Page images

as their betters. I went the other night to the Robin Hood, where it is usual for the advocates against religion to assemble and openly avow their infidelity. One of the questions for the pight was, “Whether lord Bolingbroke had not done greater services to mankind by his writings, than the apostles or evangelists ?--As this society is chiefly composed of lawyers' clerks, petty tradesmen, and the lowest mechanics, I was at first surprized at such amazing erudition among them. Toland, Tindal, Collins, Chubb, and Mandeville, they seemed to have got by heart. A shoemaker harangued his five minutes upon the -excellence of the tenets maintained by lord Bolingbroke; but I soon found that his reading bad not been extended beyond the idea of a patriot king, which he had mistaken for a glorious system of free-thinking. I could not help smiling , at another of the company, who took pains to show his disbelief of the gospel by unsainting the apostles, and calling them by no other title than plain Paul or plain Peter. The proceedings of this society have indeed almost induced me to wish that (like the Roman Catholics) they were not permitted to read the Bible, rather than that they should read it only to abuse it.

I have frequently heard many, wise tradesmen settling the most important articles of our faith over a pint of beer. A baker took occasion, from Canning's affair, to maintain, in opposition to the Scriptures, that man might live by bread alone, at least that woman might; for else, said he, how could the girl have been supported for a whole -month by a few hard crusts? In answer to this,



a barber-surgeon set forth the improbability of that story; and thence inferred, that it was impossible for our Saviour to have fasted forty days in the wilderness. I lately heard a midshipman swear, that the Bible was all a lie; for he had sailed round the world with lord Anson, and if there had been any Red Sea he must have met with it. I know a bricklayer who, while he was working by line and rule, and carefully laying one brick upon another, would argue with a fellow-labourer, that the world was made by chance; and a cook, who thought more of his trade than his Bible, in a dispute concerning the miracles, made a pleasant mistake about the first, and gravely asked his antagonist what he thought of the supper at Cana.

This affectation of free-thinking among the lower class of people, is at present happily confined to the men. On Sundays, while the husbands are toping at the alehouse, the good women, their wives, think it their duty to go to church, say their prayers, bring home the text, and hear the children their catechism. But our polite ladies are, I fear, in their lives and conversations, little better than free-thinkers. Going to church, since it is now no longer the fashion to carry on intrigues there, is almost wholly laid aside: and I verily believe, that nothing but another earthquake can fill the churches with people of quality. The fair sex in general are too thoughtless to concern themselves in deep inquiries into matters of religion. It is sufficient that they are taught to

believe themselves angels. It would therefore be • an ill compliment, while we talk of the heaven they bestow, to persuade them into the Mahometan notion, that they have no souls; though, per haps, our finę gentlemen may imagine, that by convincing a lady that she has no soul, she will be less scrupulous about the disposal of her body.

The ridiculous notions maintained by freethinkers in their writings, scarcely deserve a serious refutation; and perhaps the best method of answering them would be to select from their works all the absurd and impracticable notions, which they so stiffly maintain in order to evade the belief of the Christian religion. I shall here throw together a few of their principal tenets, under the contradictory title of

The Unbeliever's Creed. I believe that there is no God, but that matter is God, and God is matter; and that it is no matter whether there is any God or no.

I believe also, that the world was not made; that the world made itself; that it had no beginning; that it will last for ever, world without end.

I believe that a man is a beast; that the soul is the body, and the body is the soul; and that after death there is neither body nor soul.

I believe that there is no religion; that natural religion is the only religion; and that all religion is unnatural. I believe not in Moses; I believe in the first philosophy; I believe not the evangelists; I believe in Chubb, Collins, Toland, Tindal, Morgan, Mandeville, Woolston, Hobbes, Shaftesbury; I believe in lord Bolingbroke; I believe not St. Paul.

I believe not revelation; I believe in tradition; I believe in the Talmud; I believe in the Alcoran; I believe not the Bible; I believe in Socrates; I believe in Confucius; I believe in Sanconiathan; I believe in Mahomet; I believe not in Christ. Lastly, I believe in all unbelief.



PLIFICATION OF ITS POWER IN AN INFIDEL. That guilt and anguish are inseparable, and that the punishment of a man's sin begins always from himself, and from his own reflections, is a truth every where supposed, appealed to, and inculcated in Scripture. The consequence of the first sin that was ever committed in the world is there said to have been, that our offending parents perceived their own nakedness, and fled from the presence of God; that is, a conscious shame and fear succeeded in the room of lost innocence; and the presages of their own minds, those auguria pænæ futurre, of which even the heathen moralists speak, anticipated the sentence of divine vengeance. This is the genuine and necessary result of offending against the light of our consciences. Nor is it possible, in the nature of the thing, that matters should be otherwise. It is the way in which guilt doth, and must always, operate. For moral evil can no more be committed, than natural evil can be suffered, without anguish and disquiet. Whatever doth violence to the plain dic-' tates of our reason, concerning virtue and vice, duty and sin, will as certainly discompose and afflict our thoughts, as a wound will raise a smart

in the flesh that receives it. Good and evil, whether natural or moral, are but other words for pleasure and pain, delight and uneasiness : at least, though they may be distinguished in the notion, yet they are not to be separated in reality ; but the one of them, wherever it is, will constantly and uniformly excite and produce the other. Pain and pleasure are the springs of all human actions, the great engines by which the wise Author of our natures governs and steers them to the purposes for which he ordained them. By these, annexed to the perception of good and evil, he inclines us powerfully to pursue the one, and avoid the other; to pursue natural good, and to avoid natural evil, by delightful or uneasy sensations, that immediately affect the body; to pursue moral good, and to avoid moral evil, by pleasing or painful impressions made on the mind. From hence it is that we so readily choose or refuse, do or forbear, every thing that is profitable or noxious to us, and requisite to preserve or perfect our beings. And because it is an end of far greater importance, and more worthy of our all-wise Creator's care, to secure the integrity of our moral, than of our natural perfections; therefore he hath made the pleasures and pains, subservient to this purpose, more extensive and durable ; so that the inward complacence we find in acting reasonably and virtuously, and the disquiet we feel from vicious choices and pursuits, is protracted beyond the acts themselves from whence it arose, and renewed often upon our souls, by distant reflections; whereas the pleasures and pains, attending the perceptions of natural good and evil, are

« PreviousContinue »