Page images
PDF
EPUB

Supreme Being and as affecting him, moral evil can have no existence.

As the greatest of natural evils is death, the greatest of moral evils is, unquestionably, war.

All crimes follow in its train; false and calumnious declarations, perfidious violation of the treaties, pillage, devastation, pain, and death under every hideous and appalling form.

All this is physical evil in relation to man, but can no more be considered moral evil in relation to God than the rage of dogs worrying and destroying one another. It is a mere common-place idea, and as false as it is feeble, that men are the only species that slaughter and destroy one another. Wolves, dogs, cats, cocks, quails, &c. all war with their respective species: house spiders devour one another; the male universally fights for the female. This warfare is the result of the laws of nature, of principles in their very blood and essence; all is connected; all is necessary.

Nature has granted man about two-and-twenty years of life, one with another; that is, of a thousand children 3 born in the same month, some of whom have died in

their infancy, and the rest lived respectively to the age of thirty, forty, fifty, and even eighty years, or perhaps beyond, the average calculation will allow to each the above mentioned number of twenty-two years.

How can it affect the deity, whether a man die in #battle or of a fever? War destroys fewer human beings than the small-pox.

The

scourge of war is transient, that of the small-pox reigns with paramount and permanent fatality throughout the earth, followed by a numerous train of others; and taking into consideration the combined, and nearly regular operation of the various causes which sweep mankind from the stage of life, the allowance of two-and-twenty years for every individual, will he found in general to be tolerably correct.

Man, you say, offends God by killing his neighbour; if this be the case, the directors of nations must indeed be tremendous criminals; for, while even invoking

God to their assistance, they urge on to slaughter imB mense multitudes of their fellow-beings, for contemp

2 1

VOL. III.

tible interests, which it would show infinitely more policy, as well as humanity, to abandon. But how to reason merely as philosophers) how do they offend God? Just as much as tigers and crocodiles offend him. It is, surely, not God whom they harrass and torment, but their neighbour. It is only against man that man can be guilty. A highway robber can commit no robbery on God. What can it signify to the eternal deity, whether a few pieces of yellow metal are in the hands of Jerome or of Bonaventure? We have necessary desires, necessary passions, and necessary laws for the restraint of both; and while on this our ant-hill, during the little day of our existence, we are engaged in eager and destructive contest about a straw, the universe moves on in its majestic course, directed by eternal and unalterable laws, which comprehend in their operation the atom that we call the earth.

GOSPEL. It is a matter of high importance to ascertain which are the first gospels. It is a decided truth, whatever Abbadie may assert to the contrary, that none of the first fathers of the church, down to Ireneus inclusively, have quoted any passage from the four gospels with which we are acquainted. And to this it may be added, that the Alogi, the Theodosians, constantly rejected the gospel of St. John, and always spoke of it with contempt; as we are informed by St. Epiphanius in his thirty-fourth homily. Our enemies farther observe, that the most ancient fathers do not merely forbear to quote anything from our gospels, but relate many passages or events which are to be found only in the apocryphal gospels rejected by the canon.

St. Clement, for example, relates that our Lord, having been questioned concerning the time when his kingdom would come, answered, “ That will be when what is without shall resemble that within, and when there shall be neither male nor female." But we must admit that this passage does not occur in either of our gospels. There are innumerable other instances to

Į prove this truth; which may be seen in the Critical

Examination of M. Freret, perpetual secretary of the | Academy of Belles Lettres at Paris.

The learned Fabricius took the pains to collect the ancient gospels which time has spared ; that of James appears to be the first; and it is certain that it still possesses considerable authority with some of the oriental churches. It is called “the first gospel." There remain the passion and the resurrection, pretended to have been written by Nicodemus. This gospel of Nicodemus is quoted by St. Justin and Tertullian. It is there we find the names of our Lord's accusers—Annas, Caiaphas, Soumes, Dathan, Gamaliel, Judas, Levi, and Napthali; the attention and particularity with which these names are given, confer upon the work an appearance of truth and sincerity. Our ad. versaries have inferred, that as so many false gospels were forged, which at first were recognized as true, those which constitute at the present day the founda

tion of our own faith may have been forged also. į They dwell much on the circumstance of the first i heretics suffering even death itself in defence of these i apocryphal gospels. There have evidently been, they

say, forgers, seducers, and men who have been seduced by them into error, and died in defence of that error; it is, at least, therefore, no proof of the truth of christianity that it has had its martyrs who have died for it.

