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are tearing my fesh, and drinking my blood, and breaking my bones without mercy,--if Satan's eldest son were to pass by, and drag inine adversaries off me, and rescue me from their murderous hands, I know not that it would be any crime to thank him for his merciful interposition and his compassion to a poor tormented creature.' Discrete and sober language! from whence it might be inferred that all the tortures inflicted upon the Christians by Decius or Diocletian, had been renewed by the Church of England. But the Dissenters happened at that time to have a specimen of thorough Ronish intolerance before their eyes; they compared the Act of Uniformity and the Conventicle Act (things bad enough of themselves) with the Dragonnades of Louis XIV. and taking warning in time by the experience of their neighbours, they made common cause with the Church against an enemy who never persecuted by halves.
James was too late in his temporizing policy. The execution of Mrs. Gaunt, which, when all its circumstances of baseness, illegality, cruelty, and consummate wickedness are considered, is, perhaps, the foulest murder that ever was committed under the forms of law, had filled the Dissenters with indignation and hatred against him. They seem also to have continued obstinate believers in the popish plot, when most other persons were heartily ashamed of having been so grossly deluded. Even in the reign of George I. Crosby calls the conduct of Oates in this impudent villany, a never-to-be-forgotten service to his conntry. Oh if men would but call into action half as much disposition to believe in matters of religion, as they exhibit daily in political transactions, there would be no such thing as infidelity in England,--for we continually see (and never was it more strongly exemplified than at the present time) that they who are possessed by the spirit of faction, form their opinion of the facts before them, and believe or disbelieve, according to their inclination and their will, in spite of the understanding faculty, and in contempt of conscience.
• When parties are once formed,' says Burnet, and a resolution is taken upon other considerations, no evidence can convince those who have beforehand resolved to stick to their point.'
There are some curious particulars concerning Titus Oates in Crosby's History. This wretch being once told that he ought not to seek revenge, but leave it to God, replied, that vengeance was indeed God's sweet morsel, which he kept to himself!' It is one of the few blots upon King William's reign that this man should have been pensioned with $400 a year. To remit his fipe was allowable and wise, because so excessive a mulct was plainly intended to serve as a sentence of imprisonment for life; and therefore it was proper to abrogate a sentence which went beyond the strict bounds
of law as much as it fell short of the malefactor's guilt. But Oates had been found guilty, upon the fullest testimony, of a series of perjuries perhaps the most wicked in themselves, and the most extensively falal in their consequences that ever consigned any one miserable soul to perdition; and no paltry considerations of peily interests should have induced a government, standing as William's did upon the sacred ground of religion and constitutional liberty, to injure itself with after-ages by sanctioning and rewarding a convicted miscreant.
The Revolution of 1688, of all revolutions the most necessary in its causes, the most moderate in its course, and in its consequences the most beneficial, produced a new faction in the country, more respectable in their origin ihan in their conduct. Their principle in reality was of a religious nature, and entitled to as much indulgence as any other scruple of conscience, which is innocent in itself, and injurious only to the individuals by whom it is fostered. Erroneous therefore as the Nonjurors were, yet in resigning their preferment rather than offend against their own sense of allegiance, they acted upon virtuous grounds, and are to be mentioned with respect, though not with applause. The joint-historians* of the Dissenters have chosen to charge the clergy of the seventeenth century with a disposition towards Popery, and justancing in proof of this the fact that Goodman, Bishop of Gloucester, died in ihe Romish communion—they add, Ex uno disce omnes : a conclusion as logical as it would be to infer that the whole body of the Dissenters are as uncharitable as Messrs. Bogue and Bennet have here shewn themselves. It is to the opposition wbich the English bishops made against James's design of re-establishing the Roman Catholic religion that we are indebted for the Revolution; it is to the Church of England, and to the clergy of that church that we are beholden for the blessings consequent upon that Revolution which we now enjoy. The liberties of the country were saved by its religion. Thuse prelates who had preached and were ready to practise passive obedience in human concerns, and who were far from blameless on the score of persecution, manfully stood forward when they saw the irons preparing, which may truly be said to eat into the soul. And as if to prove how free they were from any selfish or merely political views, when they thus nobly placed thenselves in the breach, many of these very men subunitted afterwards to the deprivation of their bisloprics, and bore testimony to the claims of the ejected king, as honestly as they had resisted his projects.
