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Corruptio optimi est pessima.

To the Author of the New-England Courant.

["[No IX" appears along right side of column. This number signifies this is the ninth Silence Dogood letter.]

SIR,

IT has been for some Time
a Question with me,
Whether a Common-
wealth suffers more by
hypocritical Pretenders
to Religion, or by the
openly Profane? But
some late Thoughts of
this Nature, have in-
clined me to think, that
the Hypocrite is the most
dangerous Person of the
Two, especially if he sustains a Post in the Govern-
ment, and we consider his Conduct as it regards the
Publick. The first Artifice of a State Hypocrite is,
by a few savoury Expressions which cost him No-
thing, to betray the best Men in his Country into an
Opinion of his Goodness; and if the Country where-
in he lives is noted for the Purity of Religion, he the
more easily gains his End, and consequently may more
justly be expos'd and detested. A notoriously pro-
fane Person in a private Capacity, ruins himself, and
perhaps forwards the Destruction of a few of his E-
quals; but a publick Hypocrite every day deceives
his betters, and makes them the Ignorant Trumpeters
of his supposed Godliness: They take him for a
Saint, and pass him for one, without considering that
they are (as it were) the Instruments of publick
Mischief out of Conscince, and ruin their Country
for God's sake.

THIS Political Description of a Hypocrite, may
(for ought I know) be taken for a new Doctrine by
some of your Readers; but let them consider, that
a little Religion, and a little Honesty, goes a great way
in Courts. 'Tis not inconsistent with Charity to dis-
trust a Religious Man in Power, tho' he may be a
good Man; he has many Temptations "to propagate
" publick Destruction for Personal Advantages and Se-
" curity:" And if his Natural Temper be covetous,
and his Actions often contradict his pious Discourse,
we may with great Reason conclude, that he has
some other Design in his Religion besides barely get-
ting to Heaven. But the most dangerous Hypocrite
in a Common-Wealth, is one who leaves the Gospel
for the sake of the Law: A Man compounded of Law
and Gospel, is able to cheat a whole Country with
his Religion, and then destroy them under Colour of
Law: And here the Clergy are in great Danger of be-
ing deceiv'd, and the People of being deceiv'd by the
Clergy, until the Monster arrives to such Power and
Wealth, that he is out of the reach of both, and can
oppress the People without their own blind Assistance.
And it is a sad Observation, that when the People
too late see their Error, yet the Clergy still persist in
their Encomiums on the Hypocrite; and when he
happens to die for the Good of his Country, without
leaving behind him the Memory of one good Action,
he shall be sure to have his Funeral Sermon stuff'd
with Pious Expressions which he dropt at such a
Time, and at such a Place, and on such an Occasion;
than which nothing can be more prejudicial to the
Interest of Religion, nor indeed to the Memory of
the Person deceas'd. The Reason of this Blindness

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in the Clergy is, because they are honourably sup-
ported (as they ought to be) by their People, and
see nor feel nothing of the Oppression which is ob-
vious and burdensome to every one else.

But this Subject raises in me an Indignation not
to be born; and if we have had, or are like to have
any Instances of this Nature in New England, we can-
not better manifest our Love to Religion and the
Country, than by setting the Deceivers in a true
Light, and undeceiving the Deceived, however such
Discoveries may be represented by the ignorant or
designing Enemies of our Peace and Safety.

I shall conclude with a Paragraph or two from an
ingenious Political Writer in the London Journal, the
better to convince your Readers, that Publick De-
struction may be easily carry'd on by hypocritical Pre-
tenders to Religion.

" A raging Passion for immoderate Gain had made
" Men universally and intensely hard-hearted: They
" were every where devouring one another. And yet
" the Directors and their Accomplices, who were
" the acting Instruments of all this outrageous Mad-
" ness and Mischief, set up for wonderful pious Per-
" sons, while they were defying Almighty God, and
" plundering Men; and they set apart a Fund of
" Subscriptions for charitable Uses; that is, they
" mercilesly made a whole People Beggars, and chari-
" tably supported a few necessitous and worthless FA-
" VOURITES. I doubt not, but if the Villany
" had gone on with Success, they would have had
" their Names handed down to Posterity with Enco-
" miums; as the Names of other publick Robbers
" have been! We have Historians and ODE MA-
" KERS now living, very proper for such a Task.
" It is certain, that most People did, at one Time, be-
" lieve the Directors to be great and worthy Persons.
" And an honest Country Clergyman told me last
" Summer, upon the Road, that Sir John was an ex-
" cellent publick-spirited Person, for that he had
" beautified his Chancel.

" Upon the whole we must not judge of one ano-
" ther by their best Actions; since the worst Men do
" some Good, and all Men make fine Professions: But
" we must judge of Men by the whole of their Con-
" duct, and the Effects of it. Thorough Honesty re-
" quires great and long Proof, since many a Man, long
" thought honest, has at length proved a Knave.
" And it is from judging without Proof, or false
" Proof, that Mankind continue Unhappy."

I am, SIR,
Your humble Servant,
SILENCE DOGOOD.

The New-England Courant, July 23, 1722

Article from page 1 of The New-England Courant, Number 51, 16-23 July 1722. This essay was written by Benjamin Franklin under the pseudonym Silence Dogood.