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Title: A Short History of Freethought Ancient and Modern, Volume 2 of 2 - Third edition, Revised and Expanded, in two volumes
Author: Robertson, John M.
Language: English
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                            A SHORT HISTORY
                                   OF
                              FREETHOUGHT

                           ANCIENT AND MODERN


                                   BY
                           JOHN M. ROBERTSON


                  THIRD EDITION, REVISED AND EXPANDED
                             IN TWO VOLUMES
                                Vol. II


        (ISSUED FOR THE RATIONALIST PRESS ASSOCIATION, LIMITED)


                                London:
                              WATTS & CO.,
                  JOHNSON'S COURT, FLEET STREET, E.C.

                                  1915



CONTENTS


VOLUME II

                                                                    PAGE

Chap. XIII--The Rise of Modern Freethought (continued)

    § 4. England. Persecution and executions under Henry VIII,
         Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. Charges of atheism. Lilly's
         polemic. Reginald Scot on witchcraft. The Family of
         Love. Hamond, Lewes, Kett. Apologetic literature. Influence
         of Machiavelli. Nashe's polemic. Marlowe, Raleigh, Harriott,
         Kyd. Protests of Pilkington and Hooker. Polemic of Bishop
         Morton. Shakespeare. The drama generally. Executions under
         James. Bacon. Suckling                                        1
    § 5. Popular Thought in Europe. Callidius. Flade. Wier. Coornhert.
         Grotius. Gorlæus. Zwicker. Koerbagh. Beverland. Socinianism.
         The case of Spain. Cervantes                                 32
    § 6. Scientific Thought. Copernicus. Giordano Bruno. Vanini.
         Galileo. The Aristotelian strife. Vives. Ramus. Descartes.
         Gassendi                                                     41


Chap. XIV--British Freethought in the Seventeenth Century

    § 1. Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Hobbes. Selden        69
    § 2. The popular ferment: attempted suppression of heresy by
         Parliament. Lawrence Clarkson. The Levellers and Toleration.
         Forms of unbelief. The term "rationalist." Propaganda against
         atheism. Culverwel. The Polemic of Henry More. Freethought at
         the Restoration. The case of Biddle. The protests of Howe,
         Stillingfleet, and Baxter. Freethought in Scotland. The
         argument of Mackenzie. English Apologetics of Casaubon,
         Ingelo, Temple, Wilkins, Tillotson, Cudworth, Boyle, and
         others. Martin Clifford. Emergence of Deism. Avowals of
         Archdeacon Parker, Sherlock, and South. Dryden. Discussion on
         miracles. Charles Blount. Leslie's polemic. Growth of
         apologetic literature. Toland. The Licensing Act             75
    § 3. Literary, scientific, and academic developments. Sir
         Thomas Browne. Jeremy Taylor. John Spencer. Joseph Glanvill.
         Cartesianism. Glisson. Influence of Gassendi.
         Resistance to Copernican theory. Lord Falkland. Colonel
         Fry. Locke. Bury. Temple. The Marquis of Halifax. Newton.
         Unitarianism. Penn. Firmin. Latitudinarianism. Tillotson.
         Dr. T. Burnet. Dr. B. Connor. John Craig. The
         "rationalists"                                              100


Chap. XV--French and Dutch Freethought in the Seventeenth Century

     1. Influence of Montaigne and Charron. Gui Patin. Naudé. La
        Mothe le Vayer                                               117
     2. Catholic Pyrrhonism                                          120
     3. Descartes's influence. Boileau. Jesuit and royal hostility   121
     4. Vogue of freethinking. Malherbe. Joan Fontanier. Théophile
        de Viau. Claude Petit. Corneille. Molière                    122
     5. Cyrano de Bergerac                                           123
     6. Pascal's skepticism. Religious quarrels                      124
     7. Huet's skepticism                                            126
     8. Cartesianism. Malebranche                                    128
     9. Buffier. Scientific movements                                130
    10. Richard Simon. La Peyrère                                    131
    11. Dutch thought. Louis Meyer. Cartesian heresy                 132
    12. Spinoza                                                      133
    13. Biblical criticism. Spinozism. Deurhoff. B. Bekker           137
    14. Bayle                                                        139
    15. Developments in France. The polemic of Abbadie. Persecution
        of Protestants. Fontenelle                                   141
    16. St. Evremond. Regnard. La Bruyère. Spread of
        skepticism. Fanaticism at court                              143


Chap. XVI--British Freethought in the Eighteenth Century

    § 1.  Toland. Blasphemy Law. Strifes among believers. Cudworth.
          Bishops Browne and Berkeley. Heresy in the Church. The
          Schools of Newton, Leibnitz, and Clarke. Hutchinson.
          Halley. Provincial deism. Saunderson. Simson. Literary
          orthodoxy. Addison. Steele. Berkeley. Swift. New deism.
          Shaftesbury. Trenchard. Unitarianism. Asgill. Coward.
          Dodwell. Whiston                                           147
    § 2.  Anthony Collins. Bentley's attack. Mandeville. Woolston.
          Middleton. Deism at Oxford. Tindal. Middleton and
          Waterland                                                  154
    § 3.  Unitarianism: its spread among Presbyterians. Chubb.
          Hall. Elwall                                               159
    § 4.  Berkeley's polemic. Lady Mary Montagu. Pope. Deism and
          Atheism. Coward. Strutt                                    162
    § 5.  Parvish. Influence of Spinoza                              167
    § 6.  William Pitt. Morgan. Annet. Dodwell the Younger           169
    § 7.  The work achieved by deism. The social situation. Recent
          disparagements and German testimony                        170
    § 8.  Arrest of English science. Hale. Burnet. Whiston.
          Woodward. Effects of Imperialism. Contrast with France.
          The mathematicians                                         176
    § 9.  Supposed "decay" of deism. Butler. William Law. Hume       179
    § 10. Freethought in Scotland. Execution of Thomas Aikenhead.
          Confiscation of innovating books. Legislation against
          deism. Anstruther's and Halyburton's polemic. Strife
          over creeds. John Johnstone. William Dudgeon. Hutcheson.
          Leechman. Forbes. Miller. Kames. Smith. Ferguson.
          Church riots                                               181
    § 11. Freethought in Ireland. Lord Molesworth. Archbishop Synge.
          Bishop Clayton                                             188
    § 12. Situation in England in 1750. Richardson's lament.
          Middleton. Deism among the clergy. Sykes. The deistic
          evolution                                                  190
    § 13. Materialism. La Mettrie. Shifting of the social centre:
          socio-political forces. Gray's avowal. Hume's estimate.
          Goldsmith's. The later deism. Bolingbroke                  194
    § 14. Diderot's diagnosis. Influence of Voltaire. Chatterton.
          Low state of popular culture. Prosecutions of poor
          freethinkers. Jacob Ilive. Peter Annet. Later deistic
          literature. Unitarianism. Evanson. Tomkyns. Watts.
          Lardner. Priestley. Toulmin. D. Williams                   198
    § 15. Gibbon. Spread of unbelief. The creed of the younger
          Pitt. Fox. Geology. Hutton. Cowper's and Paley's
          complaints. Erasmus Darwin. Mary Wollstonecraft            203
    § 16. Burns and Scotland                                         208
    § 17. Panic and reaction after the French Revolution. New
          aristocratic orthodoxy. Thomas Paine. New democratic
          freethought                                                209


Chap. XVII--French Freethought in the Eighteenth Century

     1. Boulainvilliers. Strifes in the Church. Fénelon and Ramsay.
        Fanaticism at court. New freethinking. Gilbert. Tyssot de
        Patot. Deslandes. Persecution of Protestants                 213
     2. Output of apologetics                                        214
     3. The political situation                                      216
     4. Huard and Huet                                               216
     5. Montesquieu                                                  217
     6. Jean Meslier                                                 219
     7. Freethinking priests. Pleas for toleration. Boindin          221
     8. Voltaire                                                     222
     9. Errors as to the course of development                       224
    10. Voltaire's character and influence                           229
    11. Progress of tolerance. Marie Huber. Resistance of bigotry.
        De Prades. The Encyclopédie. Fontenelle as censor            233
    12. Chronological outline of the literary movement               236
    13. New politics. The less famous freethinkers: Burigny;
        Fontenelle; De Brosses; Meister; Vauvenargues; Mirabaud;
        Fréret                                                       244
    14. N.-A. Boulanger. Dumarsais. Prémontval. Solidity of much
        of the French product                                        246
    15. General anonymity of the freethinkers. The orthodox defence  250
    16. The prominent freethinkers. Rousseau                         253
    17. Astruc                                                       256
    18. Freethought in the Académie. Beginnings in classical
        research. Emergence of anti-clericalism. D'Argenson's
        notes                                                        257
    19. The affair of Pompignan                                      258
    20. Marmontel's Bélisaire                                        259
    21. The scientific movement: La Mettrie                          260
    22. Study of Nature. Fontenelle. Lenglet du Fresnoy. De
        Maillet's Telliamed. Mirabaud. Resistance of Voltaire to
        the new ideas. Switzerland. Buffon and the Church            262
    23. Maupertuis. Diderot. Condillac. Robinet. Helvétius           264
    24. Diderot's doctrines and influence                            267
    25. D'Alembert and d'Holbach                                     271
    26. Freethought and the Revolution                               273
    27. The conventional myth and the facts. Necker. Abbé Grégoire.
        The argument of Michelet. The legend of the Goddess of
        Reason. Sacrilege in the English and French Revolutions.
        Hébert. Danton. Chaumette. Clootz. The atheist Salaville     274
    28. Religious and political forces of revolt. The polemic
        of Rivarol                                                   280
    29. The political causation. Rebellion in the ages of faith      281
    30. The polemic of Mallet du Pan. Saner views of Barante.
        Freethinkers and orthodox in each political camp. Mably.
        Voltaire. D'Holbach. Rousseau. Diderot. Orthodoxy of the
        mass. The thesis of Chamfort                                 284
    31. The reign of persecution                                     289
    32. Orthodox lovers of tolerance                                 291
    33. Napoleon                                                     292


Chap. XVIII--German Freethought in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth
Centuries

    1.  Moral Decline under Lutheranism. Freethought before the
        Thirty Years' War. Orthodox polemic. The movement of
        Matthias Knutzen                                             294
    2.  Influence of Spinoza. Stosch. Output of apologetics          297
    3.  Leibnitz                                                     298
    4.  Pietism. Orthodox hostility. Spread of Rationalism           300
    5.  Thomasius                                                    302
    6.  Dippel                                                       304
    7.  T. L. Lau                                                    305
    8.  Wolff                                                        305
    9.  Freemasonry and freethinking. J. L. Schmidt. Martin Knutzen  306
    10. J. C. Edelmann                                               307
    11. Abbot Jerusalem                                              308
    12. English and French influences. The scientific movement.
        Orthodox science. Haller. Rapid spread of rationalism        309
    13. Frederick the Great                                          312
    14. Mauvillon. Nicolai. Riem. Schade. Basedow. Eberhard.
        Steinbart. Spalding. Teller                                  315
    15. Semler. Töllner. Academic rationalism                        318
    16. Bahrdt                                                       320
    17. Moses Mendelssohn. Lessing. Reimarus                         322
    18. Vogue of deism. Wieland. Cases of Isenbiehl and Steinbuhler.
        A secret society. Clerical rationalism. Schulz. The edict of
        Frederick William II. Persistence of skepticism. The
        Marokkanische Briefe. Mauvillon. Herder                      329
    19. Goethe                                                       333
    20. Schiller                                                     336
    21. Kant                                                         337
    22. Influence of Kant. The sequel. Hamann. Chr. A. Crusius.
        Platner. Beausobre the younger                               345
    23. Fichte. Philosophic strifes                                  349
    24. Rationalism and conservatism in both camps                   350
    25. Austria. Jahn. Joseph II. Beethoven                          351


Chap. XIX--Freethought in the Remaining European States

    § 1. Holland. Elizabeth Wolff. Leenhof. Booms. Influence of
         Bayle. Passerano. Lack of native freethought literature     352
    § 2. The Scandinavian States.

        1. Course of the Reformation. Subsequent wars.
           Retrogression in Denmark                                  354
        2. Holberg's Nicolas Klimius                                 355
        3. Sweden. Queen Christina                                   357
        4. Swedenborg                                                358
        5. Upper-class indifference. Gustavus III. Kjellgren and
           Bellman. Torild. Retrogression in Sweden                  359
        6. Revival of thought in Denmark. Struensee. Mary
           Wollstonecraft's survey                                   361

    § 3. The Slavonic States.

        1. Poland. Liszinski                                         362
        2. Russia. Nikon. Peter the Great. Kantemir. Catherine       363

    § 4. Italy.

        1. Decline under Spanish Rule. Naples                        365
        2. Vico                                                      365
        3. Subsequent scientific thought. General revival of
           freethought under French influence                        367
        4. Beccaria. Algarotti. Filangieri. Galiani. Genovesi.
           Alfieri. Bettinelli. Dandolo. Giannone. Algarotti and
           the Popes. The scientific revival. Progress and reaction
           in Tuscany. Effects of the French Revolution              368

    § 5. Spain and Portugal.

        1. Progress under Bourbon rule in Spain. Aranda. D'Alba      372
        2. Tyranny of the Inquisition. Aranda. Olavidès              373
        3. Duke of Almodobar. D'Azara. Ricla                         373
        4. The case of Samaniego                                     374
        5. Bails. Cagnuelo. Centeno                                  375
        6. Faxardo. Iriarte                                          375
        7. Ista. Salas                                               376
        8. Reaction after Charles III                                376
        9. Portugal. Pombal                                          377

    § 6. Switzerland.

        Socinianism and its sequelæ. The Turrettini. Geneva and
        Rousseau. Burlamaqui. Spread of deism      378


Chap. XX--Early Freethought in the United States

    1. Deism of the revolutionary statesmen                          381
    2. First traces of unbelief. Franklin                            381
    3. Jefferson. John Adams. Washington                             382
    4. Thomas Paine                                                  383
    5. Paine's treatment in America                                  384
    6. Palmer. Houston. Deism and Unitarianism                       385


Chap. XXI.--Freethought in the Nineteenth Century

    The Reaction. Tone in England. Clericalism in Italy and
    Spain. Movement in France and Germany                            386
    The Forces of Renascence. International movement. Summary of
    critical forces. Developments of science. Lines of resistance    389

    Section 1.--Popular Propaganda and Culture

         1. Democracy. Paine. Translations from the French           391
         2. Huttman. Houston. Wedderburn                             393
         3. Pietist persecution. Richard Carlile. John Clarke.
            Robert Taylor. Charles Southwell. G. J. Holyoake.
            Women helpers                                            393
         4. Hetherington. Operation of blasphemy law                 395
         5. Robert Owen                                              395
         6. The reign of bigotry. Influence of Gibbon                398
         7. Charles Bradlaugh and Secularism. Imprisonment of
            G. W. Foote. Treatment of Bradlaugh by Parliament.
            Resultant energy of secularist attack                    399
         8. New literary developments. Lecky. Conway. Winwood
            Reade. Spencer. Arnold. Mill. Clifford. Stephen.
            Amberley. New apologetics                                402
         9. Freethought in France. Social schemes. Fourier.
            Saint-Simon. Comte. Duruy and Sainte-Beuve               404
        10. Bigotry in Spain. Popular freethought in Catholic
            countries. Journalism                                    406
        11. Fluctuations in Germany. Persistence of religious
            liberalism. Marx and Socialism. Official orthodoxy       409
        12. The Scandinavian States and Russia                       412
        13. "Free-religious" societies                               413
        14. Unitarianism in England and America                      414
        15. Clerical rationalism in Protestant countries.
            Switzerland. Holland. Dutch South Africa                 415
        16. Developments in Sweden                                   417
        17. The United States. Ingersoll. Lincoln. Stephen
            Douglas. Frederick Douglass. Academic persecution.
            Changes of front                                         419

    Section 2.--Biblical Criticism

         1. Rationalism in Germany. The Schleiermacher reaction:
            its heretical character. Orthodox hostility              420
         2. Progress in both camps. Strauss's critical syncretism    423
         3. Criticism of the Fourth Gospel                           425
         4. Strauss's achievement                                    425
         5. Official reaction                                        426
         6. Fresh advance. Schwegler. Bruno Bauer                    426
         7. Strauss's second Life of Jesus. His politics. His
            Voltaire and Old and New Faith. His total influence      428
         8. Fluctuating progress of criticism. Important issues
            passed-by. Nork. Ghillany. Daumer. Ewerbeck. Colenso.
            Kuenen. Kalisch. Wellhausen                              431
         9. New Testament criticism. Baur. Zeller. Van Manen         434
        10. Falling-off in German candidates for the ministry as in
            congregations. Official orthodox pressures               435
        11. Attack and defence in England. The Tractarian reaction.
            Progress of criticism. Hennell. The United States:
            Parker. English publicists: F. W. Newman; R. W. Mackay;
            W. R. Greg. Translations. E. P. Meredith; Thomas Scott;
            W. R. Cassels                                            437
        12. New Testament criticism in France. Renan and Havet       439

    Section 3.--Poetry and General Literature

         1. The French literary reaction. Chateaubriand              440
         2. Predominance of freethought in later belles lettres      441
         3. Béranger. De Musset. Victor Hugo. Leconte de Lisle. The
            critics. The reactionists                                442
         4. Poetry in England. Shelley. Coleridge. The romantic
            movement. Scott. Byron. Keats                            443
         5. Charles Lamb                                             445
         6. Carlyle. Mill. Froude                                    447
         7. Orthodoxy and conformity. Bain's view of Carlyle,
            Macaulay, and Lyell                                      448
         8. The literary influence. Ruskin. Arnold. Intellectual
            preponderance of rationalism                             450
         9. English fiction from Miss Edgeworth to the present
            time                                                     451
        10. Richard Jefferies                                        452
        11. Poetry since Shelley                                     452
        12. American belles lettres                                  453
        13. Leopardi. Carducci. Kleist. Heine                        454
        14. Russian belles lettres                                   456
        15. The Scandinavian States                                  457

    Section 4.--The Natural Sciences

        1. Progress in cosmology. Laplace and modern astronomy.
           Orthodox resistance. Leslie                               457
        2. Physiology in France. Cabanis                             459
        3. Physiology in England. Lawrence. Morgan                   461
        4. Geology after Hutton. Hugh Miller. Baden Powell           462
        5. Darwin                                                    464
        6. Robert Chambers                                           464
        7. Orthodox resistance. General advance                      465
        8. Triumph of evolutionism. Spencer. Clifford. Huxley        466

    Section 5.--The Sociological Sciences

        1. Eighteenth-century sociology. Salverte. Charles
           Comte. Auguste Comte                                      468
        2. Progress in England. Orthodoxy of Hallam. Carlyle.
           Grote. Thirlwall. Long                                    468
        3. Sociology proper. Orthodox hostility                      469
        4. Mythology and anthropology. Tylor. Spencer. Avebury.
           Frazer                                                    470

    Section 6.--Philosophy and Ethics

        1.  Fichte. Schelling. Hegel                                 471
        2.  Germany after Hegel. Schopenhauer. Hartmann              474
        3.  Feuerbach. Stirner                                       475
        4.  Arnold Ruge                                              478
        5.  Büchner                                                  478
        6.  Philosophy in France. Maine de Biran. Cousin. Jouffroy   479
        7.  Movement of Lamennais                                    480
        8.  Comte and Comtism                                        483
        9.  Philosophy in Britain. Bentham. James Mill. Grote.
            Political rationalism                                    484
        10. Hamilton. Mansel. Spencer                                485
        11. Semi-rationalism in the churches                         487
        12. J. S. Mill                                               489

    Section 7.--Modern Jewry

        Jewish influence in philosophy since Spinoza. Modern balance
        of tendencies                                                489

    Section 8.--The Oriental Civilizations

        Asiatic intellectual life. Japan. Discussions on Japanese
        psychosis. Fukuzawa. The recent Cult of the Emperor. China.
        India. Turkey. Greece                                        490


Conclusion                                                           499

Index                                                                503



CHAPTER XIII

THE RISE OF MODERN FREETHOUGHT--(Continued)


§ 4. England

While France was thus passing from general fanaticism to a large
measure of freethought, England was passing by a less tempestuous path
to a hardly less advanced stage of opinion. It was indeed a bloody
age; and in 1535 we have record of nineteen men and five women of
Holland, apparently Anabaptists, who denied the "humanity" of Christ
and rejected infant baptism and transubstantiation, being sentenced to
be burned alive--two suffering at Smithfield, and the rest at other
towns, by way of example. Others in Henry's reign suffered the same
penalty for the same offence; and in 1538 a priest named Nicholson
or Lambert, refusing on the King's personal pressure to recant,
was "brent in Smithfield" for denying the bodily presence in the
eucharist. [1] The first decades of "Reformation" in England truly
saw the opening of new vials of blood. More and Fisher and scores of
lesser men died as Catholics for denying the King's "supremacy" in
religion; as many more for denying the Catholic tenets which the King
held to the last; and not a few by the consent of More and Fisher for
translating or circulating the sacred books. Latimer, martyred under
Mary, had applauded the burning of the Anabaptists. One generation
slew for denial of the humanity of Christ; the next for denial of his
divinity. Under Edward VI there were burned no Catholics, but several
heretics, including Joan Bocher and a Dutch Unitarian, George Van Pare,
described as a man of saintly life. [2] Still the English evolution
was less destructive than the French or the German, and the comparative
bloodlessness of the strife between Protestant and Catholic under Mary
[3] and Elizabeth, the treatment of the Jesuit propaganda under the
latter queen as a political rather than a doctrinal question, [4]
prevented any such vehemence of recoil from religious ideals as took
place in France. When in 1575 the law De hæretico comburendo, which
had slept for seventeen years, was set to work anew under Elizabeth,
the first victims were Dutch Anabaptists. Of a congregation of them
at Aldgate, twenty-seven were imprisoned, of whom ten were burned,
and the rest deported. Two others, John Wielmacker and Hendrich Ter
Woort, were anti-Trinitarians, and were burned accordingly. Foxe
appealed to the Queen to appoint any punishment short of death,
or even that of hanging, rather than the horrible death by burning;
but in vain. "All parties at the time concurred" in approving the
course taken. [5] Orthodoxy was rampant.

Unbelief, as we have seen, however, there certainly was; and it is
recorded that Walter, Earl of Essex, on his deathbed at Dublin in 1576,
murmured that among his countrymen neither Popery nor Protestantism
prevailed: "there was nothing but infidelity, infidelity, infidelity;
atheism, atheism; no religion, no religion." [6] And when we turn aside
from the beaten paths of Elizabethan literature we see clearly what is
partly visible from those paths--a number of freethinking variations
from the norm of faith. Ascham, as we saw, found some semblance of
atheism shockingly common among the travelled upper class of his day;
and the testimonies continue. Edward Kirke, writing his "glosses"
to Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar in 1578, observes that "it was
an old opinion, and yet is continued in some men's conceit, that
men of years have no fear of God at all, or not so much as younger
folk," experience having made them skeptical. Erasmus, he notes,
in his Adages makes the proverb "Nemo senex metuit Jovem" signify
merely that "old men are far from superstition and belief in false
Gods." But Kirke insists that, "his great learning notwithstanding,
it is too plain to be gainsaid that old men are much more inclined
to such fond fooleries than younger men," [7] apparently meaning that
elderly men in his day were commonly skeptical about divine providence.

Other writers of the day do not limit unbelief to the aged. Lilly,
in his Euphues (1578), referring to England in general or Oxford
in particular as Athens, asks: "Be there not many in Athens which
think there is no God, no redemption, no resurrection?" Further, he
complains that "it was openly reported of an old man in Naples that
there was more lightness in Athens than in all Italy ... more Papists,
more Atheists, more sects, more schisms, than in all the monarchies
in the world"; [8] and he proceeds to frame an absurd dialogue of
"Euphues and Atheos," in which the latter, "monstrous, yet tractable
to be persuaded," [9] is converted with a burlesque facility. Lilly,
who writes as a man-of-the-world believer, is a poor witness as to the
atheistic arguments current; but those he cites are so much better than
his own, up to the point of terrified collapse on the atheist's part,
that he had doubtless heard them. The atheist speaks as a pantheist,
identifying deity with the universe; and readily meets a simple appeal
to Scripture with the reply that "whosoever denieth a godhead denieth
also the Scriptures which testifie of him." [10] But in one of his own
plays, played in 1584, Lilly puts on the stage a glimpse of current
controversy in a fashion which suggests that he had not remained so
contemptuously confident of the self-evident character of theism. In
Campaspe (i, 3) he introduces, undramatically enough, Plato, Aristotle,
Cleanthes, Crates, and other philosophers, who converse concerning
"natural causes" and "supernatural effects." Aristotle is made to
confess that he "cannot by natural reason give any reason of the
ebbing and flowing of the sea"; and Plato contends against Cleanthes,
"searching for things which are not to be found," that "there is no
man so savage in whom resteth not this divine particle, that there
is an omnipotent, eternal, and divine mover, which may be called
God." Cleanthes replies that "that first mover, which you term God,
is the instrument of all the movings which we attribute to Nature. The
earth ... seasons ... fruits ... the whole firmament ... and whatsoever
else appeareth miraculous, what man almost of mean capacity but
can prove it natural." Nothing is concluded, and the debate is
adjourned. Anaxarchus declares: "I will take part with Aristotle,
that there is Natura naturans, and yet not God"; while Crates rejoins:
"And I with Plato, that there is Deus optimus maximus, and not Nature."

It is a curious dialogue to put upon the stage, by the mouth of
children-actors, and the arbitrary ascription to Aristotle of high
theistic views, in a scene in which he is expressly described by a
fellow philosopher as a Naturalist, suggests that Lilly felt the
danger of giving offence by presenting the supreme philosopher
as an atheist. It is evident, however, both from Euphues and from
Campaspe, that naturalistic views were in some vogue, else they had
not been handled in the theatre and in a book essentially planned
for the general reader. But however firmly held, they could not be
directly published; and a dozen years later, over thirty years after
the outburst of Ascham, we still find only a sporadic and unwritten
freethought, however abundant, going at times in fear of its life.

Private discussion, indeed, there must have been, if there be any
truth in Bacon's phrase that "atheists will ever be talking of that
opinion, as if they ... would be glad to be strengthened by the
consent of others" [11]--an argument which would make short work
of the vast literature of apologetic theism--but even private talk
had need be cautious, and there could be no publication of atheistic
opinions. Printed rationalism could go no further than such a protest
against superstition as Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft
(1584), which, however, is a sufficiently remarkable expression of
reason in an age in which a Bodin held angrily by the delusion. [12]
Elizabeth was herself substantially irreligious, [13] and preferred
to keep the clergy few in number and subordinate in influence; [14]
but her Ministers regarded the Church as part of the State system,
and punished all open or at least aggressive heresy in the manner
of the Inquisition. Yet the imported doctrine of the subjective
character of hell and heaven, [15] taken up by Marlowe, held its
ground, and is denounced by Stubbes in his Anatomie of Abuses [16]
(1583); and other foreign philosophy of the same order found religious
acceptance. A sect called the "Family of Love," deriving from Holland
(already "a country fruitfull of heretics"), [17] went so far as
to hold that "Christ doth not signify any one person, but a quality
whereof many are partakers"--a doctrine which we have seen ascribed
by Calvin to the libertins of Geneva a generation before; [18] but
it does not appear that they were persecuted. [19] Some isolated
propagandists, however, paid the last penalty. One Matthew Hamont
or Hamond, a ploughwright, of Hetherset, was in 1579 tried by the
Bishop and Consistory of Norwich "for that he denyed Christe," and,
being found guilty, was burned, after having had his ears cut off,
"because he spake wordes of blasphemie against the Queen's Maiistie
and others of her Counsell." [20] The victim would thus seem to have
been given to violence of speech; but the record of his negations,
which suggest developments from the Anabaptist movement, is none the
less notable. In Stow's wording, [21] they run:--


    "That the newe Testament and Gospell of Christe are but mere
    foolishnesse, a storie of menne, or rather a mere fable.

    "Item, that man is restored to grace by the meere mercy of God,
    wythout the meane of Christ's bloud, death, and passion.

    "Item, that Christe is not God, nor the Saviour of the world,
    but a meere man, a sinfull man, and an abhominable Idoll.

    "Item, that al they that worshippe him are abhominable Idolaters;
    And that Christe did not rise agayne from death to life by the
    power of his Godhead, neither, that hee did ascende into Heaven.

    "Item, that the holy Ghoste is not God, neither that there is
    any suche holy Ghoste.

    "Item, that Baptisme is not necessarie in the Churche of God,
    neither the use of the sacrament of the body and bloude of Christ."


There is record also of a freethinker named John Lewes burned at the
same place in 1583 for "denying the Godhead of Christ, and holding
other detestable heresies," in the manner of Hamond. [22] In the same
year Elias Thacker and John Coping were hanged at St. Edmonsbury "for
spreading certaine bookes, seditiously penned by one Robert Browne
against the Booke of Common Prayer"; and "their bookes so many as
could be found were burnt before them." [23] Further, one Peter Cole,
an Ipswich tanner, was burned in 1587 (also at Norwich) for similar
doctrine; and Francis Kett, a young clergyman, ex-fellow of Corpus
Christi College, Cambridge, was burned at the same place in 1589 for
heresy of the Unitarian order. [24] Hamond and Cole seem, however,
to have been in their own way religious men, [25] and Kett a devout
mystic, with ideas of a Second Advent. [26] All founded on the Bible.


    Most surprising of all perhaps is the record of the trial of
    one John Hilton, clerk in holy orders, before the Upper House
    of Convocation on December 22, 1584, on the charge of having
    "said in a sermon at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields that the Old and
    New Testaments are but fables." (Lansdowne MSS. British Museum,
    No. 982, fol. 46, cited by Prof. Storojenko, Life of Robert Greene,
    Eng. tr. in Grosart's "Huth Library" ed. of Greene's Works, i,
    39, note.) As Hilton confessed to the charge and made abjuration,
    it may be surmised that he had spoken under the influence of
    liquor. Even on that view, however, such an episode tells of a
    considerable currency of unbelieving criticism.


Apart from constructive heresy, the perpetual religious dissensions
of the time were sure to stimulate doubt; and there appeared quite
a number of treatises directed wholly or partly against explicit
unbelief, as: The Faith of the Church Militant, translated from
the Latin of the Danish divine Hemming (1581), and addressed "to
the confutation of the Jewes, Turks, Atheists, Papists, Hereticks,
and all other adversaries of the truth whatsoever"; "The Touchstone
of True Religion ... against the impietie of Atheists, Epicures,
Libertines, Hippocrites, and Temporisours of these times" (1590);
An Enemie to Atheisme, translated by T. Rogers from the Latin of
Avenar (1591); the preacher Henry Smith's God's Arrow against Atheists
(1593, rep. 1611); an English translation of the second volume of La
Primaudaye's L'Académie Française, containing a refutation of atheistic
doctrine; and no fewer than three "Treatises of the Nature of God"--all
anonymous, the third known to be by Bishop Thomas Morton--all appearing
in the year 1599.

All this smoke--eight apologetic treatises in eighteen years--implies
some fire; and the translator of La Primaudaye, one "T. B.," declares
in his dedication that there has been a general growth of atheism
in England and on the continent, which he traces to "that Monster
Machiavell." Among English atheists of that school he ranks the
dramatist Robert Greene, who had died in 1592; and it has been argued,
not quite convincingly, that it was to Machiavelli that Greene had
pointed, in his death-bed recantation A Groatsworth of Wit (1592), as
the atheistic instructor of his friend Marlowe, [27] who introduces
"Machiavel" as cynical prologist to his Jew of Malta. Greene's own
"atheism" had been for the most part a matter of bluster and disorderly
living; and we find his zealously orthodox friend Thomas Nashe, in his
Strange News (1592), calling the Puritan zealot who used the pseudonym
of Martin Marprelate "a mighty platformer of atheism"; even as his
own and Greene's enemy, Gabriel Harvey, called Nashe an atheist. [28]
But Nashe in his Christ's Tears over Jerusalem (1592), though he speaks
characteristically of the "atheistical Julian," discusses contemporary
atheism in a fashion descriptive of an actual growth of the opinion,
concerning which he alleges that there is no "sect now in England so
scattered [i.e., so widely spread] as atheisme." The "outward atheist,"
he declares, "establishes reason as his God"; and he offers some
sufficiently primitive arguments by way of confutation. "They follow
the Pironicks [i.e., Pyrrhonists], whose position and opinion it is
that there is no hell or misery but opinion. Impudently they persist
in it, that the late discovered Indians show antiquities thousands
before Adam." For the rest, they not only reject the miracles of Moses
as mere natural expedients misrepresented, but treat the whole Bible
as "some late writers of our side" treat the Apocrypha. And Nashe
complains feelingly that while the atheists "are special men of wit,"
and that "the Romish seminaries have not allured unto them so many
good wits as atheism," the preachers who reply to them are men of
dull understanding, the product of a system under which preferment is
given to graduates on the score not of capacity but of mere gravity
and solemnity. "It is the superabundance of wit," declares Nashe,
"that makes atheists: will you then hope to beat them down with fusty
brown-bread dorbellism?" [29] There had arisen, in short, a ferment of
rationalism which was henceforth never to disappear from English life.

In 1593, indeed, we find atheism formally charged against two
famous men, Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh, of whom the
first is documentarily connected with Kett, and the second in turn
with Marlowe. An official document, [30] preserved by some chance,
reveals that Marlowe was given--whether or not over the wine-cup--to
singularly audacious derision of the received beliefs; and so explicit
is the evidence that it is nearly certain he would have been executed
for blasphemy had he not been privately killed (1593) while the
proceedings were pending. The "atheism" imputed to him is not made
out in any detail; but many of the other utterances are notably in
keeping with Marlowe's daring temper; and they amount to unbelief
of a stringent kind. In Doctor Faustus [31] he makes Mephistopheles
affirm that "Hell hath no limits ... but where we are is hell"--a
doctrine which we have seen to be current before his time; and in
his private talk he had gone much further. Nashe doubtless had him
in mind when he spoke of men of "superabundance of wit." Not only
did he question, with Raleigh, the Biblical chronology: he affirmed
"That Moyses was but a juggler, and that one Heriots" [i.e., Thomas
Harriott, or Harriots, the astronomer, one of Raleigh's circle] "can
do more than he"; and concerning Jesus he used language incomparably
more offensive to orthodox feeling than that of Hamond and Kett. There
is more in all this than a mere assimilation of Machiavelli; though
the further saying "that the first beginning of religion was only
to keep men in awe"--put also by Greene [if not by Marlowe], with
much force of versification, in the mouth of a villain-hero in the
anonymous play of Selimus [32]--tells of that influence. Marlowe was
indeed not the man to swear by any master without adding something of
his own. Atheism, however, is not inferrible from any of his works: on
the contrary, in the second part of his famous first play he makes his
hero, described by the repentant Greene as the "atheist Tamburlaine,"
declaim of deity with signal eloquence, though with a pantheistic cast
of phrase. In another passage, a Moslem personage claims to be on the
side of a Christ who would punish perjury; and in yet another the hero
is made to trample under foot the pretensions of Mohammed. [33] It was
probably his imputation of perjury to Christian rulers in particular
that earned for Marlowe the malignant resentment which inspired the
various edifying comments published after his unedifying death. Had
he not perished as he did in a tavern brawl, he might have had the
nobler fate of a martyr.

Concerning Raleigh, again, there is no shadow of proof of atheism,
though his circle, which included the Earls of Northumberland and
Oxford, was called a "school of atheism" in a Latin pamphlet by the
Jesuit Parsons, [34] published at Rome in 1593; and this reputation
clung to him. It is matter of literary history, however, that he,
like Montaigne, had been influenced by the Hypotyposes of Sextus
Empiricus; [35] his short essay The Sceptick being a naïf exposition
of the thesis that "the sceptick doth neither affirm neither deny any
position; but doubteth of it, and applyeth his Reason against that
which is affirmed, or denied, to justifie his non-consenting." [36]
The essay itself, nevertheless, proceeds upon a set of wildly false
propositions in natural history, concerning which the adventurous
reasoner has no doubts whatever; and altogether we may be sure that
his artificial skepticism did not carry him far in philosophy. In
the Discovery of Guiana (1600) he declares that he is "resolved"
of the truth of the stories of men whose heads grow beneath their
shoulders; and in his History of the World (1603-16) he insists
that the stars and other celestial bodies "incline the will by
mediation of the sensitive appetite." [37] In other directions,
however, he was less credulous. In the same History he points out,
as Marlowe had done in talk, how incompatible was such a phenomenon
as the mature civilization of ancient Egypt in the days of Abraham
with the orthodox chronology. [38] This, indeed, was heresy enough,
then and later, seeing that not only did Bishop Pearson, in 1659, in
a work on The Creed which has been circulated down to the nineteenth
century, indignantly denounce all who departed from the figures in the
margin of the Bible; but Coleridge, a century and a half later, took
the very instance of Egyptian history as triumphantly establishing
the accuracy of the Bible record against the French atheists. [39]
As regards Raleigh's philosophy, the evidence goes to show only
that he was ready to read a Unitarian essay, presumably that already
mentioned, supposed to be Kett's; and that he had intercourse with
Marlowe and others (in particular his secretary, Harriott) known
to be freethinkers. A prosecution begun against him on this score,
at the time of the inquiry concerning Marlowe (when Raleigh was in
disgrace with the Queen), came to nothing. It had been led up to by
a translation of Parsons's pamphlet, which affirmed that his private
group was known as "Sir Walter Rawley's school of Atheisme," and that
therein "both Moyses and our Savior, the Old and the New Testaments,
are jested at, and the scholars taught among other things to spell God
backwards." [40] This seems to have been idle gossip, though it tells
of unbelief somewhere; and Raleigh's own writings always indicate
[41] belief in the Bible; though his dying speech and epitaph are
noticeably deistic. That he was a deist, given to free discussion,
seems the probable truth.

In passing sentence at the close of Raleigh's trial for treason in
1603, in which his guilt is at least no clearer than the inequity of
the proceedings, Lord Chief Justice Popham unscrupulously taunted him
with his reputation for heresy. "You have been taxed by the world with
the defence of the most heathenish and blasphemous opinions, which
I list not to repeat, because Christian ears cannot endure to hear
them, nor the authors and maintainers of them be suffered to live in
any Christian commonwealth. You know what men said of Harpool." [42]
If the preface to his History of the World, written in the Tower,
be authentic, Raleigh was at due pains to make clear his belief in
deity, and to repudiate alike atheism and pantheism. "I do also account
it," he declares, "an impiety monstrous, to confound God and Nature,
be it but in terms." [43] And he is no more tolerant than his judge
when he discusses the question of the eternity of the universe, then
the crucial issue as between orthodoxy and doubt. "Whosoever will
make choice rather to believe in eternal deformity [=want of form]
or in eternal dead matter, than in eternal light and eternal life,
let eternal death be his reward. For it is a madness of that kind, as
wanteth terms to express it." [44] Inasmuch as Aristotle was the great
authority for the denounced opinion, Raleigh is anti-Aristotelean. "I
shall never be persuaded that God hath shut up all light of learning
within the lantern of Aristotle's brains." [45] But in the whole
preface there is only one, and that a conventional, expression
of belief in the Christian dogma of salvation; and as to that we
may note his own words: "We are all in effect become comedians in
religion." [46] Still, untruthful as he certainly was, [47] we may
take him as a convinced theist of the experiential school, standing
at the ordinary position of the deists of the next century.

Notably enough, he anticipates the critical position of Hume as to
reason and experience: "That these and these be the causes of these
and these effects, time hath taught us and not reason; and so hath
experience without art." [48] Such utterance, if not connected with
professions of piety, might in those days give rise to such charges of
unbelief as were so freely cast at him. But the charges seem to have
been in large part mere expressions of the malignity which religion
so normally fosters, and which can seldom have been more bitter than
then. Raleigh is no admirable type of rectitude; but he can hardly
have been a worse man than his orthodox enemies. And we must estimate
such men in full view of the low standards of their age.


    The belief about Raleigh's atheism was so strong that we have
    Archbishop Abbot writing to Sir Thomas Roe on Feb. 19, 1618-1619,
    that Raleigh's end was due to his "questioning" of "God's being
    and omnipotence." It is asserted by Francis Osborn, who had known
    Raleigh, that he got his title of Atheist from Queen Elizabeth. See
    the preface (Author to Reader) to Osborn's Miscellany of Sundry
    Essays, etc., in 7th ed. of his Works, 1673. As to atheism at
    Elizabeth's court see J. J. Tayler, Retrospect of Relig. Life of
    England, 2nd ed. p. 198, and ref. Lilly makes one of his characters
    write of the ladies at court that "they never jar about matters
    of religion, because they never mean to reason of them" (Euphues,
    Arber's ed. p. 194).

    A curious use was made of Raleigh's name and fame after his
    death for various purposes. In 1620 or 1621 appeared "Vox
    Spiritus, or Sir Walter Rawleigh's Ghost; a Conference between
    Signr. Gondamier ... and Father Bauldwine"--a "seditious" tract by
    one Captain Gainsford. It appears to have been reprinted in 1622 as
    "Prosopoeia. Sir Walter Rawleigh's Ghost." Then in 1626 came a new
    treatise, "Sir Walter Rawleigh's Ghost, or England's Forewarner,"
    published in 1626 at Utrecht by Thomas Scott, an English minister
    there, who was assassinated in the same year. The title having
    thus had vogue, there was published in 1631 "Rawleigh's Ghost, or,
    a Feigned Apparition of Syr Walter Rawleigh to a friend of his,
    for the translating into English the Booke of Leonard Lessius
    (that most learned man), entituled De Providentia Numinis et
    animi immortalitate, written against the Atheists and Polititians
    of these days." The translation of a Jesuit's treatise (1613)
    thus accredited purports to be by "A. B." In a reprint of 1651
    the "feigned" disappears from the title-page; but "Sir Walter
    Rawleigh's Ghost" remains to attract readers; and the translation,
    now purporting to be by John Holden, who claims to have been a
    friend of Raleigh's, is dedicated to his son Carew. In the preface
    the Ghost adjures the translator (who professes to have heard him
    frequently praise the treatise of Lessius) to translate the work
    with Raleigh's name on the title, so as to clear his memory of
    "a foul and most unjust aspersion of me for my presumed denial
    of a deity."

    The latest documentary evidence as to the case of Marlowe is
    produced by Mr. F. S. Boas in his article, "New Light on Marlowe
    and Kyd," in the Fortnightly Review, February, 1899, reproduced
    in his edition of the works of Thomas Kyd (Clarendon Press,
    1901). In addition to the formerly known data as to Marlowe's
    "atheism," it is now established that Thomas Kyd, his fellow
    dramatist, was arrested on the same charge, and that there was
    found among his papers one containing "vile hereticall conceiptes
    denyinge the divinity of Jhesus Christe our Saviour." This Kyd
    declared he had had from Marlowe, denying all sympathy with its
    view. Nevertheless, he was put to the torture. The paper, however,
    proves to be a vehement Unitarian argument on Scriptural grounds,
    and is much more likely to have been written by Francis Kett than
    by Marlowe. In the MSS. now brought to light, one Cholmeley, who
    "confessed that he was persuaded by Marlowe's reasons to become an
    Atheiste," is represented by a spy as speaking "all evil of the
    Counsell, saying that they are all Atheistes and Machiavillians,
    especially my Lord Admirall." The same "atheist," who imputes
    atheism to others as a vice, is described as regretting he had
    not killed the Lord Treasurer, "sayenge that he could never have
    done God better service."

    For the rest, the same spy tells that Cholmeley believed Marlowe
    was "able to shewe more sound reasons for Atheisme than any
    devine in Englande is able to geve to prove devinitie, and that
    Marloe told him that he hath read the Atheist lecture to Sir
    Walter Raleigh and others." On the last point there is no further
    evidence, save that Sir Walter, his dependent Thomas Harriott,
    and Mr. Carewe Rawley, were on March 21, 1593-1594, charged upon
    sworn testimonies with holding "impious opinions concerning God
    and Providence." There was, however, no prosecution. Harriott
    had published in 1588 a work on his travels in Virginia, at the
    close of which is a passage in the devoutest vein telling of his
    missionary labours (quoted by Mr. Boas, art. cited, p. 225). Yet by
    1592 he had, with his master, a reputation for atheism; and that it
    was not wholly on the strength of his great scientific knowledge
    is suggested by the statement of Anthony à Wood that he "made a
    philosophical theology, wherein he cast off the Old Testament."

    Of this no trace remains; but it is established that he was
    a highly accomplished mathematician, much admired by Kepler;
    and that he "applied the telescope to celestial purposes almost
    simultaneously with Galileo" (art. Harriott in Dict. of Nat. Biog.;
    cp. art. in Encyc. Brit.). "Harriott ... was the first who dared
    to say A=B in the form A - B = 0, one of the greatest sources of
    progress ever opened in algebra" (Prof. A. De Morgan, Newton, his
    Friend and his Niece, 1885, p. 91). Further, he improved algebraic
    notation by the use of small italic letters in place of Roman
    capitals, and threw out the hypothesis of secondary planets as
    well as of stars invisible from their size and distance. "He was
    the first to verify the results of Galileo." Rev. Baden Powell,
    Hist. of Nat. Philos. 1834, pp. 126, 168. Cp. Rigaud, as cited by
    Powell; Ellis's notes on Bacon, in Routledge's 1-vol. ed. 1905,
    pp. 674-76; and Storojenko, as above cited, p. 38, note.


Against the aspersion of Harriott at Raleigh's trial may be cited the
high panegyric of Chapman, who terms him "my admired and soul-loved
friend, master of all essential and true knowledge," [49] and one
"whose judgment and knowledge, in all kinds, I know to be incomparable
and bottomless, yea, to be admired as much as his most blameless
life, and the right sacred expense of his time, is to be honoured and
reverenced"; with a further "affirmation of his clear unmatchedness
in all manner of learning." [50]

The frequency of such traces of rationalism at this period is to
be understood in the light of the financial and other scandals of
the Reformation; the bitter strifes of Church and dissent; and the
horrors of the wars of religion in France, concerning which Bacon
remarks in his essay Of Unity in Religion that the spectacle would
have made Lucretius "seven times more Epicure and atheist than he
was." The proceedings against Raleigh and Kyd, accordingly, did
not check the spread of the private avowal of unbelief. A few years
later we find Hooker, in the Fifth Book of his Ecclesiastical Polity
(1597), bitterly declaring that the unbelievers in the higher tenets
of religion are much strengthened by the strifes of believers; [51]
as a dozen years earlier Bishop Pilkington told of "young whelps"
who "in corners make themselves merry with railing and scoffing
at the holy scriptures." [52] And in the Treatise of the Nature of
God, by Bishop Thomas Morton (1599), a quasi-dialogue in which the
arguing is all on one side, the passive interlocutor indicates, in
the process of repudiating them, a full acquaintance with the pleas
of those who "would openly profess themselves to be of that [the
atheistic] judgment, and as far as they might without danger defend
it by argument against any whatever." The pleas include the lack of
moral control in the world, the evidences of natural causation, the
varieties of religious belief, and the contradictions of Scripture. And
such atheists, we are told, "make nature their God." [53]

From Hooker's account also it is clear that, at least with
comparatively patient clerics like himself, the freethinkers would
at times deliberately press the question of theism, and avow the
conviction that belief in God was "a kind of harmless error, bred
and confirmed by the sleights of wiser men." He further notes with
even greater bitterness that some--an "execrable crew"--who were
themselves unbelievers, would in the old pagan manner argue for the
fostering of religion as a matter of State policy, herein conning
the lesson of Machiavelli. For his own part Hooker was confessedly
ill-prepared to debate with the atheists, and his attitude was not
fitted to shake their opinions. His one resource is the inevitable
plea that atheists are such for the sake of throwing off all moral
restraint [54]--a theorem which could hardly be taken seriously by
those who knew the history of the English and French aristocracies,
Protestant and Catholic, for the past hundred years. Hooker's own
measure of rationalism, though remarkable as compared with previous
orthodoxy, went no further than the application of the argument of
Pecock that reason must guide and control all resort to Scripture
and authority; [55] and he came to it under stress of dispute, as a
principle of accommodation for warring believers, not as an expression
of any independent skepticism. When his pious antagonist Travers
cited him as saying that "his best author was his own reason" [56]
he was prompt to reply that he meant "true, sound, divine reason;
... reason proper to that science whereby the things of God are
known; theological reason, which out of principles in Scripture that
are plain, soundly deduceth more doubtful inferences." [57] Of the
application of rational criticism to Scriptural claims he had no
idea. The unbelievers of his day were for him a frightful portent,
menacing all his plans of orthodox toleration; and he would have had
them put down by force--a course which in some cases, as we have seen,
had in that age been actually taken, and was always apt to be resorted
to. But orthodoxy all the while had a sure support in the social
and political conditions which made impossible the publication of
rationalistic opinions. While the whole machinery of public doctrine
remained in religious hands or under ecclesiastical control, the mass
of men of all grades inevitably held by the traditional faith. What
is remarkable is the amount of unbelief, either privately explicit
or implicit in the higher literature, of which we have trace.

Above all there remains the great illustration of the rationalistic
spirit of the English literary renascence of the sixteenth century--the
drama of Shakespeare. Of that it may confidently be said that every
attempt to find for it a religious foundation has failed. [58]
Gervinus, while oddly suggesting that "in not only not seeking a
reference to religion in his works, but in systematically avoiding
it even when opportunity offered," Shakespeare was keeping clear of
an embroilment with the clergy, nevertheless pronounces the plays
to be wholly secular in spirit. While contending that "in action
the religious and divine in man is nothing else than the moral," the
German critic admits that Shakespeare "wholly discarded from his works
... that which religion enjoins as to faith and opinion." [59] And,
while refusing the inference of positive unbelief on the poet's part,
he pronounces that, "Just as Bacon banished religion from science, so
did Shakespeare from art.... From Bacon's example it seems clear that
Shakespeare left religious matters unnoticed on the same grounds." [60]
The latest and weightiest criticism comes to the same conclusion;
and it is only on presupposition that any other can be reached. One
of the ablest of Shakespearean critics sums up that "the Elizabethan
drama was almost wholly secular; and while Shakespeare was writing
he practically confined his view to the world of non-theological
observation and thought, so that he represents it in substantially
one and the same way whether the period of the story is pre-Christian
or Christian."


    [Prof. A. C. Bradley, Shakespearean Tragedy, 2nd ed. p. 25. In
    the concluding pages of his lecture on Hamlet, Professor Bradley
    slightly modifies this statement, suggesting that the ghost is made
    to appear as "the representative of the hidden ultimate power,
    the messenger of divine justice" (p. 174). Here, it seems to the
    present writer, Professor Bradley obtrudes the chief error of
    his admirable book--the constant implication that Shakespeare
    planned his plays as moral wholes. The fact is that he found
    the ghost an integral part of the old play which he rewrote;
    and in making it, in Professor Bradley's words, "so majestical
    a phantom," he was simply heightening the character as he does
    others in the play, and as was his habit in the presentment of a
    king. In his volume of lectures entitled Oxford Lectures on Poetry
    (1909), Professor Bradley goes more fully into the problem of
    Shakespeare's religion. Here he somewhat needlessly obscures the
    issue by contending (p. 349) that it is preposterous to suppose
    that Shakespeare was "an ardent and devoted atheist or Brownist
    or Roman Catholic," and makes the most of the poet's sympathetic
    treatment of religious types and religious sentiments; but still
    sums up that he "was not, in the distinctive sense of the word,
    a religious man," and that "all was, for him, in the end, mystery"
    (p. 353).]


This perhaps somewhat understates the case. The Elizabethan drama was
not wholly secular; [61] and certainly the dramatists individually
were not. Peele's David and Bethsabe is wholly Biblical in theme,
and, though sensual in sentiment, substantially orthodox in spirit;
and elsewhere he has many passages of Protestant and propagandist
fervour. [62] Greene and Lodge give a highly Scriptural ring to their
Looking-Glass for London; and Lodge, who uses religious expressions
freely in his early treatise, A Defence of Poetry, Music, and Stage
Plays, [63] later translated Josephus. Kyd in Arden of Feversham [64]
accepts the Christian view at the close, though The Spanish Tragedy
is pagan; and the pre-Shakespearean King Leir and his Three Daughters
(1594), probably the work of Kyd and Lodge, has long passages of
specifically Christian sentiment. Nashe, again, was a hot religious
controversialist despite his Bohemian habits and his indecorous
vein; Greene on his repentant deathbed was profusedly censorious
of atheism; [65] Lilly, as we have seen, is combatively theistic
in his Campaspe; while Jonson, as we shall see, girds at skeptics
in Volpone and The Magnetick Lady, and further wrote a quantity of
devotional verse. Even the "atheist" Marlowe, as we saw, puts theistic
sentiment into the mouth of his "atheist Tamburlaine"; and of Doctor
Faustus, despite incidental heresy, the dénouement is religiously
orthodox. Thomas Heywood may even be pronounced a religious man, [66]
as he was certainly a strong Protestant, [67] though an anti-Puritan;
and his prose treatise The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels (1635)
exhibits a religious temperament. The same may be said of Dekker, who
is recorded to have written at least the prologue and the epilogue
for a play on Pontius Pilate, [68] and is believed to be the author
of the best scenes in The Virgin Martyr, in which he collaborated
with Massinger. He too uses supererogatory religious expressions,
[69] and shows his warm Protestantism in The Whore of Babylon, as
he does his general religious sentiment in his treatise The Seven
Deadly Sins. Chapman was certainly a devout theist, and probably
a Christian. In the "domestic" tragedy, A Warning for Fair Women
(1599), which is conjecturally ascribed to Lodge, the conclusion is
on Christian lines, as in Arden; and the same holds of The Witch of
Edmonton, by Dekker and others. Of none of these dramatists could it
be said, on the mere strength of his work, that he was "agnostic,"
though Marlowe was certainly a freethinker. The others were, first or
last, avowedly religious. Shakespeare, and Shakespeare alone, after
Marlowe, is persistently non-religious in his handling of life. Lear,
his darkest tragedy, is predominantly pagan; and The Tempest, in
its serener vein, is no less so. But indeed all the genuine plays
alike ignore or tacitly negate the idea of immortality; even the
conventional religious phrases of Macbeth being but incidental poetry.

In the words of a clerical historian, "the religious phrases which
are thinly scattered over his work are little more than expressions
of a distant and imaginative reverence. And on the deeper grounds
of religious faith his silence is significant.... The riddle of life
and death ... he leaves ... a riddle to the last, without heeding the
common theological solutions around him." [70] The practical wisdom
in which he rose above his rivals no less than in dramatic and poetic
genius, kept him prudently reticent on his opinions, as it set him
upon building his worldly fortunes while the others with hardly an
exception lived in shallows and miseries. As so often happens, it was
among the ill-balanced types that there was found the heedless courage
to cry aloud what others thought; but Shakespeare's significant silence
reminds us that the largest spirits of all could live in disregard
of contemporary creeds. For, while there is no record of his having
privately avowed unbelief, and certainly no explicit utterance of it
in his plays, [71] in no genuine work of his is there any more than
bare dramatic conformity to current habits of religious speech; and
there is often significantly less. In Measure for Measure the Duke,
counselling as a friar the condemned Claudio, discusses the ultimate
issues of life and death without a hint of Christian credence.

So silent is the dramatist on the ecclesiastical issues of his day
that Protestants and Catholics are enabled to go on indefinitely
claiming him as theirs; the latter dwelling on his generally kindly
treatment of friars; the former citing the fact that some Protestant
preacher--evidently a protégé of his daughter Susannah--was allowed
lodging at his house. But the preacher was not very hospitably
treated; [72] and other clues fail. There is good reason to think that
Shakespeare was much influenced by Montaigne's Essays, read by him in
Florio's translation, which was issued when he was recasting the old
Hamlet; and the whole treatment of life in the great tragedies and
serious comedies produced by him from that time forward is even more
definitely untheological than Montaigne's own doctrine. [73] Nor can he
be supposed to have disregarded the current disputes as to fundamental
beliefs, implicating as they did his fellow-dramatists Marlowe, Kyd,
and Greene. The treatise of De Mornay, of which Sir Philip Sidney began
and Arthur Golding finished the translation, [74] was in his time
widely circulated in England; and its very inadequate argumentation
might well strengthen in him the anti-theological leaning.


A serious misconception has been set up as to Shakespeare's cast
of mind by the persistence of editors in including among his works
without discrimination plays which are certainly not his, as the Henry
VI group, to which he contributed little, and in particular the First
Part, of which he wrote probably nothing. It is on the assumption that
that play is Shakespeare's work that Lecky (Rationalism in Europe,
ed. 1887, i, 105-106) speaks of "that melancholy picture of Joan
of Arc which is perhaps the darkest blot upon his genius." Now,
whatever passages Shakespeare may have contributed to the Second
and Third Parts, it is certain that he has barely a scene in
the First, and that there is not a line from his hand in the La
Pucelle scenes. Many students think that Dr. Furnivall has even
gone too far in saying that "the only part ... to be put down to
Shakespeare is the Temple Garden scene of the red and white roses"
(Introd. to Leopold Shakespeare, p. xxxviii); so little is there to
suggest even the juvenile Shakespeare there. (The high proportion
of double-endings is a ground for reckoning it a late sample of
Marlowe, who in his posthumously published translation of Lucan had
approached that proportion. Cp. the author's vol. on Titus Andronicus,
p. 190.) But that any critical and qualified reader can still hold
him to have written the worst of the play is unintelligible. The
whole work would be a "blot on his genius" in respect of its literary
weakness. The doubt was raised long before Lecky wrote, and was made
good a generation ago. When Lecky further proceeds, with reference to
the witches in Macbeth, to say (id. note) that it is "probable that
Shakespeare ... believed with an unfaltering faith in the reality
of witchcraft," he strangely misreads that play. Nothing is clearer
than that it grounds Macbeth's action from the first in Macbeth's own
character and his wife's, employing the witch machinery (already used
by Middleton) to meet the popular taste, but never once making the
witches really causal forces. An "unfaltering" believer in witchcraft
who wrote for the stage would surely have turned it to serious account
in other tragedies. This Shakespeare never does. On Lecky's view, he
is to be held as having believed in the fairy magic of the Midsummer
Night's Dream and the Tempest, and in the actuality of such episodes
as that of the ghost in Macbeth. But who for a moment supposes him to
have had any such belief? It is probable that the entire undertaking of
Macbeth (1605?) and later of the Tempest (1610?) was due to a wish on
the part of the theatre management to please King James, whose belief
in witchcraft and magic was notorious. Even the use of the Ghost in
Hamlet is an old stage expedient, common to the pre-Shakespearean
play and to others of Kyd's and Peele's. Shakespeare significantly
altered the dying words of Hamlet from the "heaven receive my soul"
of the old version to "the rest is silence." The bequest of his soul
to the Deity in his will is merely the regulation testamentary formula
of the time. In his sonnets, which hint his personal cast if anything
does, there is no real trace of religious creed or feeling. And it
is clearly the hand of Fletcher, a no less sensual writer than Peele,
that penned the part of Henry VIII in which occurs the Protestant tag:
"In her [Elizabeth's] days ... God shall be truly known." [75]


While, however, Shakespeare is notably naturalistic as compared with
the other Elizabethan dramatists, it remains true that their work in
the mass tells little of a habitually religious way of thinking. Apart
from the plays above named, and from polemic passages and devotional
utterances outside their plays, they hint as little of Christian
dogma as of Christian asceticism. Hence, in fact, the general and
bitter hostility of the Puritans to the stage. Even at and after
Shakespeare's death, the drama is substantially "graceless." Jonson,
who was for a time a Catholic, but reverted to the Church of England,
disliked the Puritans, and in Bartholomew Fair derides them. The age
did not admit of a pietistic drama; and when there was a powerful
pietistic public, it made an end of drama altogether. To Elizabeth's
reign probably belongs the Atheist's Tragedy of Cyril Tourneur, first
published in 1611, but evidently written in its author's early youth--a
coarse and worthless performance, full of extremely bad imitations of
Shakespeare. [76] But to the age of Elizabeth also belongs, perhaps,
the sententious tragedy of Mustapha by Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke,
first surreptitiously published in 1609. A century and a half later
the deists were fond of quoting [77] the concluding Chorus Sacerdotum,
beginning:


    O wearisome condition of humanity,
      Born under one law, to another bound;
    Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity;
      Created sick, commanded to be sound:
    If nature did not take delight in blood,
    She would have made more easy ways to good.


It is natural to suspect that the author of such lines was less
orthodox than his own day had reputed him; and yet the whole of
his work shows him much pre-occupied with religion, though perhaps
in a deistic spirit. But Brooke's introspective and undramatic
poetry is an exception: the prevailing colour of the whole drama
of the Shakespearean period is pre-Puritan and semi-pagan; and
the theological spirit of the next generation, intensified by King
James, was recognized by cultured foreigners as a change for the
worse. [78] The spirit of free learning for the time was gone,
expelled by theological rancours; and when Selden ventured in
his History of Tythes (1618) to apply the method of dispassionate
historical criticism to ecclesiastical matters he was compelled to
make a formal retractation. [79] Early Protestants had attacked, as a
papal superstition, the doctrine that tithes were levied jure divino:
Protestants had now come to regard as atheistic the hint that tithes
were levied otherwise. [80]

Not that rationalism became extinct. The "Italianate" incredulity
as to a future state, which Sir John Davies had sought to repel
by his poem, Nosce Teipsum (1599), can hardly have been overthrown
even by that remarkable production, which in the usual orthodox way
pronounces all doubters to be "light and vicious persons," who,
"though they would, cannot quite be beasts." [81] And there were
other forms of doubt. In 1602 appeared The Unmasking of the Politique
Atheist, by J. H. [John Hull], Batchelor of Divinitie, which, however,
is in the main a mere attempt to retort upon Catholics the charge of
atheism laid by them against Protestants. Soon after, in 1605, we find
Dr. John Dove producing a Confutation of Atheisme in the manner of
previous continental treatises, making the word "atheism" cover many
shades of theism; and an essayist writing in 1608 asserts that, on
account of the self-seeking and corruption so common among churchmen,
"prophane Atheisme hath taken footing in the hearts of ignorant and
simple men." [82] The orthodox Ben Jonson, in his Volpone (1607),
puts in the mouth of a fool [83] the lines:--


    And then, for your religion, profess none,
    But wonder at the diversity of all;
    And, for your part, protest, were there no other
    But simply the laws o' th' land, you would content you.
    Nic Machiavel and Monsieur Bodin both
    Were of this mind.


But the testimony is not the less significant; as is the account in
The Magnetick Lady (1632) of


    A young physician to the family
    That, letting God alone, ascribes to Nature
    More than her share; licentious in discourse,
    And in his life a profest voluptuary. [84]


Such statements of course prove merely a frequent coolness towards
religion, not a vogue of reasoned unbelief. But the existence
of rationalizing heresy is attested by the burning of two men,
Bartholomew Legate and Edward Wightman, for avowing Unitarian views,
in 1612. These, the last executions for heresy in England, were results
of the theological zeal of King James, stimulated by the Calvinistic
fanaticism of Archbishop Abbot, the predecessor of Laud.

James's career as a persecutor began characteristically in a meddlesome
attack upon a professor in Holland. A German theologian of Socinian
leanings, named Conrad Vorstius, professor at Steinfurth, had produced
in 1606 a somewhat heretical treatise, De Deo, but had nevertheless
been appointed in 1610 professor of theology at Leyden, in succession
to Arminius. It was his acceptance of Arminian views, joined with
his repute as a scholar, [85] that secured him the invitation, which
was given without the knowledge that at a previous period he had been
offered a similar appointment by the Socinians. In his Anti-Bellarminus
contractus, "a brief refutation of the four tomes of Bellarmin,"
he had taken the Arminian line, repudiating the Calvinist positions
which, in the opinion of Arminius, could not be defended against
the Catholic attack. But he was too speculative and ratiocinative
to be safe in an age in which the fear of spreading Socinianism
and the hate of Calvinists towards Arminianism had set up a reign of
terror. Vorstius was both "unsettling" and heterodox. His opinions were
"such as in our own day would certainly disqualify him from holding
such an office in any Christian University"; [86] and James, worked
upon by Abbot, went so far as to make the appointment of Vorstius a
diplomatic question. The stadhouder Maurice and the bulk of the Dutch
clergy being of his view, the more tolerant statesmen of Holland,
and the mercantile aristocracy, yielded from motives of prudence, and
Vorstius was dismissed in order to save the English alliance. Remaining
thenceforth without employment, he was further denounced in 1619 by
the Synod of Dort, and banished by the States General. Thereafter
he lived for two years in hiding; and soon after obtaining a refuge
in Holstein, died, worn out by his troubles. In England, meantime,
James drew up with his own hands a catalogue of the heresies found
by him in Vorstius's treatise, and caused the book to be burned in
London and at the two Universities. [87]

On the heels of this amazing episode came the cases of Wightman
and Legate. Finding, in a personal conversation, that Legate had
"ceased to pray to Christ," the King had him brought before the
Bishop of London's Consistory Court, which sentenced the heretic to
Newgate. Being shortly released, he had the imprudence to threaten an
action for false imprisonment, whereupon he was re-arrested. Chief
Justice Coke held that, technically, the Consistory Court could
not sentence to burning; but Hobart and Bacon, the law officers of
the Crown, and other judges, were of opinion that it could. Legate,
accordingly, was duly tried, sentenced, and burned at Smithfield; and
Wightman a few days later was similarly disposed of at Lichfield. [88]

Bacon's share in this matter is obscure, and has not been discussed by
either his assailants or his vindicators. As for the general public,
the historian records that "not a word was uttered against this
horrible cruelty. As we read over the brief contemporary notices
which have reached us, we look in vain for the slightest intimation
that the death of these two men was regarded with any other feelings
than those with which the writers were accustomed to hear of the
execution of an ordinary murderer. If any remark was made, it was
in praise of James for the devotion which he showed to the cause of
God." [89] That might have been reckoned on. It was not twenty years
since Hamond, Lewis, Cole, and Kett had been burned on similar grounds;
and there had been no outcry then. For generations "direness" had been
too familiar to men's thoughts to admit of their being shocked by a
judicial murder or two the more. Catholic priests had been executed
by the score: why not a pair of Unitarians? [90] Little had gone
on in the average intellectual life in the interim save religious
discussion and Bibliolatry, and not from such culture could there
come any growth of human kindness or any clearer conception of the
law of reciprocity. But, whether by force of recoil from a revival of
the fires of Smithfield or from a perception that mere cruelty did
not avail to destroy heresy, the theological ultima ratio was never
again resorted to on English ground.

Though no public protest was made, the retrospective Fuller testifies
that "such burning of heretics much startled common people, pitying
all in pain, and prone to asperse justice itself with cruelty,
because of the novelty (!) and hideousness of the punishment." [91]
It is noteworthy that within a few years of the burning of Legate
and Wightman there appeared quite a cluster of treatises explicitly
contending for toleration. In 1614 came Religion's Peace: or, a Plea
for Liberty of Conscience, by Leonard Busher, the first English book of
the kind. In 1615 came Persecution for Religion Judged and Condemned;
and in 1620 An Humble Supplication to the King's Majesty, pressing
the same doctrine. [92] There is no record of any outcry over these
works, though they are tolerably freespoken in their indictment of the
coercive school; and they had all to be reprinted a generation later,
their point having never been carried; but it may be surmised that
their appeal, which is substantially well reasoned from a secular
as well as from a theological point of view, had something to do
with the abandonment of persecution unto death. Even King James,
in opening the Parliament of 1614, professed to recognize that no
religion or heresy was ever extirpated by violence.

That an age of cruel repression of heresy had promoted unbelief
is clear from the Atheomastix of Bishop Fotherby (1622), which
notes among other things that as a result of constant disputing
"the Scriptures (with many) have lost their authority, and are
thought onely fit for the ignorant and idiote." [93] On this head
the bishop attempts no answer; and on his chosen theme he is perhaps
the worst of all apologists. His admission that there can be no à
priori proof of deity [94] may be counted to him for candour; but the
childishness of his reasoning à posteriori excludes the ascription
of philosophic insight. He does but use the old pseudo-arguments of
universal consent and design, with the simple device of translating
polytheistic terms into monotheistic. All the while he makes the usual
suggestions that there are few or no atheists to convert, and these
not worth converting--this at a folio's length. The book tells only
of difficulties evaded by vociferation. And while the growing stress
of the strife between the ecclesiasticism of the Crown and the forces
of nonconformity more and more thrust to the front religio-political
issues, there began alongside of those strifes the new and powerful
propaganda of deism, which, beginning with the Latin treatise, De
Veritate, of Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1624), was gradually to leaven
English thought for over a century.

Further, there now came into play the manifold influence of
Francis Bacon, whose case illustrates perhaps more fully than any
other the difficulties, alike external and internal, in the way of
right thinking. Taken as a whole, his work is on account of those
difficulties divided against itself, insisting as he does alternately
on a strict critical method and on the subjection of reason to
the authority of revelation. He sounds a trumpet-call to a new and
universal effort of free and circumspect intelligence; and on the
instant he stipulates for the prerogative of Scripture. Though only
one of many who assailed alike the methodic tyranny of Aristotelianism
[95] and the methodless empiricism of the ordinary "scientific" thought
of the past, he made his attack with a sustained and manifold force
of insight and utterance which still entitles him to pre-eminence
as the great critic of wrong methods and the herald of better. Yet
he not only transgresses often his own principal precepts in his
scientific reasoning; he falls below several of his contemporaries and
predecessors in respect of his formal insistence on the final supremacy
of theology over reason, alike in physics and in ethics. Where Hooker
is ostensibly seeking to widen the field of rational judgment on the
side of creed, Bacon, the very champion of mental emancipation in
the abstract, declares the boundary to be fixed.

Of those lapses from critical good faith, part of the explanation
is to be found in the innate difficulty of vital innovation for
all intelligences; part in the special pressures of the religious
environment. On the latter head Bacon makes such frequent and emphatic
protest that we are bound to infer on his part a personal experience
in his own day of the religious hostility which long followed his
memory. "Generally," he wrote of himself in one fragment, "he perceived
in men of devout simplicity this opinion, that the secrets of nature
were the secrets of God, and part of that glory whereinto the mind of
man if it seek to press shall be oppressed;... and on the other side,
in men of a devout policy he noted an inclination to have the people
depend upon God the more when they are less acquainted with second
causes, and to have no stirring in philosophy, lest it may lead to
innovation in divinity or else should discover matter of further
contradiction to divinity" [96]--a summary of the whole early history
of the resistance to science. [97] In the works which he wrote at the
height of his powers, especially in his masterpiece, the Novum Organum
(1620), where he comes closest to the problems of exact inquiry,
he specifies again and again both popular superstition and orthodox
theology as hindrances to scientific research, commenting on "those
who out of faith and veneration mix their philosophy with theology
and traditions," [98] and declaring that of the drawbacks science
had to contend with "the corruption of philosophy by superstition and
an admixture of theology is far the more widely spread, and does the
greatest harm, whether to entire systems or to their parts. For the
human understanding is obnoxious to the influence of the imagination
no less than to the influence of common notions." [99] In the same
passage he exclaims at the "extreme levity" of those of the moderns who
have attempted to "found a system of natural philosophy on the first
chapter of Genesis, on the book of Job, and other parts of the sacred
writings"; [100] and yet again, coupling as obstinate adversaries
of Natural Philosophy "superstition, and the blind and immoderate
zeal of religion," he roundly affirms that "by the simpleness of
certain divines access to any philosophy, however pure, is well nigh
closed." [101] These charges are repeatedly salved by such claims
as that "true religion" puts no obstacles in the way of science;
[102] that the book of Job runs much to natural philosophy; [103]
and, in particular, in the last book of the De Augmentis Scientiarum,
redacted after his disgrace, by the declaration--more emphatic than
those of the earlier Advancement of Learning--that "Sacred Theology
ought to be derived from the word and oracles of God, and not from
the light of nature or the dictates of reason." [104] In this mood
he goes so far as to declare, with the thorough-going obscurantists,
that "the more discordant and incredible the divine mystery is, the
more honour is shown to God in believing it, and the nobler is the
victory of faith."


    [It was probably such deliverances as these that led to the
    ascription to Bacon of The Christian Paradoxes, first published
    (surreptitiously), without author's name, in 1645. As has been
    shown by Dr. Grosart (Lord Bacon NOT the Author of "The Christian
    Paradoxes," 1865) that treatise was really by Herbert Palmer,
    B.D., who published it in full in part ii of his Memorials
    of Godliness and Christianity, 5th ed. 1655. The argument
    drawn from this treatise as to Bacon's skepticism is a twofold
    mystification. The Paradoxes are the deliberate declaration of a
    pietist that he believes the dogmas of revelation without rational
    comprehension. The style is plainly not Bacon's; but Bacon had
    said the same thing in the sentence quoted above. Dr. Grosart's
    explosive defence against the criticism of Ritter (work cited,
    p. 14) is an illustration of the intellectual temper involved.]


Yet even in the calculated extravagance of this last pronouncement
there is a ground for question whether the fallen Chancellor, hoping
to retrieve himself, and trying every device of his ripe sagacity to
avert opposition, was not straining his formal orthodoxy beyond his
real intellectual habit. As against such wholesale affirmation we have
his declarations that "certain it is that God worketh nothing in nature
but by second causes," and that any pretence to the contrary "is mere
imposture as it were in favour towards God, and nothing else but to
offer to the author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie"; [105]
his repeated objection to the discussion of Final Causes; [106] his
attack on Plato and Aristotle for rejecting the atheistic scientific
method of Democritus; [107] his peremptory assertion that motion is a
property of matter; [108] and his almost Democritean handling of the
final problem, in which he insists that primal matter is, "next to
God, the cause of causes, itself only without a cause." [109] Further,
though he speaks of Scriptural miracles in a conventional way, [110]
he drily pronounces in one passage that, "as for narrations touching
the prodigies and miracles of religions, they are either not true or
not natural, and therefore impertinent for the story of nature." [111]
Finally, as against the formal capitulation to theology at the close of
the De Augmentis, he has left standing in the first book of the Latin
version the ringing doctrine of the original Advancement of Learning
(1605), that "there is no power on earth which setteth up a throne
or chair in the spirits and souls of men, and in their cogitations,
imaginations, opinions, and beliefs, but knowledge and learning";
[112] and in his Wisdom of the Ancients [113] he has contrived to
turn a crude myth into a subtle allegory in behalf of toleration.

Thus, despite his many resorts to and prostrations before the
Scriptures, the general effect of his writings in this regard is
to set up in the minds of his readers the old semi-rationalistic
equivoque of a "two-fold truth"; reminding us as they do that he "did
in the beginning separate the divine testimony from the human." When,
therefore, he announces that "we know by faith" that "matter was
created from nothing," [114] he has the air of juggling with his
problem; and his further suggestion as to the possibility of matter
being endowed with a force of evolution, however cautiously put, is far
removed from orthodoxy. Accordingly, the charge of atheism--which he
notes as commonly brought against all who dwell solely on second causes
[115]--was actually cast at his memory in the next generation. [116]
It was of course false: on the issue of theism he is continually
descanting with quite conventional unction; as in the familiar essay
on atheism. [117] His dismissal of final causes as "barren" meant
merely that the notion was barren of scientific result; [118] and he
refers the question to metaphysic. [119] But if his theism was of a
kind disturbing to believers in a controlling Providence, as little
was it satisfactory to Christian fervour: and it can hardly be doubted
that the main stream of his argument made for a non-Biblical deism,
if not for atheism; his dogmatic orthodoxies being undermined by his
own scientific teaching.


    Lechler (Gesch. des englischen Deismus, pp. 23-25) notes that
    Bacon involuntarily made for deism. Cp. Amand Saintes, Hist. de
    la philos. de Kant, 1844, p. 69; and Kuno Fischer, Francis
    Bacon, Eng. tr. 1857, ch. xi, pp. 341-43. Dean Church (Bacon,
    in "Men of Letters" series, pp. 174, 205) insists that Bacon
    held by revelation and immortality; and can of course cite his
    profession of such belief, which is not to be disputed. (Cp. the
    careful judgment of Prof. Fowler in his Bacon, pp. 180-91, and
    his ed. of the Novum Organum, 1878, pp. 43-53.) But the tendency
    of the specific Baconian teaching is none the less to put these
    beliefs aside, and to overlay them with a naturalistic habit of
    mind. At the first remove from Bacon we have Hobbes.


As regards his intellectual inconsistencies, we can but say that they
are such as meet us in men's thinking at every new turn. Though we
can see that Bacon's orthodoxy "doth protest too much," with an eye
on king and commons and public opinion, we are not led to suppose
that he had ever in his heart cast off his inherited creed. He shows
frequent Christian prejudice in his references to pagans; and can
write that "To seek to extinguish anger utterly is but the bravery
of the Stoics," [120] pretending that the Christian books are more
accommodating, and ignoring the Sermon on the Mount. In arguing that
the "religion of the heathen" set men upon ending "all inquisition
of nature in metaphysical or theological discourse," and in charging
the Turks with a special tendency to "ascribe ordinary effects to the
immediate workings of God," [121] he is playing not very scrupulously
on the vanity of his co-religionists. As he was only too well aware,
both tendencies ruled the Christian thought of his own day, and derive
direct from the sacred books--not from "abuse," as he pretends. And
on the metaphysical as on the common-sense side of his thought he
is self-contradictory, even as most men have been before and since,
because judgment cannot easily fulfil the precepts it frames for
itself in illuminated hours. Latter-day students have been impressed,
as was Leibnitz, by the original insight with which Bacon negated the
possibility of our forming any concrete conception of a primary form
of matter, and insisted on its necessary transcendence of our powers
of knowledge. [122] On the same principle he should have negated
every modal conception of the still more recondite Something which he
put as antecedent to matter, and called God. [123] Yet in his normal
thinking he seems to have been content with the commonplace formula
given in his essay on Atheism--that we cannot suppose the totality of
things to be "without a mind." He has here endorsed in its essentials
what he elsewhere calls "the heresy of the Anthropomorphites," [124]
failing to apply his own law in his philosophy, as elsewhere in his
physics. When, however, we realize that similar inconsistency is fallen
into after him by Spinoza, and wholly escaped perhaps by no thinker,
we are in a way to understand that with all his deflections from his
own higher law Bacon may have profoundly and fruitfully influenced
the thought of the next generation, if not that of his own.

The fact of this influence has been somewhat obscured by the modern
dispute as to whether he had any important influence on scientific
progress. [125] At first sight the old claim for him in that regard
seems to be heavily discounted by the simple fact that he definitely
rejected the Copernican system of astronomy. [126] Though, however,
this gravely emphasizes his fallibility, it does not cancel his
services as a stimulator of scientific thought. At that time only a few
were yet intelligently convinced Copernicans; and we have the record of
how, in Bacon's day, Harvey lost heavily in credit and in his medical
practice by propounding his discovery of the circulation of the blood,
[127] which, it is said, no physician over forty years old at that
time believed in. For the scientific men of that century--and only
among them did Copernicanism find the slightest acceptance--it was
thus no fatal shortcoming in Bacon to have failed to grasp the true
scheme of sidereal motion, any more than it was in Galileo to be wrong
about the tides and comets. They could realize that it was precisely
in astronomy, for lack of special study and expert knowledge, that
Bacon was least qualified to judge. Intellectual influence on science
is not necessarily dependent on actual scientific achievement, though
that of course furthers and establishes it; and the fact of Bacon's
impact on the mind of the next age is abundantly proved by testimonies.

For a time the explicit tributes came chiefly from abroad;
though at all times, even in the first shock of his disgrace,
there were Englishmen perfectly convinced of his greatness. To
the winning of foreign favour he had specially addressed himself
in his adversity. Grown wary in act as well as wise in theory, he
deleted from the Latin De Augmentis a whole series of passages of the
Advancement of Learning which disparaged Catholics and Catholicism;
[128] and he had his reward in being appreciated by many Jesuit and
other Catholic scholars. [129] But Protestants such as Comenius and
Leibnitz were ere long more emphatic than any Catholics; [130] and at
the time of the Restoration we find Bacon enthusiastically praised
among the more open-minded and scientifically biassed thinkers of
England, who included some zealous Christians. [131] It was not that
his special "method" enabled them to reach important results with
any new facility; its impracticability is now insisted on by friends
as well as foes. [132] It was that he arraigned with extraordinary
psychological insight and brilliance of phrase the mental vices which
had made discoveries so rare; the alternate self-complacency and
despair of the average indolent mind; the "opinion of store" which was
"cause of want"; the timid or superstitious evasion of research. In
all this he was using his own highest powers, his comprehension
of human character and his genius for speech. And though his own
scientific results were not to be compared with those of Galileo and
Descartes, the wonderful range of his observation and his curiosity,
the unwearying zest of his scrutiny of well-nigh all the known fields
of Nature, must have been an inspiration to multitudes of students
besides those who have recorded their debt to him. It is probable
that but for his literary genius, which though little discussed is
of a very rare order, his influence would have been both narrower and
less durable; but, being one of the great writers of the modern world,
he has swayed men down till our own day.

Certain it is that alongside of his doctrine there persisted in
England, apart from all printed utterance, a movement of deistic
rationalism, of which the eighteenth century saw only the fuller
development. Sir John Suckling (1609-1641), rewriting about 1637
his letter to the Earl of Dorset, An Account of Religion by Reason,
tells how in a first sketch it "had like to have made me an Atheist at
Court," and how "the fear of Socinianism at this time renders every man
that offers to give an account of religion by reason, suspected to have
none at all"; [133] but he also mentions that he knows it "still to
be the opinion of good wits that the particular religion of Christians
has added little to the general religion of the world." [134] Himself a
young man of talent, he offers quasi-rational reconciliations of faith
with reason which can have satisfied no real doubter, and can hardly
have failed to introduce doubt into the minds of some of his readers.



§ 5. Popular Thought in Europe

Of popular freethought in the rest of Europe there is little to
chronicle for a hundred and fifty years after the Reformation. The
epoch-making work of Copernicus, published in 1543, had little or
no immediate effect in Germany, where, as we have seen, physical
and verbal strifes had begun with the ecclesiastical revolution,
and were to continue to waste the nation's energy for a century. In
1546, all attempts at ecclesiastical reconciliation having failed,
the emperor Charles V, in whom Melanchthon had seen a model monarch,
[135] decided to put down the Protestant heresy by war. Luther had
just died, apprehensive for his cause. Civil war now raged till the
peace of Augsburg in 1555; whereafter Charles abdicated in favour
of his son Philip. Here were in part the conditions which in France
and elsewhere were later followed by a growth of rational unbelief;
and there are some traces even at this time of partial skepticism in
high places in the German world, notably in the case of the Emperor
Maximilian II, who, "grown up in the spirit of doubt," [136] would
never identify himself with either Protestants or Catholics. [137]
But in Germany there was still too little intellectual light, too
little brooding over experience, to permit of the spread of such a
temper; and the balance of forces amounted only to a deadlock between
the ecclesiastical parties. Protestantism on the intellectual side,
as already noted, had sunk into a bitter and barren polemic [138]
among the reformers themselves; and many who had joined the movement
reverted to Catholicism. [139] Meanwhile the teaching and preaching
Jesuits were zealously at work, turning the dissensions of the enemy
to account, and contrasting its schism upon schism with the unity
of the Church. But Protestantism was well welded to the financial
interest of the many princes and others who had acquired the Church
lands confiscated at the Reformation; since a return to Catholicism
would mean the surrender of these. [140] Thus there wrought on the one
side the organized spirit of anti-heresy [141] and on the other the
organized spirit of Bibliolatry, neither gaining ground; and between
the two, intellectual life was paralysed. Protestantism saw no way
of advance; and the prevailing temper began to be that of the Dark
Ages, expectant of the end of the world. [142] Superstition abounded,
especially the belief in witchcraft, now acted on with frightful
cruelty throughout the whole Christian world; [143] and in the nature
of the case Catholicism counted for nothing on the opposite side.

The only element of rationalism that one historian of culture can
detect is the tendency of the German moralists of the time to turn
the devil into an abstraction by identifying him with the different
aspects of human folly and vice. [144] There was, as a matter of fact,
a somewhat higher manifestation of the spirit of reason in the shape
of some new protests against the superstition of sorcery. About 1560
a Catholic priest named Cornelius Loos Callidius was imprisoned by
a papal nuncio for declaring that witches' confessions were merely
the results of torture. Forced to retract, he was released; but again
offended, and was again imprisoned, dying in time to escape the fate
of a councillor of Trèves, named Flade, who was burned alive for
arguing, on the basis of an old canon (mistakenly named from the
Council of Ancyra), that sorcery is an imaginary crime. [145] Such
an infamy explains a great deal of the stagnation of many Christian
generations. But courage was not extinct; and in 1563 there appeared
the famous John Wier's treatise on witchcraft, [146] a work which,
though fully adhering to the belief in the devil and things demoniac,
argued against the notion that witches were conscious workers of
evil. Wier [147] was a physician, and saw the problem partly as one
in pathology. Other laymen, and even priests, as we have seen, had
reacted still more strongly against the prevailing insanity; but it
had the authority of Luther on its side, and with the common people
the earlier protests counted for little.

Reactions against Protestant bigotry in Holland on other lines were
not much more successful, and indeed were not numerous. One of the
most interesting is that of Dirk Coornhert (1522-1590), who by his
manifold literary activities [148] became one of the founders of Dutch
prose. In his youth Coornhert had visited Spain and Portugal, and had
there, it is said, seen an execution of victims of the Inquisition,
[149] deriving thence the aversion to intolerance which stamped
his whole life's work. It does not appear, however, that any such
peninsular experience was required, seeing that the Dutch Inquisition
became abundantly active about the same period. Learning Latin
at thirty, in order to read Augustine, he became a translator of
Cicero and--singularly enough--of Boccaccio. An engraver to trade,
he became first notary and later secretary to the burgomaster of
Haarlem; and, failing to steer clear of the strifes of the time,
was arrested and imprisoned at the Hague in 1567. On his release
he sought safety at Kleef in Santen, whence he returned after the
capture of Brill to become secretary of the new national Government
at Haarlem; but he had again to take to flight, and lived at Kleef
from 1572 to 1577. In 1578 he debated at Leyden with two preachers of
Delft on predestination, which he declared to be unscriptural; and was
officially ordered to keep silence. Thereupon he published a protest,
and got into fresh trouble by drawing up, as notary, an appeal to
the Prince of Orange on behalf of his Catholic fellow-countrymen for
freedom of worship, and by holding another debate at the Hague. [150]
Always his master-ideal was that of toleration, in support of which
he wrote strongly against Beza and Calvin (this in a Latin treatise
published only after his death), declaring the persecution of heretics
to be a crime in the kingdom of God; and it was as a moralist that he
gave the lead to Arminius on the question of predestination. [151]
"Against Protestant and Catholic sacerdotalism and scholastic he
set forth humanist world-wisdom and Biblical ethic," [152] to that
end publishing a translation of Boëthius (1585), and composing his
chief work on Zedekunst (Ethics). Christianity, he insisted, lay not
in profession or creed, but in practice. By way of restraining the
ever-increasing malignity of theological strifes, he made the quaint
proposal that the clergy should not be allowed to utter anything but
the actual words of the Scriptures, and that all works of theology
should be sequestrated. For these and other heteroclite suggestions
he was expelled from Delft (where he sought finally to settle, 1587)
by the magistrates, at the instance of the preachers, but was allowed
to die in peace at Gouda, where he wrote to the last. [153]

All the while, though he drew for doctrine on Plutarch, Cicero, Seneca,
and Marcus Aurelius equally with the Bible, Coornhert habitually
founded on the latter as the final authority. [154] On no other footing
could any one in his age and country stand as a teacher. It was not
till after generations of furious intolerance that a larger outlook
was possible in the Netherlands; and the first steps towards it were
naturally taken independently of theology. Although Grotius figured
for a century as one of the chief exponents of Christian evidences,
it is certain that his great work on the Law of War and Peace (1625)
made for a rationalistic conception of society. "Modern historians
of jurisprudence, like Lerminier and Bluntschli, represent it as the
distinctive merit of Grotius that he freed the science from bondage
to theology." [155] The breach, indeed, is not direct, as theistic
sanctions are paraded in the Prolegomena; but along with these goes
the avowal that natural ethic would be valid even were there no God,
and--as against the formula of Horace, Utilitas justi mater--that
"the mother of natural right is human nature itself." [156]

Where Grotius, defender of the faith, figured as a heretic, unbelief
could not speak out, though there are traces of its underground
life. The charge of atheism was brought against the Excercitationes
Philosophicæ of Gorlæus, published in 1620; but, the book being
posthumous, conclusions could not be tried. Views far short of
atheism, however, were dangerous to their holders; for the merely
Socinian work of Voelkel, published at Amsterdam in 1642, was burned
by order of the authorities, and a second impression shared the same
fate. [157] In 1653 the States of Holland forbade the publication of
all Unitarian books and all Socinian worship; and though the veto
as to books was soon evaded, that on worship was enforced. [158]
Still, Holland was relatively tolerant as beside other countries; and
when the Unitarian physician Daniel Zwicker (1612-1678), of Dantzig,
found his own country too hot to hold him, he came to Holland (about
1652) "for security and convenience." [159] He was able to publish
at Amsterdam in 1658 his Latin Irenicum Irenicorum, wherein he lays
down three principles for the settlement of Christian difficulties,
the first being "the universal reason of mankind," while Scripture
and tradition hold only the second and third places. His book is
a remarkable investigation of the rise of the doctrines of the
Logos and the Trinity, which he traced to polytheism, making out
that the first Christians, whom he identified with the Nazarenes,
regarded Jesus as a man. The book evoked many answers, and it
is somewhat surprising that Zwicker escaped serious persecution,
dying peacefully in Amsterdam in 1678, whereas writers much less
pronounced in their heresy incurred aggressive hostility. Descartes,
as we shall see, during his stay in Holland was menaced by clerical
fanaticism. Some fared worse. In the generation after Grotius, one
Koerbagh, a doctor, for publishing (1668) a dictionary of definitions
containing advanced ideas, had to fly from Amsterdam. At Culenberg he
translated a Unitarian work and began another; but was betrayed, tried
for blasphemy, and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, to be followed
by ten years' banishment. He compromised by dying in prison within
the year. Even as late as 1678 the juri-consult Hadrian Beverland
(afterwards appointed, through Isaac Vossius, to a lay office under
the Church of England) was imprisoned and struck off the rolls of
Leyden University for his Peccatum Originale, in which he speculated
erotically as to the nature of the sin of Adam and Eve. The book was
furiously answered, and publicly burned. [160] It was only after an
age of such intolerance that Holland, at the end of the seventeenth
century, began to become for England a model of freedom in opinion,
as formerly in trade. And it seems to have been through Holland,
in the latter part of the seventeenth century, that there came the
fresh Unitarian impulse which led to the considerable spread of the
movement in England after the Revolution of 1688. [161]

Unitarianism, which we have seen thus invading Holland somewhat
persistently during half a century, was then as now impotent beyond
a certain point by reason of its divided allegiance, though it has
always had the support of some good minds. Its denial of the deity of
Jesus could not be made out without a certain superposing of reason
on Scripture; and yet to Scripture it always finally appealed. The
majority of men accepting such authority have always tended to
believe more uncritically; and the majority of men who are habitually
critical will always repudiate the Scriptural jurisdiction. In
Poland, accordingly, the movement, so flourishing in its earlier
years, was soon arrested, as we have seen, by the perception that
it drove many Protestants back to Catholicism; among these being
presumably a number whose critical insight showed them that there was
no firm standing-ground between Catholicism and Naturalism. Every new
advance within the Unitarian pale terrified the main body, many of
whom were mere Arians, holding by the term Trinity, and merely making
the Son subordinate to the Father. Thus when one of their most learned
ministers, Simon Budny, followed in the steps of Ferencz Davides (whom
we have seen dying in prison in Transylvania in 1579), and represented
Jesus as a "mere" man, he was condemned by a synod (1582) and deposed
from his office (1584). He recanted, and was reinstated, [162] but
his adherents seem to have been excommunicated. The sect thus formed
were termed Semi-Judaizers by another heretic, Martin Czechowicz, who
himself denied the pre-existence of Jesus, and made him only a species
of demi-god; [163] yet Fausto Sozzini, better known as Faustus Socinus,
who also wrote against them, and who had worked with Biandrata to have
Davides imprisoned, conceded that prayer to Christ was optional. [164]

Faustus, who arrived in Poland in 1579, seems to have been moved
to his strenuously "moderate" policy, which for a time unified the
bulk of the party, mainly by a desire to keep on tolerable terms with
Protestantism. That, however, did not serve him with the Catholics;
and when the reaction set in he suffered severely at their hands. His
treatise, De Jesu Christu Servatore, created bitter resentment; and
in 1598 the Catholic rabble of Cracow, led "as usual by the students
of the university," dragged him from his house. His life was saved
only by the strenuous efforts of the rector and two professors of
the university; and his library was destroyed, with his manuscripts,
whereof "he particularly regretted a treatise which he had composed
against the atheists"; [165] though it is not recorded that the
atheists had ever menaced either his life or his property. He seems to
have been zealous against all heresy that outwent his own, preaching
passive obedience in politics as emphatically as any churchman,
and condemning alike the rising of the Dutch against Spanish rule
and the resistance of the French Protestants to their king. [166]

This attitude may have had something to do with the better side
of the ethical doctrines of the sect, which leant considerably to
non-resistance. Czechowicz (who was deposed by his fellow-Socinians
for schism) seems not only to have preached a patient endurance of
injuries, but to have meant it; [167] and to the Socinian sect belongs
the main credit of setting up a humane compromise on the doctrine
of eternal punishment. [168] The time, of course, had not come for
any favourable reception of such a compromise in Christendom; and
it is noted of the German Socinian, Ernst Schoner (Sonerus), who
wrote against the orthodox dogma, that his works are "exceedingly
scarce." [169] Unitarianism as a whole, indeed, made little headway
outside of Poland and Transylvania.

In Spain, meantime, there was no recovery from the paralysis wrought
by the combined tyranny of Church and Crown, incarnate in the
Inquisition. The monstrous multiplication of her clergy might alone
have sufficed to set up stagnation in her mental life; but, not content
with the turning of a vast multitude [170] of men and women away from
the ordinary work of life, her rulers set themselves to expatriate
as many more on the score of heresy. A century after the expulsion
of the Jews came the turn of the Moors, whose last hold in Spain,
Granada, had been overthrown in 1492. Within a generation they had been
deprived of all exterior practice of their religion; [171] but that
did not suffice, and the Inquisition never left them alone. Harried,
persecuted, compulsorily baptized, deprived of their Arabic books,
they repeatedly revolted, only to be beaten down. At length, in the
opening years of the seventeenth century (1610-1613), under Philip III,
on the score that the great Armada had failed because heretics were
tolerated at home, it was decided to expel the whole race; and now a
million Moriscoes, among the most industrious inhabitants of Spain,
were driven the way of the Jews. It is needless here to recall the
ruinous effect upon the material life of Spain: [172] the aspect
of the matter which specially concerns us is the consummation of
the policy of killing out all intellectual variation. The Moriscoes
may have counted for little in positive culture; but they were one
of the last and most important factors of variation in the country;
and when Spain was thus successively denuded of precisely the most
original and energetic types among the Jewish, the Spanish, and the
Moorish stocks, her mental arrest was complete.

To modern freethought, accordingly, she has till our own age
contributed practically nothing. Huarte seems to have had no Spanish
successors. The brilliant dramatic literature of the reigns of the
three Philips, which influenced the rising drama alike of France
and England, is notably unintellectual, [173] dealing endlessly in
plot and adventure, but yielding no great study of character, and
certainly doing nothing to further ethics. Calderon was a thorough
fanatic, and became a priest; [174] Lope de Vega found solace under
bereavement in zealously performing the duties of an Inquisitor; and
was so utterly swayed by the atrocious creed of persecution which
was blighting Spain that he joined in the general exultation over
the expulsion of the Moriscoes. Even the mind of Cervantes had not on
this side deepened beyond the average of his race and time; [175] his
old wrongs at Moorish hands perhaps warping his better judgment. His
humorous and otherwise kindly spirit, so incongruously neighboured,
must indeed have counted for much in keeping life sweet in Spain
in the succeeding centuries of bigotry and ignorance. But from the
seventeenth century till the other day the brains were out, in the
sense that genius was lacking. That species of variation had been too
effectually extirpated during two centuries to assert itself until
after a similar duration of normal conditions. The "immense advantage
of religious unity," which even a modern Spanish historian [176] has
described as a gain balancing the economic loss from the expulsion of
the Moriscoes, was precisely the condition of minimum intellectual
activity--the unity of stagnation. No kind of ratiocinative thought
was allowed to raise its head. A Latin translation of the Hypotyposes
of Sextus Empiricus had been permitted, or at least published, in
Catholic France; but when Martin Martinez de Cantatapiedra, a learned
orientalist and professor of theology, ventured to do the same thing
in Spain--doubtless with the idea of promoting faith by discouraging
reason--he was haled before the Inquisition, and the book proscribed
(1583). He was further charged with Lutheran leanings on the score
that he had a preference for the actual text of Scripture over that
of the commentators. [177] In such an atmosphere it was natural that
works on mathematics, astronomy, and physics should be censured as
"favouring materialism and sometimes atheism." [178] It has been
held by one historian that at the death of Philip II there arose
some such sense of relief throughout Spain as was felt later in
France at the death of Louis XIV; that "the Spaniards now ventured
to sport with the chains which they had not the power to break";
and that Cervantes profited by the change in conceiving and writing
his Don Quixote. [179] But the same historian had before seen that
"poetic freedom was circumscribed by the same shackles which fettered
moral liberty. Thoughts which could not be expressed without fear of
the dungeon and the stake were no longer materials for the poet to
work on. His imagination, instead of improving them into poetic ideas
... had to be taught to reject them. But the eloquence of prose was
more completely bowed down under the inquisitorial yoke than poetry,
because it was more closely allied to truth, which of all things
was the most dreaded." [180] Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Calderon
proved that within the iron wall of Catholic orthodoxy, in an age
when conclusions were but slowly being tried between dogma and reason,
there could be a vigorous play of imaginative genius on the field of
human nature; even as in Velasquez, sheltered by royal favour, the
genius of colour and portraiture could become incarnate. But after
these have passed away, the laws of social progress are revealed
in the defect of all further Spanish genius. Even of Cervantes it
is recorded--on very doubtful authority, however--that he said "I
could have made Don Quixote much more amusing if it were not for the
Inquisition"; and it is matter of history that a passage in his book
[181] disparaging perfunctory works of charity was in 1619 ordered
by the Holy Office to be expunged as impious and contrary to the faith.


    See H. E. Watts, Miguel de Cervantes, p. 167. Don Quixote was
    "always under suspicion of the orthodox." Id. p. 166. Mr. Watts,
    saying nothing of Cervantes's approval of the expulsion of the
    Moriscoes, claims that his "head was clear of the follies and
    extravagances of the reigning superstition" (id. p. 231). But
    the case is truly summed up by Mr. Ormsby when he says: "For one
    passage capable of being tortured into covert satire" against
    things ecclesiastical, "there are ten in Don Quixote and the
    novels that show--what indeed is very obvious from the little
    we know of his life and character--that Cervantes was a faithful
    son of the Church" (tr. of Don Quixote, 1885, introd. i, 57).


When the total intellectual life of a nation falls ever further
in the rear of the world's movement, even the imaginative arts are
stunted. Turkey excepted, the civilized nations of Europe which for
two centuries have contributed the fewest great names to the world's
bead-roll have been Spain, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, and Greece,
all noted for their "religious unity." And of all of these Spain is
the supreme instance of positive decadence, she having exhibited in
the first half of the sixteenth century a greater complex of energy
than any of the others. [182] The lesson is monumental.



§ 6. Scientific Thought

It remains to trace briefly the movement of scientific and speculative
thought which constituted the transition between the Scholastic
and the modern philosophy. It may be compendiously noted under the
names of Copernicus, Bruno, Vanini, Galileo, Ramus, Gassendi, Bacon,
and Descartes.

The great performance of Copernicus (Nicolaus Koppernigk, 1473-1543),
given to the world with an editor's treacherous preface as he lay
paralysed on his deathbed, did not become a general possession for
over a hundred years. The long reluctance of its author to let it be
published, despite the express invitation of a cardinal in the name of
the pope, was well founded in his knowledge of the strength of common
prejudice; and perhaps partly in a sense of the scientific imperfection
of his own case. [183] Only the special favour accorded to his first
sketch at Rome--a favour which he had further carefully planned for
in his dedicatory epistle to Pope Paul--saved his main treatise from
prohibition till long after its work was done. [184] It was in fact,
with all its burden of traditional error, the most momentous challenge
that had yet been offered in the modern world to established beliefs,
alike theological and lay, for it seemed to flout "common sense"
as completely as it did the cosmogony of the sacred books. It was
probably from scraps of ancient lore current in Italy in his years
of youthful study there that he first derived his idea; and in Italy
none had dared publicly to propound the geocentric theory. Its gradual
victory, therefore, is the first great modern instance of a triumph
of reason over spontaneous and instilled prejudice; and Galileo's
account of his reception of it should be a classic document in the
history of rationalism.

It was when he was a student in his teens that there came to Pisa
one Christianus Urstitius of Rostock, a follower of Copernicus,
to lecture on the new doctrine. The young Galileo, being satisfied
that "that opinion could be no other than a solemn madness," did
not attend; and those of his acquaintance who did made a jest of the
matter, all save one, "very intelligent and wary," who told him that
"the business was not altogether to be laughed at." Thenceforth he
began to inquire of Copernicans, with the result inevitable to such
a mind as his. "Of as many as I examined I found not so much as one
who told me not that he had been a long time of the contrary opinion,
but to have changed it for this, as convinced by the strength of the
reasons proving the same; and afterwards questioning them one by one,
to see whether they were well possessed of the reasons of the other
side, I found them all to be very ready and perfect in them, so that
I could not truly say that they took this opinion out of ignorance,
vanity, or to show the acuteness of their wits." On the other hand,
the opposing Aristoteleans and Ptolemeans had seldom even superficially
studied the Copernican system, and had in no case been converted from
it. "Whereupon, considering that there was no man who followed the
opinion of Copernicus that had not been first on the contrary side,
and that was not very well acquainted with the reasons of Aristotle and
Ptolemy, while, on the contrary, there was not one of the followers
of Ptolemy that had ever been of the judgment of Copernicus, and
had left that to embrace this of Aristotle," he began to realize
how strong must be the reasons that thus drew men away from beliefs
"imbibed with their milk." [185] We can divine how slow would be the
progress of a doctrine which could only thus begin to find its way
into one of the most gifted scientific minds of the modern world. It
was only a minority of the élite of the intellectual life who could
receive it, even after the lapse of a hundred years.


    The doctrine of the earth's two-fold motion, as we have seen,
    had actually been taught in the fifteenth century by Nicolaus of
    Cusa (1401-1464), who, instead of being prosecuted, was made a
    cardinal, so little was the question then considered (Ueberweg,
    ii, 23-24). See above, vol. i, p. 368, as to Pulci. Only very
    slowly did the work even of Copernicus make its impression. Green
    (Short History, ed. 1881, p. 297) makes first the mistake of
    stating that it influenced thought in the fifteenth century, and
    then the further mistake of saying that it was brought home to the
    general intelligence by Galileo and Kepler in the later years of
    the sixteenth century (id. p. 412). Galileo's European notoriety
    dates from 1616; his Dialogues of the Two Systems of the World
    appeared only in 1632; and his Dialogues of the New Sciences in
    1638. Kepler's indecisive Mysterium Cosmographicum appeared only in
    1597; his treatise on the motions of the planet Mars not till 1609.


