תמונות בעמוד

task has been committed always to men of the most emi; nent genius and abilities, and is still undertaken with zeal, and performed with remarkable dignity and success. The discourses that have been delivered in consequence of this admirable institution have been always published; and they form at this day a large and important collection, which is known throughout all Europe, and has done eminent service to the cause of religion and virtue."

XXII. The leader of the impious band in England; which, so early as the reign of Charles II. attempted to Hobbes Ros obscure the truth, and to dissolve the solemn ob- chester, bec: ligations of religion, was Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, a man whose audacious pride was accompanied with an uncommon degree of artifice and address, whose sagacity was superior to his learning, and whose reputation was more owing to the subtilty and extent of his genius, than to any progress he had made either in sacred or profane erudition. This man, notwithstanding the pernicious nature and tendency of his principles, had several adherents in England ; and not only so, but has found, in foreign countries, more than one apologist, who, though they acknowledge that his sentiments were erroneous, yet deny that he went such an impious length as to introduce the disbelief, or to overturn the worship of a Supreme Being. But if it should be granted, on the one hand, that Hobbes was not totally destitute of all sense of a Deity, nor of all impressions of religion ; yet it must be allowed, on the other, by all who peruse his writings, with a proper degree of attention, that his tenets lead, by natural consequences, to a contempt of religion and of divine worship; and that, in some of his productions, there are visible marks of an extreme aversion to Christianity. It has indeed been said

y There is a complete list of these learned discourses in the Bibliotheque Angloise tom. xv. part ii. p. 416. The late reverend Gilbert Burnet published in four volumes in 8vo. a judicious, comprehensive, and well-digested Abridgment of such of the Boyle's Lectures as had been preached before the year 1737. This abridgment, which has been translated into the French and German languages, comprehends the discourses of Bente ley, Kidder, Williams, Gastrell, Harris, Bradford, Blackhall, Stanhope, Clarke, Gurdon, Hancock, Whiston, Turner, Butler, Woodward, Derham, Ibbot, Long, J.Clarke, Barnet; Berriman.

z See Bayle's Dictionary, at the article Hobbes. Wood's Athenic Oxonienses, vol. ii. p. 641, last edition. • a Among the patrons and defenders of Hobbes, we may reckon Nic. Hier. Gundlingius, in bis Observationes Selectæ, tom. i. n. ii. p. 30, and in his Gundlingiana, p. 304, aod also Arnold, in his German work, entitled Kirchen und Ketzer Histoire, part ii. b. xvii. c. xvi. $ 25, p. 1082. These writers are refuted by the learned Budæus, in his Theses de Atheismo et Superstitioue, cap. i. p. 187.

of him, that being advanced in years, he returned to a better mind, and condemned publicly the opinions and tenets he had formerly entertained;" but how far this recantation was sincere we shall not pretend to determine, since the reality of his repentance has been greatly questioned.

The same thing cannot be said of John Wilmot, earl of Rochesther, who had insulted the majesty of God, and trampled upon the truths of religion and the obligations of morality with a profane sort of phrensy, that far surpassed the impiety of Hobbes, but whose repentance and conversion were also as palpable as had been his folly, and much more unquestionable than the dubious recantation of the philosopher of Malmesbury. Rochester was a man of uncommon sagacity and penetration, of a fine genius, and an elegant taste ; but these natural talents were accompanied with the greatest levity and licentiousness, and the most impetuous propensity to unlawful pleasures. So that as long as health enabled him to answer the demands of passion, his life was an uninterrupted scene of debauchery.

