« 前へ次へ »
terest and prejudice, and the force of long-confirmed habits of thinking and acting. But I must now conclude, promising to give in my next some remarks on Infidelity. Meantime,
MY DEAR FRIEND, WHEN I secretly renounced the authority of religion, I felt some relief for a time from that distress of mind that had so afflicted me as a Romanist. I was glad that I was no longer under the necessity of defending a creed which I did not believe, and it gratified my pride to think that I could amuse myself at the expense of Protestant and Roman Catholic in turn, without being myself obnoxious to their retaliation. My feelings in these circumstances are well in the following candid avowal of the celebrated infidel BAYLE, whom the Jesuits converted when very young, but who afterwards spurned their authority :
“ In truth, (says he to his correspondent, Minutoli,) it ought not to be thought strange that so many persons should have inclined to Pyrrhonism, (universal doubt,) for of all things in the world it is the most convenient. You may dispute, with impunity, against every body you meet, without any dread of that vexatious argument which is addressed ad hominem. You are never afraid of a retort ; for as you announce
no opinion of your own, you are always ready to abandon those of others to the attacks of sophists of every description. In a word, you may dispute and jest on all subjects, without incurring any danger from the lex talionis,” (the law of reprisals.)
“ It is amusing, (the celebrated Dugald Stewart judiciously remarks on this passage,) it is amusing to think, that the Pyrrhonism which Bayle himself here so ingeniously accounted for, from motives of conveniency and of literary cowardice, should have been mistaken by so many of his disciples for the sportive triumph of a superior intellect over the weaknesses and errors of human reason.” But how detestable is the conduct of the individual who, to gratify his pride or his spleen, or to shield his licentious conduct from reproof, sports with the most sacred feelings and the dearest interests of man, and aims his poisoned arrows at prejudice or piety, not from a fortified enclosure which he has the manliness to defend, but from some secret lurking place whence he
the moment he is detected !
“ The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” That is, he wishes it may be so. For the thought of a righteous Governor of the world, and of a future judgment, gives him indescribable pain.
Indeed, the state of the heart has more to do in this matter than soine are willing to admit. All the tendencies of human depravity are most un- > favourable to the truth. The mind is pre-occupied by worldly prejudices, or led captive by sinful passions. It is blinded by the perverting influences of the sin that dwelleth in us."
Like a mirror sullied by impure vapours, it reflects not: the beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Instead of that love of truth so necessary to give dili-, gence and perseverance to the spirit of inquiry, and calmess and impartiality to the judgment, we find that the “carnal mind” is influenced by enmity against God, and revolts from the autho-, rity of his law. (Rom. viii. 7.) “ It hates the light, neither will come to the light, that its deeds may be reproved.” We view spiritual objects through the medium of self-love, by which they are grievously distorted. It diminishes the interests of eternity, in proportion as it magnifies those of time. Like the Kaleidescope it exhibits, in forms of fascinating beauty, every thing calcu-lated to gratify our selfish passions ; but when the light of truth visits the understanding, it speedily dissipates those flattering illusions. It falls upon them like the beams of the sun on the machinery of a puppet-show. Can you wonder, then, that truth should be unwelcome to the human heart? That
the enmity of our nature should seek, like the tiger, to prowl in darkness ? Thus ignorance is denominated in Scripture the “ blindness of the heart;" and the soul is said, in conversion, “to put off the works of darkness,” and “to put on the armour of light.”
The disappointed man—the man that has been mortified in his vanity, thwarted in his ambition, or baffled in his pursuit of unrighteous gain or unhallowed enjoyment, very naturally quarrels with the arrangements of Providence, as capricious and unjust, or denies a divine Government altogether, and attributes the events of life to a blind and iron-handed fatality. Thus he shakes off the sense of accountability, and abandons himself to his dark passions, and vile affections, without remorse. He is delivered to a strong delusion to believe a lie.” This class of infidels will join the ranks of sedition and anarchy, “despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities." Restless and malevolent, they seek, like their master, only to disseminate vice and misery. There is another class that are wafted on the sea of life by prosperous gales, who seize the prize of ambition, feast on adulation, and riot in pleasure. But they “sacrifice to their own net, and offer incense to their drag.” They ascribe all their success to their own merit, to