William Law.

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is mortifying.

To prove the justice of this remark, you say,
/ do not believe the immoi^tality of the soid
would even have found so general a reception in
human capacities as it has, had it not been a
]:> leasing one, that extolled and was a compli-
ment to the whole species \

This remark supposes that the mortality of
the soul is a truth, for you make our not be-
lieving it to be mortal a proof that we cannot
reUsh a truth that is mortifying. You also
impute our opinion of the soul's immortahty to
a desperate love of flattery, which is giving it
as sure a mark of an error as you could well
have thought of.

The reasonableness of this remark is founded
upon that advantage and dignity which arise

1 p. 256.


from immortality ; this is wliat induces you to
think that its reception in human capacities is
owing to a love of flattery.

You mio:ht have made the same remark
upon the belief of the being and providence of
God, that they had never had so general a
reception in human capacities, were not men
desperately in love with flattery, and not able
to relish a truth that is mortifying.

For the being and providence of God are
the most pleasing truths, and more extol and
elevate man's nature and condition than any-
thing else ; and whilst we assert the providence
of God, we assert our own happiness, as being
the care and concern of so great and glorious a

But how ouo'ht that man to be treated who
should bring the belief of a divine being as an
instance of the power of flattery over human
nature, or allege the doctrine of providence as
a proof that we cannot relish a truth that is
mortifying ?

Yet tliis would be as well as to instance, as
you have done, in the immortality of the soul.
For it is as reasonable to rejoice in the immor-
tality of our souls, as in the being of God ; and
it is as impious to say that we hold its immor-
tality, because we cannot relish a truth that is
mortifying, as to say that we believe the provi-
dence of God for the same rqason.


What an aversion must you have to the
force of this principle, that when you was to
shew that we cannot rehsh a truth that is mor-
tifying, you could like no instance so well as the
general disbelief of the soul's mortality ? Can
it be supposed that you would have instanced
in this opinion, if you had not wished that it
should lose its force upon men's minds, and be
no longer considered as the corner stone of re-
ligion, but as a notion founded in the falseness,
pride, and flattery of man's nature ?

Was any one ever so angry at the Mace-
donian hero's vanity of being a god ? need he
have reproached him more than by imputing it
to a desperate love of flattery ?

Yet this is the tender method in which you
have chose to expose the behef of the soul's im-
mortality as owing to a desperate love of flat-

You will perhaps say, Have I denied the
souVs immortality ?

In express terms you have not denied it ;
such a flat denial would have signified much less
than what you have said.

You knew very well that to impute the
belief of it to falseness and flattery, was the best
way of denying it.

It is rejected here in a manner that highly
suits the temper of irreligion, by being considered
not only as false, b,ut as arising from the basest


qualities of human nature, ^:)riV?e and a desperate
love of flattery.

These things serve not only to raise a dis-
belief, but to excite an indignation against a
principle owing to such reproachful causes ; and,
what is still a greater point gained, they teach
people to look with contempt and dislike on
those persons and that religion which teach
such a principle.

Our blessed Saviour saith, / avd the resur-
rection and the life^ he that helieveth in me shall
never die.

Now, according to your philosophy, this
speech of our Saviour's must be reckoned an
artful apphcation to the weakness and vanity of
human nature, an address to the blind side of
man to increase his love of flattery, and keep
him from a true knowledge of himself.

For if man believes the immortality of his
soul, through a desperate love of flattery, cer-
tainly he who comes to encourage and establish
such a behef, comes to encourage and estabhsh
that immoderate love of flattery.

Nay, this doctrine of yours not only serves
to expose the opinion of the immortality of the
soul, and reproaches the Christian religion which
teaches it, but it prepares a man to be proof
against all doctrines of rehgion that have any
happiness in them ; for whatever is believed or
practised that tends any way to raise or exalt



the condition of man, is equally subject to this
reproach, that it is received through an exces-
sive fondness of flattery.

