Hor. The design of them is to gain the Divine Favour and Assistance; that's plain enough; but how you are sure, they will have that Effect, I can't see.
Cleo. You mistake the thing. The Politician may have no Thoughts of Heaven: The Effect I speak of relates to the Soldiers; and is the Influence, which, in all Probablility, Fast-Days will have upon Believers, that assist in the keeping of them.
Hor. What Influence is that, pray, if it be not Religious?
Cleo. That they will inspire, and fill the Men with fresh Hopes, that God will favour them and be of their Side. The Reputation of those Days, that they avert the Divine Wrath, and are acceptable to Heaven, is, in a great Measure, the Cause, that they have this Influence upon the Men. The Heathens harbour'd the same Sentiments of their Publick Supplications; and it has been the Opinion of all Ages, that the more Solemn and Respectful the Addresses are, which Men put up to the Deity, and the greater the Numbers are that join in them, the more probable it is, that their Petitions shall be granted. It is possible therefore, that a Politician may appoint Extraordinary Days of Devotion, with no other View than to chear up the Soldier, revive his Hopes, and make him confident of Success. Men are ready enough to flatter themselves, and willing to believe, that Heaven is on their Side, whenever it is told them, tho' they have little Reason to think so. But then they are unsteady, and naturally prone to Superstition, which often raises new Doubts and Fears in them. Therefore Common Soldiers are continually to be buoy'd up in the good Opinion they have of themselves; and the Hopes they were made to conceive, ought often to be stirr'd up in them afresh. The Benefit that accrues from those Extraordinary Days of Devotion, and the Advantages expected from them, are of longer Duration, than just the Time they are kept in. With a little Help of the Clergy, they are made to do Good when they are over; and two or three Days or a Week after, the Usefulness of them is more conspicuous than it was before. It is in the Power of the General, or any Government whatever, to have those Days as strictly kept, to outward Appearance, as they please. All Shops may be order'd to be shut, and Exercises of Devotion to be continued from Morning till Night; nothing suffer'd to be bought, or sold during the Time of Divine Service; and all Labour as well as Diversion be strictly prohibited. This having been well executed makes an admirable Topick for a Preacher, when the Day is over, especially among Military Men; and Nothing can furnish a Divine with a finer Opportunity of commending, and highly praising his Audience, without Suspicion of Flattery, than the Solemnity of such a Day. He may set forth the outward Face of it in a lively Manner, expatiate on the various Decorums, and Religious Beauties of it; and by faithfully representing what Every body remembers of it, gain Credit to every Thing he says besides. He may magnify and safely enlarge on the Self-denial, that was practised on that Day; and, ascribing to the Goodness and Piety of the Soldiers, what in his Heart he knows to have been altogether owing to Discipline, and the strict Commands of the General, he may easily make them believe, that greater Godliness and a more general Humiliation never had been seen in an Army. If he has Wit, and is a Man of Parts, he'll find out Quaint Similes, Happy Turns, and Plausible Arguments, to illustrate his Assertions, and give an Air of Truth to every Thing he advances. If it suits with the Times, he'll work himself up into Rapture and Enthusiasm, congratulate his Regiment, if not the whole Army, on the undeniable Proofs they have given of being good Christians, and with Tears in his Eyes wish them Joy of their Conversion, and the infallible Tokens they have received of the Divine Mercy. If a grave Divine, of good Repute, acts this, as he should do, with an artful Innocence and Chearfulness in his Countenance, it is incredible what an Effect it may have upon the greater part of a Multitude, amongst whom Christianity is not scoff'd at, and Pretences to Purity are in Fashion. Those who were any ways devout on that Day, which he points at, or can but remember that they wish'd to be Godly, will swallow with Greediness whatever such a Preacher delivers to them; and applauding every Sentence before it is quite