S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.


But there is nothing which favours and falls in with this natural greatness and dignity of human nature so much as religion, which does not only promise the entire refinement of the mind, but the glorifying of the body, and the immortality of both.

Joseph Addison: Tatler, No. 108.

I have hinted in some former Papers, that the greatest and wisest of men in all ages and countries, particularly in Rome and Greece, were renowned for their piety and virtue. It is now my intention to show how those in our own nation that have been unquestionably the most eminent for learning and knowledge were likewise the most eminent for their adherence to the religion of their country.

I might produce very shining examples from among the clergy; but because priestcraft is the common cry of every cavilling, empty scribbler, I shall show that all the laymen who have exerted a more ordinary genius in their writings and were the glory of their times were men whose hopes were filled with immortality and the prospect of future rewards, and men who lived in a dutiful submission to all the doctrines of revealed religion.

Joseph Addison: Tatler, No. 267.

Sombrinus is one of these sons of sorrow. He thinks himself obliged in duty to be sad and disconsolate. He looks on a sudden fit of laughter as a breach of his baptismal vow. An innocent jest startles him like blasphemy. Tell him of one who is advanced to a title of honour, he lifts up his hands and eyes; describe a public ceremony, he shakes his head; show him a gay equipage, he blesses himself. All the little ornaments of life are pomps and vanities. Mirth is wanton, and wit profane. He is scandalized at youth for being lively, and at childhood for being playful. He sits at a christening, or a marriage-feast, as at a funeral; sighs at the conclusion of a merry story, and grows devout when the rest of the company grow pleasant. After all, Sombrinus is a religious man, and would have behaved himself very properly had he lived when Christianity was under a general persecution.

Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 494.

It is of unspeakable advantage to possess our minds with an habitual good intention, and to aim all our thoughts, words, and actions, at some laudable end, whether it be to the glory of our Maker, the good of mankind, or the benefit of our own souls.

Joseph Addison.

The common standing rules of the gospel are a more powerful means of conviction than any miracle.

Francis Atterbury.

As our advantages towards practising and promoting piety and virtue were greater than those of other men, so will our excuse be less if we neglect to make use of them. We cannot plead, in abatement of our guilt, that we were ignorant of our duty under the prepossession of ill habits and the bias of a wrong education.

Francis Atterbury.

Lukewarm persons think they may accommodate points of religion by middle ways and witty reconcilements; as if they would make an arbitratement between God and man.

Our Saviour hath enjoined us a reasonable service: all his laws are in themselves conducive to the temporal interest of them that observe them.

Richard Bentley.

When in our days religion is made a political engine, she exposes herself to having her sacred character forgotten. The most tolerant become intolerant towards her. Believers who believe something else besides what she teaches retaliate by attacking her in the very sanctuary itself.


I have no pleasure in a public investigation of even points of law that require me to speak upon the subject of religion. Few men who think seriously in regard to it are over ready to utter what they think in mixed assemblies. Few men who think with the greatest attention upon it, and are happiest in always expressing precisely what they think, are over willing to trust themselves with it in a debate like this. In a contest for victory we are not always masters of our language, not always perhaps followers of our principles. Though the subject, and the duty we owe to it, require us to weigh our words “in scales of gold,” yet light words that will not bear the weighing may thoughtlessly escape, to our own prejudice, and, what is much worse, words alloyed below the standard may be hastily uttered, to the prejudice and dishonour of religion itself.

Horace Binney: Argument, Vidal v. The City of Philadelphia, 1844, 68.

A second offence is that of heresy, which consists not in a total denial of Christianity, but of some of its essential doctrines, publicly and obstinately avowed.

Sir William Blackstone: Commentaries.

At my devotion I love to use the civility of my knee, my hat, and hand, with all those outward and sensible motions which may express or promote my invisible devotion. I should violate my own arm rather than a church; nor willingly deface the memory of saint or martyr. At the sight of a cross or crucifix I can dispense with my hat, but scarce with the thought or memory of my Saviour. I cannot laugh at, but rather pity, the fruitless journeys of pilgrims, nor contemn the miserable condition of friars; for, though misplaced in circumstances, there is something in it of devotion. I could never hear the Ave Mary bell without an elevation; or think it a sufficient warrant, because they erred in one circumstance, for me to err in all, that is, in silence and dumb contempt: whilst therefore they directed their devotions to her, I offered mine to God, and rectified the errors of their prayers by rightly ordering mine own. At a solemn procession I have wept abundantly, while my consorts, blind with opposition and prejudice, have fallen into an access of scorn and laughter.

