Imatges de pàgina

quisite and delicate sensibilities whose existence coldhearted worldlings have denied; annihilating all genuine passion, and debasing that to a selfish feeling which is the excess of generosity and devotedness. Their body and mind alike crumble into a hideous wreck of humanity; idiotev and disease become perpetuated in their miserable offspring, and distant generations suffer for the bigoted morality of their forefathers. Chastity is a monkish and evangelical superstition, a greater foe to natural temperance even than unintellectual sensuality; it strikes at the root of all domestic happiness, and consigns more than half of the human race to misery, that some few may monopolize according to law. A system could not well have been devised more studiously hostile to human happiness than marriage. I conceive that, from the abolition of marriage, the fit and natural arrangement of sexual connection would result. I by no means assert that the intercourse would he promiscuous: on the contrary; it appears, from the relation of parent to child, that this union is generally of long duration, and marked above all others with generosity and self-devotion. But this is a subject which it is perhaps premature to discuss. That which will result from the abolition of marriage, will be natural and right, because choice and change will be exempted from restraint. In fact, religion and morality, as they now stand, compose a practical code of misery and servitude : the genius of human happiness must tear every leaf from the accursed book of God, ere man can read the inscription on his heart. How would morality, dressed up in stiff stays and finery, start from her own disgusting image, should she look in the mirror of nature'

Note lo, page 1 15, col. 1. To the red and baleful sun That faiutly twinkles there. The north polar star, to which the axis of the earth, in its present state of obliquity, points. It is exceedingly probable, from many considerations, that this obliquity will gradually diminish, until the equator coincides with the ecliptic : the nights and days will then become equal on the earth throughout the year, and probably the seasons also. There is no great extravagance in presuming that the progress of the perpendicularity of the poles may be as rapid as the progress of intellect, or that there should be a perfect identity between the moral and physical improvement of the human species. It is certain that wisdom is not compatible with disease, and that, in the present state of the climates of the earth, health, in the true and comprehensive sense of the word, is out of the reach of civilized inan. Astronomy teaches us that the earth is now in its progress, and that the poles are every year becoming more and more perpendicular to the ecliptic. The strong evidence afforded by the history of mythology, and geological researches, that some event of this nature has taken place already, affords a strong presumption, that this progress is not merely an oscillation. as has been surmised by some late astronomers." Bones of animals peculiar to the torrid zone have been found in the north of Siberia, and on the banks of the river Ohio. Plants have been found in the fossil state in the interior of Germany, which demand the present climate

" Laplace, Système du Monde.

of Hindostan for their production. The researches of M. Bailly establish the existence of a people who inhabited a tract in Tartary 40° north latitude, of greater antiquity than either the Indians, the Chinese, or the Chaldeans, from whom these nations derived their sciences and theology. We find, from the testimony of ancient writers, that Britain, Germany and France were much colder than at present, and that their great rivers were annually frozen over. Astronomy teaches us also, that since this period the obliquity of the earth's position has been considerably diminished.

Note 11, page 1 16, col. 1.

No atom of this turbulence fulfils

A vague and unnecessitated task,

Oracts but as it must and ought to act. Deux exemples serviront a nous rendre plus sensible le principe qui vient d'être posé; nous emprunterons !'un du physique et l'autre du moral. Dans un tourbillon de poussière qu'élève un vent impétueux, quelque confus qu'il paroisse à nos yeux; dans la plus affreuse tempete excitée par des vents opposés qui soulevent les flots, il n'y a pas une seule molécule de poussière ou d'eau qui soit placée au hasard, qui n'ait sa cause suffisante pour occuper le lieu ou elle se trouve, et qui m'aBisse rigoureusement de la manière dont elle doit agir. Un géometre qui connaitroit exactement les différentes forces qui agissent dans ces deux cas, et les propriétés des molécules qui sont mues, démontreroit que d'après des causes données, chaque molécule agit précisément comme elle doit agir, et ne peut agir autrement qu’elle ne fait.

