Abbildungen der Seite

tianity any longer abide theres-Chris- ficting punishment on the merciless tianity, the religion, it is true, of destroyer ? We find ourselves somegentleness and of love, but whose Sanc- times driven to the stern necessity of tities, when profaned, are terrible, and putting a malefactor to death for some will not be so profaned without a one dangerous and unpardonable crime. terrible vengeance being wrought by He has forfeited his life and the for heaven on the guilty Nation.

feit must be paid. Say that he is a What is there in the heart of man, robber or a murderer--that he has beautiful or great, that is not from violated property and shed blood. Heaven? Love, by which men are Never did there exist in any human held together in communities, is from society, robber and murderer who had God. Its principles are laid by God the power of being so destructive by in the intellect and the heart. Pa- acts of violence and blood to his rental and filial love are from and of fellow creatures as the-blasphemer. God—their uttermost perfection is The one disregards the commandment brought to light in the Christian dis- of God and man-the other would pensation. All created existence is in obliterate them—would break the taGod. What then is or can be meant blets on which they are engraven. A by telling us, that Christianity needs thousand robberies and murders lie not our support, and that it is at once at the door of every blasphemer. Could cruel, and unjust, and needless to in

we suppose Paine to have suffered seflict punishment on its enemies ? parate punishment for each of all the caWill not parental love, that mingles pital crimes that he had virtually comwith ineffable and blissful tenderness mitted,-hour after hour, and day after with the heart blood of all human life, day, must the bones of the unhappy support for ever its own fearless and wretch have been broken on the wheel. undying energies ? Will not filial love One act of guilt is perpetrated, and yearn, even to its latest day, towards the actor must die. And shall the the bosom on which it lay in its help- fiend, who by cowardice or fear merely lessness? Yet, is there no language has been prevented from the comin which the word-Parricideis un- mission of every crime, and who deknown. The light of nature, whether votes all the energies of his nature, original or revealed, is put into our such as they may be, to the destrucown keeping-we are bound to feed tion of those feelings and principles and to protect it-and, if needs must and beliefs by which the actions of be, to punish all who seek to extin- mankind are either restrained or kindguish it, by the infliction of degrading, led, shall he be held to stand aloof in and shameful, and humiliating punish- impunity, beyond the reach of human ment.

law, and sacred from the vengeance With many of those acts to which of the society which he is plotting to law, with a necessary regard to the undermine and to overthrow? The rights of the community, has adjudged universal voice of conscience cries out punishment, there are in human na- for his punishment. ture many sources of sympathy; and But, no one who is capable of this feeling not unfrequently renders knowing the dignity of human nasuch punishment nugatory, or at least ture, supposes that, by the punishgreatly diminishes its efficacy in the ment of blasphemy, the sole good prevention of crime. But there is one sought or gained, is either the precrime which shuts up the hearts of all vention of the further crime of an inagainst its perpetrator, and makes dividual, or even the reformation of them to award and to witness his pu- that individual. A wrong has been nishment with a stern and almost un- done-an insult offered to the spirit pitying spirit. That is the crime of of religion in men's hearts—and unBlasphemy. In the Blasphemer we less the sin against God and the disee the enemy of all the human vine influence be punished, society

We see him flinging poison would feel as if it retained the blaspheinto the well of life; and when we mer within its bosom, and become a think that the poor who repair thither in party in his crime. There must for their thirst for refreshment may drink such fault be an expiation ordained pollution and death, from what corner even by a human tribunal. Nature of the satisfied conscience can come calls that criminal to the bar--and deone single feeble whisper against in- livers him up to justice. None can doubt or question the right which to scatter themselves abroad, or that society holds of doing with the blasphe- they should be fearlessly grasped by mer whatsoever it will, who knows the law, and when by it exhibited, any thing of what Christianity is, or exhibited with the seal of reprobation the principles by which alone can ex- affixed to them, to universal loathing, ist the great nations of Christendom. execration, and scorn ? It would not It is most true, that Christianity is only be weak but wicked to know that with us part of the law of the land, - infidelity was openly at work, and yet and it would be strange if it were to be afraid of arresting the evil spirit not;—but however that may be-it as he was selling perdition. We have is the law of God, and the law of na- remarked, that though many of our ture admits it into our hearts; and, periodical writers have lamented (and therefore, it is a crime to touch it who would not) that the conviction with an unhallowed hand, and a crime of that caitiff Carlisle was necessarily whose punishment carries with it its accompanied with the publication of own vindication.


