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love, ipODd the loveliest season of their life in unproductive efforts to appear otherwise than they are, for the sake of the feelings of their partner, or the welfare of their mutual offspring: those of less generosity and refinement openly avow their disappointment, and linger out the remnant of that union, which only death can dissolve, in a state of incurable bickering and hostility. The early education of the children takes its colour from the squabbles of the parents; they are nursed in a systematic school of ill humour, violence, and falsehood. Had they been suffered to part at the moment when indifference rendered their union irksome, they would have been spared many years of misery; they would have connected themselves more suitably, and would have found that happiness in the society of more congenial partners which is for ever denied them by tho despotism of marriage. They would have been separately useful and happy members of society, who, whilst united, were miserable, and rendered misanthropical by misery. The conviction that wedlock is indissoluble, holds out the strongest of all temptations to the perverse: they indulge without restraint in acrimony, and all the little tyrannies of domestic life, when they know that their victim is without appeal. If this connection were put on a rational basis, each would be assured that habitual ill temper would terminate in separation, and would check this vicious and dangerous propensity.
Prostitution is the legitimate offspring of marriage and its accompanying errors. Women, for no other crime than having followed the dictates of a natural appetite, are driven with fury from the comforts and sympathies of society. It is less venial than murder: and the punishment which is inflicted on her who destroys her child to escape reproach, is lighter than the life of agony and disease to which the prostitute is irrecoverably doomed. Has a woman obeyed the impulse of unerring nature?—society declares war against her, pitiless and eternal war: she must bo the tame slave, she must make no reprisals; theirs is the right of persecution, hers the duty of endurance. She lives a life of infamy: the loud and bitter laugh of scorn scares her from all return. She dies of long and lingering disease; yet she is in fault, she is the criminal, she the froward and untameable child,—and society, forsooth, the pure and virtuous matron who casts her as an abortion from her undefiled bosom! Society avenges herself on the criminalsof her own creation; she is employed in anathematising the vice to-day, which yesterday she was the most zealous to teach. Thus is formed one-tenth of the population of London : meanwhile the evil is twofold. Young men, excluded by the fanatical idea of chastity from the society of modest aod accomplished women, associate with these vicious and miserable beings,—destroying thereby all those exquisite and delicate sensibilities whose existence cold-hearted worldlings have denied; annihilating all genuine passion, and debasing that to a selfish feeling which is the excess of generosity and devoteduess. Their body and mind alike crumble into a hideous wreck of humanity; idiotcy and disease become perpetuated in their miserable offspring, and distant generations suffer for the bigoted morality of their forefathers. Chastity is a monkish and evangelical superstition, a greater foe to natural temperance even than nnintcllectual sensuality; it strikes at the root of all domestic happiness, and consigns more than half the human race to misery, that some few may monopolise according to law. A system could not well have been
devised more studiously hostile to human happiness than marriage.
I conceive that, from the abolition of marriage, the fit and natural arrangement of sexual connexion would result. I by no means assert that the intercourse would bo promiscuous: on the contrary, it appears, from the relation of parent to child, that this union is generally of long duration, and marked above all others with generosity and self-devotion. But this is a subject which it is perhaps premature to discuss. That which will result from tho abolition of marriage, will be natural and right, because choice and change will be exempted from restraint.
In fact, religion and morality, as they now stand, compose a practical code of misery and servitude: the genius of human happiness must tear every leaf from the accursed book of God, ere man can read the inscription on his heart. How would morality, dressed up in stiff stays and finery, start from her own disgusting image, should she look in the mirror of nature!
I' 12, col. 1, 1.5.
