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multitude about me, I was suddenly alarmed with an admonition from some unknown power: “Gaze not idly upon others, when thou thyself art sinking:Whence is this thoughtless tranquillity, when thou and they are equally endangered?” I looked, and seeing the gulph of Intemperance before me, started and awaked.
THE VILLAGE PREACHER.
GOLDSMITH. Near yonder copse, where once the garden smild, And still where many a garden flower grows wild, There where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, The village preacher's modest mansion rose. A man he was, to all the country dear, And passing rich, with forty pounds a year; Remote from towns he ran his godly race, Nor e'er had chang’d, nor wish'd to change, his
place. Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for pow'r, By doctrines fashion'd to the varying hour; Far other aims his heart had learn’d to prize, More bent to raise the wretched than to rise. His house was known to all the vagrant train; He chid their wand'rings, but reliev'd their pain. The long-remember'd beggar was his guest, Whose beard descending swept his aged breast; The ruin'd spendthrift, now no longer proud, Claim'd kindred there, and had his claims allow'd: The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay, Sat by his fire, and talk'd the night away; Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done, Shoulder'd his crutch, and show'd how fields were
Pleas'd with his guests, the good man learn’d to glow,
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
But, in his duty prompt at every call,
Beside the bed, where parting life was laid,
At church, with meek and unaffected grace, His looks adorn'd the venerable place; Truth from his lips prevail'd with double sway: And fools who came to scoff, remain’d to pray. The service past, around the pious man, With ready zeal each honest rustic ran; Even children follow'd with endearing wile, And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile. His ready smile a parent's warmth express'd; Their welfare pleas'd him, and their cares distress'd. To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given, But all his serious thoughts had rest in heav'n: As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm, Tho'round its breast, the rolling clouds are spread, Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
ON PAINE'S AGE OF REASON.
ERSKINE. Gentlemen, it would be useless aud disgusting to enumerate the other passages within the scope of the indictment. How any man can rationally vindicate the publication of such a book, in a country where the christian religion is the very foundation of the law of the land, I am totally at a loss to conceive, and have no wish to discuss. How is a tribunal, whose whole jurisdiction is founded upon the solemn belief and practice of what is here denied as falsehood, and
reprobated as impiety, to deal with such an anomalous defence? Upon what principle is it even offered to the court, whose authority is contemned and mocked at? If the religion proposed to be called in question, is not previously adopted in belief, and solemnly acted upon, what authority has the Court to pass any judgment at all of acquittal or condemnation? Why
now, or upon any other occasion, to submit to your Lordship's authority? Why am I now, or at any time, to address twelve of my equals, as I am now addressing you, with reverence and submission? Under what sanction are the witnesses to give their evidence, without which there can be no trial? Under what obligations can I call upon you, the jury, representing your country, to administer justice? Surely upon no other than that you are sworn to administer it under the oaths you have taken. The whole judicial fabric, from the king's sovereign authority to the lowest office of magistracy has no other foundation. The whole is built, both in form and substance, upon the same oath of every one of its ministers, to do justice, “as God shall help them hereafter." What God? and what hereafter? That God, undoubtedly, who has commanded kings to rule, and judges to decree with justice; who has said to witnesses, not by the voice of nature, but in revealed commandments," thou shalt not bear false testimony against thy neighbour;” and who has enforced obedience to them by the revelation of the unutterable blessings which shall attend their observances, and the awful punishments which shall await upon their transgressions.
But it seems this course of reason, and the time and the person are at last arrived, that are to dissipate the errours that have overspread the past generations of ignorance! The believers in christianity are many, but it belongs to the few, that are wise to correct their credulity! Belief is an act of reason; and superior reason may therefore dictate to the weak. In running the mind along the numerous list of sincere and devout christians, I cannot help lamenting
that Newton had not lived to this day, to have had his shallowness filled up with this new flood of light. But the subject is too awful for irony. I will speak plainly and directly. Newton was a Christian! Newton, whose mind burst forth from the fetters cast by nature upon our finite conceptions: Newton, whose science was truth, and the foundation of whose knowledge of it was philosophy. Not those visionary and arrogant assumptions which too often usurp its name, but philosophy resting upon the basis of mathematics, which, like figures, cannot lie. Newton, who carried the line and rule to the utmost barriers of creation, and explored the principles by which, no doubt, all created matter is held together and exists. But this extraordinary man, in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errours which a minuter investigation of the created things on this earth might have taught him, of the essence of his Creator. What shall then be said of the great Mr. Boyle, who looked into the organic structure of all matter, even to the brute inanimate substances which the foot treads on. Such a man may
supposed to have been equally qualified with Mr. Paine, to “ look through nature up to nature's God.” Yet the result of all his contemplation was the most confirmed and devout belief in all which the other holds in contempt as despicable and drivelling superstition. But this errour, might, perhaps, arise from a want of due attention to the foundations of human judgment, and the structure of that understanding which God has given us for the investigation of truth. Let that question be answered by Mr. Locke, who was to the highest pitch of devotion and adoration a Christian. Mr. Locke, whose office was to detect the errours of thinking, by going up to the fountain of thought, and to direct into the proper track of reasoning the devious mind of man, by showing him its whole process, from the first perceptions of sense, to the last conclusions of ratiocination; putting a rein besides upon false opinion, by practical rules for the conduct of human judgment.
But these men were only deep thinkers, and lived in their closets, unaccustomed to the traffic of the world, and to the laws which partially regulate mankind. Gentlemen, in the place where you now sit to administer the justice of this great country, above a century ago the never to be forgotten sir Matthew Hale presided, whose faith in christianity is an exalted commentary upon its truth and reason, and whose life was a glorious example of its fruits in man; administering human justice with a wisdom and purity drawn from the pure fountain of the christian dispensation, which has been, and will be, in all ages, a subject of the highest reverence and admiration. But it is said by Mr. Paine, that the christian fable is but the tale of the more ancient superstitions of the world and may be easily detected by a proper understanding of the mythologies of the heathens. Did Milton understand those mythologies? Was he less versed than Mr. Paine in the superstitions of the world? No: they were the subject of his immortal song;
and though shut out from all recurrence to them, he poured them forth from the stores of a memory rich with all that man ever knew, and laid them in their order as the illustration of that real and exalted faith, the unquestionable source of that fervid genius, which cast a sort of shade upon all the other works of man. Thus you find all that is great, or wise, or splendid, or illustrious, amongst created beings, all the minds gifted beyond ordinary nature, if not inspired by their Universal Author for the advancement and dignity of the world, though divided by distant ages, and by the clashing opinions distinguishing them from one another, yet joining as it were, in one sublime chorus to celebrate the truths of christianity, and laying upon its holy altars the never fading offerings of their immortal wisdom.
Gentlemen, I cannot conclude without expressing the deepest regret at all attacks upon the christian religion by authors who profess to promote the civil liberties of the world. For, under what other auspices than christianity have the lost and subverted liberties