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infidelity. Indeed I have ever found, that deism is most prevalent in those countries where the people are the wildest and most bigotted. A refined and cultivated understanding, shocked at their folly, thinks it cannot possibly recede too far from it, and is often tempted to fly to the very opposite extreme. When reason is much offended by any particular dogma of faith or act of worship, she is but too apt, in the midst of her disgust, to reject the whole. The great misfortune is, that in these countries, the most violent champi. ons for religion are commonly the most weak and ignorant; and certainly, one weak advocate in any cause, but more particularly in a mysteri. Ous one, that requires to be handled with delicacy and address, is capable of hurting it more,than fifty of its warmest opponents. Silly books, that have been written by weak well-meaning men, in defence of religion, I am confident have made more infidels than all the works of Bolingbroke, Shaftesbury, or even Voltaire hiinself: they only want to make people believe that there are some ludicrous things to be said against it; but these grave plodding blockheads do all they can to persuade us that there is little thing to be said for it. The universal error of these gentry, is that they ever attempt to explain, and reconcile to sense and reason those very mysteries that the first principles of our religion teach us are incomprehensible; and of consequence neither obje&s of sense nor reason. I once heard an igroran: priest declare, that he did not find the least difficulty, in
conceiving the mystery of the Trinity, or that of incarnation; and that he would undertake to make them plain to the meanest capacities. A gentlemen present told him, he had no doubt he could, to all such capacities as his own. The priest took it as a compliment, and made him a bow. Now, don't you think, that a few such teachers as this, must hurt religion more by their zeal, than all its opponents can by their wit? Had these heroes still kept behind the bulwarks of faith and of mystery, their adversaries never could have touched them; but they have been foolish enough to abandon these strong holds; and dared them forth to combat on the plain fields of reason and of sense. A sad piece of generalihip indeed : such defenders must ever ruin the best cause.
But although the people of education here defpise the wild superstition of the vulgar, yet they go regularly to mass, and attend the ordinances with great respe&t and decency; and they are much pleased with us for our conformity to their customs, and for not appearing openly to despise their rites and ceremonies. .
this attention of theirs, not to offend weak minds, tends much to give us a favourable opinion both of their hearts and understandings. They don't make any boast of their infidelity; neither do they pester you with it as in France, where it is perpetually buzz'd in your ears; and where, although they V o L. II.
pretend to believe less, they do in fact believe more than any nation on the continent.
I know of nothing that gives one a worse opinion of a man, than to see him make a shew and parade of his contempt for things held sacred: it is an open insult to the judgment of the public. A countryman of ours, about two years ago, offended egregiously in this article, and the people still speak of him both with contempt and deteftation. It happened one day, in the great church, during the elevation of the host, when every body else were on their knees, that he still kept standing, without any appearance of respect to the ceremony. A young nobleman that vas near him expressed his surprise at this. “ It is strange, Sir, (said he) that you, who “ have had the education of a gentleman, and « ought to have the sentiments of one, should “ chuse thus to give so very public offence.” " Why, Sir, (said the Englishman) I don't be6 lieve in tranfubftantiation.' “ Neither do “ I, Sir, (replied the other) and yet you see I 66 kneel.”
Adieu. I am called away to see the preparations for the feast. In my next I shall probably give you some account of it.
P. S. I have been watching with great care the return of our comet, but as yet I liave discovered nothing of it: I observe ton, with a very indifferent glass, several large round spots on the sun's disk, and am far from being certain that it is not one of them: but I shall not alarm you any more with this subject.
L E T T E R XXIX
Palermo, July 1oth.
On Sunday, the 8th, we had the long expected Sirocc wind, which, although our expectations, had been raised pretty high, yet I own it greatly exceeded them. Ever since we came to our new lodging, the thermometer has stood betwixt 72 and 74; at our old one, it was often at 79 and 80; so great is the difference betwixt the heart of the city and the sea-shore. At present, our windows not only front to the North, but the sea is immediately under them, from whence we are constantly refreshed by a delightful cooling breeze. Friday and Saturday were uncommonly cool, the mercury never being higher than 72; and although the Sirocc is said to have set in early on Sunday morning, the air in our apartments, which are very large, with high cielings, was not in the least affected by it at eight o'clock, when I rose. I opened the door without having any sufpicion of such a change; and indeed I never was more astonished in
life. The first blast of it on my face felt like the burning steam from the mouth of an oven. I drew back my head and fhut the door, calling out to Fullarton, that the