To the red and baleful tun
The north polar star, to which the axis of the earth, in its present state of obliquity, points. It is exceedingly probable, from many considerations, that this obliquity will gradually diminish, until the equator coincides with the ecliptic: the nights and days will then become equal on the earth throughout the year, and probably the seasons also. There is no great extravagance in presuming that the progress of the perpendicularity of the poles may bo as rapid as the progress of intellect; or that there should be a perfect identity between the moral and physical improvement of the human species. It is certain that wisdom is not compatible with disease, and that, in the present state of the climates of the earth, health, in the true and comprehensive sense of the word, is out of the reach of civilised man. Astronomy teaches us that the earth is now in its progress, and that the poles are every year becoming more and more perpendicular to the ecliptic. The strong evidence afforded by the history of mythology and geological researches, that some event of this nature has taken place already, affords a strong presumption that this progress is not merely an oscillation, as has been surmised by some late astronomers *. Bones of animals peculiar to the torrid zone have been found in the north of Siberia, and on the banks of the river Ohio. Plants have been found in the fossil state in the interior of Germany, which demand the present climate of Hindostan for their production +. The researches of M. Bailly \ establish the existence of a people who inhabited a tract in Tartar}' 49° north latitude, of greater antiquity than either the Indians, the Chinese, or the Chaldeans, from whom these nations derived their sciences and theology. We find, from the testimony of ancient writers, that Britain, Germany, and France, were much colder than at present, and that their great rivers were annually frozen over. Astronomy teaches us also, that since this period tho obliquity of the earth's position has been considerably diminished. ijST
* Laplace, Systeme du Monde.
t Cabanis,Rapports du Physiqueet du Moralde L'Hommo, vol. 11. page 406. X Lettres sur lea Sciences, a Voltaire—Bailly.
P. 12, col. 2. L 63. No atom of thin turbulence fulfil* A vague and unnecestitatcd task, Or acts but as it must and ought to act Deux exemples scrviront a nous rendre plus sensible le principe qui vient d'£tro pose; nous emprunterons Tun du physique ct l'autre du moral. Dans un tourbillon dc poussierc qu'eleve un vent impetueux, quelquo confus qu'il paroisse k nos yeux; dans la plus affrcuse tempfite excite* pardes vents opposes qui goulevent les riots, il n'\ a pas uno scule molecule de pouesiere oti d'eau qui soit place au hasard, qui n'ait sa cause suffisantc pour occupcr le lieu ou elle se trouve, et qui n'agisse rigoureuscment de la manierc dont elle doit agir. Un geomtltre qui connottroit exactement les differentes forces qui agisscnt dans ces deux cas, et les preprint es des molecules qui Bont roues, demontrcroit que d'apres des causes donnees, chaque molecule agit precise'ment comme elle doit agir, et nc pent agir autre. ment qu'elle no fait.
Dans les convulsions tcrribles qui agitent quelquefois les soeictes politique*, et qui produisent souvent Je renvcrsement d'un empire, il n'y a pasune seulc action, une seule parole, une seulc peneee, uno seulc volonte, une seule passion dans les agens qui concourent k la revolution comme destructcurs ou commc victimes, qui ne soit neccssairc, qui n'agisse comme elle doit agir, qui n'opoieinfailliblement les effets qu'clle doit operer suivant la place qu'occupcnt ccs agens dans co tourbillon moral. Cela paroltroit evident pour une intelligence qui sera en etat dc saisir ct d'apprecier toutcs les actions ct reactions des esprits et des corps de ccux qui coutribucnt a ccttc revolution.—Systeme de la Nature, vol. i. page 44.
P. 13, col. l. L 23.
Ho who asserts the doctrine of Necessity, means that, contemplating the events which compose the moral and material universe, he beholds only an immense and uninterrupted chain of causes and effects, no one of which could occupy any other place than it does occupy, or act in any other place than it does act. The idea of necessity is obtained by our experience of the connection between objects, the uuiformity of the operations of nature, the constant conjunction of similar events, and the consequent inference of ono from the other. Mankind are therefore agreed in the admission of necessity, if they admit that these two circumstances take place in voluntary action. Motive is, to voluntary action in the human mind, what cause is to effect in the material universe. The word liberty, as applied to mind, is analogous to the word chance as applied to matter: they spring from an ignorance of the certainty of the conjunction of antecedents and consequents.
