Page images


Inftead of looking to Earth for the principles according to which men ought to regulate their conduct, religion searches for them in Heaven; inftead of founding morality upon thofe plain and obvious relations that fubfift between man and his fellow-creatures, religion founds it upon relations which are fuppofed to fubfift between man and certain unknown powers, placed in the inacceffible regions of the Empyreum. Afk the Divines of every country, what they mean by morality? they will tell you, it is the art of pleafing the Gods; that the Gods are offended when we offend men; that the Gods will punish in this world, or the next, every crime committed againft fociety, and will reward virtuous actions. Afk thefe enlightened Sages, what is virtue? They will anfwer, it is the conformity of man's actions to the will of his God. But who is this God, whofe will you publish upon earth? He is, they will tell you, an incomprehenfible Being, of whom mortals can form no idea. What are the views and defigns of this Being, to which men are obliged to conform? They are impenetrable to us; but God has revealed the conduct which men ought to obferve both in regard to himself and others. Have all the inhabitants of the earth the fame God? No; the different countries of this globe have different Gods, and different precepts from their Gods. They do not fpeak the fame language to the Chinefe, the Indians, the Perfians, and the Europeans. Each religion prefcribes different duties to its votaries; and what the Deity orders or permits at one time or at one place, is ftrictly forbid at other times and in other places.

If, in order to difcover the divine defigns and intentions, we confult the feveral revelations which we are told have been made to men, we find that it is impoffible to conform ourselves to them, without violating the moft evident rules of morality. In almost every fyftem of religion upon earth, the Deity is reprefented as a furious and unjust lovereign; implacable in his anger; punishing the guilty without measure or proportion; making innocent children bear the iniquities of their fathers; fetting no bounds to his vengeance; and commanding, in the most defpotic manner, perfidy, robbery, and carnage. In a word, even in those nations which are looked upon as the most civilized, religious adoration is paid to invifible Tyrants, who violate all the rules of morality, and whofe example is fufficient to destroy every idea of duty in the minds of their worshippers.

Are caprice, therefore, cruelty, and the violation of every principle of equity, models fit to be proposed to reasonable Beings, formed to live in fociety? Is it not exciting them to crimes, to tell them that they ought to imitate Beings which are reprefented under the characters of the worst of men? The moft horrid and outrageous acts of villainy, crimes the moft fhocking


fhocking to humanity, have been committed without fcruple or hefitation, under pretence of obeying and pleafing the Deity.

Paganifm filled Olympus with a crowd of Deities, which mythology reprefents to us as monfters of luxury, debauchery, and infamy. Was not the conduct of a Jupiter, who filled heaven and earth with his crimes, fufficient to authorize the moft determined libertinifm?

Can any man, who has formed to himself the leaft idea of morality, without being totally blinded by his prejudices, propofe to himself the jealous, inconftant, vindictive, fanguinary God of J--a for his model? Is a God, who is unjuft to every nation, excepting that which his caprice made choice of for a peculiar people, a God of armies and vengeance, a God who exterminates nations, a proper example for the imitation of any reasonable being who has ideas of goodness, juftice, and humanity? Unless we are completely intoxicated with enthusiasm, can we poffibly perceive infinite perfections in a God, who, in thofe very books which are faid to be infpired by him, defcribes himfelf in the character of a Tyrant, who has a right to violate all the rules of morality, which yet are fuppofed to be dictated by his fupreme and fovereign pleasure ?

When we complain of fo defpotic a God, or of his conduct, which is fo contrary to all the principles and notions of good men, his minifters tell us, that divine juftice is different from human juftice, that the ways of God are not like the ways of men. But when they talk at this rate, do they not undermine all the principles of morality? If juftice, goodness, and the other perfections of God, are entirely different from juftice, goodness, and other good qualities among men, what ideas can men poffibly form of them? If the juftice and goodnefs of God allow him to act like what we call a Tyrant, that is, like an unjuft fovereign, will not his worshippers be tempted to conclude, that he loves injuftice and wickednefs, and that they muft do evil in order to find favour in his fight? A cruel and perverfe fovereign will never think himself well ferved but by flaves who refemble him.