Sir Thomas Browne: Religio Medici, Pt. I., iii.

All the principal religions in Europe stand upon one common bottom. The support that the whole, or the favoured parts, may have in the secret dispensations of Providence, it is impossible to say; but, humanly speaking, they are all prescriptive religions. They have all stood long enough to make prescription, and its chain of legitimate prejudices, their chief stay. The people who compose the four grand divisions of Christianity have now their religion as an habit, and upon authority, and not on disputation; as all men who have their religion derived from their parents and the fruits of education must have it; however the one more than the other may be able to reconcile his faith to his own reason or to that of other men.

Edmund Burke: Letter to William Smith.

Religion, which in Alfred’s father was so prejudicial to affairs, without being in him at all inferior in its zeal and fervour, was of a more enlarged and noble kind; far from being a prejudice to his government, it seems to have been the principle that supported him in so many fatigues, and fed like an abundant source his civil and military virtues. To his religious exercises and studies he devoted a full third part of his time.

Edmund Burke: Abridgment of English History.

Religion, to have any force on men’s understandings,—indeed, to exist at all,—must be supposed paramount to law, and independent for its substance upon any human institution,—else it would be the absurdest thing in the world, an acknowledged cheat. Religion, therefore, is not believed because the laws have established it, but it is established because the leading part of the community have previously believed it to be true.

Edmund Burke: Tract on the Popery Laws.

But, my Lords, it is not only in the house of prayer that we offer to the First Cause the acceptable homage of our rational nature,—my Lords, in this House, at this bar, in this place, in every place where His commands are obeyed, His worship is performed. And, my Lords, I must boldly say (and I think I shall hardly be contradicted by your Lordships, or by any persons versed in the law which guides us all) that the highest act of religion, and the highest homage which we can and ought to pay, is an imitation of the Divine perfections, as far as such a nature can imitate such perfections, and that by this means alone we can make our homage acceptable to Him.

My Lords, in His temple we shall not forget that His most distinguished attribute is justice, and that the first link in the chain, by which we are held to the Supreme Judge of All is justice; and that it is in this solemn temple of representative justice we may best give Him praise, because we can here best imitate His divine attributes.

Edmund Burke: Impeachment of Warren Hastings.

We know, and, what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good and of all comfort. In England we are so convinced of this, that there is no rust of superstition, with which the accumulated absurdity of the human mind might have crusted it over in the course of ages, that ninety-nine in a hundred of the people of England would not prefer to impiety. We shall never be such fools as to call in an enemy to the substance of any system to remove its corruptions, to supply its defects, or to perfect its construction. If our religious tenets should ever want a further elucidation, we shall not call on atheism to explain them. We shall not light up our temple from that unhallowed fire. It will be illuminated with other lights.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.

We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long. But if, in the moment of riot, and in a drunken delirium from the hot spirit drawn out of the alembic of hell, which in France is now so furiously boiling, we should uncover our nakedness, by throwing off that Christian religion which has hitherto been our boast and comfort, and one great source of civilization among us, and among many other nations, we are apprehensive (being well aware that the mind will not endure a void) that some uncouth, pernicious, and degrading superstition might take place of it.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France.

The English people are satisfied that to the great the consolations of religion are as necessary as its instructions. They, too, are among the unhappy. They feel personal pain and domestic sorrow. In these they have no privilege, but are subject to pay their full contributions levied on mortality. They want this sovereign balm under their gnawing cares and anxieties, which, being less conversant about the limited wants of animal life, range without limit and are diversified by infinite combinations in the wild and unbounded regions of imagination.

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France.

Religion is so far, in my opinion, from being out of the province or the duty of a Christian magistrate, that it is, and it ought to be, not only his care, but the principal thing in his care; because it is one of the great bonds of human society, and its object the supreme good, the ultimate end and object of man himself. The magistrate, who is a man, and charged with the concerns of men, and to whom very specially nothing human is remote and indifferent, has a right and a duty to watch over it with an unceasing vigilance, to protect, to promote, to forward it by every rational, just, and prudent means. It is principally his duty to prevent the abuses which grow out of every strong and efficient principle that actuates the human mind. As religion is one of the bonds of society, he ought not to suffer it to be made the pretext of destroying its peace, order, liberty, and its security.

Edmund Burke: Speech on the Petition of the Unitarians, May 11, 1792.

