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when any man comes forth, in this public manner, to plead the cause of candour and liberality, we are naturally led to admire the generosity of his conduct. And it would be well, if M. de Voltaire was really de. serving of all that credit, which a stranger feels disposed to give him, when he assumes so questionable an appearance. But notwithstanding the praises which this celebrated writer has bestowed upon his own humanity, and in spite of all the beautiful things he has said upon toleration, many ungenerous sentiments may be discovered in his works, which tend to renew the most bloody persecutions. Take an instance or two.
1. “ It is never necessary to rise up against the religion of the prince.” Upon this principle, Jesus Christ and St. Paul were highly worthy of blame for withstanding the hypocrisy and idolatry which composed the religion of Caiaphas and Tiberius.
2. “What is called a Jansenist, is really a madman, a bad citizen, and a rebel. He is a bad citizen, because he troubles the order of the state : he is a rebel, because he disobeys. The Mohinists are madmen of a more harmless kind." These two lovely maxims of toleration are to be found in a little piece of M. de Voltaire's, entitled, The Voice of a Philosopher and the People.
Had the king of France attended to this voice, he would have regarded every Jansenist, and for the same reason, every Protestant, as a bad citizen, or a rebel ; every spark of religious moderation would have been extinguished in his royal bosom, and an effectual door thrown open to the terrible exertions of tyrannical power. These pretended rebels might then have perished, unpitied and unheard; while the bigoted prince, convinced that a man must cease to be a fanatic before he merils toleration, might have gloried in the rectitude of his public conduct. Such a prince might have commanded his blood-thirsty troops to advance under the banners of modern philosophy, leaving M. de Voltaire to animate them against the innocent with, what he calls, The Voice of a Philosopher.
It appears, then, according to M. de Voltaire, that every subject should profess the religion of his prince. Nor is this opinion less earn. extly contended for by J. J. Rousseau, who tells us in his Emilius, that "every daughter should be of her mother's religion, and that every woman should profess the religion of her husband.' So that, if a man should turn from the true, and embrace a false' religion, his wife and children are bound to apostatize with him: and in case of a refusal on
part, J. J. Rousseau, while he affects to plead the cause of liberty, pronounces upon them a sentence of condemnation. Upon these principles of toleration, the father of a family is authorized to persecute his non-conforming wife and children, and a prince may lawfully take up arms against such of his subjects as are esteemed fanatics. If the benevolence and morality of these candid philosophers were to be substitulted in the place of that liberality and love which the Gospel requires, Mark ix, 38, &c, to what a deluge of misery would it give rise, both in families and in commonwealths! Kings would tyrannize over the conscience of their subjects, husbands over that of their wives, and parents over that of their children : nor would the least religious liberty be experienced by any class of men, except the princes of the earth Such
is the imperfect charity, and such the limited freedom, for which modern philosophers have contended, with equal earnestness and approbation.
The dangerous principles of these two oracles, upon the subject of toleration, will suffice to show with how just reason the former of them could say, “I hate false maxims, but I detest evil actions yet more. Alas! the horrible actions of a murdering inquisitor terminate with his life ; but the intolerant doctrines of these reputed sages may continue to scatter misery and death through the world, long after their neglected tombs are mouldered into dust.
CHAPTER III. The great influence of doctrines upon morality. To ascertain the importance of doctrines in general, let us consider the influence that they have upon our conduct. Our duties in life depend upon the different relations we sustain in it; and these relations affect us only as they are understood. Thus, it is necessary that a child should know his father before he can truly love him in that cha. racter. This knowledge is the effect of certain instructions or maxims which influence our manners in proportion as they are assented to. I love the man from whom I have received my birth and education with a particular affection : but such love is founded, first, upon this general doctrine, “ Every child, honourably born, should reverence and love his father,” and, secondly, upon this particular truth, “ That man is my father.” If I am made to doubt of this general doctrine, or of this particular truth, the moral springs of that respect, love, gratitude, and obedience, which are due to my father, will necessarily be weakened; and if either the one or the other should lose all its influence over my heart, my father would then become to me as an indifferent person.
