Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

strated by the gift of languages to the Apostles, which consist of words only.

The best way to confute and expose unbelievers, would be, not to answer their cavils, (which are without end) but to carry the war into the enemy's quarters; to shew plainly what infidelity is, whence it comes, how it maintains itself, &c. See Mafillon Carême III. 277. The History of Infidelity would be a valuable work [beginning with the Heathens, and coming down to apofta. tising Christians.]

Ν Ο Τ Ε.

If Bishop Horne had drawn out these reflections, he would have given us a compleat character of Voltaire, as an enemy to Christianity; which, from such a hand, would have been a choice work, both edifying and entertaining. But as no such thing is found among his manuscripts, the Editor of these Extracts has attempted a fetch, from his own knowledge of that author's writings.

The reason of Voltaire was to right reason what a monkey is to a man. The gesticulations of that animal provoke even a wise man to laughter; 'while his head at the same time is filled with mischief, and his heart is incapable of any one good affection. He had an imagination which inclined him to the writing of plays: his mind is therefore always upon a stage, and his object is to catch the attention of an audience rather by mimickry than by fense and argument. With a strong disposition to evil, he was no friend to restraint of any kind : so he abhorred all law but the law of liberty, which is no law; and all governınent but the government of equality, which is no government: and as religion is the support both of law and government, he hated that worst of all. He affected a great abhorrence of persecution, and recommended universal toleration ; only with design to let evil loose among mankind; of which it required not half his wit to see the consequence, Give equal liberty to a tyger and twenty sheep: the sheep will all perish by degrees, and the tyger will thrive and fatten upon their blood. But he had a farther end in his affected clemency. He trained his readers to a passion for toleration, that they might take the same dislike with himself to the justice of God in the holy Scripture; which justice he has frequently are

faigned as intolerant; while he artfully imputes its operations to the bigotry and malignity of the Jews. He views the Hebrew nation only on one side, to pick out their faults, and make them odious ; that when he has brought you to despise their characters, you may despise their laws and religion with them. If the people of God have an enemy, Voltaire always finds in that enemy something congenial with himself. He therefore takes part with the Egyptians against the Jews, with the Heathens, against the Chrif. tians, with the Sectaries against the Church, with the Heretics against the Scripture, and with Atheists against God; having ex-, pressly defended the Atheist Vanini. He is as fond of levelling in learning as in politics. By making unjust associations, and putting things good and bad together, he leaves no value nor fuperiority in any thing. The Bible makes known to us the existence of angels: but what then? Kings had their couriers; so men thought they could do no less than give them to their deities. Mercury and Iris were the mesfengers of Heathenism; the Persians had their Peris; the Greeks had their dæmons, &c. In this way, he puts truth and error together, till the mind of an unlearned seader, having no touchstone, is confounded and believes nothing. If Heathens speak with falsehood and malice, he uses their au. thority: if they say nothing, but treat Christianity with contemptuous filence, he uses that also; and thence infers, that the facts of Christianity are of no credit; for had they been true, the Heathens must have known them, and had they known them they must have confessed them.' But why fo? When Mr. Voltaire himself * knew them without confeffing them? See with what.contemptu, pus indifference Feftus, an Heathen, who was upon the spot, at the time when the facts of the Gospel were fresh, speaks of “one “ Jesus who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.” The penmen of the Scriptures, being above all fears and suspicions, make no secret of these things; but shew us without reserve how ignorant and foolish people despised and neglected the Gospel then, as they do now.

Mr. Voltaire is as unfound in his metaphysics as in his divinity. He tells us the belief of the existence of the human soul depends only on revelation : and consequently, when revelation is set aside, man is left without a soul. So far as the soul of man is a subject of philosophy, men dispute about that as about other things. He collects their fophifins and contradictions, and puts them together, till the whole subject appears ridiculous; and in this way

he rids himself of every thing serious; as Bayle, his master, did before him.

He is very copious and frequent as a commentator on the Bible, on which few writers have bestowed more attention : bút his method is this; he takes a passage of the Scripture which he distorts and perverts by every art of misrepresentation; and when he thinks the Chrissian reader is entangled pait recovery, he finishss all with a pious freer" but, there are things we must not look into-God does not write like us weak mortals- his wisdom is surrounded with clouds, obscure and respectable." However, witty as he thinks himself, his wiis often forsakelim, and he talks like a child or an idiot, when he gives his opinion of the doctrines or institutions of Christianity. The full of man, he says, is the plaister we put upon all the maladies of the soul and the body: as if we should say, the fi'l of a man from a ladder, is the plaister we put upon his broken leg. Speaking about baptism, he tells us, “ men who are always governed by their senses, easily imagine, that when the body is washed, the foul is wathed." But this is the very thing, which men who are governed by their senses never did imagine, nor ever can; because the washing of the soul is not an object of sense but of faith. To make light of this sacrament, he feigns absurd difficulties in regard to the administration of it; as, whether a person under necessity in the deserts of Arabia might be baptized with Sand; or, if there were no clear water, whether he might be baptised with muddy water.