So that your wise philosophy comes to
this, that if there was no honour or happi-
ness in rehgion, no greatness to be acquired by
our obeying God, it could not be charged upon
our pride and vanity ; but since religion is in
order to happiness, and since our worshipping
of God implies our having a great and glorious
friend and benefactor, such a religion may be
owing to a vice of our nature, a desperate love
of flattery.

And the same may be said of every virtuous
action, that it is practised through a desperate
love of flattery, inasmuch as virtue is supposed
to make us friends and favourites of God, and
so dio'nifies and exalts our state.

Nay, this way of arguing proves, that the
greater and more glorious the idea is which we
form of God, the more we may be influenced by
an ill motive ; for the greater and more glorious
we represent the nature of God, the more we
raise and dignify ourselves, who are related to
so great a being, and are in covenant with

So that to clear ourselves of a desperate
love of flattery, and to shew that we can relish
truths that are mortifying, we should conceive
very low and mean notions of God, and such as


would make it neither our honour nor happi-
ness to worship him.

Such a rehgion as this, that had nothing
in it worthy of God or men, might, according
to your account, be owing to some rational
principle, and not capable of being imputed to
the pride or vanity of man's nature.

For since you impute the behef of the soul's
immortality to a desperate love of flattery, be-
cause such belief sets us out to great advantage,
and adds dignity to our nature, the same impu-
tation is equally chargeable upon every doctrine
or practice that promises any happiness or
honour to us ; and no religion or opinions can
be free from that charge but such as are of
no benefit or advantage to us.

From this therefore we may beheve, that
had we a rehgion which proposed nothing
worthy of God, or beneficial to man, the Deists
and wits of your size would all of them turn
priests, and devoutly wait at its altars.

To speak now a word or two concerning

Pride is an error or a vice, as covetous-
ness is a vice ; it is a notable desire, ill directed :
it is a right desire earnestly to desire happi-
ness, but that desire is sinful when it is wholly
set upon gold, or any other ^a^^e good.

So a desire of greatness is an excellent de-
sire, a right turn of mind; but when it fixes



upon a false honour, it is a vicious irregularity.
To desire the highest exaltation of which our
nature is capable, is as right a disposition as to
desire to be as hke to God as we can.

Now, had you said that the belief of the
soul's immortahty was assisted and strengthened
in us through a desire of greatness, you had
said as reasonable a thing as to say, that Chris-
tianity makes a stronger impression upon the
minds of men through a desire of happiness.

For had we not these dispositions, neither
rehgion, nor anything else that was of any
advantage to us, could take any hold of us :
for what would the happiness or greatness of
any proposal signify to beings whose natures
were not affected with them ?

Now, to say that religion is better received
through this tendency of our nature, is no more
a reproach, than it is to say that our under-
standing and reason recommend religion to us.

For these dispositions or inclinations consti-
tute the excellence of our nature, and give us
all the dignity that we have : it being as right
a judgment of the mind, to desire to be as like
to God as our natures will allow, as it is to
prefer truth to falsehood.

But to impute our belief of the immortality
of the soul to i^^ide, is as ridiculous as to impute
cm* desire of eternal happiness to avarice.

For py^ide, considered as a vice, is no more


the cause of our approbation of immortality,
than avarice is the cause of our setting our
affection on things above.

Pride is as earthly and down-looking a vice
as covetousness, and as truly sinks the soul into
a state of meanness.

A delight in false honour as much debases
and hinders the mind from aspiring after its
true greatness, as a fondness for empty riches
keeps the soul averse from the approbation of
her true good. That this is the effect of pride,
that it debases the mind, and makes it unable
to relish its true greatness ; that it unfits it for
the reception of doctrines which exalt and raise
our nature, may be also learnt from him who
came to lead us unto all truth.

Speaking of vain-glorious men, says our
blessed Saviour, How can ye believe, which
receive honour one of another, and seek not
that honour which comethfrom God alone ?^

But you make the pride of man the cause
of his behoving divine truths, though they are
as opposite to one another as avarice and hea-
venlv-mindedness, lio-ht and darkness.

To make some apology for yourself, you
say, What hurt do I do to a man, if I make
him more known to himself than he was be-
fore ?

You should have put the question thus :
^ St John V. 44.



