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learnedly urge to prove my mistake, although his lordship should call me a fool for concurring herein with the first bishop.
In answer to the former prelate, I dined yesterday on something more tangible, palpable, and manducable, than ideas; and in answer to the latter, I think, judge, and choose, to move this way or that, as I please, not one of which things can matter do. Thus from both I take shelter in common sense and the word of God. He that says, God may superadd a power of thinking to a certain organization of matter, merely as matter, since he calls in Almighty power, might as rationally maintain, that the same power is as able to superadd a faculty of thinking, judging, choosing, and moving itself, to unorganized matter, a tree, for instance, or a stone, while the one is still but a stone, and the other but a tree. Should we see a large stone, of itself, for a considerable time, regularly moving, and carefully avoiding the fire and the sledge, on a supposition, that it were destitute of every sense and of the faculty of thinking, we should be apt to agree with Epicurus, that it happened more by good luck than good guiding; or we should ascribe the phenomenon to some immaterial and imperceptible cause, never to a stone itself, as a stone. In the name of wonder! where would the philosophers lead us? By one set of them a rational being is not allowed so much as a single soul, while by another, every particle of matter, every globule of light, if in motion, as the necessary cause at least of its continuation and direction in motion, is allowed a distinct soul of its own. What! give a soul to a hand-ball, or a shuttlecock, and refuse it to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Socrates, Paschal, Newton, the greatest philosophers! Whatever the saints may do, not one of the poets, except Lucretius, will subscribe to this inanimate system. All of them, to a man, Poligniac only excepted, will insist, and surely with good reason, on the necessity of a soul (some sort of a soul) even in a brutę. By these remarks on the gross absurdities of different philosophers, we may easily perceive how little dependence we can have on philosophy in general. It is a battery erected by petulance and conceit against religion ; but at such a distance, with guns so ill pointed, and with such a lack of ammunition, that its balls never go home,
excepting in the opinion of those who gladly take sound for sense and weight, setting up a stupid huzza at every impotent explosion.
It is little more than a century since days, nights, seasons, years, heat, light, and I know not how many other things of great consequence, were all brought about by a subtile matter. This most ingenious system was driven off the philosophical stage, and fairly too, by attraction, although what attraction was hath never been known, nor is it knowable, notwithstanding that all agree it brings every thing about in a very handsome manner. Fixed air, however, hath now taken cohesion out of its hands, which besides, is growing into a universal remedy. Nay the present mode of philosophy depends wholly on matter and motion, fixed air, and phlogiston. How the elements go to rack in the hands of these people! How the natural world every ten or twenty years, like a French bean, comes out a new thing! How nature herself conspires with our senses to impose on us! What a cheat, what a lie, is the whole universe!
The world, under philosophical management, from wonderful is become romantic. The man of common sense, whether literate or illiterate, after perusing the works of philosophers, hardly knows it to be the same world, till his senses and his reason extricate him from the fanciful and artificial wilderness, which he had lately gazed upon through false optics. Common sense never looks through spectacles. Under the direction of this and experience the farmer soon becomes acquainted with the seasons of sowing and reaping, soon becomes an almanack to himself; eats, drinks, sleeps, &c. without troubling himself with the planets, with subtile matter, or attraction. In hot weather courts the cooling breeze, and in cold weather warms himself at the fire, just as if cold and heat were realities; and leaves the causes of these things to the first Cause. To this he prays, and in this he confides. At sea he does more, for there he trusts also to the steersman and the sailors.
The philosophers make as wild work in what they call morality, which they have converted into an art, instead of a science. Every one of them gives it a standard and basis from the vanity and fertility of his imagination, as if it had none of its own. In my own time, one celebrated writer
asserts, it is grounded entirely on truth in action ; another, on fitness of things; another, on beauty and deformity; another, on sympathy; all more or less foreign to the purpose, to which they are, at best, but circumstantial, and very inconsistent among themselves. Every conceited writer on the subject thinks himself lost to literary fame, if he cannot come forth with a new system and standard of his own. The true standard, which is one, is all this time carefully avoided, lest any honour should be done to religion, wherein, without controversy, consists the very essence and ground of morality. Angels and men are moral agents only as they are intelligent, and free to do good or evil, and, in consequence, accountable to the great Judge for what they do.
