Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

in the fourteenth century) by Moreri, and particularly the epitaph upon him, which he recites, there is reason to believe that he was an infidel of the worst species; and Wiret, a divine of great eminence among the first reformers, who wrote about the year 1563, speaks of a number of persons, both in France and Italy, who had assumed the name of Deists, and seem to have formed themselves into a sect. But it was not till the beginning of the following century, that any men of that description, or any publications hostile to Revelation, appeared in this kingdom. From that time indeed down to the present, there has been a regular succession of anti-christian writers of various descriptions and various talents, whose uniform object has been to subvert the foundations of revealed religion, and to make their countrymen offend, and renounce their faith. The last of these was a man, who from the lowest origin, raised himself to some distinction in the political

and literary world, by his bold and impious

libels against government, against religion, and the holy Scriptures themselves. In these writings were concentrated all the

malignity, all the shrewdness, all the so

phistry of his numerous predecessors; and from their brevity, their plainness, their familiarity, their vulgar ribaldry, their bold assertions, and artful misrepresentations, they were better calculated to impose on the ignorant and uninformed, and more dangerous to the principles of the great mass of mankind, than any publications that this country ever before produced. And certain it is, that having been distributed with infinite industry through every district of the kingdom, they did for a time diffuse their poison far and wide, and made a strong and fatal impression on the multitude. But, thanks be to God they at length providentially met with talents infinitely superior to those of their illiterate author, which, with the blessing of Heaven upon them, gave a sudden and effectual check to the progress of this mischief, and afforded a - striking striking proof of the truth of that prophecy respecting the stability of our religion, “that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.” The next great engine of offence, by which multitudes have been led to renounce their faith, is ridicule. An attempt was made early in the last century to erect this into a test of truth, and it has accordingly been applied by many writers since that time to throw discredit on the Christian revelation. But by no one has this weapon been employed with more force and with more success than by the great patriarch of infidelity, Voltaire. It is the principal instrument he makes use of to vilify the Gospel; and among the instructions he gives to his coadjutors and fellow-labourers in this righteous work, one is to load the Christian religion and the Author of it with never-ceasing ridicule, to burlesque it in every way that imagination can suggest, and to deluge the world with an infinity of little tracts, placing Revelation in the most ludicrous point

[ocr errors]

point of view, and rendering it an object of mirth and of contempt to the lowest of mankind. This method he strictly pursued himself; to this he bent all the powers of his mind, all the vivacity of his wit, all the fire of his imagination; and whoever examines his writings against Christianity with care, will find that much the largest part of them are of this description. And in this he showed a thorough knowledge of the world. He knew that mankind in general prefer wit to logic, and love to be entertained rather than convinced; that it is much easier to point an epigram than to produce an argument; that few can reason justly, but that all the world can be made to laugh; and that whatever can be rendered an object of derision, is almost sure to be rejected without examination. Of all these artifices he has availed himself with infinite address, and we know also with fatal success. His writings have unquestionably produced more infidels among the higher classes, and spread more general corrup

tion

tion over the world, than all the voluminous productions of all the other philosophists of Europe put together. There is still another way of making our brother to offend, or in other words of shaking his faith in the Gospel; and that is by exhibiting to mankind in our life and conversation a profligate example. This, in the first place, gives the world an unfavourable idea of the religion we profess. It tempts men to think either that we ourselves do not believe it, or that we suppose it consistent with the vices to which we are abandoned; and either of these suppositions must considerably lessen their estimation both of its doctrines and its precepts. In the next place a wicked example, as we all know, tends to corrupt in some degree every one that lives within its baneful influence; more particularly if it be found in men of high rank, great wealth, splendid talents, profound erudition, or popular characters. The mischief done by any notorious vices in men of

Vol. II. G this

« FöregåendeFortsätt »