Page images

"Wherever society is established, there it is necessary to have religion for religion, which watches over the crimes that are secret, is, in fact, the only law which a man carries about with him; the only one which places the punishment at the side of the guilt; and which operates as forcibly in solitude and darkness as in the broad and open face of day." Would the reader have thought it? These are the words of Voltaire !*

Nothing is more common than for deistical writers to level their artillery against the Christian ministry. Under the appellation of priests, they seem to think themselves at liberty to load them with every species of abuse. That there are great numbers of worldly men who have engaged in the Christian ministry, as other worldly men engage in other employments, for the sake of profit, is true; and where this is the case, it may be expected that hunting, gaming, and such kind of amusements, will be their favourite pur. suits, while religious exercises will be performed as a piece of necessary drudgery. Where this is the case, "their devotion must be feigned, and their seriousness mere hypocrisy and grimace." But, that this should be represented as a general case, and that the ministry itself should be reproached on account of the hypocrisy of worldly men, who intrude themselves into it, can only be owing to malignity. Let the fullest subtraction be made of characters of the above description, and I appeal to impartial observation whether there will not still remain in only this particular order of Christians, and at almost any period, a greater number of serious, upright, disinterested, and benevolent persons, than could be found among the whole body of Deists in a succession of centuries.

It is worthy of notice, that Mr. Hume, in attempting to plunge Christian ministers into the mire of reproach, is obliged to descend himself, and to drag all mankind with him, into the same situation. He represents ministers as "drawn from the common mass of mankind, as people are to other employments, by the views of profit ;" and suggests that "therefore they are obliged, on many occasions, to feign more devotion than they possess," which is


* In Sullivan's Survey of Nature.


friendly to hypocrisy.

The leading motives of all public officers, it seems is to aggrandize themselves. If Mr. Hume had accepted of a station under government, we can be at no loss, therefore, in judging what would have been his predominant principle. How weak, as well as wicked, must that man have been, who, in order to wound the reputation of one description of men, could point his arrows against the integrity of all! But the world must forgive him. He had no ill design against them, any more than against himself. It was for the purpose of destroying these Philistines, that he has aimed to demolish the temple of human virtue.

Nor is his antipathy, or that of his brethren, at all to be wondered at. These are the men who, in every age, have exposed the sophistry of Deists, and vindicated Christianity from their malicious aspersions. It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that they will always be considered as their natural enemies. It is no more a matter of surprise that they should be the objects of their invective, than that the weapons of nightly depredators should be pointed against the watchmen, whose business it is to detect them and expose their nefarious practices.


After all Mr. Hume pretends to respect clergymen, who are set apart by the laws to the care of sacred matters ;" and wishes to be understood as directing his censures only against priests, or those who pretend to power and dominion, and to a superior sanctity of character, distinct from virtue and good morals. It should seem then, that they are dissenting ministers only that incur Mr. Hume's displeasure: but if, as he represents them, they be "drawn to their employment by the views of profit," they certainly cannot possess the common understanding of men, since they could scarcely pursue an occupation less likely to accomplish their design. The truth is, Mr. Hume did not mean to censure dissenting ministers only; nor did he feel any respect for clergymen set apart by the laws. Those whom he meant to spare were such clergymen as were men after his own heart; and the objects

[ocr errors]

* Essay on National Characters, Note.

+ Essays Moral and Political, Essay XII. pp. 107, 108, Note.

of his dislike were truly evangelical ministers, whether churchmen or dissenters, who were not satisfied with his kind of morality, but were men of holy lives, and consequently were respected by the people. These are the men against whom the enmity of Deists has ever been directed. As to other priests, they have no other difference with them than that of rivalship, wishing to possess their wealth and influence, which the others are not always the most willing to relinquish. In professing, however, to "respect" such clergymen, Mr. Hume only means to flatter them, and draw them on to a little nearer alliance with his views. Respect is excited only by consistency of character and is frequently involuntary. A clergyman of loose morals may be preferred, and his company courted, but repected he cannot be.

[ocr errors]

As to those ministers against whom Mr. Hume levels his artillery, and against whom the real enmity of his party has always been directed, there is not a body of men in the world, of equal talents and industry, who receive less, if so little, for their labours. If those who have so liberally accused them of interested motives gained no more by their exertions than the accused, they would not be so wealthy as many of them are.

