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ON THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF INFIDELITY.
HAVE already alluded to the spread
tailed notice. It is fearful to contemplate the excess of wickedness to which God sometimes permits his enemies to proceed. One can hardly imagine that any human being in his senses, who was born in a Christian land, and who had been baptised and educated in a Christian Church, could be so far transported by his passions as to declare himself the enemy of Jesus Christ! The heart trembles at the very notion of such blasphemy. But that a man should, for nearly seventy years, devote himself to the extirpation of Christianity; to the destruction of that faith which alone consoles man amidst his afflictions and his fears; to the extinction of every principle of virtue and morality, and the inculcation of general depravity,-this opens to our view a deeper gulf of human guilt than even the records of Scripture supply, or the imagination could have conceived. Such was VOLTAIRE; a man whose private life was defiled by the grossest immorality, and whose heart burned with such a demoniacal hatred of HIM who came down from heaven and voluntarily sacrificed himself on the cross for the salvation of sinners, that he adopted as his watchword on all occasions those awful words, "Ecrasez l'infame!"-CRUSH THE WRETCH! that is, "Crush Christ; crush the Christian religion!" Such was the language and the feeling of that organised band
of infidels, who in the earlier part of last century associated in the impious attempt to subvert Christianity.
England had been already disgraced by the writings of some unbelievers; but the works of Herbert and Bolingbroke, of Collins and Tindal, had produced little effect on the good sense and religious principles of the English nation. The clergy effectually exposed their errors, and they became the objects of popular hatred; but they were unhappily destined to find a more congenial soil in France.
Voltaire was born in Paris in 1694, and lived to the age of eighty-four, dying in the year 1778. He was endowed with great natural abilities, quickness, versatility, wit; with a remarkable power of sarcasm; and a pointed, easy, and fluent style, which was unrestrained by any principles of truth or decency. While he was at college, he manifested so sceptical a spirit, that his preceptor one day said to him, "Unfortunate young man, at some future time you will become the standard-bearer of infidelity." After he had left college, he associated only with persons of infamous morals; and having published some infidel opinions, which gave offence to the ruling powers of France, he retired to England, where he became acquainted with several unbelievers like himself. Here he formed his resolution to destroy Christianity; and on his return to Paris, in 1730, he made no secret of his design and his hopes. "I am weary," he would say, "of hearing people repeat that twelve men were sufficient to establish Christianity. I will prove that one may suffice to overthrow it."
In order to accomplish his design, Voltaire found it necessary to obtain the assistance of several coadjutors of these D'Alembert was the chief.
was remarkable for his crafty cunning, which enabled him to insinuate infidelity in the most plausible and least offensive manner. His expressions were generally moderate; while Voltaire used to express his wish that he might "die on a heap of Christians immolated at his feet." Another associate was Frederick II., king of Prussia, a great general and statesman, but a shallow philosopher. He was in continual correspondence with Voltaire-complimented him on being the "scourge of religion"-and plotted for its destruction. Diderot was another coadjutor of Voltaire, who with D'Alembert devoted themselves even till death to the pursuit of their unhallowed design.
I have already spoken of the watchword of this association, the object of which was the overthrow of every altar where Christ was worshipped. It was not merely the Gallican or Roman doctrine which was marked out for destruction. In the latter part of his career, Voltaire exulted at the dissemination of Hume's infidel principles in England, and at the prospect of the fall of the Church of England, exclaiming with delight, that " in London Christ was spurned." On another occasion, he rejoiced that "in Geneva, Calvin's own town," but few believers remained.
Voltaire invited men to forsake their religion by promising them liberty of thought. He declared, that "nothing was so contemptible and miserable in his eyes, as to see one man have recourse to another in matters of faith, or to ask what he ought to believe." Reason, liberty, and philosophy, were continually in the mouths of Voltaire and D'Alembert. Their adherents represented them as devoutly waiting for those days when the sun should shine only on free men, acknowledging no other master but their own reason." Voltaire had but little of
the spirit of martyrdom: his continual exhortation to the conspirators was, to " strike, but conceal their hands; that is, to write anonymously. "The monster" (Christianity), he said, "must fall, pierced by a hundred invisible hands; yes, let it fall beneath a thousand repeated blows." In accordance with this advice, the press swarmed with anonymous publications of the most impious character. The principal mode of propagating infidelity was the publication of the celebrated Encyclopedia, of which D'Alembert was the editor, and which was to contain so perfect an assemblage of all the arts and sciences, as to render all other books superfluous. The utmost caution was used in insinuating infidel principles, lest the design should be detected, and crushed by the hand of power. All the principal articles on religion were written in such a manner as to avoid offence; while by means of references at the conclusion of each, the reader was directed to places where open infidelity was taught. Irreligion and atheism were inculcated even in articles on chemistry, or other sciences, where their existence could not be suspected.
When this work was completed, it obtained an immense circulation. Numberless editions were printed, in each of which, under pretence of correction, more impiety was introduced. In one of these, a respectable and learned divine, M. Bergier, was persuaded into writing the part which treated of religion, lest it should fall into the hands of unbe lievers; but it was easy to foresee what actually happened his name conferred respectability on the book, while all its other articles teemed with the most dreadful impiety and blasphemy.
Infidelity now rapidly spread through France, and through every part of the continent of Europe; several of the crowned heads were more or less fa
vourable. The Empress of Russia, the Kings of Prussia, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and all the princes of Germany, were either admirers of Voltaire or avowed infidels. The abominable licentiousness of the court of France assisted the conspiracy: the French ministry, tainted with infidelity, refused to put the laws in force for the suppression of blasphemous, infidel, and immoral publications, which now issued in a flood from the press. The most eminent scientific men, and the most popular writers of France, such as Buffon, Lalande, Marmontel, Rousseau, were unbelievers. It is awful to contemplate the excess of wickedness at which these men had arrived. The history of this time relates, that "above all the adepts did a fiend named Condorcet hate the Son of God. At the very name of the Deity the monster raged! And it appeared as if he wished to revenge on Heaven the heart it had given him." Infidelity had widely spread among the higher orders; it was now to be disseminated amongst the lowest. Infidel and blasphemous tracts were printed in myriads, and circulated profusely in all parts. Diderot and D'Alembert disputed on Christianity in the coffee-rooms of Paris; and the pretended advocate of Christianity took care always to be defeated.
It is lamentable to add, that the clergy of the Roman communion were not universally to be found on the side of Christianity. The ecclesiastical patronage of the state, indeed, was too often exercised for the subversion of religion. The Abbé Barruel observes, with reference to France, that "the enemies of the Church possessed themselves of its avenues, to prevent the preferment of those whose virtues or learning they dreaded. When the bishops wished to repel an unworthy member, Choiseul, the infidel minister, replied, such are the men we want