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distant when you must go and see; and then, if you should be mistaken, What will you do?
Many of you have descended from godly parents, and have had a religious education. Has not your infidelity arisen from the dislike which you conceived in early life to religious exercises? Family worship was a weariness to you; and the cautions, warnings and counsels which were given you, instead of having any proper effect, only irritated your corruptions. You longed to be from under the yoke. Since that time, your parents, it may be, have been removed by death; or if they live, they may have lost their control over you. So now you are free. But still something is wanting to erase the prejudices of education, which, in spite of all your efforts, will accompany you, and embitter your present pursuits. For this purpose, a friend put into your hands The Age of Reason, or some production of the kind. You read it with avidity. This is the very thing you wanted. You have long suspected the truth of Christianity; but had not courage to oppose it. Now then, you are a philosopher; yes, a philosopher! Our fathers,' say you, 'might be well-meaning people, but they were imposed upon by priests. The world gets more enlightened now-a-days. There is no need of such rigidness. The Supreme Being (if there be one,) can never have created the pleasures of life, but for the purpose of enjoyment. Avaunt, ye self-denying casuists! Nature is the law of man!'
Was not this, or something nearly resembling it, the process of your minds? And are you now satisfied? I do not ask whether you have been able to defend your cause against assailants, nor whether you have gained converts to your way of thinking: you may have done both; but are you satisfied with yourselves? Do you really believe yourselves to be in the right way? Have you no misgivings of heart? Is there not something within you which occasionally whispers, My parents were righteous, and I am wicked: O that my soul were in their souls' stead?'
Ah young men! If such be the occasional revoltings of your mind, what are you doing in labouring to gain others over to your way of thinking? Can you from experience honestly promise them peace of mind? Can you go about to persuade them that there is
no hell, when, if you would speak the truth, you must acknowledge that you have already an earnest of it kindled in your bosoms? If counsels were not lost upon you, I would entreat you to be contented with destroying your own souls. Have pity on your fellow-creatures, if you have none upon yourselves? Nay, spare yourselves so much, at least, as not to incur the everlasting execrations of your most intimate acquaintance. If Christianity should prove what your consciences in your most serious moments tell you it is, you are doing this every day of your lives.
Secondly Consider How IT IS THAT ALMOST ALL YOUR WRITERS, AT ONE TIME OR OTHER, BEAR TESTIMONY IN FAVOUR OF CHRISTIANITY. It were easy to collect from those very writings which were designed to undermine the Christian religion, hundreds of testimonies in its favour. Voltaire and Rousseau, as we have seen already, have in their fits gone far towards contradicting all which they have written against it. Bolingbroke has done the same. Such sentences as the following may be found in his publications: "Supposing Christianity to have been a human invention, it has been the most amiable invention that was ever im.. posed on mankind for their good.-Christianity as it came out of the hand of God, if I may use the expression, was a most simple and intelligible rule of belief, worship, and manners, which is the true notion of a religion.-The gospel is in all cases one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, of benevolence, and of universal charity."* Paine, perhaps, has said as little in this way as any of your writers, yet he has professed a respect for the character of Jesus Christ. "He was," says he, "a virtuous and an amiable man. The morality he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind."†
In what manner will you go about to account for these concessions? Christian writers, those at least who are sincerely attached to the case, are not seized with these fits of inconsistency. How is it that yours, like the worshippers of Baal, should thus be continually cutting themselves with knives? You must either give up your leaders as a set of men, who, while they are labouring to
* Works, Vol. IV. pp. 394, 395.
Vol. V. pp. 188, 189
+ Age of Reason, Part I. p. 5.
persuade the world of the hypocrisy of priests, were themselves the most infamous of all hypocrites; or, which will be equally fatal to your cause, you must attribute it to occasional convictions, which they felt and expressed, though contrary to the general strain of their writings. Is it not an unfavourable character of your cause, that in this particular, it exactly resembles that of vice itself? Vicious men will often bear testimony in favour of virtue, especially on the near approach of death; but virtuous men never return the compliment by bearing testimony in favour of vice. We are not afraid of Christians thus betraying their cause; but neither your writers nor your consciences are to be trusted in a serious hour.
