Front Page Titles (by Subject) VOLTAIRE A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY Vol. VII — Part I - The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VII (Philosophical Dictionary Part 5)
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VOLTAIRE A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY Vol. VII — Part I - Voltaire, The Works of Voltaire, Vol. VII (Philosophical Dictionary Part 5) 
The Works of Voltaire, A Contemporary Version, (New York: E.R. DuMont, 1901), A Critique and Biography by John Morley, notes by Tobias Smollett, trans. William F. Fleming. Vol. VII.
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The WORKS of VOLTAIRE
“Between two servants of Humanity, who appeared eighteen hundred years apart, there is a mysterious relation. * * * * Let us say it with a sentiment of profound respect: JESUS WEPT: VOLTAIRE SMILED. Of that divine tear and of that human smile is composed the sweetness of the present civilization.”
A PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY.
“Liberty and property” is the great national cry of the English. It is certainly better than “St. George and my right,” or “St. Denis and Montjoie”; it is the cry of nature. From Switzerland to China the peasants are the real occupiers of the land. The right of conquest alone has, in some countries, deprived men of a right so natural.The general advantage or good of a nation is that of the sovereign, of the magistrate, and of the people, both in peace and war. Is this possession of lands by the peasantry equally conducive to the prosperity of the throne and the people in all periods and circumstances? In order to its being the most beneficial system for the throne, it must be that which produces the most considerable revenue, and the most numerous and powerful army.
We must inquire, therefore, whether this principle or plan tends clearly to increase commerce and population. It is certain that the possessor of an estate will cultivate his own inheritance better than that of another. The spirit of property doubles a man’s strength. He labors for himself and his family both with more vigor and pleasure than he would for a master. The slave, who is in the power of another, has but little inclination for marriage; he often shudders even at the thought of producing slaves like himself. His industry is damped; his soul is brutalized; and his strength is never exercised in its full energy and elasticity. The possessor of property, on the contrary, desires a wife to share his happiness, and children to assist in his labors. His wife and children constitute his wealth. The estate of such a cultivator, under the hands of an active and willing family, may become ten times more productive than it was before. The general commerce will be increased. The treasure of the prince will accumulate. The country will supply more soldiers. It is clear, therefore, that the system is beneficial to the prince. Poland would be thrice as populous and wealthy as it is at present if the peasants were not slaves.
Nor is the system less beneficial to the great landlords. If we suppose one of these to possess ten thousand acres of land cultivated by serfs, these ten thousand acres will produce him but a very scanty revenue, which will be frequently absorbed in repairs, and reduced to nothing by the irregularity and severity of the seasons. What will he in fact be, although his estates may be vastly more extensive than we have mentioned, if at the same time they are unproductive? He will be merely the possessor of an immense solitude. He will never be really rich but in proportion as his vassals are so; his prosperity depends on theirs. If this prosperity advances so far as to render the land too populous; if land is wanting to employ the labor of so many industrious hands—as hands in the first instance were wanting to cultivate the land—then the superfluity of necessary laborers will flow off into cities and seaports, into manufactories and armies. Population will have produced this decided benefit, and the possession of the lands by the real cultivators, under payment of a rent which enriches the landlords, will have been the cause of this increase of population.
There is another species of property not less beneficial; it is that which is freed from payment of rent altogether, and which is liable only to those general imposts which are levied by the sovereign for the support and benefit of the state. It is this property which has contributed in a particular manner to the wealth of England, of France, and the free cities of Germany. The sovereigns who thus enfranchised the lands which constituted their domains, derived, in the first instance, vast advantage from so doing by the franchises which they disposed of being eagerly purchased at high prices; and they derive from it, even at the present day, a greater advantage still, especially in France and England, by the progress of industry and commerce.
England furnished a grand example to the sixteenth century by enfranchising the lands possessed by the church and the monks. Nothing could be more odious and nothing more pernicious than the before prevailing practice of men, who had voluntarily bound themselves, by the rules of their order, to a life of humility and poverty, becoming complete masters of the very finest estates in the kingdom, and treating their brethren of mankind as mere useful animals, as no better than beasts to bear their burdens. The state and opulence of this small number of priests degraded human nature; their appropriated and accumulated wealth impoverished the rest of the kingdom. The abuse was destroyed, and England became rich.
In all the rest of Europe commerce has never flourished; the arts have never attained estimation and honor, and cities have never advanced both in extent and embellishment, except when the serfs of the Crown and the Church held their lands in property. And it is deserving of attentive remark that if the Church thus lost rights, which in fact never truly belonged to it, the Crown gained an extension of its legitimate rights; for the Church, whose first obligation and professed principle it is to imitate its great legislator in humility and poverty, was not originally instituted to fatten and aggrandize itself upon the fruit of the labors of mankind; and the sovereign, who is the representative of the State, is bound to manage with economy, the produce of that same labor for the good of the State itself, and for the splendor of the throne. In every country where the people labor for the Church, the State is poor; but wherever they labor for themselves and the sovereign, the State is rich.
It is in these circumstances that commerce everywhere extends its branches. The mercantile navy becomes a school for the warlike navy. Great commercial companies are formed. The sovereign finds in periods of difficulty and danger resources before unknown. Accordingly, in the Austrian states, in England, and in France, we see the prince easily borrowing from his subjects a hundred times more than he could obtain by force while the people were bent down to the earth in slavery.
All the peasants will not be rich, nor is it necessary that they should be so. The State requires men who possess nothing but strength and good will. Even such, however, who appear to many as the very outcasts of fortune, will participate in the prosperity of the rest. They will be free to dispose of their labor at the best market, and this freedom will be an effective substitute for property. The assured hope of adequate wages will support their spirits, and they will bring up their families in their own laborious and serviceable occupations with success, and even with gayety. It is this class, so despised by the great and opulent, that constitutes, be it remembered, the nursery for soldiers. Thus, from kings to shepherds, from the sceptre to the scythe, all is animation and prosperity, and the principle in question gives new force to every exertion.
After having ascertained whether it is beneficial to a State that the cultivators should be proprietors, it remains to be shown how far this principle may be properly carried. It has happened, in more kingdoms than one, that the emancipated serf has attained such wealth by his skill and industry as has enabled him to occupy the station of his former masters, who have become reduced and impoverished by their luxury. He has purchased their lands and assumed their titles; the old noblesse have been degraded, and the new have been only envied and despised. Everything has been thrown into confusion. Those nations which have permitted such usurpations, have been the sport and scorn of such as have secured themselves against an evil so baneful. The errors of one government may become a lesson for others. They profit by its wise and salutary institutions; they may avoid the evil it has incurred through those of an opposite tendency.
It is so easy to oppose the restrictions of law to the cupidity and arrogance of upstart proprietors, to fix the extent of lands which wealthy plebeians may be allowed to purchase, to prevent their acquisition of large seigniorial property and privileges, that a firm and wise government can never have cause to repent of having enfranchised servitude and enriched indigence. A good is never productive of evil but when it is carried to a culpable excess, in which case it completely ceases to be a good. The examples of other nations supply a warning; and on this principle it is easy to explain why those communities, which have most recently attained civilization and regular government, frequently surpass the masters from whom they drew their lessons.
This word, in its ordinary acceptation, signifies prediction of the future. It is in this sense that Jesus declared to His disciples: “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures.”
We shall feel the indispensable necessity of having our minds opened to comprehend the prophecies, if we reflect that the Jews, who were the depositories of them, could never recognize Jesus for the Messiah, and that for eighteen centuries our theologians have disputed with them to fix the sense of some which they endeavor to apply to Jesus. Such is that of Jacob—“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.” That of Moses—“The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet like unto me from the nations and from thy brethren; unto Him shall ye hearken.” That of Isaiah—“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” That of Daniel—“Seventy weeks have been determined in favor of thy people,” etc. But our object here is not to enter into theological detail.
Let us merely observe what is said in the Acts of the Apostles, that in giving a successor to Judas, and on other occasions, they acted expressly to accomplish prophecies; but the apostles themselves sometimes quote such as are not found in the Jewish writings; such is that alleged by St. Matthew: “And He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”
St. Jude, in his epistle, also quotes a prophecy from the book of “Enoch,” which is apocryphal; and the author of the imperfect work on St. Matthew, speaking of the star seen in the East by the Magi, expresses himself in these terms: “It is related to me on the evidence of I know not what writing, which is not authentic, but which far from destroying faith encourages it, that there was a nation on the borders of the eastern ocean which possessed a book that bears the name of Seth, in which the star that appeared to the Magi is spoken of, and the presents which these Magi offered to the Son of God. This nation, instructed by the book in question, chose twelve of the most religious persons amongst them, and charged them with the care of observing whenever this star should appear. When any of them died, they substituted one of their sons or relations. They were called magi in their tongue, because they served God in silence and with a low voice.
“These Magi went every year, after the corn harvest, to a mountain in their country, which they called the Mount of Victory, and which is very agreeable on account of the fountains that water and the trees which cover it. There is also a cistern dug in the rock, and after having there washed and purified themselves, they offered sacrifices and prayed to God in silence for three days.
“They had not continued this pious practice for many generations, when the happy star descended on their mountain. They saw in it the figure of a little child, on which there appeared that of the cross. It spoke to them and told them to go to Judæa. They immediately departed, the star always going before them, and were two days on the road.”
This prophecy of the book of Seth resembles that of Zorodascht or Zoroaster, except that the figure seen in his star was that of a young virgin, and Zoroaster says not that there was a cross on her. This prophecy, quoted in the “Gospel of the Infancy,” is thus related by Abulpharagius: “Zoroaster, the master of the Magi, instructed the Persians of the future manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and commanded them to offer Him presents when He was born. He warned them that in future times a virgin should conceive without the operation of any man, and that when she brought her Son into the world, a star should appear which would shine at noonday, in the midst of which they would see the figure of a young virgin. ‘You, my children,’ adds Zoroaster, ‘will see it before all nations. When, therefore, you see this star appear, go where it will conduct you. Adore this dawning child; offer it presents, for it is the word which created heaven.’ ”
The accomplishment of this prophecy is related in Pliny’s “Natural History”; but besides that the appearance of the star should have preceded the birth of Jesus by about forty years, this passage seems very suspicious to scholars, and is not the first nor only one which might have been interpolated in favor of Christianity. This is the exact account of it: “There appeared at Rome for seven days a comet so brilliant that the sight of it could scarcely be supported; in the middle of it a god was perceived under the human form; they took it for the soul of Julius Cæsar, who had just died, and adored it in a particular temple.”
M. Assermany, in his “Eastern Library,” also speaks of a book of Solomon, archbishop of Bassora, entitled “The Bee,” in which there is a chapter on this prediction of Zoroaster. Hornius, who doubted not its authenticity, has pretended that Zoroaster was Balaam, and that was very likely, because Origen, in his first book against Celsus, says that the Magi had no doubt of the prophecies of Balaam, of which these words are found in Numbers: “There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.” But Balaam was no more a Jew than Zoroaster, since he said himself that he came from Aram—from the mountains of the East.
Besides, St. Paul speaks expressly to Titus of a Cretan prophet, and St. Clement of Alexandria acknowledged that God, wishing to save the Jews, gave them prophets; with the same motive, He ever created the most excellent men of Greece; those who were the most proper to receive His grace, He separated from the vulgar, to be prophets of the Greeks, in order to instruct them in their own tongue. “Has not Plato,” he further says, “in some manner predicted the plan of salvation, when in the second book of his ‘Republic,’ he has imitated this expression of Scripture: ‘Let us separate ourselves from the Just, for he incommodes us’; and he expresses himself in these terms: ‘The Just shall be beaten with rods, His eyes shall be put out, and after suffering all sorts of evils, He shall at last be crucified.’ ”
St. Clement might have added, that if Jesus Christ’s eyes were not put out, notwithstanding the prophecy, neither were His bones broken, though it is said in a psalm: “While they break My bones, My enemies who persecute Me overwhelm Me with their reproaches.” On the contrary, St. John says positively that the soldiers broke the legs of two others who were crucified with Him, but they broke not those of Jesus, that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “A bone of Him shall not be broken.”
This Scripture, quoted by St. John, extended to the letter of the paschal lamb, which ought to be eaten by the Israelites; but John the Baptist having called Jesus the Lamb of God, not only was the application of it given to Him, but it is even pretended that His death was predicted by Confucius. Spizeli quotes the history of China by Maitinus, in which it is related that in the thirty-ninth year of the reign of King-hi, some hunters outside the gates of the town killed a rare animal which the Chinese called kilin, that is to say, the Lamb of God. At this news, Confucius struck his breast, sighed profoundly, and exclaimed more than once: “Kilin, who has said that thou art come?” He added: “My doctrine draws to an end; it will no longer be of use, since you will appear.”
Another prophecy of the same Confucius is also found in his second book, which is applied equally to Jesus, though He is not designated under the name of the Lamb of God. This is it: We need not fear but that when the expected Holy One shall come, all the honor will be rendered to His virtue which is due to it. His works will be conformable to the laws of heaven and earth.
These contradictory prophecies found in the Jewish books seem to excuse their obstinacy, and give good reason for the embarrassment of our theologians in their controversy with them. Further, those which we are about to relate of other people, prove that the author of Numbers, the apostles and fathers, recognized prophets in all nations. The Arabs also pretend this, who reckon a hundred and eighty thousand prophets from the creation of the world to Mahomet, and believe that each of them was sent to a particular nation. We shall speak of prophetesses in the article on “Sibyls.”
Prophets still exist: we had two at the Bicêtre in 1723, both calling themselves Elias. They were whipped; which put it out of all doubt. Before the prophets of Cévennes, who fired off their guns from behind hedges in the name of the Lord in 1704, Holland had the famous Peter Jurieu, who published the “Accomplishment of the Prophecies.” But that Holland may not be too proud, he was born in France, in a little town called Mer, near Orleans. However, it must be confessed that it was at Rotterdam alone that God called him to prophesy.
This Jurieu, like many others, saw clearly that the pope was the beast in the “Apocalypse,” that he held “poculum aureum plenum abominationum,” the golden cup full of abominations; that the four first letters of these four Latin words formed the word papa; that consequently his reign was about to finish; that the Jews would re-enter Jerusalem; that they would reign over the whole world during a thousand years; after which would come the Antichrist; finally, Jesus seated on a cloud would judge the quick and the dead.
Jurieu prophesies expressly that the time of the great revolution and the entire fall of papistry “will fall justly in the year 1689, which I hold,” says he, “to be the time of the apocalyptic vintage, for the two witnesses will revive at this time; after which, France will break with the pope before the end of this century, or at the commencement of the next, and the rest of the anti-Christian empire will be everywhere abolished.”
The disjunctive particle “or,” that sign of doubt, is not in the manner of an adroit man. A prophet should not hesitate; he may be obscure, but he ought to be sure of his fact.
The revolution in papistry not happening in 1689, as Peter Jurieu predicted, he quickly published a new edition, in which he assured the public that it would be in 1690; and, what is more astonishing, this edition was immediately followed by another. It would have been very beneficial if Bayle’s “Dictionary” had had such a run in the first instance; the works of the latter have, however, remained, while those of Peter Jurieu are not even to be found by the side of Nostradamus.
All was not left to a single prophet. An English Presbyterian, who studied at Utrecht, combated all which Jurieu said on the seven vials and seven trumpets of the Apocalypse, on the reign of a thousand years, the conversion of the Jews, and even on Antichrist. Each supported himself by the authority of Cocceius, Coterus, Drabicius, and Commenius, great preceding prophets, and by the prophetess Christina. The two champions confined themselves to writing; we hoped they would give each other blows, as Zedekiah smacked the face of Micaiah, saying: “Which way went the spirit of the Lord from my hand to thy cheek?” or literally: “How has the spirit passed from thee to me?” The public had not this satisfaction, which is a great pity.
It belongs to the infallible church alone to fix the true sense of prophecies, for the Jews have always maintained, with their usual obstinacy, that no prophecy could regard Jesus Christ; and the Fathers of the Church could not dispute with them with advantage, since, except St. Ephrem, the great Origen, and St. Jerome, there was never any Father of the Church who knew a word of Hebrew.
It is not until the ninth century that Raban the Moor, afterwards bishop of Mayence, learned the Jewish language. His example was followed by some others, and then they began disputing with the rabbi on the sense of the prophecies.
Raban was astonished at the blasphemies which they uttered against our Saviour; calling Him a bastard, impious son of Panther, and saying that it is not permitted them to pray to God without cursing Jesus: “Quod nulla oratio posset apud Deum accepta esse nisi in ea Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum maledicant. Confitentes eum esse impium et filium impii, id est, nescio cujus œthnici quem nominant Panthera, a quo dicunt matrem Domini adulteratam.”
These horrible profanations are found in several places in the “Talmud,” in the books of Nizachon, in the dispute of Rittangel, in those of Jechiel and Nachmanides, entitled the “Bulwark of Faith,” and above all in the abominable work of the Toldos Jeschut. It is particularly in the “Bulwark of Faith” of the Rabbin Isaac, that they interpret all the prophecies which announce Jesus Christ by applying them to other persons.
We are there assured that the Trinity is not alluded to in any Hebrew book, and that there is not found in them the slightest trace of our holy religion. On the contrary, they point out a hundred passages, which, according to them, assert that the Mosaic law should eternally remain.
The famous passage which should confound the Jews, and make the Christian religion triumph in the opinion of all our great theologians, is that of Isaiah: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know how to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall whistle for the flies that are in the brooks of Egypt, and for the bees that are in the land of Assyria. In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head and the hair of the genitals, and he will also consume the beard.
“Moreover, the Lord said unto me, take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zachariah the son of Jeberechiah. And I went in unto the prophetess; and she conceived and bare a son; then said the Lord to me, call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry my father and my mother, the riches of Damascus, and the spoil of Samaria, shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.”
The Rabbin Isaac affirms, with all the other doctors of his law, that the Hebrew word “alma” sometimes signifies a virgin and sometimes a married woman; that Ruth is called “alma” when she was a mother; that even an adulteress is sometimes called “alma”; that nobody is meant here but the wife of the prophet Isaiah; that her son was not called Immanuel, but Maher-shalal-hash-baz; that when this son should eat honey and butter, the two kings who besieged Jerusalem would be driven from the country, etc.
Thus these blind interpreters of their own religion, and their own language, combated with the Church, and obstinately maintained, that this prophecy cannot in any manner regard Jesus Christ. We have a thousand times refuted their explication in our modern languages. We have employed force, gibbets, racks, and flames; yet they will not give up.
“He has borne our ills, he has sustained our griefs, and we have beheld him afflicted with sores, stricken by God, and afflicted.” However striking this prediction may appear to us, these obstinate Jews say that it has no relationship to Jesus Christ, and that it can only regard the prophets who were persecuted for the sins of the people.
“And behold my servant shall prosper, shall be honored, and raised very high.” They say, further, that the foregoing passage regards not Jesus Christ but David; that this king really did prosper, but that Jesus, whom they deny, did not prosper. “Behold I will make a new pact with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” They say that this passage signifies not, according to the letter and the sense, anything more than—I will renew my covenant with Judah and with Israel. However, this pact has not been renewed; and they cannot make a worse bargain than they have made. No matter, they are obstinate.
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth a ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
They dare to deny that this prophecy applies to Jesus Christ. They say that it is evident that Micah speaks of some native captain of Bethlehem, who shall gain some advantage in the war against the Babylonians: for the moment after he speaks of the history of Babylon, and of the seven captains who elected Darius. And if we demonstrate that he treated of the Messiah, they still will not agree.
The Jews are grossly deceived in Judah, who should be a lion, and who has only been an ass under the Persians, Alexander, the Seleucides, Ptolemys, Romans, Arabs, and Turks.
They know not what is understood by the Shiloh, and by the rod, and the thigh of Judah. The rod has been in Judæa but a very short time. They say miserable things; but the Abbé Houteville says not much more with his phrases, his neologism, and oratorical eloquence; a writer who always puts words in the place of things, and who proposes very difficult objections merely to reply to them by frothy discourse, or idle words!
All this is, therefore, labor in vain; and when the French abbé would make a still larger book, when he would add to the five or six thousand volumes which we have on the subject, we shall only be more fatigued, without advancing a single step.
We are, therefore, plunged in a chaos which it is impossible for the weakness of the human mind to set in order. Once more, we have need of a church which judges without appeal. For in fact, if a Chinese, a Tartar, or an African, reduced to the misfortune of having only good sense, read all these prophecies, it would be impossible for him to apply them to Jesus Christ, the Jews, or to anyone else. He would be in astonishment and uncertainty, would conceive nothing, and would not have a single distinct idea. He could not take a step in this abyss without a guide. With this guide, he arrives not only at the sanctuary of virtue, but at good canonships, at large commanderies, opulent abbeys, the crosiered and mitred abbots of which are called monseigneur by his monks and peasants, and to bishoprics which give the title of prince. In a word, he enjoys earth, and is sure of possessing heaven.
The prophet Jurieu was hissed; the prophets of the Cévennes were hanged or racked; the prophets who went from Languedoc and Dauphiny to London were put in the pillory; the Anabaptist prophets were condemned to various modes and degrees of punishment; and the prophet Savonarola was baked at Florence. If, in connection with these, we may advert to the case of the genuine Jewish prophets, we shall perceive their destiny to have been no less unfortunate; the greatest prophet among the Jews, St. John the Baptist, was beheaded.
Zachariah is stated to have been assassinated; but, happily, this is not absolutely proved. The prophet Jeddo, or Addo, who was sent to Bethel under the injunction neither to eat nor drink, having unfortunately tasted a morsel of bread, was devoured in his turn by a lion; and his bones were found on the highway between the lion and his ass. Jonah was swallowed by a fish. He did not, it is true, remain in the fish’s stomach more than three days and three nights; even this, however, was passing threescore and twelve hours very uncomfortably.
Habakkuk was transported through the air, suspended by the hair of his head, to Babylon; this was not a fatal or permanent calamity, certainly; but it must have been an exceedingly uncomfortable method of travelling. A man could not help suffering a great deal by being suspended by his hair during a journey of three hundred miles. I certainly should have preferred a pair of wings, or the mare Borak, or the Hippogriffe.
Micaiah, the son of Imla, saw the Lord seated on His throne, surrounded by His army of celestial spirits; and the Lord having inquired who could be found to go and deceive King Ahab, a demon volunteered for that purpose, and was accordingly charged with the commission; and Micaiah, on the part of the Lord, gave King Ahab an account of this celestial adventure. He was rewarded for this communication by a tremendous blow on his face from the hand of the prophet Zedekiah, and by being shut up for some days in a dungeon. His punishment might undoubtedly have been more severe; but still, it is unpleasant and painful enough for a man who knows and feels himself divinely inspired to be knocked about in so coarse and vulgar a manner, and confined in a damp and dirty hole of a prison.
It is believed that King Amaziah had the teeth of the prophet Amos pulled out to prevent him from speaking; not that a person without teeth is absolutely incapable of speaking, as we see many toothless old ladies as loquacious and chattering as ever; but a prophecy should be uttered with great distinctness; and a toothless prophet is never listened to with the respect due to his character.
Baruch experienced various persecutions. Ezekiel was stoned by the companions of his slavery. It is not ascertained whether Jeremiah was stoned or sawed asunder. Isaiah is considered as having been incontestably sawed to death by order of Manasseh, king of Judah.
It cannot be denied, that the occupation of a prophet is exceedingly irksome and dangerous. For one who, like Elijah, sets off on his tour among the planets in a chariot of light, drawn by four white horses, there are a hundred who travel on foot, and are obliged to beg their subsistence from door to door. They may be compared to Homer, who, we are told, was reduced to be a mendicant in the same seven cities which afterwards sharply disputed with each other the honor of having given him birth. His commentators have attributed to him an infinity of allegories which he never even thought of; and prophets have frequently had the like honor conferred upon them. I by no means deny that there may have existed elsewhere persons possessed of a knowledge of the future. It is only requisite for a man to work up his soul to a high state of excitation, according to the doctrine of one of our doughty modern philosophers, who speculates upon boring the earth through to the Antipodes, and curing the sick by covering them all over with pitch-plaster.
The Jews possessed this faculty of exalting and exciting the soul to such a degree that they saw every future event as clearly as possible; only unfortunately, it is difficult to decide whether by Jerusalem they always mean eternal life; whether Babylon means London or Paris; whether, when they speak of a grand dinner, they really mean a fast, and whether red wine means blood, and a red mantle faith, and a white mantle charity. Indeed, the correct and complete understanding of the prophets is the most arduous attainment of the human mind.
There is likewise a further difficulty with respect to the Jewish prophets, which is, that many among them were Samaritan heretics. Hosea was of the tribe of Issachar, which dwelt in the Samaritan territory, and Elisha and Elijah were of the same tribe. But the objection is very easily answered. We well know that “the wind bloweth where it listeth,” and that grace lights on the most dry and barren, as well as on the most fertile soil.
I was at the grate of the convent when Sister Fessue said to Sister Confite: “Providence takes a visible care of me; you know how I love my sparrow; he would have been dead if I had not said nine ave-marias to obtain his cure. God has restored my sparrow to life; thanks to the Holy Virgin.”
A metaphysician said to her: “Sister, there is nothing so good as ave-marias, especially when a girl pronounces them in Latin in the suburbs of Paris; but I cannot believe that God has occupied Himself so much with your sparrow, pretty as he is; I pray you to believe that He has other matters to attend to. It is necessary for Him constantly to superintend the course of sixteen planets and the rising of Saturn, in the centre of which He has placed the sun, which is as large as a million of our globes. He has also thousands and thousands of millions of other suns, planets, and comets to govern. His immutable laws, and His eternal arrangement, produce motion throughout nature; all is bound to His throne by an infinite chain, of which no link can ever be put out of place!” If certain ave-marias had caused the sparrow of Sister Fessue to live an instant longer than it would naturally have lived, it would have violated all the laws imposed from eternity by the Great Being; it would have deranged the universe; a new world, a new God, and a new order of existence would have been rendered unavoidable.
—What! do you think that God pays so little attention to Sister Fessue?)
—I am sorry to inform you, that like myself you are but an imperceptible link in the great chain; that your organs, those of your sparrow, and my own, are destined to subsist a determinate number of minutes in the suburbs of Paris.
—If so, I was predestined to say a certain number of ave-marias.
—Yes; but they have not obliged the Deity to prolong the life of your sparrow beyond his term. It has been so ordered, that in this convent at a certain hour you should pronounce, like a parrot, certain words in a certain language which you do not understand; that this bird, produced like yourself by the irresistible action of general laws, having been sick, should get better; that you should imagine that you had cured it, and that we should hold together this conversation.
—Sir, this discourse savors of heresy. My confessor, the reverend Father de Menou, will infer that you do not believe in Providence.
—I believe in a general Providence, dear sister, which has laid down from all eternity the law which governs all things, like light from the sun; but I believe not that a particular Providence changes the economy of the world for your sparrow or your cat.
—But suppose my confessor tells you, as he has told me, that God changes His intentions every day in favor of the devout?
—He would assert the greatest absurdity that a confessor of girls could possibly utter to a being who thinks.
—My confessor absurd! Holy Virgin Mary!
—I do not go so far as that. I only observe that he cannot, by an enormously absurd assertion, justify the false principles which he has instilled into you—possibly very adroitly—in order to govern you.
—That observation merits reflection. I will think of it.
It is very singular that the Protestant churches agree in exclaiming that purgatory was invented by the monks. It is true that they invented the art of drawing money from the living by praying to God for the dead; but purgatory existed before the monks.
It was Pope John XIV., say they, who, towards the middle of the tenth century, instituted the feast of the dead. From that fact, however, I only conclude that they were prayed for before; for if they then took measures to pray for all, it is reasonable to believe that they had previously prayed for some of them; in the same way as the feast of All Saints was instituted, because the feast of many of them had been previously celebrated. The difference between the feast of All Saints and that of the dead, is, that in the first we invoke, and that in the second we are invoked; in the former we commend ourselves to the blessed, and in the second the unblessed commend themselves to us.
The most ignorant writers know, that this feast was first instituted at Cluny, which was then a territory belonging to the German Empire. Is it necessary to repeat, “that St. Odilon, abbot of Cluny, was accustomed to deliver many souls from purgatory by his masses and his prayers; and that one day a knight or a monk, returning from the holy land, was cast by a tempest, on a small island, where he met with a hermit, who said to him, that in that island existed enormous caverns of fire and flames, in which the wicked were tormented; and that he often heard the devils complain of the Abbot Odilon and his monks, who every day delivered some soul or other; for which reason it was necessary to request Odilon to continue his exertions, at once to increase the joy of the saints in heaven and the grief of the demons in hell?”
It is thus that Father Gerard, the Jesuit, relates the affair in his “Flower of the Saints,” after Father Ribadeneira. Fleury differs a little from this legend, but has substantively preserved it. This revelation induced St. Odilon to institute in Cluny the feast of the dead, which was then adopted by the Church.
Since this time, purgatory has brought much money to those who possess the power of opening the gates. It was by virtue of this power that English John, that great landlord, surnamed Lackland, by declaring himself the liegeman of Pope Innocent III., and placing his kingdom under submission, delivered the souls of his parents, who had been excommunicated: “Pro mortuo excommunico, pro quo supplicant consanguinei.”
The Roman chancery had even its regular scale for the absolution of the dead; there were many privileged altars in the fifteenth century, at which every mass performed for six liards delivered a soul from purgatory. Heretics could not ascend beyond the truth, that the apostles had the right of unbinding all who were bound on earth, but not under the earth; and many of them, like impious persons, doubted the power of the keys. It is however to be remarked, that when the pope is inclined to remit five or six hundred years of purgatory, he accords the grace with full power: “Pro potestate a Deo accepta concedit.”
Of the Antiquity of Purgatory.
It is pretended that purgatory was, from time immemorial, known to the famous Jewish people, and it is founded on the second book of the Maccabees, which says expressly, “that there being found concealed in the vestments of the Jews (at the battle of Adullam), things consecrated to the idols of Jamma, it was manifest that on that account they had perished; and having made a gathering of twelve thousand drachms of silver, Judas, who thought religiously of the resurrection, sent them to Jerusalem for the sins of the dead.”
Having taken upon ourselves the task of relating the objections of the heretics and infidels, for the purpose of confounding them by their own opinions, we will detail here these objections to the twelve thousand drachms transmitted by Judas; and to purgatory. They say: 1. That twelve thousand drachms of silver was too much for Judas Maccabeus, who only maintained a petty war of insurgency against a great king.
2. That they might send a present to Jerusalem for the sins of the dead, in order to bring down the blessing of God on the survivors.
3. That the idea of a resurrection was not entertained among the Jews at this time, it being ascertained that this doctrine was not discussed among them until the time of Gamaliel, a little before the ministry of Jesus Christ.
4. As the laws of the Jews included in the “Decalogue,” Leviticus and Deuteronomy, have not spoken of the immortality of the soul, nor of the torments of hell, it was impossible that they should contain the doctrine of purgatory.
5. Heretics and infidels make the greatest efforts to demonstrate in their manner, that the books of the Maccabees are evidently apocryphal. The following are their pretended proofs:
The Jews have never acknowledged the books of the Maccabees to be canonical, why then should we acknowledge them? Origen declares formally that the books of the Maccabees are to be rejected, and St. Jerome regards them as unworthy of credit. The Council of Laodicea, held in 567, admits them not among the canonical books. The Athanasiuses, the Cyrils, and the Hilarys, have also rejected them. The reasons for treating the foregoing books as romances, and as very bad romances, are as follows:
The ignorant author commences by a falsehood, known to be such by all the world. He says: “Alexander called the young nobles, who had been educated with him from their infancy, and parted his kingdom among them while he still lived.” So gross and absurd a lie could not issue from the pen of a sacred and inspired writer.
The author of the Maccabees, in speaking of Antiochus Epiphanes, says: “Antiochus marched towards Elymais, and wished to pillage it, but was not able, because his intention was known to the inhabitants, who assembled in order to give him battle, on which he departed with great sadness, and returned to Babylon. Whilst he was still in Persia, he learned that his army in Judæa had fled . . . . and he took to his bed and died.”
The same writer himself, in another place, says quite the contrary; for he relates that Antiochus Epiphanes was about to pillage Persepolis, and not Elymais; that he fell from his chariot; that he was stricken with an incurable wound; that he was devoured by worms; that he demanded pardon of the god of the Jews; that he wished himself to be a Jew: it is there where we find the celebrated versicle, which fanatics have applied so frequently to their enemies; “Orabet scelestus ille veniam quam non erat consecuturus.” The wicked man demandeth a pardon, which he cannot obtain. This passage is very Jewish; but it is not permitted to an inspired writer to contradict himself so flagrantly.
This is not all: behold another contradiction, and another oversight. The author makes Antiochus die in a third manner, so that there is quite a choice. He remarks that this prince was stoned in the temple of Nanneus; and those who would excuse the stupidity pretend that he here speaks of Antiochus Eupator; but neither Epiphanes nor Eupator was stoned.
Moreover, this author says, that another Antiochus (the Great) was taken by the Romans, and that they gave to Eumenes the Indies and Media. This is about equal to saying that Francis I. made a prisoner of Henry VIII., and that he gave Turkey to the duke of Savoy. It is insulting the Holy Ghost to imagine it capable of dictating so many disgusting absurdities.
The same author says, that the Romans conquered the Galatians; but they did not conquer Galatia for more than a hundred years after. Thus the unhappy story-teller did not write for more than a hundred years after the time in which it was supposed that he wrote: and it is thus, according to the infidels, with almost all the Jewish books.
The same author observes, that the Romans every year nominated a chief of the senate. Behold a well-informed man, who did not even know that Rome had two consuls! What reliance, say infidels, can be placed in these rhapsodies and puerile tales, strung together without choice or order by the most imbecile of men? How shameful to believe in them! and the barbarity of persecuting sensible men, in order to force a belief of miserable absurdities, for which they could not but entertain the most sovereign contempt, is equal to that of cannibals.
Our answer is, that some mistakes which probably arose from the copyists may not affect the fundamental truths of the remainder; that the Holy Ghost inspired the author only, and not the copyists; that if the Council of Laodicea rejected the Maccabees, they have been admitted by the Council of Trent; that they are admitted by the Roman Church; and consequently that we ought to receive them with due submission.
Of the Origin of Purgatory.
It is certain that those who admitted of purgatory in the primitive church were treated as heretics. The Simonians were condemned who admitted the purgation of souls—Psuken Kadaron.
St. Augustine has since condemned the followers of Origen who maintained this doctrine. But the Simonians and the Origenists had taken their purgatory from Virgil, Plato and the Egyptians. You will find it clearly indicated in the sixth book of the “Æneid,” as we have already remarked. What is still more singular, Virgil describes souls suspended in air, others burned, and others drowned:
And what is more singular still, Pope Gregory, surnamed the great, not only adopts this doctrine from Virgil, but in his theology introduces many souls who arrive from purgatory after having been hanged or drowned.
Plato has spoken of purgatory in his “Phædon,” and it is easy to discover, by a perusal of “Hermes Trismegistus,” that Plato borrowed from the Egyptians all which he had not borrowed from Timæus of Locris.
All this is very recent, and of yesterday, in comparison with the ancient Brahmins. The latter, it must be confessed, invented purgatory in the same manner as they invented the revolt and fall of the genii or celestial intelligences.
It is in their Shasta, or Shastabad, written three thousand years before the vulgar era, that you, my dear reader, will discover the doctrine of purgatory. The rebel angels, of whom the history was copied among the Jews in the time of the rabbin Gamaliel, were condemned by the Eternal and His Son, to a thousand years of purgatory, after which God pardoned and made them men. This we have already said, dear reader, as also that the Brahmins found eternal punishment too severe, as eternity never concludes. The Brahmins thought like the Abbé Chaulieu, and called upon the Lord to pardon them, if, impressed with His bounties, they could not be brought to conceive that they would be punished so rigorously for vain pleasures, which passed away like a dream:
QUACK (OR CHARLATAN).
The abode of physicians is in large towns; there are scarcely any in country places. Great towns contain rich patients; debauchery, excess at the tables, and the passions, cause their maladies. Dumoulin, the physician, who was in as much practice as any of his profession, said when dying that he left two great physicians behind him—simple diet and soft water.
In 1728, in the time of Law, the most famous of quacks of the first class, another named Villars, confided to some friends, that his uncle, who had lived to the age of nearly a hundred, and who was then killed by an accident, had left him the secret of a water which could easily prolong life to the age of one hundred and fifty, provided sobriety was attended to. When a funeral passed, he affected to shrug up his shoulders in pity: “Had the deceased,” he exclaimed, “but drank my water, he would not be where he is.” His friends, to whom he generously imparted it, and who attended a little to the regimen prescribed, found themselves well, and cried it up. He then sold it for six francs the bottle, and the sale was prodigious. It was the water of the Seine, impregnated with a small quantity of nitre, and those who took it and confined themselves a little to the regimen, but above all those who were born with a good constitution, in a short time recovered perfect health. He said to others: “It is your own fault if you are not perfectly cured. You have been intemperate and incontinent, correct yourself of these two vices, and you will live a hundred and fifty years at least.” Several did so, and the fortune of this good quack augmented with his reputation. The enthusiastic Abbé de Pons ranked him much above his namesake, Marshal Villars. “He caused the death of men,” he observed to him, “whereas you make men live.”
It being at last discovered that the water of Villars was only river water, people took no more of it, and resorted to other quacks in lieu of him. It is certain that he did much good, and he can only be accused of selling the Seine water too dear. He advised men to temperance, and so far was superior to the apothecary Arnault, who amused Europe with the farce of his specific against apoplexy, without recommending any virtue.
I knew a physician of London named Brown, who had practised at Barbadoes. He had a sugarhouse and negroes, and the latter stole from him a considerable sum. He accordingly assembled his negroes together, and thus addressed them: “My friends,” said he to them, “the great serpent has appeared to me during the night, and has informed me that the thief has at this moment a paroquet’s feather at the end of his nose.” The criminal instantly applied his hand to his nose. “It is thou who hast robbed me,” exclaimed the master; “the great serpent has just informed me so;” and he recovered his money. This quackery is scarcely condemnable, but then it is applicable only to negroes.
The first Scipio Africanus, a very different person from the physician Brown, made his soldiers believe that he was inspired by the gods. This grand charlatanism was in use for a long time. Was Scipio to be blamed for assisting himself by the means of this pretension? He was possibly the man who did most honor to the Roman republic; but why the gods should inspire him has never been explained.
Numa did better: he civilized robbers, and swayed a senate composed of a portion of them which was the most difficult to govern. If he had proposed his laws to the assembled tribes, the assassins of his predecessor would have started a thousand difficulties. He addressed himself to the goddess Egeria, who favored him with pandects from Jupiter; he was obeyed without a murmur, and reigned happily. His instructions were sound, his charlatanism did good; but if some secret enemy had discovered his knavery, and had said, “Let us exterminate an impostor who prostitutes the names of the gods in order to deceive men,” he would have run the risk of being sent to heaven like Romulus. It is probable that Numa took his measures ably, and that he deceived the Romans for their own benefit, by a policy adapted to the time, the place, and the early manners of the people.
Mahomet was twenty times on the point of failure, but at length succeeded with the Arabs of Medina, who believed him the intimate friend of the angel Gabriel. If any one at present was to announce in Constantinople that he was favored by the angel Raphael, who is superior to Gabriel in dignity, and that he alone was to be believed, he would be publicly empaled. Quacks should know their time.
Was there not a little quackery in Socrates with his familiar dæmon, and the express declaration of Apollo, that he was the wisest of all men? How can Rollin in his history reason from this oracle? Why not inform youth that it was a pure imposition? Socrates chose his time ill: about a hundred years before he might have governed Athens.
Every chief of a sect in philosophy has been a little of a quack; but the greatest of all have been those who have aspired to govern. Cromwell was the most terrible of all quacks, and appeared precisely at a time in which he could succeed. Under Elizabeth he would have been hanged; under Charles II., laughed at. Fortunately for himself he came at a time when people were disgusted with kings: his son followed, when they were weary of protectors.
Of the Quackery of Sciences and of Literature.
The followers of science have never been able to dispense with quackery. Each would have his opinions prevail; the subtle doctor would eclipse the angelic doctor, and the profound doctor would reign alone. Everyone erects his own system of physics, metaphysics, and scholastic theology; and the question is, who will value his merchandise? You have dependants who cry it up, fools who believe you, and protectors on whom to lean. Can there be greater quackery than the substitution of words for things, or than a wish to make others believe what we do not believe ourselves?
One establishes vortices of subtile matter, branched, globular, and tubular; another, elements of matter which are not matter, and a pre-established harmony which makes the clock of the body sound the hour, when the needle of the clock of the soul is duly pointed. These chimeras found partisans for many years, and when these ideas went out of fashion, new pretenders to inspiration mounted upon the ambulatory stage. They banished the germs of the world, asserted that the sea produced mountains, and that men were formerly fishes.
How much quackery has always pervaded history: either by astonishing the reader with prodigies, tickling the malignity of human nature with satire, or by flattering the families of tyrants with infamous eulogies!
The unhappy class who write in order to live, are quacks of another kind. A poor man who has no trade, and has had the misfortune to have been at college, thinks that he knows how to write, and repairing to a neighboring bookseller, demands employment. The bookseller knows that most persons keeping houses are desirous of small libraries, and require abridgments and new tables, orders an abridgment of the history of Rapin Thoyras, or of the church; a collection of bon mots from the Menagiana, or a dictionary of great men, in which some obscure pedant is placed by the side of Cicero, and a sonneteer of Italy as near as possible to Virgil.
Another bookseller will order romances or the translation of romances. If you have no invention, he will say to his workman: You can collect adventures from the grand Cyrus, from Gusman d’Alfarache, from the “Secret Memoirs of a Man of Quality” or of a “Woman of Quality”; and from the total you will make a volume of four hundred pages.
Another bookseller gives ten years’ newspapers and almanacs to a man of genius, and says: You will make an abstract from all that, and in three months bring it me under the name of a faithful “History of the Times,” by M. le Chevalier —, Lieutenant de Vaisseau, employed in the office for foreign affairs.
Of this sort of books there are about fifty thousand in Europe, and the labor still goes on like the secret for whitening the skin, blackening the hair, and mixing up the universal remedy.
I knew in my infancy a canon of Péronne of the age of ninety-two years, who had been educated by one of the most furious burghers of the League—he always used to say, the late M. de Ravaillac. This canon had preserved many curious manuscripts of the apostolic times, although they did little honor to his party. The following is one of them, which he bequeathed to my uncle:
Dialogue of a Page of the Duke of Sully, and of Master Filesac, Doctor of the Sorbonne, one of the two Confessors of Ravaillac.
—He in paradise, in the Garden of Eden, the monster!)
—I believe so; but he has taken a bad road to arrive there.)
—I have no wish that he should address God on my account. Let him go to the devil with his prayers and his attrition.)
—In good faith, the more I listen to you the more I regard you as a man bound yourself. You excite horror in me.)
—And the time will never come in which I shall be made to believe that you have sent Ravaillac to the kingdom of heaven.)
—Go on; thou appearest to me so “raca,” that I will be angry no more.)
—My dear master damned! Listen to the wicked wretch! A cane! a cane!)
—Hold thy tongue, master madman; if I thought that thy doctors taught a doctrine so abominable, I would burn them in their lodgings.)
—But conscientiously, Master Filesac, does thy party really think in this manner?)