The Jacobites of the last century, like the Catholics of the preceding one, hoped to recover their ascendancy by means of a foreign power; and learning thus to desire the success of that • Messrs. Bogue and Bennet, vub i. p. 422.
power against the fleets and armies of England, they denaturalized themselves at heart. In this case however, as in that of the Catholics, there was a principle and a point of conscience: the man who erred in judgment, and perhaps made himself amenable by overt acts to the laws of his country, might yet stand acquitted to God and to his own heart. But by this time there had arisen among us a sect more mischievous than the wildest fanatics: a sect who arrogated to themselves the name of Free-thinkers, though they were of all men in reality the most enslaved in mind. The picture which Berkeley has given of them in his admirable work represents them as truly now as when it was drawn. They seem to me,” he says, drunk and giddy with a false notion of liberty;
and spurred on by this principle to make mad experiments on their country, they agree only in pulling down all that stands in their way, without any concerted scheme, and without caring or knowing what to erect in its stead. To hear them descant on the moral virtues, resolve them into shame, then laugh at shame as a weakness, admire the unconfined lives of savages, despise all order and decency of education, one would think the intention of these philosophers was, when they had pruned and weeded the notions of their fellow-subjects and divested them of their prejudices, to strip them of their clothes, and fill the country with naked followers of nature, enjoying all the privileges of brutality.'
This evil we derived from France. Voltaire has been the great master of this execrable school, but Voltaire only followed the fashion of his country. It is impossible,' says Addison, 'to read a page in Plato, Tully, and other ancient moralists, without being a greater and a better man for it. On the contrary, I could never read any of our modish French authors, or those of our own country who are the imitators and admirers of that trifling nation, without being for some time out of humour with myself, and at every thing about me. Their business is to depreciate human nature, and consider it under its worst appearances. They give mean interpretations and base motives to the worthiest actions ; they resolve virtue and vice into constitution. In short, they endeavour to make no distinction between man and man, or between the species of men and that of brutes. It was in a nation where the fashionable literature deserved this character that Voltaire was born and educated: he obtained his popularity in the cheapest way, by falling in with the humour of the times, flattering the prejudices of his contemporaries, and administering provocatives to their vices. Are we wrong in believing that the irreligion which prepared the way for his success is more imputable to Henry IV. than to any other individual? In an age of religious sincerity and fervour, Henry IV. for palpable political considerations, renounced the
faith in which he had been bred, and for which so many thousands and tens of thousands of his adherents had willingly shed their blood; and he reconciled himself to an idolatrous, faithless and persecuting church, at a time when the holocausts of the Inquisition were still smoking, and before the martyrs of St. Bartholomew had mouldered in their graves. The world had never seen so signal an instance of apostacy. No protestants, however they might strive to excuse ihe change for the immediate benefit of peace which was obtained by it, could possibly believe that it was ihe result of conviction; and it needs little reflection to perceive what must necessarily have been the fatal effects of such an example. Swift was of opinion that the best means for promoting the advancement of religion, when piety and morals had fallen to decay, would be by the example and influence of the sovereign and the government. Thus, indeed, Christianity had been introduced into England, Scotland, Ireland, and the whole North of Europe. The princes were converted, and the people followed the steps of their rulers. Would not the example of disbelief, or at least of making belief subservient to policy and worldly views, be followed with even more alacrity? so it might have been foreseen, and so it was found. The chief persons aniong the Huguenots, who had at one time nearly divided France, one after another struck into the path of preferment. One thing alone was wanting to complete the depravation, that the morals of the king should be as loose as his faith, and here also the pattern of evil was found, Perhaps there is no other person in history, who with a strong understandiug, a good disposition and good intentions, has left so injurious an example to mankind as Henri IV. of France. The effect was seen in the reign of his immediate successor, and more especially during the wars of the Fronde. The religious wars had been atrocious to the last degree, but men were sincere and zealous on both sides, ready to suffer or to inflict death for their principles. Subsequently they shifted sides, like players at a whist-table when the rubber is ended, and carried on hostilities with the same ferocious spirit, when there was scarcely even a profession of principle on either part.