What hurt do I do to a man, if I make him

more vicious than he was before, if I deprave

his understanding, and lead him into a contempt

! and dislilve of the strongest principles of rehgion?

For if there is any danger, either to yourself
or others, in corrupting their minds, and de-
stroying the motives to religion and virtue, you
are capable of no other apology but what that
being may make who goeth about as a roaring
lion, seeking whom he may devour.

The arrow that flieth by day, and the pes-
tilence that walketh in darkness, are mere
blessings, if compared to the man who infuses
vicious opinions into the mind, which weakens
the power of religion, and make men less de-
voted to the worship and service of God.

How can you say that you have only made
man more known to himself, by teaching him
that the general belief of the soul's immortality
is owing to a desperate love of flattery ?

Have you proved that he does not know
himself, if he thinks it is owing to any other
cause ? Have you so much as attempted to
shew that it can have no other foundation ?
that it is not founded in reason, religion, and
the attributes of God ?

But proving (I recollect) is no talent of
yours ; and if you may be allowed to shine in
anything, it is in loose insinuations, positive
assertions, and vain conjectures.



You come now to give us a taste of your
skill in phraseology, or the force and propriety
of words. All sorts of learnino- seem to be at
your service, and you are so constant to your-
self as to make them all conspire in one and
the same design against religion.

Hope, being a word of great consolation in
the Christian religion, you have pitched upon
that as most deserving the kind assistance of
your learned hand.

All hope, say you, includes doubt ; a silver
inkhorn may jyass in speech, because every
body knows what ive mean by it, but a cer-
tain hope cannot. The epithet destroys the
essence of the substantive ; it is palpable non-
sense. The reason therefore why it is not so
shocking to some, to hear a man speak of
certain hope, as if he should talk of hot ice,
or hquid oak, is not because there is less non-
sense contained in the first than in either of
the latter, but because the word hope, / mean
the essence of it, is not so clearly understood
by the generality of the people, as the luords
and essences of ice and oak are^.

What a triumph is here over religion ! and
with how much ease do you reject an article of
faith with a noun substantive I
' p. 140.


In our burial service we have these words,
In sure and certain hope of a resurrection, &;c.

This it seems cannot pass in speech, with-
out the destruction of a substantive ; it is
shoching, and palpable nonsense.

Let it first be observed, that 1iop)e impHes
the belief, dependence, or expectation of some-
thing that shall come to pass. JN'ow I should
think that a thing may as well be expected
with certainty, as uncertainty ; and that its
being certain to happen, is no inconsistency in
the expression. It can hardly be denied but
that a man may be certain that some things
will never happen ; and where is the contra-
diction of supposing him as certain that some
tilings will happen ?

But to come to your own arguments.

All hope, say you, includes doubt. This
as much contradicts my understanding as if
you had said that all trust includes diffidence ;
and I cannot trust a man, unless I distrust
him. The apostle says, by hope we are saved;
according to you, he must mean, by doubting
Ave are saved ; for if hop>e necessarily includes
doubting, and hoj^e be necessary to salvation, it
evidently follows, that doubting is necessary to
salvation ; and every exhortation to hope in
God, is an exhortation to doidyt of God.

Our blessed Saviour said, If ye have faith,
and doubt not, &c. Now had you been present


at this saying, you could have shewn the im-
possibihty of what he exhorted them to ; that
faith or hoj^e imphed doubting ; and that to
talk of certain hope or faith, was as shocking
to a fine understanding as to talk of hot ice
or liquid oak.

Certain hope, you say, is palpable non-
sense, because the ep)ithet destroys the essence
of the substantive.

So that doubting is the essence of hope,
and consequently whatever else belongs to hope is
only accidental; the essence of hope is doubting.

Now if doubting is the essence of hope,
then where there is the most doubting there
must be the most of hope ; for where there is
most of the essence of a thing, there must neces-
sarily be most of the thing itself.

