Imatges de pàgina
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ceeded in procuring your condemnation to the hemlock. “ I have never thought of that man since my

adventure," answered Socrates; “but now that you put me in mind of him, I pity him much. He was a wicked priest, who secretly carried on a trade in leather, a trafic reputed shameful amongst us. He sent his two children to my school : the other disciples reproached them with their father's being a currier, and they were obliged to quit. The incensed father was unceasing in his endeavours, until he had stirred up against me all the priests and all the sophists. They persuaded the council of the five hundred, that I was an impious man, who did not believe that the Moon, Mercury, and Mars, were deities. I thought indeed, as I do now, that there is but one God, the master of all nature. The judges gave me up to the republic's poisoner, and he shortened my life a few days. I died with tranquility at the age of seventy years, and since then I have led a happy life with all these great men whom you see, and of whom I am the least.

After enjoying the conversation of Socrates for some time, I advanced with my guide into a bower, situated above the groves, where all these sages of antiquity seemed to be tasting the sweets of repose.

Here I beheld a man of mild and simple mien, who appeared to me to be about thirty-five years old. He was looking with compassion upon the distant heaps of whitened skeletons through which I had been led to the abode of the sages. I was astonished to find his feet swelled and bloody, his hands in the same state, his side pierced, and his ribs laid bare by ilogging. Good God! said I, is it possible that one of the just and wise should be in this state?. I have just seen one who was treated in a very odious manner; but there is no comparison between bis punishment and yours. Bad priests and bad judges poisoned him. Was it also by, priests and judges that you were so cruelly assassinated ?

With great affability he answered"Yes.".

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And who were those monsters?

They were hypocrites.” Ah! you have said all! By that one word I understand that they would condemn you to the worst of punishments. You then had proved to them, like Socrates, that the moon was not a goddess, and that Mercury was not a god?

« No; those planets were quite out of the question. My countrymen did not even know what a planet was; they were all arrant ignoramusses. Their superstitions were quite different from those of the Greeks.” Then you

wished to teach them a new religion? “ Not at all; I simply said to them— Love God with all your hearts, and your neighbour as yourselves; for that is all. Judge whether this precept is not as old as the universe; judge whether I brought them a new worship. I constantly told them, that I was come, not to abolish their law, but to fulfil it; I had observed all their rights; I was circumcised as they all were; I was baptised like the most zealous of them; like them I paid the corban; like them I kept the passover; and ate, standing, lamb cooked with lettuce. I and my friends went to pray in their temple; my friends too frequented the temple after my death. In short, I fulfilled all their laws without one exception."

What! Could not these wretches even reproach you with having departed from their laws?

“ Certainly not."

Why then did they put you in the state in which I now see you?

“ Must I tell you ?- They were proud and selfish ; they saw that I knew them; they saw that I was making them known to the citizens; they were the strongest; they took away my life; and such as they will always do the same, if they can, to whoever shall have done them too much justice.”

But did you say nothing, did you do nothing, that could serve them as a pretext?

« The wicked find a pretext in everything."
Did
you

not once tell them that you were come to bring, not peace, but the sword?

never

« This was an error of some scribe. I told them that I brought, not the sword, but peace.

I wrote anything: what I said might be miscopied without any ill intent.

You did not then contribute in anything, by your discourses, either badly rendered or badly interpreted, to those frightful masses of bones which I passed on my way to consult you?

“ I looked with horror on those who were guilty of all these murders.”

And those monuments of power and wealth of pride and avarice—those treasures, those ornaments, those ensigns of greatness, which, when seeking wisdom, I saw accumulated on the way—do they proceed from you?

“ It is impossible; I and mine lived in poverty and lowliness; my greatness was only in virtue."

I was on the point of begging of him to have the goodness just to tell me who he was; but my guide warned me to refrain. He told me that I was not formed for comprehending these sublime mysteries. I conjured him to tell me only in what true religion consisted?

“ Have I not told you already?-Love God and your neighbour as yourself.”

What! Can we love God, and yet eat meat on a Friday?

“ I always ate what was given me; for I was too poor to give a dinner to any one.

Might we love God and be just, and still be prudent enough not to entrust all the adventures of one's ļife to a person one does not know?

“ Such was always my custom."

Might not I, while doing good, be excused from making a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostello?

I never was in that country.”

Should I confine myself in a place of retirement with blockheads?

“ For my part, I always made little journeys from town to town.

Must I take part with the Greek or with the Latin church?

« When I was in the world, I never made any

difference between the Jew and the Samaritan.”

Well, if it be so, I take you for my only master.

Then he gave me a nod, which filled me with consolation. The vision disappeared, and I was left with a good conscience.

SECTION III.

Questions on Religion.

FIRST QUESTION. Warburton, bishop of Glocester, author of one of the most learned works ever written, thus expresses himself (Divine Legation of Moses, vol. i. page 8): A religion, a society, which is not founded on the belief of a future state, must be supported by an extraordinary Providence. Judaism is not founded on the belief of a future state; therefore Judaism was supported by an extraordinary Providence."

Many theologians rose up against him; and, as all arguments are retorted, so was his retorted upon himself; he was told

“ Every religion which is not founded on the dogma of the immortality of the soul, and on everlasting rewards and punishments, is necessarily false. Now these dogmas were unknown to the Jews; therefore Judaism, far from being supported by Providence, was, on your own principles, a false and barbarous religion by which Providence was attacked.”

This bishop had some other adversaries, who maintained against him that the immortality of the soul was known to the Jews even in the time of Moses; but he proved to them very clearly, that neither the Decalogue, nor Leviticus, nor Deuteronomy, had said one word of such a belief; and that it is ridiculous to strive to distort and corrupt some passages of other books, in order to draw from them a truth which is not announced in the book of the law.

The bishop, having written four volumes to demonstrate that the Jewish law proposed neither pains nor rewards after death, has never been able to answer his adversaries in a very satisfactory manner. They said

to him—“Either Moses knew this dogma, and so deceived the Jews by not communicating it, or he did not know it, in which case he did not know enough to found a good religion. Indeed, if the religion had been good, why should it have been abolished? A true religion must be for all times and all places; it must be as the light of the sun, enlightening all nations and generations."

This prelate, enlightened as he is, has found it no easy task to extricate himself from so many difficulties. But what system is free from them?

SECOND QUESTION, Another man of learning, and a much greater philosopher, who is one of the profoundest metaphysicians of the day,* advances very strong arguments to prove that polytheism was the primitive religion of mankind, and that men began with believing in several gods before their reason was sufficiently enlightened to acknowledge one only Supreme Being.

On the contrary, I venture to believe that in the beginning they acknowledged one only God, and that afterwards human weakness adopted several. My conception of the matter is this :

It is indubitable, that there were villages before large towns were built, and that all men have been divided into petty commonwealths before they were united in great empires. It is very natural that the people of a village, being terrified by thunder, afflicted at the loss of its harvests, ill-used by the inhabitants of a neighbouring village, feeling every day its own weakness, feeling everywhere an invisible power, should soon have said, “There is some Being above us who does us good and harm.

It seems to me to be impossible, that it should have said,—There are two powers; for why more than one? In all things we begin with the simple; then comes the compound; and after, by superior light, we go back to the simple again. Such is the march of the human mind!

* Hume.

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