Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the reproaches of others, made me how easy it is to deceive ourselves think that an exact observance of du- in regard to our sentiments, though ties towards myself and my neigh- they were left entirely to our own bour, was of the greatest conse- judgment. I found on the other quence. However, I believed, from a side many that were well inclined, consideration of God and the nature though they were quite inactive. of man, that there were no particu- These and other reflections induced lar obligations towards the Supreme me to think, that virtue consisted Being, besides those which are de- in nothing else, but in actions which rived from the admiration of his are useful to society, and in a degreatness and general gratitude on sire of producing them. Ambition, account of our existence. The ac- the love of our native country, nations of man, so far as they are de- tural inclination to what is good, a termined by notions produced by well regulated self-love, or even the natural instincts, by agreeable or knowledge of religion, when they disagreeable impressions of external are considered as motives of virtue, objects, of education, of custom, and I looked upon as indifferent things, the different circumstances in which according as they happened to make he is placed, appeared to me to be different impressions upon particular such as could in particular instances persons. Reason and reflection neither please nor displease God, were, in my opinion, the only teachany more than the different events ers and regulators of virtue. He in nature which are founded in its was the most virtuous whose actions eternal laws. I was satisfied in ob- were the most useful, the most diffiserving that general as well as par. cult to be practised, and of the ticular instances tended to one most extensive influence; and no point, namely, the preservation of one could be blamed who observed the whole; and this alone was what the laws of his country, and the I thought worthy of the care of a true principles of honour. Supreme Being. My attention, “ I thought I had found in the therefore, was chiefly fixed upon nature of man sufficient powers and the duties I owed to my neighbour, springs to make him virtuous. “Rethe observance of which would as vealed religion I looked upon as unwell promote my outward happi- necessary, since it could only conness, as give me inward satisfaction. vince those whose understandings

“ The desire which every one were less enlightened, of the oblifeels for self-esteem, and a natural gations to virtue. The effects of inclination for actions useful to so- religion I never had perceived withciety, induced me to use my utmost in me; at least I never had regarded endeavours to acquire a habit of them. Its doctrines seemed to con virtue. But how could I find out tradict all the rest of my notions. true virtue, as I did not seek for it, Its morals appeared to me too where only it was to be found ? severe; and I believed I found them What a difference is there in the fully as clear, perfect, and useful in opinions of philosophers about its the writings of philosophers. If you nature and its motives ! How con- add to this the following doubts : tradictory are the decisions of men Religion is known but among a on account of the effects it pro- small part of mankind, it makes duces in particular cases! Yet these very little impression upon the minds were to determine my method of of persons in general, -- its abuse has acting, even if God did not judge produced many fatal consequences, me, and I should resign myself up few of those who professs it act to my conscience, which is so easi- agreeably to its precepts,-there is ly misled, so often overpowered by but little hope of a future life, passion, and so frequently not to God's mercy will förgive the faults be heard at all. I found at last, of error and precipitation, the nature of man contradicts the precepts my actions. But how was I able of religion and opposes them: you to do this, even were it possible to will easily imagine what inferences answer for their more immediate I drew from such premises. consequences ? Did I not deceive

“ Reason guided by understand- myself in believing that I had the ing, supported by ambition, self- strongest intentions of doing good, love, and a natural inclination to what and that I did really as much as I is decorous, became now the prin- was able to do? Was it not infatuaciple which determined my actions. tion, insensibility, and affectation, To how many errors and mistakes when I fattered myself that I should was I exposed ! I found it not dif- experience firmness and tranquillity ficult to excuse my favourite pas- in my present misfortunes ? When sions, and give myself up entirely I searched into the causes of these to the gratification of them. The misfortunes, I considered only the indulgence of my sensual desires political ones: and how much could appeared to me, at the most, to be I find to excuse myself, if I did but only a weakness, if they were not consider the nature of my situation, attended with bad consequences and the accidents it was subject to? either to myself or to others, and I had but a confused idea of my moral this could be prevented by prudence principles, and I could not reject and circumspection. I found that them, without depriving myself of many who pretended to honour and all comfort. My ideas as to futurity virtue, yet indulged them, and ex. I before told you: and as the imcused them. The manners of the pression which an object makes upon times silently permitted liberties the mind grows stronger by constantwhich were condemned only by the ly reflecting upon it, by dissipating too rigid moralist, but were treated my thoughts, and directing them to with more indulgence and tender other subjects, I could the more easily ness by those who are acquainted bear my misfortunes, and keep up with the human heart. Continence my usual spirits. was in my eyes a virtue produced « In this condition, my dear by prejudice. Whole nations sub- friend, you found me, and we began sisted without knowing or practising our conferences.” this virtue.

