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a creature, naturally depraved, to be left without restraint; and should we consider political government in no other light than as a moral discipline, it would be found of no small importance.
The chief misery of man is, that he is set up for himself, affects to be his own lord, and would act in disdain of all authority, whatsoever. To reclaim this spirit, and reduce it to a proper submission, is one happy tendency of a well-ordered policy. Under such a regimen a man finds himself perpetually controled by salutary restrictions, and is obliged at every turn to yield up his own to the will of his lawful superiors. Thus he acquires a habit of proper subjection, and the frowardness of his nature becomes partly corrected.
Nor is the prince or chief magistrate, in a limited government like our own, deprived of this advantage arising from a submission to just authority; for though there is no other branch of the state to which he is responsible, he is still under a regular control from the laws and constitution of the. less to secure his own virtue, than it is necessary to the safety and welfare of the people.
Again: To man, as he is now disposed, an unrestrained liberty (to omit the danger arising from it to his future happiness) would contribute much less to his present enjoyment than might at first be imagined. Persons who can do as they please, are often at a loss to know what they would please to do; half their time is wasted in idle suspense, and the other in wandering from one design to another, without prosecuting any to good effect; and all that satisfaction which arises from a useful plan of life early adopted and successfully pursued, is commonly lost by those who are not strictly confined to their object by the authority of their superiors, or the urgency of their circumstances: hence it is often seen, that younger brothers, who are obliged to apply themselves to a profession, pass more comfortably through life than the heir of the family; who, from being left to indulge his own humour, becomes capricious and restless, uneasy to himself and to to all
There are few situations more undesirable than that of a man left to himself, and condemned to rove in his own uncertainties*. As in taking a journey, when we have to cross a spacious plain, the eye after a while grows weary with wandering, the spirits become feeble and scattered, and we are glad to enter an inclosed country that presents us with objects on which both the eye and the mind may rest, and be refreshed; so in the journey of life, those parts which confine us to definite and allowable pursuits, are commonly more agreeable than others where we are left to roam at large.
Further: If we compare a condition of moderate subjection with what is looked upon in the world as a state of independence, the former will appear preferable for these two reasons; first, because it is less liable to anxious deliberation; and secondly, because it is less responsible for consequences. When a man's conduct is prescribed to him
* It is finely observed by Tacitus of the Armenians, after they had thrown off the government they were under, that they became, incerti, solutique, et magi* by his lawful superior, he has nothing to do but practically to attend to it, provided what is enjoined be neither contrary to any divine command, nor to any law of immutable morality; whereas he who has others and himself at his disposal, is frequently subject to the perplexity of dubious counsels, and to the uneasiness arising from the consideration, that he is answerable for every measure he adopts, and for every command he imposes. All this must be felt by every man of principle and reflection; and should his conscience happen to be delicate and scrupulous, must sometimes be felt by him in a manner very painful and distressing*.
* If we consider this, we shall not wonder to find many persons in the Romish church committing themselves to such as may direct them in ambiguous cases. 'When a tender conscience unites with a diffidence of temper, it naturally seeks repose in this way. As the danger however is great of mistaking its guide, and as those men who are best qualified for so difficult an office will be the least forward to undertake it, the Protestants have properly dismissed, with other peculiarities of popery, this scheme of direction, as more likely to be abused to the stupifying of conscience, than improved
Secondly: That excess of liberty which tends so much to vitiate the will, and to produce anxious suspense, no less tends to deprave the passions, and augment their natural violence, which must often end in bitter disappointment. The savage ferocity, and enormous lewdness, with other monstrous vices, which marked the characters of many of the Roman emperors, as it cannot reasonably be ascribed to any extraordinary corruption of nature, must be resolved into the want of that salutary discipline and restraint, which served, in some measure, to keep other men within the bounds of virtue and decency. Nero, for some years after his accession to the empire, was celebrated for his moderation and clemency; he abolished many of the public taxes, and diminished others; and when called upon to sign the death-warrant of a criminal, he would exclaim; Quam vellem nescire literas 1 How happy if I could not write . Yet this man, at length intoxicated with power, became a monster of profusion and cruelty; his palace was overlaid with gold, and a thousand carriages attended