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phrases here; no gentle regrets for the “errors” and “failings” of the two Reformers. Courteous after the manner of true knighthood, towards his enemy, he reserves all his terrors for his brethren. We think we see Great-heart flourishing a graceful salute to Giant Slay-good, and then turning round to apply the flat of his sword to the shoulders of old Honest. The one Reformer is “a fiery zealot, who has outraged all taste and decorum by his language;"> < whose coarseness and low ribaldry make the reading of his works in many places disgusting, in not a few offensive to common decency” (nothing of which is true we suppose, with respect to Voltaire); the other is “ a gloomy religious persecutor who has scandalized all humanity by his cruelty.” These severe blows are put in, we presume, by way of caveat, against the suspicion of too decided and unphilosophical a preference for Protestant Christianity. His Lordship is a believer, but after an enlarged and liberal fashion. He disapproves of atheism ; but then, you observe, he looks with great contempt on the Reformers. Supposing our information limited to the present biography, we should conclude the patriarch of Ferney to be a far more respectable character than either the bigot or the persecutor aforesaid.? Happily, however, we have some other means of forming a judgment. The Protestant world, with inconsiderable exceptions, is agreed, that although, standing as they did on the edge of revived civilization, a century and a half at least before Voltaire was born, Luther and Calvin fell into mistakes which better views of truth and duty repudiate and lament; yet they performed a ministry bearing more influentially on the emancipation of the human mind, and the progress of society, than any others since the days of the Apostles. The readers of the Repository are tolerably familiar with the title which the leading Reformers possess to the admiration and gratitude of mankind. With the claims of Voltaire they may be less acquainted. It will not
perhaps be an unacceptable office, therefore, to give a brief view of the life and writings of this distinguished philosopher.
The life of Voltaire extended from 1694 to 1778–a period of eighty-four years ; coupling the reign of Louis XIV. nearly with the Revolution, or the palmiest days of the French monarchy with its downfall. His literary life reached, with the exception of the first few years, through the whole of this long period. For nearly seventy years he was an author. During all this time, plays, romances, histories and historical tracts, controversy, philosophy, poetry, miscellanies in immense variety, infidelity in solid columns, besides that which skirmishes through the whole body of his works, and a perpetual stream of correspondence, flowed with astonishing
1 One would almost conclude, were it possible, from the character of Lord Brougham's criticism on the Reformers, and the particular facts he cites against them, that all his knowledge of the subject was derived from the chapters in Voltaire's Essay. It is well known to be an unfortunate habit of his Lordship's to pronounce magiste rially on the basis of a somewhat too superficial knowledge of facts.
facility from his pen. He possessed in large measure the national vivacity; he had an acute, penetrating, restless genius; and he was spurred to the most active employment of his powers by two strong sentiments—an exorbitant vanity, and a passionate hatred of religion. It is not strange then, that his collected works should mount up in the edition to which Lord Brougham refers to seventyfive volumes.
Out of this huge mass we shall undertake to furnish a list only of the author's leading works against religion. They possess an interest for the Christian, resulting from the vast influence for evil they have exerted, and still exert, on the educated mind of continental Europe. Bishop Wilson gives the following estimate of the diffusion of the mischief: "Between 1817 and 1824, the Paris editions of Voltaire's works amounted to 1,417,000 volumes. Supposing the same number to have been circulated in the six fol- . lowing years, and twice the number in the forty preceding, we have a total of six millions of volumes issued from the Paris press only." Few of these, if any, circulate in this country. The published infidelity which poisons the minds of young and ignorant persons in England and America, is of a coarser quality, the malice of Voltaire without his wit and learning; the ribald blaspbemy of Paine, which effects its end by the mere confidence of its mockery and assertion; or the stupid and reckless falsehoods of Taylor, “the Devil's chaplain.” The poison of Voltaire's infidelity is conveyed in a style of almost unequalled clearness and simplicity; with a vivacity that never tires; and an apparent gaiety and good humor that, except in his correspondence with his “brethren in Beelzebuth,” serves to disguise his unrelenting hostility to the Gospel. He is known, however, to most American readers only as the historian of the reign of Louis XIV., and the author of the Henriade. The Philosophical Dictionary translated, circulates, we believe, to some extent, as part of the library of irreligion.