As to religion, the vanity and petulance of philosophers, falsely here called divines, are authors of still greater confusion and absurdity. There is not a principle of it, that is not by them distorted or undermined; not a rule of action, that is not enfeebled or perverted. Mountains are heaped on mountains, that heaven may be scaled, and the Divine nature itself attacked. It is a sort of secondhand blasphemy to be particular in this place. There is not an invention of man in natural or moral philosophy, that is not converted into a horn to gore the sides of religion, insomuch that the philosophical tenet, absurd in itself, thus applied, becomes monstrous, portentous, pernicious, impious. Religion itself is seen only through the whims of fanciful or ill-disposed refiners. Hence every thing becomes credible, but truth and real religion. Hence it is evident, that the Lord hath sent among the people of these times 'strong delusion, that they all should believe a lie, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness,' as he did
prophets of Ahab, because he delighted in lies, and could not bear the truth. Hence the present enormous torrent of profanation and wickedness; hence faction and rebellion; hence an infamous market of all things sacred; hence a spirit of horrible infatuation; and hence approaching destruction to church and state. But I write these things to a clergy and people, fast asleep on the very brink of ruin. This will not be read, or if it should, will be contemned.
Introduce a man of common sense into this extravagant medley of opinions made in the material world, in morality,
and religion; make him read, and then ask him his sentiments. His answer will be, that he finds himself in Bedlam.
Introduce a conceited speculatist to the same scene, and he infallibly becomes a sceptic, and soon after an Atheist; for, beholding nature, man, and religion, only through the medium of philosophy, to which he hath a congenial propensity, he feels himself battered, this way and that, by opinions plausibly defended; and instantly doubts of every thing, loses his senses, and emerges a speculative madman. Reid, Beattie, Oswald, &c., in my opinion, should have let Hume alone. His scepticism is the strongest refutation, and the severest satire on philosophy, whether in or out of the church, that ever was, or ever shall be, published. For my own part, I believe he did but pretend to be a sceptic. The man eat, drank, put on and off his clothes, like other men ; and, as an historian, was so notorious a matter-of-fact man; that I cannot take him for any thing else than barely an enemy to all religion in the mask of scepticism. Secretly stung by one religion, he could find no relief in any other ; and therefore wrote himself into a faint disbelief of all; I say faint, because, as a sceptic, he even professed a doubt of religion, and therefore could not have been a firm disbeliever. The man had a sort of sense, which forces me to think him a sort of Christian; but his infinite vanity was too strong for his little faith. His case, on this supposition, was far from being singular.
At all this, common sense is sometimes set agape ; yet still soberly goes on to plough, sow, eat, drink, sleep, wear clothes, &c.; nay, and to provide for futurity in even more important regards, just as if the high-flying speculatists had done nothing, all this time, but talk nonsense ; just as if the world were neither more nor less than what it was five thousand years ago.
It is certain such writers as I have been speaking of, will never recover their senses until they find the way to simplify their ideas of religion and philosophy. At present, every little sciolist, prompted by his own vanity, sets up for a Paschal or a Newton, as every weed in a grove aspires to be a tree. What but vanity, tempts the poor silly mortal to aim at subjects above all human capacity? At the best, what is human capacity? He that, with his hand, endeavours to grasp a globe of ten feet in diameter, does he so much as guess at either the magnitude of that globe, or the shortness of his own fingers ?
Imagination and invention are the talents of a poet. In the free exercise of these we indulge him almost to the verge of extravagance, but not beyond it. When he loses sight of common sense, we turn away our eyes, that we may lose sight of him. He is lost in subjects too sublime for him. Strength overstrained, as in Statius, appears to be less; but somewhat restrained, as in Virgil, appears greater than it is. The poet that hath eagle's wings, should have eagle's eyes too. In this case the sensible reader justly admires his flights; and though furnished but with the wings of an ostrich, as I, for instance, tries sometimes to follow him, hopping, running, and mistaking a leap for a flight. The tragedy of Alexander the Great, written by a man going mad, is not much better received by good judges, than Hurlo Thrumbo, the work of a man stark mad.
But when imagination or invention, the poet's fort, invades the province of philosophy, there is then nothing to be found among the most bombastic rants of the poets or poetasters; nothing so foreign to reason, purpose, or use, as the outrageous eccentricities of philosophers, whereof I have given a few samples, out of a much greater number, which equally shock the sober reason of mankind. The poor poets, lodged in Bedlam, have not deviated farther from sound sense, with charcoal on the walls of their cells, than the grave philosophers, in their libraries, with pens on paper. Socrates saw this in his time, and set himself to correct it, not without some degree of success.
If among the present pretenders to philosophy, a single Christian is to be found, which I much doubt, I refer him to St. Paul, 1 Cor. i. for an excellent lesson of modesty and sobriety. No man knew better how to imbibe the purport of this lesson than Berkeley; and taking it for granted that he did, I understand his Dialogues on Matter as an irony,superior to any specimen of that figure in Swift. That most sensible man, with, I am told, a good stomach, certainly did not, at dinner-time, satisfy himself with the thin diet of ideas, nor refuse a more opulent see in the North, on account of the cold, because he took cold to be nothing more than an