some of his hideous impieties, yet It is therefore unworthy of any that none have regretted or blamed man of intellect to talk about the the trial of such a pest, but men of evil which is done by trials for blas- the very narrowest intellect, or those phemy. If a crime is perpetrated, it who, in their secret souls, are unbelieve must be punished—and he must have ers like himself, and would fain, by a poor opinion both of the laws of some plausible plea, shield such crimi. God, and the constitution of human nals from punishment. nature, who thinks that a Christian Nor, on such occasions, has the society can be deterred by fear from self-named philosopher been silent the punishment of guilt. It is most -and we have been told, that OPItrue, that the wickedness of the blas- NIONS must be put down, not by phemer is aggravated by any evil the pains of law, but by the power that may result from the publicity of reason.

OPINIONS-Of what which must be given to some portion do such persons speak ? Has inof his blasphemy, by the only means tellect any fetters imposed upon it in that society can take for its ultimate this country ? May it not thinksuppression, and his immediate pu- speculate-theorize-doubt-attacknishment. That guilt is on his own and overturn? And in what place, or head. But though his impieties may, in what time of the world, were all indeed must, in the course of justice, kinds of OPINIONS so freely and bold. be made visible to some eyes which ly, and even audaciously promulgated, had otherwise been saved from the without fear of either stop or stay?foulness, can that be held as an argu- Never in any country was the human ment against passing sentence on them intellect so free—and heaven forfend at all, and for suffering them to float that we should seek to abridge its over the whole of society, unbranded freedom. But though virtue, and with the stigma of a righteous law ? knowledge, and sense, and philosophy, No man can think so. However his should be free, because they will nodeous the crime of blasphemy-and bly repay their freedom to the state, however lamentable that the innocent who contends, and with what motives, should be almost obliged to hear or for uncontrolled liberty to vice, igno-. to look on it, when brought forward rance, madness, and folly? Have even for the purpose of punishment, they a right to be free? or rather, is that evil is light and trifling indeed, there not an obligation laid by liberty compared to that which would spring and knowledge on those whose counout of impunity-for then we should try is blessed by their light, to bind, seem to have abandoned, as it were, the and shackle, and scourge, and punish, cause of nature and of God. It is what is at eternal enmity with all well that the religious mind should most glorious and sacred to man? not be exposed to the contamina- OPINIONS !—they are the fruit of tion that there is felt to be in the thought-and such is the honour in mere knowledge that such foul things which intellect is held in this counhave been conceived and written, try, that its very errors are respected, but, if they have been so conceived and we look with pardon even upon and written, is it better that they falsehood, if we are assured that the should be suffered, silently and surely, intellect has embraced it, mistaking it



for truth. But the foul and obscene It may perhaps be thought, that we blasphemies of which we speak, can- state this too strongly, for that all men not, without the violation, not of lan,, are agreed in their contempt of the guage only, but of all feeling and radicals in religion. But have we not, thought, be for a single moment, de during some of the late discussions nominated OPINIONS! They are con- which the act against blasphemous ceived in the most deplorable igno- writings occasioned, heard the names rance-cherished in defiance of the of Calvin and Luther, and of other convictionof their falsehood-expressed great reformers, mentioned by persons in words abhorrent from every emo- who ought better to have known how, tion or faculty by which human na- and when, and where to speak of the ture is ennobled disseminated in the benefactors of mankind ? Little can spirit of wickedness among minds to- they know of the real blessings of the tally incapable of judging of the awful Reformation, or of the sublime intel. subjects which they vilify-sold by lects which wrought it, who could ene cold blooded cupidity and insensate dure to think of the one or the other selfishness to poverty that, under the in the same mood of mind in delusion of its darkness and its dis- which they regarded the proceedtress, barters its last rag for perdition. ings of our modern infidels. It is

