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Mr. GIBBON says, “ He died the death of a Philosopher * !” Bravo! Bravo ! If Philosophers die in such
all his pretensions to philosophy, he was an advocate for adultery and suicide. The reader will find a suficient answer to his sophistry in Horne's Letters on Infidelity, Beattie's Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, in Opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism, and CAMPBELL on the Miracles of Christ. s Mr. GIBBON was one of the most respectable Deists of the present age, and more like unto Hume, in several respects, than any other of the opposers of Christianity, Very sufficient reasons, however, are to be given for his Infidelity, without in the least impeaching the credit of the evangelical system. Mr. Porson, in the preface to his Letters to Mr. Archdeacon TRAVIS, after giving a very high, and, indeed, just character of Mr. Gibbon's celebrated History, seems to me to account for his rejecting the Gospel in a satisfactory manner, from the state of his mind. “ He shews,” says this learned Gentleman, so strong a dislike " to Christianity, as visibly disqualifies him for that society, of which ! he has created AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS president. I confess
that I see nothing wrong in Mr. GIBBON's attack on Christianity": • It proceeded, I doubt not, from the purest and most virtuous motive. “ We can only blame him for carrying on the attack in an insidious
manner, and with improper motives. He often makes, when he cannot
readily find, an occasion to insult our religion ; which he hates so cor. “ dially that he might seem to revenge some personal injury. Such is "his eagerness in the cause, that he stoops to the most despicable pun,
or to the most awkward perversion of language, for the pleasure of turning Scripture into ribaldry, or of calling Jesus an impostor. A
rage for indecency pervades the whole work, but especially the last “ volumes.--If the history were anonymous, I should guess that these “ disgraceful obscenities were written by some debauchee, who, having “ froin age, or accident, or excess, survived the practice of lust, still <? indulged himself in the luxury of speculation ; and exposed the impotent " imbecility, after he had lost the vigour of the passions."
Such are the opposers of Jesus and his Gospel!-Let us see how this sneering antagonist of Christianity terminated his mortal carcer.
Eager for the continuation of his present existence, having little ex. pectation of any future one, he declared to a friend about twenty-four hours previous to his departure, in a flow of self-gratulation, that he thought himself a good life for ten, twelve, or perhaps twenty years.And during his short illness, it is observable, that he never gave the least intimation of a future state of existence. This insensibility at the hour of dissolution, is, in the language of scepticism, dying like a clever fellow the death of a Pbilosopber!
See Evans's Attempt to account for the Inglidelity of EDWARD GIBBON, Esq.
* This seems a culyable excess of candour, amounting almost to in. difference.
a manner, may it be my lot to die like an old-fashioned and enthusiastic Christian !
8. Of all the accounts which are left us of the latter end of those who are gone before into the eternal state, several are more horrible, but few so affecting as that which is given us, by his own pen, of the late all-accomplished Earl of CHESTERFIELD. It shews us, incontestibly, what a poor creature man is, notwithstanding the highest polish he is capable of receiving, without the knowledge and experience of those satisfactions which true religion yields; and what egregious fools all those persons are, who squander away their precious time in what the world, by a strange perversion of language, calls pleasure.
“I have enjoyed,” says this finished character, "all the pleasures of this world, and consequently know their futility, and do not regret their loss. I appraise them at their real value, which, in truth, is very low, whereas those who have not experienced, always over-rate them, They only see their gay outside, and are dazzled with their glare ; but I have been behind the scenes. It is a common notion, and, like many common ones, a very false one,
that those who have led a life of pleasure and business, can never be easy in retirement; whereas I am persuaded that they are the only people who can, if they have any sense and reflection. They can look back oculo irretorto (without an evil eye) upon what they from knowledge despise; others have always a hankering after what they are not acquainted with. I look upon all that has passed as one of those romantic dreams that opium commonly occasions, and I do by no means desire to repeat the nauseous dose, for the sake of the fugitive dream.—When I say that I have no regret, I do not mean that I have no reinorse, for a life either of business,
Among all the nu.nerous volumes that Mr. GIBBON read, it does not appear that he ever perused any able defence, or judicious explication of the Christian religion.-Consult his Memoirs and Diary written by himself. His conversion and re-conversion terminated in Deism; or rather, perhaps, io a settled indifference to all religion. He never more gave himself much concern about it.
or, still more of pleasure, never was, and never will be a state of innocence. But God, who knows the strength of human passions, and the weakness of human reason, will, it is to be hoped, rather mercifully pardon, than justly punish, acknowledged errors.
I have been as wicked and as vain, though not so wise as SOLOMON: but am now at last wise enough to feel and attest the truth of his reflection, that all is vanity and veration of spirit. This truth is never sufficiently discovered or felt by mere speculation: experience in this case is necessary for conviction, though perhaps at the expence of some morality.