1 This recantation of Hobbes depends upon the testimony of Wood, in bis Athena Q.conienses, vol.ii. p. 646. This writer informs us, that Hobbes composed an apology for himself and his writings, in wbich he declared, that the opinions he had published in his Leviathan were by no means conformable to his real sentiments ; that he had only proposed them as a matter of debate, to exercise his mind in the art of reasoning ; that, after the publication of that book, he had never maintained them either in public or in private, but had left them entirely to the judgment and decision of the church; more especially, that the tenets, in this and his other writings, that seemed inconsistent with the doctrines concerning God and religion that are commonly received, were never delivered by him as truths, but proposed as questions, that were to De decided by divines and ecclesiastical judges endued with a proper authority. Such is the account that Wood gives of the apology now under consideration ; but he does not tell us the year in which it was published, which is a proof that he himself had never seen it, nor does he inform us whether it appeared during the life of Hobbes, or after his death. As, indeed, it is placed in the catalogue of his writings, with a date posterior to the year 1682, it is natural to suppose that it was not published during his life, since he died in the year 1679. It is therefore no easy matter to determine what stress is to be laid upon this recantation of Hobbes, or what sentiments we are to form concerning his supposed repentance. That the apology, under consideration, exists, we do not pretend to deny ; but it may possibly have been composed by some of his friends, to diminish the odium, that, it was natural to think, his licentious principles would cast on his memory. But should it be granted, that it was drawn up and published by Hobbes himself, even this concession would contribute but little to save, or rather to recover, his reputation ; since it is well known, that nothing is more common among those who, by spreading corrupt principles and pernicious opinions, hare drawn upon themselves the just indignation of the public, than, like Hobbes, to deceire the world by insidious and insincere declarations of the soundness of their belief, and the uprightness of their intention. It is thus that they secure themselves against the execution of the laws that are designed to sence religion, while they persevere in their licentious sentiments, and propagate them wherever they can do it with security.

c Seo an account of his life and writings in Woods Athence Oxonienses, vol. ii. p. 654. His poetical genius is justly celebrated by Voltaire, in his Melanges de Literature et de Philosophie, cháp. xxxiv, vol. iv. of his works.

He was however so happy, in the last years of a very short life, as to see the extreme folly and guilt of his past conduct, in which salutary view he was greatly assisted by the wise and pathetic reasonings and exhortations of doctor Burnet, afterward bishop of Sarum. This conviction of his guilt produced a deep contrition and repentance, an ardent recourse to the mercy of God, as it is manifested in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a sincere abhorrence of the offences he had committed against the best of Beings. In these pious sentiments, he departed this life in the year 1680.

In this list we may also place Anthony Ashley Cooper, carl of Shaftesbury, who died of a consumption at Naples, in the year 1703 ; not that this illustrious writer attacked openly and professedly the Christian religion, but that the most seducing strokes of wit and raillery, the most enchanting eloquence, and the charms of a genius, in which amenity, elegance, copiousness, and elevation were happily blended, rendered him one of its most dangerous, though secret enemies; nay, so much the more dangerous, because his opposition was carried on under a mask. His works have been published, and have passed through several editions. They are remarkable for beauty of diction, and contain very noble and sublime sentiments ; but ought to be read with the utmost caution, as extremely dangerous to unexperienced, youthful, and unwary minds. The

mpenly and profesot that this illonsumption at

d Bishop Burnet has given a particular account of this last and very affecting scene of the life of this nobleman, in a pampblet written expressly on that subject, and entitled “ Some Passages of the Life and Death of John, earl of Rochester, written, at his desire, on his death-bed, by Gilbert Burnet, D.D. containing more amply their conversations on the great Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion."