It is not to be endured, that in this a shocking and a senseless abuse of the land that has so long held its faith in great events of history, or the mighty the open light of day, and at all times achievements, and the noble enterpossessed champions willing to meet prises, and the unconquerable characthe infidel, it should be said even by ters of its personages, to employ them her most degenerate sons, that OPINION vague and indefinite arguments has not a fair field. On the contrary, to sanction things, or opinions, or any we could almost be disposed to think courses either of action or of thought, that christian divines have sometimes, that may happen to bear some seeming we will not say degraded themselves, resemblance to them, but that are but stooped from their high place, to ever separate and opposed by a thoumeet the atheist or the deist who, with sand essential differences. It is true, all his loud vaunts, was at the time an that all the immortal reformers of old had object only of pity and of scorn. The to contend against many of the most inwickedness of the infidels of the pre- veterate prejudices of human nature. sent day is almost lost sight of in the And it was theirs to dispel the mists folly of their pride. It is on their intel- which hung over Christianity. Shall lect that they depend! They see it be said, that the present reformers through the delusions under which of religion too have their prejudices to the wisest of men have lain ; they dis- fight against--and that they have to cern the monstrous contradictions and dispel the mists which are breathed inconsistencies of that evidence on from Christianity? But no person of which the best of men have trusted common capacity will listen to such to the truth of revelation--they dis- foolishness, or think, because wisdom, cover imperfections even in that mo. and virtue, and knowledge, and zeal, rality which the purest of men have and rational piety, met in their day regarded as a standard to be looked with opposition from authorities which up to with ennobling but hopeless as they succeeded in laying prostrate, and pirations; and who are they who have in building on their ruins the temples done and are doing all this, and would of truth, that therefore, folly, and vice, fain burst the bubble of Christianity, and ignorance, and impiety, should be -why, they are the most ignorant, now-a-days granted privileges which the most vile, the most selfish, the to them were denied, and that we most profligate, and the most wicked have no right to guard religion by the of mankind. And it is they who terrors of law against the wicked and would substitute reason for faith— the dark, because our ancestors were who, alas ! stand at zero on the scale unable to guard superstition against of intellect, and never from their birth the good and the enlightened. Look to their death shall comprehend, or at the end which our reformers have catch even one single glimpse of one in view and look at the means of the least perplexing mysteries of by which they hope to attain it-and our nature.

then say, if any Christian government



were not mad that did not crush them who are averse to all legal enactments by the severest enactments. There is against infidelity, lest they arrest the something, at first hearing, suspicious progress of Thought and Opinion, that in one single expression in favour of infidelity has, in fact, no thoughts or liberty for such men. For, what if opinions at all—that the vender of they were all, in one single day, blasphemy steals and does not produce put down into everlasting silence and that instead of trusting to his own oblivion? What thing, civil or sacred, thoughts, he rakes out of the dust the human or divine, could suffer from buried falsehood, and the convicttheir destruction ? It is true, that with ed lie—that it is from depravity of all their wickedness, and all their heart, and meanness of capacity, that power of evil, no true Christian would he is unable to comprehend the eviwish them to be treated with cruelty, dences and doctrines of Christianityand no true religion would desire them that it is to him a relief to shut his to be overwhelmed by oppression, eyes to that beauty and that sublimity but all that Christian charity is called which is knowledge too high for him, upon to do is to forgive them, and all and to take refuge from those duties that civil liberty ought to do is to en- of thought which faith imposes on all, dure them so long as they do not vio- among the coarseness, the hardness, late the laws; he is neither a Chris- and the brutality of a creed, not as he tian nor a freeman, who raves only at would make others believe, of reason, rights which it is impossible for them but of the senses. to possess, and who, even when he How widely and deeply the spirit beholds their unwearied and unextin- of infidelity may at present be interfusguishable hatred of all noble things, ed with the character of the English gives vent to his declamatory love of people, it would be rash for any man liberty, in resistance to those enact- to pretend to decide; but that it is ments which can affect only its foulest an element, and a prime element too, and most inveterate enemies.

