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The next great engine of offence, by which multitudes have been led to renounce their faith, is ridicule. An attempt was made early in the last century to erect this into a test of truth, and it has accordingly been applied by many writers since that time to throw disk credit on the Christian revelation. · But by no one has this weapon been employed with more force and with more success than by the great patriarch of infidelity, Voltaire. ; It is the principal instrument he makes use of to vilify the Gospel; and among the instructions he gives to his coadjutors and fellow-labourers in this righteous work, ane is, to load the Christian religion and the author of it with never-ceasing ridicule, to burlesque it in every way that. imagination can suggest, and to deluge the world with an infinity of little toacts, placing revelation in the most ludicrous point of view, and rendering it an object of mirth and of contempt to the lowest of mankind. This method he strictly pursued himself; to this he bent all the powers of his mind, all the vivacity of his wit, all the fire of his imagination ; and whoever examines this writings against Christianity with care, will find 37.3
that much the largest part of them are of this description. And in this he showed a thorough knowledge of the world. He knew that mankind in general prefer wit to logic, and love to be entertained rather than convinced ; that it is much easier to point an epigram than to produce an argument; that few can reason justly, but that all the world can be made to laugh; and that whatever can be rendered an object of derision, is almost sure to be rejected without examination. Of all these artifices he has availed himself with infinite address, and sve know also with fatal success. His writings have unquestionably produced more infidels among the higher classes, and spread more general corruption over the world, than all the voluminous productions of all the other philosophists of Europe put together.. 's - There is still another way of making our brother to offend, or in other words of shaking his faith in the Gospel, and that is by exhibiting to mankind in our life and conversation' a profligate example. inn u mer *» This in the first place gives the world an unfavourable idea of the religion we profess. It temuts men to think either that we our
selves do not believe it, or that we suppose it consistent with the vices to which we are abandoned, and either of these suppositions must considerably lessen their testimation both of its doctrines and its précépts. - : ; Duits
In the next place a wicked example, as wel all know, tends to corrupt in some degree every one that lives within its baneful influence; more particularly if it be found-in men 1 of 1 high rank, great wealth, splendid talents, pro= ? found erudition, or popular characters. The mischief done by any notorious vices in imen of this description is inconceivable.ri It spread like a pestilence, and destroys thousands ini secrecy and silence, of whom the offender him-i self knows nothing, and whom probably he never meant to injure; and wherever the heart is corrupted, the principle of faith iso proportionably weakened; forno man that gives a loose to his passions will chuse to have so i troublesomėta monitor near him as the Gospel. When he has learnt to disregard the moral preus cepts of that divine volume, it requires but a:1 very slight effort to reject its doctrines, andit then to disbelieve the truth of the wholesa soit
A dissolute life, then, especially in partiouon
lar classes of men, is one certain way of making our brotherwto offend, not only in point of practice, obut of beliefs and there is another method of producing the same effects, i nearly allied to this, and that is immoral publica-, tions cirpiireises ... :rig.?
These have the same tendency with bad examples, both in propagatįng vice and pro-moting infidelity; but they are still more pere nicious; because the sphere of their influence is more extensive. . ; ..;.
A had example, though it operates fatally, operates comparatively within a small circum= ference. It extends only to those who are near enough to observe it, and fall within the reach of the poisonous infection that it spreads around it, but the contagion of a licentious.. publication, especially if it be (as it too fres: quentlyis) in a popular and captivating shape; knows no bounds ; it flies to the remotest cor-ners of the earthit penetrates the obscure anch crétired habitations of simplicity and in-/ nocencezeit makes its way into the cottage of the peasants into the hut of the shepherd, and the shop of the mechanic; it falls into the i hands of all ages, ranks, and conditionsjb but
it is peculiarly fatal to the unsuspecting and unguarded minds of the youth of both sexes ; and to them its “breath is poison, and its touch is death.". ; .... .i pri
What then have they to answer for who are every day obtruding these publications on the world, in a thousand different shapes and forms, in history, in biography, in poems, in novels, in dramatic pieces ; in all which the prevailing feature is universal philanthropy and indiscriminate benevolence ; under the protection of which the hero of the piece has the privilege of committing whatever irregularities he thinks fit; and while he is violating the most sacred obligations, insinuating the most licentious sentiments, and ridiculing every thing that looks like religion, he is nevertheless held up as a model of virtue; and though he may perhaps be charged with a few little venial foibles, and pardonable infirmities, (as they are called) yét we are assured that he has notwithstanding the very best heart in the world. Thus it is that the prin ciples of our youth are insensibly and almost unavoidably corrupted ; and instead of being inspired, as they ought to be, even upon the