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superior to Man, such as the Fairies and Genii, in whom the uneducated in many parts of Europe still believe.

Accordingly, the Apostle Paul (Ephes. ii. 12) expressly calls the ancient Pagans atheists (adeoi), though he well knew that they worshipped certain supposed superior Beings which they called gods. But he says in the Epistle to the Romans, that 'they worshipped the creature more than' (that is, instead of) the Creator.' And at Lystra {Acts xiv. 15), when the people were going to do sacrifice to him and Barnabas, mistaking them for two of their gods, he told them to 'turn from those vanities, to serve the living God who made heaven and earths

This is what is declared in the first sentence of the Book of Genesis. And so far were the ancient Pagans from believing that 'in the beginning God made the heavens and the earth,' that, on the contrary, the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and many other natural objects, were among the very gods they adored. They did, indeed, believe such extravagant fables as Bacon alludes to, and which he declares to be less incredible than that 'this universal frame is without a mind;' and yet they did also believe that it is without a mind; that is, without what he evidently means by 'a mind'—an eternal, intelligent Maker and Ruler. Most men would understand by 'an atheist' one who disbelieves the existence of any such personal agent; though believing (as every one must) that there is some kind of cause for everything that takes place.

It may be added, that, as the pagan-worship has been generally of evil Beings,* so, the religions have been usually of a corresponding character. We read of the ancient Canaanites that 'every abomination which the Lord hateth, have these nations done, unto their gods' And among the Hindus, the foulest impurities, and the most revolting cruelties, are not merely permitted by their religion, but are a part of their worship. Yet one may hear it said, not unfrequently, that 'any religion is better than none.' And a celebrated writer, in an article in a Review (afterwards republished by himself), deriding the attempt to convert the Hindus, represents their religion as being (though absurd) on the whole beneficial; because 'it is better that a man should look for reward or punishment from a deity with a hundred arms, than that he should look for none at all.' But he forgot to take into account the question, 'rewarded or punished For What?' The hundred-armed deity makes it an unpardonable sin to put into the mouth a cartridge greased with beef-fat, but a meritorious act to slaughter, with circumstances of unspeakable horror, men, women, and children, of Christians!l

1 Tlapi. rbv Kri<ravra.

3 See Leeeons on Religious Wordu'p, L. ii.

'A custom of prof one scoffing in holy matters'

In reference to 'the profane scoffing in holy matters,' it is to be observed that jests on sacred subjects are, when men are so disposed, the most easily produced of any; because the contrast between the dignified and a low image, exhibited in combination (in which the whole force of the ludicrous consists), is, in this case, the most striking. It is commonly said, that there is no wit in profane jests; but it would be hard to frame any definition of wit that should exclude them. It would be more correct to say (and I really believe that is what is really meant) that the practice displays no great powers of wit, because the subject matter renders it so particularly easy; and that (for the very same reason) it affords the least gratification (apart from all higher considerations) to judges of good taste; since a great part of the pleasure afforded by wit results from a perception of skill displayed, and difficulty surmounted.

I have said,'apart from all higher considerations;' for surely, there is something very shocking to a well-disposed mind in such jests, as those, for instance, so frequently heard, in connexion with Satan and his agency. Suppose a rational Being —an inhabitant of some other planet—could visit this, our earth, and witness the gaiety of heart with which Satan, and his agents, and his victims, and the dreadful doom reserved for them, and everything relating to the subject, are, by many persons, talked of and laughed at, and resorted to as a source of amusement; what inference would he be likely to draw?

Doubtless he would, at first, conclude that no one believed anything of all this, but that we regarded the whole as a string of fables, like the heathen mythology, or the nursery tales of fairies and enchanters, which are told to amuse children. But when he came to learn that these things are not only true, but are actually believed by the far greater part of those who, nevertheless, treat them as a subject of mirth, what would he think of us then? He would surely regard this as a most astounding proof of the great art, and of the great influence of that Evil Being who can have so far blinded men's understandings, and so depraved their moral sentiments, and so hardened their hearts, as to lead them, not merely to regard with careless apathy their spiritual Euemy, and the dangers they are exposed to from him, and the final ruin of his victims, but even to find amusement in a subject of such surpassing horror, and to introduce allusions to it by way of a jest! Surely, generally speaking, right-minded persons are accustomed to regard wickedness and misery as most unfit subjects for jesting. They would be shocked at any one who should find amusement in the ravages and slaughter perpetrated by a licentious soldiery in a conquered country; or in the lingering tortures inflicted by wild Indians on their prisoners; or in the burning of heretics under the Inquisition. Nay, the very Inquisitors themselves, who have thought it their duty to practise such cruelties, would have been ashamed to be thought so brutal as to regard the sufferings of their victims as a subject of mirth. And any one who should treat as a jest the crimes and cruelties of the French Revolution, would generally be deemed more depraved than even the perpetrators themselves.1

