Page images
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]




Atheists and Deists.


sion. Such impious productions have cast a deserved reproach on the names and memories of Toland, Collins, Tindal, and Woolston, a man of an inauspicious genius, fr: who made the most audacious, though senseless attempts

, to invalidate the miracles of Christ. Add to these Morgan, TE Chubb, Mandeville, and others. And writers of the same Pro class will soon be found in all the countries of Europe, particularly in those where the reformation has introduced Dis a spirit of liberty, if mercenary booksellers are still allowed to publish, without distinction or reserve, every wretched production that is addressed to the passions of men, and Inne designed to obliterate in their minds a sense of religion Вен and virtue. vi. The sect of atheists, by which, in strictness of speech, th

those only are to be meant who deny the exist X2

ence and moral government of an infinitely wise cha and powerful Being, by whom all things subsist, is reduced to a very small number, and may be considered as almost

tio totally extinct. Any that yet remain under the influence of this unaccountable delusion, adopt the system of Spi dud noza, and suppose the universe to be one vast substance, which excites and produces a great variety of motions, all uncontrollably necessary, by a sort of internal force, which they carefully avoid

defining with perspicuity and The Deists, under which general denomination those are comprehended who deny the divine origin of the gospel in particular, and are enemies to all revealed religion in general, form a motley tribe, which, on account of their jarring opinions, may be divided into different classes. The most decent, or, to use a more proper expression, the least extravagant and insipid form of deism, is that which aims at an association between Christianity and natural religion, and represents the gospel as no more than a republication of the original law of nature and reason, that was more or less obliterated in the minds of men. This is the hypothesis of Tindal, Chubb, Mandeville, Morgan, and several others, if we are to give credit to their own declarations, which indeed ought not always to be done without caution. This also appears to have been the sentiment







and morality. Dr. Mosheim is more especially mistaken, when he places Collins, Tindal, Morgan, and Chubb, in the list of those who called in question the perfections of the Deity, and the obligations of virtue ; it was sufferent to put Mandeville, Woolston, and Toland, in this infamous class.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

its pontiff's

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

of an ingenious writer, whose eloquence has been ill em-
ployed in a book, entitled Essential Religion distinguished
from that which is only Accessory;" for the whole religious
system of this author consists in the three following points :
That there is a God; that the world is governed by his wise
providence; and that the soul is immortal ; and he main-
tains, that it was to establish these three points by his mi-
nistry, that Jesus Christ came into the world.

VII. The church of Rome has been governed, since the
commencement of this century, by Clement XI.
Innocent XIII. Benedict XIII. Clement XII. and The Romisla
Benedict XIV. who may be all considered as men
of eminent wisdom, virtue, and learning, if we compare
them with the pontiffs of the preceding ages. Clement
XI. and Prosper Lambertini, who at present fills the Papal
chair under the title of Benedict XIV: stand much higher
in the list of literary fame, than the other pontiffs now men-
tioned; and Benedict XIII. surpassed them all in piety, or
at least in its appearance, which, in the whole of his con-
duct, was extraordinary and striking. It was he that con-
ceived the laudable design of reforming many disorders in
the church, and restraining the corruption and licentious-
ness of the clergy; and for this purpose held a council, in
the palace of the Lateran, in the year 1725, whose acts
and decrees have been made public. But the event did
not answer his expectations; nor is there any probability
that Benedict XIV.who is attempting the execution of the
same worthy purpose, though by different means, will meet
with better success.

We must not omit observing here, that the modern bi-
shops of Rome make but an indifferent figure in Europe,
and exhibit little more than an empty shadow of the autho-
rity of the ancient pontiffs. Their prerogatives are dimi-
nished, and their power is restrained within very narrow
bounds. The sovereign princes and states of Europe, who
embrace their communion, no longer tremble at the thun-


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Od The original title of this book, which is supposed to bave been written by one Muralt, a Swiss, author of the "Lettres sur les Anglois et sur les François," is as follows: "Lettres sur la Religion essentielle a l'Homme, distinguee de ce qui n'en est que l'accessoire.” There have been several excellent refutations of this book published on the continent, among which the "Lettres sur les vrais principes de la Religion," in two volumes 8vo. composed by the late learned and ingenious Mr. Bouiller, deserve particular notice.

17 e This history was published while Benedict XIV. vas yet alive.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

All prospect

[ocr errors]

der of the Vatican, but treat their anathemas with indifference and contempt. They indeed load the holy father with pompous titles, and treat him with all the external marks of veneration and respect; yet they have given a mortal blow to his authority, by the prudent and artful distinction they make between the court of Rome and the Roman pontiff