Nor is the God of **** a fafer guide to lead us into the paths of real virtue. This mifanthropic Deity, in his gloomy and unfociable precepts, feems to have been entirely ignorant that he was fpeaking to men living in fociety. What indeed are we taught by his morality, which is fo highly extolled by thofe who never feriously examined it? Why it teaches us to retire from the world, to deteft ourselves, to hate pleasure, to cherish grief and forrow, to defpife knowledge, to prefer voluntary ignorance and poverty of fpirit, to love nothing upon earth, and to be afraid of the esteem and approbation of our fellow creatures. And what motives does ** lay be

Pp 2


fore us in order to induce us to act a part fo contrary to na ture, fo repugnant to what we owe to fociety? It talks to us of another hite, where ineffable pleafures are laid up in ftore for thofe, who have voluntarily rendered themfelves unhappy in the prefent world, and done nothing for the happiness of others. On the other hand, this religion threatens, with eternal punishment, thofe who fhall refufe to practife these barren virtues, which it prefers to fuch as are truly ufeful in fociety. A ftupid credulity that never reafons, a vague hope of ideal felicity, a low, creeping humility, fufficient to break every generous fpring of action in the human breaft, aufterity, abfti neace, voluntary punishment-thefe are the wonderful perfections which every **** ********* must strive to attain !

This religion, it is true, places charity in the number of virtues; this charity confifts in loving a terrible Deity above every thing, and our neighbours as ourfelves; but in ******* ***** the love of our neighbours has never been a real, operative virtue if we find it in the books of **********, it has ever been banished from the hearts and from the conduct of their priefs. The minifters of the God of peace have, in every age, thewn then felves the most unfociable, the most inhuman, and the leaft indulgent of mankind. Under pretence of promoting the interefts of heaven, they have a thousand times raised con'fufion and diforder upon earth, from a principle of hypocritical zeal or real fanaticifm. Eternally at variance with one an other, they have engaged princes and nations in their fatal quarrels; and, filled with a bloody, murdering charity, they have piously butchered their neighbours, whenever they refused to receive thofe opinions which they judged neceflary to their eternal falvation.-In a word, the religious fpirit ever has been, and ever will be, incompatible with moderation, gentleneß, juftice, and humanity.

Nothing has ever been more hurtful to human morality, than to combine it with the morality of the Gods. By connecting a fyftem of morality, plain and obvious in itself, founded on reafon and experience, with a myfterious religion, founded upon imagination and authority, we only perplex, weaken, and even deftroy it. Every man who reflects, is capable of knowing very plainly what is hurtful or disagreeable to his neighbour; but it is very difficult to know what offends the Gods, whom we never fee but in the clouds, and of whom we can know nothing but fram the difcordant accounts that are given of them by their minifters and interpreters. Nothing is more eafy than to fee the effects which are produced upon our neighbour, by injuftice, violence, and calumny; but nothing, excepting the imagination of men, or the authority of their priests, marked under the name of re7 velation

velation, can fhew us the effects which fuch things are capable of producing upon the Deity. According to almost every fyftem of religion upon earth, what is hurtful and difpleafing, what is perfectly ufelefs to thofe of our own fpecies, is often very agreeable to the Gods, who are beings of a very different nature from ours. Every fenfible man knows, by the light of nature, that affaffination is a great crime; but a devout *********, full of zeal, believes that nothing is more agreeable to his God than to calumniate a heretic, perfecute him, and '. even put him to death; because his priest has told him, that a heretic is a being to whom we can fhew neither juftice, goodnefs, nor humanity, without difpleafing the Deity.