The interesting nature of these “ It is very humiliating to me, conferences, which extended to my dear friend, to repeat to you thirty-eight in number, shall be these false excuses, which appear to shewn in a series of extracts from me at present highly absurd. How. Dr. Munter's memoranda ; but, in ever, they will be found to be adopt. the mean time, it may be useful to ed by all those who act not quite adduce another passage from the thoughtlessly, but attempt to apo. Count's own confessions, with a view logize by arguments for the irregu- to shew the unsatisfactory and milarity of their life. How easy is it serable state of his mind while under in this manner to palliate and to the influence of sceptical surmises, justify the indulgence of every one yet partially convinced of their fur of our passions! The ambitious tility: man finds, in all that he does, patrio- " What satisfaction have I retism and a laudable ambition; the ceived of all which fortune seemed self-conceited, a noble pride, found to promise me? My passions were ed upon merit, and a justice which perhaps gratified, but in such a he owes to himself; the slanderer, a

manner as always left a void after love of truth, and innocent mirth; them. My wishes were satisfied, but and so on of the rest.

the anxiety I was under to preserve “ I hoped to escape those errors my possessions took away much of by an accurate self-examination, and the enjoyment of them. I revelan inquiry into the consequences of led in a variety of pleasures which,

by their nature, destroy one another, commit an action which deserved and are at the most nothing more reproaches, and destroyed my inward than dissipations. I grew at last happiness. insensible to the pleasures of life, ." I was ready to give up my forwhich is the natural consequence of mer principles as soon as I could being in possession of every thing discover better. I saw that they which can render life easy and agree. were liable to two objections. My able. I did not enjoy the comforts way of judging of the morality of of friendship and society, as the actions from their relations and situation I was in was extremely consequences was neither safe nor dissipated, and it required attention certain. My arguments in favour to a hundred trifles: besides, the im- of virtue might be equally applipossibility of diverting my thoughts cable to justify the gratification of from the little dependence I could my passions as to control them. place on it would not admit of any They were not sufficiently strong in real satisfaction. Supposing, too, their effects, and were also liable to that I even had good intentions, be misinterpreted when my passions and the means of putting them became too impetuous. Conscience, into practice, and that my faults the inward sense of what is good or were only the consequences of in- bad, and the fear of God, seemed not attention and natural weakness, I to obviate this difficulty; because should lose all the comforts I might I found sufficient reasons to disallow derive from the former, by reproach- them, and my sensuality would not ing myself on account of the latter. permit me to feel their impression.” I might have avoided them by re- The Count proceeds to mention collecting all their consequences, some of the books and arguments according to their different relations. which began to shake his infidel However, even this was impossible opinions. A few passages from this when my passions represented to me part of his confessions will serve as the danger in which my own happi- an introduction to Dr. Munter's more ness and that of others was involved, detailed account. and the impossibility of providing “ You know, my dear friend, against consequences which were how much these truths increased my then at a distance. When my pas- uneasiness: I saw continually new sions and my reason were in opposi- objects, which hitherto had remaintion, and the understanding was to ed undiscovered, on account of the decide, I might have been always in- liveliness of the first impressions. clined in favour of that side where the The indifference I had to any fixed pleasure seemed nearest, and pain at principles, my neglect of every single the greatest distance. Ambition and obligation, my remissness in doing self-love, and the influence our ac- good, when I had opportunity or tions have upon one another, are abilities for it, the mischief which easily explained, and in their appli- my example and the propagation of cation found sufficient to answer my principles might do, the distheir purposes. I could not now pleasure of God which my transdeny but that my principles were gressions must draw upon me; all not capable of procuring me moral these circumstances united produced tranquillity, that my passions bad in me the greatest anxiety. And been the chief springs of all my how could I lessen the anxiety such actions, and that no other comfort reflections occasioned me? I took remained for me but that which is the resolution to act according to derived from the inconstancy of hu- that truth which I had found. I man affairs. I might be indebted had a lively sense of my former to my principles for my, success in transgressions; but from whence life, and my activity but I must could I derive the hopes of repair=' reject them if they induced me to ing what was done, or burying it in

oblivion? It is uncertain whether and that he was sent to instruct us, good intentions will always be equal, and that he himself was the true ly strong: perhaps new enticements God, no further excuse remains for and the errors of my understand- our ignorance and error. Every ing may overpower them. The one to whom the opportunity is offerthought which is directed towards ed, and who will accept of it, can God, the feelings, conscience, and easily convince himself of its truth." the recollection of its reproaches, “ Christ has commanded me to bemay be weakened. Virtue cannot lieve that he was very God and very prevent vice from being hurtful, man, and the Son of God; and that much less can it repair the damage in the Divine nature the Father, which is done. Time, opportuni- Son, and Holy Ghost are one. This ties, and former situations were lost seemed to contradict all the notions to me, and but little comfort was which I had hitherto entertained. left me from this view. When I But I knew that the word of Christ reflected on the idea which reason was unerring truth; that he must be afforded me of God, I had but lit- fully acquainted with these myste=' tle hope to flatter myself that my ries; and that I had not the least sins would be forgiven. If I at- reason to imagine he would require tempted to form the most favour- of me to believe any thing that was able idea of God's mercy, that he contradictory to reason. It might would consider the weakness and be above my understanding; but imperfection of human nature, I how many things do we meet with in saw at the same time his justice and the course of nature, the existence immutability, which were directly of which we cannot deny, without contrary to this idea."