I speak for myself: I do not wish any man to be converted from his sect. The distinctions which we have reformed from animosity to emulation may be even useful to the cause of religion. By some moderate contention they keep alive zeal. Whereas people who change, except under strong conviction (a thing now rather rare), the religion of their early prejudices, especially if the conversion is brought about by any political machine, are very apt to degenerate into indifference, laxity, and often downright atheism.

Edmund Burke: On the Policy of the Allies, Oct. 1793.

They who have made but superficial studies in the natural history of the human mind have been taught to look on religious opinions as the only cause of enthusiastic zeal and sectarian propagation. But there is no doctrine whatever, on which men can warm, that is not capable of the very same effect. The social nature of man impels him to propagate his principles, as much as physical impulses urge him to propagate his kind. The passions give zeal and vehemence. The understanding bestows design and system. The whole man moves under the discipline of his opinions. Religion is among the most powerful causes of enthusiasm. When anything concerning it becomes an object of much meditation, it cannot be indifferent to the mind. They who do not love religion hate it. The rebels to God perfectly abhor the Author of their being. They hate Him “with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul, and with all their strength.” He never presents Himself to their thoughts but to menace and alarm them. They cannot strike the sun out of heaven, but they are able to raise a smouldering smoke that obscures him from their own eyes.

Edmund Burke: Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter II.

Religion is for the man in humble life, and to raise his nature, and to put him in mind of a state in which the privileges of opulence will cease, when he will be equal, and may be more than equal by virtue.

It seems to me a great truth, that human things cannot stand on selfishness, mechanical utilities, economics, and law courts; that if there be not a religious element in the relations of men, such relations are miserable and doomed to ruin.

Religion in most countries—more or less in every country—is no longer what it was, and should be,—a thousand-voiced psalm from the heart of man to his invisible Father, the fountain of all goodness, beauty, truth, and revealed in every revelation of these; but for the most part a wise, prudential feeling, grounded on mere calculation; a matter, as all others now are, of expediency and utility; whereby some smaller quantum of earthly enjoyment may be exchanged for a far larger quantum of celestial enjoyment. Thus religion, too, is profit, a working for wages; not reverence, but vulgar hope or fear. Many, we know—very many, we hope—are still religious in a far different sense; were it not so, our case were too desperate: but to witness that such is the temper of the times, we take any calm observant man, who agrees or disagrees in our feeling on the matter, and ask him whether our view of it is not in general well founded.

Religion is not confined to cells and closets, nor restrained to sullen retirement. These are the gloomy doctrines of Superstition, by which she endeavours to break those chains of benevolence and social affection that link the welfare of every particular with that of the whole. Remember that the greatest honour you can pay to the Author of your being is by such a cheerful behaviour as discovers a mind satisfied with his dispensations.

Elizabeth Carter: Rambler, No. 44.

It is a vain charge men bring against the divine precepts, that they are rigorous, severe, difficult; when, besides the contradiction to our Saviour, who tells us his “yoke is easy” and his “burthen light,” they thwart their own calm reason and judgment. Is there not more difficulty to be vicious, covetous, violent, cruel, than to be virtuous, charitable, kind? Doth the will of God enjoin that that is not conformable to right reason, and secretly delightful in the exercise and issue? And, on the contrary, what doth Satan and the world engage us in, that is not full of molestation and hazard? Is it a sweet and comely thing to combat continually against our own consciences, and resist our own light, and commence a perpetual quarrel against ourselves, as we ordinarily do when we sin?

Stephen Charnock: Attributes.

Let us appeal to ourselves, whether we are not more unwilling to secret, closet, hearty duty to God, than to join with others in some external service; as if those inward services were a going to the rack, and rather our penance than privilege. How much service hath God in the world from the same principle that vagrants perform their task in Bridewell! How glad are many of evasions to back them in the neglect of the commands of God, of corrupt reasonings from the flesh to waylay an act of obedience, and a multitude of excuses to blunt the edge of the precept!

Stephen Charnock: Attributes.

It is no good reason for a man’s religion that he was born and brought up in it; for then a Turk would have as much reason to be a Turk as a Christian to be a Christian.

William Chillingworth.

Nothing can inspire religious duty or animation but religion.

Lord Cockburn.

Philosophy is a bully that talks very loud when the danger is at a distance, but the moment she is hard pressed by the enemy she is not to be found at her post; but leaves the brunt of the battle to be borne by her humbler but steadier comrade religion, whom on most other occasions she affects to despise.

Charles Caleb Colton.

