Vindication of Natural Society Hogeye Condensed Version
page 29

  • Artificial society is even worse than artificial religion.

  • Analogy between the dissenter argument against artificial religion and the anarchist argument against artificial society.

  • Burke is playing the part of a dying Bolingbroke, writing to an unnamed young lord. Attributing the essay to Bolingbroke was no doubt intentionally ironic. Bolingbroke was a lifelong professional politician, and a well-known icon of statesmanship; for him to recant his statism on his deathbed and write a deep philosophical essay would be unthinkable.
If pretended Revelations have caused Wars where they were opposed, and Slavery where they were received, the pretended wise Inventions of Politicians have done the same. But the Slavery has been much heavier, the Wars far more bloody, and both more universal by many Degrees. Shew me any Mischief produced by the Madness or Wickedness of Theologians, and I will shew you an hundred, resulting from the Ambition and Villainy of Conquerors and Statesmen. Shew me an Absurdity in Religion, I will undertake to shew you an hundred for one in political Laws and Institutions. If you say, that Natural Religion is a sufficient Guide without the foreign Aid of Revelation, on what Principle should Political Laws become necessary? Is not the same Reason available in Theology and in Politics? If the Laws of Nature are the Laws of God, is it consistent with the Divine Wisdom to prescribe Rules to us, and leave the Enforcement of them to the Folly of human Institutions? Will you follow Truth but to a certain Point?

The nearer we approach to the Goal of Life, the better we begin to understand the true Value of our Existence, and the real Weight of our Opinions. We set out much in love with both; but we leave much behind us as we advance. We first throw away the Tales along with the Rattles of our Nurses; those of the Priest keep their Hold a little longer; those of our Governors the longest of all. But the Passions which prop these Opinions are withdrawn one after another; and the cool Light of Reason at the Setting of our Life, shews us what a false Splendor played upon these Objects during our more sanguine Seasons. Happy, my Lord, if instructed by my Experience, and even by my Errors, you come early to make such an Estimate of Things, as may give Freedom and Ease to your Life. I am happy that such an Estimate promises me Comfort at my Death.


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