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which among a civilized and educated people would be taken for profanation. A Swiss out of patience, and possibly more intoxicated than the performers of the ox and the ass, took the liberty of remonstrating with them at Louvain, and was rewarded with no small number of blows; they would indeed have hanged him, and he escaped with great difficulty.
The same man had a dangerous quarrel at the Hague, for violently taking the part of Barnevelt against an outrageous Gomarist. He was imprisoned at Amsterdam, for saying that priests were the scourge of humanity, and the source of all our misfortunes. “ How !” said he, “ if we maintain that good works are necessary to salvation, we are sent to a dungeon ; and if we laugh at a cock and an ass, we risk hanging !" Ridiculous as this adventure was, it is sufficient to convince us, that we may be criminal in one or two points in our hemisphere, and innocent in all the rest of the world.
The race of Onan exhibits great singularities. The patriarch Judah, his father, lay with his daughter-inlaw Tamar the Phenician, in the high road ; Jacob, the father of Judah, was at the same time married to two sisters, the daughters of an idolater; and deluded both his father and father-in-law. Lot, the grand uncle of Jacob, lay with his two daughters. Saleum, one of the descendants of Jacob and of Judah, espoused Rahab the Canaanite, a prostitute. Boaz, son of Saleum and Rahab, received into his bed Ruth the Midianite; and was great grand-father of David. David took away Bathsheba from the warrior. Uriah, her husband, and caused him to be slain, that he might be unrestrained in his amour. Lastly, in the two genealogies of Christ, which differ in so many points, but agree in this; we discover that he scended from this tissue of fornication, adultery, and incest.
Nothing is more proper to confound human pru
dence; to humble our limited minds; and to convince us that the ways of providence are not like our ways.
The reverend father Dom Calmet makes this reflection, in alluding to the incest of Judah with Tamar, and to the sin of Onan, spoken of in the 38th chapter of Genesis : “ Scripture," he observes, gives us the details of a history, which on the first perusal strikes our minds as not of a nature for edification ; but the hidden sense which is shut up in it is as elevated, as that of the mere letter appears low to carnal eyes. It is not without good reasons that the Holy Spirit has allowed the histories of Tamar, of Rahab, of Ruth, and of Bathsheba, to form a part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.”
It might have been well if Dom Calmet had explained these sound reasons, by which we might have cleared up the doubts and appeased the scruples of all the honest and timorous souls who are anxious to comprehend how this Supreme Being, the Creator of worlds, could be born in a Jewish village, of a race of plunderers and of prostitutes. This mystery, which is not less inconceivable than other mysteries, was assuredly worthy the explanation of so able a commentator:--but to return to our subject.
We perfectly understand the crime of the patriarch Judah, and of the patriarchs Simeon and Levi, his brothers, at Sichem ; but it is more difficult to understand the sin of Onan. Judah had married his eldest son Er to the Phenician Tamar. Er died in consequence of his wickedness, and the patriarch wished his second son to espouse the widow, according to an ancient law of the Egyptians and Phenicians, their neighbours, which was called raising up seed for his brother. The first child of this second marriage bore the name of the deceased, and this Onan objected to. He hated the memory of his brother, or to produce a child to bear the name of Er; and to avoid it took the means which are detailed in the chapter of Genesis already mentioned, and which are practised by no species of animals but apes and human beings.
An English physician wrote a small volume upon this vice, which he called after the name of the patriarch who was guilty of it. M. Tissot, the celebrated physician of Lausanne, also wrote on this subject, in a work much more profound and methodical than the English one. These two works detail the consequences of this unhappy habit-loss of strength, impotence, weakness of the stomach and intestines, tremblings, vertigo, lethargy, and often premature death.