Every human being is irresistibly impelled to act precisely as he does act: in the eternity which preceded bis birth a chain of causes was generated, which, operating under the name of motives, make it impossible that any thought of his mind, or any action of his life, should he otherwise than it is. Were the doctrine of Necessity false, the human mind would no longer be a legitimate object of science; from like causes it would be in vain that we should expect like effects; the strongest motive would no longer be paramount over the conduct; all knowledge would be vague and undeterminate; we could not predict with
any certainty that wo might not meet as an enemy tomorrow him from whom we have parted in friendship to-night; the most probable inducements and the clearest reasonings would lose the invariable influence they possess. The contrary of this is demonstrably the fact. Similar circumstances produce invariably similar effects. The precise character and motives of any man on any occasion being given, the moral philosopher could predict his actions with as much certainty, as the natural philoaophercould predict theefTects of the mixture of any particular chemical substance*. Why is the aged husbandman more experienced than the young beginner? Because there is a uniform, undeniable necessity in the operations of the material universe. Why is the old statesman more skilful than the raw politician? Because, reiving on the necessary conjunction of motive and action, he proceeds to produce moral effects, by the application of those moral cause* which experience has shown to be effectual. Some actions may be found to which we can attach no motives, but these arc the effects of causes with which wc arc unacquainted. Hence the relation which motive bears to voluntary actioti, is that of cause to effect; nor, placed in thia point of view, is it, or ever has it been, the subject of popular or philosophical dispute. None but the few fanatics who are engaged in the herculean task of reconciling the justice of their God with the misery of man, will longer outrage common sense by the supposition of an event without a cause, a voluntary action without a motive. History, politics, morals, criticism, all grounds of- reasoning, all principles of science, alike assume the truth of the doctrine of Necessity No farmer canying his corn to market doubts the sals of it at the market price. The master of a manurac* tot y no more doubts that he can purchase the human labour necessary for his purposes, than that his machines will act as they have been accustomed to act.
But, whilst none have scrupled to admit necessity as influencing matter, many have disputed its dominion o%-er mind. Independent of its militating with the received ideas of the justice of God, it is by no means obvious to a superficial inquiry. When the mind observes its own operations, it feels no connection of motive and action: but as wc know "nothing more of causation than the constant conjunction of objects and the consequent inference of one from the other, as wo find that these two circumstauces are universally allowed to have place in voluntary action, we may be easily led to own that they are subjected to the necessity common to all causes." The actions of the will have a regular conjunction with circumstances and characters; motive is, to voluntary action, what cause is to effect. But the only idea that we can form of causation is a constant conjunction of similar objects, and the consequent inference of one from the other: wherever this is the case, necessity is clearly established.
The idea of liberty, applied metaphorically to the will, has sprung from a misconception of the meaning of the word power. Whatis power ?—id quod potest^ that which can produco any given effect. To deny power, is to say that nothing can or has the power to be or act In the only true sense of the word power, it applies with equal force to the loadstone as to the human will. Do you think these motives, which I shall present, are powerful enough to rouse him? is a question just as common as, Do you think this lever has the power of raising this weight? The advocates of free-will assert, that the will has the power of refusing to be determined by the strongest motive: but the strongest motive is that which, overcoming nil others, ultimately prevails; this assertion therefore amounts to a denial of the will being ultimately determined by that motive which does determine it, which is absurd. But it is equally certain that a man cannot resist the strongest motive, as that he cannot overcome a physical impossibility.
The doctrine of Necessity tends to introduce a great change into the established notions of morality, and utterly to destroy religion. Kcward and punishment must be considered, by the Necessarian, merely as motives which he would employ in order to procure the adoption or abandonment of any given line of conduet. Desert, In the present sense of the wont, would uo longer have any meaning; and he, who should inflict pain upon another for no better reason than that he deserved it, would only gratify his revenge under pretence of satisfying justice. It is not enough, says the advocate of free-will, that a criminal should be prevented from a repetition of his crime; he should feel pain; and his torments, when justly inflicted, ought precisely to be proportioned to his fault. But utility it morality; that which is incapable of producing happiness is useless; and though the crime of Damtens must be condemned, yet the frightful torments which revenge, under the namo of justice, inflicted on this unhappy man, cannot be supposed to have augmented, even at the long-run, the stock of pleasurable sensation in the world. At the same time, the doctrine of Necessity does not in the least diminish our disapprobation of vice. The conviction which all feel, that a viper is a poisonous animal, and that a tiger is constrained, by the inevitable condition of his existence, to devour men, does not induce us to avoid them less sedulously, or, even more, to hesitate in destroying them: but he would surely be of a hard heart, who meeting with a serpent on a desert island, or in a situation where it was incapable of injury, should wantonly deprive it of existence. A Necessarian is inconsequent to his own principles, if he indulges in hatred or contempt; the compassion which he feels for the criminal is unmixed with a desire of injuring him: he looks with an elevated and droadless composure upon the links of the universal chain as they pass before his eyes; whilst cowardice, curiosity and inconsistency, only assail him in proportion to the feebleness and indistinctness with which he has perceived and rejected the delusions of free-will.