Dans les convulsions terribles qui agitent quelquefois les sociétés politiques, et qui produisent souvent le renversement d'un empire, il n'y a pas une seule action, une seule parole, une seule pensée, une seule volonté, une seule passion dans les agens qui concourent à la révolution comme destructeurs ou comme victimes, qui ne soit nécessaire, qui m'agisse comme elle doit agir, qui n'opere infailliblement les effets qu’elle doit opérer suiwant la place qu'occupent ces agens dans ce tourbillon moral. Cela paroitroit evident pour une intelligence quisera en état de saisir et d'apprécier toutes les actions et réactions des esprits et des corps de ceux qui contribuent à cette révolution.—Système de la Nature, vol. 1. page 44. f Note 12, page 116, col. 2. Necessity, thou mother of the world!

He who asserts the doctrine of Necessity, means that, contemplating the events which compose the moral and material universe, he beholds only an immense and uninterrupted chain of causes and effects, no one of which could occupy any other place than it does occupy, or acts in any other place than it does act. The idea of necessity is obtained by our experience of the connection between objects, the uniformity of the operations of nature, the constant conjunction of similar events, and the consequent inference of one from the other. Mankind are therefore agreed in the admission of necessity, if they admit that these two circumstances take place in voluntary action. Motive is, to voluntary action in the human mind, what cause is to effect in the material universe. The word liberty, as applied to

"Cabanis, Rapports du Physique et du Moral de l'uomme, vol. ii. page 406. * Lettres sur les Sciences, a voltaire.—Bailly.

mind, is analogous to the word chance, as applied to matter: they spring from an ignorance of the certainty of the conjunction of antecedents and consequents. Every human being is irresistibly impelled to act precisely as he does act : in the eternity which preceded his birth a chain of causes was generated, which, operating under the name of motives, make it impossible that any thought of his mind, or any action of his life, should be otherwise than it is. Were the doctrine of Necessity false, the human mind would no longer be a legitimate object of science; from like causes it would be in vain that we should expect like effects; the strongest motive would no longer be paramount over the conduct; all knowledge would be vague and undeterminate; we could not predict with any certainty that we might not meet as an enemy to-morrow him with whom we have parted in friendship to-night; the most probable inducements and the clearest reasonings would lose the invariable influence they possess. The contrary of this is demonstrably the fact. Similar circumstances produce the same unvariable effects. The precise character and motives of any man on any occasion being given, the moral philosopher could predict his actions with as much certainty as the natural philosopher could predict the effects of the mixture of any particular chemical substances. Why is the aged husbandman more experienced than the young beginner? Because there is a uniform, undeniable necessity in the operations of the material universe. Why is the old statesman more skilful than the raw politician? Be

cause, relying on the necessary conjunction of motive

and action, he proceeds to produce moral effects, by
the application of those moral causes which experience
has shown to be effectual. Some actions may be found
to which we can attach no motives, but these are the
effects of causes with which we are unacquainted.
Hence the relation which motive bears to voluntary ac-
tion is that of cause to effect; nor, placed in this point
of view, is it, or ever has it been the subject of popular
or philosophical dispute. None but the few fanatics
who are engaged in the herculean task of reconciling the
justice of their God with the misery of man, will longer
outrage common seuse by the supposition of an event
without a cause, a voluntary action without a motive.
History, polities, morals, criticism, all grounds of rea-
sonings, all principles of science, alike assume the truth
of the doctrine of Necessity. No farmer carrying his
corn to market doubts the sale of it at the market price.
The master of a manufactory no more doubts that he
can purchase the human labour necessary for his pur-
poses, than that his machinery will act as they have
been accustomed to act.
But, whilst none have scrupled to admit necessity as
influencing matter, many have disputed its dominion
over mind. Independently of its militating with the
received ideas of the justice of God, it is by no means
obvious to a superficial inquiry. When the mind ob-
serves its own operations, it feels no connection of mo-
tive and action: but as we know - nothing more of
causation than the constant conjunction of objects and
the consequent inference of one from the other, as we
find that these two circumstances are universally al-
lowed to have place in voluntary action, we may be
easily led to own that they are subjected to the neces-
sity common to all causes. The actions of the will
have a regular conjunction with circumstances and cha-