M. Tissot, however, to console us for this evil, relates as many examples of the mischiefs of repletion in both sexes. There cannot be a stronger argument against rash vows of chastity. From the examples afforded, it is impossible to avoid being convinced of the enormous folly of condemning ourselves to these turpitudes in order to renounce a connexion which has been expressly commanded by God himself. In this manner think the Protestants, the Jews, the Mahometans, and many other nations; the Catholics offer other reasons in favour of converts. I shall merely say of the Catholics what Dom Calmet says of the Holy Ghost,—That their reasons are doubtless good, could we understand them.
OPINION. What is the opinion of all the nations of the north of America, and those which border the Straits of Sunda, on the best of governments, and best of religions; on public ecclesiastical rights; on the manner of writing history; on the nature of tragedy, comedy, opera, eclogue, epic poetry; on innate ideas, concomitant grace, and the miracles of deacon Paris? It is clear, that all these people have no opinions on things of which they have no ideas.
They have a confused feeling of their customs, and go not beyond this instinct. Such are the people who inhabit the hores of the Frozen Sea for the space of fifteen hundred leagues. Such are the inhabitants of three parts of Africa, and those of nearly all the isles of Asia; of twenty hordes of Tartars, and almost
all men solely occupied with the painful and continual care of providing their subsistence. Such are, at two steps from us, most of the Morlachians, many of the Savoyards, and some citizens of Paris.
When a nation begins to be civilized, it has some opinions which are quite false. It believes in spirits, sorcerers, the enchantment of serpents and their immortality; in possessions of the devil, exorcisms, and soothsayers. It is persuaded, that seeds must grow rotten in the earth to spring up again, and that the quarters of the moon are the causes of accesses of fever.
A Talapoin persuades his followers, that the god Samonocodom sojourned some time at Siam, and that he cut down all the trees in a forest which prevented him from flying his kite at his ease, which was his favourite amusement. This idea takes root in their heads; and finally, an honest man who might doubt this adventure of Samonocodom, would run the risk of being stoned. It requires ages to destroy a popular opinion.
Opinion is called the queen of the world; it is so: for when reason opposes it, it is condemned to death. It must rise twenty times from its ashes, to gradually drive away the usurper.
I beg of you, gentlemen, to explain to me how everything is for the best ; for I do not understand it.
Does it signify, that everything is arranged and ordered according to the laws of the impelling power? That I comprehend and acknowledge.
Do you mean, that every one is well and possesses the means of living--that nobody suffers ? You know that such is not the case.
Are you of opinion, that the lamentable calamities which afflict the earth are good in reference to od; and that he takes pleasure in them? I credit not this horrible doctrine, nor you either. Have the goodness to explain how all is for the best. Plato the dialectician condescended to allow to God the liberty of making five worlds; because, said he, there are five regular solids in geometry, the tetrahedron, the cube, the hexahedron, the dodecabedron, and the icosahedron. But why thus restrict divine power? Why not permit the sphere which is still more regular, and even the cone, the pyramid of many sides, the cylinder, &c.?
God, according to Plato, necessarily chose the best of all possible worlds; and this system has been embraced by many christian philosophers, although it appears repugnant to the doctrine of original sin. After this transgression, our globe was no more the best of all possible worlds. If it was ever so, it might be so still; but many people believe it to be the worst of worlds instead of the best.
Leibnitz takes the part of Plato: more readers than one complain of their inability to understand either the one or the other; and for ourselves, having read both of them more than once, we avow our ignorance according to custom; and since the gospel has revealed nothing on the subject, we remain in darkness without
Leibnitz, who speaks of everything, has treated of original sin; and as every man of systems introduces into his plan something contradictory, he imagined that the disobedience towards God, with the frightful misfortunes which followed it, were integral parts of the best of worlds, and necessary ingredients of all possible felicity :-“Calla, calla, senor don Carlos: todo che sè haze es por su ben.”
What! to be chased from a delicious place, where we might have lived for ever only for the eating of an apple? What ! to produce in misery wretched children, who will suffer everything, and in return produce others to suffer after them? What! to experience all maladies, feel all vexations, die in the midst grief, and by way of recompense be burned to all' eternity-is this lot the best possible? It certainly is not good for us, and in what manner can it be so for God?