—Be assured of it; it is our catechism.
—Listen; for I must confess to thee, that one of thy Sorbonnists almost seduced me last year. He induced me to hope for a pension or a benefice. Since the king, he observed, has heard mass in Latin, you who are only a petty gentleman may also attend it without derogation. God takes care of His elect, giving them mitres, crosses, and prodigious sums of money, while you of the reformed doctrine go on foot, and can do nothing but write. I own I was staggered; but after what thou hast just said to me, I would rather a thousand times be a Mahometan than of thy creed.
The page was wrong. We are not to become Mahometans because we are incensed; but we must pardon a feeling young man who loved Henry IV. Master Filesac spoke according to his theology; the page attended to his heart.
REASONABLE, OR RIGHT.
At the time that all France was carried away by the system of Law, and when he was comptroller-general, a man who was always in the right came to him one day and said:
“Sir, you are the greatest madman, the greatest fool, or the greatest rogue, who has yet appeared among us. It is saying a great deal; but behold how I prove it. You have imagined that we may increase the riches of a state ten-fold by means of paper. But this paper only represents money, which is itself only a representative of genuine riches, the production of the earth and manufacture. It follows, therefore, that you should have commenced by giving us ten times as much corn, wine, cloth, linen, etc.; this is not enough, they must be certain of sale. Now you make ten times as many notes as we have money and commodities; ergo, you are ten times more insane, stupid, or roguish, than all the comptrollers or superintendents who have preceded you. Behold how rapidly I will prove my major.”
Scarcely had he commenced his major than he was conducted to St. Lazarus. When he came out of St. Lazarus, where he studied much and strengthened his reason, he went to Rome. He demanded a public audience, and that he should not be interrupted in his harangue. He addressed his holiness as follows:
“Holy father, you are Antichrist, and behold how I will prove it to your holiness. I call him ante-Christ or antichrist, according to the meaning of the word, who does everything contrary to that which Christ commanded. Now Christ was poor, and you are very rich. He paid tribute, and you exact it. He submitted himself to the powers that be, and you have become one of them. He wandered on foot, and you visit Castle Gandolfo in a sumptuous carriage. He ate of all that which people were willing to give him, and you would have us eat fish on Fridays and Saturdays, even when we reside at a distance from the seas and rivers. He forbade Simon Barjonas using the sword, and you have many swords in your service, etc. In this sense, therefore, your holiness is Antichrist. In every other sense I exceedingly revere you, and request an indulgence ‘in articulo mortis.’ ”
My free speaker was immediately confined in the castle of St. Angelo. When he came out of the castle of St. Angelo, he proceeded to Venice, and demanded an audience of the doge. “Your serenity,” he exclaimed, “commits a great extravagance every year in marrying the sea; for, in the first place, people marry only once with the same person; secondly, your marriage resembles that of Harlequin, which was only half performed, as wanting the consent of one of the parties; thirdly, who has told you that, some day or other, the other maritime powers will not declare you incapable of consummating your marriage?”
Having thus delivered his mind, he was shut up in the tower of St. Mark. When he came out of the tower of St. Mark, he proceeded to Constantinople, where he obtained an interview with the mufti, and thus addressed him: “Your religion contains some good points, such as the adoration of the Supreme Being, and the necessity of being just and charitable; nevertheless, it is a mere hash composed out of Judaism and a wearisome heap of stories from Mother Goose. If the archangel Gabriel had brought from some planet the leaves of the Koran to Mahomet, all Arabia would have beheld his descent. Nobody saw him, therefore Mahomet was a bold impostor, who deceived weak and ignorant people.”
He had scarcely pronounced these words before he was empaled; nevertheless, he had been all along in the right.
By this name are designated the remains or remaining parts of the body, or clothes, of a person placed after his death by the Church in the number of the blessed.
It is clear that Jesus condemned only the hypocrisy of the Jews, in saying: “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous.” Thus orthodox Christians have an equal veneration for the relics and images of saints, and I know not what. Doctor Henry ventures to say that when bones or other relics are changed into worms, we must not adore these worms; the Jesuit Vasquez decided that the opinion of Henry is absurd and vain, for it signifies not in what manner corruption takes place; “consequently,” says he, “we can adore relics as much under the form of worms as under that of ashes.”
However this may be, St. Cyril of Alexandria avows that the origin of relics is Pagan; and this is the description given of their worship by Theodoret, who lived in the commencement of the Christian era: “They run to the temples of martyrs,” says this learned bishop, “some to demand the preservation of their health, others the cure of their maladies; and barren women for fruitfulness. After obtaining children, these women ask the preservation of them. Those who undertake voyages, pray the martyrs to accompany and conduct them; and on their return they testify to them their gratitude. They adore them not as gods, but they honor them as divine men; and conjure them to become their intercessors.
“The offerings which are displayed in their temples are public proofs that those who have demanded with faith, have obtained the accomplishment of their vows and the cure of their disorders. Some hang up artificial eyes, others feet, and others hands of gold and silver. These monuments publish the virtue of those who are buried in these tombs, as their influence publishes that the god for whom they suffered is the true God. Thus Christians take care to give their children the names of martyrs, that they may be insured their protection.”
Finally, Theodoret adds, that the temples of the gods were demolished, and that the materials served for the construction of the temples of martyrs: “For the Lord,” said he to the Pagans, “has substituted his dead for your gods; He has shown the vanity of the latter, and transferred to others the honors paid to them.” It is of this that the famous sophist of Sardis complains bitterly in deploring the ruin of the temple of Serapis at Canopus, which was demolished by order of the emperor Theodosius I. in the year 389.
“People,” says Eunapius, “who had never heard of war, were, however, very valiant against the stones of this temple; and principally against the rich offerings with which it was filled. These holy places were given to monks, an infamous and useless class of people, who, provided they wear a black and slovenly dress, hold a tyrannical authority over the minds of the people; and instead of the gods whom we acknowledge through the lights of reason, these monks give us heads of criminals, punished for their crimes, to adore, which they have salted in order to preserve them.”
The people are superstitious, and it is superstition which enchains them. The miracles forged on the subject of relics became a loadstone which attracted from all parts riches to the churches. Stupidity and credulity were carried so far that, in the year 386, the same Theodosius was obliged to make a law by which he forbade buried corpses to be transported from one place to another, or the relics of any martyr to be separated and sold.
During the first three ages of Christianity they were contented with celebrating the day of the death of martyrs, which they called their natal day, by assembling in the cemeteries where their bodies lay, to pray for them, as we have remarked in the article on “Mass.” They dreamed not then of a time in which Christians would raise temples to them, transport their ashes and bones from one place to another, show them in shrines, and finally make a traffic of them; which excited avarice to fill the world with false relics.
But the Third Council of Carthage, held in the year 397, having inserted in the Scriptures the Apocalypse of St. John, the authenticity of which was till then contested, this passage of chapter vi., “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God”—authorized the custom of having relics of martyrs under the altars; and this practice was soon regarded so essential that St. Ambrose, notwithstanding the wishes of the people, would not consecrate a church where there were none; and in 692, the Council of Constantinople, in Trullo, even ordered all the altars to be demolished under which it found no relics.
Another Council of Carthage, on the contrary, in the year 401, ordered bishops to build altars which might be seen everywhere, in fields and on high roads, in honor of martyrs; from which were here and there dug pretended relics, on dreams and vain revelations of all sorts of people.
St. Augustine relates that towards the year 415, Lucian, the priest of a town called Caphargamata, some miles distant from Jerusalem, three times saw in a dream the learned Gamaliel, who declared to him that his body, that of Abibas his son, of St. Stephen, and Nicodemus, were buried in a part of his parish which he pointed out to him. He commanded him, on their part and his own, to leave them no longer neglected in the tomb in which they had been for some ages, but to go and tell John, bishop of Jerusalem, to come and dig them up immediately, if he would prevent the ills with which the world was threatened. Gamaliel added that this translation must be made in the episcopacy of John, who died about a year after. The order of heaven was that the body of St. Stephen should be transported to Jerusalem.
Either Lucian did not clearly understand, or he was unfortunate—he dug and found nothing; which obliged the learned Jew to appear to a very simple and innocent monk, and indicate to him more precisely the place where the sacred relics lay. Lucian there found the treasure which he sought, according as God had revealed it unto him. In this tomb there was a stone on which was engraved the word “cheliel,” which signifies “crown” in Hebrew, as “stephanos” does in Greek. On the opening of Stephen’s coffin the earth trembled, a delightful odor issued, and a great number of sick were cured. The body of the saint was reduced to ashes, except the bones, which were transported to Jerusalem, and placed in the church of Sion. At the same hour there fell a great rain, until which they had had a great drouth.
Avitus, a Spanish priest who was then in the East, translated into Latin this story, which Lucian wrote in Greek. As the Spaniard was the friend of Lucian, he obtained a small portion of the ashes of the saint, some bones full of an oil which was a visible proof of their holiness, surpassing newly-made perfumes, and the most agreeable odors. These relics, brought by Orosius into the island of Minorca, in eight days converted five hundred and forty Jews.
They were afterwards informed by divers visions that some monks of Egypt had relics of St. Stephen which strangers had brought there. As the monks, not then being priests, had no churches of their own, they took this treasure to transport it to a church which was near Usala. Above the church some persons soon saw a star which seemed to come before the holy martyr. These relics did not remain long in this church; the bishop of Usala, finding it convenient to enrich his own, transported them, seated on a car, accompanied by a crowd of people, who sang the praises of God, attended by a great number of lights and tapers.
In this manner the relics were borne to an elevated place in the church and placed on a throne ornamented with hangings. They were afterwards put on a little bed in a place which was locked up, but to which a little window was left, that cloths might be touched, which cured several disorders. A little dust collected on the shrine suddenly cured one that was paralytic. Flowers which had been presented to the saint, applied to the eyes of a blind man, gave him sight. There were even seven or eight corpses restored to life.
St. Augustine, who endeavors to justify this worship by distinguishing it from that of adoration, which is due to God alone, is obliged to agree that he himself knew several Christians who adored sepulchres and images. “I know several who drink to great excess on the tombs, and who, in giving entertainments to the dead, fell themselves on those who were buried.”
Indeed, turning fresh from Paganism, and charmed to find deified men in the Christian church, though under other names, the people honored them as much as they had honored their false gods; and it would be grossly deceiving ourselves to judge of the ideas and practices of the populace by those of enlightened and philosophic bishops. We know that the sages among the Pagans made the same distinctions as our holy bishops. “We must,” said Hierocles, “acknowledge and serve the gods so as to take great care to distinguish them from the supreme God, who is their author and father. We must not too greatly exalt their dignity. And finally the worship which we give them should relate to their sole creator, whom you may properly call the God of gods, because He is the Master of all, and the most excellent of all.” Porphyrius, who, like St. Paul, terms the supreme God, the God who is above all things, adds that we must not sacrifice to Him anything that is sensible or material, because, being a pure Spirit, everything material is impure to Him. He can only be worthily honored by the thoughts and sentiments of a soul which is not tainted with any sinful passion.
In a word, St. Augustine, in declaring with naïveté that he dared not speak freely on several similar abuses on account of giving opportunity for scandal to pious persons or to pedants, shows that the bishops made use of the artifice to convert the Pagans, as St. Gregory recommended two centuries after to convert England. This pope, being consulted by the monk Augustine on some remains of ceremonies, half civil and half Pagan, which the newly converted English would not renounce, answered, “We cannot divest hard minds of all their habits at once; we reach not to the top of a steep rock by leaping, but by climbing step by step.”
The reply of the same pope to Constantina, the daughter of the emperor Tiberius Constantine, and the wife of Maurice, who demanded of him the head of St. Paul, to place in a temple which she had built in honor of this apostle, is no less remarkable. St. Gregory sent word to the princess that the bodies of saints shone with so many miracles that they dared not even approach their tombs to pray without being seized with fear. That his predecessor (Pelagius II.) wishing to remove some silver from the tomb of St. Peter to another place four feet distant, he appeared to him with frightful signs. That he (Gregory) wishing to make some repairs in the monument of St. Paul, as it had sunk a little in front, and he who had the care of the place having had the boldness to raise some bones which touched not the tomb of the apostle, to transport them elsewhere, he appeared to him also in a terrible manner, and he died immediately. That his predecessor also wishing to repair the tomb of St. Lawrence, the shroud which encircled the body of the martyr was imprudently discovered; and although the laborers were monks and officers of the church, they all died in the space of ten days because they had seen the body of the saint. That when the Romans gave relics, they never touched the sacred bodies, but contented themselves with putting some cloths, with which they approached them, in a box. That these cloths have the same virtue as relics, and perform as many miracles. That certain Greeks, doubting of this fact, Pope Leo took a pair of scissors, and in their presence cutting some of the cloth which had approached the holy bodies, blood came from it. That in the west of Rome it is a sacrilege to touch the bodies of saints; and that if any one attempts, he may be assured that his crime will not go unpunished. For which reason the Greeks cannot be persuaded to adopt the custom of transporting relics. That some Greeks daring to disinter some bodies in the night near the church of St. Paul, intending to transport them into their own country, were discovered, which persuaded them that the relics were false. That the easterns, pretending that the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul belonged to them, came to Rome to take them to their own country; but arriving at the catacombs where these bodies repose, when they would have taken them, sudden lightning and terrible thunder dispersed the alarmed multitude and forced them to renounce their undertaking. That those who suggested to Constantina the demand of the head of St. Paul from him, had no other design than that of making him lose his favor. St. Gregory concludes with these words: “I have that confidence in God, that you will not be deprived of the fruit of your good will, nor of the virtue of the holy apostles, whom you love with all your heart and with all your mind; and that, if you have not their corporeal presence, you will always enjoy their protection.”
Yet the ecclesiastical history pretends that the translation of relics was equally frequent in the East and West; and the author of the notes to this letter further observes that the same St. Gregory afterwards gave several holy bodies, and that other popes have given so many as six or seven to one individual.
After this, can we be astonished at the favor which relics find in the minds of people and kings? The sermons most commonly preached among the ancient French were composed on the relics of saints. It was thus that the kings Gontran, Sigebert, and Chilperic divided the states of Clotaire, and agreed to possess Paris in common. They made oath on the relics of St. Polyeuctus, St. Hilary, and St. Martin. Yet Chilperic possessed himself of the place and merely took the precaution of having a shrine, with a quantity of relics, which he had carried as a safeguard at the head of his troops, in hopes that the protection of these new patrons would shelter him from the punishment due to his perjury. Finally, the catechism of the Council of Trent approved of the custom of swearing by relics.
It is further observed that the kings of France of the first and second races kept in their palaces a great number of relics; above all, the cap and mantle of St. Martin; and that they had them carried in their trains and in their armies. These relics were sent from the palaces to the provinces when an oath of fidelity was made to the king, or any treaty was concluded.
The Epicureans, who had no religion, recommended retirement from public affairs, study, and concord. This sect was a society of friends, for friendship was their principal dogma. Atticus, Lucretius, Memmius, and a few other such men, might live very reputably together; this we see in all countries; philosophize as much as you please among yourselves. A set of amateurs may give a concert of refined and scientific music; but let them beware of performing such a concert before the ignorant and brutal vulgar, lest their instruments be broken over their heads. If you have but a village to govern, it must have a religion.
I speak not here of an error; but of the only good, the only necessary, the only proved, and the second revealed.
Had it been possible for the human mind to have admitted a religion—I will not say at all approaching ours—but not so bad as all the other religions in the world—what would that religion have been?
Would it not have been that which should propose to us the adoration of the supreme, only, infinite, eternal Being, the former of the world, who gives it motion and life, “cui nec simile, nec secundum”? That which should re-unite us to this Being of beings, as the reward of our virtues, and separate us from Him, as the chastisement of our crimes?
That which should admit very few of the dogmas invented by unreasoning pride; those eternal subjects of disputation; and should teach a pure morality, about which there should never be any dispute?
That which should not make the essence of worship consist in vain ceremonies, as that of spitting into your mouth, or that of taking from you one end of your prepuce, or of depriving you of one of your testicles—seeing that a man may fulfil all the social duties with two testicles and an entire foreskin, and without another’s spitting into his mouth?
That of serving one’s neighbor for the love of God, instead of persecuting and butchering him in God’s name? That which should tolerate all others, and which, meriting thus the goodwill of all, should alone be capable of making mankind a nation of brethren?
That which should have august ceremonies, to strike the vulgar, without having mysteries to disgust the wise and irritate the incredulous?
That which should offer men more encouragements to the social virtues than expiations for social crimes?
That which should insure to its ministers a revenue large enough for their decent maintenance, but should never allow them to usurp dignities and power that might make them tyrants?
That which should establish commodious retreats for sickness and old age, but never for idleness?
A great part of this religion is already in the hearts of several princes; and it will prevail when the articles of perpetual peace, proposed by the abbé de St. Pierre, shall be signed by all potentates.
Last night I was meditating; I was absorbed in the contemplation of nature, admiring the immensity, the courses, the relations of those infinite globes, which are above the admiration of the vulgar.
I admired still more the intelligence that presides over this vast machinery. I said to myself: A man must be blind not to be impressed by this spectacle; he must be stupid not to recognize its author; he must be mad not to adore him. What tribute of adoration ought I to render him? Should not this tribute be the same throughout the extent of space, since the same Supreme Power reigns equally in all that extent?
Does not a thinking being, inhabiting a star of the Milky Way, owe him the same homage as the thinking being on this little globe where we are? Light is the same to the dog-star as to us; morality, too, must be the same.
If a feeling and thinking being in the dog-star is born of a tender father and mother, who have labored for his welfare, he owes them as much love and duty as we here owe to our parents. If any one in the Milky Way sees another lame and indigent, and does not relieve him, though able to do it, he is guilty in the sight of every globe.
The heart has everywhere the same duties; on the steps of the throne of God, if He has a throne, and at the bottom of the great abyss, if there be an abyss.
I was wrapt in these reflections, when one of those genii who fill the spaces between worlds, came down to me. I recognized the same aërial creature that had formerly appeared to me, to inform me that the judgments of God are different from ours, and how much a good action is preferable to controversy.
He transported me into a desert covered all over with bones piled one upon another; and between these heaps of dead there were avenues of evergreen trees, and at the end of each avenue a tall man of august aspect gazing with compassion on these sad remains.
“Alas! my archangel,” said I, “whither have you brought me?” “To desolation,” answered he. “And who are those fine old patriarchs whom I see motionless and melancholy at the end of those green avenues, and who seem to weep over this immense multitude of dead?” “Poor human creature! thou shalt know,” replied the genius; “but, first, thou must weep.”
He began with the first heap. “These,” said he, “are the twenty-three thousand Jews who danced before a calf, together with the twenty-four thousand who were slain while ravishing Midianitish women; the number of the slaughtered for similar offences or mistakes amounts to nearly three hundred thousand.
“At the following avenues are the bones of Christians, butchered by one another on account of metaphysical disputes. They are divided into several piles of four centuries each; it was necessary to separate them; for had they been all together, they would have reached the sky.”
“What!” exclaimed I, “have brethren thus treated their brethren; and have I the misfortune to be one of this brotherhood?”
“Here,” said the spirit, “are the twelve millions of Americans slain in their own country for not having been baptized.” “Ah! my God! why were not these frightful skeletons left to whiten in the hemisphere where the bodies were born, and where they were murdered in so many various ways? Why are all these abominable monuments of barbarity and fanaticism assembled here?” “For thy instruction.”
“Since thou art willing to instruct me,” said I to the genius, “tell me if there be any other people than the Christians and the Jews, whom zeal and religion, unhappily turned into fanaticism, have prompted to so many horrible cruelties?” “Yes,” said he; “the Mahometans have been stained by the same inhuman acts, but rarely; and when their victims have cried out ‘amman!’ (mercy!) and have offered them tribute, they have pardoned them. As for other nations, not one of them, since the beginning of the world, has ever made a purely religious war. Now, follow me!” I followed.
A little beyond these heaps of dead we found other heaps; these were bags of gold and silver; and each pile had its label: “Substance of the heretics massacred in the eighteenth century, in the seventeenth, in the sixteenth,” and so on. “Gold and silver of the slaughtered Americans,” etc.; and all these piles were surmounted by crosses, mitres, crosiers, and tiaras, enriched with jewels.
“What! my genius, was it then to possess these riches that these carcasses were accumulated?” “Yes, my son.”
I shed tears; and when by my grief I had merited to be taken to the end of the green avenues, he conducted me thither.
“Contemplate,” said he, “the heroes of humanity who have been the benefactors of the earth, and who united to banish from the world, as far as they were able, violence and rapine. Question them.”
I went up to the first of this band; on his head was a crown, and in his hand a small censer. I humbly asked him his name. “I,” said he, “am Numa Pompilius; I succeeded a robber, and had robbers to govern; I taught them virtue and the worship of God; after me they repeatedly forgot both. I forbade any image to be placed in the temples, because the divinity who animates nature cannot be represented. During my reign the Romans had neither wars nor seditions; and my religion did nothing but good. Every neighboring people came to honor my funeral, which has happened to me alone. . . . .”
I made my obeisance and passed on to the second. This was a fine old man, of about a hundred, clad in a white robe; his middle finger was placed on his lip, and with the other hand he was scattering beans behind him. In him I recognized Pythagoras. He assured me that he had never had a golden thigh, and that he had never been a cock, but that he had governed the Crotonians with as much justice as Numa had governed the Romans about the same time, which justice was the most necessary and the rarest thing in the world. I learned that the Pythagoreans examined their consciences twice a day. What good people! and how far are we behind them! Yet we, who for thirteen hundred years have been nothing but assassins, assert that these wise men were proud.
To please Pythagoras I said not a word to him, but went on to Zoroaster, who was engaged in concentrating the celestial fire in the focus of a concave mirror, in the centre of a vestibule with a hundred gates, each one leading to wisdom. On the principal of these gates I read these words, which are the abstract of all morality, and cut short all the disputes of the casuists: “When thou art in doubt whether an action is good or bad, abstain from it.”
“Certainly,” said I to my genius, “the barbarians who immolated all the victims whose bones I have seen had not read these fine words.”
Then we saw Zaleucus, Thales, Anaximander, and all the other sages who had sought truth and practised virtue.
When we came to Socrates I quickly recognized him by his broken nose. “Well,” said I, “you then are among the confidants of the Most High! All the inhabitants of Europe, excepting the Turks and the Crim Tartars, who know nothing, pronounce your name with reverence. So much is that great name venerated, so much is it loved, that it has been sought to discover those of your persecutors. Melitus and Anitus are known because of you, as Ravaillac is known because of Henry IV.; but of Anitus I know only the name. I know not precisely who that villain was by whom you were calumniated, and who succeeded in procuring your condemnation to the hemlock.”
“I have never thought of that man since my adventure,” answered Socrates; “but now that you put me in mind of him, I pity him much. He was a wicked priest, who secretly carried on a trade in leather, a traffic reputed shameful amongst us. He sent his two children to my school; the other disciples reproached them with their father’s being a currier, and they were obliged to quit. The incensed father was unceasing in his endeavors until he had stirred up against me all the priests and all the sophists. They persuaded the council of the five hundred that I was an impious man, who did not believe that the moon, Mercury, and Mars were deities. I thought indeed, as I do now, that there is but one God, the master of all nature. The judges gave me up to the republic’s poisoner, and he shortened my life a few days. I died with tranquillity at the age of seventy years, and since then I have led a happy life with all these great men whom you see, and of whom I am the least. . . . .”
After enjoying the conversation of Socrates for some time, I advanced with my guide into a bower, situated above the groves, where all these sages of antiquity seemed to be tasting the sweets of repose.
Here I beheld a man of mild and simple mien, who appeared to me to be about thirty-five years old. He was looking with compassion upon the distant heaps of whitened skeletons through which I had been led to the abode of the sages. I was astonished to find his feet swelled and bloody, his hands in the same state, his side pierced, and his ribs laid bare by flogging. “Good God!” said I, “is it possible that one of the just and wise should be in this state? I have just seen one who was treated in a very odious manner; but there is no comparison between his punishment and yours. Bad priests and bad judges poisoned him. Was it also by priests and judges that you were so cruelly assassinated?
With great affability he answered—“Yes.”
“And who were those monsters?”
“They were hypocrites.”
“Ah! you have said all! by that one word I understand that they would condemn you to the worst of punishments. You then had proved to them, like Socrates, that the moon was not a goddess, and that Mercury was not a god?”
“No; those planets were quite out of the question. My countrymen did not even know what a planet was; they were all arrant ignoramuses. Their superstitions were quite different from those of the Greeks.”
“Then you wished to teach them a new religion?”
“Not at all; I simply said to them—‘Love God with all your hearts, and your neighbor as yourselves; for that is all.’ Judge whether this precept is not as old as the universe; judge whether I brought them a new worship. I constantly told them that I was come, not to abolish their law, but to fulfil it; I had observed all their rites; I was circumcised as they all were; I was baptized like the most zealous of them; like them I paid the corban; like them I kept the Passover; and ate, standing, lamb cooked with lettuce. I and my friends went to pray in their temple; my friends, too, frequented the temple after my death. In short, I fulfilled all their laws without one exception.”
“What! could not these wretches even reproach you with having departed from their laws?”
“Why, then, did they put you in the state in which I now see you?”
“Must I tell you?—They were proud and selfish; they saw that I knew them; they saw that I was making them known to the citizens; they were the strongest; they took away my life; and such as they will always do the same, if they can, to whoever shall have done them too much justice.”
“But did you say nothing; did you do nothing, that could serve them as a pretext?”
“The wicked find a pretext in everything.”
“Did you not once tell them that you were come to bring, not peace, but the sword?”
“This was an error of some scribe. I told them that I brought, not the sword, but peace. I never wrote anything; what I said might be miscopied without any ill intent.”
“You did not then contribute in anything, by your discourses, either badly rendered or badly interpreted, to those frightful masses of bones which I passed on my way to consult you?”
“I looked with horror on those who were guilty of all these murders.”
“And those monuments of power and wealth—of pride and avarice—those treasures, those ornaments, those ensigns of greatness, which, when seeking wisdom, I saw accumulated on the way—do they proceed from you?”
“It is impossible; I and mine lived in poverty and lowliness; my greatness was only in virtue.”
I was on the point of begging of him to have the goodness just to tell me who he was; but my guide warned me to refrain. He told me that I was not formed for comprehending these sublime mysteries. I conjured him to tell me only in what true religion consisted.
“Have I not told you already?—Love God and your neighbor as yourself.”
“What! Can we love God and yet eat meat on a Friday?”
“I always ate what was given me; for I was too poor to give a dinner to any one.”
“Might we love God and be just, and still be prudent enough not to intrust all the adventures of one’s life to a person one does not know?”
“Such was always my custom.”
“Might not I, while doing good, be excused from making a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostello?”
“I never was in that country.”
“Should I confine myself in a place of retirement with blockheads?”
“For my part, I always made little journeys from town to town.”
“Must I take part with the Greek or with the Latin Church?”
“When I was in the world, I never made any difference between the Jew and the Samaritan.”
“Well, if it be so, I take you for my only master.”
Then he gave me a nod, which filled me with consolation. The vision disappeared, and I was left with a good conscience.
Warburton, bishop of Gloucester, author of one of the most learned works ever written, thus expresses himself (“Divine Legation of Moses,” i., 8): “A religion, a society, which is not founded on the belief of a future state, must be supported by an extraordinary Providence. Judaism is not founded on the belief of a future state; therefore, Judaism was supported by an extraordinary Providence.”
Many theologians rose up against him; and, as all arguments are retorted, so was his retorted upon himself; he was told:
“Every religion which is not founded on the dogma of the immortality of the soul, and on everlasting rewards and punishments, is necessarily false. Now these dogmas were unknown to the Jews; therefore Judaism, far from being supported by Providence, was, on your own principles, a false and barbarous religion by which Providence was attacked.”
This bishop had some other adversaries, who maintained against him that the immortality of the soul was known to the Jews even in the time of Moses; but he proved to them very clearly that neither the Decalogue, nor Leviticus, nor Deuteronomy, had said one word of such a belief; and that it is ridiculous to strive to distort and corrupt some passages of other books, in order to draw from them a truth which is not announced in the book of the law.
The bishop, having written four volumes to demonstrate that the Jewish law proposed neither pains nor rewards after death, has never been able to answer his adversaries in a very satisfactory manner. They said to him: “Either Moses knew this dogma, and so deceived the Jews by not communicating it, or he did not know it, in which case he did not know enough to found a good religion. Indeed, if the religion had been good why should it have been abolished? A true religion must be for all times and all places; it must be as the light of the sun, enlightening all nations and generations.”
This prelate, enlightened as he is, has found it no easy task to extricate himself from so many difficulties. But what system is free from them?
Another man of learning, and a much greater philosopher, who is one of the profoundest metaphysicians of the day, advances very strong arguments to prove that polytheism was the primitive religion of mankind, and that men began with believing in several gods before their reason was sufficiently enlightened to acknowledge one only Supreme Being.
On the contrary, I venture to believe that in the beginning they acknowledged one only God, and that afterwards human weakness adopted several. My conception of the matter is this:
It is indubitable that there were villages before large towns were built, and that all men have been divided into petty commonwealths before they were united in great empires. It is very natural that the people of a village, being terrified by thunder, afflicted at the loss of its harvests, ill-used by the inhabitants of a neighboring village, feeling every day its own weakness, feeling everywhere an invisible power, should soon have said: There is some Being above us who does us good and harm.
It seems to me to be impossible that it should have said: There are two powers; for why more than one? In all things we begin with the simple; then comes the compound; and after, by superior light, we go back to the simple again. Such is the march of the human mind!
But what is this being who is thus invoked at first? Is it the sun? Is it the moon? I do not think so. Let us examine what passes in the minds of children; they are nearly like those of uninformed men. They are struck, neither by the beauty nor by the utility of the luminary which animates nature, nor by the assistance lent us by the moon, nor by the regular variations of her course; they think not of these things; they are too much accustomed to them. We adore, we invoke, we seek to appease, only that which we fear. All children look upon the sky with indifference; but when the thunder growls they tremble and run to hide themselves. The first men undoubtedly did likewise. It could only be a sect of philosophers who first observed the courses of the planets, made them admired, and caused them to be adored; mere tillers of the ground, without any information, did not know enough of them to embrace so noble an error.
A village then would confine itself to saying: There is a power which thunders and hails upon us, which makes our children die; let us appease it. But how shall we appease it? We see that by small presents we have calmed the anger of irritated men; let us then make small presents to this power. It must also receive a name. The first that presents itself is that of “chief,” “master,” “lord.” This power then is styled “My Lord.” For this reason perhaps it was that the first Egyptians called their god “knef”; the Syrians, “Adonai”; the neighboring nations, “Baal,” or “Bel,” or “Melch,” or “Moloch”; the Scythians, “Papæus”; all these names signifying “lord,” “master.”
Thus was nearly all America found to be divided into a multitude of petty tribes, each having its protecting god. The Mexicans, too, and the Peruvians, forming great nations, had only one god—the one adoring Manco Capak, the other the god of war. The Mexicans called their warlike divinity “Huitzilipochtli,” as the Hebrews had called their Lord “Sabaoth.”
It was not from a superior and cultivated reason that every people thus began with acknowledging one only Divinity; had they been philosophers, they would have adored the God of all nature, and not the god of a village; they would have examined those infinite relations among all things which prove a Being creating and preserving; but they examined nothing—they felt. Such is the progress of our feeble understanding. Each village would feel its weakness and its need of a protector; it would imagine that tutelary and terrible being residing in the neighboring forest, or on a mountain, or in a cloud. It would imagine only one, because the clan had but one chief in war; it would imagine that one corporeal, because it was impossible to represent it otherwise. It could not believe that the neighboring tribe had not also its god. Therefore it was that Jephthah said to the inhabitants of Moab: “You possess lawfully what your god Chemoth has made you conquer; you should, then, let us enjoy what our god has given us by his victories.”
This language, used by one stranger to other strangers, is very remarkable. The Jews and the Moabites had dispossessed the natives of the country; neither had any right but that of force; and the one says to the other: “Your god has protected you in your usurpation; suffer our god to protect us in ours.”
Jeremiah and Amos both ask what right the god Melchem had to seize the country of Gad? From these passages it is evident that the ancients attributed to each country a protecting god. We find other traces of this theology in Homer.
It is very natural that, men’s imaginations being heated, and their minds having acquired some confused knowledge, they should soon multiply their gods, and speedily assign protectors to the elements, the seas, the forests, the fountains, and the fields. The more they observed the stars, the more they would be struck with admiration. How, indeed, should they have adored the divinity of a brook, and not have adored the sun? The first step being taken, the earth would soon be covered with gods; and from the stars men would at last come down to cats and onions.
Reason, however, will advance towards perfection; time at length found philosophers who saw that neither onions, nor cats, nor even the stars, had arranged the order of nature. All those philosophers—Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Scythians, Greeks, and Romans—admitted a supreme, rewarding, and avenging God.
They did not at first tell it to the people; for whosoever should have spoken ill of onions and cats before priests and old women, would have been stoned; whosoever should have reproached certain of the Egyptians with eating their gods would himself have been eaten—as Juvenal relates that an Egyptian was in reality killed and eaten quite raw in a controversial dispute.
What then did they do? Orpheus and others established mysteries, which the initiated swore by oaths of execration not to reveal—of which mysteries the principal was the adoration of a supreme God. This great truth made its way through half the world, and the number of the initiated became immense. It is true that the ancient religion still existed; but as it was not contrary to the dogma of the unity of God, it was allowed to exist. And why should it have been abolished? The Romans acknowledged the “Deus optimus maximus,” and the Greeks had their Zeus—their supreme god. All the other divinities were only intermediate beings; heroes and emperors were ranked with the gods, i. e., with the blessed; but it is certain that Claudius, Octavius, Tiberius, and Caligula, were not regarded as the creators of heaven and earth.
In short, it seems proved that, in the time of Augustus, all who had a religion acknowledged a superior, eternal God, with several orders of secondary gods, whose worship was called idolatry.
The laws of the Jews never favored idolatry; for, although they admitted the Malachim, angels and celestial beings of an inferior order, their law did not ordain that they should worship these secondary divinities. They adored the angels, it is true; that is, they prostrated themselves when they saw them; but as this did not often happen, there was no ceremonial nor legal worship established for them. The cherubim of the ark received no homage. It is beyond a doubt that the Jews, from Alexander’s time at least, openly adored one only God, as the innumerable multitude of the initiated secretly adored Him in their mysteries.
It was at the time when the worship of a Supreme God was universally established among all the wise in Asia, in Europe, and in Africa, that the Christian religion took its birth.
Platonism assisted materially the understanding of its dogmas. The “Logos,” which with Plato meant the “wisdom,” the reason of the Supreme Being, became with us the “word,” and a second person of God. Profound metaphysics, above human intelligence, were an inaccessible sanctuary in which religion was enveloped.
It is not necessary here to repeat how Mary was afterwards declared to be the mother of God; how the consubstantiality of the Father and the “word” was established; as also the proceeding of the “pneuma,” the divine organ of the divine Logos; as also the two natures and two wills resulting from the hypostasis; and lastly, the superior manducation—the soul nourished as well as the body, with the flesh and blood of the God-man, adored and eaten in the form of bread, present to the eyes, sensible to the taste, and yet annihilated. All mysteries have been sublime.
In the second century devils began to be cast out in the name of Jesus; before they were cast out in the name of Jehovah or Ihaho; for St. Matthew relates that the enemies of Jesus having said that He cast out devils in the name of the prince of devils, He answered, “If I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?”
It is not known at what time the Jews recognized Beelzebub, who was a strange god, as the prince of devils; but it is known, for Josephus tells us, that there were at Jerusalem exorcists appointed to cast out devils from the bodies of the possessed; that is, of such as were attacked by singular maladies, which were then in a great part of the world attributed to the malific genii.
These demons were then cast out by the true pronunciation of Jehovah, which is now lost, and by other ceremonies now forgotten.
This exorcism by Jehovah or by the other names of God, was still in use in the first ages of the church. Origen, disputing against Celsus, says to him: “If, when invoking God, or swearing by Him, you call Him ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,’ you will by those words do things, the nature and force of which are such that the evil spirits submit to those who pronounce them; but if you call him by another name, as ‘God of the roaring sea,’ etc., no effect will be produced. The name of ‘Israel,’ rendered in Greek, will work nothing; but pronounce it in Hebrew with the other words required, and you will effect the conjuration.”
The same Origen has these remarkable words: “There are names which are powerful from their own nature. Such are those used by the sages of Egypt, the Magi of Persia, and the Brahmins of India. What is called ‘magic,’ is not a vain and chimerical art, as the Stoics and Epicureans pretend. The names ‘Sabaoth’ and ‘Adonai’ were not made for created beings, but belong to a mysterious theology which has reference to the Creator; hence the virtue of these names when they are arranged and pronounced according to rule.”
Origen, when speaking thus, is not giving his private opinion; he is but repeating the universal opinion.
All the religions then known admitted a sort of magic, which was distinguished into celestial magic, and infernal magic, necromancy and theurgy—all was prodigy, divination, oracle. The Persians did not deny the miracles of the Egyptians, nor the Egyptians those of the Persians. God permitted the primitive Christians to be persuaded of the truth of the oracles attributed to the Sibyls, and left them a few other unimportant errors, which were no essential detriment to their religion. Another very remarkable thing is, that the Christians of the primitive ages held temples, altars, and images in abhorrence. Origen acknowledges this (No. 347). Everything was afterwards changed, with the discipline, when the Church assumed a permanent form.
When once a religion is established in a state, the tribunals are all employed in perverting the continuance or renewal of most of the things that were done in that religion before it was publicly received. The founders used to assemble in private, in spite of magistrates; but now no assemblies are permitted but public ones under the eyes of the law, and all concealed associations are forbidden. The maxim formerly was, that “it is better to obey God than man”; the opposite maxim is now adopted, that “to follow the laws of the state is to obey God.” Nothing was heard of but obsessions and possessions; the devil was then let loose upon the world, but now the devil stays at home. Prodigies and predictions were necessary; now they are no longer admitted: a man who in the places should foretell calamities, would be sent to a madhouse. The founders secretly received the money of the faithful; but now, a man who should gather money for his own disposal, without being authorized by the law, would be brought before a court of justice to answer for so doing. Thus the scaffoldings that have served to build the edifice are no longer made use of.
After our own holy religion, which indubitably is the only good one, what religion would be the least objectionable?
Would it not be that which should be the simplest; that which should teach much morality and very few dogmas; that which should tend to make men just, without making them absurd; that which should not ordain the belief of things impossible, contradictory, injurious to the Divinity, and pernicious to mankind; nor dare to threaten with eternal pains whosoever should possess common sense? Would it not be that which should not uphold its belief by the hand of the executioner, nor inundate the earth with blood to support unintelligible sophisms; that in which an ambiguous expression, a play upon words, and two or three supported charters, should not suffice to make a sovereign and a god of a priest who is often incestuous, a murderer, and a poisoner; which should not make kings subject to this priest; that which should teach only the adoration of one God, justice, tolerance, and humanity.
It has been said, that the religion of the Gentiles was absurd in many points, contradictory, and pernicious; but have there not been imputed to it more harm than it ever did, and more absurdities than it ever preached?
Show me in all antiquity a temple dedicated to Leda lying with a swan, or Europa with a bull. Was there ever a sermon preached at Athens or at Rome, to persuade the young women to cohabit with their poultry? Are the fables collected and adorned by Ovid religious? Are they not like our Golden Legend, our Flower of the Saints? If some Brahmin or dervish were to come and object to our story of St. Mary the Egyptian, who not having wherewith to pay the sailors who conveyed her to Egypt, gave to each of them instead of money what are called “favors,” we should say to the Brahmin: Reverend father, you are mistaken; our religion is not the Golden Legend.
We reproach the ancients with their oracles, and prodigies; if they could return to this world, and the miracles of our Lady of Loretto and our Lady of Ephesus could be counted, in whose favor would be the balance?
Human sacrifices were established among almost every people, but very rarely put in practice. Among the Jews, only Jephthah’s daughter and King Agag were immolated; for Isaac and Jonathan were not. Among the Greeks, the story of “Iphigenia” is not well authenticated; and human sacrifices were very rare among the ancient Romans. In short, the religion of the Pagans caused very little blood to be shed, while ours has deluged the earth. Ours is doubtless the only good, the only true one; but we have done so much harm by its means that when we speak of others we should be modest.
If a man would persuade foreigners, or his own countrymen, of the truth of his religion, should he not go about it with the most insinuating mildness and the most engaging moderation? If he begins with telling them that what he announces is demonstrated, he will find a multitude of persons incredulous; if he ventures to tell them that they reject his doctrine only inasmuch as it condemns their passions; that their hearts have corrupted their minds; that their reasoning is only false and proud, he disgusts them; he incenses them against himself; he himself ruins what he would fain establish.
If the religion he announces be true, will violence and insolence render it more so? Do you put yourself in a rage, when you say that it is necessary to be mild, patient, beneficent, just, and to fulfil all the duties of society? No; because everyone is of your own opinion. Why, then, do you abuse your brother when preaching to him a mysterious system of metaphysics? Because his opinion irritates your self-love. You are so proud as to require your brother to submit his intelligence to yours; humbled pride produces the wrath; it has no other source. A man who has received twenty wounds in a battle does not fly into a passion; but a divine, wounded by the refusal of your assent, at once becomes furious and implacable.
Must we not carefully distinguish the religion of the state from theological religion? The religion of the state requires that the imans keep registers of the circumcised, the vicars or pastors registers of the baptized; that there be mosques, churches, temples, days consecrated to rest and worship, rites established by law; that the ministers of those rites enjoy consideration without power; that they teach good morals to the people, and that the ministers of the law watch over the morals of the ministers of the temples. This religion of the state cannot at any time cause any disturbance.
It is otherwise with theological religion: this is the source of all imaginable follies and disturbances; it is the parent of fanaticism and civil discord; it is the enemy of mankind. A bonze asserts that Fo is a God, that he was foretold by fakirs, that he was born of a white elephant, and that every bonze can by certain grimaces make a Fo. A talapoin says, that Fo was a holy man, whose doctrine the bonzes have corrupted, and that Sammono-codom is the true God. After a thousand arguments and contradictions, the two factions agree to refer the question to the dalai-lama, who resides three hundred leagues off, and who is not only immortal, but also infallible. The two factions send to him a solemn deputation; and the dalai-lama begins, according to his divine custom, by distributing among them the contents of his close-stool.
The two rival sects at first receive them with equal reverence; have them dried in the sun, and encase them in little chaplets which they kiss devoutly; but no sooner have the dalai-lama and his council pronounced in the name of Fo, than the condemned party throw their chaplets in the vice-god’s face, and would fain give him a sound thrashing. The other party defend their lama, from whom they have received good lands; both fight a long time; and when at last they are tired of mutual extermination, assassination, and poisoning, they grossly abuse each other, while the dalai-lama laughs, and still distributes his excrement to whosoever is desirous of receiving the good father lama’s precious favors.
Rhyme was probably invented to assist the memory, and to regulate at the same time the song and the dance. The return of the same sounds served to bring easily and readily to the recollection the intermediate words between the two rhymes. Those rhymes were a guide at once to the singer and the dancer; they indicated the measure. Accordingly, in every country, verse was the language of the gods.