Nothing is of fo little confequence to a nation, as a man's fentiments concerning religion; it is fufficient that he acts the part of a virtuous and good citizen; and yet nothing is more execrable in the eyes of every priest, to whatever fort he belongs, than the man who refufes to believe the opinions and myfteries which the priest reveres, or who dares to call his. infallibility in question, and bid defiance to his authority. Want of faith is the moft horrid of all crimes, according to the uniform doctrine of all thofe, whofe opulence, titles, and existence are founded upon faith. Accordingly every religion abounds more or lefs with external obfervances, expiations, and lucrative ceremonies, the obfervation of which is ftrictly enjoined, and the omiffion or contempt of which provoke heaven much more than thofe actions that are most pernicious to fociety. The minifters, of religion in every country, have invented an infinite number of imaginary virtues and crimes, which have nothing in common with real morality.

It is to nature, therefore, to experience and reafon, and not to the minifters of religion, we must have recourse, in order to difcover what we owe to ourselves and what we owe to fociety. A fufpicious authority, a delirious fanaticism, uncertain hypothefis, and voluntary blindnefs, are guides on whom we can never rely.

We have thus given a fufficient fpecimen of this execrable System ; our just cenfure of which is fufficiently expreffed in the introductory part of the article: to which we fhall here only add, that we think it impoffible for any candid, intelligent, and well. difpofed perfon, even if he difbelieves the divine original; of the Bible, not to feel a generous indignation against a writer, who is capable of mifreprefenting in fo grofs and injurious a manner, the most benevolent and most amiable fyftem of morality that ever appeared among men; a system that breathes univerfal love and charity in every precept!-But fuch is the ftyle in which all the wits and geniuses of France, in this enlightened age, affect to talk of RELIGION!

[blocks in formation]

AR T. XX. 12

Cours d'Hippiatrique, ou Traité complet de la Médecine des Chevaux, &c. -A complete Treatise on the Diseases of Horfes, &c. adorned with fixty-five Plates, carefully engraved. By M. Lafoffe. Folio; imperial Paper. Paris, 1772. Sold by Elmfley in London.


E have here a very magnificent and useful work, upon a branch of medical knowledge of great importance, not only to farriers and horfe-doctors, but to every gentleman who is fond of horses, and defirous of being acquainted with the ftructure of one of the moft noble and moft ufeful of all animals, the diseases to which he is fubject,, the manner of curing them, &c. &c.

M. Lafoffe's abilities in his profeffion are well known to all Europe; his advantages for being eminent in it have been very great, and the public is obliged to him for his Guide du Marechal, published in 1766, and ftill more for the expenfive and noble work now before us. The anatomical part of it, which is very full, and entirely new, has not, the Author tells us in his preface, been taken from books, but is the fruit of twenty years experience, during which time he has been employed in diffecting a very confiderable number of horfes, and in giving both public and private lectures upon the fubject. His anato mical defcriptions, he likewife declares, have been all made with the diffecting knife in his hand; and if many of them are different from the defcriptions of preceding writers, the reason is, that frequent diffections have prevented him from falling into the fame mistakes.

The Author likewife tells us, that he has carefully revised the treatise already mentioned, published in 1766, changed the arrangement of it, corrected feveral mistakes, and given it to the public, in the work before us, with many additional and important obfervations.

To the honour of our own country, be it likewife obferved, that with respect to the Anatomy of the Horfe we have, alfo, a noble and accurate work, by that admirable artist Mr. STUBBS: See Review, vol. xxxvi. p. 160.


Hiftoire de l'Academie Royale des Infcriptions et Belles Lettres, &c.—The Hiftory of the Royal Academy of infcriptions and Belles Lettres, with Memoirs of Literature, taken from the Registers of that Academy, from the Year 1764 to the Year 1766 inclufive. Vols, XXXIV and XXXV. 4to. Paris.-Article continued.


HE flourishing state, the honours, and the fplendor of this Academy, as well as of many others in Europe, may fuggeft to men of letters a very ufeful reflection. They will fee that nothing fo effectually keeps up the fpirit of literature as


« PreviousContinue »