One of the first to bring the new cosmological conception to bear on
philosophic thought was Giordano Bruno of Nola (1548-1600), whose
life and death of lonely chivalry have won him his place as the
typical martyr of modern freethought. [186] He may be conceived as a
blending of the pantheistic and naturalistic lore of ancient Greece,
[187] assimilated through the Florentine Platonists, with the spirit
of modern science (itself a revival of the Greek) as it first takes
firm form in Copernicus, whose doctrine Bruno early and ardently
embraced. Baptized Filippo, he took Giordano as his cloister-name
when he entered the great convent of S. Domenico Maggiore at Naples
in 1563, in his fifteenth year. No human being was ever more unfitly
placed among the Dominicans, punningly named the "hounds of the Lord"
(domini canes) for their work as the corps of the Inquisition; and
very early in his cloister life he came near being formally proceeded
against for showing disregard of sacred images, and making light of
the sanctity of the Virgin. [188] He passed his novitiate, however,
without further trouble, and was fully ordained a priest in 1572,
in his twenty-fourth year. Passing then through several Neapolitan
monasteries during a period of three years, he seems to have become
not a little of a freethinker on his return to his first cloister, as
he had already reached Arian opinions in regard to Christ, and soon
proceeded to substitute a mystical and Pythagorean for the orthodox
view of the Trinity. [189]

For the second time a "process" was begun against him, and he
took flight to Rome (1576), presenting himself at a convent of his
Order. News speedily came from Naples of the process against him,
and of the discovery that he had possessed a volume of the works
of Chrysostom and Jerome with the scholia of Erasmus--a prohibited
thing. Only a few months before Bartolomeo Carranza, Bishop of Toledo,
who had won the praise of the Council of Trent for his index of
prohibited books, had been condemned to abjure for the doctrine that
"the worship of the relics of the saints is of human institution,"
and had died in the same year at the convent to which Bruno had
now gone. Thus doubly warned, he threw off his priestly habit, and
fled to the Genoese territory, [190] where, in the commune of Noli,
he taught grammar and astronomy. In 1578 he visited successively
Turin, Venice, Padua, Bergamo, and Milan, resuming at the last-named
town his monk's habit. Thereafter he again returned to Turin,
passing thence to Chambéry at the end of 1578, and thence to Geneva
early in 1579. [191] His wish, he said, was "to live in liberty and
security"; but for that he must first renounce his Dominican habit;
other Italian refugees, of whom there were many at Geneva, helping
him to a layman's suit. Becoming a corrector of the press, he seems
to have conformed externally to Calvinism; but after a stay of two
and a-half months he published a short diatribe against one Antonio
de La Faye, who professed philosophy at the Academy; and for this he
was arrested and sentenced to excommunication, while his bookseller
was subjected to one day's imprisonment and a fine. [192] After three
weeks the excommunication was raised; but he nevertheless left Geneva,
and afterwards spoke of Calvinism as the "deformed religion." After
a few weeks' sojourn at Lyons he went to Toulouse, the very centre
of inquisitional orthodoxy; and there, strangely enough, he was able
to stay for more than a year, [193] taking his degree as Master of
Arts and becoming professor of astronomy. But the civil wars made
Toulouse unsafe; and at length, probably in 1581 or 1582, he reached
Paris, where for a time he lectured as professor extraordinary. [194]
In 1583 he reached England, where he remained till 1585, lecturing,
debating at Oxford on the Copernican theory, and publishing a number
of his works, four of them dedicated to his patron Castelnau de
Mauvissière, the French ambassador. Oxford was then a stronghold
of bigoted Aristotelianism, where bachelors and masters deviating
from the master were fined, or, if openly hostile, expelled. [195]
In that camp Bruno was not welcome. But he had other shelter, at the
French Embassy in London, and there he had notable acquaintances. He
had met Sir Philip Sidney at Milan in 1578; and his dialogue, Cena de
le Ceneri, gives a vivid account of a discussion in which he took a
leading part at a banquet given by Sir Fulke Greville. His picture of
"Oxford ignorance and English ill-manners" [196] is not lenient; and
there is no reason to suppose that his doctrine was then assimilated
by many; [197] but his stay in the household of Castelnau was one
of the happiest periods of his chequered life. While in England he
wrote no fewer than seven works, four of them dedicated to Castelnau,
and two--the Heroic Fervours and the Expulsion of the Triumphant
Beast--to Sir Philip Sidney.

Returning to Paris on the recall of Castelnau in 1585, he made an
attempt to reconcile himself to the Church, but it was fruitless;
and thereafter he went his own way. After a public disputation at the
university in 1586, he set out on a new peregrination, visiting first
Mayence, Marburg, and Wittemberg. At Marburg he was refused leave to
debate; and at Wittemberg he seems to have been carefully conciliatory,
as he not only matriculated but taught for over a year (1586-1588),
till the Calvinist party carried the day over the Lutheran. [198]
Thereafter he reached Prague, Helmstadt, Frankfort, and Zurich. At
length, on the fatal invitation of the Venetian youth Mocenigo, he
re-entered Italian territory, where, in Venice, he was betrayed to
the Inquisition by his treacherous and worthless pupil. [199]

What had been done for freethought by Bruno in his fourteen years of
wandering, debating, and teaching through Europe it is impossible to
estimate; but it is safe to say that he was one of the most powerful
antagonists to orthodox unreason that had yet appeared. Of all men of
his time he had perhaps the least affinity with the Christian creed,
which was repellent to him alike in the Catholic and the Protestant
versions. The attempt to prove him a believer on the strength of
a non-autograph manuscript [200] is idle. His approbation of a
religion for the discipline of uncivilized peoples is put in terms
of unbelief. [201] In the Spaccio della bestia trionfante he derides
the notion of a union of divine and human natures, and substantially
proclaims a natural (theistic) religion, negating all "revealed"
religions alike. Where Boccaccio had accredited all the three leading
religions, Bruno disallows all with paganism, though he puts that
above Christianity. [202] And his disbelief grew more stringent with
his years. Among the heretical propositions charged against him by
the Inquisition were these: that there is transmigration of souls;
that magic is right and proper; that the Holy Spirit is the same thing
as the soul of the world; that the world is eternal; that Moses, like
the Egyptians, wrought miracles by magic; that the sacred writings
are but a romance (sogno); that the devil will be saved; that only
the Hebrews are descended from Adam, other men having descended from
progenitors created by God before Adam; that Christ was not God,
but was a notorious sorcerer (insigne mago), who, having deceived
men, was deservedly hanged, not crucified; that the prophets and
the apostles were bad men and sorcerers, and that many of them were
hanged as such. The cruder of these propositions rest solely on the
allegation of Mocenigo, and were warmly repudiated by Bruno: others
are professedly drawn, always, of course, by forcing his language,
but not without some colourable pretext, from his two "poems,"
De triplice, minimo, et mensura, and De monade, numero et figura,
published at Frankfort in 1591, in the last year of his freedom. [203]
But the allusions in the Sigillus Sigillorum [204] to the weeping
worship of a suffering Adonis, to the exhibition of suffering and
miserable Gods, to transpierced divinities, and to sham miracles,
were certainly intended to contemn the Christian system.

Alike in the details of his propaganda and in the temper of his
utterance, Bruno expresses from first to last the spirit of freethought
and free speech. Libertas philosophica [205] is the breath of his
nostrils; and by his life and his death alike he upholds the ideal
for men as no other before him did. The wariness of Rabelais and the
non-committal skepticism of Montaigne are alike alien to him; he is
too lacking in reticence, too explosive, to give due heed even to
the common-sense amenities of life, much more to hedge his meaning
with safeguarding qualifications. And it was doubtless as much by
the contagion of his mood as by his lore that he impressed men.

His personal and literary influence was probably most powerful in
respect of his eager propaganda of the Copernican doctrine, which he
of his own force vitally expanded and made part of a pantheistic
conception of the universe. [206] Where Copernicus adhered by
implication to the idea of an external and limitary sphere--the last
of the eight of the Ptolemaic theory--Bruno reverted boldly to the
doctrine of Anaximandros, and declared firmly for the infinity of
space and of the series of the worlds. In regard to biology he makes
an equivalent advance, starting from the thought of Empedocles and
Lucretius, and substituting an idea of natural selection for that
of creative providence. [207] The conception is definitely thought
out, and marks him as one of the renovators of scientific no less
than of philosophic thought for the modern world; though the special
paralysis of science under Christian theology kept his ideas on this
side pretty much a dead letter for his own day. And indeed it was
to the universal and not the particular that his thought chiefly
and most enthusiastically turned. A philosophic poet rather than
a philosopher or man of science, he yet set abroad for the modern
world that conception of the physical infinity of the universe which,
once psychologically assimilated, makes an end of the medieval theory
of things. On this head he was eagerly affirmative; and the merely
Pyrrhonic skeptics he assailed as he did the "asinine" orthodox,
though he insisted on doubt as the beginning of wisdom.

Of his extensive literary output not much is stamped with lasting
scientific fitness or literary charm; and some of his treatises, as
those on mnemonics, have no more value than the product of his didactic
model, Raymond Lully. As a writer he is at his best in the sweeping
expatiation of his more general philosophic treatises, where he attains
a lifting ardour of inspiration, a fervour of soaring outlook, that
puts him in the front rank of the thinkers of his age. And if his
literary character is at times open to severe criticism in respect
of his lack of balance, sobriety, and self-command, his final courage
atones for such shortcomings.

His case, indeed, serves to remind us that at certain junctures it is
only the unbalanced types that aid humanity's advance. The perfectly
prudent and self-sufficing man does not achieve revolutions, does
not revolt against tyrannies; he wisely adapts himself and subsists,
letting the evil prevail as it may. It is the more impatient and
unreticent, the eager and hot-brained--in a word, the faulty--who clash
with oppression and break a way for quieter spirits through the hedges
of enthroned authority. The serenely contemplative spirit is rather
a possession than a possessor for his fellows; he may inform and
enlighten, but is not in himself a countering or inspiriting force:
a Shelley avails more than a Goethe against tyrannous power. And it
may be that the battling enthusiast in his own way wins liberation
for himself from "fear of fortune and death," as he wins for others
liberty of action. [208] Even such a liberator, bearing other men's
griefs and taking stripes that they might be kept whole, was Bruno.

And though he quailed at the first shock of capture and torture,
when the end came he vindicated human nature as worthily as could
any quietist. It was a long-drawn test. Charged on the traitor's
testimony with many "blasphemies," he denied them all, [209] but stood
to his published writings [210] and vividly expounded his theories,
[211] professing in the usual manner to believe in conformity with
the Church's teachings, whatever he might write on philosophy. It
is impossible to trust the Inquisition records as to his words
of self-humiliation; [212] though on the other hand no blame can
rationally attach to anyone who, in his place, should try to deceive
such enemies, morally on a level with hostile savages. It is certain
that the Inquisitors frequently wrung recantations by torture. [213]

What is historically certain is that Bruno was not released, but sent
on to Rome, and was kept there in prison for seven years. He was not
the sort of heretic likely to be released; though the fact of his being
a Dominican, and the desire to maintain the Church's intellectual
credit, delayed so long his execution. Certainly not an atheist (he
called himself in several of his book-titles Philotheus; he consigns
insano ateismo to perdition; [214] and his quasi-pantheism or monism
often lapses into theistic modes), [215] he yet was from first to last
essentially though not professedly anti-Christian in his view of the
universe. If the Church had cause to fear any philosophic teaching,
it was his, preached with the ardour of a prophet and the eloquence
of a poet. His doctrine that the worlds in space are innumerable was
as offensive to orthodox ears as his specific negations of Christian
dogma, outgoing as it did the later idea of Kepler and Galileo. He had,
moreover, finally refused to make any fresh recantation; and the only
detailed document extant concerning his final trial describes him as
saying to his judges: "With more fear, perchance, do you pass sentence
on me than I receive it." [216] According to all accessible records,
he was burned alive at Rome in February, 1600, in the Field of Flowers,
near where his statue now stands. As was probably customary, they tied
his tongue before leading him to the stake, lest he should speak to
the people; [217] and his martyrdom was an edifying spectacle for the
vast multitude of pilgrims who had come from all parts of Christendom
for the jubilee of the pope. [218] At the stake, when he was at the
point of death, there was duly presented to him the crucifix, and he
duly put it aside.


    An attempt has been made by Professor Desdouits in a pamphlet
    (La légende tragique de Jordano Bruno; Paris, 1885) to show that
    there is no evidence that Bruno was burned; and an anonymous
    writer in the Scottish Review (October, 1888, Art. II), rabidly
    hostile to Bruno, has maintained the same proposition. Doubt on
    the subject dates from Bayle. Its main ground is the fewness of
    the documentary records, of which, further, the genuineness is
    now called in question. But no good reason is shown for doubting
    them. They are three.

    1. The Latin letter of Gaspar Schopp (Scioppius), dated February
    17, 1600, is an eye-witness's account of the sentencing and
    burning of Bruno at that date. (See it in full, in the original
    Latin, in Berti, p. 461 sq., and in App. V to Frith, Life of
    Bruno, and partly translated in Prof. Adamson's lectures, as
    cited. It was rep. by Struvius in his Acta Literaria, tom. v,
    and by La Croze in his Entretiens sur divers sujets in 1711,
    p. 287.) It was not printed till 1621, but the grounds urged for
    its rejection are totally inadequate, and involve assumptions,
    which are themselves entirely unproved, as to what Scioppius was
    likely to do. Finally, no intelligible reason is suggested for
    the forging of such a document. The remarks of Prof. Desdouits
    on this head have no force whatever. The writer in the Scottish
    Review (p. 263, and note) suggests as "at least as possible an
    hypothesis as any other that he [Bruno] was the author of the
    forged accounts of his own death." Comment is unnecessary.

    2. There are preserved two extracts from Roman news-letters
    (Avvisi) of the time; one, dated February 12, 1600, commenting on
    the case; the other, dated February 19, relating the execution
    on the 17th. (See both in S. R., pp. 264-65. They were first
    printed by Berti in Documenti intorno a Giordano Bruno, Rome,
    1880, and are reprinted in his Vita, ed. 1889, cap. xix; also
    by Levi, as cited.) Against these testimonies the sole plea is
    that they mis-state Bruno's opinions and the duration of his
    imprisonment--a test which would reduce to mythology the contents
    of most newspapers in our own day. The writer in the Scottish
    Review makes the suicidal suggestion that, inasmuch as the errors
    as to dates occur in Schopp's letter, "the so-called Schopp
    was fabricated from these notices, or they from Schopp"--thus
    admitting one to be historical.

    3. There has been found, by a Catholic investigator, a double entry
    in the books of the Lay Brotherhood of San Giovanni Decollato,
    whose function was to minister to prisoners under capital sentence,
    giving a circumstantial account of Bruno's execution. (See it in
    S. R., pp. 266, 269, 270.) In this case, the main entry being dated
    "1600. Thursday. February 16th," the anonymous writer argues that
    "the whole thing resolves itself into a make-up," because February
    16 was the Wednesday. The entry refers to the procedure of the
    Wednesday night and the Thursday morning; and such an error could
    easily occur in any case. Whatever may be one day proved, the
    cavils thus far count for nothing. All the while, the records
    as to Bruno remain in the hands of the Catholic authorities;
    but, despite the discredit constantly cast on the Church on the
    score of Bruno's execution, they offer no official denial of the
    common statement; while they do officially admit (S. R., p. 252)
    that on February 8 Bruno was sentenced as an "obstinate heretic,"
    and "given over to the Secular Court." On the other hand, the
    episode is well vouched; and the argument from the silence of
    ambassadors' letters is so far void. No pretence is made of
    tracing Bruno anywhere after February, 1600.

    Since the foregoing note appeared in the first edition I have
    met with the essay of Mr. R. Copley Christie, "Was Giordano
    Bruno Really Burned?" (Macmillan's Magazine, October, 1885;
    rep. in Mr. Christie's Selected Essays and Papers, 1902). This
    is a crushing answer to the thesis of M. Desdouits, showing as
    it does clear grounds not only for affirming the genuineness
    of the letter of Scioppius, but for doubting the diligence
    of M. Desdouits. Mr. Christie points out (1) that in his book
    Ecclesiasticus, printed in 1612, Scioppius refers to the burning of
    Bruno almost in the words of his letter of 1600; (2) that in 1607
    Kepler wrote to a correspondent of the burning of Bruno, giving as
    his authority J. M. Wacker, who in 1600 was living at Rome as the
    imperial ambassador; and (3) that the tract Machiavellizatio, 1621,
    in which the letter of Scioppius was first printed, was well known
    in its day, being placed on the Index, and answered by two writers
    without eliciting any repudiation from Scioppius, who lived till
    1649. As M. Desdouits staked his case on the absence of allusion to
    the subject before 1661 (overlooking even the allusion by Mersenne,
    in 1624, cited by Bayle), his theory may be taken as exploded.


Bruno has been zealously blackened by Catholic writers for the
obscenity of some of his writing [219] and the alleged freedom of his
life--piquant charges, when we remember the life of the Papal Italy in
which he was born. Lucilio Vanini (otherwise Julius Cæsar Vanini), the
next martyr of freethought, also an Italian (b. at Taurisano, 1585),
is open to the more relevant charges of an inordinate vanity and some
duplicity. Figuring as a Carmelite friar, which he was not, he came
to England (1612) and deceitfully professed to abjure Catholicism,
[220] gaining, however, nothing by the step, and contriving to be
reconciled to the Church, after being imprisoned for forty-nine days
on an unrecorded charge. Previously he had figured, like Bruno,
as a wandering scholar at Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne, Geneva,
and Lyons; and afterwards he taught natural philosophy for a year
at Genoa. His treatise, Amphitheatrum Æterna Providentiæ (Lyons,
1615), is professedly directed against "ancient philosophers,
Atheists, Epicureans, Peripatetics, and Stoics," and is ostensibly
quite orthodox. [221] In one passage he untruthfully tells how, when
imprisoned in England, he burned with the desire to shed his blood
for the Catholic Church. [222] In another, after declaring that some
Christian doctors have argued very weakly against the Epicureans
on immortality, he avows that he, "Christianus nomine cognomine
Catholicus," could hardly have held the doctrine if he had not
learned it from the Church, "the most certain and infallible mistress
of truth." [223] As usual, the attack leaves us in doubt as to the
amount of real atheism current at the time. The preface asserts that
"Atheotêto autem secta pestilentissima quotidie, latius et latius
vires acquirit eundo," and there are various hostile allusions to
atheists in the text; [224] but the arguments cited from them are
such as might be brought by deists against miracles and the Christian
doctrine of sin; and there is an allusion of the customary kind to
"Nicolaus Machiavellus Atheorum facile princeps," [225] which puts
all in doubt. The later published Dialogues, De Admirandis Naturæ
Arcanis, [226] while showing a freer critical spirit, would seem
to be in part earlier in composition, if we can trust the printer's
preface, which represents them as collected from various quarters,
and published only with the reluctant consent of the author. [227]
This, of course, may be a mystification; in any case the Dialogues
twice mention the Amphitheatrum; and the fourth book, in which this
mention occurs, may be taken on this and other grounds to set forth
his later ideas. Even the Dialogues, however, while discussing many
questions of creed and science in a free fashion, no less profess
orthodoxy; and, while one passage is pantheistic, [228] they also
denounce atheism. [229] And whereas one passage does avow that the
author in his Amphitheatrum had said many things he did not believe,
the context clearly suggests that the reference was not to the main
argument, but to some of its dubious facts. [230] In any case, though
the title--chosen by the editors--speaks daringly enough of "Nature,
the queen and goddess of mortals," Vanini cannot be shown to be an
atheist; [231] and the attacks upon him as an immoral writer are not
any better supported. [232] The publication of the dialogues was in
fact formally authorized by the Sorbonne, [233] and it does not even
appear that when he was charged with atheism and blasphemy at Toulouse
that work was founded on, save in respect of its title. [234] The
charges rested on the testimony of a treacherous associate as to his
private conversation; and, if true, it only amounted to proving his
pantheism, expressed in his use of the word "Nature." At his trial he
expressly avowed and argued for theism. The judges, by one account,
did not agree. Yet he was convicted, by the voices of the majority,
and burned alive (February 9, 1619) on the day of his sentence. Drawn
on a hurdle, in his shirt, with a placard on his shoulders inscribed
"Atheist and Blasphemer of the name of God," he went to his death
with a high heart, rejoicing, as he cried in Italian, to die like
a philosopher. [235] A Catholic historian, [236] who was present,
says he hardily declared that "Jesus facing death sweated with fear:
I die undaunted." But before burning him they tore out his tongue by
the roots; and the Christian historian is humorous over the victim's
long cry of agony. [237] No martyr ever faced death with a more
dauntless courage than this


    Lonely antagonist of Destiny
    That went down scornful before many spears; [238]


and if the man had all the faults falsely imputed to him, [239]
his death might shame his accusers.

Vanini, like Bruno, can now be recognized and understood as an Italian
of vivacious temperament, studious without the student's calm, early
learned, alert in debate, fluent, imprudent, and ill-balanced. By
his own account he studied theology under the Carmelite Bartolomeo
Argotti, phoenix of the preachers of the time; [240] but from the
English Carmelite, John Bacon, "the prince of Averroïsts," [241] he
declares, he "learned to swear only by Averroës"; and of Pomponazzi
he speaks as his master, and as "prince of the philosophers of our
age." [242] He has criticized both freely in his Amphitheatrum;
but whereas that work is a professed vindication of orthodoxy, we
may infer from the De Arcanis that the arguments of these skeptics,
like those of the contemporary atheists whom he had met in his travels,
had kept their hold on his thought even while he controverted them. For
it cannot be disputed that the long passages which he quotes from the
"atheist at Amsterdam" [243] are put with a zest and cogency which
are not infused into the professed rebuttals, and are in themselves
quite enough to arouse the anger and suspicion of a pious reader. A
writer who set forth so fully the acute arguments of unbelievers,
unprintable by their authors, might well be suspected of writing at
Christianity when he confuted the creeds of the pagans. As was noted
later of Fontenelle, he put arguments against oracles which endangered
prophecy; his dismissal of sorcery as the dream of troubled brains
appeals to reason and not to faith; and his disparagement of pagan
miracles logically bore upon the Christian.

When he comes to the question of immortality he grows overtly
irreverent. Asked by the interlocutor in the last dialogue to give
his views on the immortality of the soul, he begs to be excused,
protesting: "I have vowed to my God that that question shall
not be handled by me till I become old, rich, and a German." And
without overt irreverence he is ever and again unserious. Perfectly
transparent is the irony of the appeal, "Let us give faith to the
prescripts of the Church, and due honour to the sacrosanct Gregorian
apparitions," [244] and the protestation, "I will not invalidate the
powers of holy water, to which Alexander, Doctor and Pontifex of
the Christians, and interpreter of the divine will, accorded such
countless privileges." [245] And even in the Amphitheatrum, with
all the parade of defending the faith, there is a plain balance of
cogency on the side of the case for the attack, [246] and a notable
disposition to rely finally on lines of argument to which faith
could never give real welcome. The writer's mind, it is clear, was
familiar with doubt. In the malice of orthodoxy there is sometimes an
instinctive perception of hostility; and though Vanini had written,
among other things, [247] an Apologia pro lege mosaïcâ et christianâ,
to which he often refers, and an Apologia pro concilio Tridentino,
he can be seen even in the hymn to deity with which he concludes his
Amphitheatrum to have no part in evangelical Christianity.

He was in fact a deist with the inevitable leaning of the philosophic
theist to pantheism; and whatever he may have said to arouse priestly
hatred at Toulouse, he was rather less of an atheist than Spinoza
or Bruno or John Scotus. On his trial, [248] pressed as to his real
beliefs by judges who had doubtless challenged his identification
of God with Nature, he passed from a profession of orthodox faith in
a trinity into a flowing discourse which could as well have availed
for a vindication of pantheism as for the proposition of a personal
God. Seeing a straw on the ground, he picked it up and talked of its
history; and when brought back again from his affirmation of Deity to
his doctrine of Nature, he set forth the familiar orthodox theorem
that, while Nature wrought the succession of seeds and fruits,
there must have been a first seed which was created. It was the
habitual standing ground of theism; and they burned him all the
same. It remains an open question whether personal enmity on the
part of the prosecuting official [249] or a real belief that he had
uttered blasphemies against Jesus or Mary was the determining force,
or whether even less motive sufficed. A vituperative Jesuit of that
age sees intolerable freethinking in his suggestion of the unreality
of demoniacal possession and the futility of exorcisms. [250] And for
that much they were not incapable of burning men in Catholic Toulouse
in the days of Mary de Medici.

There are in fact reasons for surmizing that in the cases alike of
Bruno and of Vanini it was the attitude of the speculator towards
scientific problems that primarily or mainly aroused distrust and anger
among the theologians. Vanini is careful to speak equivocally of the
eternity of the universe; and though he makes a passing mention of
Kepler, [251] he does not name Copernicus. He had learned something
from the fate of Bruno. Yet in the Dialogue De coeli forma et motore
[252] he declares so explicitly for a naturalistic explanation of
the movements of the heavenly bodies that he must have aroused in
some orthodox readers such anger as was set up in Plato by a physical
theory of sun and stars. After an à priori discussion on Aristotelian
lines, the querist in the dialogue asks what may fitly be held, with
an eye to religion, concerning the movements of the spheres. "This,"
answers Vanini, "unless I am in error: the mass of the heaven is
moved in its proper gyratory way by the nature of its elements." "How
then," asks the querist, "are the heavens moved by certain and fixed
laws, unless divine minds, participating in the primal motion,
there operate?" "Where is the wonder?" returns Vanini. "Does not
a certain and fixed law of motion act in the most paltry clockwork
machines, made by a drunken German, even as there works silently in
a tertian and quartan fever a motion which comes and goes at fixed
periods without transgressing its line by a moment? The sea also at
certain and fixed times, by its nature, as you peripatetics affirm,
is moved in progressions and regressions. No less, then, I affirm
the heaven to be forever carried by the same motion in virtue of
its nature (a sua pura forma) and not to be moved by the will of
intelligence." And the disciple assents. Kepler had seen fit, either
in sincerity or of prudence, to leave "divine minds" in the planets;
and Vanini's negation, though not accompanied by any assertion of
the motion of the earth, was enough to provoke the minds which had
only three years before put Copernicus on the Index, and challenged
Galileo for venting his doctrine.

It is at this stage that we begin to realize the full play of the
Counter-Reformation, as against the spirit of science. The movement
of mere theological and ecclesiastical heresy had visibly begun to
recede in the world of mind, and in its stead, alike in Protestant
and in Catholic lands, there was emerging a new activity of scientific
research, vaguely menacing to all theistic faith. Kepler represented
it in Germany, Harriott and Harvey and Gilbert and Bacon in England;
from Italy had come of late the portents of Bruno and Galileo;
even Spain yielded the Examen de Ingenios of Huarte (1575), where
with due protestation of theism the physicist insists upon natural
causation; and now Vanini was exhibiting the same incorrigible zest
for a naturalistic explanation of all things. His dialogues are
full of such questionings; the mere metaphysic and theosophy of
the Amphitheatrum are being superseded by discussions on physical
and physiological phenomena. It was for this, doubtless, that the
De Arcanis won the special vogue over which the Jesuit Garasse was
angrily exclaiming ten years later. [253] Not merely the doubts cast
upon sorcery and diabolical possession, but the whole drift, often
enough erratic, of the inquiry as to how things in nature came about,
caught the curiosity of the time, soon to be stimulated by more potent
and better-governed minds than that of the ill-starred Vanini. And
for every new inquirer there would be a hostile zealot in the Church,
where the anti-intellectual instinct was now so much more potent than
it had been in the days before Luther, when heresy was diagnosed only
as a danger to revenue.

It was with Galileo that there began the practical application
of the Copernican theory to astronomy, and, indeed, the decisive
demonstration of its truth. With him, accordingly, began the positive
rejection of the Copernican theory by the Church; for thus far it had
never been officially vetoed--having indeed been generally treated
as a wild absurdity. Almost immediately after the publication of
Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius (1610) his name is found in the papers
of the Inquisition, with that of Cremonini of Padua, as a subject of
investigation. [254] The juxtaposition is noteworthy. Cremonini was
an Aristotelian, with Averroïst leanings, and reputed an atheist;
[255] and it was presumably on this score that the Inquisition was
looking into his case. At the same time, as an Aristotelian he was
strongly opposed to Galileo, and is said to have been one of those
who refused to look through Galileo's telescope. [256] Galileo, on
the other hand, was ostensibly a good Catholic; but his discovery
of the moons of Jupiter was a signal confirmation of the Copernican
theory, and the new status at once given to that made a corresponding
commotion in the Church. Thus he had against him both the unbelieving
pedants of the schools and the typical priests.


In his book the great discoverer had said nothing explicitly on the
subject of the Copernican theory; but in lectures and conversations
he had freely avowed his belief in it; and the implications of the
published treatise were clear to all thinkers. [257] And though,
when he visited Rome in 1611, he was well received by Pope Paul V,
and his discoveries were favourably reported of by the four scientific
experts nominated at the request of Cardinal Bellarmin to examine them,
[258] it only needed that the Biblical cry should be raised to change
the situation. The Church still contained men individually open to
new scientific ideas; but she was then more than ever dominated
by the forces of tradition; and as soon as those forces had been
practically evoked his prosecution was bound to follow. The cry of
"religion in danger" silenced the saner men at Rome.

The fashion in which Galileo's sidereal discoveries were met is indeed
typical of the whole history of freethought. The clergy pointed to the
story of Joshua stopping the sun and moon; the average layman scouted
the new theory as plain folly; and typical schoolmen insisted that
"the heavens are unchangeable," and that there was no authority in
Aristotle for the new assertions. With such minds the man of science
had to argue, and in deference to such he had at length to affect to
doubt his own demonstrations. [259] The Catholic Reaction had finally
created as bitter a spirit of hostility to free science in the Church
as existed among the Protestants; and in Italy even those who saw the
moons of Jupiter through his telescope dared not avow what they had
seen. [260] It was therefore an unfortunate step on Galileo's part to
go from Padua, which was under the rule of Venice, then anti-papal,
[261] to Tuscany, on the invitation of the Grand Duke. When in 1613
he published his treatise on the solar spots, definitely upholding
Copernicus against Jesuits and Aristotelians, trouble became
inevitable; and his letter [262] to his pupil, Father Castelli,
professor of mathematics at Pisa, discussing the Biblical argument
with which they had both been met, at once evoked an explosion when
circulated by Castelli. New trouble arose when Galileo in 1615 wrote
his apology in the form of a letter to his patroness the Dowager Grand
Duchess Cristina of Tuscany, extracts from which became current. An
outcry of ignorant Dominican monks [263] sufficed to set at work the
machinery of the Index, [264] the first result of which (1616) was to
put on the list of condemned books the great treatise of Copernicus,
published seventy-three years before. Galileo personally escaped for
the present through the friendly intervention of the Pope, Paul V, on
the appeal of his patron, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, apparently on the
ground that he had not publicly taught the Copernican theory. It would
seem as if some of the heads of the Church were at heart Copernicans;
[265] but they were in any case obliged to disown a doctrine felt by
so many others to be subversive of the Church's authority.


    See the details of the procedure in Domenico Berti, Il Processo
    Originale de Galileo Galilei, ed. 1878, cap. iv; in Fahie,
    ch. viii; and in Gebler, ch. vi. The last-cited writer claims
    to show that, of two records of the "admonition" to Galileo,
    one, the more stringent in its terms, was false, though made at
    the date it bears, to permit of subsequent proceedings against
    Galileo. But the whole thesis is otiose. It is admitted (Gebler,
    p. 89) that Galileo was admonished "not to defend or hold the
    Copernican doctrine." Gebler contends, however, that this was not
    a command to keep "entire silence," and that therefore Galileo
    is not justly to be charged with having disobeyed the injunction
    of the Inquisition when, in his Dialogues on the Two Principal
    Systems of the World, the Ptolemaic and Copernican (1632),
    he dealt dialectically with the subject, neither affirming nor
    denying, but treating both theories as hypotheses. But the real
    issue is not Galileo's cautious disobedience (see Gebler's own
    admissions, p. 149) to an irrational decree, but the crime of
    the Church in silencing him. It is not likely that the "enemies"
    of Galileo, as Gebler supposes (pp. 90, 338), anticipated his
    later dialectical handling of the subject, and so falsified the
    decision of the Inquisition against him in 1616. Gebler had at
    first adopted the German theory that the absolute command to
    silence was forged in 1632; and, finding the document certainly
    belonged to 1616, framed the new theory, quite unnecessarily,
    to save Galileo's credit. The two records are quite in the
    spirit and manner of Inquisitorial diplomacy. As Berti remarks,
    "the Holy Office proceeded with much heedlessness (legerezza)
    and much confusion" in 1616. Its first judgment, in either form,
    merely emphasizes the guilt of the second. Cp. Fahie, pp. 167-69.


Thus officially "admonished" for his heresy, but not punished, in
1616, Galileo kept silence for some years, till in 1618 he published
his (erroneous) theory of the tides, which he sent with an ironical
epistle to the friendly Archduke Leopold of Austria, professing
to be propounding a mere dream, disallowed by the official veto on
Copernicus. [266] This, however, did him less harm than his essay Il
Saggiatore ("The Scales"), in which he opposed the Jesuit Grassi on the
question of comets. Receiving the imprimatur in 1623, it was dedicated
to the new pope, Urban VIII, who, as the Cardinal Maffeo Barberini,
had been Galileo's friend. The latter could now hope for freedom of
speech, as he had all along had a number of friends at the papal court,
besides many priests, among his admirers and disciples. But the enmity
of the Jesuits countervailed all. They did not succeed in procuring a
censure of the Saggiatore, though that subtly vindicates the Copernican
system while professing to hold it disproved by the fiat of the Church;
[267] but when, venturing further, he after another lapse of years
produced his Dialogues on the Two Systems, for which he obtained
the papal imprimatur in 1632, they caught him in their net. Having
constant access to the pope, they contrived to make him believe that
Galileo had ridiculed him in one of the personages of his Dialogues. It
was quite false; but one of the pope's anti-Copernican arguments was
there unconsciously made light of; and his wounded vanity was probably
a main factor in the impeachment which followed. [268] His Holiness
professed to have been deceived into granting the imprimatur; [269]
a Special Commission was set on foot; the proceedings of 1616 were
raked up; and Galileo was again summoned to Rome. He was old and frail,
and sent medical certificates of his unfitness for such travel; but
it was insisted on, and as under the papal tyranny there was no help,
he accordingly made the journey. After many delays he was tried, and,
on his formal abjuration, sentenced to formal imprisonment (1633)
for teaching the "absurd" and "false doctrine" of the motion of the
earth and the non-motion of the sun from east to west. In this case
the pope, whatever were his motives, acted as a hot anti-Copernican,
expressing his personal opinion on the question again and again, and
always in an anti-Copernican sense. In both cases, however, the popes,
while agreeing to the verdict, abstained from officially ratifying it,
[270] so that, in proceeding to force Galileo to abjure his doctrine,
the Inquisition technically exceeded its powers--a circumstance
in which some Catholics appear to find comfort. Seeing that three
of the ten cardinals named in the preamble to the sentence did not
sign, it has been inferred that they dissented; but there is no good
reason to suppose that either the pope or they wilfully abstained
from signing. They had gained their point--the humiliation of the
great discoverer.


    Compare Gebler, p. 241; Private Life, p. 257, quoting
    Tiraboschi. For an exposure of the many perversions of the facts
    as to Galileo by Catholic writers see Parchappe, Galilée, sa
    vie, etc., 2e Partie. To such straits has the Catholic Church
    been reduced in this matter that part of its defence of the
    treatment of Galileo is the plea that he unwarrantably asserted
    that the fixity of the sun and the motion of the earth were
    taught in the Scriptures. Sir Robert Inglis is quoted as having
    maintained this view in England in 1824 (Mendham, The Literary
    Policy of the Church of Rome, 2nd ed. 1830, p. 176), and the
    same proposition was maintained in 1850 by a Roman cardinal. See
    Galileo e l'Inquisizione, by Monsignor Marini, Roma, 1850, pp. 1,
    53-54, etc. Had Galileo really taught as is there asserted, he
    would only have been assenting to what his priestly opponents
    constantly dinned in his ears. But in point of fact he had not so
    assented; for in his letter to Castelli (see Gebler, pp. 46-50)
    he had earnestly deprecated the argument from the Bible, urging
    that, though Scripture could not err, its interpreters might
    misunderstand it; and even going so far as to argue, with much
    ingenuity, that the story of Joshua, literally interpreted,
    could be made to harmonize with the Copernican theory, but not
    at all with the Ptolemaic.

    The thesis revived by Monsignor Marini deserves to rank as the
    highest flight of absurdity and effrontery in the entire discussion
    (cp. Berti, Giordano Bruno, 1889, p. 306, note). Every step in
    both procedures of the Inquisition insists on the falsity and
    the anti-scriptural character of the doctrine that the earth
    moves round the sun (see Berti, Il Processo, p. 115 sq.; Gebler,
    pp. 76-77, 230-34); and never once is it hinted that Galileo's
    error lay in ascribing to the Bible the doctrine of the earth's
    fixity. In the Roman Index of 1664 the works of Galileo and
    Copernicus are alike vetoed, with all other writings affirming
    the movement of the earth and the stability of the sun; and in
    the Index of 1704 are included libri omnes docentes mobilitatem
    terrae et immobilitatem solis (Putnam, The Censorship of the
    Church of Rome, 1906-1907, i, 308, 312).


The stories of his being tortured and blinded, and saying "Still
it moves," are indeed myths. [271] The broken-spirited old man was
in no mood so to speak; he was, moreover, in all respects save his
science, an orthodox Catholic, [272] and as such not likely to defy
the Church to its face. In reality he was formally in the custody
of the Inquisition--and this not in a cell, but in the house of an
official--for only twenty-two days. After the sentence he was again
formally detained for some seventeen days in the Villa Medici, but
was then allowed to return to his own rural home at Acatri, [273]
on condition that he lived in solitude, receiving no visitors. He
was thus much more truly a prisoner than the so-called "prisoner of
the Vatican" in our own day. The worst part of the sentence, however,
was the placing of all his works, published and unpublished, on the
Index Expurgatorius, and the gag thus laid on all utterance of rational
scientific thought in Italy--an evil of incalculable influence. "The
lack of liberty and speculation," writes a careful Italian student,
"was the cause of the death first of the Accademia dei Lincei, an
institution unique in its time; then of the Accademia del Cimento. Thus
Italy, after the marvellous period of vigorous native civilization
in the thirteenth century, after a second period of civilization
less native but still its own, as being Latin, saw itself arrested
on the threshold of a third and not less splendid period. Vexations
and prohibitions expelled courage, spontaneity, and universality from
the national mind; literary style became uncertain, indeterminate;
and, forbidden to treat of government, science, or religion,
turned to things frivolous and fruitless. For the great academies,
instituted to renovate and further the study of natural philosophy,
were substituted small ones without any such aim. Intellectual energy,
the love of research and of objective truth, greatness of feeling and
nobility of character, all suffered. Nothing so injures a people as
the compulsion to express or conceal its thought solely from motives
of fear. The nation in which those conditions were set up became
intellectually inferior to those in which it was possible to pass
freely in the vast regions of knowledge. Her culture grew restricted,
devoid of originality, vaporous, umbratile; there arose habits of
servility and dissimulation; great books, great men, great purposes
were denaturalized." [274]

It was thus in the other countries of Europe that Galileo's teaching
bore its fruit, for he speedily got his condemned Dialogues published
in Latin by the Elzevirs; and in 1638, also at the hands of the
Elzevirs, appeared his Dialogues of the New Sciences [i.e., of
mechanics and motion], the "foundation of mechanical physics." By
this time he was totally blind, and then only, when physicians could
not help him save by prolonging his life, was he allowed to live under
strict surveillance in Florence, needing a special indulgence from the
Inquisition to permit him even to go to church at Easter. The desire of
his last blind days, to have with him his best-beloved pupil, Father
Castelli, was granted only under rigid limitation and supervision,
though even the papacy could not keep from him the plaudits of the
thinkers of Europe. Finally he passed away in his rural "prison"--after
five years of blindness--in 1642, the year of Newton's birth. At that
time his doctrines were under anathema in Italy, and known elsewhere
only to a few. Hobbes in 1634 tried in vain to procure for the Earl of
Newcastle a copy of the earlier Dialogues in London, and wrote: "It
is not possible to get it for money.... I hear say it is called-in,
in Italy, as a book that will do more hurt to their religion than
all the books of Luther and Calvin, such opposition they think is
between their religion and natural reason." [275] Not till 1757
did the papacy permit other books teaching the Copernican system;
in 1765 Galileo was still under ban; not until 1822 was permission
given to treat the theory as true; and not until 1835 was the work
of Copernicus withdrawn from the Index. [276]

While modern science was thus being placed on its special basis, a
continuous resistance was being made in the schools to the dogmatism
which held the mutilated lore of Aristotle as the sum of human
wisdom. Like the ecclesiastical revolution, this had been protracted
through centuries. Aristotelianism, whether theistic or pantheistic,
whether orthodox or heterodox, [277] had become a dogmatism like
another, a code that vetoed revision, a fetter laid on the mind. Even
as a negation of Christian superstition it had become impotent, for the
Peripatetics were not only ready to make common cause with the Jesuits
against Galileo, as we have seen; some of them were content even to
join in the appeal to the Bible. [278] The result of such uncritical
partisanship was that the immense service of Aristotle to mental
life--the comprehensive grasp which gave him his long supremacy as
against rival system-makers, and makes him still so much more important
than any of the thinkers who in the sixteenth century revolted against
him--was by opponents disregarded and denied, though the range and
depth of his influence are apparent in all the polemic against him,
notably in that of Bacon, who is constantly citing him, and relates
his reasoning to him, however antagonistically, at every turn.

Naturally, the less sacrosanct dogmatism was the more freely
assailed; and in the sixteenth century the attacks became numerous
and vehement. Luther was a furious anti-Aristotelian, [279] as were
also some Calvinists; but in 1570 we find Beza declaring to Ramus
[280] that "the Genevese have decreed, once and for ever, that they
will never, neither in logic nor in any other branch of learning,
turn away from the teaching of Aristotle." At Oxford the same code
held. [281] In Italy, Telesio, who notably anticipates the tone
of Bacon as to natural science, and is largely followed by him,
influenced Bruno in the anti-Aristotelian direction, [282] though
it was in a long line from Aristotle that he got his principle
of the eternity of the universe. The Spaniard Ludovicus Vives, too
(1492-1540), pronounced by Lange one of the clearest heads of his age,
had insisted on progress beyond Aristotle in the spirit of naturalist
science. [283] But the typical anti-Aristotelian of the century was
Ramus (Pierre de la Ramée, 1515-1572), whose long and strenuous battle
against the ruling school at Paris brought him to his death in the
Massacre of St. Bartholomew. [284] Ramus hardily laid it down that
"there is no authority over reason, but reason ought to be queen and
ruler over authority." [285] Such a message was of more value than
his imperfect attempt to supersede the Aristotelian logic. Bacon, who
carried on in England the warfare against the Aristotelian tradition,
never ventured so to express himself as against the theological
tyranny in particular, though, as we have seen, the general energy and
vividness of his argumentation gave him an influence which undermined
the orthodoxies to which he professed to conform. On the other hand,
he did no such service to exact science as was rendered in his day by
Kepler and Galileo and their English emulators; and his full didactic
influence came much later into play.

Like fallacies to Bacon's may be found in Descartes, whose
seventeenth-century reputation as a champion of theism proved mainly
the eagerness of theists for a plausible defence. Already in his own
day his arguments were logically confuted by both Gassendi and Hobbes;
and his partial success with theists was a success of partisanism. It
was primarily in respect of his habitual appeal to reason and argument,
in disregard of the assumptions of faith, and secondarily in respect of
his real scientific work, that he counts for freethought. Ultimately
his method undermined his creed; and it is not too much to say of
him that, next to Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, [286] he laid a
good part of the foundation of modern philosophy and science, [287]
Gassendi largely aiding. Though he never does justice to Galileo,
from his fear of provoking the Church, it can hardly be doubted that
he owes to him in large part the early determination of his mind to
scientific methods; for it is difficult to believe that the account
he gives of his mental development in the Discours de la Méthode
(1637) is biographically true. It is rather the schemed statement,
by a ripened mind, of how it might best have been developed. Nor did
Descartes, any more than Bacon, live up to the intellectual idea he
had framed. All through his life he anxiously sought to propitiate
the Church; [288] and his scientific as well as his philosophic work
was hampered in consequence. In England Henry More, who latterly
recoiled from his philosophy, still thought his physics had been
spoiled by fear of the Church, declaring that the imprisonment of
Galileo "frighted Des Cartes into such a distorted description of
motion that no man's reason could make good sense of it, nor modesty
permit him to fancy anything nonsense in so excellent an author." [289]

But nonetheless the unusual rationalism of Descartes's method,
avowedly aiming at the uprooting of all his own prejudices [290]
as a first step to truth, displeased the Jesuits, and could not
escape the hostile attention of the Protestant theologians of Holland,
where Descartes passed so many years of his life. Despite his constant
theism, accordingly, he had at length to withdraw. [291] A Jesuit, Père
Bourdin, sought to have the Discours de la Méthode at once condemned by
the French clergy, but the attempt failed for the time being. France
was just then, in fact, the most freethinking part of Europe; [292]
and Descartes, though not so unsparing with his prejudices as he
set out to be, was the greatest innovator in philosophy that had
arisen in the Christian era. He made real scientific discoveries,
too, where Bacon only inspired an approach and schemed a wandering
road to them. He first effectively applied algebra to geometry;
he first scientifically explained the rainbow; he at once accepted
and founded on Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood,
which most physiologists of the day derided; and he welcomed Aselli's
discovery of the lacteals, which was rejected by Harvey. [293] And
though as regards religion his timorous conformities deprive him
of any heroic status, it is perhaps not too much to pronounce him
"the great reformer and liberator of the European intellect." [294]
One not given to warm sympathy with freethought has avowed that "the
common root of modern philosophy is the doubt which is alike Baconian
and Cartesian." [295]

Only less important, in some regards, was the influence of Pierre
Gassend or Gassendi (1592-1655), who, living his life as a canon of
the Church, reverted in his doctrine to the philosophy of Epicurus,
alike in physics and ethics. [296] It seems clear that he never had
any religious leanings, but simply entered the Church on the advice of
friends who pointed out to him how much better a provision it gave,
in income and leisure, than the professorship he held in his youth
at the university of Aix. [297] Professing like Descartes a strict
submission to the Church, he yet set forth a theory of things which
had in all ages been recognized as fundamentally irreconcilable with
the Christian creed; and his substantial exemption from penalties
is to be set down to his position, his prudence, and his careful
conformities. The correspondent of Galileo and Kepler, he was
the friend of La Mothe le Vayer and Naudé; and Gui Patin was his
physician and intimate. [298] Strong as a physicist and astronomer
where Descartes was weak, he divides with him and Galileo the credit
of practically renewing natural philosophy; Newton being Gassendist
rather than Cartesian. [299] Indeed, Gassendi's youthful attack
on the Aristotelian physics (1624) makes him the predecessor of
Descartes; and he expressly opposed his contemporary on points of
physics and metaphysics on which he thought him chimerical, and so
promoted unbelief where Descartes made for orthodoxy. [300] Of the
criticisms on his Méditations to which Descartes published replies,
those of Gassendi are, with the partial exception of those of Hobbes,
distinctly the most searching and sustained. The later position
of Hume, indeed, is explicitly taken up in the first objection of
Cratérus; [301] but the persistent pressure of Gassendi on the theistic
and spiritistic assumptions of Descartes reads like the reasoning of
a modern atheist. [302] Yet the works of Descartes were in time placed
on the Index, condemned by the king's council, and even vetoed in the
universities, while those of Gassendi were not, though his early work
on Aristotelianism had to be stopped after the first volume because
of the anger it aroused. [303] Himself one of the most abstemious of
men, [304] like his master Epicurus (of whom he wrote a Life, 1647),
he attracted disciples of another temperamental cast as well as many
of his own; and as usual his system is associated with the former,
who are duly vilified by orthodoxy, although certainly no worse than
the average orthodox.

Among his other practical services to rationalism was a curious
experiment, made in a village of the Lower Alps, by way of
investigating the doctrine of witchcraft. A drug prepared by one
sorcerer was administered to others of the craft in presence of
witnesses. It threw them into a deep sleep, on awakening from which
they declared that they had been at a witches' Sabbath. As they had
never left their beds, the experiment went far to discredit the
superstition. [305] One significant result of the experiment was
seen in the course later taken by Colbert in overriding a decision
of the Parlement of Rouen as to witchcraft (1670). That Parlement
proposed to burn fourteen sorcerers. Colbert, who had doubtless read
Montaigne as well as Gassendi, gave Montaigne's prescription that
the culprits should be dosed with hellebore--a medicine for brain
disturbance. [306] In 1672, finally, the king issued a declaration
forbidding the tribunals to admit charges of mere sorcery; [307]
and any future condemnations were on the score of blasphemy and
poisoning. Yet further, in the section of his posthumous Syntagma
Philosophicum (1658) entitled De Effectibus Siderum, [308] Gassendi
dealt the first great blow on the rationalist side to the venerable
creed of astrology, assailed often, but to little purpose, from the
side of faith; bringing to his task, indeed, more asperity than he is
commonly credited with, but also a stringent scientific and logical
method, lacking in the polemic of the churchmen, who had attacked
astrology mainly because it ignored revelation. It is sobering to
remember, however, that he was one of those who could not assimilate
Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, which Descartes
at once adopted and propounded.

Such anomalies meet us many times in the history of scientific as of
other lines of thought; and the residual lesson is the recognition
that progress is infinitely multiplex in its causation. Nothing
is more vital in this regard than scientific truth, which is as a
light-house in seas of speculation; and those who, like Galileo and
Descartes, add to the world's exact knowledge, perform a specific
service not matched by that of the Bacons, who urge right method
without applying it. Yet in that kind also an incalculable influence
has been wielded. Many minds can accept scientific truths without being
thereby led to scientific ways of thought; and thus the reasoners and
speculators, the Brunos and the Vaninis, play their fruitful part, as
do the mentors who turn men's eyes on their own vices of intellectual
habit. And in respect of creeds and philosophies, finally, it is
not so much sheer soundness of result as educativeness of method,
effectual appeal to the thinking faculty and to the spirit of reason,
that determines a thinker's influence. This kind of impact we shall
find historically to be the service done by Descartes to European
thought for a hundred years.

From Descartes, then, as regards philosophy, more than from any
professed thinker of his day, but also from the other thinkers we have
noted, from the reactions of scientific discovery, from the terrible
experience of the potency of religion as a breeder of strife and its
impotence as a curber of evil, and from the practical freethinking
of the more open-minded of that age in general, derives the great
rationalistic movement, which, taking clear literary form first in
the seventeenth century, has with some fluctuations broadened and
deepened down to our own day.



CHAPTER XIV

BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY


§ 1

The propagandist literature of deism begins with an English
diplomatist, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the friend of Bacon, who stood
in the full stream of the current freethought of England and France
[309] in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. English deism,
as literature, is thus at its very outset affiliated with French;
all of its elements, critical and ethical, are germinal in Bodin,
Montaigne, and Charron, each and all of whom had a direct influence
on English thought; and we shall find later French thought, as in
the cases of Gassendi, Bayle, Simon, St. Evremond, and Voltaire,
alternately influenced by and reacting on English. But, apart from
the undeveloped rationalism of the Elizabethan period, which never
found literary expression, the French ferment seems to have given
the first effective impulse; though it is to be remembered that about
the same time the wars of religion in Germany, following on an age of
theological uproar, had developed a common temper of indifferentism
which would react on the thinking of men of affairs in France.

We have seen the state of upper-class and middle-class opinion
in France about 1624. It was in Paris in that year that Herbert
published his De Veritate, after acting for five years as the English
ambassador at the French court--an office from which he was recalled
in the same year. [310] By his own account the book had been "begun
by me in England, and formed there in all its principal parts," [311]
but finished at Paris. He had, however, gone to France in 1608, and
had served in various continental wars in the years following; and it
was presumably in these years, not in his youth in England, that he
had formed the remarkable opinions set forth in his epoch-making book.

Hitherto deism had been represented by unpublished arguments
disingenuously dealt with in published answers; henceforth there
slowly grows up a deistic literature. Herbert was a powerful and
audacious nobleman, with a weak king; and he could venture on a
publication which would have cost an ordinary man dear. Yet even
he saw fit to publish in Latin; and he avowed hesitations. [312]
The most puzzling thing about it is his declaration that Grotius
and the German theologian Tielenus, having read the book in MS.,
exhorted him "earnestly to print and publish it." It is difficult
to believe that they had gathered its substance. Herbert's work
has two aspects, a philosophical and a political, and in both it
is remarkable. [313] Like the Discours de la Méthode of Descartes,
which was to appear thirteen years later, it is inspired by an
original determination to get at the rational grounds of conviction;
and in Herbert's case the overweening self-esteem which disfigures
his Autobiography seems to have been motive force for the production
of a book signally recalcitrant to authority. Where Bacon attacks
Aristotelianism and the habits of mind it had engendered, Herbert
counters the whole conception of revelation in religion. Rejecting
tacitly the theological basis of current philosophy, he divides the
human mind into four faculties--Natural Instinct, Internal Sense,
External Sense, and the Discursive faculty--through one or other of
which all our knowledge emerges. Of course, like Descartes, he makes
the first the verification of his idea of God, pronouncing that to
be primary, independent, and universally entertained, and therefore
not lawfully to be disputed (already a contradiction in terms);
but, inasmuch as scriptural revelation has no place in the process,
the position is conspicuously more advanced than that of Bacon in
the De Augmentis, published the year before, and even than that
of Locke, sixty years later. On the question of concrete religion
Herbert is still more aggressive. His argument [314] is, in brief,
that no professed revelation can have a decisive claim to rational
acceptance; that none escapes sectarian dispute in its own field;
that, as each one misses most of the human race, none seems to be
divine; and that human reason can do for morals all that any one of
them does. The negative generalities of Montaigne here pass into a
positive anti-Christian argument; for Herbert goes on to pronounce
the doctrine of forgiveness for faith immoral.

Like all pioneers, Herbert falls into some inconsistencies on his
own part; the most flagrant being his claim to have had a sign from
heaven--that is, a private and special revelation--encouraging him
to publish his book. [315] But his criticism is nonetheless telling
and persuasive so far as it goes, and remains valid to this day. Nor
do his later and posthumous works [316] add to it in essentials,
though they do much to construct the deistic case on historical
lines. The De religione gentilium in particular is a noteworthy study
of pre-Christian religions, apparently motived by doubt or challenge
as to his theorem of the universality of the God-idea. It proves only
racial universality without agreement; but it is so far a scholarly
beginning of rational hierology. The English Dialogue between a
Teacher and his Pupil, which seems to have been the first form of the
Religio Gentilium, [317] is a characteristic expression of his whole
way of thought, and was doubtless left unpublished for the prudential
reasons which led him to put all his published works in Latin. But the
fact that the Latin quotations are translated shows that the book had
been planned for publication--a risk which he did wisely to shun. The
remarkable thing is that his Latin books were so little debated, the De
Veritate being nowhere discussed before Culverwel. [318] Baxter in 1672
could say that Herbert, "never having been answered, might be thought
unanswerable"; [319] and his own "answer" is merely theological.

The next great freethinking figure in England is Thomas Hobbes
(1588-1679), the most important thinker of his age, after Descartes,
and hardly less influential. But the purpose of Hobbes being always
substantially political and regulative, his unfaith in the current
religion is only incidentally revealed in the writings in which he
seeks to show the need for keeping it under monarchic control. [320]
Hobbes is in fact the anti-Presbyterian or anti-Puritan philosopher;
and to discredit anarchic religion in the eyes of the majority he is
obliged to speak as a judicial Churchman. Yet nothing is more certain
than that he was no orthodox Christian; and even his professed theism
resolves itself somewhat easily into virtual agnosticism on logical
pressure. No thought of prudence could withhold him from showing,
in a discussion on words, that he held the doctrine of the Logos
to be meaningless. [321] Of atheism he was repeatedly accused by
both royalists and rebels; and his answer was forensic rather than
fervent, alike as to his scripturalism, his Christianity, and his
impersonal conception of Deity. [322] Reviving as he did the ancient
rationalistic doctrine of the eternity of the world, [323] he gave
a clear footing for atheism as against the Judæo-Christian view. In
affirming "one God eternal" of whom men "cannot have any idea in
their mind, answerable to his nature," he was negating all creeds. He
expressly contends, it is true, for the principle of a Providence;
but it is hard to believe that he laid any store by prayer, public or
private; and it would appear that whatever thoughtful atheism there
was in England in the latter part of the century looked to him as
its philosopher, insofar as it did not derive from Spinoza. [324]
Nor could the Naturalist school of that day desire a better, terser,
or more drastic scientific definition of religion than Hobbes gave
them: "Fear of power invisible, feigned by the mind or imagined from
tales publicly allowed, Religion; not allowed, Superstition." [325]
As the Churchmen readily saw, his insistence on identifying the
religion of a country with its law plainly implied that no religion
is any more "revealed" than another. With him too begins (1651) the
public criticism of the Bible on literary or documentary grounds;
[326] though, as we have seen, this had already gone far in private;
[327] and he gave a new lead, partly as against Descartes, to a
materialistic philosophy. [328] His replies to the theistic and
spiritistic reasonings of Descartes's Méditations are, like those
of Gassendi, unrefuted and irrefutable; and they are fundamentally
materialistic in their drift. [329] He was, in fact, in a special
and peculiar degree for his age, a freethinker; and so deep was his
intellectual hostility to the clergy of all species that he could not
forego enraging those of his own political side by his sarcasms. [330]
Here he is in marked contrast with Descartes, who dissembled his
opinion about Copernicus and Galileo for peace' sake, [331] and was
the close friend of the apologist Mersenne down to his death. [332]

With the partial exception of the more refined and graceful Pecock,
Hobbes has of all English thinkers down to his period the clearest
and hardest head for all purposes of reasoning, save in the single
field of mathematics, where he meddled without mastery; and against the
theologians of his time his argumentation is as a two-edged sword. That
such a man should have been resolutely on the side of the king in
the Civil War is one of the proofs of the essential fanaticism and
arbitrariness of the orthodox Puritans, who plotted more harm to the
heresies they disliked than was ever wreaked on themselves. Hobbes
came near enough being clerically ostracized among the royalists; but
among the earlier Puritans, or under an Independent Puritan Parliament
at any time, he would have stood a fair chance of execution. It was
doubtless largely due to the anti-persecuting influence of Cromwell,
as well as to his having ostensibly deserted the royalists, that Hobbes
was allowed to settle quietly in England after making his submission
to the Rump Parliament in 1651. In 1666 his Leviathan and De Cive were
together condemned by the Restoration Parliament in its grotesque
panic of piety after the Great Fire of London; and it was actually
proposed to revive against him the writ de heretico comburendo; [333]
but Charles II protected and pensioned him, though he was forbidden
to publish anything further on burning questions, and Leviathan was
not permitted in his lifetime to be republished in English. [334]
He was thus for his generation the typical "infidel," the royalist
clergy being perhaps his bitterest enemies. His spontaneous hostility
to fanaticism shaped his literary career, which began in 1628 with a
translation of Thucydides, undertaken by way of showing the dangers
of democracy. Next came the De Cive (Paris, 1642), written when he
was already an elderly man; and thenceforth the Civil War tinges his
whole temper.

It is in fact by way of a revolt against all theological ethic,
as demonstrably a source of civil anarchy, that Hobbes formulates
a strictly civic or legalist ethic, denying the supremacy of
an abstract or à priori natural moral law (though he founded on
natural law), as well as rejecting all supernatural illumination
of the conscience. [335] In the Church of Rome itself there had
inevitably arisen the practice of Casuistry, in which to a certain
extent ethics had to be rationally studied; and early Protestant
Casuistry, repudiating the authority of the priest, had to rely still
more on reason.


    Compare Whewell, Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy,
    ed. 1862, pp. 25-38, where it is affirmed that, after the
    Reformation, "Since the assertions of the teacher had no inherent
    authority, he was obliged to give his proofs as well as his
    results," and "the determination of cases was replaced by the
    discipline of conscience" (p. 29). There is an interesting
    progression in English Protestant casuistry from W. Perkins
    (1558-1602) and W. Ames (pub. 1630), through Bishops Hall and
    Sanderson, to Jeremy Taylor. Mosheim (17 Cent. sec. ii, pt. ii, §
    9) pronounces Ames "the first among the Reformed who attempted to
    elucidate and arrange the science of morals as distinct from that
    of dogmatics." See biog. notes on Perkins and Ames in Whewell,
    pp. 27-29, and Reid's Mosheim, p. 681.


But Hobbes passed in two strides to the position that natural morality
is a set of demonstrable inferences as to what adjustments promote
general well-being; and further that there is no practical code
of right and wrong apart from positive social law. [336] He thus
practically introduced once for all into modern Christendom the
fundamental dilemma of rationalistic ethics, not only positing the
problem for his age, [337] but anticipating it as handled in later
times. [338]

How far his rationalism was ahead of that of his age may be
realized by comparing his positions with those of John Selden,
the most learned and, outside of philosophy, one of the shrewdest
of the men of that generation. Selden was sometimes spoken of by
the Hobbists as a freethinker; and his Table Talk contains some
sallies which would startle the orthodox if publicly delivered;
[339] but not only is there explicit testimony by his associates
as to his orthodoxy: [340] his own treatise, De Jure Naturali et
Gentium juxta disciplinam Ebræorum, maintains the ground that the
"Law of Nature" which underlies the variants of the Laws of Nations
is limited to the precepts and traditions set forth in the Talmud
as delivered by Noah to his posterity. [341] Le Clerc said of the
work, justly enough, that in it "Selden only copies the Rabbins, and
scarcely ever reasons." It is likely enough that the furious outcry
against Selden for his strictly historical investigation of tithes,
and the humiliation of apology forced upon him in that connection
in 1618, [342] made him specially chary ever afterwards of any
semblance of a denial of the plenary truth of theological tradition;
but there is no reason to think that he had ever really transcended
the Biblical view of the world's order. He illustrates, in fact,
the extent to which a scholar could in that day be anti-clerical
without being rationalistic. Like the bulk of the Parliamentarians,
though without their fanaticism, he was thoroughly opposed to the
political pretensions of the Church, [343] desiring however to leave
episcopacy alone, as a matter outside of legislation, when the House
of Commons abolished it. Yet he spoke of the name of Puritan as one
which he "trusted he was not either mad enough or foolish enough to
deserve." [344] There were thus in the Parliamentary party men of very
different shades of opinion. The largest party, perhaps, was that of
the fanatics who, as Mrs. Hutchinson--herself fanatical enough--tells
concerning her husband, "would not allow him to be religious because
his hair was not in their cut." [345] Next in strength were the more
or less orthodox but anti-clerical and less pious Scripturalists,
of whom Selden was the most illustrious. By far the smallest group of
all were the freethinkers, men of their type being as often repelled
by the zealotry of the Puritans as by the sacerdotalism of the State
clergy. The Rebellion, in short, though it evoked rationalism, was not
evoked by it. Like all religious strifes--like the vaster Thirty Years'
War in contemporary Germany--it generated both doubt and indifferentism
in men who would otherwise have remained undisturbed in orthodoxy.



§ 2

When, however, we turn from the higher literary propaganda to the
verbal and other transitory debates of the period of the Rebellion,
we realize how much partial rationalism had hitherto subsisted
without notice. In that immense ferment some very advanced opinions,
such as quasi-Anarchism in politics [346] and anti-Scripturalism
in religion, were more or less directly professed. In January,
1646 (N.S.), the authorities of the City of London, alarmed at
the unheard-of amount of discussion, petitioned Parliament to put
down all private meetings; [347] and on February 6, 1646 (N.S.),
a solemn fast, or "day of publique humiliation," was proclaimed on
the score of the increase of "errors, heresies, and blasphemies." On
the same grounds, the Presbyterian party in Parliament pressed an
"Ordinance for the suppression of Blasphemies and Heresies," which,
long held back by Vane and Cromwell, was carried in their despite in
1648, by large majorities, when the royalists renewed hostilities. It
enacted the death penalty against all who should deny the doctrine of
the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the inspiration of the Bible,
a day of judgment, or a future state; and prescribed imprisonment
for Arminianism, rejection of infant baptism, anti-Sabbatarianism,
anti-Presbyterianism, or defence of the doctrine of Purgatory or the
use of images. [348] And of aggressive heresy there are some noteworthy
traces. In a pamphlet entitled "Hell Broke Loose: a Catalogue of the
many spreading Errors, Heresies, and Blasphemies of these Times,
for which we are to be humbled" (March 9, 1646, N.S.), the first
entry--and in the similar Catalogue in Edwards's Gangræna, the second
entry--is a citation of the notable thesis, "That the Scripture,
whether a true manuscript or no, whether Hebrew, Greek, or English,
is but humane, and not able to discover a divine God." [349] This
is cited from "The Pilgrimage of the Saints, by Lawrence Clarkson,"
presumably the Lawrence Clarkson who for his book The Single Eye was
sentenced by resolution of Parliament on September 27, 1650, to be
imprisoned, the book being burned by the common hangman. [350] He is
further cited as teaching that even unbaptized persons may preach and
baptize. Of the other heresies cited the principal is the old denial
of a future life, and especially of a physical and future hell. In
general the heresy is pietistic or antinomian; but we have also the
declaration "that right Reason is the rule of Faith, and that we are to
believe the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Trinity, Incarnation,
Resurrection, so far as we see them to be agreeable to reason and no
further." Concerning Jesus there are various heresies, from simple
Unitarianism to contemptuous disparagement, with the stipulation for
a "Christ formed in us." But though there are cases of unquotable
or ribald blasphemy there is little trace of scholarly criticism
of the Bible, of reasoning against miracles or the inconsistencies
of Scripture, as apart from the doctrine of deity. Nonetheless, it
is very credible that "multitudes, unsettled ... have changed their
faith, either to Scepticisme, to doubt of everything, or Atheisme,
to believe nothing." [351]

Against the furious intolerance of the Puritan legislature some pleaded
with new zeal for tolerance all round; arguing that certainty on
articles of faith and points of religion was impossible--a doctrine
promptly classed as a bad heresy. [352] The plea that toleration
would mean concord was met by the confident and not unfounded retort
that the "sectaries" would themselves persecute if they could. [353]
But this could hardly have been true of all. Notable among the new
parties were the Levellers, who insisted that the State should leave
religion entirely alone, tolerating all creeds, including even atheism;
and who put forward a new and striking ethic, grounding on "universal
reason" the right of all men to the soil. [354] In the strictly
theological field the most striking innovation, apart from simple
Unitarianism, is the denial of the eternity or even the existence of
future torments--a position first taken up, as we have seen, either
by the continental Socinians or by the unnamed English heretics of the
Tudor period, who passed on their heresy to the time of Marlowe. [355]
In this connection the learned booklet [356] entitled Of the Torments
of Hell: the foundations and pillars thereof discover'd, search'd,
shaken, and removed (1658) was rightly thought worth translating into
French by d'Holbach over a century later. [357] It is an argument on
scriptural lines, denying that the conception of a place of eternal
torment is either scriptural or credible; and pointing out that many
had explained it in a "spiritual" sense.

Humane feeling of this kind counted for much in the ferment; but a
contrary hate was no less abundant. The Presbyterian Thomas Edwards,
who in a vociferous passion of fear and zeal set himself to catalogue
the host of heresies that threatened to overwhelm the times, speaks
of "monsters" unheard-of theretofore, "now common among us--as
denying the Scriptures, pleading for a toleration of all religions
and worships, yea, for blasphemy, and denying there is a God." [358]
"A Toleration," he declares, "is the grand design of the Devil, his
masterpiece and chief engine"; "every day now brings forth books for
a Toleration." [359] Among the 180 sects named by him [360] there
were "Libertines," "Antiscripturists," "Skeptics and Questionists,"
[361] who held nothing save the doctrine of free speech and liberty of
conscience; [362] as well as Socinians, Arians, and Anti-trinitarians;
and he speaks of serious men who had not only abandoned their religious
beliefs, but sought to persuade others to do the same. [363] Under
the rule of Cromwell, tolerant as he was of Christian sectarianism,
and even of Unitarianism as represented by Biddle, the more advanced
heresies would get small liberty; though that of Thomas Muggleton and
John Reeve, which took shape about 1651 as the Muggletonian sect, does
not seem to have been molested. Muggleton, a mystic, could teach that
there was no devil or evil spirit, save in "man's spirit of unclean
reason and cursed imagination"; [364] but it was only privately that
such men as Henry Marten and Thomas Chaloner, the regicides, could
avow themselves to be of "the natural religion." The statement of
Bishop Burnet, following Clarendon, that "many of the republicans
began to profess deism," cannot be taken literally, though it is
broadly intelligible that "almost all of them were for destroying
all clergymen ... and for leaving religion free, as they called it,
without either encouragement or restraint."


    See Burnet's History of His Own Time, bk. i, ed. 1838, p. 43. The
    phrase, "They were for pulling down the churches," again, cannot
    be taken literally. Of those who "pretended to little or no
    religion and acted only upon the principles of civil liberty,"
    Burnet goes on to name Sidney, Henry Nevill, Marten, Wildman, and
    Harrington. The last was certainly of Hobbes's way of thinking in
    philosophy (Croom Robertson, Hobbes, p. 223, note); but Wildman
    was one of the signers of the Anabaptist petition to Charles II
    in 1658 (Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion, bk. xv, ed. 1843,
    p. 855). As to Marten and Chaloner, see Carlyle's Cromwell,
    iii, 194; and articles in Nat. Dict. of Biog. Vaughan (Hist. of
    England, 1840, ii, 477, note) speaks of Walwyn and Overton as
    "among the freethinkers of the times of the Commonwealth." They
    were, however, Biblicists, not unbelievers. Prof. Gardiner
    (Hist. of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, ii, 253, citing a
    News-letter in the Clarendon MSS.) finds record in 1653 of "a man
    [who] preached flat atheism in Westminster Hall, uninterrupted by
    the soldiers of the guard"; but this obviously counts for little.


Between the advance in speculation forced on by the disputes
themselves, and the usual revolt against the theological spirit
after a long and ferocious display of it, there spread even under
the Commonwealth a new temper of secularity. On the one hand, the
temperamental distaste for theology, antinomian or other, took form
in the private associations for scientific research which were the
antecedents of the Royal Society. On the other hand, the spirit of
religious doubt spread widely in the middle and upper classes; and
between the dislike of the Roundheads for the established clergy and
the anger of the Cavaliers against all Puritanism there was fostered
that "contempt of the clergy" which had become a clerical scandal
at the Restoration and was to remain so for about a century. [365]
Their social status was in general low, and their financial position
bad; and these circumstances, possible only in a time of weakened
religious belief, necessarily tended to further the process of mental
change. Within the sphere of orthodoxy, it operated openly. It is
noteworthy that the term "rationalist" emerges as the label of a
sect of Independents or Presbyterians who declare that "What their
reason dictates to them in church or State stands for good, until
they be convinced with better." [366] The "rationalism," so-called,
of that generation remained ostensibly scriptural; but on other lines
thought went further. Of atheism there are at this stage only dubious
biographical and controversial traces, such as Mrs. Hutchinson's
characterization of a Nottingham physician, possibly a deist, as a
"horrible atheist," [367] and the Rev. John Dove's Confutation of
Atheism (1640), which does not bear out its title. Ephraim Pagitt, in
his Heresiography (1644), speaks loosely of an "atheistical sect who
affirm that men's soules sleep with them until the day of judgment";
and tells of some alleged atheist merely that he "mocked and jeared
at Christ's Incarnation." [368] Similarly a work, entitled Dispute
betwixt an Atheist and a Christian (1646), shows the existence not
of atheists but of deists, and the deist in the dialogue is a Fleming.

More trustworthy is the allusion in Nathaniel Culverwel's Discourse of
the Light of Nature (written in 1646, published posthumously in 1652)
to "those lumps and dunghills of all sects ... that young and upstart
generation of gross anti-scripturalists, that have a powder-plot
against the Gospel, that would very compendiously behead all Christian
religion at one blow, a device which old and ordinary heretics were
never acquainted withal." [369] The reference is presumably to the
followers of Lawrence Clarkson. Yet even here we have no mention of
atheism, which is treated as something almost impossible. Indeed, the
very course of arguing in favour of a "Light of Nature" seems to have
brought suspicion on Culverwel himself, who shows a noticeable liking
for Herbert of Cherbury. [370] He is, however, as may be inferred from
his angry tone towards anti-scripturalists, substantially orthodox,
and not very important.


    It is contended for Culverwel by modern admirers (ed. cited,
    p. xxi) that he deserves the praise given by Hallam to the later
    Bishop Cumberland as "the first Christian writer who sought to
    establish systematically the principle of moral right independent
    of revelation." [See above, p. 74, the similar tribute of Mosheim
    to Ames.] But Culverwel does not really make this attempt. His
    proposition is that reason, "the candle of the Lord," discovers
    "that all the moral law is founded in natural and common light,
    in the light of reason, and that there is nothing in the mysteries
    of the Gospel contrary to the light of reason" (Introd. end);
    yet he contends not only that faith transcends reason, but that
    Abraham's attempt to slay his son was a dutiful obeying of "the
    God of nature" (pp. 225-26). He does not achieve the simple step of
    noting that the recognition of revelation as such must be performed
    by reason, and thus makes no advance on the position of Bacon,
    much less on those of Pecock and Hooker. His object, indeed, was
    not to justify orthodoxy by reason against rationalistic unbelief,
    but to make a case for reason in theology against the Lutherans
    and others who, "because Socinus has burnt his wings at this candle
    of the Lord," scouted all use of it (Introd.). Culverwel, however,
    was one of the learned group in Emanuel College, Cambridge, whose
    tradition developed in the next generation into Latitudinarianism;
    and he may be taken as a learned type of a number of the clergy
    who were led by the abundant discussion all around them into
    professing and encouraging a ratiocinative habit of mind. Thus
    we find Dean Stuart, Clerk of the Closet to Charles I, devoting
    one of his short homilies to Jerome's text, Tentemus animas quæ
    deficiunt a fide naturalibus rationibus adjurare. "It is not
    enough," he writes, "for you to rest in an imaginary faith, and
    easiness in beleeving, except yee know also what and why and how
    you come to that beleef. Implicite beleevers, ignorant beleevers,
    the adversary may swallow, but the understanding beleever hee must
    chaw, and pick bones before hee come to assimilate him, and make
    him like himself. The implicite beleever stands in an open field,
    and the enemy will ride over him easily: the understanding beleever
    is in a fenced town." (Catholique Divinity, 1657, pp. 133-34--a
    work written many years earlier.)


The discourse on Atheism, again, in the posthumous works of John
Smith of Cambridge (d. 1652), is entirely retrospective; but soon
another note is sounded. As early as 1652, the year after the issue
of Hobbes's Leviathan, the prolific Walter Charleton, who had been
physician to the king, published a book entitled The Darkness of
Atheism Expelled by the Light of Nature, wherein he asserted that
England "hath of late produced and doth ... foster more swarms of
atheistical monsters ... than any age, than any Nation hath been
infested withal." In the following year Henry More, the Cambridge
Platonist, published his Antidote against Atheism. The flamboyant
dedication to Viscountess Conway affirms that the existence of God
is "as clearly demonstrable as any theorem in mathematicks"; but,
the reverend author adds, "considering the state of things as they
are, I cannot but pronounce that there is more necessity of this my
Antidote than I could wish there were." At the close of the preface he
pleasantly explains that he will use no Biblical arguments, but talk
to the atheist as a "mere Naturalist"; inasmuch as "he that converses
with a barbarian must discourse to him in his own language," and "he
that would gain upon the more weak and sunk minds of sensual mortals
is to accommodate himself to their capacity, who, like the bat and
owl, can see nowhere so well as in the shady glimmerings of their
twilight." Then, after some elementary play with the design argument,
the entire Third Book of forty-six folio pages is devoted to a parade
of old wives' tales of witches and witchcraft, witches' sabbaths,
apparitions, commotions by devils, ghosts, incubi, polter-geists--the
whole vulgar medley of the peasant superstitions of Europe.

It is not that the Platonist does violence to his own philosophic
tastes by way of influencing the "bats and owls" of atheism. This
mass of superstition is his own special pabulum. In the preface he has
announced that, while he may abstain from the use of the Scriptures,
nothing shall restrain him from telling what he knows of spirits. "I
am so cautious and circumspect," he claims, "that I make use of no
narrations that either the avarice of the priest or the credulity
and fancifulness of the melancholist may render suspected." As for
the unbelievers, "their confident ignorance shall never dash me out
of confidence with my well-grounded knowledge; for I have been no
careless inquirer into these things." It is after a polter-geist
tale of the crassest description that he announces that it was
strictly investigated and attested by "that excellently-learned and
noble gentleman, Mr. E. Boyle," who avowed "that all his settled
indisposedness to believe strange things was overcome by this special
conviction." [371] And the section ends with the proposition:
"Assuredly that saying is not more true in politick, No Bishop,
no King, than this in metaphysicks, No Spirit, no God." Such was
the mentality of some of the most eminent and scholarly Christian
apologists of the time. It seems safe to conclude that the Platonist
made few converts.

More avowed that he wrote without having read previous apologists;
and others were similarly spontaneous in the defence of the faith. In
1654 there is noted [372] a treatise called Atheismus Vapulans, by
William Towers, whose message can in part be inferred from his title;
[373] and in 1657 Charleton issued his Immortality of the Human Soul
demonstrated by the Light of Nature, wherein the argument, which
says nothing of revelation, is so singularly unconfident, and so much
broken in upon by excursus, as to leave it doubtful whether the author
was more lacking in dialectic skill or in conviction. And still the
traces of unbelief multiply. Baxter and Howe were agreed, in 1658,
that there were both "infidels and papists" at work around them; and in
1659 Howe writes: "I know some leading men are not Christians." [374]
"Seekers, Vanists, and Behmenists" are specified as groups to which
both infidels and papists attach themselves. And Howe, recognizing
how religious strifes promote unbelief, bears witness "What a cloudy,
wavering, uncertain, lank, spiritless thing is the faith of Christians
in this age become!... Most content themselves to profess it only as
the religion of their country." [375]

Alongside of all this vindication of Christianity there was going on
constant and cruel persecution of heretic Christians. The Unitarian
John Biddle, master of the Gloucester Grammar School, was dismissed
for his denial of the Trinity; and in 1647 he was imprisoned, and
his book burned by the hangman. In 1654 he was again imprisoned; and
in 1655 he was banished to the Scilly Islands. Returning to London
after the Restoration, he was again arrested, and died in gaol in
1662. [376] Under the Commonwealth (1656) James Naylor, the Quaker,
narrowly escaped death for blasphemy, but was whipped through the
streets, pilloried, bored through the tongue with a hot iron, branded
in the forehead, and sent to hard labour in prison. Many hundreds of
Quakers were imprisoned and more or less cruelly handled.

From the Origines Sacræ (1662) of Stillingfleet, nevertheless,
it would appear that both deism and atheism were becoming more and
more common. [377] He states that "the most popular pretences of
the atheists of our age have been the irreconcilableness of the
account of times in Scripture with that of the learned and ancient
heathen nations, the inconsistency of the belief of the Scriptures
with the principles of reason; and the account which may be given
of the origin of things from the principles of philosophy without
the Scriptures." These positions are at least as natural to deists
as to atheists; and Stillingfleet is later found protesting against
the policy of some professed Christians who give up the argument from
miracles as valueless. [378] His whole treatise, in short, assumes the
need for meeting a very widespread unbelief in the Bible, though it
rarely deals with the atheism of which it so constantly speaks. After
the Restoration, naturally, all the new tendencies were greatly
reinforced, [379] alike by the attitude of the king and his companions,
all influenced by French culture, and by the general reaction against
Puritanism. Whatever ways of thought had been characteristic of the
Puritans were now in more or less complete disfavour; the belief in
witchcraft was scouted as much on this ground as on any other; [380]
and the deistic doctrines found a ready audience among royalists,
whose enemies had been above all things Bibliolaters.


    There is evidence that Charles II, at least up to the time of
    his becoming a Catholic, and probably even to the end, was at
    heart a deist. See Burnet's History of his Own Time, ed. 1838,
    pp. 61, 175, and notes; and cp. refs. in Buckle, 3-vol. ed. i,
    362, note; 1-vol. ed. p. 205. St. Evremond, who knew him and
    many of his associates, affirmed expressly that Charles's creed
    "étoit seulement ce qui passe vulgairement, quoiqu' injustement,
    pour une extinction totale de Religion: je veux dire le Déisme"
    (OEuvres mélées: t. viii of OEuvres, ed. 1714, p. 354). His
    opinion, St. Evremond admits, was the result of simple recognition
    of the actualities of religious life, not of reading, or of much
    reflection. And his adoption of Catholicism, in St. Evremond's
    opinion, was purely political. He saw that Catholicism made much
    more than Protestantism for kingly power, and that his Catholic
    subjects were the most subservient.


We gather this, however, still from the apologetic treatises and
the historians, not from new deistic literature; for in virtue of
the Press Licensing Act, passed on behalf of the Church in 1662, no
heretical book could be printed; so that Herbert was thus far the only
professed deistic writer in the field, and Hobbes the only other of
similar influence. Baxter, writing in 1655 on The Unreasonableness of
Infidelity, handles chiefly Anabaptists; and in his Reformed Pastor
(1656), though he avows that "the common ignorant people," seeing
the endless strifes of the clergy, "are hardened by us against
all religion," the only specific unbelief he mentions is that of
"the devil's own agents, the unhappy Socinians," who had written
"so many treatises for ... unity and peace." [381] But in his Reasons
of the Christian Religion, issued in 1667, he thinks fit to prove the
existence of God and a future state, and the truth and the supernatural
character of the Christian religion. Any deist or atheist who took the
trouble to read through it would have been rewarded by the discovery
that the learned author has annihilated his own case. In his first
part he affirms: "If there were no life of Retribution after this,
Obedience to God would be finally men's loss and ruine: But Obedience
to God shall not be finally men's loss and ruine: Ergo, there is
another life." [382] In the second part he writes that "Man's personal
interest is an unfit rule and measure of God's goodness"; [383] and,
going on to meet the new argument against Christianity based on the
inference that an infinity of stars are inhabited, he writes:--


    Ask any man who knoweth these things whether all this earth be any
    more in comparison of the whole creation than one Prison is to a
    Kingdom or Empire, or the paring of one nail ... in comparison
    of the whole body. And if God should cast off all this earth,
    and use all the sinners in it as they deserve, it is no more sign
    of a want of benignity or mercy in him than it is for a King to
    cast one subject of a million into a jail ... or than it is to
    pare a man's nails, or cut off a wart, or a hair, or to pull out
    a rotten aking tooth. [384]


Thus the second part absolutely destroys one of the fundamental
positions of the first. No semblance of levity on the part of the
freethinkers could compare with the profound intellectual insincerity
of such a propaganda as this; and that deism and atheism continued to
gain ground is proved by the multitude of apologetic treatises. Even
in church-ridden Scotland they were found necessary; at least the
young advocate George Mackenzie, afterwards to be famous as the
"bluidy Mackenzie" of the time of persecution, thought it expedient
to make his first appearance in literature with a Religio Stoici
(1663), wherein he sets out with a refutation of atheism. It is
difficult to believe that his counsel to Christians to watch the
"horror-creating beds of dying atheists" [385]--a false pretence as
it stands--represented any knowledge whatever of professed atheism
in his own country; and his discussion of the subject is wholly on
the conventional lines--notably so when he uses the customary plea,
later associated with Pascal, that the theist runs no risk even if
there is no future life, whereas the atheist runs a tremendous risk
if there is one; [386] but when he writes of "that mystery why the
greatest wits are most frequently the greatest atheists," [387] he
must be presumed to refer at least to deists. And other passages show
that he had listened to freethinking arguments. Thus he speaks [388]
of those who "detract from Scripture by attributing the production
of miracles to natural causes"; and again [389] of those who "contend
that the Scriptures are written in a mean and low style; are in some
places too mysterious, in others too obscure; contain many things
incredible, many repetitions, and many contradictions." His own
answers are conspicuously weak. In the latter passage he continues:
"But those miscreants should consider that much of the Scripture's
native splendour is impaired by its translators"; and as to miracles
he makes the inept answer that if secondary causes were in operation
they acted by God's will; going on later to suggest on his own part
that prophecy may be not a miraculous gift, but "a natural (though the
highest) perfection of our human nature." [390] Apart from his weak
dialectic, he writes in general with cleverness and literary finish,
but without any note of sincerity; and his profession of concern that
reason should be respected in theology [391] is as little acted on in
his later life as his protest against persecution. [392] The inference
from the whole essay is that in Scotland, as in England, the civil
war had brought up a considerable crop of reasoned unbelief; and that
Mackenzie, professed defender of the faith as he was at twenty-five,
and official persecutor of nonconformists as he afterwards became, met
with a good deal of it in his cultured circle. In his later booklet,
Reason: an Essay (1690), he speaks of the "ridiculous and impudent
extravagance of some who ... take pains to persuade themselves and
others that there is not a God." [393] He further coarsely asperses
all atheists as debauchees, [394] though he avows that "Infidelity
is not the cause of false reasoning, because such as are not atheists
reason falsely."

When anti-theistic thought could subsist in the ecclesiastical climate
of Puritan Scotland, it must have flourished somewhat in England. In
1667 appeared A Philosophicall Essay towards an eviction of the Being
and Attributes of God, etc., of which the preface proclaims "the bold
and horrid pride of Atheists and Epicures" who "have laboured to
introduce into the world a general Atheism, or at least a doubtful
Skepticisme in matters of Religion." In 1668 was published Meric
Casaubon's treatise, Of Credulity and Incredulity in things Natural,
Civil, and Divine, assailing not only "the Sadducism of these times
in denying spirits, witches," etc., but "Epicurus ... and the juggling
and false dealing lately used to bring Atheism into Credit"--a thrust
at Gassendi. A similar polemic is entombed in a ponderous folio
"romance" entitled Bentivolio and Urania, by Nathaniel Ingelo, D.D.,
a fellow first of Emanuel College, and afterwards of Queen's College,
Cambridge (1660; 4th ed. amended, 1682). The second part, edifyingly
dedicated to the Earl of Lauderdale, one of the worst men of his day,
undertakes to handle the "Atheists, Epicureans, and Skepticks"; and
in the preface the atheists are duly vituperated; while Epicurus is
described as a gross sensualist, in terms of the legend, and the
skeptics as "resigned to the slavery of vice." In the sixth book
the atheists are allowed a momentary hearing in defence of their
"horrid absurdities," from which it appears that there were current
arguments alike anthropological and metaphysical against theism. The
most competent part of the author's own argument, which is unlimited
as to space, is that which controverts the thesis of the invention
of religious beliefs by "politicians" [395]--a notion first put in
currency, as we have seen, by those who insisted on the expediency
and value of such inventions; as, Polybius among the ancients, and
Machiavelli among the moderns; and further by Christian priests,
who described all non-Christian religions as human inventions.

Dr. Ingelo's folio seems to have had many readers; but he avowedly did
not look for converts; and defences of the faith on a less formidable
scale were multiplied. A "Person of Honour" (Sir Charles Wolseley)
produced in 1669 an essay on The Unreasonableness of Atheism made
Manifest, which, without supplying any valid arguments, gives some
explanation of the growth of unbelief in terms of the political and
other antecedents; [396] and in 1670 appeared Richard Barthogge's
Divine Goodness Explicated and Vindicated from the Exceptions of the
Atheists. Baxter in 1671 [397] complains that "infidels are grown
so numerous and so audacious, and look so big and talk so loud";
and still the process continues. In 1672 Sir William Temple writes
indignantly of "those who would pass for wits in our age by saying
things which, David tells us, the fool said in his heart." [398]
In the same year appeared The Reasonableness of Scripture-Belief,
by Sir Charles Wolseley, and The Atheist Silenced, by one J. M.;
in 1674, Dr. Thomas Good's Firmianus et Dubitantius, or Dialogues
concerning Atheism, Infidelity, and Popery; in 1675, the posthumous
treatise of Bishop Wilkins (d. 1672), Of the Principles and Duties
of Natural Religion, with a preface by Tillotson; and a Brevis
Demonstratio, with the modest sub-title, "The Truth of Christian
Religion Demonstrated by Reasons the best that have yet been out in
English"; in 1677, Bishop Stillingfleet's Letter to a Deist; and in
1678 the massive work of Cudworth on The True Intellectual System of
the Universe attacking atheism (not deism) on philosophic lines which
sadly compromised the learned author. [399] English dialectic being
found insufficient, there was even produced in 1679 a translation by
the Rev. Joshua Bonhome of the French L'Athéisme Convaincu of David
Dersdon, published twenty years before.

All of these works explicitly avow the abundance of unbelief;
Tillotson, himself accused of it, pronounces the age "miserably overrun
with Skepticism and Infidelity"; and Wilkins, avowing that these
tendencies are common "not only among sensual men of the vulgar sort,
but even among those who pretend to a more than ordinary measure of
wit and learning," attempts to meet them by a purely deistic argument,
with a claim for Christianity appended, as if he were concerned chiefly
to rebut atheism, and held his own Christianity on a very rationalistic
tenure. The fact was that the orthodox clergy were as hard put to it
to repel religious antinomianism on the one hand as to repel atheism
on the other; and no small part of the deistic movement seems to have
been set up by the reaction against pious lawlessness. [400] Thus
we have Tillotson, writing as Dean of Canterbury, driven to plead
in his preface to the work of Wilkins that "it is a great mistake"
to think the obligation of moral duties "doth solely depend upon the
revelation of God's will made to us in the Holy Scriptures." It was
such reasoning that brought upon him the charge of freethinking.

If it be now possible to form any accurate picture of the state of
belief in the latter part of the seventeenth century, it may perhaps
be done by recognizing three categories of temperament or mental
proclivity. First we have to reckon with the great mass of people
held to religious observance by hebetude, [401] devoid of the deeper
mystical impulse or psychic bias which exhibited itself on the one
hand among the dissenters who partly preserved the "enthusiasms"
of the Commonwealth period, and on the other among the more cultured
pietists of the Church who, banning "enthusiasm" in its stronger forms,
cultivated a certain "enthusiasm" of their own. Religionists of the
latter type were ministered to by superstitious mystics like Henry
More, who, even when undertaking to "prove" the existence of God and
the separate existence of the soul by argument and by demonology,
taught them to cultivate a "warranted enthusiasm," and to "endeavour
after a certain principle more noble and inward than reason itself,
and without which reason will falter, or at least reach but to mean
and frivolous things" ... "something in me while I thus speak, which
I must confess is of so retruse a nature that I want a name for it,
unless I should adventure to term it divine sagacity, which is the
first rise of successful reason, especially in matters of great
comprehension and moment." [402] There was small psychic difference
between this dubiously draped affirmation of the "inner light" and
the more orotund proclamations of it by the dissenters who, for a
considerable section of the people, still carried on the tradition of
rapturous pietism; and the dissenters were not always at a disadvantage
in that faculty for rhetoric which has generally been a main factor
in doctrinal religion. [403]

From the popular and the eclectic pietist alike the generality of the
Anglican clergy stood aloof; and among them, in turn, a rationalistic
and anti-mythical habit of mind in a manner joined men who were divided
in their beliefs. The clergymen who wrote lawyer-like treatises against
schism were akin in psychosis to those who, in their distaste for the
parade of inspiration, veered towards deism. Tillotson was not the
only man reputed to have done so: fervid dissenters declared that many
of the established clergy paid "more respect to the light of reason
than to the light of the Scriptures," and further "left Christ out of
their religion, disowned imputed righteousness, derided the operations
of the holy spirit as the empty pretences of enthusiasts." [404]
Of men of this temperament, some would open dialectic batteries
against dissent; while others, of a more searching proclivity,
would tend to construct for themselves a rationalistic creed out
of the current medley of theological and philosophic doctrine. The
great mass of course maintained an allegiance of habit to the main
formulas of the faith, putting quasi-rational aspects on the trinity,
providence, redemption, and the future life, very much as the adherents
of political parties normally vindicate their supposed principles;
and there was a good deal of surviving temperamental piety even in
the Restoration period. [405] But the outstanding feature of the age,
as contrasted with previous periods, was the increasing commonness
of the skeptical or rationalistic attitude in general society. Sir
Charles Wolseley protests [406] that "Irreligion, 'tis true, in its
practice hath still been the companion of every age, but its open and
public defence seems the peculiar of this"; adding that "most of the
bad principles of this age are of no earlier a date than one very ill
book, and indeed but the spawn of the Leviathan." This, as we have
seen, is a delusion; but the influence of Hobbes was a potent factor.

All the while, the censorship of the press, which was one of the
means by which the clerical party under Charles combated heresy,
prevented any new and outspoken writing on the deistic side. The
Treatise of Humane [i.e. Human] Reason (1674) [407] of Martin
Clifford, a scholarly man-about-town, [408] who was made Master
of the Charterhouse, went indeed to the bottom of the question of
authority by showing, as Spinoza had done shortly before, [409] that
the acceptance of authority is itself in the last resort grounded in
reason. The author makes no overt attack on religion, and professes
Christian belief, but points out that many modern wars had been
on subjects of religion, and elaborates a skilful argument on the
gain to be derived from toleration. Reason alone, fairly used, will
bring a man to the Christian faith: he who denies this cannot be a
Christian. As for schism, it is created not by variation in belief,
but by the refusal to tolerate it. This ingenious and well-written
treatise speedily elicited three replies, all pronouncing it a
pernicious work. Dr. Laney, Bishop of Ely, is reported to have
declared that book and author might fitly be burned together; [410]
and Dr. Isaac Watts, while praising it for "many useful notions,"
found it "exalt reason as the rule of religion as well as the guide,
to a degree very dangerous." [411] Its actual effect seems to have been
to restrain the persecution of dissenters. [412] In 1680, three years
after Clifford's death, there appeared An Apology for a Treatise of
Humane Reason, by Albertus Warren, wherein one of the attacks, entitled
Plain Dealing, by a Cambridge scholar, is specially answered. [413]
This helped to evoke the anonymous Discourse of Things above Reason
(1681), by Robert Boyle, the distinguished author of The Sceptical
Chemist, whom we have seen backing up Henry More in acceptance of
the grossest of ignorant superstitions. The most notable thing about
the Discourse is that it anticipates Berkeley's argument against
freethinking mathematicians. [414]

The stress of new discussion is further to be gathered from the
work of Howe, On the Reconcilableness of God's Prescience of the
Sins of Men with the Wisdom and Sincerity of his Counsels and
Exhortations, produced in 1677 at Boyle's request. As a modern
admirer admits that the thesis was a hopeless one, [415] it is not
to be supposed that it did much to lessen doubt in its own day. The
preface to Stillingfleet's Letter to a Deist (1677), which for
the first time brings that appellation into prominence in English
controversy, tacitly abandoning the usual ascription of atheism to
all unbelievers, avows that "a mean esteem of the Scriptures and the
Christian Religion" has become very common "among the Skepticks of
this Age," and complains very much, as Butler did sixty years later,
of the spirit of "Raillery and Buffoonery" in which the matter was
too commonly approached. The "Letter" shows that a multitude of the
inconsistencies and other blemishes of the Old Testament were being
keenly discussed; and it cannot be said that the Bishop's vindication
was well calculated to check the tendency. Indeed, we have the angry
and reiterated declaration of Archdeacon Parker, writing in 1681,
that "the ignorant and the unlearned among ourselves are become the
greatest pretenders to skepticism; and it is the common people that
nowadays set up for Skepticism and Infidelity"; that "Atheism and
Irreligion are at length become as common as Vice and Debauchery";
and that "Plebeans and Mechanicks have philosophized themselves
into Principles of Impiety, and read their Lectures of Atheism in
the Streets and Highways. And they are able to demonstrate out of
the Leviathan that there is no God nor Providence," and so on. [416]
As the Archdeacon's method of refutation consists mainly in abuse,
he doubtless had the usual measure of success. A similar order of
dialectic is employed by Dr. Sherlock in his Practical Discourse of
Religious Assemblies (1681). The opening section is addressed to the
"speculative atheists," here described as receding from the principles
of their "great Master, Mr. Hobbs," who, "though he had no great
opinion of religion in itself, yet thought it something considerable
when it became the law of the nation." Such atheists, the reverend
writer notes, when it is urged on them that all mankind worship "some
God or other," reply that such an argument is as good for polytheism
and idolatry as for monotheism; so, after formally inviting them to
"cure their souls of that fatal and mortal disease, which makes them
beasts here and devils hereafter," and lamenting that he is not dealing
with "reasonable men," he bethinks him that "the laws of conversation
require us to treat all men with just respects," and admits that there
have been "some few wise and cautious atheists." To such, accordingly,
he suggests that the atheist has already a great advantage in a world
morally restrained by religion, where he is under no such restraint,
and that, "if he should by his wit and learning proselyte a whole
nation to atheism, Hell would break loose on Earth, and he might soon
find himself exposed to all those violences and injuries which he
now securely practises." For the rest, they had better not affront
God, who may after all exist, and be able to revenge himself. [417]
And so forth.

Of deists as such, Sherlock has nothing to say beyond treating
as "practical atheists" men who admit the existence of God, yet
never go to church, though "religious worship is nothing else but
a public acknowledgment of God." Their non-attendance "is as great,
if not a greater affront to God, and contempt of him, than atheism
itself." [418] But the reverend writer's strongest resentment is
aroused by the spectacle of freethinkers asking for liberty of thought.


    "It is a fulsome and nauseous thing," he breathlessly protests,
    "to see the atheists and infidels of our days to turn great
    reformers of religion, to set up a mighty cry for liberty of
    conscience. For whatever reformation of religion may be needful
    at this time, whatever liberty of conscience may be fit to be
    granted, yet what have these men to do to meddle with it; those
    who think religion a mere fable, and God to be an Utopian prince,
    and conscience a man of clouts set up for a scarecrow to fright
    such silly creatures from their beloved enjoyments, and hell and
    heaven to be forged in the same mint with the poet's Styx and
    Acheron and Elysian Fields? We are like to see blessed times,
    if such men had but the reforming of religion." [419]


Dr Sherlock was not going to do good if the devil bade him.

The faith had a wittier champion in South; but he, in a Westminster
Abbey sermon of 1684-5, [420] mournfully declares that


    "The weakness of our church discipline since its restoration,
    whereby it has been scarce able to get any hold on men's
    consciences, and much less able to keep it; and the great
    prevalence of that atheistical doctrine of the Leviathan; and
    the unhappy propagation of Erastianism; these things (I say)
    with some others have been the sad and fatal causes that have
    loosed the bands of conscience and eaten out the very heart and
    sense of Christianity among us, to that degree, that there is now
    scarce any religious tye or restraint upon persons, but merely
    from those faint remainders of natural conscience, which God
    will be sure to keep alive upon the hearts of men, as long as
    they are men, for the great ends of his own providence, whether
    they will or no. So that, were it not for this sole obstacle,
    religion is not now so much in danger of being divided and torn
    piecemeal by sects and factions, as of being at once devoured
    by atheism. Which being so, let none wonder that irreligion is
    accounted policy when it is grown even to a fashion; and passes
    for wit, with some, as well as for wisdom with others."


How general was the ferment of discussion may be gathered from
Dryden's Religio Laici (1682), addressed to the youthful Henry
Dickinson, translator of Père Richard Simon's Critical History of
the Old Testament (Fr. 1678). The French scholar was suspect to begin
with; and Bishop Burnet tells that Richard Hampden (grandson of the
patriot), who was connected with the Rye House Plot and committed
suicide in the reign of William and Mary, had been "much corrupted"
in his religious principles by Simon's conversation at Paris. In
the poem, Dryden recognizes the upsetting tendency of the treatise,
albeit he terms it "matchless":--


    For some, who have his secret meaning guessed,
    Have found our author not too much a priest;


and his flowing disquisition, which starts from poetic contempt of
reason and ends in prosaic advice to keep quiet about its findings,
leaves the matter at that. The hopelessly confused but musical passage:


    Dim as the borrowed beams of moon and stars,
    To lonely, weary, wandering travellers,
    Is Reason to the soul,


begins the poem; but the poet thinks it necessary both in his preface
and in his piece to argue with the deists in a fashion which must
have entertained them as much as it embarrassed the more thoughtful
orthodox, his simple thesis being that all ideas of deity were débris
from the primeval revelation to Noah, and that natural reason could
never have attained to a God-idea at all. And even at that, as regards
the Herbertian argument:


    No supernatural worship can be true,
    Because a general law is that alone
    Which must to all and everywhere be known:


he confesses that


    Of all objections this indeed is chief
    To startle reason, stagger frail belief;


and feebly proceeds to argue away the worst meaning of the creed of
"the good old man" Athanasius. Finally, we have a fatherly appeal
for peace and quietness among the sects:--


    And after hearing what our Church can say,
    If still our reason runs another way,
    That private reason 'tis more just to curb
    Than by disputes the public peace disturb;
    For points obscure are of small use to learn,
    But common quiet is mankind's concern.


It must have been the general disbelief in Dryden's sincerity on
religious matters that caused the ascription to him of various
freethinking treatises, for there is no decisive evidence that he
was ever pronouncedly heterodox. His attitude to rationalism in the
Religio Laici is indeed that of one who either could not see the scope
of the problem or was determined not to indicate his recognition of it;
and on the latter view the insincerity of both poem and preface would
be exorbitant. By his nominal hostility to deism, however, Dryden did
freethought a service of some importance. After his antagonism had
been proclaimed, no one could plausibly associate freethinking with
licentiousness, in which Dryden so far exceeded nearly every poet
and dramatist of his age that the non-juror Jeremy Collier was free
to single him out as the representative of theatrical lubricity. But
in simple justice it must also be avowed that of all the opponents
of deism in that day he is one of the least embittered, and that his
amiable superficiality of argument must have tended to stimulate the
claims of reason.


    The late Dr. Verrall, a keen but unprejudiced critic, sums up as
    regards Dryden's religious poetry in general that "What is clear
    is that he had a marked dislike of clergy of all sorts, as such";
    that "the main points of Deism are noted in Religio Laici (46-61);
    and that "his creed was presumably some sort of Deism" (Lectures
    on Dryden, 1914, pp. 148-50). Further, "The State of Innocence is
    really deistic and not Christian in tone: in his play of Tyrannic
    Love, the religion of St. Catharine may be mere philosophy";
    and though the poet in his preface to that play protests that his
    "outward conversation shall never be justly taxed with the note of
    atheism or profaneness," the disclaimer "proves nothing as to his
    positive belief: Deism is not profane." In Absalom and Achitophel,
    again, the "coarse satire on Transubstantiation (118 ff.) shows
    rather religious insensibility than hostile theology," though
    "the poem shows his dislike of liberty and private judgment
    (49-50)." Of the Religio Laici the critic asks: "Now in all
    this, is there any religion at all?" The poem "might well be
    dismissed as mere politics but for its astounding commencement"
    (p. 155). The critic unexpectedly fails to note that the admired
    commencement is an insoluble confusion of metaphors.


How far the process of reasoning had gone among quiet thinking people
before the Revolution may be gathered from the essay entitled Miracles
no Violations of the Laws of Nature, published in 1683. [421] Its
thesis is that put explicitly by Montaigne and implicitly by Bacon,
that Ignorance is the only worker of miracles; in other words, "that
the power of God and the power of Nature are one and the same"--a
simple and straightforward way of putting a conception which Cudworth
had put circuitously and less courageously a few years before. No
Scriptural miracle is challenged qua event. "Among the many miracles
related to be done in favour of the Israelites," says the writer,
"there is (I think) no one that can be apodictically demonstrated to
be repugnant to th' establisht Order of Nature"; [422] and he calmly
accepts the Biblical account of the first rainbow, explaining it as
passing for a miracle merely because it was the first. He takes his
motto from Pliny: "Quid non miraculo est, cum primum in notitiam
venit?" [423] This is, however, a preliminary strategy; as is the
opening reminder that "most of the ancient Fathers ... and of the
most learned Theologues among the moderns" hold that the Scriptures
as regards natural things do not design to instruct men in physics but
"aim only to excite pious affections in their breasts."