My health is always bad, though sometimes better and sonetimes worse; and my deafness deprives me of the comforts of society, which other people have in their illnesses. This, you must allow, is an unfortunate latter end of my life, and consequently a tiresome one; but I must own too, that it is a sort of balance to the tumul. tuous and imaginary pleasures of the former part of it. I consider my present wretched old age as a just compensation for the follies, not to say sips of my youth. At the same time I am thankful that I feel none of those torturing ills which frequently attend the last stage of life, and I flatter myself that I shall go off quietly, but I am sure with resignation. My stay in this world cannot be long: God, who placed me here, only knows when he will order me out of it; but whenever he does, I shall willingly obey liis command. I wait for it, imploring the mercy of my CREATOR, and deprecating his justice. The best of us must trust to the former, and dread the latter.
“ I think I am not afraid of my journey's end, but will not answer for myself, when the object draws very near, and is very sure.
For when one does see death near, let the best or the worst people say what they please, it is a serious consideration. The divine attribute of Mercy, which gives us comfort, cannot make us forget, nor ought it, the attribute of Justice, which must blend some fears with our hope.
“ Life is neither a burden nor a pleasure to me; but a certain degree of ennui necessarily attends that neutral
state, which makes me very willing to part with it, when He who placed me here thinks fit to call me away. When I reflect, however, upon the poor remainder of my life, I look upon it as a burden that must every day grow heavier and heavier, from the natural progression of physical ills, the usual companions of increasing years, and my reason tells me, that I should wish for the end of it; but instinct, often stronger than reason, and perhaps oftener in the right, makes me take all proper methods to put it off. This innate sentiment alone makes me bear life with patience; for I assure you I have no farther hopes; but, on the contrary, many fears from it. None of the primitive Anachoretes in the Thebais could be more detached from life than I am. I consider it as one who is wholly unconcerned in it, and even when I reflect upon what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done myself, I can hardly persuade myself that all that frivolous hurry and bustle, and pleasures of the world, had any reality, but they seem to have been the dreams of restless nights. This philosophy, however, I thank God, neither makes me sour nor melancholic: I see the folly and absurdity of mankind, without indignation or peevishness. I wish them wiser, and consequently better than they are *.'
* Miscellaneous Works, vol. 3, passim.-The Letters of this celebrated Nobleman, which he wrote to his Son, contain positive evidence, that, with all his honours, learning, wit, politeness, he was a thorough bad man, with a heart full of deceit and uncleanness. Those Letters have been a pest to the young Nobility and Gentry of this nation. It may be ques. tioned whether Rochester's Poems ever did more harm. This cele. brated nobleman was accounted, not only the most polite and well-bred man of his time, but the greatest wit. Various Jeux d'Esprit are ac. cordingly handed about, as having proceeded from him, on different occasions. The two following, which contain an allusion to the Sacred Writ. ings, I will take the liberty of presenting to the reader.
Chesterfield being invited to dine with the Spanish ambassador, met with the Minister of France and some others, After dinner, the Spaniard proposed a toast, and begged to give his Master under the title of the Sun. "'The French ambassador's turn came next, who gave bis onder the description of the Moon. Lord ChesTERFIELD being asked for his, replied, “ Your Excellencies have taken from me all the greatest
This is the life, these are the mortifying acknowledgments, and this is the poor sneaking end of the best bred man of the age ! Not one word about a Mediator! He acknowledges, indeed, his frailties; but yet in such a way as to extenuate his offences.
One would suppose him to have been an old Heathen philosopher, that had never heard of the name of Jesus, rather than a penitent Christian, whoselife had abounded with a variety of vices.
How little is man, in his most finished estate, without religion ! Let us hear in what manner the lively Believer in Jesus takes his leave of this mortal scene :- I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith ; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day.
9. The sad evening before the death of the Noble ALTAMONT, I was with him. No one was there but his physician, and an intimate friend whom he loved, and whom he had ruined. At my coming in, he said ;
" You and the physician are come too late. - I have neither life nor hope. You both aim at miracles. "You would raise the dead!"
"luminaries of heaven, and the stars are too small for a comparison “ with my royal Master; I therefore beg leave to give your Excellencies, “ JOSHUA !"
The other instance is still more pertinent. The Earl being at Brut. şels was waited on by VOLTAIRE, who politely invited him to sup with him and Madame - His Lordship accepted the invi. tation. The conversation happening to turn upon the affairs of England, " I think, my Lord," said Madame C
" that the Parliament “ of England consists of five or six hundred of the best informed and " most sensible men in the kingdom?"-" True, Madame ; they are “ generally supposed to be so."-"What then, my Lord, can be the “ reason that they tolerate so great an absurdity as the Christian reli. "gion ?"" I suppose, Madame," replied his Lordship, “it is be.
cause they have not been able to substitute any thing better in its “ stead : when they can, I don't doubt but in their wisdom they will " readily accept it,"
To have entered into a serious defence of the Gospel of CĦRIST, with such a pert and fippant lady, would have been the height of folly; but such an answer as this, was calculated to do her over better than a thou. sand demonstrations, which she would peither have been able nor willing to understand