They add farther, that the martyrs were never asked the question, whether they believed the gospel of John or the gospel of James. The pagans could not put a series of interrogatories about books with which they were not at all acquainted; the magistrates punished some christians very unjustly, as disturbers of the public peace, but they never put particular questions to them in relation to our four gospels. These books were not known to the Romans before the time of Dioclesian, and even towards the close of Dioclesian's reign, they had scarcely obtained any publicity. It was deemed in a christian a crime both abominable and unpardonable to show a gospel to any gentile. This is

mere reason.

so true, that you cannot find the word gospel in any profane author whatever.

The rigid socinians, influenced by the above-mentioned or other difficulties, do not consider our four divine gospels in any other light than as works of clandestine introduction, fabricated about a century after the time of Jesus Christ, and carefully concealed from the gentiles for another century beyond that; works, as they express it, of a coarse and vulgar character, written by coarse and vulgar men, who for a long time confined their discourses and appeals to the mere populace of their party. We will not here repeat the blasphemies uttered by them. This sect, although considerably diffused and numerous, is at present as much concealed as were the first gospels. The difficulty of converting them is so much the greater, in consequence of their obstinately refusing to listen to anything but

The other christians contend against them only with the weapons of the holy scripture: it is consequently impossible that, being thus always in hostility with respect to principles, they should ever unite in their conclusions.

With respect to ourselves, let us ever remain inviolably attached to our four gospels, in union with the infallible church. Let us reject the five gospels which it has rejected; let us not enquire why our Lord Jesus Christ permitted five false gospels, five false histories of his life to be written; and let us submit to our spiritual pastors and directors, who alone on earth are enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Into what a gross error did Abbadie fall when he considered as authentic the letters so ridiculously forged from Pilate to Tiberius, and the pretended proposal of Tiberius to place Jesus Christ in the number of the gods. If Abbadie is a bad critic and a contemptible reasoner, is the church on that account less enlightened? are we the less bound to believe it? ought we at all the less to submit to it?

GOVERNMENT.

SECTION I. The pleasure of governing must certainly be exquisite, if we may judge from the vast numbers who are eager to be concerned in it. We have many more books on government than there are monarchs in the world. Heaven preserve me from making any attempt here to give instruction to kings and their noble ministers—their valets, confessors, or financiers. I understand nothing about the matter ; I have the profoundest respect and reverence for them all. It belongs only to Mr. Wilkes, with his English balance, to weigh the merits of those who are at the head of the human race. It would, besides, be exceedingly strange if, with three or four thousand volumes on the subject of government, with Machiavel, and Bossuet's “ Policy of the Holy Scripture,” with the “ General Financier,” the “Guide to Finances," the “ Means of Enriching a State,” &c. there could possibly be a single person living who was not perfectly acquainted with the duties of kings and the science of government.

Professor Puffendorf,* or, as perhaps we should rather say, baron Puffendorf, says that king David, having sworn never to attempt the life of Shimei, his privy counsellor, did not violate his oath when, according to the jewish history, he instructed his son Solo-mon to get him assassinated, “because David had only engaged that he himself would not kill Shimei.” The baron, who rebukes so sharply the mental reservations of the jesuits, allows David, in the present instance, to entertain one which would not be particularly palatable to privy councellors.

Let us consider the words of Bossuet in his “ Policy of the Holy Scripture," addressed to monseigneur the Dauphin. “ Thus we see royalty established according to the order of succession in the house of David and Solomon, and the throne of David is secured for

* Puffendorf, book iv. chap. 11, article xiii.

« PreviousContinue »