. For, under the cover of this distinction, they buffet him with one hand, and stroke with the other; and, under the most respectful profession of attachment to his person, oppose the measures, and diminish still more, from day to day, the authority of his court. A variety of modern transactions might be alleged in confirmation of this, and, more especially the debates that have arisen in this century, between the court of Rome, and those of France, Naples, Sardinia, and Portugal, in all which that ghostly court has been obliged to yield, and to discover its extreme insignificancy and weakness. vis. There have been no serious attempts made in later

times to bring about a reconciliation between the alion reconcili. Protestant and Romish churches; for, notwiththe Protestant standing the pacific projects formed by private

persons with a view to this union, it is justly con

sidered as an impracticable scheme. The difficulties that attend its execution were greatly augmented by the famous bull of Clement XI. entitled Unigenitus, which deprived the peacemakers of the principal expedient they employed for the accomplishment of this union, by putting it out of their power to soften and mitigate the doctrines of Popery, that appeared the most shocking to the friends of the reformation. This expedient had been frequently practised in former times, in order to remove the disgust that the Protestants had conceived against the church of Rome; but the bull Unigenitus put an end to all these modifications, and in most of those points that had occasioned our separation from Rome, represented the doctrines of that church in the very same shocking light in which they had been viewed by the first reformers. This shows, with the utmost evidence, that all the attempts the Romish doctors have made, from time to time, to give an. air of plausibility to their tenets, and render them palatable, were so many snares insidiously laid to draw the Protestànts into their communion; that the specious conditions they proposed as the terms of a reconciliation, were

communions entirely removed.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Intestine di

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

perfidious stratagems; and that consequently there is no sort of dependence to be made upon the promises and declarations of such a disingenuous set of men.

ix. The intestine discords, tumults and divisions, that reigned in the Romish church, during the preceding century, were so far from being terminated in the in this, that new fuel was added to the flame, and the animosities of the contending parties grew more vehement from day to day. These divisions still subsist. The Jesuits are at variance with the Dominicans,and some other religious orders, though these quarrels make little noise, and are carried on with some regard to decency and prudence; the Dominicans are on bad terms with the Franciscans; the controversy concerning the nature, lawfulness, and expediency of the Chinese ceremonies still continues, at least in Europe ; and were we to mention all the debates that divide the Romish church, which boasts so much of its unity and infallibility, the enumeration would be endless. The controversy relating to Jansenism, which was one of the principal sources of that division which reigned within the papal jurisdiction, has been carried on with great spirit and animosity in France and in the Netherlands. The Jansenists, or, as they rather choose to be called, the disciples of Augustin, are inferior to their adversaries the Jesuits, in numbers, power, and influence ; but they equal them in resolution, prudence, and learning, and surpass them in sanctity of manners and superstition, by which they excite the respect of the people. When their affairs take an unfavourable turn, and they are oppressed and persecuted by their victorious enemies, they find an asylum in the Netherlands. For the greatest part of the Roman Catholics in Spanish Flanders, and all the members of that communion that live under the jurisdiction of the United Provinces, embrace the principles and doctrines of Jansenius.' Those that inhabit the United Provinces have almost renounced their allegiance to the

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

I f This assertion is too general. It is true, that the greatest part of the Roman catholics in the United Provinces are Jansenists, and that there is no legal toleration of the Jesuits in that republic. It is nevertheless a known fact, and a fact that cannot be indifferent to those who have the welfare and security of these provinces at heart, that the Jesuits are daily gaining ground among the Dutch papists. They have a flourishing chapel in the city of Utrecht, and have places of Worship in several other cities, and in a great number of villages. 'It would be worthy of the wisdom of the rulers of the republic to put a stop to this growing evil, and not to suffer in a Protestant country, a religious order which has been suppressed in a Popish one, and declared enemies of the

[merged small][ocr errors]


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

pope, though they profess a warm attachment to the doctrine and communion of the church of Rome; nor are either the exhortations or threatenings of the Holy Father sufficient to banish the obstinacy of these wayward children, or to reduce them to a state of subjection and obedience.

x. The cause of the Jansenists acquired a peculiar deThe debates gree of credit and reputation, both in this and the Quenel's New' preceding century, by a French translation of the

New Testament, made by the learned and pious Paschasius Quenel, a priest of the oratory, and accompanied with practical annotations, adapted to excite lively impressions of religion in the minds of men. The quintessence of Jansenism was blended, in an elegant and artful manner, with these annotations, and was thus presented to the reader under the most pleasing aspect. The Jesuits were alarmed at the success of Quenel's book, and particularly at the change it had wrought in many, in favour of the theological doctrines of Jansenius; and to remove out of the way an instrument which proved so advantageous to their adversaries, they engaged that weak prince Louis XIV. to solicit the condemnation of this production at the court of Rome. Clement XI. granted the request of the French monarch, because he considered it as the request of the Jesuits ; and, in the year 1713, issued out the famous bull Unigenitus, in which Quenel's New Testament was condemned, and an hundred and one propositions contained in it pronounced heretical. This bull, which is also known by the name of the Constitution, gave a favourable turn to the affairs of the Jesuits; but it was highly detrimental to the interests of the Romish church, as many of the wiser members of that communion candidly acknowledge. For it not only confirmed the protestants in their separation, by convincing them that

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

IT g To show what a political weathercock the infallibility of the Holy Father was upon this occasion, it may not be improper to place bere an anecdote which is related by Voltaire in his Siecle ie Louis XIV. vol. i. under the article Jansenisme. The credit of the teller weighs but light in the balance of historical fame ; the anecdote however is well attested, and is as follows: “ The abbe Renaudot, a learned Frenchman, happening to be at Rome the first year of the pontificate of Clement XI. went one day to see the Pope, who was fond of men of letters, and was himself a learned man, and found his holiness reading father Quenel's book. On seeing Renaudot enter the apartment, the pope said, in a kind of rapture : “Here is a most excellent book! we have nobody at Rome that is capable of writing in this manner; I wish I could engage the author to reside here!' And yet this saine book was condemned afterward by this same pope."

« PreviousContinue »