« IndietroContinua »
think, only to eat. The imputation that yet sticks to my notions, amongst many well-meaning men, is, that they are PARADOXICAL. And though this be now made the characteristic of my Writings, yet, whether from the amusement which Paradoxes afford, or from whatever other cause of malice or curiosity, the Public seem still sufficiently eager to see what, in spite of the Argument, and perhaps in spite to it, they are pleased to call my CONCLUSION. And as in your Lordship's progress through your high Stations (for I will not take my comparison lower while my subject is public favour) men no sooner found you in one than they saw you necessary for a higher ; so every preceding Volume seemed to excite a stronger appetite for the following ; till, as I am told, it came to a kind of impatience for the last : which must have been strangely obstinate if in all this time it has not subsided. And yet it is very possible it may not : For the good-natured pleasure of seeing an Author fill up the measure of his Paradoxes is worth waiting for. Of all men, I would not appear vain before your Lordship ; since, of all men, You best know how ill it would become my pride. Nor am I indeed in much danger to have my head turned by this flattering circumstance, while I remember that Rabelais tells us, and I dare say he tells us truth, that the Public of his times were full as impatient for the conclusion of the unfinished story of the giant Gargantua and his son Pantagruel.
I have now, both leisure and inclination to gratify this Public fancy, after having put my last hand to these two Volumes : A work of reasoning; and though fairly pursued, and, as I thought, brought home to its ConcLUSION, yet interspersed with variety of Philologic dissertations : For I had to do with a sort of Readers not less delicate than that fastidious Frenchman, who tells us in so many words, that -La REASON a tort des qu'elle ENNUYE. As my purpose therefore was to bring Reason into good Company, I saw it proper now and then, to make her wait without, lest by her constant presence she should happen to be thought tiresome. Yet still I was careful not to betray her rights : and the Dissertations brought in to relieve the oppressed attention of the Reader, was not more for his sake than for hers. If I was large in my discourse concerning the nature and end of the Grecian MYSTERIES, it was to shew the sense the ancient Lawgivers had of the use of Religion to Society : and if I expatiated on the origine and use of the Egyptian HIEROGLYPHICS, it was to vindicate the logical propriety of the Prophetic language and sentiment. For I should have been ashamed to waste so much time in classical amusements, and at last to join them to your Lordship’s Name, had they not had an intimate relation to the things most connected with Man and his interests.
I have detained your Lordship with a tedious Story; and still I must beg your patience a little longer. We are not yet got to the end of a bad prospect—While I, and others of my Order, have been thus vainly contending pro Aris with the unequal arms of Reason, we had the further displeasure to find, that our Rulers (who, as I observed above, had needlessly suffered those ties of Religion to be unloosed, by which, till of late, the passions of the People had been restrained) were struggling, almost as unsuccessfully, pro Focis with a corrupt and debauched Community.
General History, in its Records of the rise and decay of States, hath delivered down to us, amongst the more important of its lessons, a faithful detail of every symptom, which is wont to forerun and to prognosticate their approaching ruin. It might be justly deemed the extravagance of folly to believe, that those very Signs, which have constantly preceded the fall of other States, should signify nothing fatal or alarming to our own. On the other hand, I would not totally condemn, in such a dearth of Religious provision, even that species of piety, which arises from a national pride, and flatters us with being the peculiar attention of Heaven ; who will avert those evils from bis favoured People, which the natural course of things would otherwise make inevitable : For, indeed, we have seen (and, what is as strange as the blessing itself, the little attention which is paid to it) something very like such an extraordinary protection already exerted; which resists, and, till now, hath arrested, the torrent just ready to overwhelm us. The circumstance, I mean, is this :—That while every other part of the Community seems to lie in fæce Romuli, the administration of Public Justice in England, runs as pure as where nearest to its coelestial Source ; purer than Plato dared venture to conceive it, even in his feigned Republic.
Now, whether we are not to call this, the interposing hand of Providence ; for sure I am, all History doth not afford another instance of so much purity and integrity in one part, coexisting with so much decay and so many infirmities in the rest : Or whether, profounder Politicians may not be able to discover some hidden force, some peculiar virtue in the essential parts, or in the well-adapted frame, of our excellent Constitution :-In either case, this singular and shining Phænomenon, hath afforded a chearful consolation to thinking men, amidst all this dark aspect from our disorders and distresses.
But the evil Genius of England would not suffer us to enjoy it long; for as if envious of this last support of Government, he hath now instigated his blackest Agents to the very extent of their malignity ; who, after the most villainous insults on all other Orders and Ranks in Society, have at length proceeded to calumniate even the King's Supreme Court of Justice, under its ablest and most unblemished Administration.
After this, who will not be tempted to despair of his Country, and say, with the good old man in the Scene,
.“ Ipsa si cupiat SALUS
Servare, prorsus non potest, hanc Familiam." Athens, indeed, fell by degenerate manners like our own : but she fell the later, and with the less dishonour, for having always kept inviolable that reverence which she, and indeed all Greece, had been long accustomed to pay to her August Court of AREOPAGUS. Of this modest reserve, amidst a general disorder, we have a striking instance in the conduct of one of the principal Instruments of her ruin. The witty ARISTOPHANES began, as all such Instruments do (whether with wit or without) by deriding Virtue and Religion ; and this, in the brightest exemplar of both, the godlike SOCRATES. The Libeller went on to attack all conditions of Men. He calumniated the Magistrates ; he turned the Public Assemblies into ridicule ; and, with the most beastly and blasphemous abuse, outraged their Priests, their Altars, nay, the very established Gods themselves.—But here he stopped ; and, unawed by all besides, whether of divine or human, he did not dare to cast so much as one licentious trait against that venerable Judicature. A circumstance, which the Readers of his witty ribauldry, cannot but observe with surprize and admiration ;not at the Poet's modesty, for he had none, but at the remaining virtue of a debauched and ruined People ; who yet would not bear to see that clear Fountain of Justice defiled by the odious Spawn of Buffoons and Libellers. Nor was this the only consolation which ATHENS had in its calami.
