Page images

maigned as intolerant; while he artfully imputes its operations to the bigotry and malignity of the Jews. He views the Hebrew nation only on one lide, 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 fomething congenial with himself. He therefore takes part with the Egyptians against the Jews, with the Heathens against the Chriscians, with the Sectaries against the Church, with the Heretics against the Scripture, and with Atheists against God; having expressly defended the Atheist Vanini. He is as fond of levelling in learning as in poli.ics. By making unjust associations, and putting things good and bad together, he leaves no value '

nor superiority in any thing. The Bible makes known to us the existence of angels: but what then? Kings had their couriers ; fo men thought they could do no less than give them to their deities. Mercury and Iris were the messengers 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 reader, having no touchstone, is confounded and believes nothing. If Heathens speak with falsehood and malice, he uses their authority: if they say nothing, but treat Christianity with contemptuous silence, 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 so? When Mr. Voltaire himself knew them without confessing them? See with what contemptu. ous 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 fufpicions, 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 fubject of philofophy, men difpute about that as about other things. He collects their sophisins 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 : but 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 Christian reader is entangled past recovery, he finishss all with a pious sneer—" but, these 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 wits often forsake him, and he talks like a child or an idiot, when he gives his opinion of the doctrines or institutions of Christianity. The fall of man, he says, is the plaistewe put upon all the maladies of the soul and the body: as if we'fhould say, the fall of a man from a ladder, is the plaister we put upon his broken leg. Speaking about baptisın, he tells us, “ men who are always governed by their senses, easily imagine, that when the body is washed, the foul is washed.” 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 facrament, 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, Mr. 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 so, 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 flesh 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 est positif. But in the passage he refers to, those words are not addressed to the people: they are part of a proclaination to every

Men are

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

The man who does not see the wisdom of God in the Bible, can never be expected to fee 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 illustrates: 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 fublimities 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


[ocr errors]

placed in a false light : he had the dexterity of a juggler in confounding the distinctions of good and evil; and giving to truth the appearance of falsehood. Before he died, he had a foretalte of the success of his writings; and, with the allurance of a prophet, foretold that Age of Reason and illumination, which is now

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; fo have the works of Voltaire unchristianed | the French nation, and produced all the horrors of their revolution,

Try his principles by the effects of them. His tender love of toleration has ended in a worse than Decían persecution : his liberty has generated a tyranny more absolute and cruel than that of Turkey or Algiers; his 'declamations againit king3, 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 bɔaft, that his writings have prevailed to the extirpation of Christianity. Twelve Apostles, they say, were necessary to propagate it, but one Voltaire was sufficient to overthrow it. But how little do they see into the merits of the cause! The Gofpel 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 nature will not yield to arguments; and it was therefore found Fieceffary 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 cor. ruption. Christianity had drawn him forcibly up hill; but his own gravity carries him 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 plænomenon. The fat of an animal is the work of the Creator ; ory the wax of the bee, is made by his teaching; the wick is from the vegetable wool of a fingular exotic tree ; 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

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.

may put

[ocr errors][merged small]



HIS practice is unreasonable upon all accounts. It is need

lefs, because mild words will express the same thing full as well, and to better purpose. It is commonly unjuft

, loading men with more blame than it can be proved that they deserve ; for every man who thinks wrong, is not a fool, nor is every man who acts wrong a rogue. It is uncharitable, as making the worst of every thing, and shewing no mercy. It is mischievous, as exciting the most pernicious of passions, and so becoming answerable for their effects. Upon the bench, it turns justice into abuse; in the pulpit, it turns zeal into animosity; in the mouth of a friend, it turns reproof into malignity. In disputation, it is prejudicial to the speaker, inflaming his own paflions, fo that he cannot make the best of his arguments. It is prejudicial to the hearer, because arguments, cven when made the best of, yet so proposed, will never be admitted by him, unless he be a prodigy indeed of candour and ineekness. It is prejudicial to truth, because strength of passion is generally thought to indicate in an advocate a distrust of his cause, and a fcarcity of proof. It is a practice given into fometimes through sudden anger; sometimes through inveterate katred; sometime through revenge for an injury received ; fometimes through self-conceit and contempt of others; sometimes through envy; sometimes through ambition and interest ; fometimes through mere malignity, to cherish a cacoëthes of this kind, either inbred or acquired by custom ; sometimes out of wantonness, and sometimes through negligence and inadvertency. It is directly opposite to the very nature and tenour of our religion ; it is expressly condemned and prohibited by it as evil. No practice hath severer punishments denounced against it; it is in itself the fymptom of a weak, distempered, and disordered mind; a stream flowing from a bitter spring; a black smoke isfuing from a volcano; it is the sure sign of a mean spirit, and low breeding; all wise, honest, and ingenuous persons detest and fly from him that

« EelmineJätka »