We accordingly reach the position that the Scripture "many times
speaks of natural things, yea even of God himself, very improperly,
as aiming to affect and occupy the imagination of men, not to
convince their reason." Many Scriptural narratives, therefore, "are
either delivered poetically or related according to the preconceived
opinions and prejudices of the writer." "Wherefore we here absolutely
conclude that all the events that are truly related in the Scripture
to have come to pass, proceeded necessarily ... according to the
immutable Laws of Nature; and that if anything be found which can
be apodictically demonstrated to be repugnant to those laws ... we
may safely and piously believe the same not to have been dictated
by divine inspiration, but impiously added to the sacred volume by
sacrilegious men; for whatever is against Nature is against Reason;
and whatever is against Reason is absurd, and therefore also to be
rejected and refuted." [424]

Lest this should be found too hard a doctrine there is added, àpropos
of Joshua's staying of the sun and moon, a literary solution which has
often done duty in later times. "To interpret Scripture-miracles, and
to understand from the narrations of them how they really happened,
'tis necessary to know the opinions of those who first reported
them ... otherwise we shall confound ... things which have really
happen'd with things purely imaginary, and which were only prophetic
representations. For in Scripture many things are related as real, and
which were also believ'd to be real even by the relators themselves,
that notwithstanding were only representations form'd in the brain,
and merely imaginary--as that God, the Supreme Being, descended from
heaven ... upon Mount Sinai...; that Elias ascended to heaven in
a fiery chariot ... which were only representations accommodated to
their opinions who deliver'd them down to us." [425] Such argumentation
had to prepare the way for Hume's Essay Of Miracles, half a century
later; and concerning both reasoners it is to be remembered that
their thought was to be "infidelity" for centuries after them. It
needed real freethinking, then, to produce such doctrine in the days
of the Rye House Plot.

Meanwhile, during an accidental lapse of the press laws, the deist
Charles Blount [426] (1654-1693) had produced with his father's help
his Anima Mundi (1679), in which there is set forth a measure of
cautious unbelief; following it up (1680) by his much more pronounced
essay, Great is Diana of the Ephesians, a keen attack on the principle
of revelation and clericalism in general, and his translation [from
the Latin version] of Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana, so
annotated [427] as to be an ingenious counterblast to the Christian
claims, and so prefaced as to be an open challenge to orthodoxy. The
book was condemned to be burnt; and only the influence of Blount's
family, [428] probably, prevented his being prosecuted. The propaganda,
however, was resumed by Blount and his friends in small tracts, and
after his suicide [429] in 1693 these were collected as the Oracles of
Reason (1693), his collected works (without the Apollonius) appearing
in 1695. By this time the political tension of the Revolution of 1688
was over; Le Clerc's work on the inspiration of the Old Testament,
raising many doubts as to the authorship of the Pentateuch, had been
translated in 1690; Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) had
been translated into English in 1689, and had impressed in a similar
sense a number of scholars; his Ethica had given a new direction to
the theistic controversy; the Boyle Lecture had been established for
the confutation of unbelievers; and after the political convulsion of
1688 has subsided it rains refutations. Atheism is now so fiercely
attacked, and with such specific arguments--as in Bentley's Boyle
Lectures (1692), Edwards's Thoughts concerning the Causes of Atheism
(1695), and many other treatises--that there can be no question as
to the private vogue of atheistic or agnostic opinions. If we are to
judge solely from the apologetic literature, it was more common than
deism. Yet it seems impossible to doubt that there were ten deists
for one atheist. Bentley's admission that he never met an explicit
atheist [430] suggests that much of the atheism warred against was
tentative. It was only the deists who could venture on open avowals;
and the replies to them were most discussed.

Much account was made of one of the most compendious, the Short and
Easy Method with the Deists (1697), by the nonjuror Charles Leslie;
but this handy argument (which is really adopted without acknowledgment
from an apologetic treatise by a French Protestant refugee, published
in 1688 [431]) was not only much bantered by deists, but was sharply
censured as incompetent by the French Protestant Le Clerc; [432]
and many other disputants had to come to the rescue. A partial list
will suffice to show the rate of increase of the ferment:--


1683.   Dr. Rust, Discourse on the Use of Reason in ... Religion,
        against Enthusiasts and Deists.
1685.   Duke of Buckingham, A Short Discourse upon the Reasonableness
        of men's having a religion or worship of God.
1685.   The Atheist Unmask'd. By a Person of Honour.
1688.   Peter Allix, D.D. Reflexions, etc., as above cited.
1691.   Archbishop Tenison, The Folly of Atheism.
1691.   Discourse of Natural and Revealed Religion.
1691.   John Ray, Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of the
        Creation. (Many reprints.)
1692.   C. Ellis, The Folly of Atheism Demonstrated.
1692.   Bentley's Sermons on Atheism. (First Boyle Lectures.)
1693.   Archbishop Davies, An Anatomy of Atheism. A poem.
1693.   A Conference between an Atheist and his Friend.
1694.   J. Goodman, A Winter Evening Conference between Neighbours.
1694.   Bishop Kidder, A Demonstration of the Messias. (Boyle Lect.)
1695.   John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity.
1695.   John Edwards, B.D., Some Thoughts concerning the Several Causes
        and occasions of Atheism. (Directed against Locke.)
1696.   An Account of the Growth of Deism in England.
1696.   Reflections on a Pamphlet, etc. (the last named).
1696.   Sir C. Wolseley, The Unreasonableness of Atheism Demonstrated.
        (Rep.)
1696.   Dr. Nichols' Conference with a Theist. Pt. I. (Answer to
        Blount.)
1696.   J. Edwards, D.D., A Demonstration of the Evidence and
        Providence of God.
1696.   E. Pelling, Discourse ... on the Existence of God. (Pt. II in
        1705).
1697.   Stephen Eye, A Discourse concerning Natural and Revealed
        Religion.
1697.   Bishop Gastrell, The Certainty and Necessity of Religion.
        (Boyle Lect.)
1697.   H. Prideaux, Discourse vindicating Christianity, etc.
1697.   C. Leslie, A Short and Easy Method with the Deists.
1698.   Dr. J. Harris, A Refutation of Atheistical Objections. (Boyle
        Lect.)
1698.   Thos. Emes, The Atheist turned Deist, and the Deist turned
        Christian.
1699.   C. Lidgould, Proclamation against Atheism, etc.
1699.   J. Bradley, An Impartial View of the Truth of Christianity.
        (Answer to Blount.)
1700.   Bishop Bradford, The Credibility of the Christian Revelation.
        (Boyle Lect.)
1700.   Rev. P. Berault, Discourses on the Trinity, Atheism, etc.
1701.   T. Knaggs, Against Atheism.
1701.   W. Scot, Discourses concerning the wisdom and goodness of God.
1702.   A Confutation of Atheism.
1702.   Dr. Stanhope, The Truth and Excellency of the Christian
        Religion. (Boyle Lect.)
1704.   An Antidote of Atheism. (? Reprint of More).
1705.   Translation of Herbert's Ancient Religion of the Gentiles.
1705.   Charles Gildon, The Deist's Manual (a recantation).
1705.   Ed. Pelling, Discourse concerning the existence of God. Part
        II.
1705.   Dr. Samuel Clarke, A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes
        of God, etc. (Boyle Lect. of 1704.)
1706.   A Preservative against Atheism and Infidelity.
1706.   Th. Wise, B.D., A Confutation of the Reason and Philosophy of
        Atheism (recast and abridgment of Cudworth).
1706.   T. Oldfield, Mille Testes; against the Atheists, Deists, and
        Skepticks.
1706.   The Case of Deism fully and fairly stated, with Dialogue, etc.
1707.   Dr. J. Hancock, Arguments to prove the Being of a God. (Boyle
        Lect.)


Still there was no new deistic literature apart from Toland's
Christianity not Mysterious (1696) and his unauthorized issue (of
course without author's name) of Shaftesbury's Inquiry Concerning
Virtue in 1699; and in that there is little direct conflict with
orthodoxy, though it plainly enough implied that scripturalism
would injuriously affect morals. It seems at that date, perhaps
through the author's objection to its circulation, to have attracted
little attention; but he tells that it incurred hostility. [433]
Blount's famous stratagem of 1693 [434] had led to the dropping
of the official censorship of the press, the Licensing Act having
been renewed for only two years in 1693 and dropped in 1695; but
after the prompt issue of Blount's collected works in that year,
and the appearance of Toland's Christianity not Mysterious in the
next, the new and comprehensive Blasphemy Law of 1697 [435] served
sufficiently to terrorize writers and printers in that regard for the
time being. [436] Bare denial of the Trinity, of the truth of the
Christian religion, or of the divine authority of the Scriptures,
was made punishable by disability for any civil office; and on a
second offence by three years' imprisonment, with withdrawal of all
legal rights. The first clear gain from the freedom of the press was
thus simply a cheapening of books in general. By the Licensing Act
of Charles II, and by a separate patent, the Stationers' Company had
a monopoly of printing and selling all classical authors; and while
their editions were disgracefully bad, the importers of the excellent
editions printed in Holland had to pay them a penalty of 6s. 8d. on
each copy. [437] By the same Act, passed under clerical influence,
the number even of master printers and letter-founders had been
reduced, and the number of presses and apprentices strictly limited;
and the total effect of the monopolies was that when Dutch-printed
books were imported in exchange for English, the latter sold more
cheaply at Amsterdam than they did in London, the English consumer,
of course, bearing the burden. [438] The immediate effect, therefore,
of the lapse of the Licensing Act must have been to cheapen greatly
all foreign books by removal of duties, and at the same time to cheapen
English books by leaving printing free. It will be seen above that the
output of treatises against freethought at once increases in 1696. But
the revolution of 1688, like the Great Rebellion, had doubtless given
a new stimulus to freethinking; and the total effect of freer trade
in books, even with a veto on "blasphemy," could only be to further
it. This was ere long to be made plain.



§ 3

Alongside of the more popular and native influences, there were at work
others, foreign and more academic; and even in professedly orthodox
writers there are signs of the influence of deistic thought. Thus Sir
Thomas Browne's Religio Medici (written about 1634, published 1642)
has been repeatedly characterized [439] as tending to promote deism
by its tone and method; and there can be no question that it assumes
a great prevalence of critical unbelief, to which its attitude is an
odd combination of humorous cynicism and tranquil dogmatism, often
recalling Montaigne, [440] and at times anticipating Emerson. There
is little savour of confident belief in the smiling maxim that "to
confirm and establish our belief 'tis best to argue with judgments
below our own"; or in the avowal, "In divinity I love to keep the road;
and though not in an implicit yet an humble faith, follow the great
wheel of the Church, by which I move." [441] The pose of the typical
believer: "I can answer all the objections of Satan and my rebellious
reason with that odd resolution I learned of Tertullian, Certum est
quia impossibile est," [442] tells in his case of no anxious hours; and
such smiling incuriousness is not conducive to conviction in others,
especially when followed by a recital of some of the many insoluble
dilemmas of Scripture. When he reasons he is merely self-subversive,
as in the saying, "'Tis not a ridiculous devotion to say a prayer
before a game at tables; for even in sortileges and matters of
greatest uncertainty there is a settled and pre-ordered course of
effects"; [443] and after remarking that the notions of Fortune and
astral influence "have perverted the devotion of many into atheism,"
he proceeds to avow that his many doubts never inclined him "to any
point of infidelity or desperate positions of atheism; for I have been
these many years of opinion there never was any." [444] Yet in his
later treatise on Vulgar Errors (1645) he devotes a chapter [445] to
the activities of Satan in instilling the belief that "there is no God
at all ... that the necessity of his entity dependeth upon ours...;
that the natural truth of God is an artificial erection of Man,
and the Creator himself but a subtile invention of the Creature." He
further notes as coming from the same source "a secondary and deductive
Atheism--that although men concede there is a God, yet should they
deny his providence. And therefore assertions have flown about,
that he intendeth only the care of the species or common natures,
but letteth loose the guard of individuals, and single existences
therein." [446] Browne now asserts merely that "many there are who
cannot conceive that there was ever any absolute Atheist," and does
not clearly affirm that Satan labours wholly in vain. The broad fact
remains that he avows "reason is a rebel unto faith"; and in the
Vulgar Errors he shows in his own reasoning much of the practical
play of the new skepticism. [447] Yet it is finally on record that in
1664, on the trial of two women for witchcraft, Browne declared that
the fits suffered from by the children said to have been bewitched
"were natural, but heightened by the devil's co-operating with the
malice of the witches, at whose instance he did the villainies." [448]
This amazing deliverance is believed to have "turned the scale" in the
minds of the jury against the poor women, and they were sentenced by
the sitting judge, Sir Matthew Hale, to be hanged. It would seem that
in Browne's latter years the irrational element in him, never long
dormant, overpowered the rational. The judgment is a sad one to have
to pass on one of the greatest masters of prose in any language. In
other men, happily, the progression was different.

The opening even of Jeremy Taylor's Ductor Dubitantium, so far as
it goes, falls little short of the deistic position. [449] A new
vein of rationalism, too, is opened in the theological field by the
great Cambridge scholar John Spencer, whose Discourse concerning
Prodigies (1663; 2nd ed. 1665), though quite orthodox in its main
positions, has in part the effect of a plea for naturalism as against
supernaturalism. Spencer's great work, De legibus Hebræorum (1685), is,
apart from Spinoza, the most scientific view of Hebrew institutions
produced before the rise of German theological rationalism in the
latter part of the eighteenth century. Holding most of the Jewish rites
to have been planned by the deity as substitutes for or safeguards
against those of the Gentiles which they resembled, he unconsciously
laid, with Herbert, the foundations of comparative hierology, bringing
to the work a learning which is still serviceable to scholars. [450]
And there were yet other new departures by clerical writers, who of
course exhibit the difficulty of attaining a consistent rationalism.

One clergyman, Joseph Glanvill, is found publishing a treatise on The
Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661; amended in 1665 under the title Scepsis
Scientifica), [451] wherein, with careful reservation of religion,
the spirit of critical science is applied to the ordinary processes
of opinion with much energy, and the "mechanical philosophy" of
Descartes is embraced with zeal. Following Raleigh and Hobbes, [452]
Glanvill also puts the positive view of causation [453] afterwards
fully developed by Hume. [454] Yet he not only vetoed all innovation
in "divinity," but held stoutly by the crudest forms of the belief in
witchcraft, and was with Henry More its chief English champion in his
day against rational disbelief. [455] In religion he had so little
of the skeptical faculty that he declared "Our religious foundations
are fastened at the pillars of the intellectual world, and the grand
articles of our belief as demonstrable as geometry. Nor will ever
either the subtile attempts of the resolved Atheist, or the passionate
hurricanes of the wild enthusiast, any more be able to prevail against
the reason our faith is built on, than the blustering winds to blow out
the Sun." [456] He had his due reward in being philosophically assailed
by the Catholic priest Thomas White as a promoter of skepticism,
[457] and by an Anglican clergyman, wroth with the Royal Society and
all its works, as an infidel and an atheist. [458]

This was as true as clerical charges of the kind usually were in the
period. But without any animus or violence of interpretation, a reader
of Glanvill's visitation sermon on The Agreement of Reason and Religion
[459] might have inferred that he was a deist. It sets forth that
"religion primarily and mainly consists in worship and vertue," and
that it "in a secondary sense consists in some principles relating to
the worship of God, and of his Son, in the ways of devout and vertuous
living"; Christianity having "superadded" baptism and the Lord's
Supper to "the religion of mankind." Apart from his obsession as to
witchcraft--and perhaps even as to that--Glanvill seems to have grown
more and more rationalistic in his later years. The Scepsis omits
some of the credulous flights of the Vanity of Dogmatizing; [460]
the re-written version in the collected Essays omits such dithyrambs
as that above quoted; and the sermon in its revised form sets out with
the emphatic declaration: "There is not anything that I know which hath
done more mischief to religion than the disparaging of reason under
pretence of respect and favour to it; for hereby the very foundations
of Christian faith have been undermined, and the world prepared for
atheism. And if reason must not be heard, the Being of a God and the
authority of Scripture can neither be proved nor defended; and so our
faith drops to the ground like an house that hath no foundation." Such
reasoning could not but be suspect to the orthodoxy of the age.

Apart from the influence of Hobbes, who, like Descartes, shaped his
thinking from the starting-point of Galileo, the Cartesian philosophy
played in England a great transitional part. At the university of
Cambridge it was already naturalized; [461] and the influence of
Glanvill, who was an active member of the Royal Society, must have
carried it further. The remarkable treatise of the anatomist Glisson,
[462] De natura substantiæ energetica (1672), suggests the influence
of either Descartes or Gassendi; and it is remarkable that the
clerical moralist Cumberland, writing his Disquisitio de legibus
Naturæ (1672) in reply to Hobbes, not only takes up a utilitarian
position akin to Hobbes's own, and expressly avoids any appeal
to the theological doctrine of future punishments, but introduces
physiology into his ethic to the extent of partially figuring as an
ethical materialist. [463] In regard to Gassendi's direct influence it
has to be noted that in 1659 there appeared The Vanity of Judiciary
Astrology, translated by "A Person of Quality," from P. Gassendus;
and further that, as is remarked by Reid, Locke borrowed more from
Gassendi than from any other writer. [464]


    [It is stated by Sir Leslie Stephen (English Thought in
    the Eighteenth Century, 2nd ed. i, 32) that in England the
    philosophy of Descartes made no distinguished disciples;
    and that John Norris "seems to be the only exception to
    the general indifference." This overlooks (1) Glanvill, who
    constantly cites and applauds Descartes (Scepsis Scientifica,
    passim). (2) In Henry More's Divine Dialogues, again (1668),
    one of the disputants is made to speak (Dial. i, ch. xxiv) of
    "that admired wit Descartes"; and he later praises him even when
    passing censure (above, p. 65). More had been one of the admirers
    in his youth, and changed his view (cp. Ward's Life of Dr. Henry
    More, pp. 63-64). But his first letter to Descartes begins: "Quanta
    voluptate perfusus est animus meus, Vir clarissime, scriptis tuis
    legendis, nemo quisquam præter te unum potest conjectare." (3)
    There was published in 1670 a translation of Des Fourneillis's
    letter in defence of the Cartesian system, with François Bayle's
    General System of the Cartesian Philosophy. (4) The continual
    objections to the atheistic tendency of Descartes throughout
    Cudworth's True Intellectual System imply anything but "general
    indifference"; and (5) Barrow's tone in venturing to oppose him
    (cit. in Whewell's Philosophy of Discovery, 1860, p. 179) pays
    tribute to his great influence. (6) Molyneux, in the preface to
    his translation of the Six Metaphysical Meditations of Descartes
    in 1680, speaks of him as "this excellent philosopher" and "this
    prodigious man." (7) Maxwell, in a note to his translation (1727)
    of Bishop Cumberland's Disquisitio de legibus Naturæ, remarks that
    the doctrine of a universal plenum was accepted from the Cartesian
    philosophy by Cumberland, "in whose time that philosophy prevailed
    much" (p. 120). See again (8) Clarke's Answer to Butler's Fifth
    Letter (1718) as to the "universal prevalence" of Descartes's
    notions in natural philosophy. (9) The Scottish Lord President
    Forbes (d. 1747) summed up that "Descartes's romance kept entire
    possession of men's belief for fully fifty years" (Works, ii,
    132). (10) And his fellow-judge, Sir William Anstruther, in his
    "Discourse against Atheism" (Essays, Moral and Divine, 1701,
    pp. 6, 8, 9), cites with much approval the theistic argument of
    "the celebrated Descartes" as "the last evidences which appeared
    upon the stage of learning" in that connection.

    Cp. Berkeley, Siris, § 331. Of Berkeley himself, Professor Adamson
    writes (Encyc. Brit. iii, 589) that "Descartes and Locke ... are
    his real masters in speculation." The Cartesian view of the
    eternity and infinity of matter had further become an accepted
    ground for "philosophical atheists" in England before the end
    of the century (Molyneux, in Familiar Letters of Locke and his
    Friends, 1708, p. 46). As to the many writers who charged Descartes
    with promoting atheism, see Mosheim's notes in Harrison's ed. of
    Cudworth's Intellectual System, i, 275-76; Clarke, as above cited;
    Leibnitz's letter to Philip, cited by Latta, Leibnitz, 1898,
    p. 8, note; and Brewster's Memoirs of Newton, ii, 315.

    Sir Leslie Stephen seems to have followed, under a misapprehension,
    Whewell, who contends merely that the Cartesian doctrine
    of vortices was never widely accepted in England (Philos. of
    Discovery, pp. 177-78; cp. Hist. of the Induct. Sciences, ed. 1857,
    ii, 107, 147-48). Buckle was perhaps similarly misled when he
    wrote in his note-book: "Descartes was never popular in England"
    (Misc. Works, abridged ed. i, 269). Whewell himself mentions that
    Clarke, soon after taking his degree at Cambridge, "was actively
    engaged in introducing into the academic course of study, first,
    the philosophy of Descartes in its best form, and, next, the
    philosophy of Newton" (Lectures on Moral Philosophy, ed. 1862,
    pp. 97-98). And Professor Fowler, in correcting his first remarks
    on the point, decides that "many of the mathematical teachers at
    Cambridge continued to teach the Cartesian system for some time
    after the publication of Newton's Principia" (ed. of Nov. Org.,
    p. xi).


It is clear, however, that insofar as new science set up a direct
conflict with Scriptural assumptions it gained ground but slowly and
indirectly. It is difficult to-day to realize with what difficulty the
Copernican and Galilean doctrine of the earth's rotation and movement
round the sun found acceptance even among studious men. We have seen
that Bacon finally rejected it. And as Professor Masson points out,
[465] not only does Milton seem uncertain to the last concerning
the truth of the Copernican system, but his friends and literary
associates, the "Smectymnuans," in their answer to Bishop Hall's
Humble Remonstrance (1641), had pointed to the Copernican doctrine as
an unquestioned instance of a supreme absurdity. Glanvill, remarking
in 1665 that "it is generally opinion'd that the Earth rests as the
world's centre," avows that "for a man to go about to counter-argue
this belief is as fruitless as to whistle against the winds. I shall
not undertake to maintain the paradox that confronts this almost
Catholic opinion. Its assertion would be entertained with the hoot
of the rabble; the very mention of it as possible, is among the most
ridiculous." [466] All he ventures to do is to show that the senses do
not really vouch the ordinary view. Not till the eighteenth century,
probably, did the common run of educated people anywhere accept the
scientific teaching.

On the other hand, however, there was growing up not a little Socinian
and other Unitarianism, for some variety of which we have seen two men
burned in 1612. Church measures had been taken against the importation
of Socinian books as early as 1640. The famous Lord Falkland,
slain in the Civil War, is supposed to have leant to that opinion;
[467] and Chillingworth, whose Religion of Protestants (1637) was
already a remarkable application of rational tests to ecclesiastical
questions in defiance of patristic authority, [468] seems in his old
age to have turned Socinian. [469] Violent attacks on the Trinity are
noted among the heresies of 1646. [470] Colonel John Fry, one of the
regicides, who in Parliament was accused of rejecting the Trinity,
cleared himself by explaining that he simply objected to the terms
"persons" and "subsistence," but was one of those who sought to help
the persecuted Unitarian Biddle. In 1652 the Parliament ordered the
destruction of a certain Socinian Catechism; and by 1655 the heresy
seems to have become common. [471] It is now certain that Milton was
substantially a Unitarian, [472] and that Locke and Newton were at
heart no less so. [473]

The temper of the Unitarian school appears perhaps at its best in
the anonymous Rational Catechism published in 1686. It purports to
be "an instructive conference between a father and his son," and is
dedicated by the father to his two daughters. The "Catechism" rises
above the common run of its species in that it is really a dialogue,
in which the rôles are at times reversed, and the catechumen is
permitted to think and speak for himself. The exposition is entirely
unevangelical. Right religion is declared to consist in right conduct;
and while the actuality of the Christian record is maintained on
argued grounds, on the lines of Grotius and Parker, the doctrine of
salvation by faith is strictly excluded, future happiness being posited
as the reward of good life, not of faith. There is no negation, the
author's object being avowedly peace and conciliation; but the Epistle
Dedicatory declares that religious reasoners have hitherto "failed in
their foundation-work. They have too much slighted that philosophy
which is the natural religion of all men; and which, being natural,
must needs be universal and eternal: and upon which therefore, or at
least in conformity with which, all instituted and revealed religion
must be supposed to be built." We have here in effect the position
taken up by Toland ten years later; and, in germ, the principle which
developed deism, albeit in connection with an affirmation of the truth
of the Christian records. Of the central Christian doctrine there is
no acceptance, though there is laudation of Jesus; and reprints after
1695 bore the motto, from Locke: [474] "As the foundation of virtue,
there ought very earnestly to be imprinted on the mind of a young man
a true notion of God, as of the independent supreme Being, Author,
and Maker of all things: And, consequent to this, instil into him a
love and reverence of this supreme Being." We are already more than
half-way from Unitarianism to deism.

Indeed, the theism of Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding
undermined even his Unitarian Scripturalism, inasmuch as it denies,
albeit confusedly, that revelation can ever override reason. In
one passage he declares that "reason is natural revelation," while
"revelation is natural reason enlarged by a new set of discoveries
communicated by God immediately, which reason vouchsafes the truth
of." [475] This compromise appears to be borrowed from Spinoza,
who had put it with similar vagueness in his great Tractatus, [476]
of which pre-eminent work Locke cannot have been ignorant, though he
protested himself little read in the works of Hobbes and Spinoza,
"those justly decried names." [477] The Tractatus being translated
into English in the same year with the publication of the Essay, its
influence would concur with Locke's in a widened circle of readers;
and the substantially naturalistic doctrine of both books inevitably
promoted the deistic movement. We have Locke's own avowal that he
had many doubts as to the Biblical narratives; [478] and he never
attempts to remove the doubts of others. Since, however, his doctrine
provided a sphere for revelation on the territory of ignorance, giving
it prerogative where its assertions were outside knowledge, it counted
substantially for Unitarianism insofar as it did not lead to deism.


    See the Essay, bk. iv, ch. xviii. Locke's treatment of revelation
    may be said to be the last and most attenuated form of the
    doctrine of "two-fold truth." On his principle, any proposition
    in a professed revelation that was not provable or disprovable by
    reason and knowledge must pass as true. His final position, that
    "whatever is divine revelation ought to overrule all our opinions"
    (bk. iv, ch. xviii, § 10), is tolerably elastic, inasmuch as he
    really reserves the question of the actuality of revelation. Thus
    he evades the central issue. Naturally he was by critical
    foreigners classed as a deist. Cp. Gostwick, German Culture and
    Christianity, 1882, p. 36. The German historian Tennemann sums up
    that Clarke wrote his apologetic works because "the consequences
    of the empiricism of Locke had become so decidedly favourable to
    the cause of atheism, skepticism, materialism, and irreligion"
    (Manual of the Hist. of Philos. Eng. tr. Bohn ed. § 349).


In his "practical" treatise on The Reasonableness of Christianity
(1695) Locke played a similar part. It was inspired by the genuine
concern for social peace which had moved him to write an essay on
Toleration as early as 1667, [479] and to produce from 1685 onwards
his famous Letters on Toleration, by far the most persuasive appeal
of the kind that had yet been produced; [480] all the more successful
so far as it went, doubtless, because the first Letter ended with
a memorable capitulation to bigotry: "Lastly, those are not at all
to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants,
and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold
upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought,
dissolves all. Besides, also, those that by their atheism undermine
and destroy all religion can have no pretence of religion whereupon to
challenge the privilege of a toleration." This handsome endorsement of
the religion which had repeatedly "dissolved all" in a pandemonium
of internecine hate, as compared with the one heresy which had
never broken treaties or shed blood, is presumably more of a prudent
surrender to normal fanaticism than an expression of the philosopher's
own state of mind; [481] and his treatise on The Reasonableness of
Christianity is an attempt to limit religion to a humane ethic, with
sacraments and mysteries reduced to ceremonies, while claiming that
the gospel ethic was "now with divine authority established into a
legible law, far surpassing all that philosophy and human reason had
attained to." [482] Its effect was, however, to promote rationalism
without doing much to mitigate the fanaticism of belief.


    Locke's practical position has been fairly summed up by Prof. Bain:
    "Locke proposed, in his Reasonableness of Christianity, to
    ascertain the exact meaning of Christianity, by casting aside all
    the glosses of commentators and divines, and applying his own
    unassisted judgment to spell out its teachings.... The fallacy
    of his position obviously was that he could not strip himself
    of his education and acquired notions.... He seemed unconscious
    of the necessity of trying to make allowance for his unavoidable
    prepossessions. In consequence, he simply fell into an old groove
    of received doctrines; and these he handled under the set purpose
    of simplifying the fundamentals of Christianity to the utmost. Such
    purpose was not the result of his Bible study, but of his wish
    to overcome the political difficulties of the time. He found, by
    keeping close to the Gospels and making proper selections from
    the Epistles, that the belief in Christ as the Messiah could
    be shown to be the central fact of the Christian faith; that
    the other main doctrines followed out of this by a process of
    reasoning; and that, as all minds might not perform the process
    alike, these doctrines could not be essential to the practice of
    Christianity. He got out of the difficulty of framing a creed,
    as many others have done, by simply using Scripture language,
    without subjecting it to any very strict definition; certainly
    without the operation of stripping the meaning of its words,
    to see what it amounted to. That his short and easy method was
    not very successful the history of the deistical controversy
    sufficiently proves" (Practical Essays, pp. 226-27).


That Locke was felt to have injured orthodoxy is further proved by the
many attacks made on him from the orthodox side. Even the first Letter
on Toleration elicited retorts, one of which claims to demonstrate
"the Absurdity and Impiety of an Absolute Toleration." [483] On his
positive teachings he was assailed by Bishop Stillingfleet; by the
Rev. John Milner, B.D.; by the Rev. John Morris; by William Carrol;
and by the Rev. John Edwards, B.D.; [484] his only assailant with a
rationalistic repute being Dr. Thomas Burnet. Some attacked him on his
Essays; some on his Reasonableness of Christianity; orthodoxy finding
in both the same tendency to "subvert the nature and use of divine
revelation and faith." [485] In the opinion of the Rev. Mr. Bolde,
who defended him in Some Considerations published in 1699, the hostile
clericals had treated him "with a rudeness peculiar to some who make a
profession of the Christian religion, and seem to pride themselves in
being the clergy of the Church of England." [486] This is especially
true of Edwards, a notably ignoble type; [487] but hardly of Milner,
whose later Account of Mr. Lock's Religion out of his Own Writings,
and in his Own Words (1700), pressed him shrewdly on the score of
his "Socinianism." In the eyes of a pietist like William Law, again,
Locke's conception of the infant mind as a tabula rasa was "dangerous
to religion," besides being philosophically false. [488] Yet Locke
agreed with Law [489] that moral obligation is dependent solely on
the will of God--a doctrine denounced by the deist Shaftesbury as
the negation of morality.


    See the Inquiry concerning Virtue or Merit, pt. iii, § 2; and the
    Letters to a Student, under date June 3, 1709 (p. 403 in Rand's
    Life, Letters, etc., of Shaftesbury, 1900). The extraordinary
    letter of Newton to Locke, written just after or during a spell
    of insanity, first apologizes for having believed that Locke
    "endeavoured to embroil me with women and by other means,"
    and goes on to beg pardon "for representing that you struck at
    the root of morality, in a principle you laid down in your book
    of ideas." In his subsequent letter, replying to that of Locke
    granting forgiveness and gently asking for details, he writes:
    "What I said of your book I remember not." (Letters of September
    16 and October 5, 1693, given in Fox Bourne's Life of Locke, ii,
    226-27, and Sir D. Brewster's Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton, 1855,
    ii, 148-51.) Newton, who had been on very friendly terms with
    Locke, must have been repeating, when his mind was disordered,
    criticisms otherwise current. After printing in full the letters
    above cited, Brewster insists, on his principle of sacrificing
    all other considerations to Newton's glory (cp. De Morgan, Newton:
    his Friend: and his Niece, 1885, pp. 99-111), that all the while
    Newton was "in the full possession of his mental powers." The
    whole diction of the first letter tells the contrary. If we are
    not to suppose that Newton had been temporarily insane, we must
    think of his judgment as even less rational, apart from physics,
    than it is seen to be in his dissertations on prophecy. Certainly
    Newton was at all times apt to be suspicious of his friends to
    the point of moral disease (see his attack on Montague, in his
    letter to Locke of January 26, 1691-1692; in Fox Bourne, ii,
    218; and cp. De Morgan, as cited, p. 146); but the letter to
    Locke indicates a point at which the normal malady had upset the
    mental balance. It remains, nevertheless, part of the evidence
    as to bitter orthodox criticism of Locke.


On the whole, it is clear, the effect of his work, especially
of his naturalistic psychology, was to make for rationalism;
and his compromises furthered instead of checking the movement
of unbelief. His ideal of practical and undogmatic Christianity,
indeed, was hardly distinguishable from that of Hobbes, [490] and,
as previously set forth by the Rev. Arthur Bury in his Naked Gospel
(1690), was so repugnant to the Church that that book was burned at
Oxford as heretical. [491] Locke's position as a believing Christian
was indeed extremely weak, and could easily have been demolished by
a competent deist, such as Collins, [492] or a skeptical dogmatist
who could control his temper and avoid the gross misrepresentation
so often resorted to by Locke's orthodox enemies. But by the deists
he was valued as an auxiliary, and by many latitudinarian Christians
as a helper towards a rationalistic if not a logical compromise.

Rationalism of one or the other tint, in fact, seems to have spread
in all directions. Deism was ascribed to some of the most eminent
public men. Bishop Burnet has a violent passage on Sir William Temple,
to the effect that "He had a true judgment in affairs, and very good
principles with relation to government, but in nothing else. He seemed
to think that things are as they were from all eternity; at least he
thought religion was only for the mob. He was a great admirer of the
sect of Confucius in China, who were atheists themselves, but left
religion to the rabble." [493] The praise of Confucius is the note of
deism; and Burnet rightly held that no orthodox Christian in those
days would sound it. Other prominent men revealed their religious
liberalism. The accomplished and influential George Savile, Marquis of
Halifax, often spoken of as a deist, and even as an atheist, by his
contemporaries, [494] appears clearly from his own writings to have
been either that or a Unitarian; [495] and it is not improbable that
the similar gossip concerning Lord Keeper Somers was substantially
true. [496]

That Sir Isaac Newton was "some kind of Unitarian" [497] is proved by
documents long withheld from publication, and disclosed only in the
second edition of Sir David Brewster's Memoirs. There is indeed no
question that he remained a mere scripturalist, handling the texts as
such, [498] and wasting much time in vain interpretations of Daniel
and the Apocalypse. [499] Temperamentally, also, he was averse to
anything like bold discussion, declaring that "those at Cambridge
ought not to judge and censure their superiors, but to obey and honour
them, according to the law and the doctrine of passive obedience"
[500]--this after he had sat on the Convention which deposed James
II. In no aspect, indeed, apart from his supreme scientific genius,
does he appear as morally [501] or intellectually pre-eminent;
and even on the side of science he was limited by his theological
presuppositions, as when he rejected the nebular hypothesis, writing
to Bentley that "the growth of new systems out of old ones, without
the mediation of a Divine power, seems to me apparently absurd." [502]
There is therefore more than usual absurdity in the proclamation of
his pious biographer that "the apostle of infidelity cowers beneath
the implied rebuke" [503] of his orthodoxy. The very anxiety shown
by Newton and his friends [504] to checkmate "the infidels" is a
proof that his religious work was not scientific even in inception,
but the expression of his neurotic side; and the attempt of some of
his scientific admirers to show that his religious researches belong
solely to the years of his decline is a corresponding oversight. Newton
was always pathologically prepossessed on the side of his religion,
and subordinated his science to his theology even in the Principia. It
is therefore all the more significant of the set of opinion in his
day that, tied as he was to Scriptural interpretations, he drew away
from orthodox dogma as to the Trinity. Not only does he show himself a
destructive critic of Trinitarian texts and an opponent of Athanasius
[505]: he expressly formulates the propositions (1) that "there is
one God the Father ... and one mediator between God and man, the man
Christ Jesus"; (2) that "the Father is the invisible God whom no eye
hath seen or can see. All other beings are sometimes visible"; and
(3) that "the Father hath life in himself, and hath given the Son to
have life in himself." [506] Such opinions, of course, could not be
published: under the Act of 1697 they would have made Newton liable
to loss of office and all civil rights. In his own day, therefore,
his opinions were rather gossipped-of than known; [507] but insofar as
his heresy was realized, it must have wrought much more for unbelief
than could be achieved for orthodoxy by his surprisingly commonplace
strictures on atheism, which show the ordinary inability to see what
atheism means.

The argument of his Short Scheme of True Religion brackets atheism
with idolatry, and goes on: "Atheism is so senseless and odious to
mankind that it never had many professors. Can it be by accident that
all birds, beasts, and men have their right side and left side alike
shaped (except in their bowels), and just two eyes, and no more,
on either side of the face?" etc. (Brewster, ii, 347). The logical
implication is that a monstrous organism, with the sides unlike,
represents "accident," and that in that case there has either been
no causation or no "purpose" by Omnipotence. It is only fair to
remember that no avowedly "atheistic" argument could in Newton's
day find publication; but his remarks are those of a man who had
never contemplated philosophically the negation of his own religious
sentiment at the point in question. Brewster, whose judgment and
good faith are alike precarious, writes that "When Voltaire asserted
that Sir Isaac explained the prophecies in the same manner as those
who went before him, he only exhibited his ignorance of what Newton
wrote, and what others had written" (ii, 331, note; 355). The writer
did not understand what he censured. Voltaire meant that Newton's
treatment of prophecy is on the same plane of credulity as that of
his orthodox predecessors.

Even within the sphere of the Church the Unitarian tendency,
with or without deistic introduction, was traceable. Archbishop
Tillotson (d. 1694) was often accused of Socinianism; and in the
next generation was smilingly spoken of by Anthony Collins as a
leading Freethinker. The pious Dr. Hickes had in fact declared
of the Archbishop that "he caused several to turn atheists and
ridicule the priesthood and religion." [508] The heresy must have
been encouraged even within the Church by the scandal which broke out
when Dean Sherlock's Vindication of Trinitarianism (1690), written
in reply to a widely-circulated antitrinitarian compilation, [509]
was attacked by Dean South [510] as the work of a Tritheist. The
plea of Dr. Wallis, Locke's old teacher, that a doctrine of "three
somewhats"--he objected to the term "persons"--in one God was as
reasonable as the concept of three dimensions, [511] was of course
only a heresy the more. Outside the Church, William Penn, the great
Quaker, held a partially Unitarian attitude; [512] and the first of
his many imprisonments was on a charge of "blasphemy and heresy" in
respect of his treatise The Sandy Foundation Shaken, which denied (1)
that there were in the One God "three distinct and separate persons";
(2) the doctrine of the need of "plenary satisfaction"; and (3) the
justification of sinners by "an imputative righteousness." But though
many of the early Quakers seem to have shunned the doctrine of the
Trinity, Penn really affirmed the divinity of Christ, and was not
a Socinian but a Sabellian in his theology. Positive Unitarianism
all the while was being pushed by a number of tracts which escaped
prosecution, being prudently handled by Locke's friend, Thomas
Firmin. [513] A new impulse had been given to Unitarianism by the
learning and critical energy of the Prussian Dr. Zwicker, who had
settled in Holland; [514] and among those Englishmen whom his works
had found ready for agreement was Gilbert Clerke (b. 1641), who, like
several later heretics, was educated at Sidney College, Cambridge. In
1695 he published a Unitarian work entitled Anti-Nicenismus, and
two other tracts in Latin, all replying to the orthodox polemic of
Dr. Bull, against whom another Unitarian had written Considerations
on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity in 1694, bitterly
resenting his violence. [515] In 1695 appeared yet another treatise of
the same school, The Judgment of the Fathers concerning the Doctrine
of the Trinity. Much was thus done on Unitarian lines to prepare an
audience for the deists of the next reign. [516] But the most effective
influence was probably the ludicrous strife of the orthodox clergy
as to what orthodoxy was. The fray over the doctrine of the Trinity
waxed so furious, and the discredit cast on orthodoxy was so serious,
[517] that in the year 1700 an Act of Parliament was passed forbidding
the publication of any more works on the subject.

Meanwhile the so-called Latitudinarians, [518] all the while aiming
as they did at a non-dogmatic Christianity, served as a connecting
medium for the different forms of liberal thought; and a new element of
critical disintegration was introduced by a speculative treatment of
Genesis in the Archæologiæ Philosophiæ (1692) of Dr. Thomas Burnet,
a professedly orthodox scholar, Master of the Charterhouse and
chaplain in ordinary to King William, who nevertheless treated the
Creation and Fall stories as allegories, and threw doubt on the Mosaic
authorship of parts of the Pentateuch. Though the book was dedicated
to the king, it aroused so much clerical hostility that the king was
obliged to dismiss him from his post at court. [519] His ideas were
partly popularized through a translation of two of his chapters,
with a vindicatory letter, in Blount's Oracles of Reason (1695);
and that they had considerable vogue may be gathered from the Essay
towards a Vindication of the Vulgar Exposition of the Mosaic History
of the Fall of Adam, by John Witty, published in 1705. Burnet, who
published three sets of anonymous Remarks on the philosophy of Locke
(1697-1699), criticizing its sensationist basis, figured after his
death (1715), in posthumous publications, as a heretical theologian
in other regards; and then played his part in the general deistic
movement; but his allegorical view of Genesis does not seem to have
seriously affected speculation in his time, the bulk of the debate
turning on his earlier Telluris Theoria Sacra (1681; trans. 1684),
to which there were many rejoinders, both scientific and orthodox. On
this side he is unimportant, his science being wholly imaginative;
and in the competition between his Theory and J. Woodward's Essay
towards a Natural History of the Earth (1695) nothing was achieved
for scientific progress.

Much more remarkable, but outside of popular discussion, were the
Evangelium medici (1697) of Dr. B. Connor, wherein the gospel miracles
were explained away, on lines later associated with German rationalism,
as natural phenomena; and the curious treatise of Newton's friend,
John Craig, [520] Theologiæ christianæ principia mathematica (1699),
wherein it is argued that all evidence grows progressively less valid
in course of time; [521] and that accordingly the Christian religion
will cease to be believed about the year 3144, when probably will occur
the Second Coming. Connor, when attacked, protested his orthodoxy;
Craig held successively two prebends of the Church of England; [522]
and both lived and died unmolested, probably because they had the
prudence to write in Latin, and maintained gravity of style. About this
time, further, the title of "Rationalist" made some fresh headway as a
designation, not of unbelievers, but of believers who sought to ground
themselves on reason. Such books as those of Clifford and Boyle tell
of much discussion as to the efficacy of "reason" in religious things;
and in 1686, as above noted, there appears A Rational Catechism, [523]
a substantially Unitarian production, notable for its aloofness from
evangelical feeling, despite its many references to Biblical texts in
support of its propositions. In the Essays Moral and Divine of the
Scotch judge, Sir William Anstruther, published in 1701, there is
a reference to "those who arrogantly term themselves Rationalists"
[524] in the sense of claiming to find Christianity not only, as
Locke put it, a reasonable religion, but one making no strain upon
faith. Already the term had become potentially one of vituperation,
and it is applied by the learned judge to "the wicked reprehended by
the Psalmist." [525] Forty years later, however, it was still applied
rather to the Christian who claimed to believe upon rational grounds
than to the deist or unbeliever; [526] and it was to have a still
longer lease of life in Germany as a name for theologians who believed
in "Scripture" on condition that all miracles were explained away.



CHAPTER XV

FRENCH AND DUTCH FREETHOUGHT IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY


1. We have seen France, in the first quarter of the seventeenth
century, pervaded in its upper classes by a freethought partly
born of the knowledge that religion counted for little but harm
in public affairs, partly the result of such argumentation as had
been thrown out by Montaigne and codified by Charron. That it was
not the freethinking of mere idle men of the world is clear when
we note the names and writings of La Mothe le Vayer (1588-1672),
Gui Patin (1601-1671), and Gabriel Naudé (1600-1653), all scholars,
all heretics of the skeptical and rationalistic order. The last
two indeed, sided with the Catholics in politics, Patin approving
of the Fronde, and Naudé of the Massacre, on which ground they are
sometimes claimed as believers. [527] But though in the nature of
the case their inclusion on the side of freethought is not to be
zealously contended for, they must be classed in terms of the balance
of testimony. Patin was the admiring friend of Gassendi; and though
he was never explicitly heretical, and indeed wrote of Socinianism
as a pestilent doctrine, [528] his habit of irony and the risk of
written avowals to correspondents must be kept in view in deciding
on his cast of mind. He is constantly anti-clerical; [529] and the
germinal skepticism of Montaigne and Charron clearly persists in him.


    It is true that, as one critic puts it, such rationalists were not
    "quite clear whither they were bound. At first sight," he adds,
    "no one looks more negative than Gui Patin.... He was always
    congratulating himself on being 'delivered from the nightmare';
    and he rivals the eighteenth century in the scorn he pours on
    priests, monks, and especially 'that black Loyolitic scum from
    Spain' which called itself the Society of Jesus. Yet Patin was
    no freethinker. Skeptics who made game of the kernel of religion
    came quite as much under the lash of his tongue as bigots who
    dared defend its husks. His letters end with the characteristic
    confession: 'Credo in Deum, Christum crucifixum, etc.; ... De
    minimis non curat prætor'" (Viscount St. Cyres in Cambridge
    Modern History, v, 73). But the last statement is an error, and
    Patin did not attack Gassendi, though he did Descartes. He says
    of Rabelais: "C'étoit un homme qui se moquoit de tout; en verité
    il y a bien des choses dont on doit raisonnablement se moquer
    ... elles sont presque tous remplies de vanité, d'imposture et
    d'ignorance: ceux qui sont un peu philosophes ne doivent-ils
    pas s'en moquer?" (Lett. 485, éd. cited, iii, 148). Again he
    writes that "la vie humaine n'est qu'un bureau de rencontre et
    un théâtre sur lesquels domine la fortune" (Lett. 726, iii,
    620). This is pure Montaigne. The formula cited by Viscount
    St. Cyres is neither a general nor a final conclusion to the
    letters of Patin. It occurs, I think, only once (18 juillet, 1642,
    à M. Belin) in the 836 letters, and not at the end of that one
    (Lett. 55, éd. cited, i, 90).

    Concerning his friend Naudé, Patin writes: "Je suis fort de
    l'avis de feu M. Naudé, qui disoit qu'il y avait quatre choses
    dont il se fallait garder, afin de n'être point trompé, savoir,
    de prophéties, de miracles, de révélations, et d'apparitions"
    (Lett. 353, éd. cited, ii, 490). Again, he writes of a symposium
    of Naudé, Gassendi, and himself: "Peut-être, tous trois, guéris
    de loup-garou et delivrés du mal des scrupules, qui est le
    tyran des consciences, nous irons peut-être jusque fort près du
    sanctuaire. Je fis l'an passé ce voyage de Gentilly avec M. Naudé,
    moi seul avec lui tête-à-tête; il n'y avait point de témoins,
    aussi n'y en falloit-il point: nous y parlâmes fort librement de
    tout, sans que personne en ait été scandalisé" (Lett. 362, ii,
    508). This seems tolerably freethinking.

    All that the Christian editor cares to claim upon the latter
    passage is that assuredly "l'unité de Dieu, l'immortalité de l'âme,
    l'égalité des hommes devant la loi, ces verités fondamentales de
    la raison et consacrées par le Christianisme, y étaient placées au
    premier rang" in the discussion. As to the skepticism of Naudé the
    editor remarks: "Ce qu'il y a de remarquable, c'est que Gui Patin
    soutenait que son ami ... avait puisé son opinion, en général très
    peu orthodoxe, en Italie, pendant le long séjour qu'il fit dans
    ce pays avec le cardinal Bagni" (ii, 490; cp. Lett. 816; iii, 758,
    where Naudé is again cited as making small account of religion).


Certainly Patin and Naudé are of less importance for freethought than
La Mothe le Vayer. That scholar, a "Conseiller d'Estat ordinaire,"
tutor of the brother of Louis XIV, and one of the early members of
the new Academy founded by Richelieu, is an interesting figure [530]
in the history of culture, being a skeptic of the school of Sextus
Empiricus, and practically a great friend of tolerance. Standing
in favour with Richelieu, he wrote at that statesman's suggestion a
treatise On the Virtue of the Heathen, [531] justifying toleration by
pagan example--a course which raises the question whether Richelieu
himself was not strongly touched by the rationalism of his age. If it
be true that the great Cardinal "believed as all the world did in his
time," [532] there is little more to be said; for unbelief, as we have
seen, was already abundant, and even somewhat fashionable. Certainly no
ecclesiastic in high power ever followed a less ecclesiastical policy;
[533] and from the date of his appointment as Minister to Louis
XIII (1624), for forty years, there was no burning of heretics or
unbelievers in France. If he was orthodox, it was very passively. [534]

And Le Vayer's way of handling the dicta of St. Augustine and Thomas
Aquinas as to the virtues of unbelievers being merely vices is for
its time so hardy that the Cardinal's protection alone can explain its
immunity from censure. St. Augustine and St. Thomas, says the critic
calmly, had regard merely to eternal happiness, which virtue alone
can obtain for no one. They are, therefore, to be always interpreted
in this special sense. And so at the very outset the ground is
summarily cleared of orthodox obstacles. [535] The Petit discours
chrétien sur l'immortalité de l'âme, also addressed to Richelieu,
tells of a good deal of current unbelief on that subject; and the
epistle dedicatory professes pain over the "philosopher of our day
[Vanini] who has had the impiety to write that, unless one is very
old, very rich, and a German, one should never expatiate on this
subject." But on the very threshold of the discourse, again, the
skeptic tranquilly suggests that there would be "perhaps something
unreasonable" in following Augustine's precept, so popular in later
times, that the problem of immortality should be solved by the dictates
of religion and feeling, not of "uncertain" reason. "Why," he asks,
"should the soul be her own judge?" [536] And he shows a distinct
appreciation of the avowal of Augustine in his Retractationes that
his own book on the Immortality of the Soul was so obscure to him
that in many places he himself could not understand it. [537] The
"Little Christian Discourse" is, in fact, not Christian at all;
and its arguments are but dialectic exercises, on a par with those
of the Discours sceptique sur la musique which follows. He was,
in short, a skeptic by temperament; and his Preface d'une histoire
[538] shows his mind to have played on the "Mississippi of falsehood
called history" very much as did that of Bayle in a later generation.

Le Vayer's Dialogues of Oratius Tubero (1633) is philosophically
his most important work; [539] but its tranquil Pyrrhonism was
not calculated to affect greatly the current thought of his day;
and he ranked rather as a man of all-round learning [540] than as
a polemist, being reputed "a little contradictory, but in no way
bigoted or obstinate, all opinions being to him nearly indifferent,
excepting those of which faith does not permit us to doubt." [541]
The last phrase tells of the fact that it affects to negate: Le Vayer's
general skepticism was well known. [542] He was not indeed an original
thinker, most of his ideas being echoes from the skeptics of antiquity;
[543] and it has been not unjustly said of him that he is rather of
the sixteenth century than of the seventeenth. [544]

2. On the other hand, the resort on the part of the Catholics to a
skeptical method, as against both Protestants and freethinkers, which
we have seen originating soon after the issue of Montaigne's Essais,
seems to have become more and more common; and this process must rank
as in some degree a product of skeptical thought of a more sincere
sort. In any case it was turned vigorously, even recklessly, against
the Protestants. Thus we find Daillé, at the outset of his work On
the True Use of the Fathers, [545] complaining that when Protestants
quote the Scriptures some Romanists at once ask "whence and in what
way those books may be known to be really written by the prophets
and apostles whose names and titles they bear." This challenge,
rashly incurred by Luther and Calvin in their pronouncements on the
Canon, later Protestants did not as a rule attempt to meet, save in
the fashion of La Placette, who in his work De insanibili Ecclesiæ
Romanæ Scepticismo (1688) [546] undertakes to show that Romanists
themselves are without any grounds of certitude for the authority of
the Church. It was indeed certain that the Catholic method would make
more skeptics than it won.

3. Between the negative development of the doctrine of Montaigne and
the vogue of upper-class deism, the philosophy of Descartes, with
its careful profession of submission to the Church, had at first an
easy reception; and on the appearance of the Discours de la Méthode
(1637) it speedily affected the whole thought of France; the women
of the leisured class, now much given to literature, being among
its students. [547] From the first the Jansenists, who were the most
serious religious thinkers of the time, accepted the Cartesian system
as in the main soundly Christian; and its founder's authority had some
such influence in keeping up the prestige of orthodoxy as had that of
Locke later in England. Boileau, who wrote a satire in defence of the
system when it was persecuted after Descartes's death, is named among
those whom he so influenced. [548] But a merely external influence
of this kind could not counteract the fundamental rationalism of
Descartes's thought, and the whole social and intellectual tendency
towards a secular view of life. Soon, indeed, Descartes became
suspect, partly by reason of the hostile activities of the Jesuits,
who opposed him because the Jansenists generally held by him, though he
had been a Jesuit pupil, and had always some adherents in that order;
[549] partly by reason of the inherent naturalism of his system. That
his doctrine was incompatible with the eucharist was the standing
charge against it, [550] and his defence was not found satisfactory,
[551] though his orthodox followers obtained from Queen Christina a
declaration that he had been largely instrumental in converting her
to Catholicism. [552] Pascal reproached him with having done his best
to do without God in his system; [553] and this seems to have been
the common clerical impression. Thirteen years after his death, in
1663, his work was placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, under
a modified censure, [554] and in 1671 a royal order was obtained
under which his philosophy was proscribed in all the universities
of France. [555] Cartesian professors and curés were persecuted and
exiled, or compelled to recant; among the victims being Père Lami of
the Congregation of the Oratory and Père André the Jesuit; [556] and
the Oratorians were in 1678 forced to undergo the humiliation of not
only renouncing Descartes and all his works, but of abjuring their
former Cartesian declarations, in order to preserve their corporate
existence. [557] Precisely in this period of official reaction,
however, there was going on not merely an academic but a social
development of a rationalistic kind, in which the persecuted philosophy
played its part, even though some freethinkers disparaged it.

4. The general tendency is revealed on the one hand by the series
of treatises from eminent Churchmen, defending the faith against
unpublished attacks, and on the other hand by the prevailing tone in
belles lettres. Malherbe, the literary dictator of the first quarter
of the century, had died in 1628 with the character of a scoffer;
[558] and the fashion now lasted till the latter half of the reign of
Louis XIV. In 1621, two years after the burning of Vanini, a young man
named Jean Fontanier had been burned alive on the Place de Grève at
Paris, apparently for the doctrines laid down by him in a manuscript
entitled Le Trésor Inestimable, written on deistic and anti-Catholic
lines. [559] He was said to have been successively Protestant,
Catholic, Turk, Jew, and atheist; and had conducted himself like one
of shaken mind. [560] But the cases of the poet Théophile de Viau,
who about 1623 suffered prosecution on a charge of impiety, [561] and
of his companions Berthelot and Colletet--who like him were condemned
but set free by royal favour--appear to be the only others of the kind
for over a generation. Frivolity of tone sufficed to ward off legal
pursuit. It was in 1665, some years after the death of Mazarin, who had
maintained Richelieu's policy of tolerance, that Claude Petit was burnt
at Paris for "impious pieces"; [562] and even then there was no general
reversion to orthodoxy, the upper-class tone remaining, as in the age
of Richelieu and Mazarin, more or less unbelieving. When Corneille
had introduced a touch of Christian zeal into his Polyeucte (1643)
he had given general offence to the dilettants of both sexes. [563]
Molière, again, the disciple of Gassendi [564] and "the very genius
of reason," [565] was unquestionably an unbeliever; [566] and only
the personal protection of Louis XIV, which after all could not avail
to support such a play as Tartufe against the fury of the bigots,
enabled him to sustain himself at all against them.

5. Equally freethinking was his brilliant predecessor and early
comrade, Cyrano de Bergerac (1620-1655), who did not fear to indicate
his frame of mind in one of his dramas. In La Mort d'Agrippine
he puts in the mouth of Sejanus, as was said by a contemporary,
"horrible things against the Gods," notably the phrase, "whom men
made, and who did not make men," [567] which, however, generally
passed as an attack on polytheism; and though there was certainly
no blasphemous intention in the phrase, Frappons, voilà l'hostie
[= hostia, victim], some pretended to regard it as an insult to the
Catholic host. [568] At times Cyrano writes like a deist; [569] but
in so many other passages does he hold the language of a convinced
materialist, and of a scoffer at that, [570] that he can hardly be
taken seriously on the former head. [571] In short, he was one of
the first of the hardy freethinkers who, under the tolerant rule of
Richelieu and Mazarin, gave clear voice to the newer spirit. Under
any other government, he would have been in danger of his life: as it
was, he was menaced with prosecutions; his Agrippine was forbidden;
the first edition of his Pédant joué was confiscated; during his
last illness there was an attempt to seize his manuscripts; and
down till the time of the Revolution the editions of his works were
eagerly bought up and destroyed by zealots. [572] His recent literary
rehabilitation thus hardly serves to realize his importance in the
history of freethought. Between Cyrano and Molière it would appear
that there was little less of rationalistic ferment in the France of
their day than in England. Bossuet avows in a letter to Huet in 1678
that impiety and unbelief abound more than ever before. [573]

6. Even in the apologetic reasoning of the greatest French prose
writer of that age, Pascal, we have the most pregnant testimony to
the prevalence of unbelief; for not only were the fragments preserved
as Pensées (1670), however originated, [574] developed as part of a
planned defence of religion against contemporary rationalism, [575]
but they themselves show their author profoundly unable to believe
save by a desperate abnegation of reason, though he perpetually
commits the gross fallacy of trusting to reason to prove that reason
is untrustworthy. His work is thus one continuous paralogism, in
which reason is disparaged merely to make way for a parade of bad
reasoning. The case of Pascal is that of Berkeley with a difference:
the latter suffered from hypochondria, but reacted with nervous energy;
Pascal, a physical degenerate, prematurely profound, was prematurely
old; and his pietism in its final form is the expression of the
physical collapse.


    This is disputed by M. Lanson, an always weighty authority. He
    writes (p. 464) that Pascal was "neither mad nor ill" when
    he gave himself up wholly to religion. But ill he certainly
    was. He had chronically suffered from intense pains in the head
    from his eighteenth year; and M. Lanson admits (p. 451) that
    the Pensées were written in intervals of acute suffering. This
    indeed understates the case. Pascal several times told his family
    that since the age of eighteen he had never passed a day without
    pain. His sister, Madame Perier, in her biographical sketch, speaks
    of him as suffering "continual and ever-increasing maladies," and
    avows that the four last years of his life, in which he penned the
    fragments called Pensées, "were but a continual languishment." The
    Port Royal preface of 1670 says the same thing, speaking of the
    "four years of languor and malady in which he wrote all we have of
    the book he planned," and calling the Pensées "the feeble essays
    of a sick man." Cp. Pascal's Prière pour demander à Dieu le bon
    usage des maladies: and Owen French Skeptics, pp. 746, 784.


Doubtless the levity and licence of the libertins in high places [576]
confirmed him in his revolt against unbelief; but his own credence was
an act rather of despairing emotion than of rational conviction. The
man who advised doubters to make a habit of causing masses to be said
and following religious rites, on the score that cela vous fera croire
et vous abêtira--"that will make you believe and will stupefy you"
[577]--was a pathological case; and though the whole Jansenist
movement latterly stood for a reaction against freethinking, it
can hardly be doubted that the Pensées generally acted as a solvent
rather than as a sustainer of religious beliefs. [578] This charge
was made against them immediately on their publication by the Abbé
de Villars, who pointed out that they did the reverse of what they
claimed to do in the matter of appealing to the heart and to good
sense, since they set forth all the ordinary arguments of Pyrrhonism,
denied that the existence of God could be established by reason or
philosophy, and staked the case on a "wager" which shocked good sense
and feeling alike. "Have you resolved," asks this critic in dialogue,
"to make atheists on pretext of combatting them?" [579]

The same question arises concerning the famous Lettres Provinciales
(1656), written by Pascal in defence of Arnauld against the persecution
of the Jesuits, who carried on in Arnauld's case their campaign against
Jansen, whom they charged with mis-stating the doctrine of Augustine in
his great work expounding that Father. Once more the Catholic Church
was swerving from its own established doctrine of predestination, the
Spanish Jesuit Molina having set up a new movement in the Pelagian or
Arminian direction. The cause of the Jansenists has been represented
as that of freedom of thought and speech; [580] and this it relatively
was insofar as Jansen and Arnauld sought for a hearing, while the
Jesuit-ridden Sorbonne strove to silence and punish them. Pascal had
to go from printer to printer as his Letters succeeded each other, the
first three being successively prosecuted by the clerical authorities;
and in their collected form they found publicity only by being printed
at Rouen and published at Amsterdam, with the rubric of Cologne. All
the while Jansenism claimed to be strict orthodoxy; and it was in
virtue only of the irreducible element of rationalism in Pascal
that the school of Port Royal made for freethought in any higher or
more general sense. Indeed, between his own reputation for piety and
that of the Jansenists for orthodoxy, the Provincial Letters have a
conventional standing as orthodox compositions. It is strange, however,
that those who charge upon the satire of the later philosophers the
downfall of Catholicism in France should not realize the plain tendency
of these brilliant satires to discredit the entire authority of the
Church, and, further, by their own dogmatic weaknesses, to put all
dogma alike under suspicion. [581] Few thoughtful men can now read
the Provinciales without being impressed by the utter absurdity of
the problem over which the entire religious intelligence of a great
nation was engrossed.

It was, in fact, the endless wrangles of the religious factions
over unintelligible issues that more than any other single cause
fostered the unbelief previously set up by religious wars; [582]
and Pascal's writings only deepened the trouble. Even Bossuet, in
his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches (1688), did
but throw a new light on the hollowness of the grounds of religion;
and for thoughtful readers gave a lead rather to atheism than to
Catholicism. The converts it would make to the Catholic Church would
be precisely those whose adherence was of least value, since they
had not even the temperamental basis which, rather than argument,
kept Bossuet a believer, and were Catholics only for lack of courage
to put all religion aside. When "variation" was put as a sign of error
by a Churchman the bulk of whose life was spent in bitter strifes with
sections of his own Church, critical people were hardly likely to be
confirmed in the faith. Within ten years of writing his book against
the Protestants, Bossuet was engaged in an acrid controversy with
Fénelon, his fellow prelate and fellow demonstrator of the existence
and attributes of God, accusing him of holding unchristian positions;
and both prelates were always fighting their fellow-churchmen the
Jansenists. If the variations of Protestants helped Catholicism,
those of Catholics must have helped unbelief.

7. A similar fatality attended the labours of the learned Huet, Bishop
of Avranches, whose Demonstratio Evangelica (1678) is remarkable (with
Boyle's Discourse of Things above Reason) as anticipating Berkeley in
the argument from the arbitrariness of mathematical assumptions. He
too, by that and by his later works, made for sheer philosophical
skepticism, [583] always a dangerous basis for orthodoxy. [584]
Such an evolution, on the part of a man of uncommon intellectual
energy, challenges attention, the more so seeing that it typifies
a good deal of thinking within the Catholic pale, on lines already
noted as following on the debate with Protestantism. Honestly pious
by bent of mind, but always occupied with processes of reasoning
and research, Huet leant more and more, as he grew in years, to
the skeptical defence against the pressures of Protestantism and
rationalism, at once following and furthering the tendency of his
age. That the skeptical method is a last weapon of defence can be
seen from the temper in which the demonstrator assails Spinoza,
whom he abuses, without naming him, in the fashion of his day, and
to whose arguments concerning the authorship of the Pentateuch he
makes singularly feeble answers. [585] They are too worthless to
have satisfied himself; and it is easy to see how he was driven to
seek a more plausible rebuttal. [586] A distinguished English critic,
noting the general movement, pronounces, justly enough, that Huet took
up philosophy "not as an end, but as a means--not for its own sake,
but for the support of religion"; and then adds that his attitude is
thus quite different from Pascal's. [587] But the two cases are really
on a level. Pascal too was driven to philosophy in reaction against
incredulity; and though Pascal's work is of a more bitter and morbid
intensity, Huet also had in him that psychic craving for a supernatural
support which is the essence of latter-day religion. And if we credit
this spirit to Pascal and to Huet, as we do to Newman, we must suppose
that it partly touched the whole movement of pro-Catholic skepticism
which has been above noted as following on the Reformation. It is
ascribing to it as a whole too much of calculation and strategy to
say of its combatants that "they conceived the desperate design of
first ruining the territory they were prepared to evacuate; before
philosophy was handed over to the philosophers the old Aristotelean
citadel was to be blown into the air." [588] In reality they caught,
as religious men will, with passion rather than with policy, at any
plea that might seem fitted to beat down the presumption of "the wild,
living intellect of man"; [589] and their skepticism had a certain
sincerity inasmuch as, trained to uncritical belief, they had never
found for themselves the grounds of rational certitude.

Inasmuch too as Protestantism had no such ground, and rationalism
was still far from having cleared its bases, Huet, as things went,
was within his moral rights when he set forth his transcendentalist
skepticism in his Quæstiones Alnetanæ in 1690. Though written in very
limpid Latin, [590] that work attracted practically no attention;
and though, having a repute for provincialism in his French style,
Huet was loth to resort to the vernacular, he did devote his spare
hours through a number of his latter years to preparing his Traité
Philosophique de la faiblesse de l'esprit humain, which, dying in 1722,
he left to be published posthumously (1723). The outcry against his
criticism of Descartes and his Demonstratio had indisposed him for
further personal strife; but he was determined to leave a completed
message. Thus it came about that a sincere and devoted Catholic
bishop "left, as his last legacy to his fellow-men, a work of the
most outrageous skepticism." [591]

8. Meanwhile the philosophy of Descartes, if less strictly propitious
to science at some points than that of Gassendi, was both directly and
indirectly making for the activity of reason. In virtue of its formal
"spiritualism," it found access where any clearly materialistic
doctrine would have been tabooed; so that we find the Cartesian
ecclesiastic Régis not only eagerly listened to and acclaimed at
Toulouse in 1665, but offered a civic pension by the magistrates
[592]--this within two years of the placing of Descartes's works on
the Index. After arousing a similar enthusiasm at Montpellier and
at Paris, Régis was silenced by the Archbishop, whereupon he set
himself to develop the Cartesian philosophy in his study. The result
was that he ultimately went beyond his master, openly rejecting the
idea of creation out of nothing, [593] and finally following Locke
in rejecting the innate ideas which Descartes had affirmed. [594]
Another young Churchman, Desgabets, developing from Descartes and his
pupil Malebranche, combined with their "spiritist" doctrine much of
the virtual materialism of Gassendi, arriving at a kind of pantheism,
and at a courageous pantheistic ethic, wherein God is recognized as
the author alike of good and evil [595]--a doctrine which we find even
getting a hearing in general society, and noticed in the correspondence
of Madame de Sévigné in 1677. [596]

Malebranche's treatise De la Recherche de la Vérité (1674) was in fact
a development of Descartes which on the one hand sought to connect
his doctrine of innate ideas with his God-idea, and on the other hand
headed the whole system towards pantheism. The tendency had arisen
before him in the congregation of the Oratory, to which he belonged,
and in which the Cartesian philosophy had so spread that when, in
1678, the alarmed superiors proposed to eradicate it, they were told
by the members that, "If Cartesianism is a plague, there are two
hundred of us who are infected." [597] But if Cartesianism alarmed
the official orthodox, Malebranche wrought a deeper disintegration
of the faith. In his old age his young disciple De Mairan, who had
deeply studied Spinoza, pressed him fatally hard on the virtual
coincidence of his philosophy with that of the more thoroughgoing
pantheist; and Malebranche indignantly repudiated all agreement with
"the miserable Spinoza," [598] "the atheist," [599] whose system he
pronounced "a frightful and ridiculous chimera." [600] "Nevertheless,
it was towards this chimera that Malebranche tended." [601] On all
hands the new development set up new strife; and Malebranche, who
disliked controversy, found himself embroiled alike with Jansenists
and Jesuits, with orthodox and with innovating Cartesians, and with his
own Spinozistic disciples. The Jansenist Arnauld attacked his book in
a long and stringent treatise, Des vrayes at des fausses idées (1683),
[602] accumulating denials and contradictions with a cold tenacity
of ratiocination which never lapsed into passion, and was all the
more destructive. For the Jansenists Malebranche was a danger to the
faith in the ratio of his exaltation of it, inasmuch as reference of
the most ordinary beliefs back to "faith" left them no ground upon
which to argue up to faith. [603] This seems to have been a common
feeling among his readers. For the same reason he made no appeal to
men of science. He would have no recognition of secondary causes,
the acceptance of which he declared to be a dangerous relapse into
paganism. [604] There was thus no scientific principle in the new
doctrine which could enable it to solve the problems or absorb the
systems of other schools. Locke was as little moved by it as were the
Jansenists. Malebranche won readers everywhere by his charm of style;
[605] but he was as much of a disturber as of a reconciler. The very
controversies which he set up made for disintegration; and Fénelon
found it necessary to "refute" Malebranche as well as Spinoza, and
did his censure with as great severity as Arnauld's. [606] The mere
fact that Malebranche put aside miracles in the name of divine law
was fatal from the point of view of orthodoxy.

9. Yet another philosophic figure of the reign of Louis XIV, the Jesuit
Père Buffier (1661-1737), deserves a passing notice here--out of his
chronological order--though the historians of philosophy have mostly
ignored him. [607] He is indeed of no permanent philosophic importance,
being a precursor of the Scottish school of Reid, nourished on Locke,
and somewhat on Descartes; but he is significant for the element
of practical rationalism which pervades his reasoning, and which
recommended him to Voltaire, Reid, and Destutt de Tracy. On the
question of "primary truths in theology" he declares so boldly for
the authority of revelation in all dogmas which pass comprehension,
and for the non-concern of theology with any process of rational proof,
[608] that it is hardly possible to suppose him a believer. On those
principles, Islam has exactly the same authority as Christianity. In
his metaphysic "he rejects all the ontological proofs of the existence
of God, and, among others, the proof of Descartes from infinitude:
he maintains that the idea of God is not innate, and that it can
be reached only from consideration of the order of nature." [609]
He is thus as much of a force for deism as was his master, Locke;
and he outgoes him in point of rationalism when he puts the primary
ethic of reciprocity as a universally recognized truth, [610] where
Locke had helplessly fallen back on "the will of God." On the other
hand he censures Descartes for not admitting the equal validity of
other tests with that of primary consciousness, thus in effect putting
himself in line with Gassendi. For the rest, his Examen des préjugés
vulgaires, the most popular of his works, is so full of practical
rationalism, and declares among other things so strongly in favour
of free discussion, that its influence must have been wholly in the
direction of freethought. "Give me," he makes one of his disputants
say, "a nation where they do not dispute, do not contest: it will be,
I assure you, a very stupid and a very ignorant nation." [611] Such
reasoning could hardly please the Jesuits, [612] and must have pleased
freethinkers. And yet Buffier, like Gassendi, in virtue of his clerical
status and his purely professional orthodoxy, escaped all persecution.

While an evolving Cartesianism, modified by the thought of Locke and
the critical evolution of that, was thus reacting on thought in all
directions, the primary and proper impulse of Descartes and Locke
was doing on the Continent what that of Bacon had already done in
England--setting men on actual scientific observation and experiment,
and turning them from traditionalism of every kind. The more religious
minds, as Malebranche, set their faces almost fanatically against
erudition, thus making an enemy of the all-learned Huet, [613]
but on the other hand preparing the way for the scientific age. For
the rest we find the influence of Descartes at work in heresies at
which he had not hinted. Finally we shall see it taking deep root in
Holland, furthering a rationalistic view of the Bible and of popular
superstitions.

10. Yet another new departure was made in the France of Louis XIV
by the scholarly performance of Richard Simon (1638-1712), who was
as regards the Scriptural texts what Spencer of Cambridge was as
regards the culture-history of the Hebrews, one of the founders of
modern methodical criticism. It was as a devout Catholic refuting
Protestants, and a champion of the Bible against Spinoza, that
Simon began his work; but, more sincerely critical than Huet, he
reached views more akin to those of Spinoza than to those of the
Church. [614] The congregation of the Oratory, where Simon laid the
foundations of his learning, was so little inclined to his critical
views that he decided to leave it; and though persuaded to stay,
and to become for a time a professor of philosophy at Julli, he at
length broke with the Order. Then, from his native town of Dieppe,
came his strenuous series of critical works--L'histoire critique du
Vieux Testament (1678), which among other things decisively impugned
the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; the Histoire critique du
texte du Nouveau Testament (Rotterdam, 1689); numerous other volumes
of critical studies on texts, versions, and commentators; and finally
a French translation of the New Testament with notes. His Bibliothèque
Critique (4 vols. under the name of Saint-Jore) was suppressed by an
order in council; the translation was condemned by Bossuet and the
Archbishop of Paris; and the two first-named works were suppressed by
the Parlement of Paris and attacked by a host of orthodox scholars;
but they were translated promptly into Latin and English; and they
gave a new breadth of footing to the deistic argument, though Simon
always wrote as an avowed believer.

Before Simon, the Protestant Isaac la Peyrère, the friend of La
Mothe le Vayer and Gassendi, and the librarian of Condé, had fired
a somewhat startling shot at the Pentateuch in his Præadamitæ [615]
and Systema Theologica ex Præ-adamitarum Hypothesi (both 1655: printed
in Holland [616]), for which he was imprisoned at Brussels, with the
result that he recanted and joined the Church of Rome, going to the
Pope in person to receive absolution, and publishing an Epistola ad
Philotimum (Frankfort, 1658), in which he professed to explain his
reasons for abjuring at once his Calvinism and his treatise. It
is clear that all this was done to save his skin, for there is
explicit testimony that he held firmly by his Preadamite doctrine
to the end of his life, despite the seven or eight confutations of
his work published in 1656. [617] Were it not for his constructive
theses--especially his idea that Adam was a real person, but simply
the father of the Hebrews and not of the human race--he would deserve
to rank high among the scientific pioneers of modern rationalism,
for his negative work is shrewd and sound. Like so many other early
rationalists, collectively accused of "destroying without replacing,"
he erred precisely in his eagerness to build up, for his negations
have all become accepted truths. [618] As it is, he may be ranked,
after Toland, as a main founder of the older rationalism, developed
chiefly in Germany, which sought to reduce as many miracles as possible
to natural events misunderstood. But he was too far before his time to
win a fair hearing. Where Simon laid a cautious scholarly foundation,
Peyrère suddenly challenged immemorial beliefs, and failed accordingly.

11. Such an evolution could not occur in France without affecting the
neighbouring civilization of Holland. We have seen Dutch life at the
beginning of the seventeenth century full of Protestant fanaticism
and sectarian strife; and in the time of Descartes these elements,
especially on the Calvinist side, were strong enough virtually to
drive him out of Holland (1647) after nineteen years' residence. [619]
He had, however, made disciples; and his doctrine bore fruit, finding
doubtless some old soil ready. Thus in 1666 one of his disciples, the
Amsterdam physician Louis Meyer, published a work entitled Philosophia
Sacrae Scripturae Interpres, [620] in which, after formally affirming
that the Scripture is the infallible Word of God, he proceeds to argue
that the interpretation of the Word must be made by the human reason,
and accordingly sets aside all meanings which are irreconcilable
therewith, reducing them to allegories or tropes. Apart from this,
there is somewhat strong evidence that in Holland in the second
half of the century Cartesianism was in large part identified with
a widespread movement of rationalism, of a sufficiently pronounced
kind. Peter von Mastricht, Professor of Theology at Utrecht, published
in 1677 a Latin treatise, Novitatum Cartesianarum Gangræna, in which
he made out a list of fifty-six anti-Christian propositions maintained
by Cartesians. Among them are these: That the divine essence, also
that of angels, and that of the soul, consists only in Cogitation;
That philosophy is not subservient to divinity, and is no less certain
and no less revealed; That in things natural, moral, and practical,
and also in matters of faith, the Scripture speaks according to the
erroneous notions of the vulgar; That the mystery of the Trinity may
be demonstrated by natural reason; That the first chaos was able of
itself to produce all things material; That the world has a soul;
and that it may be infinite in extent. [621] The theologian was thus
visibly justified in maintaining that the "novelties" of Cartesianism
outwent by a long way those of Arminianism. [622] It had in fact
established a new point of view; seeing that Arminius had claimed
for theology all the supremacy ever accorded to it in the Church. [623]

12. As Meyer was one of the most intimate friends of Spinoza, being
with him at death, and became the editor of his posthumous works,
it can hardly be doubted that his treatise, which preceded Spinoza's
Tractatus by four years, influenced the great Jew, who speedily
eclipsed him. [624] Spinoza, however (1632-1677), was first led
to rationalize by his Amsterdam friend and teacher, Van den Ende,
a scientific materialist, hostile to all religion; [625] and it
was while under his influence that he was excommunicated by his
father's synagogue. From the first, apparently, Spinoza's thought
was shaped partly by the medieval Hebrew philosophy [626] (which, as
we have seen, combined Aristotelean and Saracen influences), partly
by the teaching of Bruno, though he modified and corrected that at
various points. [627] Later he was deeply influenced by Descartes,
whom he specially expounded for a pupil in a tractate. [628] Here
he endorses Descartes's doctrine of freewill, which he was later
to repudiate and overthrow. But he drew from Descartes his retained
principle that evil is not a real existence. In a much less degree he
was influenced by Bacon, whose psychology he ultimately condemned;
but from Hobbes he took not only his rationalistic attitude towards
"revelation," but his doctrine of ecclesiastical subordination. [629]
Finally evolving his own conceptions, he produced a philosophic system
which was destined to affect all European thought, remaining the while
quietly occupied with the handicraft of lens-grinding by which he
earned his livelihood. The Grand Pensionary of the Netherlands, John
de Witt, seems to have been in full sympathy with the young heretic,
on whom he conferred a small pension before he had published anything
save his Cartesian Principia (1663).

The much more daring and powerful Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
(1670 [630]) was promptly condemned by a Dutch clerical synod, along
with Hobbes's Leviathan, which it greatly surpassed in the matter of
criticism of the scriptural text. It was the most stringent censure
of supernaturalism that had thus far appeared in any modern language;
and its preface is an even more mordant attack on popular religion and
clericalism than the main body of the work. What seems to-day an odd
compromise--the reservation of supra-rational authority for revelation,
alongside of unqualified claims for the freedom of reason [631]--was
but an adaptation of the old scholastic formula of "twofold truth,"
and was perhaps at the time the possible maximum of open rationalism
in regard to the current creed, since both Bacon and Locke, as we have
seen, were fain to resort to it. As revealed in his letters, Spinoza
in almost all things stood at the point of view of the cultivated
rationalism of two centuries later. He believed in a historical Jesus,
rejecting the Resurrection; [632] disbelieved in ghosts and spirits;
[633] rejected miracles; [634] and refused to think of God as ever
angry; [635] avowing that he could not understand the Scriptures, and
had been able to learn nothing from them as to God's attributes. [636]
The Tractatus could not go so far; but it went far enough to horrify
many who counted themselves latitudinarian. It was only in Holland
that so aggressive a criticism of Christian faith and practice could
then appear; and even there neither publisher nor author dared avow
himself. Spinoza even vetoed a translation into Dutch, foreseeing
that such a book would be placed under an interdict. [637] It was
as much an appeal for freedom of thought (libertas philosophandi)
as a demonstration of rational truth; and Spinoza dexterously pointed
(c. 20) to the social effects of the religious liberty already enjoyed
in Amsterdam as a reason for carrying liberty further. There can
be no question that it powerfully furthered alike the deistic and
the Unitarian movements in England from the year of its appearance;
and, though the States-General felt bound formally to prohibit it on
the issue of the second edition in 1674, its effect in Holland was
probably as great as elsewhere: at least there seems to have gone on
there from this time a rapid modification of the old orthodoxy.

Still more profound, probably, was the effect of the posthumous Ethica
(1677), which he had been prevented from publishing in his lifetime,
[638] and which not only propounded in parts an absolute pantheism (=
atheism [639]), but definitely grounded ethics in human nature. If
more were needed to arouse theological rage, it was to be found
in the repeated and insistent criticism of the moral and mental
perversity of the defenders of the faith [640]--a position not
indeed quite consistent with the primary teaching of the treatise on
the subject of Will, of which it denies the entity in the ordinary
sense. Spinoza was here reverting to the practical attitude of Bacon,
which, under a partial misconception, he had repudiated; and he did
not formally solve the contradiction. His purpose was to confute the
ordinary orthodox dogma that unbelief is wilful sin; and to retort
the charge without reconciling it with the thesis was to impair
the philosophic argument. [641] It was not on that score, however,
that it was resented, but as an unpardonable attack on orthodoxy,
not to be atoned for by any words about the spirit of Christ. [642]
The discussion went deep and far. A reply to the Tractatus which
appeared in 1674, by an Utrecht professor (then dead), is spoken of
by Spinoza with contempt; [643] but abler discussion followed, though
the assailants mostly fell foul of each other. Franz Cuper or Kuyper
of Amsterdam, who in 1676 published an Arcana Atheismi Revelata,
professedly refuting Spinoza's Tractatus, was charged with writing
in bad faith and with being on Spinoza's side--an accusation which
he promptly retorted on other critics, apparently with justice. [644]


    The able treatise of Prof. E. E. Powell on Spinoza and Religion
    is open to demur at one point--its reiterated dictum that
    Spinoza's character was marred by "lack of moral courage"
    (p. 44). This expression is later in a measure retreated from:
    after "his habitual attitude of timid caution," we have: "Spinoza's
    timidity, or, if you will, his peaceable disposition." If the
    last-cited concession is to stand, the other phrases should be
    withdrawn. Moral courage, like every other human attribute,
    is to be estimated comparatively; and the test-question here
    is: Did any other writer in Spinoza's day venture further than
    he? Moral courage is not identical with the fanaticism which
    invites destruction; fanaticism supplies a motive which dispenses
    with courage, though it operates as courage might. But refusal to
    challenge destruction gratuitously does not imply lack of courage,
    though of course it may be thereby motived. A quite brave man,
    it has been noted, will quietly shun a gratuitous risk where
    one who is "afraid of being afraid" may face it. When all is
    said, Spinoza was one of the most daring writers of his day;
    and his ethic made it no more a dereliction of duty for him to
    avoid provoking arrest and capital punishment than it is for
    either a Protestant or a rationalist to refrain from courting
    death by openly defying Catholic beliefs before a Catholic
    mob in Spain. It is easy for any of us to-day to be far more
    explicit than Spinoza was. It is doubtful whether any of us,
    if we had lived in his day and were capable of going as far in
    heresy, would have run such risks as he did in publishing the
    Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. For those who have lived much in
    his society, it should be difficult to doubt that, if allowed, he
    would have dared death on the night of the mob-murder of the De
    Witts. The formerly suppressed proof of his very plain speaking
    on the subject of prayer, and his indications of aversion to
    the practice of grace before meals (Powell, pp. 323-25) show
    lack even of prudence on his part. Prof. Powell is certainly
    entitled to censure those recent writers who have wilfully kept
    up a mystification as to Spinoza's religiosity; but their lack
    of courage or candour does not justify an imputation of the same
    kind upon him. That Spinoza was "no saint" (Powell, p. 43) is
    true in the remote sense that he was not incapable of anger. But
    it would be hard to find a Christian who would compare with him
    in general nobility of character. The proposition that he was not
    "in any sense religious" (id. ib.) seems open to verbal challenge.


13. The appearance in 1678 of a Dutch treatise "against all sorts of
atheists," [645] and in 1681, at Amsterdam, of an attack in French on
Spinoza's Scriptural criticism, [646] points to a movement outside of
the clerical and scholarly class. All along, indeed, the atmosphere of
the Arminian or "Remonstrant" School in Holland must have been fairly
liberal. [647] Already in 1685 Locke's friend Le Clerc had taken up
the position of Hobbes and Spinoza and Simon on the Pentateuch in his
Sentimens de quelques théologiens de Hollande (translated into English
and published in 1690 as "Five Letters Concerning the Inspiration of
the Holy Scriptures"). [648] And although Le Clerc always remained
something of a Scripturalist, and refused to go the way of Spinoza,
he had courage enough to revive an ancient heresy by urging, in his
commentary on the fourth Gospel (1701), that "the Logos" should be
rendered "Reason"--an idea which he probably derived from the Unitarian
Zwicker without realizing how far it could take him. His ultimate
recantation, on the subject of the authorship of the Pentateuch,
served only to weaken his credit with freethinkers, and came too late
to arrest the intellectual movement which he had forwarded.

A rationalizing spirit had now begun to spread widely in Holland; and
within twenty years of Spinoza's death there had arisen a Dutch sect,
led by Pontiaan van Hattem, a pastor at Philipsland, which blended
Spinozism with evangelicalism in such a way as to incur the anathema of
the Church. [649] In the time of the English Civil War the fear of the
opponents of the new multitude of sects was that England should become
"another Amsterdam." [650] This very multiplicity tended to promote
doubt; and in 1713 we find Anthony Collins [651] pointing to Holland
as a country where freedom to think has undermined superstition to a
remarkable degree. During his stay, in the previous generation, Locke
had found a measure of liberal theology, in harmony with his own; but
in those days downright heresy was still dangerous. Deurhoff (d. 1717),
who translated Descartes and was accused of Spinozism, though he
strongly attacked it, [652] had at one time to fly Holland, though
by his writings he founded a pantheistic sect known as Deurhovians;
and Balthasar Bekker, a Cartesian, persecuted first for Socinianism,
incurred so much odium by publishing in 1691 a treatise denying the
reality of witchcraft that he had to give up his office as a preacher.


    Cp. art. in Biographie Universelle, and Mosheim, 17 Cent. pt. ii,
    ch. ii, § 35, and notes in Reid's ed. Bekker was not the first
    to combat demonology on scriptural grounds; Arnold Geulincx,
    of Leyden, and the French Protestant refugee Daillon having
    less confidently put the view before him, the latter in his
    Daimonologia, 1687 (trans. in English, 1723), and the former in
    his system of ethics. Gassendi, as we saw, had notably discredited
    witchcraft a generation earlier; Reginald Scot had impugned its
    actuality in 1584; and Wier, still earlier, in 1563. And even
    before the Reformation the learned King Christian II of Denmark
    (deposed 1523) had vetoed witch-burning in his dominions. (Allen,
    Hist. de Danemark, French tr. 1878, i, 281.) As Scot's Discoverie
    had been translated into Dutch in 1609, Bekker probably had
    a lead from him. Glanvill's Blow at Modern Sadducism (1688),
    reproduced in Sadducismus Triumphatus, undertakes to answer some
    objections of the kind later urged by Bekker; and the discussion
    was practically international. Bekker's treatise, entitled De
    Betooverte Wereld, was translated into English--first in 1695,
    from the French, under the title The World Bewitched (only 1
    vol. published), and again in 1700 as The World turned upside
    down. In the French translation, Le Monde Enchanté (4 tom. 1694),
    it had a great vogue. A refutation was published in English in
    An Historical Treatise of Spirits, by J. Beaumont, in 1705. It is
    noteworthy that Bekker was included as one of "four modern sages
    (vier neuer Welt-Weisen)" with Descartes, Hobbes, and Spinoza,
    in a German folio tractate (hostile) of 1702.


14. No greater service was rendered in that age to the spread of
rational views than that embodied in the great Dictionnaire Historique
et Critique [653] of Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), who, born in France,
but driven out by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, spent the
best part of his life and did his main work at Rotterdam. Persecuted
there for his freethinking, to the extent of having to give up his
professorship, he yet produced a virtual encyclopedia for freethinkers
in his incomparable Dictionary, baffling hostility by the Pyrrhonian
impartiality with which he handled all religious questions. In his
youth, when sent by his Protestant father to study at Toulouse,
he had been temporarily converted, as was the young Gibbon later,
to Catholicism; [654] and the retrospect of that experience seems
in Bayle's case, as in Gibbon's, to have been a permanent motive
to practical skepticism. [655] But, again, in the one case as in
the other, skepticism was fortified by abundant knowledge. Bayle
had read everything and mastered every controversy, and was thereby
the better able to seem to have no convictions of his own. But even
apart from the notable defence of the character of atheists dropped by
him in the famous Pensées diverses sur la Comète (1682), and in the
Éclaircissements in which he defended it, it is abundantly evident
that he was an unbeliever. The only alternative view is that he
was strictly or philosophically a skeptic, reaching no conclusions
for himself; but this is excluded by the whole management of his
expositions. [656] It is recorded that it was his vehement description
of himself as a Protestant "in the full force of the term," accompanied
with a quotation from Lucretius, that set the clerical diplomatist
Polignac upon re-reading the Roman atheist and writing his poem
Anti-Lucretius. [657] Bayle's ostensible Pyrrhonism was simply the
tactic forced on him by his conditions; and it was the positive
unbelievers who specially delighted in his volumes. He laid down no
cosmic doctrines, but he illuminated all; and his air of repudiating
such views as Spinoza's had the effect rather of forcing Spinozists
to leave neutral ground than of rehabilitating orthodoxy.

On one theme he spoke without any semblance of doubt. Above all
men who had yet written he is the champion of toleration. [658] At
a time when in England the school of Locke still held that atheism
must not be tolerated, he would accept no such position, insisting
that error as such is not culpable, and that, save in the case of
a sect positively inciting to violence and disorder, all punishment
of opinion is irrational and unjust. [659] On this theme, moved by
the memory of his own life of exile and the atrocious persecution
of the Protestants of France, he lost his normal imperturbability,
as in his Letter to an Abbé (if it be really his), entitled Ce que
c'est que la France toute catholique sous le règne de Louis le Grand,
in which a controlled passion of accusation makes every sentence bite
like an acid, leaving a mark that no dialectic can efface. But it was
not only from Catholicism that he suffered, and not only to Catholics
that his message was addressed. One of his most malignant enemies
was the Protestant Jurieu, who it was that succeeded in having him
deprived of his chair of philosophy and history at Rotterdam (1693)
on the score of the freethinking of his Pensées sur la Comète. This
wrong cast a shadow over his life, reducing him to financial straits
in which he had to curtail greatly the plan of his Dictionary. Further,
it moved him to some inconsistent censure of the political writings of
French Protestant refugees [660]--Jurieu being the reputed author of a
violent attack on the rule of Louis XIV, under the title Les Soupirs de
la France esclave qui aspire après la liberté (1689). [661] Yet again,
the malicious Jurieu induced the Consistory of Rotterdam to censure
the Dictionary on the score of the tone and tendency of the article
"David" and the renewed vindications of atheists.

But nothing could turn Bayle from his loyalty to reason and toleration;
and the malice of the bigots could not deprive him of his literary
vogue, which was in the ratio of his unparalleled industry. As a mere
writer he is admirable: save in point of sheer wit, of which, however,
he has not a little, he is to this day as readable as Voltaire. By
force of unfailing lucidity, wisdom, and knowledge, he made the
conquest of literary Europe; and fifty years after his death we find
the Jesuit Delamare in his (anonymous) apologetic treatise, La Foi
justifiée de tout reproche de contradiction avec la raison (1761),
speaking of him to the deists as "their theologian, their doctor,
their oracle." [662] He was indeed no less; and his serene exposure
of the historic failure of Christianity was all the more deadly as
coming from a master of theological history.

15. Meantime, Spinoza had reinforced the critical movement in France,
[663] where decline of belief can be seen proceeding after as before
the definite adoption of pietistic courses by the king, under the
influence of Madame de Maintenon. Abbadie, writing his Traité de
la verité de la religion chrétienne at Berlin in 1684, speaks of an
"infinity" of prejudiced deists as against the "infinity" of prejudiced
believers [664]--evidently thinking of northern Europeans in general;
and he strives hard to refute both Hobbes and Spinoza on points
of Biblical criticism. In France he could not turn the tide. That
radical distrust of religious motives and illumination which can be
seen growing up in every country in modern Europe where religion led
to war, was bound to be strengthened by the spectacle of the reformed
sensualist harrying heresy in his own kingdom in the intervals of
his wars with his neighbours. The crowning folly of the revocation of
the Edict of Nantes [665] (1685), forcing the flight from France of
some three hundred thousand industrious [666] and educated inhabitants
for the offence of Protestantism, was as mad a blow to religion as to
the State. Less paralysing to economic life than the similar policy
of the Church against the Moriscoes in Spain, it is no less striking
a proof of the paralysis of practical judgment to which unreasoning
faith and systematic ecclesiasticism can lead. Orthodoxy in France was
as ecstatic in its praise of the act as had been that of Spain in the
case of the expulsion of the Moriscoes. The deed is not to be laid at
the single door of the king or of any of his advisers, male or female:
the act which deprived France of a vast host of her soundest citizens
was applauded by nearly all cultured Catholicism. [667] Not merely the
bishops, Bossuet and Fénelon [668] and Masillon, but the Jansenist
Arnauld; not merely the female devotees, Mademoiselle de Scudéry
and Madame Deshoulières, but Racine, La Bruyère, and the senile la
Fontaine--all extolled the senseless deed. The not over-pious Madame de
Sévigné was delighted with the "dragonnades," declaring that "nothing
could be finer: no king has done or will do anything more memorable";
the still less mystical Bussy, author of the Histoire amoureuse des
Gaules, was moved to pious exultation; and the dying Chancelier le
Tellier, on signing the edict of revocation, repeated the legendary
cry of Simeon, Nunc dimitte servum tuum, Domine! To this pass had the
Catholic creed and discipline brought the mind of France. Only the
men of affairs, nourished upon realities--the Vaubans, Saint Simons,
and Catinats--realized the insanity of the action, which Colbert
(d. 1683) would never have allowed to come to birth.

The triumphers, doubtless, did not contemplate the expatriation of the
myriads of Protestants who escaped over the frontiers in the closing
years of the century in spite of all the efforts of the royal police,
"carrying with them," as a later French historian writes, "our arts,
the secrets of our manufactures, and their hatred of the king." The
Catholics, as deep in civics as in science, thought only of the
humiliation and subjection of the heretics--doubtless feeling that
they were getting a revenge against Protestantism for the Test Act and
the atrocities of the Popish Plot mania in England. The blow recoiled
on their country. Within a generation, their children were enduring
the agonies of utter defeat at the hands of a coalition of Protestant
nations every one of which had been strengthened by the piously exiled
sons of France; and in the midst of their mortal struggle the revolted
Protestants of the Cévennes so furiously assailed from the rear that
the drain upon the king's forces precipitated the loss of their hold
on Germany.

For every Protestant who crossed the frontiers between 1685 and 1700,
perhaps, a Catholic neared or crossed the line between indifferentism
and active doubt. The steady advance of science all the while
infallibly undermined faith; and hardly was the bolt launched against
the Protestants when new sapping and mining was going on. Fontenelle
(1657-1757), whose Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds (1686)
popularized for the elegant world the new cosmology, cannot but
have undermined dogmatic faith in some directions; above all by
his graceful and skilful Histoire des Oracles (also 1686), where
"the argumentation passes beyond the thesis advanced. All that he
says of oracles could be said of miracles." [669] The Jesuits found
the book essentially "impious"; and a French culture-historian sees
in it "the first attack which directs the scientific spirit against
the foundations of Christianity. All the purely philosophic arguments
with which religion has been assailed are in principle in the work of
Fontenelle." [670] In his abstract thinking he was no less radical,
and his Traité de la Liberté [671] established so well the determinist
position that it was decisively held by the majority of the French
freethinkers who followed. Living to his hundredth year, he could
join hands with the freethought of Gassendi and Voltaire, [672]
Descartes and Diderot. Yet we shall find him later, in his official
capacity of censor of literature, refusing to pass heretical books,
on principles that would have vetoed his own. He is in fact a type of
the freethought of the age of Louis XIV--Epicurean in the common sense,
unheroic, resolute only to evade penalties, guiltless of over-zeal. Not
in that age could men generate an enthusiasm for truth.

16. Of the new Epicureans, the most famous in his day was
Saint-Evremond, [673] who, exiled from France for his politics,
maintained both in London and in Paris, by his writings, a leadership
in polite letters. In England he greatly influenced young men like
Bolingbroke; and a translation (attributed to Dryden) of one of his
writings seems to have given Bishop Butler the provocation to the
first and weakest chapter of his Analogy. [674] As to his skepticism
there was no doubt in his own day; and his compliments to Christianity
are much on a par with those paid later by the equally conforming and
unbelieving Shaftesbury, whom he also anticipated in his persuasive
advocacy of toleration. [675] Regnard, the dramatist, had a similar
private repute as an "Epicurean." And even among the nominally orthodox
writers of the time in France a subtle skepticism touches nearly all
opinion. La Bruyère is almost the only lay classic of the period
who is pronouncedly religious; and his essay on the freethinkers,
[676] against whom his reasoning is so forcibly feeble, testifies to
their numbers and to the stress of debate set up by them. Even he, too,
writes as a deist against atheists, hardly as a believing Christian. If
he were a believer he certainly found no comfort in his faith: whatever
were his capacity for good feeling, no great writer of his age betrays
such bitterness of spirit, such suffering from the brutalities of life,
such utter disillusionment, such unfaith in men. And a certain doubt
is cast upon all his professions of opinion by the sombre avowal:
"A man born a Christian and a Frenchman finds himself constrained
[677] in satire: the great subjects are forbidden him: he takes them
up at times, and then turns aside to little things, which he elevates
by his ... genius and his style." [678]


    M. Lanson remarks that "we must not let ourselves be abused by
    the last chapter [Des esprits forts], a collection of philosophic
    reflections and reasonings, where La Bruyère mingles Plato,
    Descartes, and Pascal in a vague Christian spiritualism. This
    chapter, evidently sincere, but without individuality, and
    containing only the reflex of the thoughts of others, is not a
    conclusion to which the whole work conducts. It marks, on the
    contrary, the lack of conclusion and of general views. What is
    more, with the chapter On the Sovereign, placed in the middle of
    the volume, it is destined to disarm the temporal and spiritual
    powers, to serve as passport for the independent freedom of
    observation in the rest of the Caractères" (p. 599).

    On this it may be remarked that the essay in question is not so
    much Christian as theistic; but the suggestion as to the object
    is plausible. Taine (Essais de critique et d'histoire, ed. 1901)
    first remarks (p. 11) on the "christianisme" of the essay, and then
    decides (p. 12) that "he merely exposes in brief and imperious
    style the reasonings of the school of Descartes." It should be
    noted, however, that in this essay La Bruyère does not scruple to
    write: "If all religion is a respectful fear of God, what is to be
    thought of those who dare to wound him in his most living image,
    which is the sovereign?" (§ 27 in ed. Walckenaer, p. 578. Pascal
    holds the same tone. Vie, par Madame Perier.) This appears first
    in the fourth edition; and many other passages were inserted in
    that and later issues: the whole is an inharmonious mosaic.

    Concerning La Bruyère, the truth would seem to be that the
    inconsequences in the structure of his essays were symptomatic of
    variability in his moods and opinions. Taine and Lanson are struck
    by the premonitions of the revolution in his famous picture of
    the peasants, and other passages; and the latter remarks (p. 603)
    that "the points touched by La Bruyère are precisely those where
    the writers of the next age undermined the old order: La Bruyère
    is already philosophe in the sense which Voltaire and Diderot
    gave to that term." But we cannot be sure that the plunges into
    convention were not real swervings of a vacillating spirit. It
    is difficult otherwise to explain his recorded approbation of
    the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

    The Dialogues sur le Quiétisme, published posthumously under his
    name (1699), appear to be spurious. This was emphatically asserted
    by contemporaries (Sentiments critiques sur les Caractères de
    M. de la Bruyère, 1701, p. 447; Apologie de M. de la Bruyère,
    1701, p. 357, both cited by Walckenaer) who on other points
    were in opposition. Baron Walckenaer (Étude, ed. cited, p. 76
    sq.) pronounces that they were the work of Elliès du Pin, a doctor
    of the Sorbonne, and gives good reasons for the attribution. The
    Abbé d'Olivet in his Histoire de l'Académie française declares that
    La Bruyère only drafted them, and that du Pin edited them; but
    the internal evidence is against their containing anything of La
    Bruyère's draught. They are indeed so feeble that no admirer cares
    to accept them as his. (Cp. note to Suard's Notice sur la personne
    et les écrits de la Bruyère, in Didot ed. 1865, p. 20.) Written
    against Madame Guyon, they were not worth his while.


If the apologetics of Huet and Pascal, Bossuet and Fénelon, had any
influence on the rationalistic spirit, it was but in the direction of
making it more circumspect, never of driving it out. It is significant
that whereas in the year of the issue of the Demonstratio the Duchesse
d'Orléans could write that "every young man either is or affects to
be an atheist," Le Vassor wrote in 1688: "People talk only of reason,
of good taste, of force of mind, of the advantage of those who can
raise themselves above the prejudices of education and of the society
in which one is born. Pyrrhonism is the fashion in many things: men
say that rectitude of mind consists in 'not believing lightly' and
in being 'ready to doubt.'" [679] Pascal and Huet between them had
only multiplied doubters. On both lines, obviously, freethought was
the gainer; and in a Jesuit treatise, Le Monde condamné par luymesme,
published in 1695, the Préface contre l'incrédulité des libertins sets
out with the avowal that "to draw the condemnation of the world out
of its own mouth, it is necessary to attack first the incredulity of
the unbelievers (libertins), who compose the main part of it, and who
under some appearance of Christianity conceal a mind either Judaic
[read deistic] or pagan." Such was France to a religious eye at the
height of the Catholic triumph over Protestantism. The statement that
the libertins formed the majority of "the world" is of course a furious
extravagance. But there must have been a good deal of unbelief to have
moved a priest to such an explosion. And the unbelief must have been
as much a product of revulsion from religious savagery as a result
of direct critical impulse, for there was as yet no circulation
of positively freethinking literature. For a time, indeed, there
was a general falling away in French intellectual prestige, [680]
the result, not of the mere "protective spirit" in literature, as
is sometimes argued, but of the immense diversion of national energy
under Louis XIV to militarism; [681] and the freethinkers lost some
of the confidence as well as some of the competence they had exhibited
in the days of Molière. [682] There had been too little solid thinking
done to preclude a reaction when the king, led by Madame de Maintenon,
went about to atone for his debaucheries by an old age of piety. "The
king had been put in such fear of hell that he believed that all who
had not been instructed by the Jesuits were damned. To ruin anyone
it was necessary only to say, 'He is a Huguenot, or a Jansenist,'
and the thing was done." [683] In this state of things there spread
in France the revived doctrine or temper of Quietism, set up by the
Spanish priest, Miguel de Molinos (1640-1697), whose Spiritual Guide,
published in Spanish in 1675, appeared in 1681 in Italian at Rome,
where he was a highly influential confessor. It was soon translated
into Latin, French, and Dutch. In 1685 he was cited before the
Inquisition; in 1687 the book was condemned to be burned, and he
was compelled to retract sixty-eight propositions declared to be
heretical; whereafter, nonetheless, he was imprisoned till his death
in 1696. In France, whence the attack on him had begun, his teaching
made many converts, notably Madame Guyon, and may be said to have
created a measure of religious revival. But when Fénelon took it up
(1697), modifying the terminology of Molinos to evade the official
condemnation, he was bitterly attacked by Bossuet as putting forth
doctrine incompatible with Christianity; the prelates fought for two
years; and finally the Pope condemned Fénelon's book, whereupon he
submitted, limiting his polemic to attacks on the Jansenists. Thus
the gloomy orthodoxy of the court and the mysticism of the new school
alike failed to affect the general intelligence; there was no real
building up of belief; and the forward movement at length recommenced.