Infidelity had been known in England before it was imported from France, but it had made vo progress. Lord Herbert was too much an enthusiast to make proselytes to a system which is fatal to enthusiasm; the elements were not so happily mixed in him as in his saintly brother; but they were the same elements, and such as find no sympathy in vulgar minds. Hobbes bad no taint of licentiousness in his thoughts or habits : while he weakened the restraints of religion, he would have bound faster the chains of human authority. These were not opinions to make their for
tune in this country. They were addressed to hard heads, and might have suited hard hearts : something light and frothy was wanting, which should flatter the yanity as well as the vices of man, and this was introduced from our neighbours at a time when the nation was disgusted with fanaticism and hypocrisy. A philosophy* of home growth soon came to its aidl,-a superficial philosophy, which, deriving every thing from without, led the way for gross materialisint with all its pernicious consequences,--the necessary consequences of premises so shallow and so false.
The prevalence of this spirit is shown by the manner in which Swift attacked it in his “ Argument to prove that the abolishing of Christizmity in England might be attended with some inconveniencies, and perhaps not produce those many good effects proposed thereby.' A fashion of infidelity even at that time when the laws against irreligious publications were enforced, prevailed in the higher and even in the middle classes, among the town wits, the club and coffee-house politicians, and the talkers of the too when frequent changes in church-government had loosened the belief of the people, and when the character of the inferior clergy was, from many causes, at the lowest ebb. How prevalent it had become a generation later, and how low it had suuk, may be seen by Fielding's admirable account of the Robinhoodians, and the fine satire with which he draws from their proceedings the following conclusions, as wható must be allowed by every reader'
• First, that some religion had a kind of establishment among these people.
Secondly, that this religion, whatever it was, could not have the least sway over their morals or practices.
This subject has been treated with great ability by Mr. Coleridge in lis Lay Sermons. See in particular the last note to his Statesman's Manual.
A writer of great erudition and strength of mind, who lived when this mise. rable philosophy was beginning to show itself in England, distinctly perceived its fatal tendency. Atheism,' he says, “ most commonly lurks in confinio scientiæ et ignorantia. When the minds of men begin to draw those gross earthly vapours of sensual and material speculations by dark and cloudy disputes, they are then most in danger of being benighted in them. There is a naturnl sense of God, that lodges in the minds of the lowest and the dullest sort of vulgar man, which is always roving after him, catching at him, though il cannot lay sure hold on him; which works like a natural instinct antece. dent to any mature kuowledge, as being indeed the first principle of it: and if I were to speak precisely in the mode of the Stoicks, I would rather call it ogune após Toy Dedy, than with Plutarch, det vánow. But when contentions, disputes, and touhy reasonings, and contemplations informed by fleshly affections, conversant only about the outside of Na. ture, begin to rise in men's souls, they may then be in some danger of depressing all those inbred notions of a Deity, and to reason themselves out of their own sense, as the old Sceptics did. And therefore it may be, it might be wished, that some men that have not religion, had had niore superstition to accompany them in their passage from ignorance to knowledge.' Select Discourses by John Smith, late Fellow of Queen's College in Cambridge. 1660.
Some of these caus are indicated in a former Number, VOL. XVI. NO. XXXII.