The knowledge, therefore, of the affinities which subsist between one being and another, is essential to morality. Why is it that no traces of morality can be discovered among the beasts of the field ? It is because they are incapable of understanding either the relation in which creatures stand to the Creator, or the affinities which subsist among the creatures themselves. As it becomes the soldier to have a strict knowledge of his officers, that he may render to every one according to his rank the honour and obedience to which they are severally entitled ; so, prepa. ratory to the practice of morality, it behooves us to have a clear perception of our various duties, together with the proper subject of those duties. If some desperate malady has deprived us of this knowledge, we then rank with idiots, and are in no condition to violate the rules of morality. Hence the lunatic, who butchers his father, is not punishable among us as a parricide, because he has no acquaintance with these general maxims, “No man should murder another,-every son should honour his father ;” nor has he any conception of this particular truth, “The man whom thou art about to destroy, is thy father.” Take away all doctrines, and you annihilate all the relations which
rational creatures; you destroy all morality, and reduce man to the condition of a brute beast, allowing him to be influenced by passion and caprice, as the lowest animals are actuated by appetite and
instinct. Admit only some few doctrines, and you admit only a part of your duties as well as your privileges. An example may serve to set this truth in a clear light:-suppose you have a rich father, who is entirely unknown to you, and whom the world has never looked upon as your parent; if you never receive any certain intelligence concerning him, it is plain that you can neither render him filial obedience, nor yet succeed to his estates.
Many philosophers, who cannot reasonably be suspected of fanaticism, or even partiality to evangelical principles, have yet strenuously insisted upon the importance of doctrines, as calculated to influence the conduct of mankind. A polished writer of this class seems to have entertained an idea, that if all men were possessed of an enlightened understanding, crimes of every kind would be unknown in the world. Observe, at least, in what terms he speaks of war, which is an evil of that complex nature, that it may justly be looked upon as an assemblage of every possible vice.
What is the cause of that destructive rage, which, in every period, like a contagious malady, has infected the human race? Ignorance is, undoubtedly, the source of our calamities : ignorance with respect to the relations, rights, and duties of our species. Thus, the most ignorant and unpolished people have ever been the most warlike; and those ages of the world, which have been peculiarly distinguished by darkness and barbarism, have been invariably the most fruitful in murderous wars. Ignorance prepares the way for devastation"; and devastation, in its turn, reproduces ignorance. With a clear knowledge of their rights and their reciprocal duties, which form the true and only interest of nations, it is a contradiction to suppose that those nations would voluntarily precipitate themselves into an abyss of inevitable evils.”* This author, if he be supposed to speak of our relations and duties with respect to God, as well as those which regard our neighbour, had reason on his side; and especially if his views were directed to the knowledge of every powerful motive which should constrain us to fill up those duties.
Upon these principles, of what fatal neglect are those persons guilty, who, being charged with the religious instructions of princes and people, leave both immersed in a deplorable ignorance, which draws after it the horrors of war, with all the various calamities that overspread the face of Christendom!
How the doctrines of the Gospel come in to the succour of morality.
Ir to preach the Gospel is to teach sinners the relations they sustain with respect to God, as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; if it is to announce the advantages which flow from this three-fold relation, till, penetrated with gratitude and love, mankind apply themselves to fulfil the several duties to which they stand engaged; we may challenge the world to point out any knowledge of equal importance with that which is discovered in the Gospel. To deprive us, then, of the doctrines con
* Principes de la Legislation Universelle.
tained in this Gospel, is it not to suppress the most important instructions we can possibly receive, and to conceal from us a testament made wholly in our favour? To decide this question, we shall here consider what influence these doctrines have upon morality.
The virtues of worldly men, as well as their vices, are little else than a kind of traffic carried on by an inordinate self love. From this impure source the most amiable of their actions flow; and hence, instead of referring all things primarily to God, they constantly act with an eye to their own immediate advantage. Christ has offered a remedy to this grand evil, by teaching us, that to love the Deity “ with all our heart” is the “ first commandment” of the law; and that to love ourselves, and “our neighbour as ourselves,” is but a secondary commandment in the sight of God: thus leading us up to Divine love, as the only source of pure virtue. When self love is once reduced to this wholesome order, and moves in exact obedience to the Creator's law, it then becomes truly commendable in man, and serves as the surest rule of fraternal affection.
