Page images
PDF
EPUB

to offer my incense at the shrine of merit. But the tendency of your performance is to deny the Divinity of Christ, and the immortality of the souh In denying the first, you sap the foundations of religion; you cut off, at one blow, the merit of our faith, the comfort of our hope, and the motives of our charity. In denying the immortality of the foul, you degrade human nature, and confound man with the vile and perishable infect. In denying both, you overturn the whole system of religion, whether natural or revealed. And in denying religion, you deprive the poor of the only "comfort which supports them under their distresses and afflictions; you wrest from the hands of the powerful and rich, the onfy bridle to their in- i justices and passions; and pluck from the hearts of the guilty, the greatest check to their crimes, -—I mean, this remorse of conscience, which > can never be the result of a handful of organized matter,—this interior monitor which makes us blush, in the morning, at the disorders of the foregoing night!—which erects in the breast of the tyrant, a tribunal superior to his power,—and whose importunate voice upbraids a Cain, in the wilderness, with the murder of his brother,—and a Nero, in his palace, with that of his mother. Such the consequences naturally resulting from the principles laid down in your writings.

It

ft is no intention of mine to fasten the odium of wilful infidelity on any person, who professes his belief of the scriptures; though I am equally concerned and surprized that a gentleman, whose understanding has been enlightened by the Christian revelation, and enlarged by all the aids of human learning, should broach tenets, which equally militate against the first principles of reason, and the oracles of the Divinity, and whichjf true would be of no service to mankind. Whoever is so unhappy as to work himself into a conviction, that his foul is no more than a subtile vapour, which in death' is to be breathed out into the air, to mix confusedly with its kindred element, and there to perish, would still do well to conceal his horrid belief with more secrecy than the Druids concealed their mysteries. In doing otherwise he only brings disgrace on himself; for the notion of religion is so deeply impressed on our minds that the bold champions who would fain destroy' it, are considered by the generality of mankind as public pests, spreading disorder and mortality wherever they appear; and in our feelings we discover the delusions of a cheating Philosophy, which can never introduce a religion more pure than that of the Christians, nor confer a more glorious privilege on man, than that «f an immortal soul. In a word, if it be a crime

to

to have no religion, it is a folly to boast of the want of it.

Whence then this eagerness to propagate systems, the tendency whereof is to slacken the reins that curb the irregularity of our appetites, and restrain the impetuosity of passion? In our dogmatizing philosophers, it must proceed from the corruption of the heart, averse to restraint; or the vanity of the mind, which glories in striking from the common path, and not thinking with the multitude.

Your unspotted character, justifies you from any imputation of a design to infect others with the poison of a licentious doctrine: but vanity is one of those foreign ingredients, blended by the loss of original justice into our nature. It prefers glorious vices to obscure virtues. It animates the hero to extend his conquests at the expense of justice; and stimulates the philosopher to erect the banners of error on the ruins of truth. You seem to acknowledge it in your enquiries into the causes of error: " It was vaV nity in philosophers which caused so many "different sects and systems." I believe it. Montaigne was of the fame opinion. Immersed in an ocean of disorders, glorying in appearance, in an utter extinction of remorse, and conversant with the doctrine taught in Epicurus's garden, he acknowledges that vanity induces

iuces Pree-thinkers to affect more impiety than they are really capable of. Lucretius in like manner, whose arguments against the immortality of the foul are the same with yours, corroborates your opinion, relative to the biass vanity gives those soaring and philosophical geniuses, who strike from the trodden path. When in glowing numbers he enforced his fond opinion of careless Gods and material souls, as favourable to the calm repose which the voluptuous bard, who makes his invocation to Venus, would fain enjoy without remorse here, or punishment hereafter, he was well aware that his doctrine clashed with the general sense of mankind. But the philosophical poet consoles himself, with the flattering expectation of gratifying his vanity. %

"Tis sweet to crop fresh flowers, and get a crown, « For new and rare inventions of my own."

Creech's Lucretius.

In a word, some men of learning plume themselves upon the singularity of their opinions; and however they may disclaim vanity, as the spring of their literary performances, yet it is one of those ingredients which gives a zest to their compositions. And if singularity and novelty of invention, be stimulatives to selflove, few authors of the age are more bound to guard against this dangerous and agreeable poisons son, than the author of the Thoughts on nature and

religion.

To range those singularities under their proper heads, is almost impossible; and modesty does not permit to transcribe from your book several passages of your allegorical commentary, on the second chapter of Genesis. The coat of skins, then, with -which God covered the man and woman after their fall, as well as the fruit so pleasing to the eye, which the woman tasted, I leave the Doctor in full possession of. He is a married man, and (killed in the anatomy of all parts of the body*.

After giving his readers the important information, that Adam was displeased with his wife, for inducing him to a faux pas, which I believe no married man (except Adam, if we believe the Doctor) ever scrupled, he allegorizes some of the rest of the chapter in the following manner: "God planted a garden eastward in "Eden," fays the inspired writer, "and there ** he put them an whom he had formed". "What "Is called a garden," says the Doctor,** I take "to be the human mind. By the river which "watered the garden, and afterwards divided u into four branches, is meant innocence di

"vided

• The Rabbins never composed such a shocking commentary. Modest ignorance is preferable to licentious l«arning.

« PreviousContinue »