racters; motive is, to voluntary action, what cause is
to effect. But the only idea we can form of causation
is a constant conjunction of similar objects, and the
consequent inference of one from the other : wherever
this is the case necessity is clearly established.
The idea of liberty, applied metaphorically to the
will, has sprung from a misconception of the meaning
of the word power. What is power?—id quod potest.
that which can produce any given effect. To deny
power, is to say that nothing can or has the power to
be or act. In the only true sense of the word power.
it applies with equal force to the loadstone as to the
human will. Do you think these motives, which I shall
present, are powerful enough to rouse him " is a ques-
tion just as common as, Do you think this lever has
the power of raising this weight ! The advocates of
free-will assert that the will has the power of refusing
to be determined by the strongest motive : but the
strongest motive is that which, overcoming all others.
ultimately prevails; this assertion therefore amounts to
a denial of the will being ultimately determined by that
motive which does determine it, which is absurd. But
it is equally certain that a man cannot resist the strong-
est motive, as that he cannot overcome a physical in-
The doctrine of Necessity tends to introduce a great
change into the established notions of morality, and
utterly to destroy religion. Reward and punishment
must be considered, by the Necessarian, merely as mo-
tives which he would employ in order to procure the
adoption or abandonment of any given line of conduct
| Desert, in the present sense of the word, would no
longer have any meaning; and he, who should inflict
pain upon another for no better reason than that he
deserved it, would only gratify his revenge under pre-
tence of satisfying justice. It is not enough, says the
advocate of free-will, that a criminal should be Pre-
vented from a repetition of his crines; he should fee;
pain, and his torments, when justly inflicted, ought
precisely to be proportioned to his fault. But utility
is morality; that which is incapable of producing hip-
piness is useless; and though the crime of Damiens
must be condemned, yet the frightful torments which
revenge, under the name of justice, inflicted on this un-
happy man, cannot be supposed to have augmented,
even at the long-run, the stock of pleasurable sensation
in the world. At the same time, the doctrine of Neces-
sity does not in the least diminish our disapprobation
of vice. The conviction which all feel, that a viper is
a poisonous animal, and that a tiger is constrained, by
the inevitable condition of his existence, to devour men.
does not induce us to avoid them less sedulously, or,
even more, to hesitate in destroying them: but he would
surely be of a hard heart, who, meeting with a serpent
on a desert island, or in a situation where it was inca-
pable of injury, should wantonly deprive it of exist-
ence. A Necessarian is inconsequent to his own prin-
ciples, if he indulges in hatred or contempt; the compas-
sion which he feels for the criminal is unmixed with a
desire of injuring him: he looks with an elevated and
dreadless composure upon the links of the universal
chain as they pass before his eyes; whilst cowardice.
curiosity and inconsistency only assail him in propor-
tion to the feebleness and indistinctness with which he
has perceived and rejected the delusions of free-will.
Religion is the perception of the relation in which

we stand to the principle of the universe. But if the principle of the universe be not an organic being, the There is no God model and prototype of man, the relation between it This negation must be understood solely to affect a and human beings are absolutely none. Without some creative Deity. The hypothesis of a pervading Spirit insight into its will respecting onr actions, religion is coeternal with the universe, remains unshaken. nugatory and vain. But will is only a mode of animal A close examination of the validity of the proofs mind; moral qualities also are such as only a human adduced to support any proposition, is the only occure being can possess; to attribute them to the principle of way of attaining truth, on the advantages of which it is the universe, is to annex to it properties incompatible unnecessary to descant: our knowledge of the existwith any possible definition of its nature. It is probable ence of a deity is a subject of such importance, that it

Note 13, page 1 17, col. 1.

