Графични страници
PDF файл

Safe in the hand of one disposing Pow'r,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction, which thou can't not see ;
All Difcord, Harmony, not underftood;
All partial Evil, univerfal Good:
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason's spite,
One truth is clear, “ Whatever is, is right.”

I am happy at last to acquiesce in the same general conclusion with Mr. Pope, though I cannot but think that he has deduced this grand truth from very weak and inadequate premises. It were an easy, but invidious task, to expose in a much greater variety of examples, the pernicious and dangerous tendency of the general arguments offered in this famous Effay, for the laudable purpose of vindicating the honour and rectitude of God's moral government. Mr. Pope, as a moral philosopher, is justly blameable for excluding that great principle of religion from his general fystem, upon which the highest stress ought ever to be laid; and, without which, there is no essential or practical difference between Deism and Atheisin -I mean the doctrine of a future state. At the same time I must do him the justice to acknow, ledge, that his Poem abounds with striking and elevated reflections, admirably calculated to excite a spirit of rational and philosophical devotion; and I entertain fo favourable an opinion of his general character as to believe, with a firm assurance,



that if he had really conceived this Essay to be injurious to the cause of religion and virtue, he would have disdained to court any increase of poetical fame by its publication ; and, as on a former occasion, with a noble indignation, would have exclaimed

Oh teach me, Heaven! to fcorn the guilty bays ;
Drive from my bréaft such wretched luft of praise:
Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown;
Oh! grant an honest fame, or grant me none.


REFLECTIONS on the Genius and SPIRIT of


[ocr errors]

O one who is actuated by a sincere regard

for truth, or love of virtue, can consider Christianity as an uninteresting subject of speculation or enquiry. The evidence upon which this religion rests I have already stated, and the objections to which it is liable I have endeavoured to obviate. I now propose to make a few general remarks upon the Genius and Spirit of this religion, with respect to which it differs most effentially from all other religions which have ever appeared in the world. I shall instance in the following particulars

mits philanthropy, its fimplicity, and its rationality.

First, It breathes a spirit of ardent, of universal, of unlimited benevolence. This fpirit is, indeed, not so properly a part, or a distinguishing feature of Christianity, as the sum and substance of it. To this great end, the facred writings, both apostolical and evangelical, evidently tend; and upon this plain and express command, “Thou shalt love the Lord


[ocr errors]

“ thy God with all thy soul, and thy neighbour

as thyself,” depend both the law and the prophets. In short, Christianity alone, of all religions, has for its object the happiness, prefent and future, of all mankind. So intimately blended is this spirit of benevolence, with the spirit of Christianity, and so impracticable is it to eradicate from the mind the idea of this union, that, in the darkest

of Popery, when Christendom was funk in the lowest abyfles of ignorance and error, when the demon of fanaticism seemed to preside over the affairs of men, and the most malignant and diabolical paffions were consecrated to the service of religion, and were supposed most effectually to recommend mankind to the divine favour, the ultimate advancement of human happiness was still the avowed motive of those actions, which were, in fact, most directly subversive of that end. When the horrid notion was universally prevalent, that everlasting misery must be the inevitable lot of those who were not within the pale of the Catholic Church, it is no wonder that the most inhuman barbarities should be practised, even by men of tempers naturally mild and gentle, in order to enforce the profession of that fystem of faith, which promised, and which could alone ensure, future and eternal felicity. If the divine favour be inseparably connected with the belief of certain speculative opinions, and not with the practise of certain moral and religious duties, it is doubtless a proof of the highest regard for the true interests of our fellow-creatures, to take


every poffible

possible method of diffusing the knowledge and belief of those tenets, and of deterring, by wholesome severities, any attempts to innovate upon that system, an entire and implicit acquiescence in which is pronounced, by infallible authority, to be the sole means of attaining to happiness in a future state. All virtue is founded on the basis of utility; if, then, the torture, or even the destruction of the body, be necessary to the salvation of the soul, this discipline, though sharp and rigorous, is just and laudable; and the rack, the stake, and the wheel, are all converted into the benign instruments of Christian compassion. If these are genuine deduc. tions, with what horror should we regard the prin. ciple from which they flow! I mean, that faith, unconnected with right temper and conduct, can, in the remotest degree, tend to render us acceptable in the fight of God. It is, indeed, true, and the Romish church has, in a manner peculiarly striking, demonstrated this truth, that faith, or right fentiments, have a strict and inseparable connection with virtue, or right conduct; but still it must be acknowledged, that faith is no farther valuable, than as it guides us to the love and practise of virtue; and that, to limit the divine favour to the belief of any set of speculative principles, is to fubvert the foundation of morality, and to counteraćt the obvious design of the Christian revelation. Happily, the great end and object of that revelation begins to be better understood, and more gene. rally acknowledged; and we shall, at last, perhaps,



« ПредишнаНапред »