e His works were first collected and published under the title of Characteristics, in three volumes in 8vo. in the year 1711, and since that time, have passed through several editions. See Le Clerc's account of them in his Bibliotheque Choisie, tom. xxiii. The learned and ingenious Leibnitz's Critical Reflections on the Philosophy of lord Shaftesbury; were published by Des Maizeaux, in the second volume of his Recueil des diverses Pieces sur la Philosophie, p. 245. There are some writers who maintain that this noble philosopher bas been unjustly charged by the greatest part of the clergy, with a contempt for revealed religion; and it were to be wished, that the arguments they employed to vindicate him from this charge were more satisfactory and solid than they really are. But, if I am not much mistaken, whoever pervzes his writings, and more especially his famous letter concerning enthusiasm, will be inclined to adopt the judgment that has been formed of him by the ingenious Dr. Berkley, late bishop of Clovne, in his Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher, vol. i. p. 200. Nothing is more easy than to observe, in the writings of lord Shaftesbury, a spirit of raillery, mingling itself with even those of his reflections upon religious subjects that seem to be delivered with the greatest seriousness and gravity. But, at the same time, this unsecmly mixture of the solemn and the ludicrous renders it difficolt for those, that are not well acquainted with his manner, to o f Dr. Mosheim quotes here, in a short note, an account he had given of the Lise and Writings of Toland, prefixed to his confutation of the Nazarenus of that contemptible author. He also quotes a lise of Toland, prefixed to his posthumoas works, printed in 8vo. at London, in 1726, by Des Maizeaux. Dr. Mosbeim says, that this man was not destitute of learning. Should that be granted, it must nevertheless be acknowledged, that this learning lay quite indigested in his head, and that the uso he made of it in his works was equally injudicious and impudent. His conference

brutal rusticity and uncouth turn of John Toland, a native of Ireland, who, toward the conclusion of this century, was rendered infamous by several injurious libels against Christianity, must naturally appear doubly disgusting, when compared with the amiable elegance and specious refinement of the writer now mentioned. However, as those writers, who flatter the passions by endeavouring to remove all the restraints that religion imposes upon their excessive indulgence, will never want patrons among the licentious part of mankind; so this man, who was not destitute of learning, imposed upon the ignorant and unwary; and notwitlistending the excess of his arrogance and vanity, and the shocking rudeness and ferocity of his manners, acquired a certain measure of fame. It is not

know whether the man is in jest or in earnest. It may also be added, that this author has perniciously endeavoured to destroy the influence and efficacy of some of the great motives that are proposed in the holy Scriptures to render men virtuous, by representing these motives as mercenary, and even turning them into ridicule. He substitutes, in their place, their intrinsic excellence and beauty of virtue, as the great source of moral obligation, and the true incentive to virtuous deeds. But however alluring this sublime scheme of inorals may appear to certain minds of a refined, elegant, and ingenuous turn, it is certainly little adapted to the taste, the comprehension, and character of the multitude. Take away from the lower orders of mankind the prospect of reward and punishment, that leads them to virtue and obedience, by the powerful suggestions of hope and fear, and the great supports of virtue, and the most effectual motives to the pursuit of it, will be then removed with respect to them.

LP Since Dr. Mosheim wrote this note, the very learned and judicious Dr. Leland published his View of the principal Deistical Writers that have appeared in England during the last and present Century, &c. in which there is a full account of the freethinkers and deists mentioned by our historian, and a review of the writings of the earl of Shaftesbury. This review merits a particular attention, as it contains an impartial account, an accurate examination, and a satisfactory refutation of the erroneous principles of that great man. Lord Shaftesbury, like all other eminent innovators, has been misrepresented both by his friends and his eneinies. Dr. Leland has steered a middle eourse between the blind enthusiasm of the former, and the partial malignity of the latter. He points out, with singular penetration and judgment, the errors, inconsistencies, and contradictions of that illustrious author ; does justice to what is good in his ingenious writings ; separates carefully the wheat from the chaff'; and neither approves nor condemns in the lump, as too many have done. In a more particular manner be has shown, with his usual perspicuity and good sense, that the being influenced by the hope of the reward promised in the gospel has nothing in it disingenuous and slavish, and is so far from being inconsistent with loving virtue for its own sake, that it tends, on the contrary, to heighten our csteem of its amiableness and worth. The triumphant manner in which the learned Dr. Warburton has refuted Shastesbury's representation of raillery and ridicule as a test of truth, is too well known to be mentioned here. See also Dr. Brown's Three Essays on the Characteristics, in which that sensible author treats of ridicule, considered as a test of truth ; of the obligations of men to virtue, and of the necessity of religious principle, and of revealed religion and Christianity.