Religion, whether natural or revealed, has always the most beneficial influence on the mind. In youth, in health, and prosperity, it awakens feelings of gratitude, and sublime love, and purifies at the same time that which it exalts: but it is in misfortune, in sickness, in age, that its effects are most truly and beneficially felt: when submission in faith, and humble trust in the divine will, from duties become pleasures, undecaying sources of consolation; then it creates powers which were believed to be extinct, and gives a freshness to the mind which was supposed to have passed away forever, but which is now renovated as an immortal hope. Its influence outlives all earthly enjoyments, and becomes stronger as the organs decay and the frame dissolves; it appears as that evening star of light, in the horizon of life, which we are sure is to become, in another season, a morning star, and it throws its radiance through the gloom and shadow of death.

Sir Humphry Davy.

I envy not quality of the mind or intellect in others; not genius, power, wit, or fancy: but if I could choose what would be most delightful, and I believe most useful to me, I should prefer a firm religious belief to every other blessing: for it makes life a discipline of goodness,—creates new hopes when all earthly hopes vanish; and throws over all decay, the destruction of existence, the most gorgeous of all lights; awakes life even in death, and from corruption and decay calls up beauty and divinity; makes an instrument of torture and of shame the ladder of ascent to paradise; and far above all combinations of earthly hopes calls up the most delightful visions of plains and amaranths, the gardens of the blest, the security of everlasting joys, where the sensualist and the sceptic view only gloom, decay, annihilation, and despair.

Sir Humphry Davy.

I have the honour to be a member of the board of education in Ireland. My opinions on the subject of national education appear in our reports. By these I hope I shall obtain the justice due to me on this subject; and that it will appear that I consider religion, in the large sense of that word, to be the only certain bond of society.

Richard L. Edgeworth: Rees’s Cyc., art. Moral Education.

I never was without some religious principles, I never doubted, for instance, the existence of a Deity; that he made the world and governed it by his providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crimes will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteemed the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, though with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mixed with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, served principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another.

Benjamin Franklin: Autobiography.

Man has called in the friendly assistance of Philosophy, and Heaven, seeing the incapacity of that to console him, has given him the aid of Religion. The consolations of philosophy are very amusing, but often fallacious. It tells us that life is filled with comforts, if we will but enjoy them; and, on the other hand, that though we unavoidably have miseries here, life is short, and it will soon be over. Thus do those consolations destroy each other; for if life is a place of comfort, its shortness must be misery; and if it be long, our griefs are protracted. Thus philosophy is weak, but religion comforts in a higher strain. Man is here, it tells us, fitting up his mind, and preparing for another abode. To religion then we must hold in every circumstance of life, for our truest comforts: for if already we are happy it is a pleasure to think we can make that happiness unending; and if we are miserable, it is very consoling to think there is a place of rest. Thus to the fortunate religion holds out a continuance of bliss, to the wretched a change from pain.

Religion, the final centre of repose; the goal to which all things tend, which gives to time all its importance, to eternity all its glory; apart from which man is a shadow, his very existence a riddle, and the stupendous scenes which surround him as incoherent and unmeaning as the leaves which the sibyl scattered in the wind.

Robert Hall: Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Minister.

Religion, on account of its intimate relation to a future state, is every man’s proper business, and should be his chief care. Of knowledge in general there are branches which it would be preposterous to the bulk of mankind to attempt to acquire, because they have no immediate connection with their duties, and demand talents which nature has denied, or opportunities which Providence has withheld. But with respect to the primary truths of religion the case is different: they are of such daily use and necessity that they form, not the materials of mental luxury, so properly as the food of the mind. In improving the character, the influence of general knowledge is often feeble and always indirect; of religious knowledge the tendency to purify the heart is immediate, and forms its professed scope and design. This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

Robert Hall: Advantages of Knowledge to the Lower Classes.

In one country, and that the centre of Christendom, revelation underwent a total eclipse, while atheism, performing on a darkened theatre its strange and fearful tragedy, confounded the first elements of society, blended every age, rank, and sex in indiscriminate proscription and massacre, and convulsed all Europe to its centre; that the imperishable memorial of these events might teach the last generations of mankind to consider religion as the pillar of society, the safeguard of nations, the parent of social order, which alone has power to curb the fury of the passions, and secure to every one his rights: to the laborious the reward of their industry, to the rich the enjoyment of their wealth, to nobles the preservation of their honours, and to princes the stability of their thrones.

Robert Hall: Modern Infidelity.

Though the system of paganism is justly condemned by reason and scripture, yet it assumed as true several principles of the first importance to the preservation of public manners; such as a persuasion of invisible power, of the folly of incurring the divine vengeance for the attainment of any present advantage, and the divine approbation of virtue: so that, strictly speaking, it was the mixture of truth in it which gave it all its utility.