The histories and historical miscellanies of Voltaire are all alike pervaded by a vehement spirit of literary and religious scepticism. Sacred history, he is accustomed habitually to inock at; and in profane history, there is no fact so universally received as to be safe from the scrutiny of his questionings. One might think he had read the first meditation of Descartes, and stopped there ; qu'il n'y a rien dont on ne puisse en quelque façon douter; or at all events had got no further than the third, qu'il y a un Dieu.
The philosophy of history, prefixed originally to his Essay Sur les Mours, and dedicated to that worthy patron of infidels, the Empress Catharine of Russia, has no other aim than to discredit the facts of the Jewish Scriptures, in paralleling them with the
The edition we use is that of Fournier, Paris, 1828. It is loosely stitched in three cumbrous volumes, in minute type with double columns; each volume containing more than two thousand pages.
2 Lect. xxii.
fables of Pagan antiquity. Bacchus and Moses, Sampson and Hercules, the sybils and the prophets, are paired off together, as if their story was alike worthy to interest the ignorant, and amuse the philosopher. Great respect is professed, according to the usual mocking hypocrisy of the writer, for whatever the Bible affirms, and the Church endorses; but at the same time, all those circumstances in the history of the Jews, from the Exodus onwards, which stand apparently or actually in revolting contradiction to our notions of right and virtue, are studiously brought forward, as if the inspired history which records them, recorded them for imitation or approval. This is an old but shallow fraud of the enemies of revelation. - The whole work, though exhibiting the fruits of a good deal of acquaintance with ancient history, is superficial and dishonest. It is a philosophy of history, very much as a mocking and jumbled commentary on the XII Tables, the Vedas, Leviticus, and the Blue Laws of Connecticut, would be a philosophy of legislation. At the same time it is to be observed, that the Essay on Universal History and the manners of nations, to which it served as an introduction, is a work of great interest and value. It passes rapidly over an extensive field, touching briefly where the facts were of no significance, and elsewhere dwelling with the minuteness of contemporaneous history. The style of the narrative is as sprightly almost as that of his highest Facetia, abounding in just remark and fine criticism. No book pretending at all to the character of a general history, is near so readable. In all that considerable portion of it which relates to religion and the history of the Church, it requires, of course, to be read with caution and distrust. The words which he says he had occasion constantly to place in his margin, in writing on the conflicting pretensions of the emperors and the popes, vide, quære, dubita, must be the motto of Voltaire's readers; an author whose vanity led him to question everything, who made everything subservient to his hatred of religion, can never be taken on trust, either for opinions or facts.
The Pyrrhonism of History is a tract of great interest, in short chapters, calling in question, or exploding a considerable number of historic facts then-many of them still, current. The following may be taken as specimens of his lively and confident manner. They are both cases of alleged poisoning :
CHAPTER XXXVII.–Of the Dauphin Francis.--The Dauphin Francis, son of Francis I., being heated, and in a profusé perspiration from playing at tennis, drank freely of cold water, and died. The Emperor, Charles V., is accused of poisoning him. What ! the conqueror assassinate the son of his vanquished enemy! Assassinate the child at the court of France, when he had just, in open war, stripped the father of two provinces, and by an infamous and useless crime like this, stain his character for ever! Murder the Dauphin, and leave two brothers to avenge him! The accusation is shocking and absurd.
But the Dauphin had about him an Italian gentleman, Count de Montecuculi, who presented him the cold water that caused his death. This count was by birth a subject of the emperor, and had on one occasion spoken with him. On this ground he was arrested, and put to the torture. Ignorant physicians declared that the spasms caused by the cold water were produced by arsenic. Montecuculi was drawn and quartered; and all France regarded the conqueror of Solyman, the liberator of Christendom, and the most illustrious man in Europe, as a convicted poisoner. Who were the judges that condemned Montecuculi? I know nothing about it. Neither Mezerai nor Daniel mentions them. The President Henault merely says, the Dauphin Francis is poisoned by Montecuculi, his cupbearer, not without suspicions against the Emperor. Montecuculi's guilt must be held, to say the least, extremely doubtful. Neither he nor Charles V. had any interest in such a crime. The Italian's expectations of fortune were all from the Dauphin; and the Emperor had nothing to fear from a young man like Francis.