Now it seems to me as ridiculous to make
doubting the essence of hope, as to make fear
the essence of courage. For hope, so fiir as it
goes, as much excludes doubting as courage, so
far as it extends, banishes fear. There may be
a weak hope which is mixed with doubt, as there
may be a half courage that is attended with
fear ; but a thorough hope as truly rejects doubt,
as a perfect courage shakes oif all fear. And it
is just such shocking nonsense to talk of a cer-
tain hope as to speak of a fearless courage :
and there is just as much murder of the sub-
stantive in one case as the other.



Hope, or expectation, does not imply uncer-
tainty, but futurity, that the things expected are
not in being, but are to come to pass ; this is
atl that is of the essence of hope ; it is only the
futurity of things that makes it.

Let the things come to pass, and the hope
ceases, this is the only way of destroying it.
But whether the things to come be with cer-
tainty or uncertainty expected, no more destroys
-that disposition of mind, which is called hope,
than the passion of fear is destroyed by exert-
ing itself reasonably or unreasonably.

Hope is uncertain, not because we cannot
hope or expect with certainty, but because the
things we hope for are generally not in our
power, so as we can be secure of the event.

But you ridiculously suppose, that hope, or
expectation, as a faculty of the mind neces-
sarily includes uncertainty, as if a man cannot
expect or hope for that which he is sure will
answer his expectation ; or that he must cease
to expect things, because he has certain grounds
to expect them. These are the absurdities
which you plunge into, rather than allow a
certain hope of the resurrection of the dead.

Hope is as the things hoped for. In uncertain
things it is uncertain. But if God is pleased to
inform us of things to come, we are with certain
hope and expectation to depend upon them.

Agreeable to this, St Paul says, In hope of


eternal life, luhich God, that cannot lie, pro-
mised before the luorld began.

Here we have an apostle's authority for a
certain hope, made as undeniable as the veracity
of God.

But this must be very shocking to a gentle-
man of your refined understanding, and must
give you a further uneasiness, to behold the
destruction of a whole noun substantive to
establish only an article of rehgion.

You compare certain hoi^e to hot ice, or
liquid oak, and say, that the expressions would
be equally shocking were the nature of hope
as well understood as the nature of ice and

Had you not been used to understand every
thing wrong, you had never made this obser-
vation ; for the contrary to this happens to be
true, that the expression is not so shocking in
one case as the other, because the nature of
hope is as well understood as that of ice, &c.

It is not shocking to say certain hope, be-
cause hope is known to be founded upon some
degrees of assurance.

But does ice suppose some degrees of heat
in order to its existence? Is ice hotter or
colder, as hope is more or less assured ? Hope
is stronger and better the more it has of assur-
ance, and the less it is opposed with doubts ;
but is ice the stronger and harder the more it


has of heat, or the less it is surrounded with

Your comparison also of certain hope to
liquid oak is equally ingenious and worthy of
yourself; for it supposes that an oak changes
from solid to liquid, as hope fluctuates from
doubts to belief. For were not an oak as
various in its nature, as to liquid and solid, as
hojye is various in its nature, as to doubt and
assurance, it must be shocking nonsense to
make a liquid oak the same thing as an as-
.nired hope.

I have been the longer upon this point,
l)ecause it is levelled at the very foundation of
our religion, and would teach people to doubt
of its greatest articles, through the mere force
of a word or two, and for the sake of a noun


I HAD now taken my leave of you, if the
letter you published in the London Journal, in
defence of your book, had not been just put
into my hands.

Having seen your talent at apology, I ex-
pected no great matter from you in that way ;
but, however, I am now convinced that your


book gives us but a small essay of your abilities,
and that you can exceed it as much as you

For who would imagine that the author of
so poor a rhapsody could produce such masterly
strokes as these in the defence of it ?

''My vanity,'' say you, '' I never could con-
quer so luell as I could wish, and I am too
proud to commit crimes^

Surely no one after this will venture to lay
any thing to your charge, since great must be
your innocence if pride be the guardian of it.

But if any one should chance to humble
you, you must then fall into a defenceless state.
But if you are not to be proved guilty till you
can be shewn to be deficient in pride, it may
require some time to effect it.

