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reconciling themselves to it by the hopes of repentance, or by self flattery, or other delusive expedients: it is as difficult almost, in a country so enlightened as ours is, to be superlatively wicked, (which a man, generally speaking, must be to turn Atheist k, apostate,) as it is to be superlatively good. 4. Further still, there may be several more, who, though delighted with loose and profane pamphlets, may yet have no real value or esteem for the writers; as men may love the treason, while they dislike the traitor. Many will despise the man that shall undertake to defend in cold blood, what they, with a kind of conscious guilt and shame, commit only in the heat of appetite or passion. The patronizing infidelity and irreligion, which is patronizing all that is bad, will for ever be disreputable and odious employment in the general opinion of mankind?; while religion and virtue, for their own intrinsic worth, must always have crowds of admirers, though perhaps few followers.
For this reason, the patrons of irreligion and infidelity in every age, down from Epicurus to the present times, have been forced in a great measure to conceal their sentiments, and to put on disguises to the world; well knowing, that they can never hope to overturn religion and virtue, without pretending a zeal for them all the time. Epicurus himself could write as devoutly in favour of sanctity and Divine worship, and of virtue also, as any believer could do, while he was really destroying them m. In like manner, our modern Deists plead vehemently for morality, that one might be tempted almost to think, that they were really in good earnest : but their rejecting the best and only complete system of morality that ever the world was blessed with, and their taking morality out of God's hands into their own, in order to curtail and mutilate it; and above all, their sapping the authority which it properly stands upon, and their undermining the sanctions which alone can ever keep it alive in the world n; all these circumstances too plainly shew, that their encomiums upon morality are only magnificent professions, like Epicurus's devotions, pompous appearances, solemn show, or, at the best, sound without sense. For the amount of all is, to compliment virtue or morality very highly, but to starve it at the same time, leaving it little or nothing to subsist upon. But without some such colourings as these, they could never set up for writers in a knowing age, nor bear a part in debate: the readers would be shockedo at once, upon the first sight of what they are doing ; and the exposing their principles to open view, would save their adversaries the labour of a confutation. So it is not merely for the sake of guarding against legal censure, that these gentlemen so studiously affect disguises ; but it is to prevent, if possible, the exposing a bad cause, which cannot bear the light; and to lay in for evasions and subterfuges, for the carrying on a dispute about their meaning, when all besides is at an end. This however is no small difficulty in their way, to be thus constrained to act a part; to write just plain enough to be understood, (for without that they do nothing,) and yet not so plain as either fully to discover the whole scene, or to foreclose all retreat, or to leave no colour for declaiming against hard censures, when they come to be pressed. But by frequent trials and long experience, they have learned to manage with competent dexterity.
k“When a man is come to that pass manners, and the bane of youth, and " as to wish himself an Atheist, and a scandal to the very name of philo“ make the last efforts on conscience, sophy. See Suidas in 'Etikovpos, and “ he is at the very crisis of malice; a Athenæus, lib. xii. 547. “ higher degree is not incident to the m At etiam de sanctitate, de pietate “ human soul: and unless God works adversus Deos, libros scripsit Epicu“ miracles to convert him, he sticks At quomodo in his loquitur ?
at no kind of iniquity, although Ut Coruncanium, aut Scævolam, Pon“ possibly he may not obtain his full tifices Maximos, te audire dicas ; non 6 wish : so that such a one is incom- eum qui sustulerit omnem funditus “ parably further removed from the religionem.- -At etiam liber est Epi
of salvation, than an Atheist curi, de Sanctitate. Ludimur ab ho“ bred and born, or a simple unbe- mine non tam faceto, quam ad scri" liever.” Bayle's Miscellan. Reflect. bendi licentiam libero. Quæ enim on a Comet, p. 364, 365.