Robert Hall: Modern Infidelity.

Religion receives man into a covenant of grace, where there is a pardon reached out to all truly penitent sinners, and assistance promised, and engaged, and bestowed, upon very easy conditions; viz., humility, prayer, and affiance in him.

Henry Hammond: Fundamentals.

Seeing, therefore, it doth thus appear that the safety of all states dependeth upon religion; that religion, unfeignedly loved, perfecteth men’s abilities unto all kinds of virtuous services in the commonwealth; that men’s desire is, in general, to hold no religion but the true; and that whatever good effects do grow out of their religion who embrace, instead of the true, a false, the roots thereof are certain sparks of the light of truth intermingled with the darkness of error,—because no religion can wholly and only consist of untruths,—we have reason to think that all true virtues are to honour true religion as their parent, and all well-ordered commonwealths to love her as their chiefest stay.

Richard Hooker: Eccles. Polity, ch. v.

The duties of religion, sincerely and regularly performed, will always be sufficient to exalt the meanest and to exercise the highest understanding. That mind will never be vacant which is frequently recalled by stated duties to meditation on eternal interests; nor can any hour be long which is spent in obtaining some new qualification for celestial happiness.

Dr. Samuel Johnson: Rambler, No. 124.

That conversion will always be suspected that apparently concurs with interest. He that never finds his error till it hinders his progress towards wealth or honour will not be thought to love truth only for herself. Yet it may easily happen that information may come at a commodious time, and, as truth and interest are not by any fatal necessity at variance, that one may by accident introduce the other when opinions are struggling into popularity, the arguments by which they are opposed or defended become more known; and he that changes his profession would perhaps have changed it before, with the like opportunities of instruction. This was the then state of popery: every artifice was used to show it in its fairest form; and it must be owned to be a religion of external appearance sufficiently attractive.

Dr. Samuel Johnson: Life of Dryden.

I have lived long enough to know what I did not at one time believe,—that no society can be upheld in happiness and honour without the sentiment of religion.


Believe me, I speak it deliberately and with full conviction: I have enjoyed many of the comforts of life, none of which I wish to esteem lightly: often have I been charmed with the beauties of nature, and refreshed with her bountiful gifts. I have spent many an hour in sweet meditation, and in reading the most valuable productions of the wisest men. I have often been delighted with the conversation of ingenious, sensible, and exalted characters: my eyes have been powerfully attracted by the finest productions of human art, and my ears by enchanting melodies. I have found pleasure when calling into activity the powers of my own mind; when residing in my own native land, or travelling through foreign parts; when surrounded by large and splendid companies—still more when moving in the small endearing circle of my own family: yet, to speak the truth before God, who is my Judge, I must confess I know not any joy that is so dear to me; that so fully satisfies the inmost desires of my mind; that so enlivens, refines, and elevates my whole nature, as that which I derive from religion, from faith in God: as one who not only is the parent of men, but has condescended, as a brother, to clothe Himself with our nature. Nothing affords me greater delight than a solid hope that I partake of His favours, and rely on His never-failing support and protection…. He who has been so often my hope, my refuge, my confidence, when I stood upon the brink of an abyss where I could not move one step forward; He who, in answer to my prayer, has helped me when every prospect of help vanished; that God who has safely conducted me, not merely through flowery paths, but likewise across precipices and burning sands;—may this God be thy God, thy comfort, as He has been mine!

Johann Kaspar Lavater.

Calidus contents himself with thinking that he never was a friend to heretics and infidels; that he has always been civil to the minister of his parish, and very often given something to the charity-schools.

William Law.

He that will allow exquisite and endless happiness to be but the possible consequence of a good life here, and the contrary state the possible reward of a bad one, must own himself to judge very much amiss if he does not conclude that a virtuous life, with the certain expectation of everlasting bliss which may come, is to be preferred to a vicious one, with the fear of that dreadful state of misery which it is very possible may overtake the guilty, or at best the terrible uncertain hope of annihilation. This is evidently so, though the virtuous life here had nothing but pain, and the vicious, continual pleasure; which yet is for the most part quite otherwise, and wicked men have not much the odds to brag of, even in their present possession: nay, all things rightly considered, have, I think, the worst part here. But when infinite happiness is put in one scale against infinite misery in the other,—if the worst that comes to the pious man, if he mistakes, be the best that the wicked attain to, if he be in the right,—who can without madness run the venture? Who in his wits would choose to come within a possibility of infinite misery, which if he miss there is yet nothing to be got by that hazard? Whereas, on the other side, the sober man ventures nothing against infinite happiness to be got, if his expectation comes to pass. If the good man be in the right, he is eternally happy; if he mistakes, he is not miserable; he feels nothing. On the other side, if the wicked be in the right, he is not happy; if he mistakes, he is infinitely miserable. Must it not be a most wrong judgment that does not presently see to which side in this case the preference is to be given?