Since you ground your vindication so much
upon your pride, it may not be amiss to re-
collect the definition you have given us of it in
your own book. Pride, say you, is that
natural faculty by which every mortal that
has any understanding overvalues and im-
agines better things of himself than any im-
partial judge, thoroughly acquainted luith all
his qualities and circumstances, would allow

A pretty qualification indeed for a man to
found his innocence upon ! Yet you (with a

1 p. 125.

GвАФ 2


more than ordinary brightness) own that you
are governed by this vice, to prove yourself to
be faultless.

Should a blind man, who had lost his way,
allege his blindness as a proof that he could not
lose it, he would shew that he was just as well
acquainted with the advantages of blindness as
you are with the effects of pride.

The next ingenious step that you take is
this : The Fable of the Bees, say you, luas de-
signed for the entertainment of ])eo'ple of know-
ledge and education. It is a book of severe
and exalted morality, that contains a strict
test of virtue.

Had you said that the author was a sera-
phim, and that he never was any nearer the
earth than the fixed stars, I should have thought
you in as sober a way as you now appear to
be in.

That you intended it for the entertainment
of people of knowledge and education, is what
I cannot say is false ; for if your pride is such
as you assert, you may be capable of intending
anything ; I know of nothing too monstrous
for you to go about.

But if you can believe that you have wrote
a book of severe and exalted morality, you
must not laugh at those who believed stocks and
stones to be objects of worship, or took a leek
or an onion to be a deity.


You are liappy in this, that you have made
an assertion which an adversary cannot further
expose, because there is no superior degree of
extravagance to which it can be compared.

For if a person will write a book to prove
that man is a mere animal, and that moral
virtue is the political offspring which flattery
begot upon pride, and then call it a book of
severe and exalted morality, he has this satis-
faction, that no skill can aggravate his nonsense.

Such as it is, you say, you are satisfied it
has diverted 2^^'^sons of great probity and

Pray, sir, how does this appear? Where
do you find these ipeoiple of great virtue,^ When
you wrote your book you knew of no such
4)eople. Virtue was then nowhere to be found ;
for you tell us, that having in vain sought for
it in the world, you at last went to the convents,
but even there it had no existence. But now,
it seems, rather than want an apology, you will
suppose even what confutes your book, and what
you most hate, that there is such a being as a
man of great virtue.

I lay it down, you add, as a first principle,
that in all societies, great or small, it is the
duty of every member of it to be good ; that
virtue ought to be encouraged, vice discounte-
nanced, the laws obeyed, and the transgressors
punished ; and then you say there is not a


line in the whole hook that contradicts this

This comes so oddly from you, that it need
not be exposed to the reader ; if you had in-
tended it as a public recantation of all that you
had dehvered before, there had been something
in it ; but to say that there is not a line in
your book that contradicts this, is trusting too
much to the weakness of your readers : for,
can you pretend to have sl first principle, or to
talk of duty or virtue, after you have declared
that the moral virtues are all a cheat, by making
them the political offspring which flattery be-
got upon pride ?

Can you recommend goodness, who have
compared the pidchrum and honestum in ac-
tions to the whimsical distinctions of floiuers,
and made the difference between good and evil
as fanciful as the difference between a tulip and
an auricida.

When therefore you pretend to lay it down
as a first principle, that it is the duty of every
man to be good, &c. : it amounts to as much as
if you had said, having shewn that there is
nothing but fancy in the preference of floAvers,
/ lay it down as a first principle, that it is
the duty of every man to admire the tulip
above all other flowers ; that the love of tulips
ought to be encouraged, and that of auriculas
discountenanced, &c.


But however, lest any of your readers
should imagine that you meant something more
than this, and to clear yourself from all sus-
picion of gravity or seriousness in your recom-
mendation of virtue and goodness, you immedi-
ately add this explication of yourself.

Would you banish fraud and luxury, j^re-
vent profaneness and irreligion, and make the
generality of the people charitable, good, and
virtuous ; break doivn the 2J7^inting-pr esses,

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Online LibraryWilliam LawRemarks on The fable of the bees [microform] → online text (page 9 of 10)