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produces, strike directly at these foundations. I say the progress of sound philosophy, that the most inattentive reader may not be tempted to imaginė (as the author of the Confessional has been informed), that 'improvements in philosophy have made many
sceptics in all churches reformed and unreformed.' For I am persuaded, that, as true Christianity can never lead to superstition, so true philosophy will never be a guide to infidelity and scepticism. We must not be deceived by the name of philosophers, which some poets and wits have assumed in our days, particularly upon the continent, and which many lavish upon certain subtile refiners in dialectics, who bear a much greater resemblance to overweening sophists, than to real sages. We must not be so far lost to all power of distinguishing, as to confound, in one common mass, the philosophy of a Bacon, à Newton, a Boyle, and a Nieuwentyt, with the incoherent views and rhetorical rants of a Bolingbroké, or the flimsy sophistry of a Voltaire; and though candor must acknowlege, that some men of true learning have been so unhappy as to fall into infidelity, and charity must weep to see a Hume and a d'Alembert joining a set of men who are unworthy of their society, and covering a dark and uncomfortable system with the lustre of their superior talents, yet equity itself may safely affirm, that neither their science nor their genius are the causes of their seepticism.
But if the progress of science and free inquiry have a natural tendency to destroy the foundations of popery, how comes it to pass, that, in popish countries, the progress of religious reform bears no proportion to the progress of science ? and how can we account for the ground which popery (if the apprehensions of the author of the Confessional are well founded) gains even in England ?
Before I answer the first of these questions, it may be proper to consider the matter of fact, and to examine, for a moment, the state of science and philoso
phy in popish countries : this examination, if I mistake not, will confirm the theory I have laid down with respect to the influence of philosophical improvement upon true religion. Let us then turn our view first to one of the most considerable countries in Europe, I mean Germany; and here we shall be struck with this undoubted fact, that it is in the Protestant part of this vast region only, that the improvements of science and philosophy appear, while the barbarism of the fifteenth century reigns, as yet, in those districts of the empire which profess the Romish religion. The celebrated M. d'Alembert, in his treatise, entitled, de l’Abus de la Critique en • Matiere de Religion,' makes the following remarkable observation on this head : “ We must acknow“ lege, though with sorrow, the present superiority of “ the Protestant universities in Germany over those “ of the Romish persuasion. This superiority is so
striking, that foreigners who travel through the “empire, and pass from a Romish college to a Pro“ testant university, even in the same neighbourhood, “are induced to think that they have ridden, in an “ hour, four hundred leagues, or lived, in that short
space of time, four hundred years; that they have “ passed from Salamanca to Cambridge, or from the 6 times of Scotus to those of Newton.” Will it be believed (says the same author), “ in succeeding “ ages, that, in the year 1750, a book was published “ in one of the principal cities of Europe (Vienna) “ with the following title: Systema Aristotelicum « de Formis substantialibus et Accidentibus absolutis, “ i.e. The Aristotelian System concerning substantial « Forms and absolute Accidents ?' Will it not rather “ be supposed, that this date is an error of tbe press, “ and that 1550 is the true reading ? ” See D'Alembert's Melanges de Literature, d'Histoire, et de Philosophie, vol. iv. p. 376. This fact seems evidently to shew the connexion that subsists between improvements in science, and the free spirit of the reformed religion. The state of letters and philoso
phy in Italy and Spain, where canon-law, monkish literature, and scholastic metaphysics, have reigned during such a long course of ages, exhibits the same gloomy spectacle. Some rays of philosophical light are now breaking through the cloud in Italy; Boscovich, and some geniuses of the same stamp, have dared to hold up the lamp of science, without feeling the rigor of the Inquisition, or meeting with the fate of Galileo. If this dawning revolution be brought to any degree of perfection, it may, in due time, produce effects that at present we have little hope of.
