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or other delusive expedients: it is as difficult almost, in a country so enlightened as ours is, to be superlatively wicked, (which a man, generally speaking, must be to turn Atheist k, or apostate,) as it is to be superlatively good. 4. Farther still, there may be several more, who, though delighted with loose and profane pamphlets, may yet have no real value or esteem for the writers; as men may love the treason, while they dislike the traitor. Many will despise the man that shall undertake to defend in cold blood, what they, with a kind of conscious guilt and shame, commit only in the heat of appetite or passion. The patronizing infidelity and irreligion, which is patronizing all that is bad, will for ever be disreputable and odious employment in the general opinion of mankindl; while religion and virtue, for their own intrinsic worth, must always have crowds of admirers, though perhaps few followers.
For this reason, the patrons of irreligion and infidelity in every age, down from Epicurus to the present times, have been forced in a great measure to conceal their sentiments, and to put on disguises to the world; well knowing, that they can never hope to overturn religion and virtue, without pretending a zeal for them all the time. Epicurus himself could write as devoutly in favour of sanctity and Divine worship, and of virtue also, as any believer could do, while he was really destroying them m. In like manner, our modern Deists plead vehemently for morality, that one might be tempted almost to think, that they were really in good earnest : but their rejecting the best and only complete system of morality that ever the world was blessed with, and their taking morality out of God's hands into their own, in order to curtail and mutilate it; and above all, their sapping the authority which it properly stands upon, and their undermining the sanctions which alone can ever keep it alive in the world n; all these circumstances too plainly show, that their encomiums upon morality are only magnificent professions, like Epicurus's devotions, pompous appearances, solemn show, or, at the best, sound without sense. For the amount of all is, to compliment virtue or morality very highly, but to starve it at the same time, leaving it little or nothing to subsist upon. But without some such colourings as these, they could never set up for writers in a knowing age, nor bear a part in debate : the readers would be shocked o at once, upon the first sight of what they are doing; and the exposing their principles to open view, would save their adversaries the labour of a confutation. So it is not merely for the sake of guarding against legal censure, that these gentlemen so studiously
k“ When a man is come to that pass as to wish himself an Atheist, and “ make the last efforts on conscience, he is at the very crisis of malice; a
higher degree is not incident to the human soul: and unless God works « miracles to convert him, he sticks at no kind of iniquity, although possi“bly he may not obtain his full wish: so that such a one is incomparably “ farther removed from the way of salvation, than an Atheist bred and born,
or a simple unbeliever.” Bayle's Miscellan. Reflect. on a Comet, p. 364, 365.
| Hence it was that the wiser and better sort even of Pagans detested the Epicureans, as debauchers of manners, and the bane of youth, and a scandal to the very name of philosophy. See Suidas in ’Erinovgos, and Athenæus, lib. xii. 547.
m At etiam de sanctitate, de pietate adversus Deos, libros scripsit Epicurus. At quomodo in his loquitur ? Ut Coruncanium, aut Scævolam, Pontifices Maximos, te audire dicas; non eum qui sustulerit omnem funditus religionem. -At etiam liber est Epicuri, de Sanctitate. Ludimur ab homine non tam faceto, quam ad scribendi licentiam libero. Quæ enim potest esse sanctitas, si Di humana non curant? Cicer. de Natur. Deor. c. xli. xliv. p. 100, 107. edit. Davies.
* See Scripture Vindicated, vol. vi. part ii. p. 65.
• This is as good as owned by some of them in their private letters. “ More detriment than advantage has been done to the cause of Deism by “ an open profession of it.—One rule, I think indeed, ought always to be “observed, that we should keep the persons we have a design upon, as long
as possibly we can, from knowing that we ourselves are of those senti
ments to which we would bring them.- -t has often talked to “ him against Christianity, but he was only shocked at the discourse: which “ confirms what I was saying before, that the way to convince a prejudiced
man, is not to let him know your own sentiments, but draw him in first, “ before he knows where he is, till it is too late to step back.” Two Letters from a Deist to his Friend, p. 2, 18, 20.
affect disguises; but it is to prevent, if possible, the exposing a bad cause, which cannot bear the light; and to lay in for evasions and subterfuges, for the carrying on a dispute about their meaning, when all besides is at an end. This however is no small difficulty in their way, to be thus constrained to act a part; to write just plain enough to be understood, (for without that they do nothing,) and yet not so plain as either fully to discover the whole scene, or to foreclose all retreat, or to leave no colour for declaiming against hard censures, when they come to be pressed. But by frequent trials and long experience, they have learned to manage with competent dexterity.