This tragedy, in short, must be set down among the multitude of judicial atrocities committed under the intoxication of prejudice, ignorance, or passion."
“CHAPTER XL.--Alexander VI. Cardinal Bembo, Paulus Jovius, Tomasi, and finally Guicciardini, appear to believe that Pope Alexander VI. died of poison, which, in concert with his bastard Cæsar Borgia, he had prepared for the Cardinals of Capua, Modena, and others. · All the enemies of the Holy See have credited this horrible story. For myself, I wholly disbelieve it; and my great reason is, that it seems wholly improbable. The Pope and his son were beyond dispute two of the greatest wretches in Europe, but they were not fools. The poisoning of a dozen Cardinals at one supper would have made both father and son so detested, that nothing could have saved them from the fury of the Roman populace. Such a crime could never have been concealed; and it was, moreover, directly opposed to the interests of Cæsar Borgia. The Pope, his father, was on the verge of the grave. Borgia, with his party, could hope easily to secure the tiara for one of his creatures. It would scarcely have been a judicious method of conciliating the College of Cardinals to begin by poisoning a dozen of them. Finally, the family register of Alexander VI. makes him die of a double tertian fever; poison fatal enough for a man seventy-three years old.”
The “Creed of the Theists" is a polemical confession, stating in each article, what is claimed as Theism in doctrine and practice, and setting the teaching of the Scriptures and the influence of Christianity, as exhibited in the Church of Rome, in the most
odious point of contrast. Like all the rest of Voltaire's " diviniy” it is characterized mainly by its zealous destructiveness. The author cares very little whether Theism or anything else is built up, provided the Gospel is only pulled down. Infidel sermons and homilies follow; and then other solid matter, called " The tomb of Fanaticism,' "God and Man,”' &c.
6 The Bible at last explained” is a labored attack on the several books of the Old Testament. It consists of selections from the sacred text, with a copious commentary of infidelity in notes. These notes carry a shallow and mocking pretence of respect for the Scriptures, citing at large the strongest infidel objections, and then opposing to them the dictum of Dom Calmet, or the authority of the Church, or making some ridiculous defence designed to give the whole thing up to laughter. The author “quotes with great regret” the revilings of Toland or Bolingbroke against the facts of Scripture history, and then adds, “However the Holy Spirit dictated the story, and can doubtless justify it,” “ Moses may have been a poor general, and an ignorant legislator; but he did as God bade him, and we must respect him for it.” “The manners of those times were very different from ours ;” and other similar forms of expression which are meant to deceive nobody.
Then comes an abridgment of the “ Testament of Jean Meslier," a priest of Champagne, who left a labored posthumous work against Christianity, begging pardon of his God for having for twenty years preached the Gospel.” Next, with increased rancor, · The History of the Establishment of Christianity,” which is a mass, original and compiled, of the most virulent scoffing against Christ and the Apostles. Then a series of infidel dialogues; and lastly the Philosophical Dictionary. It is but justice to say of this work, that it is written with wonderful vivacity and spirit, with a great display of various learning, and a richness of satirical humor, which, if the object were not monstrous, and the means frequently offensive to truth and decency, would make it vastly attractive. Some one remarks that the man is not thoroughly bad who can indulge in a hearty fit of laughter. Voltaire's laughter is always dry and sardonic; such as displays the truth, without flashing in the eyes; like the grin with which Ulysses regarded the suitors revelling in his hall, as he fitted the arrow to his deathdealing bow. Mistranslations—designed to cast contempt on the Scriptures; mocking, covered up with a thin tissue of respect; salacity, which lingers about, and recurs to, offensive images and illustrations; “Lust hard by Hate ;” and the aim of the whole,the mark at which the keen point of every article, however remote it might seem from the object, is directed, viz. the prostration of man's only hope and refuge, combine to render this celebrated Dictionary a masterpiece of perverted human ingenuity. Considering its malignity and its mockery, we may say it contains as much of