being able to explain why they are “ A Divine revelation had ap- so, and how they are connected peared to me unnecessary, its his- with their causes? I felt myself torical evidence dubious, and the obliged to believe these mysteries facts related seemed to be very im- upon the word of Christ : nevertheprobable.” “ The examination of less I have considered them with the historical arguments of Divine great attention, without finding them revelation with care and precaution contradictory." has satisfied and convinced me. Be-, “I reflect on Christ's redemption, ing certain of this, it was an easy to which my understanding can dismatter for me to remove all my cover no objection. I am convinced other doubts. I was certain there how necessary it is for my happimust be stronger arguments to con- ness to know, that my actions are vince us, than those which mere not indifferent to God : and now I reason furnishes us with.” “ Our am assured, with all historical cerinternal sensations, conscience, and tainty, that Christ lived, and was the contemplation of nature, seldom proved to be intimately connected carry us so far back as to make any with the Deity, by performing such alteration in our moral conduct. actions as cannot be explained by The will of God, in regard to our natural causes. He assures me of happiness, remains doubtful to our his friendship; and I cannot conreason, as long as it is left to the ceive what advantage could arise to decision of our understanding. The him, or what intention he could various revelations in the Old Tes- have to deceive me. I am inclined tament, prophecies, laws, and re- to believe my friend in a matter in markable punishments, might be which his former transactions have looked upon as impostures of men, convinced me that his knowledge is and as things which arose from na- superior to mine, if my understandtural causes : but since Christ has ing finds nothing contradictory in it. come into the world, and told us Christ tells me, that he knows the that his doctrine was the will of God, ., will of God, and that God himself speaks to me through him, which cause I was still full of doubts. The certainly is the best way to learn examination of the truth of the his will. The doctrines he incul. Christian religion became more cates agree with those which my agreeable to me the more I advanced own reason teaches to be necessary in it. My reason was satisfied with for my happiness; and I was sen- it, but I did not find those inward sible how easily I could misapply feelings which, as I had heard, were these doctrines, if I did not always connected with true Christianity, remember that God saw my actions. according to the confused notions of Whatever determined me formerly some people. Spalding's book set to act in such a manner as my own me right in this point. I found here happiness required, I owed to other how difficult it is to get rid of opicauses and intentions; and why nions and sentiments which are beshould I not have interpreted the come a second nature, though I was actions and kindness of Christ in convinced that they were false and the same manner ? He recals to destructive. My doubts arose coumy memory whatever I know from trary to my wishes; and I did not political and natural history, and pass them over before I had examinexpressly assures me that extraor- ed them separately, and had fredinary events were designed for this quently reflected on the arguments purpose. He sums up all these to- for the truth of religion. gether in this single proposition : “ The application of its doctrines God loves man as a father; he shews produced within me a lively repenthimself as a friend."

ga q**) TINI

ance, sorrow, shame, and senti“ How am I indebted to him that ments of humility. With anxiety he has made himself known to me and fear I waited for the comfort in so extraordinary a manner! I which the Gospel promised me. To could not even expect to deserve regulate my sentiments agreeably the happy consequences of the re- to its precepts was my chief emsolution I had made of obeying ployment. The perpetual rememChrist's precepts; since, without the brance of the greatness of God's perpetual assistance of the Spirit of mercy, which was shewn to me by God, I am unable to obey them, the redemption of Christ, made me and since, notwithstanding this as- overcome those difficulties which sistance, I so frequently neglect and arose from my natural disposition. forget them.”

The pleasure of finding a happiness, “I believe these three to be but which I hitherto had wilfully reone God, and the idea I have makes nounced, could not produce in me the Trinity not different deities. a lively joy, because I remembered · All this is conformable to my that I had been seeking it formerly reason. However, I durst not hope, in a manner that could not please considering God and myself, that God. It was impossible to make this Supreme Being would be so myself perfectly easy. I was premerciful as to teachine how, ac- vented from this by the thought, that cording to the sentiments of my if I had formerly entertained my own understanding, I could be present sentiments, I might have happy. Full of gratitude, and con- thereby excited those persons with scious of my being unworthy, I whom í had been most intimate to adore his condescension, and shall inquire after the same happiness. never desist to adore and praise the Now I am praying to God that he may mercy shewn to me through Christ. do it, and I am persuaded he will,

“ I was greatly affected when I since Christ has promised to answer read the life of Christ. It increased prayer. Prayer abates the uneasiness my former pains, and gave me new I have on this and other subjects, ones. But I was afraid it was ow. which are truly painful for me to ing to my disposition of mind, be- remember. I direct my thoughts to CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 275.

4 T

« ZurückWeiter »