CHAPTER XVI

BRITISH FREETHOUGHT IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY


§ 1

It appears from our survey that the "deistic movement," commonly
assigned to the eighteenth century, had been abundantly prepared
for in the seventeenth, which, in turn, was but developing ideas
current in the sixteenth. When, in 1696, John Toland published his
Christianity Not Mysterious, the sensation it made was due not so
much to any unheard-of boldness in its thought as to the simple fact
that deistic ideas had thus found their way into print. [684] So far
the deistic position was explicitly represented in English literature
only by the works of Herbert, Hobbes, and Blount; and of these only
the first (who wrote in Latin) and the third had put the case at any
length. Against the deists or atheists of the school of Hobbes, and
the Scriptural Unitarians who thought with Newton and Locke, there
stood arrayed the great mass of orthodox intolerance which clamoured
for the violent suppression of every sort of "infidelity." It was
this feeling, of which the army of ignorant rural clergy were the
spokesmen, that found vent in the Blasphemy Act of 1697. The new
literary growth dating from the time of Toland is the evidence of
the richness of the rationalistic soil already created. Thinking men
craved a new atmosphere. Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity is an
unsuccessful compromise: Toland's book begins a new propagandist era.

Toland's treatise, [685] heretical as it was, professed to be a
defence of the faith, and avowedly founded on Locke's anonymous
Reasonableness of Christianity, its young author being on terms of
acquaintance with the philosopher. [686] He claimed, in fact, to take
for granted "the Divinity of the New Testament," and to "demonstrate
the verity of divine revelation against atheists and all enemies of
revealed religion," from whom, accordingly, he expected to receive no
quarter. Brought up, as he declared, "from my cradle, in the grossest
superstition and idolatry," he had been divinely led to make use of
his own reason; and he assured his Christian readers of his perfect
sincerity in "defending the true religion." [687] Twenty years later,
his primary positions were hardly to be distinguished from those of
ratiocinative champions of the creed, save in respect that he was
challenging orthodoxy where they were replying to unbelievers. Toland,
however, lacked alike the timidity and the prudence which so safely
guided Locke in his latter years; and though his argument was only
a logical and outspoken extension of Locke's position, to the end
of showing that there was nothing supra-rational in Christianity of
Locke's type, it separated him from "respectable" society in England
and Ireland for the rest of his life. The book was "presented" by the
Grand Juries of Middlesex and Dublin; [688] the dissenters in Dublin
being chiefly active in denouncing it--with or without knowledge
of its contents; [689] half-a-dozen answers appeared; and when in
1698 Toland produced another, entitled Amyntor, showing the infirm
foundation of the Christian canon, there was again a speedy crop of
replies. Despite the oversights inevitable to such pioneer work, this
opens, from the side of freethought, the era of documentary criticism
of the New Testament; and in some of his later freethinking books,
as the Nazarenus (1718) and the Pantheisticon (1720), he continues to
show himself in advance of his time in "opening new windows" for his
mind. [690] The latter work represents in particular the influence
of Spinoza, whom he had formerly criticized somewhat forcibly [691]
for his failure to recognize that motion is inherent in matter. On
that head he lays down [692] the doctrine that "motion is but matter
under a certain consideration"--an essentially "materialist" position,
deriving from the pre-Socratic Greeks, and incidentally affirmed by
Bacon. [693] He was not exactly an industrious student or writer;
but he had scholarly knowledge and instinct, and several of his works
show close study of Bayle.

As regards his more original views on Christian origins, he is not
impressive to the modern reader; but theses which to-day stand for
little were in their own day important. Thus in his Hodegus (pt. i of
the Tetradymus, 1720) it is elaborately argued that the "pillar of
fire by night and of cloud by day" was no miracle, but the regular
procedure of guides in deserts, where night marches are the rule;
the "cloud" being simply the smoke of the vanguard's fire, which by
night flared red. Later criticism decides that the whole narrative
of the Exodus is myth. Toland's method, however, was relatively so
advanced that it had not been abandoned by theological "rationalists" a
century later. Of that movement he must be ranked an energetic pioneer:
though he lacked somewhat the strength of character that in his day
was peculiarly needed to sustain a freethinker. Much of his later life
was spent abroad; and his Letters to Serena (1704) show him permitted
to discourse to the Queen of Prussia on such topics as the origin
and force of prejudice, the history of the doctrine of immortality,
and the origin of idolatry. He pays his correspondent the compliment
of treating his topics with much learning; and his manner of assuming
her own orthodoxy in regard to revelation could have served as a model
to Gibbon. [694] But, despite such distinguished patronage, his life
was largely passed in poverty, cheerfully endured, [695] with only
chronic help from well-to-do sympathizers, such as Shaftesbury, who
was not over-sympathetic. When it is noted that down to 1761 there
had appeared no fewer than fifty-four answers to his first book,
[696] his importance as an intellectual influence may be realized.

A certain amount of evasion was forced upon Toland by the Blasphemy
Law of 1697; inferentially, however, he was a thorough deist until
he became pantheist; and the discussion over his books showed that
views essentially deistic were held even among his antagonists. One,
an Irish bishop, got into trouble by setting forth a notion of
deity which squared with that of Hobbes. [697] The whole of our
present subject, indeed, is much complicated by the distribution
of heretical views among the nominally orthodox, and of orthodox
views among heretics. [698] Thus the school of Cudworth, zealous
against atheism, was less truly theistic than that of Blount, [699]
who, following Hobbes, pointed out that to deny to God a continual
personal and providential control of human affairs was to hold to
atheism under the name of theism; [700] whereas Cudworth, the champion
of theism against the atheists, entangled himself hopelessly [701]
in a theory which made deity endow Nature with "plastic" powers and
leave it to its own evolution. The position was serenely demolished
by Bayle, [702] as against Le Clerc, who sought to defend it; and
in England the clerical outcry was so general that Cudworth gave
up authorship. [703] Over the same crux, in Ireland, Bishop Browne
and Bishop Berkeley accused each other of promoting atheism; and
Archbishop King was embroiled in the dispute. [704] On the other hand,
the theistic Descartes had laid down a "mechanical" theory of the
universe which perfectly comported with atheism, and partly promoted
that way of thinking; [705] and a selection from Gassendi's ethical
writings, translated into English [706] (1699), wrought in the same
direction. The Church itself contained Cartesians and Cudworthians,
Socinians and deists. [707] Each group, further, had inner differences
as to free-will [708] and Providence; and the theistic schools of
Newton, Clarke, and Leibnitz rejected each other's philosophies as well
as that of Descartes. Leibnitz complained grimly that Newton and his
followers had "a very odd opinion concerning the Work of God," making
the universe an imperfect machine, which the deity had frequently to
mend; and treating space as an organ by which God perceives things,
which are thus regarded as not produced or maintained by him. [709]
Newton's principles of explanation, he insisted, were those of
the materialists. [710] John Hutchinson, a professor at Cambridge,
in his Treatise of Power, Essential and Mechanical, also bitterly
assailed Newton as a deistical and anti-scriptural sophist. [711]
Clarke, on the other hand, declared that the philosophy of Leibnitz
was "tending to banish God from the world." [712] Alongside of such
internecine strife, it was not surprising that the great astronomer
Halley, who accepted Newton's principles in physics, was commonly
reputed an atheist; and that the freethinkers pitted his name in that
connection against Newton's. [713] As it was he who first suggested
[714] the idea of the total motion of the entire solar system in
space--described by a modern pietist as "this great cosmical truth,
the grandest in astronomy" [715]--they were not ill justified. It can
hardly be doubted that if intellectual England could have been polled
in 1710, under no restraints from economic, social, and legal pressure,
some form of rationalism inconsistent with Christianity would have
been found to be nearly as common as orthodoxy. In outlying provinces,
in Devon and Cornwall, in Ulster, in Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as
in the metropolis, the pressure of deism on the popular creed evoked
expressions of Arian and Socinian thought among the clergy. [716]
It was, in fact, the various restraints under notice that determined
the outward fortunes of belief and unbelief, and have substantially
determined them since. When the devout Whiston was deposed from
his professorship for his Arianism, and the unbelieving Saunderson
was put in his place, [717] and when Simson was suspended from his
ministerial functions in Glasgow, [718] the lesson was learned that
outward conformity was the sufficient way to income. [719]

Hard as it was, however, to kick against the pricks of law and
prejudice, it is clear that many in the upper and middle classes
privately did so. The clerical and the new popular literature of
the time prove this abundantly. In the Tatler and its successors,
[720] the decorous Addison and the indecorous Steele, neither of
them a competent thinker, frigidly or furiously asperse the new
tribe of freethinkers; while the evangelically pious Berkeley and
the extremely unevangelical Swift rival each other in the malice of
their attacks on those who rejected their creed. Berkeley, a man of
philosophic genius but intense prepossessions, maintained Christianity
on grounds which are the negation of philosophy. [721] Swift, the
genius of neurotic misanthropy, who, in the words of Macaulay, "though
he had no religion, had a great deal of professional spirit," [722]
fought venomously for the creed of salvation. And still the deists
multiplied. In the Earl of Shaftesbury [723] they had a satirist with a
finer and keener weapon than was wielded by either Steele or Addison,
and a much better temper than was owned by Swift or Berkeley. He did
not venture to parade his unbelief: to do so was positively dangerous;
but his thrusts at faith left little doubt as to his theory. He was at
once dealt with by the orthodox as an enemy, and as promptly adopted
by the deists as a champion, important no less for his ability than
for his rank. Nor, indeed, is he lacking in boldness in comparison
with contemporary writers. The anonymous pamphlet entitled The Natural
History of Superstition, by the deist John Trenchard, M.P. (1709),
does not venture on overt heresy. But Shaftesbury's Letter Concerning
Enthusiasm (1708), his Essay on the Freedom of Wit and Humour (1709),
and his treatise The Moralists (1709), had need be anonymous because
of their essential hostility to the reigning religious ethic.

Such polemic marks a new stage in rationalistic propaganda. Swift,
writing in 1709, angrily proposes to "prevent the publishing of
such pernicious works as under pretence of freethinking endeavour to
overthrow those tenets in religion which have been held inviolable
in almost all ages." [724] But his further protest that "the doctrine
of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the immortality of the soul,
and even the truth of all revelation, are daily exploded and denied in
books openly printed," points mainly to the Unitarian propaganda. Among
freethinkers he names, in his Argument Against Abolishing Christianity
(1708), Asgill, Coward, Toland, and Tindal. But the first was
an ultra-Christian; the second was a Christian upholder of the
thesis that spirit is not immaterial; and the last, at that date,
had published only his Four Discourses (collected in 1709) and his
Rights of the Christian Church, which are anti-clerical, but not
anti-Christian. Prof. Henry Dodwell, who about 1673 published Two
Letters of Advice, I, For the Susception of Holy Orders; II, For
Studies Theological, especially such as are Rational, and in 1706
an Epistolary Discourse Concerning the Soul's Natural Mortality,
maintaining the doctrine of conditional immortality, [725] which he
made dependent on baptism in the apostolical succession, was a devout
Christian; and no writer of that date went further. Dodwell is in fact
blamed by Bishop Burnet for stirring up fanaticism against lay-baptism
among dissenters. [726] It would appear that Swift spoke mainly from
hearsay, and on the strength of the conversational freethinking so
common in society. [727] But the anonymous essays of Shaftesbury
which were issued in 1709 might be the immediate provocation of his
outbreak. [728]

An official picture of the situation is formally drawn in A
Representation of the Present State of Religion, with regard to the
late excessive growth of infidelity, heresy, and profaneness, drawn
up by the Upper House of Convocation of the province of Canterbury
in 1711. [729] This sets forth, as a result of the disorders of
the Rebellion, a growth of all manner of unbelief and profanity,
including denial of inspiration and the authority of the canon;
the likening of Christian miracles to heathen fables; the treating
of all religious mysteries as absurd speculations; Arianism and
Socinianism and scoffing at the doctrine of the Trinity; denial of
natural immortality; Erastianism; mockery of baptism and the Lord's
Supper; decrying of all priests as impostors; the collecting and
reprinting of infidel works; and publication of mock catechisms. It
is explained that all such printing has greatly increased "since
the expiration of the Act for restraining the press"; and mention
is made of an Arian work just published to which the author has put
his name, and which he has dedicated to the Convocation itself. This
was the first volume of Whiston's Primitive Christianity Revived, the
work of a devout eccentric, who had just before been deprived of his
professorship at Cambridge for his orally avowed heresy. Whiston, whose
cause was championed, and whose clerical opponents were lampooned,
in an indecorous but vigorous sketch, The Tryal of William Whiston,
Clerk, for defaming and denying the Holy Trinity, before the Lord
Chief Justice Reason (1712; 3rd ed. 1740), always remained perfectly
devout in his Arian orthodoxy; but his and his friends' arguments
were rather better fitted to make deists than to persuade Christians;
and Convocation's appeal for a new Act "restraining the present
excessive and scandalous liberty of printing wicked books at home,
and importing the like from abroad" was not responded to. There was
no love lost between Bolingbroke and Shaftesbury; but the government
in which the former, a known deist, was Secretary of State, could
hardly undertake to suppress the works of the latter.



§ 2

Deism had been thus made in a manner fashionable [730] when, in 1713,
Anthony Collins (1676-1729) began a new development by his Discourse
of Freethinking. He had previously published a notably freethinking
Essay Concerning the Use of Reason (1707), albeit without specific
impeachment of the reigning creed; carried on a discussion with
Clarke on the question of the immateriality of the soul; and issued
treatises entitled Priestcraft in Perfection (1709, dealing with the
history of the Thirty-nine Articles) [731] and A Vindication of the
Divine Attributes (1710), exposing the Hobbesian theism of Archbishop
King on lines followed twenty years later by Berkeley in his Minute
Philosopher. But none of these works aroused such a tumult as the
Discourse of Freethinking, which may be said to sum up and unify
the drift not only of previous English freethinking, but of the
great contribution of Bayle, whose learning and temper influence
all English deism from Shaftesbury onwards. [732] Collins's book,
however, was unique in its outspokenness. To the reader of to-day,
indeed, it is no very aggressive performance: the writer was a man
of imperturbable amenity and genuine kindliness of nature; and his
style is the completest possible contrast to that of the furious
replies it elicited. It was to Collins that Locke wrote, in 1703:
"Believe it, my good friend, to love truth for truth's sake is the
principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot
of all other virtues; and, if I mistake not, you have as much of it
as I ever met with in anybody." [733] The Discourse does no discredit
to this uncommon encomium, being a luminous and learned plea for the
conditions under which alone truth can be prosperously studied, and
the habits of mind which alone can attain it. Of the many replies, the
most notorious is that of Bentley writing as Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,
a performance which, on the strength of its author's reputation for
scholarship, has been uncritically applauded by not a few critics,
of whom some of the most eminent do not appear to have read Collins's
treatise. [734] Bentley's is in reality pre-eminent only for insolence
and bad faith, the latter complicated by lapses of scholarship hardly
credible on its author's part.


    See the details in Dynamics of Religion, ch. vii. I am compelled
    to call attention to the uncritical verdict given on this matter by
    the late Sir Leslie Stephen, who asserts (English Thought, i, 206)
    that Bentley convicts Collins of "unworthy shuffling" in respect
    of his claim that freethinking had "banished the devil." Bentley
    affirmed that this had been the work, not of the freethinkers,
    but of "the Royal Society, the Boyles and the Newtons"; and
    Sir Leslie comments that "nothing could be more true." Nothing
    could be more untrue. As we have seen (above p. 82), Boyle was
    a convinced believer in demonology; and Newton did absolutely
    nothing to disperse it. Glanvill, a Royal Society man, had been
    a vehement supporter of the belief in witchcraft; and the Society
    as such never meddled with the matter. As to Collins's claim for
    the virtue of freethinking, Sir Leslie strangely misses the point
    that Collins meant by the word not unbelief, but free inquiry. He
    could not have meant to say that Holland was full of deists. In
    Collins's sense of the word, the Royal Society's work in general
    was freethinking work.


One mistranslation which appears to have been a printer's error,
and one mis-spelling of a Greek name, are the only heads on which
Bentley confutes his author. He had, in fact, neither the kind of
knowledge nor the candour that could fit him to handle the problems
raised. It was Bentley's cue to represent Collins as an atheist,
though he was a very pronounced deist; [735] and in the first uproar
Collins thought it well to fly to Holland to avoid arrest. [736] But
deism was too general to permit of such a representative being exiled;
and he returned to study quietly, leaving Bentley's vituperation and
prevarication unanswered, with the other attacks made upon him. In
1715 he published his brief but masterly Inquiry Concerning Human
Liberty--anonymous, like all his works--which remains unsurpassed as
a statement of the case for Determinism. [737]

The welcome given to Bentley's attack upon Collins by the orthodox
was warm in proportion to their sense of the general inadequacy of the
apologetics on their side. Amid the common swarm of voluble futilities
put forth by Churchmen, the strident vehemence as well as the erudite
repute of the old scholar were fitted at least to attract the attention
of lay readers in general. Most of the contemporary vindications of the
faith, however, were fitted only to move intelligent men to new doubt
or mere contempt. A sample of the current defence against deism is
the treatise of Joseph Smith on The Unreasonableness of Deism, or, the
Certainty of a Divine Revelation, etc. 1720, where deists in general
are called "the Wicked and Unhappy men we have to deal with": [738]
and the argumentation consists in alleging that a good God must reveal
himself, and that if the miracle stories of the New Testament had been
false the Jews would have exposed and discarded them. Against such
nugatory traditionalism, the criticism of Collins shone with the spirit
of science. Not till 1723 did he publish his next work, A Discourse of
the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, a weighty attack on
the argument from prophecy, to which the replies numbered thirty-five;
on which followed in 1727 his Scheme of Literal Prophecy Considered,
a reply to criticisms. The former work was pronounced by Warburton
one of the most plausible ever written against Christianity, and he
might well say so. It faced the argument from prophecy not merely
with the skepticism of the ordinary deist, but with that weapon of
critical analysis of which the use had been briefly shown by Hobbes
and Spinoza. Apparently for the first time, he pointed out that the
"virgin prophecy" in Isaiah had a plain reference to contemporary
and not to future events; he showed that the "out of Egypt" prophecy
referred to the Hebrew past; and he revived the ancient demonstration
of Porphyry that the Book of Daniel is Maccabean. The general dilemma
put by Collins--that either the prophecies must be reduced, textually
and otherwise, to non-prophetic utterances, or Christianity must give
up prophetic claims--has never since been solved.

The deistic movement was now in full flood, the acute Mandeville
[739] having issued in 1720 his Free Thoughts on Religion, and in
1723 a freshly-expanded edition of his very anti-evangelical Fable of
the Bees; while an eccentric ex-clergyman, Thomas Woolston, who had
already lost his fellowship of Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge, for
vagaries of doctrine and action, contributed in 1726-28 his freshly
reasoned but heedlessly ribald Discourses on Miracles. Voltaire, who
was in England in 1728, tells that thirty thousand copies were sold;
[740] while sixty pamphlets were written in opposition. Woolston's
were indeed well fitted to arouse wrath and rejoinder. The dialectic
against the argument from miracles in general, and the irrelevance
or nullity of certain miracles in particular, is really cogent,
and anticipates at points the thought of the nineteenth century. But
Woolston was of the tribe who can argue no issue without jesting, and
who stamp levity on every cause by force of innate whimsicality. Thus
he could best sway the light-hearted when his cause called for the
winning-over of the earnest. Arguments that might have been made
convincing were made to pass as banter, and serious spirits were
repelled. It was during this debate that Conyers Middleton, Fellow
of Trinity College, Cambridge, produced his Letter from Rome (1729),
wherein the part of paganism in Christianity is so set forth as to
carry inference further than the argument ostensibly goes. In that
year the heads of Oxford University publicly lamented the spread of
open deism among the students; and the proclamation did nothing to
check the contagion. In Fogg's Weekly Journal of July 4, 1730, it is
announced that "one of the principal colleges in Oxford has of late
been infested with deists; and that three deistical students have been
expelled; and a fourth has had his degree deferred two years, during
which he is to be closely confined in college; and, among other things,
is to translate Leslie's Short and Easy Method with the Deists." [741]
It is not hard to divine the effect of such exegetic methods. In 1731,
the author of an apologetic pamphlet in reply to Woolston laments that
even at the universities young men "too often" become tainted with
"infidelity"; and, on the other hand, directing his battery against
those who "causelessly profess to build their skeptical notions"
on the writings of Locke, he complains of Dr. Holdsworth and other
academic polemists who had sought to rob orthodoxy of the credit of
such a champion as Locke by "consigning him over to that class of
freethinkers and skeptics to which he was an adversary." [742]

With the most famous work of Matthew Tindal, [743] Christianity
as Old as Creation (1730), the excitement seems to have reached
high-water mark. Here was vivacity without flippancy, and argument
without irrelevant mirth; and the work elicited from first to last
over a hundred and fifty replies, at home and abroad. Tindal's thesis
is that the idea of a good God involved that of a simple, perfect,
and universal religion, which must always have existed among mankind,
and must have essentially consisted in moral conduct. Christianity,
insofar as it is true, must therefore be a statement of this primordial
religion; and moral reason must be the test, not tradition or
Scripture. One of the first replies was the Vindication of Scripture
by Waterland, to which Middleton promptly offered a biting retort in a
Letter to Dr. Waterland (1731) that serves to show the slightness of
its author's faith. After demolishing Waterland's case as calculated
rather to arouse than to allay skepticism, he undertakes to offer
a better reply of his own. It is to the simple effect that some
religion is necessary to mankind in modern as in ancient times; that
Christianity meets the need very well; and that to set up reason
in its place is "impracticable" and "the attempt therefore foolish
and irrational," in addition to being "criminal and immoral," when
politically considered. [744] Such legalist criticism, if seriously
meant, was hardly likely to discredit Tindal's book. Its directness
and simplicity of appeal to what passed for theistic common-sense were
indeed fitted to give it the widest audience yet won by any deist;
and its anti-clericalism would carry it far among his fellow Whigs
to begin with. [745] One tract of the period, dedicated to the Queen
Regent, complains that "the present raging infidelity threatens an
universal infection," and that it is not confined to the capital, but
"is disseminated even to the confines of your kingdom." [746] Tindal,
like Collins, wrote anonymously, and so escaped prosecution, dying in
1733, when the second part of his book, left ready for publication, was
deliberately destroyed by Bishop Gibson, into whose hands it came. In
1736 he and Shaftesbury are described by an orthodox apologist as the
"two oracles of deism." [747]

Woolston, who put his name to his books, after being arrested in May,
1728, and released on bail, was prosecuted in 1729 on the charge of
blasphemy, in that he had derided the gospel miracles and represented
Jesus alternately as an impostor, a sorcerer, and a magician. His
friendly counsel ingeniously argued that Woolston had aimed at
safeguarding Christianity by returning to the allegorical method of
the early Fathers; and that he had shown his reverence for Jesus and
religion by many specific expressions; but the jury took a simpler
view, and, without leaving the court, found Woolston guilty. He was
sentenced to pay a fine of £100, to suffer a year's imprisonment,
and either to find surety for his future good conduct or pay or give
sureties for £2,000. [748] He is commonly said to have paid the penalty
of imprisonment for the rest of his life (d. 1733), being unable to
pay the fine of £100; but Voltaire positively asserts that "nothing
is more false" than the statement that he died in prison; adding:
"Several of my friends have seen him in his house: he died there, at
liberty." [749] The solution of the conflict seems to be that he lived
in his own house "in the rules of" the King's Bench Prison--that is,
in the precincts, and under technical supervision. [750] In any case,
he was sentenced; and the punishment was the measure of the anger felt
at the continuous advance of deistic opinions, or at least against
hostile criticism of the Scriptures.



§ 3

Unitarianism, formerly a hated heresy, was now in comparison leniently
treated, because of its deference to Scriptural authority. Where
the deists rejected all revelation, Unitarianism held by the Bible,
calling only for a revision of the central Christian dogma. It
had indeed gained much theological ground in the past quarter of
a century. Nothing is more instructive in the culture-history
of the period than the rapidity with which the Presbyterian
succession of clergy passed from violent Calvinism, by way of
"Baxterian" Arminianism, to Arianism, and thence in many cases to
Unitarianism. First they virtually adopted the creed of the detested
Laud, whom their fathers had hated for it; then they passed step by
step to a heresy for which their fathers had slain men. A closely
similar process took place in Geneva, where Servetus after death
triumphed over his slayer. [751] In 1691, after a generation of
common suffering, a precarious union was effected between the English
Presbyterians, now mostly semi-Arminians, and the Independents, still
mostly Calvinists: but in 1694 it was dissolved. [752] Thereafter
the former body, largely endowed by the will of Lady Hewley in 1710,
became as regards its Trust Deeds the freest of all the English sects
in matters of doctrine. [753] The recognition of past changes had made
their clergy chary of a rigid subscription. Naturally the movement did
not gain in popularity as it fell away from fanaticism; but the decline
of Nonconformity in the first half of the eighteenth century was common
to all the sects, and did not specially affect the Presbyterians. Of
the many "free" churches established in England and Wales after the
Act of Toleration (1689), about half were extinct in 1715; [754] and
of the Presbyterian churches the number in Yorkshire alone fell from
fifty-nine in 1715 to a little over forty in 1730. [755] Economic
causes were probably the main ones. The State-endowed parish priest
had an enduring advantage over his rival. But the Hewley endowment
gave a certain economic basis to the Presbyterians; and the concern
for scholarship which had always marked their body kept them more open
to intellectual influences than the ostensibly more free-minded and
certainly more democratic sectaries of the Independent and Baptist
bodies. [756]

The result was that, with free Trust Deeds, the Presbyterians openly
exhibited a tendency which was latent in all the other churches. In
1719, at a special assembly of Presbyterian ministers at Salters'
Hall, it was decided by a majority of 73 to 69 that subscription to
the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity should no longer be demanded of
candidates for the ministry. [757] Of the 73, the majority professed to
be themselves orthodox; but there was no question that antitrinitarian
opinions had become common, especially in Devonshire, where the heresy
case of Mr. Peirce of Exeter had brought the matter to a crisis. [758]
From this date "Arian" opinions spread more rapidly in the dwindling
denomination, shading yet further into Unitarianism, step for step with
the deistic movement in the Church. "In less than half a century the
doctrines of the great founders of Presbyterianism could scarcely be
heard from any Presbyterian pulpit in England." [759] "In the English
Presbyterian ministry the process was from Arian opinions to those
called Unitarian ... by a gradual sliding," even as the transition had
been made from Calvinism to Arminianism in the previous century. [760]

Presbyterianism having thus come pretty much into line with
Anglicanism on the old question of predestination, while still
holding fast by Scriptural standards as against the deists, the
old stress of Anglican dislike had slackened, despite the rise of
the new heretical element. Unitarian arguments were now forthcoming
from quarters not associated with dissent, as in the case of Thomas
Chubb's first treatise, The Supremacy of the Father Asserted (1715),
courteously dedicated "To the Reverend the Clergy, and in particular
to the Right Reverend Gilbert Lord Bishop of Sarum, our vigilant
and laborious Diocesan." Chubb (1679-1747) had been trained to
glove-making, and, as his opponents took care to record, acted
also as a tallow-chandler; [761] and the good literary quality of
his work made some sensation in an England which had not learned to
think respectfully of Bunyan. Chubb's impulse to write had come from
the perusal of Whiston's Primitive Christianity Revived, in 1711,
and that single-minded Arian published his book for him.

The Unitarians would naturally repudiate all connection with such a
performance as A Sober Reply to Mr. Higgs's Merry Arguments from the
Light of Nature for the Tritheistic Doctrine of the Trinity, which was
condemned by the House of Lords on February 12, 1720, to be burnt,
as having "in a daring, impious manner, ridiculed the doctrine of
the Trinity and all revealed religion." Its author, Joseph Hall, a
serjeant-at-arms to the King, seems to have undergone no punishment,
and more decorous antitrinitarians received public countenance. Thus
the Unitarian Edward Elwall, [762] who had published a book called
A True Testimony for God and his Sacred Law (1724), for which he was
prosecuted at Stafford in 1726, was allowed by the judge to argue his
cause fully, and was unconditionally acquitted, to the displeasure
of the clergy.



§ 4

Anti-scriptural writers could not hope for such toleration, being
doubly odious to the Church. Berkeley, in 1721, had complained bitterly
[763] of the general indifference to religion, which his writings had
done nothing to alter; and in 1736 he angrily demanded that blasphemy
should be punished like high treason. [764] His Minute Philosopher
(1732) betrays throughout his angry consciousness of the vogue of
freethinking after twenty years of resistance from his profession;
and that performance is singularly ill fitted to alter the opinions
of unbelievers. In his earlier papers attacking them he had put a
stress of malice that, in a mind of his calibre, is startling even
to the student of religious history. [765] It reveals him as no less
possessed by the passion of creed than the most ignorant priest of
his Church. For him all freethinkers were detested disturbers of his
emotional life; and of the best of them, as Collins, Shaftesbury,
and Spinoza, he speaks with positive fury. In the Minute Philosopher,
half-conscious of the wrongness of his temper, he sets himself to
make the unbelievers figure in dialogue as ignorant, pretentious,
and coarse-natured; while his own mouthpieces are meant to be benign,
urbane, wise, and persuasive. Yet in the very pages so planned he
unwittingly reveals that the freethinkers whom he goes about to
caricature were commonly good-natured in tone, while he becomes as
virulent as ever in his eagerness to discredit them. Not a paragraph in
the book attains to the spirit of judgment or fairness; all is special
pleading, overstrained and embittered sarcasm, rankling animus. Gifted
alike for literature and for philosophy, keen of vision in economic
problems where the mass of men were short-sighted, he was flawed on the
side of his faith by the hysteria to which it always stirred him. No
man was less qualified to write a well-balanced dialogue as between
his own side and its opponents. To candour he never attains, unless
it be in the sense that his passion recoils on his own case. Even
while setting up ninepins of ill-put "infidel" argument to knock down,
he elaborates futilities of rebuttal, indicating to every attentive
reader the slightness of his rational basis.

On the strength of this performance he might fitly be termed the most
ill-conditioned sophist of his age, were it not for the perception
that religious feeling in him has become a pathological phase, and
that he suffers incomparably more from his own passions than he can
inflict on his enemies by his eager thrusts at them. More than almost
any gifted pietist of modern times he sets us wondering at the power
of creed in certain cases to overgrow judgment and turn to naught
the rarest faculties. No man in Berkeley's day had a finer natural
lucidity and suppleness of intelligence; yet perhaps no polemist on
his side did less either to make converts or to establish a sound
intellectual practice. Plain men on the freethinking side he must
either have bewildered by his metaphysic or revolted by his spite;
while to the more efficient minds he stood revealed as a kind of
inspired child, rapt in the construction and manipulation of a set
of brilliant sophisms which availed as much for any other creed as
for his own. To the armoury of Christian apologetic now growing up
in England he contributed a special form of the skeptical argument:
freethinkers, he declared, made certain arbitrary or irrational
assumptions in accepting Newton's doctrine of fluxions, and it was only
their prejudice that prevented them from being similarly accommodating
to Christian mysteries. [766] It is a kind of argument dear to minds
pre-convinced and incapable of a logical revision, but worse than
inept as against opponents; and it availed no more in Berkeley's
hands than it had done in those of Huet. [767] To theosophy, indeed,
Berkeley rendered a more successful service in presenting it with the
no better formula of "existence [i.e., in consciousness] dependent upon
consciousness"--a verbalism which has served the purposes of theology
in the philosophic schools down till our own day. For his, however,
the popular polemic value of such a theorem must have been sufficiently
countervailed by his vehement championship of the doctrine of passive
obedience in its most extreme form--"that loyalty is a virtue or moral
duty; and disloyalty or rebellion, in the most strict and proper sense,
a vice or crime against the law of nature." [768]

It belonged to the overstrung temperament of Berkeley that, like
a nervous artist, he should figure to himself all his freethinking
antagonists as personally odious, himself growing odious under the
obsession; and he solemnly asserts, in his Discourse to Magistrates,
that there had been "lately set up within this city of Dublin" an
"execrable fraternity of blasphemers," calling themselves "blasters,"
and forming "a distinct society, whereof the proper and avowed business
shall be to shock all serious Christians by the most impious and
horrid blasphemies, uttered in the most public manner." [769] There
appears to be not a grain of truth in this astonishing assertion,
to which no subsequent historian has paid the slightest attention. In
a period in which freethinking books had been again and again burned
in Dublin by the public hangman, such a society could be projected
only in a nightmare; and Berkeley's hallucination may serve as a
sign of the extent to which his judgment had been deranged by his
passions. [770] His forensic temper is really on a level with that
of the most incompetent swashbucklers on his side.

When educated Christians could be so habitually envenomed as was
Berkeley, there was doubtless a measure of contrary heat among English
unbelievers; but, apart altogether from what could be described as
blasphemy, unbelief abounded in the most cultured society of the
day. Bolingbroke's rationalism had been privately well known; and so
distinguished a personage as the brilliant and scholarly Lady Mary
Wortley Montagu, hated by Pope, is one of the reputed freethinkers
of her time. [771] In the very year of the publication of Berkeley's
Minute Philosopher, the first two epistles of the Essay on Man of
his own friend and admirer, Pope, gave a new currency to the form
of optimistic deism created by Shaftesbury, and later elaborated by
Bolingbroke. Pope was always anxiously hostile in his allusions to the
professed freethinkers [772]--among whom Bolingbroke only posthumously
enrolled himself--and in private he specially aspersed Shaftesbury,
from whom he had taken so much; [773] but his prudential tactic gave
all the more currency to the virtual deism he enunciated. Given out
without any critical allusion to Christianity, and put forward as a
vindication of the ways of God to men, it gave to heresy, albeit in
a philosophically incoherent exposition, the status of a well-bred
piety. A good authority pronounces that "the Essay on Man did more to
spread English deism in France than all the works of Shaftesbury";
[774] and we have explicit testimony that the poet privately avowed
the deistic view of things. [775]


    The line of the Essay which now reads:


        The soul, uneasy and confined from home,


    originally ran "at home"; but, says Warton, "this expression
    seeming to exclude a future existence, as, to speak the plain
    truth, it was intended to do, it was altered"--presumably
    by Warburton. (Warton's Essay on Pope, 4th ed. ii, 67.) The
    Spinozistic or pantheistic character of much of the Essay
    on Man was noted by various critics, in particular by the
    French Academician De Crousaz (Examen de l'Essay de M. Pope sur
    l'Homme, 1748, p. 90, etc.) After promising to justify the ways
    of God to man, writes Crousaz (p. 33), Pope turns round and
    justifies man, leaving God charged with all men's sins. When
    the younger Racine, writing to the Chevalier Ramsay in 1742,
    charged the Essay with irreligion, Pope wrote him repudiating
    alike Spinoza and Leibnitz. (Warton, ii, 121.) In 1755, however,
    the Abbé Gauchat renewed the attack, declaring that the Essay
    was "neither Christian nor philosophic" (Lettres Critiques, i,
    346). Warburton at first charged the poem with rank atheism, and
    afterwards vindicated it in his manner. (Warton, i, 125.) But in
    Germany, in the youth of Goethe, we find the Essay regarded by
    Christians as an unequivocally deistic poem. (Goethe's Wahrheit
    und Dichtung, Th. II, B. vii: Werke, ed. 1866, xi, 263.) And
    by a modern Christian polemist the Essay is described as "the
    best positive result of English deism in the eighteenth century"
    (Gostwick, German Culture and Christianity, 1882, p. 31).


In point of fact, deism was the fashionable way of thinking among
cultured people. Though Voltaire testifies from personal knowledge
that there were in England in his day many principled atheists, [776]
there was little overt atheism, [777] whether by reason of the special
odium attaching to that way of thought, or of a real production of
theistic belief by the concurrence of the deistic propaganda on this
head with that of the clergy, themselves in so many cases deists. [778]
Bishop Burnet, in the Conclusion to the History of his Own Time,
pronounces that "there are few atheists, but many infidels, who are
indeed very little better than the atheists." Collins observed that
nobody had doubted the existence of God until the Boyle lecturers
began to prove it; and Clarke had more than justified the jest by
arguing, in his Boyle Lectures for 1705, that all deism logically
leads to atheism. But though the apologists roused much discussion on
the theistic issue, the stress of the apologetic literature passed
from the theme of atheism to that of deism. Shaftesbury's early
Inquiry Concerning Virtue had assumed the existence of a good deal
of atheism; but his later writings, and those of his school, do not
indicate much atheistic opposition. [779] Even the revived discussion
on the immateriality and immortality of the soul--which began with
the Grand Essay of Dr. William Coward, [780] in 1704, and was taken
up, as we have seen, by the non-juror Dodwell [781]--was conducted
on either orthodox or deistic lines. Coward wrote as a professed
Christian, [782] to maintain, "against impostures of philosophy,"
that "matter and motion must be the foundation of thought in men
and brutes." Collins maintained against Clarke the proposition that
matter is capable of thought; and Samuel Strutt ("of the Temple"),
whose Philosophical Inquiry into the Physical Spring of Human Actions,
and the Immediate Cause of Thinking (1732), is a most tersely cogent
sequence of materialistic argument, never raises any question of
deity. The result was that the problem of "materialism" was virtually
dropped, Strutt's essay in particular passing into general oblivion.


    It was replied to, however, with the Inquiry of Collins, as late
    as 1760, by a Christian controversialist who admits Strutt to
    have been "a gentleman of an excellent genius for philosophical
    inquiries, and a close reasoner from those principles he laid
    down" (An Essay towards demonstrating the Immateriality and Free
    Agency of the Soul, 1760, p. 94). The Rev. Mr. Monk, in his Life
    of Bentley (2nd ed. 1833, ii, 391), absurdly speaks of Strutt as
    having "dressed up the arguments of Lord Herbert of Cherbury and
    other enemies of religion in a new shape." The reverend gentleman
    cannot have paid any attention to the arguments either of Herbert
    or of Strutt, which have no more in common than those of Toland
    and Hume. Strutt's book was much too closely reasoned to be
    popular. His name was for the time, however, associated with a
    famous scandal at Cambridge University. When in 1739 proceedings
    were taken against what was described as an "atheistical society"
    there, Strutt was spoken of as its "oracle." One of the members
    was Paul Whitehead, satirized by Pope. Another, Tinkler Ducket,
    a Fellow of Caius College, in holy orders, was prosecuted in the
    Vice-Chancellor's Court on the twofold charge of proselytizing for
    atheism and of attempting to seduce a "female." In his defence he
    explained that he had been for some time "once more a believer in
    God and Christianity"; but was nevertheless expelled. See Monk's
    Life of Bentley, as cited, ii, 391 sq.



§ 5

No less marked is the failure to develop the "higher criticism" from
the notable start made in 1739 in the very remarkable Inquiry into
the Jewish and Christian Revelations by Samuel Parvish, who made the
vital discovery that Deuteronomy is a product of the seventh century
B.C. [783] His book, which is in the form of a dialogue between a
Christian and a Japanese, went into a second edition (1746); but his
idea struck too deep for the critical faculty of that age, and not
till the nineteenth century was the clue found again by De Wette, in
Germany. [784] Parvish came at the end of the main deistic movement,
[785] and by that time the more open-minded men had come to a point of
view from which it did not greatly matter when Deuteronomy was written,
or precisely how a cultus was built up; while orthodoxy could not dream
of abandoning its view of inspiration. There was thus an arrest alike
of historical criticism and of the higher philosophic thought under
the stress of the concrete disputes over ethics, miracles, prophecy,
and politics; and a habit of taking deity for granted became normal,
with the result that when the weak point was pressed upon by Law and
Butler there was a sense of blankness on both sides. But among men
theistically inclined, the argument of Tindal against revelationism
was extremely telling, and it had more literary impressiveness
than any writing on the orthodox side before Butler. By this time
the philosophic influence of Spinoza--seen as early as 1699 in
Shaftesbury's Inquiry Concerning Virtue, [786] and avowed by Clarke
when he addressed his Demonstration (1705) "more particularly in
answer to Mr. Hobbs, Spinoza, and their followers"--had spread among
the studious class, greatly reinforcing the deistic movement; so that
in 1732 Berkeley, who ranked him among "weak and wicked writers,"
described him as "the great leader of our modern infidels."


    See the Minute Philosopher, Dial. vii, § 29. Similarly Leland,
    in the Supplement (1756) to his View of the Deistical Writers
    (afterwards incorporated as Letter VI), speaks of Spinoza as "the
    most applauded doctor of modern atheism." Sir Leslie Stephen's
    opinion (English Thought, i, 33), that "few of the deists,
    probably," read Spinoza, seems to be thus outweighed. If they
    did not in great numbers read the Ethica, they certainly read the
    Tractatus and the letters. As early as 1677 we find Stillingfleet,
    in the preface to his Letter to a Deist, speaking of Spinoza as
    "a late author [who] I hear is mightily in vogue among many who
    cry up anything on the atheistical side, though never so weak
    and trifling"; and further of a mooted proposal to translate the
    Tractatus Theologico-Politicus into English. A translation was
    published in 1689. In 1685 the Scotch Professor George Sinclar,
    in the "Preface to the Reader" of his Satan's Invisible World
    Discovered, writes that "There are a monstrous rabble of men,
    who following the Hobbesian and Spinosian principles, slight
    religion and undervalue the Scripture," etc. In Gildon's work of
    recantation, The Deist's Manual (1705, p. 192), the indifferent
    Pleonexus, who "took more delight in bags than in books,"
    and demurs to accumulating the latter, avows that he has a few,
    among them being Hobbes and Spinoza. Evelyn, writing about 1680-90,
    speaks of "that infamous book, the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,"
    as "a wretched obstacle to the searchers of holy truth" (The
    History of Religion, 1850, p. xxvii). Cp. Halyburton, Natural
    Religion Insufficient, Edinburgh, 1714, p. 31, as to the "great
    vogue among our young Gentry and Students" of Hobbes, Spinoza,
    and others.



§ 6

Among the deists of the upper classes was the young William Pitt,
afterwards Lord Chatham, if, as has been alleged, it was he who in
1733, two years before he entered Parliament, contributed to the
London Journal a "Letter on Superstition," the work of a pronounced
freethinker. [787] On the other hand, such deistic writing as that
with which Chubb, in a multitude of tracts, followed up his early
Unitarian essay of 1715, brought an ethical "Christian rationalism"
within the range of the unscholarly many. Thomas Morgan (d. 1741),
a physician, began in the Moral Philosopher, 1739-1740, [788] to
sketch a rationalistic theory of Christian origins, besides putting
the critical case with new completeness. Morgan had been at one time a
dissenting minister at Frome, Somerset, and had been dismissed because
of his deistical opinions. Towards the Jehovah and the ethic of the
Old Testament he holds, however, the attitude rather of an ancient
Gnostic than of a modern rationalist; and in his philosophy he is
either a very "godly" deist or a pantheist miscarried. [789]

At the same time Peter Annet (1693-1769), a schoolmaster and
inventor of a system of shorthand, widened the propaganda in other
directions. He seems to have been the first freethought lecturer, for
his first pamphlet, Judging for Ourselves: or, Freethinking the Great
Duty of Religion, "By P. A., Minister of the Gospel" (1739), consists
of "Two Lectures delivered at Plaisterers' Hall." Through all his
propaganda, of which the more notable portions are his Supernaturals
Examined and a series of controversies on the Resurrection, there runs
a train of shrewd critical sense, put forth in crisp and vivacious
English, which made him a popular force. What he lacked was the
due gravity and dignity for the handling of such a theme as the
reversal of a nation's faith. Like Woolston, he is facetious where
he should be serious; entertaining where he had need be impressive;
provocative where he should have aimed at persuasion. We cannot say
what types he influenced, or how deep his influence went: it appears
only that he swayed many whose suffrages weighed little. At length,
when in 1761 he issued nine numbers of The Free Inquirer, in which
he attacked the Pentateuch with much insight and cogency, but with
a certain want of rational balance (shown also in his treatise,
Social Bliss Considered, 1749), he was made a victim of the then
strengthened spirit of persecution, being sentenced to stand thrice
in the pillory with the label "For Blasphemy," and to suffer a year's
hard labour. Nevertheless, he was popular enough to start a school
on his release.

Such popularity, of course, was alien to the literary and social
traditions of the century; and from the literary point of view the main
line of deistic propaganda, as apart from the essays and treatises of
Hume and the posthumous works of Bolingbroke, ends with the younger
Henry Dodwell's (anonymous) ironical essay, Christianity not Founded
on Argument (1741). So rigorously congruous is the reasoning of that
brilliant treatise that some have not quite unjustifiably taken it
for the work of a dogmatic believer, standing at some such position
as that taken up before him by Huet, and in recent times by Cardinal
Newman. [790] He argues, for instance, not merely that reason can yield
none of the confidence which belongs to true faith, but that it cannot
duly strengthen the moral will against temptations. [791] But the book
at once elicited a number of replies, all treating it unhesitatingly
as an anti-Christian work; and Leland assails it as bitterly as he
does any openly freethinking treatise. [792] Its thesis might have
been seriously supported by reference to the intellectual history
of the preceding thirty years, wherein much argument had certainly
failed to establish the reigning creed or to discredit the unbelievers.



§ 7

Of the work done by English deism thus far, it may suffice to say that
within two generations it had more profoundly altered the intellectual
temper of educated men than any religious movement had ever done in
the same time. This appears above all from the literature produced
by orthodoxy in reply, where the mere defensive resort to reasoning,
apart from the accounts of current rationalism, outgoes anything
in the previous history of literature. The whole evolution is a
remarkable instance of the effect on intellectual progress of the
diversion of a nation's general energy from war and intense political
faction to mental activities. A similar diversion had taken place
at the Restoration, to be followed by a return to civil and foreign
strife, which arrested it. It was in the closing years of Anne, and
in the steady régime of Walpole under the first two Georges, that the
ferment worked at its height. Collins's Discourse of Freethinking was
synchronous with the Peace of Utrecht: the era of war re-opened in
1739, much against the will of Walpole, who resigned in 1742. Home and
foreign wars thereafter became common; and in 1751 Clive opened the
period of imperialistic expansion, determining national developments
on that main line, concurrently with that of the new industry. Could
the discussion have been continuous--could England have remained what
she was in the main deistic period, a workshop of investigation and
a battleground of ideas--all European development might have been
indefinitely hastened. But the deists, for the most part educated
men appealing to educated men or to the shrewdest readers among the
artisans, had not learned to reckon with the greater social forces;
and beyond a certain point they could not affect England's intellectual
destinies.

It is worse than idle to argue that "the true cause of the decay of
deism is to be sought in its internal weakness," in the sense that
"it was not rooted in the deepest convictions, nor associated with
the most powerful emotions of its adherents." [793] No such charge
can be even partially proved. The deists were at least as much in
earnest as two-thirds of the clergy: the determining difference,
in this regard, was the economic basis of the latter, and their
social hold of an ignorant population. The clergy, who could not
argue the deists down in the court of culture, had in their own
jurisdiction the great mass of the uneducated lower classes, and
the great mass of the women of all classes, whom the ideals of the
age kept uneducated, with a difference. And while the more cultured
clergy were themselves in large measure deists, the majority, in
the country parishes, remained uncritical and unreflective, caring
little even to cultivate belief among their flocks. The "contempt of
the clergy" which had subsisted from the middle of the seventeenth
century (if, indeed, it should not be dated from the middle of the
sixteenth) meant among other things that popular culture remained on
a lower plane. With the multitude remaining a ready hotbed for new
"enthusiasm," and the women of the middle and upper orders no less
ready nurturers of new generations of young believers, the work of
emancipation was but begun when deism was made "fashionable." And with
England on the way to a new era at once of industrial and imperial
expansion, in which the energies that for a generation had made her
a leader of European thought were diverted to arms and to commerce,
the critical and rationalizing work of the deistical generation could
not go on as it had begun. That generation left its specific mark
on the statute-book in a complete repeal of the old laws relating to
witchcraft; [794] on literature in a whole library of propaganda and
apology; on moral and historic science in a new movement of humanism,
which was to find its check in the French Revolution.

How it affected the general intelligence for good may be partly
gathered from a comparison of the common English political
attitudes towards Ireland in the first and the last quarters of
the century. Under William was wrought the arrest of Irish industry
and commerce, begun after the Restoration; under Anne were enacted
the penal laws against Catholics--as signal an example of religious
iniquity as can well be found in all history. By the middle of the
century these laws had become anachronisms for all save bigots.


    "The wave of freethought that was spreading over Europe and
    permeating its literature had not failed to affect Ireland.... An
    atmosphere of skepticism was fatal to the Penal Code. What element
    of religious persecution there had been in it had long ceased to be
    operative" (R. Dunlop, in Camb. Mod. Hist. vi, 489). Macaulay's
    testimony on this head is noteworthy: "The philosophy of the
    eighteenth century had purified English Whiggism of the deep
    taint of intolerance which had been contracted during a long and
    close alliance with the Puritanism of the eighteenth century"
    (History, ch. xvii, end).


The denunciations of the penal laws by Arthur Young in 1780 [795]
are the outcome of two generations of deistic thinking; the spirit
of religion has been ousted by judgment. [796] Could that spirit have
had freer play, less hindrance from blind passion, later history would
have been a happier record. But for reasons lying in the environment
as well as in its own standpoint, deism was not destined to rise on
continuous stepping-stones to social dominion.


    Currency has been given to a misconception of intellectual history
    by the authoritative statement that in the deistic controversy
    "all that was intellectually venerable in England" appeared
    "on the side of Christianity" (Sir Leslie Stephen, English
    Thought in the Eighteenth Century, i, 86). The same thing,
    in effect, is said by Lecky: "It was to repel these [deistic]
    attacks ['upon the miracles'] that the evidential school arose,
    and the annals of religious controversy narrate few more complete
    victories than they achieved" (Rise and Influence of Rationalism,
    pop. ed. i, 175). The proposition seems to be an echo of orthodox
    historiography, as Buckle had before written in his note-book:
    "In England skepticism made no head. Such men as Toland and
    Tindal, Collins, Shaftesbury, Woolston, were no match for Clarke,
    Warburton, and Lardner. They could make no head till the time
    of Middleton" (Misc. Works, abridged ed. i, 321)--a strain
    of assertion which clearly proceeds on no close study of the
    period. In the first place, all the writing on the freethinking
    side was done under peril of Blasphemy Laws, and under menace of
    all the calumny and ostracism that in Christian society follow
    on advanced heresy; while the orthodox side could draw on the
    entire clerical profession, over ten thousand strong, and trained
    for and pledged to defence of the faith. Yet, when all is said,
    the ordinary list of deists amply suffices to disprove Sir
    L. Stephen's phrase. His "intellectually venerable" list runs:
    Bentley, Locke, Berkeley, Clarke, Butler, Waterland, Warburton,
    Sherlock, Gibson, Conybeare, Smalbroke, Leslie, Law, Leland,
    Lardner, Foster, Doddridge, Lyttelton, Barrington, Addison, Pope,
    Swift. He might have added Newton and Boyle. Sykes, [797] Balguy,
    Stebbing, and a "host of others," he declares to be "now for the
    most part as much forgotten as their victims"; Young and Blackmore
    he admits to be in similar case. It is expressly told of Doddridge,
    he might have added, that whereas that well-meaning apologist
    put before his students at Northampton the ablest writings both
    for and against Christianity, leaving them to draw their own
    conclusions, many of his pupils, "on leaving his institution,
    became confirmed Arians and Socinians" (Nichols in App. P to Life
    of Arminius--Works of Arminius, 1825, i, 223-25). This hardly
    spells success. [798] All told, the list includes only three or
    four men of any permanent interest as thinkers, apart from Newton;
    and only three or four more important as writers. The description
    of Waterland, [799] Warburton, [800] Smalbroke, [801] Sherlock,
    Leslie, and half-a-dozen more as "intellectually venerable"
    is grotesque; even Bentley is a strange subject for veneration.

    On the other hand, the list of "the despised deists," who "make
    but a poor show when compared with this imposing list," runs thus:
    Herbert, Hobbes, Blount, Halley (well known to be an unbeliever,
    though he did not write on the subject), Toland, Shaftesbury,
    Collins, Mandeville, Tindal, Chubb, Morgan, Dodwell, Middleton,
    Hume, Bolingbroke, Gibbon. It would be interesting to know on
    what principles this group is excluded from the intellectual
    veneration so liberally allotted to the other. It is nothing
    to the purpose that Shaftesbury and Mandeville wrote "covertly"
    and "indirectly." The law and the conditions compelled them to do
    so. It is still more beside the case to say that "Hume can scarcely
    be reckoned among the deists. He is already [when?] emerging
    into a higher atmosphere." Hume wrote explicitly as a deist;
    and only in his posthumous Dialogues did he pass on to the
    atheistic position. At no time, moreover, was he "on the side of
    Christianity." On the other hand, Locke and Clarke and Pope were
    clearly "emerging into a higher atmosphere" than Christianity,
    since Locke is commonly reckoned by the culture-historians,
    and even by Sir Leslie Stephen, as making for deism; Pope was
    the pupil of Bolingbroke, and wrote as such; and Clarke was
    shunned as an Arian. Newton, again, was a Unitarian, and Leibnitz
    accused his system of making for irreligion. It would be hard
    to show, further, who are the "forgotten victims" of Balguy and
    the rest. Balguy criticized Shaftesbury, whose name is still a
    good deal better known than Balguy's. The main line of deists is
    pretty well remembered. And if we pair off Hume against Berkeley,
    Hobbes against Locke, Middleton (as historical critic) against
    Bentley, Shaftesbury against Addison, Mandeville against Swift,
    Bolingbroke against Butler, Collins against Clarke, Herbert against
    Lyttelton, Tindal against Waterland, and Gibbon against--shall
    we say?--Warburton, it hardly appears that the overplus of merit
    goes as Sir Leslie Stephen alleges, even if we leave Newton,
    with brain unhinged, standing against Halley. The statement that
    the deists "are but a ragged regiment," and that "in speculative
    ability most of them were children by the side of their ablest
    antagonists," is simply unintelligible unless the names of all
    the ablest deists are left out. Locke, be it remembered, did not
    live to meet the main deistic attack on Christianity; and Sir
    Leslie admits the weakness of his pro-Christian performance.

    The bases of Sir Leslie Stephen's verdict may be tested by his
    remarks that "Collins, a respectable country gentleman, showed
    considerable acuteness; Toland, a poor denizen of Grub Street, and
    Tindal, a Fellow of All Souls, made a certain display of learning,
    and succeeded in planting some effective arguments." Elsewhere
    (pp. 217-227) Sir Leslie admits that Collins had the best of the
    argument against his "venerable" opponents on Prophecy; and Huxley
    credits him with equal success in the argument with Clarke. The
    work of Collins on Human Liberty, praised by a long series of
    students and experts, and entirely above the capacity of Bentley,
    is philosophically as durable as any portion of Locke, who made
    Collins his chosen friend and trustee, and who did not live to
    meet his anti-Biblical arguments. Tindal, who had also won Locke's
    high praise by his political essays, profoundly influenced such
    a student as Laukhard (Lechler, p. 451). And Toland, whom even
    Mr. A. S. Farrar (Bampton Lectures, p. 179) admitted to possess
    "much originality and learning," has struck Lange as a notable
    thinker, though he was a poor man. Leibnitz, who answered him,
    praises his acuteness, as does Pusey, who further admits the
    uncommon ability of Morgan and Collins (Histor. Enq. into German
    Rationalism, 1828, p. 126). It is time that the conventional
    English standards in these matters should be abandoned by modern
    rationalists.

    The unfortunate effect of Sir Leslie Stephen's dictum is
    seen in the assertion of Prof. Höffding (Hist. of Modern
    Philos. Eng. tr. 1900, i, 403), that Sir Leslie "rightly remarks
    of the English deists that they were altogether inferior to their
    adversaries"; and further (p. 405), that by the later deists,
    "Collins, Tindal, Morgan, etc., the dispute as to miracles
    was carried on with great violence." It is here evident that
    Prof. Höffding has not read the writers he depreciates, for those
    he names were far from being violent. Had he known the literature,
    he would have named Woolston, not Collins and Tindal and Morgan. He
    is merely echoing, without inquiring for himself, a judgment which
    he regards as authoritative. In the same passage he declares that
    "only one of all the men formerly known as the 'English deists'
    [Toland] has rendered contributions of any value to the history
    of thought." If this is said with a knowledge of the works of
    Collins, Shaftesbury, and Mandeville, it argues a sad lack of
    critical judgment. But there is reason to infer here also that
    Prof. Höffding writes in ignorance of the literature he discusses.

    While some professed rationalists thus belittle a series of
    pioneers who did so much to make later rationalism possible, some
    eminent theologians do them justice. Thus does Prof. Cheyne begin
    his series of lectures on Founders of Old Testament Criticism
    (1893): "A well-known and honoured representative of progressive
    German orthodoxy (J. A. Dorner) has set a fine example of
    historical candour by admitting the obligations of his country to
    a much-disliked form of English heterodoxy. He says that English
    deism, which found so many apt disciples in Germany, 'by clearing
    away dead matter, prepared the way for a reconstruction of theology
    from the very depths of the heart's beliefs, and also subjected
    man's nature to stricter observation.' [802] This, however, as it
    appears to me, is a very inadequate description of the facts. It
    was not merely a new constructive stage of German theoretic
    theology, and a keener psychological investigation, for which deism
    helped to prepare the way, but also a great movement, which has in
    our own day become in a strict sense international, concerned with
    the literary and historical criticism of the Scriptures. Beyond
    all doubt, the Biblical discussions which abound in the works of
    the deists and their opponents contributed in no slight degree
    to the development of that semi-apologetic criticism of the
    Old Testament of which J. D. Michaelis, and in some degree even
    Eichhorn, were leading representatives.... It is indeed singular
    that deism should have passed away in England without having
    produced a great critical movement among ourselves." Not quite
    so singular, perhaps, when we note that in our own day Sir Leslie
    Stephen and Lecky and Prof. Höffding could sum up the work of the
    deists without a glance at what it meant for Biblical criticism.



§ 8

If we were to set up a theory of intellectual possibilities from
what has actually taken place in the history of thought, and without
regard to the economic and political conditions above mentioned, we
might reason that deism failed permanently to overthrow the current
creed because it was not properly preceded by discipline in natural
science. There might well be stagnation in the higher criticism of
the Hebrew Scriptures when all natural science was still coloured
by them. In nothing, perhaps, is the danger of Sacred Books more
fully exemplified than in their influence for the suppression of
true scientific thought. A hundredfold more potently than the faiths
of ancient Greece has that of Christendom blocked the way to all
intellectually vital discovery. If even the fame and the pietism
of Newton could not save him from the charge of promoting atheism,
much less could obscure men hope to set up any view of natural things
which clashed with pulpit prejudice. But the harm lay deeper, inasmuch
as the ground was preoccupied by pseudo-scientific theories which
were at best fanciful modifications of the myths of Genesis. Types
of these performances are the treatise of Sir Matthew Hale on The
Primitive Origination of Mankind (1685); Dr. Thomas Burnet's Sacred
Theory of the Earth (1680-1689); and Whiston's New Theory of the
Earth (1696)--all devoid of scientific value; Hale's work being
pre-Newtonian; Burnet's anti-Newtonian, though partly critical as
regards the sources of the Pentateuch; and Whiston's a combination
of Newton and myth with his own quaint speculations. Even the Natural
History of the Earth of Prof. John Woodward (1695), after recognizing
that fossils were really prehistoric remains, decided that they were
deposited by the Deluge. [803]

Woodward's book is in its own way instructive as regards the history
of opinion. A "Professor of Physick" in Gresham College, F.C.P.,
and F.R.S., he goes about his work in a methodical and ostensibly
scientific fashion, colligates the phenomena, examines temperately
the hypotheses of the many previous inquirers, and shows no violence
of orthodox prepossession. He claims to have considered Moses "only
as an historian," and to give him credit finally because he finds his
narrative "punctually true." [804] He had before him an abundance of
facts irreconcilable with the explanation offered by the Flood story;
yet he actually adds to that myth a thesis of universal decomposition
and dissolution of the earth's strata by the flood's action [805]--a
hypothesis far more extravagant than any of those he dismissed. With
all his method and scrutiny he had remained possessed by the tradition,
and could not cast it off. It would seem as if such a book, reducing
the tradition to an absurdity, was bound at least to put its more
thoughtful readers on the right track. But the legend remained in
possession of the general intelligence as of Woodward's; and beyond
his standpoint science made little advance for many years. Moral and
historical criticism, then, as regards some main issues, had gone
further than scientific; and men's thinking on certain problems of
cosmic philosophy was thus arrested for lack of due basis or discipline
in experiential science.

The final account of the arrest of exact Biblical criticism in the
eighteenth century, however, is that which explains also the arrest
of the sciences. English energy, broadly speaking, was diverted
into other channels. In the age of Chatham it became more and
more military and industrial, imperialist and commercial; and the
scientific work of Newton was considerably less developed by English
hands than was the critical work of the first deists. Long before
the French Revolution, mathematical and astronomical science were
being advanced by French minds, the English doing nothing. Lagrange
and Euler, Clairaut and D'Alembert, carried on the task, till Laplace
consummated it in his great theory, which is to Newton's what Newton's
was to that of Copernicus. It was Frenchmen, freethinkers to a man,
who built up the new astronomy, while England was producing only
eulogies of Newton's greatness. "No British name is ever mentioned
in the list of mathematicians who followed Newton in his brilliant
career and completed the magnificent edifice of which he laid the
foundation." [806] "Scotland contributed her Maclaurin, but England
no European name." [807] Throughout the latter half of the eighteenth
century "there was hardly an individual in this country who possessed
an intimate acquaintance with the methods of investigation which had
conducted the foreign mathematicians to so many sublime results." [808]
"The English mathematicians seem to have been so dazzled with the
splendour of Newton's discoveries that they never conceived them
capable of being extended or improved upon"; [809] and Newton's
name was all the while vaunted, unwarrantably enough, as being on
the side of Christian orthodoxy. Halley's great hypothesis of the
motion of the solar system in space, put forward in 1718, borne out
by Cassini and Le Monnier, was left to be established by Mayer of
Göttingen. [810] There was nothing specially incidental to deism,
then, in the non-development of the higher criticism in England
after Collins and Parvish, or in the lull of critical speculation
in the latter half of the century. It was part of a general social
readjustment in which English attention was turned from the mental
life to the physical, from intension of thought to extension of empire.


    Playfair (as cited, p. 39; Brewster, Memoirs of Newton, i,
    348, note) puts forward the theory that the progress of the
    higher science in France was due to the "small pensions and great
    honours" bestowed on scientific men by the Academy of Sciences. The
    lack of such an institution in England he traces to "mercantile
    prejudices," without explaining these in their turn. They are
    to be understood as the consequences of the special expansion
    of commercial and industrial life in England in the eighteenth
    century, when France, on the contrary, losing India and North
    America, had her energies in a proportional degree thrown back on
    the life of the mind. French freethought, it will be observed,
    expanded with science, while in England there occurred, not
    a spontaneous reversion to orthodoxy any more than a surrender
    of the doctrine of Newton, but a general turning of attention in
    other directions. It is significant that the most important names
    in the literature of deism after 1740 are those of Hume and Smith,
    late products of the intellectual atmosphere of pre-industrial
    Scotland; of Bolingbroke, an aristocrat of the deistic generation,
    long an exile in France, who left his works to be published after
    his death; and of Gibbon, who also breathed the intellectual air
    of France.



§ 9

It has been commonly assumed that after Chubb and Morgan the
deistic movement in England "decayed," or "passed into skepticism"
with Hume; and that the decay was mainly owing to the persuasive
effect of Bishop Butler's Analogy (1736). [811] This appears to be
a complete misconception, arising out of the habit of looking to
the mere succession of books without considering their vogue and the
accompanying social conditions. Butler's book had very little influence
till long after his death, [812] being indeed very ill-fitted to turn
contemporary deists to Christianity. It does but develop one form of
the skeptical argument for faith, as Berkeley had developed another;
and that form of reasoning never does attain to anything better
than a success of despair. The main argument being that natural
religion is open to the same objections as revealed, on the score
(1) of the inconsistency of Nature with divine benevolence, and
(2) that we must be guided in opinion as in conduct by probability,
a Mohammedan could as well use the theorem for the Koran as could
a Christian for the Bible; and the argument against the justice of
Nature tended logically to atheism. But the deists had left to them
the resource of our modern theists--that of surmising a beneficence
above human comprehension; and it is clear that if Butler made any
converts they must have been of a very unenthusiastic kind. It is
therefore safe to say with Pattison that "To whatever causes is
to be attributed the decline of deism from 1750 onwards, the books
polemically written against it cannot be reckoned among them." [813]

On the other hand, even deists who were affected by the plea that the
Bible need not be more consistent and satisfactory than Nature, could
find refuge in Unitarianism, a creed which, as industriously propounded
by Priestley [814] towards the end of the century, made a numerical
progress out of all proportion to that of orthodoxy. The argument
of William Law, [815] again, which insisted on the irreconcilability
of the course of things with human reason, and called for an abject
submission to revelation, could appeal only to minds already thus
prostrate. Both his and Butler's methods, in fact, prepared the way
for Hume. And in the year 1741, five years after the issue of the
Analogy and seven before the issue of Hume's Essay on Miracles, we
find the thesis of that essay tersely affirmed in a note to Book II
of an anonymous translation (ascribed to T. Francklin) of Cicero's
De Natura Deorum.


    The passage is worth comparing with Hume: "Hence we see what
    little credit ought to be paid to facts said to be done out
    of the ordinary course of nature. These miracles [cutting the
    whetstone, etc., related by Cicero, De Div. i, c. xvii] are well
    attested. They were recorded in the annals of a great people,
    believed by many learned and otherwise sagacious persons, and
    received as religious truths by the populace; but the testimonies
    of ancient records, the credulity of some learned men, and the
    implicit faith of the vulgar, can never prove that to have been,
    which is impossible in the nature of things ever to be." M. Tullius
    Cicero Of the Nature of the Gods ... with Notes, London, 1741,
    p. 85. It does not appear to have been noted that in regard to
    this as to another of his best-known theses, Hume develops a
    proposition laid down before him.


What Hume did was to elaborate the skeptical argument with a power
and fullness which forced attention once for all, alike in England
and on the Continent. It is not to be supposed, however, that
Hume's philosophy, insofar as it was strictly skeptical--that is,
suspensory--drew away deists from their former attitude of confidence
to one of absolute doubt. Nor did Hume ever aim at such a result. What
he did was to countermine the mines of Berkeley and others, who,
finding their supra-rational dogmas set aside by rationalism, deistic
or atheistic, sought to discredit at once deistic and atheistic
philosophies based on study of the external world, and to establish
their creed anew on the basis of their subjective consciousness. As
against that method, Hume showed the futility of all apriorism
alike, destroying the sham skepticism of the Christian theists by
forcing their method to its conclusions. If the universe was to be
reduced to a mere contingent of consciousness, he calmly showed,
consciousness itself was as easily reducible, on the same principles,
to a mere series of states. Idealistic skepticism, having disposed
of the universe, must make short work of the hypostatized process
of perception. Hume, knowing that strict skepticism is practically
null in life, counted on leaving the ground cleared for experiential
rationalism. And he did, insofar as he was read. His essay, Of Miracles
(with the rest of the Inquiries of 1748-1751, which recast his early
Treatise of Human Nature, 1739), posits a principle valid against all
supernaturalism whatever; while his Natural History of Religion (1757),
though affirming deism, rejected the theory of a primordial monotheism,
and laid the basis of the science of Comparative Hierology. [816]
Finally, his posthumous Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
(1779) admit, though indirectly, the untenableness of deism, and
fall back decisively upon the atheistic or agnostic position. [817]
Like Descartes, he lacked the heroic fibre; but like him he recast
philosophy for modern Europe; and its subsequent course is but a
development of or a reaction against his work.



§ 10

It is remarkable that this development of opinion took place in
that part of the British Islands where religious fanaticism had gone
furthest, and speech and thought were socially least free. Freethought
in Scotland before the middle of the seventeenth century can have
existed only as a thing furtive and accursed; and though, as we have
seen from the Religio Stoici of Sir George Mackenzie, unbelief had
emerged in some abundance at or before the Restoration, only wealthy
men could dare openly to avow their deism. [818] Early in 1697 the
clergy had actually succeeded in getting a lad of eighteen, Thomas
Aikenhead, hanged for professing deism in general, and in particular
for calling the Old Testament "Ezra's Fables," ridiculing the doctrines
of the Trinity and the Incarnation, and expressing the hope and
belief that Christianity would be extinct within a century. [819]
The spirit of the prosecution may be gathered from the facts that
the boy broke down and pleaded penitence, [820] and that the statute
enacted the capital penalty only for obstinately persisting in the
denial of any of the persons of the Trinity. [821] He had talked
recklessly against the current creed among youths about his own age,
one of whom was in Locke's opinion "the decoy who gave him the books
and made him speak as he did." [822] It would appear that a victim
was very much wanted; and Aikenhead was not allowed the help of a
counsel. It is characteristic of the deadening effect of dogmatic
religion on the heart that an act of such brutish cruelty elicited
no cry of horror from any Christian writer. At this date the clergy
were hounding on the Privy Council to new activity in trying witches;
and all works of supposed heretical tendency imported from England
were confiscated in the Edinburgh shops, among them being Thomas
Burnet's Sacred Theory of the Earth. [823] Scottish intellectual
development had in fact been arrested by the Reformation, so that,
save for Napier's Logarithms (1614) and such a political treatise as
Rutherford's Lex Rex (1644), the nation of Dunbar and Lyndsay produced
for two centuries no secular literature of the least value, and not
even a theology of any enduring interest. Deism, accordingly, seems in
the latter half of the seventeenth and the early part of the eighteenth
century to have made fully as much progress in Scotland as in England;
and the bigoted clergy could offer little intellectual resistance.


    As early as 1696 the Scottish General Assembly, with theological
    candour, passed an Act "against the Atheistical opinions of
    the Deists." (Abridgment of the Acts of the General Assemblies,
    1721, pp. 16, 76; Cunningham, Hist. of the Ch. of Scotland, ii,
    313.) The opinions specified were "The denying of all revealed
    religion, the grand mysteries of the gospels ... the resurrection
    of the dead, and, in a word, the certainty and authority of
    Scripture revelation; as also, their asserting that there must
    be a mathematical evidence for each purpose ... and that Natural
    Light is sufficient to Salvation." All this is deism, pure and
    simple. But Sir W. Anstruther (a judge in the Court of Session),
    in the preface to his Essays Moral and Divine, Edinburgh, 1710,
    speaks of "the spreading contagion of atheism, which threatens the
    ruin of our excellent and holy religion." To atheism he devotes
    two essays; and neither in these nor in one on the Incarnation
    does he discuss deism, the arguments he handles being really
    atheistic. Scottish freethought would seem thus to have gone
    further than English at the period in question.

    As to the prevalence of deism, however, see the posthumous
    work of Prof. Halyburton, of St. Andrews, Natural Religion
    Insufficient (Edinburgh, 1714), Epist. of Recom.; pref. pp. 25,
    27, and pp. 8, 15, 19, 23, 31, etc. Halyburton's treatise is
    interesting as showing the psychological state of argumentative
    Scotch orthodoxy in his day. He professes to repel the deistical
    argument throughout by reason; he follows Huet, and concurs with
    Berkeley in contending that mathematics involves anti-rational
    assumptions; and he takes entire satisfaction in the execution
    of the lad Aikenhead for deism. Yet in a second treatise, An
    Essay Concerning the Nature of Faith, he contends, as against
    Locke and the "Rationalists," that the power to believe in the
    word of God is "expressly deny'd to man in his natural estate,"
    and is a supernatural gift. Thus the Calvinists, like Baxter,
    were at bottom absolutely insincere in their profession to act
    upon reason, while insolently charging insincerity on others.


Even apart from deism there had arisen a widespread aversion to
dogmatic theology and formal creeds, so that an apologist of 1715
speaks of his day as "a time when creeds and Confessions of Faith are
so generally decried, and not only exposed to contempt, as useless
inventions ... but are loaded by many writers of distinguished wit
and learning with the most fatal and dangerous consequences." [824]
This writer admits the intense bitterness of the theological disputes
of the time; [825] and he speaks, on the other hand, of seeing "the
most sacred mysteries of godliness impudently denied and impugned"
by some, while the "distinguishing doctrines of Christianity are by
others treacherously undermined, subtilized into an airy phantom,
or at least doubted, if not disclaimed." [826] His references are
probably to works published in England, notably those of Locke, Toland,
Shaftesbury, and Collins, since in Scotland no such literature could
then be published; but he doubtless has an eye to Scottish opinion.

While, however, the rationalism of the time could not take book
form, there are clear traces of its existence among educated men,
even apart from the general complaints of the apologists. Thus the
Professor of Medicine at Glasgow University in the opening years of
the eighteenth century, John Johnston, was a known freethinker. [827]
In the way of moderate or Christian rationalism, the teaching of the
prosecuted Simson seems to have counted for something, seeing that
Francis Hutcheson at least imbibed from him "liberal" views about
future punishment and the salvation of the heathen, which gave much
offence in the Presbyterian pulpit in Ulster. [828] And Hutcheson's
later vindication of the ethical system of Shaftesbury in his Inquiry
Concerning the Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725) must have tended
to attract attention in Scotland to the Characteristics after his
instalment as a Professor at Glasgow. In an English pamphlet, in 1732,
he was satirized as introducing Shaftesbury's system into a University,
[829] and it was from the Shaftesbury camp that the first literary
expression of freethought in Scotland was sent forth. A young Scotch
deist of that school, William Dudgeon, published in 1732 a dialogue
entitled The State of the Moral World Considered, wherein the
optimistic position was taken up with uncommon explicitness; and in
1739 the same writer printed A Catechism Founded upon Experience and
Reason, prefaced by an Introductory Letter on Natural Religion, which
takes a distinctly anti-clerical attitude. The Catechism answers to
its title, save insofar as it is à priori in its theism and optimistic
in its ethic, as is another work of its author in the same year, A
View of the Necessarian or Best Scheme, defending the Shaftesburyan
doctrine against the criticism of Crousaz on Pope's Essay. Still more
heterodox is his little volume of Philosophical Letters Concerning
the Being and Attributes of God (1737), where the doctrine goes far
towards pantheism. All this propaganda seems to have elicited only
one printed reply--an attack on his first treatise in 1732. In the
letter prefaced to his Catechism, however, he tells that "the bare
suspicion of my not believing the opinions in fashion in our country
hath already caused me sufficient trouble." [830] His case had in fact
been raised in the Church courts, the proceedings going through many
stages in the years 1732-36; but in the end no decision was taken,
[831] and the special stress of his rationalism in 1739 doubtless
owes something alike to the prosecution and to its collapse. Despite
such hostility, he must privately have had fair support. [832]

The prosecution of Hutcheson before the Glasgow Presbytery in 1738
reveals vividly the theological temper of the time. He was indicted
for teaching to his students "the following two false and dangerous
doctrines: first, that the standard of moral goodness was the promotion
of the happiness of others; and, second, that we could have a knowledge
of good and evil without and prior to a knowledge of God." [833] There
has been a natural disposition on the orthodox side to suppress the
fact that such teachings were ever ecclesiastically denounced as false,
dangerous, and irreligious; and the prosecution seems to have had no
effect beyond intensifying the devotion of Hutcheson's students. Among
them was Adam Smith, of whom it has justly been said that, "if he was
any man's disciple, he was Hutcheson's," inasmuch as he derived from
his teacher the bases alike of his moral and political philosophy and
of his deistic optimism. [834] Another prosecution soon afterwards
showed that the new influences were vitally affecting thought within
the Church itself. Hutcheson's friend Leechman, whom he and his party
contrived to elect as professor of theology in Glasgow University,
was in turn proceeded against (1743-44) for a sermon on Prayer, which
Hutcheson and his sympathizers pronounced "noble," [835] but which
"resolved the efficacy of prayer into its reflex influence on the
mind of the worshipper" [836]--a theorem which has chronically made
its appearance in the Scottish Church ever since, still ranking as
a heresy, after having brought a clerical prosecution in the last
century on at least one divine, Prof. William Knight, and rousing a
scandal against another, the late Dr. Robert Wallace. [837]

Leechman in turn held his ground, and later became Principal of
his University; but still the orthodox in Scotland fought bitterly
against every semblance of rationalism. Even the anti-deistic essays
of Lord-President Forbes of Culloden, head of the Court of Session,
when collected [838] and posthumously published, were offensive to the
Church as laying undue stress on reason; as accepting the heterodox
Biblical theories of Dr. John Hutchinson; and as making the awkward
admission that "the freethinkers, with all their perversity, generally
are sensible of the social duties, and act up to them better than
others do who in other respects think more justly than they." [839]
Such an utterance from such a dignitary told of a profound change;
and, largely through the influence of Hutcheson and Leechman on a
generation of students, the educated Scotland of the latter half
of the eighteenth century was in large part either "Moderate" or
deistic. After generations of barren controversy, [840] the very
aridity of the Presbyterian life intensified the recoil among the
educated classes to philosophical and historical interests, leading to
the performances of Hume, Smith, Robertson, Millar, Ferguson, and yet
others, all rationalists in method and sociologists in their interests.

Of these, Millar, one of Smith's favourite pupils, and a table-talker
of "magical vivacity," [841] was known to be rationalistic in a high
degree; [842] while Smith and Ferguson were certainly deists, as was
Henry Home (the judge, Lord Kames), who had the distinction of being
attacked along with his friend Hume in the General Assembly of the
Church of Scotland in 1755-56. Home wrote expressly to controvert Hume,
alike as to utilitarianism and the idea of causation; but his book,
Essays on Morality and Natural Religion (published anonymously,
1751), handled the thorny question of free-will in such fashion
as to give no less offence than Hume had done; and the orthodox
bracketed him with the subject of his criticism. His doctrine was
indeed singular, its purport being that there can be no free-will,
but that the deity has for wise purposes implanted in men the feeling
that their wills are free. The fact of his having been made a judge of
the Court of Session since writing his book had probably something to
do with the rejection of the whole subject by the General Assembly,
and afterwards by the Edinburgh Presbytery; but there had evidently
arisen a certain diffidence in the Church, which would be assiduously
promoted by "moderates" such as Principal Robertson, the historian. It
is noteworthy that, while Home and Hume thus escaped, the other Home,
John, who wrote the then admired tragedy of Douglas, was soon after
forced to resign his position as a minister of the Church for that
authorship, deism having apparently more friends in the fold than
drama. [843] While the theatre was thus being treated as a place of
sin, many of the churches in Scotland were the scenes of repeated
Sunday riots. A new manner of psalm-singing had been introduced, and
it frequently happened that the congregations divided into two parties,
each singing in its own way, till they came to blows. According to one
of Hume's biographers, unbelievers were at this period wont to go to
church to see the fun. [844] Naturally orthodoxy did not gain ground.

In the case of Adam Smith we have one of the leading instances of the
divorce between culture and creed in the Scotland of that age. His
intellectual tendencies, primed by Hutcheson, were already revealing
themselves when, seeking for something worth study in the unstudious
Oxford of his day, he was found by some suspicious supervisor reading
Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. The book was seized and the student
scolded. [845] When, in 1751, he became Professor of Moral Philosophy
in Glasgow University, he aroused orthodox comment by abandoning the
Sunday class on Christian Evidences set up by Hutcheson, and still
further, it is said, by petitioning the Senatus to be allowed to
be relieved of the duty of opening his class with prayer. [846] The
permission was not given; and the compulsory prayers were "thought
to savour strongly of natural religion"; while the lectures on
Natural Theology, which were part of the work of the chair, were
said to lead "presumptuous striplings" to hold that "the great
truths of theology, together with the duties which man owes to
God and his neighbours, may be discovered by the light of nature
without any special revelation." [847] Smith was thus well founded
in rationalism before he became personally acquainted with Voltaire
and the other French freethinkers; and the pious contemporary who
deplores his associations avows that neither before nor after his
French tour was his religious creed ever "properly ascertained." [848]
It is clear, however, that it steadily developed in a rationalistic
direction. In the Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) the prevailing
vein of theistic optimism is sufficiently uncritical; but even there
there emerges an apparent doubt on the doctrine of a future state,
and positive hostility to certain ecclesiastical forms of it. [849]
In the sixth edition, which he prepared for the press in 1790, he
deleted the passage which pronounced the doctrine of the Atonement
to be in harmony with natural ethics. [850] But most noteworthy of
all is his handling of the question of religious establishments in
the Wealth of Nations. [851] It is so completely naturalistic that
only the habit of taking the Christian religion for granted could make
men miss seeing that its account of the conditions of the rise of new
cults applied to that in its origin no less than to the rise of any
of its sects. As a whole, the argument might form part of Gibbon's
fifteenth chapter. And even allowing for the slowness of the average
believer to see the application of a general sociological law to his
own system, there must be inferred a great change in the intellectual
climate of Scottish life before we can account for Smith's general
popularity at home as well as abroad after his handling of "enthusiasm
and superstition" in the Wealth of Nations. The fact stands out that
the two most eminent thinkers in Scotland in the latter half of the
eighteenth century were non-Christians, [852] and that their most
intellectual associates were in general sympathy with them.



§ 11

In Ireland, at least in Dublin, during the earlier part of the
century, there occurred, on a smaller scale, a similar movement of
rationalism, also largely associated with Shaftesbury. In Dublin
towards the close of the seventeenth century we have seen Molyneux,
the friend and correspondent of Locke, interested in "freethought,"
albeit much scared by the imprudence of Toland. At the same period
there germinated a growth of Unitarianism, which was even more fiercely
persecuted than that of Toland's deism. The Rev. Thomas Emlyn, an
Englishman, co-pastor of the Protestant Dissenting Congregation of
Wood Street (now Strand Street), Dublin, was found by a Presbyterian
and a Baptist to be heretical on the subject of the Trinity, and
was indicted in 1702 for blasphemy. He was sentenced to two years'
imprisonment and a fine of £1,000, which was partly commuted on his
release. He protested that South and Sherlock and other writers on the
Trinitarian controversy might have been as justly prosecuted as he;
but Irish Protestant orthodoxy was of a keener scent than English,
and Emlyn was fain, when released, to return to his native land. [853]
His colleague Boyse, like many other Churchmen, wished that the unhappy
trinitarian controversy "were buried in silence," but was careful to
conform doctrinally. More advanced thinkers had double reason to be
reticent. As usual, however, persecution provoked the growth it sought
to stifle; and after the passing of the Irish Toleration Act of 1719,
a more liberal measure than the English, there developed in Ulster,
and even in Dublin, a Unitarian movement akin to that proceeding
in England. [854] In the next generation we find in the same city
a coterie of Shaftesburyans, centring around Lord Molesworth,
the friend of Hutcheson, a man of affairs devoted to intellectual
interests. It was within a few years of his meeting Molesworth that
Hutcheson produced his Inquiry, championing Shaftesbury's ideas;
[855] and other literary men were similarly influenced. It is even
suggested that Hutcheson's clerical friend Synge, whom we have seen
[856] in 1713 attempting a ratiocinative answer to the unbelief
he declared to be abundant around him, was not only influenced by
Shaftesbury through Molesworth, but latterly "avoided publication
lest his opinions should prejudice his career in the Church." [857]
After the death of Molesworth, in 1725, the movement he set up seems
to have languished; [858] but, as we have seen, there were among the
Irish bishops men given to philosophic controversy, and the influence
of Berkeley cannot have been wholly obscurantist. When in 1756 we
read of the Arian Bishop Clayton [859] proposing in the Irish House
of Lords to drop the Nicene and Athanasian creeds, we realize that in
Ireland thought was far from stagnant. The heretic bishop, however,
died (February, 1758) just as he was about to be prosecuted for the
anti-Athanasian heresies of his last book; and thenceforth Ireland
plays no noticeable part in the development of rationalism, political
interests soon taking the place of religious, with the result that
orthodoxy recovered ground.

It cannot be doubted that the spectacle of religious wickedness
presented by the operation of the odious penal laws against Catholics,
and the temper of the Protestant Ascendancy party in religious matters,
had bred rational skepticism in Ireland in the usual way. Molesworth
stands out in Irish history as a founder of a new and saner patriotism;
and his doctrines would specially appeal to men of a secular and
critical way of thinking. Heretical bishops imply heretical laymen. But
the environment was unpropitious to dispassionate thinking. The
very relaxation of the Penal Code favoured a reversion to "moderate"
orthodoxy; and the new political strifes of the last quarter of the
century, destined as they were to be reopened in the next, determined
the course of Irish culture in another way.



§ 12

In England, meanwhile, there was beginning the redistribution of
energies which can be seen to have prepared for the intellectual and
political reaction of the end of the century. There had been no such
victory of faith as is supposed to have been wrought by the forensic
theorem of Butler. An orthodox German observer, making a close inquest
about 1750, cites the British Magazine as stating in 1749 that half
the educated people were then deists; and he, after full inquiry,
agrees. [860] In the same year, Richardson speaks tragically in
the Postscriptum to Clarissa of seeing "skepticism and infidelity
openly avowed, and even endeavoured to be propagated from the press;
the great doctrines of the gospel brought into question"; and he
describes himself as "seeking to steal in with a disguised plea for
religion." Instead of being destroyed by the clerical defence, the
deistic movement had really penetrated the Church, which was become
as rationalistic in its methods as its function would permit, and the
educated classes, which had arrived at a state of compromise. Pope,
the chief poet of the preceding generation, had been visibly deistic
in his thinking; as Dryden had inferribly been before him; and to such
literary prestige was added the prestige of scholarship. The academic
Conyers Middleton, whose Letter from Rome had told so heavily against
Christianity in exposing the pagan derivations of much of Catholicism,
and who had further damaged the doctrine of inspiration in his
anonymous Letter to Dr. Waterland (1731), while professing to refute
Tindal, had carried to yet further lengths his service to the critical
spirit. In his famous Free Inquiry into the miracles of post-apostolic
Christianity (1749), again professing to strike at Rome, he had laid
the foundations of a new structure of comparative criticism, and had
given permanent grounds for rejecting the miracles of the sacred books.

Middleton's book appeared a year after Hume's essay Of Miracles, and
it made out no such philosophic case as Hume's against the concept of
miracle; but it created at once, by its literary brilliance and its
cogent argument, a sensation such as had thus far been made neither
by Hume's philosophic argument nor by Francklin's anticipation of
that. [861] Middleton had duly safeguarded himself by positing the
certainty of the gospel miracles and of those wrought by the Apostles,
on the old principle [862] that prodigies were divinely arranged
so far forth as was necessary to establish Christianity, but no
further. "The history of the gospel," he writes, "I hope may be true,
though the history of the Church be fabulous." [863] But his argument
against post-Apostolic miracles is so strictly naturalistic that no
vigilant reader could fail to realize its fuller bearing upon all
miracles whatsoever. With Hume and Francklin, he insisted that facts
incredible in themselves could not be established by any amount or kind
of testimony; and he suggested no measure of comparative credibility
as between the two orders of miracle. With the deists in general,
he argued that knowledge "either of the ways or will of the Creator"
was to be had only through study of "that revelation which he made of
himself from the beginning in the beautiful fabric of this visible
world." [864] An antagonist accordingly wrote that his theses were:
"First, that there were no miracles wrought in the primitive Church;
Secondly, that all the primitive fathers were fools or knaves, and most
of them both one and the other. And it is easy to observe, the whole
tenor of your argument tends to prove, Thirdly, that no miracles were
wrought by Christ or his apostles; and Fourthly, that these too were
fools or knaves, or both." [865] A more temperate opponent pressed the
same point in less explosive language. Citing Middleton's demand for
an inductive method, this critic asks with much point: "What does he
mean by 'deserting the path of Nature and experience,' but giving in
to the belief of any miracles, and acknowledging the reality of events
contrary to the known effects of the established Laws of Nature?" [866]

No other answer was seriously possible. In the very act of
ostentatiously terming Tindal an "infidel," Middleton describes an
answer made to him by the apologist Chapman as a sample of a kind of
writing which did "more hurt and discredit" to Christianity "than
all the attacks of its open adversaries." [867] In support of the
miracles of the gospel and the apostolic history he offers merely
conventional pleas: against the miracles related by the Fathers he
brings to bear an incessant battery of destructive criticism. We may
sum up that by the middle of the eighteenth century the essentials
of the Christian creed, openly challenged for a generation by avowed
deists, were abandoned by not a few scholars within the pale of the
Church, of whom Middleton was merely the least reticent. After his
death was published his Vindication of the Inquiry (1751); and in his
collected works (1752) was included his Reflections on the Variations
or Inconsistencies which are found among the Four Evangelists, wherein
it is demonstrated that "the belief of the inspiration and absolute
infallibility of the evangelists seems to be more absurd than even that
of transubstantiation itself." [868] The main grounds of orthodoxy were
thus put in doubt in the name of a critical orthodoxy. In short, the
deistic movement had done what it lay in it to do. The old evangelical
or pietistic view of life was discredited among instructed people,
and in this sense it was Christianity that had "decayed." Its later
recovery was economic, not intellectual.


    Thus Skelton writes in 1751 that "our modern apologists for
    Christianity often defend it on deistical principles" (Deism
    Revealed, pref. p. xii. Cp. vol. ii, pp. 234, 237). See also
    Sir Leslie Stephen as cited above, p. 149, note; and Gostwick,
    German Culture and Christianity, 1882, pp. 33-36.

    An interesting instance of liberalizing orthodoxy is furnished
    by the Rev. Arthur Ashley Sykes, who contributed many volumes to
    the general deistic discussion, some of them anonymously. In the
    preface to his Essay on the Truth of the Christian Religion (1732;
    2nd ed. enlarged, 1755) Sykes remarks that "since ... systematical
    opinions have been received and embraced in such a manner that it
    has not been safe to contradict them, the burden of vindicating
    Christianity has been very much increased. Its friends have been
    much embarrassed through fear of speaking against local truths; and
    its adversaries have so successfully attacked those weaknesses that
    Christianity itself has been deemed indefensible, when in reality
    the follies of Christians alone have been so." Were Christians left
    to the simple doctrines of Christ and the Apostles, he contends,
    Infidelity could make no converts. And at the close of the book
    he writes: "Would to God that Christians would be content with the
    plainness and simplicity of the gospel.... That they would not vend
    under the name of evangelical truth the absurd and contradictory
    schemes of ignorant or wicked men! That they would part with that
    load of rubbish which makes thinking men almost sink under the
    weight, and gives too great a handle for Infidelity!" Such writing
    could not give satisfaction to the ecclesiastical authorities;
    and as little could Sykes's remarkable admission (The Principles
    and Connection of Natural and Revealed Religion, 1740, p. 242):
    "When the advantages of revelation are to be specified, I cannot
    conceive that it should be maintained as necessary to fix a rule
    of morality. For what one principle of morality is there which
    the heathen moralists had not asserted or maintained? Before ever
    any revelation is offered to mankind they are supposed to be so
    well acquainted with moral truths as from them to judge of the
    truth of the revelation itself." Again he writes:--

    "Nor can revelation be necessary to ascertain religion. For
    religion consisting in nothing but doing our duties from a sense
    of the being of God, revelation is not necessary to this end,
    unless it be said that we cannot know that there is a God, and what
    our duties are, without it. Reason will teach us that there is a
    God ... that we are to be just and charitable to our neighbours;
    that we are to be temperate and sober in ourselves" (id. p. 244).

    This is simple Shaftesburyan deism, and all that the apologist
    goes on to contend for is that revelation "contains motives and
    reasons for the practice of what is right, more and different
    from what natural reason without this help can suggest." He seems,
    however, to have believed in miracles, though an anonymous Essay
    on the Nature, Design, and Origin of Sacrifices (1748) which
    is ascribed to him quietly undermines the whole evangelical
    doctrine. Throughout, he is remarkable for the amenity of his
    tone towards "infidels."

    Balguy, a man of less ability, is notably latitudinarian in
    his theology. In the very act of criticizing the deists, he
    complains of Locke's arbitrariness in deriving morality from the
    will of God. Religion, he argues, is so derived, but morality is
    inherent in the whole nature of things, and is the same for God
    and men. This position, common to the school of Clarke, is at
    bottom that of Shaftesbury and the Naturalists. All that Balguy
    says for religion is that a doctrine of rewards and punishments
    is necessary to stimulate the average moral sense; and that the
    Christian story of the condescension of Omnipotence in coming to
    earth and suffering misery for man's sake ought to overwhelm the
    imagination! (See A Letter to a Deist, 2nd ed. 1730, pp. 5, 14,
    15, 31; Foundation of Moral Goodness, pt. ii, 1729, p. 41 sq.)


The next intellectual step in natural course would have been a
revision of the deistic assumptions, insofar, that is, as certain
positive assumptions were common to the deists. But, as we have seen,
certain fresh issues were raised as among the deists themselves. In
addition to those above noted, there was the profoundly important one
as to ethics. Shaftesbury, who rejected the religious basis, held
a creed of optimism; and this optimism was assailed by Mandeville,
who in consequence was opposed as warmly by the deist Hutcheson
and others as by Law and Berkeley. To grapple with this problem,
and with the underlying cosmic problem, there was needed at least as
much general mental activity as went to the antecedent discussion; and
the main activity of the nation was now being otherwise directed. The
negative process, the impeachment of Christian supernaturalism, had
been accomplished so far as the current arguments went. Toland and
Collins had fought the battle of free discussion, forcing ratiocination
on the Church; Collins had shaken the creed of prophecy; Shaftesbury
had impugned the religious conception of morals; and Mandeville
had done so more profoundly, laying the foundations of scientific
utilitarianism. [869] So effective had been the utilitarian propaganda
in general that the orthodox Brown (author of the once famous Estimate
of the life of his countrymen), in his criticism of Shaftesbury (1751),
wrote as a pure utilitarian against an inconsistent one, and defended
Christianity on strictly utilitarian lines. Woolston, following up
Collins, had shaken the faith in New Testament miracles; Middleton
had done it afresh with all the decorum that Woolston lacked; and
Hume had laid down with masterly clearness the philosophic principle
which rebuts all attempts to prove miracles as such. [870] Tindal
had clinched the case for "natural" theism as against revelationism;
and the later deists, notably Morgan, had to some extent combined
these results. [871] This literature was generally distributed;
and so far the case had been thrashed out.



§ 13

To carry intellectual progress much further there was needed a
general movement of scientific study and a reform in education. The
translation of La Mettrie's Man a Machine (1749) [872] found a public
no better prepared for the problems he raised than that addressed by
Strutt eighteen years before; and the reply of Luzac, Man More than a
Machine, in the preface to which the translator (1752) declared that
"irreligion and infidelity overspread the land," probably satisfied
what appetite there was for such a discussion. There had begun a
change in the prevailing mental life, a diversion of interest from
ideas as such to political and mercantile interests. The middle and
latter part of the eighteenth century is the period of the rise of (1)
the new machine industries, and (2) the new imperialistic policy of
Chatham. [873] Both alike withdrew men from problems of mere belief,
whether theological or scientific. [874] That the reaction was not
one of mere fatigue over deism we have already seen. It was a general
diversion of energy, analogous to what had previously taken place in
France in the reign of Louis XIV. As the poet Gray, himself orthodox,
put the case in 1754, "the mode of freethinking has given place to
the mode of not thinking at all." [875] In Hume's opinion the general
pitch of national intelligence south of the Tweed was lowered. [876]
This state of things of course was favourable to religious revival;
but what took place was rather a new growth of emotional pietism
in the new industrial masses (the population being now on a rapid
increase), under the ministry of the Wesleys and Whitefield, and a
further growth of similar religion in the new provincial middle-class
that grew up on the industrial basis. The universities all the while
were at the lowest ebb of culture, but officially rabid against
philosophic freethinking. [877]

It would be a great mistake, however, to suppose that all this meant
a dying out of deism among the educated classes. The statement of
Goldsmith, about 1760, that deists in general "have been driven
into a confession of the necessity of revelation, or an open
avowal of atheism," [878] is not to be taken seriously. Goldsmith,
whose own orthodoxy is very doubtful, had a whimsical theory that
skepticism, though it might not injure morals, has a "manifest
tendency to subvert the literary merits" of any country; [879]
and argued accordingly. Deism, remaining fashionable, did but fall
partly into the background of living interests, the more concrete
issues of politics and the new imaginative literature occupying the
foreground. It was early in the reign of George III that Sir William
Blackstone, having had the curiosity to listen in succession to
the preaching of every clergyman in London, "did not hear a single
discourse which had more Christianity in it than the writings of
Cicero," and declared that it would have been impossible for him to
discover from what he heard whether the preacher were a follower of
Confucius, of Mahomet, or of Christ. [880] When the Church was thus
deistic, the educated laity can have been no less so. The literary
status of deism after 1750 was really higher than ever. It was now
represented by Hume; by Adam Smith (Moral Sentiments, 1759); by the
scholarship of Conyers Middleton; and by the posthumous works (1752-54)
of Lord Bolingbroke, who, albeit more of a debater than a thinker,
debated often with masterly skill, in a style unmatched for harmony and
energetic grace, which had already won him a great literary prestige,
though the visible insincerity of his character, and the habit of
browbeating, always countervailed his charm. His influence, commonly
belittled, was much greater than writers like Johnson would admit;
and it went deep. Voltaire, who had been his intimate, tells [881]
that he had known some young pupils of Bolingbroke who altogether
denied the historic actuality of the Gospel Jesus--a stretch of
criticism beyond the assimilative power of that age.

His motive to write for posthumous publication, however, seems
rather to have been the venting of his tumultuous feelings than
any philosophic purpose. An overweening deist, he is yet at much
pains to disparage the à priori argument for deism, bestowing some
of his most violent epithets on Dr. Samuel Clarke, who seems to
have exasperated him in politics. But his castigation of "divines"
is tolerably impartial on that side; and he is largely concerned to
deprive them of grounds for their functions, though he finally insists
that churches are necessary for purposes of public moral teaching. His
own teachings represent an effort to rationalize deism. The God
whom he affirms is to be conceived or described only as omnipotent
and omniscient (or all-wise), not as good or benevolent any more
than as vindictive. Thus he had assimilated part of the Spinozistic
and the atheistic case against anthropomorphism, while still using
anthropomorphic language on the score that "we must speak of God after
the manner of men." Beyond this point he compromises to the extent
of denying special while admitting collective or social providences;
though he is positive in his denial of the actuality or the moral
need of a future state. As to morals he takes the ordinary deistic
line, putting the innate "law of nature" as the sufficient and only
revelation by the deity to his creatures. On the basis of that inner
testimony he rejects the Old Testament as utterly unworthy of deity,
but endorses the universal morality found in the gospels, while
rejecting their theology. It was very much the deism of Voltaire,
save that it made more concessions to anti-theistic logic.

The weak side of Bolingbroke's polemic was its inconsistency--a flaw
deriving from his character. In the spirit of a partisan debater he
threw out at any point any criticism that appeared for the moment
plausible; and, having no scientific basis or saving rectitude,
would elsewhere take up another and a contradictory position. Careful
antagonists could thus discredit him by mere collation of his own
utterances. [882] But, the enemy being no more consistent than he,
his influence was not seriously affected in the world of ordinary
readers; and much of his attack on "divines," on dogmas, and on
Old Testament morality must have appealed to many, thus carrying
on the discredit of orthodoxy in general. Leland devoted to him an
entire volume of his View of the Principal Deistical Writers, and in
all bestows more space upon him than on all the others together--a
sufficient indication of his vogue.


    In his lifetime, however, Bolingbroke had been extremely careful
    to avoid compromising himself. Mr. Arthur Hassall, in his
    generally excellent monograph on Bolingbroke (Statesmen Series,
    1889, p. 226), writes, in answer to the attack of Johnson,
    that "Bolingbroke, during his lifetime, had never scrupled to
    publish criticisms, remarkable for their freedom, on religious
    subjects." I cannot gather to what he refers; and Mr. Walter
    Sichel, in his copious biography (2 vols. 1901-1902), indicates no
    such publications. The Letters on the Study and Use of History,
    which contain (Lett. iii, sect. 2) a skeptical discussion of
    the Pentateuch as history, though written in 1735-36, were only
    posthumously published, in 1752. The Examen Important de Milord
    Bolingbroke, produced by Voltaire in 1767, but dated 1736,
    is Voltaire's own work, based on Bolingbroke. In his letter to
    Swift of September 12, 1724 (Swift's Works, Scott's ed. 1824,
    xvi, 448-49), Bolingbroke angrily repudiates the title of esprit
    fort, declaring, in the very temper in which pious posterity has
    aspersed himself, that "such are the pests of society, because
    they endeavour to loosen the bands of it.... I therefore not
    only disown, but I detest, this character." In this letter he
    even affects to believe in "the truth of the divine revelation
    of Christianity." He began to write his essays, it is true,
    before his withdrawal to France in 1735, but with no intention
    of speedily publishing them. In his Letter to Mr. Pope (published
    with the Letter to Wyndham, 1753), p. 481, he writes: "I have been
    a martyr of faction in politics, and have no vocation to be so
    in philosophy." Cp. pp. 485-86. It is thus a complete blunder on
    the part of Bagehot to say (Literary Studies, Hutton's ed. iii,
    137) that Butler's Analogy, published in 1736, was "designed as
    a confutation of Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke." It is even said
    (Warton, Essay on Pope, 4th ed. ii, 294-95) that Pope did not
    know Bolingbroke's real opinions; but Pope's untruthfulness was
    such as to discredit such a statement. Cp. Bolingbroke's Letter
    as cited, p. 521, and his Philosophical Works, 8vo-ed. 1754, ii,
    405. It is noteworthy that a volume of controversial sermons
    entitled A Preservative against unsettled notions and Want of
    Principles in Religion, so entirely stupid in its apologetics as
    to be at times positively entertaining, was published in 1715
    by Joseph Trapp, M.A., "Chaplain to the Right Honble. The Lord
    Viscount Bolingbroke."

    In seeking to estimate Bolingbroke's posthumous influence we have
    to remember that after the publication of his works the orthodox
    members of his own party, who otherwise would have forgiven him
    all his vices and insincerities, have held him up to hatred. Scott,
    for instance, founding on Bolingbroke's own dishonest denunciation
    of freethinkers as men seeking to loosen the bands of society,
    pronounced his arrangement for the posthumous issue of his works
    "an act of wickedness more purely diabolical than any hitherto upon
    record in the history of any age or nation" (Note to Bolingbroke's
    letter above cited in Swift's Works, xvi, 450). It would be an
    error, on the other hand, to class him among either the great
    sociologists or the great philosophers. Mr. Sichel undertakes to
    show (vol. ii, ch. x) that Bolingbroke had stimulated Gibbon to a
    considerable extent in his treatment of early Christianity. This
    is in itself quite probable, and some of the parallels cited are
    noteworthy; but Mr. Sichel, who always writes as a panegyrist,
    makes no attempt to trace the common French sources for both. He
    does show that Voltaire manipulated Bolingbroke's opinions
    in reproducing them. But he does not critically recognize the
    incoherence of Bolingbroke's eloquent treatises. Mr. Hassall's
    summary is nearer the truth; but that in turn does not note how
    well fitted was Bolingbroke's swift and graceful declamation to
    do its work with the general public, which (if it accepted him
    at all) would make small account of self-contradiction.



