Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

tity.* It is not through the members, but the inclination, that a person sins : it is therefore absurd to say that one shall escape damnation of the body by depriving of himself a member. What would become of so many prelates and ecclesiastical libertines, if to appease the lusts of the flesh, and make reparation for scandal, they should take it into their heads to follow the counsel of Jesus?

6thly, The suppression of a just defence of one's person and rights, against an aggressor or unjust litigant, is to overturn the laws of every society. It is to open a door to iniquities and crimes, and render useless the exercise of justice. By such máxims a people could not exist ten years.

7thly, The counsel or precept, tó possess nothing, amass nothing, and think not of the morrow, would be very prejudicial to families :-a father ought to pro

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

* Aristotle and Epictetus recommended chastity of speech. Menander said, “ that a good man could never consent to-debauch a virgin or commit adultery.” Tibullus said, casta placent superis. Mark Antony " thanks the Gods that he had preserved his chastity in his youth.” The Romans' made laws against adultery. Father Tanchard informs'us, - that the Siamans forbid not only dishonest actions, but also impure thoughts and desires.” It thus appears that chastity and purity of maðners were esteemed even before the Christian religion existed. The clergy it is true deny this, and incessantly cry out against unbelievers and philosophers, whom they denominate dangerous subjects. But if we open history, we do not find that philosophers were those who embroiled states and empires. Such events were almost universally produced by the religious. The Domi: nican who poisoned the Emperor” Henry XI. James Clement, and Ravaillac, were not unbelievers. They were not philosophers, but fanatic Christians, who led Charles I. to the scaffold. It was the priest Gomáre, and' not Spinosa, who'set Holland on fire, &


vide a subsistence for his children. These maximg cải suit sluggards only, such as priests and monks, who hold labour in horror, and calculate on living at the expence of the public.

Sthly, It is now easy to perceive, that the promises made the Jews by the mouth of Moses, inspired by the Divinity, have not been verified literally, and are only allegorical. But it was not from the Son of God that the Jews should have learned this fatal truth. Once deceived by the Divinity, they ought to have dreaded being again deceived by another envoy. Like Jesus, Moses had made promises ; like Jesus, Moses had confirmed his promises and mission by miracles; yet these promises have been found deceptive, and merely allem gorical. This idea ought to have created presumptions dangerous to the promises of Christ.*

9thly, To say that it is necessary to be poor in spirit, and to say afterwards that to attain heaven it is neces

[ocr errors]

All the first Christians, as already remarked, expected, on the word of Christ and his apostles, soon to see the end of the world, which however still endures. They looked day after day for the arrival of Christ in the clouds of heaven; they reckoned that he was to establish on earth a temporal kingdom, which was to endure a thousand years. Several holy doctors, among whone is St. Irenæus, have firmly believed this fable, borrowed from the golden age, or reign of Saturn. The church, remarking that this reign did not arrive, changed its opinion on the matter, as on many others, and declared the Millenarians heretics. St. Irenæus however has left us a poetical description of the abundance and. sensual pleasures, which this reign was to procure. St. Justin Martyr expected also this fine kingdom. See Tillemont, tome 2. p. 300. Yet we know not how to reconcile the prediction of the near end of the world made by Christ, and the ignorance he said he was in as to the duration of the world in St. Mark xiii. 32 This ignorance appears strange indeed in a God.

sary to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect, is to make God a stupid being ; to afford to Atheists a solution for all the evil they perceive in nature ; and to pretend, that to enter paradise, 0:e must be a fool. But has man the power of being spiritual or poor in spirit, reasonable or foolish, believing or unbelieve ing? Is not the holy stupidity of faith a gist, which God grants only to whom he will? Is it not unjust to damn people of understanding ?