finish'd, imagine, that in their Hearts they feel the Truth of every Word he utters. We are naturally so prone to think well of our Selves, that an artful Man, who is thought to be serious, and harangues a vulgar Audience, can hardly say any Thing in their Behalf, which they will not believe. One would imagine, that Men, who gave but little Heed to the Religious Exercises they assisted at, could receive no great Comfort from their Reflection on that Day; such, I mean, as were tired to Death with the Length of the Prayers, and almost slept as they stood the greatest Part of the Sermon; yet many of these, hearing the Behaviour of the Army in General well spoken of, would be stupid enough to take Share in the Praise; and remembring the Uneasiness they felt, make a Merit of the very Fatigue they then bore with Impatience. Most of the Vulgar, that are not averse to Religion, have a wild Notion of Debtor and Creditor betwen themselves and Heaven. Natural gratitude teaches them, that some returns must be due for the good Things they receive; and they look upon Divine Service as the only Payment they are able to make. Thousands have made this Acknowledgment in their Hearts, that never after cared to think on the vast Debt they owed. But how careless and neglectful soever most of them may be in the Discharge of their Duty, yet they never forget to place to their Accounts, and magnify in their Minds, what little Time they spend, and the least Trouble they are at in performing what can but seem to have any Relation to Religious Worship; and, what is astonishing, draw a Comfort from them by barely shutting their Eyes against the frightful Balance. Many of these are very well pleased with themselves after a sound Nap at Church, whole Consciences would be less easy, if they had stay'd from it. Nay, so extensive is the Usefulness of those Extraordinary Devotions, appointed by Authority, in Politicks only, that the most inattentive Wretch, and the greatest Reprobate, that can be in such an Army, may receive Benefit from them; and the Reflection on a Fast-Day, may be an Advantage to him as a Soldier. For tho' he cursed the Chaplain in his Heart, for preaching such a tedious while as he did, and wish'd the General damn'd, by whose Order he was kept from Strong Liquor such an unreasonable Time; yet he recollects, the Nothing went forward but Acts of Devotion all the Day long; that every Sutler's Tent was shut; and that it was Six a Clock before he could get a Drop of Drink. Whilst these Things are fresh in his Memory, it is hardly possible, that he should ever think of the Enemy, of Battles, or of Sieges, without receiving real Comfort from what he remembers of that Day. It is incredible what a strong Impression the Face, the outward Appearance only of such a Day, may make upon a loose wicked Fellow, who hardly ever had a Religious Thought in his Life; and how powerfully the Remembrance of it may inspire him with Courage and Confidence of Triumph, if he is not an Unbeliever.
Hor. I have not forgot what you said Yesterday of the obdurate Soldier; and I believe heartily, that the greatest Rogue may build Hopes of Success on the Devotion of others, whom he thinks to be Sincere,
Cleo. And if the bare outward Shew of such a Day, can any ways affect the worst of an Army, there is no Doubt, but the better Sort of them may get infinitely more Benefit by keeping it, and giving Attention to the greatest Part of the Preaching and Praying that are perform'd upon it. And tho' in Camps, there are not many Men of real Probity, any more than in Courts; and Soldiers, who are sincere in their Religion, and only misled in the Duties of it, are very scarce; yet in most Multitudes, especially of the sober Party, there are ignorant Well-wishers to Religion, that, by proper Means, may be raised to Devotion for a Time and of whom I have said, that tho' they were bad Livers, they often desired to repent; and would sometimes actually set about it, if their Passions would let them. All these an artful Preacher may persuade to any Thing, and do with them almost what he pleases. A bold Assurance of Victory, emphatically pronounc'd by a popular Preacher, has often been as little doubted of among such, as if it had been a Voice from Heaven.
Hor. I now plainly see the vast Use that may be made of Fast-Days, as well afterwards when they are over, as during the Time they are kept.