1 See Lecture on Egypt.

It is, however, to be observed, that we are not to be offended as if sacred matters were laughed at, when some folly that has been forced into connexion with them is exposed. When things really ridiculous are mixed up with religion, who is to be blamed? Not he who shows that they are ridiculous, and no parts of religion, but those who disfigure truth by blending falsehood with it. It is true, indeed, that to attack even error in religion with mere ridicule is no wise act; because good things may be ridiculed as well as bad. But it surely cannot be our duty to abstain from showing plainly that absurd things are absurd, merely because people cannot help smiling at them. A tree is not injured by being cleared of moss and lichens; nor truth, by having folly or sophistry torn away from around it.3

1 Sec Lectures on Good and Evil Amjih. s Soe (kiutioius for the Times.

It is a good plan, with a young person of a character to be much affected by ludicrous and absurd representations, to show him plainly, by examples, that there is nothing which may not be so represented. He will hardly need to be told that «wything is not a mere joke; and he may thus be secured from falling into a contempt of those particular things which he may at any time happen to find so treated; and, instead of being led by 'profane scoffing on holy matters into atheism,' as Bacon supposes, he will be apt to pause and reflect that it may be as well to try over again, with serious candour, everything which has been hastily given up as fit only for ridicule, and to abandon the system of scoffing altogether; looking at everything on the right side as well as on the wrong, and trying how any system will look, standing upright, as well as topsy-turvy.

'The causes of atheism are'

Among the causes of atheism, Bacon has omitted one noticed by him as one of the causes of superstition, and yet it is not less a source of infidelity—' the taking an aim at divine matters bv human, which cannot but breed mixture of imaginations.' Now, in human nature there is no more powerful principle than a eraving for infallibility in religious matters. To examine and re-examine,—to reason and reflect,—to hesitate and to decide with caution,—to be always open to evidence,—and to acknowledge that, after all, we are liable to error;—all this is, on many accounts, unacceptable to the human mind,—both to its diffidence and to its pride,—to its indolence,—its dread of anxious cares, —and to its love of self-satisfied and confident repose. And hence there is a strong prejudice in favour of any system which promises to put an end to the work of inquiring, at once and for ever, and to relieve us from all embarrassing doubt and uncomfortable distrust. Consequently this craving for infallibility predisposes men towards the pretensions, either of a supposed unerring Church, or of those who claim or who promise immediate inspiration. And this promise of infallible guidance, not only meets Man's wishes, but his conjectures also. When we jrive the reins to our own feelings and fancies, such a provision appears as probable as it is desirable. If antecedently to the

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distinct announcement of any particular revelation, men were asked what kind of revelation they would wish to obtain, and again, what kind of revelation they would think it the most reasonable and probable that God should bestow, they would be likely to answer both questions by saying, 'Such a revelation as should provide some infallible guide on earth, readily accessible to every man; so that no one could possibly be in doubt, on any point, as to what he was required to believe and to do; but should be placed, as it were, on a kind of plain high road, which he would only have to follow, steadily, without taking any care to look around him; or, rather, in some kind of vehicle on such a road, in which he would be safely carried to his journey's end, even though asleep, provided he never quitted that vehicle. For,' a man might say, 'if a book is put into my hands containing a divine revelation, and in which are passages that may be differently understood by different persons, —even by those of learning and ability,—even by men professing each to have earnestly prayed for spiritual guidance towards the right interpretation thereof,—and if, moreover, this book contains, in respect of some points of belief and of conduct, no directions at all,—then there is a manifest necessity that I should be provided with an infallible interpreter of this book, who shall be always at hand to be consulted, and ready to teach me, without the possibility of mistake, the right meaning of every passage, and to supply all deficiencies and omissions in the book itself. For, otherwise, this revelation is, to me, no revelation at all. Though the book itself be perfectly free from all admixture of error,—though all that it asserts be true, and all its directions right, still it is no guide for me, unless I have an infallible certainty, on each point, what its assertions and directions are. It is in vain to tell me that the pole-star is always fixed in the north; I cannot steer my course by it when it is obscured by clouds, so that I cannot be certain where that star is. I need a compass to steer by, which I can consult at all times. There is, therefore, a manifest necessity for an infallible and universally accessible interpreter on earth, as an indispensable accompaniment—and indeed essential part—of any divine revelation.'

Such would be the reasonings, and such the feelings, of a man left to himself to consider what sort of revelation from

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