« PredošláPokračovať »
to excess is defect, or want of religion, and is called irreligion, profaneness, impiety, apostasy, atheism, according to its respective circumstances and degrees. The due mean between the two extremes is true and sound religion. Now since the Christian religion is most evidently true, (if any ancient facts whatever can be proved to be true,) we do insist upon it, that it is properly religion, and not superstition : and that a disbelief of it, where it is sufficiently promulgated, is irreligion, profaneness, madness. This then is a short and a clear answer to our adversaries upon the present head; that they can never maintain the charge of superstition against Christian believers, as such ; but we can easily make good the charge of profaneness or irreligion against them. But besides that, I may venture perhaps to add, that they are not so clear even of superstition itself, as is commonly imagined : for infidelity and superstition are, for the most part, near allied, as proceeding from the same weakness of judgment, or same corruption of heart. Those guilty fears and apprehensions of an avenging Deity, which drive some persons into superstition, do as naturally drive others of a more hard and stubborn temper into infidelity, or atheism'. The same causes working differently in different persons, or in the same persons at different times, produce both m: and it has been a common observation, justifiable by some noted instances, that no men whatever have been more apt to exceed in superstition, at the sight of danger, than those who at other times have been most highly profane.
But I may further observe, that superstition (practical superstition at least) may be more directly charged upon many or most of our accusers, as it is their avowed principle to comply outwardly with any public and authorized superstitions whatever. Epicurus and his followers conformed readily to the popular superstitions", being willing enough to compound at that rate to
1 See Smith's Select Discourses, “gion, or have not afterwards conp. 25. and p. 41, &c.
“tinued to be strictly educated in the m A late ingenious author has well same, are all in great danger of fallexpressed and illustrated the obser- ing either into the one or the other, vation, as follows :
according to the difference there is “ Atheism and superstition are of “ in the temperament and complexion " the same origin : they both have they are of, the circumstances they “ their rise from the same cause, the are in, and the company they con“ same defect in the mind of man, our verse with.” Second Part of the “want of capacity in discerning truth, Fable of the Bees, p. 374. “ and natural ignorance of the Divine n Vid. Plutarch. contr. Epicur. “ essence. Men that from their most Opp. tom. ii. p. 1102. Origen. contr. “ early youth have not been imbued Cels. lib. vii. p. 375. “ with the principles of the true reli
save themselves harmless. I have before observed of the leaders of the modern Deists abroad, that they accommodated themselves to the prevailing religions wheresoever they lived. Hobbes and Spinoza are known to have advised and inculcated the same doctrine, making the magistrate's religion the sovereign rule for outward practice'. Mr. Toland observes of Atheists, (and he knew them well,) that their principle is, to stand up for all established religions, by all means, right or wrong P. The author of the Oracles of Reason and his friends profess the same principle of conformity to the religion of one's country, whatever it be 9. Some have openly, and with great immodesty, even boasted of it'; interpreting it to such a monstrous latitude, that the same person might indifferently go to a Popish chapel, or a Turkish mosque, or to an Indian pagod. Among the noted characteristics of atheistical men, this commonly makes one, that they follow the religion of the magistrate, value it not as true, but as established, and regard it only as an instrument of state policy.
• Vid. Kortholtus de Tribus Im- Scriptura et cum ratione committere, postoribus, p. 208, &c.
et inde elicere contradictiones. P Atheus, commodo suo intentus, 3. Metum omnem et justam solicinunquam a stabilita religione dissen- tudinem omnibus excutere, nil nisi hitiet; cui omnes alios, ne suspectus laritatem et securitatem commendare. evadat, per fas et nefas velit confor- 4. Immortalitatem animæ rationalis mes. Toland. Adeisidæmon, p. 78. negare.
9 See Blount's Miscellanies, p. 202, 5. Providentiam Dei accusare, vel 203. Compare Nicholls's Conference, vocare in dubium. part ii. p. 193.