Religion is the perception of the relation in which we stand to the principle of the universe. But if the principle of the universe be not an organic being, the model and prototype of man, the relation between it and human beings is absolutely none. Without some insight into its will respecting our actions, religion is nugatory and vain. But will is only a mode of animal mind; moral qualities also are such as only a human being can possess; to attribute them to the principle of the universe, is to annex to it properties incompatible with any possible definition of its nature. It is probable that the word God was originally only an expression denoting the unknown cause of the known events which men perceived in the universe. By the vulgar mistake of a metaphor for a real being, of a word for a thing, it became a man, endowed with human qualities and governing-the universe, as an earthly monarch governs his kingdom. Their addresses to this imaginary being, indeed, are much in the same style as those of subjects to a king. They acknowledge his benevolence, deprecate his anger and supplicate his favour.
But the doctrine of Necessity teaches us, that in no case could any event have happened otherwise than it did happen ; and that, if God is the author of good, he is also the author of evil; that, if he is entitled to our gratitude for the one, he is entitled to our hatred for the other; that admitting the existence of this hypothetic being, he is also subjected to the dominion of an immutable necessity. It is plain that the same arguments which Jirove that God is the author of food, light, and life, prove him also to be the author of poison, darkness and death. The wide-wasting earthquake, the storm, the battle, and the tyranny, are attributable to this hypothetic being, in the same degree as the fairest forms of nature, sunshine, liberty, and peace.
But we are taught, by the doctrine of Necessity, that there is neither good nor evil in the universe, otherwise than as the events to which we apply these epithets have relatiou to our own peculiar mode of being. Still less than with the hypothesis of a God, will the doctrine of Necessity accord with the belief of a future state of punishment. God made man such as he is, and then damned him for being so: for to say that God was the author of all good, and man the author of all evil, is to say that one man made a straight line and a crooked one, and another man made the in. congruity. c^**'
A Mahometan story, much to the present purpose, is recorded, wherein Adam and Moses are introduced disputing before God in the following manner. "Thou," says Moses, "art Adam, whom God created, and animated with the breath of life, and caused to be worshipped by the angels, and placed in Paradise, from whence mankind have been expelled for thy fault." Whereto Adam answered, " Thou art Moses, whom God chose for his apostle, and entrusted with his word, by giving thee the tables of the law, and whom he vouchsafed to admit to discourse with himself. How many years dost thou find the law was written before I was created?" Says Moses, "Forty." "And dost thou not find/' replied Adam, "these words therein, 'and Adam rebelled against his Lord and transgressed?'" Which Moses confessing, " Dost thou therefore blame roe,"continued he, "for doing that which God wrote of roe that I should do, forty years before 1 was created; nay, for what was decreed concerning me fifty thousand years before the creation of heaven and earth ?"—Sale's Prelim. Disc, to the Koran, page 164.
P. 13, col. 2,1.14.
This negation must be understood solely to affect a creative Deity. The hypothesis of a pervading Spirit, cocternal with the universe, remains unshaken.
A close examination of the validity of the proofs adduced to support any proposition, is the only secure way of attaining truth, on the advantages of which it is unnecessary to descant: our knowledge of the existence of a Deity is a subject of such importance, that it cannot be too minutely investigated ; in consequence of this conviction we proceed briefly and impartially to examine the proofs which have been adduced. It is necessary first to consider the nature of belief.
When a proposition is offered to the mind, it perceives the agreement or disagreement of the ideas of which it is composed. A perception of their agreement is termed belief. Many obstacles frequently prevent this perception from being immediate; these the mind attempts to remove, in order that the perception may be distinct. The mind is active in the investigation, in order to perfect the state of perception of the relation which the component ideas of the proposition bear to each, which is passive; the investigation, being confused with the perception, hus induced many falsely to imagine that the mind is active in belief,— that belief is an act of volition,—in consequence of which it may be regulated by tho mind. Pursuing, continuing this mistake, they have attached a degree of criminality to disbelief; of which, in its nature, it is incapable: it is equally incapable of merit.