We may therefore class it among the list of probable, that is, of uncertain, opinions, that rhyme was at first a religious appendage or ceremony; for after all, it is possible that verses and songs might be addressed by a man to his mistress before they were addressed by him to his deities; and highly impassioned lovers indeed will say that the cases are precisely the same.
A rabbi who gave a general view of the Hebrew language, which I never was able to learn, once recited to me a number of rhymed psalms, which he said we had most wretchedly translated. I remember two verses, which are as follows:
“They looked upon him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed.”
No rhyme can be richer than that of those two verses; and this being admitted, I reason in the following manner:
The Jews, who spoke a jargon half Phœnician and half Syriac, rhymed; therefore the great and powerful nations, under whom they were in slavery, rhymed also. We cannot help believing, that the Jews—who, as we have frequently observed, adopted almost everything from their neighbors—adopted from them also rhyme.
All the Orientals rhyme; they are steady and constant in their usages. They dress now as they have dressed for the long series of five or six thousand years. We may, therefore, well believe that they have rhymed for a period of equal duration.
Some of the learned contend that the Greeks began with rhyming, whether in honor of their gods, their heroes, or their mistresses; but, that afterwards becoming more sensible of the harmony of their language, having acquired a more accurate knowledge of prosody, and refined upon melody, they made those requisite verses without rhyme which have been transmitted down to us, and which the Latins imitated and very often surpassed.
As for us, the miserable descendants of Goths, Vandals, Gauls, Franks, and Burgundians—barbarians who are incapable of attaining either the Greek or Latin melody—we are compelled to rhyme. Blank verse, among all modern nations, is nothing but prose without any measure; it is distinguished from ordinary prose only by a certain number of equal and monotonous syllables, which it has been agreed to denominate “verse.”
We have remarked elsewhere that those who have written in blank verse have done so only because they were incapable of rhyming. Blank verse originated in an incapacity to overcome difficulty, and in a desire to come to an end sooner.
We have remarked that Ariosto has made a series of forty-eight thousand rhymes without producing either disgust or weariness in a single reader. We have observed how French poetry, in rhyme, sweeps all obstacles before it, and that pleasure arose even from the very obstacles themselves. We have been always convinced that rhyme was necessary for the ears, not for the eyes; and we have explained our opinions, if not with judgment and success, at least without dictation and arrogance.
But we acknowledge that on the receipt at Mount Krapak of the late dreadful literary intelligence from Paris, our former moderation completely abandons us. We understand that there exists a rising sect of barbarians, whose doctrine is that no tragedy should henceforward be ever written but in prose. This last blow alone was wanting, in addition to all our previous afflictions. It is the abomination of desolation in the temple of the muses. We can very easily conceive that, after Corneille had turned into verse the “Imitation of Jesus Christ,” some sarcastic wag might menace the public with the acting of a tragedy in prose, by Floridor and Mondori; but this project having been seriously executed by the abbé d’Aubignac, we well know with what success it was attended. We well know the ridicule and disgrace that were attached to the prose “Œdipus” of De la Motte Houdart, which were nearly as great as those which were incurred by his “Œdipus” in verse. What miserable Visigoth can dare, after “Cinna” and “Andromache,” to banish verse from the theatre? After the grand and brilliant age of our literature, can we be really sunk into such degradation and opprobrium! Contemptible barbarians! Go, then, and see this your prose tragedy performed by actors in their riding-coats at Vauxhall, and afterwards go and feast upon shoulder of mutton and strong beer.
What would Racine and Boileau have said had this terrible intelligence been announced to them? “Bon Dieu”! Good God! from what a height have we fallen, and into what a slough are we plunged!
It is certain that rhyme gives a most overwhelming and oppressive influence to verses possessing mere mediocrity of merit. The poet in this case is just like a bad machinist, who cannot prevent the harsh and grating sounds of his wires and pulleys from annoying the ear. His readers experience the same fatigue that he underwent while forming his own rhymes; his verses are nothing but an empty jingling of wearisome syllables. But if he is happy in his thoughts and happy also in his rhyme, he then experiences and imparts a pleasure truly exquisite—a pleasure that can be fully enjoyed only by minds endowed with sensibility, and by ears attuned to harmony.
We are told that the Egyptians built their pyramids for no other purpose than to make tombs of them, and that their bodies, embalmed within and without, waited there for their souls to come and reanimate them at the end of a thousand years. But if these bodies were to come to life again, why did the embalmers begin the operation by piercing the skull with a gimlet, and drawing out the brain? The idea of coming to life again without brains would make one suspect that—if the expression may be used—the Egyptians had not many while alive; but let us bear in mind that most of the ancients believed the soul to be in the breast. And why should the soul be in the breast rather than elsewhere? Because, when our feelings are at all violent, we do in reality feel, about the region of the heart, a dilatation or compression, which caused it to be thought that the soul was lodged there. This soul was something aërial; it was a slight figure that went about at random until it found its body again.
The belief in resurrection is much more ancient than historical times. Athalides, son of Mercury, could die and come to life again at will; Æsculapius restored Hippolytus to life, and Hercules, Alceste. Pelops, after being cut in pieces by his father, was resuscitated by the gods. Plato relates that Heres came to life again for fifteen days only.
Among the Jews, the Pharisees did not adopt the dogma of the resurrection until long after Plato’s time.
In the Acts of the Apostles there is a very singular fact, and one well worthy of attention. St. James and several of his companions advise St. Paul to go into the temple of Jerusalem, and, Christian as he was, to observe all the ceremonies of the Old Law, in order—say they—“that all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee are nothing, but that thou thyself also walkest orderly and keepest the law.” This is clearly saying: “Go and lie; go and perjure yourself; go and publicly deny the religion which you teach.”
St. Paul then went seven days into the temple; but on the seventh he was discovered. He was accused of having come into it with strangers, and of having profaned it. Let us see how he extricated himself.
“But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council—“Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” The resurrection of the dead formed no part of the question; Paul said this only to incense the Pharisees and Sadducees against each other.
“And when he had so said there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the multitude was divided.
“For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.”
It has been asserted that Job, who is very ancient, was acquainted with the doctrine of resurrection; and these words are cited: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that one day His redemption shall rise upon me; or that I shall rise again from the dust, that my skin shall return, and that in my flesh I shall again see God.”
But many commentators understand by these words that Job hopes soon to recover from his malady, and that he shall not always remain lying on the ground, as he then was. The sequel sufficiently proves this explanation to be the true one; for he cries out the next moment to his false and hardhearted friends: “Why then do you say let us persecute Him?” Or: “For you shall say, because we persecuted Him.” Does not this evidently mean—you will repent of having ill used me, when you shall see me again in my future state of health and opulence. When a sick man says: I shall rise again, he does not say: I shall come to life again. To give forced meanings to clear passages is the sure way never to understand one another; or rather, to be regarded by honest men as wanting sincerity.
St. Jerome dates the birth of the sect of the Pharisees but a very short time before Jesus Christ. The rabbin Hillel is considered as having been the founder of the Pharisaic sect; and this Hillel was contemporary with St. Paul’s master, Gamaliel.
Many of these Pharisees believed that only the Jews were brought to life again, the rest of mankind not being worth the trouble. Others maintained that there would be no rising again but in Palestine; and that the bodies of such as were buried elsewhere would be secretly conveyed into the neighborhood of Jerusalem, there to rejoin their souls. But St. Paul, writing to the people of Thessalonica, says:
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Does not this important passage clearly prove that the first Christians calculated on seeing the end of the world? as, indeed, it was foretold by St. Luke to take place while he himself was alive? But if they did not see this end of the world, if no one rose again in their day, that which is deferred is not lost.
St. Augustine believed that children, and even still-born infants, would rise again in a state of maturity. Origen, Jerome, Athanasius, Basil, and others, did not believe that women would rise again with the marks of their sex.
In short, there have ever been disputes about what we have been, about what we are, and about what we shall be.
Father Malebranche proves resurrection by the caterpillars becoming butterflies. This proof, as every one may perceive, is not more weighty than the wings of the insects from which he borrows it. Calculating thinkers bring forth arithmetical objections against this truth which he has so well proved. They say that men and other animals are really fed and derive their growth from the substance of their predecessors. The body of a man, reduced to ashes, scattered in the air, and falling on the surface of the earth, becomes corn or vegetable. So Cain ate a part of Adam; Enoch fed on Cain; Irad on Enoch; Mahalaleel on Irad; Methuselah on Mahalaleel; and thus we find that there is not one among us who has not swallowed some portion of our first parent. Hence it has been said that we have all been cannibals. Nothing can be clearer than that such is the case after a battle; not only do we kill our brethren, but at the end of two or three years, when the harvests have been gathered from the field of battle, we have eaten them all; and we, in turn, shall be eaten with the greatest facility imaginable. Now, when we are to rise again, how shall we restore to each one the body that belongs to him, without losing something of our own?
So say those who trust not in resurrection; but the resurrectionists have answered them very pertinently.
A rabbin named Samaï demonstrates resurrection by this passage of Exodus: “I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and swore to give unto them the land of Canaan.” Now—says this great rabbin—notwithstanding this oath, God did not give them that land; therefore, they will rise again to enjoy it, in order that the oath be fulfilled.
The profound philosopher Calmet finds a much more conclusive proof in vampires. He saw vampires issuing from churchyards to go and suck the blood of good people in their sleep; it is clear that they could not suck the blood of the living if they themselves were still dead; therefore they had risen again; this is peremptory.
It is also certain that at the day of judgment all the dead will walk under ground, like moles—so says the “Talmud”—that they may appear in the valley of Jehoshaphat, which lies between the city of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. There will be a good deal of squeezing in this valley; but it will only be necessary to reduce the bodies proportionately, like Milton’s devils in the hall of Pandemonium.
This resurrection will take place to the sound of the trumpet, according to St. Paul. There must, of course, be more trumpets than one; for the thunder itself is not heard more than three or four leagues round. It is asked: How many trumpets will there be? The divines have not yet made the calculation; it will nevertheless be made.
The Jews say that Queen Cleopatra, who no doubt believed in the resurrection like all the ladies of that day, asked a Pharisee if we were to rise again quite naked? The doctor answered that we shall be very well dressed, for the same reason that the corn that has been sown and perished under ground rises again in ear with a robe and a beard. This rabbin was an excellent theologian; he reasoned like Dom Calmet.
It has been asserted that the dogma of resurrection was much in vogue with the Egyptians, and was the origin of their embalmings and their pyramids. This I myself formerly believed. Some said that the resurrection was to take place at the end of a thousand years; others at the end of three thousand. This difference in their theological opinions seems to prove that they were not very sure about the matter.
Besides, in the history of Egypt, we find no man raised again; but among the Greeks we find several. Among the latter, then, we must look for this invention of rising again.
But the Greeks often burned their bodies, and the Egyptians embalmed them, that when the soul, which was a small, aërial figure, returned to its habitation, it might find it quite ready. This had been good if its organs had also been ready; but the embalmer began by taking out the brain and clearing the entrails. How were men to rise again without intestines, and without the medullary part by means of which they think? Where were they to find again the blood, the lymph, and other humors?
You will tell me that it was still more difficult to rise again among the Greeks, where there was not left of you more than a pound of ashes at the utmost—mingled, too, with the ashes of wood, stuffs and spices.
Your objection is forcible, and I hold with you, that resurrection is a very extraordinary thing; but the son of Mercury did not the less die and rise again several times. The gods restored Pelops to life, although he had been served up as a ragout, and Ceres had eaten one of his shoulders. You know that Æsculapius brought Hippolytus to life again; this was a verified fact, of which even the most incredulous had no doubt; the name of “Virbius,” given to Hippolytus, was a convincing proof. Hercules had resuscitated Alceste and Pirithous. Heres did, it is true—according to Plato—come to life again for fifteen days only; still it was a resurrection; the time does not alter the fact.
Many grave schoolmen clearly see purgatory and resurrection in Virgil. As for purgatory, I am obliged to acknowledge that it is expressly in the sixth book. This may displease the Protestants, but I have no alternative:
But we have already quoted this passage in the article on “Purgatory,” which doctrine is here expressed clearly enough; nor could the kinsfolks of that day obtain from the pagan priests an indulgence to abridge their sufferings for ready money. The ancients were much more severe and less simoniacal than we are notwithstanding that they imputed so many foolish actions to their gods. What would you have? Their theology was made up of contradictions, as the malignant say is the case with our own.
When their purgation was finished, these souls went and drank of the waters of Lethe, and instantly asked that they might enter fresh bodies and again see daylight. But is this a resurrection? Not at all; it is taking an entirely new body, not resuming the old one; it is a metempsychosis, without any relation to the manner in which we of the true faith are to rise again.
The souls of the ancients did, I must acknowledge, make a very bad bargain in coming back to this world, for seventy years at most, to undergo once more all that we know is undergone in a life of seventy years, and then suffer another thousand years’ discipline. In my humble opinion there is no soul that would not be tired of this everlasting vicissitude of so short a life and so long a penance.
Our resurrection is quite different. Every man will appear with precisely the same body which he had before; and all these bodies will be burned for all eternity, excepting only, at most, one in a hundred thousand. This is much worse than a purgatory of ten centuries, in order to live here again a few years.
When will the great day of this general resurrection arrive? This is not positively known; and the learned are much divided. Nor do they any more know how each one is to find his own members again. Hereupon they start many difficulties.
1. Our body, say they, is, during life, undergoing a continual change; at fifty years of age we have nothing of the body in which our soul was lodged at twenty.
2. A soldier from Brittany goes into Canada; there, by a very common chance, he finds himself short of food, and is forced to eat an Iroquois whom he killed the day before. This Iroquois had fed on Jesuits for two or three months; a great part of his body had become Jesuit. Here, then, the body of a soldier is composed of Iroquois, of Jesuits, and of all that he had eaten before. How is each to take again precisely what belongs to him? and which part belongs to each?
3. A child dies in its mother’s womb, just at the moment that it has received a soul. Will it rise again fœtus, or boy, or man?
4. To rise again—to be the same person as you were—you must have your memory perfectly fresh and present; it is memory that makes your identity. If your memory be lost, how will you be the same man?
5. There are only a certain number of earthly particles that can constitute an animal. Sand, stone, minerals, metals, contribute nothing. All earth is not adapted thereto; it is only the soils favorable to vegetation that are favorable to the animal species. When, after the lapse of many ages, every one is to rise again, where shall be found the earth adapted to the formation of all these bodies?
6. Suppose an island, the vegetative part of which will suffice for a thousand men, and for five or six thousand animals to feed and labor for that thousand men; at the end of a hundred thousand generations we shall have to raise again a thousand millions of men. It is clear that matter will be wanting: “Materies opus est, ut crescunt postera saecla.”
7. And lastly, when it is proved, or thought to be proved, that a miracle as great as the universal deluge, or the ten plagues of Egypt, will be necessary to work the resurrection of all mankind in the valley of Jehoshaphat, it is asked: What becomes of the souls of all these bodies while awaiting the moment of returning into their cases?
Fifty rather knotty questions might easily be put; but the divines would likewise easily find answers to them all.
National Rights—Natural Rights—Public Rights.
I know no better way of commencing this subject than with the verses of Ariosto, in the second stanza of the 44th canto of the “Orlando Furioso,” which observes that kings, emperors, and popes, sign fine treaties one day which they break the next, and that, whatever piety they may affect, the only god to whom they really appeal, is their interest:
If there were only two men on earth, how would they live together? They would assist each other; they would annoy each other; they would court each other; they would speak ill of each other; fight with each other; be reconciled to each other; and be neither able to live with nor without each other. In short, they would do as people at present do, who possess the gift of reason certainly, but the gift of instinct also; and will feel, reason, and act forever as nature has destined.
No god has descended upon our globe, assembled the human race, and said to them, “I ordain that the negroes and Kaffirs go stark naked and feed upon insects.
“I order the Samoyeds to clothe themselves with the skins of reindeer, and to feed upon their flesh, insipid as it is, and eat dry and half putrescent fish without salt. It is my will that the Tartars of Thibet all believe what their dalai-lama shall say; and that the Japanese pay the same attention to their dairo.
“The Arabs are not to eat swine, and the Westphalians nothing else but swine.
“I have drawn a line from Mount Caucasus to Egypt, and from Egypt to Mount Atlas. All who inhabit the east of that line may espouse as many women as they please; those to the west of it must be satisfied with one.
“If, towards the Adriatic Gulf, or the marshes of the Rhine and the Meuse, or in the neighborhood of Mount Jura, or the Isle of Albion, any one shall wish to make another despotic, or aspire to be so himself, let his head be cut off, on a full conviction that destiny and myself are opposed to his intentions.
“Should any one be so insolent as to attempt to establish an assembly of free men on the banks of the Manzanares, or on the shores of the Propontis, let him be empaled alive or drawn asunder by four horses.
“Whoever shall make up his accounts according to a certain rule of arithmetic at Constantinople, at Grand Cairo, at Tafilet, at Delhi, or at Adrianople, let him be empaled alive on the spot, without form of law; and whoever shall dare to account by any other rule at Lisbon, Madrid, in Champagne, in Picardy, and towards the Danube, from Ulm unto Belgrade, let him be devoutly burned amidst chantings of the ‘Miserere.’
“That which is just along the shores of the Loire is otherwise on the banks of the Thames; for my laws are universal,” etc.
It must be confessed that we have no very clear proof, even in the “Journal Chrétien,” nor in “The Key to the Cabinet of Princes,” that a god has descended in order to promulgate such a public law. It exists, notwithstanding, and is literally practised according to the preceding announcement; and there have been compiled, compiled, and compiled, upon these national rights, very admirable commentaries, which have never produced a sou to the great numbers who have been ruined by war, by edicts, and by tax-gatherers.
These compilations closely resemble the case of conscience of Pontas. It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished who kill not in large companies, and to the sound of trumpets; it is the rule.
At the time when Anthropophagi still existed in the forest of Ardennes, an old villager met with a man-eater, who had carried away an infant to devour it. Moved with pity, the villager killed the devourer of children and released the little boy, who quickly fled away. Two passengers, who witnessed the transaction at a distance, accused the good man with having committed a murder on the king’s highway. The person of the offender being produced before the judge, the two witnesses—after they had paid the latter a hundred crowns for the exercise of his functions—deposed to the particulars, and the law being precise, the villager was hanged upon the spot for doing that which had so much exalted Hercules, Theseus, Orlando, and Amadis the Gaul. Ought the judge to be hanged himself, who executed this law to the letter? How ought the point to be decided upon a general principle? To resolve a thousand questions of this kind, a thousand volumes have been written.
Puffendorff first established moral existences: “There are,” said he, “certain modes which intelligent beings attach to things natural, or to physical operations, with the view of directing or restraining the voluntary actions of mankind, in order to infuse order, convenience, and felicity into human existence.”
Thus, to give correct ideas to the Swedes and the Germans of the just and the unjust, he remarks that “there are two kinds of place, in regard to one of which, it is said, that things are for example, here or there; and in respect to the other, that they have existed, do, or will exist at a certain time, as for example, yesterday, to-day, or to-morrow. In the same manner we conceive two sorts of moral existence, the one of which denotes a moral state, that has some conformity with place, simply considered; the other a certain time, when a moral effect will be produced,” etc.
This is not all; Puffendorff curiously distinguishes the simple moral from the modes of opinion, and the formal from the operative qualities. The formal qualities are simple attributes, but the operative are to be carefully divided into original and derivated.
In the meantime, Barbeyrac has commented on these fine things, and they are taught in the universities, and opinion is divided between Grotius and Puffendorff in regard to questions of similar importance. Take my recommendation; read Tully’s “Offices.”
Nothing possibly can tend more to render a mind false, obscure, and uncertain than the perusal of Grotius, Puffendorff, and almost all the writers on the “jus gentium.”
We must not do evil that good may come of it, says the writer to whom nobody hearkens. It is permitted to make war on a power, lest it should become too strong, says the “Spirit of Laws.”
When rights are to be established by prescription, the publicists call to their aid divine right and human right; and the theologians take their part in the dispute. “Abraham and his seed,” say they, “had a right to the land of Canaan, because he had travelled there; and God had given it to him in a vision.” But according to the vulgate sage teachers, five hundred and forty-seven years elapsed between the time when Abraham purchased a sepulchre in the country and Joshua took possession of a small part of it. No matter, his right was clear and correct. And then prescription? Away with prescription! Ought that which once took place in Palestine to serve as a rule for Germany and Italy? Yes, for He said so. Be it so, gentlemen; God preserve me from disputing with you!
The descendants of Attila, it is said, established themselves in Hungary. Till what time must the ancient inhabitants hold themselves bound in conscience to remain serfs to the descendants of Attila?
Our doctors, who have written on peace and war, are very profound; if we attend to them, everything belongs of right to the sovereign for whom they write; he, in fact, has never been able to alienate his domains. The emperor of right ought to possess Rome, Italy, and France; such was the opinion of Bartholus; first, because the emperor was entitled king of the Romans; and, secondly, because the archbishop of Cologne is chancellor of Italy, and the archbishop of Trier chancellor of Gaul. Moreover, the emperor of Germany carries a gilded ball at his coronation, which of course proves that he is the rightful master of the whole globe.
At Rome there is not a single priest who has not learned, in his course of theology, that the pope ought to be master of this earth, seeing it is written that it was said to Simon, the son of Jonas: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” It was well said to Gregory VII. that this treated only of souls, and of the celestial kingdom. Damnable observation! he replied; and would have hanged the observer had he been able.
Spirits, still more profound, establish this reasoning by an argument to which there is no reply. He to whom the bishop of Rome calls himself vicar has declared that his dominion is not of this world; can this world then belong to the vicar, when his master has renounced it? Which ought to prevail, human nature or the decretals? The decretals, indisputably.
If it be asked whether the massacre of ten or twelve millions of unarmed men in America was defensible, it is replied that nothing can be more just and holy, since they were not Catholic, apostolic and Roman.
There is not an age in which the declarations of war of Christian princes have not authorized the attack and pillage of all the subjects of the prince, to whom war has been announced by a herald, in a coat of mail and hanging sleeves. Thus, when this signification has been made, should a native of Auvergne meet a German, he is bound to kill, and entitled to rob him either before or after the murder.
The following has been a very thorny question for the schools: The ban, and the arrière-ban, having been ordered out in order to kill and be killed on the frontiers, ought the Suabians, being satisfied that the war is atrociously unjust, to march? Some doctors say yes; others, more just, pronounce no. What say the politicians?
When we have fully discussed these great preliminary questions, with which no sovereign embarrasses himself, or is embarrassed, we must proceed to discuss the right of fifty or sixty families upon the county of Alost; the town of Orchies; the duchy of Berg and of Juliers; upon the countries of Tournay and Nice; and, above all, on the frontiers of all the provinces, where the weakest always loses his cause.
It was disputed for a hundred years whether the dukes of Orleans, Louis XII., and Francis I., had a claim on the duchy of Milan, by virtue of a contract of marriage with Valentina de Milan, granddaughter of the bastard of a brave peasant, named Jacob Muzio. Judgment was given in this process at the battle of Pavia.
The dukes of Savoy, of Lorraine, and of Tuscany still pretend to the Milanese; but it is believed that a family of poor gentlemen exist in Friuli, the posterity in a right line from Albion, king of the Lombards, who possess an anterior claim.
The publicists have written great books upon the rights of the kingdom of Jerusalem. The Turks have written none, and Jerusalem belongs to them; at least at this present writing; nor is Jerusalem a kingdom.
CANONICAL RIGHTS—OR LAW.
We assume neither to adopt nor contradict the principles of M. Bertrand; it is for the public to judge of them.
Canon law, or the canon, according to the vulgar opinion, is ecclesiastical jurisprudence. It is the collection of canons, rules of the council, decrees of the popes, and maxims of the fathers.
According to reason, and to the rights of kings and of the people, ecclesiastical jurisprudence is only an exposition of the privileges accorded to ecclesiastics by sovereigns representing the nation.
If two supreme authorities, two administrations, having separate rights, exist, and the one will make war without ceasing upon the other, the unavoidable result will be perpetual convulsions, civil wars, anarchy, tyranny, and all the misfortunes of which history presents so miserable a picture.
If a priest is made sovereign; if the dairo of Japan remained emperor until the sixteenth century; if the dalai-lama is still sovereign at Thibet; if Numa was at once king and pontiff; if the caliphs were heads of the state as well as of religion; and if the popes reign at Rome—these are only so many proofs of the truth of what we advance; the authority is not divided; there is but one power. The sovereigns of Russia and of England preside over religion; the essential unity of power is there preserved.
Every religion is within the State; every priest forms a part of civil society, and all ecclesiastics are among the number of the subjects of the sovereign under whom they exercise their ministry. If a religion exists which establishes ecclesiastical independence, and supports them in a sovereign and legitimate authority, that religion cannot spring from God, the author of society.
It is even to be proved, from all evidence, that in a religion of which God is represented as the author, the functions of ministers, their persons, property, pretensions, and manner of inculcating morality, teaching doctrines, celebrating ceremonies, the adjustment of spiritual penalties; in a word, all that relates to civil order, ought to be submitted to the authority of the prince and the inspection of the magistracy.
If this jurisprudence constitutes a science, here will be found the elements.
It is for the magistracy, solely, to authorize the books admissible into the schools, according to the nature and form of the government. It is thus that M. Paul Joseph Rieger, counsellor of the court, judiciously teaches canon law in the University of Vienna; and, in the like manner, the republic of Venice examined and reformed all the rules in the states which have ceased to belong to it. It is desirable that examples so wise should generally prevail.
Religion is instituted only to preserve order among mankind, and to render them worthy of the bounty of the Deity by virtue. Everything in a religion which does not tend to this object ought to be regarded as foreign or dangerous.
Instruction, exhortation, the fear of punishment to come, the promises of a blessed hereafter, prayer, advice, and spiritual consolation are the only means which churchmen can properly employ to render men virtuous on earth and happy to all eternity.
Every other means is repugnant to the freedom of reason; to the nature of the soul; to the unalterable rights of conscience; to the essence of religion; to that of the clerical ministry; and to the just rights of the sovereign.
Virtue infers liberty, as the transport of a burden implies active force. With constraint there is no virtue, and without virtue no religion. Make me a slave and I shall be the worse for it.
Even the sovereign has no right to employ force to lead men to religion, which essentially presumes choice and liberty. My opinions are no more dependent on authority than my sickness or my health.
In a word, to unravel all the contradictions in which books on the canon law abound, and to adjust our ideas in respect to the ecclesiastical ministry, let us endeavor, in the midst of a thousand ambiguities, to determine what is the Church.
The Church, then, is all believers, collectively, who are called together on certain days to pray in common, and at all times to perform good actions.
Priests are persons appointed, under the authority of the State, to direct these prayers, and superintend public worship generally.
A numerous Church cannot exist without ecclesiastics; but these ecclesiastics are not the Church.
It is not less evident that if the ecclesiastics, who compose a part of civil society, have acquired rights which tend to trouble or destroy such society, such rights ought to be suppressed.
It is still more obvious that if God has attached prerogatives or rights to the Church, these prerogatives and these rights belong exclusively neither to the head of the Church nor to the ecclesiastics; because these are not the Church itself, any more than the magistrates are the sovereign, either in a republic or a monarchy.
Lastly; it is very evident that it is our souls only which are submitted to the care of the clergy, and that for spiritual objects alone.
The soul acts inwardly; its inward acts are thought, will, inclination, and an acquiescence in certain truths, all which are above restraint; and it is for the ecclesiastical ministry to instruct, but not to command them.
The soul acts also outwardly. Its exterior acts are submission to the civil law; and here constraint may take place, and temporal or corporeal penalties may punish the violations of the law.
Obedience to the ecclesiastical order ought, consequently, to be always free and voluntary; it ought to exact no other. On the contrary, submission to the civil law may be enforced.
For the same reason ecclesiastical penalties, always being spiritual, attach in this world to those only who are inwardly convinced of their error. Civil penalties, on the contrary, accompanied by physical evil produce physical effects, whether the offender acknowledge the justice of them or not.
Hence it manifestly results that the authority of the clergy can only be spiritual—that it is unacquainted with temporal power, and that any co-operative force belongs not to the administration of the Church, which is essentially destroyed by it.
It moreover follows that a prince, intent not to suffer any division of his authority, ought not to permit any enterprise which places the members of the community in an outward or civil dependence on the ecclesiastical corporation.
Such are the incontestable principles of genuine canonical right or law, the rules and the decisions of which ought at all times to be submitted to the test of eternal and immutable truths, founded upon natural rights and the necessary order of society.
Let us constantly ascend to the principles of society, which, in civil as in religious order, are the foundations of all right.
Society in general is the proprietor of the territory of a country, and the source of national riches. A portion of this national revenue is devoted to the sovereign to support the expenses of government. Every individual is possessor of that part of the territory, and of the revenue, which the laws insure him; and no possession or enjoyment can at any time be sustained, except under the protection of law.
In society we hold not any good, or any possession as a simple natural right, as we give up our natural rights and submit to the order of civil society, in return for assurance and protection. It is, therefore, by the law that we hold our possessions.
No one can hold anything on earth through religion, neither lands nor chattels; since all its wealth is spiritual. The possessions of the faithful, as veritable members of the Church, are in heaven; it is there where their treasures are laid up. The kingdom of Jesus Christ, which He always announced as at hand, was not, nor could it be, of this world. No property, therefore, can be held by divine right.
The Levites under the Hebrew law had, it is true, their tithe by a positive law of God; but that was under a theocracy which exists no longer—God Himself acting as the sovereign. All those laws have ceased, and cannot at present communicate any title to possession.
If any body at present, like that of the priesthood, pretend to possess tithes or any other wealth by positive right divine, it must produce an express and incontestable proof enregistered by divine revelation. This miraculous title would be, I confess, an exception to the civil law, authorized by God, who says: “All persons ought to submit to the powers that be, because they are ordained of God and established in His name.”
In defect of such a title, no ecclesiastical body whatever can enjoy aught on earth but by consent of the sovereignty and the authority of the civil laws. These form their sole title to possession. If the clergy imprudently renounce this title, they will possess none at all, and might be despoiled by any one who is strong enough to attempt it. Its essential interest is, therefore, to support civil society, to which it owes everything.
For the same reason, as all the wealth of a nation is liable without exception to public expenditure for the defence of the sovereign and the nation, no property can be exempt from it but by force of law, which law is always revocable as circumstances vary. Peter cannot be exempt without augmenting the tax of John. Equity, therefore, is eternally claiming for equality against surcharges; and the State has a right, at all times, to examine into exemptions, in order to replace things in a just, natural, proportionate order, by abolishing previously granted immunities, whether permitted or extorted.
Every law which ordains that the sovereign, at the expense of the public, shall take care of the wealth or possessions of any individual or a body, without this body or individual contributing to the common expenses, amounts to a subversion of law.
I moreover assert that the quota, whether the contribution of a body or an individual, ought to be proportionately regulated, not by him or them, but by the sovereign or magistracy, according to the general form and law. Thus the sovereign or state may demand an account of the wealth and of the possessions of everybody as of every individual.
It is, therefore, once more on these immutable principles that the rules of the canon law should be founded which relate to the possessions and revenue of the clergy.
Ecclesiastics, without doubt, ought to be allowed sufficient to live honorably, but not as members of or as representing the Church, for the Church itself claims neither sovereignty nor possession in this world.
But if it be necessary for ministers to preside at the altar, it is proper that society should support them in the same manner as the magistracy and soldiers. It is, therefore, for the civil law to make a suitable provision for the priesthood.
Even when the possessions of the ecclesiastics have been bestowed on them by wills, or in any other manner, the donors have not been able to denationalize the property by abstracting it from public charges and the authority of the laws. It is always under the guarantee of the laws, without which they would not possess the insured and legitimate possessions which they enjoy.
It is, therefore, still left to the sovereign, or the magistracy in his name, to examine at all times if the ecclesiastical revenues be sufficient; and if they are not, to augment the allotted provision; if, on the contrary, they are excessive, it is for them to dispose of the superfluity for the general good of society.
But according to the right, commonly called canonical, which has sought to form a State within the State, “imperium in imperio,” ecclesiastical property is sacred and intangible, because it belongs to religion and the Church; they have come of God, and not of man.
In the first place, it is impossible to appropriate this terrestrial wealth to religion, which has nothing temporal. They cannot belong to the Church, which is the universal body of the believers, including the king, the magistracy, the soldiery, and all subjects; for we are never to forget that priests no more form the Church than magistrates the State.
Lastly, these goods come only from God in the same sense as all goods come from Him, because all is submitted to His providence.
Therefore, every ecclesiastical possessor of riches, or revenue, enjoys it only as a subject and citizen of the State, under the single protection of the civil law.
Property, which is temporal and material, cannot be rendered sacred or holy in any sense, neither literally nor figuratively. If it be said that a person or edifice is sacred, it only signifies that it has been consecrated or set apart for spiritual purposes.
The abuse of a metaphor, to authorize rights and pretensions destructive to all society, is an enterprise of which history and religion furnish more than one example, and even some very singular ones, which are not at present to my purpose.
It is certain that nobody can call any public or regular assembly in a state but under the sanction of civil authority.
Religious assemblies for public worship must be authorized by the sovereign, or civil magistracy, before they can be legal.
In Holland, where the civil power grants the greatest liberty, and very nearly the same in Russia, in England, and in Prussia, those who wish to form a church have to obtain permission, after which the new church is in the states, although not of the religion of the states. In general, as soon as there is a sufficient number of persons, or of families, who wish to cultivate a particular mode of worship, and to assemble for that purpose, they can without hesitation apply to the magistrate, who makes himself a judge of it; and once allowed, it cannot be disturbed without a breach of public order. The facility with which the government of Holland has granted this permission has never produced any disorder; and it would be the same everywhere if the magistrate alone examined, judged, and protected the parties concerned.
The sovereign, or civil power, possesses the right at all times of knowing what passes within these assemblies, of regulating them in conformity with public order, and of preventing such as produce disorder. This perpetual inspection is an essential portion of sovereignty, which every religion ought to acknowledge.
Everything in the worship, in respect to form of prayer, canticles, and ceremonies, ought to be open to the inspection of the magistrate. The clergy may compose these prayers; but it is for the State to approve or reform them in case of necessity. Bloody wars have been undertaken for mere forms, which would never have been waged had sovereigns understood their rights.
Holidays ought to be no more established without the consent and approbation of the State, who may at all times abridge and regulate them. The multiplication of such days always produces a laxity of manners and national impoverishment.
A superintendence over oral instruction and books of devotion, belongs of right to the State. It is not the executive which teaches, but which attends to the manner in which the people are taught. Morality above all should be attended to, which is always necessary; whereas disputes concerning doctrines are often dangerous.
If disputes exist between ecclesiastics in reference to the manner of teaching, or on points of doctrine, the State may impose silence on both parties, and punish the disobedient.
As religious congregations are not permitted by the State in order to treat of political matters, magistrates ought to repress seditious preachers, who heat the multitude by punishable declamation: these are pests in every State.
Every mode of worship presumes a discipline to maintain order, uniformity, and decency. It is for the magistrate to protect this discipline, and to bring about such changes as times and circumstances may render necessary.
For nearly eight centuries the emperors of the East assembled councils in order to appease religious disputes, which were only augmented by the too great attention paid to them. Contempt would have more certainly terminated the vain disputation, which interest and the passions had excited. Since the division of the empire of the West into various kingdoms, princes have left to the pope the convocation of these assemblies. The rights of the Roman pontiff are in this respect purely conventional, and the sovereigns may agree in the course of time, that they shall no longer exist; nor is any one of them obliged to submit to any canon without having examined and approved it. However, as the Council of Trent will most likely be the last, it is useless to agitate all the questions which might relate to a future general council.
As to assemblies, synods, or national councils, they indisputably cannot be convoked except when the sovereign or State deems them necessary. The commissioners of the latter ought therefore to preside, direct all their deliberations, and give their sanction to the decrees.
There may exist periodical assemblies of the clergy, to maintain order, under the authority of the State, but the civil power ought uniformly to direct their views and guide their deliberations. The periodical assembly of the clergy of France is only an assembly of regulative commissioners for all the clergy of the kingdom.
The vows by which certain ecclesiastics oblige themselves to live in a body according to certain rules, under the name of monks, or of religieux, so prodigiously multiplied in Europe, should always be submitted to the inspection and approval of the magistrate. These convents, which shut up so many persons who are useless to society, and so many victims who regret the liberty which they have lost; these orders, which bear so many strange denominations, ought not to be valid or obligatory, unless when examined and sanctioned by the sovereign or the State.
At all times, therefore, the prince or State has a right to take cognizance of the rules and conduct of these religious houses, and to reform or abolish them if held to be incompatible with present circumstances, and the positive welfare of society.
The revenue and property of these religious bodies are, in like manner, open to the inspection of the magistracy, in order to judge of their amount and of the manner in which they are employed. If the mass of the riches, which is thus prevented from circulation, be too great; if the revenues greatly exceed the reasonable support of the regulars; if the employment of these revenues be opposed to the general good; if this accumulation impoverish the rest of the community; in all these cases it becomes the magistracy, as the common fathers of the country, to diminish and divide these riches, in order to make them partake of the circulation, which is the life of the body politic; or even to employ them in any other way for the benefit of the public.
Agreeably to the same principles, the sovereign authority ought to forbid any religious order from having a superior who is a native or resident of another country. It approaches to the crime of lesemajesté.
The sovereign may prescribe rules for admission into these orders; he may, according to ancient usage, fix an age, and hinder taking vows, except by the express consent of the magistracy in each instance. Every citizen is born a subject of the State, and has no right to break his natural engagements with society without the consent of those who preside over it.
If the sovereign abolishes a religious order, the vows cease to be binding. The first vow is that to the State; it is a primary and tacit oath authorized by God; a vow according to the decrees of Providence; a vow unalterable and imprescriptible, which unites man in society to his country and his sovereign. If we take a posterior vow, the primitive one still exists; and when they clash, nothing can weaken or suspend the force of the primary engagement. If, therefore, the sovereign declares this last vow, which is only conditional and dependent on the first, incompatible with it, he does not dissolve a vow, but decrees it to be necessarily void, and replaces the individual in his natural state.
The foregoing is quite sufficient to dissipate all the sophistry by which the canonists have sought to embarrass a question so simple in the estimation of all who are disposed to listen to reason.
Since neither the Church, which is the body of believers collectively, nor the ecclesiastics, who are ministers in the Church in the name of the sovereign and under his authority, possess any coactive strength, executive power, or terrestrial authority, it is evident that these ministers can inflict only spiritual punishments. To threaten sinners with the anger of heaven is the sole penalty that a pastor is entitled to inflict. If the name of punishment or penalty is not to be given to those censures or declamations, ministers of religion have none at all to inflict.
May the Church eject from its bosom those who disgrace or who trouble it? This is a grand question, upon which the canonists have not hesitated to adopt the affirmative. Let us repeat, in the first place, that ecclesiastics are not the Church. The assembled Church, which includes the State or sovereign, doubtless possesses the right to exclude from the congregations a scandalous sinner, after repeated charitable and sufficient warnings. The exclusion, even in this case, cannot inflict any civil penalty, any bodily evil, or any merely earthly privation; but whatever right the Church may in this way possess, the ecclesiastics belonging to it can only exercise it as far as the sovereign and State allow.
It is therefore still more incumbent on the sovereign, in this case, to watch over the manner in which this permitted right is exercised, vigilance being the more necessary in consequence of the abuse to which it is liable. It is, consequently, necessary for the supreme civil power to consult the rules for the regulation of assistance and charity, to prescribe suitable restrictions, without which every declaration of the clergy, and all excommunication, will be null and without effect, even when only applicable to the spiritual order. It is to confound different eras and circumstances, to regulate the proceedings of present times from the practice of the apostles. The sovereign in those days was not of the religion of the apostles, nor was the Church included in the State, so that the ministers of worship could not have recourse to the magistrates. Moreover, the apostles were ministers extraordinary, of which we now perceive no resemblance. If other examples of excommunication, without the authority of the sovereign, be quoted, I can only say that I cannot hear, without horror, of examples of excommunication insolently fulminated against sovereigns and magistrates; I boldly reply, that these denunciations amount to manifest rebellion, and to an open violation of the most sacred duties of religion, charity, and natural right.
Let us add, in order to afford a complete idea of excommunication, and of the true rules of canonical right or law in this respect, that excommunication, legitimately pronounced by those to whom the sovereign, in the name of the Church, expressly leaves the power, includes privation only of spiritual advantages on earth, and can extend to nothing else: all beyond this will be abuse, and more or less tyrannical. The ministers of the Church can do no more than declare that such and such a man is no more a member of the Church. He may still, however, enjoy notwithstanding the excommunication, all his natural, civil, and temporal rights as a man and a citizen. If the magistrate steps in and deprives such a man, in consequence, of an office or employment in society, it then becomes a civil penalty for some fault against civil order.
Let us suppose that which may very likely happen, as ecclesiastics are only men, that the excommunication which they have been led to pronounce has been prompted by some error or some passion; he who is exposed to a censure so precipitate is clearly justified in his conscience before God; the declaration issued against him can produce no effect upon the life to come. Deprived of exterior communion with the true Church, he may still enjoy the consolation of the interior communion. Justified by his conscience, he has nothing to fear in a future existence from the judgment of God, his only true judge.
It is then a great question, as to canonical rights, whether the clergy, their head, or any ecclesiastical body whatever, can excommunicate the sovereign or the magistracy, under any pretext, or for any abuse of their power? This question is essentially scandalous, and the simple doubt a direct rebellion. In fact, the first duty of man in society is to respect the magistrate, and to advance his respectability, and you pretend to have a right to censure and set him aside. Who has given you this absurd and pernicious right? Is it God, who governs the political world by delegated sovereignty, and who ordains that society shall subsist by subordination?
The first ecclesiastics at the rise of Christianity—did they conceive themselves authorized to excommunicate Tiberius, Nero, Claudius, or even Constantine, who was a heretic? How then have pretensions thus monstrous, ideas thus atrocious, wicked attempts equally condemned by reason and by natural and religious rights, been suffered to last so long? If a religion exists which teaches like horrors, society ought to proscribe it, as directly subversive of the repose of manking. The cry of whole nations is already lifted up against these pretended canonical laws, dictated by ambition and by fanaticism. It is to be hoped that sovereigns, better instructed in their rights, and supported by the fidelity of their people, will terminate abuses so enormous, and which have caused so many misfortunes. The author of the “Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations” has been the first to forcibly expose the atrocity of enterprises of this nature.
The sovereign is not the judge of the truth of doctrine; he may judge for himself, like all other men; but he ought to take cognizance of it in respect to everything which relates to civil order, whether in regard to purport or delivery.
This is the general rule from which magistrates ought never to depart. Nothing in a doctrine merits the attention of the police, except as it interests public order: it is the influence of doctrine upon manners that decides its importance. Doctrines which have a distant connection only with good conduct can never be fundamental. Truths which conduce to render mankind gentle, humane, obedient to the laws and to the government, interest the State, and proceed evidently from God.
The administration of the sacraments ought to be submitted to the careful inspection of the magistrates in everything which concerns public order.
It has already been observed that the magistrate ought to watch over the form of the public registry of marriages, baptisms, and deaths, without any regard to the creed of the different inhabitants of the State.
Similar reasons in relation to police and good government—do they not require an exact registry in the hands of the magistracy of all those who make vows, and enter convents in those countries in which convents are permitted?
In the sacrament of repentance, the minister who refuses or grants absolution is accountable for his judgment only to God; and in the same manner, the penitent is accountable to God alone, whether he consummates it all, or does so well or ill.