§ 14

In view of such a reinforcement of its propaganda, deism could not
be regarded as in the least degree written down. In 1765, in fact, we
find Diderot recounting, on the authority of d'Holbach, who had just
returned from a visit to this country, that "the Christian religion is
nearly extinct in England. The deists are innumerable; there are almost
no atheists; those who are so conceal it. An atheist and a scoundrel
are almost synonymous terms for them." [883] Nor did the output of
deistic literature end with the posthumous works of Bolingbroke. These
were followed by translations of the new writings of Voltaire, [884]
who had assimilated the whole propaganda of English deism, and gave it
out anew with a wit and brilliancy hitherto unknown in argumentative
and critical literature. The freethinking of the third quarter of
the century, though kept secondary to more pressing questions, was
thus at least as deeply rooted and as convinced as that of the first
quarter; and it was probably not much less common among educated men,
though new social influences caused it to be more decried.

The hapless Chatterton, fatally precocious, a boy in years and
experience of life, a man in understanding at seventeen, incurred
posthumous obloquy more for his "infidelity" than for the harmless
literary forgeries which reveal his poetic affinity to a less prosaic
age. It is a memorable fact that this first recovery of the lost note
of imaginative poetry in that "age of prose and reason" is the exploit
of a boy whose mind was as independently "freethinking" on current
religion as it was original even in its imitative reversion to the
poetics of the past. Turning away from the impossible mythicism and
mysticism of the Tudor and Stuart literatures, as from the fanaticism
of the Puritans, the changing English world after the Restoration had
let fall the artistic possession of imaginative feeling and style
which was the true glory of the time of Renascence. The ill-strung
genius of Chatterton seems to have been the first to reunite the
sense of romantic beauty with the spirit of critical reason. He was a
convinced deist, avowing in his verse, in his pathetic will (1770), in
a late letter, and at times in his talk, that he was "no Christian,"
and contemning the ethic of Scripture history and the absurdity of
literal inspiration. [885] Many there must have been who went as far,
with less courage of avowal.

What was lacking to the age, once more, was a social foundation on
which it could not only endure but develop. In a nation of which the
majority had no intellectual culture, such a foundation could not
exist. Green exaggerates [886] when he writes that "schools there
were none, save the grammar schools of Edward and Elizabeth"; [887]
but by another account only twelve public schools were founded in the
long reign of George III; [888] and, as a result of the indifference
of two generations, masses of the people "were ignorant and brutal
to a degree which it is hard to conceive." [889] A great increase of
population had followed on the growth of towns and the development
of commerce and manufactures even between 1700 and 1760; [890]
and thereafter the multiplication was still more rapid. There was
thus a positive fall in the culture standards of the majority of the
people. According to Massey, "hardly any tradesman in 1760 had more
instruction than qualified him to add up a bill"; and "a labourer,
mechanic, or domestic servant who could read or write possessed a rare
accomplishment." [891] As for the Charity Schools established between
1700 and 1750, their express object was to rear humble tradesmen and
domestics, not to educate in the proper sense of the term.

In the view of life which accepted this state of things the educated
deists seem to have shared; at least, there is no record of any
agitation by them for betterment. The state of political thought was
typified in the struggle over "Wilkes and Liberty," from which cool
temperaments like Hume's turned away in contempt; and it is significant
that poor men were persecuted for freethinking while the better-placed
went free. Jacob Ilive, for denying in a pamphlet (1753) the truth of
revelation, was pilloried thrice, and sent to hard labour for three
years. In 1754 the Grand Jury of Middlesex "presented" the editor and
publisher of Bolingbroke's posthumous works [892]--a distinction that
in the previous generation had been bestowed on Mandeville's Fable of
the Bees; and in 1761, as before noted, Peter Annet, aged seventy, was
pilloried twice and sent to prison for discrediting the Pentateuch;
as if that were a more serious offence than his former attacks on
the gospels and on St. Paul. The personal influence of George III,
further, told everywhere against freethinking; and the revival of
penalties would have checked publishing even if there had been no
withdrawal of interest to politics.


    Yet more or less freethinking treatises did appear at intervals
    in addition to the works of the better-known writers, such as
    Bolingbroke and Hume, after the period commonly marked as that
    of the "decline of deism." In the list may be included a few by
    Unitarians, who at this stage were doing critical work. Like
    a number of the earlier works above mentioned, the following
    (save Evanson) are overlooked in Sir Leslie Stephen's survey:--


    1746.   Essay on Natural Religion. Falsely attributed to Dryden.
    1746.   Deism fairly stated and fully vindicated, etc. Anon.
    1749.   J. G. Cooper, Life of Socrates.
    1750.   John Dove, A Creed founded on Truth and Common Sense.
    1750.   The British Oracle. (Two numbers only.)
    1752.   The Pillars of Priestcraft and Orthodoxy Shaken. Four vols.
            of freethinking pamphlets, collected (and some written) by
            Thomas Gordon, formerly secretary to Trenchard. Edited by
            R. Barron. (Rep. 1768.)
    1765.   W. Dudgeon, Philosophical Works (reprints of those of 1732,
            -4, -7, -9, above mentioned). Privately printed--at
            Glasgow?
    1772.   E. Evanson, The Doctrines of a Trinity and the
            Incarnation, etc.
    1773.   ---- Three Discourses (1. Upon the Man after God's own
            Heart; 2. Upon the Faith of Abraham; 3. Upon the Seal of
            the Foundation of God).
    1777.   ---- Letter to Bishop Hurd.
    1781.   W. Nicholson, The Doubts of the Infidels. (Rep. by R.
            Carlile.)
    1782.   W. Turner, Answer to Dr. Priestley's Letters to a
            Philosophical Unbeliever.
    1785.   Dr. G. Hoggart Toulmin, The Antiquity and Duration of the
            World.
    1789.   ---- The Eternity of the Universe. [893] (Rep. 1825.)
    1789.   Dr. T. Cooper, Tracts, Ethical, Theological, and Political.
    1792.   E. Evanson, The Dissonance of the Four Evangelists.
            (Rep. 1805.)
    1795.   Dr. J. A. O'Keefe, On the Progress of the Human
            Understanding.
    1797.   John C. Davies, The Scripturian's Creed. Prosecuted and
            imprisoned. (Book rep. 1822 and 1839.)


Of the work here noted a considerable amount was done by Unitarians,
Evanson being of that persuasion, though at the time of writing his
earlier Unitarian works he was an Anglican vicar. [894] During the
first half of the eighteenth century, despite the movement at the
end of the seventeenth, specific anti-Trinitarianism was not much in
evidence, the deistic controversy holding the foreground. But gradually
Unitarianism made fresh headway. One dissenting clergyman, Martin
Tomkyns, who had been dismissed by his congregation at Stoke Newington
for his "Arian or Unitarian opinions," published in 1722 A Sober Appeal
to a Turk or an Indian, concerning the plain sense of the Trinity,
in reply to the treatise of Dr. Isaac Watts on The Christian Doctrine
of the Trinity. A second edition of Tomkyns's book appeared in 1748,
with a further reply to Watts's Dissertations of 1724. The result seems
to have been an unsettlement of the orthodoxy of the hymn-writer. There
is express testimony from Dr. Lardner, a very trustworthy witness, that
Watts in his latter years, "before he was seized with an imbecility
of his faculties," was substantially a Unitarian. His special papers
on the subject were suppressed by his executors; but the full text
of his Solemn Address to the Great and Blessed God goes far to bear
out Lardner's express assertion. [895] Other prominent religionists
were more outspoken. The most distinguished names associated with the
position were those of Lardner and Priestley, of whom the former,
trained as a simple "dissenter," avowedly reached his conclusions
without much reference to Socinian literature; [896] and the second,
who was similarly educated, no less independently gave up the doctrines
of the Atonement and the Trinity, passing later from the Arian to the
Socinian position after reading Lardner's Letter on the Logos. [897]
As Priestley derived his determinism from Collins, [898] it would
appear that the deistical movement had set up a general habit of
reasoning which thus wrought even on Christians who, like Lardner and
Priestley, undertook to rebut the objections of unbelievers to their
faith. A generally rationalistic influence is to be noted in the works
of the Unitarian Antipædobaptist Dr. Joshua Toulmin, author of lives
of Socinus (1777) and Biddle (1789), and many other solid works,
including a sermon on "The Injustice of classing Unitarians with
Deists and Infidels" (1797). In his case the "classing" was certainly
inconvenient. In 1791 the effigy of Paine was burned before his door,
and his windows broken. His house was saved by being closely guarded;
but his businesses of schoolkeeping and bookselling had to be given
up. It thus becomes intelligible how, after a period in which Dissent,
contemned by the State Church, learned to criticize that Church's
creed, there emerged in England towards the close of the eighteenth
century a fresh movement of specific Unitarianism.

Evanson and Toulmin were scholarly writers, though without the large
learning of Lardner and the propagandist energy and reputation of
Priestley; and the Unitarian movement, in a quiet fashion, made a
numerical progress out of all proportion to that of orthodoxy. It
owed much of its immunity at this stage, doubtless, to the large
element of tacit deism in the Church; and apart from the scholarly
work of Lardner both Priestley and Evanson did something for New
Testament criticism, as well as towards the clearing-up of Christian
origins. Evanson was actually prosecuted in 1773, on local initiative,
for a sermon of Unitarian character delivered by him in the parish
church of Tewkesbury on Easter-Day of 1771; and, what is much more
remarkable, members of his congregation, at a single defence-meeting
in an inn, collected £150 to meet his costs. [899] Five years later he
had given up the belief in eternal punishment, though continuing to
believe in "long protracted" misery for sinners. [900] Still later,
after producing his Dissonance, he became uncommonly drastic in his
handling of the Canon. He lived well into the nineteenth century,
and published in 1805 a vigorous tractate, Second Thoughts on
the Trinity, recommended to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of
Gloucester. In that he treats the First Gospel as a forgery of the
second century. The method is indiscriminating, and the author lays
much uncritical stress upon prophecy. On the whole, the Unitarian
contribution to rational thought, then as later, was secondary
or ancillary, though on the side of historical investigation it
was important. Lardner's candour is as uncommon as his learning;
and Priestley [901] and Evanson have a solvent virtue. [902] In all
three the limitation lies in the fixed adherence to the concept of
revelation, which withheld them from radical rationalism even as it did
from Arianism. Evanson's ultra-orthodox acceptance of the Apocalypse is
significant of his limitations; and Priestley's calibre is indicated
by his life-long refusal to accept the true scientific inference from
his own discovery of oxygen. A more pronounced evolution was that of
the Welsh deist David Williams, who, after publishing two volumes of
Sermons on Religious Hypocrisy (1774), gave up his post as a dissenting
preacher, and, in conjunction with Franklin and other freethinkers,
opened a short-lived deistic chapel in Margaret Street, London (1776),
where there was used a "Liturgy on the Universal Principles of Religion
and Morality." [903]



§ 15

On the other hand, apart from the revival of popular religion under
Whitefield and Wesley, which won multitudes of the people whom no
higher culture could reach, there was no recovery of educated belief
upon intellectual lines; though there was a steady detachment of
energy to the new activities of conquest and commerce which mark the
second half of the eighteenth century in England. On this state of
things supervened the massive performance of the greatest historical
writer England had yet produced. Gibbon, educated not by Oxford but
by the recent scholarly literature of France, had as a mere boy seen,
on reading Bossuet, the theoretic weakness of Protestantism, and
had straightway professed Romanism. Shaken as to that by a skilled
Swiss Protestant, he speedily became a rationalist pure and simple,
with as little of the dregs of deism in him as any writer of his
age; and his great work begins, or rather signalizes (since Hume
and Robertson preceded him), a new era of historical writing, not
merely by its sociological treatment of the rise of Christianity,
but by its absolutely anti-theological handling of all things.

The importance of the new approach may be at once measured by the
zeal of the opposition. In no case, perhaps, has the essentially
passional character of religious resistance to new thought been more
vividly shown than in that of the contemporary attacks upon Gibbon's
History. There is not to be found in controversial literature such
another annihilating rejoinder as was made by Gibbon to the clerical
zealots who undertook to confound him on points of scholarship,
history, and ratiocination. The contrast between the mostly spiteful
incompetence of the attack and the finished mastery of the reply
put the faith at a disadvantage from which it never intellectually
recovered, though other forces reinstated it socially. By the admission
of Macaulay, who thought Gibbon "most unfair" to religion, the whole
troup of his assailants are now "utterly forgotten"; and those orthodox
commentators who later sought to improve on their criticism have in
turn, with a notable uniformity, been rebutted by their successors;
till Gibbon's critical section ranks as the first systematically
scientific handling of the problem of the rise of Christianity. He
can be seen to have profited by all the relevant deistic work done
before him, learning alike from Toland, from Middleton, and from
Bolingbroke; though his acknowledgments are mostly paid to respectable
Protestants and Catholics, as Basnage, Beausobre, Lardner, Mosheim,
and Tillemont; and the sheer solidity of the work has sustained it
against a hundred years of hostile comment. [904] While Gibbon was
thus earning for his country a new literary distinction, the orthodox
interest was concerned above all things to convict him of ignorance,
incompetence, and dishonesty; and Davis, the one of his assailants
who most fully manifested all of these qualities, and who will long
be remembered solely from Gibbon's deadly exposure, was rewarded
with a royal pension. Another, Apthorp, received an archiepiscopal
living; while Chelsum, the one who almost alone wrote against him
like a gentleman, got nothing. But no cabal could avail to prevent
the instant recognition, at home and abroad, of the advent of a new
master in history; and in the worst times of reaction which followed,
the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire impassively
defied the claims of the ruling creed.

In a literary world which was eagerly reading Gibbon [905] and
Voltaire, [906] there was a peculiar absurdity in Burke's famous
question (1790) as to "Who now reads Bolingbroke" and the rest of
the older deists. [907] The fashionable public was actually reading
Bolingbroke even then; [908] and the work of the older deists was being
done with new incisiveness and thoroughness by their successors. [909]
In the unstudious world of politics, if the readers were few the
indifferentists were many. Evanson could truthfully write to Bishop
Hurd in 1777 that "That general unbelief of revealed religion among
the higher orders of our countrymen, which, however your Lordship and I
might differ in our manner of accounting for it, is too notorious for
either of us to doubt of, hath, by a necessary consequence, produced
in the majority of our present legislators an absolute indifference
towards religious questions of every kind." [910] Beside Burke in
Parliament, all the while, was the Prime Minister, William Pitt the
younger, an agnostic deist.


    Whether or not the elder Pitt was a deist, the younger gave
    very plain signs of being at least no more. Gladstone (Studies
    subsidiary to the Works of Bishop Butler, ed. 1896, pp. 30-33) has
    sought to discredit the recorded testimony of Wilberforce (Life of
    Wilberforce, 1838, i, 98) that Pitt told him "Bishop Butler's work
    raised in his mind more doubts than it had answered." Gladstone
    points to another passage in Wilberforce's diary which states that
    Pitt "commended Butler's Analogy" (Life, i, 90). But the context
    shows that Pitt had commended the book for the express purpose of
    turning Wilberforce's mind from its evangelical bias. Wilberforce
    was never a deist, and the purpose accordingly could not have
    been to make him orthodox. The two testimonies are thus perfectly
    consistent; especially when we note the further statement credibly
    reported to have been made by Wilberforce (Life, i, 95), that
    Pitt later "tried to reason me out of my convictions." We have
    yet further the emphatic declaration of Pitt's niece, Lady Hester
    Stanhope, that he "never went to church in his life ... never even
    talked about religion" (Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope, 1845, iii,
    166-67). This was said in emphatic denial of the genuineness of
    the unctuous death-bed speech put in Pitt's mouth by Gifford. Lady
    Hester's high veracity is accredited by her physician (Travels
    of Lady Hester Stanhope, 1846, i, pref. p. 11). No such character
    can be given to the conventional English biography of the period.

    We have further to note the circumstantial account by Wilberforce
    in his letter to the Rev. S. Gisborne immediately after Pitt's
    death (Correspondence, 1840, ii, 69-70), giving the details he
    had had in confidence from the Bishop of Lincoln. They are to
    the effect that, after some demur on Pitt's part ("that he was
    not worthy to offer up any prayer, or was too weak,") the Bishop
    prayed with him once. Wilberforce adds his "fear" that "no further
    religious intercourse took place before or after, and I own I
    thought what was inserted in the papers impossible to be true."


There is clear testimony that Charles James Fox, Pitt's illustrious
rival, was no more of a believer than he, [911] though equally careful
to make no profession of unbelief. And it was Fox who, above all the
English statesmen of his day, fought the battle of religious toleration
[912]--a service which finally puts him above Burke, and atones for
many levities of political action.

Among thinking men too the nascent science of geology was setting up
a new criticism of "revelation"--this twenty years before the issue of
the epoch-making works of Hutton. [913] In England the impulse seems to
have come from the writings of the Abbé Langlet du Fresnoy, De Maillet,
and Mirabaud, challenging the Biblical account of the antiquity of the
earth. The new phase of "infidelity" was of course furiously denounced,
one of the most angry and most absurd of its opponents being the poet
Cowper. [914] Still rationalism persisted. Paley, writing in 1786,
protests that "Infidelity is now served up in every shape that is
likely to allure, surprise, or beguile the imagination, in a fable,
a tale, a novel, or a poem, in interspersed or broken hints, remote
and oblique surmises, in books of travel, of philosophy, of natural
history--in a word, in any form rather than that of a professed
and regular disquisition." [915] The orthodox Dr. J. Ogilvie, in
the introduction to his Inquiry into the Causes of the Infidelity
and Skepticism of the Times (1783), begins: "That the opinions of
the deists and skeptics have spread more universally during a part
of the last century and in the present than at any former æra since
the resurrection of letters, is a truth to which the friends and the
enemies of religion will give their suffrage without hesitation." In
short, until the general reversal of all progress which followed on
the French Revolution, there had been no such change of opinion as
Burke alleged.

One of the most popular poets and writers of the day was the
celebrated Erasmus Darwin, a deist, whose Zoonomia (1794) brought on
him the charge of atheism, as it well might. However he might poetize
about the Creator, Dr. Darwin in his verse and prose alike laid the
foundations of the doctrines of the transmutation of species and
the aqueous origin of simple forms of life which evolved into higher
forms; though the idea of the descent of man from a simian species
had been broached before him by Buffon and Helvétius in France, and
Lords Kames and Monboddo in Scotland. The idea of a Natura naturans
was indeed ancient; but it has been authoritatively said of Erasmus
Darwin that "he was the first who proposed and consistently carried
out a well-rounded theory with regard to the development of the living
world--a merit which shines forth more brilliantly when we compare it
with the vacillating and confused attempts of Buffon, Linnæus, and
Goethe. It is the idea of a power working from within the organisms
to improve their natural position" [916]--the idea which, developed
by Lamarck, was modified by the great Darwin of the nineteenth century
into the doctrine of natural selection.

And in the closing years of the century there arose a new promise of
higher life in the apparition of Mary Wollstonecraft, ill-starred but
noble, whose Letters on Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796) show her
to have been a freethinking deist of remarkable original faculty,
[917] and whose Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) was the
first great plea for the emancipation of her sex.



§ 16

Even in rural Scotland, the vogue of the poetry of Burns told of
germinal doubt. To say nothing of his mordant satires on pietistic
types--notably Holy Willie's Prayer, his masterpiece in that
line--Burns even in his avowed poems [918] shows small regard for
orthodox beliefs; and his letters reveal him as substantially a deist,
shading into a Unitarian. Such pieces as A Prayer in the prospect of
Death, and A Prayer under the pressure of Violent Anguish, are plainly
unevangelical; [919] and the allusions to Jesus in his letters, even
when writing to Mrs. Maclehose, who desired to bring him to confession,
exclude orthodox belief, [920] though they suggest Unitarianism. He
frequently refers to religion in his letters, yet so constantly
restricts himself to the affirmation of a belief in a benevolent God
and in a future state that he cannot be supposed to have held the
further beliefs which his orthodox correspondents would wish him to
express. A rationalistic habit is shown even in his professions of
belief, as here: "Still I am a very sincere believer in the Bible;
but I am drawn by the conviction of a man, not the halter of an ass";
[921] and in the passage: "Though I have no objection to what the
Christian system tells us of another world, yet I own I am partial to
those proofs and ideas of it which we have wrought out of our own heads
and hearts." [922] Withal, Burns always claimed to be "religious,"
and was so even in a somewhat conventional sense. The lines:


    An atheist-laugh's a poor exchange
          For Deity offended [923]


exhibit a sufficiently commonplace conception of Omnipotence; and
there is no sign that the poet ever did any hard thinking on the
problem. But, emotionalist of genius as he was, his influence as
a satirist and mitigator of the crudities and barbarities of Scots
religion has been incalculably great, and underlies all popular culture
progress in Scotland since his time. Constantly aspersed in his own
day and world as an "infidel," he yet from the first conquered the
devotion of the mass of his countrymen; though he would have been
more potent for intellectual liberation if he had been by them more
intelligently read. Few of them now, probably, realize that their
adored poet was either a deist or a Unitarian--presumably the former.



§ 17

With the infelicity in prediction which is so much commoner with him
than the "prescience" for which he is praised, Burke had announced that
the whole deist school "repose in lasting oblivion." The proposition
would be much more true of 999 out of every thousand writers on behalf
of Christianity. It is characteristic of Burke, however, that he does
not name Shaftesbury, a Whig nobleman of the sacred period. [924] A
seeming justice was given to Burke's phrase by the undoubted reaction
which took place immediately afterwards. In the vast panic which
followed on the French Revolution, the multitude of mediocre minds
in the middle and upper classes, formerly deistic or indifferent,
took fright at unbelief as something now visibly connected with
democracy and regicide; new money endowments were rapidly bestowed
on the Church; and orthodoxy became fashionable on political grounds
just as skepticism had become fashionable at the Restoration. Class
interest and political prejudice wrought much in both cases; only
in opposite directions. Democracy was no longer Bibliolatrous,
therefore aristocracy was fain to became so, or at least to grow
respectful towards the Church as a means of social control. Gibbon,
in his closing years, went with the stream. And as religious wars
have always tended to discredit religion, so a war partly associated
with the freethinking of the French revolutionists tended to discredit
freethought. The brutish wrecking of Priestley's house and library and
chapel by a mob at Birmingham in 1791 was but an extreme manifestation
of a reaction which affected every form of mental life. But while
Priestley went to die in the United States, another English exile,
temporarily returned thence to his native land, was opening a new era
of popular rationalism. Even in the height of the revolutionary tumult,
and while Burke was blustering about the disappearance of unbelief,
Thomas Paine was laying deep and wide the English foundations of a new
democratic freethought; and the upper-class reaction in the nature of
the case was doomed to impermanency, though it was to arrest English
intellectual progress for over a generation. The French Revolution
had re-introduced freethought as a vital issue, even in causing it
to be banned as a danger.


    That freethought at the end of the century was rather driven
    inwards and downwards than expelled is made clear by the multitude
    of fresh treatises on Christian evidences. Growing numerous
    after 1790, they positively swarm for a generation after Paley
    (1794). Cp. Essays on the Evidence and Influence of Christianity,
    Bath, 1790, pref.; Andrew Fuller, The Gospel its own Witness,
    1799, pref. and concluding address to deists; Watson's sermon
    of 1795, in Two Apologies, ed. 1806, p. 399; Priestley's Memoirs
    (written in 1795), 1806, pp. 127-28; Wilberforce's Practical View,
    1797, passim (e.g., pp. 366-69, 8th ed. 1841); Rev. D. Simpson,
    A Plea for Religion ... addressed to the Disciples of Thomas Paine,
    1797. The latter writer states (2nd ed. p. 126) that "infidelity is
    at this moment running like wildfire among the common people"; and
    Fuller (2nd ed. p. 128) speaks of the Monthly Magazine as "pretty
    evidently devoted to the cause of infidelity." A pamphlet on The
    Rise and Dissolution of the Infidel Societies in this Metropolis
    (London, 1800), by W. Hamilton Reid, describes the period as the
    first "in which the doctrines of infidelity have been extensively
    circulated among the lower orders"; and a Summary of Christian
    Evidences, by Bishop Porteous (1800; 16th ed. 1826), affirms,
    in agreement with the 1799 Report of the Lords' Committee on
    Treasonable Societies, that "new compendiums of infidelity,
    and new libels on Christianity, are dispersed continually,
    with indefatigable industry, through every part of the kingdom,
    and every class of the community." Freethought, in short, was
    becoming democratized.


As regards England, Paine is the great popular factor; and it is the
bare truth to say that he brought into the old debate a new earnestness
and a new moral impetus. The first part of the Age of Reason, hastily
put together in expectation of speedy death in 1793, and including
some astronomic matter that apparently antedates 1781, [925] is
a swift outline of the position of the rationalizing deist, newly
conscious of firm standing-ground in astronomic science. That is the
special note of Paine's gospel. He was no scholar; and the champions
of the "religion of Galilee" have always been prompt to disparage
any unlearned person who meddles with religion as an antagonist;
but in the second part of his book Paine put hard criticism enough
to keep a world of popular readers interested for well over a hundred
years. The many replies are forgotten: the Biblical criticism of Paine
will continue to do its work till popular orthodoxy follows the lead
of professional scholarship and gives up at once the acceptance and
the circulation of things incredible and indefensible as sacrosanct.


    Mr. Benn (Hist. of Eng. Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century, i,
    217) remarks that Paine's New Testament criticisms are "such as at
    all times would naturally occur to a reader of independent mind and
    strong common sense." If so, these had been up to Paine's time,
    and remained long afterwards, rare characteristics. And there
    is some mistake about Mr. Benn's criticism that "the repeated
    charges of fraud and imposture brought against the Apostles and
    Evangelists ... jar painfully on a modern ear. But they are
    largely due to the mistaken notion, shared by Paine with his
    orthodox contemporaries, that the Gospels and Acts were written
    by contemporaries and eye-witnesses of the events related." Many
    times over, Paine argues that the documents could not have been
    so written. E.g. in Conway's ed. of Works, pp. 157, 158, 159,
    160, 164, 167, 168, etc. The reiterated proposition is "that the
    writers cannot have been eye-witnesses and ear-witnesses of what
    they relate; ... and consequently that the books have not been
    written by the persons called apostles" (p. 168). And there is some
    exaggeration even in Mr. Benn's remark that, "strangely enough, he
    accepts the Book of Daniel as genuine." Paine (ed. p. 144) merely
    puts a balance of probability in favour of the genuineness. It may
    be sometimes--it is certainly not always--true that Paine "cannot
    distinguish between legendary or [? and] mythical narratives"
    (Benn, p. 216); but it is to be feared that the disability subsists
    to-day in more scholarly quarters.

    Despite his deadly directness, Paine, in virtue of his strong
    sincerity, probably jars much less on the modern ear than
    he did on that of his own, which was so ready to make felony
    of any opinion hostile to reigning prejudices. But if it be
    otherwise, it is to be feared that no less offence will be given
    by Mr. Benn's own account of the Hexateuch as "the records kept
    by a lying and bloodthirsty priesthood"; even if that estimate be
    followed by the very challengeable admission that "priesthoods
    are generally distinguished for their superior humanity" (Benn,
    p. 350, and note).


Henceforth there is a vital difference in the fortunes of freethought
and religion alike. Always in the past the institutional strength
of religion and the social weakness of freethought had lain in the
credulity of the ignorant mass, which had turned to naught an infinity
of rational effort. After the French Revolution, when over a large area
the critical spirit began simultaneously to play on faith and life,
politics and religion, its doubled activity gave it a new breadth of
outlook as of energy, and the slow enlightenment of the mass opened
up a new promise for the ultimate reign of reason.



CHAPTER XVII

FRENCH FREETHOUGHT IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY


1. The fruits of the intellectual movement of the seventeenth
century are seen beginning to take form on the very threshold of
the eighteenth. In 1700, at the height of the reign of the King's
confessors, there was privately printed the Lettre d'Hippocrate à
Damagète, described as "the first French work openly destructive
of Christianity." It was ascribed to the Comte de Boulainvilliers,
a pillar of the feudal system. [926] Thus early is the sound of
disintegration heard in the composite fabric of Church and State;
and various fissures are seen in all parts of the structure. The king
himself, so long morally discredited, could only discredit pietism by
his adoption of it; the Jansenists and the Molinists [i.e., the school
of Molina, not of Molinos] fought incessantly; even on the side of
authority there was bitter dissension between Bossuet and Fénelon;
[927] and the movement of mysticism associated with the latter came
to nothing, though he had the rare credit of converting, albeit
to a doubtful orthodoxy, the emotional young Scotch deist Chevalier
Ramsay. [928] Where the subtlety of Fénelon was not allowed to operate,
the loud dialectic of Bossuet could not avail for faith as against
rationalism, whatever it might do to upset the imperfect logic of
Protestant sects. In no society, indeed, does mere declamation play
a larger part than in that of modern France; but in no society, on
the other hand, is mere declamation more sure to be disdained and
derided by the keener spirits. In the years of disaster and decadence
which rounded off in gloom the life of the Grand Monarque, with
defeat dogging his armies and bankruptcy threatening his finances,
the spirit of criticism was not likely to slacken. Literary polemic,
indeed, was hardly to be thought of at such a time, even if it had
been safe. In 1709 the king destroyed the Jansenist seminary of Port
Royal, wreaking an ignoble vengeance on the very bones of the dead
there buried; and more heretical thinkers had need go warily.

Yet even in those years of calamity, perhaps by reason of the very
stress of it, some freethinking books somehow passed the press,
though a system of police espionage had been built up by the king,
step for step with some real reforms in the municipal government
of Paris. The first was a romance of the favourite type, in which a
traveller discovers a strange land inhabited by surprisingly rational
people. Such appear to have been the Histoire de Calejava, by Claude
Gilbert, produced at Dijon in 1700, and the imaginary travels of
Juan de Posos, published at Amsterdam in 1708. Both of these were
promptly suppressed; the next contrived to get into circulation. The
work of Symon Tyssot de Patot, Voyages et Avantures de Jacques Massé,
published in 1710, puts in the mouths of priests of the imaginary
land discovered by the traveller such mordant arguments against the
idea of a resurrection, the story of the fall, and other items of
the Christian creed, that there could be small question of the deism
of the author; [929] and the prefatory Lettre de l'éditeur indicates
misgivings. The Réflexions sur les grands hommes qui sont morts en
plaisantant, by Deslandes, ostensibly published at Amsterdam in 1712,
seems to have had a precarious circulation, inasmuch as Brunet never
saw the first edition. To permit of the issue of such a book as Jacques
Massé--even at Bordeaux--the censure must have been notably lax; as
it was again in the year of the king's death, when there appeared a
translation of Collins's Discourse of Freethinking. For the moment
the Government was occupied over an insensate renewal of the old
persecution of Protestants, promulgating in 1715 a decree that all
who died after refusing the sacraments should be refused burial,
and that their goods should be confiscated. The edict seems to have
been in large measure disregarded.

2. At the same time the continuous output of apologetics testified
to the gathering tide of unbelief. The Benedictine Lami followed
up his attack on Spinoza with a more popular treatise, L'Incrédule
amené à la religion par la raison (1710); the Abbé Genest turned
Descartes into verse by way of Preuves naturelles de l'existence de
Dieu et de l'immortalité de l'âme (1716); and the Anti-Lucretius of
Cardinal Polignac (1661-1741), though only posthumously published
in full (1745), did but pass on to the next age, when deism was the
prevailing heresy, a deistic argument against atheism. It is difficult
to see any Christian sentiment in that dialectic performance of a
born diplomatist. [930]

When the old king died, even the fashion of conformity passed
away among the upper classes; [931] and the feverish manufacture of
apologetic works testifies to an unslackened activity of unbelief. In
1719 Jean Denyse, professor of philosophy at the college of Montaigu,
produced La vérité de la religion chrétienne demontrée par ordre
géométrique (a title apparently suggested by Spinoza's early exposition
of Descartes), without making any permanent impression on heterodox
opinion. Not more successful, apparently, was the performance of the
Abbé Houteville, first published in 1722. [932] Much more amiable
in tone, and more scientific in temper, than the common run of
defences, it was found, says an orthodox biographical dictionary,
to be "better fitted to make unbelievers than to convert them,"
seeing that "objections were presented with much force and fulness,
and the replies with more amenity than weight." [933] That the
Abbé was in fact not rigorously orthodox might almost be suspected
from his having been appointed, in the last year of his life (1742),
"perpetual secretary" to the Académie, an office which somehow tended
to fall to more or less freethinking members, being held before him
by the Abbé Dubos, and after him by Mirabaud, the Abbé Duclos, [934]
D'Alembert, and Marmontel. The Traités des Premières Veritéz of the
Jesuit Father Buffier (1724) can hardly have been more helpful to
the faith. [935] Another experiment by way of popularizing orthodoxy,
the copious Histoire du peuple de Dieu, by the Jesuit Berruyer, first
published in 1728, [936] had little better fortune, inasmuch as it
scandalized the orthodox by its secularity of tone without persuading
the freethinkers. Condemned by the Bishop of Montpellier in 1731,
it was censured by Rome in 1734; and the second part, produced long
afterwards, aroused even more antagonism.

3. There was thus no adaptation on the side of the Church to the forces
which in an increasing degree menaced her rule. Under the regency of
Orléans (1715-1723), the open disorder of the court on the one hand
and the ruin of the disastrous financial experiment of Law on the
other were at least favourable to toleration; but under the Duc de
Bourbon, put in power and soon superseded by Fleury (bishop of Fréjus
and tutor of Louis XV; later cardinal) there was a renewal of the
rigours against the Protestants and the Jansenists; the edict of 1715
was renewed; emigration recommenced; and only public outcry checked
the policy of persecution on that side. But Fleury and the king went
on fighting the Jansenists; and while this embittered strife of the
religious sections could not but favour the growth of freethought,
it was incompatible alike with official tolerance of unbelief and
with any effectual diffusion of liberal culture. Had the terrorism and
the waste of Louis XIV been followed by a sane system of finance and
one of religious toleration; and had not the exhausted and bankrupt
country been kept for another half century--save for eight years
of peace and prosperity from 1748 to 1755--on the rack of ruinous
wars, alike under the regency of Orléans and the rule of Louis XV,
the intellectual life might have gone fast and far. As it was, war
after war absorbed its energy; and the debt of five milliards left
by Louis XIV was never seriously lightened. Under such a system the
vestiges of constitutional government were gradually swept away.

4. As the new intellectual movement began to find expression, then, it
found the forces of resistance more and more organized. In particular,
the autocracy long maintained the severest checks on printing, so that
freethought could not save by a rare chance attain to open speech. Any
book with the least tendency to rationalism had to seek printers, or
at least publishers, in Holland. Huard, in publishing his anonymous
translation of the Hypotyposes of Sextus Empiricus (1725), is careful
to say in his preface that he "makes no application of the Pyrrhonian
objections to any dogma that may be called theological"; but he goes
on to add that the scandalous quarrels of Christian sects are well
fitted to confirm Pyrrhonists in their doubts, the sects having no
solid ground on which to condemn each other. As such an assertion was
rank heresy, the translation had to be issued in Amsterdam, and even
there without a publisher's name. [937] And still it remains clear that
the age of Louis XIV had passed on to the next a heritage of hidden
freethinking, as well as one of debt and misgovernment. What takes
place thereafter is rather an evolution of and a clerical resistance
to a growth known to have begun previously, and always feared and
hated, than any new planting of unbelief in orthodox soil. As we
have seen, indeed, a part of the early work of skepticism was done
by distinguished apologists. Huet, dying in 1722, left for posthumous
publication his Traité philosophique de la faiblesse de l'esprit humain
(1723). It was immediately translated into English and German; and
though it was probably found somewhat superfluous in deistic England,
and supersubtle in Lutheran Germany, it helped to prepare the ground
for the active unbelief of the next generation in France.

5. A continuous development may be traced throughout the
century. Montesquieu, who in his early Persian Letters (1721) had
revealed himself as "fundamentally irreligious" [938] and a censor
of intolerance, [939] proceeded in his masterly little book on the
Greatness and Decadence of the Romans (1734) and his famous Spirit of
Laws (1748) to treat the problems of human history in an absolutely
secular and scientific spirit, making only such conventional allusions
to religion as were advisable in an age in which all heretical works
were suppressible. [940] The attempts of La Harpe and Villemain [941]
to establish the inference that he repented his youthful levity in the
Persian Letters, and recognized in Christianity the main pillar of
society, will not bear examination. The very passages on which they
found [942] are entirely secular in tone and purpose, and tell of
no belief. [943] So late as 1751 there appeared a work, Les Lettres
Persanes convaincues d'impiété, by the Abbé Gaultier. The election
of Montesquieu was in fact the beginning of the struggle between
the Philosophe party in the Academy and their opponents; [944]
and in his own day there was never much doubt about Montesquieu's
deism. In his posthumous Pensées his anti-clericalism is sufficiently
emphatic. "Churchmen," he writes, "are interested in keeping the
people ignorant." He expresses himself as a convinced deist, and,
with no great air of conviction, as a believer in immortality. But
there his faith ends. "I call piety," he says, "a malady of the heart,
which plants in the soul a malady of the most ineradicable kind." "The
false notion of miracles comes of our vanity, which makes us believe
we are important enough for the Supreme Being to upset Nature on
our behalf." "Three incredibilities among incredibilities: the pure
mechanism of animals [the doctrine of Descartes]; passive obedience;
and the infallibility of the Pope." [945] His heresy was of course
divined by the guardians of the faith, through all his panegyric of
it. Even in his lifetime, Jesuits and Jansenists combined to attack
the Spirit of Laws, which was denounced at an assembly of the clergy,
put on the Roman Index, and prohibited by the censure until Malesherbes
came into office in 1750. [946] The Count de Cataneo, a Venetian noble
in the service of the King of Prussia, published in French about 1751
a treatise on The Source, the Strength, and the True Spirit of Laws,
[947] in which the political rationalism and the ethical utilitarianism
of Cumberland and Grotius were alike repelled as irreconcilable
with the doctrine of revelation. It was doubtless because of this
atmosphere of hostility that on the death of Montesquieu at Paris, in
1755, Diderot was the only man of letters who attended his funeral,
[948] though the Académie performed a commemorative service. [949]
Nevertheless, Montesquieu was throughout his life a figure in "good
society," and suffered no molestation apart from the outcry against
his books. He lived under a tradition of private freethinking and
public clericalism, even as did Molière in the previous century; and
where the two traditions had to clash, as at interment, the clerical
dominion affirmed itself. But even in the Church there were always
successors of Gassendi, to wit, philosophic unbelievers, as well as
quiet friends of toleration. And it was given to an obscure Churchman
to show the way of freethought to a generation of lay combatants.

6. One of the most comprehensive freethinking works of the century, the
Testament of Jean Meslier, curé of Etrépigny, in Champagne (d. 1723,
1729, or 1733), though it inspired numbers of eighteenth-century
freethinkers who read it in manuscript, was never printed till
1861-64. It deserves here some special notice. [950] At his death, by
common account, Meslier left two autograph copies of his book, after
having deposited a third copy in the archives of the jurisdiction of
Sainte-Menehould. By a strange chance one was permitted to circulate,
and ultimately there were some hundred copies in Paris, selling at ten
louis apiece. As he told on the wrapper of the copy he left for his
parishioners, he had not dared to speak out during his life; but he
had made full amends. He is recorded to have been an exceptionally
charitable priest, devoted to his parishioners, whose interests
he indignantly championed against a tyrannous lord of the manor;
[951] apropos of Descartes's doctrine of animal automatism, which he
fiercely repudiates, he denounces with deep feeling all cruelty to
animals, at whose slaughter for food he winces; and his book reveals
him as a man profoundly impressed at once by the sufferings of the
people under heartless kings and nobles, and the immense imposture of
religion which, in his eyes, maintained the whole evil system. Some
men before him had impugned miracles, some the gospels, some dogma,
some the conception of deity, some the tyranny of kings. He impugns
all; and where nearly all the deists had eulogized the character of
the Gospel Jesus, the priest envelops it in his harshest invective.

He must have written during whole years, with a sombre, invincible
patience, dumbly building up, in his lonely leisure, his unfaltering
negation of all that the men around him held for sacred, and
that he was sworn to preach--the whole to be his testament to his
parishioners. In the slow, heavy style--the style of a cart horse,
Voltaire called it--there is an indubitable sincerity, a smouldering
passion, but no haste, no explosion. The long-drawn, formless, prolix
sentences say everything that can be said on their theme; and when
the long book was done it was slowly copied, and yet again copied, by
the same heavy, unwearying hand. He had read few books, it seems--only
the Bible, some of the Fathers, Montaigne, the "Turkish Spy," Naudé,
Charron, Pliny, Tournémine on atheism, and Fénelon on the existence of
God, with some history, and Moreri's Dictionary; but he had re-read
them often. He does not cite Bayle; and Montaigne is evidently his
chief master. But on his modest reading he had reached as absolute a
conviction of the untruth of the entire Judæo-Christian religion as any
freethinker ever had. Moved above all by his sense of the corruption
and misrule around him, he sets out with a twofold indictment against
religion and government, of which each part sustains the other, and
he tells his parishioners how he had been "hundreds of times" [952]
on the point of bursting out with an indignant avowal of his contempt
for the rites he was compelled to administer, and the superstitions
he had to inculcate. Then, in a grimly-planned order, he proceeds to
demolish, section by section, the whole structure.

Religions in general he exhibits as tissues of error, illusion, and
imposture, the endless sources of troubles and strifes for men. Their
historical proofs and documentary bases are then assailed, and the
gospels in particular are ground between the slow mill-stones of
his dialectic; miracles, promises, and prophecies being handled in
turn. The ethic and the doctrine are next assailed all along the line,
from their theoretic bases to their political results; and the kings
of France fare no better than their creed. As against the theistic
argument of Fénelon, the entire theistic system is then oppugned,
sometimes with precarious erudition, generally with cumbrous but
solid reasoning; and the eternity of matter is affirmed with more than
Averroïstic conviction, the Cartesians coming in for a long series of
heavy blows. Immortality is further denied, as miracles had been; and
the treatise ends with a stern affirmation of its author's rectitude,
and, as it were, a massive gesture of contempt for all that will be
said against him when he has passed into the nothingness which he is
nearing. "I have never committed any crime," he writes, [953] "nor
any bad or malicious action: I defy any man to make me on this head,
with justice, any serious reproach"; but he quotes from the Psalms,
with grim zest, phrases of hate towards workers of iniquity. There
is not even the hint of a smile at the astonishing bequest he was
laying up for his parishioners and his country. He was sure he would
be read, and he was right. The whole polemic of the next sixty years,
the indictment of the government no less than that of the creed,
is laid out in his sombre treatise.

To the general public, however, he was never known save by the
"Extract"--really a deistic adaptation--made by Voltaire, [954] and
the re-written summary by d'Holbach and Diderot entitled Le Bon Sens
du Curé Meslier (1772). [955] Even this publicity was delayed for
a generation, since Voltaire, who heard of the Testament as early
as 1735, seems to have made no use of it till 1762. But the entire
group of fighting freethinkers of the age was in some sense inspired
by the old priest's legacy.

7. Apart from this direct influence, too, others of the cloth bore
some part in the general process of enlightenment. A good type of
the agnostic priest of the period was the Abbé Terrasson, the author
of the philosophic romance Sethos (1732), who died in 1750. Not very
judicious in his theory of human evolution (which he represented as a
continuous growth from a stage of literary infancy, seen in Homer),
he adopted the Newtonian theory at a time when the entire Academy
stood by Cartesianism. Among his friends he tranquilly avowed his
atheism. [956] He died "without the sacraments," and when asked whether
he believed all the doctrine of the Church, he replied that for him
that was not possible. [957] Another anti-clerical Abbé was Gaidi,
whose poem, La Religion à l'Assemblé du Clergé de France (1762),
was condemned to be burned. [958]

Among or alongside of such disillusioned Churchmen there must have
been a certain number who, desiring no breach with the organization
to which they belonged, saw the fatal tendency of the spirit of
persecution upon which its rulers always fell back in their struggle
with freethought, and sought to open their eyes to the folly and
futility of their course. Freethinkers, of course, had to lead the
way, as we have seen. It was the young Turgot who in 1753 published
two powerful Lettres sur la tolérance, and in 1754 a further series of
admirable Lettres d'un ecclésiastique à un magistrat, pleading the same
cause. [959] But similar appeals were anonymously made, by a clerical
pen, at a moment when the Church was about to enter on a new and
exasperating conflict with the growing band of freethinking writers who
rallied round Voltaire. The small book of Questions sur la tolérance,
ascribed to the Abbé Tailhé or Tailhié and the canonist Maultrot
(Geneva, 1758), is conceived in the very spirit of rationalism, yet
with a careful concern to persuade the clergy to sane courses, and is
to this day worth reading as a utilitarian argument. But the Church
was not fated to be led by such light. The principle of toleration
was left to become the watchword of freethought, while the Church
identified herself collectively with that of tyranny.

Anecdotes of the time reveal the coincidence of tyranny and evasion,
intolerance and defiance. Of Nicolas Boindin (1676-1751), procureur
in the royal Bureau des Finances, who was received into the Academy of
Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres in 1706, it is told that he "would have
been received in the French Academy if the public profession he made
of being an atheist had not excluded him." [960] But the publicity
was guarded. When he conversed with the young Marmontel [961] and
others at the Café Procope, they used a conversational code in which
the soul was called Margot, religion Javotte, liberty Jeanneton,
and the deity Monsieur de l'Être. Once a listener of furtive aspect
asked Boindin who might be this Monsieur de l'Être who behaved so ill,
and with whom they were so displeased? "Monsieur," replied Boindin,
"he is a police spy"--such being the avocation of the questioner. [962]
"The morals of Boindin," says a biographical dictionary of the period,
"were as pure as those of an atheist can be; his heart was generous;
but to these virtues he joined presumption and the obstinacy which
follows from it, a bizarre humour, and an unsociable character." [963]
Other testimonies occur on the first two heads, not on the last. But he
was fittingly refused "Christian" interment, and was buried by night,
"sans pompe."

8. With the ground prepared as we have seen, freethought was bound
to progress in France in the age of Louis XV; but it chanced that
the lead fell into the hands of the most brilliant and fecund of all
the writers of the century. Voltaire [964] (1694-1778) was already
something of a freethinker when a mere child. So common was deism
already become in Paris at the end of the seventeenth century that his
godfather, an abbé, is said to have taught him, at the age of three,
a poem by J. B. Rousseau, [965] then privately circulated, in which
Moses in particular and religious revelations in general are derided
as fraudulent. [966] Knowing this poem by heart in his childhood,
the boy was well on the way to his life's work. It is on record
that many of his school-fellows were, like himself, already deists,
though his brother, a juvenile Jansenist, made vows to propitiate
the deity on the small unbeliever's behalf. [967] It may have been
a general reputation for audacious thinking that led to his being
charged with the authorship of a stinging philippic published in
1715, after the death of Louis XIV. The unknown author, a young man,
enumerated the manifold abuses and iniquities of the reign, concluding:
"I have seen all these, and I am not twenty years old." Voltaire was
then twenty-two; but D'Argenson, who in the poem had been called
"the enemy of the human race," finding no likelier author for the
verses, put him under surveillance and exiled him from Paris; and on
his imprudent return imprisoned him for nearly a year in the Bastille
(1716), releasing him only when the real author of the verses avowed
himself. Unconquerable then as always, Voltaire devoted himself in
prison to his literary ambitions, planning his Henriade and completing
his OEdipe, which was produced in 1718 with signal success.

Voltaire was thus already a distinguished young poet and dramatist
when, in 1726, after enduring the affronts of an assault by a
nobleman's lacqueys, and of imprisonment in the Bastille for seeking
amends by duel, he came to England, where, like Deslandes before him,
he met with a ready welcome from the freethinkers. [968] Four years
previously, in the powerful poem, For and Against, [969] he had
put his early deistic conviction in a vehement impeachment of the
immoral creed of salvation and damnation, making the declaration,
"I am not a Christian." Thus what he had to learn in England was
not deism, but the physics of Newton and the details of the deist
campaign against revelationism; and these he mastered. [970] Not
only was he directly and powerfully influenced by Bolingbroke, who
became his intimate friend, but he read widely in the philosophic,
scientific, and deistic English literature of the day, [971] and
went back to France, after three years' stay, not only equipped for
his ultimate battle with tyrannous religion, but deeply impressed by
the moral wholesomeness of free discussion. [972] Not all at once,
indeed, did he become the mouthpiece of critical reason for his age:
his literary ambitions were primarily on the lines of belles lettres,
and secondarily on those of historical writing. After his Pour et
Contre, his first freethinking production was the not very heretical
Lettres philosophiques or Lettres anglaises, written in England in
1728, and, after circulating in MS., published in five editions in
1734; and the official burning of the book by the common hangman,
followed by the imprisonment of the bookseller in the Bastille, [973]
was a sufficient check on such activity for the time. Save for the
jests about Adam and Eve in the Mondain (1736), a slight satire for
which he had to fly from Paris; and the indirect though effective
thrusts at bigotry in the Ligue (1723; later the Henriade); in the
tragedy of Mahomet (1739; printed in 1742), in the tales of Memnon
and Zadig (1747-48), and in the Idées de La Mothe le Vayer (1751) and
the Défense de Milord Bolingbroke (1752), he produced nothing else
markedly deistic till 1755, when he published the "Poem to the King
of Prussia," otherwise named Sur la loi naturelle (which appears to
have been written in 1751, while he was on a visit to the Margravine
of Bayreuth), and that on the Earthquake of Lisbon. So definitely did
the former poem base all morality on natural principles that it was
ordered to be burned by the Parlement of Paris, then equally alarmed
at freethinking and at Molinism. [974] And so impossible was it still
in France to print any specific criticism of Christianity that when
in 1759 he issued his verse translations of the Song of Solomon and
Ecclesiastes they also were publicly burned, though he had actually
softened instead of heightening the eroticism of the first and the
"materialism" of the second. [975]

9. It is thus a complete mistake on the part of Buckle to affirm
that the activity of the French reformers up to 1750 was directed
against religion, and that it was thereafter turned against the
State. Certainly there was much freethinking among instructed men
and others, but it proceeded, as under Louis XIV, mainly by way of
manuscripts and conversation, or at best by the circulation of English
books and a few translations of these; and only guardedly before 1745
by means of published French books. [976] The Abbé Ranchon, in his
MS. Life of Cardinal Fleury, truly says that "the time of the Regency
was a period of the spirit of dissoluteness and irreligion"; but when
he ascribes to "those times" many "licentious and destructive writings"
he can specify only those of the English deists. "Precisely in the
time of the Regency a multitude of those offensive and irreligious
books were brought over the sea: France was deluged with them." [977]
It is incredible that multitudes of Frenchmen read English in the days
of the Regency. French freethinkers like Saint Evremond and Deslandes,
who visited or sojourned in London before 1715, took their freethought
there with them; and the only translations then in print were those
of Collins's Discourse of Freethinking and Shaftesbury's essays on
the Use of Ridicule and on Enthusiasm. Apart from these, the only
known French freethinking book of the Regency period was the work of
Vroes, a councillor at the court of Brabant, on the Spirit of Spinoza,
reprinted as Des trois imposteurs. Meslier died not earlier than 1729;
the Histoire de la philosophie payenne of Burigny belongs to 1724;
the Lettres philosophiques of Voltaire to 1734; the earlier works
of d'Argens to 1737-38; the Nouvelles libertés de penser, edited by
Dumarsais, to 1743; and the militant treatise of De la Serre, best
known as the Examen de la Religion, to 1745.

The ferment thus kept up was indeed so great that about 1748 the
ecclesiastical authorities decided on the remarkable step of adopting
for their purposes the apologetic treatise adapted by Jacob Vernet,
professor of belles lettres at Geneva, from the works of Jean-Alphonse
Turrettin, [978] not only a Protestant but a substantially Socinian
professor of ecclesiastical history at the same university. The
treatise is itself a testimony to the advance of rationalism in the
Protestant world; and its adoption, even under correction, by the
Catholic Church in France tells of a keen consciousness of need. But
the dreaded advance, as we have seen, was only to a small extent yet
traceable by new literature. The Examen critique des apologistes de la
religion chrétienne of Lévesque de Burigny was probably written about
1732, and then and thereafter circulated in manuscript, but it was
not published till 1766; and even in manuscript its circulation was
probably small, though various apologetic works had testified to the
increasing uneasiness of the orthodox world. Such titles as La religion
chrétienne demontrée par la Resurrection (by Armand de la Chapelle,
1728) and La religion chrétienne prouvée par l'accomplissement des
prophéties (by Père Baltus, 1728) tell of private unbelief under the
Regency. In 1737 appeared the voluminous treatise (anonymous) of the
Abbé de la Chambre, Traité de la véritable religion contre les athées,
les déistes, etc. (5 vols.). In 1747, again, there appeared a learned,
laborious, and unintelligent work in three volumes (authorized in
1742), Le Libertinage combattu par la témoignage des auteurs profanes,
by an unnamed Benedictine [979] of the Congregation of St. Vanne. It
declares that, between atheism and deism, there has never been so
much unbelief as now; but it cites no modern books, and is devoted to
arraying classic arguments in support of theism and morals. Part of the
exposition consists in showing that Epicurus, Lucian, and Euripides,
whom modern atheists are wont to cite as their masters, were not and
could not have been atheists; and the pious author roundly declares
in favour of paganism as against atheism.

So much smoke tells of fire; but only in 1745 and 1746 did the printed
Examen of De la Serre and the Pensées philosophiques of Diderot begin
to build up in France the modern school of critical and philosophic
deism. When in 1751 the Abbé Gauchat began his series of Lettres
critiques, he set out by attacking Voltaire's Lettres philosophiques,
Diderot's Pensées philosophiques, the anonymous Discours sur la vie
heureuse (1748), Les Moeurs [980] (1748), and Pope's Essay on Man;
taking up in his second volume the Lettres Persanes of Montesquieu
(1721), and other sets of Lettres written in imitation of them. In the
third volume he has nothing more aggressive of Voltaire's to deal with
than La Henriade, the Mahomet, and some of his fugitive pieces. And
the Bishop of Puy, writing in 1754 his La Dévotion conciliée avec
l'esprit, could say to the faithful: "You live in an age fertile in
pretended esprits forts, who, too weak nevertheless to attack in front
an invincible religion, skirmish lightly around it, and in default of
the reasons they lack, employ raillery." [981] The chivalrous bishop
knew perfectly well that had a serious attack been published author
and publisher would have been sent if possible to the Bastille, if
not to the scaffold. But his evidence is explicit. There is here no
recognition of any literary bombardment, though there was certainly
an abundance of unbelief. [982]

Buckle has probably mistaken the meaning of the summing up of some
previous writer to the effect that up to 1750 or a few years later
the political opposition to the Court was religious, in the sense of
ecclesiastical or sectarian (Jansenist), [983] and that it afterwards
turned to matters of public administration. [984] It would be truer
to say that the early Lettres philosophiques, the reading of which
later made the boy Lafayette a republican at nine, were a polemic for
political and social freedom, and as such a more direct criticism of
the French administrative system than Voltaire ever penned afterwards,
save in the Voix du Sage et du Peuple (1750). In point of fact, as
will be shown below, only some twenty scattered freethinking works had
appeared in French up to 1745, almost none of them directly attacking
Christian beliefs; and, despite the above-noted sallies of Voltaire,
Condorcet comes to the general conclusion that it was the hardihood
of Rousseau's deism in the "Confession of a Savoyard Vicar" in his
Émile (1762) that spurred Voltaire to new activity. [985] This is
perhaps not quite certain; there is some reason to believe that his
"Sermon of the Fifty," his "first frontal attack on Christianity,"
[986] was written a year before; but in any case that and other
productions of his at once left Rousseau far in the rear. Even now he
had no fixed purpose of continuous warfare against so powerful and
cruel an enemy as the Church, which in 1757 had actually procured
an edict pronouncing the death penalty against all writers of works
attacking religion; though the fall of the Jesuits in 1764 raised new
hopes of freedom. But when, after that hopeful episode, there began
a new movement of Jansenist fanaticism; and when, after the age of
religious savagery had seemed to be over, there began a new series
of religious atrocities in France itself (1762-66), he girded on a
sword that was not to be laid down till his death.


    Even so late as 1768, in his last letter to Damilaville (8 fév.),
    Voltaire expresses a revulsion against the aggressive freethought
    propaganda of the time which is either one of his epistolary
    stratagems or the expression of a nervous reaction in a time of
    protracted bad health. "Mes chagrins redoublent," he writes, "par
    la quantité incroyable d'écrits contre la religion chrétienne, qui
    se succédent aussi rapidement en Hollande que les gazettes et les
    journaux." His enemies have the barbarism to impute to him, at his
    age, "une partie de ces extravagances composées par de jeunes gens
    et par des moines défroqués." His immediate ground for chagrin may
    have been the fact that this outbreak of anti-Christian literature
    was likely to thwart him in the campaign he was then making to
    secure justice to the Sirven family as he had already vindicated
    that of Calas. Sirven barely missed the fate of the latter.

    The misconception of Buckle, above discussed, has been widely
    shared even among students. Thus Lord Morley, discussing the
    "Creed of the Savoyard Vicar" in Rousseau's Émile (1762), writes
    that "Souls weary of the fierce mockeries that had so long been
    flying like fiery shafts against the far Jehovah of the Hebrews,
    and the silent Christ of the later doctors and dignitaries,"
    may well have turned to it with ardour (Rousseau, ed. 1886, ii,
    266). He further speaks of the "superiority of the sceptical parts
    of the Savoyard Vicar's profession ... over the biting mockeries
    which Voltaire had made the fashionable method of assault"
    (p. 294). No specifications are offered, and the chronology is
    seen to be astray. The only mockeries which Voltaire could be said
    to have made fashionable before 1760 were those of his Lettres
    philosophiques, his Mondain, his Défense de Milord Bolingbroke,
    and his philosophically humorous tales, as Candide, Zadig,
    Micromégas, etc.: all his distinctive attacks on Judaism and
    Christianity were yet to come. [The Abbé Guyon, in his L'Oracle
    des nouveaux philosophes (Berne, 1759-60, 2 tom.), proclaims an
    attack on doctrines taught "dans les livres de nos beaux esprits"
    (Avert. p. xi); but he specifies only denials of (1) revelation,
    (2) immortality, and (3) the Biblical account of man's creation;
    and he is largely occupied with Diderot's Pensées philosophiques,
    though his book is written at Voltaire. The second volume is
    devoted to Candide and the Précis of Ecclesiastes and the Song
    of Solomon--not very fierce performances.] Lord Morley, as it
    happens, does not make this chronological mistake in his earlier
    work on Voltaire, where he rightly represents him as beginning his
    attack on "the Infamous" after he had settled at Ferney (1758). His
    "fierce mockeries" begin at the earliest in 1761. The mistake may
    have arisen through taking as true the fictitious date of 1736
    for the writing of the Examen Important de Milord Bolingbroke. It
    belongs to 1767. Buckle's error, it may be noted, is repeated by
    so careful a student as Dr. Redlich, Local Government in England,
    Eng. tr. 1903, i, 64.


10. The rest of Voltaire's long life was a sleepless and dexterous
warfare, by all manner of literary stratagem, [987] facilitated by
vast literary fame and ample acquired wealth, against what he called
"the Infamous"--the Church and the creed which he found still swift to
slay for mere variation of belief, and slow to let any good thing be
wrought for the bettering of men's lives. Of his prodigious literary
performance it is probably within the truth to say that in respect
of rapid influence on the general intelligence of the world it has
never been equalled by any one man's writing; and that, whatever its
measure of error and of personal misdirection, its broader influence
was invariably for peace on earth, for tolerance among men, and for
reason in all things. His faults were many, and some were serious; but
to no other man of his age, save possibly Beccaria, can be attributed
so much beneficent accomplishment. He can perhaps better be estimated
as a force than as a man. So great was the area of his literary
energy that he is inevitably inadequate at many points. Lessing
could successfully impugn him in drama; Diderot in metaphysic;
Gibbon in history; and it is noteworthy that all of these men [988]
at different times criticized him with asperity, testing him by the
given item of performance, and disparaging his personality. Yet in
his own way he was a greater power than any of them; and his range,
as distinguished from his depth, outgoes theirs. In sum, he was the
greatest mental fighter of his age, perhaps of any age: in that aspect
he is a "power-house" not to be matched in human history; and his
polemic is mainly for good. It was a distinguished English academic
who declared that "civilization owes more to Voltaire than to all the
Fathers of the Church put together." [989] If in a literary way he
hated his personal foes, much more did he hate cruelty and bigotry;
and it was his work more than any that made impossible a repetition in
Europe of such clerical crimes as the hanging of the Protestant pastor,
La Rochette; the execution of the Protestant, Calas, on an unproved
and absurdly false charge; the torture of his widow and children;
the beheading of the lad La Barre for ill-proved blasphemy. [990]
As against his many humanities, there is not to be charged on him one
act of public malevolence. In his relations with his fickle admirer,
Frederick the Great, and with others of his fellow-thinkers, he and
they painfully brought home to freethinkers the lesson that for them
as for all men there is a personal art of life that has to be learned,
over and above the rectification of opinion. But he and the others
wrought immensely towards that liberation alike from unreason and
from bondage which must precede any great improvement of human things.

Voltaire's constant burden was that religion was not only untrue
but pernicious, and when he was not dramatically showing this of
Christianity, as in his poem La Ligue (1723), he was saying it by
implication in such plays as Zaïre (1732) and Mahomet (1742), dealing
with the fanaticism of Islam; while in the Essai sur les moeurs (1756),
really a broad survey of general history, and in the Siècle de Louis
XIV, he applied the method of Montesquieu, with pungent criticism
thrown in. Later, he added to his output direct criticisms of the
Christian books, as in the Examen important de Milord Bolingbroke
(1767), and the Recherches historiques sur le Christianisme (? 1769),
continuing all his former lines of activity. Meanwhile, with the aid of
his companion the Marquise du Chatelet, an accomplished mathematician,
he had done much to popularize the physics of Newton and discredit
the scientific fallacies of the system of Descartes; all the while
preaching a Newtonian but rather agnostic deism. This is the purport
of his Philosophe Ignorant, his longest philosophical essay. [991]
The destruction of Lisbon by the earthquake of 1755 seems to have
shaken him in his deistic faith, since the upshot of his poem on that
subject is to leave the moral government of the universe an absolute
enigma; and in the later Candide (1759) he attacks theistic optimism
with his matchless ridicule. Indeed, as early as 1749, in his Traité
de la Métaphysique, written for the Marquise du Chatelet, he reaches
virtually pantheistic positions in defence of the God-idea, declaring
with Spinoza that deity can be neither good nor bad. But, like so
many professed pantheists, he relapsed, and he never accepted the
atheistic view; on the contrary, we find him arguing absurdly enough,
in his Homily on Atheism (1765), that atheism had been the destruction
of morality in Rome; [992] on the publication of d'Holbach's System
of Nature in 1770 he threw off an article Dieu: réponse au Système
de la Nature, where he argued on the old deistic lines; and his tale
of Jenni; or, the Sage and the Atheist (1775), is a polemic on the
same theme. By this time the inconsistent deism of his youth had
itself been discredited among the more thoroughgoing freethinkers;
and for years it had been said in one section of literary society
that Voltaire after all "is a bigot; he is a deist!" [993]

But for freethinkers of all schools the supreme service of Voltaire lay
in his twofold triumph over the spirit of religious persecution. He
had contrived at once to make it hateful and to make it ridiculous;
and it is a great theistic poet of our own day that has pronounced
his blade the


        sharpest, shrewdest steel that ever stabbed
    To death Imposture through the armour joints. [994]


To be perfect, the tribute should have noted that he hated cruelty
much more than imposture; and such is the note of the whole movement of
which his name was the oriflamme. Voltaire personally was at once the
most pugnacious and the most forgiving of men. Few of the Christians
who hated him had so often as he fulfilled their own precept of
returning good for evil to enemies; and none excelled him in hearty
philanthropy. It is notable that most of the humanitarian ideas of
the latter half of the century--the demand for the reform of criminal
treatment, the denunciation of war and slavery, the insistence on
good government, and toleration of all creeds--are more definitely
associated with the freethinking than with any religious party,
excepting perhaps the laudable but uninfluential sect of Quakers.


    The character of Voltaire is still the subject of chronic debate;
    but the old deadlock of laudation and abuse is being solved
    in a critical recognition of him as a man of genius flawed by
    the instability which genius so commonly involves. Carlyle
    (that model of serenity), while dwelling on his perpetual
    perturbations, half-humanely suggests that we should think of
    him as one constantly hag-ridden by maladies of many kinds; and
    this recognition is really even more important in Voltaire's
    case than in Carlyle's own. He was "a bundle of nerves," and
    the clear light of his sympathetic intelligence was often blown
    aside by gusts of passion--often enough excusably. But while his
    temperamental weaknesses exposed him at times to humiliation,
    and often to sarcasm; and while his compelled resort to constant
    stratagem made him more prone to trickery than his admirers can
    well care to think him, the balance of his character is abundantly
    on the side of generosity and humanity.

    One of the most unjustifiable of recent attacks upon him
    (one regrets to have to say it) came from the pen of the late
    Prof. Churton Collins. In his book on Voltaire, Montesquieu,
    and Rousseau in England (1908) that critic gives in the main
    an unbiassed account of Voltaire's English experience; but at
    one point (p. 39) he plunges into a violent impeachment with
    the slightest possible justification. He in effect adopts the
    old allegation of Ruffhead, the biographer of Pope--a statement
    repeated by Johnson--that Voltaire used his acquaintance with Pope
    and Bolingbroke to play the spy on them, conveying information
    to Walpole, for which he was rewarded. The whole story collapses
    upon critical examination. Ruffhead's story is, in brief, that
    Pope purposely lied to Voltaire as to the authorship of certain
    published letters attacking Walpole. They were by Bolingbroke;
    but Pope, questioned by Voltaire, said they were his own, begging
    him to keep the fact absolutely secret. Next day at court everyone
    was speaking of the letters as Pope's; and Pope accordingly knew
    that Voltaire was a traitor. For this tale there is absolutely
    nothing but hearsay evidence. Ruffhead, as Johnson declared, knew
    nothing of Pope, and simply used Warburton's material. The one
    quasi-confirmation cited by Mr. Collins is Bolingbroke's letter
    to Swift (May 18, 1727) asking him to "insinuate" that Walpole's
    only ground for ascribing the letters to Bolingbroke "is the
    authority of one of his spies ... who reports, not what he hears
    ... but what he guesses." This is an absolute contradiction of the
    Pope story, at two points. It refers to a guess at Bolingbroke,
    and tells of no citation from Pope. To put it as confirming the
    charge is to exhibit a complete failure of judgment.

    After this irrational argument, Mr. Collins offers a worse. He
    admits (p. 43) that Voltaire always remained on friendly
    terms with both Pope and Bolingbroke; but adds that this "can
    scarcely be alleged as a proof of his innocence, for neither
    Pope nor Bolingbroke would, for such an offence, have been
    likely to quarrel with a man in a position so peculiar as that
    of Voltaire. His flattery was pleasant...." Such an argument is
    worse than nugatory. That Bolingbroke spoke ill in private of
    Voltaire on general grounds counts for nothing. He did the same of
    Pope and of nearly all his friends. Mr. Collins further accuses
    Voltaire of baseness, falsehood, and hypocrisy on the mere score
    of his habit of extravagant flattery. This was notoriously the
    French mode in that age; but it had been just as much the mode
    in seventeenth-century England, from the Jacobean translators of
    the Bible to Dryden--to name no others. And Mr. Collins in effect
    charges systematic hypocrisy upon both Pope and Bolingbroke.

    Other stories of Ruffhead's against Voltaire are equally improbable
    and ill-vouched--as Mr. Collins incidentally admits, though he
    forgets the admission. They all come from Warburton, himself
    convicted of double-dealing with Pope; and they finally stand for
    the hatred of Frenchmen which was so common in eighteenth-century
    England, and is apparently not yet quite extinct. Those who would
    have a sane, searching, and competent estimate of Voltaire,
    leaning humanely to the side of goodwill, should turn to the
    Voltaire of M. Champion. A brief estimate was attempted by the
    present writer in the R. P. A. Annual for 1912.


11. It is difficult to realize how far the mere demand for
tolerance which sounds from Voltaire's plays and poems before he
has begun to assail credences was a signal and an inspiration to new
thinkers. Certain it is that the principle of toleration, passed on
by Holland to England, was regarded by the orthodox priesthood in
France as the abomination of desolation, and resisted by them with all
their power. But the contagion was unquenchable. It was presumably in
Holland that there were printed in 1738 the two volumes of Lettres sur
la religion essentielle à l'homme, distinguée de ce qui n'en est que
l'accessoire, by Marie Huber, a Genevese lady living in Lyons; also the
two following parts (1739), replying to criticisms on the earlier. In
its gentle way, the book stands very distinctly for the "natural" and
ethical principle in religion, denying that the deity demands from men
either service or worship, or that he can be wronged by their deeds,
or that he can punish them eternally for their sins. This was one
of the first French fruits, after Voltaire, of the English deistic
influence; [995] and it is difficult to understand how the authoress
escaped molestation. Perhaps the memory of the persecution inflicted
on the mystic Madame Guyon withheld the hand of power. As it was,
four Protestant theologians opened fire on her, regarding her doctrine
as hostile to Christianity. One pastor wrote from Geneva, one from
Amsterdam, and two professors from Zurich--the two last in Latin. [996]

From about 1746 onwards, the rationalist movement in eighteenth-century
France rapidly widens and deepens. The number of rationalistic
writers, despite the press laws which in that age inflicted the
indignity of imprisonment on half the men of letters, increased
from decade to decade, and the rising prestige of the philosophes
in connection with the Encyclopédie (1751-72) gave new courage to
writers and printers. At once the ecclesiastical powers saw in the
Encyclopédie a dangerous enemy; and in January, 1752, the Sorbonne
condemned a thesis "To the celestial Jerusalem," by the Abbé de
Prades. It had at first (1751) been received with official applause,
but was found on study to breathe the spirit of the new work, [997]
to which the Abbé had contributed, and whose editor, Diderot, was his
friend. Sooth to say, it contained not a little matter calculated
to act as a solvent of faith. Under the form of a vindication of
orthodox Catholicism, it negated alike Descartes and Leibnitz; and
declared that the science of Newton and the Dutch physiologists was
a better defence of religion than the theses of Clarke, Descartes,
Cudworth, and Malebranche, which made for materialism. The handling,
too, of the question of natural versus revealed religion, in which
"theism" is declared to be superior to all religions si unam excipias
veram, "if you except the one true," might well arouse distrust in a
vigilant Catholic reader. [998] The whole argument savours far more
of the scientific comparative method than was natural in the work
of an eighteenth-century seminarist; and the principle, "Either we
are ocular witnesses of the facts or we know them only by hearsay,"
[999] was plainly as dangerous to the Christian creed as to any
other. According to Naigeon, [1000] the treatise was wholly the work of
de Prades and another Abbé, Yvon; [1001] but it remains probable that
Diderot inspired not a little of the reasoning; and the clericals,
bent on putting down the Encyclopédie, professed to have discovered
that he was the real author of the thesis. Either this belief or a
desire to strike at the Encyclopédie through one of its collaborators
[1002] was the motive of the absurdly belated censure. Such a fiasco
evoked much derision from the philosophic party, particularly from
Voltaire; and the Sorbonne compassed a new revenge. Soon after came
the formal condemnation of the first two volumes of the Encyclopédie,
of which the second had just appeared. [1003]

D'Argenson, watching in his vigilant retirement the course of things
on all hands, sees in the episode a new and dangerous development,
"the establishment of a veritable inquisition in France, of which the
Jesuits joyfully take charge," though he repeatedly remarks also on
the eagerness of the Jansenists to outgo the Jesuits. [1004] But soon
the publication of the Encyclopédie is resumed; and in 1753 D'Argenson
contentedly notes the official bestowal of "tacit permissions to print
secretly" books which could not obtain formal authorization. The
permission had been given first by the President Malesherbes; but
even when that official lost the king's confidence the practice was
continued by the lieutenant of police. [1005] Despite the staggering
blow of the suppression of the Encyclopédie, the philosophes speedily
triumphed. So great was the discontent even at court that soon (1752)
Madame de Pompadour and some of the ministry invited D'Alembert and
Diderot to resume their work, "observing a necessary reserve in all
things touching religion and authority." Madame de Pompadour was in
fact, as D'Alembert said at her death, "in her heart one of ours,"
as was D'Argenson. But D'Alembert, in a long private conference with
D'Argenson, insisted that they must write in freedom like the English
and the Prussians, or not at all. Already there was talk of suppressing
the philosophic works of Condillac, which a few years before had gone
uncondemned; and freedom must be preserved at any cost. "I acquiesce,"
writes the ex-Minister, "in these arguments." [1006]

Curiously enough, the freethinking Fontenelle, who for a time (the
dates are elusive) held the office of royal censor, was more rigorous
than other officials who had not his reputation for heterodoxy. One
day he refused to pass a certain manuscript, and the author put the
challenge: "You, sir, who have published the Histoire des Oracles,
refuse me this?" "If I had been the censor of the Oracles," replied
Fontenelle, "I should not have passed it." [1007] And he had cause for
his caution. The unlucky Tercier, who, engrossed in "foreign affairs,"
had authorized the publication of the De l'Esprit of Helvétius,
was compelled to resign the censorship, and severely rebuked by
the Paris Parlement. [1008] But the culture-history of the period,
like the political, was one of ups and downs. From time to time the
philosophic party had friends at court, as in the persons of the
Marquis D'Argenson, Malesherbes, and the Duc de Choiseul, of whom
the last-named engineered the suppression of the Jesuits. [1009]
Then there were checks to the forward movement in the press, as when,
in 1770, Choiseul was forced to retire on the advent of Madame Du
Barry. The output of freethinking books is after that year visibly
curtailed. But nothing could arrest the forward movement of opinion.

12. A new era of propaganda and struggle had visibly begun. In
the earlier part of the century freethought had been disseminated
largely by way of manuscripts [1010] and reprints of foreign books in
translation; but from the middle onwards, despite denunciations and
prohibitions, new books multiply. To the policy of tacit toleration
imposed by Malesherbes a violent end was temporarily put in 1757,
when the Jesuits obtained a proclamation of the death penalty
against all writers who should attack the Christian religion,
directly or indirectly. It was doubtless under the menace of this
decree that Deslandes, before dying in 1757, caused to be drawn
up by two notaries an acte by which he disavowed and denounced not
only his Grands hommes morts en plaisantant but all his other works,
whether printed or in MS., in which he had "laid down principles
or sustained sentiments contrary to the spirit of religion." [1011]
But in 1764, on the suppression of the Jesuits, there was a vigorous
resumption of propaganda. "There are books," writes Voltaire in 1765,
"of which forty years ago one would not have trusted the manuscript
to one's friends, and of which there are now published six editions
in eighteen months." [1012] Voltaire single-handed produced a
library; and d'Holbach is credited with at least a dozen freethinking
treatises, every one remarkable in its day. But there were many more
combatants. The reputation of Voltaire has overshadowed even that of
his leading contemporaries, and theirs and his have further obscured
that of the lesser men; but a list of miscellaneous freethinking works
by French writers during the century, up to the Revolution, will serve
to show how general was the activity after 1750. It will be seen that
very little was published in France in the period in which English
deism was most fecund. A noticeable activity of publication begins
about 1745. But it was when the long period of chronic warfare ended
for France with the peace of Paris (1763); when she had lost India
and North America; when she had suppressed the Jesuit order (1764);
and when England had in the main turned from intellectual interests to
the pursuit of empire and the development of manufacturing industry,
that the released French intelligence [1013] turned with irresistible
energy to the rational criticism of established opinions. The following
table is thus symbolic of the whole century's development:--


1700.   Lettre d'Hypocrate à Damagète, attributed to the Comte de
        Boulainvilliers. (Cologne.) Rep. in Bibliothèque Volante,
        Amsterdam, 1700.
1700.   [Claude Gilbert.] Histoire de Calejava, ou de l'isle des hommes
        raisonnables, avec le parallèle de leur morale et du
        Christianisme. Dijon. Suppressed by the author: only one copy
        known to have escaped.
1704.   [Gueudeville.] Dialogues de M. le Baron de la Houtan et d'un
        sauvage dans l'Amérique. (Amsterdam.)
1709.   Lettre sur l'enthousiasme (Fr. tr. of Shaftesbury, by Samson).
        La Haye.
1710.   [Tyssot de Patot, Symon.] Voyages et Avantures de Jaques Massé.
        (Bourdeaux.)
1710.   Essai sur l'usage de la raillerie (Fr. tr. of Shaftesbury, by
        Van Effen). La Haye.
1712.   [Deslandes, A. F. B.] Reflexions sur les grands hommes qui sont
        morts en plaisantant. [1014] (Amsterdam.)
1714.   Discours sur la liberté de penser [French tr. of Collins's
        Discourse of Freethinking], traduit de l'anglois et augmenté
        d'une Lettre d'un Médecin Arabe. (Tr. by Henri Scheurléer and
        Jean Rousset.) [Rep. 1717.] [1015]
1719.   [Vroes.] La Vie et l'Esprit de M. Benoît de Spinoza.
1720.   Same work rep. under the double title: De tribus impostoribus:
        Des trois imposteurs. Frankfort on Main.
1724.   [Lévesque de Burigny.] Histoire de la philosophie payenne. La
        Haye, 2 tom.
1730.   [Bernard, J.-F.] Dialogues critiques et philosophiques. "Par
        l'Abbé de Charte-Livry." (Amsterdam.) Rep. 1735.
1731.   Réfutation des erreurs de Benoît de Spinoza, par Fénelon, le P.
        Laury, benédictin, et Boulainvilliers, avec la vie de Spinoza
        ... par Colerus, etc. (collected and published by Lenglet du
        Fresnoy). Bruxelles (really Amsterdam). The treatise of
        Boulainvilliers is really a popular exposition.
1732.   Re-issue of Deslandes's Réflexions.
1734.   [Voltaire.] Lettres philosophiques. 4 edd. within the year.
        [Condemned to be burned. Publisher imprisoned.]
1734.   [Longue, Louis-Pierre de.] Les Princesses Malabares, ou le
        Célibat Philosophique. Deistic allegory. [Condemned to be
        burned.]
1737.   Marquis D'Argens. La Philosophie du Bon Sens. (Berlin: 8th
        edition, Dresden, 1754.)
1738.   ----, Lettres Juives. 6 tom. (Berlin.)
1738.   [Marie Huber.] Lettres sur la religion essentielle à l'homme,
        distingue de ce qui n'en est que l'accessoire. 2 tom.
        (Nominally London.) Rep. 1739 and 1756.
1739.   ----, Suite to the foregoing, "servant de réponse aux
        objections," etc. Also Suite de la troisième partie.
1741.   [Deslandes.] Pigmalion, ou la Statue animée. [Condemned to be
        burnt by Parlement of Dijon, 1742.]
1741.   ----, De la Certitude des connaissances humaines ... traduit de
        l'anglais par F. A. D. L. V.
1743.   Nouvelles libertés de penser. Amsterdam. [Edited by Dumarsais.
        Contains the first print of Fontenelle's Traité de la Liberté,
        Dumarsais's short essays Le Philosophe and De la raison,
        Mirabaud's Sentimens des philosophes sur la nature de l'âme,
        etc.]
1745.   [Lieut. De la Serre.] La vraie religion traduite de l'Ecriture
        Sainte, par permission de Jean, Luc, Marc, et Matthieu.
        (Nominally Trévoux, "aux dépens des Pères de la Société de
        Jésus.") [Appeared later as Examen, etc. Condemned to be burnt
        by Parlement of Paris.]

This book was republished in the same year with "demontrée par"
substituted in the title for "traduite de," and purporting to be
"traduit de l'Anglais de Gilbert Burnet," with the imprint "Londres,
G. Cock, 1745." It appeared again in 1761 as Examen de la religion
dont on cherche l'éclaircissement de bonne foi. Attribué à M. de
Saint-Evremont, traduit, etc., with the same imprint. It again bore
the latter title when reprinted in 1763, and again in the Évangile
de la Raison in 1764. Voltaire in 1763 declared it to be the work
of Dumarsais, pronouncing it to be assuredly not in the style of
Saint-Evremond (Grimm, iv, 85-88; Voltaire, Lettre à Damilaville,
6 déc. 1763), adding "mais il est fort tronqué et détestablement
imprimé." This is true of the reprints in the Évangile de la Raison
(1764, etc.), of one of which the present writer possesses a copy to
which there has been appended in MS. a long section which had been
lacking. The Évangile as a whole purports to be "Ouvrage posthume
de M. D. M......y." [1016] But its first volume includes four pieces
of Voltaire's, and his abridged Testament de Jean Meslier. Further,
De la Serre is recorded to have claimed the authorship in writing on
the eve of his death. Barbier, Dict. des Anonymes, 2e éd, No. 6158. He
is said to have been hanged as a spy at Maestricht, April 11, 1748.

1745.   [La Mettrie.] Histoire naturelle de l'âme. [Condemned to be
        burnt, 1746.] Rep. as Traité de l'âme.
1746.   [Diderot.] Pensées philosophiques. [Condemned to be burnt.]
1748.   [P. Estève.] L'Origine de l'Univers expliquée par un principe
        de matière. (Berlin.)
1748.   [Benoît de Maillet.] Telliamed, ou Entretiens d'un philosophe
        indien avec un missionaire français. (Printed privately, 1735;
        rep. 1755.)
1748.   [La Mettrie.] L'Homme Machine.
1750.   Nouvelles libertés de penser. Rep.
1751.   [Mirabaud, J. B. de.] Le Monde, son origine et son antiquité.
        [Edited by the Abbé Le Maserier (who contributed the preface
        and the third part) and Dumarsais.]
1751.   De Prades. Sorbonne Thesis.
1752.   [Gouvest, J. H. Maubert de.] Lettres Iroquoises. "Irocopolis,
        chez les Vénérables." 2 tom. (Rep. 1769 as Lettres
        cherakésiennes.)
1752.   [Génard, F.] L'École de l'homme, ou Parallèle des Portraits du
        siècle et des tableaux de l'écriture sainte. [1017] Amsterdam,
        3 tom. [Author imprisoned.]
1753.   [Baume-Desdossat, Canon of Avignon.] La Christiade. [Book
        suppressed. Author fined.] [1018]
1753.   Maupertuis. Système de la nature.
1753.   Astruc, Jean. Conjectures sur les mémoires originaux dont il
        parait que Moïse s'est servi pour composer le livre de la
        Genèse. Bruxelles.
1754.   Prémontval, A. I. le Guay de. Le Diogène de d'Alembert, ou
        Pensées libres sur l'homme. Berlin. (2nd ed. enlarged, 1755.)
1754.   Burigny, J. L. Théologie payenne. 2 tom. (New ed. of his
        Histoire de la philosophie, 1724.)
1754.   [Diderot.] Pensées sur l'interpretation de la nature.
1754.   Beausobre, L. de (the younger). Pyrrhonisme du Sage. Berlin.
        (Burned by Paris Parlement.)
1755.   Recherches philosophiques sur la liberté de l'homme. Trans. of
        Collins's Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Liberty.
1755.   [Voltaire.] Poème Sur la loi naturelle.
1755.   Analyse raisonnée de Bayle. 4 tom. [By the Abbé de Marsy.
        Suppressed. [1019] Continued in 1773, in 4 new vols., by
        Robinet.]
1755.   Morelly. Code de la Nature.
1755.   [Deleyre.] Analyse de la philosophie de Bacon. (Largely an
        exposition of Deleyre's own views.)
1757.   Prémontval. Vues Philosophiques. (Amsterdam.)

In this year--apparently after one of vigilant repression--was
pronounced the death penalty against all writers attacking
religion. Hence a general suspension of publication. In 1764 the
Jesuits were suppressed, and the policy of censorship was soon
paralysed.

1758.   Helvétius. De l'Esprit. (Authorized. Then condemned.)
1759.   [Voltaire.] Candide. ("Genève.")
1759.   Translation of Hume's Natural History of Religion and
        Philosophical Essays. (By Mérian.) Amsterdam.
1761.   [N.-A. Boulanger. [1020]] Recherches sur l'origine du
        despotisme oriental, et des superstitions. "Ouvrage posthume de
        Mr. D. J. D. P. E. C."
1761.   Rep. of De la Serre's La vraie religion as Examen de la
        religion, etc.
1761.   [D'Holbach.] Le Christianisme dévoilé. [Imprint: "Londres,
        1756." Really printed at Nancy in 1761. Wrongly attributed to
        Boulanger and to Damilaville.] Rep. 1767 and 1777.

Grimm (Corr. inédite, 1829, p. 194) speaks in 1763 of this book
in his notice of Boulanger, remarking that the title was apparently
meant to suggest the author of L'Antiquité dévoilée, but that it was
obviously by another hand. The Antiquité, in fact, was the concluding
section of Boulanger's posthumous Despotisme Oriental (1761), and
was not published till 1766. Grimm professed ignorance as to the
authorship, but must have known it, as did Voltaire, who by way of
mystification ascribed the book to Damilaville. See Barbier.

1762.   Rousseau. Émile. [Publicly burned at Paris and at Geneva.
        Condemned by the Sorbonne.]
1762.   Robinet, J. B. De la nature. Vol. i. (Vol. ii in 1764; iii and
        iv in 1766.)
1763.   [Voltaire.] Saül. Genève.
1763.   ---- Dialogue entre un Caloyer et un honnête homme.
1763.   Rep. of De la Serres' Examen.
1764.   Discours sur la liberté de penser. (Rep. of trans. of Collins.)
1764.   [Voltaire.] Dictionnaire philosophique portatif. [1021] [First
        form of the Dictionnaire philosophique. Burned in 1765.]
1764.   Lettres secrètes de M. de Voltaire. [Holland. Collection of
        tracts made by Robinet, against Voltaire's will.]
1764.   [Voltaire.] Mélanges, 3 tom. Genève.
1764.   [Dulaurens, Abbé H. J.] L'Arétin.
1764.   L'Évangile de la Raison. Ouvrage posthume de M. D. M----y. [Ed.
        by Abbé Dulaurens; containing the Testament de Jean Meslier
        (greatly abridged and adapted by Voltaire); Voltaire's
        Catéchisme de l'honnête homme, Sermon des cinquante, etc.; the
        Examen de la religion, attribué à M. de St. Evremond;
        Rousseau's Vicaire Savoyard, from Émile; Dumarsais's Analyse de
        la religion chrétienne, etc. Rep. 1765 and 1766.]
1765.   Recueil Nécessaire, avec L'Évangile de la Raison, 2 tom.

Rep. of parts of the Évangile. Rep. 1767, [1022] 1768, with
Voltaire's Examen important de Milord Bolingbroke substituted for that
of De la Serre (attribué a M. de St. Evremond), and with a revised
set of extracts from Meslier.

1765.   Castillon, J. L. Essai de philosophic morale.
1766.   Boulanger, N. A. L'Antiquité dévoilée. [1023] 3 tom. [Recast by
        d'Holbach. Life of author by Diderot.]
1766.   Voyage de Robertson aux terres australes. Traduit sur le
        Manuscrit Anglois. Amsterdam.

Barbier (Dict. des Ouvr. Anon., 2e éd. iii, 437) has a note
concerning this Voyage which pleasantly illustrates the strategy that
went on in the issue of freethinking books. An ex-censor of the period,
he tells us, wrote a note on the original edition pointing out that
it contains (pp. 145-54) a tirade against "Parlements." This passage
was "suppressed to obtain permission to bring the book into France,"
and a new passage attacking the Encyclopédistes under the name of
Pansophistes was inserted at another point. The ex-censor had a copy
of an edition of 1767, in 12mo, better printed than the first and on
better paper. In this, at p. 87, line 30, begins the attack on the
Encyclopédistes, which continues to p. 93.

If this is accurate, there has taken place a double mystification. I
possess a copy dated 1767, in 12mo, in which no page has so many as 30
lines, and in which there has been no typographical change whatever
in pp. 87-93, where there is no mention of Encyclopédistes. But
pp. 145-54 are clearly a typographical substitution, in different
type, with fewer lines to the page. Here there is a narrative about
the Pansophistes of the imaginary "Australie"; but while it begins
with enigmatic satire it ends by praising them for bringing about a
great intellectual and social reform.

If the censure was induced to pass the book as it is in this edition by
this insertion, it was either very heedless or very indulgent. There is
a sweeping attack on the papacy (pp. 91-99), and another on the Jesuits
(pp. 100-102); and it leans a good deal towards republicanism. But on
a balance, though clearly anti-clerical, it is rather socio-political
than freethinking in its criticism. The words on the title-page,
traduit sur le manuscrit anglois, are of course pure mystification. It
is a romance of the Utopia school, and criticizes English conditions
as well as French.

1766.   De Prades. Abrégé de l'histoire ecclésiastique de Fleury.
        (Berlin.) Pref. by Frederick the Great. (Rep. 1767.)
1766.   [Burigny.] Examen critique des Apologistes de la religion
        chrétienne. Published (by Naigeon ?) under the name of Fréret.
        [1024] [Twice rep. in 1767. Condemned to be burnt, 1770.]
1766.   [Voltaire.] Le philosophe ignorant.
1766.   [Abbé Millot.] Histoire philosophique de l'homme. [Naturalistic
        theory of human beginnings.]
1767.   Castillon. Almanach Philosophique.
1767.   Doutes sur la religion (attributed to Gueroult de Pival), suivi
        de l'Analyse du Traité théologique-politique de Spinoza (by
        Boulainvilliers). [Rep. with additions in 1792 under the title
        Doutes sur les religions révélées, adressés à Voltaire, par
        Émilie du Chatelet. Ouvrage posthume.]
1767.   [Dulaurens.] L'antipapisme révélé.
1767.   Lettre de Thrasybule à Leucippe. [Published under the name of
        Fréret (d. 1749). Written or edited by Naigeon. [1025]]
1767.   [D'Holbach.] L'Imposture sacerdotale, ou Recueil de pièces sur
        la clergé, traduites de l'anglois.
1767.   [Voltaire.] Collection des lettres sur les miracles.
1767.   ---- Examen important de milord Bolingbroke.
1767.   Marmontel. Bélisaire. (Censured by the Sorbonne.)
1767.   [Damilaville.] L'honnêtetê théologique.
1767.   Reprint of Le Christianisme dévoilé. [Condemned to be burnt,
        1768 and 1770.]
1767.   [Voltaire.] Questions sur les Miracles. Par un Proposant.
1767.   Seconde partie of the Recherches sur l'origine du despotisme.
1768.   Meister, J. H. De l'origine des principes religieux.

Author banished from his native town, Zurich, "in perpetuity"
(decree rescinded in 1772), and book publicly burned there by the
hangman. [1026] Meister published a modified edition at Zurich in
1769. Orig. rep. in the Recueil Philosophique, 1770.

1768.        Catalogue raisonné des esprits forts, depuis le curé
             Rabelais jusqu'au curé Meslier.
1768.        [D'Holbach.] La Contagion sacrée, ou histoire naturelle de
             la superstition. [Condemned to be burnt, 1770.]
1768.        ---- Lettres philosophiques sur l'origine des préjugés,
             etc., traduites de l'anglois (of Toland).
1768.        ---- Lettres à Eugénie, ou preservatif contre les
             préjugés. 2 tom.
1768.        ---- Théologie Portative. "Par l'abbé Bernier." [Also
             burnt, 1776.]
1768.        Traité des trois Imposteurs. (See 1719 and 1720.) Rep.
             1775, 1777, 1793.
1768.        Naigeon, J. A. Le militaire philosophe. [Adaptation of a
             MS. The last chapter by d'Holbach.]
1768.        D'Argens. OEuvres complètes, 24 tom. Berlin.
1768.        Examen des prophéties qui servent de fondement à la
             religion chrétienne (tr. from Collins by d'Holbach).
1768.        Robinet. Considérations philosophiques.
1769-1780.   L'Évangile du jour. 18 tom. Series of pieces, chiefly by
             Voltaire.
1769.        [Diderot. Also ascribed to Castillon.] Histoire générale
             des dogmes et opinions philosophiques ... tirée du
             Dictionnaire encyclopédique. Londres, 3 tom.
1769.        [Mirabaud.] Opinions des anciens sur les juifs, and
             Réflexions impartiales sur l'Évangile [1027] (rep. in 1777
             as Examen critique du Nouveau Testament).
1769.        [Isoard-Delisle, otherwise Delisle de Sales.] De la
             Philosophie de la Nature. 6 tom. [Author imprisoned. Book
             condemned to be burnt, 1775.]
1769.        [Seguier de Saint-Brisson.] Traité des Droits de Génie,
             dans lequel on examine si la connoissance de la verité est
             avantageuse aux hommes et possible au philosophe.
             "Carolsrouhe," 1769. [A strictly naturalistic-ethical
             theory of society. Contains an attack on the doctrine of
             Rousseau, in Émile, on the usefulness of religious error.]
1769.        L'enfer détruit, traduit de l'Anglois [by d'Holbach.]
1770.        [D'Holbach.] Histoire critique de Jésus Christ.
1770.        ---- Examen critique de la vie et des ouvrages de Saint
             Paul (tr. from English of Peter Annet).
1770.        ---- Essai sur les Préjugés. (Not by Dumarsais, whose name
             on the title-page is a mystification.)
1770.        ---- Système de la Nature. 2 tom.
1770.        Recueil Philosophique. 2 tom. [Edited by Naigeon. Contains
             a rep. of Dumarsais's essays Le Philosophe and De la
             raison, an extract from Tindal, essays by Vauvenargues and
             Fréret (or Fontenelle), three by Mirabaud, Diderot's
             Pensées sur la religion, several essays by d'Holbach,
             Meister's De l'origine des principes religieux, etc.]
1770.        Analyse de Bayle. Rep. of the four vols. of De Marsy, with
             four more by Robinet.
1770.        L'Esprit du Judaisme. (Trans. from Collins by d'Holbach.)
1770.        Raynal (with Diderot and others). Histoire philosophique
             des deux Indes. Containing atheistic arguments by Diderot.
             [Suppressed, 1772.]

In this year there were condemned to be burned seven freethinking
works: d'Holbach's Contagion Sacrée; Voltaire's Dieu et les Hommes; the
French translation (undated) of Woolston's Discourses on the Miracles
of Jesus Christ; Fréret's (really Burigny's) Examen critique de la
religion chrétienne; an Examen impartial des principales religions
du monde, undated; d'Holbach's Christianisme dévoilé; and his Système
de la Nature.

1772.     Le Bon Sens. [Adaptation from Meslier by Diderot and
          d'Holbach. Condemned to be burnt, 1774.]
1772.     De la nature humaine. [Trans. of Hobbes by d'Holbach.]
1773.     Helvétius. De l'Homme. Ouvrage posthume. 2 tom. [Condemned to
          be burnt, Jan. 10, 1774. Rep. 1775.]
1773.     Carra, J. L. Système de la Raison, ou le prophète philosophe.
1773.     [Burigny (?).] Recherches sur les miracles.
1773.     [D'Holbach.] La politique naturelle. 2 tom.
1773.     ----. Système Sociale. 3 tom.
1774.     Abauzit, F. Réflexions impartiales sur les Évangiles, suivies
          d'un essai sur l'Apocalypse. (Abauzit died 1767.)
1774.     [Condorcet.] Lettres d'un Théologien. (Atheistic.)
1774.     New edition of Theologie Portative. 2 tom. [Condemned to be
          burnt.]
1775.     [Voltaire.] Histoire de Jenni, ou Le Sage et l'Athée. [Attack
          on atheism.]
1776.     [D'Holbach.] La morale universelle. 3 tom.
1776.     ---- Ethocratie.
1777.     Examen critique du Nouveau Testament, "par M. Fréret." [Not
          by Fréret. A rep. of Mirabaud's Réflexions impartiales sur
          l'Évangile, 1769, which was probably written about 1750,
          being replied to in the Réfutation du Celse moderne of the
          Abbé Gautier, 1752 and 1765.]
1777.     Carra. Esprit de la morale et de la philosophie.
1778.     Barthez, P. J. Nouveaux éléments de la science de l'homme.
1779.     Vie d'Apollonius de Tyane par Philostrate, avec les
          commentaires donnés en anglois par Charles Blount sur les
          deux premiers livres. [Trans. by J.-F. Salvemini de
          Castillon, Berlin.] Amsterdam, 4 tom. (In addition to
          Blount's pref. and notes there is a scoffing dedication to
          Pope Clement XIV.)
1780.     Duvernet, Abbé Th. J. L'Intolérance religieuse.
1780.     Clootz, Anacharsis. La Certitude des preuves du Mahométisme.
          [Reply by way of parody to Bergier's work, noted on p. 250.]
1780.     Second ed. of Raynal's Histoire philosophique, with
          additions. (Condemned to be burnt, 1781.)
1781.     Maréchal, Sylvain. Le nouveau Lucrèce.
1783.     Brissot de Warville. Lettres philosophiques sur S. Paul.
1784.     Doray de Longrais. Faustin, ou le siècle philosophique.
1784.     Pougens, M. C. J. de. Récréations de philosophie et de
          morale.
1785.     Maréchal. Livre échappé au Déluge. [Author dismissed.]
1787.     Marquis Pastoret. Zoroastre, Confucius, et Mahomet.
1788.     Meister. De la morale naturelle.
1788.     Pastoret. Moïse considéré comme legislateur et comme
          moraliste.
1788.     Maréchal. Almanach des honnêtes gens. [Author imprisoned;
          book burnt.]
1789.     Volney. Les Ruines des Empires.
1789.     Duvernet, Abbé. Les Dévotions de Madame de Betzamooth.
1789.     Cerutti (Jesuit Father). Bréviaire Philosophique, ou Histoire
          du Judaisme, du Christianisme, et du Déisme.
1791-3.   Naigeon. Dictionnaire de la philosophie ancienne et moderne.
1795.     Dupuis. De l'origine de tous les Cultes. 5 tom.
1795.     La Fable de Christ dévoilée; ou Lettre du muphti de
          Constantinople à Jean Ange Braschy, muphti de Rome.
1797.     Rep. of d'Holbach's Contagion sacrée, with notes by Lemaire.
1798.     Maréchal. Pensées libres sur les prêtres. A Rome, et se
          trouve à Paris, chez les Marchands de Nouveautés. L'An Ier de
          la Raison, et VI de la République Française.


13. It will be noted that after 1770--coincidently, indeed, with a
renewed restraint upon the press--there is a notable falling-off in the
freethinking output. Rationalism had now permeated educated France;
and, for different but analogous reasons, the stress of discussion
gradually shifted as it had done in England. France in 1760 stood to
the religious problem somewhat as England did in 1730, repeating the
deistic evolution with a difference. By that time England was committed
to the new paths of imperialism and commercialism; whereas France,
thrown back on the life of ideas and on her own politico-economic
problems, went on producing the abundant propaganda we have noted,
and, alongside of it, an independent propaganda of economics and
politics. At the end of 1767, the leading French diarist [1028] notes
that "there is formed at Paris a new sect, called the Economists,"
and names its leading personages, Quesnay, Mirabeau the elder, the
Abbé Baudeau, Mercier de la Rivière, and Turgot. These developed the
doctrine of agricultural or "real" production which so stimulated
and influenced Adam Smith. But immediately afterwards [1029] the
diarist notes a rival sect, the school of Forbonnais, who founded
mainly on the importance of commerce and manufactures. Each "sect"
had its journal. The intellectual ferment had inevitably fructified
thought upon economic as upon historical, religious, and scientific
problems; and there was in operation a fourfold movement, all tending
to make possible the immense disintegration of the State which began
in 1789. After the Economists came the "Patriots," who directed
towards the actual political machine the spirit of investigation and
reform. And the whole effective movement is not unplausibly to be
dated from the fall of the Jesuits in 1764. [1030] Inevitably the
forces interacted: Montesquieu and Rousseau alike dealt with both
the religious and the social issues; d'Holbach in his first polemic,
the Christianisme dévoilé, opens the stern impeachment of kings and
rulers which he develops so powerfully in the Essai sur les Préjugés;
and the Encyclopédie sent its search-rays over all the fields of
inquiry. But of the manifold work done by the French intellect in
the second and third generations of the eighteenth century, the
most copious and the most widely influential body of writings that
can be put under one category is that of which we have above made a
chronological conspectus.

Of these works the merit is of course very various; but the total
effect of the propaganda was formidable, and some of the treatises
are extremely effective. The Examen critique of Burigny, [1031] for
instance, which quickly won a wide circulation when printed, is one of
the most telling attacks thus far made on the Christian system, raising
as it does most of the issues fought over by modern criticism. It
tells indeed of a whole generation of private investigation and
debate; and the Abbé Bergier, assuming it to be the work of Fréret,
in whose name it is published, avows that its author "has written
it in the same style as his academic dissertations: he has spread
over it the same erudition; he seems to have read everything and
mastered everything." [1032] Perhaps not the least effective part
of the book is the chapter which asks: "Are men more perfect since
the coming of Jesus Christ?"; and it is here that the clerical reply
is most feeble. The critic cites the claims made by apologists as
to the betterment of life by Christianity, and then contrasts with
those claims the thousand-and-one lamentations by Christian writers
over the utter badness of all the life around them. Bergier in reply
follows the tactic habitually employed in the same difficulty to-day:
he ignores the fact that his own apologists have been claiming a vast
betterment, and contends that religion is not to be blamed for the
evils it condemns. Not by such furtive sophistry could the Church
turn the attack, which, as Bergier bitterly observes, was being made
by Voltaire in a new book every year.

As always, the weaker side of the critical propaganda is its effort at
reconstruction. As in England, so in France, the faithful accused the
critics of "pulling down without building up," when in point of fact
their chief error was to build up--that is, to rewrite the history
of human thought--before they had the required materials, or had even
mastered those which existed. Thus Voltaire and Rousseau alike framed
à priori syntheses of the origins of religion and society. But there
were closer thinkers than they in the rationalistic ranks. Fontenelle's
essay De l'origine des fables, though not wholly exempt from error,
admittedly lays aright the foundations of mythology and hierology;
and De Brosses in his treatise Du Culte des dieux fétiches (1760)
does a similar service on the side of anthropology. Meister's essay
De l'origine des principes religieux is full of insight and breadth;
and, despite some errors due to the backwardness of anthropology,
essentially scientific in temper and standpoint. His later essay,
De la morale naturelle, shows the same independence and fineness of
speculation, seeming indeed to tell of a character which missed fame
by reason of over-delicacy of fibre and lack of the driving force
which marked the foremost men of that tempestuous time. Vauvenargues's
essay De la suffisance de la religion naturelle is no less clinching,
granted its deism. So, on the side of philosophy, Mirabaud, who was
secretary of the Académie from 1742 to 1755, handles the problem of the
relation of deism to ethics--if the posthumous essays in the Recueil
philosophique be indeed his--in a much more philosophic fashion than
does Voltaire, arguing unanswerably for the ultimate self-dependence
of morals. The Lettre de Thrasybule à Leucippe, ascribed to Fréret,
again, is a notably skilful attack on theism.

14. One of the most remarkable of the company in some respects is
Nicolas-Antoine Boulanger (1722-1759), of whom Diderot gives a vivid
account in a sketch prefixed to the posthumous L'Antiquité dévoilée par
ses usages (1766). At the Collège de Beauvais, Boulanger was so little
stimulated by his scholastic teachers that they looked for nothing from
him in his maturity. When, however, at the age of seventeen, he began
to study mathematics and architecture, his faculties began to develop;
and the life, first of a military engineer in 1743-44, and later
in the service of the notable department of Roads and Bridges--the
most efficient of all State services under Louis XV--made him an
independent and energetic thinker. The chronic spectacle of the corvée,
the forced labour of peasants on the roads, moved him to indignation;
but he sought peace in manifold study, the engineer's contact with
nature arousing in him all manner of speculations, geological and
sociological. Seeking for historic light, he mastered Latin, which he
had failed to do at school, reading widely and voraciously; and when
the Latins failed to yield him the light he craved he systematically
mastered Greek, reading the Greeks as hungrily and with as little
satisfaction. Then he turned indefatigably to Hebrew, Syriac, and
Arabic, gleaning at best verbal clues which at length he wrought into
a large, loose, imaginative yet immensely erudite schema of ancient
social evolution, in which the physicist's pioneer study of the
structure and development of the globe controls the anthropologist's
guesswork as to the beginnings of human society. The whole is set forth
in the bulky posthumous work Recherches sur l'origine du despotisme
oriental (1761), and in the further treatise L'antiquité dévoilée
(3 tom. 1766), which is but the concluding section of the first-named.

It all yields nothing to modern science; the unwearying research
is all carried on, as it were, in the dark; and the sleepless
brain of the pioneer can but weave webs of impermanent speculation
from masses of unsifted and unmanageable material. Powers which
to-day, on a prepared ground of ascertained science, might yield
the greatest results, were wasted in a gigantic effort to build a
social science out of the chaos of undeciphered antiquity, natural
and human. But the man is nonetheless morally memorable. Diderot
pictures him with a head Socratically ugly, simple and innocent of
life, gentle though vivacious, reading Rabbinical Hebrew in his
walks on the high roads, suffering all his life from "domestic
persecution," "little contradictory though infinitely learned,"
and capable of passing in a moment, on the stimulus of a new idea,
into a state of profound and entranced absorption. Diderot is always
enthusiastically generous in praise; but in reading and reviewing
Boulanger's work we can hardly refuse assent to his friend's claim
that "if ever man has shown in his career the true characters of
genius, it was he." His immense research was all compassed in a life
of thirty-seven years, occupied throughout in an active profession;
and the diction in which he sets forth his imaginative construction
of the past reveals a constant intensity of thought rarely combined
with scholarly knowledge. But it was an age of concentrated energy,
carrying in its womb the Revolution. The perusal of Boulanger is a
sufficient safeguard against the long-cherished hallucination that
the French freethinking of his age was but a sparkle of raillery.

Even among some rationalists, however, who are content to take
hearsay report on these matters, there appears still to subsist a
notion that the main body of the French freethinkers of the eighteenth
century were mere scoffers, proceeding upon no basis of knowledge and
with no concern for research. Such an opinion is possible only to
those who have not examined their work. To say nothing more of the
effort of Boulanger, an erudition much more exact than Voltaire's
and a deeper insight than his and Rousseau's into the causation of
primitive religion inspires the writings of men like Burigny and
Fréret on the one hand, and Fontenelle and Meister on the other. The
philosophic reach of Diderot, one of the most convinced opponents
of the ruling religion, was recognized by Goethe. And no critic of
the "philosophes" handled more uncompromisingly than did Dumarsais
[1033] the vanity of the assumption that a man became a philosopher
by merely setting himself in opposition to orthodox belief. Dumarsais,
long scholastically famous for his youthful treatise Des Tropes, lived
up to his standard, whatever some of the more eminent philosophes may
have done, being found eminently lovable by pietists who knew him;
while for D'Alembert he was "the La Fontaine of the philosophers"
in virtue of his lucid simplicity of style. [1034] The Analyse de la
religion chrétienne printed under his name in some editions of the
Évangile de la Raison has been pronounced supposititious. It seems
to be the work of at least two hands [1035] of different degrees
of instruction; but, apart from some errors due to one of these,
it does him no discredit, being a vigorous criticism of Scriptural
contradictions and anomalies, such as a "Jansenist atheist" might
well compose, though it makes the usual profession of deistic belief.

Later polemic works, inspired by those above noticed, reproduce some
of their arguments, but with an advance in literary skill, as in the
anonymous Bon Sens given forth (1772) by Diderot and d'Holbach as the
work of Jean Meslier, but really an independent compilation, embodying
other arguments with his, and putting the whole with a concision
and brilliancy to which he could make no approach. Prémontval, a
bad writer, [1036] contrives nonetheless to say many pungent things
of a deistic order in his Diogène de d'Alembert, and, following
Marie Huber, puts forward the formula of religion versus theology,
which has done so much duty in the nineteenth century. Of the whole
literature it is not too much to say that it covered cogently most
of the important grounds of latter-day debate, from the questions of
revelation and the doctrine of torments to the bases of ethics and the
problem of deity; and it would be hard to show that the nineteenth
century has handled the main issues with more sincerity, lucidity,
or logic than were attained by Frenchmen in the eighteenth. To-day, no
doubt, in the light of a century and a-half of scientific, historic,
and philosophic accumulation, the rationalist case is put with more
profundity and accuracy by many writers than it could be in the
eighteenth century. But we have to weigh the freethinkers of that
age against their opponents, and the French performers against those
of other countries, to make a fair estimate. When this is done their
credit is safe. When German and other writers say with Tholuck that
"unbelief entered Germany not by the weapons of mere wit and scoffing
as in France; it grounded itself on learned research," [1037] they
merely prove their ignorance of French culture-history. An abundance
of learned research in France preceded the triumphant campaign
of Voltaire, who did most of the witty writing on the subject; and
whose light artillery was to the last reinforced by the heavier guns
of d'Holbach. It is only in the analysis of the historical problem
by the newer tests of anthropology and hierology, and in the light
of latterly discovered documents, that our generation has made much
advance on the strenuous pioneers of the age of Voltaire. And even
in the field of anthropology the sound thinking of Fontenelle and
De Brosses long preceded any equally valid work by rationalists in
Germany; though Spencer of Cambridge had preceded them in his work
of constructive orthodoxy.

15. Though the bibliographers claim to have traced the authorship in
most cases, such works were in the first instance generally published
anonymously, [1038] as were those of Voltaire, d'Holbach, and the
leading freethinkers; and the clerical policy of suppression had
the result of leaving them generally unanswered, save in anonymous
writings, when they nevertheless got into private circulation. It was
generally impolitic that an official answer should appear to a book
which was officially held not to exist; so that the orthodox defence
was long confined mainly to the classic performances of Pascal,
Bossuet, Huet, Fénelon, and some outsiders such as the Protestant
Abbadie, who settled first in Berlin and later in London. The polemic
of every one of the writers named is a work of ability; even that of
Abbadie (Traité de la Vérité de la religion chrétienne, 1684), though
now little known, was in its day much esteemed. [1039] In the age of
Louis XIV those classic answers to unbelief were by believers held
to be conclusive; and thus far the French defence was certainly more
thorough and philosophical than the English. But French freethought,
which in Herbert's day had given the lead to English, now drew new
energy from the English growth; and the general arguments of the
old apologists did not explicitly meet the new attack. Their books
having been written to meet the mostly unpublished objections of
previous generations, the Church through its chosen policy had the
air of utter inability to confute the newer propaganda, though some
apologetic treatises of fair power did appear, in particular those
of the Abbé Bergier. [1040] By the avowal of a Christian historian,
"So low had the talents of the once illustrious Church of France fallen
that in the latter part of the eighteenth century, when Christianity
itself was assailed, not one champion of note appeared in its ranks;
and when the convocation of the clergy, in 1770, published their
famous anathema against the dangers of unbelief, and offered rewards
for the best essays in defence of the Christian faith, the productions
called forth were so despicable that they sensibly injured the cause
of religion." [1041]

The freethinking attack, in fact, had now become overwhelming. After
the suppression of the Jesuit Order (1764) [1042] the press grew
practically more and more free; and when, after the accession of Pope
Clement XIV (1769), the freethinking books circulated with less and
less restraint, Bergier extended his attack on deism, and deists and
clerics joined in answering the atheistic Système de la Nature of
d'Holbach. But by this time the deistic books were legion, and the
political battle over the taxation of Church property had become
the more pressing problem, especially seeing that the mass of the
people remained conforming. The manifesto of the clergy in 1770 was
accompanied by an address to the king "On the evil results of liberty
of thought and printing," following up a previous appeal by the pope;
[1043] and in consideration of the donation by the clergy of sixteen
million livres the Government recommended the Parlement of Paris
to proceed against impious books. There seems accordingly to have
been some hindrance to publication for a year or two; but in 1772
appeared the Bon Sens of d'Holbach and Diderot; and there was no
further serious check, the Jesuits being disbanded by the pope in 1773.


    The English view that French orthodoxy made a "bad" defence
    to the freethinking attack as compared with what was done in
    England (Sir J. F. Stephen, Horæ Sabbaticæ, 2nd. ser. p. 281;
    Alison, as cited above) proceeds on some misconception of the
    circumstances, which, as has been shown, were substantially
    different in the two countries. Could the English clergy have
    resorted to official suppression of deistic literature, they
    too would doubtless have done so. Swift and Berkeley bitterly
    desired to. But the view that the English defence was relatively
    "good," and that Butler's in particular was decisive, is also,
    as we have seen, fallacious. In Sir Leslie Stephen's analysis,
    as apart from his preamble, the orthodox defence is exhibited as
    generally weak, and often absurd. Nothing could be more futile
    than the three "Pastoral Letters" published by the Bishop of
    London (1728, 1730, 1731) as counterblasts to the freethinking
    books of this period. In France the defence began sooner, and
    was more profound and even more methodical. Pascal at least went
    deeper, and Bossuet (in his Discours sur l'Histoire Universelle)
    more widely, into certain inward and outward problems of the
    controversy than did any of the English apologists; Huet produced,
    in his Demonstratio Evangelica, one of the most methodical of all
    the defensive treatises of the time; Abbadie, as before noted,
    gave great satisfaction, and certainly grappled zealously with
    Hobbes and Spinoza; Allix, though no great dialectician, gave a
    lead to English apologetics against the deists (above, p. 97),
    and was even adapted by Paley; and Fénelon, though his Traité de
    l'Existence et des Attributs de Dieu (1712) and Lettres sur la
    Religion (1716) are not very powerful processes of reasoning,
    contributed through his reproduced conversations (1710) with
    Ramsay a set of arguments at least as plausible as anything on
    the English side, and, what is more notable, marked by an amenity
    which almost no English apologist attained.

    The ground had been thus very fully covered by the defence in
    France before the main battle in England began; and when a new
    French campaign commenced with Voltaire, the defence against
    that incomparable attack, so far as the system allowed of any,
    was probably as good as it could have been made in England, save
    insofar as the Protestants gave up modern miracles, while most of
    the Catholics claimed them for their Church. Counterblasts such
    as the essay of Linguet, Le Fanatisme des Philosophes (1764),
    were but general indictments of rationalism; and other apologetic
    treatises, as we saw, handled only the most prominent books on
    the other side. It should be noted, too, that as late as 1764
    the police made it almost impossible to obtain in Paris works
    of Voltaire recently printed in Holland (Grimm, vii, 123, 133,
    434). But, as Paley admitted with reference to Gibbon ("Who can
    refute a sneer?"), the new attack was in any case very hard to
    meet. A sneer is not hard to refute when it is unfounded, inasmuch
    as it implies a proposition, which can be rebutted or turned by
    another sneer. The Anglican Church had been well enough pleased by
    the polemic sneers of Swift and Berkeley; but the other side had
    the heavier guns, and of the mass of defences produced in England
    nothing remains save in the neat compilation of Paley. Alison's
    whole avowal might equally well apply to anything produced in
    England as against Voltaire. The skeptical line of argument for
    faith had been already employed by Huet and Pascal and Fénelon,
    with visibly small success; Berkeley had achieved nothing with
    it as against English deism; and Butler had no such effect in his
    day in England as to induce French Catholics to use him. (He does
    not appear to have been translated into French till 1821.)

    An Oratorian priest, again, translated the anti-deistic essays
    of President Forbes; and the Pensées Theologiques relatives aux
    erreurs du temps of Père Jamin (1768; 4e édit. 1773) were thought
    worthy of being translated into German, poor as they were. With
    their empty affirmation of authority they suggest so much blank
    cartridge, which could avail nothing with thinking men; and here
    doubtless the English defence makes a better impression. But,
    on the other hand, Voltaire circulated widely in England, and was
    no better answered there than in France. His attack was, in truth,
    at many points peculiarly baffling, were it only by its inimitable
    wit. The English replies to Spinoza, again, were as entirely
    inefficient or deficient as the French; the only intelligent
    English answers to Hume on Miracles (the replies on other issues
    were of no account) made use of the French investigations of the
    Jansenist miracles; and the replies to Gibbon were in general
    ignominious failures.

    Finally, though the deeper reasonings of Diderot were over the
    heads alike of the French and the English clergy, the Système
    de la Nature of d'Holbach was met skilfully enough at many
    points by G. J. Holland (1772), who, though not a Frenchman,
    wrote excellent French, and supplied for French readers a
    very respectable rejoinder; [1044] whereas in England there was
    practically none. In this case, of course, the defence was deistic;
    as was that of Voltaire, who criticized d'Holbach as Bolingbroke
    attacked Spinoza and Hobbes. But the Examen du Matérialisme of the
    Abbé Bergier (1771), who was a member of the Academy of Sciences,
    was at least as good as anything that could then have been done in
    the Church of England; and the same may be said of his reply to
    Fréret's (really Burigny's) Examen. It is certainly poor enough;
    but Bishop Watson used some of its arguments for his reply to
    Paine. Broadly speaking, as we have said, much more of French
    than of English intelligence had been turned to the dispute
    in the third quarter of the century. In England, political and
    industrial discussion relieved the pressure on creed; in France,
    before the Revolution, the whole habit of absolutism tended to
    restrict discussion to questions of creed; and the attack would
    in any case have had the best of it, because it embodied all
    the critical forces hitherto available. The controversy thus
    went much further than the pre-Humian issues raised in England;
    and the English orthodoxy of the end of the century was, in
    comparison, intellectually as weak as politically and socially it
    was strong. In France, from the first, the greater intellectual
    freedom in social intercourse, exemplified in the readiness of
    women to declare themselves freethinkers (cp. Jamin, as cited,
    ch. xix, § 1), would have made the task of the apologists harder
    even had they been more competent.


16. Above the scattered band of minor combatants rises a group of
writers of special power, several of whom, without equalling Voltaire
in ubiquity of influence, rivalled him in intellectual power and
industry. The names of Diderot, D'Holbach, D'Alembert, Helvétius, and
Condorcet are among the first in literary France of the generation
before the Revolution; after them come Volney and Dupuis; and in
touch with the whole series stands the line of great mathematicians
and physicists (to which also belongs D'Alembert), Laplace, Lagrange,
Lalande, Delambre. When to these we add the names of Montesquieu,
Buffon, Chamfort, Rivarol, Vauvenargues; of the materialists La Mettrie
and Cabanis; of the philosophers Condillac and Destutt de Tracy; of
the historian Raynal; of the poet André Chénier; of the politicians
Turgot, Mirabeau, Danton, Desmoulins, Robespierre--all (save perhaps
Raynal) deists or else pantheists or atheists--it becomes clear that
the intelligence of France was predominantly rationalistic before
the Revolution, though the mass of the nation certainly was not.


    It is necessary to deprecate Mr. Lecky's statement (Rationalism
    in Europe, i, 176) that "Raynal has taken, with Diderot, a place
    in French literature which is probably permanent"--an estimate as
    far astray as the declaration on the same page that the English
    deists are buried in "unbroken silence." Raynal's vogue in his
    day was indeed immense (cp. Morley, Diderot, ch. xv); and Edmond
    Scherer (Études sur la litt. du 18e Siècle, 1891, pp. 277-78) held
    that Raynal's Histoire philosophique des deux Indes had had more
    influence on the French Revolution than even Rousseau's Contrat
    Social. But the book has long been discredited (cp. Scherer,
    pp. 275-76). A biographical Dictionary of 1844 spoke of it as
    "cet ouvrage ampoulé qu'on ne lit pas aujourd'hui." Although the
    first edition (1770) passed the censure only by means of bribery,
    and the second (1780) was publicly burned, and its author forced to
    leave France, he was said to reject, in religion, "only the pope,
    hell, and monks" (Scherer, p. 286); and most of the anti-religious
    declamation in the first edition of the Histoire is said to be
    from the pen of Diderot, who wrote it very much at random, at
    Raynal's request.


No list of orthodox names remotely comparable with these can be drawn
from the literature of France, or indeed of any other country of that
time. Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), the one other pre-eminent
figure, though not an anti-Christian propagandist, is distinctly on
the side of deism. In the Contrat Social, [1045] writing with express
approbation of Hobbes, he declares that "the Christian law is at bottom
more injurious than useful to the sound constitution of the State"; and
even the famous Confession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar in the Émile is
anti-revelationist, and practically anti-clerical. He was accordingly
anathematized by the Sorbonne, which found in Émile nineteen heresies;
the book was seized and burned both at Paris and at Geneva within a few
weeks of its appearance, [1046] and the author decreed to be arrested;
even the Contrat Social was seized and its vendors imprisoned. All
the while he had maintained in Émile doctrines of the usefulness of
religious delusion and fanaticism. Still, although his temperamental
way of regarding things has a clear affinity with some later religious
philosophy of a more systematic sort, he undoubtedly made for
freethought as well as for the revolutionary spirit in general. Thus
the cause of Christianity stood almost denuded of intellectually
eminent adherents in the France of 1789; for even among the writers
who had dealt with public questions without discussing religion, or
who had criticized Rousseau and the philosophes--as the Abbés Mably,
Morellet, Millot--the tone was essentially rationalistic.


    It has been justly enough argued, concerning Rousseau (see
    below, p. 287), that the generation of the Revolution made him
    its prophet in his own despite, and that had he lived twenty
    years longer he would have been its vehement adversary. But this
    does not alter the facts as to his influence. A great writer of
    emotional genius, like Rousseau, inevitably impels men beyond the
    range of his own ideals, as in recent times Ruskin and Tolstoy,
    both anti-Socialists, have led thousands towards Socialism. In
    his own generation and the next, Rousseau counted essentially for
    criticism of the existing order; and it was the revolutionaries,
    never the conservatives, who acclaimed him. De Tocqueville
    (Hist. philos. du règne de Louis XV, 1849, i, 33) speaks of his
    "impiété dogmatique." Martin du Theil, in his J. J. Rousseau
    apologiste de la religion chrétienne (2e édit. 1840), makes out
    his case by identifying emotional deism with Christianity, as did
    Rousseau himself when he insisted that "the true Christianity
    is only natural religion well explained." Rousseau's praise of
    the gospel and of the character of Jesus was such as many deists
    acquiesced in. Similar language, in the mouth of Matthew Arnold,
    gave rather more offence to Gladstone, as a believing Christian,
    than did the language of simple unbelief; and a recent Christian
    polemist, at the close of a copious monograph, has repudiated the
    association of Rousseau with the faith (see J. F. Nourrisson,
    J. J. Rousseau et le Rousseauisme, 1903, p. 497 sq.). What
    is true of him is that he was more religiously a theist than
    Voltaire, whose impeachment of Providence in the poem on the
    Earthquake of Lisbon he sought strenuously though not very
    persuasively to refute in a letter to the author. But, with
    all his manifold inconsistencies, which may be worked down
    to the neurosis so painfully manifest in his life and in his
    relations to his contemporaries, he never writes as a believer
    in the dogmas of Christianity or in the principle of revelation;
    and it was as a deist that he was recognized by his Christian
    contemporaries. A demi-Christian is all that Michelet will call
    him. His compatriot the Swiss pastor Roustan, located in London,
    directed against him his Offrande aux Autels et à la Patrie, ou
    Défense du Christianisme (1764), regarding him as an assailant. The
    work of the Abbé Bergier, Le Déisme refuté par lui-même (1765,
    and later), takes the form of letters addressed to Rousseau, and
    is throughout an attack on his works, especially the Émile. When,
    therefore, Buckle (1-vol. ed. p. 475) speaks of him as not having
    attacked Christianity, and Lord Morley (Rousseau, ch. xiv) treats
    him as creating a religious reaction against the deists, they do
    not fully represent his influence on his time. As we have seen,
    he stimulated Voltaire to new audacities by his example.


17. An interlude in the critical campaign, little noticed at the time,
developed importance a generation later. In 1753 Jean Astruc, doctor
of medicine, published after long hesitation his Conjectures on the
original documents which Moses seems to have used in composing the
book of Genesis. Only in respect of his flash of insight into the
composite structure of the Pentateuch was Astruc a freethinker. His
hesitation to publish was due to his fear that les pretendus esprits
forts might make a bad use of his work; and he was quite satisfied
that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch as it stands. The denial
of that authorship, implied in the criticisms of Hobbes and Spinoza,
he described as "the disease of the last century." This attitude may
explain the lack of interest in Astruc's work shown by the freethinkers
of the time. [1047] Nonetheless, by his perception of the clue given
by the narrative use of the two names Yahweh and Elohim in Genesis,
he laid a new foundation of the Higher Criticism of the Bible in modern
times, advancing alike on Spinoza and on Simon. For freethought he had
"builded better than he knew."

18. In the select Parisian arena of the Académie, the intellectual
movement of the age is as it were dramatized; and there more clearly
than in the literary record we can trace the struggle of opinions,
from the admission of Voltaire (1746) onwards. In the old days
the Académie had been rather the home of convention, royalism,
and orthodoxy than of ideas, though before Voltaire there were some
freethinking members of the lesser Académies, notably Boindin. [1048]
The admission of Montesquieu (1728), after much opposition from
the court, preludes a new era; and from the entrance of Voltaire,
fourteen years after his first attempt, [1049] the atmosphere begins
perceptibly to change. When, in 1727, the academician Bonamy had read
a memoir On the character and the paganism of the emperor Julian,
partly vindicating him against the aspersions of the Christian Fathers,
the Academy feared to print the paper, though its author was a devout
Catholic. [1050] When the Abbé La Bletterie, also orthodox, read to
the Academy portions of his Vie de Julien, the members were not now
scandalized, though the Abbé's Jansenism moved the King to veto his
nomination. So, when Blanchard in 1735 read a memoir on Les exorcismes
magiques there was much trepidation among the members, and again the
Secretary inserted merely an analysis, concluding with the words of
Philetas, "Believe and fear God; beware of questioning." [1051] Even
such a play of criticism as the challenging of the early history
of Rome by Lévesque de Pouilly (brother of Lévesque de Burigny)
in a dissertation before the Académie in 1722, roused the fears and
the resentment of the orthodox; the Abbé Sallier, in undertaking to
refute him, insinuated that he had shown a spirit which might be
dangerous to other beliefs; and whispers of atheism passed among
the academicians. [1052] Pouilly, who had been made a freethinker
by English contacts, went again to England later, and spent his last
years at Rheims. [1053] His thesis was much more powerfully sustained
in 1738 by Beaufort, in the famous dissertation Sur l'incertitude des
cinq premiers siècles de l'histoire romaine; but Beaufort was of a
refugee-Huguenot stock; his book was published, under his initials,
at Utrecht; and not till 1753 did the Académie award him a medal--on
the score of an earlier treatise. And in 1748 the Religio veterum
Persarum of the English Orientalist Hyde, published as long before
as 1700, found a vehement assailant within the Academy in the Abbé
Foucher, who saw danger in a favourable view of any heathen religion.

Yet even in the time of Louis XIV the Abbé Mongault, tutor of the son
of the Regent, and noted alike for his private freethinking and for
the rigid orthodoxy which he instilled into his pupil, treated the
historic subject of the divine honours rendered to Roman governors
with such latitude as to elicit from Fréret, in his éloge of Mongault,
the remark that the tutor had reserved to himself a liberty of thought
which he doubtless felt to be dangerous in a prince. [1054] And after
1750 the old order can be seen passing away. D'Argenson notes in his
diary in 1754: "I observe in the Académie de belles-lettres, of which
I am a member, that there begins to be a decided stir against the
priests. It began to show itself at the death of Boindin, to whom our
bigots refused a service at the Oratory and a public commemoration. Our
deist philosophers were shocked, and ever since, at each election,
they are on guard against the priests and the bigots. Nowhere is
this division so marked, and it begins to bear fruits." [1055] The
old statesman indicates his own sympathies by adding: "Why has a bad
name been made of the title of deist? It is that of those who have
true religion in their hearts, and who have abjured a superstition
that is destructive to the whole world." It was in this year that
D'Alembert, who took nearly as much pains to stay out as Voltaire
had done to enter, [1056] was elected a member; and with two leading
encyclopédistes in the forty, and a friendly abbé (Duclos) in the
secretaryship (1755), and another zealous freethinker, Lévesque de
Burigny, admitted in 1756, [1057] the fortunes of freethought were
visibly rising. Its influence was thrown on the side of the academic
orator Thomas, a sincere believer but a hater of all persecution,
and as such offensive to the Church party. [1058]

19. In 1759 there came a check. The Encyclopédie, which had been
allowed to resume publication after its first suppression in 1752,
was again stopped; and the battle between philosophes and fanatics,
dramatized for the time being in Palissot's comedy Les Philosophes
and in Voltaire's rejoinder to Fréron, L'Écossaise, came to be
fought out in the Academy itself. The poet Lefranc de Pompignan,
[1059] elected in 1759 without any opposition from the freethinkers,
had in his youth translated Pope's "Deist's Prayer," and had suffered
for it to the extent of being deprived by D'Aguesseau of his official
charge [1060] for six months. With such a past, with a keen concern
for status, and with a character that did not stick at tergiversation,
Pompignan saw fit to signalize his election by making his discours
de réception (March, 1760) a violent attack on the whole philosophic
school, which, in his conclusion, he declared to be undermining
"equally the throne and the altar." The academicians heard him
out in perfect silence, leaving it to the few pietists among the
audience to applaud; but as soon as the reports reached Ferney there
began the vengeance of Voltaire. First came a leaflet of stinging
sentences, each beginning with Quand: "When one has translated
and even exaggerated the 'Deist's Prayer' composed by Pope ...,"
and so on. The maddened Pompignan addressed a fatuous memorial to
the King (who notoriously hated the philosophes, and had assented
only under petticoat influence to Voltaire's election [1061]); and,
presuming to print it without the usual official sanction, suffered
at the hands of Malesherbes the blow of having the printer's plant
smashed. Other combatants entered the fray. Voltaire's leaflet "les
quand" was followed by "les si, les pour, les qui, les quoi, les car,
les ah!"--by him or others--and the master-mocker produced in swift
succession three satires in verse, [1062] all accompanied by murderous
prose annotations. The speedy result was Pompignan's retirement into
provincial life. He could not face the merciless hail of rejoinders;
and when at his death, twenty-five years later, the Abbé Maury had
to pronounce his éloge, the mention of his famous humiliation was
hardly tempered by compassion. [1063]

20. Voltaire could not compass, as he for a time schemed, the election
of Diderot; but other philosophes of less note entered from time
to time; [1064] Marmontel was elected in 1763; and when in 1764
the Academy's prize for poetry was given to Chamfort for a piece
which savoured of what were then called "the detestable principles
of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Helvétius," and in 1768 its prize for
eloquence went to the same writer, the society as a whole had acquired
a certain character for impiety. [1065] In 1767 there had occurred
the famous ecclesiastical explosion over Marmontel's philosophic
romance Bélisaire, a performance in which it is somewhat difficult
to-day to detect any exciting quality. It was by a chapter in praise
of toleration that the "universal and mediocre Marmontel" [1066]
secured from the Sorbonne the finest advertisement ever given to a
work of fiction, the ecclesiastics of the old school being still too
thoroughly steeped in the past to realize that a gospel of persecution
was a bad warcry for a religion that was being more and more put on the
defensive. Only an angry fear before the rising flood of unlicensed
literature, combining with the long-baffled desire to strike some
blow at freethinking, could have moved the Sorbonne to select for
censure the duly licensed work [1067] of a popular academician and
novelist; and it should be remembered that it was at a time of great
activity in the unlicensed production of freethinking literature
that the attack was made. The blow recoiled signally. The book
was of course promptly translated into all the languages of Europe,
selling by tens of thousands; [1068] and two sovereigns took occasion
to give it their express approval. These were the Empress Catherine
(who caused the book to be translated by members of her court while
she was making a tour of her empire, she herself taking a chapter),
and the Empress Maria-Theresa. From Catherine, herself a freethinker,
the approbation might have been expected; but the known orthodoxy
and austerity of Maria-Theresa made her support the more telling. In
France a small literary tempest raged for a year. Marmontel published
his correspondence with the syndic of the Sorbonne and with Voltaire;
and in all there appeared some dozen documents pro and con, among
them an anonymous satire by Turgot, Les xxxvii verités opposées aux
xxxvii impiétés de Bélisaire, "Par un Bachelier Ubiquiste," [1069]
which, with the contributions of Voltaire, gave the victim very much
the best of the battle.

21. Alongside of the more strictly literary or humanist movement,
too, there went on one of a scientific kind, which divided into two
lines, a speculative and a practical. On the former the freelance
philosopher Julien Offray la Mettrie gave a powerful initial push by
his materialistic theses, in which a medical knowledge that for the
time was advanced is applied with a very keen if unsystematic reasoning
faculty to the primary problem of mind and body; and others after
him continued the impulse. La Mettrie produced his Natural History
of the Mind in 1745; [1070] and in 1746 appeared the Essay on the
Origin of Human Knowledge of the Abbé Condillac, both essentially
rationalistic and anti-theological works, though differing in their
psychological positions, Condillac being a non-materialist, though
a strong upholder of "sensism." La Mettrie followed up his doctrine
with the more definitely materialistic but less heedfully planned
works, L'Homme Plante and L'Homme Machine (1748), the second of which,
published at Leyden [1071] and wickedly dedicated to the pious Baron
von Haller, was burned by order of the magistrates, its author being
at the same time expelled from Holland. Both books are remarkable
for their originality of thought, biological and ethical. Though
La Mettrie professed to think the "greatest degree of probability"
was in favour of the existence of a personal God, [1072] his other
writings gave small support to the hypothesis; and even in putting
it he rejects any inference as to worship. And he goes on to quote
very placidly an atheist who insists that only an atheistic world can
attain to happiness. It is notable that he, the typical materialist of
his age, seems to have been one of its kindliest men, by the consent
of all who knew him, [1073] though heedless in his life to the point
of ending it by eating a monstrous meal out of bravado.


    The conventional denunciation of La Mettrie (endorsed by Lord
    Morley, Voltaire, p. 122) proceeds ostensibly upon those of his
    writings in which he discussed sexual questions with absolute
    scientific freedom. He, however, insisted that his theoretic
    discussion had nothing whatever to do with his practice; and there
    is no evidence that he lived otherwise than as most men did in his
    age, and ours. Still, the severe censure passed on him by Diderot
    (Essai sur les règnes de Claude et de Néron, ed. 1782, ii, 22-24)
    seems to convict him of at least levity of character. Voltaire
    several times holds the same tone. But Diderot writes so angrily
    that his verdict incurs suspicion.

    As Lange notes, there has been much loose generalization as to
    the place and bearing of La Mettrie in the history of French
    thought. Hettner, who apparently had not thought it worth while
    to read him, has ascribed his mental movement to the influence
    of Diderot's Pensées philosophiques (1746), whereas it had
    begun in his own Histoire naturelle de l'âme, published a year
    before. La Mettrie's originality and influence in general have been
    underestimated as a result of the hostility set up by disparagement
    of his character. The idea of a fundamental unity of type in
    nature--an idea underlying all the successive steps of Lamarck,
    Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, Goethe, and others, towards the complete
    conception of evolution--is set forth by him in L'Homme Plante in
    1748, the year in which appeared De Maillet's Telliamed. Buffon
    follows in time as in thought, only beginning his great work
    in 1749; Maupertuis, with his pseudonymous dissertation on the
    Universal system of Nature, applies La Mettrie's conception in
    1751; and Diderot's Pensées sur l'interprétation de la nature,
    stimulated by Maupertuis, appeared only in 1754. La Mettrie
    proceeded from the classification of Linnæus, but did not
    there find his idea. In the words of Lange, "these forgotten
    writings are in nowise so empty and superficial as is commonly
    assumed." Gesch. des Materialismus, i, 328-29. Lange seems to
    have been the first to make a judicial study of La Mettrie's work,
    as distinguished from the scandals about his character.


22. A more general influence, naturally, attached to the
simple concrete handling of scientific problems. The interest
in such questions, noticeable in England at the Restoration
and radiating thence, is seen widely diffused in France after
the publication of Fontenelle's Entretiens, and thenceforward it
rapidly strengthens. Barren theological disputations set men not
merely against theology, but upon the study of Nature, where real
knowledge was visibly possible. To a certain extent the study took
openly heretical lines. The Abbé Lenglet du Fresnoy, who was four
times imprisoned in the Bastille, supplied material of which D'Argens
made much use, tending to overthrow the Biblical chronology and to
discredit the story of the Flood. [1074] Benoît de Maillet (1656-1738),
who had been for fifteen years inspector of the French establishments
in Egypt and Barbary, left for posthumous publication (1748) a work
of which the first title was an anagram of his name, Telliamed, ou
Entretiens d'un philosophe indien avec un missionaire français. Of
this treatise the thesis is that the shell deposits in the Alps and
elsewhere showed the sea to have been where land now was; and that the
rocks were gradually deposited in their different kinds in the fashion
in which even now are being formed mud, sand, and shingle. De Maillet
had thus anticipated the central conception of modern geology, albeit
retaining many traditional delusions. His abstention from publication
during his lifetime testifies to his sense of the danger he underwent,
the treatise having been printed by him only in 1735, at the age of
seventy-nine; and not till ten years after his death was it given to
the world, with "a preface and dedication so worded as, in case of
necessity, to give the printer a fair chance of falling back on the
excuse that the work was intended for a mere jeu d'esprit." [1075]

The thesis was adopted, indeed plagiarized, [1076] by Mirabaud in
his Le Monde, son origine et son antiquité (1751). Strangely enough,
Voltaire refused to be convinced, and offered amazing suggestions
as to the possible deposit of shells by pilgrims. [1077] It is not
unlikely that it was Voltaire's opposition rather than any orthodox
argumentation that retarded in France the acceptance of an evolutionary
view of the origin of the earth and of life. It probably had a more
practical effect on scientific thought in England [1078]--at least
as regards geology: its speculations on the modification of species,
which loosely but noticeably anticipate some of the inferences of
Darwin, found no acceptance anywhere till Lamarck. In the opinion
of Huxley, the speculations of Robinet, in the next generation, "are
rather behind than in advance of those of De Maillet"; [1079] and it
may be added that the former, with his pet theory that all Nature
is "animated," and that the stars and planets have the faculty of
reproducing themselves like animals, wandered as far from sound bases
as De Maillet ever did. The very form of De Maillet's work, indeed,
was not favourable to its serious acceptance; and in his case, as in
those of so many pioneers of new ideas, errors and extravagances and
oversights in regard to matters of detail went to justify "practical"
men in dismissing novel speculations. Needless to say, the common run
of scientific men remained largely under the influence of religious
presuppositions in science even when they had turned their backs
on the Church. Nonetheless, on all sides the study of natural fact
began to play its part in breaking down the dominion of creed. Even
in hidebound Protestant Switzerland, the sheer ennui of Puritanism is
seen driving the descendants of the Huguenot refugees to the physical
sciences for an interest and an occupation, before any freethinking
can safely be avowed; and in France, as Buckle has shown in abundant
detail, the study of the physical sciences became for many years
before the Revolution almost a fashionable mania. And at the start
the Church had contrived that such study should rank as unbelief,
and so make unbelievers.

When Buffon [1080] in 1749-50 published his Histoire Naturelle,
the delight which was given to most readers by its finished style
was paralleled by the wrath which its Théorie de la Terre aroused
among the clergy. After much discussion Buffon received early in 1751
from the Sorbonne an official letter specifying as reprehensible in
his book fourteen propositions which he was invited to retract. He
stoically obeyed in a declaration to the effect that he had "no
intention to contradict the text of Scripture," and that he believed
"most firmly all there related about the creation," adding: "I abandon
everything in my book respecting the formation of the earth." [1081]
Still he was attacked as an unbeliever by the Bishop of Auxerre in that
prelate's pastoral against the thesis of de Prades. [1082] During the
rest of his life he outwardly conformed to religious usage, but all
men knew that in his heart he believed what he had written; and the
memory of the affront that the Church had thus put upon so honoured
a student helped to identify her cause no less with ignorance than
with insolence and oppression. For all such insults, and for the long
roll of her cruelties, the Church was soon to pay a tremendous penalty.

23. But science, like theology, had its schisms, and the rationalizing
camp had its own strifes. Maupertuis, for instance, is remembered
mainly as one of the victims of the mockery of Voltaire (which he
well earned by his own antagonism at the court of Frederick); yet he
was really an energetic man of science, and had preceded Voltaire in
setting up in France the Newtonian against the Cartesian physics. In
his System of Nature [1083] (not to be confused with the later work of
d'Holbach under the same title) he in 1751 propounded a new version of
the hylozoisms of ancient Greece; developed the idea of an underlying
unity in the forms of natural life, already propounded by La Mettrie
in his L'Homme Plante; connected it with Leibnitz's formula of the
economy of nature ("minimum of action"--the germ of the modern "line
of least resistance"), and at the same time anticipated some of the
special philosophic positions of Kant. [1084] Diderot, impressed by
but professedly dissenting from Maupertuis's Système in his Pensées
sur l'interprétation de la nature (1754), promptly pointed out that
the conception of a primordially vitalized atom excluded that of a
Creator, and for his own part thereafter took that standpoint. [1085]

In 1754 came the Traité des Sensations of Condillac, in which is most
systematically developed the physio-psychological conception of man as
an "animated statue," of which the thought is wholly conditioned by the
senses. The mode of approach had been laid down before by La Mettrie,
by Diderot, and by Buffon; and Condillac is rather a developer and
systematizer than an originator; [1086] but in this case the process
of unification was to the full as important as the first steps; [1087]
and Condillac has an importance which is latterly being rediscovered
by the school of Spencer on the one hand and by that of James on
the other. Condillac, commonly termed a materialist, no more held
the legendary materialistic view than any other so named; and the
same may be said of the next figure in the "materialistic" series,
J. B. Robinet, a Frenchman settled at Amsterdam, after having been,
it is said, a Jesuit. His Nature (4 vols. 1761-1768) is a remarkable
attempt to reach a strictly naturalistic conception of things. [1088]
But he is a theorist, not an investigator. Even in his fixed idea
that the universe is an "animal" he had perhaps a premonition of
the modern discovery of the immense diffusion of bacterial life;
but he seems to have had more deriders than disciples. He founds
at once on Descartes and on Leibnitz, but in his Philosophical
Considerations on the natural gradation of living forms (1768)
he definitely sets aside theism as illusory, and puts ethics on a
strictly scientific and human footing, [1089] extending the arguments
of Hume and Hutcheson somewhat on the lines of Mandeville. [1090] On
another line of reasoning a similar application of Mandeville's thesis
had already been made by Helvétius in his Traité de l'Esprit [1091]
(1758), a work which excited a hostility now difficult to understand,
but still reflected in censures no less surprising.


    One of the worst misrepresentations in theological literature is
    the account of Helvétius by the late Principal Cairns (Unbelief
    in the Eighteenth Century, 1881, p. 158) as appealing to
    government "to promote luxury, and, through luxury, public good,
    by abolishing all those laws that cherish a false modesty and
    restrain libertinage." Helvétius simply pressed the consequences
    of the existing theory of luxury, which for his own part he
    disclaimed. De l'Esprit, Disc. ii, ch. xv. Dr. Pünjer (i, 462)
    falls so far below his usual standard as to speak of Helvétius
    in a similar fashion. As against such detraction it is fitting to
    note that Helvétius, like La Mettrie, was one of the most lovable
    and most beloved men of his time, though, like him, sufficiently
    licentious in his youth.


It was at once suppressed by royal order as scandalous, licentious,
and dangerous, though Helvétius held a post at court as maître d'hôtel
to the Queen. Ordered to make a public retractation, he did so in a
letter addressed to a Jesuit; and this being deemed insufficient,
he had to sign another, "so humiliating," wrote Grimm, [1092]
"that one would not have been astonished to see a man take refuge
with the Hottentots rather than put his name to such avowals." The
wits explained that the censor who had passed the book, being an
official in the Bureau of Foreign Affairs, had treated De l'Esprit
as belonging to that department. [1093] A swarm of replies appeared,
and the book was formally burnt, with Voltaire's poem Sur la loi
naturelle, and several obscure works of older standing. [1094] The
De l'Esprit, appearing alongside of the ever-advancing Encyclopédie,
[1095] was in short a formidable challenge to the powers of bigotry.

Its real faults are lack of system, undue straining after popularity,
some hasty generalization, and a greater concern for the air of paradox
than for persuasion; but it abounds in acuteness and critical wisdom,
and it definitely and seriously founds public ethics on utility. Its
most serious error, the assumption that all men are born with equal
faculties, and that education is the sole differentiating force, was
repeated in our own age by John Stuart Mill; but in Helvétius the
error is balanced by the thoroughly sound and profoundly important
thesis that the general superiorities of nations are the result of
their culture-conditions and politics. [1096] The over-balance of his
stress on self-interest [1097] is an error easily soluble. On the other
hand, we have the memorable testimony of Beccaria that it was the work
of Helvétius that inspired him to his great effort for the humanizing
of penal laws and policy; [1098] and the only less notable testimony
of Bentham that Helvétius was his teacher and inspirer. [1099] It may
be doubted whether any such fruits can be claimed for the teachings
of the whole of the orthodox moralists of the age. For the rest,
Helvétius is not to be ranked among the great abstract thinkers; but it
is noteworthy that his thinking went on advancing to the end. Always
greatly influenced by Voltaire, he did not philosophically harden as
did his master; and though in his posthumous work, Les Progrès de la
Raison dans la recherche du Vrai (published in 1775), he stands for
deism against atheism, the argument ends in the pantheism to which
Voltaire had once attained, but did not adhere.

24. Over all of these men, and even in some measure over Voltaire,
Diderot (1713-1784) stands pre-eminent, on retrospect, for variety
of power and depth and subtlety of thought; though for these very
reasons, as well as because some of his most masterly works were never
printed in his lifetime, he was less of a recognized popular force
than some of his friends. In his own mental history he reproduces the
course of the French thought of his time. Beginning as a deist, he
assailed the contemporary materialists; in the end, with whatever of
inconsistency, he was emphatically an atheist and a materialist. One
of his most intimate friends was Damilaville, of whom Voltaire speaks
as a vehement anti-theist; [1100] and his biographer Naigeon, who at
times overstated his positions but always revered him, was the most
zealous atheist of his day. [1101]


    Compare, as to Diderot's position, Soury's contention (p. 577)
    that we shall never make an atheist and a materialist out of
    "this enthusiastic artist, this poet-pantheist" (citing Rosenkranz
    in support), with his own admissions, pp. 589-90, and with Lord
    Morley's remarks, pp. 33, 401, 418. See also Lange, i, 310 sq.;
    ii, 63 (Eng. tr. ii, 32, 256). In the affectionate éloge of his
    friend Meister (1786) there is an express avowal that "it had been
    much to be desired for the reputation of Diderot, perhaps even for
    the honour of his age, that he had not been an atheist, or that he
    had been so with less zeal." The fact is thus put beyond reasonable
    doubt. In the Correspondance Littéraire of Grimm and Diderot, under
    date September 15, 1765 (vii, 366), there is a letter in criticism
    of Descartes, thoroughly atheistic in its reasoning, which is
    almost certainly by Diderot. And if the criticism of Voltaire's
    Dieu, above referred to (p. 231), be not by him, he was certainly
    in entire agreement with it, as with Grimm in general. Rosenkranz
    finally (ii, 421) sums up that "Diderot war als Atheist Pantheist,"
    which is merely a way of saying that he was scientifically monistic
    in his atheism. Lange points out in this connection (i, 310) that
    the Hegelian schema of philosophic evolution, "with its sovereign
    contempt for chronology," has wrought much confusion as to the
    real developments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


It is recorded that Diderot's own last words in serious conversation
were: "The beginning of philosophy is incredulity"; and it may
be inferred from his writings that his first impulses to searching
thought came from his study of Montaigne, who must always have been
for him one of the most congenial of spirits. [1102] At an early stage
of his independent mental life we find him turning to the literature
which in that age yielded to such a mind as his the largest measure
both of nutriment and stimulus--the English. In 1745 he translated
Shaftesbury's Inquiry concerning Virtue and Merit; and he must have
read with prompt appreciation the other English freethinkers then
famous. Ere long, however, he had risen above the deistical plane of
thought, and grappled with the fundamental issues which the deists
took for granted, partly because of an innate bent to psychological
analysis, partly because he was more interested in scientific problems
than in scholarly research. The Pensées philosophiques, published
in 1746, really deserve their name; and though they exhibit him as
still a satisfied deist, and an opponent of the constructive atheism
then beginning to suggest itself, they contain abstract reasonings
sufficiently disturbing to the deistic position. [1103] The Promenade
du Sceptique (written about 1747, published posthumously) goes further,
and presents tentatively the reply to the design argument which was
adopted by Hume.

In its brilliant pages may be found a conspectus of the intellectual
life of the day, on the side of the religious problem. Every type
of thinker is there tersely characterized--the orthodox, the deist,
the atheist, the sheer skeptic, the scoffer, the pantheist, the
solipsist, and the freethinking libertine, the last figuring as
no small nuisance to the serious unbeliever. So drastic is the
criticism of orthodoxy that the book was unprintable in its day;
[1104] and it was little known even in manuscript. But ere long there
appeared the Letter on the Blind, for the use of those who see (1749),
in which a logical rebuttal alike of the ethical and the cosmological
assumptions of theism, developed from hints in the Pensées, is put
in the mouth of the blind English mathematician, Sanderson. It is not
surprising that whereas the Pensées had been, with some other books,
ordered by the Paris Parlement to be burnt by the common hangman,
the Lettre sur les Aveugles led to his arrest and an imprisonment
of six months [1105] in the Château de Vincennes. Both books had of
course been published without licence; [1106] but the second book was
more than a defiance of the censorship: it was a challenge alike to
the philosophy and the faith of Christendom; and as such could not
have missed denunciation. [1107]

But Diderot was not the kind of man to be silenced by menaces. In
the famous Sorbonne thesis of the Abbé de Prades (1751) he probably
had, as we have seen, some share; and when De Prades was condemned
and deprived of his licence (1752) Diderot wrote the third part of
the Apologie (published by De Prades in Holland), which defended his
positions; and possibly assisted in the other parts. [1108] The hand
of Diderot perhaps may be discovered in the skilful allusions to the
skeptical Demonstratio Evangelica of Huet, which De Prades professes
to have translated when at his seminary, seeking there the antidote
to the poison of the deists. The entire handling of the question of
pagan and Christian miracles, too, suggests the skilled dialectician,
though it is substantially an adaptation of Leslie's Short and Easy
Method with the Deists. The alternate eulogy and criticism of Locke
are likely to be his, as is indeed the abundant knowledge of English
thought shown alike in the thesis and in the Apologie. Whether he
wrote the passage which claims to rebut an argument in his own Pensées
philosophiques [1109] is surely doubtful. But his, certainly, is the
further reply to the pastoral of the Jansenist Bishop of Auxerre
against de Prades's thesis, in which the perpetual disparagement
of reason by Catholic theologians is denounced [1110] as the most
injurious of all procedures against religion. And his, probably,
is the peroration [1111] arraigning the Jansenists and imputing to
their fanaticism and superstition, their miracle-mongering and their
sectarian bitterness, the discredit which among thinking men had
latterly fallen upon Church and creed alike. [1112]

De Prades, who in his thesis and Apologie had always professed to be a
believing Christian, was not a useful recruit to rationalism. Passing
from Holland to Berlin, he was there appointed, through the influence
of Voltaire, reader and amanuensis to the King, [1113] who in 1754
arranged for him an official reconciliation with the Church. A formal
retractation was sent to the Pope, the Sorbonne, and the Bishop of
Montauban; [1114] and Frederick in due course presented him to a
Catholic canonry at Glogau. In 1757, however, he was put under arrest
on the charge, it is commonly said, of supplying military information
to his countrymen; [1115] and thereafter, returning to France in 1759,
he obtained a French benefice. Diderot, who was now a recognized
champion of freethought, turned away with indignation. [1116]

Thenceforward he never faltered on his path. It is his peculiar
excellence to be an original and innovating thinker not only in
philosophy but in psychology, in æsthetics, in ethics, in dramatic
art; and his endless and miscellaneous labours in the Encyclopédie,
of which he was the most loyal and devoted producer, represent an
extraordinary range of interests. He suffered from his position as a
hack writer and as a forced dissembler in his articles on religious
matters; and there is probably a very real connection between his
compulsory insincerities [1117] in the Encyclopédie--to say nothing
of the official prosecution of that and of others of his works--and
his misdeeds in the way of indecent fiction. When organized society
is made to figure as the heartless enemy of thinking men, it is no
great wonder if they are careless at times about the effect of their
writings on society. But it stands to his lasting honour that his
sufferings at the hands of priests, printers, and parlements never
soured his natural goodness of heart. [1118] Having in his youth known
a day's unrelieved hunger, he made a vow that he would never refuse
help to any human being; and, says his daughter, no vow was ever more
faithfully kept. No one in trouble was ever turned away from his door;
and even his enemies were helped when they were base enough to beg of
him. It seems no exaggeration to say that the bulk of his life was
given to helping other people; and the indirect effect of his work,
which is rather intellectually disinterested than didactic, is no
less liberative and humanitarian. "To do good, and to find truth,"
were his mottoes for life.

His daughter, Madame de Vandeul, who in her old age remained
tranquilly divided between the religion instilled into her by her
pious mother and the rationalism she had gathered from her father and
his friends, testified, then, to his constant goodness in the home;
[1119] and his father bore a similar testimony, contrasting him
with his pious brother. [1120] He was, in his way, as beneficent as
Voltaire, without Voltaire's faults of private malice; and his life's
work was a great ministry of light. It was Goethe who said of him in
the next generation that "whoever holds him or his doings cheaply is
a Philistine." His large humanity reaches from the planes of expert
thought to that of popular feeling; and while by his Letter on the
Blind he could advance speculative psychology and pure philosophy,
he could by his tale The Nun (La Religeuse, [1121] written about
1760, published 1796) enlist the sympathies of the people against
the rule of the Church. It belonged to his character to be generously
appreciative of all excellence; he delighted in other men's capacity as
in pictures and poetry; and he loved to praise. At a time when Bacon
and Hobbes were little regarded in England he made them newly famous
throughout Europe by his praises. In him was realized Bacon's saying,
Admiratio semen scientiae, in every sense, for his curiosity was as
keen as his sensibility.

25. With Diderot were specially associated, in different ways,
D'Alembert, the mathematician, for some years his special colleague
on the Encyclopédie, and Baron d'Holbach. The former, one of
the staunchest friends of Voltaire, though a less invincible
fighter than Diderot, counted for practical freethought by his
miscellaneous articles, his little book on the Jesuits (1765), his
Pensées philosophiques, his physics, and the general rationalism of
his Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopédie. It is noteworthy that
in his intimate correspondence with Voltaire he never avows theism,
and that his and Diderot's friend, the atheist Damilaville, died
in his arms. [1122] On Dumarsais, too, he penned an éloge of which
Voltaire wrote: "Dumarsais only begins to live since his death;
you have given him existence and immortality." [1123] And perpetual
secretary as he was of the Academy, the fanatical daughter of Madame
Geoffrin could write to him in 1776: "For many years you have set
all respectable people against you by your indecent and imprudent
manner of speaking against religion." [1124] Baron d'Holbach, a
naturalized German of large fortune, was on the other hand one of the
most strenuous propagandists of freethought in his age. Personally no
less beloved than Helvétius, [1125] he gave his life and his fortune
to the work of enlightening men on all the lines on which he felt
they needed light. Much of the progress of the physical sciences in
pre-revolutionary France was due to the long series--at least eleven
in all--of his translations of solid treatises from the German;
and his still longer series of original works and translations from
the English in all branches of freethought--a really astonishing
movement of intellectual energy despite the emotion attaching
to the subject-matter--was for the most part prepared in the same
essentially scientific temper. Of all the freethinkers of the period
he had perhaps the largest range of practical erudition; [1126] and
he drew upon it with unhasting and unresting industry. Imitating the
tactic of Voltaire, he produced, with some assistance from Diderot,
Naigeon, and others, a small library of anti-Christian treatises under
a variety of pseudonyms; [1127] and his principal work, the famous
System of Nature (1770), was put out under the name of Mirabaud,
an actual person, then dead. Summing up as it does with stringent
force the whole anti-theological propaganda of the age, it has been
described as a "thundering engine of revolt and destruction." [1128]
It was the first published atheistic [1129] treatise of a systematic
kind, if we except that of Robinet, issued some years before; and it
significantly marks the era of modern freethought, as does the powerful
Essai sur les préjugés, published in the same year, [1130] by its stern
impeachment of the sins of monarchy--here carrying on the note struck
by Jean Meslier in his manuscript of half-a-century earlier. Rather
a practical argument than a dispassionate philosophic research,
its polemic against human folly laid it open to the regulation
retort that on its own necessarian principles no such polemic was
admissible. That retort is, of course, ultimately invalid when the
denunciation is resolved into demonstration. If, however, it be termed
"shallow" on the score of its censorious treatment of the past, [1131]
the term will have to be applied to the Hebrew books, to the Gospel
Jesus, to the Christian Fathers, to Pascal, Milton, Carlyle, Ruskin,
and a good many other prophets, ancient and modern. The synthesis of
the book is really emotional rather than philosophic, and hortatory
rather than scientific; and it was all the more influential on that
account. To the sensation it produced is to be ascribed the edict
of 1770 condemning a whole shelf of previous works to be burnt along
with it by the common hangman.

26. The death of d'Holbach (1789) brings us to the French
Revolution. By that time all the great freethinking propagandists
and non-combatant deists of the Voltairean group were gone, save
Condorcet. Voltaire and Rousseau had died in 1778, Helvétius in
1771, Turgot in 1781, D'Alembert in 1783, Diderot in 1784. After
all their labours, only the educated minority, broadly speaking,
had been made freethinkers; and of these, despite the vogue of the
System of Nature, only a minority were atheists. Deism prevailed,
as we have seen, among the foremost revolutionists; but atheism
was relatively rare. Voltaire, indeed, impressed by the number of
cultured men of his acquaintance who avowed it, latterly speaks [1132]
of them as very numerous; and Grimm must have had a good many among
the subscribers to his correspondence, to permit of his penning or
passing the atheistic criticism there given of Voltaire's first reply
to d'Holbach. Nevertheless, there was no continuous atheistic movement;
and after 1789 the new freethinking works run to critical and ethical
attack on the Christian system rather than on theism. Volney combined
both lines of attack in his famous Ruins of Empires (1791); and the
learned Dupuis, in his voluminous Origin of all Cults (1795), took
an important step, not yet fully reckoned with by later mythologists,
towards the mythological analysis of the gospel narrative. After these
vigorous performances, the popular progress of French freethought was
for long practically suspended [1133] by the tumult of the Revolution
and the reaction which followed it, though Laplace went on his way
with his epoch-making theory of the origin of the solar system,
for which, as he told Napoleon, he had "no need of the hypothesis"
of a God. The admirable Condorcet had died, perhaps by his own hand,
in 1794, when in hiding from the Terrorists, leaving behind him his
Esquisse d'un tableau historique des progrès de l'esprit humain,
in which the most sanguine convictions of the rationalistic school
are reformulated without a trace of bitterness or of despair.

27. No part of the history of freethought has been more distorted
than that at which it is embroiled in the French Revolution. The
conventional view in England still is that the Revolution was
the work of deists and atheists, but chiefly of the latter; that
they suppressed Christianity and set up a worship of a Goddess of
Reason, represented by a woman of the town; and that the bloodshed
of the Terror represented the application of their principles to
government, or at least the political result of the withdrawal
of religious checks. [1134] Those who remember in the briefest
summary the records of massacre connected with the affirmation of
religious beliefs--the internecine wars of Christian sects under
the Roman Empire; the vast slaughters of Manichæans in the East;
the bloodshed of the period of propagation in Northern Europe,
from Charlemagne onwards; the story of the Crusades, in which nine
millions of human beings are estimated to have been destroyed;
the generation of wholesale murder of the heretics of Languedoc by
the papacy; the protracted savageries of the Hussite War; the early
holocaust of Protestant heretics in France; the massacres of German
peasants and Anabaptists; the reciprocal persecutions in England; the
civil strifes of sectaries in Switzerland; the ferocious wars of the
French Huguenots and the League; the long-drawn agony of the war of
thirty years in Germany; the annihilation of myriads of Mexicans and
Peruvians by the conquering Spaniards in the name of the Cross--those
who recall these things need spend no time over the proposition that
rationalism stands for a removal of restraints on bloodshed. But it
is necessary to put concisely the facts as against the legend in the
case of the French Revolution.

(a) That many of the leading men among the revolutionists were
deists is true; and the fact goes to prove that it was chiefly the
men of ability in France who rejected Christianity. Of a number of
these the normal attitude was represented in the work of Necker,
Sur l'importance des idées religieuses (1787), which repudiated the
destructive attitude of the few, and may be described as an utterance
of pious theism or Unitarianism. [1135] Orthodox he cannot well have
been, since, like his wife, he was the friend of Voltaire. [1136]
But the majority of the Constituent Assembly was never even deistic;
it professed itself cordially Catholic; [1137] and the atheists there
might be counted on the fingers of one hand. [1138]


    The Abbé Bergier, in answering d'Holbach (Examen du Matérialisme,
    ii, ch. i, § 1), denies that there has been any wide spread of
    atheistic opinion. This is much more probable than the statement
    of the Archbishop of Toulouse, on a deputation to the king
    in 1775, that "le monstrueux athéisme est devenu l'opinion
    dominante" (Soulavie, Règne de Louis XVI, iii, 16; cited by
    Buckle, 1-vol. ed. p. 488, note). Joseph Droz, a monarchist and a
    Christian, writing under Louis Philippe, sums up that "the atheists
    formed only a small number of adepts" (Histoire du Règne de Louis
    XVI, éd. 1839, p. 42). And Rivarol, who at the time of writing
    his Lettres à M. Necker was substantially an atheist, says in
    so many words that, while Rousseau's "Confession of a Savoyard
    Vicar" was naturally very attractive to many, such a book as the
    "Système de la Nature," were it as attractive as it is tedious,
    would win nobody" (OEuvres, éd. 1852, p. 134). Still, it ran into
    seven editions between 1770 and 1780.


Nor were there lacking vigorous representatives of orthodoxy:
the powerful Abbé Grégoire, in particular, was a convinced
Jansenist Christian, and at the same time an ardent democrat and
anti-royalist. [1139] He saw the immense importance to the Church
of a good understanding with the Revolution, and he accepted
the constitution of 1790. With him went a very large number of
priests. M. Léonce de Lavergne, who was pious enough to write that
"the philosophy of the eighteenth century had had the audacity to
lay hands on God; and this impious attempt has had for punishment
the revolutionary expiation," also admits that, "of the clergy,
it was not the minority but the majority which went along with the
Tiers État." [1140] Many of the clergy, however, being refractory,
the Assembly pressed its point, and the breach widened. It was solely
through this political hostility on the part of the Church to the
new constitution that any civic interference with public worship ever
took place. Grégoire was extremely popular with the advanced types,
[1141] though his piety was conspicuous; [1142] and there were not a
few priests of his way of thinking, [1143] among them being some of
the ablest bishops. [1144] On the flight of the king, he and they went
with the democracy; and it was the obstinate refusal of the others to
accept the constitution that provoked the new Legislative Assembly to
coerce them. Though the new body was more anti-clerical than the old,
however, it was simply doing what successive Protestant monarchs had
done in England and Ireland; and probably no Government in the world
would then have acted otherwise in a similar case. [1145] Patience
might perhaps have won the day; but the Revolution was fighting for
its life; and the conservative Church, as all men knew, was eager to
strangle it. Had the clergy left politics alone, or simply accepted
the constitutional action of the State, there would have been no
religious question. To speak of such a body of priests, who had at
all times been eager to put men to death for heresy, as vindicating
"liberty of conscience" when they refused fealty to the constitution,
[1146] is somewhat to strain the terms. The expulsion of the Jesuits
under the Old Régime had been a more coercive measure than the demand
of the Assembly on the allegiance of the State clergy. And all the
while the reactionary section of the priesthood was known to be
conspiring with the royalists abroad. It was only when, in 1793,
the conservative clergy were seen to be the great obstacle to the
levy of an army of defence, that the more radical spirits began to
think of interfering with their functions. [1147]

(b) An à priori method has served alike in freethinkers' and in
pietists' hands to obscure the facts. When Michelet insists on the
"irreconcilable opposition of Christianity to the Revolution"--a
thesis in which he was heartily supported by Proudhon [1148]--he
means that the central Christian dogmas of salvation by sacrifice and
faith exclude any political ethic of justice [1149]--any doctrine
of equality and equity. But this is only to say that Christianity
as an organization is in perpetual contradiction with some main
part of its professed creed; and that has been a commonplace since
Constantine. It does not mean that either Christians in multitudes
or their churches as organizations have not constantly proceeded on
ordinary political motives, whether populist or anti-populist. In
Germany we have seen Lutheranism first fomenting and afterwards
repudiating the movement of the peasants for betterment; and in
England in the next century both parties in the civil war invoke
religious doctrines, meeting texts with texts. Jansenism was in
constant friction with the monarchy from its outset; and Louis
XIV and Louis XV alike regarded the Jansenists as the enemies of
the throne. "Christianity" could be as easily "reconciled" with a
democratic movement in the last quarter of the eighteenth century as
with the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day in the sixteenth. If those
Christians who still charge "the bloodshed of the French Revolution"
on the spirit of incredulity desire to corroborate Michelet to the
extent of making Christianity the bulwark of absolute monarchy, the
friend of a cruel feudalism, and the guardian genius of the Bastille,
they may be left to the criticism of their fellow-believers who have
embraced the newer principle that the truth of the Christian religion
is to be proved by connecting it in practice with the spirit of social
reform. To point out to either party, as did Michelet, that evangelical
Christianity is a religion of submission and preparation for the end
of all things, and has nothing to do with rational political reform,
is to bestow logic where logic is indomiciliable. While rationalism
undoubtedly fosters the critical spirit, professed Christians have
during many ages shown themselves as prone to rebellion as to war,
whether on religious or on political pretexts.

(c) For the rest, the legend falsifies what took place. The facts
are now established by exact documentary research. The Government
never substituted any species of religion for the Catholic. [1150]
The Festival of Reason at Nôtre Dame was an act not of the Convention
but of the Commune of Paris and the Department; the Convention had
no part in promoting it; half the members stayed away when invited to
attend; and there was no Goddess of Reason in the ceremony, but only
a Goddess of Liberty, represented by an actress who cannot even be
identified. [1151] Throughout, the devoutly theistic Rousseau was the
chief literary hero of the movement. The two executive Committees in
no way countenanced the dechristianization of the Churches, but on the
contrary imprisoned persons who removed church properties; and these
in turn protested that they had no thought of abolishing religion. The
acts of irresponsible violence did not amount to a hundredth part of
the "sacrilege" wrought in Protestant countries at the Reformation,
and do not compare with the acts charged on Cromwell's troopers. The
policy of inviting priests and bishops to abdicate their functions
was strictly political; and the Archbishop Gobel did not abjure
Catholicism, but only surrendered his office. That a number of priests
did gratuitously abjure their religion is only a proof of what was
well known--that a good many priests were simple deists. We have seen
how many abbés fought in the freethought ranks, or near them. Diderot
in a letter of 1769 tells of a day which he and a friend had passed
with two monks who were atheists. "One of them read the first draft
of a very fresh and very vigorous treatise on atheism, full of new
and bold ideas; I learned with edification that this doctrine was the
current doctrine of their cloisters. For the rest, these two monks
were the 'big bonnets' of their monastery; they had intellect, gaiety,
good feeling, knowledge." [1152] And a priest of the cathedral of
Auxerre, whose recollections went back to the revolutionary period,
has confessed that at that time "philosophic" opinions prevailed in
most of the monasteries. His words even imply that in his opinion the
unbelieving monks were the majority. [1153] In the provinces, where
the movement went on with various degrees of activity, it had the same
general character. "Reason" itself was often identified with deity,
or declared to be an emanation thereof. Hébert, commonly described
as an atheist for his share in the movement, expressly denied the
charge, and claimed to have exhorted the people to read the gospels
and obey Christ. [1154] Danton, though at his death he disavowed
belief in immortality, had declared in the Convention in 1793 that
"we have not striven to abolish superstition in order to establish the
reign of atheism." [1155] Even Chaumette was not an atheist; [1156]
and the Prussian Clootz, who probably was, had certainly little or no
doctrinary influence; while the two or three other professed atheists
of the Assembly had no part in the public action.

(d) Finally, Robespierre was all along thoroughly hostile to the
movement; in his character of Rousseauist and deist he argued
that atheism was "aristocratic"; he put to death the leaders of
the Cult of Reason; and he set up the Worship of the Supreme Being
as a counter-move. Broadly speaking, he affiliated to Necker, and
stood very much at the standpoint of the English Unitarianism of the
present day. Thus the bloodshed of the Reign of Terror, if it is to
be charged on any species of philosophic doctrine rather than on the
unscrupulous policy of the enemies of the Revolution in and out of
France, stands to the credit of the belief in a God, the creed of
Frederick, Turgot, Necker, Franklin, Pitt, and Washington. The one
convinced and reasoning atheist among the publicists of the Revolution,
the journalist Salaville, [1157] opposed the Cult of Reason with sound
and serious and persuasive argument, and strongly blamed all forcible
interference with worship, while at the same time calmly maintaining
atheism as against theism. The age of atheism had not come, any more
than the triumph of Reason.


    Mallet du Pan specifies, as among those who "since 1788 have
    pushed the blood-stained car of anarchy and atheism," Chamfort,
    Gronvelle, Garat, and Cerutti. Chamfort was as high-minded a
    man as Mallet himself, and is to-day so recognized by every
    unprejudiced reader. The others are forgotten. Gronvelle,
    who as secretary of the executive council read to Louis XVI
    his death-sentence, wrote De l'autorité de Montesquieu dans la
    révolution présente (1789). Garat was Minister of Justice in 1792
    and of the Interior in 1793, and was ennobled by Napoleon. He had
    published Considérations sur la Révolution (1792) and a Mémoire
    sur la Révolution (1795). Cerutti, originally a Jesuit, became a
    member of the Legislative Assembly, and was the friend of Mirabeau,
    whose funeral oration he delivered.


28. The anti-atheistic and anti-philosophic legend was born of the
exasperation and bad faith of the dethroned aristocracy, themselves
often unbelievers in the day of their ascendancy, and, whether
unbelievers or not, responsible with the Church and the court for
that long insensate resistance to reform which made the revolution
inevitable. Mere random denunciation of new ideas as tending to
generate rebellion was of course an ancient commonplace. Medieval
heretics had been so denounced; Wiclif was in his day; and when the
Count de Cataneo attacked Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws, he spoke
of all such reasonings as "attempts which shake the sacred basis of
thrones." [1158] But he and his contemporaries knew that freethinkers
were not specially given to mutiny; and when, later, French Churchmen
had begun systematically to accuse the philosophers of undermining
alike the Church and the throne, [1159] the unbelieving nobles,
conscious of entire political conservatism, had simply laughed. Better
than anyone else they knew that political revolt had other roots and
motives than incredulity; and they could not but remember how many
French kings had been rebelled against by the Church, and how many
slain by priestly hands. Their acceptance of the priestly formula came
later. In the life of the brilliant Rivarol, who associated with the
noblesse while disdained by many of them because of his obscure birth,
we may read the intellectual history of the case. Brilliant without
patience, keen without scientific coherence, [1160] Rivarol in 1787
met the pious deism of Necker with a dialectic in which cynicism as
often disorders as illuminates the argument. With prompt veracity he
first rejects the ideal of a beneficent reign of delusion, and insists
that religion is seen in all history powerless alike to overrule
men's passions and prejudices, and to console the oppressed by its
promise of a reversal of earthly conditions in another world. But in
the same breath, by way of proving that the atheist is less disturbing
to convention than the deist, he insists that the unbeliever soon
learns to see that "irreverences are crimes against society"; and
then, in order to justify such conformity, asserts what he had before
denied. And the self-contradiction recurs. [1161] The underlying
motive of the whole polemic is simply the grudge of the upper class
diner-out against the serious and conscientious bourgeois who strives
to reform the existing system. Conscious of being more enlightened,
the wit is eager at once to disparage Necker for his religiosity
and to discredit him politically as the enemy of the socially useful
ecclesiastical order. Yet in his second letter Sur la morale (1788)
he is so plainly an unbeliever that the treatise had to be printed
at Berlin. The due sequence is that when the Revolution breaks out
Rivarol sides with the court and the noblesse, while perfectly aware of
the ineptitude and malfeasance of both; [1162] and, living in exile,
proceeds to denounce the philosophers as having caused the overturn
by their universal criticism. In 1787 he had declared that he would
not even have written his Letters to Necker if he were not certain
that "the people does not read." Then the people had read neither the
philosophers nor him. But in exile he must needs frame for the émigrés
a formula, true or false. It is the falsity of men divided against
themselves, who pay themselves with recriminations rather than realize
their own deserts. [1163] And in the end Rivarol is but a deist.

29. If any careful attempt be made to analyse the situation, the
stirring example of the precedent revolution in the British American
colonies will probably be recognized as counting for very much more
than any merely literary influence in promoting that of France. A
certain "republican" spirit had indeed existed among educated men in
France throughout the reign of Louis XV: D'Argenson noted it in 1750
and later. [1164] But this spirit, which D'Argenson in large measure
shared, while holding firmly by monarchy, [1165] was simply the spirit
of constitutionalism, the love of law and good government, and it
derived from English example and the teachings of such Englishmen
as Locke, [1166] insofar as it was not spontaneous. If acceptance
of the doctrine of constitutional government can lead to anarchy,
let it be avowed; but let not the cause be pretended to be deism or
atheism. The political teaching for which the Paris Parlement denounced
Rousseau's Émile in 1762, and for which the theologians of the Sorbonne
censured Marmontel's Bélisaire in 1767, was the old doctrine of the
sovereignty of the people. But this had been maintained by a whole
school of English Protestant Christians before Bossuet denounced the
Protestant Jurieu for maintaining it. Nay, it had been repeatedly
maintained by Catholic theologians, from Thomas Aquinas to Suarez,
[1167] especially when there was any question of putting down a
Protestant monarch. Protestants on their part protested indignantly,
and reciprocated. The recriminations of Protestants and Catholics on
this head form one of the standing farces of human history. Coger,
attacking Marmontel, unctuously cites Bayle's censure of his fellow
Protestants in his Avis aux Réfugiéz [1168] for their tone towards
kings and monarchy, but says nothing of Bayle's quarrel with Jurieu,
which motived such an utterance, or of his Critique Générale of
Maimbourg's Histoire du Calvinisme, in which he shows how the
Catholic historian's principles would justify the rebellion alike
of Catholics in every Protestant country and of Protestants in every
Catholic country, [1169] though all the while it is assumed that true
Christians never resort to violence. And, unless there has been an
error as to his authorship, Bayle himself, be it remembered, had in
his letter Ce que c'est que la France toute catholique sous le règne
de Louis le Grand passed as scathing a criticism on Louis XIV as any
Protestant refugee could well have compassed. Sectarian hypocrisies
apart, the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people--for opposing
which the freethinker Hobbes has been execrated by generations of
Christians--is the professed political creed of the very classes
who, in England and the United States, have so long denounced
French freethinkers for an alleged "subversive" social teaching
which fell far short of what English and American Protestants had
actually practised. The revolt of the American colonies, in fact,
precipitated democratic feeling in France in a way that no writing had
ever done. Lafayette, no freethinker, declared himself republican at
once on reading the American declaration of the Rights of Man. [1170]
In all this the freethinking propaganda counted for nothing directly
and for little indirectly, inasmuch as there was no clerical quarrel
in the colonies. And if we seek for even an indirect or general
influence, apart from the affirmation of the duty of kings to their
people, the thesis as to the activity of the philosophes must at
once be restricted to the cases of Rousseau, Helvétius, Raynal,
and d'Holbach, for Marmontel never passed beyond "sound" generalities.

As for the pretence that it was freethinking doctrines that brought
Louis XVI to the scaffold, it is either the most impudent or the
most ignorant of historical imputations. The "right" of tyrannicide
had been maintained by Catholic schoolmen before the Reformation,
and by both Protestants and Catholics afterwards, times without
number, even as they maintained the right of the people to depose and
change kings. The doctrine was in fact not even a modern innovation,
the theory being so well primed by the practice--under every sort of
government, Jewish and pagan in antiquity, Moslem in the Middle Ages,
and Christian from the day of Pepin to the day of John Knox--that a
certain novelty lay on the side of the "divine right of kings" when
that was popularly formulated. And on the whole question of revolution,
or the right of peoples to recast their laws, the general doctrine
of the most advanced of the French freethinkers is paralleled or
outgone by popes and Church Councils in the Middle Ages, by Occam and
Marsiglio of Padua and Wiclif and more than one German legist in the
fourteenth century, by John Major and George Buchanan in Scotland, by
Goodman in England, and by many Huguenots in France, in the sixteenth;
by Hotman in his Francogallia in 1574; by the author of the Soupirs
de la France Esclave [1171] in 1689; and by the whole propagandist
literature of the English and American Revolutions in the seventeenth
and eighteenth. So far from being a specialty of freethinkers,
"sedition" was in all these and other cases habitually grounded on
Biblical texts and religious protestations; so that Bacon, little
given as he was to defending rationalists, could confidently avow that
"Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety,
to laws, to reputation ... but superstition dismounts all these,
and erecteth an absolute monarchy in the minds of men. Therefore
atheism did never perturb states.... But superstition hath been the
confusion of many states." For "superstition" read "sectarianism,"
"fanaticism," and "ecclesiasticism." Bacon's generalization is of
course merely empirical, atheism being capable of alliance with
revolutionary passion in its turn; but the historical summary holds
good. Only by men who had not read or had forgotten universal history
could the ascription of the French Revolution to rationalistic thought
have been made. [1172]

30. A survey of the work and attitude of the leading French
freethinkers of the century may serve to settle the point once
for all. Voltaire is admittedly out of the question. Mallet du Pan,
whose resistance to the Revolution developed into a fanaticism hardly
less perturbing to judgment [1173] than that of Burke, expressly
disparaged him as having so repelled men by his cynicism that he had
little influence on their feelings, and so could not be reckoned a
prime force in preparing the Revolution. [1174] "Mably," the critic
adds, "whose republican declamations have intoxicated many modern
democrats, was religious to austerity: at the first stroke of the
tocsin against the Church of Rome, he would have thrown his books
in the fire, excepting his scathing apostrophes to Voltaire and the
atheists. Marmontel, Saint-Lambert, Morellet, Encyclopedists, were
adversaries of the revolution." [1175] On the other hand, Barante
avows that Mably, detesting as he did the freethinking philosophers
of his day, followed no less than others "a destructive course,
and contributed, without knowing it, to weaken the already frayed
ties which still united the parts of an ancient society." [1176] As
Barante had previously ascribed the whole dissolution to the autocratic
process under Louis XIV, [1177] even this indictment of the orthodox
Mably is invalid. Voltaire, on the other hand, Barante charges with
an undue leaning to the methods of Louis XIV. Voltaire, in fact, was
in things political a conservative, save insofar as he fought for
toleration, for lenity, and for the most necessary reforms. And if
Voltaire's attack on what he held to be a demoralizing and knew to be
a persecuting religion be saddled with the causation of the political
crash, the blame will have to be carried back equally to the English
deists and the tyranny of Louis XIV. To such indictments, as Barante
protests, there is no limit: every age pivots on its predecessor; and
to blame for the French Revolution everybody but a corrupt aristocracy,
a tyrannous and ruinously spendthrift monarchy, and a cruel church,
is to miss the last semblance of judicial method. It may be conceded
that the works of Meslier and d'Holbach, neither of whom is noticed
by Barante, are directly though only generally revolutionary in their
bearing. But the main works of d'Holbach appeared too close upon
the Revolution to be credited with generating it; and Meslier, as we
know, had been generally read only in abridgments and adaptations,
in which his political doctrine disappears.

Mallet du Pan, striking in all directions, indicts alternately
Rousseau, whose vogue lay largely among religious people, and the
downright freethinkers. The great fomenter of the Revolution,
the critic avows, was Rousseau. "He had a hundred times more
readers than Voltaire in the middle and lower classes.... No one
has more openly attacked the right of property in declaring it a
usurpation.... It is he alone who has inoculated the French with
the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people, and with its most
extreme consequences." [1178] After this "he alone," the critic
obliviously proceeds to exclaim: "Diderot and Condorcet: there are
the true chiefs of the revolutionary school," adding that Diderot had
"proclaimed equality before Marat; the Rights of Man before Siéyès;
sacred insurrection before Mirabeau and Lafayette; the massacre of
priests before the Septembrists." [1179] But this is mere furious
declamation. Only by heedless misreading or malice can support be
given to the pretence that Diderot wrought for the violent overthrow
of the existing political system. Passages denouncing kingly tyranny
had been inserted in their plays by both Corneille and Voltaire,
and applauded by audiences who never dreamt of abolishing monarchy. A
phrase about strangling kings in the bowels of priests is expressly put
by Diderot in the mouth of an Éleuthéromane or Liberty-maniac; [1180]
which shows that the type had arisen in his lifetime in opposition to
his own bias. This very poem he read to the Prince von Galitzin, the
ambassador of the Empress Catherine and his own esteemed friend. [1181]
The tyranny of the French Government, swayed by the king's mistresses
and favourites and by the Jesuits, he did indeed detest, as he had
cause to do, and as every man of good feeling did with him; but no
writing of his wrought measurably for its violent overthrow. [1182]
D'Argenson in 1751 was expressing his fears of a revolution, and
noting the "désobeissance constante" of the Parlement of Paris and the
disaffection of the people, before he had heard of "un M. Diderot,
qui a beaucoup d'esprit, mais qui affecte trop l'irreligion." And
when he notes that the Jesuits have secured the suppression of the
Encyclopédie as being hostile "to God and the royal authority," he
does not attach the slightest weight to the charge. He knew that Louis
called the pious Jansenists "enemies of God and of the king." [1183]

Mallet du Pan grounds his charge against Diderot almost solely on
"those incendiary diatribes intercalated in the Histoire philosophique
des deux Indes which dishonour that work, and which Raynal, in
his latter days, excised with horror from a new edition which he
was preparing." But supposing the passages in question to be all
Diderot's [1184]--which is far from certain--they are to be saddled
with responsibility for the Reign of Terror only on the principle
that it was more provocative in the days of tyranny to denounce
than to exercise it. To this complexion Mallet du Pan came, with
the anti-Revolutionists in general; but to-day we can recognize in
the whole process of reasoning a reductio ad absurdum. The school
in question came in all seriousness to ascribe the evils of the
Revolution to everything and everybody save the men and classes whose
misgovernment made the Revolution inevitable.

Some of the philosophers, it is true, themselves gave colour to the
view that they were the makers of the Revolution, as when D'Alembert
said to Romilly that "philosophy" had produced in his time that change
in the popular mind which exhibited itself in the indifference with
which they received the news of the birth of the dauphin. [1185]
The error is none the less plain. The philosophes had done nothing
to promote anti-monarchism among the common people, who did not
read. [1186] It was the whole political and social evolution of
two generations that had wrought the change; and the people were
still for the most part believing Catholics. Frederick the Great
was probably within the mark when in 1769 he privately reminded the
more optimistic philosophers that their entire French public did
not number above 200,000 persons. The people of Paris, who played
the chief part in precipitating the Revolution, were spontaneously
mutinous and disorderly, but were certainly not in any considerable
number unbelievers. "While Voltaire dechristianized a portion of polite
society the people remained very pious, even at Paris. In 1766 Louis
XV, so unpopular, was acclaimed because he knelt, on the Pont Neuf,
before the Holy Sacrament." [1187]

And this is the final answer to any pretence that the Revolution was
the work of the school of d'Holbach. Bergier the priest, and Rivarol
the conservative unbeliever, alike denied that d'Holbach's systematic
writings had any wide public. Doubtless the same men were ready to
eat their words for the satisfaction of vilifying an opponent. It
has always been the way of orthodoxy to tell atheists alternately
that they are an impotent handful and that they are the ruin of
society. But by this time it ought to be a matter of elementary
knowledge that a great political revolution can be wrought only by
far-reaching political forces, whether or not these may concur with
a propaganda of rationalism in religion. [1188] If any "philosopher"
so-called is to be credited with specially promoting the Revolution,
it is either Rousseau, who is so often hailed latterly as the engineer
of a religious reaction, and whose works, as has been repeatedly
remarked, "contain much that is utterly and irreconcilably opposed"
to the Revolution, [1189] or Raynal, who was only anti-clerical,
not anti-Christian, and who actually censured the revolutionary
procedure. When he published his first edition he must be held to have
acquiesced in its doctrine, whether it were from Diderot's pen or his
own. Rousseau and Raynal were the two most popular writers of their
day who dealt with social as apart from religious or philosophical
issues, and to both is thus imputed a general subversiveness. But
here too the charge rests upon a sociological fallacy. The Parlement
of Paris, composed of rich bourgeois and aristocrats, many of them
Jansenists, very few of them freethinkers, most of them ready to burn
freethinking books, played a "subversive" part throughout the century,
inasmuch as it so frequently resisted the king's will. [1190] The
stars in their courses fought against the old despotism. Rousseau was
ultimately influential towards change because change was inevitable
and essential, not because he was restless. The whole drift of things
furthered his ideas, which at the outset won no great vogue. He
was followed because he set forth what so many felt; and similarly
Raynal was read because he chimed with a strengthening feeling. In
direct contradiction to Mallet du Pan, Chamfort, a keener observer,
wrote while the Revolution was still in action that "the priesthood
was the first bulwark of absolute power, and Voltaire overthrew
it. Without this decisive and indispensable first step nothing
would have been done." [1191] The same observer goes on to say that
Rousseau's political works, and particularly the Contrat Social,
"were fitted for few readers, and caused no alarm at court.... That
theory was regarded as a hollow speculation which could have no
further consequences than the enthusiasm for liberty and the contempt
of royalty carried so far in the pieces of Corneille, and applauded
at court by the most absolute of kings, Louis XIV. All that seemed
to belong to another world, and to have no connection with ours;
... in a word, Voltaire above all has made the Revolution, because
he has written for all; Rousseau above all has made the Constitution
because he has written for the thinkers." [1192] And so the changes
may be rung for ever. The final philosophy of history cannot be
reached by any such artificial selection of factors; [1193] and the
ethical problem equally evades such solutions. If we are to pass any
ethico-political judgment whatever, it must be that the evils of the
Revolution lie at the door not of the reformers, but of the men, the
classes, and the institutions which first provoked and then resisted
it. [1194] To describe the former as the authors of the process is as
intelligent as it was to charge upon Sokrates the decay of orthodox
tradition in Athens, and to charge upon that the later downfall of
the Athenian empire. The wisest men of the age, notably the great
Turgot, sought a gradual transformation, a peaceful and harmless
transition from unconstitutional to constitutional government. Their
policy was furiously resisted by an unteachable aristocracy. When at
last fortuitous violence made a breach in the feudal walls, a people
unprepared for self-rule, and fought by an aristocracy eager for blood,
surged into anarchy, and convulsion followed on convulsion. That is
in brief the history of the Revolution.

31. While the true causation of the Revolution is thus kept clear,
it must not be forgotten, further, that to the very last, save where
controlled by disguised rationalists like Malesherbes, the tendency
of the old régime was to persecute brutally and senselessly wherever
it could lay hands on a freethinker. In 1788, only a year before
the first explosion of the Revolution, there appeared the Almanach
des Honnêtes Gens of Sylvain Maréchal, a work of which the offence
consisted not in any attack upon religion, but in simply constructing
a calendar in which the names of renowned laymen were substituted for
saints. Instantly it was denounced by the Paris Parlement, the printer
prosecuted, and the author imprisoned; and De Sauvigny, the censor
who had passed the book, was exiled thirty leagues from Paris. [1195]


    Some idea of the intensity of the tyranny over all literature
    in France under the Old Régime may be gathered from Buckle's
    compendious account of the books officially condemned, and
    of authors punished, during the two generations before the
    Revolution. Apart from the record of the treatment of Buffon,
    Marmontel, Morellet, Voltaire, and Diderot, it runs: "The
    ... tendency was shown in matters so trifling that nothing but
    the gravity of their ultimate results prevents them from being
    ridiculous. In 1770, Imbert translated Clarke's Letters on Spain,
    one of the best works then existing on that country. This book,
    however, was suppressed as soon as it appeared; and the only
    reason assigned for such a stretch of power is that it contained
    some remarks respecting the passion of Charles III for hunting,
    which were considered disrespectful to the French crown, because
    Louis XV himself was a great hunter. Several years before this
    La Bletterie, who was favourably known in France by his works,
    was elected a member of the French Academy. But he, it seems,
    was a Jansenist, and had moreover ventured to assert that the
    Emperor Julian, notwithstanding his apostasy, was not entirely
    devoid of good qualities. Such offences could not be overlooked
    in so pure an age; and the king obliged the Academy to exclude
    La Bletterie from their society. That the punishment extended no
    further was an instance of remarkable leniency; for Fréret, an
    eminent critic and scholar, was confined in the Bastille because he
    stated, in one of his memoirs, that the earliest Frankish chiefs
    had received their titles from the Romans. The same penalty was
    inflicted four different times upon Lenglet du Fresnoy. In the
    case of this amiable and accomplished man, there seems to have
    been hardly the shadow of a pretext for the cruelty with which
    he was treated; though on one occasion the alleged offence was
    that he had published a supplement to the History of De Thou.

    "Indeed, we have only to open the biographies and correspondence
    of that time to find instances crowding upon us from all
    quarters. Rousseau was threatened with imprisonment, was driven
    from France, and his works were publicly burned. The celebrated
    treatise of Helvétius on the Mind was suppressed by an order of the
    Royal Council; it was burned by the common hangman, and the author
    was compelled to write two letters retracting his opinions. Some
    of the geological views of Buffon having offended the clergy,
    that illustrious naturalist was obliged to publish a formal
    recantation of doctrines which are now known to be perfectly
    accurate. The learned Observations on the History of France, by
    Mably, were suppressed as soon as they appeared: for what reason
    it would be hard to say, since M. Guizot, certainly no friend
    either to anarchy or to irreligion, has thought it worth while to
    republish them, and thus stamp them with the authority of his own
    great name. The History of the Indies, by Raynal, was condemned
    to the flames, and the author ordered to be arrested. Lanjuinais,
    in his well-known work on Joseph II, advocated not only religious
    toleration, but even the abolition of slavery; his book,
    therefore, was declared to be 'seditious'; it was pronounced
    'destructive of all subordination,' and was sentenced to be
    burned. The Analysis of Bayle, by Marsy, was suppressed, and the
    author was imprisoned. The History of the Jesuits, by Linguet,
    was delivered to the flames; eight years later his journal was
    suppressed; and, three years after that, as he still persisted
    in writing, his Political Annals were suppressed, and he himself
    was thrown into the Bastille. Delisle de Sales was sentenced to
    perpetual exile and confiscation of all his property on account
    of his work on the Philosophy of Nature. The treatise by Mey, on
    French Law, was suppressed; that by Boncerf, on Feudal Law, was
    burned. The Memoirs of Beaumarchais were likewise burned; the Éloge
    on Fénelon, by La Harpe, was merely suppressed. Duvernet, having
    written a History of the Sorbonne, which was still unpublished,
    was seized and thrown into the Bastille, while the manuscript
    was yet in his own possession. The celebrated work of De Lolme
    on the English constitution was suppressed by edict directly it
    appeared. The fate of being suppressed or prohibited also awaited
    the Letters of Gervaise in 1724; the Dissertations of Courayer in
    1727; the Letters of Montgon in 1732; the History of Tamerlane,
    by Margat, also in 1732; the Essay on Taste, by Cartaud, in 1736;
    The Life of Domat, by Prévost de la Jannès, in 1742; the History
    of Louis XI, by Duclos, in 1745; the Letters of Bargeton in 1750;
    the Memoirs on Troyes, by Grosley, in the same year; the History
    of Clement XI, by Reboulet, in 1752; The School of Man, by Génard,
    also in 1752; the Therapeutics of Garlon in 1756; the celebrated
    thesis of Louis, on Generation, in 1754; the treatise on Presidial
    Jurisdiction, by Jousse, in 1755; the Ericie of Fontenelle in 1768;
    the Thoughts of Jamin in 1769; the History of Siam, by Turpin,
    and the Éloge of Marcus Aurelius, by Thomas, both in 1770;
    the works on Finance by Darigrand, in 1764, and by Le Trosne in
    1779; the Essay on Military Tactics, by Guibert, in 1772; the
    Letters of Boucquet in the same year; and the Memoirs of Terrai,
    by Coquereau, in 1776. Such wanton destruction of property was,
    however, mercy itself compared to the treatment experienced
    by other literary men in France. Desforges, for example, having
    written against the arrest of the Pretender to the English throne,
    was, solely on that account, buried in a dungeon eight feet square
    and confined there for three years. This happened in 1749; and in
    1770, Audra, professor at the College of Toulouse, and a man of
    some reputation, published the first volume of his Abridgement of
    General History. Beyond this the work never proceeded; it was at
    once condemned by the archbishop of the diocese, and the author
    was deprived of his office. Audra, held up to public opprobrium,
    the whole of his labours rendered useless, and the prospects of
    his life suddenly blighted, was unable to survive the shock. He
    was struck with apoplexy, and within twenty-four hours was lying
    a corpse in his own house."


32. Among many other illustrations of the passion for persecution in
the period may be noted the fact that after the death of the atheist
Damilaville his enemies contrived to deprive his brother of a post
from which he had his sole livelihood. [1196] It is but one of an
infinity of proofs that the spirit of sheer sectarian malevolence,
which is far from being eliminated in modern life, was in the French
Church of the eighteenth century the ruling passion. Lovers of moderate
courses there were, even in the Church; but even among professors of
lenity we find an ingrained belief in the virtue of vituperation and
coercion. And it is not until the persecuted minority has developed
its power of written retaliation, and the deadly arrows of Voltaire
have aroused in the minds of persecutors a new terror, that there
seems to arise on that side a suspicion that there can be any better
way of handling unbelief than by invective and imprisonment. After
they had taught the heretics to defend themselves, and found them
possessed of weapons such as orthodoxy could not hope to handle, we
find Churchmen talking newly of the duty of gentleness towards error;
and even then clinging to the last to the weapons of public ostracism
and aspersion. So the fight was of necessity fought on the side of
freethought in the temper of men warring on incorrigible oppression
and cruelty as well as on error. The wonder is that the freethinkers
preserved so much amenity.

33. This section would not be complete even in outline without some
notice of the attitude held towards religion by Napoleon, who at once
crowned and in large measure undid the work of the Revolution. He
has his place in its religious legend in the current datum that he
wrought for the faith by restoring a suppressed public worship and
enabling the people of France once more to hear church-bells. In
point of fact, as was pointed out by Bishop Grégoire in 1826, "it
is materially proved that in 1796, before he was Consul, and four
years before the Concordat, according to a statement drawn up at the
office of the Domaines Nationaux, there were in France 32,214 parishes
where the culte was carried on." [1197] Other commonplaces concerning
Napoleon are not much better founded. On the strength of a number of
oral utterances, many of them imperfectly vouched for, and none of them
marked by much deliberation, he has been claimed by Carlyle [1198] as
a theist who philosophically disdained the "clatter of materialism,"
and believed in a Personal Creator of an infinite universe; while by
others he is put forward as a kind of expert in character study who
vouched for the divinity of Jesus. [1199] In effect, his verdict
that "this was not a man" would tell, if anything, in favour of
the view that Jesus is a mythical construction. He was, indeed, by
temperament quasi-religious, liking the sound of church bells and
the atmosphere of devotion; and in his boyhood he had been a rather
fervent Catholic. As he grew up he read, like his contemporaries,
the French deists of his time, and became a deist like his fellows,
recognizing that religions were human productions. Declaring that he
was "loin d'être athée," he propounded to O'Meara all the conventional
views--that religion should be made a support to morals and law; that
men need to believe in marvels; that religion is a great consolation
to those who believe in it; and that "no one can tell what he will do
in his last moments." [1200] The opinion to which he seems to have
adhered most steadily was that every man should die in the religion
in which he had been brought up. And he himself officially did so,
though he put off almost to the last the formality of a deathbed
profession. His language on the subject is irreconcilable with
any real belief in the Christian religion: he was "a deist à la
Voltaire who recalled with tenderness his Catholic childhood, and
who at death reverted to his first beliefs." [1201] For the rest,
he certainly believed in religion as a part of the machinery of the
State, and repeated the usual platitudes about its value as a moral
restraint. He was candid enough, however, not to pretend that it had
ever restrained him; and no freethinker condemned more sweepingly
than he the paralysing effect of the Catholic system on Spain. [1202]
To the Church his attitude was purely political; and his personal
liking for the Pope never moved him to yield, where he could avoid it,
to the temporal pretensions of the papacy. The Concordat of 1802,
that "brilliant triumph over the genius of the Revolution," [1203]
was purely and simply a political measure. If he had had his way,
he would have set up a system of religious councils in France, to
be utilized against all disturbing tendencies in politics. [1204]
Had he succeeded, he was capable of suppressing all manifestations
of freethought in the interests of "order." [1205] He had, in fact,
no disinterested love of truth; and we have his express declaration,
at St. Helena, on the subject of Molière's Tartufe: "I do not hesitate
to say that if the piece had been written in my time, I would not
have permitted its representation." [1206] Freethought can make no
warm claim to the allegiance of such a ruler; and if the Church of
Rome is concerned to claim him as a son on the score of his deathbed
adherence, after a reign which led the Catholic clergy of Spain to
hold him up to the faithful as an incarnation of the devil, [1207]
she will hardly gain by the association. Napoleon's ideas on religious
questions were in fact no more noteworthy than his views on economics,
which were thoroughly conventional.



CHAPTER XVIII

GERMAN FREETHOUGHT IN THE SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES


1. When two generations of Protestant strife had turned to naught the
intellectual promise of the Reformation, and much of the ground first
won by it had lapsed to Catholicism, the general forward movement of
European thought availed to set up in Germany as elsewhere a measure of
critical unbelief. There is abundant evidence that the Lutheran clergy
not only failed to hold the best intelligence of the country with them,
but in large part fell into personal disrepute. [1208] "The scenes of
clerical immorality," says an eminently orthodox historian, "are enough
to chill one's blood even at the distance of two centuries." [1209]
A Church Ordinance of 1600 acknowledges information to the effect
that a number of clergymen and schoolmasters are guilty of "whoredom
and fornication," and commands that "if they are notoriously guilty
they shall be suspended." Details are preserved of cases of clerical
drunkenness and ruffianism; and the women of the priests' families do
not escape the pillory. [1210] Nearly a century later, Arnold resigned
his professorship at Giessen "from despair of producing any amendment
in the dissolute habits of the students." [1211] It is noted that
"the great moral decline of the clergy was confined chiefly to the
Lutheran Church. The Reformed [Calvinistic] was earnest, pious,
and aggressive" [1212]--the usual result of official hostility.

In such circumstances, the active freethought existing in France at the
beginning of the seventeenth century could not fail to affect Germany;
and even before the date of the polemic of Garasse and Mersenne there
appeared (1615) a counterblast to the new thought in the Theologia
Naturalis of J. H. Alsted, of Frankfort, directed adversus atheos,
Epicureos, et sophistas hujus temporis. The preface to this solid
quarto (a remarkable sample of good printing for the period) declares
that "there are men in this diseased (exulcerato) age who dare to
oppose science to revelation, reason to faith, nature to grace,
the creator to the redeemer, and truth to truth"; and the writer
undertakes to rise argumentatively from nature to the Christian God,
without, however, transcending the logical plane of De Mornay. The
trouble of the time, unhappily for the faith, was not rationalism,
but the inextinguishable hatreds of Protestant and Catholic, and the
strife of economic interests dating from the appropriations of the
first reformers. At length, after a generation of gloomy suspense,
came the explosion of the hostile ecclesiastical interests, and
the long-drawn horror of the Thirty Years' War, which left Germany
mangled, devastated, drained of blood and treasure, decivilized, and
well-nigh destitute of the machinery of culture. No such printing
as that of Alsted's book was to be done in the German world for
many generations. But as in France, so in Germany, the exhausting
experience of the moral and physical evil of religious war wrought
something of an antidote, in the shape of a new spirit of rationalism.

Not only was the Peace of Westphalia an essentially secular
arrangement, subordinating all religious claims to a political
settlement, [1213] but the drift of opinion was markedly
freethinking. Already in 1630 one writer describes "three classes
of skeptics among the nobility of Hamburg: first, those who believe
that religion is nothing but a mere fiction, invented to keep the
masses in restraint; second, those who give preference to no faith,
but think that all religions have a germ of truth; and third, those
who, confessing that there must be one true religion, are unable to
decide whether it is papal, Calvinist, or Lutheran, and consequently
believe nothing at all." No less explicit is the written testimony
of Walther, the court chaplain of Ulrich II of East Friesland, 1637:
"These infernal courtiers, among whom I am compelled to live against
my will, doubt those truths which even the heathen have learned
to believe." [1214] In Germany as in France the freethinking which
thus grew up during the religious war expanded after the peace. As
usual, this is to be gathered from the orthodox propaganda against it,
setting out in 1662 with a Preservative against the Pest of Present-day
Atheists, [1215] by one Theophilus Gegenbauer. So far was this from
attaining its end that there ensued ere long a more positive and
aggressive development of freethinking than any other country had yet
seen. A wandering scholar, Matthias Knutzen of Holstein (b. 1645),
who had studied philosophy at Königsberg, went about in 1674 teaching
a hardy Religion of Humanity, rejecting alike immortality, God and
Devil, churches and priests, and insisting that conscience could
perfectly well take the place of the Bible as a guide to conduct. His
doctrines are to be gathered chiefly from a curious Latin letter,
[1216] written by him for circulation, headed Amicus Amicis Amica;
and in this the profession of atheism is explicit: "Insuper Deum
negamus." In two dialogues in German he set forth the same ideas. His
followers, as holding by conscience, were called Gewissener; and
he or another of his group asserted that in Jena alone there were
seven hundred of them. [1217] The figures were fantastic, and the
whole movement passed rapidly out of sight--hardly by reason of the
orthodox refutations, however. Germany was in no state to sustain
such a party; and what happened was a necessarily slow gestation of
the seed of new thought thus cast abroad.


    Knutzen's Latin letter is given in full by a Welsh scholar settled
    in Germany, Jenkinus Thomasius (Jenkin Thomas), in his Historia
    Atheismi (Altdorf, 1692), ed. Basel, 1709, pp. 97-101; also
    by La Croze in his (anon.) Entretiens sur divers sujets, 1711,
    p. 402 sq. Thomasius thus codifies its doctrine:--"1. There is
    neither God nor Devil. 2. The magistrate is nothing to be esteemed;
    temples are to be condemned, priests to be rejected. 3. In place
    of the magistrate and the priest are to be put knowledge and
    reason, joined with conscience, which teaches to live honestly,
    to injure none, and to give each his own. 4. Marriage and free
    union do not differ. 5. This is the only life: after it, there
    is neither reward nor punishment. 6. The Scripture contradicts
    itself." Knutzen admittedly wrote like a scholar (Thomasius,
    p. 97); but his treatment of Scripture contradictions belongs
    to the infancy of criticism; though La Croze, replying thirty
    years later, could only meet it with charges of impiety and
    stupidity. As to the numbers of the movement see Trinius,
    Freydenker Lexicon, 1759, s. v. Knutzen. Kurtz (Hist. of the
    Christian Church, Eng. tr. 1864, i, 213) states that a careful
    academic investigation proved the claim to a membership of 700
    to be an empty boast (citing H. Rossel, Studien und Kritiken,
    1844, iv). This doubtless refers to the treatise of Musæus, Jena,
    1675, cited by La Croze, p. 401. Some converts Knutzen certainly
    made; and as only the hardiest would dare to avow themselves, his
    influence may have been considerable. "Examples of total unbelief
    come only singly to knowledge," says Tholuck; "but total unbelief
    had still to the end of the century to bear penal treatment." He
    gives the instances (1) of the Swedish Baron Skytte, reported in
    1669 by Spener to the Frankfort authorities for having said at
    table, before the court preacher, that the Scriptures were not
    holy, and not from God but from men; and (2) "a certain minister"
    who at the end of the century was prosecuted for blasphemy. (Das
    kirchliche Leben des 17ten Jahrhunderts, 2 Abth. pp. 56-57.) Even
    Anabaptists were still liable to banishment in the middle of
    the century. Id. 1 Abth. 1861, p. 36. As to clerical intolerance
    see pp. 40-44. On the merits of the Knutzen movement cp. Pünjer,
    Hist, of the Christian Philos. of Religion, Eng. tr. i, 437-8.


2. While, however, clerical action could drive such a movement under
the surface, it could not prevent the spread of rationalism in all
directions; and there was now germinating a philosophic unbelief
[1218] under the influence of Spinoza. Nowhere were there more
prompt and numerous answers to Spinoza than in Germany, [1219]
whence it may be inferred that within the educated class he soon
had a good many adherents. In point of fact the Elector Palatine
offered him a professorship of philosophy at Heidelberg in 1673,
promising him "the most ample freedom in philosophical teaching,"
and merely stipulating that he should not use it "to disturb the
religion publicly established." [1220] On the other hand, Professor
Rappolt, of Leipzig, attacked him as an atheist, in an Oratio contra
naturalistas in 1670; Professor Musæus, of Jena, assailed him in 1674;
[1221] and the Chancellor Kortholt, of Kiel, grouped him, Herbert,
and Hobbes as The Three Great Impostors in 1680. [1222] After the
appearance of the Ethica the replies multiplied. On the other hand,
Cuffelaer vindicated Spinoza in 1684; and in 1691 F. W. Stosch, a
court official, and son of the court preacher, published a stringent
attack on revelationism, entitled Concordia rationis et fidei, partly
on Spinozistic lines, which created much commotion, and was forcibly
suppressed and condemned to be burnt by the hangman at Berlin, [1223]
as it denied not only the immateriality but the immortality of the
soul and the historical truth of the Scriptural narratives. This
seems to have been the first work of modern freethought published
by a German, [1224] apart from Knutzen's letter; but a partial list
of the apologetic works of the period, from Gegenbauer onwards,
may suffice to suggest the real vogue of heterodox opinions:--


1662.   Th. Gegenbauer. Preservatio wider die Pest der heutigen
        Atheisten. Erfurt.
1668.   J. Musæus. Examen Cherburianismi. Contra E. Herbertum de
        Cherbury.
1668.   Anton Reiser. De origine, progressu, et incremento Antitheismi
        seu Atheismi. [1225] Augsburg.
1670.   Rappolt. Oratio contra Naturalistas. Leipzig.
1672.   J. Müller. Atheismus devictus (in German). Hamburg.
1672.   J. Lassen. Arcana-Politica-Atheistica (in German).
1673.   ---- Besiegte Atheisterey.
1673.   Chr. Pfaff. Disputatio contra Atheistas.
1674.   J. Musæus. Spinozismus. Jena.
1677.   Val. Greissing. Corona Transylvani; Exerc. 2, de Atheismo,
        contra Cartesium et Math. Knutzen. Wittemberg.
1677.   Tobias Wagner. Examen ... atheismi speculativi. Tübingen.
1677.   K. Rudrauff, Giessen. Dissertatio de Atheismo.
1680.   Chr. Kortholt. De tribus impostoribus magnis liber. Kiloni.
1689.   Th. Undereyck. Der Närrische Atheist in seiner Thorheit
        ueberzeugt. Bremen.
1692.   Jenkinus Thomasius. Historia Atheismi. Altdorf.
1696.   J. Lassen. Arcana-Politica-Atheistica. Reprint.
1697.   A. H. Grosse. An Atheismus necessario ducat ad corruptionem
        morum. Rostock.
1697.   Em. Weber. Beurtheilung der Atheisterei.
1700.   Tribbechov. Historia Naturalismi. Jena.
1708.   Loescher. Prænotiones Theologicæ contra Naturalistarum et
        Fanaticorum omne genus, Atheos, Deistas, Indifferentistas, etc.
        Wittemberg.
1708.   Schwartz. Demonstrationes Dei. Leipzig.
1708.   Rechenberg. Fundamenta veræ religionis Prudentum, adversus
        Atheos, etc.
1710.   J. C. Wolfius. Dissertatio de Atheismi falso suspectis.
        Wittemberg.
1713.   J. N. Fromman. Atheus Stultus. Tübingen.
1713.   Anon. Widerlegung der Atheisten, Deisten, und neuen Zweifeler.
        Frankfort.