potest esse sanctitas, si Di humana i Hence it was that the wiser and non curant? Cicer. de Natur. Deor. better sort even of Pagans detested c. xli. xliv. p. 100, 107. edit. Davies. the Epicureans, as debauchers of
They set out commonly, or conclude, with pompous declarations of their more than ordinary concern for reason and truth ; full of truth in their professions, to supply their want of it elsewhere : that now seeking the truth, is alınost become as much a phrase amongst these gentlemen, as seeking the Lord once was among another set of refiners. There is undoubtedly some advantage to be gained in this way; otherwise it would never have been the common pretext of all detractors P and deceivers whatsoever: neither would such men as Celsus and Hierocles 9 (sharp and subtle disputants) have made use of it; neither could the sect of the Manichees have ever imposed upon so acute a man as St. Austin, though in his younger days, by it". Nevertheless, it must be said, that boasting is no argument of sincerity, but is itself a suspicious circumstance. Honest men have no need to boast of their integrity, while their dealings abundantly declare it: neither need faithful writers tell of their uncommon zeal for truth, because an author is proved by his work, and it is good manners to suppose, that a reader has some discernment.
n See Scripture Vindicated, vol. iv. “ those sentiments to which we would part ii. p. 202.
“ bring them.
-t has often o This is as good as owned by “ talked to him against Christianity, some of them in their private letters. “ but he was only shocked at the dis“ More detriment than advantage has
course: which confirms what I was “ been done to the cause of Deism by “ saying before, that the way to con
an open profession of it.--One rule, “ vince a prejudiced man, is not to “ I think indeed, ought always to be “ let him know your own sentiments, “ observed, that we should keep the “ but draw him in first, before he
persons we have a design upon, “ knows where he is, till it is too late “as long as possibly we can, from “ to step back.” Two Letters from “knowing that we ourselves are of a Deist to his Friend, p. 2, 18, 20,
Another very common artifice which those gentlemen make use of is, to usher in their crudities under the name and umbrage of the men of sense. I cannot blame them for affecting to appear in good company: but as they have no commission for making so free with persons of that character, and as the whole amounts only to proclaiming themseloes considerable, which their readers should be left to judge of; it seems to me, that such an offence against modesty and manners is a stronger argument against them, than any self-commendations can ever be for them,
The same gentlemen who take so much pains to recommend themselves as abounding in sense, and reason, and truth, are as solicitous, on the other hand, to invent some odious names for what they dislike. They never acquaint their readers (though the more ancient Epicureans were sometimes frank enough to do its) that their aim is to destroy religion and conscience, and the fear of God; but they give it out, their whole quarrel is against credulity or bigotry, against superstition or enthusiasm, against statecraft, priestcraft, or imposture; names which they are pleased to affix, for the most part, to true religion and godliness. And when they have thus shifted off the blame to others which belongs only to themselves, in order to blacken their opposers, and to wash themselves white; they then begin to play their machinery upon the ignorant unguarded readers. Now since their main strength lies in their frequent repetition of these illsounding names, upon a presumption that the world is more governed by names than by things, and that it is the easiest thing in nature to carry on an imposture of words; I shall entreat your patience while I endeavour to unravel the mystery of those affected names, considering them one by one, in the same order as I have mentioned them. And I hope to make it appear, that the guilt which those gentlemen would load us with, is not ours, but theirs; and that it ought therefore to be thrown back upon the proprietors. This certainly is a very fair and equitable method of defence on our side, to retort the blame, which belongs not to us, upon the accusers themselves, with whom it should rest.
p Prætexit quidem vir acutissimus nos fere novem, spreta religione quæ præcipuum veritatis studium, cui ni- mihi puerulo a parentibus insita erat, hil præferat, cui omnia submittat : homines illos sequi ac diligenter aused ignoscat mihi, si dixero, etiam dire, nisi quod nos superstitione termaledicentissimum quemque illud præ reri, et fidem nobis ante rationem se ferre, nec ullo alio unquam nomine imperari dicerent; se autem nullum suam velare obtrectationem : quid premere ad fidem, nisi prius discussa enim aliud dixerit Zoilus olim, quid et enodata veritate. Quis non his Socratis accusatores, quid infames illi pollicitationibus illiceretur, præsertim delatores sub tyrannis, Tiberio, Ne- adolescentis animus cupidus veri, rone, Domitiano, quam solo se veri- etiam nonnullorum in schola doctotatis et utilitatis publicæ studio duci rum hominum disputationibus suad alios ita palam increpandos et ac- perbus et garrulus ; qualem me tunc cusandos ? Perizon. contra Cleric. in illi invenerunt, spernentem scilicet Quint. Curt. Vindicat. p. 13, 14. quasi aniles fabulas, et ab eis promis
4 The pompous titles they gave to sum apertum et sincerum verum tenere their invectives against the Christians atque haurire cupientem? Augustin. are well known, both pretending a de Util. credendi, tom. viii. p. 46. edit. very particular zeal for truth.