that the word God was originally only an expression denoting the unknown cause of the known events which men perceived in the universe. By the vulgar mistake of a metaphor for a real being, of a word for a thing, it became a man, endowed with human qualities and governing the universe as an earthly monarch governs his kingdom. Their addresses to this imaginary being, indeed, are much in the same style as those of subjects to a king. They acknowledge his benevolence, deprecate his anger, and supplicate his favour. But the doctrine of Necessity teaches us, that in no case could any event have happened otherwise than it did happen, and that, if God is the author of good, he is also the author of evil; that, if he is entitled to our gratitude for the one, he is entitled to our hatred for the other; that, admitting the existence of this hypothetic being, he is also subjected to the dominion of an immutable necessity. It is plain that the same arguments which prove that God is the author of food, light, and life, prove him also to be the author of poison, darkness, and death. The wide-wasting earthquake, the storm, the battle, and the tyranny, are attributable to this hypothetic being in the same degree as the fairest forms of nature, sunshine, liberty, and peace. But we are taught, by the doctrine of Necessity, that there is neither good nor evil in the universe, otherwise than as the events to which we apply these epithets have relation to our own peculiar mode of being. Still less than with the hypothesis of a God, will the doctrine of Necessity accord with the belief of a future state of punishment. God made man such as he is, and then damned him for being so; for to say that God was the author of all good, and man the author of all evil, is to say that one man made a straight line and a crooked one, and another man made the incongruity. A Mahometan story, much to the present purpose, is recorded, wherein Adam and Moses are introduced disputing before God in the following manner. Thou, says Moses, art Adam, whom God created, and animated with the breath of life, and caused to be worshipped by the angels, and placed in Paradise, from whence mankind have been expelled for thy fault. Whereto Adam answered, Thou art Moses, whom God chose for his apostle, and entrusted with his word, by giving thee the

tables of the law, and whom he vouchsafed to admit to discourse with himself. How many years dost thou find the law was written before I was created? Says

Moses, Forty. And dost thou not find, replied Adam, these words therein, And Adam rebelled against his Lord

and transgressed which Moses confessing, Dost thou

therefore blame me, continued he, for doing that which
God wrote of me that I should do, forty years before
I was created; nay, for what was decreed concerning me !
fifty thousand years before the creation of heaven and
earth –Sals's Prelim. Disc. to the Moran, page 164. -

cannot be too minutely investigated; in consequence of this conviction we proceed briefly and impartially to examine the proofs which have been adduced. It is necessary first to consider the nature of belief. When a proposition is offered to the mind, it perceives the agreement or disagreement of the ideas of which it is composed. A perception of their agreement is termed belief Many obstacles frequently prevent this perception from being immediate; these the mind attempts to remove, in order that the perception may be distinct. The mind is active in the investigation, in order to perfect the state of perception of the relation which the component ideas of the proposition bear to each, which is passive: the investigation being confused with the perception, has induced many falsely to imagine that the mind is active in belief, that belief is an act of volition,-in consequence of which it may be regulated by the mind. Pursuing, continuing this mistake, they have attached a degree of criminality to disbelief; of which, in its nature, it is incapable: it is equally incapable of merit. Belief, then, is a passion, the strength of which, like every other passion, is in precise proportion to the degrees of excitement. The degrees of excitement are three. The senses are the sources of all knowledge to the

mind; consequently their evidence claims the strongest

assent. The decision of the mind, founded upon our own experience, derived from these sources, claims the next degree. The experience of others, which addresses itself to the former one, occupies the lowest degree. (A graduated scale, on which should be marked the capabilities of propositions to approach to the test of the senses, would be a just barometer of the belief which ought to be attached to them.) Consequently no testimony can be admitted which is contrary to reason; reason is founded on the evidence of our senses. Every proof may be referred to one of these three divisions: it is to be considered what artouments we receive from each of them, which should convince us of the existence of a Deity. 1st. The evidence of the senses. If the Deity should appear to us, if he should convince our senses of his existence, this revelation would necessarily command belief. Those to whom the Deity has thus appeared have the strongest possible conviction of his existence. But the God of Theologians is incapable of local visibilitv. ad. Reason. It is urged that man knows that whatever is, must either have had a beginning, or have existed from all eternity: he also knows, that whatever is not eternal must have had a cause. When this reasoning is applied to the universe, it is necessary to prove that it was created: until that is clearly demonstrated, we may reasonably suppose that it has endured from all eternity. We must prove design before we can infer a designer. The only idea which we can form of causation is derivable from the constant conjunction of objects, and the consequent inference of one from the other. In a case where two propositions are diametrically opposite, the mind believes that which is least incomprehensible;—it is easier to suppose that the universe has existed from all eternity, than to conceive a being beyond its limits capable of creating it: if the mind sinks beneath the weight of one, is it an alleviation to increase the intolerability of the burthen? The other argument, which is founded on a man's knowledge of his own existence, stands thus. A man knows not only that he now is, but that once he was not; consequently there must have been a cause. But our idea of causation is alone derivable from the constant conjunction of objects and the consequent inference of one from the other; and, reasoning experimentally, we can only infer from effects, causes exactly adequate to those effects. But there certainly is a generative power which is effected by certain instruments: we cannot prove that it is inherent in these instruments; nor is the contrary hypothesis capable of demonstration: we admit that the generative power is incomprehensible; but to suppose that the same effect is produced by an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, being, leaves the cause in the same obscurity, but renders it more incomprehensible. 3d. Testimony. It is required that testimony should not be contrary to reason. The testimony that the Deity convinces the senses of men of his existence can only be admitted by us, if our mind considers it less probable that these men should have been deceived, than that the Deity should have appeared to them. Our reason can never admit the testimony of men, who not only declare that they were eye-witnesses of miracles, but that the Deity was irrational; for he commanded that he should be believed, he proposed the highest rewards for faith, eternal punishments for disbelief. We can only command voluntary actions; belief is not an act of volition; the mind is even passive, or involuntarily active : from this it is evident that we have no sufficient testimony, or rather that testimony is insufficient to prove the being of a God. It has been before shown that it cannot be deduced from reason. They alone, then, who have been convinced by the evidence of the senses, can believe it. Hence it is evident that, having no proofs from either of the three sources of conviction, the mind cannot believe the existence of a creative God: it is also evident, that, as belief is a passion of the mind, no degree of criminality is attachable to disbelief; and that they only are reprehensible who neglect to remove the false medium through which their mind views any subject of discussion. Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity. God is an hypothesis, and, as such, stands in need of proof: the onus probandi rests on the theist. Sir Isaac Newton says: Hypotheses non fingo, quicquid enim ex phaenomenis non deducitur, hypothesis vocanda est, et hypothesis vel metaphysicae, vel physicae, vel qualitatum occultarum, seu mechanicæ, in philosophia locum non habent." To all proofs of the existence of a creative God apply this valuable rule. We see a variety of bo

dies possessing a variety of powers: we merely know their effects; we are in a state of ignorance with respect to their essences and causes. These Newton calls the phenomena of things; but the pride of philosophy is unwilling to admit its ignorance of their causes. From the phenomena, which are the objects of our senses, we attempt to infer a cause, which we call God, and gratuitously endow it with all negative and contradictory qualities. From this hypothesis we invent this general name, to conceal our ignorance of causes and essenceThe being called God by no means answers with the conditious prescribed by Newton; it bears every mark of a veil woven by philosophical conceit, to hide the ignorance of philosophers even from themselves. They borrow the threads of its texture from the anthropomorphism of the vulgar. Words have been used by sophists for the same purposes, from the occult qualities of the peripatetics to the effluvium of Boyle and the crinities or nebulae of Herschel. God is represented as infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; he is contained under every praedicate in non that the logic of ignorance could fabricate. Even his worshippers allow that it is impossible to form any idea of him: they exclaim with the French poet, Pour dire ce qu'il eat, il faut €tre lui-même.

Lord Bacon says, that “atheism leaves to man reason, philosophy, natural piety, laws, reputation, and every thing that can serve to conduct him to virtue; but superstition destroys all these, and erects itself into a tyranny over the understandings of men; hence atheism never disturbs the government, but renders man more clear-sighted, since he sees nothing beyond the boundaries of the present life.” – Bacon's Moral Essays.

