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FEW extracts from Mr. Paley's COLLEGE LECTURES, as preserved in the manuscripts of his pupils, will, it is hoped, afford the most satisfactory illustration of what has been stated in the Memoirs, of the general merit and importance of his labours in that department. They are sèlected from the latter part of his LECTURES IN DIVINITY, which has not been incorporated into any of his published works.
« THE CAUSES OF INFIDELITY, are,
I. Vice. Many INFIDELS are at the same time men of loose and profligate lives, who begin at the wrong end, with the practice first, and then take up the principles. No argument in the world will ever persuade such men to part with their mistresses, their gaming, their revels, and their riots; to give up their diversions, habits, company, and conversation.
It may look like scurrility to charge men in the lump with immorality, because they do not believe as we do: but if we consider the manners of high life ; how repuga nant such manners are in general to the rules of the Gospel; what a revolution of conduct, what a stripping off of pleasure there must be, if we would put them under the
discipline of religion ; what ways and means men are put to to get and keep their places and honours; and consequently what it would cost them to turn virtuous : and besides, what little leisure high life affords them for reflection; what few opportunities of information; what slender inducements and extreme aversion they must have to turn their thoughts upon a subject so melancholy and gloomy, as religion appears to them to be. I say, if we lay all these considerations together, we may see that it is no small number of us believers who come under this class.
Over and above the invincible bias, which vicious pleasures create against religion, it is also a certain, though unaccountable effect of them, to confuse and debilitate the understanding so as scarcely to leave a man a proper judge of any thing. Besides, a man who, living up to the rules of Christianity, finds the good effects of them upon himself, has a species of evidence which others want.
II. VANITY. Every man of science or distinction has a passion for lifting himself up above the vulgar. Nothing so flattering as to fancy oneself placed upon an eminence, and looking down upon the errours, and absurdities, and follies, and foibles, and tricks, and contrivances of the rest of mankind. Now to believe religion, is to believe and know no more than what the lowest person in the street knows in the main, and believes as well as we do. It is setting ourselves upon a level with carpenters, and tailors, and farmers, and mechanicks; with methodists, old women, and country parsons. Whereas to see into it, and through it, to get as it were behind the scenes, and see mankind playing one another off, is infinitely gratifying to the conceit and ambition of the human mind.
N. B. These two principles of vice and VANITY may, and it is believed often do act imperceptibly, and are the
cause of infidelity, when the infidel himself is not aware of it.
III. RASHNESS. A large tribe of INFIDELS, are giddy, hasty young fellows, who, without information or inquiry about the matter, take up INFIDELITY all of a sudden, upon the first difficulty they meet with, upon a single objection or two which they happen to hear, (a ridiculous story perhaps of a forged miracle, without at all attending to the distinguishing circumstances), and when once they have avowed their disbelief of Christianity, it becomes a point of honour, as well as of obstinacy, to persist in it.
There are many such, whom if you were to examine, you would find extremely quick and ready with their objections ; but with very little knowledge, either of the facts, or reasons, or answers on the other side of the question. A trifling objection, by being frequently urged, and advanced, and maintained, makes so great an impression upon the person himself, that though at first he did not believe it, yet afterwards he will not be able to dispossess himself of it. IV. COMPANY AND CONVERSATION.
Whatever arguments there may be on one side of a question, if it is a man's luck to mix with company and conversation, which is for the most part on the other, it is great odds but he falls in with them. Perhaps there is as little to be said for Jacobitism, as for any thing in the world : yet, if brought up in a Jacobite neighbourhood, or associating much with Jacobite acquaintances, ten men out of twenty will be drawn into their principles. Now, with regard to religion, in the high and gay scenes of life especially, a man may go through the world and never hear religion mentioned in company or conversation, but for the sake of a joke, or a jibe, or a sneer. It is rude and unfashionable to introduce religion, in
order to defend, or even to talk seriously about it: whereas nothing goes down better than strokes of raillery or ridicule against it; which is certainly unfair. Of the same cast is the cry against the clergy, for their hypocrisy, their desire to lead mankind in a string, their selfishness and sliness : charges which, just or unjust, have little to do with the truth of Christianity. Yet, when a man has taken them into his head, or heard them bandied about in almost every company he comes into; the religion itself, which comes to him through their hands, as it were, is instantly turned out of doors, as a juggle, a state trick, and a piece of priestcraft.
V. THE TENDENCY OF PARTICULAR STUDIES.
1st, When a man has been long accustomed to absolute certainty and demonstration, moral and probable proofs make less impression upon him.
2d, When a man has been long accustomed to rely upon one single argument for each proposition, he feels himself at a loss and unsatisfied for the want of such an argument, and is not so sensible of the force of united proofs.
VI. AUTHORITY. However INFIDELS may pretend to be free thinkers, there are no people under the sun greater slaves to the opinions of others. Not one half, nor a third of them, disbelieve Christianity for any reason they can assign to themselves, except that some acquaintance of theirs, of whom they have a good opinion, or some noted fortesprit, Voltaire, Hume, or Lord Bolingbroke, for instance, disbelieved it. Now, although it be the weakest and wildest way in the world, to trust to other men's judgment, in a matter especially where so many better reasons and proofs may be had on the one side, and so many prejudices and obstacles subsist on the other; yet to argue with unbelievers in their own way, we can confront them with names and
authorities vastly superiour to any they can produce: to say nothing of the mass of the community, both high and low, rich and poor, learned and simple, which, for so many ages, and in so many countries, has believed Christianity. To say nothing of the many great divines in our own church, dissenting communions, and protestant churches abroad, who have spent their whole lives in the study of Christianity, and manifested as much acuteness and freedom in their researches, as is to be found in any science whatever. Not to mention these, what shall we say to such people as Newton, Locke, and Addison, laymen, under no temptation to dissemble, and who did not take their religion upon trust, but spent each of them many years in inquiring into it, and rose up from the inquiry fully and firmly persuaded of its truth.
VII. THE CORRUPTION OF CHRISTIANITY is a cause which has contributed exceedingly to the progress of InFiDELITY.
1st, The many absurdities which several national churches have taken into their system, and which have no place or foundation in Scripture, and the universal propensity in mankind, to reject a whole system for the folly or falsehood of particular parts of it. This cause alone accounts for the many unbelievers to be found in popish countries, How should you get Voltaire or Rousseau, or any people of sense and spirit to believe Christianity, whilst they regard transubstantiation*, the infallibility of the pope, or the power of absolving sins as so many parts of it.
• “Transubstantiation," as the lecturer afterwards observed, “ig built upon Christ's expression this is my body.' We might as well suppose Christ to be literally a oor, or a rock, or a way, or a root, all of which he is expressly called; or suppose the cup to be the New Tes tament, or understand a person literally who says, 'I give you my hand