They set out commonly, or conclude, with pompous declarations of their more than ordinary concern for reason and truth; full of truth in their professions, to supply their want of it elsewhere: that now seeking the truth, is almost become as much a phrase amongst these gentlemen, as seeking the Lord once was among another set of refiners. There is undoubtedly some advantage to be gained in this way; otherwise it would never have been the common, pretext of all detractors P and deceivers whatsoever: neither would such men as Celsus and Hierocles 9 (sharp and subtle disputants) have made use of it; neither could the sect of the Manichees have ever imposed upon so acute a man as St. Austin, though in his younger days, by it". Nevertheless, it must be said, that boasting is no argument of sincerity, but is itself a suspicious circumstance. Honest men have no need to boast of their integrity, while their dealings abundantly declare it: neither need faithful writers tell of their uncommon zeal for truth, because an author is proved by his work, and it is good manners to suppose, that a reader has some discernment.
v Prætexit quidem vir acutissimus præcipuum veritatis studium, cui nihil præferat, cui omnia submittat: sed ignoscat mihi, si dixero, etiam maledicentissimum quemque illud præ se ferre, nec ullo alio unquam nomine suam velare obtrectationem : quid enim aliud dixerit Zoilus olim, quid Socratis accusatores, quid infames illi delatores sub tyrannis, Tiberio, Nerone, Domitiano, quam solo se veritatis et utilitatis publicæ studio duci ad alios ita palam increpandos et accusandos ? Perizon. contra Cleric, in Quint. Curt. Vindicat. p. 13, 14,
9 The pompous titles they gave to their invectives against the Christians are well known, both pretending a very particular zeal for truth.
* Quid enim me aliud cogebat annos fere novem, spreta religione quæ mihi puerulo a parentibus insita erat, homines illos sequi ac diligenter audire, nisi quod nos superstitione terreri, et fidem nobis ante rationem impe
Another very common artifice which those gentlemen make use of is, to usher in their crudities under the name and umbrage of the men of sense. I cannot blame them for affecting to appear in good company: but as they have no commission for making so free with persons of that character, and as the whole amounts only to proclaiming themselves considerable, which their readers should be left to judge of; it seems to me, that such an offence against modesty and manners is a stronger argument against them, than any self commendations can ever be for them,
The same gentlemen who take so much pains to recommend themselves as abounding in sense, and reason, and truth, are as solicitous, on the other hand, to invent some odious names for what they dislike. They never acquaint their readers (though the more ancient Epicureans were sometimes frank enough to do its) that their aim is to destroy religion and conscience, and the fear of God; but they give it out, their whole quarrel is against credulity or bigotry, against superstition or enthusiasm, against statecraft, priestcraft, or imposture; names which they are pleased to affix, for the most part, to true religion and godliness. And when they have thus shifted off the blame to others which belongs only to themselves, in
rari dicerent; se autem nullum premere ad fidem, nisi prius discussa et enodata veritate. Quis non his pollicitationibus illiceretur, præsertim adolescentis animus cupidus veri, etiam nonnullorum in schola doctorum hominum disputationibus superbus et garrulus; qualem me tunc illi invenerunt, spernentem scilicet quasi aniles fabulas, et ab eis promissum apertum et sincerum verum tenere atque haurire cupientem ? Augustin. de Util. credendi, tom. viii. p. 46. edit. Bened.
Lucretius, lib. i. 63, &c. with Creech's notes.
order to blacken their opposers, and to wash themselves white; they then begin to play their machinery upon the ignorant unguarded readers. Now since their main strength lies in their frequent repetition of these ill sounding names, upon a presumption that the world is more governed by names than by things, and that it is the easiest thing in nature to carry on an imposture of words ; I shall entreat your patience while I endeavour to unravel the mystery of those affected names, considering them one by one, in the same order as I have mentioned them. And I hope to make it appear, that the guilt which those gentlemen would load us with, is not ours, but theirs ; and that it ought therefore to be thrown back upon the proprietors. This certainly is a very fair and equitable method of defence on our side, to retort the blame, which belongs not to us, upon the accusers themselves, with whom it should rest.
1. I begin with credulity, a kind of cant word, (as they use it,) and made to stand for a serious belief of what Moses and the Prophets, of what Christ and his Apostles have taught us. It has been no new thing for the most credulous men imaginable to anticipate the charge of credulity, fixing it upon others, in order to throw it off from themselves. It was remarkable in the Pagans, who were themselves all over credulity, that they assumed a bold air, and fell foul upon the Christians as credulous men. Arnobius (besides many other of the Fathers) takes notice of it, and handsomely retorts itt. The Manichees also, who were silly enough to believe that God and matter were two coeternal principles, that souls
t Et quoniam ridere nostram fidem consuestis, atque ipsam credulitatem facetiis jocularibus lancinare; dicite, O festivi, et meraco sapientiæ tincti, et saturi potu,-nonne vestrum quicunque est, huic vel illi credit auctoribus ? Non quod sibi persuaserit quis verum dici ab altero, velut quadam fidei adstipulatione tutatur ?- Cum igitur comperti nihil habeatis et cogniti, omniaque illa quæ scribitis et librorum comprehenditis millibus, credulitate asseveretis duce, quænam hæc est judicatio tam injusta, ut nostram derideatis fidem, quam vos habere conspicitis nostra in credulitate communem ? Arnob. lib. ii. p. 47, 48. edit. Lugd.