Belief, then, is a passion, the strength of which, like every other passion, is in precise proportion to the degrees of excitement.
The degrees of excitement are three.
The senses are the sources of all knowledge to the mind ; consequently their evidence claims the strongest assent.
The decision of the mind, founded upon our own experience, derived from these sources, claims the next degree.
The experience of others, which addresses itself to the former one, occupies the lowest degree.
(A graduated scale, on which should be marked the capabilities of propositions to approach the test of the senses, would be a just barometer of the belief which ought to bo attached to them.)
Consequently, no testimony can be admitted which is contrary to reason; reason is founded on the evidence of our senses.
Every proof may be referred to one of these three divisions: it is to be considered what arguments wo receive from each of them, which should convince us of the existence of a Deity.
1st. The evidence of the senses. If the Deity should appear to us, if he should convince our senses of his existence, this revelation would necessarily command belief. Those to whom the Deity has thus appeared have the strongest possible conviction of his existence. But the God of theologians is incapable of local visibility.
2d. Reason. It is urged that man knows tnat whatever ie, must either have bad a beginning, or have existed from all eternity : he also knows, that whatever is not eternal must have had a cause. When this reasoning ii applied to the universe, it is necessary to prove that it was created : until that is clearly demonstrated, we may reasonably suppose that it has endured from all eternity. We must prove design before we can infer a designer. The only idea which we can form of causation is derivable from the constant conjunction of objects, and the consequent inference of one from the other. In a case where two propositions are diametrically opposite, the mind believes that which is least incomprehensible;—it is easier to Bupposo that the universe has existed from all eternity, than to conceive a being beyond its limits capable of creating it: if tho mind sinks beneath the weight of one, is it an alleviation to increase the intolerability of the burthen?
The other argument, which is founded on a man's knowledge of his own existence, stands thus. A man knows not only that he now is, but that once he was not ; consequently there must have been a cause. But our idea of causation is alone derivable from the constant conjunction of objects and the consequent inference of one from the other; and, reasoning experimentally, we can only infer from effects, causes exactly adequate to those effects. But there certainly is a generative power which is effected by certain instruments: we cannot prove that it is inherent in these instruments; nor is the contrary hypothesis capable of
demonstration; we admit that the generative power is incomprehensible; but to suppose that the same efTect is produced by an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, being, leaves the cause in the same obscurity, but renders it more incomprehensible.
3d. Testimony. It is required that testimony should not be contrary to reason. The testimony that the Deity convinces the senses of men of his existence can only bo admitted by us, if our mind considers it less probable that these men should have been deceived, than that the Deity should have appeared to them. Our reason can never admit the testimony of men, who not only declare that they were eye-witnesses of miracles, but that the Deity was irrational; for he commanded that he should be believed, he proposed the highest rewards for faith, eternal punishments for disbelief. We can only command voluntary actions; belief is not an act of volition; the mind is even pas sive, or involuntarily active: from this it is evident that we have no sufficient testimony, or rather that testimony is insufficient, to prove tho being of a God. It has been before shown that it cannot be deduced from reason. They alone, then, who have been convinced by the evidence of the senses, can believe it.
Hence it is evident that, having no proofs from any of the three sources of conviction, the mind cannot believe the existence of a creative God: it is also evident that, as belief is a passion of the mind, no degree of criminality is attachable to disbelief; and that they only are reprehensible who neglect to remove the false medium through which their mind views any subject of discussion. Every reflecting mind must acknowledge, that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity.