6. Mysteria religionis Christianæ Colo Deum talem qualem princeps exagitare, et scurriliter traducere. vel respublica me jubet. Si Turca, 7. Ab Ecclesiæ Ministris abhorrere, Alcoranum; si Judæus, Vetus Testa- et eorum colloquia declinare. mentum; si Christianus, Novum 8. Atheismos aliorum cupide enarTestamentum veneror pro lege et rare, et argumenta pro Atheismo tanreligionis meæ norma. “Papa si im- quam indissolubiles subtilitates adperans, Deum credo transubstantia mirari. tum; si Lutherus, Deus mihi parti- 9. Religionem aliquam strenue siculis in, cum, et sub circumvallatur; mulare, et gravissime contra eos qui si Calvinus, signum pro Deo sumo. Atheismi ipsos insimulant, contestari. Sicque cujus regio, in qua vivo, ejus 10. Religionem non alio nomine urme regit opinio, &c. Autor Medita- gere, quam quatenus ad rationem station. Philosoph. &c. apud Budd. tus facit. Isagog. p. 1390.
11. Atheismi impugnationes et in& Those characteristics are num- crepationes ægre ferre. bered up in twelve articles, by a learn- 12. Libros gentilium libentius quam ed foreigner.
Christianorum legere, et sacræ Scrip1. Omni occasione data, negare aut turæ lectionem aversari. in dubium vocare supernaturalia ; Adjiciunt plerique, non seorsim esse miracula, &c.
spectanda hæc criteria, sed conjunctim, 2. Sacræ Scripturæ autoritatem im- si velimus sincerum ex iis ferre judiminuere, aliisque suspectam et con- cium. Reimman. Histor. Atheismi, temptam reddere ; Scripturam cum p. 17, 18.
Now one night have expected of those gallant gentlemen, who had undertaken to assert the dignity of human nature, and to rescue mankind from the slavery of superstition, that they more especially should have abhorred the practice, or even the appearance of it. For what is the use of their superior wisdom, and their elevation of thought above the vulgar, if it be not to inform practice and conduct life? The strongest objection against superstition, and the worst circumstance of it, is, that it leads men to ridiculous and absurd practices, such as dishonour God, and debase the dignity of man, and do mischief to the world. Speculative superstition is an innocent, harmless thing, in comparison of practical : and therefore what glory is there in discarding the former only? They that reject superstition in theory, and yet retain it in life, and that upon principle too, do but expose their own folly and falseness both in one. There can scarce be conceived a more contemptible figure in nature, than a man railing at all superstitions, and at the same time practising, and persuading others to practise, all that come. Might he not much more decently forbear censuring the public religions, or superstitions, than thus fall to censuring first, and then to practising what he condemns, and last of all, to instructing others to do the same thing? Such persons have no reason to value themselves upon any supposed superiority in notion or sentiment, because there cannot be a more abject or pusillanimous principle than what they espouse: and why should they condemn others for being superstitious, and that but in part, while their own practice is totally such ? I do not charge all the Deists with such practices or principles ; I know they are divided upon that article : but so many at least as do espouse them, may prudently be silent on this head. Such unsincere and inconsistent conduct cannot be the conduct of good moral men, or men of probity t. But I
4. Next to the charge of superstition follows enthusiasm, another term of reproach, and often made a name for the true religion of Christ, by men disposed to defame and to destroy it. There have been unhappy persons, whose heads have been disturbed with religious melancholy or devout phrensies ; the flights and sallies of an overheated imagination and a distempered mind. From hence weak or wicked men have taken the handle to ascribe all religion to enthusiasm or fanaticism ; that is, to a kind of phrensy, or dotage. But to such a suggestion, so far as concerns Moses and the Prophets, Christ and his Apostles, we answer, that those excellent personages, by their whole conduct, gave sufficient proofs that they were no enthusiasts, never disordered in mind. Besides, we insist upon it, that sallies of imagination never did, never could produce any such sound and consistent doctrines as they taught, never wrought such miracles, never uttered such prophecies : neither can the facts which we appeal to be contested, without shaking the faith of all history, and retiring to universal scepticism, which would be madness indeed. There cannot be a wilder thought than for a man to imagine that the world was converted by lunatics and madmen ; “ that men hurried by the impetus of a wild extravagant fancy, “ were masters of all that conduct and management, that argument " and address, which was requisite to bring those astonishing “ effects about. Or if he finds it too hard to suppose that a company of distracted men should ever be able to