This oblation of a heart fixed with dependence on, and affection to, him, is the most acceptable tribute we can pay him, the foundation of true devotion and life of all religion.

And how stands the fact? Have not almost all the governments in the world always been in the wrong on religious subjects? Mr. Gladstone, we imagine, would say that, except in the time of Constantine, of Jovian, and of a very few of their successors, and occasionally in England since the Reformation, no government has ever been sincerely friendly to the pure and apostolical Church of Christ. If, therefore, it be true that every ruler is bound in conscience to use his power for the propagation of his own religion, it will follow that, for one ruler who has been bound in conscience to use his power for the propagation of truth, a thousand have been bound in conscience to use their power for the propagation of falsehood. Surely this is a conclusion from which common sense recoils. Surely, if experience shows that a certain machine, when used to produce a certain effect, does not produce that effect once in a thousand times, but produces, in the vast majority of cases, an effect directly contrary, we cannot be wrong in saying that it is not a machine of which the principal end is to be so used.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Gladstone on Church and State, April, 1839.

Natural theology, then, is not a progressive science. That knowledge of our origin and of our destiny which we derive from revelation is indeed of very different clearness, and of very different importance. But neither is revealed religion of the nature of a progressive science. All Divine truth is, according to the doctrine of the Protestant Churches, recorded in certain books. It is equally open to all who, in any age, can read those books; nor can all the discourses of all the philosophers in the world add a single verse to any of those books. It is plain, therefore, that in divinity there cannot be a progress analogous to that which is constantly taking place in pharmacy, geology, and navigation. A Christian of the fifth century with a Bible is neither better nor worse situated than a Christian of the nineteenth century with a Bible, candour and natural acuteness being supposed equal. It matters not at all that the compass, printing, steam, gas, vaccination, and a thousand other discoveries and inventions, which were unknown in the fifth century, are familiar to the nineteenth. None of these discoveries and inventions has the smallest bearing on the question whether man is justified by faith alone, or whether the invocation of saints is an orthodox practice. It seems to us, therefore, that we have no security for the future against the prevalence of any theological error that ever has prevailed in time past among Christian men. We are confident that the world will never go back to the solar system of Ptolemy; nor is our confidence in the least shaken by the circumstance that even so great a man as Bacon rejected the theory of Galileo with scorn; for Bacon had not all the means of arriving at a sound conclusion which are within our reach, and which secure people who would not have been worthy to mend his pens from falling into his mistakes. But when we reflect that Sir Thomas More was ready to die for the doctrine of transubstantiation, we cannot but feel some doubt whether the doctrine of transubstantiation may not triumph over all opposition. More was a man of eminent talents. He had all the information on the subject that we have, or that, while the world lasts, any human being will have. The text, “This is my body,” was in his New Testament as it is in ours. The absurdity of the literal interpretation was as great and as obvious in the sixteenth century as it is now. No progress that science has made, or will make, can add to what seems to us the overwhelming force of the argument against the real presence. We are, therefore, unable to understand why what Sir Thomas More believed respecting transubstantiation may not be believed to the end of time by men equal in abilities and honesty to Sir Thomas More. But Sir Thomas More is one of the choice specimens of human wisdom and virtue; and the doctrine of transubstantiation is a kind of proof charge. A faith which stands that test will stand any test. The prophecies of Brothers and the miracles of Prince Hohenlohe sink to trifles in the comparison.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Ranke’s History of the Popes, Oct. 1840.

Whatever reproach may at a later period have been justly thrown on the indolence and luxury of religious orders, it was surely good that, in an age of ignorance and violence, there should be quiet cloisters and gardens, in which the arts of peace could be safely cultivated, in which gentle and contemplative natures could find an asylum, in which one brother could employ himself in transcribing the Æneid of Virgil, and another in meditating the Analytis of Aristotle, in which he who had a genius for art might illuminate a martyrology or carve a crucifix, and in which he who had a turn for natural philosophy might make experiments on the properties of plants and minerals. Had not such retreats been scattered here and there among the huts of a miserable peasantry and the castles of a ferocious aristocracy, European society would have consisted merely of beasts of burden and beasts of prey. The Church has many times been compared by divines to the ark of which we read in the Book of Genesis: but never was the resemblance more perfect than during that evil time when she alone rode, amidst darkness and tempest, on the deluge beneath which all the great works of ancient power and wisdom lay entombed, bearing within her that feeble germ from which a second and more glorious civilization was to spring.

Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: History of England, ch. i. I.

No religious revolution has ever been successful which has commenced with the government. Such revolutions have ever begun in the middle or lower orders of society, struck on some responsive chord of sympathy in the general feeling, supplied some religious want, stirred some religious energy, and shaken the inert strength of the established faith by some stronger counter-emotion.

Henry H. Milman: Lat. Chris., vol. ii. b. iv., ch. vii.

It will require no great labour of exposition to unfold what is here meant by matters of religion; being as soon apprehended as defined, such things as belong chiefly to the knowledge and service of God; and are either above the reach and light of nature without revelation from above, and therefore liable to be variously understood by human reason, or such things as are enjoined or forbidden by divine precept which else by the light of reason would seem indifferent to be done or not done; and so likewise must needs appear to every man as the precept is understood. Whence I here mean by conscience or religion that full persuasion whereby we are assured that our belief and practice, as far as we are able to apprehend and probably make appear, is according to the will of God and his Holy Spirit within us, which we ought to follow much rather than any law of man, as not only his word everywhere bids us, but the very dictate of reason tells us.

John Milton: A Treatise of Civil Power in Eccles. Causes.

True religion is the true worship and service of God, learned and believed from the word of God only. No man or angel can know how God would be worshipped and served unless God reveal it: he hath revealed and taught it us in the Holy Scriptures by inspired ministers, and in the Gospel by his own Son and his Apostles, with strictest command to reject all other traditions or additions whatsoever.

John Milton: Of True Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration.

If we laid hold upon God by the mediation of a lively faith; if we laid hold upon God by him, and not by us; if we had a divine basis and foundation, human accidents would not have the power to shake us as they do, our fortress were not to render to so weak a battery; the love of novelty, the constraint of princes, the success of one party, and the rash and fortuitous change of our opinions would not have the power to stagger and alter our belief: we should not then leave it to the mercy of every novel argument, nor abandon it to all the rhetorick in the world: we should withstand the fury of these waves with an immote and unyielding constancy…. If we were but touched with this ray of divinity it would appear throughout: not only our words, but our works also, would carry its brightness and lustre: whatever proceeded from us would be seen illuminated with this noble light.

Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.

Of all human and ancient opinions concerning religion, that seems to me the most likely, and most excusable, that acknowledg’d God an incomprehensible power; the original and preserver of all things, all bounty, all perfection, receiving and taking in good part the honour and reverence that man paid unto him, under what method, name, or ceremonies soever.

  • Jupiter omnipotens rerum, regumque deumque,
  • Progenitor, genitrixque—
  • This zeal has universally been look’d upon from heaven with a gracious eye. All governments have reap’d fruit from their devotion: men and impious actions have everywhere had suitable events. Pagan histories acknowledge dignity, order, justice, prodigies, and oracles, employ’d for their profit and instruction in their fabulous religions.

    Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cotton’s 3d ed., ch. lxix.

    Religion is, in fact, the dominion of the soul—it is the hope, the anchor of safety, the deliverance from evil. What a service has Christianity rendered to humanity! what a power would it still have, did its ministers comprehend their mission!

    Napoleon I.: Montholon’s Captivity of Napoleon, vol. i. ch. x.

    But among the useful institutions that demonstrate the superior excellence of the Roman government, the most considerable, perhaps, is the opinion which people are taught to hold concerning the gods: and that which other men regard as an object of disgrace appears, in my judgment, to be the very thing by which this republic is chiefly sustained. I mean superstition, which is impressed with all its terrors, and influences the private actions of the citizens and the public administration of the state to a degree that can scarcely be exceeded.

    The ancients, therefore, acted not absurdly, nor without good reason, when they inculcated the notions concerning the gods and the belief of infernal punishments; but much rather are those of the present age to be charged with rashness and absurdity, in endeavouring to extirpate these opinions; for, not to mention other effects that flow from such an institution, if among the Greeks, for example, a single talent only be intrusted to those who have the management of any of the public money, though they give ten written sureties, with as many seals, and twice as many witnesses, they are unable to discharge the trust reposed in them with integrity. But the Romans, on the other hand, who in the course of their magistracies and in embassies disburse the greatest sums, are prevailed on by the single obligation of an oath to perform their duty with inviolable honesty. And as in other states a man is rarely to be found whose hands are pure from public robbery, so among the Romans it is no less rare to discover one that is tainted with this crime.

