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ing for near a century past to squeeze the roundness of their natural shape into a square form of the same kind ; and that, notwithstanding the many distortions and diseases which this practice was known to occasion, custom had rendered it agreeable among some of the most civilized nations which perhaps the world ever beheld.
What influence has custom over dress, furniture, the arts, and even over moral sentiments ! It requires however to be watched. It should never pervert our sentiments with regard to humanity and religion. To make custom an apology for what is unreasonable and irreligious, is making a bad use of it indeed.
DEISM, DEISTS. NOTWITHSTANDING the repeated at. tacks of infidelity, the Christian has nothing to fear. “Not one in fifty (says Mr. Bogue) of those who call themselves deists or atheists, understand the nature of the religion which they profess to reject. And are these creatures formidable antagonists who disbelieve what they do not understand, because they wish it not to be true? They are a dishonour to any, sect. Besides the alarm has far exceeded reality. I will venture to affirm, without fear of contradiction, that, from the birth of Christ to the present hour, there never was a country where one-fifth part of the people were deists, or where one-tenth part were atheists ; nor a period of twelve years' continuance, when the civil go. vernment was under the influence of either one or the other, or when they persecuted the truth. Su
perstition has slaughtered more victims in a week than deism and atheism have since the hour that Christ expired upon the cross.”
A gentleman was arguing with a deist on the absurdity of rejecting Christianity without exam. ination. He owned that he never knew a person examine the subject who did not afterwards embrace it ; but excused himself from examining, under the plea that to do so was analogous to drinking brandy, which always produced intoxi. cation. "Is it not honourable to Christianity (says the gentleman) to have enemies, who must give up the exercise of their reason before they reject it ?"
The Unhappy Deists. I knew, says one, a jurist and statesman by profession, well learned, and of good parts. He was so well read in the scriptures and divinity in general, that he might have passed for no ordinary theologian. He had, though a speculative unbeliever, maintained several theses with great suc. cess: on the other hand, he could, in his opinion, account for every appearance in nature from a theory of matter and motion; still, with all his belief and unbelief, he frankly confessed to me that he was unhappy. And, being then in a state of celibacy, farther acknowledged, that, “ should he ever change his situation, he was determined never to suffer the secrets of his heart to transpire to his wife and children; that in all externals he would strictly conform to the church;" adding, as one of his philosophical and political reasons, that it was better to be comforted upon a false. ground than to live without any consolation.
The late Lord P- , after he turned deist, took every opportunity to shew his contempt of religion. The clergyman and parishioners of the place where his lordship's seat in Northampton. shire stood, usually passed in sight of the house, in their way to church. At the time of going and returning he generally ordered his children and servants into the hall, for the vile purpose of laughing at and ridiculing them. He pursued this course for some time, but at length drew near the close of life. Upon his dying pillow his views were altered. He found, that, however his former sentiments might suit him in health, they could not support him in the hour of dissolution. When in the cold arms of death, the terrors of the Almighty were upon him. Painful remembrance brought to view ten thousand insults of fered to that God, at whose bar he was shortly to stand; and, conscience strongly impressed with the solemnity of that day, he but too justly feared the God he had insulted would then spurn him to hell. With his mind thus agitated, he cailed to a person in the room, and desired him to go into the library, and fetch “ the cursed book," meaning that which had made him a deist. He went, but returned, saying “ he could not find it.” The nobleman then cried with vehe. mence, “ that he must go again, and look till he found it; for he could not die till it was destroy. ed." The person, having at last found it, gave it into his hands. It was no sooner committed to him, than he tore it to pieces, with mingled horror and revenge, and committed it to the flames. Having thus taken vengeance on the instrument of his own ruin, he soon breathed his last.
The Deist Confounded. A deist on a visit to his friends, among other topics of conversation, was pleased to enlarge con. siderably on the sufficiency of reason, separate from Divine assistance, to guide us to happiness. To whom the relative present, who was a farmer, made the following reply. " Cousin, when you were about 14 years of age, you were bound apprentice to a— , and having served the appoint. ed time, you soon became a master, and have now continued in business about twelve years. I wish to know whether you could not prosecute your trade at this time to greater advantage than when you first embarked in it.” The tradesman admitted that his experience in business was of considerable value to him; but asked “ What re. lation that had to the present topic of discourse ?”. The farmer answered, “You were come to the perfect use of your reason, and have been for a long time taught how to manage your trade; and if, therefore, your reason without experience was insufficient to preserve you from many errors, in so plain and easy a business as your's, how can you imagine that it should be sufficient, without any Divine assistance, to guide you to heaven?" The deist was nonplussed. How forcibly are right words! Job. vi. 25.
It has ofien been a matter of wonder that the principles and reasonings of infidels, though frequenily accompanied with great natural and acquired abilities, are seldom known to make any impression on sober peopie. It is said of a gentleman lately deceased, who was emment in the literary world, that in early life h rank deeply mto the free-thinking scheme. He and one of his companions of the same turn of mind often carried on their conversations in the hearing of a religious but illiterate countryman. This gentleman afterwards becoming a serious christian, was concerned for the countryman, lest his faith in the christian religion should have been shaken. One day he took the liberty to ask him, Whether what had so frequently been advanced in his hearing had not produced this effect upon him? “ By no means,” answered the countryman; “ it never made the least impression upon me.” “ No im. pression upon you!” said the gentleman. “Why, you must know that we had read and thought on these things much more than you had any opportunity of doing." " O, yes," said the other; “but I knew also your manner of living: “I knew that, to maintain such a course of conduct, you found it necessary to renounce christianity.”
If we look at the writings and conduct of the principal adversaries of christianity, we shall form no very favourable opinion of their system as to its moral effects. “ The morals of Rochester and Wharton," says one, “need no comment. Woolston was a gross blasphemer. Blount solicited his sister-in-law 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 infa. mous for vice in general, and the total want of principle. He is said to 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 de· fence of Cromwell, and made a merit of this fact