Thirdly Consider How T COMES TO PASS THAT YOUR PRINCI
PLES FAIL YOU, AS THEY ARE FREQUENTLY KNOWN TO DO IN
A DYING HOUR. It is a rule with wise men, so to live as they shall wish they had when they come to die. How do you suppose you shall wish you had lived in that day? Look at the deaths of your greatest men, and see what their principles have done for them at Jast. Mark the end of that apostle and high-priest of your profession, Voltaire; and try if you can find in it either integrity, or hope, or any thing that should render it an object of envy. Why is it that so many of you faint in the day of trial? If your cause were good, you would defend it with uprightness, and die
* The following particulars, among many others, are recorded of this writer by his biographer, Condorcet, a man after his own heart. First: That he conceived the design of overturning the Christian religion, and that by his own hand. "I am wearied," said he, "of hearing it repeated that twelve men were sufficient to establish Christianity; and I wish to prove there needs but one to destroy it." Secondly: That in pursuit of this object he was threatened with a persecution, to avoid which he received the sacrament, and publicly declared his respect for the church, and his disdain of his detractors, namely those who had called in question his Christianity! Thirdly: That in his last illness, in Paris, being desirous of obtaining what is called Christian burial, he sent for a priest, to whom he declared that he "died in the Catholic faith, in which he was born." Fourthly: That another priest (Curate of the parish) troubled him with questions. Among other things he asked, "Do you believe the divinity of Jesus Christ?" "In the name of God, Sir," replied Voltaire, "speak to me no more of that man, but let me die in peace."
with inward satisfaction. But is it so? Mr. Paine flatters himself that his principles will bear him up in the prospect of death ;* and it is possible that he may brave it out in some such manner as David Hume did. Such instances, however, are rare. For one unbeliever that maintains his courage, many might be produced whose hearts have failed them, and who have trembled for the consequences of their infidelity.
On the other hand, you cannot produce a single instance of a Christian, WHO AT THE APPROACH OF DEATH WAS TROUBLED OR TERRIFIED IN HIS CONSCIENCE FOR HAVING BEEN A CHRISTIAN. Many have been afraid in that day lest their faith in Christ should not prove genuine ; but who that has put his trust in him was ever known to be apprehensive lest he should at last deceive him? Can you account for this difference? If you have discovered the true religion, and ours be all fable and imposture, how comes it to pass that the issue of things is what it is? Do gold and silver and precious stones perish in the fire? and do wood and hay and stubble endure it?
I have admitted that Mr. Paine may possibly brave it out to the last; but if he does, his courage may be merely assumed. Pride will induce men to disguise the genuine feelings of their hearts, on more occasions than one. We hear much of courage among duellists; but little credit is due to what they say, if, while the words proceed from their lips, we see them approach each other with paleness and trembling. Yea more, If Mr. Paine's courage in death be not different from what it already is in the prospect of it, it certainly will be merely assumed. He has given full proof of what his courage amounts to in what he has advanced on the certainty of a future state. He acknowledges the possibility of a future judgment; yea, he admits it to be rational to believe that there will be one. "The power," he says, "that called us into being, can, if he please and when he pleases, call us to account for the manner in which we have lived here; and therefore, without seeking any further motive for the belief, it is rational to believe that he will, for we
Age of Reason, Part II. Preface.
know before-hand that he can."* I shall not stop to inquire into the justness of Mr. Paine's reasoning, from what God can do to what he will do; it is sufficient for me that he admits it to be "rational to believe that God will call men to account for the manner in which they have lived here." And can he admit this truth, and not tremble? Mark his firmness. After acknowledging that a future judgment is the object of rational belief, he retracts what he has said by reducing it to only a probability, which is to have the influence of belief: yea, and as if that were too terrible an idea, he brings it down to a mere possibility. The reason which he gives for these reductions is, that "If we knew it as a fact, we should be the mere slaves of terror." Indeed? But wherefore? Christians believe in a judgment to come, and they are not the slaves of terror. They have an Advocate as well as a Judge, by believing in whom the terror of judgment is removed. And though Mr. Paine rejects this ground of consolation, yet if things be as he has represented them, I do not perceive why he should be terrified. He writes as though he stood on a very respectable footing with his Creator; he is not "an out-cast, a beggar, or a worm ;" he needs no mediator: no indeed! He "stands in the same relative condition with his Maker he ever did stand since man existed.”† Very well; of what then is he afraid? "God is good, and will exceed the very best of us in goodness." On this ground Lord Shaftesbury assures us, "Deists can have no dread or suspicion to render them uneasy for it is malice only, and not goodness, which can make them afraid." Very well, I say again, of what then is Mr. Paine afraid? If a Being full of goodness will not hurt him, he will not be hurt. Why should he be terrified at a certain hereafter. Why not meet his Creator with cheerfulness and confidence? Instead of this, he knows of no method by which he may be exempted from terror but that of reducing future judgment to a mere possibility; leaving room for some faint hope, at least, that what he professes to believe as true, may, in the end, prove false. Such is the courage of your blustering hero. Un
+ Age of Reason, Part I. p. 21.
* Age of Reason, Part II. p. 100.
‡ Characteristics, Vol. I. § 5.