Lastly, in this sermon, Jesus recommends to beware of false prophets, and says, that it is by their works we shall know them.--Yet, as we have seen, the priests tell us, " we ought to do as they say, without imitating what they do,” when we find their conduct little conformable to the maxims they preach. It was necessary, therefore, to give us another siga than works, whereby to recognize false prophets, or else the faithful will often be reduced to believe, that the clergy are provided only with lying prophets.

It is in this manner unbelievers argue, that is to say, all those who have not received from heaven poorness of spirit, so necessary for not perceiving the want of inference, false principles, and numberless inconsistencies, which most directly result from the morality of Jesus. This morality appears a divine chef d'euvre to docile Christians illuminated by faith; and it was much admired by those who heard it delivered. Weknow not, however, if many of the auditors were so affected by it as to follow it literally ; to admire a doctrine, and believe it true and divine, iş a thing much more easy than to practise it. Many persons set a higher value on evangelical virtues, which are sublime in theory, than on the human virtues, which reason commands us to practise, *

• See Appendix, No. II.

It is not then surprising, that the supernatural and marvellous morality of Jesus was applauded by those who heard it. It was addressed to paupers, the dregs of the people, and the miserable. An austere stoical morality must please the wretched; it transforms their actual situation into virtue; it flatters their vanity; makes them proud of their misery ; hardens them against the strokes of fortune; and persuades them that they are much more valuable than the rich, who maltreat them ; and that the Deity, who delights in see, ing men suffer, prefers the wretched to those who enjoy felicity.

On the other hand, the vulgar imagine, that those who possess the faculty of restraining their passions, despising what men seek after, and depriving themselves of what excites the desires of others, are extraordinary beings, not only agreeable to God, but en. dowed by him with preternatural grace, without which they would be incapable of the exertions they are seen to make. Thus a harsh morality, which seems to proceed from insensibility, pleases the rabble, imposes on the ignorant, and is sufficient to excite the admira. tion of the simple. It is not even displeasing to pere sons placed in more happy situations, who admire the doctrine, well assured of finding the secret to elude the practice of it, by the assistance of their indulgent guides; there is only a small number of fanatics who follow it literally.

Such were the dispositions which must have induced so many people to receive the doctrine of Jesus. His maxims hatched a multitude of obstinate martyrs, who, in the hope of opening to theniselves a road to heaven, set tornents and afdictions at defiance. The same maxims produced penitents of every kind, soli

taries, anchorites, cenobites, and monks, who, in emua lation of each other, rendered themselves illustrious in the eyes of nations by their austerities, voluntary poverty, a total renunciation of the comforts of nature, and a continual struggle against the gentlest and most lawful inclinations.* The counsels and precepts of the gospel inundated nations with a vast number of mada men, enemies of themselves, and perfectly useless to others. These wonderful men were admired, respected, and revered as saints by their fellow citizens, who, themselves deficient in grace or enthusiasm necessary for imitating them, or following faithfully the counsels of the Son of God, had recourse to their intercession, in order to obtain pardon for their sins, and indulgence from the Almighty, whom they supposed irritated at the impossibility in which they found themselves of following literally the precepts of his Son. In fine, it is easy to perceive, that these precepts, rigorously observed, would drag society into total ruin, for society is supported only because that most Christians, admiring the doctrine of the Son of God as divine, disa pense with practising it, and follow the propensity of nature, even at the risk of being damned.

* To form a true idea of Christian morality, such as has been taught by the most esteemed doctors, we bave only to read a work of the learned Barbeyrac, published on the subject, under the title of Traite de la morale des peres, in 4to. Amsterdam, 1728.

+ It is several times related in Leviticus xvii. 11 and 14, that the soul consists of the blood. St. Paul still farther obscures the question of the immortality of the soul. In his first epistle to the Thessalonians, v. 23. not content with making man double, he makes him treble, and describes him as composed of body, soul, and spirit. Thereafter he gives us to understand, that the body and soul are mortal, but that the spirit is immortal. With res.. pect to the doctrine of the resurrection, scholars have shewa

« AnteriorContinuar »