Immagini della pagina

himself supposed it no good policy to irritate a crew of Zealots, who had, at their first opening, called loudly upon the secular arm. Our Author indeed could talk big to the FREE-THINKERS; for ȧlas, poor men! he knew their weapons: All their arms were arguments, and those none of the sharpest; and wit, and that none of the brightest. But he had here to do with men in Authority; appointed, if you will believe them, Inspectors-General over clerical Faith. And they went forth in all the pomp and terror of Inquisitors; with Suspicion before, Condemnation behind, and their two assessors, Ignorance and Insolence, on each side. We must suspect his faith (say they)-We must condemn his book-We do not understand his argument.*

-But it may perhaps be of use to Posterity at least, if ever these slight sheets should happen to come down to it, to explain the provocation which our Author had given for so much unlimited abuse and calumny. The Reader then may be pleased to know, that the Author's first Volume of The Divine Legation of Moses was as well a sequel and support of The Alliance between Church and State (a book written in behalf of our Constitution and Established Clergy) as it was an introduction to a projected Defence of Revelation. It might likewise be regarded as an entire work of itself, to shew the usefulness of Religion to Society. This, and the large bulk of the Volume, disposed him to publish it apart; while the present state of Religion amongst us seemed to give it a peculiar expediency, "an open and professed disregard to religion" (as an excellent pastor of our church observes) "being become the distinguishing character of the present age. An evil grown to a great height in the Metropolis of the Nation, and daily spreading through every part of it; which hath already brought in such dissoluteness and contempt of principle in the higher part of the world, and such profligate intemperance and fearlessness of committing crimes in the lower, as must, if this torrent of impiety stop not, become absolutely fatal." + Our Author therefore thought, that as this evil, which is now spread through the populace, began in the higher part of the world, it must be first checked there, if ever it were checked at all. And he knew no better way to do this, than by shewing those People of Condition (who, amidst all their contempt of religious Principle, yet professed the greatest zeal for their country and mankind) that Religion is absolutely necessary for the support of civil Government. He thought too, this no ill device to get the advocate of Revelation a fair hearing. For he supposed, that unless they could be made to see the usefulness of Christianity to Society (which their contempt of Principle shewed they yet did not see) they would never be brought to believe its Truth or Divinity.

• Webster, Venn, Stebbing, Waterland, and others. "Charge," London, 1738, 4to. p. 4.


These were his endeavours and designs. What he got for his pains, I have already told the Reader.

In vain had he endeavoured to deserve well of Religion at large, and of the Church of England in particular :-by fixing the true grounds of morality;-by confuting the atheistic arguments of Bayle, and the flagitious Principle of Mandeville ;-by explaining the natures, settling the bounds, and adjusting the distinct rights of the two Societies ;— and by exposing the impious tenet, of Religion's being the contrivance of Politicians.

All this went for nothing with the Bigots. He had departed from the old posture of defence, and had projected a new plan for the support of Revelation. His Demonstration (says one of them) if he could make one of it, could never make us amends for changing our posture of defence, and deserting our strong holds.* For though they will talk, indeed, of the love of truth, and the invincible evidence of our Faith, yet I know not how, even amidst all their Zeal and Fury, they betray the most woful apprehensions of Christianity, and are frighted to death at every foolish Book new written against Religion, though it come but from the Mint or Bedlam. And what do our directing Engineers advise you to, in this exigence? Do they bid you act offensively, and turn the enemies' artillery upon them? By no means. Keep within your strong holds. Watch where they direct their battery, and there to your old mud walls clap a buttress; and so it be done with speed, no matter of what materials. If, in the mean time, one more bold than the rest, offer to dig away the rubbish that hides its beauty, or kick down an aukward prop that discredits its strength, he is sure to be called by these men, perhaps to be thought by those who set them on work, a secret enemy, or an indiscreet friend.+ He is sure to be assaulted with all the rude clamours and opprobrious names that Bigotry is ever ready to bestow on those it fears and hates.

But this was the fortune of all his betters. It was the fortune of Hooker, Hales, Stillingfleet, Cudworth, Bp. Taylor. They were called Politiques, Sceptics, Erastians, Deists, and Atheists. But CUDWORTH's case was so particular, that it will excuse a little enlarge


The Philosopher of Malmesbury was the terror of the last age, as Tindal and Collins have been of this. The press sweat with controversy and every young Churchman militant would needs try his arms in thundering upon Hobbes's steel cap. The mischief his writings had done to Religion set Cudworth upon projecting its defence. Of this he published one immortal volume; with a boldness uncommon indeed, but very becoming a man conscious of his own integrity and WATERLAND.

• WEBSTER'S "Country Clergyman's second Letter."


strength. For instead of amusing himself with Hobbes's peculiar whimsies, which in a little time were to vanish of themselves, and their answers with them; which are all now forgotten, from the Curate's to the Archbishop's; he launched out into the immensity of the Intellectual System; and, at his first essay, penetrated the very darkest recesses of Antiquity, to strip ATHEISM of its disguises, and drag up the lurking Monster into day. Where, though few readers could follow him, yet the very slowest were able to overtake his purpose. And there wanted not Country Clergymen to lead the cry, and tell the world,-That, under pretence of defending Revelation, he wrote in the very manner that an artful Infidel might naturally be supposed to use in writing against it; that he had given us all the filthy stuff that he could scrape together out of the sink of Atheism, as a natural introduction to a demonstration of the truth of Revelation; that with incredible industry and reading he had rummaged all antiquity for atheistical arguments, which he neither knew, nor intended to answer. In a word, that he was an Atheist in his heart, and an Arian in his book.+ But the worst is behind. These silly calumnies were believed. The much injured Author grew disgusted. His ardour slackened; and the rest, and far greatest part of the Defence, never appeared; a Defence, that would have left nothing to do for such as our Author, but to read it; and for such as our Author's Adversaries, but to rail at it.