God is an hypothesis, and as such, stands in need of proof; the onus proband* rests on the theist. Sir Isaac Newton says: "Hypotheses non fingo, quicquid en i m ex phenomenis non deducitur hypothesis vocanda eat, et hypothesis vel mcta physics, vel physics, vel qualitatum occultarum, seu mechanics, in philosophia locum non habent.*' To all proofs of the existence of a creative God apply this valuable rule. We see a variety of bodies possessing a variety of powers; we merely know their effects; we are in a state of ignorance with respect to their essences and causes. These Newton calls the phenomena of things; hut the pride of philosophy is unwilb'ng to admit its ignorance of their causes. From the phenomena, which are the objects of our senses, we attempt to infer a cause, which wo call God, and gratuitously endow it with all negative and contradictory qualities. From this hypothesis we invent this general name, to conceal our ignorance of causes and essences. The being called God by no means answers with the conditions prescribed by Newton; it bears every mark of a veil woven by philosophical conceit, to hide the ignorance of philosophers even from themselves. They borrow the threads of its texture from the anthropomorphism of the vulgar. Words have been used by sophists for the same purposes, from the occult qualities of the Peripatetics to tho effluvium of Boyle and the crinities or nebula of Herschel. God is represented as infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; he is contained under every prcttitcate in non that tho logic of ignorance could fabricate. Even his worshippers allow that it is impossible to form any idea of him; they exclaim with the French poet,
Pour dlrece qu'il eat, il laut etre lul-meme.
Lord Bacon says, that" atheism leaves to man reason, philosophy, natural piety, laws, reputation, and every thing tbat can serve to conduct bim to virtue; but superstition destroys all these, and erects itself into a tyranny over the understandings of men : hence atheism never disturbs the government, but renders man more clear-sighted, since he sees nothing beyond theboundaries of the present life."—Bacon's Moral Essays.
La première théologie de l'homme lui fit d'abord craindre et adorer les éléments même, des objets matériels et grossiers ; il rendit ensuite ses hommages à des agents présidents aux éléments, à des génies inférieurs, à des héros, ou à des hommes doués de grandes qualités. A force de réfléchir, il crut simplifier les choses en soumettant la nature entière à un seul agent, à un esprit, à une ame universelle, qui mettoit cette nature et ses parties en mouvement. En remontant de causes en causes, les mortels ont fini par ne rien voir; et c'est dans cette obscurité qu'ils ont placé leur Dieu ; c'est dans cet abîme ténébreux que leur imagination inquiète travaille toujours à se fabriquer des chimères, qui les affligeront jusqu'à ce que la connoîssance de la nature les dé* trompe des fantômes qu'ils ont toujours si vainement adorés.
Si nous voulons nous rendre compte de nos idées sur la Divinité, nous serons obligés de convenir que, par le mot Dieu, les hommes n'ont jamais pu désigner que la cause la plus cachée, la plus éloignée, la plus inconnue des effets qu'ils voyoient: ils ne font usage de ce mot, que lorsque le jeu des causes naturelles et connues cesse d'être visible pour eux ; dès qu'ils perdent le fil de ces cause», ou dès que leur esprit ne peut plus en suivre la chaîne, ils tranchent leur difficulté, et terminent leurs recherches en appellant Dieu la dernière des causes, c'est-à-dire celle qui est au-delà do toutes les causes qu'ils connoisBent; ainsi ils ne font qu'assigner une dénomination vague à une cause ignorée, à laquelle leur paresse ou les bornes de leurs connoïssanceB les forcent de s'arrêter. Toutes les fois qu'on nous ditque Dieu est l'auteur de quelque phénomène, cela signifie qu'on ignore comment un tel phénomène a pu s'opérer par le secours des forces ou des causes que nous connoissons dans la nature. C'est ainsi que le commun des hommes, dont l'ignorance est le partage, attribue à la Divinité non seulement les effets inusités qui les frappent, mais encore les événemens les plus simples, dont les causes sont les plus faciles à connoître pour quiconque a pu les méditer. En un mot, l'homme a toujours respecté les causes inconnues des effets surprenant, que son ignorance l'empéchoit de démêler. Ce fut sur les débris de la nature que les hommes élevèrent le colosse imaginaire de la Divinité.
Si l'ignorance de la nature donna la naissance aux dieux, la connoîssance do la nature est faite pour les détruire. A mesure que l'homme s'instruit, ses forces et ses ressources augmentent avec ses lumières; les sciences, les arts conservateurs, l'industrie, lui fournissent des secours; l'expérience le rassure ou lui procure des moyens de résister aux efforts de bien des causes qui cessent de l'alarmer dès qu'il les a connues. En un mot, ses terreurs se dissipent dans la même proportion que son esprit s'éclaire. L'homme instruit cesse d'être superstitieux.