No pastor, himself a sinner, ought to have the right of publicly refusing, on his own private authority, the eucharist to another sinner. The sinless Jesus Christ refused not the communion to Judas.
Extreme unction and the viaticum, if demanded or requested by the sick, should be governed by the same rule. The simple right of the minister is to exhort the sick person, and it is the duty of the magistrate to take care that the pastor abuse not circumstances, in order to persecute the invalid.
Formerly, it was the Church collectively which called the pastors, and conferred upon them the right of governing and instructing the flock. At present, ecclesiastics alone consecrate others, and the magistracy ought to be watchful of this privilege.
It is doubtless a great, though ancient abuse, that of conferring orders without functions; it is depriving the State of members, without adding to the Church. The magistrate is called upon to reform this abuse.
Marriage, in a civil sense, is the legitimate union of a man with a woman for the procreation of children, to secure their due nurture and education, and in order to assure unto them their rights and properties under the protection of the laws. In order to confirm and establish this union, it is accompanied by a religious ceremony, regarded by some as a sacrament, and by others as a portion of public worship; a genuine logomachy, which changes nothing in the thing. Two points are therefore to be distinguished in marriage—the civil contract, or natural engagement, and the sacrament, or sacred ceremony. Marriage may therefore exist, with all its natural and civil effects, independently of the religious ceremony. The ceremonies of the Church are only essential to civil order, because the State has adopted them. A long time elapsed before the ministers of religion had anything to do with marriage. In the time of Justinian, the agreement of the parties, in the presence of witnesses, without any ceremonies of the Church, legalized marriages among Christians. It was that emperor who, towards the middle of the sixth century, made the first laws by which the presence of priests was required, as simple witnesses, without, however, prescribing any nuptial benediction. The emperor Leo, who died in 886, seems to have been the first who placed the religious ceremony in the number of necessary conditions. The terms of the law itself indeed, which ordains it, prove it to have been a novelty.
From the correct idea which we now form of marriage, it results in the first place, that good order, and even piety, render religious forms adopted in all Christian countries necessary. But the essence of marriage cannot be denationalized, and this engagement, which is the principal one in society, ought uniformly, as a branch of civil and political order, to be placed under the authority of the magistracy.
It follows, therefore, that a married couple, even educated in the worship of infidels and heretics, are not obliged to marry again, if they have been united agreeably to the established forms of their own country; and it is for the magistrate in all such instances to investigate the state of the case.
The priest is at present the magistrate freely nominated by the law, in certain countries, to receive the pledged faith of persons wishing to marry. It is very evident, that the law can modify or change as it please the extent of this ecclesiastical authority.
Wills and funerals are incontestably under the authority of the civil magistracy and the police. The clergy have never been allowed to usurp the authority of the law in respect to these. In the age of Louis XIV. however, and even in that of Louis XV., striking examples have been witnessed of the endeavors of certain fanatical ecclesiastics to interfere in the regulation of funerals. Under the pretext of heresy, they refused the sacraments, and interment; a barbarity which Pagans would have held in horror.
The sovereign or State may, without doubt, give up to an ecclesiastical body, or a single priest, a jurisdiction over certain objects and certain persons, with a power suitable to the authority confided. I examine not into the prudence of remitting a certain portion of civil authority into the hands of any body or person who already enjoys an authority in things spiritual. To deliver to those who ought to be solely employed in conducting men to heaven, an authority upon earth, is to produce a union of two powers, the abuse of which is only too easy; but at least it is evident that any man, as well as an ecclesiastic, may be intrusted with the same jurisdiction. By whomsoever possessed, it has either been conceded by the sovereign power, or usurped; there is no medium. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world; he refused to be a judge upon earth, and ordered that men should give unto Cæsar the things which belonged unto Cæsar: he forbade all dominations to his apostles, and preached only humility, gentleness, and dependence. From him ecclesiastics can derive neither power, authority, domination, nor jurisdiction in this world. They can therefore possess no legitimate authority, but by a concession from the sovereign or State, from which all authority in a society can properly emanate.
There was a time in the unhappy epoch of the feudal ages in which ecclesiastics were possessed in various countries with the principal functions of the magistracy: the authority of the lords of the lay fiefs, so formidable to the sovereign and oppressive to the people, has been since bounded; but a portion of the independence of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions still exists. When will sovereigns be sufficiently informed and courageous to take back from them the usurped authority and numerous privileges which they have so often abused, to annoy the flock which they ought to protect?
It is by this inadvertence of princes that the audacious enterprises of ecclesiastics against sovereigns themselves have originated. The scandalous history of these attempts has been consigned to records which cannot be contested. The bull “In cœna Domini,” in particular, still remains to prove the continual enterprises of the clergy against royal and civil authority.
Extract from the Tariff of the Rights Exacted in France by the Court of Rome for Bulls, Dispensations, Absolutions, etc., which Tariff was Decreed in the King’s Council, Sept. 4, 1691, and Which is Reported Entire in the Brief of James Lepelletier, Printed at Lyons in 1699, with the Approbation and Permission of the King. Lyons: Printed for Anthony Boudet, Eighth Edition.
1. For absolution for the crime of apostasy, payable to the pope, twenty-four livres.
2. A bastard wishing to take orders must pay twenty-five livres for a dispensation; if desirous to possess a benefice, he must pay in addition one hundred and eighty livres; if anxious that his dispensation should not allude to his illegitimacy, he will have to pay a thousand and fifty livres.
3. For dispensation and absolution of bigamy, one thousand and fifty livres.
4. For a dispensation for the error of a false judgment in the administration of justice or the exercise of medicine, ninety livres.
5. Absolution for heresy, twenty-four livres.
6. Brief of forty hours, for seven years, twelve livres.
7. Absolution for having committed homicide in self-defence, or undesignedly, ninety-five livres. All in company of the murderer also need absolution, and are to pay for the same eighty-five livres each.
8. Indulgences for seven years, twelve livres.
9. Perpetual indulgences for a brotherhood, forty livres.
10. Dispensation for irregularity and incapacity, twenty-five livres; if the irregularity is great, fifty livres.
11. For permission to read forbidden books, twenty-five livres.
12. Dispensation for simony, forty livres; with an augmentation according to circumstances.
13. Brief to permit the eating of forbidden meats, sixty-five livres.
14. Dispensation for simple vows of chastity or of religion, fifteen livres. Brief declaratory of the nullity of the profession of a monk or a nun, one hundred livres. If this brief be requested ten years after profession, double the amount.
Dispensations in Relation to Marriage.
Dispensations for the fourth degree of relationship, with cause, sixty-five livres; without cause, ninety livres; with dispensation for familiarities that have passed between the future married persons, one hundred and eighty livres.
For relations of the third or fourth degree, both on the side of the father and mother, without cause, eight hundred and eighty livres; with cause, one hundred and forty-five livres.
For relations of the second degree on one side, and the fourth on the other; nobles to pay one thousand four hundred and thirty livres; roturiers, one thousand one hundred and fifty livres.
He who would marry the sister of the girl to whom he has been affianced, to pay for a dispensation, one thousand four hundred and thirty livres.
Those who are relations in the third degree, if they are nobles, or live creditably, are to pay one thousand four hundred and thirty livres; if the relationship is on the side of father as well as mother, two thousand four hundred and thirty livres.
Relations in the second degree to pay four thousand five hundred and thirty livres; and if the female has accorded favors to the male, in addition for absolution, two thousand and thirty livres.
For those who have stood sponsors at the baptism of the children of each other, the dispensation will cost two thousand seven hundred and thirty livres. If they would be absolved from premature familiarity, one thousand three hundred and thirty livres in addition.
He who has enjoyed the favors of a widow during the life of her deceased husband, in order to legitimately espouse her, will have to pay one hundred and ninety livres.
In Spain and Portugal, the marriage dispensations are still dearer. Cousins-german cannot obtain them for less than two thousand crowns.
The poor not being able to pay these taxes, abatements may be made. It is better to obtain half a right, than lose all by refusing the dispensation.
No reference is had here to the sums paid to the pope for the bulls of bishops, abbots, etc., which are to be found in the almanacs; but we cannot perceive by what authority the pope of Rome levies taxes upon laymen who choose to marry their cousins.
The progress of rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error. It is not long since it was discovered that all rivers originate in those eternal masses of snow which cover the summits of lofty mountains, those snows in rain, that rain in the vapor exhaled from the land and sea; and that thus everything is a link in the great chain of nature.
When a boy, I heard theses delivered which proved that all rivers and fountains came from the sea. This was the opinion of all antiquity. These rivers flowed into immense caverns, and thence distributed their waters to all parts of the world.
When Aristeus goes to lament the loss of his bees to Cyrene his mother, goddess of the little river Enipus in Thessaly, the river immediately divides itself, forming as it were two mountains of water, right and left, to receive him according to ancient and immemorial usage; after which he has a view of those vast and beautiful grottoes through which flow all the rivers of the earth; the Po, which descends from Mount Viso in Piedmont, and traverses Italy; the Teverone, which comes from the Apennines; the Phasis, which issues from Mount Caucasus, and falls into the Black Sea; and numberless others.
Virgil, in this instance, adopted a strange system of natural philosophy, in which certainly none but poets can be indulged.
Such, however, was the credit and prevalence of this system that, fifteen hundred years afterwards, Tasso completely imitated Virgil in his fourteenth canto, while imitating at the same time with far greater felicity Ariosto. An old Christian magician conducts underground the two knights who are to bring back Rinaldo from the arms of Armida, as Melissa had rescued Rogero from the caresses of Alcina. This venerable sage makes Rinaldo descend into his grotto, from which issue all the rivers which refresh and fertilize our earth. It is a pity that the rivers of America are not among the number. But as the Nile, the Danube, the Seine, the Jordan, and the Volga have their source in this cavern, that ought to be deemed sufficient. What is still more in conformity to the physics of antiquity is the circumstance of this grotto or cavern being in the very centre of the earth. Of course, it is here that Maupertuis wanted to take a tour.
After admitting that rivers spring from mountains, and that both of them are essential parts of this great machine, let us beware how we give in to varying and vanishing systems.
When Maillet imagined that the sea had formed the mountains, he should have dedicated his book to Cyrano de Bergerac. When it has been said, also, that the great chains of mountains extend from east to west, and that the greatest number of rivers also flow always to the west, the spirit of system has been more consulted than the truth of nature.
With respect to mountains, disembark at the Cape of Good Hope, you will perceive a chain of mountains from the south as far north as Monomotapa. Only a few persons have visited that quarter of the world, and travelled under the line in Africa. But Calpe and Abila are completely in the direction of north and south. From Gibraltar to the river Guadiana, in a course directly northward, there is a continuous range of mountains. New and Old Castile are covered with them, and the direction of them all is from south to north, like that of all the mountains in America. With respect to the rivers, they flow precisely according to the disposition or direction of the land.
The Guadalquivir runs straight to the south from Villanueva to San Lucar; the Guadiana the same, as far as Badajos. All the rivers in the Gulf of Venice, except the Po, fall into the sea towards the south. Such is the course of the Rhone from Lyons to its mouth. That of the Seine is from the north-northwest. The Rhine, from Basle, goes straight to the north. The Meuse does the same, from its source to the territory overflowed by its waters. The Scheldt also does the same.
Why, then, should men be so assiduous in deceiving themselves, just for the pleasure of forming systems, and leading astray persons of weak and ignorant minds? What good can possibly arise from inducing a number of people—who must inevitably be soon undeceived—to believe that all rivers and all mountains are in a direction from east to west, or from west to east; that all mountains are covered with oyster-shells—which is most certainly false—that anchors have been found on the summit of the mountains of Switzerland; that these mountains have been formed by the currents of the ocean; and that limestone is composed entirely of seashells? What! shall we, at the present day, treat philosophy as the ancients formerly treated history?
To return to streams and rivers. The most important and valuable things that can be done in relation to them is preventing their inundations, and making new rivers—that is, canals—out of those already existing, wherever the undertaking is practicable and beneficial. This is one of the most useful services that can be conferred upon a nation. The canals of Egypt were as serviceable as its pyramids were useless.
With regard to the quantity of water conveyed along the beds of rivers, and everything relating to calculation on the subject, read the article on “River,” by M. d’Alembert. It is, like everything else done by him, clear, exact, and true; and written in a style adapted to the subject; he does not employ the style of Telemachus to discuss subjects of natural philosophy.
It was not until lately that the modern nations of Europe began to render roads practicable and convenient, and to bestow on them some beauty. To superintend and keep in order the road is one of the most important cares of both the Mogul and Chinese emperors. But these princes never attained such eminence in this department as the Romans. The Appian, the Aurelian, the Flaminian, the Æmilian, and the Trajan ways exist even at the present day. The Romans alone were capable of constructing such roads, and they alone were capable of repairing them.
Bergier, who has written an otherwise valuable book, insists much on Solomon’s employing thirty thousand Jews in cutting wood on Mount Lebanon, eighty thousand in building the temple, seventy thousand on carriages, and three thousand six hundred in superintending the labors of others. We will for a moment admit it all to be true; yet still there is nothing said about his making or repairing highways.
Pliny informs us that three hundred thousand men were employed for twenty years in building one of the pyramids of Egypt; I am not disposed to doubt it; but surely three hundred thousand men might have been much better employed. Those who worked on the canals in Egypt; or on the great wall, the canals, or highways of China; or those who constructed the celebrated ways of the Roman Empire were much more usefully occupied than the three hundred thousand miserable slaves in building a pyramidal sepulchre for the corpse of a bigoted Egyptian.
We are well acquainted with the prodigious works accomplished by the Romans, their immense excavations for lakes of water, or the beds of lakes formed by nature, filled up, hills levelled, and a passage bored through a mountain by Vespasian, in the Flaminian way, for more than a thousand feet in length, the inscription on which remains at present. Pausilippo is not to be compared with it.
The foundations of the greater part of our present houses are far from being so solid as were the highways in the neighborhood of Rome; and these public ways were extended throughout the empire, although not upon the same scale of duration and solidity. To effect that would have required more men and money than could possibly have been obtained.
Almost all the highways of Italy were erected on a foundation four feet deep; when a space of marshy ground or bog was on the track of the road, it was filled up; and when any part of it was mountainous, its precipitousness was reduced to a gentle and trifling inclination from the general line of the road. In many parts, the roads were supported by solid walls.
Upon the four feet of masonry, were placed large hewn stones of marble, nearly one foot in thickness, and frequently ten feet wide; they were indented by the chisel to prevent the slipping of the horses. It was difficult to say which most attracted admiration—the utility or the magnificence of these astonishing works.
Nearly all of these wonderful constructions were raised at the public expense. Cæsar repaired and extended the Appian way out of his own private funds; those funds, however, consisted of the money of the republic.
Who were the persons employed upon these works? Slaves, captives taken in war, and provincials that were not admitted to the distinction of Roman citizens. They worked by “corvée,” as they do in France and elsewhere; but some trifling remuneration was allowed them.
Augustus was the first who joined the legions with the people in labors upon the highways of the Gauls, and in Spain and Asia. He penetrated the Alps by the valley which bore his name, and which the Piedmontese and the French corruptly called the “Valley of Aöste.” It was previously necessary to bring under subjection all the savage hordes by which these cantons were inhabited. There is still visible, between Great and Little St. Bernard, the triumphal arch erected by the senate in honor of him after this expedition. He again penetrated the Alps on another side leading to Lyons, and thence into the whole of Gaul. The conquered never effected for themselves so much as was effected for them by their conquerors.
The downfall of the Roman Empire was that of all the public works, as also of all orderly police, art, and industry. The great roads disappeared in the Gauls, except some causeways, “chaussées,” which the unfortunate Queen Brunehilde kept for a little time in repair. A man could scarcely move on horseback with safety on the ancient celebrated ways, which were now becoming dreadfully broken up, and impeded by masses of stone and mud. It was found necessary to pass over the cultivated fields; the ploughs scarcely effected in a month what they now easily accomplish in a week. The little commerce that remained was limited to a few woollen and linen cloths, and some wretchedly wrought hardwares, which were carried on the backs of mules to the fortifications or prisons called “châteaux,” situated in the midst of marshes, or on the tops of mountains covered with snow.
Whatever travelling was accomplished—and it could be but little—during the severe seasons of the year, so long and so tedious in northern climates, could be effected only by wading through mud or climbing over rocks. Such was the state of the whole of France and Germany down to the middle of the seventeenth century. Every individual wore boots; and in many of the cities of Germany the inhabitants went into the streets on stilts.
At length, under Louis XIV., were begun those great roads which other nations have imitated. Their width was limited to sixty feet in the year 1720. They are bordered by trees in many places to the extent of thirty leagues from the capital, which has a most interesting and delightful effect. The Roman military ways were only sixteen feet wide, but were infinitely more solid. It was necessary to repair them every year, as is the practice with us. They were embellished by monuments, by military columns, and even by magnificent tombs; for it was not permitted, either in Greece or Italy, to bury the dead within the walls of cities, and still less within those of temples; to do so would have been no less an offence than sacrilege. It was not then as it is at present in our churches, in which, for a sum of money, ostentatious and barbarous vanity is allowed to deposit the dead bodies of wealthy citizens, infecting the very place where men assemble to adore their God in purity, and where incense seems to be burned solely to counteract the stench of carcasses; while the poorer classes are deposited in the adjoining cemetery; and both unite their fatal influence to spread contagion among survivors.
The emperors were almost the only persons whose ashes were permitted to repose in the monuments erected at Rome.
Highways, sixty feet in width, occupy too much land; it is about forty feet more than necessary. France measures two hundred leagues, or thereabouts, from the mouth of the Rhone to the extremity of Brittany, and about the same from Perpignan to Dunkirk; reckoning the league at two thousand five hundred toises. This calculation requires, merely for two great roads, a hundred and twenty millions of square feet of land, all which must of course be lost to agriculture. This loss is very considerable in a country where the harvests are by no means always abundant.
An attempt was made to pave the high road from Orleans, which was not of the width above mentioned; but it was seen, in no long time, that nothing could be worse contrived for a road constantly covered with heavy carriages. Of these hewn paving stones laid on the ground, some will be constantly sinking, and others rising above the correct level, and the road becomes rugged, broken, and impracticable; it was therefore found necessary that the plan should be abandoned.
Roads covered with gravel and sand require a renewal of labor every year; this labor interferes with the cultivation of land, and is ruinous to agriculture.
M. Turgot, son of the mayor of Paris—whose name is never mentioned in that city but with blessings, and who was one of the most enlightened, patriotic, and zealous of magistrates—and the humane and beneficent M. de Fontette have done all in their power, in the provinces of Limousin and Normandy, to correct this most serious inconvenience.
It has been contended that we should follow the example of Augustus and Trajan, and employ our troops in the construction of highways. But in that case the soldier must necessarily have an increase of pay; and a kingdom, which was nothing but a province of the Roman Empire, and which is often involved in debt, can rarely engage in such undertakings as the Roman Empire accomplished without difficulty.
It is a very commendable practice in the Low Countries, to require the payment of a moderate toll from all carriages, in order to keep the public roads in proper repair. The burden is a very light one. The peasant is relieved from the old system of vexation and oppression, and the roads are in such fine preservation as to form even an agreeable continued promenade.
Canals are much more useful still. The Chinese surpass all other people in these works, which require continual attention and repair. Louis XIV., Colbert, and Riquet, have immortalized themselves by the canal which joins the two seas. They have never been as yet imitated. It is no difficult matter to travel through a great part of France by canals. Nothing could be more easy in Germany than to join the Rhine to the Danube; but men appear to prefer ruining one another’s fortunes, and cutting each other’s throats about a few paltry villages, to extending the grand means of human happiness.
The Theurgists and ancient sages had always a rod with which they operated.
Mercury passes for the first whose rod worked miracles. It is asserted that Zoroaster also bore a great rod. The rod of the ancient Bacchus was his Thyrsus, with which he separated the waters of the Orontes, the Hydaspus, and the Red Sea. The rod of Hercules was his club. Pythagoras was always represented with his rod. It is said it was of gold; and it is not surprising that, having a thigh of gold, he should possess a rod of the same metal.
Abaris, priest of the hyperborean Apollo, who it is pretended was contemporary with Pythagoras, was still more famous for his rod. It was indeed only of wood, but he traversed the air astride of it. Porphyry and Iamblichus pretend that these two grand Theurgists, Abaris and Pythagoras, amicably exhibited their rods to each other.
The rod, with sages, was at all times a sign of their superiority. The sorcerers of the privy council of Pharaoh at first effected as many feats with their rods as Moses with his own. The judicious Calmet informs us, in his “Dissertation on the Book of Exodus,” that “these operations of the Magi were not miracles, properly speaking, but metamorphoses, viz.: singular and difficult indeed, but nevertheless neither contrary to nor above the laws of nature.” The rod of Moses had the superiority, which it ought to have, over those of the Chotins of Egypt.
Not only did the rod of Aaron share in the honor of the prodigies of that of his brother Moses, but he performed some admirable things with his own. No one can be ignorant that, out of thirteen rods, Aaron’s alone blossomed, and bore buds and flowers of almonds.
The devil, who, as is well known, is a wicked aper of the deeds of saints, would also have his rod or wand, with which he gratified the sorcerers. Medea and Circe were always armed with this mysterious instrument. Hence, a magician never appears at the opera without his rod, and on which account they call their parts, “roles de baguette.” No performer with cups and balls can manage his hey presto! without his rod or wand.
Springs of water and hidden treasures are discovered by means of a rod made of a hazel twig, which fails not to press the hand of a fool who holds it too fast, but which turns about easily in that of a knave. M. Formey, secretary of the academy of Berlin, explains this phenomenon by that of the loadstone. All the conjurers of past times, it was thought, repaired to a sabbath or assembly on a magic rod or on a broom-stick; and judges, who were no conjurers, burned them.
Birchen rods are formed of a handful of twigs of that tree with which malefactors are scourged on the back. It is indecent and shameful to scourge in this manner the posteriors of young boys and girls; a punishment which was formerly that of slaves. I have seen, in some colleges, barbarians who have stripped children almost naked; a kind of executioner, often intoxicated, lacerate them with long rods, which frequently covered them with blood, and produced extreme inflammation. Others struck them more gently, which from natural causes has been known to produce consequences, especially in females, scarcely less disgusting.
By an incomprehensible species of police, the Jesuits of Paraguay whipped the fathers and mothers of families on their posteriors. Had there been no other motive for driving out the Jesuits, that would have sufficed.
ROME (COURT OF).
Before the time of Constantine, the bishop of Rome was considered by the Roman magistrates, who were unacquainted with our holy religion, only as the chief of a sect, frequently tolerated by the government, but frequently experiencing from it capital punishment. The names of the first disciples, who were by birth Jews, and of their successors, who governed the little flock concealed in the immense city of Rome, were absolutely unknown by all the Latin writers. We well know that everything was changed, and in what manner everything was changed under Constantine.
The bishop of Rome, protected and enriched as he was, was always in subjection to the emperors, like the bishop of Constantinople, and of Nicomedia, and every other, not making even the slightest pretension to the shadow of sovereign authority. Fatality, which guides the affairs of the universe, finally established the power of the ecclesiastical Roman court, by the hands of the barbarians who destroyed the empire.
The ancient religion, under which the Romans had been victorious for such a series of ages, existed still in the hearts of the population, notwithstanding all the efforts of persecution, when, in the four hundred and eighth year of our era, Alaric invaded Italy and beseiged Rome. Pope Innocent I. indeed did not think proper to forbid the inhabitants of that city sacrificing to the gods in the capitol, and in the other temples, in order to obtain the assistance of heaven against the Goths. But this same Pope Innocent, if we may credit Zosimus and Orosius, was one of the deputation sent to treat with Alaric, a circumstance which shows that the pope was at that time regarded as a person of considerable consequence.
When Attila came to ravage Italy in 452, by the same right which the Romans themselves had exercised over so many and such powerful nations; by the right of Clovis, of the Goths, of the Vandals, and the Heruli, the emperor sent Pope Leo I., assisted by two personages of consular dignity, to negotiate with that conqueror. I have no doubt, that agreeably to what we are positively told, St. Leo was accompanied by an angel, armed with a flaming sword, which made the king of the Huns tremble, although he had no faith in angels, and a single sword was not exceedingly likely to inspire him with fear. This miracle is very finely painted in the Vatican, and nothing can be clearer than that it never would have been painted unless it had actually been true. What particularly vexes and perplexes me is this angel’s suffering Aquileia, and the whole of Illyria, to be sacked and ravaged, and also his not preventing Genseric, at a later period, from giving up Rome to his soldiers for fourteen days of plunder. It was evidently not the angel of extermination.
Under the exarchs, the credit and influence of the popes augmented, but even then they had not the smallest degree of civil power. The Roman bishop, elected by the people, craved protection for the bishop, of the exarch of Ravenna, who had the power of confirming or of cancelling the election.
After the exarchate was destroyed by the Lombards, the Lombard kings were desirous of becoming masters also of the city of Rome; nothing could certainly be more natural.
Pepin, the usurper of France, would not suffer the Lombards to usurp that capital, and so become too powerful against himself; nothing again can be more natural than this.
It is pretended that Pepin and his son Charlemagne gave to the Roman bishops many lands of the exarchate, which was designated the Justices of St. Peter—“les Justices de St. Pierre.” Such is the real origin of their temporal power. From this period, these bishops appear to have assiduously exerted themselves to obtain something of rather more consideration and of more consequence than these justices.
We are in possession of a letter from Pope Arian I. to Charlemagne, in which he says, “The pious liberality of the emperor Constantine the Great, of sacred memory, raised and exalted, in the time of the blessed Roman Pontiff, Sylvester, the holy Roman Church, and conferred upon it his own power in this portion of Italy.”
From this time, we perceive, it was attempted to make the world believe in what is called the Donation of Constantine, which was, in the sequel, for a period of five hundred years, not merely regarded as an article of faith, but an incontestable truth. To entertain doubts on the subject of this donation included at once the crime of treason and the guilt of mortal sin.
After the death of Charlemagne, the bishop augmented his authority in Rome from day to day; but centuries passed away before he came to be considered as a sovereign prince. Rome had for a long period a patrician municipal government.
Pope John XII., whom Otho I., emperor of Germany, procured to be deposed in a sort of council, in 963, as simoniacal, incestuous, sodomitical, an atheist, in league with the devil, was the first man in Italy as patrician and consul, before he became bishop of Rome; and notwithstanding all these titles and claims, notwithstanding the influence of the celebrated Marosia, his mother, his authority was always questioned and contested.
Gregory VII., who from the rank of a monk became pope, and pretended to depose kings and bestow empires, far from being in fact complete master of Rome, died under the protection, or rather as the prisoner of those Norman princes who conquered the two Sicilies, of which he considered himself the paramount lord.
In the grand schism of the West, the popes who contended for the empire of the world frequently supported themselves on alms.
It is a fact not a little extraordinary that the popes did not become rich till after the period when they dared not to exhibit themselves at Rome.
According to Villani, Bertrand de Goth, Clement V. of Bordeaux, who passed his life in France, sold benefices publicly, and at his death left behind him vast treasures.
The same Villani asserts that he died worth twenty-five millions of gold florins. St. Peter’s patrimony could not certainly have brought him such a sum.
In a word, down to the time of Innocent VIII., who made himself master of the castle of St. Angelo, the popes never possessed in Rome actual sovereignty.
Their spiritual authority was undoubtedly the foundation of their temporal; but had they confined themselves to imitating the conduct of St. Peter, whose place it was pretended they filled, they would never have obtained any other kingdom than that of heaven. Their policy always contrived to prevent the emperors from establishing themselves at Rome, notwithstanding the fine and flattering title of “king of the Romans.” The Guelph faction always prevailed in Italy over the Ghibelline. The Romans were more disposed to obey an Italian priest than a German king.
In the civil wars, which the quarrel between the empire and the priesthood excited and kept alive for a period of five hundred years, many lords obtained sovereignties, sometimes in quality of vicars of the empire, and sometimes in that of vicars of the Holy See. Such were the princes of Este at Ferrara, the Bentivoglios at Bologna, the Malatestas at Rimini, the Manfredis at Faenza, the Bagliones at Perouse, the Ursins in Anguillara and in Serveti, the Collonas in Ostia, the Riarios at Forli, the Montefeltros in Urbino, the Varanos in Camerino, and the Gravinas in Senigaglia.
All these lords had as much right to the territories they possessed as the popes had to the patrimony of St. Peter; both were founded upon donations.
It is known in what manner Pope Alexander VI. made use of his bastard to invade and take possession of all these principalities. King Louis XII. obtained from that pope the cancelling of his marriage, after a cohabitation of eighteen years, on condition of his assisting the usurper.
The assassinations committed by Clovis to gain possession of the territories of the petty kings who were his neighbors, bear no comparison to the horrors exhibited on this occasion by Alexander and his son.
The history of Nero himself is less abominable; the atrocity of whose crimes was not increased by the pretext of religion; and it is worth observing, that at the very time these diabolical excesses were performed, the kings of Spain and Portugal were suing to that pope, one of them for America, and the other for Asia, which the monster accordingly granted them in the name of that God he pretended to represent. It is also worth observing that not fewer than a hundred thousand pilgrims flocked to his jubilee and prostrated themselves in adoration of his person.
Julius II. completed what Alexander had begun. Louis XII., born to become the dupe of all his neighbors, assisted Julius in seizing upon Bologna and Perouse. That unfortunate monarch, in return for his services, was driven out of Italy, and excommunicated by the very pope whom the archbishop of Auch, the king’s ambassador at Rome, addressed with the words “your wickedness,” instead of “your holiness.”
To complete his mortification, Anne of Brittany, his wife, a woman as devout as she was imperious, told him in plain terms, that he would be damned for going to war with the pope.
If Leo X. and Clement VII. lost so many states which withdrew from the papal communion, their power continued no less absolute than before over the provinces which still adhered to the Catholic faith. The court of Rome excommunicated the emperor Henry III., and declared Henry IV. unworthy to reign.
It still draws large sums from all the Catholic states of Germany, from Hungary, Poland, Spain, and France. Its ambassadors take precedence of all others; it is no longer sufficiently powerful to carry on war; and its weakness is in fact its happiness. The ecclesiastical state is the only one that has regularly enjoyed the advantages of peace since the sacking of Rome by the troops of Charles V. It appears, that the popes have been often treated like the gods of the Japanese, who are sometimes presented with offerings of gold, and sometimes thrown into the river.
Whether the celebrated isle of Samothrace be at the mouth of the river Hebrus, as it is said to be in almost all the geographical dictionaries, or whether it be twenty miles distant from it, which is in fact the case, is not what I am now investigating.
This isle was for a long time the most famous in the whole archipelago, and even in the whole world. Its deities called Cabiri, its hierophants, and its mysteries, conferred upon it as much reputation as was obtained not long since by St. Patrick’s cave in Ireland.
This Samothrace, the modern name of which is Samandrachi, is a rock covered with a very thin and barren soil, and inhabited by poor fishermen. They would be extremely surprised at being told of the glory which was formerly connected with their island; and they would probably ask, What is glory?
I inquire, what were these hierophants, these holy free masons, who celebrated their ancient mysteries in Samothrace, and whence did they and their gods Cabiri come?
It is not probable that these poor people came from Phœnicia, as Bochart infers by a long train of Hebrew etymologies, and as the Abbé Barrier, after him, is of opinion also. It is not in this manner that gods gain establishments in the world. They are like conquerors who subjugate nations, not all at once, but one after another. The distance from Phœnicia to this wretched island is too great to admit of the supposition that the gods of the wealthy Sidon and the proud Tyre should come to coop themselves up in this hermitage. Hierophants are not such fools.
The fact is, that there were gods of the Cabiri, priests of the Cabiri, and mysteries of the Cabiri, in this contemptible and miserable island. Not only does Herodotus mention them, but the Phœnician historian Sanchoniathon, who lived long before Herodotus, speaks of them in those fragments which have been so fortunately preserved by Eusebius. What is worse still, this Sanchoniathon, who certainly lived before the period in which Moses flourished, cites the great Thaut, the first Hermes, the first Mercury of Egypt; and this same great Thaut lived eight hundred years before Sanchoniathon, as that Phœnician acknowledges himself.
The Cabiri were therefore in estimation and honor two thousand and three or four hundred years before the Christian era.
Now, if you are desirous of knowing whence those gods of the Cabiri, established in Samothrace, came, does it not seem probable that they came from Thrace, the country nearest to that island, and that that small island was granted them as a theatre on which to act their farces, and pick up a little money? Orpheus might very possibly be the prime minstrel of these gods.
But who were these gods? They were what all the gods of antiquity were, phantoms invented by coarse and vulgar knaves, sculptured by artisans coarser still, and adored by brutes having the name of men.
There were three sorts of Cabiri; for, as we have already observed, everything in antiquity was done by threes. Orpheus could not have made his appearance in the world until long after the invention of these three gods; for he admits only one in his mysteries. I am much disposed to consider Orpheus as having been a strict Socinian.
I regard the ancient gods Cabiri as having been the first gods of Thrace, whatever Greek names may have been afterwards given to them.
There is something, however, still more curious, respecting the history of Samothrace. We know that Greece and Thrace were formerly afflicted by many inundations. We have read of the deluges of Deucaleon and Ogyges. The isle of Samothrace boasted of a yet more ancient deluge; and its deluge corresponds, in point of time, with the period in which it is contended that the ancient king of Thrace, Xixuter, lived, whom we have spoken of under the article on “Ararat.”
You may probably recollect that the gods of Xixuter, or Xissuter, who were in all probability the Cabiri, commanded him to build a vessel about thirty thousand feet long, and a hundred and twelve wide; that this vessel sailed for a long time over the mountains of Armenia during the deluge; that, having taken on board with him some pigeons and many other domestic animals, he let loose his pigeons to ascertain whether the waters had withdrawn; and that they returned covered with dirt and slime, which induced Xixuter to resolve on disembarking from his immense vessel.
You will say that it is a most extraordinary circumstance that Sanchoniathon does not make any mention of this curious adventure. I reply, that it is impossible for us to decide whether it was mentioned in his history or not, as Eusebius, who has only transmitted to us some fragments of this very ancient historian, had no particular inducement to quote any passage that might have existed in his work respecting the ship and pigeons. Berosus, however, relates the case, and he connects it with the marvellous, according to the general practice of the ancients. The inhabitants of Samothrace had erected monuments of this deluge.
What is more extraordinary and astonishing still is, as indeed we have already partly remarked, that neither Greece nor Thrace, nor the people of any other country, ever knew anything of the real and great deluge, the deluge of Noah.
How could it be possible, we once more ask, that an event so awful and appalling as that of the submersion of the whole earth should be unknown by the survivors? How could the name of our common father, Noah, who re-peopled the world, be unknown to all those who were indebted to him for life? It is the most prodigious of all progidies, that, of so many grandchildren, not one should have ever spoken of his grandfather!
I have applied to all the learned men that I have seen, and said, Have you ever met with any old work in Greek, Tuscan, Arabian, Egyptian, Chaldæan, Indian, Persian, or Chinese, in which the name of Noah is to be found? They have all replied in the negative. This is a fact that perpetually perplexes and confounds me.
But that the history of this universal inundation should be found in a single page of a book written in the wilderness by fugitives, and that this page should have been unknown to all the rest of the world till about nine hundred years after the foundation of Rome—this perfectly petrifies me. I cannot recover from its impression. The effect is completely overpowering. My worthy reader, let us both together exclaim: “O altitudo ignorantiarum!”
In quality of poor alphabetical compilers, collectors of anecdotes, gatherers of trifles, pickers of rags at the corners of the streets, we glorify ourselves with all the pride attached to our sublime science, on having discovered that “Samson the Strong,” a tragedy, was played at the close of the sixteenth century, in the town of Rouen, and that it was printed by Abraham Couturier. John Milton, for a long time a schoolmaster of London, afterwards Latin secretary to the protector, Cromwell—Milton, the author of “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained”—wrote the tragedy of “Samson Agonistes”; and it is very unfortunate that we cannot tell in what year.
We know, however, that it has been printed with a preface, in which much is boasted, by one of our brethren, the commentator named Paræus, who first perceived by the force of his genius, that the Apocalypse is a tragedy. On the strength of this discovery he divided the Apocalypse into five acts, and inserted choruses worthy of the elegance and fine nature of the piece. The author of this preface speaks to us of the fine tragedies of St. Gregory of Nazianzen. He asserts, that a tragedy should never have more than five acts, and to prove it, he gives us the “Samson Agonistes” of Milton, which has but one. Those who like elaborate declamation will be satisfied with this piece.
A comedy of Samson was played for a long time in Italy. A translation of it was made in Paris in 1717, by one named Romagnesi; it was represented on the French theatre of the pretended Italian comedy, formerly the palace of the dukes of Burgundy. It was published, and dedicated to the duke of Orleans, regent of France.
In this sublime piece, Arlequin, the servant of Samson, fights with a turkey-cock, whilst his master carries off the gates of Gaza on his shoulders.
In 1732, it was wished to represent, at the opera of Paris, a tragedy of Samson, set to music by the celebrated Rameau; but it was not permitted. There was neither Arlequin nor turkey-cock; but the thing appeared too serious; besides, certain people were very glad to mortify Rameau, who possessed great talents. Yet at that time they performed the opera of “Jephthah,” extracted from the Old Testament, and the comedy of the “Prodigal Son,” from the New Testament.
There is an old edition of the “Samson Agonistes” of Milton, preceded by an abridgment of the history of the hero. The following is this abridgment:
The Jews, to whom God promised by oath all the country which is between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates, and who through their sins never had this country, were on the contrary reduced to servitude, which slavery lasted for forty years. Now there was a Jew of the tribe of Dan, named Manoah; and the wife of this Manoah was barren; and an angel appeared to this woman, and said to her, “Behold, thou shalt conceive and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing; for the child shall be a Nazarite to God, from the womb to the day of his death.”
The angel afterwards appeared to the husband and wife; they gave him a kid to eat; he would have none of it, and disappeared in the midst of the smoke; and the woman said, We shall surely die, because we have seen God; but they died not.
The slave Samson being born, was consecrated a Nazarite. As soon as he was grown up, the first thing he did was to go to the Phœnician or Philistine town of Timnath, to court a daughter of one of his masters, whom he married.
In going to his mistress he met a lion, and tore him in pieces with his naked hand, as he would have done a kid. Some days after, he found a swarm of bees in the throat of the dead lion, with some honey, though bees never rest on carrion.
Then he proposed this enigma to his companions: Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness: if you guess, I will give you thirty tunics and thirty gowns; if not, you shall give me thirty gowns and thirty tunics. The comrades, not being able to guess in what the solution of the enigma consisted, gained over the young wife of Samson; she drew the secret from her husband, and he was obliged to give them thirty tunics and thirty gowns. “Ah,” said he to them, “if ye had not ploughed with my heifer, ye would not have found out my riddle.”
Soon after, the father-in-law of Samson gave another husband to his daughter.
Samson, enraged at having lost his wife, immediately caught three hundred foxes, tied them two together by the tails with lighted firebrands, and they fired the corn of the Philistines.
The Jewish slaves, not being willing to be punished by their masters for the exploits of Samson, surprised him in the cavern in which he dwelt, tied him with great ropes, and delivered him to the Philistines. As soon as he was in the midst of them, he broke his cords, and finding the jawbone of an ass, with one effort he killed a thousand Philistines. Such an effort making him very warm, he was dying of thirst, on which God made a fountain spout from one of the teeth of the ass’s jaw-bone. Samson, having drunk, went into Gaza, a Philistine town; he there immediately became smitten with a courtesan. As he slept with her, the Philistines shut the gates of the town, and surrounded the house, when he arose, took the gates, and carried them away. The Philistines, in despair at not being able to overcome this hero, addressed themselves to another courtesan named Delilah, with whom he afterwards slept. She finally drew from him the secret in which his strength consisted: it was only necessary to shave him, to render him equal to other men. He was shaved, became weak, and his eyes being put out, he was made to turn a mill and to play on the violin. One day, while playing in a Philistine temple, between two of its columns, he became indignant that the Philistines should have columned temples, whilst the Jews had only a tabernacle supported on four poles. He also felt that his hair began to grow; and being transported with a holy zeal, he pulled down the two pillars; by which concussion the temple was overthrown, the Philistines were crushed to death, and he with them.
Such is this preface, word for word.
This is the history which is the subject of the piece of Milton, and Romagnesi: it is adapted to Italian farce.
This astonishing phenomenon, but not more astonishing than others, this solid and luminous body, which surrounds the planet Saturn, which it enlightens, and by which it is enlightened, whether by the feeble reflection of the sun’s rays, or by some unknown cause, was, according to a dreamer who calls himself a philosopher, formerly a sea. This sea, according to him, has hardened and become earth or rock; once it gravitated towards two centres, whereas at present it gravitates only towards one.
How pleasantly you proceed, my ingenious dreamer! how easily you transform water into rock! Ovid was nothing in the comparison. What a marvellous power you exercise over nature; imagination by no means confounds you. Oh, greediness to utter novelties! Oh, fury for systems! Oh, weakness of the human mind! If anyone has spoken of this reverie in the “Encyclopædia,” it is doubtless to ridicule it, without which other nations would have a right to say: Behold the use which the French make of the discovery of other people! Huyghens discovered the ring of Saturn, and calculated its appearances; Hook and Flamstead have done the same thing. A Frenchman has discovered that this solid body was even a circular ocean, and this Frenchman is not Cyrano de Bergerac!
Without inquiring whether scandal originally meant a stone which might occasion people to stumble and fall, or a quarrel, or a seduction, we consider it here merely in its present sense and acceptation. A scandal is a serious indecorum which is used generally in reference to the clergy. The tales of Fontaine are libertine or licentious; many passages of Sanchez, of Tambourin, and of Molina are scandalous.
A man is scandalous by his writings or by his conduct. The siege which the Augustins maintained against the patrol, at the time of the Fronde, was scandalous. The bankruptcy of the brother La Valette, of the Society of Jesuits, was more than scandalous. The lawsuit carried on by the reverend fathers of the order of the Capuchins of Paris, in 1764, was a most satisfactory and delightful scandal to thousands. For the edification of the reader, a word or two upon that subject in this place will not be ill employed.
These reverend fathers had been fighting in their convent; some of them had hidden their money, and others had stolen the concealed treasure. Up to this point the scandal was only particular, a stone against which only Capuchins could trip and tumble; but when the affair was brought before the parliament, the scandal became public.
It is stated in the pleadings in the cause, that the convent of the St. Honoré consumes twelve hundred pounds of bread a week, and meat and wood in proportion; and that there are four collecting friars, “quêteurs,” whose office it is, conformably to the term, to raise contributions in the city. What a frightful, dreadful scandal! Twelve hundred pounds of meat and bread per week for a few Capuchins, while so many artisans overwhelmed with old age, and so many respectable widows, are exposed to languish in want, and die in misery!
That the reverend father Dorotheus should have accumulated an income of three thousand livres a year at the expense of the convent, and consequently of the public, is not only an enormous scandal, but an absolute robbery, and a robbery committed upon the most needy class of citizens in Paris; for the poor are the persons who pay the tax imposed by the mendicant monks. The ignorance and weakness of the people make them imagine that they can never obtain heaven without parting with their absolute necessaries, from which these monks derive their superfluities.
This single brother, therefore, the chief of the convent, Dorotheus, to make up his income of a thousand crowns a year, must have extorted from the poor of Paris, no less a sum than twenty thousand crowns.
