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can account for the corruption of my nature, and all the train of evils which have descended to Adam's children. Without this clue to direct me, I must be for ever entangled in a labyrinth of perplexities. Let philosophy glory in levelling man with the brute, and say that there was never any difference in his state; that he was always the same, destined to gratify his appetites, and to die ;—I am really persuaded that I must renounce common sense, if I believe that man is now the same that he was in coming from his Maker's hands. The opposition between our passions and reason is too palpable, to believe that we were created in such an excess of contradictions. Reason dictates to be temperate, just, and equitable; to deal with others as I would fain be dealt by; not to infringe the order of society; to pity and relieve the afflicted: my passions, those tyrants so cruel, prompt me to raise myself on the ruin of others; to tread in the flowery paths of criminal pleasures; and to sacrifice my enemy to my resentment. If God, then, be the author of reason,—and that it is granted to man to regulate and curb his inclinations,—misery and corruption were not our primitive state.
Philosophers, in a strain of irony, may deride our Bible and Catechism, and laugh at our folly for believing that an apple could entail such miseries on mortals: but let them seriously consider the multitude and greatness of the evils that oppress us; and how full of vanity, of illusions, of sufferings, are the first years of our lives; when we are grown up, how are we seduced by error, weakened by pain, inflamed
by lust, cast down by sorrow, elated with pride: and ask
themselves, whether the cause of those dreadful evils be the injustice ofXjod or the original sin of man?
The evidence of those miseries forced the pagan philosophers to say, that we were born only to suffer the punishments we had deserved for crimes committed in a life before this. They, doubtless, were deceived as to the origin and cause of our miseries: but still some glimmering of reason did not permit them to consider those calamities as the natural state of man. But religion reforms the error, and points out, that this heavy yoke, which the sons of Adam are forced to bear, from the time their bodies are taken from their mothers' womb, to the day that they are to return to the womb of their common mother, the earth, would not have been laid upon them, if they had not deserved it, by the guilt they contract from their origin.
But religion, as far as it includes mysteries, you think yourself at liberty to discard; because you 'cannot conceive 'how God could require of man, a belief of any thing which * he has not endowed him with powers to conceive.'* Hence you reject the mystery of the Trinity, as an invention of the clergy, borrowed from the poetical fable of the three brothers, Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto; the Divinity of Christ, as an imposition of the clergy: and the immortality of the soul, as the invention of scholastic subtlety.
You think the religion of nature a sufficient guide; and prefer Socrates and Cato to the clergy of the Christian religion,—the great Cato whom you applaud for his bon mot, when he said, that he was surprised how two priests could meet without bursting out into a fit of laughter. Do not confide too much, my dear Sir, in reason and this boasted laiv of nature, which formed an Aristides, a Socrates, a Cato, whom you applaud/or laughing at priests. Whatever tricks or juggles might have been played in the recesses of the Capitol, where the Sibylline oracles were deposited, to answer the purposes of state,—to animate the people to war, from an expectation of success, under the protection of Jupiter or Apollo,—and to support the pride and policy of Roman grandeur ;—-the priests of the Christian religion do not conceal their belief. Cato might laugh in seeing his colleague, for reasons best known to themselves: and doubtless, the priest, who came to the Roman lady, with a message from Apollo, informing her that the god intended to honour her that night with his company, by sleeping with her in his temple, laughed heartily in seeing the young gentleman who bribed him to the cheat, and the more so, as on the day following the lady gave the public to understand, that however great Apollo might have been, in his quality of God, honoured with altars and temples, he had nothing extraordinary in his quality of companion. Cato's priests then might have laughed in seeing one another; the mysteries and rites of their Gods, as debauched and corrupt as themselves, afforded scenes of impure mirth: and the Christian clergy are obliged to the Doctor for putting them and the three brothers, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
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* Thoughts on Nature and Religion, page 127.
whom they worship, on a level with the heathen priests and their Jupiter, who ravished Ganymedes, Neptune and his sea nymphs, and Pluto, who carried off Proserpina.
In spite of the preference, given by the Doctor to Cato and Socrates, over the Christian clergy, and the sufficiency of the law of nature to regulate the conduct of man, we can assure him, that under the direction of a Christian mother, who never studied philosophy, a child imbibes sublimer notions of divinity, and purer ideas of virtue, than Plato ever taught in the academy, or Aristotle in the Lyceum. What were those boasted sages whom our modern Free-thinkers so often introduce on the stage, as paragons of wisdom, in order to play the dazzling glass in the eyes of the unwary, by making reason their only oracle, and painting religion as priest-craft? Some doubted of their own existence, and consequently of the existence of a God. Some figured to themselves an indolent God, who never concerned himself in the affairs of mortals, equally indifferent about vice or virtue; who, to use the words of Lucretius, 4 ne'er smiles at good, 'ne'er frowns at wicked deeds.' Some considered the Supreme Being as the slave of destiny. Others as incorporate with the universe, and a part of a world which is the work of his hand.
