Imatges de pÓgina
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mining the purest grounds of human virtue and enjoyment, to annihilate all individual comfort; and, by unhinging the strongest bands of civil society, to pave the way for universal ruin, devastation, and bloodshed. If there is no God and no future life, of what avail is all our knowledge, all our philosophy, and all our acquirements ? If there is, how important is our conduct here? How consolatory is such an expectation, how peculiarly valuable, when it is founded, not on the variable and inconclusive reasoning of man, but on the direct revelation of Almighty God? To an enlightened mind, no reflection can be more truly gratifying than this, that whilst it is improving in knowledge and virtue here, it is laying up a stock for futurity, which shall then be improved beyond the present conceptions of the most intelligent mortal. The thought of annihilation is dreadful to all, but to those who are drowned in vicious indulgence; and the more cautiously modified creed of the Deist is not much more consolatory, certainly not more useful, to the generality of men. Scepticism, however modified, and infidelity, however cautiously unfolded, will never, among the bulk of men, materially differ, either as to principle or in effect. When men are seduced by temptation, overpowered by passion, or misled by vicious example, the powerful enemies of reason and virtue, small and inconsiderable will be the

restraint imposed upon them by the religion which depends on the slender and variable thread of human investigation. The laws of the supposed religion of nature will quickly be accommodated to the vicious propensities of man; and, instead of being considered as vicious, those propensities will be dignified with the appellation of natural, which, with the generality, will serve as a sufficient cloak to hide their baneful qualities, and to obscure the lesson which might be drawn from their degrading consequences. But from these general remarks, (for the length of which,though to those who have perused the books which have suggested them, they will not, I trust, appear irrelevant,-after again appealing to your candour) I shall now descend to particulars.

“ Mr Macleod wishes to impress on the minds of his readers a high opinion, not only of his candour, but of the depth of his understanding, and the power of his reasoning faculties. He praises the stile and manner of his antagonist's work in the highest terms of panegyrick, and tells us, that he has set an example to philosophers, which he is ambitious to imitate ; an example not less brilliant, than it is amiable and inviting.” To his doctrines, however, he cannot subscribe. “ Curious man (says he) on a subject of such importance, requires even more

than soothing or meek expressions to establish his belief. He soars to the summit of history, and, looking back on ages of credulity, marks the progress of intellect and truth." This exordium is grand, but the sequel is most humiliating. He tells us that he writes to receive instruction, and, at the same time, to explode the Bishop's mistakes. He then defends Thomas Paine, though he allows that, by the influence of his books, he has contributed to untie the affiliating knot of society; and, in a strange, incoherent, and unconnected manner, he proceeds to give us a most gloomy account of the progress of intellect and truth, to which he had before so splendidly alluded. After laying down the axioms of scepticism, which, however pleasant they may be to the mind of an infidel, appear to nie to be most unnatural and degrading, he concludes, that we are “ so formed, that we war against our natures, when we petulantly assert either the truth or fallacy of abstract principles; and that, even within the range of local and personal experience, we may frequently misapprehend the most obvious truths, and therefore that, doubting our own judgments,

we question those of others.” If this be a just, it is certainly a most melancholy account of the nature of man, and of his attainments; and this consideration should surely have prevailed with the candid and philanthropic author over his desire

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of information, &c. to allow his fellow. men to go on in the way to which they have been accustomed, since it is at least more consolatory, and since, on his own principles, he cannot certainly afford them a better. But, happily for man, it is an account which universal experience confutes, and which therefore the avowedly undetermined reasoning, and petulant assertions, of A. Macleod, has little chance or tendency to establish. Men act, and they uniformly act, on the contrary supposition; and, where passion does not interfere, on firm conviction and fixt principles. They may be sometimes wrong, but experience shews, that it is the nature of man so to act, and experience will confute a thousand sophisms. Indeed, were he to proceed on other principles, he would never act at all. With convictions or motives to action, fleeting and uncertain, his conduct must necessarily be indetermined, or entirely passive, and his life must consequently be iniserable,

Anxious to catch at whatever affords the shadow of an objection, our author cannot let slip even the introductory remark of his dignified opponent, where he says to Thomas Paine, " I think it not inconsistent with my station, and the duty I owe to society, to trouble you and the world with some observations,” &c. In this sentence, I should presume, no candid man would find any thing reprehensible; and Mr Mac

leod, not choosing as yet to throw off the mask of assunied candour, whilst he insi. nuates, that these words are “ the offspring of a professional pride, and that they inculcate a superiority in rank and fortune over talents and virtue,” artfully states his objections as coming from others, and affects to defend the character which he thus maliciously attacks. So artfully indeed, in this part of his work, does he endeavour to conceal bis cloven foot, that, to an unwary read. er, he might appear really to be a Christian; and when we compare this affected modesty with the dreadful scurrility, which we meet with in the succeeding pages, we may fairly conclude that he esteems this as a master-piece of policy. Our illustrious philosopher next proceeds to comment on that remark of the Bishop, on which we have already dwelt so long, respecting the death of Paine. This affords him an excellent opportunity for declamation on the investigation of truth, the laurels which await the victors in the dispute, and on “ the inbred superiority reason ever preserves above the errors and prejudices of man ;” and he sagaciously concludes, that though Paine and others may have unsettled the faith of thousands, and of necessary consequence rendered them vicious and miserable, yet " truth will, in the end, stamp her precepts on their minds, and bring her convictions home to the feelings of mankind; which

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