Evangelical morality ennobles our most ordinary actions, such as those of eating and drinking, requiring that “all things be done to the glory of God,” i Cor. x, 31, i. e. in celebration of his unspeakable bounty. A just precept this, and founded upon the following doctrine : “All things are of God,” 2 Cor. v, 18, to whom, of consequence, they ought finally to refer. If you lose sight of this doctrine, your apparent gratitude is nothing more than a feigned virtue, which has no other motives or ends, except such as originate and lose themselves in self love. In such circumstances you cannot possibly assent to the justice of the grand precept above cited. But holding it up, like the author of the Philosophical Dictionary, as a subject of ridicule, you may perhaps burlesque the feelings of a conscientious man with regard to this command, as the comedian is accustomed to sport with the character of a modest woman. Thus many philosophers are emulating the morality and benevolence of those censorious religionists, concerning whom our Lord significantly declared, “ Verily they have their reward."
How shall we reduce a sinner to moral order? Will it be sufficient to press upon him the following exhortations :--Love God with all thy heart: be filled with benevolence toward all men: do good to your very enemies? All this would be only commanding a rebel to seek happiness in the presence of a prince whose indignation he has justly merited. It would be urging a covetous man to sacrifice his interests, not only to indifferent persons, but to his implacable adversaries. To effect so desirous a change in the human heart, motives and assistance are as absolutely necessary as counsels and precepts.
Here the doctrines of the Gospel come in to the succour of morality. But how shall we sufficiently adore that incomprehensible Being, who has demonstrated to us, by the mission of his beloved Son, that the Divine nature is love? Or, how shall we refuse any thing to this gracious Redeemer, who clothed himself with mortality that he might suffer in our stead? All the doctrines of the Gospel have an immediate tendency to promote the practice of morality. That of the incarnation, which serves as the basis of the New Testament, expresses the benevolence of the Supreme Being in so striking a manner, that every sinner, who cordially receives this doctrine, is constrained to surrender his heart unre.
servedly to God. His servile fear is changed into filial reverence, and his inveterate aversion into fervent love. He is overwhelmed with the greatness of benefits received, and, as the only suitable return for mercies of so stupendous a nature, he sacrifices, at once, all his darling vices. “If the Son of God has united himself to my fallen nature,” such an humble believer will naturally say, “I will not rest till I feel myself united to this Divine Mediator. If he comes to put a period to my misery, nothing shall ever put a period to my gratitude. If he has visited me with the beams of his glory, it shall henceforth become my chief concern to reflect those beams upon all around me, to his everlasting praise."
The memorable sacrifice which was once offered up in the person of Christ, as a propitiation for our sins, is wonderfully calculated to produce the same extraordinary effects. This mysterious offering sets forth the malignity of our offences, and represents the compassion of the Deity in so overpowering a manner, that, while it fills us with horror for sin, it completely triumphs over the obduracy of our hearts. From the moment we come to a real perception of this meritorious sacrifice, from that moment we die to sin, till, “ rising again with Christ” into a new life, Col. iii, 1, we become, at length, wholly " renewed in the spirit of our mind,” Eph. iv, 23. Point out a man who unfeignedly believes in a crucified Saviour, and you have discovered a man who abhors all manner of vice, and in whom every virtue has taken root.
Such a one can thankfully join the whole multitude of the faithful, and say, “ Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom. v, 1, “and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God," v, 2, " we have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto us.” Once, indeed, when we were without the knowledge of Christ, “ we were the servants of sin : but now, being made free from sin, and become servants of God, we have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life,” Rom. vi, 17, 22.
If you ravish from such a man these consoling and sanctifying doctrines, you will leave him either in the stupid insensibility of those who give themselves up to carnal security, or in the perplexity of others, who are crying, “What shall we do to be saved ?" The one or the other of these states must be experienced, in different degrees, by every man who is unacquainted with the efficacy of evangelical doctrines. And if the first moralist (Socrates) of the Pagan world was yet observed to triumph over this stupidity and confusion, it was merely through the regenerating hope he indulged, that a restoring God, of whose internal operations he had already been favoured with some faint perception, would one day afford him a more clear and perfect light.
Containing reflections upon the apostles' creed. For the fullest proof that a strict connection subsists between the doc. trines of the Gospel and the most perfect morality, let us cast our eyes on an assemblage of those doctrines, known by the name of the apostles'