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For a considerable length of time however, infidelity was confined to the higher and the literary orders; the humble and unambitious Christian was happily placed without the sphere of its influThe project of the wily serpent was as yet in its infancy: and little did those nobles, who encouraged it, imagine, that they were unwarily helping to construct an engine destined for their own destruction. But, as the period of the third woe-trumpet approached, Satan took at once both a wider and more systematic range. Infidelity was diffused in a manner unknown in any former age. No class of society was exempt from its poison. Publications, adapted to the comprehension of the lower orders, were zealously distributed throughout every country in Europe by the secret clubs of the illuminated: and, as a mind unused to argument can readily see an objection, without being able accurately to follow the train of reasoning which pervades the confutation of it, a captious doubt, once injected into the head of a poor and illiterate man, can scarcely ever be removed even by the clearest demonstration of the evidences of Christianity*. Impudent assertion
* A learned and much revered friend of mine (the Rev. R. Hudson, A. M. head-master of the Grammar School at Hipperholme), some time since put into my hands a small tract, which was industriously circulated in his neighbourhood. It was replete with a variety of quibbling questions, which the merest sciolist in theology would find little difficulty in answer
now occupied the place of proof: and a conviction of false representation was little regarded by those, whose object was to disseminate error, and who had regularly calculated that an atheistical publication would be read by many that would probably never see the answer to it. Formerly infidelity was conveyed in the shape of a professed treatise ; and they, who chose to peruse it, were at least aware of what they might expect. Hence a careful Christian parent knew how to secure his inexperienced offspring from the effects of its poison. But now, there is scarcely a book which he dares to trust in the hands of his children, without first thoroughly examining it himself: and, even after
ing, but which were perfectly well adapted to puzzle the intellect of a plain unsuspecting labourer. In order to avoid the necessity of annexing the printer's name to a publication, it was ingeniously ante-dated. "It was by small tracts of this "sort," says the present worthy Dishop of London, "dissemi"nated among the lower orders in every part of France, that "the great body of the people there was prepared for that "most astonishing event (which, without such preparation, "could never have been so suddenly and so generally brought "about), the public renunciation of the Christian Faith. In "order to produce the very same effects here, and to pave "the way for a general apostasy from the Gospel, by conta"minating the principles and shaking the faith of the inferior "classes of the people, the same arts have been employed, the
same breviates of infidelity have, to my knowledge, been "published and dispersed with great activity, and at a consi"derable expence, among the middling and lower classes of "men in this kingdom." Charge, 1794.
all his precautions, his son may accidentally take up a treatise on botany or geology, and rise from the perusal of it, if not an infidel, yet a sceptic. In short, the lurking poison of unbelief has of late years been "served up in every shape, that is likely to allure, surprise, or beguile, the imagination; in a fable, a tale, a novel, a poem; "in interspersed and broken hints; remote and "oblique surmises; in books of travels, of philosophy, of natural history; in a word, in any "form rather than that of a professed and regular disquisition *."
The sure word of prophecy has taught us where to look for the real origin of these infernal productions. "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth "and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto
you, having great wrath, because he knoweth "that he hath but a short time." It has done. more. It has explicitly described to us the character of those abandoned men, those hardened scoffers, whom Satan was about to employ as his wretched tools in the last days t. The existence of such men we have witnessed with our own eyes: but, till lately, we were not aware of their existence in any other than their mere individual capacity. We have at present however upon record the confession of an arch-atheist, that there has long been in Europe, particularly in papal Europe,
Paley's Moral Philosophy.
+ See the prophecies relative to the last times collected together in the Third Chapter of this Work.
a systematic combination of the scoffers of the last days for the purpose of at once overturning the throne and the altar, of letting loose at once those two dogs of hell anarchy and atheism.
"There was a class of men," says the notorious Condorcet," which was soon formed in Europe, "with a view, not so much to discover and make "deep research after truth, as to diffuse it: whose chief object was to attack prejudices in the very asylums, where the clergy, the schools, the governments, and the ancient corporations, had "received and protected them: and who made "their glory to consist rather in destroying popular
error, than in extending the limits of human. knowledge. This, though an indirect method "of forwarding its progress, was not, on that ac"count, either less dangerous or less useful. In England, Collins and Bolingbroke; in France, Bayle, Fontenelle, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and "the schools formed by these men; combated in "favour of truth *. They alternately employed
all the arms, with which learning and philosophy, with which wit and the talent of writ"ing, could furnish them. Assuming every tone,
taking every shape, from the ludicrous to the "pathetic, from the most learned and extensive compilation to the novel or the petty pamphlet of
* What the truth was, for which Voltaire combated, a long life laboriously spent in the service of a hard task-master has amply shewn and France has no less amply tasted the fruits of it,
"the day; covering truth with a veil, which, sparing the eye that was too weak to bear it, left to the reader the pleasure of guessing it; insidiously caressing prejudices in order to strike "at them with more certainty and effect; seldom "menacing more than one at a time, and that only in part; sometimes soothing the enemies of reason, by seeming to ask but for a half tole«ration in religion, or a half liberty in polity ; respecting despotism when they combated religious "absurdities, and religion when they attacked ty. ranny; combating these two pests in their very principles, though apparently inveighing against ridiculous and disgusting abuses; striking at "the root of those pestiferous trees, whilst they appeared only to wish to lop the straggling "branches; at one time pointing out superstition, " which covers despotism with its impenetrable "shield, to the friends of liberty, as the first "victim which they are to immolate, the first chain "to be cleft asunder; at another denouncing su
perstition to despots as the real enemy of their power, and alarming them with a representation of its hypocritical plots and sanguinary rage; but never ceasing to claim the independence of reason, and the liberty of the press, as the right " and safeguard of mankind; inveighing with en"thusiastic energy against the crimes of fanaticism " and tyranny; reprobating every thing which "bore the character of oppression, harshness, or barbarity, whether in religion, administration,