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That proud exception to all Nature's laws,
forms are best where all the three kinds are artfully compounded: and this was the opinion of the wisest men of antiquityPlato, Aristotle, Zeno, Cicero."
These are the words of that most amiable and candid philosopher, Hutcheson.
Ver. 242. Th' enormous faith, &c.] In this Aristotle placeth the difference between a King and a Tyrant, that the first supposeth himself made for the People : the other, that the People are made for him: Βούλεται δ' ο ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ είναι φύλαξ, όπως οι μεν κεκτημένοι τας ουσίας μηθέν άδικον πάσχωσιν, ο δε δήμος μη υβρίζηται μεθέν ή δέ ΤΥΡΑΝΝΙΣ προς ουδέν αποβλέπει κοινόν, ει μη της ιδίας ωφελείας χάριν. Ρol. lib. V. cap. 10. W.
Ver. 245. Force first made Conquest, &c.] All this is agreeable to fact, and shews our Author's knowledge of nature. for that Impotency of mind (as the Latin writers call it), which gives birth to the enormous crimes necessary to support a Tyranny, naturally subjects its owner to all the vain, as well as real terrors of Conscience: hence the whole machinery of SUPERSTITION.
It is true, the Poet observes, that afterward, when the Tyrant's fright was over, he had cunning enough, from the experience of the effect of Superstition upon himself, to turn it, by the assistance of the Priest (who for his reward went shares with him in the Tyranny) against the justly dreaded resentment of his subjects. For a Tyrant naturally and reasonably supposeth all his Slaves to be his Enemies.
Having given the Causes of Superstition, he next describeth its objects :
“Gods partial, changeful, passionate, unjust," &c. The ancient Pagan Gods are here very exactly described. This fact evinces the truth of that original, which the Poet gives to Superstition ; for if these phantasms were first raised in the imagination of Tyrants, they must needs have the qualities here assigned to them. For Force being the Tyrant's Virtue, and Luxury his Happiness, the attributes of his God would of course be
Then shar'd the Tyranny, then lent it aid,
Revenge and Lust ; in a word, the antitype of himself. But there was another and more substantial cause of the Resemblance between a Tyrant and a Pagan God; and that was, the making Gods of Conquerors, as the Poet says; and so canonizing a tyrant's vices with his person. W.
Ver. 246. Till Superstition taught] Notwithstanding these Verses are so spirited and splendid, yet how much are they excelled by the sublime and terrific figure painted by Lucretius with such force and energy, that Michael Angelo might have worked from the sketch of the gigantic Demon of Superstition putting out his head from the heavens, and looking down with a horrible aspect on the miserable and trembling sons of men !
“Quæ caput a cæli regionibus ostendebat,
super aspectu mortalibus instans !” Ver. 257. Gods partial, chungeful,] “ It were better," says Bacon, in his 17th Essay, “ to have no opinion of God at all, than such an opinion as is unworthy of Him; for one is unbelief, the other is contumely: and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity. And as the contumely is greater towards God, so the danger is greater towards men. Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not; but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth
Such as the souls of cowards might conceive,
just, To one Man's pow'r, ambition, lucre, lust : 270
an absolute monarchy in the minds of men. Therefore Atheism did never perturbe states; for it makes men wary of themselves, as looking no farther.”
It is extremely remarkable, that this last paragraph comprehends all that Bayle has said of the effects of Atheism in his celebrated Thoughts on Comets. And yet Bacon has never been censured for it, nor numbered among
Infidels. Ver. 262. And hell was built on spite,] How mortifying is it to consider, says one, that Locke, Newton, and Clarke, would have been persecuted in France, imprisoned at Rome, and burnt at Lisbon !
Ver. 269. So drives Self-love, &c.] The inference our Author draws from all this (from Ver. 268 to 283) is, that Self.LOVE driveth through right and wrong; it causeth the Tyrant to violate the rights of mankind; and it causeth the People to vindicate that violation. For Self-love being common to the whole species, and setting each individual in pursuit of the same objects, it became necessary for each, if he would secure his own, to provide for the safety of another's. And thus Equity and Benevolence arose from that same Self-love which had given birth to Avarice and Injustice ;
“His Safety must his Liberty restrain;
The same Self-love, in all, becomes the cause
The Poet hath not any where shewn greater address, in the disposition of this work, than with regard to the inference before us; which not only giveth a proper and timely support to what had been advanced in the second epistle concerning the nature and effects of Self-love, but is a necessary introduction to what follows, concerning the Reformation of Religion and Society; as
; we shall see presently. W.
Ver. 272. Government and Laws,] “ However men might submit voluntarily, in the simplicity of early ages, or be subjected by conquest, to a government without a constitution ; yet they were never long in discovering,” in the words of Hooker, “ that to live by one man's will, became the cause of all men's misery; and therefore they soon rejected the yoke, or made it sit easy on their necks.”
Ver. 273. For, what one likes] These two lines express with brevity and clearness the following sentiments of Hooker : “ The like natural inducement hath brought men to know, that it is no less their duty to love others than themselves : for seeing those things which are equal must needs all have one measure ; if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless my self be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men ?”
'Twas then, the studious head, or gen'rous mind, Follow'r of God, or friend of human-kind, Poet or PATRIOT, rose but to restore
285 The Faith and Moral, Nature gave
Ver. 283. 'Twas then, the studious head, &c.] The Poet hath now described the rise, perfection, and decay, of civil Policy and Religion in the more early times. But the design had been imperfect, had he dropped his discourse here : there was, in after ages, a recovery of these from their several corruptions. Accordingly, he hath chosen that happy era for the conclusion of his Song. But as good and ill governments and religions succeed one another without ceasing, he now leaveth facts, and turneth his discourse (from Ver. 282 to 295) to speak of a more lasting reform of mankind, in the Invention of those philosophic Principles, by whose observance a Policy and a Religion may be for ever kept from sinking into Tyranny and Superstition :
“ 'Twas then, the studious head, or gen'rous mind,
The Faith and Moral, Nature gave before ;" &c. The easy and just transition into this subject from the foregoing is admirable. In the foregoing he had described the effects of Self-love ; and now, with great art, and high probability, he maketh Men's observations on these effects the occasion of those discoveries which they have made of the true principles of Policy and Religion, described in the present paragraph ; and this he evidently hinteth at in that fine transition,
“'Twas THEN, the studious head,” &c. The Poet seemeth here to mean the polite and flourishing age, of Greece ; and those benefactors to Mankind, which he had principally in view, were SOCRATES and ARISTOTLE;, who, of all the pagan world, spoke best of God, and wrote best of Government. W.
Ver. 285. Poet or Patriot, rose] “ No constitution is formed by concert; no government is copied from a plan. The members of a small state contend for equality; the members of a greater find themselves classed in a certain manner that lays a foundation for monarchy. They proceed from one form of government