Thus spiritual Hate, like carnal Love, levels all distinctions. And thus our Author came to be honoured with the same treatment which it had bestowed upon a CUDWORTH. But as this hate is for the most part, only envy, under the name of zeal, the Bigots, for their own case, should be more cautious in conferring their favours. They have given our Author cause enough to be proud: who, as inconsiderable as he is, has, it seems, his : as well as a LOCKE his Edwards, or a CHILLINGWORTH his Cheynel. But alas! the Public, I am afraid, distinguish better. They see, though these men cannot, that the Edwardses and Cheynels increase upon us, while the LOCKES and CHILLINGWORTHS are become exceeding rare. Turn then, good Creatures! while you have time, turn your envy on their few remaining successors and leave our Author in peace. He has parts (had

he but suitable morals) even to be of your party. But no time is to be lost. We have a sad prospect before us. The CHILLINGWORTHS of the present age will, in a little time, be no more; while the race of Cheynels threatens to be immortal. But this is the fate of human things. The Geese of the Capitol, we know, remained for ages, after

• Tenison. + See WEBSTER'S "Country Clergyman's first Letter against The Divine Legation ;" and one MR. JOHN TURNER'S "Discourse" (a Clergyman likewise) "against The Intellectual System."

[ocr errors]

those true defenders of it, the MANLII, the CAMILLI, the AFRICANI,

were extinct and forgotten.

And alas! how ominous are the fears of friendship! I had but just written this, when the death of Dr. FRANCIS HARE, late bishop of Chichester, gave me cause to lament my Divination. In him the Public has lost one of the best patrons and supports of letters and religion. How steadily and successfully he employed his great talents of reason and literature, in opposing the violence of each religious party in their turns, when court-favour was betraying them into hurtful extremes, the unjust reproaches of Libertines and Bigots will never suffer us to forget. How generously he encouraged and rewarded Letters, let them tell who have largely shared in his beneficence for his character may be trusted with his enemies, or even with his most obliged friends. In him our Author has lost, what he could but ill spare, one of the most candid of his Readers and ablest of his Critics. What he can never lose, is the honour of his esteem and friendship.

But whatever advantage our Author may have received from the outrage of his enemies, the Public is a real sufferer. He had indeed the honour to be known to those few, who could have corrected his errors, reformed his course, and shewn him safely through the wide and trackless waste of ancient times. But the calumnies of the Bigots obliged him to a kind of quarantine, as coming lately from suspected places, from the cabinet-council of Old Lawgivers, and the schools of Heathen Philosophers; whose infection was supposed to be yet sticking on him. And under such circumstances it is held illbreeding to come near our Superiors.

This disadvantage was the more sensible to him, as few writers have been under greater obligations to consult the satisfaction of capable readers; who gave his first Volume so kind a reception; and waited with a favourable expectation for the following. And if he has made these readers wait too long, he has only this to say, that he would not follow the example of paradoxical writers, who only aim to strike by a novelty. For as his point was truth, he was content his notions should become stale and common, and forego all advantages but their native evidence, before he submitted the prosecution of them to the judgment of the Public.





THE subject of these Volumes had occasionally led me to say many things of the genius and constitution of PAGAN Religion, in order to illustrate the divinity of the JEWISH and the CHRISTIAN: Amongst the rest, I attempted to explain the true origin of that opprobrium of our common nature, PERSECUTION FOR OPINIONS: *And I flattered myself, I had done REVELATION good service, in showing that this evil owed its birth to the absurdities of Pagan Religion, and to the iniquities of Pagan Politics: for that the persecutions of the later Jews, and afterwards, of the first Christians, arose from the reasonable constitution of these two Religions, which, by avoiding idolatry, opposed that universal principle of Paganism, INTERCOMMUNITY OF WORSHIP; or, in other words, That the Jews and Christians were persecuted as the enemies of mankind, for not having Gods in common with the rest of the World.

But a learned Critic and Divine hath lately undertaken to expose my mistake; He hath endeavoured to prove, that the first persecution for opinion was of Christian original; and that the Pagans persecuted the primitive Church, not, as I had represented the matter, for the unsociable genius of its Religion, which forbad all intercourse with idolaters, but for its NOCTURNAL and CLANDESTINE ASSEMBLIES. From whence it follows, as will be seen by and by, that the first Christians were fanatics, libertines, or impostors; and that the persecuting Emperors, provident for the public safety, legally pursued a bigotted or immoral sect, for a CRIME OF STATE, and not for matter of opinion.

If it be asked, How a Doctor of Laws, a Minister of the Gospel, and a Judge ecclesiastical, would venture to amuse us with so strange a fancy; all I can say for it is, he had the pleasure, in common with many other witty men, of writing against The Divine Legation; and he had the pleasure too, in common with many wise men, of thinking he might indulge himself in any liberties against a writer whom he • See "Divine Legation," book ii. sect. 6.

« IndietroContinua »