opposed, and whom they more than any other men have contributed to overthrow; and with heathen priests, with whom they have nothing in common, except the essential characteristics of men, and a title at times applied to both; a mere generic name, formed by the same letters indeed, but meaning in the different applications things as unlike as folly and wisdom, holiness and sin. As well might Newton, Locke, Butler, and Boyle be united in a monstrous assemblage with Spinosa, Voltaire, Diderot, and Condorcet, because they have all been styled philosophers; Alfred twinned with Kouli Khan, because they have both been called Kings; and Sydenham be coupled with an Indian Powwaw, because they have both been named physicians.
It ought further to be observed as an universal truth, that in all Protestant countries, the countries where virtue has flourished more than in any other, the existence of virtue has been
exactly proportioned to the influence of ministers of the gospel. All real virtue is the effect of the gospel crowned with the divine blessing. But wherever the gospel has the greatest effects, its ministers are the most respected and influential ; for the principal efficacy of the gospel is conveyed through their preaching, candidly and kindly received. Scotland may he mentioned as a strong instance of this general truth. in that country, under a regal government and amid the influence of a powerful body of nobles, supposed by my antagonists to be so hostile to the existence of virtue, there has perhaps long been less vice and more virtue, than in any European country of equal extent. Yet there the influence of clergymen has, in all probability, been greater than in any other protestant country.
6. In a state of anarchy, virtue is uniformly at the lowest ebb, and vice most prevalent and dreadful.
In a state of anarchy all lawful authority and regular influence, both civil and ecclesiastical, are extinguished, and lose therefore whatever efficacy they may be supposed to possess towards the corruption of mankind. Yet of all situations in which society can be placed, anarchy is the most pernicious to the morals of men. of this truth we have proverbial evidence in the great practical maxim, that` no people can exist for any length of time in a state of anarchy.' Of the soundness of this important doctrine our own country, during the late revolution, gave sufficient proof. When the restraints of government and religion were only partially taken off, men became vicious in a moment, to a degree here unexampled. I myself have seen a number of men, commonly sober, decent, moral and orderly in their deportment, lose upon joining a mob even the appearance of these characteristics, and exhibit more and grosser vice in a few hours than in many preceding years.
The restraints of government and religion are, therefore, so far from making men worse upon the whole, that without them, men become so profligate as to render it impossible for them even to live together. All this is indeed very easily vnderstood. Government, in the great body of cases, restrains men only from vice ; and religion, that is, the religion of the gospel, in every case.
The sanctions of government are protection to those who obey, and punishment to those who dis
obey. The sanctions of religion are endless rewards to virtue, and endless punishments to sin. That these sanctions promote vice is a paradox which I leave to be solved by others. He who can solve it will prove in his solution, that men are disposed to be virtuous and vicious without motives to either ; and to be virtuous only under the influence of the strongest motives to vice, and vicious only under the influence of the strongest motives to virtue. The honour of this discovery I shall not dispute with any man who is willing to claim it as his own.
The truth plainly is, and ever has been, mankind as a body are uniformly more or less wicked in proportion to the means which they possess of vicious indulgence, and to the temptations by which they are surrounded. Kings, nobles, and all others possessed of wealth, power, talents and influence, although having the same nature with other men, are usually more vicious, because these things furnish them with ampler means of sin, and stronger temptations. Mediocrity of life, on the contrary, has ever been believed by wise men among heathens, as well as Christians, to be the state most favourable to virtue, and has, therefore, proverbially been styled the golden mean. Agur has taught this doctrine from the mouth of God. Experience and common-sense have given it their fullest attestation.
Even poverty and persecution have in many instances proved favourable to morals and religion. The poverty of Sparta was a prime source of whatever was honourable in its character, and Christianity flourished amid the sufferings of its martyrs.
From these observations it is evident, that the depravity of man exists independently of every state of society, and is found in every situation in which man is found; that it exists wherever oppression is, and wherever it is not; with and without the authority or influence of privileged men; in the independent savage, and the abject slave of Asiatic despotism ; in the wild Arabian and the silken courtier; in the prince who is above all law, and the peasant who is subjected to every law. The scheme which I am opposing is, therefore, a mere plaything of doubting Philosophy, making for herself worlds as children make soap-bubbles, amusing herself less rationally, and hoping for their permanency with more egregious credulity.