France, indeed, seems to be the country which the author of the Confessional has principally in view, when he speaks of a considerable progress in philosophy in popish states, that has not been attended with a proportionable influence on the reformation of religion. He even imagines that, if an account were to be taken, the balance, in point of conversions, in this most improved of the popish countries, would be greatly against the reformed religion.' The reader will perceive, that I might grant this, without giving up any thing that I maintained in the note which this judicious author censures. I shall, however, examine this notion, that we may see whether it is to be adopted without restriction ; and perhaps it may appear, that the improvements in philosophy have had more influence on the spirit of religion in France than this author is willing to allow.
And here I observe, in the first place, that it is no easy matter, either for him or for me, to calculate the number of conversions that are made, on both sides, by priests armed with the secular power, and Protestant ministers, discouraged by the frowns of government, and the terrors of persecution. If we judge of this matter by the external face of things, the calculation may, indeed, be favorable to his hypothesis, since the apostate Protestant comes forth to view, and is publicly enrolled in the registers of the church, while the converted Papist iş
obliged to conceal his profession, and to approach the truth, like Nicodemus, secretly and by night. This evident diversity of circumstances, in the respective proselytes, shews that we are not to form our judgement by external appearances, and renders it but equitable to presume, that the progress of knowlege may have produced many examples of the progress of reformation, which do not strike the eye of the public. Is it not, in effect, to be presumed, that if either a toleration, or even an indulgent connivance, were granted to French Protestants, many would appear friends of the Reformation, who, at present, have not sufficient strength of mind to become martyrs, or confessors, in its cause ? History informs us of the rapid progress which the Reformation made in France in former times, when a legal toleration was granted to its friends. When this toleration was withdrawn, an immense number of Protestants abandoned their country, their relations, and their fortunes, for the sake of their religion. But when that abominable system of tyranny was set up, which would neither permit the Protestants to profess their religion at home, nor to seek for the enjoyment of religious liberty abroad, and when they were thus reduced to the sad alternative of dissimulation or martyrdom, the courage of many failed, though their persuasion remained the same. In the South of France many continued, and still continue, their profession, even in the face of those booted apostles, who are sent, from time to time, to dragoon them into popery. In other places (particularly in the metropolis, where the empire of the mode, the allurements of court favor, the dread of persecution, unite their influence in favor of popery,) the public profession of protestantism lies under heavy discouragements, and would require a zeal that rises to heroism,--a thing too rare in modern times! In a word, a religion, like popery, which forms the main spring in the political machine, which is doubly armed with allurements and terrors, must damp the
fortitude of the feeble friend to truth, and attract the external respect even of libertines, free-thinkers, and sceptics.
In the second place, if it should be alleged, that men eminent for learning and genius have adhered seriously to the profession of popery, the fact cannot be denied. But what does it prove? It proves only that, in such persons, there are circumstances that counteract the natural influence of learning and science. It cannot be expected that the influence of learning and philosophy will always obtain a complete victory over the attachment to a superstitious church, that is riveted by the early prejudices of education, by impressions formed by the examples of respectable persons who have professed and defended the doctrine of that church, by a habit of veneration for authority, and by numberless associations of ideas, whose combined influence gives a wonderful bias to the mind, and renders the impartial pursuit of truth extremely difficult. Thus knowlege is acquired with an express design to strengthen previous impressions and prejudices. Thus many make considerable improvements in science, who have never once ventured to review their religious principles, or to examine the authority on which they have been taken up.
Others observe egregious abuses in the Romish church, and are satisfied with rejecting them in secret, without thinking them sufficient to justify a separation. This class is extremely numerous; and it cannot be said that the improvements in science have had no effect upon their religious sentiments. They are neither thorough Papists nor entire Protestants; but they are manifestly verging toward the Reformation.
Nearly allied to this class is another set of men, whose case is singular and worthy of attention. Even in the bosom of the Romish church, they have tolerably just notions of the sublime simplicity and genuine beauty of the Christian religion ; but, either from false reasonings upon human nature, or an observa