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given up as wholly untenable. But while what the virtuous Porphyry had really written, was committed to the flames, a worse outrage was committed against his reputation, by Christians, who, aware of the great influence of his name and authority, ascribed the vile trash which they had composed themselves to him, for the purpose of making him seem to have made the admissions which it was for the interest of Christianity that he should have made, or to have attacked it so feebly, as might serve to show the advantage of their defences. The celebrated treatise on the Philosophy of Oracles, which even the pious Doddridge, and the learned Macknight, have ascribed to this great man, and availed themselves of, for that fraudulent purpose, has, by the greater fidelity and honesty of Lardner, been demonstrably traced home to the forging hands of Christian piety.*
Before the Christian religion had made any perceptible advance among mankind, two grand and influential principles characterized all the moving intelligence that then existed in the world; and to these two principles, Christianity owed its triumph over all the wisdom and honesty that feebly opposed its progress. These principles were, the SUPPOSED NECESSITY OF DECEIVING THE VULGAR, and
THE IMAGINED DUTY OF CULTIVATING AND PERPETU
ATING IGNORANCE. Of the former of these principles, the most distinguished advocates were the whole train of deceptive legislators; Moses in Palestine, Mneues (if he be not the same) in Egypt, Minos in Crete, Lycurgus in Lacedæmon, Numa in Rome, Confucius in China, Triptolemus, who pretended the inspirations of Ceres, Zaleucus of Minerva, Solon of Epimenides, Zamolxis of Vesta, Pythagoras, and Plato.+ Euripides maintained that in the early state of society, some wise men insisted on the necessity of darkening truth with falsehood, and of persuading men that there is an immortal deity, who hears and sees and understands our actions, whatever we may think of that matter ourselves. Strabo shews at great length the general use and important effects of theological fables. "It is not possible for a philosopher to conduct by reasoning a multitude of women, and of the low vulgar, and thus to invite them to piety, holiness, and faith;
* Περι της εκ λογιων φιλοσοφίας. See this exposé in my Syntagma, p. 116. + It will be seen that I have largely availed myself of my friend's printed but unpublished work on Deisidemony.
‡ Quoted in the pseudo-Plutarchean treatise, de placitis philes. B. 1, Ch. 7.
but the philosopher must also make use of superstition, and not omit the invention of fables, and the performance of wonders. For the lightning, and the ægis, and the trident, and the thyrsolonchal arms of the gods, are but fables; and so is all ancient theology. But the founders of states adopted them as bugbears to frighten the weakminded."*
Varro says plainly, "that there are many truths which it is useless for the vulgar to know, and many falsities which it is fit that the people should not know are falsities." +
Paul of Tarsus, whose fourteen epistles make up the greater part of the bulk of the New Testament, repeatedly inculcates and avows the principle of deceiving the common people, talks of his having been upbraided by his own converts with being crafty and catching them with guile, and of his known and wilful lies, abounding to the glory of God.§ For further avowals of this principle of deceit, the reader may consult the chapter of Admissions.
Accessory to the avowed and consecrated principle of deceit, was that of IGNORANCE. St. Paul, in the most explicit language, had taught and maintained the absolute necessity of extreme ignorance, in order to attain celestial wisdom, and gloried in the power of the Almighty as destroying the wisdom of the wise, and bringing to nothing, the understanding of the prudent; and purposely choosing the foolish things, and the weak things, and the base things, as objects of his adoption, and vessels of his grace And St. Peter, or whoever was the author of the epistles ascribed to him, inculcates the necessity of the most absolute prostration of understanding, and of a state of mind, but little removed from slobbering idiotcy, as necessary to the acquisition of divine knowledge; that even as new born babes, they should desire the sincere milk of the word, that they might grow thereby."¶
Upon the sense of which doctrine, the pious and orthodox Tertullian glories in the egregious ridiculous
* Dr. Isaac Vossius, when asked what had become of a certain man of letters, answered bluntly," he has turned country parson, and is deceiving the vulgar.”—See Desmaiseaux's Life of St Evremond.
+ August. de Cio. Dei. B. 4.
2 Corinth. xii. 16.
§ Romans iii. 7.
I Corinth. i. 27.
1 Peter ii. 2. 1 Thess. ii. 7, "Even as a nurse cherisheth her children." Compare also 2 Corinth. xi. 23, where Paul says, "I speak as a fool," which he need not have said.
ness of the Christian religion, and the debilitating effects which the sincere belief of it had produced on his own understanding: his main argument for it, being, "I reverence it, because it is contemptible; I adore it, because it is absurd; I believe it, because it is impossible."*
Nothing was considered more obnoxious to the cause of the gospel, than the good sense contained in the writings of its opponents. The inveteracy against learning, of Gregory the Great, to whom this country owes its conversion to the gospel, was so excessive, that he not only was angry with an Archbishop of Vienna, for suffering grammar to be taught in his diocese, but studied to write bad Latin himself, and boasted that he scorned to conform to the rules of grammar, whereby he might seem to resemble a heathen.+ The spirit of superstition quite suppressed all the efforts of learning and philosophy.