Consider, my good reader, that such cases are by no means rare, even in this eighteenth century of our era, which has produced useful books to expose abuses and enlighten minds; but, as I have before observed, the people never read. A single Capuchin, Recollet, or Carmelite is capable of doing more harm than the best books in the world will ever be able to do good.
I would venture to propose to those who are really humane and well-disposed, to employ throughout the capital a certain number of anti-Capuchins and anti-Recollets, to go about from house to house exhorting fathers and mothers to virtue, and to keep their money for the maintenance of their families, and the support of their old age; to love God with all their hearts, but to give none of their money to monks. Let us return, however, to the real meaning of the word “scandal.”
In the above-mentioned process on the subject of the Capuchin convent, Brother Gregory is accused of being the father of a child by Mademoiselle Brasdefer, and of having her afterwards married to Moutard, the shoe-maker. It is not stated whether Brother Gregory himself bestowed the nuptial benediction on his mistress and poor Moutard, together with the required dispensation. If he did so, the scandal is rendered as complete as possible; it includes fornication, robbery, adultery, and sacrilege. “Horresco referens.”
I say in the first place “fornication,” as Brother Gregory committed that offence with Magdalene Bras-defer, who was not at the time more than fifteen years of age.
I also say “robbery,” as he gave an apron and ribbons to Magdalene; and it is clear he must have robbed the convent in order to purchase them, and to pay for suppers, lodgings, and other expenses attending their intercourse.
I say “adultery,” as this depraved man continued his connection with Magdalene after she became Madame Moutard.
And I say “sacrilege,” as he was the confessor of Magdalene. And, if he himself performed the marriage ceremony for his mistress, judge what sort of man Brother Gregory must really have been.
One of our colleagues in this little collection of philosophic and encyclopædic questions is now engaged on a moral work, on the subject of scandal, against the opinion of Brother Patouillet. We hope it will not be long before it sees the light.
All that we had written on the subject of the grand schism between the Greeks and Latins, in the essay on the manners and spirit of nations, has been inserted in the great encyclopædic dictionary. We will not here repeat ourselves.
But when reflecting on the meaning of the word “schism,” which signifies a dividing or rending asunder, and considering also the present state of Poland, divided and rent as it is in a manner the most pitiable, we cannot help anew deploring that a malady so destructive should be peculiar to Christians. This malady, which we have not described with sufficient particularity, is a species of madness which first affects the eyes and the mouth; the patient looks with an impatient and resentful eye on the man who does not think exactly like himself, and soon begins to pour out all the abuse and reviling that his command of language will permit. The madness next seizes the hands; and the unfortunate maniac writes what exhibits, in the most decided manner, the inflamed and delirious state of the brain. He falls into demoniacal convulsions, draws his sword, and fights with fury and desperation to the last gasp. Medicine has never been able to find a remedy for this dreadful disease. Time and philosophy alone can effect a cure.
The Poles are now the only people among whom this contagion at present rages. We may almost believe that the disorder is born with them, like their frightful plica. They are both diseases of the head, and of a most noxious character. Cleanliness will cure the plica; wisdom alone can extirpate schism.
We are told that both these diseases were unknown to the Samartians while they were Pagans. The plica affects only the common people at present, but all the evils originating in schism are corroding and destroying the higher classes of the republic.
The cause of the evil is the fertility of their land, which produces too much corn. It is a melancholy and deplorable case that even the blessing of heaven should in fact have involved them in such direful calamity. Some of the provinces have contended that it was absolutely necessary to put leaven in their bread, but the greater part of the nation entertain an obstinate and unalterable belief, that, on certain days of the year, fermented bread is absolutely mortal.
Such is one of the principal causes of the schism or the rending asunder of Poland; the dispute has infused acrimony into their blood. Other causes have added to the effect.
Some have imagined, in the paroxysms and convulsions of the malady under which they labor, that the Holy Spirit proceeded both from the Father and the Son: and the others have exclaimed, that it proceeded from the Father only. The two parties, one of which is called the Roman party, and the other the Dissident, look upon each other as if they were absolutely infected by the plague; but, by a singular symptom peculiar to this complaint, the infected Dissidents have always shown an inclination to approach the Catholics, while the Catholics on the other hand have never manifested any to approach them.
There is no disease which does not vary in different circumstances and situations. The diet, which is generally esteemed salutary, has been so pernicious to this unhappy nation, that after the application of it in 1768, the cities of Uman, Zablotin, Tetiou, Zilianki, and Zafran were destroyed and inundated with blood; and more than two hundred thousand patients miserably perished.
On one side the empire of Russia, and on the other that of Turkey, have sent a hundred thousand surgeons provided with lancets, bistouries, and all sorts of instruments, adapted to cut off the morbid and gangrened parts; but the disease has only become more virulent. The delirium has even been so outrageous, that forty of the patients actually met together for the purpose of dissecting their king, who had never been attacked by the disease, and whose brain and all the vital and noble parts of his body were in a perfectly sound state, as we shall have to remark under the article on “Superstition.” It is thought that if the contending parties would refer the case entirely to him, he might effect a cure of the whole nation; but it is one of the symptoms of this cruel malady to be afraid of being cured, as persons laboring under hydrophobia dread even the sight of water.
There are some learned men among us who contend that the disease was brought, a long time ago, from Palestine, and that the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Samaria were long harassed by it. Others think that the original seat of the disease was Egypt, and that the dogs and cats, which were there held in the highest consideration, having become mad, communicated the madness of schism, or tearing asunder, to the greater part of the Egyptians, whose weak heads were but too susceptible to the disorder.
It is remarked also, that the Greeks who travelled to Egypt, as, for example, Timeus of Locris and Plato, somewhat injured their brains by the excursion. However, the injury by no means reached madness, or plague, properly so called; it was a sort of delirium which was not at all times easily to be perceived, and which was often concealed under a very plausible appearance of reason. But the Greeks having, in the course of time, carried the complaint among the western and northern nations, the malformation or unfortunate excitability of the brain in our unhappy countries occasioned the slight fever of Timeus and Plato to break out among us into the most frightful and fatal contagion, which the physicians sometimes called intolerance, and sometimes persecution; sometimes religious war, sometimes madness, and sometimes pestilence.
We have seen the fatal ravages committed by this infernal plague over the face of the earth. Many physicians have offered their services to destroy this frightful evil at its very root. But what will appear to many scarcely credible is, that there are entire faculties of medicine, at Salamanca and Coimbra, in Italy and even in Paris, which maintain that schism, division, or tearing asunder, is necessary for mankind; that corrupt humors are drawn off from them through the wounds which it occasions; that enthusiasm, which is one of the first symptoms of the complaint, exalts the soul, and produces the most beneficial consequences; that toleration is attended with innumerable inconveniences; that if the whole world were tolerant, great geniuses would want that powerful and irresistible impulse which has produced so many admirable works in theology; that peace is a great calamity to a state, because it brings back the pleasures in its train; and pleasures, after a course of time, soften down that noble ferocity which forms the hero; and that if the Greeks had made a treaty of commerce with the Trojans, instead of making war with them, there would never have been an Achilles, a Hector, or a Homer, and that the race of man would have stagnated in ignorance.
These reasons, I acknowledge, are not without force; and I request time for giving them due consideration.
It has been pretended that divine power is appealed to in regard to this malady, because it is scarcely in human power to cure it.
Possibly some monks began by supposing that kings, in their character of representatives of the divinity, possessed the privilege of curing scrofula, by touching the patients with their anointed hands. But why not bestow a similar power on emperors, whose dignity surpasses that of kings, or on popes, who call themselves the masters of emperors, and who are more than simple images of God, being His vicars on earth? It is possible, that some imaginary dreamer of Normandy, in order to render the usurpation of William the Bastard the more respectable, conceded to him, in quality of God’s representative, the faculty of curing scrofula by the tip of his finger.
It was some time after William that this usage became established. We must not gratify the kings of England with this gift, and refuse it to those of France, their liege lords. This would be in defiance of the respect due to the feudal system. In short, this power is traced up to Edward the Confessor in England, and to Clovis in France.
The only testimony, in the least degree credible, of the antiquity of this usage, is to be found in the writings in favor of the house of Lancaster, composed by the judge, Sir John Fortescue, under Henry VI., who was recognized king of France at Paris in his cradle, and then king of England, but who lost both kingdoms. Sir John Fortescue asserts, that from time immemorial, the kings of England were in possession of the power of curing scrofula by their touch. We cannot perceive, however, that this pretension rendered their persons more sacred in the wars between the roses.
Queens consort could not cure scrofula, because they were not anointed in the hands, like the kings: but Elizabeth, a queen regnant and anointed, cured it without difficulty.
A sad thing happened to Mortorillo the Calabrian, whom we denominate St. Francis de Paulo. King Louis XI. brought him to Plessis les Tours to cure him of his tendency to apoplexy, and the saint arrived afflicted by scrofula.
“Ipse fuit detentus gravi, inflatura, quam in parte inferiori, genæ suæ dextrae circa guttur patiebatur. Chirugii dicebant, mortum esse scrofarum.”
The saint cured not the king, and the king cured not the saint.
When the king of England, James II., was conducted from Rochester to Whitehall, somebody proposed that he should exhibit a proof of genuine royalty, as for instance, that of touching for the evil; but no one was presented to him. He departed to exercise his sovereignty in France at St. Germain, where he touched some Hibernians. His daughter Mary, King William, Queen Anne, and the kings of the house of Brunswick have cured nobody. This sacred gift departed when people began to reason.
Every sect, of whatever opinion it may be, is a rallying point for doubt and error. Scotists, Thomists, Realists, Nominalists, Papists, Calvinists, Molinists, and Jansenists, are only warlike appellations.
There is no sect in geometry; we never say: A Euclidian, an Archimedian. When truth is evident, it is impossible to divide people into parties and factions. Nobody disputes that it is broad day at noon.
That part of astronomy which determines the course of the stars, and the return of eclipses, being now known, there is no longer any dispute among astronomers.
It is similar with a small number of truths, which are similarly established; but if you are a Mahometan, as there are many men who are not Mahometans, you may possibly be in error.
What would be the true religion, if Christianity did not exist? That in which there would be no sects; that in which all minds necessarily agreed.
Now, in what doctrine are all minds agreed? In the adoration of one God, and in probity. All the philosophers who have professed a religion have said at all times: “There is a God, and He must be just.” Behold then the universal religion, established throughout all time and among all men! The point then in which all agree is true; the systems in regard to which all differ are false.
My sect is the best, says a Brahmin. But, my good friend, if thy sect is the best, it is necessary; for if not absolutely necessary, thou must confess that it is useless. If, on the contrary, it is necessary, it must be so to all men; how then is it that all men possess not what is absolutely necessary to them? How is it that the rest of the world laughs at thee and thy Brahma?
When Zoroaster, Hermes, Orpheus, Minos, and all the great men say: Let us worship God, and be just, no one laughs; but all the world sneers at him who pretends, that to please God it is proper to die holding a cow by the tail; at him who cuts off a particle of foreskin for the same purpose; at him who consecrates crocodiles and onions; at him who attaches eternal salvation to the bones of dead men carried underneath the shirt, or to a plenary indulgence purchased at Rome for two sous and a half.
Whence this universal assemblage of laughing and hissing from one end of the universe to the other? It must be that the things which all the world derides are not evident truths. What shall we say to a secretary of Sejanus, who dedicates to Petronius a book, in a confused and involved style, entitled “The Truth of the Sibylline Oracles, Proved from Facts.”
This secretary at first proves to you, that God sent upon earth many Sibyls, one after the other, having no other means of instructing men. It is demonstrated, that God communicated with these Sibyls, because the word “sibyl” signifies “Council of God.” They ought to live a long time, for this privilege at least belongs to persons with whom God communicates. They amounted to twelve, because this number is sacred. They certainly predicted all the events in the world, because Tarquin the Proud bought their book from an old woman for a hundred crowns. What unbeliever, exclaims the secretary, can deny all these evident facts, which took place in one corner of the earth, in the face of all the world? Who can deny the accomplishment of their prophecies? Has not Virgil himself cited the predictions of the Sibyls? If we have not the first copies of the Sibylline books, written at a time when no one could read and write, we have authentic copies. Impiety must be silent before such proofs. Thus spoke Houteville to Sejanus, and hoped to obtain by it the place of chief augur, with a revenue of fifty thousand livres; but he obtained nothing.
That which my sect teaches me is obscure, I confess it, exclaims a fanatic; and it is in consequence of that obscurity that I must believe it; for it says itself that it abounds in obscurities. My sect is extravagant, therefore it is divine; for how, appearing so insane, would it otherwise have been embraced by so many people. It is precisely like the Koran, which the Sonnites say presents at once the face of an angel and that of a beast. Be not scandalized at the muzzle of the beast, but revere the face of the angel. Thus spoke this madman; but a fanatic of another sect replied to the first fanatic: It is thou who art the beast, and I who am the angel.
Now who will judge this process, and decide between these two inspired personages? The reasonable and impartial man who is learned in a science which is not that of words; the man divested of prejudice, and a lover of truth and of justice; the man, in fine, who is not a beast, and who pretends not to be an angel.
Sect and error are synonymous terms. Thou art a peripatetic and I a Platonist; we are therefore both in the wrong; for thou opposest Plato, because his chimeras repel thee; and I fly from Aristotle, because it appears to me that he knew not what he said. If the one or the other had demonstrated the truth, there would have been an end of sect. To declare for the opinion of one in opposition to that of another, is to take part in a civil war. There is no sect in mathematics or experimental philosophy: a man who examines the relation between a cone and a sphere is not of the sect of Archimedes; and he who perceived that the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, is not in consequence a Pythagorean.
When we say that the blood circulates, that the air is weighty, that the rays of the sun are a bundle of seven refrangible rays, it follows not that we are of the sect of Harvey, of Torricelli, or of Newton; we simply acquiesce in the truths which they demonstrate, and the whole universe will be of the same opinion.
Such is the character of truth, which belongs to all time and to all men. It is only to be produced to be acknowledged, and admits of no opposition. A long dispute signifies that both parties are in error.
Nicole, in his “Moral Essays,” written after two or three thousand volumes on morals (Treatise on Charity, chap. ii.), says, that “by means of the gibbets and tortures which are established in common, the tyrannical designs of the self-love of each individual are repressed.”
I will not examine whether we have gibbets in common, as we have fields and woods in common, and a common purse, or if thoughts are repressed by wheels; but it seems to me very strange that Nicole has taken highway robbery and murder for self-love. The distinctions must be a little more examined. He who should say that Nero killed his mother from self-love, that Cartouche had much self-love, would not express himself very correctly. Self-love is not a wickedness; it is a sentiment natural to all men; it is much more the neighbor of vanity than of crime.
A beggar of the suburbs of Madrid boldly asked alms; a passenger said to him: Are you not ashamed to carry on this infamous trade, when you can work? Sir, replied the mendicant, I ask you for money, and not for advice; and turned his back on him with Castilian dignity. This gentleman was a haughty beggar; his vanity was wounded by very little: he asked alms for love of himself, and would not suffer the reprimand from a still greater love of himself.
A missionary, travelling in India, met a fakir loaded with chains, naked as an ape, lying on his stomach, and lashing himself for the sins of his countrymen, the Indians, who gave him some coins of the country. What a renouncement of himself! said one of the spectators. Renouncement of myself! said the fakir, learn that I only lash myself in this world to serve you the same in the next, when you will be the horses and I the rider.
Those who said that love of ourselves is the basis of all our sentiments and actions were right; and as it has not been written to prove to men that they have a face, there is no occasion to prove to them that they possess self-love. This self-love is the instrument of our preservation; it resembles the provision for the perpetuity of mankind; it is necessary, it is dear to us, it gives us pleasure, and we must conceal it.
Oysters, it is said, have two senses; moles four; all other animals, like man, five. Some people contend for a sixth, but it is evident that the voluptuous sensation to which they allude is reducible to that of touch; and that five senses are our lot. It is impossible for us to imagine anything beyond them, or to desire out of their range.
It may be, that in other globes the inhabitants possess sensations of which we can form no idea. It is possible that the number of our senses augments from globe to globe, and that an existence with innumerable and perfect senses will be the final attainment of all being.
But with respect to ourselves and our five senses, what is the extent of our capacity? We constantly feel in spite of ourselves, and never because we will do so: it is impossible for us to avoid having the sensation which our nature ordains when any object excites it. The sensation is within us, but depends not upon ourselves. We receive it, but how do we receive it? It is evident that there is no connection between the stricken air, the words which I sing, and the impression which these words make upon my brain.
We are astonished at thought, but sensation is equally wonderful. A divine power is as manifest in the sensation of the meanest of insects as in the brain of Newton. In the meantime, if a thousand animals die before our eyes, we are not anxious to know what becomes of their faculty of sensation, although it is as much the work of the Supreme Being as our own. We regard them as the machines of nature, created to perish, and to give place to others.
For what purpose and in what manner may their sensations exist, when they exist no longer? What need has the author of all things to preserve qualities, when the substance is destroyed? It is as reasonable to assert that the power of the plant called “sensitive,” to withdraw its leaves towards its branches, exists when the plant is no more. You will ask, without doubt, in what manner the sensation of animals perishes with them, while the mind of man perishes not? I am too ignorant to solve this question. The eternal author of mind and of sensation alone knows how to give, and how to preserve them.
All antiquity maintains that our understanding contains nothing which has not been received by our senses. Descartes, on the contrary, asserts in his “Romances,” that we have metaphysical ideas before we are acquainted with the nipple of our nurse. A faculty of theology proscribed this dogma, not because it was erroneous, but because it was new. Finally, however, it was adopted, because it had been destroyed by Locke, an English philosopher, and an Englishman must necessarily be in the wrong. In fine, after having so often changed opinion, the ancient opinion which declares that the senses are the inlets to the understanding is finally proscribed. This is acting like deeply indebted governments, who sometimes issue certain notes which are to pass current, and at other times cry them down; but for a long time no one will accept the notes of the said faculty of theology.
All the faculties in the world will never prevent a philosopher from perceiving that we commence by sensation, and that our memory is nothing but a continued sensation. A man born without his five senses would be destitute of all idea, supposing it possible for him to live. Metaphysical notions are obtained only through the senses; for how is a circle or a triangle to be measured, if a circle or a triangle has neither been touched nor seen? How form an imperfect notion of infinity, without a notion of limits? And how take away limits, without having either beheld or felt them?
Sensation includes all our faculties, says a great philosopher. What ought to be concluded from all this? You who read and think, pray conclude.
The Greeks invented the faculty “Psyche” for sensation, and the faculty “Nous” for mind. We are, unhappily, ignorant of the nature of these two faculties: we possess them, but their origin is no more known to us than to the oyster, the sea-nettle, the polypus, worms, or plants. By some inconceivable mechanism, sensitiveness is diffused throughout my body, and thought in my head alone. If the head be cut off, there will remain a very small chance of its solving a problem in geometry. In the meantime, your pineal gland, your fleshly body, in which abides your soul, exists for a long time without alteration, while your separated head is so full of animal spirits that it frequently exhibits motion after its removal from the trunk. It seems as if at this moment it possessed the most lively ideas, resembling the head of Orpheus, which still uttered melodious song, and chanted Eurydice, when cast into the waters of the Hebrus.
If we think no longer, after losing our heads, whence does it happen that the heart beats, and appears to be sensitive after being torn out?
We feel, you say, because all our nerves have their origin in the brain; and in the meantime, if you are trepanned, and a portion of your brain be thrown into the fire, you feel nothing the less. Men who can state the reason of all this are very clever.
In several countries, and particularly in France, collections have been made of the juridical murders which tyranny, fanaticism, or even error and weakness, have committed with the sword of justice.
There are sentences of death which whole years of vengeance could scarcely expiate, and which will make all future ages tremble. Such are the sentences given against the natural king of Naples and Sicily, by the tribunal of Charles of Anjou; against John Huss and Jerome of Prague, by priests and monks; and against the king of England, Charles I., by fanatical citizens.
After these enormous crimes, formally committed, come the legal murders committed by indolence, stupidity, and superstition, and these are innumerable. We shall relate some of them in other articles.
In this class we must principally place the trials for witchcraft, and never forget that even in our days, in 1750, the sacerdotal justice of the bishop of Würzburg has condemned as a witch a nun, a girl of quality, to the punishment of fire. I here repeat this circumstance, which I have elsewhere mentioned, that it should not be forgotten. We forget too much and too soon.
Every day of the year I would have a public crier, instead of crying as in Germany and Holland what time it is—which is known very well without their crying—cry: It was on this day that, in the religious wars Magdeburg and all its inhabitants were reduced to ashes. It was on May 14th that Henry IV. was assassinated, only because he was not submissive to the pope; it was on such a day that such an abominable cruelty was perpetrated in your town, under the name of justice.
These continual advertisements would be very useful; but the judgments given in favor of innocence against persecutors should be cried with a much louder voice. For example, I propose, that every year, the two strongest throats which can be found in Paris and Toulouse shall cry these words in all the streets: It was on such a day that fifty magistrates of the council re-established the memory of John Calas, with a unanimous voice, and obtained for his family the favors of the king himself, in whose name John Calas had been condemned to the most horrible execution.
It would not be amiss to have another crier at the door of all the ministers, to say to all who came to demand lettres de cachet, in order to possess themselves of the property of their relations, friends, or dependents: Gentlemen, fear to seduce the minister by false statements, and to abuse the name of the king. It is dangerous to take it in vain. There was in the world one Gerbier, who defended the cause of the widow and orphan oppressed under the weight of a sacred name. It was he who, at the bar of the Parliament of Paris, obtained the abolishment of the Society of Jesus. Listen attentively to the lesson which he gave to the society of St. Bernard, conjointly with Master Loiseau, another protector of widows.
You must first know, that the reverend Bernardine fathers of Clairvaux possess seventeen thousand acres of wood, seven large forges, fourteen large farms, a quantity of fiefs, benefices, and even rights in foreign countries. The yearly revenue of the convent amounts to two hundred thousand livres. The treasure is immense; the abbot’s palace is that of a prince. Nothing is more just; it is a poor recompense for the services which the Bernardines continually render to the State.
It happened, that a youth of seventeen years of age, named Castille, whose baptismal name was Bernard, believed, for that reason, that he should become a Bernardine. It is thus that we reason at seventeen, and sometimes at thirty. He went to pass his novitiate at Lorraine, in the abbey of Orval. When he was required to pronounce his vows, grace was wanting in him: he did not sign them; he departed and became a man again. He established himself at Paris, and at the end of thirty years, having made a little fortune, he married, and had children.
The reverend father, attorney of Clairvaux, named Mayeur, a worthy solicitor, brother of the abbot, having learned from a woman of pleasure at Paris, that this Castille was formerly a Bernardine, plotted to challenge him as a deserter—though he was not really engaged—to make his wife pass for his concubine, and to place his children in the hospital as bastards. He associated himself with another rogue to divide the spoils. Both went to the court for lettres de cachet, exposed their grievances in the name of St. Bernard, obtained the letter, seized Bernard Castille, his wife, and their children, possessed themselves of all the property, and are now devouring it, you know where.
Bernard Castille was shut up at Orval in a dungeon, where he was executed after six months, for fear that he should demand justice. His wife was conducted to another dungeon, at St. Pelagie, a house for prostitutes. Of three children, one died in the hospital.
Things remained in this state for three years. At the end of this time, the wife of Castille obtained her enlargement. God is just: He gave a second husband to the widow. The husband, named Lannai, was a man of head, who discovered all the frauds, horrors, and crimes employed against his wife. They both entered into a suit against the monks. It is true, that brother Mayeur, who is called Dom Mayeur, was not hanged, but the convent of Clairvaux was condemned to pay forty thousand livres. There is no convent which would not rather see its attorney hanged than lose its money.
This history should teach you, gentlemen, to use much moderation in the fact of lettres de cachet. Know, that Master Elias de Beaumont, that celebrated defender of the memory of Calas, and Master Target that other protector of oppressed innocence, caused the man to pay a fine of twenty thousand francs, who by his intrigues had gained a lettre de cachet to seize upon the dying countess of Lancize, to drag her from the bosom of her family and divest her of all her titles.
When tribunals give such sentences as these, we hear clapping of hands from the extent of the grand chamber to the gates of Paris. Take care of yourselves, gentlemen; do not lightly demand lettres de cachet.
An Englishman, on reading this article, exclaimed, “What is a lettre de cachet?” We could never make him comprehend it.
SENTENCES OF DEATH.
In reading history, and seeing its course continually interrupted with innumerable calamities heaped upon this globe, which some call the best of all possible worlds, I have been particularly struck with the great quantity of considerable men in the State, in the Church, and in society, who have suffered death like robbers on the highway. Setting aside assassinations and poisonings, I speak only of massacres in a juridical form, performed with loyalty and ceremony; I commence with kings and queens; England alone furnishes an ample list; but for chancellors, knights, and esquires, volumes are required. Of all who have thus perished by justice, I do not believe that there are four in all Europe who would have undergone their sentence if their suits had lasted some time longer, or if the adverse parties had died of apoplexy during the preparation.
If fistula had gangrened the rectum of Cardinal Richelieu some months longer, the virtuous de Thou, Cinq-Mars, and so many others would have been at liberty. If Barneveldt had had as many Arminians for his judges as Gomerists, he would have died in his bed; if the constable de Luynes had not demanded the confiscation of the property of the lady of the Marshal d’Ancre, she would not have been burned as a witch. If a really criminal man, an assassin, a public thief, a poisoner, a parricide, be arrested, and his crime be proved, it is certain that in all times and whoever the judges, he will be condemned. But it is not the same with statesmen; only give them other judges, or wait until time has changed interests, cooled passions, and introduced other sentiments, and their lives will be in safety.
Suppose Queen Elizabeth had died of an indigestion on the eve of the execution of Mary Stuart, then Mary Stuart would have been seated on the throne of England, Ireland, and Scotland, instead of dying by the hand of an executioner in a chamber hung with black. If Cromwell had only fallen sick, care would have been taken how Charles I.’s head was cut off. These two assassinations—disguised, I know not how, in the garb of the laws—scarcely entered into the list of ordinary injustice. Figure to yourself some highwaymen who, having bound and robbed two passengers, amuse themselves with naming in the troop an attorney-general, a president, an advocate and counsellors, and who, having signed a sentence, cause the two victims to be hanged in ceremony; it was thus that the Queen of Scotland and her grandson were judged.
But of common judgments, pronounced by competent judges against princes or men in place, is there a single one which would have been either executed, or even passed, if another time had been chosen? Is there a single one of the condemned, immolated under Cardinal Richelieu, who would not have been in favor if their suits had been prolonged until the regency of Anne of Austria? The Prince of Condé was arrested under Francis II., he was condemned to death by commissaries; Francis II. died, and the Prince of Condé again became powerful.
These instances are innumerable; we should above all consider the spirit of the times. Vanini was burned on a vague suspicion of atheism. At present, if any one was foolish and pedantic enough to write such books as Vanini, they would not be read, and that is all which could happen to them. A Spaniard passed through Geneva in the middle of the sixteenth century; the Picard, John Calvin, learned that this Spaniard was lodged at an inn; he remembered that this Spaniard had disputed with him on a subject which neither of them understood. Behold! my theologian, John Calvin, arrested the passenger, contrary to all laws, human or divine, contrary to the right possessed by people among all nations; immured him in a dungeon, and burned him at a slow fire with green faggots, that the pain might last the longer. Certainly this infernal manœuvre would never enter the head of any one in the present day; and if the fool Servetus had lived in good times, he would have had nothing to fear; what is called justice is therefore as arbitrary as fashion. There are times of horrors and follies among men, as there are times of pestilence, and this contagion has made the tour of the world.
“I certify that I have many times killed serpents by moistening in a slight degree, with my spittle, a stick or a stone, and giving them a slight blow on the middle of the body, scarcely sufficient to produce a small contusion. January 19, 1757. Figuier, Surgeon.”
The above surgeon having given me this certificate, two witnesses, who had seen him kill serpents in this manner, attested what they had beheld. Notwithstanding, I wished to behold the thing myself; for I confess that, in various parts of these queries, I have taken St. Thomas of Didymus for my patron saint, who always insisted on an examination with his own hands.
For eighteen hundred years this opinion has been perpetuated among the people, and it might possibly be even eighteen thousand years old, if Genesis had not supplied us with the precise date of our enmity to this reptile. It may be asserted that if Eve had spit on the serpent when he took his place at her ear, a world of evil would have been spared human nature.
Lucretius, in his fourth book, alludes to this manner of killing serpents as very well known:
There is some slight contradiction in painting him at once deprived of vigor and self-devouring, but my surgeon Figuier asserts not that the serpents which he killed were self-devouring. Genesis says wisely that we kill them with our heels, and not with spittle.
We are in the midst of winter on January 19, which is the time when serpents visit us. I cannot find any at Mount Krapak; but I exhort all philosophers to spit upon every serpent they meet with in the spring. It is good to know the extent of the power of the saliva of man.
It is certain that Jesus Christ employed his spittle to cure a man who was deaf and dumb. He took him aside, placed His fingers on his ears, and looking up to heaven, sighed and said to him: “Ephphatha”—“be opened”—when the deaf and dumb person immediately began to speak.
It may therefore be true that God has allowed the saliva of man to kill serpents; but He may have also permitted my surgeon to assail them with heavy blows from a stick or a stone, in such a way that they would die whether he spat upon them or not.
I beg of all philosophers to examine the thing with attention. For example, should they meet Fréron in the street, let them spit in his face, and if he die, the fact will be confirmed, in spite of all the reasoning of the incredulous.
I take this opportunity also to beg of philosophers not to cut off the heads of any more snails; for I affirm that the head has returned to snails which I have decapitated very effectively. But it is not enough that I know it by experience, others must be equally satisfied in order that the fact be rendered probable; for although I have twice succeeded, I have failed thirty times. Success depends upon the age of the snail, the time in which the head is cut off, the situation of the incision, and the manner in which it is kept until the head grows again.
If it is important to know that death may be inflicted by spitting, it is still more important to know that heads may be renewed. Man is of more consequence than a snail, and I doubt not that in due time, when the arts are brought to perfection, some means will be found to give a sound head to a man who has none at all.
A weight and denomination of money among the Jews; but as they never coined money, and always made use of the coinage of other people, all gold coins weighing about a guinea, and all silver coins of the weight of a small French crown, were called a shekel; and these shekels were distinguished into those of the weight of the sanctuary, and those of the weight of the king.
It is said in the Book of Samuel that Absalom had very fine hair, from which he cut a part every year. Many profound commentators assert that he cut it once a month, and that it was valued at two hundred shekels. If these shekels were of gold, the locks of Absalom were worth two thousand four hundred guineas per annum. There are few seigniories which produce at present the revenue that Absalom derived from his head.
It is said that when Abraham bought a cave in Hebron from the Canaanite Ephron, Ephron sold him the cave for four hundred shekels of silver, of current money with the merchant—probatæ monetæ publicæ.
We have already remarked that there was no coined money in these days, and thus these four hundred shekels of silver became four hundred shekels in weight, which, valued at present at three livres four sous each, are equal to twelve hundred and eighty livres of France.
It follows that the little field, which was sold with this cavern, was excellent land, to bring so high a price.
When Eleazar, the servant of Abraham, met the beautiful Rebecca, the daughter of Bethnel, carrying a pitcher of water upon her shoulder, from which she gave him and his camels leave to drink, he presented her with earrings of gold, which weighed two shekels, and bracelets which weighed ten, amounting in the whole to a present of the value of twenty-four guineas.
In the laws of Exodus it is said that if an ox gored a male or female slave, the possessor of the ox should give thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and that the ox should be stoned. It is apparently to be understood that the ox in this case has produced a very dangerous wound, otherwise thirty-two crowns was a large sum for the neighborhood of Mount Sinai, where money was uncommon. It is for the same reason that many grave, but too hasty, persons suspect that Exodus as well as Genesis was not written until a comparatively late period.
What tends to confirm them in this erroneous opinion is a passage in the same Exodus: “Take of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half as much; of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels; of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; and of olive-oil a ton, to form an ointment to annoint the tabernacle”; and whosoever anointed himself or any stranger with a similar composition, was to be put to death.
It is added that with all these aromatics were to be united stacte, onyx, galbanum, and frankincense; and that a perfume was to be mixed up according to the art of the apothecary or perfumer.
But I cannot perceive anything in this composition which ought to excite the doubt of the incredulous. It is natural to imagine that the Jews—who, according to the text, stole from the Egyptians all which they could bring away—had also taken frankincense, galbanum, onyx, stacte, olive-oil, cassia, sweet calamus, cinnamon, and myrrh. They also, without doubt, stole many shekels; indeed, we have seen, that one of the most zealous partisans of this Hebrew horde estimates what they stole, in gold alone, at nine millions. I abide by his reckoning.
The first woman who pronounced oracles at Delphos was called Sibylla. According to Pausanias, she was the daughter of Jupiter, and of Lamia, the daughter of Neptune, and she lived a long time before the siege of Troy. From her all women were distinguished by the name of sibyls, who, without being priestesses, or even attached to a particular oracle, announced the future, and called themselves inspired. Different ages and countries have had their sibyls, or preserved predictions which bear their name, and collections were formed of them.
The greatest embarrassment to the ancients was to explain by what happy privilege these sibyls had the gift of predicting the future. Platonists found the cause of it in the intimate union which the creature, arrived at a certain degree of perfection, might have with the Divinity. Others attribute this divine property of the sibyls to the vapors and exhalations of the caves which they inhabited. Finally others attributed the prophetic spirit of the sibyls to their sombre and melancholy humor, or to some singular malady.
St. Jerome maintained that this gift was to them a recompense for their chastity; but there was at least one very celebrated one who boasted of having had a thousand lovers without being married. It would have been much more sensible in St. Jerome and other fathers of the Church to have denied the prophetic spirit of the sibyls, and to have said that by means of hazarding predictions at a venture, they might sometimes have been fulfilled, particularly with the help of a favorable commentary, by which words, spoken by chance, have been turned into facts which it was impossible they could have predicted.
It is singular that their predictions were collected after the event. The first collection of sibylline leaves, bought by Tarquin, contained three books; the second was compiled after the fire of the capitol, but we are ignorant how many books it contained; and the third is that which we possess in eight books, and in which it is doubtful whether the author has not inserted several predictions of the second. This collection is the fruit of the pious fraud of some Platonic Christians, more zealous than clever, who in composing it thought to lend arms to the Christian religion, and to put those who defended it in a situation to combat paganism with the greatest advantage.
This confused compilation of different prophecies was printed for the first time in the year 1545 from manuscripts, and published several times after, with ample commentaries, burdened with an erudition often trivial, and almost always foreign to the text, which they seldom enlightened. The number of works composed for and against the authenticity of these sibylline books is very great, and some even very learned; but there prevails so little order and reasoning, and the authors are so devoid of all philosophic spirit that those who might have courage to read them would gain nothing but ennui and fatigue. The date of the publication is found clearly indicated in the fifth and eighth books. The sibyl is made to say that the Roman Empire will have only fifteen emperors, fourteen of which are designated by the numeral value of the first letter of their names in the Greek alphabet. She adds that the fifteenth, who would be a man with a white head, would bear the name of a sea near Rome. The fifteenth of the Roman emperors was Adrian, and the Asiatic gulf is the sea of which he bears the name.
From this prince, continues the sibyl, three others will proceed who will rule the empire at the same time; but finally one of them will remain the possessor. These three shoots were Antoninus, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus. The sibyl alludes to the adoptions and associations which united them. Marcus Aurelius found himself sole master of the empire at the death of Lucius Verus, at the commencement of the year 169; and he governed it without any colleague until the year 177, when he associated with his son Commodus. As there is nothing which can have any relation to this new colleague of Marcus Aurelius, it is evident that the collection must have been made between the years 169 and 177 of the vulgar era.
Josephus, the historian, quotes a work of the sibyl, in which the Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues are spoken of nearly as in Genesis; which proves that the Christians are not the first authors of the supposition of the sibylline books. Josephus not relating the exact words of the sibyl, we cannot ascertain whether what is said of the same event in our collection was extracted from the work quoted by Josephus; but it is certain that several lines, attributed to the sibyl, in the exhortations found in the works of St. Justin, of Theophilus of Antioch, of Clement of Alexandria, and in some other fathers, are not in our collection; and as most of these lines bear no stamp of Christianity, they might be the work of some Platonic Jew.
In the time of Celsus, sibyls had already some credit among the Christians, as it appears by two passages of the answer of Origen. But in time sibylline prophecies appearing favorable to Christianity, they were commonly made use of in works of controversy with much more confidence than by the pagans themselves, who, acknowledging sibyls to be inspired women, confined themselves to saying that the Christians had falsified their writings, a fact which could only be decided by a comparison of the two manuscripts, which few people are in a situation to make.
Finally, it was from a poem of the sibyl of Cumea that the principal dogmas of Christianity were taken. Constantine, in the fine discourse which he pronounced before the assembly of the saints, shows that the fourth eclogue of Virgil is only a prophetic description of the Saviour; and if that was not the immediate object of the poet, it was that of the sibyl from whom he borrowed his ideas, who, being filled with the spirit of God, announced the birth of the Redeemer.
He believed that he saw in this poem the miracle of the birth of Jesus of a virgin, the abolition of sin by the preaching of the gospel, and the abolition of punishment by the grace of the Redeemer. He believed he saw the old serpent overthrown, and the mortal venom with which he poisoned human nature entirely deadened. He believed that he saw that the grace of the Lord, however powerful it might be, would nevertheless suffer the dregs and traces of sin to remain in the faithful; in a word, he believed that he saw Jesus Christ announced under the great character of the Son of God.
In this eclogue there are many other passages which might have been said to be copies of the Jewish prophets, who apply it themselves to Jesus Christ; it is at least the general opinion of the Church. St. Augustine, like others, has been persuaded of it, and has pretended that the lines of Virgil can only be applied to Jesus Christ. Finally, the most clever moderns maintain the same opinion.
Could a Turk conceive that we have one kind of singing for the first of our mysteries when we celebrate it in music, another kind which we call “motetts” in the same temple, a third kind at the opera, and a fourth at the theatre?
In like manner, can we imagine how the ancients blew their flutes, recited on their theatres with their heads covered by enormous masks, and how their declamation was written down.
Law was promulgated in Athens nearly as in Paris we sing an air on the Pont-Neuf. The public crier sang an edict, accompanying himself on the lyre.
It is thus that in Paris the rose in bud is cried in one tone; old silver lace to sell in another; only in the streets of Paris the lyre is dispensed with.
After the victory of Chæronea, Philip, the father of Alexander, sang the decree by which Demosthenes had made him declare war, and beat time with his foot. We are very far from singing in our streets our edicts, or finances, or upon the two sous in the livre.
It is very probable that the melopée, or modulation, regarded by Aristotle in his poetic art as an essential part of tragedy, was an even, simple chant, like that which we call the preface to mass, which in my opinion is the Gregorian chant, and not the Ambrosian, and which is a true melopée.
When the Italians revived tragedy in the sixteenth century the recitative was a melopée which could not be written; for who could write inflections of the voice which are octaves and sixths of tone? They were learned by heart. This custom was received in France when the French began to form a theatre, more than a century after the Italians. The “Sophonisba” of Mairet was sung like that of Trissin, but more grossly; for throats as well as minds were then rather coarser at Paris. All the parts of the actors, but particularly of the actresses, were noted from memory by tradition. Mademoiselle Bauval, an actress of the time of Corneille, Racine, and Molière, recited to me, about sixty years ago or more, the commencement of the part of Emilia, in “Cinna,” as it had been played in the first representations by La Beaupré. This modulation resembled the declamation of the present day much less than our modern recitative resembles the manner of reading the newspaper.
I cannot better compare this kind of singing, this modulation, than to the admirable recitative of Lulli, criticised by adorers of double crochets, who have no knowledge of the genius of our language, and who are ignorant what help this melody furnishes to an ingenious and sensible actor.
Theatrical modulation perished with the comedian Duclos, whose only merit being a fine voice without spirit and soul, finally rendered that ridiculous which had been admired in Des Œuillets, and in Champmeslé.
Tragedy is now played dryly; if we were not heated by the pathos of the spectacle and the action, it would be very insipid. Our age, commendable in other things, is the age of dryness.
It is true that among the Romans one actor recited and another made gestures. It was not by chance that the abbé Dubos imagined this pleasant method of declaiming. Titus Livius, who never fails to instruct us in the manners and customs of the Romans, and who, in that respect is more useful than the ingenious and satirical Tacitus, informs us, I say, that Andronicus, being hoarse while singing in the interludes, got another to sing for him while he executed the dance; and thence came the custom of dividing interludes between dancers and singers: “Dicitur cantum egisse magis vigente motu quum nihil vocis usis impediebat.” The song is expressed by the dance. “Cantum egisse magis vigente motu.” With more vigorous movements.
But they divided not the story of the piece between an actor who only gesticulates and another who only sings. The thing would have been as ridiculous as impracticable.
The art of pantomimes, which are played without speaking, is quite different, and we have seen very striking examples of it; but this art can please only when a marked action is represented, a theatrical event which is easily presented to the imagination of the spectator. It can represent Orosmanes killing Zaïre and killing himself; Semiramis wounded, dragging herself on the frontiers to the tomb of Ninus, and holding her son in her arms. There is no occasion for verses to express these situations by gestures to the sound of a mournful and terrible symphony. But how would two pantomimes paint the dessertation of Maximus and Cinna on monarchical and popular governments?
Apropos of the theatrical execution of the Romans, the abbé Dubos says that the dancers in the interludes were always in gowns. Dancing requires a closer dress. In the Pays de Vaud, a suite of baths built by the Romans, is carefully preserved, the pavement of which is mosaic. This mosaic, which is not decayed, represents dancers dressed like opera dancers. We make not these observations to detect errors in Dubos; there is no merit in having seen this antique monument which he had not seen; and besides, a very solid and just mind might be deceived by a passage of Titus Livius.
Why do we denominate slaves those whom the Romans called “servi,” and the Greeks “duloi”? Etymology is here exceedingly at fault; and Bochart has not been able to derive this word from the Hebrew.
The most ancient record that we possess in which the word “slave” is found is the will of one Ermangaut, archbishop of Narbonne, who bequeathed to Bishop Fredelon his slave Anaph—“Anaphinus Slavonium.” This Anaph was very fortunate in belonging to two bishops successively.
It is not unlikely that the Slavonians came from the distant North with other indigent and conquering hordes, to pillage from the Roman Empire what that empire had pilliged from other nations, and especially in Dalmatia and Illyria. The Italians called the misfortune of falling into their hands “shiavitu,” and “schiavi” the captives themselves.
All that we can gather from the confused history of the middle ages is that in the time of the Romans the known world was divided between freemen and slaves. When the Slavonians, Alans, Huns, Heruli, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Franks and Normans came to despoil Europe, there was little probability that the multitude of slaves would diminish. Ancient masters, in fact, saw themselves reduced to slavery, and the smaller number enslaved the greater, as negroes are enslaved in the colonies, and according to the practice in many other cases.
We read nothing in ancient authors concerning the slaves of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The book which speaks most of slaves is the “Iliad.” In the first place, Briseïs is slave to Achilles; and all the Trojan women, and more especially the princesses, fear becoming slaves to the Greeks, and spinners for their wives.