Such criticisms as these naturally remind us, that the devil never loved holy water.

It is an undeniable fact, that the world is full of wickedness: but if we complain of it, as arising from the corruption of nature, Ms. Voltaire always finds religion worse than nature. found to eat one another. How savage is the practice! What a disgrace to human nature! But, not at all, says Mr. Voltaire ; it arose from the custom of hunting, and hunting is natural to man. When men have hunted down ftags and bears, they eat them: even fo, when they had hunted down their enemies, how natural to eat them too! But if you hold it absolutely wicked and detestable for man to eat the Aeth of inan, he finds an order for it in the Bible. In Ezek. xxxix. he hears God promising his people, that they shall eat, not only the horses of their enemies, but their enemies themselves, even their horsemen and soldiers: then he adds, cela eft positif. But in the passage he refers to, those words are not addrefled to the people: they are part of a proclamation to every

Men are

feathered fowl and every beast of the field, 'to come and devour the flesh of the flain.

The man who does not see the wisdom of God in the Bible, can never be expected to see much of his providence in the affairs of this world: he is accordingly very ingenious in his ways of evading it. There is an accursed malady, unknown to the Heathens of antiquity, with which Christians are visited for their wickedness; and dreadful havock it makes among the species. He that can impute all this to chance, might as well believe that gibbets grow naturally out of the brakes upon Hounslow-heath. But Mr. Voltaire proves it never could be intended for a judgment, because it first began in some small islands, where men and women lived together in perfect simplicity and innocence. Where and froin whom he learned this piece of history, he does not tell us : but we may suppose, it was where he learned to read the prophet Ezekiel.

The religion of Mr. Voltaire, by which I mean his fpeculations about the Deity (for he had no other) was, as nearly as we can discover, the fame with that of the Atheist Vanini. Matter being animated with immaterial qualities, this animation of the world is the Deity; and man is a part of the animated mass, with nothing withinside of him distinct from the animation of his body.' Life is but as the active force of any other piece of machinery: which, as it was nothing before we were born, will be nothing after we are dead. Which doctrine he thus illuftrates: Vulcan, as Horner relates, made certain tripods, which had a motion of their own upon their wheels, and came and went of themselves as occasion required. But, says he, Vulcan would have been reckoned a mean artist, if he had been obliged to put a little blacksmith withinside to move his tripods. In like manner, man being but a perfect piece of machinery, there is no need of a soul, like the petite personne within the tripod, to give him motion; and it is a reflection upon the Deity to suppose it.

As to the learning of Voltaire, it was nothing extraordinary: he had the way of making a great figure with a little. He affected universality ; but it does not appear that he was deep in any one science: and though he was a ready poet, his mind was either too vitiated, or too narrow, to comprehend the sublimities of our Shakespeare, whom he held in utter contempt; and was therefore himself no true genius. He had a great and quick flow of words; he could put a high varnish upon shallow sense; by · which the eyes of his readers are dazzled, as by a picture purposely placed in a false light : he had the dexterity of a juggler in con founding the distinctions of good and evil; and giving to truth the appearance of falsehood. Before he died, he had a foretatte of the success of his writings; and, with the absurance of a pro. phet, foretold that Age of Reason and illumination, which is now

come.

As Simon the Sorcerer is faid to have bewitched the people of Samaria, and deceived them into a high opinion of his own power and wisdom; so have the works of Voltaire unchristianed the French nation, and produced all the horrors of their revolutione, Try his principles by the effects of them. His tender love of tolesation has ended in a worse than Decian perfecution : his liberty has generated' a tyranny more absolute and cruel than that of Turkey or Algiers; his declamations against kings, as the enemies of peace, have produced such tumults and wars as never were known, and have nearly put the whole world into arms. This is the man, of whom the present philosophers of France now boast, that his writings have prevailed to the extirpation of Christianity. Twelve Apoitles, they say, were necessary to propagate it, but one Voltaire was sufficient to overthrow it. But how little du they see into the merits of the cause! The Gospel is a system of faith; contrary to the wisdom of man, which is without faith ; and its principles are so subversive of his passions and prejudices, that his Dature will not yield to arguments; and it was therefore found neceflary to overpower, and take his reason captive, by the force of miracles, before he could be prevailed upon to receive it: and the belief of its doctrines has been fupported in the world from that day to this by the belief of its miracles. Let but this belief be removed, and man falls back naturally into his old corruption. Christianity had drawn him forcibly up hill; but his own gravity carries hiin down again ; or, if the hand of man is wanting to set him agoing, a very weak hand will be sufficient. When a candle burns, and gives light to a house, many wonderful Things contribute to the plıænomenon. The fat of an animal is the work of the Creator ; or, the wax of the bee, is made by his teaching; the wick is from the vegetable wool of a singular exotic irce; much labour of man is concerned in the composition ; and the elements that inflame it are those by which the world is governed. But after all this apparatus, a child or a fool may put it out; and then boast that the family are left in darkness, and are running against one another. Such is the mighty achievement of Mr. Voltaire; but with this difference, that what is real darkness is called illumination : and there is no other between the two cases.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »