Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

Gibbon says,


to the truth of religion, and had continually turned his mind the other way. It was not to be expected that the prospect of death should alter his way of thinking, unless God should send an angel to set him right. He had a vanity in being thought easy.' Dives fared sumptuously every day, and saw no danger: But the next thing we hear of him is-- In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments!(9)

“ He died the death of a philosopher!" If philosophers die in such a manner, may it be my

lot to die like an old fashioned and enthusiastic Christian !(10)

(9) It is much to be lamented that a man of Hume's abilities should have so prostituted his talents. With all his pretensions to philosophy, he was an advocate for adultery and suicide. The reader will find a sufficient answer to his sophistry in Horne's letters on infidelity, Beattie's essay on the nature and immutability of truth, and Campbell on the miracles of Christ.

(10) Gibbon was one of the most respectable deists of the present age, and more like unto Hume, than any other of the oppo. sers of christianity. Very sufficient reasons, however, are to be given for his infidelity. Porson, in the preface to his letters to Travis, after giving a character of Gibbon's history, seems to me to account for his rejecting the gospel in a satisfactory manner, from the state of his mind. “ He shews, so strong a dislike to christianity, as visibly disqualifies him for that society, of which he has created Ammianus Marcellinus president: and we must blame him for carrying on the attack in an insidious manner, and with improper motives. He often makes, when he cannot readily find an occasion to insult our religion; which he hates so cordially that he might seem to revenge some personal injury. Such is his eagerness in the cause, that he stoops to the most despicable pun, or to the most awkward perversion of language, for the pleasure of turning Scripture into ribaldry, or of calling Jesus an impostor. A rage for indecency pervades the whole work, but especially the last volumes.-If the history were anonymous, I should guess that these disgraceful obscenities were written by some debauchee, who having from age, or accident, or excess, survived the practice of lust, still indulged himself in the luxury of speculation; and expos. ed the impotent imbecility, after he had lost the vigour of the passions."

Such are the opposers of Jesus and his gospel!- Let us see how this sneering antagonist of christianity terminated his mortal


Eager for the continuation of his present existence, having little expectation of any future one, he declared to a friend about twen.

Of all the accounts which are. left us, of the latter end of those, who are gone before into the eternal state, several are more horrible, but few so affecting as that which is given us by his own pen, of the late lord Chesterfield. It shews us incontestably, what a poor creature man is, notwithstanding the highest polish which he is capable of receiving, without the knowledge and experience of those satisfactions which true religion yields; and what egregious fools all those persons are, who squander away their precious time, in what the world, by a strange perversion of language, calls pleasure.

“ I have enjoyed all the pleasures of this world, and consequently know their futility, and do not regret their loss. I appraise them at their real value, which in truth, is very low, whereas those who have not experienced, always over-rate them. They only see their gay outside, and are dazzled with their glare ; but I have been behind the scenes. It is a common notion, and like many common ones, a very


one, that those, who have led a life of pleasure and business, can never be easy in retirement; whereas I am persuaded that they are the only people who can, if they have any sense and reflection. They can look back without an evil eye upon what they from knowledge despise; others have always a hankering after what they are not acquainted with. I look upon all that has passed, as one of those romantic dreams that opium commonly occasions, and I do by no means desire to repeat the nauseous dose, for the sake of the fugitive dream.—When I say that I have no regret, I do not mean that I have no remorse, for a life either of business, or still more of pleasure, never was, and never will be, a state of innocence. But God, who knows the strength of human passions, and the weakness of human reason, will, it is to be hoped, rather mercifully pardon, than justly punish, acknowledged

ty-four hours previous to his departure, in a flow of self-grat. ulation, that he thought himself sure of a good life for ten, twelve, or perhaps twenty years.--And during his short illness, it is observable, that he never gave the least intimation of a future state of existence. This insensibility at the hour of dissolution, is in the language of scepticism, dying like a clever fellow, the death of a philosopher!

Among all the numerous volumes that Gibbon read, it does not appear that he ever perused any able defence, or judicious explication of the Christian religion.-Consult his memoirs and diary written by himself.--His conversion and reconversion terminated in deism; or rather perhaps, in a settled indifference to all religion. He never gave himself any concern about it.


I have been as wicked and as vain, though not so wise as Solomon: but am now at last wise enough to feel and attest the truth of his reflection, that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. This truth is never sufficiently discovered or felt by mere speculation : experience in this case is necessary for conviction, though perhaps at the expence of some morality.- My health is always bad, though sometimes better and sometimes worse; and my deafness deprives me of the comforts of society, which other people have in their illnesses. This you must allow, is an unfortunate latter end of life, and consequently a tiresome one; but I must own too, that it is a sort of balance to the tumultuous and imaginary pleasures of the for. mer part of it.' I consider my present wretched old age as a just compensation for the follies, not to say, sins of my youth. At the same time I am thankful that I feel none of those torturing ills, which frequently attend the last stage of life, and I fatter myself that I shall go off quietly, and with resignation. My stay in this world cannot be long: God, who placed me here, only knows when he will order me out of it; but whenever he does, I shall willingly obey his com. mand. I wait for it, imploring the mercy of my Creator, and deprecating his justice. The best of us must trust to the former, and dread the latter. -I think I am not afraid of my journey's end, but will not answer for myself, when the object draws very Dear, and is very sure. For when one does see death

near, let the best or the worst people say what they please, it is a serious consideration. The divine attribute of mercy, which gives us comfort, cannot make us forget the attribute of justice, which must blend some fears with our hope.-Life, is neither a burden nor a pleasure to me; but a certain degree of ennui necessarily attends that neutral state, which makes me very willing to part with it, when He who placed me here, thinks fit to call me away. When I reflect, however, upon the poor remainder of my life, I look upon it as a burden that must every day grow heavier, from the natural progression of physical ills, the usual companions of increasing years, and my reason tells me, that I should wish for the end of it; but instinct, often stronger than reason, and perhaps oftener in the right, makes me take all proper methods to put it off. This innate sentiment alone makes me bear life with patience: for I assure you I have no farther hopes, but, on the contrary, many fears from it. None of the primitive Anachoretes in the Thebais could be more detached from life than I am. I consider it as one who is wholly unconcerned in it, and even when I reflect upon what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done myself, I can hardly persuade myself that all the frivolous hurry and bustle, and pleasures of the world, had any reality, but they seem to have been the dreams of restless nights. This philosophy, however, I thank God, neither makes me sour nor melancholic: I see the folly and absurdity of mankind, without indignation or peevishness. I wish them wiser, and consequently better than they are are."(1)

(1) The letters of this nobleman which he wrote to his son, contain positive evidence, that, with all his honours, learning, wit, politeness, he was a thorough bad man, with a heart full of deceit and uncleanness. Those letters have been a pest to this nation. It may be questioned whether Rochester's poems ever did more harm This nobleman was accounted, not only the most polite and well bred man of his time, but the greatest wit. Vari

This is the life, these are the mortifying acknowledgments, and this is the poor sneaking end of the best bred man of the age! Not one word about Mediator! He acknowledges, indeed, his frailties; but yet in such way as to extenuate his offences. One would suppose him to have been an old heathèn philosopher, that had never heard of the name of Jesus, rather than a penitent Christian, whose life had abounded with a variety of vices.

How little is man, in his most finished estate, without religion! Let us hear in what manner the lively believer in Jesus takes his leave of this mortal scene:

I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righte

ous Jeux d'Esprit proceeded from him, on different occasions. The two following which contain an allusion to the Sacred Wri. tings, I will present to the reader

Chesterfield being invited to dine with the Spanish ambassador, met with the minister of France, and some others. After dinner, the Spaniard proposed a toast, and begged to give his master under the title of the sun. The French ambassador's turn came next, who gave his, under the description of the moon. Chesterfield being asked for his, replied, your excellencies have taken from me all the greatest luminaries of heaven, and the stars are too small for a comparison with my royal master; I therefore beg leave to give your excellencies, Joshua!"

The earl, being at Brussels, was waited on by Voltaire, who poli'ely invited him to sup with him and madame C- His lordship accepted the invitation. The conversation happening to turn on the affairs of England, “I think, my lord,” said madame C“that the parliament of England consists of five or six hundred of the best informed and most sensible men in the king. dom?"-" True madame; they are generally supposed to be so.

" What then, my lord, can be the reason that they tolerate so great an absurdity as the Christian religion?”—

'_“I suppose ma. dame," replied his lordship." it is because they have not been able to substitute any thing better in its stead; when they can, I don't doubt but in their wisdom they will readily accept it."

To have entered into a serious defence of the gospel of Christ, would have been the height of folly; but such an answer as this, was calculated to silence her better than a thousand demonstrati. ons, which she would neither have been able nor willing to under: stand.

« AnteriorContinuar »