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ver was brought upon the ftage, Nay as a philofopher he talks currently of an involuntary crime. Oreftes, in Euripides, acknowledges himself to be guilty in killing his mother; yet afferts with the fame breath, that his crime was inevitable, a neceffary crime, a crime commanded by religion.

In Oedipus Coloneus, the other tragedy mentioned, a very different propofition is maintained. A defence is made for that unlucky man, agreeable to found moral principles, that, having had no bad intention, he was entirely innocent; and that his miffortunes ought to be ascribed to the wrath of the gods.

Thou who upbraid'ft me thus for all my woes,
Murder and inceft, which against my will

I had committed; fo it pleas'd the gods,
Offended at my race for former crimes.
But I am guiltless; can't thou name a fault
Deferving this? For, tell me, was it mine,
When to my father, Phoebus did declare,
That he should one day perifh by the hand
Of his own child; was Oedipus to blame,
Who had no being then? If, born at length
To wretchedness, he met his fire unknown,
And flew him, that involuntary deed

Can't thou condemn ? And for my fatal marriage,
Doft thou not blufh to name it? was not the

Thy fifter, fhe who bore me, ignorant

And guiltless woman! afterwards my wife,

And mother to my children? What he did, she did un

knowing.

But, not for that, nor for my murder'd father,

Have I deferv'd thy bitter taunts: for, tell me,

Thy life attack'd, wouldst thou have staid to ask

VOL. II.

X x

Th' affaffin,

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Th' affaffin, if he were thy father? No;
Self-love would urge thee to revenge the infult.
Thus was I drove to ill by th' angry gods;

This, fhou'd my father's foul revifit earth,
Himfelf would own, and pity Oedipus.

Again, in the fourth act, the following prayer is put up for Oedipus by the chorus.

O grant,

That not opprefs'd by tort'ring pain

Beneath the stroke of death he linger long;

But fwift, with easy steps, defcend to Styx's drear abode ;
For he hath led a life of toil and pain;

May the just gods repay his undeserved woe.

The audience was the fame in both plays. Did they think Oedipus to be guilty in the one play, and innocent in the other? If they did not, how could both plays be relifhed? if they did, they must have been grofsly ftupid.

The statues of a Roman Emperor were held fo facred, that to treat them with any contempt was high treason. This ridiculous opinion was carried fo far out of common fenfe, that a man was held guilty of high treason, if a stone thrown by him happened accidentally to touch one of these ftatues. And the law continued in force till abrogated by a refcript of Severus Antoninus (a).

In England, fo little was intention regarded, that cafual homicide, and even homicide in felf-defence, were capitally punished. It requires ftrong evidence to vouch so abfurd a law; and I have the strongest, viz. the act 52° Henry III. cap. 26. converting the capital punishment into a forfeiture of moveables. The fame grofs blunder continued much longer to be law in Scotland. By act 19.

(a) 1. 5. ad leg. Jul. Majeft.

parl.

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parl. 1649, renewed act 22, parl. 1661, the capital punishment is converted to imprifonment, or a fine to the wife and children. In a period fo late as the Restoration, ftrange blindness it was, not to perceive, that homicide in felf-defence, being a lawful act, juftified by the strictest rules of morality, fubjects not a man to punishment, more than the defending his property against a robber; and that cafual homicide, meaning homicide committed innocently without ill intention, may fubject him to reparation, but never to any punishment, mild or fevere.

The Jefuits in their doctrines feem to reft on the external act, difregarding intention. It is with them a matter of perfect indifference, from what motive men obey the laws of God; and that the service of those who obey from fear of punishment, is no lefs acceptable to the Deity, than of thofe who obey from a principle of love *.

The other error mentioned above, is, That the end juftifies the means. In defence of that propofition, it is urged, that the character of the means is derived from the end; that every action must be right which contributes to a good end, and that every action must be wrong which contributes to an ill end. But thofe who reafon thus, ought firft to confider, whether reafoning be at all applicable to the prefent fubject. Reafon is the true touchftone of truth and falfehood; but the moral fenfe is the only touchftone of right and wrong; and to maintain, that reason is our guide in judging of right and wrong, is no lefs abfurd than to maintain,

*External fhow made a great figure, when nothing was regarded but what is vifible. By acutenefs of judgement, and refinement of tafte, the pleafures of fociety prevail, and forms and ceremonies are difregarded. External show, however, continues to stand its ground in feveral inftances. It occafions, in particular, many an ill-forted match: a young man is apt to be captivated with beauty or drefs; a young woman with equipage or a title.

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that the moral sense is our guide in judging of truth and falsehood. The moral fenfe dictates, that on no pretext whatever is it lawful to do an act of injustice, or any wrong (a): and men, conscious that the moral fenfe governs in matters of right and wrong, fubmit implicitly to its dictates. Influenced however by the reasoning mentioned, during the nonage of the moral sense, men did wrong currently in order to bring about a good end; witness pretended miracles and forged writings, urged without reserve by every fect of Christians against their antagonists. And I am forry to obferve, that the error is not totally eradicated: miffionaries employ'd in converting infidels to the true faith, are little fcrupulous about the means; they make no difficulty to feign prodigies in order to convert those who are not moved by argument. Such pious frauds tend to fap the very foundations of morality.

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(a) See the first part of this sketch, § 2. at the end,

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349

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SKETCH

i

III.

Principles and Progress of "THEOLOGY.

S no branch of knowledge can vie with theology, either in dignity or importance, it justly claims to be a favourite study with every person endued with true tafte and folid judgement. From the time that writing was invented, natural religion has employ'd pens without number; and yet in no language is there found a complete history of it. That task is far above my abilities: I propofe only a flight sketch; which I fhall glory in, however imperfect, if it excite any one of fuperior talents to undertake a task so arduous.

CHAP. I.

Existence of a DEITY.

THat there are beings, one or many, powerful above men, has been generally believed among the various tribes of I may fay univerfally believed, notwithstanding what is reported of fome grofs favages; for reports repugnant to the common nature of man, require more able vouchers than a few illiterate voyagers. Among many favage tribes, there are no words

but

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