Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

his Prince? In justice to our Author, it must be confessed, that, though a lawyer, and, as such, merely a servant to the state, he doth not seem to give up the cause of God so entirely as bath been done by fome of his priests. He admits, indeed, that religion is a political engine, but then, he says, it is such an one as is framed and employed by God, in his terrestrial dominions; and when we worship, extol, or praise him, then we promote his honour, and the honour of God is the happiness of his creaturcs.'

As to the manner in which this political engine hath been introduced to the world; the Letter-writer endeavours to prove it perfectly consistent with the divine wisdom apparent in the ordinary difpensations of providence. On this head, he throws out some shrewd and ingenious remarks, tending to shew the insufficiency of natural religion and the expediency and utility of revelation. But we shall pass over his arguments on these subjects; and proceed to the exceptionable paffages above hinted at. After inculcating the neceflity of an established religion in every civilized ftate, our Author asserts, that the oeconomy of every religion absolutely requires this public assertion, that there is no salvation out of it. It seems to me, says he, that a religion without this axiom cannot produce its proper effects in civil society; at least I think that if the following doctrine was inserted in capital letters in a public catechism, that ONE MIGHT BE SAVED IN ALL RELIGIONS, such a doctrine would very much lessen that enthusiasm which is necessary to be kept up. 1, for instance, in my thoughtless puerile days, should certainly have reasoned thus: “Let my mind have its full scope, and if it does not bring forth truths, it will at least produce fancies, and every religion is acceptable to God.”—So certainly I hould have argued, unless my father had concealed from my view a little longer the important doctrine of the indifferency of all religions, and had first inspired me with a prejudice against this opinion you have adopted. When I had attained to riper years and more discretion, I might perhaps have been reasonable enough not to suffer myself to be put out of the way by it. But the world of children, who never arrive to the age of manly understanding, I should always have pitied. Such an indifferency would, in my humble opinion, have deprived every religion of the power of laying hold of the conscience, which, however, is necessary for obtaining the purposes of an oath, which, though so awful and tremendous a thing, is yet absolutely requisite in civil society. This induces me to believe, that every religion, in its public doctrine, muft exclude all others, and leave to the philosopher alone a salutary uncertainty for the subject of his speculation.'

Now, with due deference to this learned councellor, we conceive that' enthusiasm, which he thinks so necessary to be kept

upa

one inay

up,' to be of the most dangerous consequence to civil society, and that the spirit of toleration which admits that "

be saved in all religions,' ought to be universally propagated, as conducive to the peace of states and happiness of mankind. We are also so far from being convinced that oaths are, as he says, absolutely requisite in civil society, that we think it better they should be entirely abolished, than that the horrid principles of intolerance and persecution fhould be cherished, in order to render them of use.

The next extraordinary affertion our Author ventures to make is that Religion dares not depend on argument.' The reason which he gives in support of this assertion is curious ; ' for this, says he, cannot be done without allowing every man's reason to be a judge.'-- But why should not every man's reason be his judge ? Will this Writer pretend to say that moral virtue is less practiled, or that religion hath a less good effect on the minds of men, in those countries where every man is at liberty to chuse his religion, than in those where all are compelled to adopt the religion of the Prince? Are the Dutch or English more wicked and licentious people than the Italians, Spaniards or Portuguese? Our Author