Slavery is also as ancient as war, and war as human nature. Society was so accustomed to this degradation of the species that Epictetus, who was assuredly worth more than his master, never expresses any surprise at his being a slave.
No legislator of antiquity ever attempted to abrogate slavery; on the contrary, the people most enthusiastic for liberty—the Athenians, the Lacedæmonians, the Romans, and the Carthaginians—were those who enacted the most severe laws against their serfs. The right of life and death over them was one of the principles of society. It must be confessed that, of all wars, that of Spartacus was the most just, and possibly the only one that was ever absolutely so.
Who would believe that the Jews, created as it might appear to serve all nations in turn, should also appear to possess slaves of their own? It is observed in their laws, that they may purchase their brethren for six years, and strangers forever. It was said, that the children of Esau would become bondsmen to the children of Jacob; but since, under a different dispensation, the Arabs, who call themselves descendants of Esau, have enslaved the posterity of Jacob.
The Evangelists put not a single word into the mouth of Jesus Christ which recalls mankind to the primitive liberty to which they appear to be born. There is nothing said in the New Testament on this state of degradation and suffering, to which one-half of the human race was condemned. Not a word appears in the writings of the apostles and the fathers of the Church, tending to change beasts of burden into citizens, as began to be done among ourselves in the thirteenth century. If slavery be spoken of, it is the slavery of sin.
It is difficult to comprehend how, in St. John, the Jews can say to Jesus: “We have never been slaves to any one”—they who were at that time subjected to the Romans; they who had been sold in the market after the taking of Jerusalem; they of whom ten tribes, led away as slaves by Shalmaneser, had disappeared from the face of the earth, and of whom two other tribes were held in chains by the Babylonians for seventy years; they who had been seven times reduced to slavery in their promised land, according to their own avowal; they who in all their writings speak of their bondage in that Egypt which they abhorred, but to which they ran in crowds to gain money, as soon as Alexander condescended to allow them to settle there. The reverend Dom Calmet says, that we must understand in this passage, “intrinsic servitude,” an explanation which by no means renders it more comprehensible.
Italy, the Gauls, Spain, and a part of Germany, were inhabited by strangers, by foreigners become masters, and natives reduced to serfs. When the bishop of Seville, Opas, and Count Julian called over the Mahometan Moors against the Christian kings of the Visigoths, who reigned in the Pyrenees, the Mahometans, according to their custom, proposed to the natives, either to receive circumcision, give battle, or pay tribute in money and girls. King Roderick was vanquished, and slaves were made of those who were taken captive.
The conquered preserved their wealth and their religion by paying; and it is thus that the Turks have since treated Greece, except that they imposed upon the latter a tribute of children of both sexes, the boys of which they circumcise and transform into pages and janissaries, while the girls are devoted to the harems. This tribute has since been compromised for money. The Turks have only a few slaves for the interior service of their houses, and these they purchase from the Circassians, Mingrelians, and nations of Lesser Tartary.
Between the African Mahometans and the European Christians, the custom of piracy, and of making slaves of all who could be seized on the high seas, has always existed. They are birds of prey who feed upon one another; the Algerines, natives of Morocco, and Tunisians, all live by piracy. The Knights of Malta, successors to those of Rhodes, formally swear to rob and enslave all the Mahometans whom they meet; and the galleys of the pope cruise for Algerines on the northern coasts of Africa. Those who call themselves whites and Christians proceed to purchase negroes at a good market, in order to sell them dear in America. The Pennsylvanians alone have renounced this traffic, which they account flagitious.
I read a short time ago at Mount Krapak, where it is known that I reside, a book written at Paris, abounding in wit and paradoxes, bold views and hardihood, resembling in some respects those of Montesquieu, against whom it is written. In this book, slavery is decidedly preferred to domesticity, and above all to the free labor. This book exceedingly pities those unhappy free men who earn a subsistence where they please, by the labor for which man is born, and which is the guardian of innocence, as well as the support of life. It is incumbent on no one, says the author, either to nourish or to succor them; whereas, slaves are fed and protected by their masters like their horses. All this is true; but human beings would rather provide for themselves than depend on others; and horses bred in the forest prefer them to stables.
He justly remarks that artisans lose many days in which they are forbidden to work, which is very true; but this is not because they are free, but because ridiculous laws exist in regard to holidays.
He says most truly, that it is not Christian charity which has broken the fetters of servitude, since the same charity has riveted them for more than twelve centuries; and that Christians, and even monks, all charitable as they are, still possess slaves reduced to a frightful state of bondage, under the name of “mortaillables, mainmortables,” and serfs of the soil.
He asserts that which is very true, that Christian princes only affranchised their serfs through avarice. It was, in fact, to obtain the money laboriously amassed by these unhappy persons, that they signed their letters of manumission. They did not bestow liberty, but sold it. The emperor Henry V. began: he freed the serfs of Spires and Worms in the twelfth century. The kings of France followed his example; and nothing tends more to prove the value of liberty than the high price these gross men paid for it.
Lastly, it is for the men on whose condition the dispute turns to decide upon which state they prefer. Interrogate the lowest laborer covered with rags, fed upon black bread, and sleeping on straw, in a hut half open to the elements; ask this man, whether he will be a slave, better fed, clothed, and bedded; not only will he recoil with horror at the proposal, but regard you with horror for making the proposal. Ask a slave if he is willing to be free, and you will hear his answer. This alone ought to decide the question.
It is also to be considered that a laborer may become a farmer, and a farmer a proprietor. In France, he may even become a counsellor of the king, if he acquire riches. In England, he may become a freeholder, or a member of parliament. In Sweden, he may become a member of the national states. These possibilities are of more value than that of dying neglected in the corner of his master’s stable.
Puffendorff says, that slavery has been established “by the free consent of the opposing parties.” I will believe Puffendorff, when he shows me the original contract.
Grotius inquires, whether a man who is taken captive in war has a right to escape; and it is to be remarked, that he speaks not of a prisoner on his parole of honor. He decides, that he has no such right; which is about as much as to say that a wounded man has no right to get cured. Nature decides against Grotius.
Attend to the following observations of the author of the “Spirit of Laws,” after painting negro slavery with the pencil of Molière:
“Mr. Perry says that the Moscovites sell themselves readily; I can guess the reason—their liberty is worth nothing.”
Captain John Perry, an Englishman, who wrote an account of the state of Russia in 1714, says nothing of that which the “Spirit of Laws” makes him say. Perry contains a few lines only on the subject of Russian bondage, which are as follows: “The czar has ordered that, throughout his states, in future, no one is to be called ‘golup’ or slave; but only ‘raab,’ which signifies subject. However, the people derive no real advantage from this order, being still in reality slaves.”
The author of the “Spirit of Laws” adds, that according to Captain Dampier, “everybody sells himself in the kingdom of Achem.” This would be a singular species of commerce, and I have seen nothing in the “Voyage” of Dampier which conveys such a notion. It is a pity that a man so replete with wit should hazard so many crudities, and so frequently quote incorrectly.
It is commonly asserted that there are no more slaves in France; that it is the kingdom of the Franks, and that slave and Frank are contradictory terms; that people are so free there that many financiers die worth more than thirty millions of francs, acquired at the expense of the descendants of the ancient Franks. Happy French nation to be thus free! But how, in the meantime, is so much freedom compatible with so many species of servitude, as for instance, that of the mainmort?
Many a fine lady at Paris, who sparkles in her box at the opera, is ignorant that she descends from a family of Burgundy, the Bourbonnais, Franche-Comté, Marche, or Auvergne, which family is still enslaved, mortaillable and mainmortable.
Of these slaves, some are obliged to work three days a week for the lord, and others two. If they die without children, their wealth belongs to the lord; if they leave children, the lord takes only the finest cattle and, according to more than one custom, the most valuable movables. According to other customs, if the son of a mainmortable slave visits not the house of his father within a year and a day from his death, he loses all his father’s property, yet still remains a slave; that is to say, whatever wealth he may acquire by his industry, becomes at his death the property of the lord.
What follows is still better: An honest Parisian pays a visit to his parents in Burgundy and in Franche-Comté, resides a year and a day in a mainmortable house, and returning to Paris finds that his property, wherever situated, belongs to the lord, in case he dies without issue.
It is very properly asked how the province of Burgundy obtained the nickname of “free,” while distinguished by such a species of servitude? It is without doubt upon the principle that the Greeks called the furies Eumenides, “good hearts.”
But the most curious and most consolatory circumstance attendant on this jurisprudence is that the lords of half these mainmortable territories are monks.
If by chance a prince of the blood, a minister of state, or a chancellor cast his eyes upon this article, it will be well for him to recollect, that the king of France, in his ordinance of May 18, 1731, declares to the nation, “that the monks and endowments possess more than half of the property of Franche-Comté.”
The marquis d’Argenson, in “Le Droit Public Ecclesiastique,” says, that in Artois, out of eighteen ploughs, the monks possess thirteen. The monks themselves are called mainmortables, and yet possess slaves. Let us refer these monkish possessions to the chapter of contradictions.
When we have made some modest remonstrances upon this strange tyranny on the part of people who have vowed to God to be poor and humble, they will then reply to us: We have enjoyed this right for six hundred years; why then despoil us of it? We may humbly rejoin, that for these thirty or forty thousand years, the weasels have been in the habit of sucking the blood of our pullets; yet we assume to ourselves the right of destroying them when we can catch them.
N. B. It is a mortal sin for a Chartreux to eat half an ounce of mutton, but he may with a safe conscience devour the entire substance of a family. I have seen the Chartreux in my neighborhood inherit a hundred thousand crowns from one of their mainmortable slaves, who had made a fortune by commerce at Frankfort. But all the truth must be told; it is no less true, that his family enjoys the right of soliciting alms at the gate of the convent.
Let us suppose that the monks have still fifty or sixty thousand slaves in the kingdom of France. Time has not been found hitherto to reform this Christian jurisprudence; but something is beginning to be thought about it. It is only to wait a few hundred years, until the debts of the state be paid.
SLEEPERS (THE SEVEN).
Fable supposes that one Epimenides in a single nap, slept twenty-seven years, and that on his awaking he was quite astonished at finding his grandchildren—who asked him his name—married, his friends dead, his town and the manners of its inhabitants changed. It was a fine field for criticism, and a pleasant subject for a comedy. The legend has borrowed all the features of the fable, and enlarged upon them.
The author of the “Golden Legend” was not the first who, in the thirteenth century, instead of one sleeper, gave us seven, and bravely made them seven martyrs. He took his edifying history from Gregory de Tours, a veridical writer, who took it from Sigebert, who took it from Metaphrastes, who had taken it from Nicephorus. It is thus that truth is handed down from man to man.
The reverend father Peter Ribadeneira, of the company of Jesus, goes still further in this celebrated “Flower of the Saints,” of which mention is made in Molière’s “Tartuffe.” It was translated, augmented, and enriched with engravings, by the reverend Antony Girard, of the same society: nothing was wanting to it.
Some of the curious will doubtless like to see the prose of the reverend father Girard: behold a specimen! “In the time of the emperor Decius, the Church experienced a violent and fearful persecution. Among other Christians, seven brothers were accused, young, well disposed, and graceful; they were the children of a knight of Ephesus, and called Maximilian, Marius, Martinian, Dionysius, John, Serapion, and Constantine. The emperor first took from them their golden girdles; then they hid themselves in a cavern, the entrance of which Decius caused to be walled up that they might die of hunger.”
Father Girard proceeds to say, that all seven quickly fell asleep, and did not awake again until they had slept one hundred and seventy-seven years.
Father Girard, far from believing that this is the dream of a man awake, proves its authenticity by the most demonstrative arguments; and when he could find no other proof, alleges the names of these seven sleepers—names never being given to people who have not existed. The seven sleepers doubtless could neither be deceived nor deceivers, so that it is not to dispute this history that we speak of it, but merely to remark that there is not a single fabulous event of antiquity which has not been rectified by ancient legendaries. All the history of Œdipus, Hercules, and Theseus is found among them, accommodated to their style. They have invented little, but they have perfected much.
I ingenuously confess that I know not whence Nicephorus took this fine story. I suppose it was from the tradition of Ephesus; for the cave of the seven sleepers, and the little church dedicated to them, still exist. The least awakened of the poor Greeks still go there to perform their devotions. Sir Paul Rycaut and several other English travellers have seen these two monuments; but as to their devotions there, we hear nothing about them.
Let us conclude this article with the reasoning of Abbadie: “These are memorials instituted to celebrate forever the adventure of the seven sleepers. No Greek in Ephesus has ever doubted of it, and these Greeks could not have been deceived, nor deceive anybody else; therefore the history of the seven sleepers is incontestable.”
SLOW BELLIES (VENTRES PARESSEUX).
St. Paul says, that the Cretans were all “liars,” “evil beasts,” and “slow bellies.” The physician Hequet understood by slow bellies, that the Cretans were costive, which vitiated their blood, and rendered them ill-disposed and mischievous. It is doubtless very true that persons of this habit are more prone to choler than others: their bile passes not away, but accumulates until their blood is overheated.
When you have a favor to beg of a minister, or his first secretary, inform yourself adroitly of the state of his stomach, and always seize on “mollia fandi tempora.”
No one is ignorant that our character and turn of mind are intimately connected with the water-closet. Cardinal Richelieu was sanguinary, because he had the piles, which afflicted his rectum and hardened his disposition. Queen Anne of Austria always called him “cul pourri” (sore bottom), which nickname redoubled his bile, and possibly cost Marshal Marillac his life, and Marshal Bassompierre his liberty; but I cannot discover why certain persons should be greater liars than others. There is no known connection between the anal sphincter and falsehood, like that very sensible one between our stomach and our passions, our manner of thinking and our conduct.
I am much disposed to believe, that by “slow bellies” St. Paul understood voluptuous men and gross feeders—a kind of priors, canons, and abbots-commendatory—rich prelates, who lay in bed all the morning to recover from the excesses of the evening, as Marot observes in his eighty-sixth epigram in regard to a fat prior, who lay in bed and fondled his grandson while his partridges were preparing;
But people may lie in bed all the morning without being either liars, or badly disposed. On the contrary, the voluptuously indolent are generally socially gentle, and easy in their commerce with the world.
However this may be, I regret that St. Paul should offend an entire people. In this passage, humanly speaking, there is neither politeness, ability, or even truth. Nothing is gained from men by calling them evil beasts; and doubtless men of merit were to be found in Crete. Why thus outrage the country of Minos, which Archbishop Fénelon, infinitely more polished than St. Paul, so much eulogizes in his “Telemachus”?
Was not St. Paul somewhat difficult to live with, of a proud spirit, and of a hard and imperious character? If I had been one of the apostles, or even a disciple only, I should infallibly have quarrelled with him. It appears to me, that the fault was all on his side, in his dispute with Simon Peter Barjonas. He had a furious passion for domination. He often boasts of being an apostle, and more an apostle than his associates—he who had assisted to stone St. Stephen, he who had been assistant persecutor under Gamaliel, and who was called upon to weep longer for his crimes than St. Peter for his weakness!—always, however, humanly speaking.
He boasts of being a Roman citizen born at Tarsus, whereas St. Jerome pretends that he was a poor provincial Jew, born at Giscala in Galilee. In his letters addressed to the small flock of his brethren, he always speaks magisterially: “I will come,” says he to certain Corinthians, “and I will judge of you all on the testimony of two or three witnesses; and I will neither pardon those who have sinned, nor others.” This “nor others” is somewhat severe.
Many men at present would be disposed to take the part of St. Peter against St. Paul, but for the episode of Ananias and Sapphira, which has intimidated persons inclined to bestow alms.
I return to my text of the Cretan liars, evil beasts, and slow bellies; and I recommend to all missionaries never to commence their labors among any people with insults.
It is not that I regard the Cretans as the most just and respectable of men, as they were called by fabulous Greece. I pretend not to reconcile their pretended virtue with the pretended bull of which the beautiful Pasiphæ was so much enamored; nor with the skill exerted by the artisan Dædalus in the construction of a cow of brass, by which Pasiphæ was enabled to produce a Minotaur, to whom the pious and equitable Minos sacrificed every year—and not every nine years—seven grown-up boys and seven virgins of Athens.
It is not that I believe in the hundred large cities in Crete, meaning a hundred poor villages standing upon a long and narrow rock, with two or three towns. It is to be regretted that Rollin, in his elegant compilation of “Ancient History,” has repeated so many of the ancient fables of Crete, and that of Minos among others.
With respect to the poor Greeks and Jews who now inhabit the steep mountains of this island, under the government of a pasha, they may possibly be liars and evil disposed, but I cannot tell if they are slow of digestion: I sincerely hope, however, that they have sufficient to eat.
SOCIETY (ROYAL) OF LONDON, AND ACADEMIES.
Great men have all been formed either before academies or independent of them. Homer and Phidias, Sophocles and Apelles, Virgil and Vitruvius, Ariosto and Michelangelo, were none of them academicians. Tasso encountered only unjust criticism from the Academy della Crusca, and Newton was not indebted to the Royal Society of London for his discoveries in optics, upon gravitation, upon the integral calculus, and upon chronology. Of what use then are academies? To cherish the fire which great genius has kindled.
The Royal Society of London was formed in 1660, six years before the French Academy of Science. It has no rewards like ours, but neither has it any of the disagreeable distinctions invented by the abbé Bignon, who divided the Academy of Sciences between those who paid, and honorary members who were not learned. The society of London being independent, and only self-encouraged, has been composed of members who have discovered the laws of light, of gravitation, of the aberration of the stars, the reflecting telescope, the fire engine, solar microscope, and many other inventions, as useful as admirable. Could they have had greater men, had they admitted pensionaries or honorary members?
The famous Doctor Swift, in the last years of the reign of Queen Anne, formed the idea of establishing an academy for the English language, after the model of the Académie Française. This project was countenanced by the earl of Oxford, first lord of the treasury, and still more by Lord Bolingbroke, secretary of state, who possessed the gift of speaking extempore in parliament with as much purity as Doctor Swift composed in his closet, and who would have been the patron and ornament of this academy. The members likely to compose it were men whose works will last as long as the English language. Doctor Swift would have been one, and Mr. Prior, whom we had among us as public minister, and who enjoyed a similar reputation in England to that of La Fontaine among ourselves. There were also Mr. Pope, the English Boileau, and Mr. Congreve, whom they call their Molière, and many more whose names escape my recollection. The queen, however, dying suddenly, the Whigs took it into their heads to occupy themselves in hanging the protectors of academies, a process which is very injurious to the belles-lettres. The members of this body would have enjoyed much greater advantages than were possessed by the first who composed the French Academy. Swift, Prior, Congreve, Dryden, Pope, Addison, and others, had fixed the English language by their writings, whereas Chapelain, Colletet, Cassaigne, Faret, and Cotin, our first academicians, were a scandal to the nation; and their names have become so ridiculous that if any author had the misfortune to be called Chapelain or Cotin at present, he would be obliged to change his name.
Above all, the labors of an English academy would have materially differed from our own. One day, a wit of that country asked me for the memoirs of the French Academy. It composes no memoirs, I replied; but it has caused sixty or eighty volumes of compliments to be printed. He ran through one or two, but was not able to comprehend the style, although perfectly able to understand our best authors. “All that I can learn by these fine compositions,” said he to me, “is, that the new member, having assured the body that his predecessor was a great man, Cardinal Richelieu a very great man, and Chancellor Séguier a tolerably great man, the president replies by a similar string of assurances, to which he adds a new one, implying that the new member is also a sort of great man; and as for himself, the president, he may also perchance possess a spice of pretension.” It is easy to perceive by what fatality all the academic speeches are so little honorable to the body. “Vitium est temporis, potius quam hominis.” It insensibly became a custom for every academician to repeat those eulogies at his reception; and thus the body imposed upon themselves a kind of obligation to fatigue the public. If we wish to discover the reason why the most brilliant among the men of genius, who have been chosen by this body, have so frequently made the worst speeches, the cause may be easily explained. It is, that they have been anxious to shine, and to treat worn-out matter in a new way. The necessity of saying something; the embarrassment produced by the consciousness of having nothing to say; and the desire to exhibit ability, are three things sufficient to render even a great man ridiculous. Unable to discover new thoughts, the new members fatigue themselves for novel terms of expression, and often speak without thinking; like men who, affecting to chew with nothing in their mouths, seem to eat while perishing with hunger. Instead of a law in the French Academy to have these speeches printed, a law should be passed in prevention of that absurdity.
The Academy of Belles-Lettres imposed upon itself a task more judicious and useful—that of presenting to the public a collection of memoirs comprising the most critical and curious disquisitions and researches. These memoirs are already held in great esteem by foreigners. It is only desirable, that some subjects were treated more profoundly, and others not treated of at all. They might, for example, very well dispense with dissertations upon the prerogative of the right hand over the left; and of other inquiries which, under a less ridiculous title, are not less frivolous. The Academy of Sciences, in its more difficult and useful investigation, embraces a study of nature, and the improvement of the arts; and it is to be expected that studies so profound and perseveringly pursued, calculations so exact, and discoveries so refined, will in the end produce a corresponding benefit to the world at large.
As to the French Academy, what services might it not render to letters, to the language, and the nation, if, instead of printing volumes of compliments every year, it would reprint the best works of the age of Louis XIV., purified from all the faults of language which have crept into them! Corneille and Molière are full of them, and they swarm in La Fontaine. Those which could not be corrected might at least be marked, and Europe at large, which reads these authors, would then learn our language with certainty, and its purity would be forever fixed. Good French books, printed with care at the expense of the king, would be one of the most glorious monuments of the nation. I have heard say, that M. Despréaux once made this proposal, which has since been renewed by a man whose wit, wisdom, and sound criticism are generally acknowledged; but this idea has met with the fate of several other useful projects—that of being approved and neglected.
Is the mould broken of those who loved virtue for itself, of a Confucius, a Pythagoras, a Thales, a Socrates? In their time, there were crowds of devotees to their pagods and divinities; minds struck with fear of Cerberus and of the Furies, who underwent initiations, pilgrimages, and mysteries, who ruined themselves in offerings of black sheep. All times have seen those unfortunates of whom Lucretius speaks:
Mortifications were in use; the priests of Cybele castrated themselves to preserve continence. How comes it, that among all the martyrs of superstition, antiquity reckons not a single great man—a sage? It is, that fear could never make virtue, and that great men have been enthusiasts in moral good. Wisdom was their predominant passion; they were sages as Alexander was a warrior, as Homer was a poet, and Apelles a painter—by a superior energy and nature; which is all that is meant by the demon of Socrates.
One day, two citizens of Athens, returning from the temple of Mercury, perceived Socrates in the public place. One said to the other: “Is not that the rascal who says that one can be virtuous without going every day to offer up sheep and geese?” “Yes,” said the other, “that is the sage who has no religion; that is the atheist who says there is only one God.” Socrates approached them with his simple air, his dæmon, and his irony, which Madame Dacier has so highly exalted. “My friends,” said he to them, “one word, if you please: a man who prays to God, who adores Him, who seeks to resemble Him as much as human weakness can do, and who does all the good which lies in his power, what would you call him?” “A very religious soul,” said they. “Very well; we may therefore adore the Supreme Being, and have a great deal of religion?” “Granted,” said the two Athenians. “But do you believe,” pursued Socrates, “that when the Divine Architect of the world arranged all the globes which roll over our heads, when He gave motion and life to so many different beings, He made use of the arm of Hercules, the lyre of Apollo, or the flute of Pan?” “It is not probable,” said they. “But if it is not likely that He called in the aid of others to construct that which we see, it is not probable that He preserves it through others rather than through Himself. If Neptune was the absolute master of the sea, Juno of the air, Æolus of the winds, Ceres of harvests—and one would have a calm, when the other would have rain—you feel clearly, that the order of nature could not exist as it is. You will confess, that all depends upon Him who has made all. You give four white horses to the sun, and four black ones to the moon; but is it not more likely, that day and night are the effect of the motion given to the stars by their Master, than that they were produced by eight horses?” The two citizens looked at him, but answered nothing. In short, Socrates concluded by proving to them, that they might have harvests without giving money to the priests of Ceres; go to the chase without offering little silver statues to the temple of Diana; that Pomona gave not fruits; that Neptune gave not horses; and that they should thank the Sovereign who had made all.
His discourse was most exactly logical. Xenophon, his disciple, a man who knew the world, and who afterwards sacrificed to the wind, in the retreat of the ten thousand, took Socrates by the sleeve, and said to him: “Your discourse is admirable; you have spoken better than an oracle; you are lost; one of these honest people to whom you speak is a butcher, who sells sheep and geese for sacrifices; and the other a goldsmith, who gains much by making little gods of silver and brass for women. They will accuse you of being a blasphemer, who would diminish their trade; they will depose against you to Melitus and Anitus, your enemies, who have resolved upon your ruin: have a care of hemlock; your familiar spirit should have warned you not to say to a butcher and a goldsmith what you should only say to Plato and Xenophon.”
Some time after, the enemies of Socrates caused him to be condemned by the council of five hundred. He had two hundred and twenty voices in his favor, which may cause it to be presumed that there were two hundred and twenty philosophers in this tribunal; but it shows that, in all companies, the number of philosophers is always the minority.
Socrates therefore drank hemlock, for having spoken in favor of the unity of God; and the Athenians afterwards consecrated a temple to Socrates—to him who disputed against all temples dedicated to inferior beings.
Several kings have been good scholars, and have written good books. The king of Prussia, Frederick the Great, is the latest example we have had of it: German monarchs will be found who compose French verses, and who write the history of their countries. James I. in England, and even Henry VIII. have written. In Spain, we must go back as far as Alphonso X. Still it is doubtful whether he put his hand to the “Alphonsine Tables.”
France cannot boast of having had an author king. The empire of Germany has no book from the pen of its emperors; but Rome was glorified in Cæsar, Marcus Aurelius, and Julian. In Asia, several writers are reckoned among the kings. The present emperor of China, Kien Long, particularly, is considered a great poet; but Solomon, or Solyman, the Hebrew, has still more reputation than Kien Long, the Chinese.
The name of Solomon has always been revered in the East. The works believed to be his, the “Annals of the Jews,” and the fables of the Arabs, have carried his renown as far as the Indies. His reign is the great epoch of the Hebrews.
He was the third king of Palestine. The First Book of Kings says that his mother, Bathsheba, obtained from David, the promise that he should crown Solomon, her son, instead of Adonijah, his eldest. It is not surprising that a woman, an accomplice in the death of her first husband, should have had artifice enough to cause the inheritance to be given to the fruit of her adultery, and to cause the legitimate son to be disinherited, who was also the eldest.
It is a very remarkable fact that the prophet Nathan, who reproached David with his adultery, the murder of Uriah, and the marriage which followed this murder, was the same who afterwards seconded Bathsheba in placing that Solomon on the throne, who was born of this sanguine and infamous marriage. This conduct, reasoning according to the flesh, would prove, that the prophet Nathan had, according to circumstances, two weights and two measures. The book even says not that Nathan received a particular mission from God to disinherit Adonijah. If he had one, we must respect it; but we cannot admit that we find it written.
It is a great question in theology, whether Solomon is most renowned for his ready money, his wives, or his books. I am sorry that he commenced his reign in the Turkish style by murdering his brother.
Adonijah, excluded from the throne by Solomon, asked him, as an only favor, permission to espouse Abishag, the young girl who had been given to David to warm him in his old age. Scripture says not whether Solomon disputed with Adonijah, the concubine of his father; but it says, that Solomon, simply on this demand of Adonijah, caused him to be assassinated. Apparently God, who gave him the spirit of wisdom, refused him that of justice and humanity, as he afterwards refused him the gift of continence.
It is said in the same Book of Kings that he was the master of a great kingdom which extended from the Euphrates to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean; but unfortunately it is said at the same time, that the king of Egypt conquered the country of Gezer, in Canaan, and that he gave the city of Gezer as a portion to his daughter, whom it is pretended that Solomon espoused. It is also said that there was a king at Damascus; and the kingdoms of Tyre and Sidon flourished. Surrounded thus with powerful states, he doubtless manifested his wisdom in living in peace with them all. The extreme abundance which enriched his country could only be the fruit of this profound wisdom, since, as we have already remarked, in the time of Saul there was not a worker in iron in the whole country. Those who reason find it difficult to understand how David, the successor of Saul, so vanquished by the Philistines, could have established so vast an empire.
The riches which he left to Solomon are still more wonderful; he gave him in ready money one hundred and three thousand talents of gold, and one million thirteen thousand talents of silver. The Hebraic talent of gold, according to Arbuthnot, is worth six thousand livres sterling, the talent of silver, about five hundred livres sterling. The sum total of the legacy in ready money, without the jewels and other effects, and without the ordinary revenue—proportioned no doubt to this treasure—amounted, according to this calculation, to one billion, one hundred and nineteen millions, five hundred thousand pounds sterling, or to five billions, five hundred and ninety-seven crowns of Germany, or to twenty-five billions, forty-eight millions of francs. There was not then so much money circulating through the whole world. Some scholars value this treasure at a little less, but the sum is always very large for Palestine.
We see not, after that, why Solomon should torment himself so much to send fleets to Ophir to bring gold. We can still less divine how this powerful monarch, in his vast states, had not a man who knew how to fashion wood from the forest of Libanus. He was obliged to beg Hiram, king of Tyre, to lend him wood cutters and laborers to work it. It must be confessed that these contradictions exceedingly exercise the genius of commentators.
Every day, fifty oxen, and one hundred sheep were served up for the dinner and supper of his houses, and poultry and game in proportion, which might be about sixty thousand pounds weight of meat per day. He kept a good house. It is added, that he had forty thousand stables, and as many houses for his chariots of war, but only twelve thousand stables for his cavalry. Here is a great number of chariots for a mountainous country; and it was a great equipage for a king whose predecessor had only a mule at his coronation, and a territory which bred asses alone.
It was not becoming a prince possessing so many chariots to be limited in the article of women; he therefore possessed seven hundred who bore the name of queen; and what is strange, he had but three hundred concubines; contrary to the custom of kings, who have generally more mistresses than wives.
He kept four hundred and twelve thousand horses, doubtless to take the air with them along the lake of Gennesaret, or that of Sodom, in the neighborhood of the Brook of Kedron, which would be one of the most delightful places upon earth, if the brook was not dry nine months of the year, and if the earth was not horribly stony.
As to the temple which he built, and which the Jews believed to be the finest work of the universe, if the Bramantes, the Michelangelos, and the Palladios, had seen this building, they would not have admired it. It was a kind of small square fortress, which enclosed a court; in this court was one edifice of forty cubits long, and another of twenty; and it is said, that this second edifice, which was properly the temple, the oracle, the holy of holies, was only twenty cubits in length and breadth, and twenty cubits high. M. Souflot would not have been quite pleased with those proportions.
The books attributed to Solomon have lasted longer than his temple.
The name of the author alone has rendered these books respectable. They should be good, since they were written by a king, and this king passed for the wisest of men.
The first work attributed to him is that of Proverbs. It is a collection of maxims, which sometimes appear to our refined minds trifling, low, incoherent, in bad taste, and without meaning. People cannot be persuaded that an enlightened king has composed a collection of sentences, in which there is not one which regards the art of government, politics, manners of courtiers, or customs of a court. They are astonished at seeing whole chapters in which nothing is spoken of but prostitutes, who invite passengers in the streets to lie with them. They revolt against sentences in the following style: “There are three things that are never satisfied, a fourth which never says ‘enough’; the grave; the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water, are the three; and the fourth is fire, which never sayeth ‘enough.’
“There be three things which are too wonderful for me; yea, four which I know not. The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid.
“There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise. The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; the conies are but a feeble race, yet they make their houses in rocks; the locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; the spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.”
Can we impute such follies as these to a great king, to the wisest of mortals? say the objectors. This criticism is strong; it should deliver itself with more respect.
The Proverbs have been attributed to Isaiah, Elijah, Sobna, Eliakim, Joachim, and several others; but whoever compiled this collection of Eastern sentences, it does not appear that it was a king who gave himself the trouble. Would he have said that the terror of the king is like the roaring of a lion? It is thus that a subject or a slave speaks, who trembles at the anger of his master. Would Solomon have spoken so much of unchaste women? Would he have said: “Look thou not upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the glass”?
I doubt very much whether there were any drinking glasses in the time of Solomon; it is a very recent invention; all antiquity drank from cups of wood or metal; and this single passage perhaps indicates that this Jewish collection was composed in Alexandria, as well as most of the other Jewish books.
The Book of Ecclesiastes, which is attributed to Solomon, is in quite a different order and taste. He who speaks in this work seems not to be deceived by visions of grandeur, to be tired of pleasures, and disgusted with science. We have taken him for an Epicurean who repeats on each page, that the just and unjust are subject to the same accidents; that man is nothing more than the beast which perishes; that it is better not to be born than to exist; that there is no other life; and that there is nothing more good and reasonable than to enjoy the fruit of our labors with a woman whom we love.
It might happen that Solomon held such discourse with some of his wives; and it is pretended that these are objections which he made; but these maxims, which have a libertine air, do not at all resemble objections; and it is a joke to profess to understand in an author the exact contrary of that which he says.
We believe that we read the sentiments of a materialist, at once sensual and digusted, who appears to have put an edifying word or two on God in the last verse, to diminish the scandal which such a book must necessarily create. As to the rest, several fathers say that Solomon did penance; so that we can pardon him.
Critics have difficulty in persuading themselves that this book can be by Solomon; and Grotius pretends that it was written under Zerubbabel. It is not natural for Solomon to say: “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child!” The Jews had not then such kings.
It is not natural for him to say: “I observe the face of the king.” It is much more likely, that the author spoke of Solomon, and that by this alienation of mind, which we discover in so many rabbins, he has often forgotten, in the course of the book, that it was a king whom he caused to speak.
What appears surprising to them is that this work has been consecrated among the canonical books. If the canon of the Bible were to be established now, say they, perhaps the Book of Ecclesiastes might not be inserted; but it was inserted at a time when books were very rare, and more admired than read. All that can be done now is to palliate the Epicureanism which prevails in this work. The Book of Ecclesiastes has been treated like many other things which disgust in a particular manner. Being established in times of ignorance, we are forced, to the scandal of reason, to maintain them in wiser times, and to disguise the horror or absurdity of them by allegories. These critics are too bold.
The “Song of Songs” is further attributed to Solomon, because the name of that king is found in two or three places; because it is said to the beloved, that she is beautiful as the curtains of Solomon; because she says that she is black, by which epithet it is believed that Solomon designated his Egyptian wife.
These three reasons have not proved convincing: 1. When the beloved, in speaking to her lover, says “The king hath brought me into his chamber,” she evidently speaks of another than her lover; therefore the king is not this lover; it is the king of the festival; it is the paranymph, the master of the house, whom she means; and this Jewess is so far from being the mistress of a king, that throughout the work she is a shepherdess, a country girl, who goes seeking her lover through the fields, and in the streets of the town, and who is stopped at the gates by a porter who steals her garment.
2. “I am beautiful as the curtains of Solomon,” is the expression of a villager, who would say: I am as beautiful as the king’s tapestries; and it is precisely because the name of Solomon is found in this work, that it cannot be his. What monarch could make so ridiculous a comparison? “Behold,” says the beloved, “behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals!” Who recognizes not in these expressions the common comparisons which girls make in speaking of their lovers? They say: “He is as beautiful as a prince; he has the air of a king,” etc.
It is true that the shepherdess, who is made to speak in this amorous song, says that she is tanned by the sun, that she is brown. Now if this was the daughter of the king of Egypt, she was not so tanned. Females of quality in Egypt were fair. Cleopatra was so; and, in a word, this person could not be at once a peasant and a queen.
A monarch who had a thousand wives might have said to one of them: “Let her kiss me with the lips of her mouth; for thy breasts are better than wine.” A king and a shepherd, when the subject is of kissing, might express themselves in the same manner. It is true, that it is strange enough it should be pretended, that the girl speaks in this place, and eulogizes the breasts of her lover.
We further avow that a gallant king might have said to his mistress: “A bundle of myrrh is my well beloved unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts.”
That he might have said to her: “Thy navel is like a round goblet which wanteth not liquor; thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies; thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins; thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fish pools in Heshbon; and thy nose as the tower of Lebanon.”
I confess that the “Eclogues” of Virgil are in a different style; but each has his own, and a Jew is not obliged to write like Virgil.
We have not noticed this fine turn of Eastern eloquence: “We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts. What shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? If she be a wall, we will build upon her; and if she be a door, we will close it.”
Solomon, the wisest of men, might have spoken thus in his merry moods; but several rabbins have maintained, not only that this voluptuous eclogue was not King Solomon’s, but that it is not authentic. Theodore of Mopsuestes was of this opinion, and the celebrated Grotius calls the “Song of Songs,” a libertine flagitious work. However, it is consecrated, and we regard it as a perpetual allegory of the marriage of Jesus Christ with the Church. We must confess, that the allegory is rather strong, and we see not what the Church could understand, when the author says that his little sister has no breasts.
After all, this song is a precious relic of antiquity; it is the only book of love of the Hebrews which remains to us. Enjoyment is often spoken of in it. It is a Jewish eclogue. The style is like that of all the eloquent works of the Hebrews, without connection, without order, full of repetition, confused, ridiculously metaphorical, but containing passages which breathe simplicity and love.
The “Book of Wisdom” is in a more serious taste; but it is no more Solomon’s than the “Song of Songs.” It is generally attributed to Jesus, the son of Sirac, and by some to Philo of Biblos; but whoever may be the author, it is believed, that in his time the Pentateuch did not exist; for he says in chapter x., that Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac at the time of the Deluge; and in another place he speaks of the patriarch Joseph as of a king of Egypt. At least, it is the most natural sense.
The worst of it is, that the author in the same chapter pretends, that in his time the statue of salt into which Lot’s wife was changed was to be seen. What critics find still worse is that the book appears to them a tiresome mass of commonplaces; but they should consider that such works are not made to follow the vain rules of eloquence. They are written to edify, and not to please, and we should even combat our disinclination to read them.
It is very likely that Solomon was rich and learned for his time and people. Exaggeration, the inseparable companion of greatness, attributes riches to him which he could not have possessed, and books which he could not have written. Respect for antiquity has since consecrated these errors.
But what signifies it to us, that these books were written by a Jew? Our Christian religion is founded on the Jewish, but not on all the books which the Jews have written.
For instance, why should the “Song of Songs” be more sacred to us than the fables of Talmud? It is, say they, because we have comprised it in the canon of the Hebrews. And what is this canon? It is a collection of authentic works. Well, must a work be divine to be authentic? A history of the little kingdoms of Judah and Sichem, for instance—is it anything but a history? This is a strange prejudice. We hold the Jews in horror, and we insist that all which has been written by them, and collected by us, bears the stamp of Divinity. There never was so palpable a contradiction.
SOMNAMBULISTS AND DREAMERS.
I have seen a somnambulist, but he contented himself with rising, dressing himself, making a bow, and dancing a minuet, all which he did very properly; and having again undressed himself, returned to bed and continued to sleep.
This comes not near the somnambulist of the “Encyclopædia.” The last was a young seminarist, who set himself to compose a sermon in his sleep. He wrote it correctly, read it from one end to the other, or at least appeared to read it, made corrections, erased some lines, substituted others, and inserted an omitted word. He even composed music, noted it with precision, and after preparing his paper with his ruler, placed the words under the notes without the least mistake.
It is said, that an archbishop of Bordeaux has witnessed all these operations, and many others equally astonishing. It is to be wished that this prelate had affixed his attestation to the account, signed by his grand vicars, or at least by his secretary.
But supposing that this somnambulist has done all which is imputed to him, I would persist in putting the same queries to him as to a simple dreamer. I would say to him: You have dreamed more forcibly than another; but it is upon the same principle; one has had a fever only, the other a degree of madness; but both the one and the other have received ideas and sensations to which they have not attended. You have both done what you did not intend to do.
Of two dreamers, the one has not a single idea, the other a crowd; the one is as insensible as marble, while the other experiences desires and enjoyments. A lover composes a song on his mistress in a dream, and in his delirium imagines himself to be reading a tender letter from her, which he repeats aloud:
Does anything pass within you during this powerful dream more than what passes every day when you are awake?
You, Mr. Seminarist, born with the gift of imitation, you have listened to some hundred sermons, and your brain is prepared to make them: moved by the talent of imitation, you have written them waking; and you are led by the same talent and impulse when you are asleep. But how have you been able to become a preacher in a dream? You went to sleep, without any desire to preach. Remember well the first time that you were led to compose the sketch of a sermon while awake. You thought not of it a quarter of an hour before; but seated in your chamber, occupied in a reverie, without any determinate ideas, your memory recalls, without your will interfering, the remembrance of a certain holiday; this holiday reminds you that sermons are delivered on that day; you remember a text; this text suggests an exordium; pens, ink, and paper, are lying near you; and you begin to write things you had not the least previous intention of writing. Such is precisely what came to pass in your noctambulism.
You believe yourself, both in the one and the other occupation, to have done only what you intended to do; and you have been directed without consciousness by all which preceded the writing of the sermon.
In the same manner when, on coming from vespers, you are shut up in your cell to meditate, you have no design to occupy yourself with the image of your fair neighbor; but it somehow or another intrudes; your imagination is inflamed; and I need not refer to the consequences. You may have experienced the same adventure in your sleep.
What share has your will had in all these modifications of sensation? The same that it has had in the coursing of your blood through your arteries and veins, in the action of your lymphatic vessels, or in the pulsation of your heart, or of your brain.
I have read the article on “Dreams” in the “Encyclopædia,” and have understood nothing; and when I search after the cause of my ideas and actions, either in sleeping or waking, I am equally confounded.
I know well, that a reasoner who would prove to me when I wake, and when I am neither mad nor intoxicated, that I am then an active agent, would but slightly embarrass me; but I should be still more embarrassed if I undertook to prove to him that when he slept he was passive and a pure automaton.
Explain to me an animal who is a mere machine one-half of his life, and who changes his nature twice every twenty-four hours.
Letter on Dreams to the Editor of the Literary Gazette, August, 1764.
All the objects of science are within your jurisdiction; allow chimeras to be so also. “Nil sub sole novum”—“nothing new under the sun. Thus it is not of anything which passes in noonday that I am going to treat, but of that which takes place during the night. Be not alarmed; it is only with dreams that I concern myself.
I confess, gentlemen, that I am constantly of the opinion of the physician of M. Pourceaugnac; he inquires of his patient the nature of his dreams, and M. Pourceaugnac, who is not a philosopher, replies that they are of the nature of dreams. It is most certain however, with no offence to your Limousin, that uneasy and horrible dreams denote pain either of body or mind; a body overcharged with aliment, or a mind occupied with melancholy ideas when awake.
The laborer who has waked without chagrin, and fed without excess, sleeps sound and tranquil, and dreams disturb him not; so long as he is in this state, he seldom remembers having a dream—a truth which I have fully ascertained on my estate in Herefordshire. Every dream of a forcible nature is produced by some excess, either in the passions of the soul, or the nourishment of the body; it seems as if nature intended to punish us for them, by suggesting ideas, and making us think in spite of ourselves. It may be inferred from this, that those who think the least are the most happy; but it is not that conclusion which I seek to establish.
