between those two opposite schemes 
or systems. In the liberal or loose system
luxury, wanton, and even disorderly mirth
the pursuit of pleasure to some degree of 
intemperance, the breach of chastity, at least 
in one of the two sexes, &c. provided they 
are not accompanied with gross indecency
and do not lead to falsehood and injustice, are 
generally treated with a good deal of indulgence, 
and are easily either excused or pardoned 
altogether. In the austere system, on 
the contrary, those excesses are regarded with 
the utmost abhorrence and detestation. The 
vices of levity are always ruinous to the common 
people, and a single week's thoughtlessness 
and dissipation is often sufficient to 
undo a poor workman for ever, and to drive 
him, through despair, upon committing the 
most enormous crimes. The wiser and better 
sort of the common people, therefore, 
have always the utmost abhorrence and 
detestation of such excesses, which their 
experience tells them are so immediately fatal to 
people of their condition. The disorder and 
extravagance of several years, on the contrary
will not always ruin a man of fashion
and people of that rank are very apt to consider 
the power of indulging in some degree 
of excess, as one of the advantages of their 
fortune; and the liberty of doing so without 
censure or reproach, as one of the privileges 
which belong to their station. In people of 
their own station, therefore, they regard such 
excesses with but a small degree of disapprobation
and censure them either very slightly 
or not at all. 
Almost all religious sects have begun 
among the common people, from whom they 
have generally drawn their earliest, as well 
as their most numerous proselytes. The austere 
system of morality has, accordingly, 
been adopted by those sects almost constantly
or with very few exceptions; for there 
have been some. It was the system by which 
they could best recommend themselves to that 
order of people, to whom they first proposed 
their plan of reformation upon what had been 
before established. Many of them, perhaps 
the greater part of them, have even endeavoured 
to gain credit by refining upon this 
austere system, and by carrying it to some 
degree of folly and extravagance; and this 
excessive rigour has frequently recommended 
them, more than any thing else, to the respect 
and veneration of the common people
A man of rank and fortune is, by his station
the distinguished member of a great society
who attend to every part of his conduct
and who thereby oblige him to attend to every 
part of it himself. His authority and consideration 
depend very much upon the respect 
which this society bears to him. He dares 
not do any thing which would disgrace or 
discredit him in it; and he is obliged to a 
very strict observation of that species of 
morals, whether liberal or austere, which the 
general consent of this society prescribes to 
persons of his rank and fortune. A man of 
low condition, on the contrary, is far from 
being a distinguished member of any great 
society. While he remains in a country village
his conduct may be attended to, and he 
may be obliged to attend to it himself. In 
this situation, and in this situation only, he 
may have what is called a character to lose. 
But as soon as he comes into a great city, he 
is sunk in obscurity and darkness. His conduct 
is observed and attended to by nobody; 
and he is, therefore, very likely to neglect it 
himself, and to abandon himself to every sort 
of low profligacy and vice. He never 
emerges so effectually from this obscurity, his 
conduct never excites so much the attention 
of any respectable society, as by his becoming 
the member of a small religious sect
He from that moment acquires a degree of 
consideration which he never had before. 
All his brother sectaries are, for the credit of 
the sect, interested to observe his conduct
and, if he gives occasion to any scandal, if 
he deviates very much from those austere 
morals which they almost always require of 
one another, to punish him by what is always 
a very severe punishment, even where no evil 
effects attend it, expulsion or excommunication 
from the sect. In little religious sects
accordingly, the morals of the common people 
have been almost always remarkably regular 
and orderly; generally much more so 
than in the established church. The morals 
of those little sects, indeed, have frequently 
been rather disagreeably rigorous and unsocial
There are two very easy and effectual remedies
however, by whose joint operation 
the state might, without violence, correct 
whatever was unsocial or disagreeably rigorous 
in the morals of all the little sects into 
which the country was divided
The first of those remedies is the study of 
science and philosophy, which the state might 
render almost universal among all people of 
middling or more than middling rank and 
fortune; not by giving salaries to teachers in 
order to make them negligent and idle, but 
by instituting some sort of probation, even in 
the higher and more difficult sciences, to be 
undergone by every person before he was permitted 
to exercise any liberal profession, or 
before he could be received as a candidate for 
any honourable office, of trust or profit. If 
the state imposed upon this order of men the 
necessity of learning, it would have no occasion 
to give itself any trouble about providing 
them with proper teachers. They would 
soon find better teachers for themselves, than 
any whom the state could provide for them. 
Science is the great antidote to the poison of 
enthusiasm and superstition; and where all 
the superior ranks of people were secured 
from it, the inferior ranks could not be much 
exposed to it.