    Polybius: Hampton’s trans.

    There is nothing wanting to make all rational and disinterested people in the world of one religion but that they should talk together every day.

    Alexander Pope: Thoughts on Various Subjects.

    In persons already possessed with notions of religion, the understanding cannot be brought to change them, but by great examination of the truth and firmness of the one, and the flaws and weakness of the other.

    Robert South.

    Those two great things that so engross the desires and designs of both the nobler and ignobler sort of mankind are to be found in religion; namely, wisdom and pleasure.

    Robert South.

    There are no principles but those of religion to be depended upon in cases of real distress; and these are able to bear us up under all the changes and chances to which our life is subject.

    How common it is for men first to throw dirt in the face of religion, and then persuade themselves it is its natural complexion! They represent it to themselves in a shape least pleasing to them, and then bring that as a plea why they give it no better entertainment.

    Edward Stillingfleet.

    It would be well if people would not lay so much weight on their own reason in matters of religion as to think everything impossible and absurd which they cannot conceive: how often do we contradict the right rules of reason in the whole course of our lives! Reason itself is true and just, but the reason of every particular man is weak and wavering, perpetually swayed and turned by his interests, his passions, and his vices.

    Jonathan Swift.

    What remedy can be found against grievances, but to bring religion into countenance, and encourage those who, from the hope of future reward, and dread of future punishment, will be moved to justice and integrity?

    Jonathan Swift.

    It is a very just reproach that there should be so much violence and hatred in religious matters among men who agree in all fundamentals, and only differ in some ceremonies, or mere speculative points.

    Jonathan Swift.

    A heathen emperor said if the gods were offended it was their own concern, and they were able to vindicate themselves.

    Jonathan Swift.

    Whether religion be true or false, it must be necessarily granted to be the only wise principle and safe hypothesis for a man to live and die by.

    John Tillotson.

    Religion comprehends the knowledge of its principles, and a suitable life and practice: the first, being speculative, may be called knowledge; and the latter, because ’tis practical, wisdom.

    John Tillotson.

    Religion gives part of its reward in hand … the present comfort of having done our duty, and for the rest, it offers us the best security that heaven can give.

    John Tillotson.

    Religion tends to the ease and pleasure, the peace and tranquillity, of our minds; which all the wisdom of the world did always aim at, as the utmost felicity of this life.

    John Tillotson.

    I must lay this down for your encouragement, that we are no longer now under the heavy yoke of a perfect unsinning obedience.

    William Wake.

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labour to subvert those pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

    George Washington: Farewell Address to the People of the United States.

    Every one who will not ask for the conduct of God in the study of religion, has just reason to fear he shall be left of God, and given up a prey to a thousand prejudices, that he shall be consigned over to the follies of his own heart.

    Dr. Isaac Watts.

    Too religious, in the proper sense of the word, we cannot be. We cannot have the religious sentiments and principles too strong, or too deeply fixed, if only they have a right object. We cannot love God too warmly—or honour him too highly—or strive to serve Him too earnestly—or trust Him too implicitly; because our duty is to love Him “with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our mind, and all our strength.”

    But too religious, in another sense, we may, and are very apt to be;—that is, we are very apt to make for ourselves too many objects of religious feeling.

    Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacon’s Essay, Of Superstition.

    There is a heresy of indifference to revealed religion which is the most deadly of all heresies.

    Richard Whately.

    “Drink deep, or taste not,” is a direction fully as applicable to religion, if we would find it a source of pleasure, as it is to knowledge. A little religion is, it must be confessed, apt to make men gloomy, as a little knowledge is to render them vain: hence the unjust imputation often brought upon religion by those whose degree of religion is just sufficient, by condemning their course of conduct, to render them uneasy; enough merely to impair the sweetness of the pleasures of sin, and not enough to compensate for the relinquishment of them by its own peculiar comforts. Thus then men bring up, as it were, an ill report of that land of promise, which, in truth, abounds with whatever, in our journey through life, can best refresh and strengthen us.

    William Wilberforce.

    I do not say that the principles of religion are merely probable; I have before asserted them to be morally certain: and that to a man who is careful to preserve his mind free from prejudice, and to consider, they will appear unquestionable, and the deductions from them demonstrable.

    Bishop John Wilkins.