Cleo. The Days of Supplication among the Heathens, as I hinted before, were celebrated for the same Purpose; but their Arts to make People believe, that the Deity was on their side, and Heaven espoused their Cause, were very trifling in Comparison to those of Christian Divines. When the Pagan Priests had told the People, that the Chickens had eat their Meat very well, and the Entrails of the Victim were found, and that the Rest of the Omens were lucky, they had done, and were forced to leave the Belief of those Things to the Soldiers. But—
Hor. You need not to say any more, for I am convinced, and have now so clear an Idea of the Usefulness of Extraordinary Devotions, and a great Shew of Piety, among military Men; I mean the Political Usefulness of them, abstract from all Thoughts of Religion; that I begin to think them necessary, and wonder, how great and wise Generals ever would or could do without them. For it is evident, that since the Prince of Conde's and Cromwel's Armies, such a Shew of Godliness has not been seen among any regular Troops, in any considerable Body of Men. Why did not Luxemburg, King William, Prince Eugene, and the Duke of Marlborough follow those great Examples, in modelling their Armies after a Manner that had bred such good Soldiers?
Cleo. We are to consider, that such a Shew of Piety and outward Devotion, as we have been speaking of, is not to be created and started up at once, nor indeed to be made practicable but among such Troops as the Huguenots in France, and the Roundheads in England were. Their Quarrels with their Adversaries were chiefly Religious; and the greatest Complaints of the Malecontents in both Nations were made against the Establish'd Church. They exclaim'd against the Ceremonies and Superstition of it; the Lives of the Clergy, the Haughtiness of the Prelates, and the little Care that was taken of Christianity it self and good Morals. People, who advance these Things, must be thought very inconsistent with themselves, unless they are more upon their Guard, and lead stricter Lives than those, whom they find Fault with. All Ministers likewise, who pretend to dissent from a Communion, must make a sad Figure, unless they will reform, or at least seem to reform every Thing they blame in their Adversaries. If you'll duely weigh what I have said, you will find it impossible to have an Army, in which outward Godliness shall be so conspicuous, as it was in the Prince of Conde's or Oliver Cromwel's, unless that Godliness suited with the times.
Hor. What peculiar Conjuncture, pray, does that require.
Cleo. When a considerable Part of a Nation, for some End or other, seem to mend, and set up for Reformation; when Virtue and Sobriety are countenanced by many of the better Sort; and to appear Religious is made Fashionable. Such was the Time in which Cromwell enter'd himself into the Parliament's Service. What he aim'd at first was Applause; and skilfully suiting himself in every Respect to the Spirit of his party, he studied Day and Night to gain the good Opinion of the Army. He would have done the same, if he had been on the other Side. The Chief Motive of all his Actions was Ambition, and what he wanted was immortal Fame. This End he steadily pursued: All his Faculties were made subservient to it; and no Genius was ever more supple to his Interest. He could take Delight in being Just, Humane and Munificent, and with equal Pleasure he could oppress, persecute and plunder, if it served his Purpose. In the most Treacherous Contrivance to hasten the Execution of his blackest Design, he could counterfeit Enthusiasm, and seem to be a Saint. But the most enormous of his Crimes proceeded from no worse Principle, than the best of his Atchievements. In the Midst of his Villanies he was a Slave to Business; and the most disinterested Patriot never watch'd over the Publick Welfare, both at Home and Abroad, with greater Care and Assiduity, or retriev'd the fallen Credit of a Nation in less Time than this Usurper: But all was for himself; and he never had a Thought on the Glory of England, before he had made it inseparable from his own.
Hor. I don't wonder you dwell so long upon Cromwell, for Nothing can be more serviceable to your System, than his Life and Actions.
Cleo. You will pardon the Excursion, when I own, that you have hit upon the Reason. What I intended to shew, when I ran away from my Subject, was, that able Politicians consult the Humour of the Age, and the Conjuncture they live in, and that Cromwell made the most of his. I don't question, but he would have done the same, if he had been born three or four score Years later. And if he had been to command an English Army abroad, when the Duke of Marlborough did, I am persuaded, that he would sooner have endeavoured to make all his Soldiers dancing Masters, than he would have attempted to make them Bigots. There are more ways than one, to make People brave and obstinate in Fighting. What in Oliver's Days was intended by a Mask of Religion and a Shew of Sanctity, is now aim'd at by the Height of Politeness, and a perpetual Attachment to the Principle of modern Honour. There is a Spirit of Gentility introduced among military Men, both Officers and Soldiers, of which there was yet little to be seen in the last Century, in any Part of Europe, and which now shines through all their Vices and Debaucheries.