La première theologie de l'homme lui fit dahord craindre et adorer les éléments meme, des objets materiels et grossiers; il rendit ensuite ses hommages a des agents présidents aux éléments, a des génies inférieurs, a des heros, ou a des hommes doués de grandes qualites. A force de réfléchir, il crut simplifier les choses en soumettant la nature entière à un seul agent, a un -prit, a une ame universelle, qui mettoit cette nature et ses parties en mouvement. En remontant des causes en causes, les mortels ont fini par nerien voir; et c'est dans cette obscurité qu'ils ont placé leur Dieu, c'est dans ce: abyme tenebreux que leur imagination inquiete travaille toujours a se fabriquer des chimeres, qui les aftligeront jusqu'a ce que la connoissance de la nature les detroinpe des fantômes qu'ils ont toujours si vainement adores.

Sinous voulons nous rendre compte de nos idees sur la Divinité, nous serons obligés de convenir que, par le mot Dieu, les hommes n'ont jamais pu designer que la cause la plus cachée, la plus éloignée, la plus inconnue des effets qu'ils voyotent: ils ne font usage dece

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par le secours des forces ou des causes que nous connoissons dans la nature. C'est ainsi que le commun des hommes, dont l'ignorance est le partage, attribue à la Divinité non seulement les effets inusités qui les frappent, mais encore les événemens les plus simples, dont les causcs sont les plus faciles à connoître pour quiconque a pu les méditer. En un mot, l'homme a toujours respecté les causes inconnues des effets surprenans, que son ignorance l'empèchoit de démêler. Ce fut sur les débuts de la nature que les hommes élevèrent le colosse imaginaire de la Divinité. Si l'ignorance de la nature donna la naissance aux dieux, la connoissance de la nature est faite pour les détruire. A mesure que l'homme s'instruit, ses forces et ses ressources augmentent avec ses lumières; les sciences, les arts conservateurs, l'industrie, lui fournissent des secours ; l'expérience le rassure ou lui procure des moyens de résister aux efforts de bien des causes qui cessent de l'alarmer dès qu'il les a connues. En un mot, ses terreurs se dissipent dans la même proportion que son esprit s'éclaire. L'homme instruit cesse d'être superstitieux. Ce n'est jamais que sur parole que des peuples entiers adorent le Dieu de leurs pères et de leurs prêtres : l'autorité, la confiance, la soumission, et l'habitude, leur tiennent lieu de conviction et de preuves; ils se prosternent et prient, parce que leurs pères leur ont appris à se prosterner et prier : mais pourquoi ceux-ci se sont-ils mis à genoux ? C'est que dans les temps éloignés leurs législateurs et leurs guides leur en ont fait un devoir. « Adorez et croyez, • ont-ils dit, • des dieux que vous ne pouvez comprendre; rapportez-vous en à notre sagesse profonde , nous en savons plus que vous sur la Divinité. Mais pourquoi m'en rapporterois-je à vous! C'est que Dieu le veut ainsi, c'est que Dieu vous punira si vous osez résister. Mais ce Dieu n'est-il donc pas la chose en question! Cependant les hommes se sont toujours payés de ce cercle vicieux , la paresse de leur esprit leur fit trouver plus court de s'en rapporter au jugement des autres. Toutes les notions religieuses sont fondées uniquement sur l'autorité ; toutes les religions du monde défendent l'examen et ne veulent pas que l'on raisonne ; c'est l'autorité qui veut qu'on croye en Dieu; ce Dieu n'est lui-meme fondé que sur l'autorité de quelques hommes qui prétendent le connoître, et venir de sa part Pour l'annoncer à la terre. Un Dieu fait par les hommes, a sans doute besoin des hommes pour se faire connoitre aux hommes. Ne seroit-ce donc que pour des prêtres, des inspirés, des métaphysiciens que seroit réservée la conviction de l'existence d'un Dicu, que l'on dit néanmoins si nécessaire à tout le genre humain ? Mais trouvons-nous de l'harmonie entre les opinions théologiques des différens inspirés, ou des penseurs répandus sur la terre ? Ceux mêmes qui font profcssion d'adorer le même Dieu, sontils d'accord snr son compte ? Sont-ils contents des preuves que leurs collègues apportent de son existence ? Souscrivent-ils unanimement aux idées qu'ils présentent sur sa nature, sur sa conduite, sur la facon d'entendre ses prétendus oracles ? Est-il une contrée sur la terre, où la science de Dieu se soit réellement perfectionnée ? A-t-elle pris quelque part la consistance et l'uniformité que nous voyons prendre aux connoissances humaines, aux arts les plus futiles, aux métiers les plus méprisés ? Des mots d'esprit, d'immatérialité, de création, de prédestination, de grace; cctte foule de distinctions sub