necessary to mention other authors of this class, who appeared in England during this century, but are long since consigned to oblivion; the reader may however add to those that have been already named, lord Herbert of Cherbury, a philosopher of some note, who if he did not absolutely deny the divine origin of the gospel," maintained

with M. Beausobre concerning the authen!icity of the Holy Scriptures, which was held at Berlin, in the year 1701, in the presence of the queen of Prussia, and in wbich he made such a despicable fig'ire, is a proof of the foru.er ; and his writings, to all but half scholars and half thinkers, will be a proof, as long as they endure, of the latter. It is remarkable that, according to that maxina of Juvenal, Neino repenie fuil turpissimus, Toland arrived only gradually, and by a progressive motion, at the summit of infidelity. His first step was Socinianism, which appeared in his book, entitled Christianity not mysterious. This book procured him hard treatment from the Irish parliament; and was answered by Mr. Brown, afterward bishop of Cork, who, unbappily, did not think good arguments sufficient to maintain a good cause, unless they were seconded by the secular arm, whose ill-placed succours he solicited with ardour. The second step that Toland made in the devious fields of religion, was in the publication of his Amyntor, which, in appearance, was designed to vindicate what he advanced in his Life of Milton, to prove that king Charles I. was not the real author of the Eikon Basilike, but in reality, was intended to invalidate the Canon of the New Testament, and to render it uncertain and precarious. This piece, in as far as it attacked the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, was answered in a triumphant manner by Dr. Clarke, in his 'Reflections on that part of the Book called Amyntor, which relates to the writings of the Primitive Fathers,' and the Canon of the New Testament;' by Mr. Richardson, in his learned and judicious

Vindication of the Canon of the New Testament ;' and by Mr. Jones, in his New and Full Method of settling the Canonical Authority of the New Testament.' These learned writers have exposed, in the most striking manner, the disingenuity, the blunders, the false quotations, the insidious fictions and ridiculous mistakes of Toland, who, on various accounts, may pass for one of the most harmless writers against the Christian religion. For an account of the Adeisidæmon, the Nazarenus, the Letters to Serena, the Pantheisticon, and the other irreligious works of this author, with the excellent answers that have been made to them, see bis life in the General Dictionary, or rather in Chauffe pied's Supplement to Bayle's Dictionary, entitled Nouveau Dictionaire Historique et Critique, as this author has not only translated the articles added to 'Bayle's Dictionary by the English editors of that work, but bas augmented and improved them by several interest ing anecdotes drawn from the Literary History of the Continent.

IP g Lord Herbert did not pretend to deny the divinity of the gospel ; he even deelared, that he had no intention to attack Christianity, which he calls, in express terms, the best religion, and wbich, according to his own confession, tends to establish the five great articles of' that universal, sufficient, and absolutely perfect religion, which he pretends to deduce from reason and nature. But notwithstanding these fair professions, his lordship loses no occasion of throwing out insinuations against all revealed religion, as absolutely uncertain, and of little or no use. But this same Deist, who was the first, and indeed the least contemptible of that tribe in England, has left upon record one of the strongest instances of fanaticism and absurdity that perhaps ever has been heard of, and of which he himself was guilty. This instance is preserved in a manuscript life of lord Herbert, drawn up from memorials penned by himself, which is now in the possession of a gentleman of distinction, and is as follows: that lord having finished his book De Veritate, apprehended that he should meet with much opposition, and was, congequently, dubious for some time whether it would not be prudent to suppress it. “Being thus doubtful,” says his lordship, “in my chamber," at Paris, where he was ambassador in the year 1624, “one fair day in the summer, my casement being open toward the south, the sun shining clear, and no wind stirring : I took my book De Veri!ale in my hands, and kneeling on my knees, devoutly said these words ; 0 thou Eternal God, author of this light that now shines upon me, and giver of all inward illuminations; I do beseech thee of thine infinite goodness, to pardon a greater request than a sinner ought to make ; I am not satisfied enough whether I sball publish this book; if it be for thy glory, I beseech thee to give me some sign from heaven; if not, I sball suppress it.' What does the reader now think of this corner-stone of deism, who demands a superna

« הקודםהמשך »