Christianity was first sent to the shores of England by the missionary zeal of Pope Gregory the First, not earlier than the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century. Our King Alfred, who is said to have founded the University of Oxford, in the ninth century, lamented that there was at that time not a priest in his dominions who understood Latin, and even for some centuries after, we find that our Christian bishops and prelates, the "teachers, spiritual pastors, and masters," of the whole Christian community, were Marksmen, i. e. they supplied by the sign of the cross, their inability to write their own names.§
Though philology, eloquence, poetry, and history, were sedulously cultivated among those of the Greeks and Latins, who in the fourth century still held out their resistance against the Christian religion: its just and honourable historian, Mosheim, admonishes his readers by no means to conclude that any acquaintance with the sciences had become universal in the church of Christ.|| "It is certain, (he adds) that the greatest part both of the bishops and presbyters, were men entirely destitute of learning and education. Besides, that savage and illiterate party, who looked upon all sorts of erudition, particularly
* De carne Christi Semleri, Edit. Halæ Magdeburgica, 1770, vol. 3, p. 352. Quoted in Syntagma, page 106.
+ Dr. Mandeville's Free Thoughts, page 152.
See History of England, almost any one.
Ecclesiastical History, Cent. 4, part 2, chap. 1, sec. 5, p. 346.
that of a philosophical kind, as pernicious, and even destructive of true piety and religion, increased both in number and authority. The ascetics, monks, and hermits, augmented the strength of this barbarous faction, and not only the women, but also all who took solemn looks, sordid garments, and a love of solitude, for real piety, (and in this number we comprehend the generality of mankind) were vehemently prepossessed in their favour."
Happily the security and permanency given to the once won triumphs of learning over her barbarous foes, by the invention of the art of printing,* the now extensive spread of rational scepticism, and the never again to be surrendered achievements of superior intelligence, have forced upon the advocates of ignorance, the necessity of expressing their still too manifest suspicions and hostility against the cause of general learning, in more guarded and qualified terms. But what they still would have, the sameness of their principle, the identity of their purpose, and the sincerity of their conviction that the cultivation of the mind, and the continuance of the Christian religion, are incompatible, is indicated in the institution of an otherwise superfluous university in the city of London, for the avowed purpose of counteracting the well foreseen effects of suffering learning to get her pass into the world untrammelled with the fetters of superstition. The advertisement of subscriptions to the intended King's College, in the Times newspaper, even so late as the 16th of this present month of August, in which I write from this prison, in the cause and advocacy of intellectual freedom, avows the principle in these words:" We, the undersigned, fully concurring in the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES on which it is proposed to be established, namely, that every principle of general education for the youth of a Christian community, ought to comprise instruction in the Christian religion, as an indispensable part; without which, the acquisition of other branches of knowledge, will be conducive neither to the happiness, nor to the welfare of the state." In other words, and most
In the year 1444, Caxton published the first book ever printed in England. In 1474, the then Bishop of London, in a convocation of his clergy, said, "if we do not destroy this dangerous invention, it will one day destroy us.' The reader should compare Pope Leo the Tenth's avowal, that "it was well known how profitable this fable of Christ_has been to us:" with Mr. Beard's Apology for it, in his third letter to the Rev. Robert Taylor, page 74, and Archdeacon Paley's declaration, that " he could not afford to have a conscience."—See Life of the Author attached to his work on the Evidences of Christianity, p. 11. London 12mo. edit. 1826.
unequivocally in the sense intended, the utmost extent of learning which the university propounds, will never reach to the rendering any of its members competent to conflict with the learning of the enemies of the Christian faith; to produce either orators who dare attempt to vie on equal grounds with their orators; readers, who dare trust their conscious inferiority of understanding to read, or writers that shall have ability or disposition to answer their writings. The old barbarous policy of Goth and Vandal ignorance, to suppress and commit to the flames the writings of Infidels, to decry their virtues, and to imprison their persons; to shelter conscious weakness under airs of affected contempt; to crush the man when they can no longer cope with his argument, to destroy the reasoner, when they dare not encounter his reasoning, is still the dernier resource of a system, that cannot be defended by other means, but must needs be left in the dust from whence it sprang, whenever the mind of man shall be allowed to get a fair start, without being clogged with it.
"In consequence of the conquests of the Romans, there arose imperceptibly, but entirely by the operation of natural and most obvious causes, a new kind of religion, formed by the mixture of the ancient rites of the conquered nations with those of the Romans. Those nations, who before their subjection, had their own gods, and their own particular religious institutions, were persuaded by degrees, to admit into their worship, a great number of the sacred rites and customs of their conquerors."* And from this conjunction, helped on or retarded from time to time, by those exacerbations and paroxysms, which ever attend the fever of religion, as it afflicts the sincerely religious, and the policy of those wicked tacticians, who have always known how to raise or lower the spiritual temperament to their purpose, arose that heterogeneous compound of all that was good and all that was bad in all religions, which, after having existed under various names and modifications, and gained by gradual usurpations a considerable ascendancy over any or all the idolatrous forms from which it had been collected, began to be called Christianity. "The wiser part of mankind, however, (says Mosheim) about the time of Christ's birth, looked upon the whole system of religion, as a just object of contempt and ridicule."+
*Mosheim, Cent. I.
+ Mosheim, Cent. I, Ch. 1.