    [Later came the works of Buddeus (1716) and Reimmann and Fabricius,
    noted above, vol. i, ch. i, § 2.]


3. For a community in which the reading class was mainly clerical and
scholastic, the seeds of rationalism were thus in part sown in the
seventeenth century; but the ground was not yet propitious. Leibnitz
(1646-1716), the chief thinker produced by Germany before Kant,
lived in a state of singular intellectual isolation; [1226] and
showed his sense of it by writing his philosophic treatises chiefly
in French. One of the most widely learned men of his age, he was wont
from his boyhood to grapple critically with every system of thought
that came in his way; and, while claiming to be always eager to learn,
[1227] he was as a rule strongly concerned to affirm his own powerful
bias. Early in life he writes that it horrifies him to think how
many men he has met who were at once intelligent and atheistic;
[1228] and his propaganda is always dominated by the desire rather
to confute unbelief than to find out the truth. As early as 1668
(aet. 22) he wrote an essay to that end, which was published as
a Confessio naturæ contra Atheistas. Against Spinoza he reacted
instantly and violently, pronouncing the Tractatus on its first
(anonymous) appearance an "unbearably bold (licentiosum) book,"
and resenting the Hobbesian criticism which it "dared to apply to
sacred Scripture." [1229] Yet in the next year we find him writing
to Arnauld in earnest protest against the hidebound orthodoxy of the
Church. "A philosophic age," he declares, "is about to begin, in which
the concern for truth, flourishing outside the schools, will spread
even among politicians. Nothing is more likely to strengthen atheism
and to upset faith, already so shaken by the attacks of great but bad
men [a pleasing allusion to Spinoza], than to see on the one side the
mysteries of the faith preached upon as the creed of all, and on the
other hand become matter of derision to all, convicted of absurdity
by the most certain rules of common reason. The worst enemies of the
Church are in the Church. Let us take care lest the latest heresy--I
will not say atheism, but--naturalism, be publicly professed." [1230]
For a time he seemed thus disposed to liberalize. He wrote to Spinoza
on points of optics before he discovered the authorship; and he is
represented later as speaking of the Tractatus with respect. He even
visited Spinoza in 1676, and obtained a perusal of the manuscript
of the Ethica; but he remained hostile to him in theology and
philosophy. To the last he called Spinoza a mere developer of
Descartes, [1231] whom he also habitually resisted.

This was not hopeful; and Leibnitz, with all his power and originality,
really wrought little for the direct rationalization of religious
thought. [1232] His philosophy, with all its ingenuity, has the common
stamp of the determination of the theist to find reasons for the God
in whom he believed beforehand; and his principle that all is for
the best is the fatal rounding of his argumentative circle. Thus his
doctrine that that is true which is clear was turned to the account
of an empiricism of which the "clearness" was really predetermined
by the conviction of truth. His Theodicée, [1233] written in reply
to Bayle, is by the admission even of admirers [1234] a process of
begging the question. Deity, a mere "infinition" of finite qualities,
is proved à priori, though it is expressly argued that a finite mind
cannot grasp infinity; and the necessary goodness of necessary deity
is posited in the same fashion. It is very significant that such a
philosopher, himself much given to denying the religiousness of other
men's theories, was nevertheless accused among both the educated
and the populace of being essentially non-religious. Nominally he
adhered to the entire Christian system, including miracles, though he
declared that his belief in dogma rested on the agreement of reason
with faith, and claimed to keep his thought free on unassailed
truths; [1235] and he always discussed the Bible as a believer;
yet he rarely went to church; [1236] and the Low German nickname
Lövenix (= Glaubet nichts, "believes nothing") expressed his local
reputation. No clergyman attended his funeral; but indeed no one
else went, save his secretary. [1237] It is on the whole difficult to
doubt that his indirect influence not only in Germany but elsewhere
had been and has been for deism and atheism. [1238] He and Newton
were the most distinguished mathematicians and theists of the age;
and Leibnitz, as we saw, busied himself to show that the philosophy
of Newton [1239] tended to atheism, and that that of their theistic
predecessor Descartes would not stand criticism. [1240] Spinoza being,
according to him, in still worse case, and Locke hardly any sounder,
[1241] there remained for theists only his cosmology of monads and
his ethic of optimism--all for the best in the best of all possible
worlds--which seems at least as well fitted as any other theism to
make thoughtful men give up the principle.

4. Other culture-conditions concurred to set up a spirit of rationalism
in Germany. After the Thirty Years' War there arose a religious
movement, called Pietism by its theological opponents, which aimed at
an emotional inwardness of religious life as against what its adherents
held to be an irreligious orthodoxy around them. [1242] Contending
against rigid articles of credence, they inevitably prepared the way
for less credent forms of thought. [1243] Though the first leaders
of Pietism grew embittered with their unsuccess and the attacks of
their religious enemies, [1244] their impulse went far, and greatly
influenced the clergy through the university of Halle, which in the
first part of the eighteenth century turned out 6,000 clergymen in
one generation. [1245] Against the Pietists were furiously arrayed
the Lutherans of the old order, who even contrived in many places to
suppress their schools. [1246] Virtues generated under persecution,
however, underwent the law of degeneration which dogs all intellectual
subjection; and the inner life of Pietism, lacking mental freedom
and intellectual play, grew as cramped in its emotionalism as that
of orthodoxy in its dogmatism. Religion was thus represented by a
species of extremely unattractive and frequently absurd formalists on
the one hand, and on the other by a school which at its best unsettled
religious usage, and otherwise tended alternately to fanaticism and
cant. [1247] Thus "the rationalist tendencies of the age were promoted
by this treble exhibition of the aberrations of belief." [1248]
"How sorely," says Tholuck, "the hold not only of ecclesiastical
but of Biblical belief on men of all grades had been shaken at the
beginning of the eighteenth century is seen in many instances." [1249]
Orthodoxy selects that of a Holstein student who hanged himself at
Wittemberg in 1688, leaving written in his New Testament, in Latin,
the declaration that "Our soul is mortal; religion is a popular
delusion, invented to gull the ignorant, and so govern the world the
better." [1250] But again there is the testimony of the mint-master
at Hanover that at court there all lived as "free atheists." And
though the name "freethinker" was not yet much used in discussion,
it had become current in the form of Freigeist--the German equivalent
still used. This, as we have noted, [1251] was probably a survival
from the name of the old sect of the "Free Spirit," rather than an
adaptation from the French esprit fort or the English "freethinker."

5. After the collapse of the popular movement of Matthias Knutzen,
the thin end of the new wedge may be seen in the manifold work of
Christian Thomasius (1655-1728), who in 1687 published a treatise
on "Divine Jurisprudence," in which the principles of Pufendorf
on natural law, already offensive to the theologians, were carried
so far as to give new offence. Reading Pufendorf in his nonage as a
student of jurisprudence, he was so conscious of the conflict between
the utilitarian and the Scriptural view of moral law that, taught
by a master who had denounced Pufendorf, he recoiled in a state of
theological fear. [1252] Some years later, gaining self-possession, he
recognized the rationality of Pufendorf's system, and both expounded
and defended him, thus earning his share in the hostility which the
great jurist encountered at clerical hands. Between that hostility
and the naturalist bias which he had acquired from Pufendorf,
there grew up in him an aversion to the methods and pretensions
of theologians which made him their lifelong antagonist. [1253]
Pufendorf had but guardedly introduced some of the fundamental
principles of Hobbes, relating morals to the social state, and thus
preparing the way for utilitarianism. [1254] This sufficed to make
the theologians his enemies; and it is significant that Thomasius,
heterodox at the outset only thus far forth, becomes from that point
onwards an important pioneer of freethought, toleration, and humane
reform. Innovating in all things, he began, while still a Privatdocent
at Leipzig University, a campaign on behalf of the German language;
and, not content with arousing much pedantic enmity by delivering
lectures for the first time in his mother tongue, and deriding
at the same time the bad scholastic Latin of his compatriots,
he set on foot the first vernacular German periodical, [1255]
which ran for two years (1688-90), and caused so much anger that
he was twice prosecuted before the ecclesiastical court of Dresden,
the second time on a charge of contempt of religion. The periodical
was in effect a crusade against all the pedantries, the theologians
coming in for the hardest blows. [1256] Other satirical writings,
and a defence of intermarriage between Calvinists and Lutherans,
[1257] at length put him in such danger that, to escape imprisonment,
he sought the protection of the Elector of Brandenburg at Halle, where
he ultimately became professor of jurisprudence in the new university,
founded by his advice. There for a time he leant towards the Pietists,
finding in that body a concern for natural liberty of feeling and
thinking which was absent from the mental life of orthodoxy; but he
was "of another spirit" than they, and took his own way.

In philosophy an unsystematic pantheist, he taught, after Plutarch,
Bayle, and Bacon, that "superstition is worse than atheism"; but
his great practical service to German civilization, over and above
his furthering of the native speech, was his vigorous polemic against
prosecutions for heresy, trials for witchcraft, and the use of torture,
all of which he did more than any other German to discredit, though
judicial torture subsisted for another half-century. [1258] It was by
his propaganda that the princes of Germany were moved to abolish all
trials for sorcery. [1259] In such a battle he of course had the clergy
against him all along the line; and it is as an anti-clerical that
he figures in clerical history. The clerical hostility to his ethics
he repaid with interest, setting himself to develop to the utmost,
in the interest of lay freedom, the Lutheran admission of the divine
right of princes. [1260] This he turned not against freedom of opinion
but against ecclesiastical claims, very much in the spirit of Hobbes,
who may have influenced him.

The perturbed Mosheim, while candidly confessing that Thomasius
is the founder of academic freedom in Germany, pronounces that the
"famous jurists" who were led by Thomasius "set up a new fundamental
principle of church polity--namely, the supreme authority and power
of the civil magistrate," so tending to create the opinion "that the
ministers of religion are not to be accounted ambassadors of God,
but vicegerents of the chief magistrates. They also weakened not a
little the few remaining prerogatives and advantages which were left
of the vast number formerly possessed by the clergy; and maintained
that many of the maxims and regulations of our churches which had
come down from our fathers were relics of popish superstition. This
afforded matter for long and pernicious feuds and contests between
our theologians and our jurists.... It will be sufficient for us to
observe, what is abundantly attested, that they diminished much in
various places the respect for the clergy, the reverence for religion,
and the security and prosperity of the Lutheran Church." [1261]
Pusey, in turn, grudgingly allows that "the study of history was
revived and transformed through the views of Thomasius." [1262]

6. A personality of a very different kind emerges in the same period
in Johann Conrad Dippel (1673-1734), who developed a system of
rationalistic mysticism, and as to whom, says an orthodox historian,
"one is doubtful whether to place him in the class of pietists or
of rationalists, of enthusiasts or of scoffers, of mystics or of
freethinkers." [1263] The son of a preacher, he yet "exhibited in his
ninth year strong doubts as to the catechism." After a tolerably free
life as a student he turned Pietist at Strasburg, lectured on astrology
and palmistry, preached, and got into trouble with the police. In
1698 he published under the pen-name of "Christianus Democritus"
his book, Gestäuptes Papstthum der Protestirenden ("The Popery of
the Protestantizers Whipped"), in which he so attacked the current
Christian ethic of salvation as to exasperate both Churches. [1264] The
stress of his criticism fell firstly on the unthinking Scripturalism of
the average Protestant, who, he said, while reproaching the Catholic
with setting up in the crucifix a God of wood, was apt to make for
himself a God of paper. [1265] In his repudiation of the "bargain" or
"redemption" doctrine of the historic Church he took up positions which
were as old as Abailard, and which were one day to become respectable;
but in his own life he was much of an Ishmaelite, with wild notions
of alchemy and gold-making; and after predicting that he should live
till 1808, he died suddenly in 1734, leaving a doctrine which appealed
only to those constitutionally inclined, on the lines of the earlier
English Quakers, to set the inner light above Scripture. [1266]

7. Among the pupils of Thomasius at Halle was Theodore Louis Lau,
who, born of an aristocratic family, became Minister of Finances to
the Duke of Courland, and after leaving that post held a high place
in the service of the Elector Palatine. While holding that office
Lau published a small Latin volume of pensées entitled Meditationes
Theologicæ-Physicæ, notably deistic in tone. This gave rise to such an
outcry among the clergy that he had to leave Frankfort, only, however,
to be summoned before the consistory of Königsberg, his native town,
and charged with atheism (1719). He thereupon retired to Altona,
where he had freedom enough to publish a reply to his clerical
persecutors. [1267]

8. While Thomasius was still at work, a new force arose of a more
distinctly academic cast. This was the adaptation of Leibnitz's
system by Christian Wolff, who, after building up a large influence
among students by his method of teaching, [1268] came into public
prominence by a rectorial address [1269] at Halle (1721) in which
he warmly praised the ethics of Confucius. Such praise was naturally
held to imply disparagement of Christianity; and as a result of the
pietist outcry Wolff was condemned by the king to exile from Prussia,
under penalty of the gallows, [1270] all "atheistical" writings being
at the same time forbidden. Wolff's system, however, prevailed so
completely, in virtue of its lucidity and the rationalizing tendency
of the age, that in the year 1738 there were said to be already 107
authors of his cast of thinking. Nevertheless, he refused to return
to Halle on any invitation till the accession (1740) of Frederick
the Great, one of his warmest admirers, whereafter he figured as
the German thinker of his age. His teaching, which for the first
time popularized philosophy in the German language, in turn helped
greatly, by its ratiocinative cast, to promote the rationalistic
temper, though orthodox enough from the modern point of view. Under
the new reign, however, pietism and Wolffism alike lost prestige,
[1271] and the age of anti-Christian and Christian rationalism
began. Thus the period of freethinking in Germany follows close upon
one of religious revival. The 6,000 theologians trained at Halle in the
first generation of the century had "worked like a leaven through all
Germany." [1272] "Not since the time of the Reformation had Germany
such a large number of truly pious preachers and laymen as towards
the end of the first half of the eighteenth century." [1273] There,
as elsewhere, religion intellectually collapsed.


    As to Wolff's rationalistic influence see Cairns, Unbelief in
    the Eighteenth Century, 1881, p. 173; Pusey, pp. 115-19; Pünjer,
    p. 529; Lechler, pp. 448-49. "It cannot be questioned that, in
    his philosophy, the main stress rests upon the rational" (Kahnis,
    as cited, p. 28). "Francke and Lange (pietists) ... saw atheism
    and corruption of manners springing up from Wolff's school"
    (before his exile). Id. p. 113. Wolff's chief offence lay in
    stressing natural religion, and in indicating, as Tholuck observes,
    that that could be demonstrated, whereas revealed religion could
    only be believed (Abriss, p. 18). He greatly pleased Voltaire
    by the dictum that men ought to be just even though they had
    the misfortune to be atheists. It is noted by Tholuck, however
    (Abriss, as cited, p. 11, note), that the decree for Wolff's
    expulsion was inspired not by his theological colleagues but
    by two military advisers of the king. Tholuck's own criticism
    resolves itself into a protest against Wolff's predilection for
    logical connection in his exposition. The fatal thing was that
    Wolff accustomed German Christians to reason.


9. Even before the generation of active pressure from English and
French deism there were clear signs that rationalism had taken root in
German life. On the impulse set up by the establishment of the Grand
Lodge at London in 1717, Freemasonic lodges began to spring up in
Germany, the first being founded at Hamburg in 1733. [1274] The deism
which in the English lodges was later toned down by orthodox reaction
was from the first pronounced in the German societies, which ultimately
passed on the tradition to the other parts of the Continent. But
the new spirit was not confined to secret societies. Wolffianism
worked widely. In the so-called Wertheim Bible (1735) Johann
Lorenz Schmid, in the spirit of the Leibnitz-Wolffian theology,
"undertook to translate the Bible, and to explain it according to the
principle that in revelation only that can be accepted as true which
does not contradict the reason." [1275] This of course involved no
thorough-going criticism; but the spirit of innovation was strong
enough in Schmid to make him undermine tradition at many points,
and later carried him so far as to translate Tindal's Christianity as
old as Creation. So far was he in advance of his time that when his
Wertheim Bible was officially condemned throughout Germany he found no
defenders. [1276] The Wolffians were in comparison generally orthodox;
and another writer of the same school, Martin Knutzen, professor at
Königsberg (1715-1751), undertook in a youthful thesis De æternitate
mundi impossibili (1735) to rebut the old Averroïst doctrine, revived
by modern science, of the indestructibility of the universe. A few
years later (1739) he published a treatise entitled The Truth of
Christianity Demonstrated by Mathematics, which succeeded as might
have been expected.

10. To the same period belong the first activities of Johann Christian
Edelmann (1698-1767), one of the most energetic freethinkers of his
age. Trained philosophically at Jena under the theologian Budde,
a bitter opponent of Wolff, and theologically in the school of the
Pietists, he was strongly influenced against official orthodoxy
through reading the Impartial History of the Church and of Heretics,
by Gottfried Arnold, an eminently anti-clerical work, which nearly
always takes the side of the heretics. [1277] In the same heterodox
direction he was swayed by the works of Dippel. At this stage Edelmann
produced his Unschuldige Wahrheiten ("Innocent Truths"), in which
he takes up a pronouncedly rationalist and latitudinarian position,
but without rejecting "revelation"; and in 1736 he went to Berleburg,
where he worked on the Berleburg translation of the Bible, a Pietist
undertaking, somewhat on the lines of Dippel's mystical doctrine,
in which a variety of incredible Scriptural narratives, from the six
days' creation onwards, are turned to mystical purpose. [1278] In
this occupation Edelmann seems to have passed some years. Gradually,
however, he came more and more under the influence of the English
deists; and he at length withdrew from the Pietist camp, attacking
his former associates for the fanaticism into which their thought
was degenerating. It was under the influence of Spinoza, however,
that he took his most important steps. A few months after meeting
with the Tractatus he began (1740) the first part of his treatise
Moses mit aufgedecktem Angesichte ("Moses with unveiled face"),
an attack at once on the doctrine of inspiration and on that of
the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. The book was intended to
consist of twelve parts; but after the appearance of three it was
prohibited by the imperial fisc, and the published parts burned by the
hangman at Hamburg and elsewhere. Nonetheless, Edelmann continued his
propaganda, publishing in 1741 or 1742 The Divinity of Reason, [1279]
and in 1741 Christ and Belial. In 1749 or 1750 his works were again
publicly burned at Frankfurt by order of the imperial authorities;
and he had much ado to find anywhere in Germany safe harbourage, till
he found protection under Frederick at Berlin, where he died in 1767.

Edelmann's teaching was essentially Spinozist and pantheistic, [1280]
with a leaning to the doctrine of metempsychosis. As a pantheist he of
course entirely rejected the divinity of Jesus, pronouncing inspiration
the appanage of all; and the gospels were by him dismissed as late
fabrications, from which the true teachings of the founder could not
be learned; though, like nearly all the freethinkers of that age,
he estimated Jesus highly. [1281] A German theologian complains,
nevertheless, that he was "more just toward heathenism than toward
Judaism; and more just toward Judaism than toward Christianity";
adding: "What he taught had been thoroughly and ingeniously said in
France and England; but from a German theologian, and that with such
eloquent coarseness, with such a mastery in expatiating in blasphemy,
such things were unheard of." [1282] The force of Edelmann's attack
may be gathered from the same writer's account of him as a "bird of
prey" who rose to a "wicked height of opposition, not only against
the Lutheran Church, but against Christianity in general."

11. Even from decorous and official exponents of religion, however,
there came "naturalistic" and semi-rationalistic teaching, as in
the Reflections on the most important truths of religion [1283]
(1768-1769) of J. F. W. Jerusalem, Abbot of Marienthal in Brunswick,
and later of Riddagshausen (1709-1789). Jerusalem had travelled
in Europe, and had spent two years in Holland and one in England,
where he studied the deists and their opponents. "In England alone,"
he declared, "is mankind original." [1284] Though really written by
way of defending Christianity against the freethinkers, in particular
against Bolingbroke and Voltaire, [1285] the very title of his book
is suggestive of a process of disintegration; and in it certain
unedifying Scriptural miracles are actually rejected. [1286] It was
probably this measure of adaptation to new needs that gave it its
great popularity in Germany and secured its translation into several
other languages. Goethe called him a "freely and gently thinking
theologian"; and a modern orthodox historian of the Church groups him
with those who "contributed to the spread of Rationalism by sermons
and by popular doctrinal and devotional works." [1287] Jerusalem was,
however, at most a semi-rationalist, taking a view of the fundamental
Christian dogmas which approached closely to that of Locke. [1288]
It was, as Goethe said later, the epoch of common sense; and the very
theologians tended to a "religion of nature." [1289]

12. Alongside of home-made heresy there had come into play a new
initiative force in the literature of English deism, which began to
be translated after 1740, [1290] and was widely circulated till, in
the last third of the century, it was superseded by the French. The
English answers to the deists were frequently translated likewise,
and notoriously helped to promote deism [1291]--another proof that
it was not their influence that had changed the balance of activity
in England. Under a freethinking king, even clergymen began guardedly
to accept the deistic methods; and the optimism of Shaftesbury began
to overlay the optimism of Leibnitz; [1292] while a French scientific
influence began with La Mettrie, [1293] Maupertuis, and Robinet. Even
the Leibnitzian school, proceeding on the principle of immortal
monads, developed a doctrine of the immortality of the souls of animals
[1294]--a position not helpful to orthodoxy. There was thus a general
stirring of doubt among educated people, [1295] and we find mention
in Goethe's Autobiography of an old gentleman of Frankfort who avowed,
as against the optimists, "Even in God I find defects (Fehler)." [1296]

On the other hand, there were instances in Germany of the phenomenon,
already seen in England in Newton and Boyle, of men of science
devoting themselves to the defence of the faith. The most notable
cases were those of the mathematician Euler and the biologist von
Haller. The latter wrote Letters (to his Daughter) On the most
important Truths of Revelation (1772) [1297] and other apologetic
works. Euler in 1747 published at Berlin, where he was professor,
his Defence of Revelation against the Reproaches of Freethinkers;
[1298] and in 1769 his Letters to a German Princess, of which the
argument notably coincides with part of that of Berkeley against
the freethinking mathematicians. Haller's position comes to the same
thing. All three men, in fact, grasped at the argument of despair--the
inadequacy of the human faculties to sound the mystery of things;
and all alike were entirely unable to see that it logically cancelled
their own judgments. Even a theologian, contemplating Haller's theorem
of an incomprehensible omnipotence countered in its merciful plan
of salvation by the set of worms it sought to save, comments on the
childishness of the philosophy which confidently described the plans
of deity in terms of what it declared to be the blank ignorance of
the worms in question. [1299] Euler and Haller, like some later men of
science, kept their scientific method for the mechanical or physical
problems of their scientific work, and brought to the deepest problems
of all the self-will, the emotionalism, and the irresponsibility of
the ignorant average man. Each did but express in his own way the
resentment of the undisciplined mind at attacks upon its prejudices;
and Haller's resort to poetry as a vehicle for his religion gives the
measure of his powers on that side. Thus in Germany as in England the
"answer" to the freethinkers was a failure. Men of science playing
at theology and theologians playing at science alike failed to turn
the tide of opinion, now socially favoured by the known deism of the
king. German orthodoxy, says a recent Christian apologist, fell "with
a rapidity reminding one of the capture of Jericho." [1300] Goethe,
writing of the general attitude to Christianity about 1768, sums up
that "the Christian religion wavered between its own historic-positive
base and a pure deism, which, grounded on morality, was in turn to
re-establish ethics." [1301]


    Frederick's attitude, said an early Kantian, had had "an almost
    magical influence" on popular opinion (Willich, Elements of the
    Critical Philosophy, 1798, p. 2). With this his French teachers
    must have had much to do. Lord Morley pronounces (Voltaire,
    4th ed. p. 123) that French deism "never made any impression on
    Germany," and that "the teaching of Leibnitz and Wolff stood like a
    fortified wall against the French invasion." This is contradicted
    by much German testimony; in particular by Lange's (Gesch. des
    Mater. i, 318), though he notes that French materialism could not
    get the upper hand. Laukhard, who expressed the highest admiration
    for Tindal, as having wholly delivered him from dogmatism, avowed
    that Voltaire, whom everybody read, had perhaps done more harm
    to priest religion than all the books of the English and German
    deists together (Leben, 1792-1802, Th. i, p. 268).

    Tholuck gravely affirms (Abriss, p. 33) that the acquaintance
    with the French "deistery and frivolity" in Germany belongs to
    a "somewhat later period than that of the English." Naturally
    it did. The bulk of the English deistic literature was printed
    before the printing of the French had begun! French MSS. would
    reach German princes, but not German pastors. But Tholuck sadly
    avows that the French deism (of the serious and pre-Voltairean
    portions of which he seems to have known nothing) had a
    "frightful" influence on the upper classes, though not on the
    clergy (p. 34). Following him, Kahnis writes (Internal History,
    p. 41) that "English and French Deism met with a very favourable
    reception in Germany--the latter chiefly in the higher circles,
    the former rather among the educated middle classes." (He
    should have added, "the younger theologians.") Baur, even
    in speaking disparagingly of the French as compared with the
    English influence, admits (Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, 2te
    Aufl. p. 347) that the former told upon Germany. Cp. Tennemann,
    Bohn. tr. pp. 385, 388. Hagenbach shows great ignorance of English
    deism, but he must have known something of German; and he writes
    (tr. p. 57) that "the imported deism," both English and French,
    "soon swept through the rifts of the Church, and gained supreme
    control of literature." Cp. pp. 67-68. See Croom Robertson's
    Hobbes, pp. 225-26, as to the persistence of a succession of
    Hobbes and Locke in Germany in the teeth of the Wolffian school,
    which soon lost ground after 1740. It is further noteworthy that
    Brucker's copious Historia Critica Philosophiæ (1742-44), which as
    a mere learned record has great merit, and was long the standard
    authority in Germany, gives great praise to Locke and little space
    to Wolff. (See Enfield's abstract, pp. 614, 619 sq.) The Wolffian
    philosophy, too, had been rejected and disparaged by both Herder
    and Kant--who were alike deeply influenced by Rousseau--in the
    third quarter of the century; and was generally discredited,
    save in the schools, when Kant produced the Critique of Pure
    Reason. See below, pp. 337, 345.


13. Frederick, though reputed a Voltairean freethinker par excellence,
may be claimed for Germany as partly a product of the rationalizing
philosophy of Wolff. In his first letter to Voltaire, written in 1736,
four years before his accession, he promises to send him a translation
he has had made of the "accusation and the justification" of Wolff,
"the most celebrated philosopher of our days, who, for having carried
light into the darkest places of metaphysics, and for having treated
the most difficult matters in a manner no less elevated than precise
and clear, is cruelly accused of irreligion and atheism"; and he
speaks of getting translated Wolff's Treatise of God, the Soul, and
the World. When he became a thoroughgoing freethinker is not clear,
for Voltaire at this time had produced no explicit anti-Christian
propaganda. At first the new king showed himself disposed to act
on the old maxim that freethought is bad for the common people. In
1743-44 he caused to be suppressed two German treatises by one
Gebhardi, a contributor to Gottsched's magazines, attacking the
Biblical miracles; and in 1748 he sent a young man named Rüdiger to
Spandau for six months' confinement for printing an anti-Christian
work by one Dr. Pott. [1302] But as he grew more confident in his own
methods he extended to men of his own way of thinking the toleration
he allowed to all religionists, save insofar as he vetoed the mutual
vituperation of the sects, and such proselytizing as tended to create
strife. With an even hand he protected Catholics, Greek Christians,
and Unitarians, letting them have churches where they would; [1303]
and when, after the battle of Striegau, a body of Protestant peasantry
asked his permission to slay all the Catholics they could find,
he answered with the gospel precept, "Love your enemies." [1304]

Beyond the toleration of all forms of religion, however, he never
went; though he himself added to the literature of deism. Apart from
his verses we have from him the posthumous treatise Pensées sur la
Religion, probably written early in his life, where the rational case
against the concepts of revelation and of miracles is put with a calm
and sustained force. Like the rest, he is uncritical in his deism;
but, that granted, his reasoning is unanswerable. In talk he was wont
to treat the clergy with small respect; [1305] and he wrote more
denunciatory things concerning them than almost any freethinker of
the century. [1306] Bayle, Voltaire, and Lucretius were his favourite
studies; and as the then crude German literature had no attraction for
him, he drew to his court many distinguished Frenchmen, including La
Mettrie, Maupertuis, D'Alembert, D'Argens, and above all Voltaire,
between whom and him there was an incurable incompatibility of
temper and character, and a persistent attraction of force of mind,
which left them admiring without respecting each other, and unable
to abstain from mutual vituperation. Under Frederick's vigorous rule
all speech was free save such as he considered personally offensive,
as Voltaire's attack on Maupertuis; and after a stormy reign he could
say, when asked by Prince William of Brunswick whether he did not
think religion one of the best supports of a king's authority, "I
find order and the laws sufficient.... Depend upon it, countries have
been admirably governed when your religion had no existence." [1307]
Religion certainly had no part in his personality in the ordinary
sense of the term. Voltaire was wont to impute to him atheism; when
La Mettrie died, the mocker, then at Frederick's court, remarked
that the post of his majesty's atheist was vacant, but happily the
Abbé de Prades was there to fill it. In effect, Frederick professed
Voltaire's own deism; but of all the deists of the time he had least
of the religious temperament and most of sheer cynicism.


    The attempt of Carlyle to exhibit Frederick as a practical
    believer is a flagrant instance of that writer's subjective
    method. He tells (Hist. of Friedrich, bk. xviii, ch. x) that at
    the beginning of the battle of Leuthen a column of troops near
    the king sang a hymn of duty (which Carlyle calls "the sound of
    Psalms"); that an officer asked whether the singing should be
    stopped, and that the king said "By no means." His "hard heart
    seems to have been touched by it. Indeed, there is in him, in
    those grim days, a tone (!) as of trust in the Eternal, as of
    real religious piety and faith, scarcely noticeable elsewhere
    in his history. His religion--and he had in withered forms a
    good deal of it, if we will look well--being almost always in
    a strictly voiceless state, nay, ultra voiceless, or voiced the
    wrong way, as is too well known." Then comes the assertion that
    "a moment after" the king said "to someone, Ziethen probably,
    'With men like these, don't you think I shall have victory this
    day!'" Here, with the very spirit of unveracity at work before his
    eyes, Carlyle plumps for the fable. Yet the story, even if true,
    would give no proof whatever of religious belief.

    In point of fact, Frederick was a much less "religious" deist
    than Voltaire. He erected no temple to his unloved God. And a
    perusal of his dialogue of Pompadour and the Virgin (Dialogues
    des morts) may serve to dispose of the thesis that the German
    mind dealt reverently and decently with matters which the French
    mind handled frivolously. That performance outgoes in ribaldry
    anything of the age in French.


As the first modern freethinking king, Frederick is something of a test
case. Son of a man of narrow mind and odious character, he was himself
no admirable type, being neither benevolent nor considerate, neither
truthful nor generous; and in international politics, after writing in
his youth a treatise in censure of Machiavelli, he played the old game
of unscrupulous aggression. Yet he was not only the most competent,
but, as regards home administration, the most conscientious king of his
time. To find him a rival we must go back to the pagan Antonines and
Julian, or at least to St. Louis of France, who, however, was rather
worsened than bettered by his creed. [1308] Henri IV of France, who
rivalled him in sagacity and greatly excelled him in human kindness,
was far his inferior in devotion to duty.

The effect of Frederick's training is seen in his final attitude to
the advanced criticism of the school of d'Holbach, which assailed
governments and creeds with the same unsparing severity of logic and
moral reprobation. Stung by the uncompromising attack, Frederick
retorts by censuring the rashness which would plunge nations into
civil strife because kings miscarry where no human wisdom could avoid
miscarriage. He who had wantonly plunged all Germany into a hell of
war for his sole ambition, bringing myriads to misery, thousands
to violent death, and hundreds of his own soldiers to suicide,
could be virtuously indignant at the irresponsible audacity of
writers who indicted the whole existing system for its imbecility and
injustice. But he did reason on the criticism; he did ponder it; he did
feel bound to meet argument with argument; and he left his arguments to
the world. The advance on previous regal practice is noteworthy: the
whole problem of politics is at once brought to the test of judgment
and persuasion. Beside the Christian Georges and the Louis's of his
century, and beside his Christian father, his superiority in judgment
and even in some essential points of character is signal. Such was
the great deist king of the deist age; a deist of the least religious
temper and of no very fine moral material to begin with.

The one contemporary monarch who in any way compares with him in
enlightenment, Joseph II of Austria, belonged to the same school. The
main charge against Frederick as a ruler is that he did not act up
to the ideals of the school of Voltaire. In reply to the demand of
the French deists for an abolition of all superstitious teaching,
he observed that among the 16,000,000 inhabitants of France
at most 200,000 were capable of philosophic views, and that the
remaining 15,800,000 were held to their opinions by "insurmountable
obstacles." [1309] This, however, had been said by the deists
themselves (e.g., d'Holbach, préf. to Christianisme dévoilé); and
such an answer meant that he had no idea of so spreading instruction
that all men should have a chance of reaching rational beliefs. This
attitude was his inheritance from the past. Yet it was under him that
Prussia began to figure as a first-rate culture force in Europe.

14. The social vogue of deistic thought could now be traced in much of
the German belles-lettres of the time. The young Jakob von Mauvillon
(1743-1794), secretary of the King of Poland and author of several
histories, in his youth translated from the Latin into French Holberg's
Voyage of Nicolas Klimius (1766), which made the tour of Europe, and
had a special vogue in Germany. Later in life, besides translating
and writing abundantly and intelligently on matters of economic and
military science--in the latter of which he had something like expert
status--Mauvillon became a pronounced heretic, though careful to keep
his propaganda anonymous.

The most systematic dissemination of the new ideas was that carried on
in the periodical published by Christoph Friedrich Nicolai (1733-1811)
under the title of The General German Library (founded 1765), which
began with fifty contributors, and at the height of its power had
a hundred and thirty, among them being Lessing, Eberhard, and Moses
Mendelssohn. In the period from its start to the year 1792 it ran to
106 volumes; and it has always been more or less bitterly spoken of
by later orthodoxy as the great library of that movement. Nicolai,
himself an industrious and scholarly writer, produced among many
other things a satirical romance famous in its day, the Life and
Opinions of Magister Sebaldus Nothanker, ridiculing the bigots and
persecutors the type of Klotz, the antagonist of Lessing, and some
of Nicolai's less unamiable antagonists, [1310] as well as various
aspects of the general social and literary life of the time. To
Nicolai is fully due the genial tribute paid to him by Heine, [1311]
were it only for the national service of his "Library." Its many
translations from the English and French freethinkers, older and
newer, concurred with native work to spread a deistic rationalism,
labelled Aufklärung, or enlightenment, through the whole middle class
of Germany. [1312] Native writers in independent works added to the
propaganda. Andreas Riem (1749-1807), a Berlin preacher, appointed
by Frederick a hospital chaplain, [1313] wrote anonymously against
priestcraft as no other priest had yet done. "No class of men," he
declared, in language perhaps echoed from his king, "has ever been
so pernicious to the world as the priesthood. There were laws at all
times against murderers and bandits, but not against the assassin in
the priestly garb. War was repelled by war, and it came to an end. The
war of the priesthood against reason has lasted for thousands of years,
and it still goes on without ceasing." [1314] Georg Schade (1712-1795),
who appears to have been one of the believers in the immortality of
animals, and who in 1770 was imprisoned for his opinions in the Danish
island of Christiansoe, was no less emphatic, declaring, in a work on
Natural Religion on the lines of Tindal (1760), that "all who assert a
supernatural religion are godless impostors." [1315] Constructive work
of great importance, again, was done by J. B. Basedow (1723-1790), who
early became an active deist, but distinguished himself chiefly as an
educational reformer, on the inspiration of Rousseau's Émile, [1316]
setting up a system which "tore education away from the Christian
basis," [1317] and becoming in virtue of that one of the most popular
writers of his day. It is latterly admitted even by orthodoxy that
school education in Germany had in the seventeenth century become a
matter of learning by rote, and that such reforms as had been set up
in some of the schools of the Pietists had in Basedow's day come to
nothing. [1318] As Basedow was the first to set up vigorous reforms,
it is not too much to call him an instaurator of rational education,
whose chief fault was to be too far ahead of his age. This, with the
personal flaw of an unamiable habit of wrangling in all companies,
caused the failure of his "Philanthropic Institute," established in
1771, on the invitation of the Prince of Dessau, to carry out his
educational ideals. Quite a number of other institutions, similarly
planned, after his lead, by men of the same way of thinking, as Canope
and Salzmann, in the same period, had no better success.


    Goethe, who was clearly much impressed by Basedow, and travelled
    with him, draws a somewhat antagonistic picture of him on
    retrospect (Wahrheit und Dichtung, B. xiv). He accuses him in
    particular of always obtruding his anti-orthodox opinions; not
    choosing to admit that religious opinions were being constantly
    obtruded on Basedow. Praising Lavater for his more amiable
    nature, Goethe reveals that Lavater was constantly propounding
    his orthodoxy. Goethe, in fine, was always lenient to pietism,
    in which he had been brought up, and to which he was wont to make
    sentimental concessions. He could never forget his courtly duties
    towards the established convention, and so far played the game of
    bigotry. Hagenbach notes (i, 298, note), without any deprecation,
    that after Basedow had published in 1763-1764 his Philalethie,
    a perfectly serious treatise on natural as against revealed
    religion, one of the many orthodox answers, that by Pastor Goeze,
    so inflamed against him the people of his native town of Hamburg
    that he could not show himself there without danger. And this
    is the man accused of "obtruding his views." Baur is driven, by
    way of disparagement of Basedow and his school, to censure their
    self-confidence--precisely the quality which, in religious teachers
    with whom he agreed, he as a theologian would treat as a mark
    of superiority. Baur's attack on the moral utilitarianism of the
    school is still less worthy of him. (Gesch. der christl. Kirche,
    iv, 595-96). It reads like an echo of Kahnis (as cited, p. 46 sq.).


Yet another influential deist was Johann August Eberhard (1739-1809),
for a time a preacher at Charlottenburg, but driven out of the Church
for the heresy of his New Apology of Sokrates; or the Final Salvation
of the Heathen (1772). [1319] The work in effect placed Sokrates on
a level with Jesus, [1320] which was blasphemy. [1321] But the outcry
attracted the attention of Frederick, who made Eberhard a Professor of
Philosophy at Halle, where later he opposed the idealism of both Kant
and Fichte. Substantially of the same school was the less pronouncedly
deistic cleric Steinbart, [1322] author of a utilitarian System of
Pure Philosophy, or Christian doctrine of Happiness, now forgotten,
who had been variously influenced by Locke and Voltaire. [1323] Among
the less heterodox but still rationalizing clergy of the period were
J. J. Spalding, author of a work on The Utility of the Preacher's
Office, a man of the type labelled "Moderate" in the Scotland of the
same period, and as such antipathetic to emotional pietists; [1324]
and Zollikofer, of the same school--both inferribly influenced by the
deism of their day. Considerably more of a rationalist than these was
the clergyman W. A. Teller (1734-1804), author of a New Testament
Lexicon, who reached a position virtually deistic, and intimated
to the Jews of Berlin that he would receive them into his church on
their making a deistic profession of faith. [1325]

15. If it be true that even the rationalizing defenders of Christianity
led men on the whole towards deism, [1326] much more must this hold
true of the new school who applied rationalistic methods to religious
questions in their capacity as theologians. Of this school the founder
was Johann Salomo Semler (1725-1791), who, trained as a Pietist at
Halle, early thought himself into a more critical attitude, [1327]
albeit remaining a theological teacher. Son of a much-travelled army
chaplain, who in his many campaigns had learned much of the world,
and in particular seen something of religious frauds in the Catholic
countries, Semler started with a critical bias which was cultivated
by wide miscellaneous reading from his boyhood onwards. As early as
1750, in his doctoral dissertation defending certain texts against
the criticism of Whiston, he set forth the view, developed a century
later by Baur, that the early Christian Church contained a Pauline and
a Petrine party, mutually hostile. The merit of his research won him
a professorship at Halle; and this position he held till his death,
despite such heresy as his rejection from the canon of the books of
Ruth, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, the Song of Solomon, the two books of
Chronicles, and the Apocalypse, in his Freie Untersuchung des Canons
(1771-1774)--a work apparently inspired by the earlier performance of
Richard Simon. [1328] His intellectual life was for long a continuous
advance, always in the direction of a more rationalistic comprehension
of religious history; and he reached, for his day, a remarkably
critical view of the mythical element in the Old Testament. [1329]
Not only did he recognize that Genesis must have pre-Mosaic origins,
and that such books as the Proverbs and the Psalms were of later
date and other origin than those traditionally assigned: [1330] his
historical sense worked on the whole narrative. Thus he recognized
the mythical character of the story of Samson, and was at least on
the way towards a scientific handling of the New Testament. [1331]
But in his period and environment a systematic rationalism was
impossible; he was always a "revelation-believing Christian"; his
critical intelligence was always divided against itself; [1332]
and his powers were expended in an immense number of works, [1333]
which failed to yield any orderly system, while setting up a general
stimulus, in despite of their admitted unreadableness. [1334]

In his latter days he strongly opposed and condemned the more
radical rationalism of his pupil Bahrdt, and of the posthumous work
of Reimarus, here exemplifying the common danger of the intellectual
life, for critical as well as uncritical minds. After provoking many
orthodox men by his own challenges, he is roused to fury alike by the
genial rationalism of Bahrdt and by the cold analysis of Reimarus;
and his attack on the Wolfenbüttel Fragments published by Lessing
is loaded with a vocabulary of abuse such as he had never before
employed [1335]--a sure sign that he had no scientific hold of his own
historical conception. Like the similarly infuriated semi-rational
defenders of the historicity of Jesus in our own day, he merely
"followed the tactic of exposing the lack of scientific knowledge and
theological learning" of the innovating writer. Always temperamentally
religious, he died in the evangelical faith. But his own influence in
promoting rationalism is now obvious and unquestioned, [1336] and he is
rightly to be reckoned a main founder of "German rationalism"--that is,
academic rationalism on theologico-historical lines [1337]--although
he always professed to be merely rectifying orthodox conceptions. In
the opinion of Pusey "the revival of historical interpretation by
Semler became the most extensive instrument of the degradation of
Christianity."

Among the other theologians of the time who exercised a similar
influence to the Wolffian, Töllner attracts notice by the comparative
courage with which, in the words of an orthodox critic, he "raised, as
much as possible, natural religion to revelation," and, "on the other
hand, lowered Scripture to the level of natural light." [1338] First
he published (1764) True Reasons why God has not furnished Revelation
with evident proofs, [1339] arguing for the modern attenuation of
the idea of revelation; then a work on Divine Inspiration (1771) in
which he explicitly avowed that "God has in no way, either inwardly
or outwardly, dictated the sacred books. The writers were the real
authors" [1340]--a declaration not to be counterbalanced by further
generalities about actual divine influence. Later still he published a
Proof that God leads men to salvation even by his revelation in Nature
[1341] (1766)--a form of Christianity little removed from deism. Other
theologians, such as Ernesti, went far with the tide of illuminism;
and when the orthodox Chr. A. Crusius died at Leipzig in 1781, Jean
Paul Richter, then a student, wrote that people had become "too much
imbued with the spirit of illuminism" to be of his school. "Most,
almost all the students," adds Richter, incline to heterodoxy; and
of the professor Morus he tells that "wherever he can explain away a
miracle, the devil, etc., he does so." Of this order of accommodators,
a prominent example was Michaelis (1717-1791), whose reduction of
the Mosaic legislation to motives of every-day utility is still
entertaining.

16. Much more notorious than any other German deist of his time was
Carl Friedrich Bahrdt (1741-1792), a kind of raw Teutonic Voltaire,
and the most popularly influential German freethinker of his age. In
all he is said to have published a hundred and twenty-six books
and tracts, [1342] thus approximating to Voltaire in quantity if
not in quality. Theological hatred has so pursued him that it is
hard to form a fair opinion as to his character; but the record
runs that he led a somewhat Bohemian and disorderly life, though a
very industrious one. While a preacher in Leipzig in 1768 he first
got into trouble--"persecution" by his own account; "disgrace for
licentious conduct," by that of his enemies. In any case, he was
at this period quite orthodox in his beliefs. [1343] That there was
no serious disgrace is suggested by the fact that he was appointed
Professor of Biblical Antiquities at Erfurt; and soon afterwards, on
the recommendation of Semler and Ernesti, at Giessen (1771). While
holding that post he published his "modernized" translation of the
New Testament, done from the point of view of belief in revelation,
following it up by his New Revelations of God in Letters and Tales
(1773), which aroused Protestant hostility. After teaching for a time
in a new Swiss "Philanthropin"--an educational institution on Basedow's
lines--he obtained a post as a district ecclesiastical superintendent
in the principality of Türkheim on the Hardt; whereafter he was enabled
to set up a "Philanthropin" of his own in the castle of Heidesheim,
near Worms. The second edition of his translation of the New Testament,
however, aroused Catholic hostility in the district; the edition was
confiscated, and he found it prudent to make a tour in Holland and
England, only to receive, on his return, a missive from the imperial
consistory declaring him disabled for any spiritual office in the Holy
German Empire. Seeking refuge in Halle, he found Semler grown hostile;
but made the acquaintance of Eberhard, with the result of abandoning
the remains of his orthodox faith. Henceforth he regarded Jesus, albeit
with admiration, as simply a great teacher, "like Moses, Confucius,
Sokrates, Semler, Luther, and myself"; [1344] and to this view he gave
effect; in the third edition of his New Testament translation, which
was followed in 1782 by his Letters on the Bible in Popular Style
(Volkston), and in 1784 by his Completion (Ausführung) of the Plan
and Aim of Jesus in Letters (1784), and his System of Moral Religion
(1787). More and more fiercely antagonized, he duly retaliated on the
clergy in his Church and Heretic Almanack (1781); and after for a time
keeping a tavern, he got into fresh trouble by printing anonymous
satires on the religious edict of 1788, directed against all kinds
of heresy, [1345] and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in a
fortress--a term reduced by the king to one year. Thereafter he ended
not very happily his troublous life in Halle in 1792.

The weakest part of Bahrdt's performance is now seen to be
his application of the empirical method of the early theological
rationalists, who were wont to take every Biblical prodigy as a merely
perverted account of an incident which certainly happened. That
method--which became identified with the so-called "rationalism"
of Germany in that age, and is not yet discarded by rationalizing
theologians--is reduced to open absurdity in his hands, as when
he makes Moses employ fireworks on Mount Sinai, and Jesus feed the
five thousand by stratagem, without miracle. But it was not by such
extravagances that he won and kept a hearing throughout his life. It
is easy to see on retrospect that the source of his influence as a
writer lay above all things in his healthy critical ethic, his own
mode of progression being by way of simple common sense and natural
feeling, not of critical research. His first step in rationalism
was to ask himself "how Three Persons could be One God"--this while
believing devoutly in revelation, miracles, the divinity of Jesus,
and the Atonement. Under the influence of a naturalist travelling
in his district, he gave up the orthodox doctrine of the Atonement,
feeling himself "as if new-born" in being freed of what he had learned
to see as a "pernicious and damnable error." [1346] It was for such
writing that he was hated and persecuted, despite his habitual eulogy
of Christ as "the greatest and most venerable of mortals." His offence
was not against morals, but against theology; and he heightened the
offence by his vanity.


    Bahrdt's real power may be inferred from the fury of some of his
    opponents. "The wretched Bahrdt" is Dr. Pusey's Christian account
    of him. Even F. C. Baur is abusive. The American translators
    of Hagenbach, Messrs. Gage and Stuckenberg, have thought fit to
    insert in their chapter-heading the phrase "Bahrdt, the Theodore
    Parker of Germany." As Hagenbach has spoken of Bahrdt with special
    contempt, the intention can be appreciated; but the intended
    insult may now serve as a certificate of merit to Bahrdt. Bishop
    Hurst solemnly affirms that "What Jeffreys is to the judicial
    history of England, Bahrdt is to the religious history of German
    Protestantism. Whatever he touched was disgraced by the vileness
    of his heart and the Satanic daring of his mind" (History of
    Rationalism, ed. 1867, p. 119; ed. 1901, p. 139). This concerning
    doctrines of a nearly invariable moral soundness, which to-day
    would be almost universally received with approbation. Pünjer,
    who cannot at any point indict the doctrines, falls back on
    the professional device of classing them with the "platitudes"
    of the Aufklärung; and, finding this insufficient to convey
    a disparaging impression to the general reader, intimates that
    Bahrdt, connecting ethic with rational sanitation, "does not shrink
    from the coarseness of laying down" a rule for bodily health,
    which Pünjer does not shrink from quoting (pp. 549-50). Finally
    Bahrdt is dismissed as "the theological public-house-keeper of
    Halle." So hard is it for men clerically trained to attain to
    a manly rectitude in their criticism of anti-clericals. Bahrdt
    was a great admirer of the Gospel Jesus; so Cairns (p. 178)
    takes a lenient view of his life. On that and his doctrine
    cp. Hagenbach, pp. 107-10; Pünjer, i, 546-50; Noack, Th. iii,
    Kap. 5. Goethe satirized him in a youthful Prolog, but speaks of
    him not unkindly in the Wahrheit und Dichtung. As a writer he is
    much above the German average.


17. Alongside of these propagators of popular rationalism stood
a group of companion deists usually considered together--Gotthold
Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694-1768), and
Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786). The last-named, a Jew, "lived entirely
in the sphere of deism and of natural religion," [1347] and sought,
like the deists in general, to give religion an ethical structure;
but he was popular chiefly as a constructive theist and a defender
of the doctrine of immortality on non-Christian lines. His Phædon
(1767), setting forth that view, had a great vogue. [1348] One of
his more notable teachings was an earnest declaration against any
connection between Church and State; but like Locke and Rousseau he
so far sank below his own ideals as to agree in arguing for a State
enforcement of a profession of belief in a God [1349]--a negation of
his own plea. With much contemporary popularity, he had no permanent
influence; and he seems to have been completely broken-hearted over
Jacobi's disclosure of the final pantheism of Lessing, for whom he
had a great affection.


    See the monograph of Rabbi Schreiber, of Bonn, Moses Mendelssohn's
    Verdienste um die deutsche Nation (Zürich, 1880), pp. 41-42. The
    strongest claim made for Mendelssohn by Rabbi Schreiber is that he,
    a Jew, was much more of a German patriot than Goethe, Schiller,
    or Lessing. Heine, however, pronounces that "As Luther against the
    Papacy, so Mendelssohn rebelled against the Talmud" (Zur Gesch. der
    Relig. und Philos. in Deutschland: Werke, ed. 1876, iii, 65).


Lessing, on the other hand, is one of the outstanding figures in
the history of Biblical criticism, as well as of German literature in
general. The son of a Lutheran pastor, Lessing became in a considerable
measure a rationalist, while constantly resenting, as did Goethe,
the treatment of religion in the fashion in which he himself treated
non-religious opinions with which he did not agree. [1350] It is
clear that already in his student days he had become substantially an
unbeliever, and that it was on this as well as other grounds that he
refused to become a clergyman. [1351] Nor was he unready to jeer at
the bigots when they chanced to hate where he was sympathetic. [1352]
On the side of religious problems, he was primarily and permanently
influenced by two such singularly different minds as Bayle [1353]
and Rousseau, the first appealing to and eliciting his keen critical
faculty, the second his warm emotional nature; and he never quite
unified the result. From first to last he was a freethinker in the
sense that he never admitted any principle of authority, and was
stedfastly loyal to the principle of freedom of utterance. He steadily
refused to break with his freethinking friend Mylius, and he never
sought to raise odium against any more advanced freethinker on the
score of his audacity. [1354] In his Hamburgische Dramaturgie, indeed,
dealing with a German play in which Mohammedanism in general, and one
Ismenor in particular, in the time of the Crusades are charged with
the sin of persecution, he remarks that "these very Crusades, which
in their origin were a political stratagem of the popes, developed
into the most inhuman persecutions of which Christian superstition
has ever made itself guilty: the true religion had then the most and
the bloodiest Ismenors." [1355] In his early Rettungen (Vindications),
again, he defends the dubious Cardan and impersonally argues the pros
and cons of Christianity and Mohammedanism in a fashion possible only
to a skeptical mind. [1356] And in his youth, as in his last years, he
maintained that "there have long been men who disregarded all revealed
religions and have yet been good men. [1357] In his youth, however,
he was more of a Rousseauist than of an intellectual philosopher,
setting up a principle of "the heart" against every species of analytic
thought, including even that of Leibnitz, which he early championed
against the Wolfian adaptation of it. [1358] The sound principle that
conduct is more important than opinion he was always apt, on the
religious side, to strain into the really contrary principle that
opinions which often went with good conduct were necessarily to be
esteemed. So when the rationalism of the day seriously or otherwise
(in Voltairean Berlin it was too apt to be otherwise) assailed the
creed of his parents, whom he loved and honoured, sympathy in his
case as in Goethe's always predetermined his attitude; [1359] and it
is not untruly said of him that he did prefer the orthodox to the
heterodox party, like Gibbon, "inasmuch as the balance of learning
which attracted his esteem was [then] on that side." [1360] We thus
find him, about the time when he announces to his father that he had
doubted concerning the Christian dogmas, [1361] rather nervously
proving his essential religiousness by dramatically defending the
clergy against the prejudices of popular freethought as represented
by his friend Mylius, who for a time ran in Leipzig a journal called
the Freigeist--not a very advanced organ. [1362]

Lessing was in fact, with his versatile genius and his vast reading,
a man of moods rather than a systematic thinker, despite his powerful
critical faculty; and alike his emotional and his critical side
determined his aversion to the attempts of the "rationalizing"
clergy to put religion on a common-sense footing. His personal
animosity to Voltaire and to Frederick would also influence him; but
he repugned even the decorous "rationalism" of the theologians of
his own country. When his brother wrote him to the effect that the
basis of the current religion was false, and the structure the work
of shallow bunglers, he replied that he admitted the falsity of the
basis, but not the incompetence of those who built up the system,
in which he saw much skill and address. Shallow bunglers, on the
other hand, he termed the schemers of the new system of compromise
and accommodation. [1363] In short, as he avowed in his fragment on
Bibliolatry, he was always "pulled this way and that" in his thought
on the problem of religion. [1364] For himself, he framed (or perhaps
adopted) [1365] a pseudo-theory of the Education of the Human Race
(1780), which has served the semi-rationalistic clergy of our own day
in good stead; and adapted Rousseau's catching doctrine that the true
test of religion lies in feeling and not in argument. [1366] Neither
doctrine, in short, has a whit more philosophical value than the other
"popular philosophy" of the time, and neither was fitted to have much
immediate influence; but both pointed a way to the more philosophic
apologists of religion, while baulking the orthodox. [1367] If all this
were more than a piece of defensive strategy, it was no more scientific
than the semi-rationalist theology which he contemned. The "education"
theorem, on its merits, is indeed a discreditable paralogism; and
only our knowledge of his affectional bias can withhold us from
counting it a mystification. On analysis it is found to have no
logical content whatever. "Christianity" Lessing made out to be a
"universal principle," independent of its pseudo-historical setting;
thus giving to the totality of the admittedly false tradition the
credit of an ethic which in the terms of the case is simply human, and
in all essentials demonstrably pre-Christian. His propaganda of this
kind squares ill with his paper on The Origin of Revealed Religion,
written about 1860. There he professes to hold by a naturalist view
of religion. All "positive" or dogmatic creeds he ascribes to the
arrangements that men from time to time found it necessary to make
as to the means of applying "natural" religion. "Hence all positive
and revealed religions are alike true and alike false; alike true,
inasmuch as it has everywhere been necessary to come to terms over
different things in order to secure agreement and unity in the public
religion; alike false, inasmuch as that over which men came to terms
does not so much stand close to the essential (nicht sowohl ... neben
dem Wesentlichen besteht), but rather weakens and oppresses it. The
best revealed or positive religion is that which contains the fewest
conventional additions to natural religion; that which least limits the
effects of natural religion." [1368] This is the position of Tindal
and the English deists in general; and it seems to have been in this
mood that Lessing wrote to Mendelssohn about being able to "help the
downfall of the most frightful structure of nonsense only under the
pretext of giving it a new foundation." [1369] On the historical
side, too, he had early convinced himself that Christianity was
established and propagated "by entirely natural means" [1370]--this
before Gibbon. But, fighter as he was, he was not prepared to lay
his cards on the table in the society in which he found himself. In
his strongest polemic there was always an element of mystification;
[1371] and his final pantheism was only privately avowed.

It was through a series of outside influences that he went so far,
in the open, as he did. Becoming the librarian of the great Bibliothek
of Wolfenbüttel, the possession of the hereditary Prince (afterwards
Duke) of Brunswick, he was led to publish the "Anonymous Fragments"
known as the Wolfenbüttel Fragments (1774-1778), wherein the methods
of the English and French deists are applied with a new severity to
both the Old and the New Testament narratives. It is now put beyond
doubt that they were the work of Reimarus, [1372] who had in 1755
produced a defence of "Natural Religion"--that is, of the theory of
a Providence--against La Mettrie, Maupertuis, and older materialists,
which had a great success in its day. [1373] At his death, accordingly,
Reimarus ranked as an admired defender of theism and of the belief
in immortality. [1374] He was the son-in-law of the esteemed scholar
Fabricius, and was for many years Professor of Oriental Languages in
the Hamburg Academy. The famous research which preserves his memory
was begun by him at the age of fifty, for his own satisfaction, and
was elaborated by him during twenty years, while he silently endured
the regimen of the intolerant Lutheranism of his day. [1375] As he
left the book it was a complete treatise entitled An Apology for the
Rational Worshipper of God; but his son feared to have it published,
though Lessing offered to take the whole risk; and it was only by the
help of the daughter, Elise Reimarus, [1376] Lessing's friend, that the
fragments came to light. As the Berlin censor would not give official
permission, [1377] Lessing took the course of issuing them piecemeal
in a periodical series of selections from the treasures of the
Wolfenbüttel Library, which had privilege of publication. The first,
On the Toleration of Deists, which attracted little notice, appeared
in 1774; four more, which made a stir, in 1777; and only in 1778 was
"the most audacious of all," On the Aim of Jesus and his Disciples,
[1378] published as a separate book. Collectively they constituted
the most serious attack yet made in Germany on the current creed,
though their theory of the true manner of the gospel history of course
smacks of the pre-scientific period. A generation later, however,
they were still "the radical book of the anti-supernaturalists"
in Germany. [1379]


    As against miracles in general, the Resurrection in
    particular, and Biblical ethics in general, the attack of
    Reimarus was irresistible, but his historical construction is
    pre-scientific. The method is, to accept as real occurrences
    all the non-miraculous episodes, and to explain them by a
    general theory. Thus the appointment of the seventy apostles--a
    palpable myth--is taken as a fact, and explained as part of
    a scheme by Jesus to obtain temporal power; and the scourging
    of the money-changers from the Temple, improbable enough as it
    stands, is made still more so by supposing it to be part of a
    scheme of insurrection. The method further involves charges of
    calculated fraud against the disciples or evangelists--a historical
    misconception which Lessing repudiated, albeit not on the right
    grounds. See the sketch in Cairns, p. 197 sq., which indicates the
    portions of the treatise produced later by Strauss. Cp. Pünjer,
    i, 550-57; Noack, Th. iii, Kap. 4. Schweitzer (Von Reimarus zu
    Wrede), in his satisfaction at the agreement of Reimarus with his
    own conception of an "eschatological" Jesus, occupied with "the
    last things," gives Reimarus extravagant praise. Strauss rightly
    notes the weakness of the indictment of Moses as a worker of fraud
    (Voltaire, 2te Ausg. p. 407).

    It is but fair to say that Reimarus's fallacy of method, which
    was the prevailing one in his day, has not yet disappeared from
    criticism. As we have seen, it was employed by Pomponazzi in
    the Renaissance (vol. i, p. 377), and reintroduced in the modern
    period by Connor and Toland. It is still employed by some professed
    rationalists, as Dr. Conybeare. It has, however, in all likelihood
    suggested itself spontaneously to many inquirers. In the Phædrus
    Plato presents it as applied by empirical rationalizers to myths
    at that time.


Though Lessing at many points oppugned the positions of the Fragments,
he was led into a fiery controversy over them, in which he was
unworthily attacked by, among others, Semler, from whom he had looked
for support; and the series was finally stopped by authority. There
can now be no doubt that Lessing at heart agreed with Reimarus on
most points of negative criticism, [1380] but reached a different
emotional estimate and attitude. All the greater is the merit of
his battle for freedom of thought. Thereafter, as a final check to
his opponents, he produced his famous drama Nathan the Wise, which
embodies Boccaccio's story of The Three Rings, and has ever since
served as a popular lesson of tolerance in Germany. [1381] In the end,
he seems to have become, to at least some extent, a pantheist; [1382]
but he never expounded any coherent and comprehensive set of opinions,
[1383] preferring, as he put it in an oft-quoted sentence, the state
of search for truth to any consciousness of possessing it. [1384]

He left behind him, however, an important fragment, which constituted
one of his most important services to national culture--his "New
Hypothesis concerning the evangelists as merely human writers." He
himself thought that he had done nothing "more important or ingenious"
[1385] of the kind; and though his results were in part unsound and
impermanent, he is justly to be credited with the first scientific
attempt to deduce the process of composition of the gospels [1386]
from primary writings by the first Christians. Holding as he did to
the authenticity and historicity of the fourth gospel, he cannot be
said to have gone very deep; but two generations were to pass before
the specialists got any further. Lessing had shown more science and
more courage than any other pro-Christian scholar of the time, and,
as the orthodox historian of rationalism has it, "Though he did not
array himself as a champion of rationalism, he proved himself one of
the strongest promoters of its reign." [1387]

18. Deism was now as prevalent in educated Germany as in France or
England; and, according to a contemporary preacher, "Berliner" was
about 1777 a synonym for "rationalist." [1388] Wieland, one of the
foremost German men of letters of his time, is known to have become
a deist of the school of Shaftesbury; [1389] and in the leading
journal of the day he wrote on the free use of reason in matters of
faith. [1390] Some acts of persecution by the Church show how far the
movement had gone. In 1774 we find a Catholic professor at Mayence,
Lorenzo Isenbiehl, deposed and sent back to the seminary for two
years on the score of "deficient theological knowledge," because he
argued (after Collins) that the text Isaiah vii, 14 applied not to
the mother of Jesus but to a contemporary of the prophet; and when,
four years later, he published a book on the same thesis, in Latin, he
was imprisoned. Three years later still, a young Jesuit of Salzburg,
named Steinbuhler, was actually condemned to death for writing some
satires on Roman Catholic ceremonies, and, though afterwards pardoned,
died of the ill-usage he had undergone in prison. [1391] It may have
been the sense of danger aroused by such persecution that led to the
founding, in 1780, of a curious society which combined an element
of freethinking Jesuitism with freemasonry, and which included a
number of statesmen, noblemen, and professors--Goethe, Herder, and
the Duke of Weimar being among its adherents. But it is difficult to
take seriously the accounts given of the order. [1392]

The spirit of rationalism, in any case, was now so prevalent that
it began to dominate the work of the more intelligent theologians,
to whose consequent illogical attempts to strain out by the most
dubious means the supernatural elements from the Bible narratives
[1393] the name of "rationalism" came to be specially applied, [1394]
that being the kind of criticism naturally most discussed among the
clergy. Taking rise broadly in the work of Semler, reinforced by that
of the English and French deists and that of Reimarus, the method led
stage by stage to the scientific performance of Strauss and Baur, and
the recent "higher criticism" of the Old and New Testaments. Noteworthy
at its outset as exhibiting the tendency of official believers to
make men, in the words of Lessing, irrational philosophers by way of
making them rational Christians, [1395] this order of "rationalism"
in its intermediate stages belongs rather to the history of Biblical
scholarship than to that of freethought, since more radical work was
being done by unprofessional writers outside, and deeper problems were
raised by the new systems of philosophy. Within the Lutheran pale,
however, there were some hardy thinkers. A striking figure of the time,
in respect of his courage and thoroughness, is the Lutheran pastor
J. H. Schulz, [1396] who so strongly combatted the compromises of the
Semler school in regard to the Pentateuch, and argued so plainly for a
severance of morals from religion as to bring about his own dismissal
(1792). [1397] Schulz's Philosophical Meditation on Theology and
Religion [1398] (1784) is indeed one of the most pronounced attacks on
orthodox religion produced in that age. But it is in itself a purely
speculative construction. Following the current historical method,
he makes Moses the child of the Egyptian princess, and represents him
as imposing on the ignorant Israelites a religion invented by himself,
and expressive only of his own passions. Jesus in turn is extolled in
the terms common to the freethinkers of the age; but his conception
of God is dismissed as chimerical; and Schulz finally rests in the
position of Edelmann, that the only rational conception of deity is
that of the "sufficient ground of the world," and that on this view
no man is an atheist. [1399]

Schulz's dismissal appears to have been one of the fruits of the
orthodox edict (1788) of the new king, Frederick William II, the
brother of Frederick, who succeeded in 1786. It announced him--in
reality a "strange compound of lawless debauchery and priest-ridden
superstition" [1400]--as the champion of religion and the enemy of
freethinking; forbade all proselytizing, and menaced with penalties
all forms of heresy, [1401] while professing to maintain freedom of
conscience. The edict seems to have been specially provoked by fresh
literature of a pronouncedly freethinking stamp, though it lays stress
on the fact that "so many clergymen have the boldness to disseminate
the doctrines of the Socinians, Deists, and Naturalists under the name
of Aufklärung." The work of Schulz would be one of the provocatives,
and there were others. In 1785 had appeared the anonymous Moroccan
Letters, [1402] wherein, after the model of the Persian Letters
and others, the life and creeds of Germany are handled in a quite
Voltairean fashion. The writer is evidently familiar with French
and English deistic literature, and draws freely on both, making
no pretence of systematic treatment. Such writing, quietly turning
a disenchanting light of common sense on Scriptural incredibilities
and Christian historical scandals, without a trace of polemical zeal,
illustrated at once the futility of Kant's claim, in the second edition
of his Critique of Pure Reason, to counteract "freethinking unbelief"
by transcendental philosophy. And though the writer is careful to point
to the frequent association of Christian fanaticism with regicide,
his very explicit appeal for a unification of Germany, [1403] his
account of the German Protestant peasant and labourer as the most
dismal figure in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, [1404] and his
charge against Germans of degrading their women, [1405] would not
enlist the favour of the authorities for his work. Within two years
(1787) appeared, unsigned, an even more strongly anti-Christian and
anti-clerical work, The In Part Only True System of the Christian
Religion, [1406] ascribed to Jakob von Mauvillon, [1407] whom we have
seen twenty-one years before translating the freethinking romance of
Holberg. Beginning his career as a serious publicist by translating
Raynal's explosive history of the Indies (7 vols. 1774-78), he had done
solid work as a historian and as an economist, and also as an officer
in the service of the Duke of Brunswick and a writer on military
science. The True System is hostile alike to priesthoods and to the
accommodating theologians, whose attempt to rationalize Christianity on
historical lines it flouts in Lessing's vein as futile. Mauvillon finds
unthinkable the idea of a revelation which could not be universal;
rejects miracles and prophecies as vain bases for a creed; sums up the
New Testament as planless; and pronounces the ethic of Christianity,
commonly regarded as its strongest side, the weakest side of all. He
sums up, in fact, in a logical whole, the work of the English and
French deists. [1408] To such propaganda the edict of repression was
the official answer. It naturally roused a strong opposition; [1409]
but though it ultimately failed, through the general breakdown of
European despotisms, it was not without injurious effect. The first
edict was followed in a few months by one which placed the press and
all literature, native and foreign, under censorship. This policy,
which was chiefly inspired by the new king's Minister of Religion,
Woellner, was followed up in 1791 by the appointment of a committee
of three reactionaries--Hermes, Hilmer, and Woltersdorf--who not
only saw to the execution of the edicts, but supervised the schools
and churches. Such a regimen, aided by the reaction against the
Revolution, for a time prevented any open propaganda on the part of
men officially placed; and we shall see it hampering and humiliating
Kant; but it left the leaven of anti-supernaturalism to work all the
more effectively among the increasing crowd of university students.

Many minds of the period, doubtless, are typified by Herder,
who, though a practising clergyman, was clearly a Spinozistic
theist, accommodating himself to popular Christianity in a genially
latitudinarian spirit. [1410] When in his youth he published an essay
discussing Genesis as a piece of oriental poetry, not to be treated as
science or theology, he evoked an amount of hostility which startled
him. [1411] Learning his lesson, he was for the future guarded enough
to escape persecution. He was led by his own temperamental bias,
however, to a transcendental position in philosophy. Originally in
agreement with Kant, [1412] as against the current metaphysic, in the
period before the issue of the latter's Critique of Pure Reason, he
nourished his religious instincts by a discursive reading of history,
which he handled in a comparatively scientific yet above all poetic
or theosophic spirit, while Kant, who had little or no interest in
history, developed his thought on the side of physical science. [1413]
The philosophic methods of the two men thus became opposed; and when
Herder found Kant's philosophy producing a strongly rationalistic
cast of thought among the divinity students who came before him
for examination, he directly and sharply antagonized it [1414] in
a theistic sense. Yet his own influence on his age was on the whole
latitudinarian and anti-theological; he opposed to the apriorism of
Kant the view that the concepts of space and time are the results of
experience and an abstraction of its contents; his historic studies
had developed in him a conception of the process of evolution alike
in life, opinion, and faculty; and orthodoxy and philosophy alike
incline to rank him as a pantheist. [1415]

19. Meanwhile, the drift of the age of Aufklärung was apparent in
the practically freethinking attitude of the two foremost men of
letters in the new Germany--Goethe and Schiller. Of the former,
despite the bluster of Carlyle, and despite the æsthetic favour
shown to Christianity in Wilhelm Meister, no religious ingenuity
can make more than a pantheist, [1416] who, insofar as he touched
on Biblical questions, copied the half-grown rationalism of the
school of Semler. [1417] "The great Pagan" was the common label
among his orthodox or conformist contemporaries. [1418] As a boy,
learning a little Hebrew, he was already at the critical point of
view in regard to Biblical marvels, [1419] though he never became a
scientific critic. He has told how, in his youth, when Lavater insisted
that he must choose between orthodox Christianity and atheism, he
answered that, if he were not free to be a Christian in his own way
(wie ich es bisher gehegt hätte), he would as soon turn atheist as
Christian, the more so as he saw that nobody knew very well what
either signified. [1420] As he puts it, he had made a Christ and
a Christianity of his own. [1421] His admired friend Fräulein von
Klettenberg, the "Beautiful Soul" of one of his pieces, told him
that he never satisfied her when he used the Christian terminology,
which he never seemed to get right; and he tells how he gradually
turned away from her religion, which he had for a time approached,
in its Moravian aspect, with a too passionate zeal. [1422] In his
letters to Lavater, he wrote quite explicitly that a voice from heaven
would not make him believe in a virgin birth and a resurrection,
such tales being for him rather blasphemies against the great God
and his revelation in Nature. Thousands of pages of earlier and later
writings, he declared, were for him as beautiful as the gospel. [1423]
Nor did he ever yield to the Christian Church more than a Platonic
amity; so that much of the peculiar hostility that was long felt
for his poetry and was long shown to his memory in Germany is to be
explained as an expression of the normal malice of pietism against
unbelievers. [1424] Such utterances as the avowal that he revered
Jesus as he revered the Sun, [1425] and the other to the effect that
Christianity has nothing to do with philosophy, where Hegel sought
to bring it--that it is simply a beneficent influence, and is not to
be looked to for proof of immortality [1426]--are clearly not those
of a believer. To-day belief is glad to claim Goethe as a friend in
respect of his many concessions to it, as well as of his occasional
flings at more consistent freethinkers. But a "great pagan" he remains
for the student. In the opinion of later orthodoxy his "influence on
religion was very pernicious." [1427] He indeed showed small concern
for religious susceptibilities when he humorously wrote that from
his youth up he believed himself to stand so well with his God as to
fancy that he might even "have something to forgive Him." [1428]


    One passage in Goethe's essay on the Pentateuch, appended to the
    West-Oestlicher Divan, is worth noting here as illustrating the
    ability of genius to cherish and propagate historical fallacies. It
    runs: "The peculiar, unique, and deepest theme of the history
    of the world and man, to which all others are subordinate,
    is always the conflict of belief and unbelief. All epochs
    in which belief rules, under whatever form, are illustrious,
    inspiriting, and fruitful for that time and the future. All
    epochs, on the other hand, in which unbelief, in whatever form,
    secures a miserable victory, even though for a moment they
    may flaunt it proudly, disappear for posterity, because no man
    willingly troubles himself with knowledge of the unfruitful"
    (first ed. pp. 424-25). Goethe goes on to speak of the four
    latter books of Moses as occupied with the theme of unbelief,
    and of the first as occupied with belief. Thus his formula was
    based, to begin with, on purely fabulous history, into the nature
    of which his poetic faculty gave him no true insight. (See his
    idyllic recast of the patriarchal history in Th. I, B. iv of the
    Wahrheit und Dichtung.) Applied to real history, his formula has
    no validity save on a definition which implies either an equivoque
    or an argument in a circle. If it refer, in the natural sense, to
    epochs in which any given religion is widely rejected and assailed,
    it is palpably false. The Renaissance and Goethe's own century were
    ages of such unbelief; and they remain much more deeply interesting
    than the Ages of Faith. St. Peter's at Rome is the work of a
    reputedly unbelieving pope. If on the other hand his formula be
    meant to apply to belief in the sense of energy and enthusiasm, it
    is still fallacious. The crusades were manifestations of energy and
    enthusiasm; but they were profoundly "unfruitful," and they are not
    deeply interesting. The only sense in which Goethe's formula could
    stand would be one in which it is recognized that all vigorous
    intellectual life stands for "belief"--that is to say, that
    Lucretius and Voltaire, Paine and d'Holbach, stand for "belief"
    when confidently attacking beliefs. The formula is thus true only
    in a strained and non-natural sense; whereas it is sure to be
    read and to be believed, by thoughtless admirers, in its natural
    and false sense, though the whole history of Byzantium and modern
    Islam is a history of stagnant and unfruitful belief, and that of
    modern Europe a history of fruitful doubt, disbelief, and denial,
    involving new affirmations. Goethe's own mind on the subject was in
    a state of verbalizing confusion, the result or expression of his
    temperamental aversion to clear analytical thought ("Above all," he
    boasts, "I never thought about thinking") and his habit of poetic
    allegory and apriorism. "Logic was invincibly repugnant to him"
    (Lewes, Life of Goethe, 3rd ed. p. 38). The mosaic of his thinking
    is sufficiently indicated in Lewes's sympathetically confused
    account (id. pp. 523-27). Where he himself doubted and denied
    current creeds, as in his work in natural science, he was most
    fruitful [1429] (though he was not always right--e.g., his polemic
    against Newton's theory of colour); and the permanently interesting
    teaching of his Faust is precisely that which artistically utters
    the doubt through which he passed to a pantheistic Naturalism.


20. No less certain is the unbelief of Schiller (1759-1805), whom
Hagenbach even takes as "the representative of the rationalism of his
age." In his juvenile Robbers, indeed, he makes his worst villains
freethinkers; and in the preface he stoutly champions religion
against all assailants; but hardly ever after that piece does he give
a favourable portrait of a priest. [1430] He himself soon joined the
Aufklärung; and all his æsthetic appreciation of Christianity never
carried him beyond the position that it virtually had the tendency
(Anlage) to the highest and noblest, though that was in general
tastelessly and repulsively represented by Christians. He added that
in a certain sense it is the only æsthetic religion, whence it is
that it gives such pleasure to the feminine nature, and that only
among women is it to be met with in a tolerable form. [1431] Like
Goethe, he sought to reduce the Biblical supernatural to the plane
of possibility, [1432] in the manner of the liberal theologians of
the period; and like him he often writes as a deist, [1433] though
professedly for a time a Kantist. On the other hand, he does not
hesitate to say that a healthy nature (which Goethe had said needed
no morality, no Natur-recht, [1434] and no political metaphysic)
required neither deity nor immortality to sustain it. [1435]

21. The critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) may be said
to represent most comprehensively the outcome in German intelligence
of the higher freethought of the age, insofar as its results could
be at all widely assimilated. In its most truly critical part, the
analytic treatment of previous theistic systems in the Critique of
Pure Reason (1781), he is fundamentally anti-theological; the effect
of the argument being to negate all previously current proofs of the
existence and cognizableness of a "supreme power" or deity. Already
the metaphysics of the Leibnitz-Wolff school were discredited;
[1436] and so far Kant could count on a fair hearing for a system
which rejected that of the schools. Certainly he meant his book to
be an antidote to the prevailing religious credulity. "Henceforth
there were to be no more dreams of ghost-seers, metaphysicians, and
enthusiasts." [1437] On his own part, however, no doubt in sympathy
with the attitude of many of his readers, there followed a species of
intuitional reaction. In his short essay What is Freethinking? [1438]
(1784) he defines Aufklärung or freethinking as "the advance of men
from their self-imputed minority"; and "minority" as the inability to
use one's own understanding without another's guidance. "Sapere aude;
dare to use thine own understanding," he declares to be the motto of
freethought: and he dwells on the laziness of spirit which keeps men
in the state of minority, letting others do their thinking for them
as the doctor prescribes their medicine. In this spirit he justifies
the movement of rational criticism while insisting, justly enough,
that men have still far to go ere they can reason soundly in all
things. If, he observes, "we ask whether we live in an enlightened
(aufgeklärt) age the answer is, No, but in an age of enlightening
(aufklärung)." There is still great lack of capacity among men in
general to think for themselves, free of leading-strings. "Only slowly
can a community (Publikum) attain to freethinking." But he repeats
that "the age is the age of aufklärung, the age of Frederick the
Great": and he pays a high tribute to the king who repudiated even
the arrogant pretence of "toleration," and alone among monarchs said
to his subjects, "Reason as you will; only obey!"

But the element of apprehension gained ground in the aging
freethinker. In 1787 appeared the second edition of the Critique,
with a preface avowing sympathy with religious as against freethinking
tendencies; and in the Critique of Practical Reason (1788) he makes
an almost avowedly unscientific attempt to restore the reign of
theism on a basis of a mere emotional and ethical necessity assumed
to exist in human nature--a necessity which he never even attempts to
demonstrate. With the magic wand of the Practical Reason, as Heine has
it, he reanimated the corpse of theism, which the Theoretic Reason had
slain. [1439] In this adjustment he was perhaps consciously copying
Rousseau, who had greatly influenced him, [1440] and whose theism is
an avowedly subjectivist predication. But the same attitude to the
problem had been substantially adopted by Lessing; [1441] and indeed
the process is at bottom identical with that of the quasi-skeptics,
Pascal, Huet, Berkeley, and the rest, who at once impugn and employ
the rational process, reasoning that reason is not reasonable. Kant
did but set up the "practical" against the "pure" reason, as other
theists before him had set up faith against science, or the "heart"
against the "head," and as theists to-day exalt the "will" against
"knowledge," the emotional nature against the logical. It is tolerably
clear that Kant's motive at this stage was an unphilosophic fear that
Naturalism would work moral harm [1442]--a fear shared by him with
the mass of the average minds of his age.

The same motive and purpose are clearly at work in his treatise on
Religion within the bounds of Pure [i.e. Mere] Reason (1792-1794),
where, while insisting on the purely ethical and rational character
of true religion, he painfully elaborates reasons for continuing
to use the Bible (concerning which he contends that, in view of
its practically "godly" contents, no one can deny the possibility
of its being held as a revelation) as "the basis of ecclesiastical
instruction" no less than a means of swaying the populace. [1443]
Miracles, he in effect avows, are not true; still, there must be no
carping criticism of the miracle stories, which serve a good end. There
is to be no persecution; but there is to be no such open disputation as
would provoke it. [1444] Again and again, with a visible uneasiness,
the writer returns to the thesis that even "revealed" religion
cannot do without sacred books which are partly untrue. [1445]
The doctrine of the Trinity he laboriously metamorphosed, as so
many had done before him, and as Coleridge and Hegel did after him,
into a formula of three modes or aspects of the moral deity [1446]
which his ethical purpose required. And all this divagation from the
plain path of Truth is justified in the interest of Goodness.

All the while the book is from beginning to end profoundly
divided against itself. It indicates disbelief in every one of the
standing Christian dogmas--Creation, Fall, Salvation, Miracles,
and the supernatural basis of morals. The first paragraph of the
preface insists that morality is founded on the free reason, and
that it needs no religion to aid it. Again and again this note is
sounded. "The pure religious faith is that alone which can serve as
basis for a universal Church; because it is a pure reason-faith, in
which everyone can participate." [1447] But without the slightest
attempt at justification there is thrown in the formula that "no
religion is thinkable without belief in a future life." [1448] Thus
heaven and hell [1449] and Bible and church are arbitrarily imposed
on the "pure religion" for the comfort of unbelieving clergymen and
the moralizing of life. Error is to cast out error, and evil, evil.


    The process of Kant's adjustment of his philosophy to social needs
    as he regarded them is to be understood by following the chronology
    and the vogue of his writings. The first edition of the Critique of
    Pure Reason "excited little attention" (Stuckenberg, Life of Kant,
    p. 368); but in 1787 appeared the second and modified edition,
    with a new preface, clearly written with a propitiatory eye to
    the orthodox reaction. "All at once the work now became popular,
    and the praise was as loud and as fulsome as at first the silence
    had been profound. The literature of the day began to teem with
    Kantian ideas, with discussions of the new philosophy, and with
    the praises of its author.... High officials in Berlin would
    lay aside the weighty affairs of State to consider the Kritik,
    and among them were found warm admirers of the work and its
    author." Id. p. 369. Cp. Heine, Rel. und Phil. in Deutschland,
    B. iii--Werke, iii, 75, 82.

    This popularity becomes intelligible in the light of the new
    edition and its preface. To say nothing of the alterations in the
    text, pronounced by Schopenhauer to be cowardly accommodations
    (as to which question see Adamson, as cited, and Stuckenberg,
    p. 461, note 94), Kant writes in the preface that he had been
    "obliged to destroy knowledge in order to make room for faith";
    and, again, that "only through criticism can the roots be
    cut of materialism, fatalism, atheism, freethinking unbelief
    (freigeisterischen Unglauben), fanaticism and superstition, which
    may become universally injurious; also of idealism and skepticism,
    which are dangerous rather to the Schools, and can hardly reach the
    general public." (Meiklejohn mistranslates: "which are universally
    injurious"--Bohn ed. p. xxxvii.) This passage virtually puts the
    popular religion and all philosophies save Kant's own on one level
    of moral dubiety. It is, however, distinctly uncandid as regards
    the "freethinking unbelief," for Kant himself was certainly an
    unbeliever in Christian miracles and dogmas.

    His readiness to make an appeal to prejudice appears again
    in the second edition of the Critique when he asks: "Whence
    does the freethinker derive his knowledge that there is, for
    instance, no Supreme Being?" (Kritik der reinen Vernunft,
    Transc. Methodenlehre, 1 H. 2 Absch. ed. Kirchmann, 1879,
    p. 587; Bohn tr. p. 458.) He had just before professed to be
    dealing with denial of the "existence of God"--a proposition of
    no significance whatever unless "God" be defined. He now without
    warning substitutes the still more undefined expression "Supreme
    Being" for "God," thus imputing a proposition probably never
    sustained with clear verbal purpose by any human being. Either,
    then, Kant's own proposition was the entirely vacuous one that
    nobody can demonstrate the impossibility of an alleged undefined
    existence, or he was virtually asserting that no one can disprove
    any alleged supernatural existence--spirit, demon, Moloch, Krishna,
    Bel, Siva, Aphrodite, or Isis and Osiris. In the latter case he
    would be absolutely stultifying his own claim to cut the roots of
    "superstition" and "fanaticism" as well as of freethinking and
    materialism; for, if the freethinker cannot disprove Jehovah,
    neither can the Kantist disprove Allah and Satan; and Kant had
    no basis for denying, as he did with Spinoza, the existence of
    ghosts or spirits. From this dilemma Kant's argument cannot be
    delivered. And as he finally introduces deity as a psychologically
    and morally necessary regulative idea, howbeit indemonstrable,
    he leaves every species of superstition exactly where it stood
    before--every superstition being practically held, as against
    "freethinking unbelief," on just such a tenure.

    If he could thus react against freethinking before 1789, he
    must needs carry the reaction further after the outbreak of the
    French Revolution; and his Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der
    blossen Vernunft (1792-1794) is a systematic effort to draw the
    teeth of the Aufklärung, modified only by his resentment of the
    tyranny of the political authority towards himself. Concerning the
    age-long opposition between rationalism (Verstandesaufklärung)
    and intuitionism or emotionalism (Gefühlsphilosophie), it is
    claimed by modern transcendentalists that Kant, or Herder,
    or another, has effected a solution on a plane higher than
    either. (E.g. Kronenberg, Herder's Philosophie, 1889, p. 6.) The
    true solution certainly must account for both points of view--no
    very difficult matter; but no solution is really attained by
    either of these writers. Kant alternately stood at the two
    positions; and his unhistorical mind did not seek to unify them
    in a study of human evolution. For popular purposes he let pass
    the assumption that a cosmic emotion is a clue to the nature of
    the cosmos, as the water-finder's hazel-twig is said to point
    to the whereabouts of water. Herder, recognisant of evolution,
    would not follow out any rational analysis.


All the while, however, Kant's theism was radically irreconcilable with
the prevailing religion. As appears from his cordial hostility to the
belief in ghosts, he really lacked the religious temperament. "He
himself," says a recent biographer, "was too suspicious of the
emotions to desire to inspire any enthusiasm with reference to his own
heart." [1450] This misstates the fact that his "Practical Reason"
was but an abstraction of his own emotional predilection; but it
remains true that that predilection was nearly free from the commoner
forms of pious psychosis; and typical Christians have never found him
satisfactory. "From my heart," writes one of his first biographers,
"I wish that Kant had not regarded the Christian religion merely as
a necessity for the State, or as an institution to be tolerated for
the sake of the weak (which now so many, following his example, do
even in the pulpit), but had known that which is positive, improving,
and blessed in Christianity." [1451] He had in fact never kept up any
theological study; [1452] and his plan of compromise had thus, like
those of Spencer and Mill in a later day, a fatal unreality for all
men who have discarded theology with a full knowledge of its structure,
though it appeals very conveniently to those disposed to retain it as
a means of popular influence. All his adaptations, therefore, failed
to conciliate the mass of the orthodox; and even after the issue of
the second Critique (Kritik der praktischen Vernunft) he had been
the subject of discussion among the reactionists. [1453] But that
Critique, and the preface to the second edition of the first, were
at bottom only pleas for a revised ethic, Kant's concern with current
religion being solely ethical; [1454] and the force of that concern led
him at length, in what was schemed as a series of magazine articles,
[1455] to expound his notion of religion in relation to morals. When
he did so he aroused a resentment much more energetic than that
felt by the older academics against his philosophy. The title of his
complete treatise, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, is
obviously framed to parry criticism; yet so drastic is its treatment
of its problems that the College of Censors at Berlin under the new
theological régime vetoed the second part. By the terms of the law
as to the censorship, the publisher was entitled to know the reason
for the decision; but on his asking for it he was informed that
"another instruction was on hand, which the censor followed as his
law, but whose contents he refused to make known." [1456] Greatly
incensed, Kant submitted the rejected article with the rest of his
book to the theological faculty of his own university of Königsberg,
asking them to decide in which faculty the censorship was properly
vested. They referred the decision to the philosophical faculty, which
duly proceeded to license the book (1793). As completed, it contained
passages markedly hostile to the Church. His opponents in turn were
now so enraged that they procured a royal cabinet order (October,
1794) charging him with "distorting and degrading many of the chief
and fundamental doctrines of the Holy Scriptures and of Christianity,"
and ordering all the instructors at the university not to lecture on
the book. [1457] Such was the reward for a capitulation of philosophy
to the philosophic ideals of the police.

Kant, called upon to render an account of his conduct to the
Government, formally defended it, but in conclusion decorously said:
"I think it safest, in order to obviate the least suspicion in this
respect, as your Royal Majesty's most faithful subject, to declare
solemnly that henceforth I will refrain altogether from all public
discussion of religion, whether natural or revealed, both in lectures
and in writings." After the death of Frederick William II (1797) and
the accession of Frederick William III, who suspended the edict of
1788, Kant held himself free to speak out again, and published (1798)
an essay on "The Strife of the [University] Faculties," wherein he
argued that philosophers should be free to discuss all questions of
religion so long as they did not handle Biblical theology as such. The
belated protest, however, led to nothing. By this time the philosopher
was incapable of further efficient work; and when he died in 1804 the
chief manuscript he left, planned as a synthesis of his philosophic
teaching, was found to be hopelessly confused. [1458]

The attitude, then, in which Kant stood to the reigning religion in his
latter years remained fundamentally hostile, from the point of view
of believing Christians as distinguished from that of ecclesiastical
opportunists. What were for temporizers arguments in defence of
didactic deceit, were for sincerer spirits fresh grounds for recoiling
from the whole ecclesiastical field. Kant must have made more rebels
than compliers by his very doctrine of compliance. Religion was
for him essentially ethic; and there is no reconciling the process
of propitiation of deity, in the Christian or any other cult, with
his express declaration that all attempts to win God's favour save
by simple right-living are sheer fetichism. [1459] He thus ends
practically at the point of view of the deists, whose influence on
him in early life is seen in his work on cosmogony. [1460] He had,
moreover, long ceased to go to church or follow any religious usage,
even refusing to attend the services on the installation of a new
university rector, save when he himself held the office. At the close
of his treatise on religion, after all his anxious accommodations,
he becomes almost violent in his repudiations of sacerdotalism and
sectarian self-esteem. "He did not like the singing in the churches,
and pronounced it mere bawling. In prayer, whether public or private,
he had not the least faith; and in his conversation as well as his
writings he treated it as a superstition, holding that to address
anything unseen would open the way for fanaticism. Not only did
he argue against prayer; he also ridiculed it, and declared that
a man would be ashamed to be caught by another in the attitude of
prayer." One of his maxims was that "To kneel or prostrate himself on
the earth, even for the purpose of symbolizing to himself reverence
for a heavenly object, is unworthy of man." [1461] So too he held
that the doctrine of the Trinity had no practical value, and he had a
"low opinion" of the Old Testament.

Yet his effort at compromise had carried him to positions which are
the negation of some of his own most emphatic ethical teachings. Like
Plato, he is finally occupied in discussing the "right fictions"
for didactic purposes. Swerving from thoroughgoing freethought for
fear of moral harm, he ends by sacrificing intellectual morality
to what seems to him social security. His doctrine, borrowed from
Lessing, of a "conceivable" revelation which told man only what he
could find out for himself, is a mere flout to reason. While he
carries his "categorical imperative," or à priori conception of
duty, so extravagantly far as to argue that it is wrong even to
tell a falsehood to a would-be murderer in order to mislead him,
he approves of the systematic employment of the pulpit function by
men who do not believe in the creed they there expound. The priest,
with Kant's encouragement, is to "draw all the practical lessons for
his congregation from dogmas which he himself cannot subscribe with
a full conviction of their truth, but which he can teach, since it
is not altogether impossible that truth may be concealed therein,"
while he remains free as a scholar to write in a contrary sense in
his own name. And this doctrine, set forth in the censured work of
1793, is repeated in the moralist's last treatise (1798), wherein
he explains that the preacher, when speaking doctrinally, "can put
into the passage under consideration his own rational views, whether
found there or not." Kant thus ended by reviving for the convenience
of churchmen, in a worse form, the medieval principle of a "twofold
truth." So little efficacy is there in a transcendental ethic for
any of the actual emergencies of life.


    On this question compare Kant's Religion innerhalb der Grenzen
    der blossen Vernunft, Stück iii, Abth. i, § 6; Stück iv,
    Th. ii, preamble and §§ i, 3, and 4; with the essay Ueber ein
    vermeintes Recht aus Menschenliebe zu lügen (1797), in reply
    to Constant--rep. in Kant's Vorzügliche kleine Schriften, 1833,
    Bd. ii, and in App. to Rosenkranz's ed. of Werke, vii, 295--given
    by T. K. Abbott in his tr. of the Critique of Judgment. See
    also Stuckenberg, pp. 341-45, and the general comment of Baur,
    Kirchengeschichte des 19ten Jahrhunderts, 1862, p. 65. "Kant's
    recognition of Scripture is purely a matter of expedience. The
    State needs the Bible to control the people; the masses need it in
    order that they, having weak consciences, may recognize their duty;
    and the philosopher finds it a convenient vehicle for conveying
    to the people the faith of reason. Were it rejected it might
    be difficult, if not impossible, to put in its place another
    book which would inspire as much confidence." All the while
    "Kant's principles of course led him to deny that the Bible is
    authoritative in matters of religion, or that it is of itself
    a safe guide in morals.... Its value consists in the fact that,
    owing to the confidence of the people in it, reason can use it to
    interpret into Scripture its own doctrines, and can thus make it
    the means of popularizing rational faith. If anyone imagines that
    the aim of the interpretation is to obtain the real meaning of
    Scripture, he is no Kantian on this point" (Stuckenberg, p. 341).


22. The total performance of Kant thus left Germany with a powerful
lead on the one hand towards that unbelief in religion which in the
last reign had been fashionable, and on the other hand a series of
prescriptions for compromise; the monarchy all the while throwing
its weight against all innovation in doctrine and practice. In 1799
Fichte is found expressing the utmost alarm at the combination of the
European despotisms to "rout out freethought"; [1462] and so strong
did the official reaction become that in the opinion of Heine all
the German philosophers and their ideas would have been suppressed
by wheel and gallows but for Napoleon, [1463] who intervened in the
year 1805. The Prussian despotism being thus weakened, what actually
happened was an adaptation of Kant's teaching to the needs alike of
religion and of rationalism. The religious world was assured by it
that, though all previous arguments for theism were philosophically
worthless, theism was now safe on the fluid basis of feeling. On the
other hand, rationalism alike in ethics and in historical criticism
was visibly reinforced on all sides. Herder, as before noted, found
divinity students grounding their unbelief on Kant's teaching. Staüdlin
begins the preface to his History and Spirit of Skepticism (1794) with
the remark that "Skepticism begins to be a disease of the age"; and
Kant is the last in his list of skeptics. At the close of the century
"the number of Kantian theologians was legion," and it was through
the Kantian influence that "the various anti-orthodox tendencies
which flourished during the period of Illumination were concentrated
in Rationalism" [1464]--in the tendency, that is, to bring rational
criticism to bear alike on history, dogma, and philosophy. Borowski
in 1804 complains that "beardless youths and idle babblers" devoid of
knowledge "appeal to Kant's views respecting Christianity." [1465]
These views, as we have seen, were partly accommodating, partly
subversive in the extreme. Kant regards Jesus as an edifying ideal
of perfect manhood, "belief" in whom as such makes a man acceptable
to God, because of following a good model. "While he thus treats
the historical account of Jesus as of no significance, except as a
shell into which the practical reason puts the kernel, his whole
argument tends to destroy faith in the historic person of Jesus
as given in the gospel, treating the account itself as something
whose truthfulness it is not worth while to investigate." [1466]
In point of fact we find his devoted disciple Erhard declaring:
"I regard Christian morality as something which has been falsely
imputed to Christianity; and the existence of Christ does not at all
seem to me to be a probable historical fact"--this while declaring
that Kant had given him "the indescribable comfort of being able to
call himself openly, and with a good conscience, a Christian." [1467]

While therefore a multitude of preachers availed themselves of
Kant's philosophic licence to rationalize in the pulpit and out
of it as occasion offered, and yet others opposed them only on
the score that all divergence from orthodoxy should be avowed,
the dissolution of orthodoxy in Germany was rapid and general; and
the anti-supernaturalist handling of Scripture, prepared for as we
have seen, went on continuously. Even the positive disparagement
of Christianity was carried on by Kantian students; and Hamann,
dubbed "the Magician of the North" for his alluring exposition
of emotional theism, caused one of them, a tutor, to be brought
before a clerical consistory for having taught his pupil to throw all
specifically Christian doctrines aside. The tutor admitted the charge,
and with four others signed a declaration "that neither morality
nor sound reason nor public welfare could exist in connection with
Christianity." [1468] Hamann's own influence was too much a matter
of literary talent and caprice to be durable; and recent attempts to
re-establish his reputation have evoked the deliberate judgment that
he has no permanent importance. [1469]

Against the intellectual influence thus set up by Kant there was none
in contemporary Germany capable of resistance. Philosophy for the most
part went in Kant's direction, having indeed been so tending before
his day. Rationalism of a kind had already had a representative in
Chr. A. Crusius (1712-1775), who in treatises on logic and metaphysics
opposed alike Leibnitz and Wolff, and taught for his own part a kind
of Epicureanism, nominally Christianized. To his school belonged
Platner (much admired by Jean Paul Richter, his pupil) and Tetens,
"the German Locke," who attempted a common-sense answer to Hume. His
ideal was a philosophy "at once intelligible and religious, agreeable
to God and accessible to the people." [1470] Platner on the other hand,
leaning strongly towards a psychological and anthropological view of
human problems, [1471] opposed first to atheism [1472] and later to
Kantian theism [1473] a moderate Pyrrhonic skepticism; here following a
remarkable lead from the younger Beausobre, who in 1755 had published
in French, at Berlin, a treatise entitled Le Pyrrhonisme Raisonnable,
taking up the position, among others, that while it is hard to prove
the existence of God by reason it is impossible to disprove it. This
was virtually the position of Kant a generation later; and it is
clear that thus early the dogmatic position was discredited.

23. Some philosophic opposition there was to Kant, alike on
intuitionist grounds, as in the cases of Hamann and Herder, and
on grounds of academic prejudice, as in the case of Kraus; but the
more important thinkers who followed him were all as heterodox as
he. In particular, Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), who began in
authorship by being a Kantian zealot, gave even greater scandal than
the Master had done. Fichte's whole career is a kind of "abstract
and brief chronicle" of the movements of thought in Germany during
his life. In his boyhood, at the public school of Pforta, we find
him and his comrades already influenced by the new currents. "Books
imbued with all the spirit of free inquiry were secretly obtained,
and, in spite of the strictest prohibitions, great part of the
night was spent in their perusal. The works of Wieland, Lessing,
and Goethe were positively forbidden; yet they found their way
within the walls, and were eagerly studied." [1474] In particular,
Fichte followed closely the controversy of Lessing with Goeze;
and Lessing's lead gave him at once the spirit of freethought,
as distinct from any specific opinion. Never a consistent thinker,
Fichte in his student and tutorial days is found professing at once
determinism and a belief in "Providence," accepting Spinoza and
contemplating a village pastorate. [1475] But while ready to frame a
plea for Christianity on the score of its psychic adaptation to "the
sinner," he swerved from the pastorate when it came within sight,
declaring that "no purely Christian community now exists." [1476]
About the age of twenty-eight he became an enthusiastic convert to the
Kantian philosophy, especially to the Critique of Practical Reason,
and threw over determinism on what appear to be grounds of empirical
utilitarianism, failing to face the philosophical issue. Within
a year of his visit to Kant, however, he was writing to a friend
that "Kant has only indicated the truth, but neither unfolded nor
proved it," and that he himself has "discovered a new principle,
from which all philosophy can easily be deduced.... In a couple of
years we shall have a philosophy with all the clearness of geometrical
demonstration." [1477] He had in fact passed, perhaps under Spinoza's
influence, to pantheism, from which standpoint he rejected Kant's
anti-rational ground for affirming a God not immanent in things, and
claimed, as did his contemporaries Schelling and Hegel, to establish
theism on rational grounds. Rejecting, further, Kant's reiterated
doctrine that religion is ethic, Fichte ultimately insisted that, on
the contrary, religion is knowledge, and that "it is only a corrupt
society that has to use religion as an impulse to moral action."

But alike in his Kantian youth and later he was definitely
anti-revelationist, however much he conformed to clerical prejudice
by attacks upon the movement of freethought. In his "wander-years"
he writes with vehemence of the "worse than Spanish inquisition"
under which the German clergy are compelled to "cringe and dissemble,"
partly because of lack of ability, partly through economic need. [1478]
In his Versuch einer Kritik aller Offenbarung ("Essay towards a
Critique of all Revelation"), published with some difficulty, Kant
helping (1792), he in effect negates the orthodox assumption, and,
in the spirit of Kant and Lessing, but with more directness than they
had shown, concludes that belief in revelation "is an element, and an
important element, in the moral education of humanity, but it is not
a final stage for human thought." [1479] In Kant's bi-frontal fashion,
he had professed [1480] to "silence the opponents of positive religion
not less than its dogmatical defenders"; but that result did not follow
on either side, and ere long, as a professor at Jena, he was being
represented as one of the most aggressive of the opponents. Soon
after producing his Critique of all Revelation he had published
anonymously two pamphlets vindicating the spirit as distinguished
from the conduct of the French Revolution; and upon a young writer
known to harbour such ideas enmity was bound to fall. Soon it took
the form of charges of atheism. It does not appear to be true that
he ever told his students at Jena: "In five years there will be
no more Christian religion: reason is our religion"; [1481] and it
would seem that the first charges of atheism brought against him were
purely malicious. [1482] But his career henceforth was one of strife
and friction, first with the student-blackguardism which had been
rife in the German universities ever since the Thirty Years' War,
and which he partly subdued; then with the academic authorities and
the traditionalists, who, when he began lecturing on Sunday mornings,
accused him of attempting to throw over Christianity and set up the
worship of reason. He was arraigned before the High Consistory of
Weimar and acquitted; but his wife was insulted in the streets of
Jena; his house was riotously attacked in the night; and he ceased to
reside there. Then, in his Wissenschaftslehre ("Doctrine of Knowledge,"
1794-95) he came into conflict with the Kantians, with whom his rupture
steadily deepened on ethical grounds. Again he was accused of atheism
in print; and after a defence in which he retorted the charge on the
utilitarian theists he resigned.

In Berlin, where the new king held the old view that the wrongs of
the Gods were the Gods' affair, he found harbourage; and sought to
put himself right with the religious world by his book Die Bestimmung
des Menschen ("The Vocation of Man," 1800), wherein he speaks of the
Eternal Infinite Will as regulating human reason so far as human reason
is right--the old counter-sense and the old evasion. By this book
he repelled his rationalistic friends Schelling and the Schlegels;
while his religious ally Schleiermacher, who chose another tactic,
wrote on it a bitter and contemptuous review, and "could hardly find
words strong enough to express his detestation of it." [1483] A few
years later Fichte was writing no less contemptuously of Schelling;
and in his remaining years, though the Napoleonic wars partly brought
him into sympathy with his countrymen, from whom he had turned away
in angry alienation, he remained a philosophic Ishmael, warring and
warred upon all round. He was thus left to figure for posterity as a
religionist "for his own hand," who rejected all current religion while
angrily dismissing current unbelief as "freethinking chatter." [1484]
If his philosophy be estimated by its logical content as distinguished
from its conflicting verbalisms, it is fundamentally as atheistic as
that of Spinoza. [1485] That he was conscious of a vital sunderance
between his thought and that of the past is made clear by his answer,
in 1805, to the complaint that the people had lost their "religious
feeling" (Religiosität). His retort is that a new religious feeling
has taken the place of the old; [1486] and that was the position
taken up by the generation which swore by him, in the German manner,
as the last had sworn by Kant.

