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distinction is made among sins; some venial sins being taxed at a higher rate than many of the deepest dye. For example, the killing father, mother, brother, sister, or wife, is taxed at five gross; and the same for incest with a mother or sister. The lying with a woman in the church is taxed at six gross; and, at the same time, abso lution for usury is taxed at seven gross, and for simony at no less than sixteen gross *.
A maxim adopted by many pious persons, has a smiling appearance, but in its consequence is hurtful both to religion and morality; which is, That to testify our veneration for the Deity, and zeal for his service, the performing public and private worship, and the fulfilling moral duties, are not alone sufficient; that over and above we are bound to fast, to do penance, to honour the priesthood, and to punish the enemies of God, i. e. those who differ from us in principle or practice. This maxim, which may be termed the doctrine of supererogation, is finely illustrated by an author mentioned above. "The duties which a man
performs as a friend or parent, seem merely owing to his benefactor or children; nor can "he be wanting to these duties without breaking through all the ties of nature and morality. A "strong inclination may prompt him to the per"formance: a sentiment of order and moral "beauty joins its force to these natural ties: and
"the whole man is drawn to his duty without
any effort or endeavour. Even with regard to "the virtues which are more austere, and more "founded on reflection, such as public spirit, filial " duty, temperance, or integrity: the moral ob'ligation, in our apprehension, removes all pre"tence to religious merit: and the virtuous con"duct is esteemed no more than what we owe to "society, and to ourselves. In all this, a super"stitious man finds nothing which he has pro"perly performed for the sake of his Deity, or "which can peculiarly recommend him to the "divine favour and protection. He considers not, "that the most genuine method of serving the Divinity is, by promoting the happiness of his (6 creatures. He still looks out for some more "immediate service of the Supreme Being: and any practice recommended to him, which either serves to no purpose in life, or offers the strong"est violence to his natural inclinations; that "practice he will the more readily embrace, on "account of those very circumstances, which "should make him absolutely reject it. It seems "the more purely religious, that it proceeds from "no mixture of any other motive or considera"tion. And if for its sake he sacrifices much of "his ease and quiet, his claim of merit appears "still to rise upon him, in proportion to the zeal " and devotion which he discovers. In restoring
a loan, or paying a debt, his divinity is nowise "beholden
❝ beholden to him; because these acts of justice are what he was bound to perform, and what 66 many would have performed, were there no "God in the universe. But if he fast a day, or 66 give himself a sound whipping, this has a di rect reference, in his opinion, to the service of "God. No other motive could engage him to "such austerities. By these distinguished marks "of devotion, he has now acquired the divine “favour; and may expect in recompence, pro"tection and safety in this world, and eternal "happiness in the next *." My yoke is easy, saith our Saviour, and my burden is light. So they really are. Every essential of religion is founded on our nature, and to a pure heart is pleasant in the performance: what can be more pleasant, than gratitude to our Maker, and obe̟dience to his will in comforting our fellowcreatures? But enthusiasts are not easily per suaded, that to make ourselves happy in the exercises of piety and benevolence, is the most acceptable service to God that we can perform. In loading religion with unnecessary articles of faith and practice, they contradict our Saviour, by making his yoke severe, and his burden heavy †, Law,
* Natural History of Religion,"
† An old woman walking with others to a sacrament, was ob served to pick out the worst bits of the road: "I never can de “enough,” said she, for sweet Jesus," : "gor zon
Law, who writes on Christian perfection, enjoins such unnatural austerity of manners, as to be subversive both of religion and morality: loose education is not more so. Our passions, when denied proper exercise, are apt to break their fetters, and to plunge us into every extravagance: like the body, which squeezed in one part, swells the more in another. In the same way of thinking, the pious Jeremy Taylor, treating of mortification, prescribes it as the indispensable duty of a Christian, to give no indulgence even to the most innocent emotions; because, says he, the most indifferent action becomes sinful, when there is no other motive for the performance but barely its being pleasant. Could a malevolent deity contrive any thing more severe against his votaries?
In the same spirit of supererogation, holidays have been multiplied without end, depriving the working poor of time, that would be more usefully employed in providing bread for themselves and families. Such a number of holidays, beside contradicting Providence which framed us more for action than contemplation, have several poisonous effects with respect to morality. The moral sense has great influence on the industrious, who have no time for indulging their irregular appetites: the idle, on the contrary, lie open to every temptation. Men likewise are apt to assume great merit from a rigid observance of holidays and other ceremonies; and having thus acquired, in their
their opinion, the favour of God, they rely on his indulgence in other matters which they think too sweet for sinners.
Monastic institutions are an improvement upon holidays: the whole life of a monk is intended to be a holiday, dedicated entirely to the service of God. The idleness of the monastic state among Christians, opens a wide door to immorality.
In the third section, penances are handled as a mode of worship, for obtaining pardon of sin. But they are sometimes submitted to by the innocent, in order to procure from the Almighty still more favour than innocence alone is entitled to; in which view, they are evidently a work of supererogation. They seem to have no bad effect with respect to religion as distinguished from morality: the body is indeed tortured unnecessarily; but if enthusiasts voluntarily submit to bodily distresses, they have themselves only to blame. With respect to morality, their bad tendency is not slight. Those who perform extraordinary acts of devotion, conceive themselves peculiarly entitled to the favour of God. Proud of his favour, they attach themselves to him alone, and turn indiffe rent about every other duty. The favourite of a terrestrial potentate assumes authority; and takes liberties that private persons dare not venture upon shall a favourite of Heaven be less indulged? The Faquirs in Hindostan submit to dread ful penances; and, holding themselves secure of God's