Hor. This is a new Discovery; pray, what does it consist in?
Cleo. Officers are less rough and boisterous in their Manners, and not only more careful of themselves, and their own Behaviour, but they likewise oblige and force their Men under severe Penalties to be Neat, and keep themselves Clean: And a much greater Stress is laid upon this, than was Forty or Fifty Years ago.
Hor. I believe there is, and approve of it very much; white Gaiters are a vast Addition to a clever Fellow in Regimental Cloaths; but what mighty Matters can you expect from a Soldier's being obliged to be clean.
Cleo. I look upon it as a great Improvement in the Art of Flattery, and a finer Stratagem to raise the Passion of Self-liking in Men, than had been invented yet; for by this Means the Gratification of their Vanity is made Part of the Discipline; and their Pride must encrease in Proportion to the Strictness, with which they observe this Duty.
Hor. It may be of greater Weight than I can see at Present. But I have another Question to ask. The main Things, that in raising Troops, and making War, Politicians are solicitous about, and which they seem altogether to rely upon, are Money, great Numbers, Art and Discipline. I want to know, why Generals, who can have no Hopes, from the Age they live in, of thriving by Bigotry, should yet put themselves to such an Expence, on Account of Religion in their Armies, as they all do. Why should they pay for Preaching for Praying at all, if they laid no Stress upon them?
Cleo. I never said, that the great Generals, you nam'd, laid no Stress on Preaching or Praying.
Hor. But Yesterday, speaking of the Gallantry of our Men in Spain and Flanders, you said, that you would as soon believe, that it was Witchcraft that made them Brave, as that it was their Religion. You could mean Nothing else by this, than that, whatever it was, you was very sure, it was not their Religion that made them Brave. How come you to be so very sure of that?
Cleo. I judge from undeniable Facts, the loose and wicked Lives, the Generality of them led, and the Courage and Intrepidity they were on many Occasions. For of Thousands of them it was as evident as the Sun, that they were very Vicious, at the same Time that they were very Brave.
Hor. But they had Divine Service among them; every Regiment had a Chaplain; and Religion was certainly taken care of.
Cleo. It was, I know it; but not more than was absolutely necessary to hinder the Vulgar from suspecting, that Religion was neglected by their Superiours; which would be of dangerous Consequence to all Governments. There are no great Numbers of Men without Superstition; and if it was to be tried, and the most skilful Unbelievers were to labour at it, with all imaginable Cunning and Industry, it would be altogether as impossible to get an Army of all Atheists, as it would be to have an Army of good Christians. Therefore no Multitudes can be so universally wicked, that there should not be some among them, upon whom the Suspicion, I hinted at, would have a bad Effect. It is inconceiveable, how Wickedness, Ignorance, and Folly are often blended together. There are, among all Mobs, vicious Fellows, that boggle at no Sin; and whilst they know Nothing to the Contrary, but that Divine Service is taken care of as it used to be, tho' they never come near it, are perfectly easy in their Evil Courses, who yet would be extremely shock'd, should Any body tell them seriously, that there was no Devil.
Hor. I have known such my self; and I see plainly, that the Use, which Politicians may make of Christianity in Armies, is the same as ever was made of all other Religions on the same Occasion, viz. That the Preists, who preside over them, should humour and make the most of the Natural Superstition of all Multitudes, and take great Care, that on all Emergencies, the Fear of an invisible Cause, which Every body is born with, should never be turn'd against the Interest those, who employ them.
Cleo. It is certain, that Christianity being once stript of the Severity of its Discipline, and its most essential Precepts, the Design of it may be so skilfully perverted from its real and original Scope, as to be made subservient to any worldly End or Purpose, a Politician can have Occasion for.