We must acknowledge, with Petronius, “Quid-quid luce fuit, tenebris agit.” I have known advocates who have pleaded in dreams; mathematicians who have sought to solve problems; and poets who have composed verses. I have made some myself, which are very passable. It is therefore incontestable, that consecutive ideas occur in sleep, as well as when we are awake, which ideas as certainly come in spite of us. We think while sleeping, as we move in our beds, without our will having anything to do either in the motive or the thought. Your Father Malebranche is right in asserting that we are not able to give ourselves ideas. For why are we to be masters of them, when waking, more than during sleep? If your Malebranche had stopped there, he would have been a great philosopher; he deceived himself only by going too far: of him we may say:
For my part, I am persuaded that the reflection that our thoughts proceed not from ourselves, may induce the visit of some very good thoughts. I will not, however, undertake to develop mine, for fear of tiring some readers, and astonishing others.
I simply beg to say two or three words in relation to dreams. Have you not found, like me, that they are the origin of the opinion so generally diffused throughout antiquity, touching spectres and manes? A man profoundly afflicted at the death of his wife or his son, sees them in his sleep; he speaks to them; they reply to him; and to him they have certainly appeared. Other men have had similar dreams; it is therefore impossible to deny that the dead may return; but it is certain, at the same time, that these deceased, whether inhumed, reduced to ashes, or buried in the abyss of the sea, have not been able to reserve their bodies; it is, therefore, the soul which we have seen. This soul must necessarily be extended, light, and impalpable, because in speaking to it we have not been able to embrace it: “Effugit imago par levibus ventis.” It is moulded and designed from the body that it inhabits, since it perfectly resembles it. The name of shade or manes is given it; from all which a confused idea remains in the head, which differs itself so much more because no one can understand it.
Dreams also appear to me to have been the sensible origin of primitive prophecy or prediction. What more natural or common that to dream that a person dear to us is in danger of dying, or that we see him expiring? What more natural, again, than that such a person may really die soon after this ominous dream of his friend? Dreams which have come to pass are always predictions which no one can doubt, no account being taken of the dreams which are never fulfilled; a single dream accomplished has more effect than a hundred which fail. Antiquity abounds with these examples. How constructed are we for the reception of error! Day and night unite to deceive us!
You see, gentlemen, that by attending to these ideas, we may gather some fruit from the book of my compatriot, the dreamer; but I finish, lest you should take me myself for a mere visionary.
Yours, John Dreamer.
According to Petronius, dreams are not of divine origin, but self-formed:
But how, all the senses being defunct in sleep, does there remain an internal one which retains consciousness? How is it, that while the eyes see not, the ears hear not, we notwithstanding understand in our dreams? The hound renews the chase in a dream: he barks, follows his prey, and is in at the death. The poet composes verses in his sleep; the mathematician examines his diagram; and the metaphysician reasons well or ill; of all which there are striking examples.
Are they only the organs of the machine which act? Is it the pure soul, submitted to the empire of the senses, enjoying its faculties at liberty?
If the organs alone produce dreams by night, why not alone produce ideas by day? If the soul, pure and tranquil, acting for itself during the repose of the senses, is the sole cause of our ideas while we are sleeping, why are all these ideas usually irregular, unreasonable, and incoherent? What! at a time when the soul is least disturbed, it is so much disquieted in its imagination? Is it frantic when at liberty? If it was produced with metaphysical ideas, as so many sages assert who dream with their eyes open, its correct and luminous ideas of being, of infinity, and of all the primary principles, ought to be revealed in the soul with the greatest energy when the body sleeps. We should never be good philosophers except when dreaming.
Whatever system we embrace, whatever our vain endeavors to prove that the memory impels the brain, and that the brain acts upon the soul, we must allow that our ideas come, in sleep, independently of our will. It is therefore certain that we can think seven or eight hours running without the least intention of doing so, and even without being certain that we think. Pause upon that, and endeavor to divine what there is in this which is animal.
Dreams have always formed a great object of superstition, and nothing is more natural. A man deeply affected by the sickness of his mistress dreams that he sees her dying; she dies the next day; and of course the gods have predicted her death.
The general of an army dreams that he shall gain a battle; he subsequently gains one; the gods had decreed that he should be a conqueror. Dreams which are accomplished are alone attended to. Dreams form a great part of ancient history, as also of oracles.
The “Vulgate” thus translates the end of Leviticus, xix, 26: “You shall not observe dreams.” But the word “dream” exists not in the Hebrew; and it would be exceedingly strange, if attention to dreams was reproved in the same book in which it is said that Joseph became the benefactor of Egypt and his family, in consequence of his interpretation of three dreams.
The interpretation of dreams was a thing so common, that the supposed art had no limits, and the interpreter was sometimes called upon to say what another person had dreamed. Nebuchadnezzar, having forgotten his dream, orders his Magi to say what it was he had dreamed, and threatened them with death if they failed; but the Jew Daniel, who was in the school of the Magi, saved their lives by divining at once what the king had dreamed, and interpreting it. This history, and many others, may serve to prove that the laws of the Jews did not forbid oneiromancy, that is to say, the science of dreams.
Lausanne, Oct. 25, 1757.
In one of my dreams, I supped with M. Touron, who appeared to compose verses and music, which he sang to us. I addressed these four lines to him in my dream:
In another dream, I recited the first canto of the “Henriade” quite different from what it is. Yesterday, I dreamed that verses were recited at supper, and that some one pretended they were too witty. I replied that verses were entertainments given to the soul, and that ornaments are necessary in entertainments.
I have therefore said things in my sleep which I should have some difficulty to say when awake; I have had thoughts and reflections, in spite of myself, and without the least voluntary operation on my own part, and nevertheless combined my ideas with sagacity, and even with genius. What am I, therefore, if not a machine?
A geometrician, a little severe, thus addressed us one day: There is nothing in literature more dangerous than rhetorical sophists; and among these sophists none are more unintelligible and unworthy of being understood than the divine Plato.
The only useful idea to be found in him, is that of the immortality of the soul, which was already admitted among cultivated nations; but, then, how does he prove this immortality?
We cannot too forcibly appeal to this proof, in order to correctly appreciate this famous Greek. He asserts, in his “Phædon,” that death is the opposite of life, that death springs from life, and the living from the dead, consequently that our souls will descend beneath the earth when we die.
If it is true that the sophist Plato, who gives himself out for the enemy of all sophists, reasons always thus, what have been all these pretended great men, and in what has consisted their utility?
The grand defect of the Platonic philosophy is the transformation of abstract ideas into realities. A man can only perform a fine action, because a beauty really exists, which is its archetype.
We cannot perform any action, without forming an idea of the action—therefore these ideas exist I know not where, and it is necessary to study them.
God formed an idea of the world before He created it. This was His logos: the world, therefore, is the production of the logos!
What disputes, how many vain and even sanguinary contests, has this manner of argument produced upon earth! Plato never dreamed that his doctrine would be able, at some future period, to divide a church which in his time was not in existence.
To conceive a just contempt for all these foolish subtilties, read Demosthenes, and see if in any one of his harangues he employs one of these ridiculous sophisms. It is a clear proof that, in serious business, no more attention is paid to these chimeras than in a council of state to theses of theology.
Neither will you find any of this sophistry in the speeches of Cicero. It was a jargon of the schools, invented to amuse idleness—the quackery of mind.
This is a vague and indeterminate term, expressing an unknown principle of known effects, which we feel in ourselves. This word “soul” answers to the “anima” of the Latins—to the “pneuma” of the Greeks—to the term which each and every nation has used to express what they understood no better than we do.
In the proper and literal sense of the Latin and the languages derived from it, it signifies that which animates. Thus people say, the soul of men, of animals, and sometimes of plants, to denote their principle of vegetation and life. This word has never been uttered with any but a confused idea, as when it is said in Genesis: “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul”; and: “The soul of animals is in the blood”; and: “Stay not my soul.”
Thus the soul was taken for the origin and the cause of life, and for life itself. Hence all known nations long imagined that everything died with the body. If anything can be discerned with clearness in the chaos of ancient histories, it seems that the Egyptians were at least the first who made a distinction between the intelligence and the soul; and the Greeks learned from them to distinguish their “nous” and their “pneuma.” The Latins, after the example of the Greeks, distinguished “animus” and “anima”; and we have, too, our soul and our understanding. But are that which is the principle of our life, and that which is the principle of our thoughts, two different things? Does that which causes us to digest, and which gives us sensation and memory, resemble that which is the cause of digestion in animals, and of their sensations and memory?
Here is an eternal object for disputation: I say an eternal object, for having no primitive notion from which to deduce in this investigation, we must ever continue in a labyrinth of doubts and feeble conjectures.
We have not the smallest step on which to set our foot, to reach the slightest knowledge of what makes us live and what makes us think. How should we? For we must then have seen life and thought enter a body. Does a father know how he produced his son? Does a mother know how she conceived him? Has anyone ever been able to divine how he acts, how he wakes, or how he sleeps? Does anyone know how his limbs obey his will? Has anyone discovered by what art his ideas are traced in his brain, and issue from it at his command? Feeble automata, moved by the invisible hand which directs us on the stage of this world, which of us has ever perceived the thread which guides us?
We dare to put in question, whether the intelligent soul is spirit or matter; whether it is created before us, or proceeds from nothing at our birth; whether, after animating us for a day on this earth, it lives after us in eternity. These questions appear sublime; what are they? Questions of blind men asking one another: What is light?
When we wish to have a rude knowledge of a piece of metal, we put it on the fire in a crucible; but have we any crucible wherein to put the soul? It is spirit, says one; but what is spirit? Assuredly, no one knows. This is a word so void of meaning, that to tell what spirit is, you are obliged to say what it is not. The soul is matter, says another; but what is matter? We know nothing of it but a few appearances and properties; and not one of these properties, not one of these appearances, can bear the least affinity to thought.
It is something distinct from matter, you say; but what proof have you of this? Is it because matter is divisible and figurable, and thought is not? But how do you know that the first principles of matter are divisible and figurable? It is very likely that they are not; whole sects of philosophers assert that the elements of matter have neither figure nor extent. You triumphantly exclaim: Thought is neither wood, nor stone, nor sand, nor metal; therefore, thought belongs not to matter. Weak and presumptuous reasoners! Gravitation is neither wood, nor sand, nor metal, nor stone; nor is motion, or vegetation, or life, any of all these; yet life, vegetation, motion, gravitation, are given to matter. To say that God cannot give thought to matter, is to say the most insolently absurd thing that has ever been advanced in the privileged schools of madness and folly. We are not assured that God has done this; we are only assured that He can do it. But of what avail is all that has been said, or all that will be said, about the soul? What avails it that it has been called “entelechia,” quintessence, flame, ether—that it has been believed to be universal, uncreated, transmigrant?
Of what avail, in these questions inaccessible to reason, are the romances of our uncertain imaginations? What avails it, that the fathers in the four primitive ages believed the soul to be corporeal? What avails it that Tertullian, with a contradictoriness that was familiar to him, decided that it is at once corporeal, figured, and simple? We have a thousand testimonies of ignorance, but not one which affords us a ray of probability.
How, then, shall we be bold enough to affirm what the soul is? We know certainly that we exist, that we feel, that we think. Seek we to advance one step further—we fall into an abyss of darkness; and in this abyss, we have still the foolish temerity to dispute whether this soul, of which we have not the least idea, is made before us or with us, and whether it is perishable or immortal?
The article on “Soul,” and all articles belonging to metaphysics, should begin with a sincere submission to the indubitable tenets of the Church. Revelation is doubtless much better than philosophy. Systems exercise the mind, but faith enlightens and guides it.
Are there not words often pronounced of which we have but a very confused idea, or perhaps no idea at all? Is not the word “soul” one of these? When the tongue of a pair of bellows is out of order, and the air, escaping through the valve, is not driven with violence towards the fire, the maid-servant says: “The soul of the bellows is burst.” She knows no better, and the question does not at all disturb her quiet.
The gardener uses the expression, “Soul of the plants”; and cultivates them very well without knowing what the term means.
The musical-instrument maker places, and shifts forward or backward, the soul of a violin, under the bridge, in the interior of the instrument: a sorry bit of wood more or less gives it or takes from it a harmonious soul.
We have several manufactures in which the workmen give the appellation of “soul” to their machines; but they are never heard to dispute about the word: it is otherwise with philosophers.
The word “soul,” with us, signifies in general that which animates. Our predecessors, the Celts, gave their soul the name of “seel,” of which the English have made soul, while the Germans retain “seel”; and it is probable that the ancient Teutons and the ancient Britons had no university quarrels about this expression.
The Greeks distinguished three sorts of souls: “Psyche,” signifying the sensitive soul—the soul of the senses; and hence it was that Love, the son of Aphrodite, had so much passion for Psyche, and that she loved him so tenderly; “Pneuma,” the breath which gave life and motion to the whole machine, and which we have rendered by “spiritus”—spirit—a vague term, which has received a thousand different acceptations: and lastly, “nous,” intelligence.
Thus we possess three souls, without having the slightest notion of any one of them. St. Thomas Aquinas admits these three souls in his quality of peripatetic, and distinguishes each of the three into three parts.
“Psyche” was in the breast; “Pneuma” was spread throughout the body; and “Nous” was in the head. There was no other philosophy in our schools until the present day; and woe to the man who took one of these souls for another!
In this chaos of ideas, there was however a foundation. Men had clearly perceived that in their passions of love, anger, fear, etc., motions were excited within them; the heart and the liver were the seat of the passions. When thinking deeply, one feels a laboring in the organs of the head; therefore, the intellectual soul is in the brain. Without respiration there is no vegetation, no life; therefore, the vegetative soul is in the breast, which receives the breath of the air.
When men had seen in their sleep their dead relatives or friends, they necessarily sought to discover what had appeared to them. It was not the body, which had been consumed on a pile or swallowed up in the sea and eaten by the fishes. However, they would declare it was something, for they had seen it; the dead man had spoken; the dreamer had questioned him. Was it “Psyche”; was it “Pneuma”; was it “Nous,” with whom he had conversed in his sleep? Then a phantom was imagined—a slight figure; it was “skia”—it was “daimonos”—a shade of the manes; a small soul of air and fire, extremely slender, wandering none knew where.
In after times, when it was determined to sound the matter, the undisputed result was, that this soul was corporeal, and all antiquity had no other idea of it. At length came Plato, who so subtilized this soul, that it was doubted whether he did not entirely separate it from matter; but the problem was never resolved until faith came to enlighten us.
In vain do the materialists adduce the testimony of some fathers of the Church who do not express themselves with exactness. St. Irenæus says that the soul is but the breath of life, that it is incorporeal only in comparison with the mortal body, and that it retains the human figure in order that it may be recognized.
In vain does Tertullian express himself thus: “The corporality of the soul shines forth in the Gospel. ‘Corporalitas animæ in ipso evangelio relucesseit.’ ” For if the soul had not a body, the image of the soul would not have the image of the body.
In vain does he even relate the vision of a holy woman who had seen a very brilliant soul of the color of the air.
In vain does Tatian expressly say:
Ψυχὴ μὲν οὖν εὶ τῶν ὰνθρώπων πολυμερής ὲστιν
—“The soul of man is composed of several parts.”
In vain do they adduce St. Hilary, who said in later times: “There is nothing created which is not corporeal, neither in heaven nor on earth; neither visible nor invisible; all is formed of elements; and souls, whether they inhabit a body or are without a body, have always a corporeal substance.”
In vain does St. Ambrose, in the fourth century, say: “We know nothing but what is material, excepting only the ever-venerable Trinity.”
The whole body of the Church has decided that the soul is immaterial. These holy men had fallen into an error then universal; they were men: but they were not mistaken concerning immortality, because it is evidently announced in the Gospels.
So evident is our need of the decision of the infallible Church on these points of philosophy, that indeed we have not of ourselves any sufficient notion of what is called pure spirit, nor of what is called matter. Pure spirit is an expression which gives us no idea; and we are acquainted with matter only by a few phenomena. So little do we know of it, that we call it substance, which word “substance” means that which is beneath; but this beneath will eternally be concealed from us; this beneath is the Creator’s secret, and this secret of the Creator is everywhere. We do not know how we receive life, how we give it, how we grow, how we digest, how we sleep, how we think, nor how we feel. The great difficulty is, to comprehend how a being, whatsoever it be, has thoughts.
The author of the article on “Soul,” in the “Encyclopædia,” who has scrupulously followed Jacquelot, teaches us nothing. He also rises up against Locke, because the modest Locke has said:
“Perhaps we shall never be capable of knowing whether a material being thinks or not; for this reason—that it is impossible for us to discover, by the contemplation of our own ideas, ‘without revelation,’ whether God has not given to some portion of matter, disposed as He thinks fit, the power of perceiving and thinking; or whether He has joined and united to matter so disposed, an immaterial and thinking substance. For with regard to our notions, it is no less easy for us to conceive that God can, if He pleases, add to an idea of matter the faculty of thinking, than to comprehend that He joins to it another substance with the faculty of thinking; since we know not in what thought consists, nor to what kind of substance this all-powerful Being has thought fit to grant this power, which could be created only by virtue of the good-will and pleasure of the Creator. I do not see that there is any contradiction in God—that thinking, eternal, and all-powerful Being—giving, if He wills it, certain degrees of feeling, perception, and thought, to certain portions of matter, created and insensible, which He joins together as he thinks fit.”
This was speaking like a profound, religious, and modest man. It is known what contests he had to maintain concerning this opinion, which he appeared to have hazarded, but which was really no other than a consequence of the conviction he felt of the omnipotence of God, and the weakness of man. He did not say that matter thought; but he said that we do not know enough to demonstrate that it is impossible for God to add the gift of thought to the unknown being called “matter,” after granting to it those of gravitation and of motion, which are equally incomprehensible.
Assuredly, Locke was not the only one who advanced this opinion; it was that of all the ancients—regarding the soul only as very subtile matter, they consequently affirmed that matter could feel and think.
Such was the opinion of Gassendi, as we find in his objections to Descartes. “It is true,” says Gassendi, “that you know that you think; but you, who think, know not of what kind of substance you are. Thus, though the operation of thought is known to you, the principle of your essence is hidden from you, and you do not know what is the nature of that substance, one of the operations of which is to think. You resemble a blind man who, feeling the heat of the sun, and being informed that it is caused by the sun, should believe himself to have a clear and distinct idea of that luminary, because, if he were asked what the sun is, he could answer, that it is a thing which warms. . . . .”
The same Gassendi, in his “Philosophy of Epicurus,” repeats several times that there is no mathematical evidence of the pure spirituality of the soul.
Descartes, in one of his letters to Elizabeth, princess palatine, says to her: “I confess, that by natural reason alone, we can form many conjectures about the soul, and conceive flattering hopes; but we can have no assurance.” And here Descartes combats in his letters what he advances in his books—a too ordinary contradiction.
We have seen, too, that all the fathers in the first ages of the Church, while they believed the soul immortal, believed it to be material. They thought it as easy for God to preserve as to create. They said, God made it thinking, He will preserve it thinking.
Malebranche has clearly proved, that by ourselves we have no idea, and that objects are incapable of giving us any; whence he concludes that we see all things in God. This, in substance, is the same as making God the author of all our ideas; for wherewith should we see ourselves in Him, if we had not instruments for seeing? and these instruments are held and directed by him alone. This system is a labyrinth, of which one path would lead you to Spinozism, another to Stoicism, another to chaos.
When men have disputed well and long on matter and spirit, they always end in understanding neither one another nor themselves. No philosopher has ever been able to lift by his own strength the veil which nature has spread over the first principle of things. They dispute, while nature is acting.
Before the strange system which supposes animals to be pure machines without any sensation, men had never imagined an immaterial soul in beasts; and no one had carried temerity so far as to say that an oyster has a spiritual soul. All the world peaceably agreed that beasts had received from God feeling, memory, ideas, but not a pure spirit. No one had abused the gift of reason so far as to say that nature has given to beasts the organs of feeling, in order that they may have no feeling. No one had said that they cry out when wounded, and fly when pursued, without experiencing either pain or fear.
God’s omnipotence was not then denied: it was in His power to communicate to the organized matter of animals pleasure, pain, remembrance, the combination of some ideas; it was in His power to give to several of them, as the ape, the elephant, the hound, the talent of perfecting themselves in the arts which are taught them: not only was it in His power to endow almost all carnivorous animals with the talent of making war better in their experienced old age than in their confiding youth; not only was it in His power to do this, but He had done it, as the whole world could witness.
Pereira and Descartes maintained against the whole world that it was mistaken; that God had played the conjurer; that He had given to animals all the instruments of life and sensation, that they might have neither sensation or life properly so called. But some pretended philosophers, I know not whom, in order to answer Descartes’ chimera, threw themselves into the opposite chimera very liberally, giving “pure spirit” to toads and insects. “In vitium ducit culpæ fuga.”
Betwixt these two follies, the one depriving of feeling the organs of feeling, the other lodging pure spirit in a bug—a mean was imagined, viz., instinct. And what is “instinct”? Oh! it is a substantial form; it is a plastic form; it is a—I know not what—it is instinct. I will be of your opinion, so long as you apply to most things “I know not what”; so long as your philosophy shall begin and end with “I know not”; but when you “affirm,” I shall say to you with Prior, in his poem on the vanity of the world:
The author of the article on “Soul,” in the “Encyclopædia,” explains himself thus: “I represent to myself the soul of beasts as a substance immaterial and intelligent.” But of what kind? It seems to me, that it must be an active principle having sensations, and only sensations. . . . . If we reflect on the nature of the souls of beasts, it does not of itself give us any grounds for believing that their spirituality will save them from annihilation.
I do not understand how you represent to yourself an immaterial substance. To represent a thing to yourself is to make to yourself an image of it; and hitherto no one has been able to paint the mind. I am willing to suppose that by the word “represent,” the author means I “conceive”; for my part, I own that I do not conceive it. Still less do I conceive how a spiritual soul is annihilated, because I have no conception of creation or of nothing; because I never attended God’s council; because I know nothing at all of the principle of things.
If I seek to prove that the soul is a real being, I am stopped, and told that it is a faculty. If I affirm that it is a faculty, and that I have that of thinking, I am answered, that I mistake; that God, the eternal master of all nature, does everything in me, directing all my actions, and all my thoughts; that if I produced my thoughts, I should know those which I should have the next minute; that I never know this; that I am but an automaton with sensations and ideas, necessarily dependent, and in the hands of the Supreme Being, infinitely more subject to Him than clay is to the potter.
I acknowledge then my ignorance; I acknowledge that four thousand volumes of metaphysics will not teach us what our soul is.
An orthodox philosopher said to a heterodox philosopher, “How can you have brought yourself to imagine that the soul is of its nature mortal, and that it is eternal only by the pure will of God?” “By my experience,” says the other. “How! have you been dead then?” “Yes, very often: in my youth I had a fit of epilepsy; and I assure you, that I was perfectly dead for several hours: I had no sensation, nor even any recollection from the moment that I was seized. The same thing happens to me now almost every night. I never feel precisely the moment when I fall asleep, and my sleep is absolutely without dreams. I cannot imagine, but by conjectures, how long I have slept. I am dead regularly six hours in twenty-four, which is one-fourth of my life.”
The orthodox then maintained against him that he always thought while he was asleep, without his knowing of it. The heterodox replied: “I believe, by revelation, that I shall think forever in the next world; but I assure you, that I seldom think in this.”
The orthodox was not mistaken in affirming the immortality of the soul, since faith demonstrates that truth; but he might be mistaken in affirming that a sleeping man constantly thinks.
Locke frankly owned that he did not always think while he was asleep. Another philosopher has said: “Thought is peculiar to man, but it is not his essence.”
Let us leave every man at liberty to seek into himself and to lose himself in his ideas. However, it is well to know that in 1750, a philosopher underwent a very severe persecution, for having acknowledged, with Locke, that his understanding was not exercised every moment of the day and of the night, no more than his arms or his legs. Not only was he persecuted by the ignorance of the court, but the malicious ignorance of some pretended men of letters assailed the object of persecution. That which in England had produced only some philosophical disputes, produced in France the most disgraceful atrocities: a Frenchman was made the victim of Locke.
There have always been among the refuse of our literature, some of those wretches who have sold their pens and caballed against their very benefactors. This remark is to be sure foreign to the article on “Soul”: but ought one to lose a single opportunity of striking terror into those who render themselves unworthy of the name of literary men, who prostitute the little wit and conscience they have to a vile interest, to a chimerical policy, who betray their friends to flatter fools, who prepare in secret the hemlock-draught with which powerful and wicked ignorance would destroy useful citizens.
Did it ever occur in true Rome, that a Lucretius was denounced to the consuls for having put the system of Epicurus into verse; a Cicero, for having repeatedly written, that there is no pain after death; or that a Pliny or a Varro was accused of having peculiar notions of the divinity? The liberty of thinking was unlimited among the Romans. Those of harsh, jealous, and narrow minds, who among us have endeavored to crush this liberty—the parent of our knowledge, the mainspring of the understanding—have made chimerical dangers their pretext; they have forgotten that the Romans, who carried this liberty much further than we do, were nevertheless our conquerors, our lawgivers; and that the disputes of schools have no more to do with government than the tub of Diogenes had with the victories of Alexander.
This lesson is worth quite as much as a lesson on the soul. We shall perhaps have occasion more than once to recur to it.
In fine, while adoring God with all our soul, let us ever confess our profound ignorance concerning that soul—that faculty of feeling and thinking which we owe to His infinite goodness. Let us acknowledge that our weak reasonings can neither take from nor add to revelation and faith. Let us, in short, conclude that we ought to employ this intelligence, whose nature is unknown, in perfecting the sciences which are the object of the “Encyclopædia,” as watchmakers make use of springs in their watches, without knowing what spring is.
Relying on our acquired knowledge, we have ventured to discuss the question: Whether the soul is created before us? Whether it arrives from nothing in our bodies? At what age it came and placed itself between the bladder and the intestines, “cæcum” and “rectum”? Whether it received or brought there any ideas, and what those ideas are? Whether, after animating us for a few moments, its essence is to live after us in eternity, without the intervention of God Himself? Whether, it being a spirit, and God being spirit, they are of like nature? These questions have an appearance of sublimity. What are they but questions of men born blind discussing the nature of light?
What have all the philosophers, ancient and modern, taught us? A child is wiser than they: he does not think about what he cannot conceive.
How unfortunate, you will say, for an insatiable curiosity, for an unquenchable thirst after well-being, that we are thus ignorant of ourselves! Granted: and there are things yet more unfortunate than this; but I will answer you: “Sors tua mortalis, non est mortale quod optas.”—“Mortal thy fate, thy wishes those of gods.”
Once more let it be repeated, the nature of every principle of things appears to be the secret of the Creator. How does the air convey sound? How are animals formed? How do some of our members constantly obey our will? What hand places ideas in our memory, keeps them there as in a register, and draws them thence sometimes at our command, and sometimes in spite of us? Our own nature, that of the universe, that of the smallest plant—all, to us, involved in utter darkness.
Man is an acting, feeling, and thinking being; this is all we know of the matter: it is not given to us to know either what renders us feeling or thinking, or what makes us act, or what causes us to be. The acting faculty is to us as incomprehensible as the thinking faculty. The difficulty is not so much to conceive how this body of clay has feelings and ideas as to conceive how a being, whatever it be, has ideas and feelings.
Behold on one hand the soul of Archimedes, and on the other that of a simpleton; are they of the same nature? If their essence is to think, then they think always and independently of the body, which cannot act without them. If they think by their own nature, can a soul, which is incapable of performing a single arithmetical operation, be of the same species as that which has measured the heavens? If it is the organs of the body that have made Archimedes think, why does not my idiot think, seeing that he is better constituted than Archimedes, more vigorous, digesting better, performing all his functions better? Because, say you, his brain is not so good; but you suppose this; you have no knowledge of it. No difference has ever been found among sound brains that have been dissected; indeed, it is very likely that the brain-pan of a blockhead would be found in a better state than that of Archimedes, which has been prodigiously fatigued, and may be worn and contracted.
Let us then conclude what we have concluded already, that we are ignorant of all first principles. As for those who are ignorant and self-sufficient, they are far below the ape.
Now then dispute, ye choleric arguers; present memorials against one another; abuse one another; pronounce your sentences—you who know not a syllable of the matter!
Warburton, the editor and commentator of Shakespeare, and Bishop of Gloucester, using English liberty, and abusing the custom of vituperating against adversaries, has composed four volumes to prove that the immortality of the soul was never announced in the Pentateuch; and to conclude from this very proof, that the mission of Moses, which he calls “legation,” was divine. The following is an abstract of his book, which he himself gives at the commencement of the first volume:
“1. That to inculcate the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments is necessary to the well-being of civil society.
“2. That all mankind [wherein he is mistaken], especially the most wise and learned nations of antiquity, have concurred in believing and teaching, that this doctrine was of such use to civil society.
“3. That the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments is not to be found in, nor did it make part of, the Mosaic dispensation.
“That therefore the law of Moses is of divine origin;
“Which one or both of the two following syllogisms will evince:
“I. Whatever religion and society have no future state for their support must be supported by an extraordinary Providence.
“The Jewish religion and society had no future state for their support;
“Therefore the Jewish religion and society were supported by an extraordinary Providence.
“II. The ancient lawgivers universally believed that such a religion could be supported only by an extraordinary Providence.
“Moses, an ancient lawgiver, versed in all the wisdom of Egypt, purposely instituted such a religion;
“Therefore Moses believed his religion was supported by an extraordinary Providence.”
What is most extraordinary, is this assertion of Warburton, which he has put in large characters at the head of his work. He has often been reproached with his extreme temerity and dishonesty in daring to say that all ancient lawgivers believed that a religion which is not founded on rewards and punishments after death cannot be upheld but by an extraordinary Providence: not one of them ever said so. He does not even undertake to adduce a single instance of this in his enormous book, stuffed with an immense number of quotations, all foreign to the subject. He has buried himself under a heap of Greek and Latin authors, ancient and modern, that no one may reach him through this horrible accumulation of coverings. When at length the critic has rummaged to the bottom, the author is raised to life from among all those dead, to load his adversaries with abuse.
It is true, that near the close of the fourth volume, after ranging through a hundred labyrinths, and fighting all he met with on the way, he does at last come back to his great question from which he has so long wandered. He takes up the Book of Job, which the learned consider as the work of an Arab; and he seeks to prove, that Job did not believe in the immortality of the soul. He then explains, in his own way, all the texts of Scripture that have been brought to combat his opinion.
All that should be said of him is, that if he was in the right, it was not for a bishop to be so in the right. He should have felt that two dangerous consequences might be drawn: but all goes by chance in this world. This man, who became an informer and a persecutor, was not made a bishop through the patronage of a minister of state, until immediately after he wrote his book.
At Salamanca, at Coimbra, or at Rome, he would have been obliged to retract and to ask pardon. In England he became a peer of the realm, with an income of a hundred thousand livres. Here was something to soften his manners.
The greatest benefit for which we are indebted to the New Testament is its having revealed to us the immortality of the soul. It is therefore quite in vain that this Warburton has sought to cloud this important truth, by continually representing, in his “Legation of Moses,” that “the ancient Jews had no knowledge of this necessary dogma,” and that “the Sadducees did not admit it in the time of our Lord Jesus.”
He interprets in his own way, the very words which Jesus Christ is made to utter: “Have ye not read that which is spoken unto you by God saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” He gives to the parable of the rich bad man a sense contrary to that of all the churches. Sherlock, bishop of London, and twenty other learned men, have refuted him. Even the English philosophers have reminded him how scandalous it is in an English bishop to manifest an opinion so contrary to the Church of England; and after all, this man has thought proper to call others impious: like Harlequin, in the farce of “The Housebreaker” (Le Dévaliseur des Maisons) who, after throwing the furniture out at the window, seeing a man carrying some articles away, cries with all his might—“Stop, thief!”
The revelation of the immortality of the soul, and of pains and rewards after death, is the more to be blessed, as the vain philosophy of men always doubted of it. The great Cæsar had no faith in it. He explained himself clearly to the whole senate, when, to prevent Catiline from being put to death, he represented to them that death left man without feeling—that all died with him: and no one refuted this opinion.
The Roman Empire was divided between two great principal sects: that of Epicurus, who affirmed that the divinity was useless to the world, and the soul perished with the body; and that of the Stoics, who regarded the soul as a portion of the divinity, which after death was reunited to its original—to the great All from which it had emanated. So that, whether the soul was believed to be mortal, or to be immortal, all sects united in contemning the idea of rewards and punishments after death.
There are still remaining numerous monuments of this belief of the Romans. It was from the force of this opinion profoundly engraved on all hearts, that so many Roman heroes and so many private citizens put themselves to death without the smallest scruple; they did not wait for a tyrant to deliver them into the hands of the executioner.
Even the most virtuous men, and the most thoroughly persuaded of the existence of a God, did not then hope any reward, nor did they fear any punishment. It has been seen in the article on “Apocrypha,” that Clement himself, who was afterwards pope and saint, began with doubting what the first Christians said of another life, and that he consulted St. Peter at Cæsarea. We are very far from believing that St. Clement wrote the history which is attributed to him; but it shows what need mankind had of a precise revelation. All that can surprise us is that a tenet so repressing and so salutary should have left men a prey to so many horrible crimes, who have so short a time to live, and find themselves pressed between the eternities.
A child, ill-formed, is born absolutely imbecile, has no ideas, lives without ideas; instances of this have been known. How shall this animal be defined? Doctors have said that it is something between man and beast; others have said that it is a sensitive soul, but not an intellectual soul: it eats, it drinks, it sleeps, it wakes, it has sensations, but it does not think.
Is there for it another life, or is there none? The case has been put, and has not yet been entirely resolved.
Some have said that this creature must have a soul, because its father and its mother had souls. But by this reasoning it would be proved that if it had come into the world without a nose, it should have the reputation of having one, because its father and its mother had one.
A woman is brought to bed: her infant has no chin; its forehead is flat and somewhat black, its eyes round, its nose thin and sharp; its countenance is not much unlike that of a swallow: yet the rest of his body is made like ours. It is decided by a majority of voices that it is a man, and possesses an immaterial soul; whereupon the parents have it baptized. But if this little ridiculous figure has pointed claws, and a mouth in the form of a beak, it is declared to be a monster; it has no soul; it is not baptized.
It is known, that in 1726, there was in London a woman who was brought to bed every eight days of a young rabbit. No difficulty was made of refusing baptism to this child, notwithstanding the epidemic folly which prevailed in London for three weeks, of believing that this poor jade actually brought forth wild rabbits. The surgeon who delivered her, named St. André, swore that nothing was more true; and he was believed. But what reason had the credulous for refusing a soul to this woman’s offspring? She had a soul; her children must likewise have been furnished with souls, whether they had hands or paws, whether they were born with a snout or with a face: cannot the Supreme Being vouchsafe the gift of thought and sensation to a little nondescript, born of a woman, with the figure of a rabbit, as well as a little nondescript born with the figure of a man? Will the soul which was ready to take up its abode in this woman’s fœtus return unhoused?
It is very well observed by Locke, with regard to monsters, that immortality must not be attributed to the exterior of a body—that it has nothing to do with the figure. “This immortality,” says he, “is no more attached to the form of one’s face or breast than it is to the way in which one’s beard is clipped or one’s coat is cut.”
He asks: What is the exact measure of deformity by which you can recognize whether an infant has a soul or not? What is the precise degree at which it is to be declared a monster and without a soul?
Again, it is asked: What would a soul be that should have none but chimerical ideas? There are some which never go beyond such. Are they worthy or unworthy? What is to be made of their pure spirit?
What are we to think of a child with two heads, which is otherwise well formed?” Some say that it has two souls, because it is furnished with two pineal glands, with two callous substances, with two “sensoria communia.” Others answer that there cannot be two souls, with but one breast and one navel.
In short, so many questions have been asked about this poor human soul, that if it were necessary to put an end to them all, such an examination of its own person would cause it the most insupportable annoyance. The same would happen to it as happened to Cardinal Polignac at a conclave: his steward, tired of having never been able to make him pass his accounts, took a journey to Rome, and went to the small window of his cell, laden with an immense bundle of papers; he read for nearly two hours; at last, finding that no answer was made, he thrust forward his head: the cardinal had been gone almost two hours. Our souls will be gone before their stewards have finished their statements; but let us be just before God—ignorant as both we and our stewards are.
See what is said on the soul in the “Letters of Memmius.”
I must acknowledge, that when I examined the infallible Aristotle, the evangelical doctor, and the divine Plato, I took all these epithets for nicknames. In all the philosophers who have spoken of the human soul, I have found only blind men, full of babble and temerity, striving to persuade themselves that they have an eagle eye; and others, curious and foolish, believing them on their word, and imagining that they see something too.
I shall not feign to rank Descartes and Malebranche with these teachers of error. The former assures us that the soul of man is a substance, whose essence is to think, which is always thinking, and which, in the mother’s womb, is occupied with fine metaphysical ideas and general axioms, which it afterwards forgets.
As for Father Malebranche, he is quite persuaded that we see all in God—and he has found partisans: for the most extravagant fables are those which are the best received by the weak imaginations of men. Various philosophers then had written the romance of the soul: at length, a wise man modestly wrote its history. Of this history I am about to give an abridgment, according to the conception I have formed of it. I very well know that all the world will not agree with Locke’s ideas; it is not unlikely, that against Descartes and Malebranche, Locke was right, but that against the Sorbonne he was wrong: I speak according to the lights of philosophy, not according to the relations of the faith.
It is not for me to think otherwise than humanly; theologians decide divinely, which is quite another thing: reason and faith are of contrary natures. In a word, here follows a short abstract of Locke, which I would censure, if I were a theologian, but which I adopt for a moment, simply as a hypothesis—a conjecture of philosophy. Humanly speaking, the question is: What is the soul?
1. The word “soul” is one of those which everyone pronounces without understanding it; we understand only those things of which we have an idea; we have no idea of soul—spirit; therefore we do not understand it.
2. We have then been pleased to give the name of soul to the faculty of feeling and thinking, as we have given that of life to the faculty of living, and that of will to the faculty of willing.
Reasoners have come and said: Man is composed of matter and spirit: matter is extended and divisible; spirit is neither extended nor divisible; therefore, say they, it is of another nature. This is a joining together of beings which are not made for each other, and which God unites in spite of their nature. We see little of the body, we see nothing of the soul; it has no parts, therefore it is eternal; it has ideas pure and spiritual, therefore it does not receive them from matter; nor does it receive them from itself, therefore God gives them to it, and it brings with it at its birth the ideas of God, infinity, and all general ideas.
Still humanly speaking, I answer these gentlemen that they are very knowing. They tell us, first, that there is a soul, and then what that soul must be. They pronounce the word “matter,” and then plainly decide what it is. And I say to them: You have no knowledge either of spirit or of matter. By spirit you can imagine only the faculty of thinking; by matter you can understand only a certain assemblage of qualities, colors, extents, and solidities, which it has pleased you to call matter; and you have assigned limits to matter and to the soul, even before you are sure of the existence of either the one or the other.
As for matter, you gravely teach that it has only extent and solidity; and I tell you modestly, that it is capable of a thousand properties about which neither you nor I know anything. You say that the soul is indivisible, eternal; and here you assume that which is in question. You are much like the regent of a college, who, having never in his life seen a clock, should all at once have an English repeater put into his hands. This man, a good peripatetic, is struck by the exactness with which the hands mark the time, and still more astonished that a button, pressed by the finger, should sound precisely the hour marked by the hand. My philosopher will not fail to prove that there is in this machine a soul which governs it and directs its springs. He learnedly demonstrates his opinion by the simile of the angels who keep the celestial spheres in motion; and in the class he forms fine theses, maintained on the souls of watches. One of his scholars opens the watch, and nothing is found but springs; yet the system of the soul of watches is still maintained, and is considered as demonstrated. I am that scholar, opening the watch called man; but instead of boldly defining what we do not understand, I endeavor to examine by degrees what we wish to know.
Let us take an infant at the moment of its birth, and follow, step by step, the progress of its understanding. You do me the honor of informing me that God took the trouble of creating a soul, to go and take up its abode in this body when about six weeks old; that this soul, on its arrival, is provided with metaphysical ideas—having consequently a very clear knowledge of spirit, of abstract ideas, of infinity—being, in short, a very knowing person. But unfortunately it quits the uterus in the uttermost ignorance: for eighteen months it knows nothing but its nurse’s teat; and when at the age of twenty years an attempt is made to bring back to this soul’s recollection all the scientific ideas which it had when it entered its body, it is often too dull of apprehension to conceive any one of them. There are whole nations which have never had so much as one of these ideas. What, in truth, were the souls of Descartes and Malebranche thinking of, when they imagined such reveries? Let us then follow the idea of the child, without stopping at the imaginings of the philosophers.
The day that his mother was brought to bed of him and his soul, there were born in the house a dog, a cat, and a canary bird. At the end of eighteen months I make the dog an excellent hunter; in a year the canary bird whistles an air; in six weeks the cat is master of its profession; and the child, at the end of four years, does nothing. I, a gross person, witnessing this prodigious difference, and never having seen a child, think at first that the cat, the dog, and the canary are very intelligent creatures, and that the infant is an automaton. However, by little and little, I perceive that this child has ideas and memory, that he has the same passions as these animals; and then I acknowledge that he is, like them, a rational creature. He communicates to me different ideas by some words which he has learned, in like manner as my dog, by diversified cries, makes known to me exactly his different wants. I perceive at the age of six or seven years the child combines in his little brain almost as many ideas as my hound in his; and at length, as he grows older, he acquires an infinite variety of knowledge. Then what am I to think of him? Shall I believe that he is of a nature altogether different? Undoubtedly not; for you see on one hand an idiot, and on the other a Newton; yet you assert that they are of one and the same nature—that there is no difference but that of greater and less. The better to assure myself of the verisimilitude of my probable opinion, I examine the dog and the child both waking and sleeping—I have them each bled immediately; then their ideas seem to escape with their blood. In this state I call them—they do not answer; and if I draw from them a few more ounces, my two machines, which before had ideas in great plenty and passions of every kind, have no longer any feeling. I next examine my two animals while they sleep; I perceive that the dog, after eating too much, has dreams; he hunts and cries after the game; my youngster, in the same state, talks to his mistress and makes love in his dreams. If both have eaten moderately, I observe that neither of them dream; in short, I see that the faculties of feeling, perceiving, and expressing their ideas unfold themselves gradually, and also become weaker by degrees. I discover many more affinities between them than between any man of strong mind and one absolutely imbecile. What opinion then shall I entertain of their nature? That which every people at first imagined, before Egyptian policy asserted the spirituality, the immortality, of the soul. I shall even suspect that Archimedes and a mole are but different varieties of the same species—as an oak and a grain of mustard are formed by the same principles, though the one is a large tree and the other the seed of a small plant. I shall believe that God has given portions of intelligence to portions of matter organized for thinking; I shall believe that matter has sensations in proportion to the fineness of its senses, that it is they which proportion them to the measure of our ideas; I shall believe that the oyster in its shell has fewer sensations and senses, because its soul being attached to its shell, five senses would not at all be useful to it. There are many animals with only two senses; we have five—which are very few. It is to be believed that in other worlds there are other animals enjoying twenty or thirty senses, and that other species, yet more perfect, have senses to infinity.