Its pride was flattered in falling by apostate Wits of the first Order: while the Agents of public mischief amongst us, with the hoarse notes and blunt pens of Ballad-makers, not only accelerate our ruin, but accumulate our disgraces : Wretches the most contemptible for their parts, the most infernal for their manners.
To conclude. Great Men, my Lord, are sent for the Times ; the Times are fitted for the rest, of common make. ERASMUS and the present CHIEF JUSTICE OF ENGLAND (whatever he may think) were sent by Providence, for the sake of humanity, to adorn two periods, when Religion at one time, and SOCIETY at another, most needed their support; I do not say, of their great talents, but of that HEROIC MODERATION so necessary to allay the violence of public disorders : for to be MODERATE amidst party-extremes, requires no common degree of patriotic courage.
Such characters rarely fail to perform much of the task for which they were sent; but never without finding their labour ill repaid, even by those in whose service it was employed. That glory of the Priesthood left the World, he had so nobly benefited, with this tender com
plaint,—" Hoc tempore nihil scribi 'aut Agi potest quod non pateat CALUMNIÆ; nec raro fit, ut dum agis CIRCUMSPECTISSIME utramque Partem offendas, quum in utraque sint qui PARITER INSANIANT.” A complaint, fated, alas ! to be the motto of every Man who greatly serves his Country. I have the honour to be,
My LORD, Your Lordship’s most obliged, most obedient and faithful Servant,
W. GLOUCESTER. February 2, 1765.
OF THE FIRST EDITION OF BOOKS IV. V. AND VI. OP
THE DIVINE LEGATION OF MOSES,
TO THE JEWS.
purpose of this Work being to prove the Divine LEGATION of Moses, it will, I hope, have so much merit with you, as to engage your serious attention to the following Address ; which, from the divinity of Moses's Law, as in this work demonstrated, attempts to shew you, how, by necessary consequence, it follows, that the religion of Jesus is also divine.
But, while I am laying my conclusions before you, let me beseech you not to suffer yourselves to be prejudiced against the evidence, by such kind of fallacies as these ; Both Jews and Christians confess that the religion of Moses came from God: but one only, of these two Sects, believe the divinity of that of Jesus: the safest way, therefore, is to adhere to what both sides own to be true. An argument, which however like, hath not, in all its parts, even so much force as what the idolatrous Romanists are wont to urge against the ReformedThat as both parties hold salvation may be had in the church of Rome, and only one party holds it may be had in the churches of the Reformed, it is safest to adhere to Popery : which I dare say you laugh at for its impertinence, how much soever you may have deluded
others by the same kind of sophistry.* For if the Roman catholics, or you, will not take our word for Christianity or Reformation, why do you build any thing upon it, in favour of Popery or Judaism? Both of you will say, perhaps, “because we are prejudiced in the former conclusion ; but that the mere force of evidence extorts the latter from us even against ourselves.” This is easily said ; and may, perhaps, be easily believed, by those who taking their Religion from their ancestors, are apt to measure Truth only by its antiquity. But genuine Christianity offering itself only to the private judgments of men, every sincere enquirer believes as he finds cause. So that if either you or they would give yourselves the trouble to examine our motives, it would appear, that the very same reasons which force us to conclude that Christianity in general, and the Reformed religion in particular, are true, force us at the same time to conclude that the Jewish was from God; and that salvation may be obtained, though with much difficulty, in the church of Rome. Either, therefore, the whole of our conclusion is prejudice, or no part of it is so.
As I would not have you harden your habitual obstinacy in favour of your own Religion, by bad arguments ; so neither will I use any such to draw you over to ours.
I shall not therefore attempt that way to bring you to the truth, which some amongst us, little acquainted, as should seem, either with your Dispensation, or the Christian, imagine they have discovered : Who, taking it for granted that the Mosaic Law can be defended only by the Gospel of Jesus, pretend you must first acknowledge our Religion, before you can support your own: and so, which is very hard, will not allow you to have any reasonable assurance of the truth of your Religion till you have forsaken it. But I would not urge you with such kind of reasoning, if it were only for this, that I suspect you may not be such utter strangers to the New Testament as not to know, that it lays the foundation of Christianity in Judaism. Besides, right reason, as well as St. Paul (which with us, at present, are still the same thing) would teach you to reply to such Convertists : Boast not against the branches of the native olive-tree : but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee." I
Much less would I employ, in this Address, the quainter project of
This, the miserable Uriel Acosta tells us, was one of the principal arguments that induced him to embrace Judaism.-" Præterea veteri fæderi fidem dabant tam Judæi quam Christiani; novo autem fæderi soli Christiani.”—E.remplar humana l'itæ, p. 346, in fin. Amica Collat. Phil. & LIMBORCH.
† “ Dr. Rogers has declared as I remember in one of his sermons, that he could not believe the truth of Moses's preten. sions, were it not for the confirmation given to them by the Gospel. This I take to be a dangerous assertion, that saps the very foundation of Christianity; and supersedes at once the whole purpose of your intended work, by denying any original intrinsic character of dirinity to the institution of Moses.”--DR. MIDDLETON'S Letter to Mr. W'. Nov. 30, 1736. Vol. v. of his Works.
| Rom. xi. 18.