صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

formation of superstition, the establishment of sound principles in commerce, in politics, in science, and above all in religion, seemed from that hour as it were involved in the stream of time; and if we have many a conflict to wage in the turbulence of the intermediate stages, if the evils of growing knowledge crowd upon us, we feel assured that our toil will be substantially rewarded at the last.

The age of reason is not what it has sometimes been termed in the glossy nomenclature of an half emancipated people: it is not the time when flippant phrases and specious generalities are used to cajole our thoughts and divert us from ourselves-it is the day of the triumph of fairness of argument, of unprejudiced, disinterested equity of judgment—it is the day when the clear and open vision shall not belong to the wise and learned of the earth alone; but when all shall have their prospects plain, and shall find the secrets of truth unveiled on every side-it is the day we hope shall beam upon us, when the misty uncertainties of the present hour shall have passed away.



The Enemies of all Religions-D'Alembert-The Justice of God-Future Punishments-Whether inflicted upon the Ignorant-Good and Evil-Future Life, &c. &c.

BEFORE We can consider ourselves at liberty to examine the nature of religion in a general view, or to enquire wherefore it is necessary to man; it will be requisite to touch upon a few questions of the modern philosophers which stand in the way, and which will be found to contain, in fact, the common stumbling-blocks of all the indifferents to religion.

The philosophers, it must be premised, have come forward with the hope of destroying not this or that particular form of religion, but, at

[ocr errors]

one fell swoop,' every system of worship which has hitherto commanded respect in any part of the globe. They aim at no less an object than the disproving and denying the existence of any particular Providence or special

revelation; and of exterminating the

very foundation of those awful and mysterious feelings, under the protection of which mankind has so If ever the doctrines of Chris

long reposed tianity seem in particular alluded to, it must be regarded as the mark of no special hostility, but as included in the common mass; unless, perhaps, such a feeling should sometimes have arisen in consequence of its being the religion professed in the country from whence those writers date their labours.

As these positions are for the most part fundamentally the same amongst all the different sects, for such we may call them, of the irreligious, we may consider ourselves authorised to quote them from any one of their known and acknowledged advocates: and as many of the French authors of this description have been translated and circulated amongst our countrymen, we can devise no better course than to refer to them for those passages which may be requisite for the elucidation of our subject.

For the statement of the common argument relative to the justice of God, for example,

and the punishments of a future life, we may have recourse to D'Alembert, one of the compilers of the well-known French Encyclopedia, the cotemporary and fellow-labourer of Voltaire. An extract from his writings on this subject was published some little time since in London, and placarded about the streets, under the title of Hell destroyed. It will scarcely be held worth while, by those at least who may have seen this essay, to follow him exactly step by step throughout; but we will endeavour to avoid the tediousness as well as the confusion of his method, by calling forth, as fairly as we can, the stronger and more marked features of the argument.

If God is a just being, D'Alembert informs us, he will not punish sinners for faults which it was not in their power to avoid; but he should, consonantly with all ideas of justice, furnish men with intelligence and means sufficient to avoid the commission of those sins which he means to punish. We may quote the words of this pamphlet:

“In the first place it is evident that God has not given these lights to all men, for some re

gard as enormous sins what others look upon as trifles; some attach the greatest importance and even their eternal salvation to things which others think puerile, ridiculous, and perhaps abominable.

"To prove to what a pitch these contradictory opinions have been carried, a few examples will suffice.

"Among the Tartars of Gengis-khan, it was a sin and even a capital crime to put a knife into the fire; to lean upon one's whip; to strike a horse with the bridle, and to break one bone with another: nevertheless, the author who gives us these details, says that these same Tartars consider it no crime to break their word, to do one an injury, to rob, or to assassinate.

"The inhabitants of the Island of Formosa, admit a species of hell destined for the punishment of those who will not go quite naked at certain times of the year; who use painted cloth instead of silk for their garments; who have the wickedness to seek for oysters and other shell fish; and who undertake an enterprize without consulting the singing of birds,

« السابقةمتابعة »