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called Infidels (from the Latin word infidelis), on account of their want of faith or belief in the Christian religion. Some indeed have censured the application of the term infidelity to unbelievers, contending that in our language it is used solely in a particular sense, implying the want of conjugal fidelity.
Lord Herbert, of Cherbury, was the first Deist who excited public notice in this country. Dr. Brown's recent edition of Leland's View of the Deistical writers, (Tindal, Morgan, Chubb, Bolingbroke, &c. &c.) together with many other valuable treatises, afford information concerning their principles, and contain a complete refutation of their objections against revealed religion. Mr. Belsham has thus assigned the principal causes of modern infidelity in his reply to Mr. Wilberforce : “1. The first and chief is an unwillingness to submit to the restraints of religion, and the dread of a future life, which leads men to overlook evidence, and to magnify objections. 2. The palpable absurdities of creeds generally professed by Christians, which men of sense having confounded with the genuine doctrines of revelation, they have rejected the whole at once, and without enquiry. 3. Impatience and unwillingness to persevere in the laborious task of weighing arguments and examining objections, 4. Fashion has biassed the minds of some young
persons of virtuous characters and competent knowledge, to resist revelation, in order to avoid the imputation of singularity, and to escape the ridicule of those with whom they desire to associate. 5. Pride, that they might at an easy rate attain the character of philosophers and superiority to vulgar prejudice. 6. Dwelling upon difa ficulties only, from which the most rational s.y.stem is not exempt, and by which the most candid, inquisitive, and virtuous minds are sometimes entangled. The mass of mankind, who never think at all, but who admit, without hesitation, all that the nurse and that the priest have taught, can never become sceptics. Of course the whole class of unbelievers consists of persons who have thought more or less upon the subject; and as persons of sense seldom discard at once all the principles in which they have been educated, it is not wonderful that many who begin with the highest orthodoxy, pass through different stages. of their creed, dropping an article or two every step of their progress, till at last, weary of their labour, and not knowing where to fix, they reject it altogether. This, to a superficial and timid observer, appears to be an objection to freedom of enquiry; for no person beginning to enquire, can or ought to say where he will stop. But the sina cere friend to truth will not be discouraged. For without enquiry truth cannot be ascertained, and
if the Christian religion shrinks from close examination in this bold and inquisitive age, it must and it ought to fall. But of this issue I have not the smallest apprehension. Genuine Christianity can well bear the fiery trial through which it is now passing, and while the dross and the rubbish are consumed, the pure gold will remain uninjured, and will come forth from the furnace with increased lustre.”
Indeed the objections which some Deists have made to revelation, affect not so much the religion of Jesus Christ, laid down in the New Testament, as certain absurd doctrines and ridiculous practices which have been added to it by the weakness and wickedness of mankind. Reiterated accusations therefore of unfairness have been brought against the generality of Deistical writers; and with this palpable injustice Bolingbroke, Voltaire, and Thomaš Paine stand particularly charged. Paine's Age of Reason has been ably answered by many writers, especially by the present Bishop of Landaff, in his Apology for the Bible.
The rejectors of RevelATION (before they thoughtlessly calumniate it) would do well to consider what they are able to give us in its stead, better calculated to alleviate the distresses, and bind up the bleeding heart of humanity.
The late Dr. Beattie, in the eloquent conclu
sion of his Essay on the Immutability of Truth, speaking of Sceptics and Deists, very justly remarks:-" Caressed by those who call themselves the great, engrossed by the formalities and fopperies of life, intoxicated with vanity, pampered with adulation, dissipated in the tumult of business, or amidst the vicissitudes of folly, they perhaps have little need and little relish for the consolations of religion. But let them know, that in the solitary scenes of life there is many an honest and tender heart pining with incurable anguish, pierced with the sharpest sting of disappointment, bereft of friends, chilled with poverty, racked withe disease, scourged by the oppressor, whom nothing but trust in Providence, and the hope of a future retribution, could preserve from the agonies of despair. And do they with sacrilegious hands attempt to violate this last refuge of the miserable, and to rob them of the only comfort that had survived the ravages of misfortune, malice, and tyranny! Did it ever happen that the influence of their tenets disturbed the tranquillity of virtuous retirement, deepened the gloom of human distress, or aggravated the horrors of the grave? Ye traitors to human kind! ye murderers of the human soul ! how can ye answer for it to your own hearts ? Surely every spark of your generosity is extinguished for ever, if this consideration do not awaken in you the keenest rée morse.” Some strictures on the nature and prevalence of modern Deism, are contained in the present Bishop of London's Charge to the Clergy for the year 1794. Indeed all the writings of this prelate have a pious, liberal, and useful tendency.
THE Theophilanthropists are a kind of Deists. arisen in France during the revolution. Mr. Thomas Paine figured amongst them for some time, and even delivered a discourse before them on the principles, &c. of this system, which was aftere wards established. Since the return of Popery under Bonaparte, they are said to be nearly annihilated ; at least they by no means attract so, much of the public attention. The name by. which they stand distinguished, is a compound term derived from the Greek, and intimates that they profess to adore God and love their fellows creatures. Their common principle is a belief. in the existence, perfections, and providence of God, and in the doctrine of a future life; and their rule of morals, is, love to God and good-will to men. Dr. John Walker, a medical gentleman, author of the Universal Gazetteer, published the manual of the sect, from which a few partiaculars shall be extracted.