of the present condition of the popu. Whoever has paid any attention to lar mind, as it has been lately exhibite the history of religion in this island ed in ways so hostile to the whole prinknows, that the blasphemies which are ciples of the constitution, is certain ; now circulated throughout town and and this is a truth which ought not country are the same that have been for one moment to be lost sight of by so frequently issued and have again those who wish to promote their counfallen into disrepute, since the days of try's weal. The temper of the people, Tindall and Collins. All the argu- that is to say, of that part of them ments of the deists have been refuted who have lately forgotten themselves over and over again many hundred and their country, is precisely that in times-so false and foolish is it to say which iïfidelity delights. It exhibits that any other power but that of rea- a blind and angry opposition to all son has been brought to bear against established authorities-ascorn of many infidelity. But some wicked spirits things that in a kindlier mood they appear every twenty years, and dig up were wont to respect—a distempered the buried blasphemy-to each ge eagerness to swallow novelties from ration of youth the objections of the whatever quarter they comema sad deinfidel appear to be new—the ignorant reliction of many of those domestic inexperienced mind is staggered for a

habits which were once the preservawhile by arguments that before its riper tion of virtue and happiness, -and it judgment fall asunder into shapeless may be said, without injustice, somepieces and the man looks back with times a fierceness and a ferocity cercontempt on the delusions practised tainly alien to their nature, and not to upon the boy. But it ever must be be entirely accounted for on the ready the fate of religion, so long as the and sweeping principle of distress. It is human mind is constituted as it now not to be denied by any one, that there is, and so long as the Evidences of Re- is apparent, on the face of the times, velation remain the same, to enter the to an extent that is undefined, a disminds of millions through the gates of turbance of men's minds from the old Doubt. Nor is this to be deplored :- opinion and feeling that are hereditary for faith, though a gift, is a gift that in the country. The country itself must be won. But it is a sufficient has been shaken and unsettled by the apswer to those purblind philosophers events of many years. Its agitated

[ocr errors]

struggles, during a long period, and truths which have at all times held the agitations which on all sides have society together, betraying them to a surrounded it—its alternations of unex- belief in the sufficiency of their own ampled prosperity and terrible distress, understandings, beyond which they have thrown the mind and estate of imagine that they need no subjection. the whole people off their natural And on the other side, we are forced bias, so that, when we look over the to allow, that there has not been conprospect of our public affairs, we see stantly exhibited that simple, calm, something dubious, perplexed, and un- courageous reliance upon the cause on defined, that clouds over and dis- which they stand, but in too many a guises that inward stability and ready apprehension, a timid expectastrength, which, in a country of such tion, and even fear, which makes them ancient and enduring greatness, it is clamorous in alarm, and disposes them not to be feared, must still subsist un- to an eager violence in the measures decayed. But the countenance of the of self-preservation. If we could be times bears in it trouble and alarm, assured, that the ancient, simple mannot merely in the dangers which the hood of the spirit of the nation were moment announces, but in the spirit still in its full force, that the manly upon which the more distant future sense which was united to noble ima. depends. The mind of the nation gination and deep affection was still seems shaken from some of its ancient unimpaired, and the integrity of their strong-holds-it seems as if it had union unimpeached--if the perfect simless confidence in its past self, and plicity of domestic manners, and the were less under the dominion of the calm happiness of life were still withgreat ages of its history. There is seen, out taint, there could be no room for on the one side, a restless spirit of in- fear; but we confess, that there is novating speculation, a diseased in- something unquiet and suspicious at the dependence of opinion which draws heart of society, that might almost every one infected with it away from seem to augur darkly of the future forthe dominion of the great leading tunes of the land.





In the immediate disorder of the circulation at all. Now, if this be times, namely, the hostility that has true,--if there be an unsettled and been for sometime in agitation against disturbed spirit, --if the old foundathe government, the most marked tions are shaken,-if there be an feature is its-Licence. Declarations uncertain disposition in numberless against property and against religion, minds, and an unstedfast hope,-is have been coupled on the tongue of it not the very time when there those who have been the foremost to danger in such Declarations ? The give voice to the troubled spirit of strong and stedfast will which should their times, with railings against au- cast them off is not in its hour of thority--and such Declarations have strength. We cannot tell how far certainly found too ready a welcome, they may circulate, how deep they and too loud an echo. It would ill may reach. They are poison wafting become any man who speaks at such in the air, and what if the body by a time, to disparage the character and its condition receive infection?' We spirit of those whom their own dis- speak not in despondency or fear; but tress and ignorance may have thrown there is something of a distempered under the delusion of artful men, and condition in the mind and body of exposed that character to taint and the country, and now an evil threatdeterioration. But it cannot be doubt- ens to assail it and hovers over it, exed, that the publications of which we pressly suited to that condition. speak, have found a wide circulation The essence of such declarations is in the country by that spirit which rebellion against all Law. It is not would once have excluded them from

« ZurückWeiter »