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Metaphysical mischief is tedious to the trifling, and dull to the lively. Who now reads the "Leviathan ?" Who has not read Candide?" Political Justice," a more recent work, subversive of all religious and social order, was too ponderous to be popular, and too dry to answer the end of general corruption. But when the substance, by that chemical process well known to the preparers of poison, was rubbed down into an amusing novel, then it began to ope rate; the vehicle, though made pleasant, did not lessen the deleterious quality.
In Voltaire, a sentiment that cut up hope by the roots was compressed into a phrase as short as the motto of a ring, and as sparkling as the brilliants which encompass it. Every one can repeat an epigram, and even they who cannot understand, can circulate it. The fashionable laughed before they had time to think; the dread of not being supposed
to have read, what all were reading, stimulated those who read, in order that
they may talk. Little wits came to sharpen their weapons at the forge of this Philistine, or to steal small arms from his arsenal.
The writer of these pages has not forgotten the time when it was a sort of modish competition who could first produce proof that they had received the newest pamphlet from Ferney, by quoting from it; and they were gratified to find that the attributes of intelligence and good taste were appended to their gay studies. Others indulged, with a sort of fearful delight, in the perilous pleasure. Even those who could not read, without indignation, did not wait, without impatience. Each successive work, like the book in the Apocalypse, was "so sweet'
in the mouth," that they forgot to anticipate the bitterness of the digestion. Or, to borrow a more awful illustration from
from the same Divine source, "A star "fell from heaven on the waters, burn"ing like a lamp, and the star was called "Wormwood; and many died of the wa"ters, because they were made bitter." That bright genius, which might have illuminated the world, became a destructive flame, and, like the burning brand thrown by the Roman soldier into the Temple of Jerusalem, carried conflagration into the Sanctuary.
At length, happily for rescuing the principles, but most injuriously for the peace and safety of society, the polished courtier became a furious anarchist. The idol of monarchical France, the equalized associate of the Royal Author of Berlin, changed his political note: the parasite of princes, and the despot of literature, sounded the trumpet of Jacobinism. The political and moral world shook to their foundation. Earth below trembled. Heaven above threatened.
All was insecurity.
security. Order seemed reverting to original chaos. The alarm was given. Britain first awoke, roused by the warning voice of Burke. Enthusiasm was converted into detestation. The horror which ought to have been excited by his impiety was reserved for his democracy. But it was found that he could not subvert thrones with the same impunity with which he had laboured to demolish altars. He gave, indeed, the same impulse to sedition, which he had long given to infidelity, and by his own activity increased the velocity of both. The public feeling was all alive, and his political principles justly brought on his name that reprobation which had been long due to his blasphemies, but which his blasphemies had failed to excite.
Divine Providence seems to have spared him to extreme old age, that by adding one crime more to his long catalogue, his political outrages might coun
teract his moral mischiefs. But his wisdom seems to have been equally shortsighted in both his projects. While the consequences of his designs against the governments of the world, probably outran his intentions, his scheme for the extinction of Christianity, and for the obliteration of the very name of its author, fell short of it. Peace, law, and order are restored to the desolated nations. Kings are reinstated in their rightful thrones, and many of the subjects of the King of Kings, it is hoped, are returned to their allegiance.
The abilities of this powerful but pernicious genius, were not more extraordinary than their headlong, yet diversified His talents took their bent from the turn of the age in which he was cast. His genius was his own, but its determi nation was given from without. He gave impressions as forcibly, as he yielded to them suddenly. It was action and reI 6 action.