Hor. I love to hear you; and to shew you, that I have not been altogether inattentive, I believe I can repeat to you most of the Heads of your Discourse, since you finish'd what you had to say concerning the Origin of Honour. You have proved to my Satisfaction, that no Preaching of the Gospel, or strict Adherence to the Precepts of it, will make men good Soldiers, any more than they will make them good Painters, or any thing else the most remote from the Design of it. That good Christians, strictly speaking, can never presume or submit to be Soldiers. That Clergymen under Pretence of Preaching the Gospel, by a small Deviation from it, may easily misguide their Hearers, and not only make them fight in a just Cause, and against the Enemies of their Country, but likewise incite them to civil Discord and all Manner of Mischief. That by the Artifices of such Divines, even honest and well-meaning Men have often been seduced from their Duty, and, tho' they were sincere in their Religion, been made to act quite contrary to the Precepts of it. You have given me a full View of the Latitude, that may be taken in Preaching, by putting me in Mind of an undeniable Truth; viz. That in all the Quarrels among Christians, there never yet was a Cause so bad, but, if it could find an Army to back it, there were always Clergymen ready to justify and maintain it. You have made it plain to me, that Divine Service and Religious Exercises may be ordered and strictly enjoin'd with no other than Political Views; that by Preaching and Praying, bad Christians may be inspired with Hatred to their Enemies, and Confidence in the Divine Favour; that in order to obtain the Victory, Godliness and an outward Shew of Piety among Soldiers may be made serviceble to the greatest Profligates, who never join in Prayer, have no Thoughts of Religion, or ever assist at any Publick Worship, but by Compulsion and with Reluctancy; and that they may have this effect in an Army, of which the General is an Atheist, most of the Clergy are Hypocrites, and the Generality of the Soldiers wicked Men. You have made it evident, that neither the Huguenots in France, nor the Roundheads in England could have been animated by the Spirit of Christianity; and shewn me the true Reason, why Acts of Devotion were more frequent, and Religion seemingly more taken care of in both those Armies, than otherwise is usual among military Men.
Cleo. You have a good Memory.
Hor. I must have a very bad one, if I could not remember thus much. In all the Things I nam'd, I am very clear. The solution likewise, which you have given of the Difficulty I proposed this Afternoon, I have Nothing to object to; and I believe, that skilful Preachers consult the Occupations as well as the Capacities of their Hearers; that therefore in Armies they always encourage and chear up their Audiences; and that whatever the Day or the Occasion may be, upon which they harangue them, they seldom touch upon mortifying Truths, and take great Care never to leave them in a Melancholy Humour, or such an Opinion of themselves or their Affairs as might lower their Spirits, or depress their Minds. I am likewise of your Opinion, as to artful Politicians; that they fall in with the Humour of their Party, and make the most of the Conjuncture they live in; and I believe, that, if Cromwell had been to Command the Duke of Marlborough's Army, he would have taken quite other Measures, than he did in his own Time. Upon the whole, you have given me a clear Idea, and laid open to me the real Principle of that great wicked Man. I can now reconcile the Bravest and most Gallant of his Atchievements, with his vilest and the most treacherous of his Actions; and tracing every Thing, he did, from one and the same Motive, I can solve several Difficulties concerning his Character, that would be inexplicable, if that vast Genius had been govern'd by any Thing but his Ambition; and, if following the common Opinion, we suppose him to have been a Compound of a daring Villain and an Enthusiastical Bigot.
Cleo. I am not a little proud of your Concurrence with me.
Hor. You have made out, with Perspicuity, every Thing you have advanced both Yesterday and to Day, concerning the Political Use, that may be made of Clergymen in War; but, after all, I can't see what Honour you have done to the Christian Religion, which yet you ever seem strenuously to contend for, whilst you are treating every Thing else with the utmost Freedom. I am not prepared to reply to several Things, which, I know, you might answer: Therefore I desire, that we may break off our Discourse here. I will think on it, and wait on you in a few Days; for I shall long to be set to Rights in this Point.
Cleo. Whenever you please; and I will shew you, that no Discovery of the Craft, or Insincerity of Men can ever bring any Dishonour upon the Christian Religion it self, I mean the Doctrine of Christ, which can only be learn'd from the New Testament, where it will ever remain in its Purity and Lustre.