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not be the case, were man, by nature, a religious being.” So there are idiots in the world, but, does their existence prove, that man is not, by nature, a reasonable being ? Every department of creation has its exceptions and anomalies ; nor does their occasional occurrence make void general rules or principles. But the case of the atheist does not correspond to that of the idiot. Who ever heard of a person's being born an atheist ? Who ever heard of an atheist infant or child? The very men, who are now atheists, whether religiously educated or not, in early life were under the dominion of the religious principle, believed the existence of a spiritual world, stood in dread of unseen powers; and, so far are they from asserting, that the godless atmosphere which they now breathe is their native air, that they boast of having escaped an hereditary thraldom, of having broken the chains with which their infant limbs were fettered. Their case, then, corresponds not to that of the idiot from birth, but to that of him, whom accident or disease has deprived of reason. They were, by nature, endowed with the religious principle; but a moral pestilence has breathed upon their souls, and blighted this choicest plant of God's husbandry, - yet not blighted it hopelessly or eternally, for it is indestructible, and has gathered, from solitary, suffering, expiring atheism, some of the proudest trophies of its strength and per
There have been very few consistent unbelievers. There have been many who could talk and write bravely against religion, who, in solitude or at the approach of death, have been haunted by terrific visions from the unseen world, and have atoned, by hours of agonizing belief, for their moments of boastful infidelity. Rousseau, though he assayed, all his life long, to reason himself and others out of all religious faith, never could entirely rid himself of the impressions of his childhood. When alone, and heart-stricken, he always felt the need of religious sentiments and principles ; and his writings are full of involuntary tributes, often of thrilling eloquence, to the worth and power of spiritual truth. Byron furnishes a similar instance. He has often, and with justice, been stigmatized as an atheist. He was so, in theory; and many are the passages scattered through his works, in which he opens, before his awe-chilled reader, the rayless, hopeless, unfathomable gulf of infidelity. Yet, godless as was his creed, profligate as was his life, he could not entirely stifle his religious convictions ;
and the smothered torch-light of faith ever and anon breaks forth with almost supernatural lustre, and often gives a holy brilliancy to one side of the leaf, the other side of which is black as midnight. Who can read such lines as the following, and not confess that, when he penned them, he felt, in his inmost soul, that unseen and all-pervading power, which he so often scorned and blasphemed?
“ How often we forget all time, when lone,
Who thinks of self, when gazing on the sky?”* Numerous, also, have been the instances, in which bereavement, or some other form of sorrow, has led the professed unbeliever back to the creed of his early years. In Europe, many, who were acknowledged free-thinkers in the morning of life, have closed their days as devotees in convents. Within the circle of our own acquaintance is an eloquent defender and preacher of Christianity, who was once an atheist, and who, as such, attended the obsequies of a very dear friend. The moment that the coffin was let down into the grave was to him a moment of intense feeling. The first suggestion of his gloomy creed was that the being of his friend was utterly extinct. But the very
next instant, faith in a life unseen and immortal burst upon his mind with irresistible power; he went from the grave a believer in truths, against which he was armed with all the panoply of sophistry, but which now sprang up spontaneously in the inmost recesses of his soul, from the divinely implanted principle of religion, and started at once into too vigorous a growth to be again uprooted. But
some, yea, many, have maintained their atheistical principles through numerous vicissitudes of life. Comparatively few, however, have died atheists; and most of those, who have so died, have hardly died a rational death, having either gone
* The Island, Canto II. - 30 s. VOL. VIII. NO. I.
out of the world in brutal insensibility, or, like the celebrated Hume, dispelled the thoughts of death by frivolous amusements. Several of the principal English infidels were unwilling to live out of the pale of the church, and anxiously solicitous to enjoy the benefit of its ritual at the hour of death. Many of the champions of infidelity have breathed their last with the most fearful apprehensions, with deep remorse, with agonizing despair. The death-scene of Altamont, as described by Dr. Young, horrid as it is, is no more than a fair specimen of recorded death-scenes of infidels, numerous enough to fill a volume. Even that arch-apostle of unbelief, Voltaire, seems to have suspected, towards the close of life, that he had been wrestling against the truth, and, in his last sickness, kept himself constantly surrounded by priests, and clung, with childlike superstition, to the outward forms of religion.*
Now, in contrast with these several classes of instances, we can find no cases of the contrary kind, no cases, in which religious men have, in seasons of solitude or gloom, in bereavement, sickness, or death, sought refuge in infidelity. Is it not, then, an irresistible inference from these premises, that religion is congenial to man's nature, while infidelity is not so; that religion is an indestructible principle of the soul, infidelity a short-lived hallucination of the brain ?