Bened. r Quid enim me aliud cogebat an
1. I begin with credulity, a kind of cant word, (as they use it,) and made to stand for a serious belief of what Moses and the Prophets, of what Christ and his Apostles have taught us. It has been no new thing for the most credulous men imaginable to anticipate the charge of credulity, fixing it upon others, in order to throw it off from themselves. It was remarkable in the Pagans, who were themselves all over credulity, that they assumed a bold air, and fell foul upon the Christians as credulous men. Arnobius (besides many other of the Fathers) takes notice of it, and handsomely retorts it! The Manichees also, who were silly enough to believe that God and matter were two coeternal principles, that souls were part of the Divine subatance, and that sun and moon were to be adored, (besides many other points of doctrine too ridiculous to bear the mentioning ,) even they had the confidence to charge the churches of Christ with credulity, the better to cover their own dotages. And now what shall we say to the same charge revived against us by modern infidels ? As to the word credulity, it denotes, according to its just and proper acceptation, any rash or wrong belief, taken up against reason or without reason. If this be a true explication of the name, (as it undoubtedly is,) then I humbly conceive that we stand clear of the indictment; and that our impeachers are themselves the men whom they would feign us to be. I do not know any more credulous men living, than they generally are. Indeed, we call them unbelievers, because they believe not what they ought to believe; otherwise they are great believers in their way, and, for the most part, men of a very large faith. It cannot be pretended that they believe less than we, since our creeds reversed (which usually makes theirs) are as long creeds as before ; like as traversing the same ground backwards measures the same number of paces. He that believes, for instance, that there is no heaven, no hell, no future state, no Providence, no God, is as much a believer, in his way, as the most religious men can be in theirs. Infidels have their articles of belief as well as we, and perhaps more than we: so the difference seems not to lie so much in the quantity of faith, theirs or ours, as in the quality.
s Lucretius, lib. i. 63, &c. with toribus ? Non quod sibi persuaserit Creech's notes.
quis verum dici ab altero, velut quat Et quoniam ridere nostram fidem dam fidei adstipulatione tutatur? consuestis, atque ipsam credulitatem Cum igitur comperti nihil habeatis et facetiis jocularibus lancinare; dicite, cogniti, omniaque illa quæ scribitis O festivi, et meraco sapientiæ tincti, et librorum comprehenditis millibus, et saturi potu, nonne vestrum qui- credulitate asseveretis duce, quænam cunque est, huic vel illi credit auc- hæc est judicatio tam injusta, ut nop. 93 ad p. 139; Reimman. Histor. u The English reader may see the Atheismi, p. 444. monstrous creed of the Manichees y Spinoza's marvellous creed may briefly summed up in Nye's Defence be seen, in a good measure, collected of thé Canon of the New Testament, in Kortholtus de Trib. Impostoribus, p. 88, &c.
Bring we therefore this matter to a fair issue, that it may be clearly seen which of the contending parties are the credulous believers. Let the adversaries produce Epicurus's creed, or Hobbes'84, or Spinoza'sy, or any other, fairly and fully drawn out, and let us compare. I am verily persuaded that such their creeds, represented at full length, will be found to contain more, and more frightful articles, than the Trent Creed itself, or even stram derideatis fidem, quam vos ha- lected into one summary view by bere conspicitis nostra in credulitate several writers. See, among others, communem ? Arnob. lib. ii. p. 47, 48. Kortholtus de Tribus Impostoribus, edit. Lugd.
p. 139 ad p. 208; Bayle's Dictionary, x Hobbes's Creed of Paradoxes and in the article Spinoza. palpable Absurdities has been col