Such, it appears to me, is the most natural way of reasoning on the matter—that is, of guessing and inspecting with certainty. A long time elapsed before men were ingenious enough to imagine an unknown being, which is ourselves, which does all in us, which is not altogether ourselves, and which lives after us. Nor was so bold an idea adopted all at once. At first this word “soul” signifies life, and was common to us and the other animals; then our pride made us a soul apart, and caused us to imagine a substantial form for other creatures. This human pride asks: What then is that power of perceiving and feeling, which in man is called soul, and in the brute instinct? I will satisfy this demand when the natural philosophers shall have informed me what is sound, light, space, body, time. I will say, in the spirit of the wise Locke: Philosophy consists in stopping when the torch of physical science fails us. I observe the effects of nature; but I freely own that of first principles I have no more conception than you have. All I do know is that I ought not to attribute to several causes—especially to unknown causes—that which I can attribute to a known cause; now I can attribute to my body the faculty of thinking and feeling; therefore I ought not to seek this faculty of thinking and feeling in another substance, called soul or spirit, of which I cannot have the smallest idea. You exclaim against this proposition. Do you then think it irreligious to dare to say that the body can think? But what would you say, Locke would answer, if you yourselves were found guilty of irreligion in thus daring to set bounds to the power of God? What man upon earth can affirm, without absurd impiety, that it is impossible for God to give to matter sensation and thought? Weak and presumptuous that you are! you boldly advance that matter does not think, because you do not conceive how matter of any kind should think.
Ye great philosophers, who decide on the power of God, and say that God can of a stone make an angel—do you not see that, according to yourselves, God would in that case only give to a stone the power of thinking? for if the matter of the stone did not remain, there would no longer be a stone; there would be a stone annihilated and an angel created. Whichever way you turn you are forced to acknowledge two things—your ignorance and the boundless power of the Creator; your ignorance, to which thinking matter is repugnant; and the Creator’s power, to which certes it is not impossible.
You, who know that matter does not perish, will dispute whether God has the power to preserve in that matter the noblest quality with which He has endowed it. Extent subsists perfectly without body, through Him, since there are philosophers who believe in a void; accidents subsist very well without substance with Christians who believe in transubstantiation. God, you say, cannot do that which implies contradiction. To be sure of this, it is necessary to know more of the matter than you do know; it is all in vain; you will never know more than this—that you are a body, and that you think. Many persons who have learned at school to doubt of nothing, who take their syllogisms for oracles and their superstitions for religion, consider Locke as impious and dangerous. These superstitious people are in society what cowards are in an army; they are possessed by and communicate panic terror. We must have the compassion to dissipate their fears; they must be made sensible that the opinions of philosophers will never do harm to religion. We know for certain that light comes from the sun, and that the planets revolve round that luminary; yet we do not read with any the less edification in the Bible that light was made before the sun, and that the sun stood still over the village of Gibeon. It is demonstrated that the rainbow is necessarily formed by the rain; yet we do not the least reverence the sacred text which says that God set His bow in the clouds, after the Deluge, as a sign that there should never be another inundation.
What though the mystery of the Trinity and that of the eucharist are contradictory to known demonstrations? They are not the less venerated by Catholic philosophers, who know that the things of reason and those of faith are different in their nature. The notion of the antipodes was condemned by the popes and the councils; yet the popes discovered the antipodes and carried thither that very Christian religion, the destruction of which had been thought to be sure, in case there could be found a man who, as it was then expressed, should have, as relative to our own position, his head downwards and his feet upwards, and who, as the very unphilosophical St. Augustine says, should have fallen from heaven.
And now, let me once repeat that, while I write with freedom, I warrant no opinion—I am responsible for nothing. Perhaps there are, among these dreams, some reasonings, and even some reveries, to which I should give the preference; but there is not one that I would not unhesitatingly sacrifice to religion and to my country.
I shall suppose a dozen of good philosophers in an island where they have never seen anything but vegetables. Such an island, and especially twelve such philosophers, would be very hard to find; however, the fiction is allowable. They admire the life which circulates in the fibres of the plants, appearing to be alternately lost and renewed; and as they know not how a plant springs up, how it derives its nourishment and growth, they call this a vegetative soul. What, they are asked, do you understand by a vegetative soul? They answer: It is a word that serves to express the unknown spring by which all this is operated. But do you not see, a mechanic will ask them, that all this is naturally done by weights, levers, wheels, and pulleys? No, the philosophers will say; there is in this vegetation something other than ordinary motion; there is a secret power which all plants have of drawing to themselves the juices which nourish them; and this power cannot be explained by any system of mechanics; it is a gift which God has made to matter, and the nature of which neither you nor we comprehend.
After disputing thus, our reasoners at length discover animals. Oh, oh! say they, after a long examination, here are beings organized like ourselves. It is indisputable that they have memory, and often more than we have. They have our passions; they have knowledge; they make us understand all their wants; they perpetuate their species like us. Our philosophers dissect some of these beings, and find in them hearts and brains. What! say they, can the author of these machines, who does nothing in vain, have given them all the organs of feeling, in order that they may have no feeling? It were absurd to think so—there is certainly something in them which, for want of knowing a better term, we likewise call soul—something that experiences sensations, and has a certain number of ideas. But what is this principle? Is it something absolutely different from matter? Is it a pure spirit? Is it a middle being, between matter, of which we know little, and pure spirit, of which we know nothing? Is it a property given by God to organized matter?
They then make experiments upon insects; upon earth worms—they cut them into several parts, and are astonished to find that, after a short time, there come heads to all these divided parts; the same animal is reproduced, and its very destruction becomes the means of its multiplication. Has it several souls, which wait until the head is cut off the original trunk, to animate the reproduced parts? They are like trees, which put forth fresh branches, and are reproduced from slips. Have these trees several souls? It is not likely. Then it is very probable that the soul of these reptiles is of a different kind from that which we call vegetative soul in plants; that it is a faculty of a superior order, which God has vouchsafed to give to certain portions of matter. Here is a fresh proof of His power—a fresh subject of adoration.
A man of violent temper, and a bad reasoner, hears this discourse and says to them: You are wicked wretches, whose bodies should be burned for the good of your souls, for you deny the immortality of the soul of man. Our philosophers then look at one another in perfect astonishment, and one of them mildly answers him: Why burn us so hastily? Whence have you concluded that we have an idea that your cruel soul is mortal? From your believing, returns the other, that God has given to the brutes which are organized like us, the faculty of having feelings and ideas. Now this soul of the beasts perishes with them; therefore you believe that the soul of man perishes also.
The philosopher replies: We are not at all sure that what we call “soul” in animal perishes with them; we know very well that matter does not perish, and we believe that God may have put in animals something which, if God will it, shall forever retain the faculty of having ideas. We are very far from affirming that such is the case, for it is hardly for men to be so confident; but we dare not set bounds to the power of God. We say that it is very probable that the beasts, which are matter, have received from Him a little intelligence. We are every day discovering properties of matter—that is, presents from God—of which we had before no idea. We at first defined matter to be an extended substance; next we found it necessary to add solidity; some time afterwards we were obliged to admit that this matter has a force which is called “vis inertiæ”; and after this, to our great astonishment, we had to acknowledge that matter gravitates.
When we sought to carry our researches further, we were forced to recognize beings resembling matter in some things, but without the other attributes with which matter is gifted. The elementary fire, for instance, acts upon our senses like other bodies; but it does not, like them, tend to a centre; on the contrary, it escapes from the centre in straight lines on every side. It does not seem to obey the laws of attraction, of gravitation, like other bodies. There are mysteries in optics, for which it would be hard to account, without venturing to suppose that the rays of light penetrate one another. There is certainly something in light which distinguishes it from known matter. Light seems to be a middle being between bodies and other kinds of beings of which we are ignorant! It is very likely that these other kinds are themselves a medium leading to other creatures, and that there is a chain of substances extending to infinity. “Usque adeo quod tangit idem est, tamen ultima distant!”
This idea seems to us to be worthy of the greatness of God, if anything is worthy of it. Among these substances He has doubtless had power to choose one which He has lodged in our bodies, and which we call the human soul; and the sacred books which we have read inform us that this soul is immortal. Reason is in accordance with revelation; for how should any substance perish? Every mode is destroyed; the substance remains. We cannot conceive the creation of a substance; we cannot conceive its annihilation; but we dare not affirm that the absolute master of all beings cannot also give feelings and perceptions to the being which we call matter. You are quite sure that the essence of your soul is to think; but we are not so sure of this; for when we examine a fœtus, we can hardly believe that its soul had many ideas in its head; and we very much doubt whether, in a sound and deep sleep, or in a complete lethargy, any one ever meditated. Thus it appears to us that thought may very well be, not the essence of the thinking being, but a present made by the Creator to beings which we call thinking; from all which we suspect that, if He would, He could make this present to an atom; and could preserve this atom and His present forever, or destroy it at His pleasure. The difficulty consists not so much in divining how matter could think, as in divining how any substance whatever does think. You have ideas only because God has been pleased to give them to you; why would you prevent Him from giving them to other species? Can you really be so fearless as to dare to believe that your soul is precisely of the same kind as the substances which approach nearest to the Divinity? There is great probability that they are of an order very superior, and that consequently God has vouchsafed to give them a way of thinking infinitely finer, just as He has given a very limited measure of ideas to the animals which are of an order inferior to you. I know not how I live, nor how I give life; yet you would have me know how I have ideas. The soul is a timepiece which God has given us to manage; but He has not told us of what the spring of this timepiece is composed.
Is there anything in all this from which it can be inferred that our souls are mortal? Once more let us repeat it—we think as you do of the immortality announced to us by faith; but we believe that we are too ignorant to affirm that God has not the power of granting thought to whatever being He pleases. You bound the power of the Creator, which is boundless; and we extend it as far as His existence extends. Forgive us for believing Him to be omnipotent, as we forgive you for restraining His power. You doubtless know all that He can do, and we know nothing of it. Let us live as brethren; let us adore our common Father in peace—you with your knowing and daring souls, we with our ignorant and timid souls. We have a day to live; let us pass it calmly, without quarrelling about difficulties that will be cleared up in the immortal life which will begin tomorrow.
The brutal man, having nothing good to say in reply, talked a long while, and was very angry. Our poor philosophers employed themselves for some weeks in reading history; and after reading well, they spoke as follows to this barbarian, who was so unworthy to have an immortal soul:
My friend, we have read that in all antiquity things went on as well as they do in our own times—that there were even greater virtues, and that philosophers were not persecuted for the opinions which they held; why, then, should you seek to injure us for opinions which we do not hold? We read that all the ancients believed matter to be eternal. They who saw that it was created left the others at rest. Pythagoras had been a cock, his relations had been swine; but no one found fault with this; his sect was cherished and revered by all, except the cooks and those who had beans to sell.
The Stoics acknowledged a god, nearly the same as the god afterwards so rashly admitted by the Spinozists; yet Stoicism was a sect the most fruitful in heroic virtues, and the most accredited.
The Epicureans made their god like our canons, whose indolent corpulence upholds their divinity, and who take their nectar and ambrosia in quiet, without meddling with anything. These Epicureans boldly taught the materiality and the mortality of the soul; but they were not the less respected; they were admitted into all offices; and their crooked atoms never did the world any harm.
The Platonists, like the Gymnosophists, did not do us the honor to think that God had condescended to form us Himself. According to them, He left this task to His officers—to genii, who in the course of their work made many blunders. The god of the Platonists was an excellent workman, who employed here below very indifferent assistants; but men did not the less reverence the school of Plato.
In short, among the Greeks and the Romans, so many sects as there were, so many ways of thinking about God and the soul, the past and the future, none of these sects were persecutors. They were all mistaken—and we are very sorry for it; but they were all peaceful—and this confounds us, this condemns us, this shows us that most of the reasoners of the present day are monsters, and that those of antiquity were men. They sang publicly on the Roman stage: “Post mortem nihil est, ipsaque mors nihil.”—“Naught after death, and death is nothing.”
These opinions made men neither better nor worse; all was governed, all went on as usual; and Titus, Trajan, and Aurelius governed the earth like beneficent deities.
Passing from the Greeks and the Romans to barbarous nations, let us only contemplate the Jews. Superstitious, cruel, and ignorant as this wretched people were, still they honored the Pharisees, who admitted the fatality of destiny and the metempsychosis; they also paid respect to the Sadducees, who absolutely denied the immortality of the soul and the existence of spirits, taking for their foundation the law of Moses, which had made no mention of pain or reward after death. The Essenes, who also believed in fatality, and who never offered up victims in the temple, were reverenced still more than the Pharisees and the Sadducees. None of their opinions ever disturbed the government. Yet here were abundant subjects for slaughtering, burning, and exterminating one another, had they been so inclined. Oh, miserable men! profit by these examples. Think, and let others think. It is the solace of our feeble minds in this short life. What! will you receive with politeness a Turk, who believes that Mahomet travelled to the moon; will you be careful not to displease the pasha Bonneval; and yet will you have your brother hanged, drawn, and quartered, because he believes that God created intelligence in every creature?
So spake one of the philosophers; and another of them added: Believe me, it need never be feared that any philosophical opinion will hurt the religion of a country. What though our mysteries are contrary to our demonstrations, they are not the less reverenced by our Christian philosophers, who know that the objects of reason and faith are of different natures. Philosophers will never form a religious sect; and why? Because they are without enthusiasm. Divide mankind into twenty parts; and of these, nineteen consist of those who labor with their hands, and will never know that there has been such a person as Locke in the world. In the remaining twentieth, how few men will be found who read! and among those who read, there are twenty that read novels for one that studies philosophy. Those who think are excessively few; and those few do not set themselves to disturb the world.
Who are they who have waved the torch of discord in their native country? Are they Pomponatius, Montaigne, La Vayer, Descartes, Gassendi, Bayle, Spinoza, Hobbes, Shaftesbury, Boulainvilliers, the Consul Maillet, Toland, Collins, Flood, Woolston, Bekker, the author disguised under the name of Jacques Massé, he of the “Turkish Spy,” he of the “Lettres Persanes,” of the “Lettres Juives,” of the “Pensées Philosophiques”? No; they are for the most part theologians, who, having at first been ambitious of becoming leaders of a sect, have soon become ambitious to be leaders of a party. Nay, not all the books of modern philosophy put together will ever make so much noise in the world as was once made by the dispute of the Cordeliers about the form of their hoods and sleeves.
The dogma of the immortality of the soul is at once the most consoling and the most repressing idea that the mind of man can receive. This fine philosophy was as ancient among the Egyptians as their pyramids; and before them it was known to the Persians. I have already elsewhere related the allegory of the first Zoroaster, cited in the “Sadder,” in which God shows to Zoroaster a place of chastisement, such as the Dardaroth or Keron of the Egyptians, the Hades and the Tartarus of the Greeks, which we have but imperfectly rendered in our modern tongues by the words “inferno,” “enfer,” “infernal regions,” “hell,” “bottomless pit.” In this place of punishment God showed to Zoroaster all the bad kings; one of them had but one foot; Zoroaster asked the reason; and God answered that this king had done only one good action in his life, which was by approaching to kick forward a trough which was not near enough to a poor ass dying of hunger. God had placed this wicked man’s foot in heaven; the rest of his body was in hell.
This fable, which cannot be too often repeated, shows how ancient was the opinion of another life. The Indians were persuaded of it, as their metempsychosis proves. The Chinese venerated the souls of their ancestors. Each of these nations had founded powerful empires long before the Egyptians. This is a very important truth, which I think I have already proved by the very nature of the soil of Egypt. The most favorable grounds must have been cultivated the first; the ground of Egypt is the least favorable of all, being under water four months of the year; it was not until after immense labor, and consequently after a prodigious lapse of time, that towns were at length raised which the Nile could not inundate.
This empire, then, ancient as it was, was much less ancient than the empires of Asia; and in both one and the other it was believed that the soul existed after death. It is true that all these nations, without exception, considered the soul as a light ethereal form, an image of the body; the Greek word signifying “breath” was invented long after by the Greeks. But it is beyond a doubt that a part of ourselves was considered as immortal. Rewards and punishments in another life were the grand foundation of ancient theology.
Pherecides was the first among the Greeks who believed that souls existed from all eternity, and not the first, as has been supposed, who said that the soul survived the body. Ulysses, long before Pherecides, had seen the souls of heroes in the infernal regions; but that souls were as old as the world was a system which had sprung up in the East, and was brought into the West by Pherecides. I do not believe that there is among us a single system which is not to be found among the ancients. The materials of all our modern edifices are taken from the wreck of antiquity.
It would be a fine thing to see one’s soul. “Know thyself” is an excellent precept; but it belongs only to God to put it in practice. Who but He can know His own essence?
We call “soul” that which animates. Owing to our limited intelligence we know scarcely anything more of the matter. Three-fourths of mankind go no further, and give themselves no concern about the thinking being; the other fourth seek it; no one has found it, or ever will find it.
Poor pedant! thou seest a plant which vegetates, and thou sayest, “vegetation,” or perhaps “vegetative soul.” Thou remarkest that bodies have and communicate motion, and thou sayest, “force”; thou seest thy dog learn his craft under thee, and thou exclaimest, “instinct,” “sensitive soul”! Thou hast combined ideas, and thou exclaimest, “spirit”!
But pray, what dost thou understand by these words? This flower vegetates; but is there any real being called vegetation? This body pushes along another, but does it possess within itself a distinct being called force? Thy dog brings thee a partridge, but is there any being called instinct? Wouldst thou not laugh, if a reasoner—though he had been preceptor to Alexander—were to say to thee: All animals live; therefore there is in them a being, a substantial form, which is life?
If a tulip could speak and were to tell thee: I and my vegetation are two beings evidently joined together; wouldst thou not laugh at the tulip?
Let us at first see what thou knowest, of what thou art certain; that thou walkest with thy feet; that thou digestest with thy stomach; that thou feelest with thy whole body; and that thou thinkest with thy head. Let us see if thy reason alone can have given thee light enough by which to conclude, without supernatural aid, that thou hast a soul.
The first philosophers, whether Chaldæans or Egyptians, said: There must be something within us which produces our thoughts; that something must be very subtile; it is a breath; it is fire; it is ether; it is a quintessence; it is a slender likeness; it is an antelechia; it is a number; it is a harmony. Lastly, according to the divine Plato, it is a compound of the same and the other. “It is atoms which think in us,” said Epicurus, after Democrites. But, my friend, how does an atom think? Acknowledge that thou knowest nothing of the matter.
The opinion which one ought to adopt is, doubtless, that the soul is an immaterial being; but certainly we cannot conceive what an immaterial being is. No, answer the learned; but we know that its nature is to think. And whence do you know this? We know, because it does think. Oh, ye learned! I am much afraid that you are as ignorant as Epicurus! The nature of a stone is to fall, because it does fall; but I ask you, what makes it fall?
We know, continue they, that a stone has no soul. Granted; I believe it as well as you. We know that an affirmative and a negative are not divisible, are not parts of matter. I am of your opinion. But matter, otherwise unknown to us, possesses qualities which are not material, which are not divisible; it has gravitation towards a centre, which God has given it; and this gravitation has no parts; it is not divisible. The moving force of bodies is not a being composed of parts. In like manner the vegetation of organized bodies, their life, their instinct, are not beings apart, divisible beings; you can no more cut in two the vegetation of a rose, the life of a horse, the instinct of a dog, than you can cut in two a sensation, an affirmation, a negation. Therefore your fine argument, drawn from the indivisibility of thought, proves nothing at all.
What, then, do you call your soul? What idea have you of it? You cannot of yourselves, without revelation, admit the existence within you of anything but a power unknown to you of feeling and thinking.
Now tell me honestly, is this power of feeling and thinking the same as that which causes you to digest and to walk? You own that it is not; for in vain might your understanding say to your stomach—Digest; it will not, if it be sick. In vain might your immaterial being order your feet to walk; they will not stir, if they have the gout.
The Greeks clearly perceived that thought has frequently nothing to do with the play of our organs; they admitted the existence of an animal soul for these organs, and for the thoughts a soul finer, more subtile—a nous.
But we find that this soul of thought has, on a thousand occasions, the ascendency over the animal soul. The thinking soul commands the hands to take, and they obey. It does not tell the heart to beat, the blood to flow, the chyle to form; all this is done without it. Here then are two souls much involved, and neither of them having the mastery.
Now, this first animal soul certainly does not exist; it is nothing more than the movement of our organs. Take heed, O man! lest thou have no more proofs but thy weak reason that the other soul exists. Thou canst not know it but by faith; thou art born, thou eatest, thou thinkest, thou wakest, thou sleepest, without knowing how. God has given thee the faculty of thinking, as He has given thee all the rest; and if He had not come at the time appointed by His providence, to teach thee that thou hast an immaterial and an immortal soul, thou wouldst have no proof whatever of it.
Let us examine the fine systems on the soul, which thy philosophy has fabricated.
One says that the soul of man is part of the substance of God Himself; another that it is part of the great whole; a third that it is created from all eternity; a fourth that it is made, and not created. Others assure us that God makes souls according as they are wanted, and that they arrive at the moment of copulation. They are lodged in the seminal animalcules, cries one. No, says another, they take up their abode in the Fallopian tubes. A third comes and says: You are all wrong; the soul waits for six weeks, until the fœtus is formed, and then it takes possession of the pineal gland; but if it finds a false conception, it returns and waits for a better opportunity. The last opinion is that its dwelling is in the callous body; this is the post assigned to it by La Peyronie. A man should be first surgeon to the king of France to dispose in this way of the lodging of the soul. Yet the callous body was not so successful in the world as the surgeon was.
St. Thomas in his question 75 and following, says that the soul is a form subsisting per se, that it is all in all, that its essence differs from its power; that there are three vegetative souls, viz., the nutritive, the argumentative, and the generative; that the memory of spiritual things is spiritual, and the memory of corporeal things is corporeal; that the rational soul is a form “immaterial as to its operations, and material as to its being.” St. Thomas wrote two thousand pages, of like force and clearness; and he is the angel of the schools.
Nor have there been fewer systems contrived on the way in which this soul will feel, when it shall have laid aside the body with which it felt; how it will hear without ears, smell without a nose, and touch without hands; what body it will afterwards resume, whether that which it had at two years old, or at eighty; how the I—the identity of the same person will subsist; how the soul of a man become imbecile at the age of fifteen, and dying imbecile at the age of seventy, will resume the thread of the ideas which he had at the age of puberty; by what contrivance a soul, the leg of whose body shall be cut off in Europe, and one of its arms lost in America, will recover this leg and arm, which, having been transformed into vegetables, will have passed into the blood of some other animal. We should never finish, if we were to seek to give an account of all the extravagances which this poor human soul has imagined about itself.
It is very singular that, in the laws of God’s people, not a word is said of the spirituality and immortality of the soul; nothing in the Decalogue, nothing in Leviticus, or in Deuteronomy.
It is quite certain, it is indubitable, that Moses nowhere proposes to the Jews pains and rewards in another life; that he never mentions to them the immortality of their souls; that he never gives them hopes of heaven, nor threatens them with hell; all is temporal.
Many illustrious commentators have thought that Moses was perfectly acquainted with these two great dogmas; and they prove it by the words of Jacob, who, believing that his son had been devoured by wild beasts, said in his grief: “I will go down into the grave—in infernum—unto my son”; that is, I will die, since my son is dead.
They further prove it by the passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel; but the Hebrews, to whom Moses spoke, could not have read either Ezekiel or Isaiah, who did not come until several centuries after.
It is quite useless to dispute about the private opinions of Moses. The fact is that in his public laws he never spoke of a life to come; that he limited all rewards and punishments to the time present. If he knew of a future life, why did he not expressly set forth that dogma? And if he did not know of it, what were the object and extent of his mission? This question is asked by many great persons. The answer is, that the Master of Moses, and of all men, reserved to Himself the right of expounding to the Jews, at His own time, a doctrine which they were not in a condition to understand when they were in the desert.
If Moses had announced the immortality of the soul, a great school among the Jews would not have constantly combated it. This great retreat of the Sadducees would not have been authorized in the State; the Sadducees would not have filled the highest offices, nor would pontiffs have been chosen from their body.
It appears that it was not until after the founding of Alexandria that the Jews were divided into three sects—the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The historian Josephus, who was a Pharisee, informs us in the thirteenth book of his “Antiquities” that the Pharisees believed in the metempsychosis; the Sadducees believed that the soul perished with the body; the Essenes, says Josephus, held that souls were immortal; according to them souls descended in an aërial form into the body, from the highest region of the air, whither they were carried back again by a violent attraction; and after death, those which had belonged to the good dwelt beyond the ocean in a country where there was neither heat nor cold, nor wind, nor rain. The souls of the wicked went into a climate of an opposite description. Such was the theology of the Jews.
He who alone was to instruct all men came and condemned these three sects; but without Him we could never have known anything of our soul; for the philosophers never had any determinate idea of it; and Moses—the only true lawgiver in the world before our own—Moses, who talked with God face to face, left men in the most profound ignorance on this great point. It is, then, only for seventeen hundred years that there has been any certainty of the soul’s existence and its immortality.
Cicero had only doubts; his grandson and granddaughter might learn the truth from the first Galileans who came to Rome.
But before that time, and since then, in all the rest of the earth where the apostles did not penetrate, each one must have said to his soul: What art thou? whence comest thou? what dost thou? whither goest thou? Thou art I know not what, thinking and feeling: and wert thou to feel and think for a hundred thousand millions of years, thou wouldst never know any more by thine own light without the assistance of God.
O man! God has given thee understanding for thy own good conduct, and not to penetrate into the essence of the things which He has created.
So thought Locke; and before Locke, Gassendi; and before Gassendi, a multitude of sages; but we have bachelors who know all of which those great men were ignorant.
Some cruel enemies of reason have dared to rise up against these truths, acknowledged by all the wise. They have carried their dishonesty and impudence so far as to charge the authors of this work with having affirmed that the soul is matter. You well know, persecutors of innocence, that we have said quite the contrary. You must have read these very words against Epicurus, Democritus, and Lucretius: “My friend, how does an atom think? Acknowledge that thou knowest nothing of the matter.” It is then evident, ye are calumniators.
No one knows what that material being is, which is called “spirit,” to which—be it observed—you give this material name, signifying “wind.” All the first fathers of the Church believed the soul to be corporeal. It is impossible for us limited beings to know whether our intelligence is substance or faculty: we cannot thoroughly know either the extended being, or the thinking beings, or the mechanism of thought.
We exclaim to you, with the ever to be revered Gassendi and Locke, that we know nothing by ourselves of the secrets of the Creator. And are you gods, who know everything? We repeat to you, that you cannot know the nature and distinction of the soul but by revelation. And is not this revelation sufficient for you? You must surely be enemies of this revelation which we claim, since you persecute those who expect everything from it, and believe only in it.
Yes, we tell you, we defer wholly to the word of God; and you, enemies of reason and of God, treat the humble doubt and humble submission of the philosopher as the wolf in the fable treated the lamb; you say to him: You said ill of me last year; I must suck your blood. Philosophy takes no revenge; she smiles in peace at your vain endeavors; she mildly enlightens mankind, whom you would brutalize, to make them like yourselves.
What is space? “There is no space in void,” exclaimed Leibnitz, after having admitted a void; but when he admitted a void, he had not embroiled himself with Newton, nor disputed with him on the calculus of fluxions, of which Newton was the inventor. This dispute breaking out, there was no longer space or a void for Leibnitz.
Fortunately, whatever may be said by philosophers on these insolvable questions, whether it be for Epicurus, for Gassendi, for Newton, for Descartes, or Rohaut, the laws of motion will be always the same.
That Rohaut exhausts himself by vainly endeavoring to understand how motion can exist in a plenum will not prevent our vessels from sailing to the Indies, and all motion proceeding with regularity. Pure space, you say, can neither be matter, nor spirit; and as there is nothing in this world but matter and spirit, there can therefore be no space.
So, gentlemen, you assert that there is only matter and spirit, to us who know so little either of the one or the other—a pleasant decision, truly! “There are only two things in nature, and these we know not.” Montezuma reasons more justly in the English tragedy of Dryden: “Why come you here to tell me of the emperor Charles the Fifth? There are but two emperors in the world; he of Peru and myself.” Montezuma spoke of two things with which he was acquainted, but we speak of two things of which we have no precise idea.
We are very pleasant atoms. We make God a spirit in a mode of our own; and because we denominate that faculty spirit, which the supreme, universal, eternal, and all-powerful Being has given us, of combining a few ideas in our little brain, of the extent of six inches more or less, we suppose God to be a spirit in the same sense. God always in our image—honest souls!
But how, if there be millions of beings of another nature from our matter, of which we know only a few qualities, and from our spirit, our ideal breath of which we accurately know nothing at all? and who can assert that these millions of beings exist not; or suspects not that God, demonstrated to exist by His works, is eminently different from all these beings, and that space may not be one of them?
We are far from asserting with Lucretius—
That all consists of body and of space. —Creech.
But may we venture to believe with him, that space is infinite?
Has any one been ever able to answer his question: Speed an arrow from the limits of the world—will it fall into nothing, into nihility?
Clarke, who spoke in the name of Newton, pretends that “space has properties, for since it is extended, it is measurable, and therefore exists.” But if we answer, that something may be put where there is nothing, what answer will be made by Newton and Clarke?
Newton regards space as the sensorium of God. I thought that I understood this grand saying formerly, because I was young; at present, I understand it no more than his explanation of the Apocalypse. Space, the sensorium, the internal organ of God! I lose both Newton and myself there.
Newton thought, according to Locke, that the creation might be explained by supposing that God, by an act of His will and His power, had rendered space impenetrable. It is melancholy that a genius so profound as that possessed by Newton should suggest such unintelligible things.
STAGE (POLICE OF THE).
Kings of France were formerly excommunicated; all from Philip I. to Louis VIII. were solemnly so; as also the emperors from Henry IV. to Louis of Bavaria inclusively. The kings of England had likewise a very decent part of these favors from the court of Rome. It was the rage of the times, and this rage cost six or seven hundred thousand men their lives. They actually excommunicated the representatives of monarchs; I do not mean ambassadors, but players, who are kings and emperors three or four times a week, and who govern the universe to procure a livelihood.
I scarcely know of any but this profession, and that of magicians, to which this honor could now be paid; but as sorcerers have ceased for the eighty years that sound philosophy has been known to men, there are no longer any victims but Alexander, Cæsar, Athalie, Polyeucte, Andromache, Brutus, Zaïre, and Harlequin.
The principal reason given is, that these gentlemen and ladies represent the passions; but if depicting the human heart merits so horrible a disgrace, a greater rigor should be used with painters and sculptors. There are many licentious pictures which are publicly sold, while we do not represent a single dramatic poem which maintains not the strictest decorum. The Venus of Titian and that of Correggio are quite naked, and are at all times dangerous for our modest youth; but comedians only recite the admirable lines of “Cinna” for about two hours, and with the approbation of the magistracy under the royal authority. Why, therefore, are these living personages on the stage more condemned than these mute comedians on canvas? “Ut pictura poesis erit.” What would Sophocles and Euripides have said, if they could have foreseen that a people, who only ceased to be barbarous by imitating them, would one day inflict this disgrace upon the stage, which in their time received such high glory?
Esopus and Roscius were not Roman senators, it is true; but the Flamen did not declare them infamous; and the art of Terence was not doubted. The great pope and prince, Leo X., to whom we owe the renewal of good tragedy and comedy in Europe, and who caused dramatic pieces to be represented in his palace with so much magnificence, foresaw not that one day, in a part of Gaul, the descendants of the Celts and the Goths would believe they had a right to disgrace that which he honored. If Cardinal Richelieu had lived—he who caused the Palais Royal to be built, and to whom France owes the stage—he would no longer have suffered them to have dared to cover with ignominy those whom he employed to recite his own works.
It must be confessed that they were heretics who began to outrage the finest of all the arts. Leo X., having revived the tragic scene, the pretended reformers required nothing more to convince them that it was the work of Satan. Thus the town of Geneva, and several illustrious places of Switzerland, have been a hundred and fifty years without suffering a violin amongst them. The Jansenists, who now dance on the tomb of St. Paris, to the great edification of the neighborhood, in the last century forbade a princess of Conti, whom they governed, to allow her son to learn dancing, saying that dancing was too profane. However, as it was necessary he should be graceful, he was taught the minuet, but they would not allow a violin, and the director was a long time before he would suffer the prince of Conti to be taught with castanets. A few Catholic Visigoths on this side the Alps, therefore, fearing the reproaches of the reformers, cried as loudly as they did. Thus, by degrees, the fashion of defaming Cæsar and Pompey, and of refusing certain ceremonies to certain persons paid by the king, and laboring under the eyes of the magistracy, was established in France. We do not declaim against this abuse; for who would embroil himself with powerful men of the present time, for hedra and heroes of past ages?
We are content with finding this rigor absurd, and with always paying our full tribute of admiration to the masterpieces of our stage.
Rome, from whom we have learned our catechism, does not use it as we do; she has always known how to temper her laws according to times and occasions; she has known how to distinguish impudent mountebanks, who were formerly rightly censured, from the dramatic pieces of Trissin, and of several bishops and cardinals who have assisted to revive tragedy. Even at present, comedies are publicly represented at Rome in religious houses. Ladies go to them without scandal; they think not that dialogues, recited on boards, are a diabolical infamy. We have even seen the piece of “George Dandin” executed at Rome by nuns, in the presence of a crowd of ecclesiastics and ladies. The wise Romans are above all careful how they excommunicate the gentlemen who sing the trebles in the Italian operas; for, in truth, it is enough to be castrated in this world, without being damned in the other.
In the good time of Louis XIV., there was always a bench at the spectacles, which was called the bench of bishops. I have been a witness, that in the minority of Louis XV., Cardinal Fleury, then bishop of Fréjus, was very anxious to revive this custom. With other times and other manners, we are apparently much wiser than in the times in which the whole of Europe came to admire our shows, when Richelieu revived the stage in France, when Leo X. renewed the age of Augustus in Italy: but a time will come in which our children, seeing the impertinent work of Father Le Brun against the art of Sophocles, and the works of our great men printed at the same time, will exclaim: Is it possible that the French could thus contradict themselves, and that the most absurd barbarity has so proudly raised its head against some of the finest productions of the human mind?
St. Thomas of Aquinas, whose morals were equal to those of Calvin and Father Quesnel—St. Thomas, who had never seen good comedy, and who knew only miserable players, thinks however that the theatre might be useful. He had sufficient good sense and justice to feel the merit of this art, unfinished as it was, and permitted and approved of it. St. Charles Borromeo personally examined the pieces which were played at Milan, and gave them his approbation and signature. Who after that will be Visigoths enough to treat Roderigo and Chimene as soul-corrupters? Would to God that these barbarians, the enemies of the finest of arts, had the piety of Polyeucte, the clemency of Augustus, the virtue of Burrhus, and would die like the husband of Alzira!
Which is the best? I have not hitherto known any person who has not governed some state. I speak not of messieurs the ministers, who really govern; some two or three years, others six months, and others six weeks; I speak of all other men, who, at supper or in their closet, unfold their systems of government, and reform armies, the Church, the gown, and finances.
The Abbé de Bourzeis began to govern France towards the year 1645, under the name of Cardinal Richelieu, and made the “Political Testament,” in which he would enlist the nobility into the cavalry for three years, make chambers of accounts and parliaments pay the poll-tax, and deprive the king of the produce of the excise. He asserts, above all, that to enter a country with fifty thousand men, it is essential to economy that a hundred thousand should be raised. He affirms that “Provence alone has more fine seaports than Spain and Italy together.”
The Abbé de Bourzeis had not travelled. As to the rest, his work abounds with anachronisms and errors; and as he makes Cardinal Richelieu sign in a manner in which he never signed, so he makes him speak as he had never spoken. Moreover, he fills a whole chapter with saying that reason should guide a state, and in endeavoring to prove this discovery. This work of obscurities, this bastard of the Abbé de Bourzeis, has long passed for the legitimate offspring of the Cardinal Richelieu; and all academicians, in their speeches of reception, fail not to praise extravagantly this political masterpiece.
The Sieur Gatien de Courtilz, seeing the success of the “Testament Politique” of Richelieu, published at The Hague the “Testament de Colbert,” with a fine letter of M. Colbert to the king. It is clear that if this minister made such a testament, it must have been suppressed; yet this book has been quoted by several authors.
Another ignoramus, of whose name we are ignorant, failed not to produce the “Testament de Louis,” still worse, if possible, than that of Colbert. An abbé of Chevremont also made Charles, duke of Lorraine, form a testament. We have had the political testaments of Cardinal Alberoni, Marshal Belle-Isle, and finally that of Mandrin.
M. de Boisguillebert, author of the “Détail de la France,” published in 1695, produced the impracticable project of the royal tithe, under the name of the marshal de Vauban.
A madman, named La Jonchere, wanting bread, wrote, in 1720, a “Project of Finance,” in four volumes; and some fools have quoted this production as a work of La Jonchere, the treasurer-general, imagining that a treasurer could not write a bad book on finance.
But it must be confessed that very wise men, perhaps very worthy to govern, have written on the administration of states in France, Spain, and England. Their books have done much good; not that they have corrected ministers who were in place when these books appeared, for a minister does not and cannot correct himself. He has attained his growth, and more instruction, more counsel, he has not time to listen to. The current of affairs carries him away; but good books form young people, destined for their places; and princes and statesmen of a succeeding generation are instructed.
The strength and weakness of all governments has been narrowly examined in latter times. Tell me, then, you who have travelled, who have read and have seen, in what state, under what sort of government, would you be born? I conceive that a great landed lord in France would have no objection to be born in Germany: he would be a sovereign instead of a subject. A peer of France would be very glad to have the privileges of the English peerage: he would be a legislator. The gownsman and financier would find himself better off in France than elsewhere. But what country would a wise freeman choose—a man of small fortune, without prejudices?
A rather learned member of the council of Pondicherry came into Europe, by land, with a brahmin, more learned than the generality of them. “How do you find the government of the Great Mogul?” said the counsellor. “Abominable,” answered the brahmin; “how can you expect a state to be happily governed by Tartars? Our rajahs, our omras, and our nabobs are very contented, but the citizens are by no means so; and millions of citizens are something.”
The counsellor and the brahmin traversed all Upper Asia, reasoning on their way. “I reflect,” said the brahmin, “that there is not a republic in all this vast part of the world.” “There was formerly that of Tyre,” said the counsellor, “but it lasted not long; there was another towards Arabia Petræa, in a little nook called Palestine—if we can honor with the name of republic a horde of thieves and usurers, sometimes governed by judges, sometimes by a sort of kings, sometimes by high priests; who became slaves seven or eight times, and were finally driven from the country which they had usurped.”
“I fancy,” said the brahmin, “that we should find very few republics on earth. Men are seldom worthy to govern themselves. This happiness should only belong to little people, who conceal themselves in islands, or between mountains, like rabbits who steal away from carnivorous animals, but at length are discovered and devoured.”
When the travellers arrived in Asia Minor, the counsellor said to the brahmin, “Would you believe that there was a republic formed in a corner of Italy, which lasted more than five hundred years, and which possessed this Asia Minor, Asia, Africa, Greece, the Gauls, Spain, and the whole of Italy?” “It was therefore soon turned into a monarchy?” said the brahmin. “You have guessed it,” said the other; “but this monarchy has fallen, and every day we make fine dissertations to discover the causes of its decay and fall.” “You take much useless pains,” said the Indian: “this empire has fallen because it existed. All must fall. I hope that the same will happen to the empire of the Great Mogul.” “Apropos,” said the European, “do you believe that more honor is required in a despotic state, and more virtue in a republic?” The term “honor” being first explained to the Indian, he replied, that honor was more necessary in a republic, and that there is more need of virtue in a monarchical state. “For,” said he, “a man who pretends to be elected by the people, will not be so, if he is dishonored; while at court he can easily obtain a place, according to the maxim of a great prince, that to succeed, a courtier should have neither honor nor a will of his own. With respect to virtue, it is prodigiously required in a court, in order to dare to tell the truth. The virtuous man is much more at his ease in a republic, having nobody to flatter.”
“Do you believe,” said the European, “that laws and religions can be formed for climates, the same as furs are required at Moscow, and gauze stuffs at Delhi?” “Yes, doubtless,” said the brahmin; “all laws which concern physics are calculated for the meridian which we inhabit; a German requires only one wife, and a Persian must have two or three.
“Rites of religion are of the same nature. If I were a Christian, how would you have me say mass in my province, where there is neither bread nor wine? With regard to dogmas, it is another thing; climate has nothing to do with them. Did not your religion commence in Asia, from whence it was driven? does it not exist towards the Baltic Sea, where it was unknown?”
“In what state, under what dominion, would you like to live?” said the counsellor. “Under any but my own,” said his companion, “and I have found many Siamese, Tonquinese, Persians, and Turks who have said the same.” “But, once more,” said the European, “what state would you choose?” The brahmin answered, “That in which the laws alone are obeyed.” “That is an odd answer,” said the counsellor. “It is not the worse for that,” said the brahmin. “Where is this country?” said the counsellor. The brahmin: “We must seek it.”
There have been always such in Europe, and probably in all the earth, so natural is it to assemble the family, to know its interests, and to provide for its wants! The Tartars had their cour-ilté. The Germans, according to Tacitus, assembled to consult. The Saxons and people of the North had their witenagemot. The people at large formed states-general in the Greek and Roman republics.
We see none among the Egyptians, Persians, or Chinese, because we have but very imperfect fragments of their histories: we scarcely know anything of them until since the time in which their kings were absolute, or at least since the time in which they had only priests to balance their authority.
When the comitia were abolished at Rome, the Prætorian guards took their place: insolent, greedy, barbarous, and idle soldiers were the republic. Septimius Severus conquered and disbanded them.
The states-general of the Ottoman Empire are the janissaries and cavalry; in Algiers and Tunis, it is the militia. The greatest and most singular example of these states-general is the Diet of Ratisbon, which has lasted a hundred years, where the representatives of the empire, the ministers of electors, princes, counts, prelates and imperial cities, to the number of thirty-seven, continually sit.
The second states-general of Europe are those of Great Britain. They are not always assembled, like the Diet of Ratisbon; but they are become so necessary that the king convokes them every year.
The House of Commons answers precisely to the deputies of cities received in the diet of the empire; but it is much larger in number, and enjoys a superior power. It is properly the nation. Peers and bishops are in parliament only for themselves, and the House of Commons for all the country.
This parliament of England is only a perfected imitation of certain states-general of France. In 1355, under King John, the three states were assembled at Paris, to aid him against the English. They granted him a considerable sum, at five livres five sous the mark, for fear the king should change the numerary value. They regulated the tax necessary to gather in this money, and they established nine commissioners to preside at the receipt. The king promised for himself and his successors, not to make any change in the coin in future.
What is promising for himself and his heirs? Either it is promising nothing, or it is saying: Neither myself nor my heirs have the right of altering the money; we have not the power of doing ill.
With this money, which was soon raised, an army was quickly formed, which prevented not King John from being made prisoner at the battle of Poitiers.
Account should be rendered at the end of the year, of the employment of the granted sum. This is now the custom in England, with the House of Commons. The English nation has preserved all that the French nation has lost.
The states-general of Sweden have a custom still more honorable to humanity, which is not found among any other people. They admit into their assemblies two hundred peasants, who form a body separated from the three others, and who maintain the liberty of those who labor for the subsistence of man.
The states-general of Denmark took quite a contrary resolution in 1660; they deprived themselves of all their rights, in favor of the king. They gave him an absolute and unlimited power; but what is more strange is, that they have not hitherto repented it.
The states-general in France have not been assembled since 1613, and the cortes of Spain lasted a hundred years after. The latter were assembled in 1712, to confirm the renunciation of Philip V., of the crown of France. These states-general have not been convoked since that time.