t An odd sort of apology the Pan- balbutientibus suis alumnis.—Qui intheisticon makes for such kind of fantulis, in hisce nugis non adblandidissimulation. The sum of it is, that untur, iis injucundi sunt et exosi. religious men are mad, or fools, and Hinc necessario evenit, ut aliud sit in therefore infidels may humour them, pectore et privato consessu, aliud in and comply with them outwardly, as foro et publica concione. Pantheistinurses do with froward children. con, p. 79, 80. How decently may Pantheistæ, quæ eorum est moderatio, such persons exclaim against pious non aliter cum hominibus deliris et frauds, or religious cheats ! pertinacibus agunt, ac nutriculæ cum
with “ so much art and force, as to overpower all the wisdom and “ learning of the world ; then he must think the rest of man“ kind, who believed them, to be mad, as well as they ; that they
were convinced and persuaded by mere enthusiasm, that they “mistook downright raving for the strongest reason, and a “ chain of absurd incoherent falsities, for bright and evident de“ monstrations of truth; that all the sages, statesmen, and “ philosophers, who embraced Christianity in great numbers, as “ well as the poor and illiterate, believed they had proofs which
they had not ; thought things were plain and clear to them “ which were not ; fancied irresistible strength, majesty, and “ eloquence, in an empty noise and sound of words, made by a
company of poor distempered men, who neither knew nor “ cared what they said u."
· Ditton on the Resurrection of Toland, c. xii. p. 71. Campbell's Christ, p. 364. compare p. 310, &c. Discourse proving that the Apostles See also Nicholls's Conference, partii. were no enthusiasts. p. 230, &c. Fayi Defens. Relig. cont.
But if any persons notwithstanding can have confidence enough to charge the Founder of our religion, or the sacred writers, with enthusiasm, that is, with madness, may it not be proper to ask, what kind of complexion the men are of, who make such a groundless charge ; and whether they are not the visionaries, rather than the other. There may be an irreligious phrensy, as well as a religious one; and the imagination may be as soon heated with a spirit of profaneness, as with the fervours of piety. A very learned and judicious writer has said, that there are enthusiastical, or fanatical Atheists, and that “all manner of “ Atheists whatsoever, and those of them who most pretend to “reason and philosophy, may in some sense be justly styled both “ enthusiasts and fanatics : forasmuch as they are not led or “ carried on into this way of atheizing by any clear dictates of " their reason or understanding; but only by an opun ăroyos, a “ certain blind and irrational impetus, they being, as it were,
inspired to it by that lower earthly life and nature, or the “ spirit of the world, or mundane spirit. The mundane spirit,
or earthly life, is irrational sottishness; and they who are “ atheistically inspired by it (how abhorrent soever they may “ otherwise seem to be from enthusiasm and revelations) are not“ withstanding really no better than a kind of bewitched enthusi“ asts and blind spiritati, that are wholly ridden and acted by a
dark, narrow, and captivated principle of life.—Nay, they are “ fanatics too, however that word seem to have a more peculiar “respect to something of a Deity; all Atheists being that blind goddess Nature's fanatics x."
The observation is cited and approved by a noble writer, who has been thought not partial on the side of religion. He says, that Atheism itself is not exempt from enthusiasm, but there have been enthusiastical Atheists y. He repeats it elsewhere 2, and confirms it more at large. The same noble author scruples not to say, that “to deny the magistrate a worship, or take away a “ national Church, is as mere enthusiasm as the notion which sets “ up persecution a."
To confirm what has been hinted of the enthusiasm of these men, who charge us with it, let but any one seriously consider the Pantheistic system, (which is reported by those that should
* Cudworth, Intellect. Syst. p. 134. y Characteristics, vol. i. p. 52.
z Ibid. vol. iii. p. 63, 64. a Ibid. vol. i. p. 17.