Compare the conduct of the leading men among Deists, with that of the body of serious Christian divines. Amidst their declamamations against priestly hypocrisy, are they honest men? Where is their ingenuousness in continually confounding Christianity and Popery? Have these workers of iniquity no knowledge? No,' say some, they do not understand the difference between genuine and corrupted Christianity. They have never had opportunity of viewing the religion of Jesus in its native dress. It is popish superstition against which their efforts are directed. If they understood Christianity they would embrace it.. Indeed? And was this the case with Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Hume, or Gibbon? or is this the case with Paine? No, they have both seen and hated the light; nor will they come to it, lest their deeds should be made manifest.

It may be thought, however, that some excuse may be made for Infidels residing in a popish country; and this I shall not dispute, as it respects the ignorant populace, who may be carried away by

their leaders; but as it respects the leaders themselves, it is otherwise. The National Assembly of France, when they wished to counteract the priests, and to reject the adoption of the Roman Catholic faith as the established religion, could clearly distinguish between genuine and corrupted Christianity.* Deists can distinguish between Christianity and its abuses, when an end is to be answered by it; and when an end is to be answered by it, they can, with equal facility, confound them.

"Herbert, Hobbes, Shaftesbury, Woolston, Tindal, Chubb, and Bolingbroke, are all guilty of the vile hypocrisy of professing to love and reverence Christianity, while they are employed in no other design than to destroy it. Such faithless professions, such gross violations of truth, in Christians, would have been proclaimed to the universe by these very writers, as infamous desertions of principle and decency. Is it less infamous in themselves? All hypocrisy is detestable; but I know of none so detestable as that which is coolly written, with full premeditation, by a man of talents, assuming the character of a moral and religious instructor. Truth is a virtue perfectly defined, mathematically clear, and completely understood by all men of common sense. There can be no haltings between uttering truth and falsehood; no doubt, no mistakes, as between piety and enthusiasm, frugality and parsimony, generosity and profusion. Transgression, therefore, is always a known, definite, deliberate villainy. In the sudden moment of strong temptation, in the hour of unguarded attack, in the flutter and trepidation of unexpected alarm, the best man may, perhaps, be surprised in to any sin: but he who can coolly, of steady design, and with no unusual impulse, utter falsehood, and vend hypocrisy, is not far from finished depravity."

"The morals of Rochester and Wharton need no comment. Woolston was a gross blasphemer. Blount solicited his sister-inlaw to marry him, and being refused, shot himself. Tindal was originally a Protestant, then turned Papist, then Protestant again, merely to suit the times; and was at the same time infamous for vice in general, and the total want of principle. He is said to

* Mirabeau's Speeches, Vol. II. pp. 269-274.


have died with this prayer in his mouth, If there be a God, I desire that he may have mercy on me.' Hobbes wrote his Leviathan to serve the cause of Charles I. but finding him fail of success, he turned it to the defence of Cromwell, and made a merit of this fact to the usurper; as Hobbes himself unblushingly declared to Lord Clarendon. Morgan had no regard to truth, as is evident from his numerous falsifications of scripture, as well as from the vile hypocrisy of professing himself a Christian in those very writings in which he labours to destroy Christianity. Voltaire, in a Letter now remaining, requested his friend D'Alembert to tell for him a direct and palpable lie, by denying that he was the author of the Philosophical Dictionary. D'Alembert, in his answer, informed him that he had told the lie. Voltaire has, indeed, expressed his own moral character perfectly in the following words: 'Monsieur Abbe, I must be read, no matter whether I am believed or not.' He also solemnly professed to believe the Catholic religion, although at the same time he doubted the existence of a God. Hume died as a fool dieth. The day before his death he spent in a pitiful and affected unconcern about this tremendous subject, playing at whist, reading Lucian's Dialogues, and making silly attempts at wit, concerning his interview with Charon, the heathen ferry-man of Hades."*

Collins, though he had no belief in Christianity, yet qualified himself for civil office by partaking of the Lord's supper. Shaftesbury did the same: and the same is done by hundreds of Infidels to this day. Yet these are the men who are continually declaiming against the hypocrisy of priests! Godwin is not only a lewd. character, by his own confession; but the unblushing advocate of lewdness. And as to Paine, he is well known to have been a profane swearer, and a drunkard. We have evidence upon oath that "religion was his favorite topic when intoxicated;"† and from the scurrility of the performance, it is not improbable that he was frequently in this situation while writing his Age of Reason.

* The last two paragraphs are taken from Dr. Dwight's excellent Discourses on The Nature and Danger of Infidel Philosophy, pp. 45-47.

+ See Trial of T. Paine, at Guildhall, for a Libel, &c. p. 43.

« PreviousContinue »