may lament the loss of that influence, which the Clerical character once had over the minds of men; but we are persuaded that every sensible man, who is a friend to Liberty, will think the gradual suppression of ecclefiaftical tyranny one of the greatest blessings that distinguish modern times. Mr. Moser, on the contrary, thinks it absolutely necessary that truth and prijudice, or' any thing else, must join together in order to keep up this political fan&tily, this divine mark of infallibility, and to preserve the greater reverence for this order.' • View only those states and countries, continues he, out of which a part of this truth, or this important prejudice, has been banished by Thomasius, or his successors. The bishops, canons and other ecclesiastics, have cast off with their black robes the character of their order. They are not feared more than other men. Thus we see this curious politician is not content with placing the fear of God before our eyes; but we must also stand in like fear of the priest. Imprudent politicians, says Mr. Moser, have in Yome countries invested the sovereign even with the administration of the ecclefiaftical revenues, and not only rendered him master of all the bencfices, but also deprived the ecclefiaftics of their right of voting. The fanctity of common sense, by which the secular states were supported, is vanished away, and it is but a meer chance that the sovereign is just; if he be not, no body can oblige him to be so.-- Come on now with your natural religion, and transform all the clergy into ordinary men, lessen the opinion of the common people concerning them, and say, that the Holy Ghost does no longer in a particular manner dwell

in

[ocr errors]

in them, fortify therewith the sovereign against heaven and hell, agarnit cum ults and insurrections; what advantage do you think would arise from that? Indeed the Reformation was of great service to a R man Cathylic Prince, but the Roman Catholic Religion is 1t:ll at present of great service to Protestant Subjeéls; in this rel gion the political sinility of the Clergy is much better preserved. it has not yet been luppreff d by the double-edged conclufion, That no STATE within a STATE ought to be endured; which in its undererminie compass may as well be dangerously as usefu'ly employed. It is true, that the episcopal rights are now justly united, under one head, with those of the prince of the couriri, but m st happily not so mixed together, but one may disting, sh the various places and charges, or the office of High Steward from the Sovereign himself.--All those who robbed the Clergy of iheir foitical functity, which cannot be sufficiently founded upon any thing else but a divine revelation; all those, I say, brought upon mankind a very great calamity; for we need not have been ifraid, that the clergy would have abused their power, given by us, fince the Sovereign keeps up a perpetual mili

tary force.

• Never, (luid once a Turkish statesman to me) never mind the Mufti's being ever so bad a man, do but kneel before him in the dust, if thou art a subject to the Grand Sulton ; for he and his clergy are the only sacred rocks behind which thou canst screen thyself, if the tyrant should be seeking after thee. Does God Almighty grant thee, in his wrath, thy demand, allowing thee to venerate rhe worthy clergy man alone, and to despise the unworthy one publickly; then dost thou destroy the political sanctity of this Order, and the tyrant will readily accept of this thy distinction, and that priest who is to justify and vindicate thy cause, he will call an unworthy advocate, and for this reason condern him to be killed, and then he will afterwards kill thee allo.'

• So reasoned a Turk, who was not a Donatist, and who did not affirm, That the force of the word of God depended only upon the bchaviour of the priest-.- 5. What would become of Spain and Portugal, fince they lost their laws, if the ecclesiastics did not prevent the exorbitant u'e of the sovereign power*.”—This is wha: Matjquiu fays, and I don't urge

any more but this, that natural religion cannot affect fo gr at an advantage, and that there are in some countries such political regulations established,

1

• Hnd the natives the spirit to make off ecclefiaftica! tyranny, they might easily refrain the Monarchical, obtain new laws, and become an tuppy file prople.- "robatum efl : Witness England and Holland ; countjes once l. bouling under the fevereit yoke both of regal and ecclefiaftical tyranry.

by

by which the horrible inquisition is turned to a necesary evil, and to a sacred bridle for despotic power.'

What a pretty use this writer hath found for the horrible inquisition! A very falutary institution truly ; by the abolition of which, the Spaniards and Portuguese would doubtless be great fufferers! Is it pollible our Civilian can be so ignorant of history, or so blind to the operations of the human heart, as not to know that the spirit of liberty in any people, is a greater bulwark against despotic power than all the religious orders in the world ? Can he be ignorant that the political sanctity, he contends for, hath been almost always the tool of tyranny! History affords us hardly one instance in which the Clergy have opposed the Prince, merely for the good of the people. The church and state have contended, indeed, frequently for the rod of power; but whereever the former hath got the better, the people have prohted only by obtaining twenty tyrants instead of one. It is well our Au. thor tells us, from whence he derives his system of politics : thu Turks are undoubtedly first-rate politicians, and their political creed as worthy of adoption as their religious one! Mr. Moser, indeed, seems a little aware of the insufficiency of his political arguments; and endeavours therefore to enforce them by philofophical reasoning. He is here, however, in our opinion, no better a philosopher than politician.

