« ZurückWeiter »
ing two principles, one of them the author of evil; which however is loaded with the greatest difficulties.”
He could, however, never bring himself to a lasting satisfactory persuasion, that the present constitution of things was for good; though he sometimes speaks most feelingly of it, and of its benevolent author. Nor could he relieve or remove the anxious thoughts on the subject, which at times would unavoidably obtrude themselves, by looking forward to a future state of being, where all evils and irregularities would be healed and corrected. For he appears to have been
alienated in very early youth, to a most unreasonable degree, against the Jewish and Christian revelations, which might have given him light here, and been some ballast to his wavering mind. In consequence of these most unfortunate prejudices, he seems to have been without any, or at least to have got rid of all sentiments of the moral government of God, which may have contributed to make him more easy in the thought, with which at last he became unalterably impressed, that all was over with man, when he closed his eyes upon these present scenes; concerning which he * and his friend D'Alembert speak at times with. * Du Roy, 9 Sept 1775.
Savez-vous bien que je suis vieux, (63) et que si je ne vous revois dans ce monde-ci, je vous donnerai rendez-vous à pure perte dans la vallé de Josaphat.
* De M. D'Alembert, 15 Sept. 1775.
Jelui envie bien sincerement le bonheur qu'il a eu d'approcher de W.M., et je désirerai de jouir de ce bonheur au moins encore une. fois, avant de rendre mon corps aux élémens qui ne tarderont pas a le redemander. Ditte, tome chguième.
a gaiety and unconcern which is not natural, and indeed seems affected. The same early prejudices hindered him from profiting by the wise lessons, and from all beneficial intercourse with the most liberal and eminently learned M. de Beausobre, whom nevertheless he most highly esteemed to the last; whence it happened, that his conversation chiefly lay with M. de Voltaire and the French philosophers, who were darker, and if possible more steeled and set against all just and proper inquiry into the subject of religion than himself. So that this eminent person of course plunged deeper and deeper in scepticism and uncertainty, and was driven at length to take refuge in the forlorn system of the world being eternal; and that therefore, as there was no creation, it was in vain to seck to account for any thing ; grounding and reposing himself on that aphorism of several of the antient philosophers, Ex nihilo nihil fit, Nothing can come from nothing: which must be acknowledged to be true, when spoken of beings of limited powers, but is not applicable to God, whose power is infinite. For although to produce things out of nothing argues a power wholly inconceivable by us, there is no contradiction in it. D’Alembert’s “letter to the king from Paris, Nov. - - 30, 1770, * Enfin, en admettant cette Intelligence, qui a préside à la formation de l'univers, et qui préside à son entretien, on sera oblige de convenir au moins qu’elle n'est ni infiniment sage, ni infini* F 2. - inctlt 30, 1770, on this very subject, is full of much illplaced wit and indecent raillery, to speak in the softest terms, against those who believed in the existence of a Creator and moral governor of the world, and shews how miserable he and his royal friend and patron were made by the principles they had embraced ; and likewise what wretched reasoners and pitiable beings men of the brightest and most cultivated talents and abilities degenerate into, when they seek to extinguish the light that is in them, and turn away from God. It would have been most happy for them both, if they had been possessed of and influenced by the like amiable views of the constitution of nature, and of its divine almighty Author, with Mons. Turgot, minister of state for some time to the unfortunate Louis XVI, their contemporary, and not unknown to them; in learning and abilities not inferior to either, in moral qualities far above them ; which led him (though with prejudices against revelation, in France, at that period scarce avoidable by a rational mind) to look forward to a future state of existence, in which all present evils, and disorders and obliquities would be remedied and rectified”. - But I have done, says Volusian, and have now to hope Photinus will excuse my rudeness and impetuosity
ment puissante, puisqu'il s'en faut bien, pour le malheur de la pauvre humanité, que ce triste monde soit le meilleur de mondes possibles. Nous sommes done réduits, avec la meilleure volonté du monde, a ne reconnaitre et à n'admettre tout au plus dans l'univers qu'un Dieu matériel, borné, et dépendant; je ne sais pas si c'est la son compte, mais ce n'est sirement pas celui de partisans zélés de l'existence de Dieu ; is nous aimeraient autant Athées que Spi. nosistes, comme nous le sommes. Pour les adoucir, fesons-nous Sceptiques, et répétons avec Montagne, Que sais-je *—A Paris, ce 26 Novembre 1770. Ditto, tome quatrième, p. 176. at
- Not merely excuse, replies Photinus, but thank you most heartily for it, and for the good fruits it has produced. Take care, however,
you do not bring yourself into a dilemma you cannot
* For the high character of this virtuous minister of the unfortunate Louis XVI, Mons. Turgot, sce Mons. Senac de Mcilham (a): for which I am indebted, among many other favours for near thirty years, to one whose liberal, benevolent, and generous labours are constantly exerted in various ways to benefit maukind, and promote the cause of true religion and virtuc (b).
To his suggestions jointly with those of ancther very able and most valuable Christian character (, ), (to whose friendship, virtues, and memory, my heart pays the most affectionate and grateful tribute) was owing the variation made in the last edition of the Reformed Liturgy in 1793 after the model of the excellent Dr. Samuel Clarke, by changing the threefold address retained in the Litany, into one solemn and appropriate one: they justly observing, that a threefold address would keep up the old impres
sion of a threefold nature in the Deity, so contrary to the Scrip
(a) Du Gouvernement, des Moeurs, et des Conditions en France, avant la Révolution.
(b) Francis Maseres, Esq. Cursitor Baron of His Majesty's Court of Exchequer, and author of The Moderate Reformer.
(c) John Lee, Esq. Solicitor General under Lord Rockinghat's administration.
easily get out of, by your too lavish commendations of us, and citation from our great poet in our favour; when others may retort upon you, that he most assuredly must have had us in his eye, as a set of well meaning, melancholy mortals attempting to account for what is beyond their reach, where he describes some of his inhabitants of Pandaemonium, who
But the instances of the two memorable characters you have produced are much to our purpose, in so directly pointing out the fatal darkness and wretchedness that must ever ensue, when in an age so enlightened as that we live in, any can be so blinded as not to see a God, and a wise providential care exercised over all creatures for their good, especially all the rational part of them. You have fully shown, however, that it was by their acquired moral ignorance that they were so fatally misled, and not by their opinion of the necessity of human actions, on which some would
lay blame. It is, however, matter of the highest exultation and
joy, in which we may justly triumph, to be fully assured, that mere arbitrary will and sovereignty, from which we could never know what we were to expect, hath no sway in the divine government under which
we are placed ; and that original love and goodness * are