What extravagant notions concerning the nature of the soul! In one school it was an assemblage of atoms ; in another it was subtile air; in a third school it was a something which, after its separation from one body, entered into another, roaming from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven, without any permanent abode; alternately swaying the sceptre of authority in the hands of the monarch, and animating the body of a beast of burden. Their great remedy against the terrors of death, consisted in a false but flattering way of reasoning. 'Either the soul dies with the 'body, or survives it. If it dies with the body it cannot suf'fer. If it survives it, it will be happy.' Not reflecting that the horrors of sin, and infinite justice, may appoint an intermediate state, wherein man is eternally miserable. Hence all the reins were slackened, and the most abominable crimes honoured with priests, altars, and temples. Public worship became a public prostitution. Incest, impurity, drunkenness, hatred, pride, were deified under the fictitious names of Jupiter, Juno, Venus, Mars, &c. and criminal Gods were worshipped with crimes.
It was not the mountain inhabited by the rude and uncivilized, which alone was polluted with the smoak of profane incense: the nations most renowned for learning and refinement,—Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians,—in the midst of their cities, saw sumptuous edifices consecrated to the passions which the Gospel condemns. By their mistakes and errors it is easy to perceive the weakness of reason, and the necessity of revealed religion.
Your philosophers whom our modern free-thinkers are ever extolling, with a view to degrade the Christian religion and its ministers, never escaped the general contagion.— Your Cato, besides suicide, was guilty of levities of a softer nature than the steel with which he killed himself. Your Socrates, whom you would fain obtrude on the ignorant, as a martyr to truth and the original religion of nature, acknowledges in his defence, that he worshipped the Gods of his city, and was seen on public festivals sacrificing at their altars. His wrestling naked with his pupil, Alcibiades, was an atti. tude ill suited to the character of a man, entitled to a place in the calendar of saints. What shall I say of the Cynics, who laid aside all the natural restraints of shame and modesty? Of Chrysippus, the advocate of intermarriages between fathers and daughters? Of the Persian Magi, who married their mothers? Of Seneca, playing the moralist in public, debauching his sovereign's wife in private, and preferring his pretended wise man to God himself? What shall I say of the divine Plato, who annihilates the institution of connubial ties? Who by introducing a community of women, and refusing the husband any exclusive property in the marriage bed, would fain introduce a horrid confusion amongst men; confound all paternal rights, which nature itself respected, and people his republic with inhabitants, uncertain of their origin, without tenderness, affection, or humanity; whereas in such a state it would have been impossible for the son to know his father.
Such is the boasted reason you take for your guide, and lo. the great luminaries it has produced! A set of proud men, bewildered in a labyrinth of the most monstrous errors. If our modern philosophers are more refined than those ancient sages, it is to the Christian religion, which they would fain overthrow, to the writings of its doctors, whom they deride, and to the first principles of a Christian education, which they cannot entirely forget, that they are indebted for their superiority.
Before revealed religion dispelled the mist, reason was overspread with error, in the breasts of the greatest men. It is no more than a bare capacity to be instructed; an engine veering at every breath; equally disposed to minister to vice as well as to virtue, according to the variety and customs of different climates. It did not hinder the Egyptian from worshipping leeks and onions, nor the Athenian, Socrates, from offering a cock to Esculapius.
But is m?n to be debarred the use of his reason, or has he any thing to dread for not believing mysteries he cannot comprehend? Make full use of your reason, not with a design to fall into scepticism, but with a sincere desire to come at the knowledge of the truth. Reason is never better employed than in discovering the will of its author: and when once we discover that it is his will we should believe, reason itself suggests that it is our duty to submit; otherwise we are guilty of rebellion against the first of sovereigns: and to deny his power to punish the disobedience of his creatures, is more than you have attempted.
This important enquiry should be attended with a pure heart and fervent prayer. However a philosopher may laugh at the hint, as Cato would laugh if he met a priest. It was after a fervent prayer Solomon received his wisdom: after a fervent prayer, Cornelius the Centurion, obtained the privi* lege of becoming the first convert from amongst the Gentiles. Even the heathen, Democritus, who figured so much amongst the literati of his time, constantly prayed the Gods to send him good images. Religion would not seem so absurd, the number of free-thinkers would not be so great, if we made it our business to purify the heart, and earnestly to beg of the Divinity to enlighten our understanding. F©r the passions of the heart, and too much confidence in ourselves, pave the way for the errors of the mind. Solomon became dissolute and voluptuous before he fell into idolatry. We ever and always lose our innocence before we laugh at our eatechism.