• There is a strange disposition in men towards wonderful and extraordinary things, such as apparitions, spectres, forebodings, secret operations of nature, and all these things which force even philofophers to confess, we don't yet know every thing.-Those great men who have argued and written against this superftitious disposition of mind have fucceeded well enough, so far as at least to prevent it from being dangerous; but however they could not radically extirpate it, and many people are now ashamed to confess publickly, what in their private thoughts they confess to themselves. ----But may not this propensity of mind be accounted for from ļome higher reasons ? Horses have a tender mouth in order that a bridle may the better rule them ; and perhaps this disposition has been implanted in us, in order that we may the better be carried by it to execute the wise purposes of nature. Do hut imagine to yourself that we had not fuch a disposition of mind, and suppose that our brain was so constituted that it could not be affected by any thing but mathematical demonstrations, should we then be poffefted of that tender sensibility, that easy credulity, which lo much contributes to our pleasure? We must then either look into the very bottom of every thing, (which pretension is however very absurd) or we are now a great deal happier, because we are sooner and more easily satisfied. It is true enough, this disposition is very apt to kindle the fire of superftition ; but good-nature, kindness,

and

and generosity, are not less liable to be misled. This

This you know yourself, and have not censured such qualities neither. Indeed man is a curious, wonderful, and incomprehensible being; he is both the master and the fool of all his fellow-creatures. We have conjectures and systems concerning the end and design of his existence, but viewing him only as he stands in relation to this life, and the rank he here holds, I find by experience that it is necessary for him to be led and tamed by various ways and means.'

It is with some indignation we see even the language of philos sophy employed, in attempts to enslave the persons, and blind the understandings, of mankind : we shall, therefore, take tie above curious piece of sophistry to pieces, for the entertainment or information of the Reader.

Our Author sets out, with adopting the supposition of many other superficial reasoners, viz. that superilition is a natural paffion originally implanted, and so deeply rooted in the human heart, as never to be eradicated.' But fuperftition is not a pasiion originally inherent in, or infeparably attached to human nature: it is only an habitual and factitious disposition, compounded of the joint operations of admiration and fear. These indeed are original inherent passions, and, when properly cultivated or directed, produce curiosity and veneration; whence knowledge and religion : but, when neglected or improperly turned, are productive of ignorant wonder and timid superstition. Our Author pays a tine compliment to human nature, in fuppofing our minds to have been made purposely feeble, that we might be the better ruled; nor do we think even that noble animal the horse, hath any thing to thank him for: as we conceive a free and independent Houghnhnm would dispute the right of bridling him merely because he might have a tender mouth. As to that easy credulity, which so much contributes to our pleasure,' we do not envy our Author any share of it that nature or education may have bestowed on him. "We agree with him that Man is a curious, wonderful and incomprehensible Being, and that individuals are the masters and the fools of their fellow-creatures. But here lies the rub: the dispute is, who are to be the masters and who the fools? Mr. Mofer says, he finds by experience, that it is necessary man should be led and tamcd. What? Man, in the abstract ? All mankind ?- No, surely : for, if so, by whom are we to be thus led and tamed? It is only a certain part of mankind, the fimple and ignorant, the poor subjects and the laity that are to be bridled, led and tamed by the ingenious and learned, the magistrates and the clergy. But have not even the fimple and ignorant multitude, the canaille, the mob, or whatever opprobrious term we please to give them; have not they the common privileges of many Who hath promoted and elevated these

« PředchozíPokračovat »