But we would not confine ourselves to individual instances. We would invite our readers to a rapid survey of the history of modern infidelity, and hope to gather from it unimpeachable testimonials to the rank which we have assigned to the religious principle as an innate and indestructible element of human nature. The most adroit and arduous efforts have often been made to seduce portions of our race from their religious faith; but the result has always been, that, if bewildered and misguided for a time, they have returned to a belief in the invisible world, and clung to it with tenfold their former ardor. In England, among those who have denied Christianity, there have been very few professed atheists; and so strong has been the inward feeling, which has bound the people to religion, that those, who have denied the divinity of the Gospel, have commonly assumed the attitude of restorers and defenders of natural religion. Even the profligate Thomas Paine assumes,
* This view of Voltaire's last hours, we are aware, has been often contradicted; we have never seen it refuted.
throughout his works, a show of devotion to the God of Nature, and zeal for his honor; for he well knew that, without such a show, his impurity and impiety would be received with universal loathing.
In France, the temporary reign of infidelity was prepared for by gross corruption on the part of the guardians of religion. The clergy, though intolerant in their official acts, had been, for many years, careless of their doctrines, dissolute in their lives; and had moulded the dominant mode of faith and worship into a form at once frivolous and repulsive, fair
alike for the sneers of the profane and the indignation of the ingenuous. The dignitaries of the church were writing obscene romances, and luxuriating in unrestrained self-indulgence, all the while that they were proscribing Rousseau, and issuing their wrathful fulminations against Voltaire. The nation saw, and knew, and felt these things, and were thus prepared to cast away their religious convictions. The revolution came; and, if its history prove not the religious principle an essential element of human nature, then is all history voiceless. For, are we willing to recognise, as appertaining to human nature, that bloodthirsty rage, which armed each godless wretch against neighbors and kindred, against helpless infancy and weaponless age, which glutted the guillotine with victims, and hung every lantern-post in Paris with the bodies of the murdered? If this were human nature, far be it from us to claim for it
noble or godlike attribute. But this conduct was confessedly unnatural; it indicated a national insanity, -an insanity for which there was no other apparent cause than the tearing away of all religious belief. Now, may not that, the removal of which subverts nature, and produces an insanity so dire, be fairly deemed essential to human nature ?
The results of the revolution bear equally explicit testimony to the view which we have taken of the religious principle. A vigorous tree, which has its upward growth checked by some intervening obstacle, shoots out laterally in strange contortions, and shows, by its labyrinthal progress, the depth of its root, and the richness of its juices. Just so the religious principle in France, deprived of the traditional supports to which it clung, and thus prevented from developing itself in its wonted direction, was for a while suppressed, but only to seek out, with unprecedented energy, new modes of development, and a wider range of objects. France is now compensating for her age of unbelief, by an age of reverence and credulity. The history of religion is sought out with the most intense interest. Every monument of every religion is held sacred. Every religious act of past or present times, whether the prompting of enlightened faith, or of blind bigotry, is lauded. Every form and manifestation of the religious principle is respected, nay, deified. Even in the lightest branches of literature, in the romance and the drama, inspiration is sought from the throne of the Almighty, and the boundless future. There seems to be a striving, convulsive, indeed, and often aimless, yet sincere and intense, to reëstablish the communication with heaven and eternity. There is manifested throughout the whole nation a mysterious agitation, a desire to believe, a thirst for objects of faith.
Germany, too, bears noble testimony to the claim of the religious principle to be regarded as an innate and indestructible element of human nature. There has been in that country a most eccentric union of skepticism and credulity, of contempt for antiquated forms, and a firm attachment to religion itself, as distinct from its forms. The Rationalism of Germany has been stigmatized as infidelity. Most earnestly should we deprecate its transportation to our shores, lest, in our less congenial soil, it should degenerate into infidelity. But, with many of the German theologians, rationalism flows from the purest and loftiest spiritualism. They deny a peculiarly supernatural character to the works of Jesus and his apostles, not because they would limit the Divine omnipotence; but they see no ground for the division of events into natural and supernatural ; they discern no meaning in such terms as Nature and the Laws of Nature; and maintain that everything that takes place is a miracle. They deny, also, the peculiarly divine mission of Jesus; not for lack of respect for his teachings, and reverence for his character; but because they regard every human being as a divine messenger, sent to earth by God, for some express purpose, and furnished and prompted by the Divine Spirit to the work for which he is sent. And to the great moral truths of the Gospel these mystifiers of the sacred word profess and manifest an ardent attachment. Thus, though they have rejected the arguments on which the belief of the multitude rests, the religious principle within maintains unshaken an apparently baseless fabric of faith. Atheism hardly exists in Germany. There is, indeed, prevalent, a view of the Divine nature, which