tiles dont la théologie s'est partout remplie dans quelques pays, ces inventions si ingénieuses, imaginées par des penseurs qui se sont succédés depuis tant de siécles, n'ont fait, hélas! qu'embrouiller les choses, et jamais la science la plus nécessaire aux hommes n'a jusqu'ici pu acquérir la moindre fixité. Depuis des milliers d'années, ccs réveurs oisifs se sont perpétuellement relayés pour méditer la Divinité, pour deviner ses voies cachées, pour inventer des hypothèses propres à développer cette énigme importante. Leur peu de succès n'a point découragé la vanité théologique; toujours on a parlé de Dieu : on s'est égorgé pour lui, et cet être sublime demeure toujours le plus ignoré et le plus discuté.

Les hommes auroient été trop heureux, si, se bornant aux objets visibles qui les intéressent, ils eussent employé à perfectionner leurs sciences réelles, leurs lois, leur morale, leur éducation, la moitié des efforts qu'ils ont mis dans leurs recherches sur la Divinité. Ils auroient été bien plus sages encore, et plus fortunés, s'ils eussent pu consentir à laisser leurs guides désœuvrés se quéreller entre eux, et sonder des profondeurs capables de les étourdir, sans se mêler de leurs disputes insensées. Mais il est de l'essence de l'ignorance d'attacher de l'importance à ce qu'elle ne comprends pas. La vanité humaine fait que l'esprit se roidit contre les difficultés. Plus un objet se dérobe à nos yeux, plus nous faisons d'efforts pour le saisir, parceque dés-lors il aiguillonne notre orgueil, il excite notre curiosité, il nous paroit intéressant. En combattant pour son Dieu chacun ne combattit en effet que pour les intérêts de sa propre vanité, qui de toutes les passions produits par la mal organisation de la société, est la plus prompte à s'alarmer, et la plus propre à produire de très grandes folies.

Si écartant pour un moment les idées fâcheuses que la théologie nous donne d'un Dieu capricieux, dont les décrets partiaux et despotiques décident du sort des humains, nous ne voulons fixer nos yeux que sur la bonté prétendue, que tous les hommes, même en tremblant devant ce Dieu, s'accordent à lui donner; si nous lui supposons le projet qu'on lui prête, de n'avoir travaillé que pour sa propre gloire ; d'exiger les hommages des êtres intelligens; de ne chercher dans ses œuvres que le bien-être du genre humain; comment concilier ses vues et ses dispositions avec l'ignorance vraiment invincible dans laquelle ce Dieu, si glorieux et si bon, laisse la plupart des hommes sur son compte ! Si Dieu veut ètre connu, chéri, remercié, que ne se montre-t-il sous des traits favorables à tous ces étres intelligens dont il veut être aimé et adoré? Pourquoi ne point se manifester à toute la terre d'une facon mon équivoque, bien plus capable de nous convaincre, que ces révélations particulières qui semblent accuser la Divinité d'une partialité facheuse pour quelques unes de ses créatures ! Le Tout-Puissant n'auroit-il donc pas des moyens plus convainquans de se montrer aux hommes que ces métamorphoses ridicules, ces incarnations prétendues, qui nous sont attestées par des écrivains si peu d'accord entre eux dans les récits qu'ils en font? Au lieu de tant de miracles inventés pour prouver la mission divine de tant de législateurs révérés par les différens peuples du monde, le souverain des esprits ne pouvoit-il pas convaincre tout d'un coup l'esprit humain des choses qu'il a voulu lui faire connoitre Au lieu de suspendre un soleil dans la voûte du firmament; au lieu de répandre sans ordre les étoiles et les constellations qui remplissent l'espace,

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