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striking proof of the truth of that prophecy respecting the stability of our religion, “ that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it."
The next great engine of offence, by which multitudes have been led to renounce their faith, is ridicule. An attempt was made early in the last century to erect this into a test of truth, and it has accordingly been applied by many writers since that time to throw discredit on the Christian revelation. But by no one has this weapon been employed with more force and with more success than by the great patriarch of infidelity, Voltaire. It is the principal instrument he makes use of to vilify the Gospel; and among the instructions he gives to his coadjutors and fellow-labourers in this righteous work, one is to load the Christian religion and the Author of it with never-ceasing ridicule, to burlesque it in every way that imagination can suggest, and to deluge the world with an infinity of little tracts, placing Revelation in the most ludicrous point of view, and rendering it an object of mirth and of contempt to the lowest of mankind. This method he strictly pursued himself; to this he bent all the powers of his mind, all the vivacity of his wit, all the fire of his imagination ; and whoever examines his writings against Christianity with care, will find that much the largest part of them are of this description. And in this he showed a thorough knowledge of the world. He knew that mankind in general prefer wit to logic, and love to be entertained rather than convinced ; that it is much easier to point an epigram than to produce an argument; that few can reason justly, but that all the world can be made to laugh; and that whatever can be rendered an object of derision, is almost sure to be rejected without examination. Of all ihese artifices he has availed himself with infinite address, and we know also with fatal success. His writings have unquestionably produced more infidels among the higher classes, and spread more general corrup
tion over the world, than all the voluminous productions of all the other philosophists of Europe put together.
There is still another way of making our brother to offend, or in other words of shaking his faith in the Gospel ; and that is by exhibiting to mankind in our life and conversation a profligate example.
This, in the first place, gives the world an unfavourable idea of the religion we profess. It tempts 'men to think either that we ourselves do not believe it, or that we suppose it consistent with the vices to which we are abandoned ; and either of these suppositions must considerably lessen their estimation both of its doctrines and its precepts.
In the next place a wicked example, as we all know, tends to corrupt in some degree every one that lives within its baneful influence ; more particularly if it be found in men of high rank, great wealth, splendid talents, profound erudition, or popular characters. The mischief done by any notorious vices in men of Vol. II.
this description is inconceivable. It spreads like a pestilence, and destroys thousands in secrecy and silence, of whom the offender himself knows nothing, and whom probably he never meant to injure; and wherever the heart is corrupted, the principle of faith is proportionably weakened; for no man that gives a loose to his
passions will choose to have so troublesome a monitor near him as the Gospel. When he has learned to disregard the moral precepts of that divine volume, it requires but a very slight effort to reject its doctrines, and then to disbelieve the truth of the whole.
A dissolute life, then, especially in particular classes of men, is one certain way of making our brother to offend, not only in point of practice, but of belief; and there is another method of producing the same effects, nearly allied to this, and that is immoral publications.
These have the same tendency with bad examples, both in propagating vice and promoting infidelity; but they are still
more pernicious, because the sphere of their influence is more extensive.
A bad example, though it operates fatally, operates comparatively within a small circumference. It extends only to those who are near enough to observe it, and fall within the reach of the poisonous infection that spreads around it; but the contagion of a licentious publication, especially if it be (as it too frequently is) in a popular and captivating shape, knows no bounds; it flies to the remotest corners of the earth ; it penetrates the obscure and retired habitations of simplicity and innocence; it makes its way into the cottage of the peasant, into the hut of the shepherd, and the shop of the mechanic; it falls into the hands of all ages, ranks, and conditions ; but it is peculiarly fatal to the unsuspecting and unguarded minds of the youth of both sexes; and to them its “ breath is poison, and its touch is death."
What then have they to answer for who are every day obtruding these publicaG 2