Ce n'est jamais que sur parole que des peuples entiers adorent le Dieu de leurs pères et de leurs prêtres: l'autorité, la confiance, la soumission, et l'habitude, leur tiennent lieu de conviction et de preuves; ils so prosternent et prient, parce que leurs pères leur ont appris à se prosterner et prier: mais pourquoi ceux-ci se sont-ils mis à genoux? C'est que dans les temps éloignés leurs législateurs et leurs guides leur en ont fait un devoir. "Adorez et croyez," ont
ils dit, "des dieux que vous ne pouvez comprendre; rapportez-vous-en à notre sagesse profonde; nous eu savons plus que voua sur la Divinité." Mais pourquoi m'en rapporterois-je à vous P C'est que Dieu le veut ainsi, c'est que Dieu vous punira si vous osez résister. Mais ce Dieu n'est-il donc pas la chose en question? Cependant les hommes se sont toujours payés de ce cercle vicieux; la paresse de leur esprit leur fit trouver plus court de s'en rapporter au jugement des autres. Toutes les notions religieuses sont fondées uniquement sur l'autorité; toutes les religionsdu monde défendent l'examen, et ne veulent pas que l'on raisonne; c'est l'autorité qui veut qu'on croie en Dieu; ce Dieu n'est lui-même fondé que sur l'autorité de quelques hommes qui prétendent le connoître, et venir de sa part pour l'annoncer à la terre. Un Dieu fait par les hommes, a sans doute besoin des hommes pour Be faire connoître aux hommes.
Ne seroit-ce donc que pour des prêtres, des inspirés, des métaphysiciens, que seroit réservée la conviction de l'existence d'un Dieu, que l'on dit néanmoins si nécessaire à tout le genre humain P Mais trouvons-nous de l'harmonie entre les opinions théologiquee des différons inspirés, ou des penseurs répandus sur la terre? Ceux même qui font profession d'adorer le même Dieu, sont-ils d'accord sur son compte? Sont-ils contents des preuves que leurs collègues apportent de son existence? Souscrivent-ils unanimement aux idées qu'ils présentent sur sa nature, sur sa conduite, sur la façon d'entendre ses prétendus oracles? Est-il une contrée sur la terre, ou la science de Dieu se soit réellement perfectionnée? A-t-elle pris quelque part la consistance et l'uniformité que nous voyons prendre aux connaissances humaines, aux arts les plus futiles, aux métiers les plus méprisés? Des mots à'esprit, d'ttnmatérialité, de création, de prédestination■-, de grace; cette foule de distinctions subtiles dont la théologie s'est partout remplie dans quelques pays, ces inventions si ingénieuses, imaginées par des penseurs qui se soi.t succédés depuis tant de siècles, n'ont fait, hélas! qu'embrouiller les choses, et jamais la science la plus nécessaire aux hommes n'a jusqu'ici pu acquérir la moindre fixité. Depuis des milliers d'années, ces rêveurs oisifs se sont perpétuellement relayés pour méditer la Divinité, pour deviner ses voies cachées, pour inventer des hypothèses propres à développer cette énigme importante. Leur peu de Buccès n'a point découragé la vanité théologique ; toujours on a parlé do Dieu: on s'est égorgé pour lui, et cot être sublime demeure toujours le plus ignoré et le plus discuté.
Les hommes auroient été trop heureux, si, se bornant aux objets visibles qui les intéressent, ils eussent employé, à perfectionner leur» sciences réelles, leurs lois, leur morale, leur éducation,la moitié des efforts qu'ils ont mis dans leurs recherches sur la Divinité. Ils auroient été bien plus sages encore, et plus fortunés, s'ils eussent pu consentir à laisser leurs guides désœuvrés se quereller entre eux, et sonder des profondeurs capables de les étourdir, sans se mêler de leurs disputes insensées. Mais il est de l'essence de l'ignorance d'attacher de l'importance à ce qu'elle ne comprend pas. La vanité humaine fait que l'esprit se roidit contre les difficultés. Plus un objet se dérobe à nos yeux, plus nous faisons d'efforts pour le saisir, parecque dès-lors il aiguillonne notre orgueil, il excite notre curiosité, il nous parott intéressant. En combattant pour son Dieu chacun ne combattit en effet que pour les intérêts de sa propre vanité, qui de toutes les passions produites par la mal-organisation de la société, est