But the successive philosophies of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel,
all rising out of the "Illumination" of the eighteenth century, have
been alike impermanent. Nothing is more remarkable in the history
of thought than the internecine strife of the systems which insisted
on "putting something in the place" of the untenable systems of the
past. They have been but so many "toppling spires of cloud." Fichte,
like Herder, broke away from the doctrine of Kant; and later became
bitterly opposed to that of his former friend Schelling, as did Hegel
in his turn. Schleiermacher, hostile to Kant, was still more hostile
to Fichte; and Hegel, detesting Schleiermacher [1487] and developing
Fichte, give rise to schools arrayed against each other, of which the
anti-Christian was by far the stronger. All that is permanent in the
product of the age of German Rationalism is the fundamental principle
upon which it proceeded, the confutation of the dogmas and legends
of the past, and the concrete results of the historical, critical,
and physical research to which the principle and the confutation led.

24. It is true that the progressive work was not all done by the
Rationalists so-called. As always, incoherences in the pioneers led
to retorts which made for rectification. One of the errors of bias
of the early naturalists, as we have noted, was their tendency to
take every religious document as genuine and at bottom trustworthy,
provided only that its allegations of miracles were explained away
as misinterpretations of natural phenomena. So satisfied were many
of them with this inexpensive method that they positively resisted
the attempts of supernaturalists, seeking a way out of their special
dilemma, to rectify the false ascriptions of the documents. Bent solely
on one solution, they were oddly blind to evidential considerations
which pointed to interpolation, forgery, variety of source, and error
of literary tradition; while scholars bent on saving "inspiration"
were often ready in some measure for such recognitions. These arrests
of insight took place alternately on both sides, in the normal way of
intellectual progress by alternate movements. All the while, it is the
same primary force of reason that sets up the alternate pressures,
and the secondary pressures are generated by, and are impossible
without, the first.

25. The emancipation, too, was limited in area in the German-speaking
world. In Austria, despite a certain amount of French culture, the
rule of the Jesuits in the eighteenth century was too effective to
permit of any intellectual developments. Maria Theresa, who knew
too well that the boundless sexual licence against which she fought
had nothing to do with innovating ideas, had to issue a special
order to permit the importation of Montesquieu's Esprit des Lois;
and works of more subversive doctrine could not openly pass the
frontiers at all. An attempt to bring Lessing to Vienna in 1774,
with a view to founding a new literary Academy, collapsed before the
opposition; and when Prof. Jahn, of the Vienna University--described
as "freethinking, latitudinarian, anti-supernaturalistic"--developed
somewhat anti-clerical tendencies in his teaching and writing, he
was forced to resign, and died a simple Canon. [1488] The Emperor
Joseph II in his day passed for an unbeliever; [1489] but there was
no general movement. "Austria, in a time of universal effervescence,
produced only musicians, and showed zest only for pleasure." [1490]
Yet among the music-makers was the German-born Beethoven, the greatest
master of his age. Kindred in spirit to Goethe, and much more of a
revolutionist than he in all things, Beethoven spent the creative part
of his life at Vienna without ceasing to be a freethinker. [1491]
"Formal religion he apparently had none." He copied out a kind of
theistic creed consisting of three ancient formulas: "I am that which
is": "I am all that is, that was, that shall be": "He is alone by
Himself; and to Him alone do all things owe their being." Beyond this
his beliefs did not go. When his friend Moscheles at the end of his
arrangement of Fidelio wrote: "Fine, with God's help," Beethoven added,
"O man, help thyself." [1492] His reception of the Catholic sacraments
in extremis was not his act. He had left to mankind a purer and a more
lasting gift than either the creeds or the philosophies of his age.



CHAPTER XIX

FREETHOUGHT IN THE REMAINING EUROPEAN STATES


§ 1. Holland

Holland, so notable for relative hospitality to freethinking in the
seventeenth century, continued to exhibit it in the eighteenth, though
without putting forth much native response. After her desperate wars
with Louis XIV, the Dutch State, now monarchically ruled, turned on
the intellectual side rather to imitative belles lettres than to the
problems which had begun to exercise so much of English thought. It
was an age of "retrogression and weakness." [1493] Elizabeth Wolff,
née Bekker, one of the most famous of the numerous Dutch women-writers
of the century (1738-1804), is notable for her religious as well
as for her political liberalism; [1494] but her main activity was
in novel-writing; and there are few other signs of freethinking
tendencies in popular Dutch culture. It was impossible, however,
that the influences at work in the neighbouring lands should be shut
out; and if Holland did not produce innovating books she printed many
throughout the century.

In 1708 there was published at Amsterdam a work under the pseudonym of
"Juan di Posos," wherein, by way of a relation of imaginary travels,
something like atheism was said to be taught; but the pastor Leenhof
had in 1703 been accused of atheism for his treatise, Heaven on
Earth, which was at most Spinozistic. [1495] Even as late as 1714
a Spinozist shoemaker, Booms, was banished for his writings; but
henceforth liberal influences, largely traceable to the works of Bayle,
begin to predominate. Welcomed by students everywhere, Bayle must have
made powerfully for tolerance and rationalism in his adopted country,
which after his time became a centre of culture for the States of
northern Europe rather than a source of original works. Holland in
the eighteenth century was receptive alike of French and English
thought and literature, especially the former; [1496] and, besides
reprinting many of the French deists' works and translating some of
the English, the Dutch cities harboured such heretics as the Italian
Alberto Radicati, Count Passerano, who, dying at Rotterdam in 1736,
left a collection of deistic treatises of a strongly freethinking
cast to be posthumously published.

The German traveller Alberti, [1497] citing the London Magazine,
1732, states that Passerano visited England and published works
in English through a translator, Joseph Morgan, and that both were
sentenced to imprisonment. This presumably refers to his anonymous
Philosophical Dissertation upon Death, "by a friend to truth,"
published in English in 1732. [1498] It is a remarkable treatise,
being a hardy justification of suicide, "composed for the consolation
of the unhappy," from a practically atheistic standpoint. Two years
earlier he had published in English, also anonymously, a tract
entitled Christianity set in a True Light, by a Pagan Philosopher
newly converted; and it may be that the startling nature of the second
pamphlet elicited a prosecution which included both. The pamphlet of
1730, however, is a eulogy of the ethic of Jesus, who is deistically
treated as a simple man, but with all the amenity which the deists
usually brought to bear on that theme. Passerano's Recueil des pièces
curieuses sur les matières les plus interessants, published with his
name at Rotterdam in 1736, [1499] includes a translation of Swift's
ironical Project concerning babies, and an Histoire abregée de la
profession sacerdotale, which was published in a separate English
translation. [1500] Passerano is noticeable chiefly for the relative
thoroughness of his rationalism. [1501] In the Recueil he speaks of
deists and atheists as being the same, those called atheists having
always admitted a first cause under the names God, Nature, Eternal
Germs, movement, or universal soul. [1502]


    In 1737 was published in French a small mystification consisting
    of a Sermon prêché dans la grande Assemblée des Quakers de
    Londres, par le fameux Frère E. E., and another little tract,
    La Religion Muhamedane comparée à la païenne de l'Indostan,
    par Ali-Ebn-Omar. "E. E." stood for Edward Elwall, a well-known
    Unitarian of the time, who, as we saw, was tried at Stafford
    Assizes in 1726 for publishing a Unitarian treatise, and who in
    1742 published another, entitled The Supernatural Incarnation of
    Jesus Christ proved to be false ... and that our Lord Jesus Christ
    was the real son of Joseph and Mary. The two tracts are both by
    Passerano, and are on deistic lines, the text of the Sermon being
    (in English) "The Religion of the Gospel is the true Original
    Religion of Reason and Nature." The proposition is of course
    purely ethical in its bearing.


The currency given in Holland to such literature tells of growing
liberality of thought as well as of political freedom. But the
conditions were not favourable to such general literary activity as
prevailed in the larger States, though good work was done in medicine
and the natural sciences. Not till the nineteenth century did Dutch
scholars again give a lead to Europe in religious thought.



§ 2. The Scandinavian States

1. Traces of new rationalistic life are to be seen in the Scandinavian
countries at least as early as the times of Descartes. There, as
elsewhere, the Reformation had been substantially a fiscal or economic
revolution, proceeding on various lines. In Denmark the movement,
favoured by the king, began among the people; the nobility rapidly
following, to their own great profit; and finally Christian III, who
ruled both Denmark and Norway, acting with the nobles, suppressed
Catholic worship, and confiscated to the crown the "castles,
fortresses, and vast domains of the prelates." [1503] In Sweden
the king, Gustavus Vasa, took the initiative, moved by sore need of
funds, and a thoroughly anti-ecclesiastical temper, [1504] the clergy
having supported the Danish rule which he threw off. The burghers and
peasants promptly joined him against the clergy and nobles, enabling
him to confiscate the bishops' castles and estates, as was done in
Denmark; and he finally secured himself with the nobles by letting
them reclaim lands granted by their ancestors to monasteries. [1505]
His anti-feudal reforms having stimulated new life in many ways,
further evolution followed.

In Sweden the stimulative reign of Gustavus Vasa was followed by a
long period of the strife which everywhere trod on the heels of the
Reformation. The second successor of Gustavus, his son John, had
married a daughter of the Catholic Sigismund of Poland, and sought
to restore her religion to power, causing much turmoil until her
death, whereafter he abandoned the cause. His Catholic son Sigismund
recklessly renewed the effort, and was deposed in consequence; John's
brother Charles becoming king. In Denmark, meanwhile, Frederick II
(d. 1588) had been a bigoted champion of Lutheranism, expelling a
professor of Calvinistic leanings on the Eucharist, and refusing a
landing to the Calvinists who fled from the Netherlands. On the other
hand he patronized and pensioned Tycho Brahé, who, until driven into
banishment by a court cabal during the minority of Christian IV,
did much for astronomy, though unable to accept Copernicanism.

In 1611 there broke out between Sweden and Denmark the sanguinary
two-years' "War of Calmar," their common religion availing nothing to
avert strife. Thereafter Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, as Protestant
champion in the Thirty Years' War, in succession to Christian IV of
Denmark, fills the eye of Europe till his death in 1632; eleven years
after which event Sweden and Denmark were again at war. In 1660 the
latter country, for lack of goodwill between nobles and commoners,
underwent a political revolution whereby its king, whose predecessors
had held the crown on an elective tenure, became absolute, and set
up a hereditary line. The first result was a marked intellectual
stagnation. "Divinity, law, and philosophy were wholly neglected;
surgery was practised only by barbers; and when Frederick IV and his
queen required medical aid, no native physician could be found to whom
it was deemed safe to entrust the cure of the royal patients.... The
only name, after Tycho Brahé, of which astronomy can boast, is that
of Peter Horrebow, and with him the cultivation of the science became
extinct." [1506]

2. For long, the only personality making powerfully for culture was
Holberg, [1507] certainly a host in himself. Of all the writers of his
age, the only one who can be compared with him in versatility of power
is Voltaire, whom he emulated as satirist, dramatist, and historian;
but all his dramatic genius could not avail to sustain against the
puritanical pietism which then flourished, the Danish drama of which
he was the fecund creator. After producing a brilliant series of plays
(1722-1727) he had to witness the closing of the Copenhagen Theatre,
and take to general writing, historical and didactic. In 1741 he
produced in Latin his famous Subterranean Journey of Nicolas Klimius,
[1508] one of the most widely famous performances of its age. [1509]
He knew English, and must have been influenced by Swift's Gulliver's
Travels, which his story frequently recalls. The hero catastrophically
reaches a "subterranean" planet, with another social system, and
peopled by moving trees and civilized and socialized animals. With
the tree-people, the Potuans, the tale deals at some length, giving
a chapter on their religion, [1510] after the manner of Tyssot de
Patot in Jacques Massé. They are simple deists, knowing nothing of
Christianity; and the author makes them the mouthpieces of criticisms
upon Christian prayers, Te Deums, and hymn-singing in general. They
believe in future recompenses, but not in providential government of
this life; and at various points they improve upon the current ethic
of Christendom. [1511]

There is a trace of the tone of Frederick alike in the eulogy of
tolerance and in the intimation that anyone who disputes about the
character of the deity and the properties of spirits or souls is
"condemned to phlebotomy" and to be detained in the general hospital
(nosocomium). [1512] It was probably by way of precaution that in
the closing paragraph of the chapter the Potuans are alleged to
maintain that, though their creed "seemed mere natural religion,
it was all revealed in a book which was sent from the sky some
centuries ago"; but the precaution is slight, as they are declared to
have practically no dogmas at all. It is thus easy to read between
the lines of the declaration of Potuan orthodoxy: "Formerly our
ancestors contented themselves to live in natural religion alone;
but experience has shown that the mere light of nature does not
suffice, and that its precepts are effaced in time by the sloth
and negligence of some and the philosophic subtleties of others,
so that nothing can arrest freethinking (libertatem cogitandi) or
keep it within just bounds. Thence came depravation; and therefore
it was that God had chosen to give them a written law." [1513] Such
a confutation of "the error of those who pretend that a revelation is
unnecessary" must have given more entertainment to those in question
than satisfaction to the defenders of the faith. But a general tone
of levity and satire, maintained at the expense of various European
nations, England included, [1514] together with his popularity as a
dramatist, saved Holberg from the imputation of heresy. His satire
reached and was realized by the cultured few alone: the multitude
was quite unaffected; and during the reign of Christian VI all
intellectual efforts beyond the reign of science were subjected to
rigorous control. [1515] As a culture force, Protestantism had failed
in the north lands as completely as Catholicism in the south.

3. In Sweden, meantime, there had occurred some reflex of the
intellectual renascence. Towards the middle of the seventeenth century
there are increasing traces of rationalism at the court of the famous
Christina, who already in her youth is found much interested in the
objections of "Jews, heathens, and philosophers against Christian
doctrine"; [1516] and her invitation of Descartes to her court
(1649) implies that Sweden had been not a little affected by the
revulsion of popular thought which followed on the Thirty Years' War
in Germany. Christina herself, however, was a remarkable personality,
unfeminine, strong-willed, with a vigorous but immature intelligence;
and she did much of her early skeptical thinking for herself. In
the course of a few years, the new spirit had gone so far as to
make church-going matter for open scoffing at the Swedish court;
[1517] and the Queen's adoption of Romanism, for which she prepared
by abdicating the crown, appears to have been by way of revulsion
from a state of mind approaching atheism, to which she had been led
by her freethinking French physician, Bourdelot, after Descartes's
death. [1518] It has been confidently asserted that she really cared
for neither creed, and embraced Catholicism only by way of conformity
for social purposes, retaining her freethinking views. [1519] It is
certain that she was always unhappy in her Swedish surroundings. But
her course may more reasonably be explained as that of a mind which
could not rest in deism or face atheism, and sought in Catholicism
the sense of anchorage which is craved by temperaments ill-framed for
the discipline of reason. The author of the Histoire des intrigues
galantes de la reine Christine de Suède (1697), who seems to have
been one of her suite, insists that while she "loved bigots no more
than atheists," [1520] and although her religion had been shaken in
her youth by Bourdelot and other freethinkers, she was regular in all
Catholic observances; and that once, looking at the portrait of her
father, she said he had failed to provide for the safety of his soul,
and thanked God for having guided her aright. [1521]

Her annotations of Descartes are of little importance; but it is
noteworthy that she accorded to his orthodox adherents a declaration
that he had "greatly contributed" to her "glorious conversion" to the
Catholic faith. [1522] Whatever favour she may have shown to liberty
of thought in her youth, no important literary results could follow
in the then state of Swedish culture, when the studies at even the
new colleges were mainly confined to Latin and theology. [1523] The
German Pufendorf, indeed, by his treatises On the Law of Nature and
Nations and On the Duty of Man and Citizen (published at Lund, where he
was professor, in 1672-73), did much to establish the utilitarian and
naturalistic tendency in ethics which was at work at the same time in
England; but his latent deism had no great influence even in Germany,
his Scripture-citing orthodoxy countervailing it, although he argued
for a separation of Church and State. [1524]

4. That there was, however, in eighteenth-century Sweden a considerable
amount of unpublished rationalism may be gathered from the writings
of Emanuel Swedenborg, himself something of a freethinker in his
very supernaturalism. His frequent subacid allusions to those who
"regarded Nature instead of the divine," and "thought from science,"
[1525] tell not merely of much passive opposition to his own prophetic
claims (which he avenged by much serene malediction and the allotment
of bad quarters in the next world), but of reasoned rejection of all
Scriptural claims. Thus in his Sapientia Angelica de Divina Providentia
[1526] (1764) he sets himself [1527] to deal with a number of the
ways in which "the merely natural man confirms himself in favour of
Nature against God" and "comes to the conclusion that religion in
itself is nothing, but yet that it is necessary because it serves as
a restraint." Among the sources of unbelief specified are ethical
revolt alike against the Biblical narratives and against the lack
of moral government in the world; the recognition of the success of
other religions than the Christian, and of the many heresies within
that; and dissatisfaction with the Christian dogmas. As Swedenborg
sojourned much in other countries, he may be describing men other
than his countrymen; but it is very unlikely that the larger part of
his intercourse with his fellows counted for nothing in this account
of contemporary rationalism.

With his odd mixture of scripturalism and innovating dogmatism,
Swedenborg disposes of difficulties about Genesis by reducing Adam
and Eve to an allegory of the "Most Ancient Church," tranquilly
dismissing the orthodox belief by asking, "For who can suppose that
the creation of the world could have been as there described?" [1528]
His own scientific training, which had enabled him to make his notable
anticipation of the nebular theory, [1529] made it also easy for him
to reduce to allegory the text of what he nevertheless insisted on
treating as a divine revelation; and his moral sense, active where
he felt no perverting resentment of contradiction by reasoners,
[1530] made him reject the orthodox doctrine of salvation by faith,
even as he did the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. On these points
he seems to have had a lead from his father, Bishop Jasper Svedberg,
[1531] as he had in his overwhelming physiological bias to subjective
vision-making. But a message which finally amounted to the oracular
propounding of a new and bewildering supernaturalism, to be taken on
authority like the old, could make for freethought only by rousing
rational reaction. It was Swedenborg's destiny to establish, in virtue
of his great power of orderly dogmatism, a new supernaturalist and
scripturalist sect, while his scientific conceptions were left for
other men to develop. In his own country, in his own day, he had
little success qua prophet, though always esteemed for his character
and his high secular competence; and he finally figured rather as a
heresiarch than otherwise. [1532]

5. According to one of Swedenborg's biographers, the worldliness of
most of the Swedish clergy in the middle of the eighteenth century so
far outwent even that of the English Church that the laity were left
to themselves; while "gentlemen disdained the least taint of religion,
and except on formal occasions would have been ashamed to be caught
church-going." [1533] But this was a matter rather of fashion than
of freethought; and there is little trace of critical life in the
period. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, doubtless,
the aristocracies and the cultured class in the Scandinavian States
were influenced like the rest of Europe by the spirit of French
freethought, [1534] which everywhere followed the vogue of the French
language and literature. Thus we find Gustavus III of Sweden, an ardent
admirer of Voltaire, defending him in company, and proposing in 1770,
before the death of his father prevented it, to make a pilgrimage to
Ferney. [1535] It is without regard to this testimony that Gustavus,
who was assassinated, is said to have died "with the fortitude
and resignation of a Christian." [1536] He was indeed flighty and
changeable, [1537] and after growing up a Voltairean was turned for a
year or two into a credulous mystic, the dupe of pseudo-Swedenborgian
charlatans; [1538] but there is small sign of religious earnestness
in his fashion of making his dying confession. [1539] Claiming at
an earlier date to believe more than Joseph II, who in his opinion
"believed in nothing at all," he makes light of their joint parade of
piety at Rome, [1540] and seems to have been at bottom a good deal
of an indifferentist. During his reign his influence on literature
fostered a measure of the spirit of freethought in belles lettres;
and in the poets J. H. Kjellgren and J. M. Bellman (both d. 1795)
there is to be seen the effect of the German Aufklärung and the
spirit of Voltaire. [1541] Their contemporary, Tomas Thoren, who
called himself Torild (d. 1812), though more of an innovator in
poetic style than in thought, wrote among other things a pamphlet
on The Freedom of the General Intelligence. But Torild's nickname,
"the mad magister," tells of his extravagance; and none of the Swedish
belletrists of that age amounted to a European influence. Finally,
in the calamitous period which followed on the assassination of
Gustavus III, all Swedish culture sank heavily. The desperate energies
of Charles XII had left his country half-ruined in 1718; and even
while Linnæus and his pupils were building up the modern science of
botany in the latter half of the century the economic exhaustion of
the people was a check on general culture. The University of Upsala,
which at one time had over 2,000 students, counted only some 500 at
the close of the eighteenth century. [1542]

6. In Denmark, on the other hand, the stagnation of nearly a hundred
years had been ended at the accession of Frederick V in 1746. [1543]
National literature, revivified by Holberg, was further advanced
by the establishment of a society of polite learning in 1763;
under Frederick's auspices Danish naturalists and scholars were sent
abroad for study; and in particular a literary expedition was sent to
Arabia. The European movement of science, in short, had gripped the
little kingdom, and the usual intellectual results began to follow,
though, as in Catholic Spain, the forces of reaction soon rallied
against a movement which had been imposed from above rather than
evolved from within.

The most celebrated northern unbeliever of the French period was
Count Struensee, who for some years (1770-72) virtually ruled Denmark
as the favourite of the young queen, the king being half-witted and
worthless. Struensee was an energetic and capable though injudicious
reformer: he abolished torture; emancipated the enslaved peasantry;
secured toleration for all sects; encouraged the arts and industry;
established freedom of the press; and reformed the finances, the
police, the law courts, and sanitation. [1544] His very reforms,
being made with headlong rapidity, made his position untenable, and
his enemies soon effected his downfall and death. The young queen,
who was not alleged to have been a freethinker, was savagely seized by
the hostile faction and put on her trial on a charge of adultery, which
being wholly unproved, the aristocratic faction proposed to try her on
a charge of drugging her husband. Only by the efforts of the British
court was she saved from imprisonment for life in a fortress, and sent
to Hanover, where, three years later, she died. She too was a reformer,
and it was on that score that she was hated by the nobles. [1545] Both
she and Struensee, in short, were the victims of a violent political
reaction. There is an elaborate account of Struensee's conversion
to Christianity in prison by the German Dr. Munter, [1546] which
makes him out by his own confession an excessive voluptuary. It is
an extremely suspicious document, exhibiting strong political bias,
and giving Struensee no credit for reforms; the apparent assumption
being that the conversion of a reprobate was of more evidential value
than that of a reputable and reflective type.

In spite of the reaction, rationalism persisted among the cultured
class. Mary Wollstonecraft, visiting Denmark in 1795, noted that there
and in Norway the press was free, and that new French publications
were translated and freely discussed. The press had in fact been
freed by Struensee, and was left free by his enemies because of the
facilities it had given them to attack him. [1547] "On the subject of
religion," she added, "they are likewise becoming tolerant, at least,
and perhaps have advanced a step further in freethinking. One writer
has ventured to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, and to question the
necessity or utility of the Christian system, without being considered
universally as a monster, which would have been the case a few years
ago." [1548] She likewise noted that there was in Norway very little
of the fanaticism she had seen gaining ground, on Wesleyan lines,
in England. [1549] But though the Danes had "translated many German
works on education," they had "not adopted any of their plans";
there were few schools, and those not good. Norway, again, had been
kept without a university under Danish rule; and not until one was
established at Christiania in 1811 could Norwegian faculty play its
part in the intellectual life of Europe. The reaction, accordingly,
soon afterwards began to gain head. Already in 1790 "precautionary
measures" had been attempted against the press; [1550] and, these being
found inefficient, an edict was issued in 1799 enforcing penalties
against all anonymous writers--a plan which of course struck at
the publishers. But the great geographer, Malte-Brun, was exiled,
as were Heiberg, the dramatic poet, and others; and again there
was "a temporary stagnation in literature," which, however, soon
passed away in the nineteenth century. Meantime Sweden and Denmark
had alike contributed vitally to the progress of European science;
though neither had shared in the work of freethought as against dogma.



§ 3. The Slavonic States

1. In Poland, where, as we saw, Unitarian heresy had spread
considerably in the sixteenth century, positive atheism is heard of in
1688-89, when Count Liszinski (or Lyszczynski), among whose papers,
it was said, had been found the written statement that there is no
God, or that man had made God out of nothing, was denounced by the
bishops of Posen and Kioff, tried, and found guilty of denying not
only the existence of God but the doctrine of the Trinity and the
Virgin Birth. After being tortured, beheaded, and burned, his ashes
were scattered from a cannon. [1551] The first step was to tear out
his tongue, "with which he had been cruel towards God"; the next to
burn his hands at a slow fire. It is all told by Zulaski, the leading
Inquisitionist. [1552] But even had a less murderous treatment been
meted out to such heresy, anarchic Poland, ridden by Jesuits, was
in no state to develop a rationalistic literature. The old king,
John Sobieski, made no attempt to stop the execution, though he is
credited with a philosophical habit of mind, and with reprimanding
the clergy for not admitting modern philosophy in the universities
and schools. [1553]

2. In Russia the possibilities of modern freethought emerge only in
the seventeenth century, when Muscovy was struggling out of Byzantine
barbarism. The late-recovered treasure of ancient folk-poesy,
partly preserved by chance among the northern peasantry, tells of
the complete rupture wrought in the racial life by the imposition
of Byzantine Christianity from the south. As early as the fourteenth
century the Strigolniks, who abounded at Novgorod, had held strongly
by anti-ecclesiastical doctrines of the Paulician and Lollard type;
[1554] but orthodox fanaticism ruled life in general down to the age
of Peter the Great. In the sixteenth century we find the usual symptom
of criticism of the lives of the monks; [1555] but the culture was
almost wholly ecclesiastical; and in the seventeenth century the
effort of the turbulent Patriarch Nikon (1605-1681), to correct
the corrupt sacred texts and the traditional heterodox practices,
was furiously resisted, to the point of a great schism. [1556]
He himself had violently denounced other innovations, destroying
pictures and an organ in the manner of Savonarola; but his own
elementary reforms were found intolerable by the orthodox, [1557]
though they were favoured by Sophia, the able and ambitious sister of
Peter. [1558] The priest Kriezanitch (1617-1678), who wrote a work on
"The Russian Empire in the second half of the Seventeenth Century,"
denounced researches in physical science as "devilish heresies";
[1559] and it is on record that scholars were obliged to study
in secret and by night for fear of the hostility of the common
people. [1560] Half-a-century later the orthodox majority seems to
have remained convinced of the atheistic tendency of all science;
[1561] and the friends of the new light doubtless included deists
from the first. Not till the reforms of Peter had begun to bear
fruit, however, could freethought raise its head. The great Czar, who
promoted printing and literature as he did every other new activity
of a practical kind, took the singular step of actually withdrawing
writing materials from the monks, whose influence he held to be wholly
reactionary. [1562] In 1703 appeared the first Russian journal; and in
1724 Peter founded the first Academy of Sciences, enjoining upon it
the study of languages and the production of translations. Now began
the era of foreign culture and translations from the French. [1563]
Prince Kantemir, the satirist, who was with the Russian embassy in
London in 1733, pronounced England, then at the height of the deistic
tide, "the most civilized and enlightened of European nations." [1564]
The fact that he translated Fontenelle on The Plurality of Worlds
tells further of his liberalism. [1565] Gradually there arose a new
secular faction, under Western influences; and other forms of culture
slowly advanced likewise, notably under Elisabeth Petrovna. At length,
in the reign of Catherine II, called the Great, French ideas, already
heralded by belles lettres, found comparatively free headway. She
herself was a deist, and a satirist of bigots in her comedies;
[1566] she accomplished what Peter had planned, the secularization of
Church property; [1567] and she was long the admiring correspondent
of Voltaire, to whom and to D'Alembert and Diderot she offered warm
invitations to reside at her court. Diderot alone accepted, and him she
specially befriended, buying his library when he was fain to sell it,
and constituting him its salaried keeper. In no country, not excepting
England, was there more of practical freedom than in Russia under her
rule; [1568] and if after the outbreak of the Revolution she turned
political persecutor, she was still not below the English level. Her
half-crazy son Paul II, whom she had given cause to hate her, undid
her work wherever he could. But neither her reaction nor his rule
could eradicate the movement of thought begun in the educated classes;
though in Russia, as in the Scandinavian States, it was not till the
nineteenth century that original serious literature flourished.



§ 4. Italy

1. Returning to Italy, no longer the leader of European thought, but
still full of veiled freethinking, we find in the seventeenth century
the proof that no amount of such predisposition can countervail
thoroughly bad political conditions. Ground down by the matchless
misrule of Spain, from which the conspiracy of the monk Campanella
vainly sought to free her, and by the kindred tyranny of the papacy,
Italy could produce in its educated class, save for the men of science
and the students of economics, only triflers, whose unbelief was of
a piece with their cynicism. While Naples and the south decayed,
mental energy had for a time flourished in Tuscany, where, under
the grand dukes from Ferdinando I onwards, industry and commerce
had revived; and even after a time of retrogression Ferdinando II
encouraged science, now made newly glorious by the names of Galileo
and Torricelli. But again there was a relapse; and at the end of
the century, under a bigoted duke, Florence was priest-ridden and,
at least in outward seeming, gloomily superstitious; while, save for
the better conditions secured at Naples under the viceroyalty of the
Marquis of Carpi, [1569] the rest of Italy was cynically corrupt
and intellectually superficial. [1570] Even in Naples, of course,
enlightenment was restricted to the few. Burnet observes that "there
are societies of men at Naples of freer thoughts than can be found
in any other place of Italy"; and he admits a general tendency of
intelligent Italians to recoil from Christianity by reason of Catholic
corruption. But at the same time he insists that, though the laity
speak with scorn of the clergy, "yet they are masters of the spirits
of the people." [1571] Yet it only needed the breathing time and the
improved conditions under the Bourbon rule in the eighteenth century
to set up a wonderful intellectual revival.

2. First came the great work of Vico, the Principles of a New Science
(1725), whereof the originality and the depth--qualities in which,
despite its incoherences, it on the whole excels Montesquieu's Spirit
of Laws--place him among the great freethinkers in philosophy. It
was significant of much that Vico's book, while constantly using the
vocabulary of faith, grappled with the science of human development
in an essentially secular and scientific spirit. This is the note
of the whole eighteenth century in Italy. [1572] Vico posits Deity
and Providence, but proceeds nevertheless to study the laws of
civilization inductively from its phenomena. He permanently obscured
his case, indeed, by insisting on putting it theologically, and
condemning Grotius and others for separating the idea of law from
that of religion. Only in a pantheistic sense has Vico's formula any
validity; and he never avows a pantheistic view, refusing even to go
with Grotius in allowing that Hebrew law was akin to that of other
nations. But a rationalistic view, had he put it, would have been
barred. The wonder is, in the circumstances, not that he makes so
much parade of religion, but that he could venture to undermine so
vitally its pretensions, especially after he had found it prudent to
renounce the project of annotating the great work of Grotius, De Jure
Belli et Pacis, on the score that (as he puts it in his Autobiography)
a good Catholic must not endorse a heretic.


    Signor Benedetto Croce, in his valuable work on Vico (The
    Philosophy of Giambattista Vico, Eng. tr. 1913, pp. 89-94), admits
    that Vico is fundamentally at one with the Naturalists: "Like
    them, in constructing his science of human society, he excludes
    with Grotius all idea of God, and with Pufendorf considers man as
    without help or attention from God, excluding him, that is, from
    revealed religion and its God." Of Vico's opposition to Grotius,
    Signor Croce offers two unsatisfactory explanations. First:
    "Vico's opposition, which he expresses with his accustomed
    confusion and obscurity, turns ... upon the actual conception
    of religion.... Religion ... means for Vico not necessarily
    revelation, but conception of reality." This reduces the defence
    to a quibble; but finally Signor Croce asks himself "Why--if Vico
    agreed with the natural-right school in ignoring revelation,
    and if he instead of it deepened their superficial immanental
    doctrine--why he put himself forward as their implacable enemy
    and persisted in boasting loudly before prelates and pontiffs
    of having formulated a system of natural rights different from
    that of the three Protestant authors and adapted to the Roman
    Church." The natural suggestion of "politic caution" Signor
    Croce rejects, declaring that "the spotless character of Vico
    entirely precludes it; and we can only suppose that, lacking as
    his ideas always were in clarity, on this occasion he indulged
    his tendency to confusion and nourished his illusions, to the
    extent of conferring upon himself the flattering style and title
    of Defensor Ecclesiæ at the very moment when he was destroying
    the religion of the Church by means of humanity."

    It is very doubtful whether this equivocal vindication is more
    serviceable to Vico's fame than the plain avowal that a writer
    placed as he was, in the Catholic world of 1720, could not be
    expected to be straightforward upon such an issue. Vico comported
    himself towards the Catholic Church very much as Descartes did. His
    own declaration as to his motives is surely valid as against
    a formula which combines "spotless character" with a cherished
    "tendency to confusion." The familiar "tendency to hedge" is a
    simpler conception.


3. It is noteworthy, indeed, that the "New Science," as Vico boasted,
arose in the Catholic and not in the Protestant world. We might say
that, genius apart, the reason was that the energy which elsewhere ran
to criticism of religion as such had in Catholic Italy to take other
channels. By attacking a Protestant position which was really less
deeply heterodox than his own, Vico secured Catholic currency for a
philosopheme which on its own merits Catholic theologians would have
scouted as atheism. As it was, Vico's sociology aroused on the one
hand new rationalistic speculation as to the origin of civilization,
and on the other orthodox protest on the score of its fundamentally
anti-Biblical character. It was thus attacked in 1749 by Damiano
Romano, and later by Finetti, a professor at Padua, àpropos of the
propaganda raised by Vico's followers as to the animal origin of
the human race. This began with Vico's disciple, Emmanuele Duni, a
professor at Rome, who published a series of sociological essays in
1763. Thenceforth for many years there raged, "under the eyes of Pope
and cardinals," an Italian debate between the Ferini and Antiferini,
the affirmers and deniers of the animal origin of man, the latter
of course taking up their ground on the Bible, from which Finetti
drew twenty-three objections to Vico. [1573] Duni found it prudent
to declare that he had "no intention of discussing the origin of
the world, still less that of the Hebrew nation, but solely that
of the Gentile nations"; but even when thus limited the debate
set up far-reaching disturbance. At this stage Italian sociology
doubtless owed something to Montesquieu and Rousseau; but the fact
remains that the Scienza Nuova was a book "truly Italian; Italian par
excellence." [1574] It was Vico, too, who led the way in the critical
handling of early Roman history, taken up later by Beaufort, and still
later by Niebuhr; and it was he who began the scientific analysis
of Homer, followed up later by F. A. Wolf. [1575] By a fortunate
coincidence, the papal chair was held at the middle of the century
(1740-1758) by the most learned, tolerant, and judicious of modern
popes, Benedict XIV, [1576] whose influence was used for political
peace in Europe and for toleration in Italy; and whom we shall find,
like Clement XIV, on friendly terms with a freethinker. In the same age
Muratori and Giannone amassed their unequalled historical learning;
and a whole series of Italian writers broke new ground on the field
of social science, Italy having led the way in this as formerly in
philosophy and physics. [1577] The Hanoverian Dr. G. W. Alberti,
of Italian descent, writes in 1752 that "Italy is full of atheists";
[1578] and Grimm, writing in 1765, records that according to capable
observers the effect of the French freethinking literature in the
past thirty years had been immense, especially in Tuscany. [1579]

4. Between 1737 and 1798 may be counted twenty-eight Italian writers
on political economy; and among them was one, Cesare Beccaria, who
on another theme produced perhaps the most practically influential
single book of the eighteenth century, [1580] the treatise on Crimes
and Punishments (1764), which affected penal methods for the better
throughout the whole of Europe. Even were he not known to be a deist,
his strictly secular and rationalist method would have brought upon
him priestly suspicion; and he had in fact to defend himself against
pertinacious and unscrupulous attacks, [1581] though he had sought
in his book to guard himself by occasionally "veiling the truth
in clouds." [1582] As we have seen, Beccaria owed his intellectual
awakening first to Montesquieu and above all to Helvétius--another
testimony to the reformative virtue of all freethought.

Of the aforesaid eight-and-twenty writers on economics, probably the
majority were freethinkers. Among them, at all events, were Count
Algarotti (1712-1764), the distinguished æsthetician, one of the
group round Frederick at Berlin and author of Il Newtonianismo per
le dame (1737); Filangieri, whose work on legislation (put on the
Index by the papacy) won the high praise of Franklin; the Neapolitan
abbate Ferdinando Galiani, one of the brightest and soundest wits in
the circle of the French philosophes; the other Neapolitan abbate
Antonio Genovesi (1712-1769), the "redeemer of the Italian mind,"
[1583] and the chief establisher of economic science for modern
Italy. [1584] To these names may be added those of Alfieri, one
of the strongest anti-clericalists of his age; Bettinelli, the
correspondent of Voltaire and author of The Resurrection of Italy
(1775); Count Dandolo, author of a French work on The New Men (1799);
and the learned Giannone, author of the great anti-papal History of
the Kingdom of Naples (1723), who, after more than one narrow escape,
was thrown in prison by the king of Sardinia, and died there (1748)
after twelve years' confinement.

To the merits of Algarotti and Genovesi there are high contemporary
testimonies. Algarotti was on friendly terms with Cardinal Ganganelli,
who in 1769 became Pope Clement XIV. In 1754 the latter writes [1585]
him: "My dear Count, Contrive matters so, in spite of your philosophy,
that I may see you in heaven; for I should be very sorry to lose sight
of you for an eternity. You are one of those rare men, both for heart
and understanding, whom we could wish to love even beyond the grave,
when we have once had the advantage of knowing them. No one has more
reasons to be convinced of the spirituality and immortality of the
soul than you have. The years glide away for the philosophers as well
as for the ignorant; and what is to be the term of them cannot but
employ a man who thinks. Own that I can manage sermons so as not to
frighten away a bel esprit; and that if every one delivered as short
and as friendly sermons as I do, you would sometimes go to hear a
preacher. But barely hearing will not do ... the amiable Algarotti
must become as good a Christian as he is a philosopher: then should
I doubly be his friend and servant." [1586]

In an earlier letter, Ganganelli writes: "The Pope [Benedict XIV]
is ever great and entertaining for his bons mots. He was saying the
other day that he had always loved you, and that it would give him very
great pleasure to see you again. He speaks with admiration of the king
of Prussia ... whose history will make one of the finest monuments of
the eighteenth century. See here and acknowledge my generosity! For
that prince makes the greatest jest possible of the Court of Rome,
and of us monks and friars. Cardinal Querini will not be satisfied
unless he have you with him for some time at Brescia. He one day told
me that he would invite you to come and dedicate his library.... There
is no harm in preaching to a philosopher who seldom goes to hear a
sermon, and who will not have become a great saint by residing at
Potsdam. You are there three men whose talents might be of great
use to religion if you would change their direction--viz. Yourself,
Mons. de Voltaire, and M. de Maupertuis. But that is not the ton
of the age, and you are resolved to follow the fashion." [1587]
Ganganelli in his correspondence reveals himself as an admirer
of Newton [1588] and somewhat averse to religious zeal. [1589] Of
the papal government he admitted that it was favourable "neither
to commerce, to agriculture, nor to population, which precisely
constitute the essence of public felicity," while suavely reminding
the Englishman of the "inconveniences" of his own government. [1590]
To the learned Muratori, who suffered at the hands of the bigots,
he and Pope Benedict XIV gave their sympathy. [1591]

But Ganganelli's own thinking on the issues between reason and religion
was entirely commonplace. "Whatever," he wrote, "departs from the
account given of the Creation in the book of Genesis has nothing to
support it but paradoxes, or, at most, mere hypotheses. Moses alone,
as being an inspired author, could perfectly acquaint us with the
formation of the world, and the development of its parts.... Whoever
does not see the truth in what Moses relates was never born to know
it." [1592] It was only in his relation to the bigots of his own Church
that his thinking was rationalistic. "The Pope," he writes to a French
marquis, "relies on Providence; but God does not perform miracles
every time he is asked to do it. Besides, is he to perform one that
Rome may enjoy a right of seignory over the Duchy of Parma?" [1593]
At his death an Italian wrote of him that "the distinction he was
able to draw between dogmas or discipline and ultramontane opinions
gave him the courage to take many opportunities of promoting the
peace of the State." His tolerance is sufficiently exhibited in one
of his letters to Algarotti: "I hope that you will preach to me some
of these days, so that each may have his turn." [1594] Freethought
had achieved something when a Roman Cardinal, a predestinate Pope,
could so write to an avowed freethinker. Concerning Galiani we have
the warm panegyric of Grimm. "If I have any vanity with which to
reproach myself," he writes, "it is that which I derive in spite of
myself from the fact of the conformity of my ideas with those of
the two rarest men whom I have the happiness to know, Galiani and
Denis Diderot." [1595] Grimm held Galiani to be of all men the best
qualified to write a true ecclesiastical history. But the history that
would have satisfied him and Grimm was not to be published in that age.

Italy, however, had done her full share, considering her heritage
of burdens and hindrances, in the intellectual work of the century;
and in the names of Galvani and Volta stands the record of one more of
her great contributions to human enlightenment. Under Duke Leopold II
of Tuscany the papacy was so far defied that books put on the Index
were produced for him under the imprint of London; [1596] and the
papacy itself at length gave way to the spirit of reform, Clement XIV
consenting among other things to abolish the Order of Jesuits (1773),
after his predecessor had died of grief over his proved impotence to
resist the secular policy of the States around him. [1597] In Tuscany,
indeed, the reaction against the French Revolution was instant and
severe. Leopold succeeded his brother Joseph as emperor of Austria in
1790, but died in 1792; and in his realm, as was the case in Denmark
and in Spain in the same century, the reforms imposed from above
by a liberal sovereign were found to have left much traditionalism
untouched. After 1792, Ferdinando III suspended some of his father's
most liberal edicts, amid the applause of the reactionaries; and in
1799, after the first short stay of the revolutionary French army, out
of its one million inhabitants no fewer than 22,000 were prosecuted for
"French opinions." [1598] Certainly some of the "French opinions" were
wild enough; for instance, the practice among ladies of dressing alla
ghigliottina, with a red ribbon round the neck, a usage borrowed about
1795 from France. [1599] As Quinet sums up, the revolution was too
strong a medicine for the Italy of that age. The young abbate Monti,
the chief poet of the time, was a freethinker, but he alternated his
strokes for freedom with unworthy compliances. [1600] Such was the dawn
of the new Italian day that has since slowly but steadily broadened,
albeit under many a cloud.



§ 5. Spain and Portugal

1. For the rest of Europe during the eighteenth century, we have
to note only traces of receptive thought. Spain under Bourbon rule,
as already noted, experienced an administrative renascence. Such men
as Count Aranda (1718-99) and Aszo y del Rio (1742-1814) wrought to
cut the claws of the Inquisition and to put down the Jesuits; but not
yet, after the long work of destruction accomplished by the Church in
the past, could Spain produce a fresh literature of any far-reaching
power. When Aranda was about to be appointed in 1766, his friends
the French Encyclopédistes prematurely proclaimed their exultation
in the reforms he was to accomplish; and he sadly protested that they
had thereby limited his possibilities. [1601] Nonetheless he wrought
much, the power of the Inquisition in Spain being already on the
wane. Dr. Joaquin Villanueva, one of the ecclesiastical statesmen who
took part in its suppression by the Cortes at Cadiz in 1813, tells how,
in his youth, under the reign of Charles III, it was a current saying
among the students at college that while the clever ones could rise to
important posts in the Church, or in the law, the blockheads would be
sure to find places in the Inquisition. [1602] It was of course still
powerful for social terrorism and minor persecution; but its power of
taking life was rapidly dwindling. Between 1746 and 1759 it had burned
only ten persons; from 1759 until 1781 it burned only four; thereafter
none, [1603] the last case having provoked protests which testified
to the moral change wrought in Europe by a generation of freethought.

In Spain too, as elsewhere, freethought had made way among the upper
classes; and in 1773 we find the Duke d'Alba (formerly Huescar),
ex-ambassador of Spain to France, subscribing eighty louis for a
statue to Voltaire. "Condemned to cultivate my reason in secret,"
he wrote to D'Alembert, "I see this opportunity to give a public
testimony of my gratitude to and admiration for the great man who
first showed me the way." [1604]

2. Still all freethinking in Spain ran immense risks, even under
Charles III. The Spanish admiral Solano was denounced by his almoner
to the Inquisition for having read Raynal, and had to demand pardon on
his knees of the Inquisition and God. [1605] Aranda himself was from
first to last four times arraigned before the Inquisition, [1606]
escaping only by his prestige and power. So eminent a personage as
P. A. J. Olavidès, known in France as the Count of Pilos (1726-1803),
could not thus escape. He had been appointed by Charles III prefect of
Seville, and had carried out for the king the great work of colonizing
the Sierra Morena, [1607] of which region he was governor. At the
height of his career, in 1776, he was arrested and imprisoned, "as
suspected of professing impious sentiments, particularly those of
Voltaire and Rousseau, with whom he had carried on a very intimate
correspondence." He had spoken unwarily to inhabitants of the new
towns under his jurisdiction concerning the exterior worship of deity
in Spain, the worship of images, the fast days, the cessation of work
on holy days, the offerings at mass, and all the rest of the apparatus
of popular Catholicism. [1608] Olavidès prudently confessed his error,
declaring that he had "never lost his inner faith." After two years'
detention he was forced to make his penance at a lesser auto da fé in
presence of sixty persons of distinction, many of whom were suspected
of holding similar opinions, and were thus grimly warned to keep
their counsel. During four hours the reading of his process went on,
and then came the sentence. He was condemned to pass eight years in
a convent; to be banished forever from Madrid, Seville, Cordova, and
the new towns of the Sierra Morena, and to lose all his property; he
was pronounced incapable henceforth of holding any public employment
or title of honour; and he was forbidden to mount a horse, to wear
any ornament of gold, silver, pearls, diamonds, or other precious
stones, or clothing of silk or fine linen. On hearing his sentence he
fainted. Afterwards, on his knees, he received absolution. Escaping
some time afterwards from his convent, he reached France. After
some years more, he cynically produced a work entitled The Gospel
Triumphant, or the Philosopher Converted, which availed to procure a
repeal of his sentence; and he returned into favour. [1609] In his
youth he "had not the talent to play the hypocrite." In the end he
mastered the art as few had done.

3. Another grandee, Don Christophe Ximenez de Gongora, Duke of
Almodobar, published a free and expurgated translation of Raynal's
History of the Indies under another title; [1610] and though he put
upon the book only an anagram of his name, he presented copies to the
king. The inquisitors, learning as much, denounced him as "suspected
of having embraced the systems of unbelieving philosophers"; but
this time the prosecution broke down for lack of evidence. [1611] A
similar escape was made by Don Joseph Nicholas d'Azara, who had been
minister of foreign affairs, minister plenipotentiary of the king at
Rome, and ambassador extraordinary at Paris, and was yet denounced at
Saragossa and Madrid as an "unbelieving philosopher." [1612] Count
Ricla, minister of war under Charles III, was similarly charged,
and similarly escaped for lack of proofs. [1613]

4. In another case, a freethinking priest skilfully anticipated
prosecution. Don Philip de Samaniego, "priest, archdeacon of Pampeluna,
chevalier of the order of St. James, counsellor of the king and
secretary-general, interpreter of foreign languages," was one of those
invited to assist at the auto da fé of Olavidès. The impression made
upon him was so strong that he speedily prepared with his own hand
a confession to the effect that he had read many forbidden books,
such as those of Voltaire, Mirabeau, Rousseau, Hobbes, Spinoza,
Montesquieu, Bayle, D'Alembert, and Diderot; and that he had been
thus led into skepticism; but that after serious reflection he had
resolved to attach himself firmly and forever to the Catholic faith,
and now begged to be absolved. The sentence was memorable. He was
ordered first to confirm his confession by oath; then to state how
and from whom he had obtained the prohibited books, where they now
were, with what persons he had talked on these matters, what persons
had either refuted or adopted his views, and which of those persons
had seemed to be aware of such doctrines in advance; such a detailed
statement being the condition of his absolution. Samaniego obeyed,
and produced a long declaration in which he incriminated nearly
every enlightened man at the court, naming Aranda, the Duke of
Almodobar, Ricla, and the minister Florida Blanca; also General
Ricardos, Count of Truillas, General Massones, Count of Montalvo,
ambassador at Paris and brother of the Duke of Sotomayor; and Counts
Campomanes, Orreilly, and Lascy. Proceedings were begun against one
and all; but the undertaking was too comprehensive, and the proofs
were avowed to be insufficient. [1614] What became of Samaniego,
history saith not. A namesake of his, Don Felix-Maria de Samaniego,
one of the leading men of letters of the reign of Charles IV, was
arraigned before the Inquisition of Logrogno as "suspected of having
embraced the errors of modern philosophers and read prohibited books,"
but contrived, through his friendship with the minister of justice,
to arrange the matter privately. [1615]

5. Out of a long series of other men of letters persecuted by the
Inquisition for giving signs of enlightenment, a few cases are
preserved by its historian, Llorente. Don Benedict Bails, professor
of mathematics at Madrid and author of a school-book on the subject,
was proceeded against in his old age, towards the end of the reign
of Charles III, as suspected of "atheism and materialism." He was
ingenuous enough to confess that he had "had doubts on the existence of
God and the immortality of the soul," but that after serious reflection
he was repentant and ready to abjure all his errors. He thus escaped,
after an imprisonment. Don Louis Cagnuelo, advocate, was forced to
abjure for having written against popular superstition and against
monks in his journal The Censor, and was forbidden to write in future
on any subject of religion or morals. F. P. Centeno, one of the leading
critics of the reigns of Charles III and Charles IV, was an Augustinian
monk; but his profession did not save him from the Inquisition when
he made enemies by his satirical criticisms, though he was patronized
by the minister Florida Blanca. To make quite sure, he was accused
at once of atheism and Lutheranism. He had in fact preached against
ceremonialism, and as censor he had deleted from a catechism for the
free schools of Madrid an article affirming the existence of the Limbo
of children who had died unbaptized. Despite a most learned defence,
he was condemned as "violently suspected of heresy" and forced to
abjure, whereafter he went mad and in that state died. [1616]

6. Another savant of the same period, Don Joseph de Clavijo y Faxardo,
director of the natural history collection at Madrid, was in turn
arraigned as having "adopted the anti-Christian principles of modern
philosophy." He had been the friend of Buffon and Voltaire at Paris,
had admirably translated Buffon's Natural History, with notes, and was
naturally something of a deist and materialist. Having the protection
of Aranda, he escaped with a secret penance and abjuration. [1617]
Don Thomas Iriarte, chief of the archives in the ministry of foreign
affairs, was likewise indicted towards the end of the reign of Charles
III, as "suspected of anti-Christian philosophy," and escaped with
similarly light punishment. [1618]

7. Still in the same reign, the Jesuit Francisco de Ista, author of an
extremely popular satire against absurd preachers, the History of the
famous preacher Fray Gerondif, published under the pseudonym of Don
Francisco Lobon de Salazar--a kind of ecclesiastical Don Quixote--so
infuriated the preaching monks that the Holy Office received "an
almost infinite number of denunciations of the book." Ista, however,
was a Jesuit, and escaped, through the influence of his order, with
a warning. [1619] Influence, indeed, could achieve almost anything in
the Holy Office, whether for culprits or against the uninculpable. In
1796, Don Raymond de Salas, a professor at Salamanca, was actually
prosecuted by the Inquisition of Madrid as being suspected of having
adopted the principles of Voltaire, Rousseau, and other modern
philosophers, he having read their works. The poor man proved that
he had done so only in order to refute them, and produced the theses
publicly maintained at Salamanca by his pupils as a result of his
teachings. The prosecution was a pure work of personal enmity on the
part of the Archbishop of Santiago (formerly bishop of Salamanca)
and others, and Salas was acquitted, with the statement that he was
entitled to reparation. Again and again did his enemies revive the
case, despite repeated acquittals, he being all the while in durance,
and at length he had to "abjure," and was banished the capital. After
a time the matter was forced on the attention of the Government,
with the result that even Charles IV was asked by his ministers to
ordain that henceforth the Inquisition should not arrest anyone without
prior intimation to the king. At this stage, however, the intriguing
archbishop successfully intervened, and the ancient machinery for
the stifling of thought remained intact for the time. [1620]

8. It is plain that the combined power of the Church, the orders,
and the Inquisition, even under Charles III, had been substantially
unimpaired, and rested on a broad foundation of popular fanaticism and
ignorance. The Inquisition attacked not merely freethought but heresy
of every kind, persecuting Jansenists and Molinists as of old it had
persecuted Lutherans, only with less power of murder. That much the
Bourbon kings and their ministers could accomplish, but no more. The
trouble was that the enlightened administration of Charles III in
Spain did not build up a valid popular education, the sole security
for durable rationalism. Its school policy, though not without zeal,
was undemocratic, and so left the priests in control of the mind of
the multitude; and throughout the reign the ecclesiastical revenues
had been allowed to increase greatly from private sources. [1621]
Like Leopold of Tuscany, he was in advance of his people, and imposed
his reforms from above. When, accordingly, the weak and pious Charles
IV succeeded in 1788, three of the anti-clerical Ministers of his
predecessor, including Aranda, were put under arrest, [1622] and
clericalism resumed full sway, to the extent even of vetoing the
study of moral philosophy in the universities. [1623] Mentally and
materially alike, Spain relapsed to her former state of indigence;
and the struggle for national existence against Napoleon helped rather
traditionalist sentiment than the spirit of innovation.

9. Portugal in the same period, despite the anti-clerical policy
of the famous Marquis of Pombal, made no noticeable intellectual
progress. Though that powerful statesman in 1761 abolished slavery
in the kingdom, [1624] he too failed to see the need for popular
education, while promoting that of the upper classes. [1625] His
expulsion of the Jesuits, accordingly, did but raise up against him
a new set of enemies in the shape of the Jacobeos, "the Blessed,"
a species of Catholic Puritan, who accused him of impiety. His
somewhat forensic defence [1626] leaves the impression that he was
in reality a deist; but though he fought the fanatics by imprisoning
the Bishop of Coimbra, their leader, and by causing Molière's Tartufe
to be translated and performed, he does not seem to have shown any
favour to the deistical literature of which the Bishop had composed
a local Index Expurgatorius. [1627] In Portugal, as later in Spain,
accordingly, a complete reaction set in with the death of the
enlightened king. Dom Joseph died in 1777, and Pombal was at once
disgraced and his enemies released, the pious Queen Maria and her
Ministers subjecting him to persecution for some years. In 1783,
the Queen, who became a religious maniac, and died insane, [1628]
is found establishing new nunneries, and so adding to one of the main
factors in the impoverishment, moral and financial, of Portugal.



§ 6. Switzerland

During the period we have been surveying, up to the French Revolution,
Switzerland, which owed much of new intellectual life to the influx of
French Protestants at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, [1629]
exhibited no less than the other European countries the inability
of the traditionary creed to stand criticism. Calvinism by its very
rigour generated a reaction within its own special field; and the
spirit of the slain Servetus triumphed strangely over that of his
slayer. Genevan Calvinism, like that of the English Presbyterians,
was transmuted first into a modified Arminianism, then into "Arianism"
or Socinianism, then into the Unitarianism of modern times. In the
eighteenth century Switzerland contributed to the European movement
some names, of which by far the most famous is Rousseau; and the
potent presence of Voltaire cannot have failed to affect Swiss
culture. Before his period of influence, indeed, there had taken
place not a little silent evolution of a Unitarian and deistic kind;
Socinianism, as usual, leading the way. Among the families of Italian
Protestant refugees who helped to invigorate the life of Switzerland,
as French Protestants did later that of Germany, were the Turrettini,
of whom Francesco came to Geneva in the last quarter of the sixteenth
century. One of his sons, Benedict, made a professor at twenty-four,
became a leading theologian and preacher of orthodox Calvinism,
and distinguished himself as an opponent of Arminianism. [1630]
Still more distinguished in his day was Benedict's son François
(1623-1687), also a professor, who repeated his father's services,
political and controversial, to orthodoxy, and combated Socinianism,
as Benedict had done Arminianism. But François's son Jean-Alphonse,
also a professor (whose Latin work on Christian evidences, translated
into French by a colleague, we have seen adopted and adapted by
the Catholic authorities in France), became a virtual Unitarian
[1631] (1671-1737), and as such is still anathematized by Swiss
Calvinists. Against the deists, however, he was industrious, as his
grandfather, a heretic to Catholicism, had been against the Arminians,
and his father against the Socinians. The family evolution in some
degree typifies the theological process from the sixteenth to the
eighteenth century; and the apologetics of Jean-Alphonse testify to
the vogue of critical deism among the educated class at Geneva in
the days of Voltaire's nonage. He (or his translator) deals with the
"natural" objections to the faith, cites approvingly Locke, Lardner,
and Clarke, and combats Woolston, but names no other English deist. The
heresy, therefore, would seem to be a domestic development from the
roots noted by Viret nearly two centuries before. One of Turrettini's
annotators complacently observes [1632] that though deists talk of
natural religion, none of them has ever written a book in exposition
of it, the task being left to the Christians. The writer must have
been aware, on the one hand, that any deist who in those days should
openly expound natural religion as against revealed would be liable to
execution for blasphemy in any European country save England, where,
as it happened, Herbert, Hobbes, Blount, Toland, Collins, Shaftesbury,
and Tindal had all maintained the position, and on the other hand
he must have known that the Ethica of Spinoza was naturalistic. The
false taunt merely goes to prove that deists could maintain their
heresy on the Continent at that time without the support of books. But
soon after Turrettini's time they give literary indication of their
existence even in Switzerland; and in 1763 we find Voltaire sending
a package of copies of his treatise on Toleration by the hand of "a
young M. Turretin of Geneva," who "is worthy to see the brethren,
though he is the grandson of a celebrated priest of Baal. He is
reserved, but decided, as are most of the Genevese. Calvin begins
in our cantons to have no more credit than the pope." [1633] For
this fling there was a good deal of justification. When in 1763 the
Council of Geneva officially burned a pamphlet reprint of the Vicaire
Savoyard from Rousseau's Émile there was an immediate public protest
by "two hundred persons, among whom there were three priests"; [1634]
and some five weeks later "a hundred persons came for the third time to
protest.... They say that it is permissible to every citizen to write
what he will on religion; that he should not be condemned without a
hearing; and that the rights of men must be respected." [1635] All this
was not a sudden product of the freethinking influence of Voltaire and
Rousseau, which had but recently begun. An older leaven had long been
at work. The Principes du Droit Naturel of J. J. Burlamaqui (1748),
save for its subsumption of deity as the originator of all human
tendencies, is strictly naturalistic and utilitarian in its reasoning,
and clearly exhibits the influence of Hobbes and Mandeville. [1636]
Voltaire, too, in his correspondence, is found frequently speaking
with a wicked chuckle of the Unitarianism of the clergy of Geneva,
[1637] a theme on which D'Alembert had written openly in his article
Genève in the Encyclopédie in 1756. [1638] So early as 1757, Voltaire
roundly affirms that there are only a few Calvinists left: "tous les
honnêtes gens sont déistes par Christ." [1639] And when the younger
Salchi, professor at Lausanne, writes in 1759 that "deism is become
the fashionable religion.... Europe is inundated with the works of
deists; and their partisans have made perhaps more proselytes in the
space of eighty years than were made by the apostles and the first
Fathers of the Church," [1640] he must be held to testify in some
degree concerning Switzerland. The chief native service to intellectual
progress thus far, however, was rendered in the field of the natural
sciences, Swiss religious opinion being only passively liberalized,
mainly in a Unitarian direction.



CHAPTER XX

EARLY FREETHOUGHT IN THE UNITED STATES


1. Perhaps the most signal of all the proofs of the change wrought
in the opinion of the civilized world in the eighteenth century is
the fact that at the time of the War of Independence the leading
statesmen of the American colonies were deists. Such were Benjamin
Franklin, the diplomatist of the Revolution; Thomas Paine, its prophet
and inspirer; Washington, its commander; and Jefferson, its typical
legislator. But for these four men the American Revolution probably
could not have been accomplished in that age; and they thus represent
in a peculiar degree the power of new ideas, in fit conditions,
to transform societies, at least politically. On the other hand,
the fashion in which their relation to the creeds of their time has
been garbled, alike in American and English histories, proves how
completely they were in advance of the average thought of their day;
and also how effectively the mere institutional influence of creeds
can arrest a nation's mental development. It is still one of the
stock doctrines of religious sociology in England and America that
deism, miscalled atheism, wrought the Reign of Terror in the French
Revolution; when as a matter of fact the same deism was at the head
of affairs in the American.

2. The rise of rationalism in the colonies must be traced in the main
to the imported English literature of the eighteenth century; for
the first Puritan settlements had contained at most only a fraction
of freethought; and the conditions, so deadly for all manner even
of devout heresy, made avowed unbelief impossible. The superstitions
and cruelties of the Puritan clergy, however, must have bred a silent
reaction, which prepared a soil for the deism of the next age. [1641]
"The perusal of Shaftesbury and Collins," writes Franklin with
reference to his early youth, "had made me a skeptic," after being
"previously so as to many doctrines of Christianity." [1642] This
was in his seventeenth or eighteenth year, about 1720, so that the
importation of deism had been prompt. [1643] Throughout life he held
to the same opinion, conforming sufficiently to keep on fair terms
with his neighbours, [1644] and avoiding anything like critical
propaganda; though on challenge, in the last year of his life, he
avowed his negatively deistic position. [1645]

3. Similarly prudent was Jefferson, who, like Franklin and Paine,
extolled the Gospel Jesus and his teachings, but rejected the
notion of supernatural revelation. [1646] In a letter written so
late as 1822 to a Unitarian correspondent, while refusing to publish
another of similar tone, on the score that he was too old for strife,
he declared that he "should as soon undertake to bring the crazy
skulls of Bedlam to sound understanding as to inculcate reason into
that of an Athanasian." [1647] His experience of the New England
clergy is expressed in allusions to Connecticut as having been
"the last retreat of monkish darkness, bigotry, and abhorrence
of those advances of the mind which had carried the other States
a century ahead of them"; and in congratulations with John Adams
(who had written that "this would be the best of all possible worlds
if there were no religion in it"), when "this den of the priesthood
is at last broken up." [1648] John Adams, whose letters with their
"crowd of skepticisms" kept even Jefferson from sleep, [1649] seems
to have figured as a member of a Congregationalist church, while
in reality a Unitarian. [1650] Still more prudent was Washington,
who seems to have ranked habitually as a member of the Episcopal
church; but concerning whom Jefferson relates that, when the clergy,
having noted his constant abstention from any public mention of the
Christian religion, so penned an address to him on his withdrawal from
the Presidency as almost to force him to some declaration, he answered
every part of the address but that, which he entirely ignored. It is
further noted that only in his valedictory letter to the governors of
the States, on resigning his commission, did he speak of the "benign
influence of the Christian religion" [1651]--the common tone of the
American deists of that day. It is further established that Washington
avoided the Communion in church. [1652] For the rest, the broad fact
that all mention of deity was excluded from the Constitution of the
United States must be historically taken to signify a profound change
in the convictions of the leading minds among the people as compared
with the beliefs of their ancestors. At the same time, the fact that
they as a rule dissembled their unbelief is a proof that, even where
legal penalties do not attach to an avowal of serious heresy, there
inheres in the menace of mere social ostracism a power sufficient to
coerce the outward life of public and professional men of all grades,
in a democratic community where faith maintains and is maintained by
a competitive multitude of priests. With this force the freethought
of our own age has to reckon, after Inquisitions and blasphemy laws
have become obsolete.

4. Nothing in American culture-history more clearly proves the last
proposition than the case of Thomas Paine, the virtual founder of
modern democratic freethought in Great Britain and the States. [1653]
It does not appear that Paine openly professed any heresy while he
lived in England, or in America before the French Revolution. Yet
the first sentence of his Age of Reason, of which the first part was
written shortly before his imprisonment, under sentence of death from
the Robespierre Government, in Paris (1793), shows that he had long
held pronounced deistic opinions. [1654] They were probably matured
in the States, where, as we have seen, such views were often privately
held, though there, as Franklin is said to have jesuitically declared
in his old age, by way of encouraging immigration: "Atheism is unknown;
infidelity rare and secret, so that persons may live to a great age
in this country without having their piety shocked by meeting with
either an atheist or an infidel." Paine did an unequalled service
to the American Revolution by his Common Sense and his series of
pamphlets headed The Crisis: there is, in fact, little question that
but for the intense stimulus thus given by him at critical moments
the movement might have collapsed at an early stage. Yet he seems
to have had no thought there and then of avowing his deism. It was
in part for the express purpose of resisting the ever-strengthening
attack of atheism in France on deism itself that he undertook to save
it by repudiating the Judæo-Christian revelation; and it is not even
certain that he would have issued the Age of Reason when it did appear,
had he not supposed he was going to his death when put under arrest,
on which score he left the manuscript for publication. [1655]

5. Its immediate effect was much greater in Britain, where his Rights
of Man had already won him a vast popularity in the teeth of the most
furious reaction, than in America. There, to his profound chagrin, he
found that his honest utterance of his heresy brought on him hatred,
calumny, ostracism, and even personal and political molestation. In
1797 he had founded in Paris the little "Church of Theo-philanthropy,"
beginning his inaugural discourse with the words: "Religion has two
principal enemies, Fanaticism and Infidelity, or that which is called
atheism. The first requires to be combated by reason and morality;
the other by natural philosophy." [1656] These were his settled
convictions; and he lived to find himself shunned and vilified, in the
name of religion, in the country whose freedom he had so puissantly
wrought to win. [1657] The Quakers, his father's sect, refused him a
burial-place. He has had sympathy and fair play, as a rule, only from
the atheists whom he distrusted and opposed, or from thinkers who no
longer hold by deism. There is reason to think that in his last years
the deistic optimism which survived the deep disappointments of the
French Revolution began to give way before deeper reflection on the
cosmic problem, [1658] if not before the treatment he had undergone at
the hands of Unitarians and Trinitarians alike. The Butlerian argument,
that Nature is as unsatisfactory as revelation, had been pressed upon
him by Bishop Watson in a reply to the Age of Reason; and though, like
most deists of his age, he regarded it as a vain defence of orthodoxy,
he was not the man to remain long blind to its force against deistic
assumptions. Like Franklin, he had energetically absorbed and given out
the new ideals of physical science; his originality in the invention of
a tubular iron bridge, and in the application of steam to navigation,
[1659] being nearly as notable as that of Franklin's great discovery
concerning electricity. Had the two men drawn their philosophy from
the France of the latter part of the century instead of the England
of the first, they had doubtless gone deeper. As it was, temperamental
optimism had kept both satisfied with the transitional formula; and in
the France of before and after the Revolution they lived pre-occupied
with politics.

6. The habit of reticence or dissimulation among American public men
was only too surely confirmed by the treatment meted out to Paine. Few
stood by him; and the vigorous deistic movement set up in his latter
years by Elihu Palmer soon succumbed to the conditions, [1660] though
Palmer's book, The Principles of Nature (1802, rep. by Richard Carlile,
1819), is a powerful attack on the Judaic and Christian systems all
along the line. George Houston, leaving England after two years'
imprisonment for his translation of d'Holbach's Ecce Homo, went to
New York, where he edited the Minerva (1822), reprinted his book,
and started a freethought journal, The Correspondence. That, however,
lasted only eighteen months. All the while, such statesmen as Madison
and Monroe, the latter Paine's personal friend, seem to have been of
his way of thinking, [1661] though the evidence is scanty. Thus it came
about that, save for the liberal movement of the Hicksite Quakers,
[1662] the American deism of Paine's day was decorously transformed
into the later Unitarianism, the extremely rapid advance of which in
the next generation is the best proof of the commonness of private
unbelief. The influence of Priestley, who, persecuted at home, went to
end his days in the States, had doubtless much to do with the Unitarian
development there, as in England; but it seems certain that the whole
deistic movement, including the work of Paine and Palmer, had tended
to move out of orthodoxy many of those who now, recoiling from the
fierce hostility directed against the outspoken freethinkers, sought
a more rational form of creed than that of the orthodox churches. The
deistic tradition in a manner centred in the name of Jefferson, and the
known deism of that leader would do much to make fashionable a heresy
which combined his views with a decorous attitude to the Sacred Books.



CHAPTER XXI

FREETHOUGHT IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY


The Reaction

All over the civilized world, as we have seen, the terrors of the
French Revolution evoked an intellectual no less than a political
reaction, its stress being most apparent and most destructive in
those countries in which there had been previously the largest
measure of liberty. Nowhere was it more intense or more disastrous
than in England. In countries such as Denmark and Spain, only lately
and superficially liberalized, there was no great progress to undo:
in England, though liberty was never left without an indomitable
witness, there was a violent reversal of general movement, not to be
wholly rectified in half a century. Joined in a new activity with the
civil power for the suppression of all innovating thought, the Church
rapidly attained to an influence it had not possessed since the days
of Sacheverel and a degree of wealth it had not before reached since
the Reformation. The wealth of the upper class was at its disposal
to an unheard-of extent, there being apparently no better way of
fighting the new danger of democracy; and dissent joined hands with
the establishment to promote orthodoxy.

The average tone in England in the first quarter of the century may be
gathered from the language held by a man so enlightened, comparatively
speaking, as Sydney Smith, wit, humourist, Whig, and clergyman. In
1801 we find him, in a preface never reprinted, prescribing various
measures of religious strategy in addition "to the just, necessary,
and innumerable invectives which have been levelled against Rousseau,
Voltaire, D'Alembert, and the whole pandemonium of those martyrs to
atheism, who toiled with such laborious malice, and suffered odium with
such inflexible profligacy, for the wretchedness and despair of their
fellow creatures." [1663] That this was not jesting may be gathered
from his daughter's account of his indignation when a publisher sent
him "a work of irreligious tendency," and when Jeffrey admitted
"irreligious opinions" to the Edinburgh Review. To the former he
writes that every principle of suspicion and fear would be excited
in me by a man who professed himself an infidel"; and to Jeffrey:
"Do you mean to take care that the Review shall not profess infidel
principles? Unless this is the case I must absolutely give up all
connection with it." [1664] All the while any semblance of "infidelity"
in any article in the Review must have been of the most cautious kind.

In the Catholic countries, naturally, the reaction was no less
violent. In Italy, as we saw, it began in Tuscany almost at once. The
rule of Napoleon, it is true, secured complete freedom of the Press
as regarded translation of freethinking books, an entire liberty of
conscience in religious matters, and a sharp repression of clericalism,
the latter policy going to the length of expelling all the religious
orders and confiscating their property. [1665] All this counted
for change; but the Napoleonic rule all the while choked one of the
springs of vital thought--to wit, the spirit of political liberty;
and in 1814-15 the clerical system returned in full force, as it did
all over Italy. Everywhere freethought was banned. All criticism
of Catholicism was a penal offence; and in the kingdom of Naples
alone, in 1825, there were 27,612 priests, 8,455 monks, 8,185 nuns,
20 archbishops, and 73 bishops, though in 1807 the French influence
had caused the dissolution of some 250 convents. [1666] At Florence
the Censure forbade, in 1817, the issue of a new edition of the
translated work of Cabanis on Les Rapports du physique et du moral;
and Mascagni, the physiologist, was invited to delete from his work
a definition of man in which no notice was taken of the soul. [1667]
It was even proclaimed that the works of Voltaire and Rousseau were not
to be read in the public libraries without ecclesiastical permission;
but this veto was not seriously treated. [1668] All native energy,
however, was either cowed or cajoled into passivity. If, accordingly,
the mind of Italy was to survive, it must be by the assimilation of the
culture of freer States; and this culture, reinforced by the writings
of Leopardi, generated a new intellectual life, which was a main factor
in the ultimate achievement of Italian liberation from Austrian rule.

Spain, under Charles IV, became so thoroughly re-clericalized at the
very outbreak of the Revolution that no more leeway seemed possible;
but even in Spain, early in the nineteenth century, the government
found means to retrogress yet further, and the minister Caballero
sent an order to the universities forbidding the study of moral
philosophy. The king, he justly declared, did not want philosophers,
but good and obedient subjects. [1669]

In France, where the downfall of Napoleon meant the restoration of
the monarchy, the intellectual reaction was really less powerful
than in England. The new spirit had been too widely and continuously
at work, from Voltaire onwards, to be politically expelled; and
the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 gave the proof that even on the
political side the old spirit was incapable of permanent recovery. In
Germany, where freethinking was associated not with the beaten cause
of the Revolution but in large measure with the national movement
for liberation from the tyranny of Napoleon, [1670] the religious
reaction was substantially emotional and unintellectual, though it
had intellectual representatives, notably Schleiermacher. Apart
from his culture-movement, the revival consisted mainly in a new
Pietism, partly orthodox, partly mystical; [1671] and on those
lines it ran later to the grossest excesses. But among the educated
classes of Germany there was the minimum of arrest, because there the
intellectual life was least directly associated with the political,
and the ecclesiastical life relatively the least organized. The very
separateness of the German States, then and later so often deplored
by German patriots, was really a condition of relative security for
freedom of thought and research; and the resulting multiplicity of
universities meant a variety of intellectual effort not then paralleled
in any other country. [1672] What may be ranked as the most important
effect of the reaction in Germany--the turning of Kant, Fichte, and
Hegel in succession to the task of reconciling rational philosophy
with religion in the interests of social order--was in itself a
rationalistic process as compared with the attitude of orthodoxy in
other lands. German scholarship, led by the re-organized university of
Berlin, was in fact one of the most progressive intellectual forces
in Europe during the first half of the nineteenth century; and only
its comparative isolation, its confinement to a cultured class,
prevented it from affecting popular thought as widely as deism had
done in the preceding century. Even in the countries in which popular
and university culture were less sharply divided, the German influence
was held at bay like others.

But in time the spirit of progress regained strength, the most
decisive form of recovery being the new development of the struggle
for political liberty from about 1830 onwards. In England the advance
thenceforward was to be broadly continuous on the political side. On
the Continent it culminated for the time in the explosions of 1848,
which were followed in the Germanic world by another political
reaction, in which freethought suffered; and in France, after a
few years, by the Second Empire, in which clericalism was again
fostered. But these checks have proved impermanent.



The Forces of Renascence

As with the cause of democracy, so with the cause of rationalism, the
forward movement grew only the deeper and more powerful through the
check; and the nineteenth century closed on a record of freethinking
progress which may be said to outbulk that of all the previous
centuries of the modern era together. So great was the activity
of the century in point of mere quantity that it is impossible,
within the scheme of a "Short History," to treat it on even such
a reduced scale of narrative as has been applied to the past. A
detailed history on national lines from the French Revolution onwards
would mean another book as large as the present. On however large a
scale it might be written, further, it would involve a recognition
of international influences such as had never before been evolved,
save when on a much smaller scale the educated world all round read
and wrote Latin. Since Goethe, the international aspect of culture upon
which he laid stress has become ever more apparent; and scientific and
philosophical thought, in particular, are world-wide in their scope
and bearing. It must here suffice, therefore, to take a series of
broad and general views of the past century's work, leaving adequate
critical and narrative treatment for separate undertakings. [1673]
The most helpful method seems to be that of a conspectus (1) of
the main movements and forces that during the century affected
in varying degrees the thought of the civilized world, and (2)
of the main advances made and the point reached in the culture of
the nations, separately considered. At the same time, the forces of
rationalism may be discriminated into Particular and General. We may
then roughly represent the lines of movement, in non-chronological
order, as follows:--


    I.--Forces of criticism and corrective thought bearing expressly
    on religious beliefs.

    1. In Great Britain and America, the new movements of popular
    freethought begun by Paine, and lasting continuously to the
    present day.

    2. In France and elsewhere, the reverberation of the attack
    of Voltaire, d'Holbach, Dupuis, and Volney, carried on most
    persistently in Catholic countries by the Freemasons, as against
    official orthodoxy after 1815.

    3. German "rationalism," proceeding from English deism, moving
    towards naturalist as against supernaturalist conceptions,
    dissolving the notion of the miraculous in both Old and New
    Testament history, analysing the literary structure of the sacred
    books, and all along affecting studious thought in other countries.

    4. The literary compromise of Lessing, claiming for all religions
    a place in a scheme of "divine education."

    5. In England, the neo-Christianity of the school of Coleridge,
    a disintegrating force, promoting the "Broad Church" tendency,
    which in Dean Milman was so pronounced as to bring on him charges
    of rationalism.

    6. The utilitarianism of the school of Bentham, carried into
    moral and social science.

    7. Comtism, making little direct impression on the "constructive"
    lines laid by the founder, but affecting critical thought in
    many directions.

    8. German philosophy, Kantian and post-Kantian, in particular
    the Hegelian, turned to anti-Christian and anti-supernaturalist
    account by Strauss, Vatke, Bruno Bauer, Feuerbach, and Marx.

    9. German atheism and scientific "materialism"--represented
    by Feuerbach and Büchner (who, however, rejected the term
    "materialism" as inappropriate).

    10. Revived English deism, involving destructive criticism
    of Christianity, as in Hennell, F. W. Newman, R. W. Mackay,
    W. R. Greg, Theodore Parker, and Thomas Scott, partly in
    co-operation with Unitarianism.

    11. American transcendentalism or pantheism--the school of Emerson.

    12. Colenso's preliminary attack on the narrative of the
    Pentateuch, a systematized return to Voltairean common-sense,
    rectifying the unscientific course of the earlier "higher
    criticism" on the historical issue.

    13. The later or scientific "higher criticism" of the Old
    Testament--represented by Kuenen, Wellhausen, and their successors.

    14. New historical criticism of Christian origins, in particular
    the work of Strauss and Baur in Germany, Renan and Havet in France,
    and their successors.

    15. Exhibition of rationalism within the churches, as in Germany,
    Holland, and Switzerland generally; in England in the Essays and
    Reviews; later in multitudes of essays and books, and in the
    ethical criticism of the Old Testament; in America in popular
    theology.

    16. Association of rationalistic doctrine with the Socialist
    movements, new and old, from Owen to Bebel.

    17. Communication of doubt and moral questioning through poetry and
    belles-lettres--as in Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, Clough, Tennyson,
    Carlyle, Arnold, Browning, Swinburne, Goethe, Schiller, Heine,
    Victor Hugo, Leconte de Lisle, Leopardi, and certain French and
    English novelists.


    II.--Modern Science, physical, mental, and moral, sapping the
    bases of all supernaturalist systems.

    1. Astronomy, newly directed by Laplace.

    2. Geology, gradually connected (as in Britain by Chambers) with

    3. Biology, made definitely non-deistic by Darwin.

    4. The comprehension of all science in the Evolution Theory,
    as by Spencer, advancing on Comte.

    5. Psychology, as regards localization of brain functions.

    6. Comparative mythology, as yet imperfectly applied to Christism.

    7. Sociology, as outlined by Comte, Buckle, Spencer, Winwood Reade,
    Lester Ward, Giddings, Tarde, Durkheim, and others, on strictly
    naturalistic lines.

    8. Comparative Hierology; the methodical application of principles
    insisted on by all the deists, and formulated in the interests
    of deism by Lessing, but latterly freed of his implications.

    9. Above all, the later development of Anthropology (in the wide
    English sense of the term), which, beginning to take shape in the
    eighteenth century, came to new life in the latter part of the
    nineteenth; and is now one of the most widely cultivated of all the
    sciences--especially on the side of religious creed and psychology.


On the other hand, we may group somewhat as follows the general forces
of retardation of freethought operating throughout the century:--


    1. Penal laws, still operative in Britain and Germany against
    popular freethought propaganda, and till recently in Britain
    against any endowment of freethought.

    2. Class interests, involving in the first half of the century
    a social conspiracy against rationalism in England.

    3. Commercial pressure thus set up, and always involved in the
    influence of churches.

    4. In England, identification of orthodox Dissent with political
    Liberalism--a sedative.

    5. Concessions by the clergy, especially in England and the United
    States--to many, another sedative.

    6. Above all, the production of new masses of popular ignorance
    in the industrial nations, and continued lack of education in
    the others.

    7. On this basis, business-like and in large part secular-minded
    organization of the endowed churches, as against a freethought
    propaganda hampered by the previously named causes, and in England
    by laws which veto all direct endowment of anti-Christian heresy.


It remains to make, with forced brevity, the surveys thus outlined.



Section 1.--Popular Propaganda and Culture

1. If any one circumstance more than another differentiates the life
of to-day from that of older civilizations, or from that of previous
centuries of the modern era, it is the diffusion of rationalistic
views among the "common people." In no other era is to be found the
phenomenon of widespread critical skepticism among the labouring
masses: in all previous ages, though chronic complaint is made of
some unbelief among the uneducated, the constant and abject ignorance
of the mass of the people has been the sure foothold of superstitious
systems. Within the last century the area of the recognizably civilized
world has grown far vaster; and in the immense populations that have
thus arisen there is a relative degree of enlightenment, coupled with
a degree of political power never before attained. Merely to survey,
then, the broad movement of popular culture in the period in question
will yield a useful notion of the dynamic change in the balance of
thought in modern times, and will make more intelligible the special
aspects of the culture process.

This vital change in the distribution of knowledge is largely to
be attributed to the written and spoken teaching of a line of men
who made popular enlightenment their great aim. Their leading type
among the English-speaking races is Thomas Paine, whom we have seen
combining a gospel of democracy with a gospel of critical reason in
the midst of the French Revolution. Never before had rationalism been
made widely popular. The English and French deists had written for
the middle and upper classes. Peter Annet was practically the first
who sought to reach the multitude; and his punishment expressed
the special resentment aroused in the governing classes by such
a policy. Of all the English freethinkers of the earlier deistical
period he alone was selected for reprinting by the propagandists of the
Paine period. Paine was to Annet, however, as a cannon to a musket,
and through the democratic ferment of his day he won an audience
a hundredfold wider than Annet could have dreamt of reaching. The
anger of the governing classes, in a time of anti-democratic panic,
was proportional. Paine would have been at least imprisoned for
his Rights of Man had he not fled from England in time; and the
sale of all his books was furiously prohibited and ferociously
punished. Yet they circulated everywhere, even in Protestant Ireland,
[1674] hitherto affected only under the surface of upper-class life by
deism. The circulation of Bishop Watson's Apology in reply only served
to spread the contagion, as it brought the issues before multitudes
who would not otherwise have heard of them. [1675] All the while,
direct propaganda was carried on by translations and reprints as
well as by fresh English tractates. Diderot's Thoughts on Religion,
and Fréret's Letter from Thrasybulus to Leucippus, seem to have been
great favourites among the Painites, as was Elihu Palmer's Principles
of Nature; and Volney's Ruins of Empires had a large vogue. Condorcet's
Esquisse had been promptly translated in 1795; the translation of
d'Holbach's System of Nature reached a third edition in 1817; [1676]
that of Raynal's History had been reprinted in 1804; and that of
Helvétius On the Mind in 1810; while an English abridgment of Bayle
in four volumes, on freethinking lines, appeared in 1826.

2. Meantime, new writers arose to carry into fuller detail the attacks
of Paine, sharpening their weapons on those of the more scholarly
French deists. A Life of Jesus, including his Apocryphal History,
[1677] was published in 1818, with such astute avoidance of all
comment that it escaped prosecution. Others, taking a more daring
course, fared accordingly. George Houston translated the Ecce Homo of
d'Holbach, first publishing it at Edinburgh in 1799, and reprinting it
in London in 1813. For the second issue he was prosecuted, fined £200,
and imprisoned for two years in Newgate. Robert Wedderburn, a mulatto
calling himself "the Rev.," in reality a superannuated journeyman
tailor who officiated in Hopkins Street Unitarian Chapel, London, was
in 1820 sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Dorchester Jail for a
"blasphemous libel" contained in one of his pulpit discourses. His
Letters to the Rev. Solomon Herschell (the Jewish Chief Rabbi) and to
the Archbishop of Canterbury show a happy vein of orderly irony and
not a little learning, despite his profession of apostolic ignorance;
and at the trial the judge admitted his defence to be "exceedingly
well drawn up." His publications naturally received a new impetus,
and passed to a more drastic order of mockery.

3. As the years went on, the persecution in England grew still fiercer;
but it was met with a stubborn hardihood which wore out even the
bitter malice of piety. One of the worst features of the religious
crusade was that it affected to attack not unbelief but "vice," such
being the plea on which Wilberforce and others prosecuted, during a
period of more than twenty years, the publishers and booksellers who
issued the works of Paine. [1678] But even that dissembling device
did not ultimately avail. A name not to be forgotten by those who
value obscure service to human freedom is that of Richard Carlile,
who between 1819 and 1835 underwent nine years' imprisonment in his
unyielding struggle for the freedom of the Press, of thought, and of
speech. [1679] John Clarke, an ex-Methodist, became one of Carlile's
shopmen, was tried in 1824 for selling one of his publications,
and "after a spirited defence, in which he read many of the worst
passages of the Bible," was sentenced to three years' imprisonment,
and to find securities for good behaviour during life. The latter
disability he effectively anticipated by writing, while in prison, A
Critical Review of the Life, Character, and Miracles of Jesus, wherein
Christian feelings were treated as Christians had treated the feelings
of freethinkers, with a much more destructive result. Published first,
strangely enough, in the Newgate Magazine, it was republished in 1825
and 1839, with impunity. Thus did a brutal bigotry bring upon itself
ever a deadlier retaliation, till it sickened of the contest. Those
who threw up the struggle on the orthodox side declaimed as before
about the tone of the unbeliever's attack, failing to read the plain
lesson that, while noisy fanaticism, doing its own worst and vilest,
deterred from utterance all the gentler and more sympathetic spirits
on the side of reason, the work of reason could be done only by
the harder natures, which gave back blow for blow and insult for
insult, rejoicing in the encounter. Thus championed, freethought
could not be crushed. The propagandist and publishing work done by
Carlile was carried on diversely by such free lances as Robert Taylor
(ex-clergyman, author of the Diegesis, 1829, and The Devil's Pulpit,
1830), Charles Southwell (1814-1860), and William Hone, [1680] who
ultimately became an independent preacher. Southwell, a disciple of
Robert Owen, who edited The Oracle of Reason, was imprisoned for a year
in 1840 for publishing in that journal an article entitled "The Jew
Book"; and was succeeded in the editorship by George Jacob Holyoake
(1817-1906), another Owenite missionary, who met a similar sentence;
whereafter George Adams and his wife, who continued to publish the
journal, were imprisoned in turn. Matilda Roalfe and Mrs. Emma Martin
about the same period underwent imprisonment for like causes. [1681]
In this fashion, by the steady courage of a much-enduring band of men
and women, was set on foot a systematic Secularist propaganda--the
name having relation to the term "Secularism," coined by Holyoake.

4. In this evolution political activities played an important
part. Henry Hetherington (1792-1849), the strenuous democrat who
in 1830 began the trade union movement, and so became the founder of
Chartism, fought for the right of publication in matters of freethought
as in politics. After undergoing two imprisonments of six months
each (1832), and carrying on for three and a half years the struggle
for an untaxed Press, which ended in his victory (1834), he was in
1840 indicted for publishing Haslam's Letters to the Clergy of all
Denominations, a freethinking criticism of Old Testament morality. He
defended himself so ably that Lord Denman, the judge, confessed to have
"listened with feelings of great interest and sentiments of respect
too"; and Justice Talfourd later spoke of the defence as marked by
"great propriety and talent." Nevertheless, he was punished by four
months' imprisonment. [1682] In the following year, on the advice of
Francis Place, he brought a test prosecution for blasphemy against
Moxon, the poet-publisher, for issuing Shelley's complete works,
including Queen Mab. Talfourd, then Serjeant, defended Moxon, and
pleaded that there "must be some alteration of the law, or some
restriction of the right to put it in action"; but the jury were
impartial enough to find the publisher guilty, though he received
no punishment. [1683] Among other works published by Hetherington
was one entitled A Hunt after the Devil, "by Dr. P. Y." (really by
Lieutenant Lecount), in which the story of Noah's ark was subjected
to a destructive criticism. [1684]

5. Holyoake had been a missionary and martyr in the movement
of Socialism set up by Robert Owen, whose teaching, essentially
scientific on its psychological or philosophical side, was the first
effort to give systematic effect to democratic ideals by organizing
industry. It was in the discussions of the "Association of all Classes
of all Nations," formed by Owen in 1835, that the word "Socialism"
first became current. [1685] Owen was a freethinker in all things;
[1686] and his whole movement was so penetrated by an anti-theological
spirit that the clergy as a rule became its bitter enemies, though
such publicists as Macaulay and John Mill also combined with them
in scouting it on political and economic grounds. [1687] Up till
the middle of 1817 he had on his side a large body of "respectable"
and highly-placed philanthropists, his notable success in his own
social and commercial undertakings being his main recommendation. His
early Essays on the Formation of Character, indeed, were sufficient
to reveal his heterodoxy; but not until, at his memorable public
meeting on August 21, 1817, he began to expatiate on "the gross
errors that have been combined with the fundamental notions of every
religion that has hitherto been taught to men" [1688] did he rank as
an aggressive freethinker. It was in his own view the turning-point of
his life. He was not prosecuted; though Brougham declared that if any
politician had said half as much he would have been "burned alive";
but the alienation of "moderate" opinion at once began; and Owen,
always more fervid than prudent, never recovered his influence among
the upper classes. Nonetheless, "his secularistic teaching gained
such influence among the working classes as to give occasion for the
statement in the Westminster Review (1839) that his principles were
the actual creed of a great portion of them." [1689]

Owen's polemic method--if it could properly be so called--was not
so much a criticism of dogma as a calm impeachment of religion in a
spirit of philanthropy. No reformer was ever more entirely free from
the spirit of wrath: on this side Owen towers above comparison. "There
is no place found in him for scorn or indignation. He cannot bring
himself to speak or think evil of any man. He carried out in his daily
life his own teaching that man is not the proper object of praise or
blame. Throughout his numerous works there is hardly a sentence of
indignation--of personal denunciation never. He loves the sinner, and
can hardly bring himself to hate the sin." [1690] He had come by his
rationalism through the influence rather of Rousseau than of Voltaire;
and he had assimilated the philosophic doctrine of determinism--of all
ideals the most difficult to realize in conduct--with a thoroughness
of which the flawed Rousseau was incapable. There was thus presented
to the world the curious case of a man who on the side of character
carried rationalism to the perfection of ideal "saintliness," while
in the general application of rational thought to concrete problems
he was virtually unteachable. For an absolute and immovable conviction
in his own practical rightness was in Owen as essential a constituent
as his absolute benevolence. [1691] These were the two poles of his
personality. He was, in short, a fair embodiment of the ideal formed
by many people--doctrine and dogma apart--of the Gospel Jesus. And
most Christians accordingly shunned and feared or hated him.

Such a personality was evidently a formidable force as against the
reinforced English orthodoxy of the first generation of the nineteenth
century. The nature of Owen's propaganda as against religion may
be best sampled from his lecture, "The New Religion: or, Religion
founded on the Immutable Laws of the Universe, contrasted with all
Religions founded on Human Testimony," delivered at the London Tavern
on October 20, 1830: [1692]--


    "Under the arrangements which have hitherto existed for educating
    and governing man, four general characters have been produced
    among the human race. These four characters appear to be formed,
    under the past and present arrangements of society, from four
    different original organizations at birth....

    "No. 1. May be termed the conscientious religious in all countries.

    No. 2. Unbelievers in the truth of any religion, but who
    strenuously support the religion of their country, under the
    conviction that, although religion is not necessary to insure
    their own good conduct, it is eminently required to compel others
    to act right.

    No. 3. Unbelievers who openly avow their disbelief in the truth
    of any religion, such as Deists, Atheists, Skeptics, etc., etc.,
    but who do not perceive the laws of nature relative to man as an
    individual, or when united in a social state.

    No. 4. Disbelievers in all past and present religions, but
    believers in the eternal unchanging laws of the universe, as
    developed by facts derived from all past experience; and who,
    by a careful study of these facts, deduce from them the religion
    of nature.

    Class No. 1 is formed, under certain circumstances, from those
    original organizations which possess at birth strong moral and
    weak intellectual faculties.... Class No. 2 is composed of those
    individuals who by nature possess a smaller quantity of moral
    and a larger quantity of intellectual faculty.... Class No. 3
    is composed of men of strong moral and moderate intellectual
    faculty.... Class No. 4 comprises those who, by nature, possess
    a high degree of intellectual and moral faculty...."


Thus all forms of opinion were shown to proceed either from
intellectual or moral defect, save the opinions of Owen. Such
propositions, tranquilly elaborated, were probably as effective
in producing irritation as any frontal attack upon any dogmas,
narratives, or polities. But, though not even consistent (inasmuch as
the fundamental thesis that "character is formed by circumstances" is
undermined by the datum of four varieties of organization), they were
potent to influence serious men otherwise broadly instructed as to the
nature of religious history and the irrationality of dogma; and Owen
for a generation, despite the inevitable failure and frustration of
his social schemes, exercised by his movement a very wide influence
on popular life. To a considerable extent it was furthered by the
popular deistic philosophy of George and Andrew Combe--a kind of
deistic positivism--which then had a great vogue; [1693] and by
the implications of phrenology, then also in its most scientific
and progressive stage. When, for various reasons, Owen's movement
dissolved, the freethinking element seems to have been absorbed in the
secular party, while the others appear to have gone in large part to
build up the movement of Co-operation. On the whole, the movement of
popular freethought in England could be described as poor, struggling,
and persecuted, only the most hardy and zealous venturing to associate
themselves with it. The imprisonment of Holyoake (1842) for six months,
on a trifling charge of blasphemy, is an illustration of the brutal
spirit of public orthodoxy at the time. [1694] Where bigotry could
thus only injure and oppress without suppressing heresy, it stimulated
resistance; and the result of the stimulus was a revival of popular
propaganda which led to the founding of a Secular Society in 1852.

6. This date broadly coincides with the maximum domination of
conventional orthodoxy in English life. From about the middle
of the century the balance gradually changes. In 1852 we find the
publisher Henry Bohn reissuing the worthless apologetic works of the
Rev. Andrew Fuller, with a "publisher's preface" in which they are
said to "maintain an acknowledged pre-eminence," though written "at a
period of our national history when the writings of Volney and Gibbon,
and especially of Thomas Paine, fostered by the political effects
of the French Revolution, had deteriorated the morals of the people,
and infused the poison of infidelity into the disaffected portion of
the public." We have here still the note of early-nineteenth-century
Anglican respectability, not easily to be matched in human history
for hollowness and blatancy. Fuller is at once one of the most
rabid and one of the most futile of the thousand and one defenders
of the faith. A sample of his mind and method is the verdict that
"If the light that is gone abroad on earth would permit the rearing
of temples to Venus, or Bacchus, or any of the rabble of heathen
deities, there is little doubt but that modern unbelievers would in
great numbers become their devotees; but, seeing they cannot have
a God whose worship shall accord with their inclinations, they seem
determined not to worship at all." [1695] In the very next year the
same publisher began the issue of a reprint of Gibbon, with variorum
notes, edited by "An English Churchman," who for the most part defended
Gibbon against his orthodox critics. This enterprise in turn brought
upon the pious publisher a fair share of odium. But the second half
of the century, albeit soon darkened by new wars in Europe, Asia, and
America, was to be for England one of Liberalism alike in politics and
in thought, free trade, and relatively free publication, with progress
in enlightenment for both the populace and the "educated" classes.

7. In 1858 there was elected to the presidency of the London Secular
Society the young Charles Bradlaugh, one of the greatest orators of
his age, and one of the most powerful personalities ever associated
with a progressive movement. Early experience of clerical persecution,
which even drove the boy from his father's roof, helped to make him
a fighter, but never infirmed his humanity. In the main self-taught,
he acquired a large measure of culture in French and English, and
his rare natural gift for debate was sharpened by a legal training. A
personal admirer of Owen, he never accepted his social polity, but was
at all times the most zealous of democratic reformers. Thenceforward
the working masses in England were in large part kept in touch
with a freethought which drew on the results of the scientific and
scholarly research of the time, and wielded a dialectic of which
trained opponents confessed the power. [1696] In the place of the bland
dogmatism of Owen, and the calm assumption that all mankind could and
should be schoolmastered into happiness and order, there came the alert
recognition of the absoluteness of individualism as regards conviction,
and its present pre-potency as regards social arrangements. Every
thesis was brought to the test of argument and evidence; and in due
course many who had complained that Owen would not argue, complained
that the new school argued everything. The essential thing was that
the people were receiving vitally needed instruction; and were being
taught with a new power to think for themselves. Incidentally they were
freed from an old burden by Bradlaugh's successful resistance to the
demand of suretyship from newspapers, and by his no less successful
battle for the right of non-theistic witnesses to make affirmation
instead of taking the oath in the law courts. [1697]

The inspiration and the instruction of the popular movement thus
maintained were at once literary, scientific, ethical, historical,
scholarly, and philosophic. Shelley was its poet; Voltaire its first
story-teller; and Gibbon its favourite historian. In philosophy,
Bradlaugh learned less from Hume than from Spinoza; in Biblical
criticism--himself possessing a working knowledge of Hebrew--he
collated the work of English and French specialists, down to
and including Colenso, applying all the while to the consecrated
record the merciless tests of a consistent ethic. At the same time,
the whole battery of argument from the natural sciences was turned
against traditionalism and supernaturalism, alike in the lectures
of Bradlaugh and the other speakers of his party, and in the pages
of his journal, The National Reformer. The general outcome was
an unprecedented diffusion of critical thought among the English
masses, and a proportionate antagonism to those who had wrought
such a result. When, therefore, Bradlaugh, as deeply concerned for
political as for intellectual righteousness, set himself to the task
of entering Parliament, he commenced a struggle which shortened his
life, though it promoted his main objects. Not till after a series
of electoral contests extending over twelve years was he elected for
Northampton in 1880; and the House of Commons in a manner enacted
afresh the long resistance made to him in that city. [1698] When,
however, on his election in 1880, the Conservative Opposition began
the historic proceedings over the Oath question, they probably did
even more to deepen and diffuse the popular freethought movement than
Bradlaugh himself had done in the whole of his previous career. The
process was furthered by the policy of prosecuting and imprisoning
(1883) Mr. G. W. Foote, editor of the Freethinker, under the Blasphemy
Laws--a course not directly ventured on as against Bradlaugh, though it
was sought to connect him with the publication of Mr. Foote's journal.

To this day it is common to give a false account of the origin of
the episode, representing Bradlaugh as having "forced" his opinions
on the attention of the House. Rather he strove unduly to avoid
wounding religious feeling. Wont to make affirmation by law in the
courts of justice, he held that the same law applied to the "oath of
allegiance," and felt that it would be unseemly on his part to use
the words of adjuration if he could legally affirm. On this point
he expressly consulted the law officers of the Crown, and they gave
the opinion that he had the legal right, which was his own belief
as a lawyer. The faction called the "fourth party," however, saw an
opportunity to embarrass the Gladstone Government by challenging the
act of affirmation, and thus arose the protracted struggle. Only when
a committee of the House decided that he could not properly affirm
did Bradlaugh propose to take the oath, in order to take his seat.

The pretence of zeal for religion, made by the politicians who had
raised the issue, was known by all men to be the merest hypocrisy. Lord
Randolph Churchill, who distinguished himself by insisting on the moral
necessity for a belief in "some divinity or other," is recorded to
have professed a special esteem for Mr. (now Lord) Morley, the most
distinguished Positivist of his time. [1699] The whole procedure,
in Parliament and out, was so visibly that of the lowest political
malice, exploiting the crudest religious intolerance, that it turned
into active freethinkers many who had before been only passive
doubters, and raised the secularist party to an intensity of zeal
never before seen. At no period in modern British history had there
been so constant and so keen a platform propaganda of unbelief; so
unsparing an indictment of Christian doctrine, history, and practice;
such contemptuous rebuttal of every Christian pretension; such asperity
of spirit against the creed which was once more being championed by
chicanery, calumny, and injustice. In those five years of indignant
warfare were sown the seeds of a more abundant growth of rationalism
than had ever before been known in the British Islands. With invincible
determination Bradlaugh fought his case through Parliament and the
law courts, incurring debts which forced upon him further toils that
clearly shortened his life, but never yielding for an instant in his
battle with the bigotry of half the nation. Liberalism was shamed by
many defections; Conservatism, with the assent of Mr. Balfour, was
solid for injustice; [1700] and in the entire Church of England less
than a dozen priests stood for tolerance. But the cause at stake was
indestructible. When Bradlaugh at length took the oath and his seat
in 1886, under a ruling of the new Speaker (Peel) which stultified the
whole action of the Speaker and majorities of the previous Parliament,
and no less that of the law courts, straightforward freethought stood
three-fold stronger in England than in any previous generation. Apart
from their educative work, the struggles and sufferings of the
secularist leaders won for Great Britain the abolition within one
generation of the old burden of suretyship on newspapers, and of
the disabilities of non-theistic witnesses; the freedom of public
meeting in the London parks; the right of avowed atheists to sit
in Parliament (Bradlaugh having secured in 1888 their title to
make affirmation instead of oath); and the virtual discredit of the
Blasphemy Laws as such. It is probable also that the treatment meted
out to Mrs. Besant--then associated with Bradlaugh in freethought
propaganda--marked the end of another form of tyrannous outrage,
already made historic in the case of Shelley. Secured the custody of
her children under a marital deed of separation, she was deprived of
it at law (1879) on her avowal of atheistic opinions, with the result
that her influence as a propagandist was immensely increased.

8. The special energy of the English secularist movement in the ninth
decade was partly due to the fact that by that time there had appeared
a remarkable amount of modern freethinking literature of high literary
and intellectual quality, and good "social" status. Down to 1870
the new literary names committed to the rejection of Christianity,
apart from the men of science who kept to their own work, were the
theists Hennell, F. W. Newman, W. E. Greg, R. W. Mackay, Buckle,
and W. E. H. Lecky, all of them influential, but none of them at once
recognized as a first-rate force. But with the appearance of Lecky's
History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in
Europe (1865), lacking though it was in clearness of thought, a new
tone began to prevail; and his History of European Morals from Augustus
to Charlemagne (1869), equally readable and not more uncompromising,
was soon followed by a series of powerful pronouncements of a more
explicit kind. One of the first of the literary class to come forward
with an express impeachment of Christianity was Moncure Daniel Conway,
whose Earthward Pilgrimage (1870) was the artistic record of a gifted
preacher's progress from Wesleyan Methodism, through Unitarianism,
to a theism which was soon to pass into agnosticism. In 1871 appeared
the remarkable work of Winwood Reade, The Martyrdom of Man, wherein
a rapid survey of ancient and medieval history, and of the growth of
religion from savage beginnings, leads up to a definitely anti-theistic
presentment of the future of human life with the claim to have shown
"that the destruction of Christianity is essential to the interests of
civilization." [1701] Some eighteen editions tell of the acceptance
won by the book. Less vogue, but some startled notice, was won by
the Duke of Somerset's Christian Theology and Modern Scepticism
(1872), a work of moderate rationalism, but by a peer. In 1873
appeared Herbert Spencer's Introduction to the Study of Sociology,
wherein the implicit anti-supernaturalism of that philosopher's First
Principles was advanced upon, in the chapter on "The Theological Bias,"
by a mordant attack on that Christian creed.

That attack had been preceded by Matthew Arnold's Literature and
Dogma (1872), wherein the publicist who had censured Colenso for not
writing in Latin described the Christian doctrine of the Trinity
as "the fairy-tale of three Lord Shaftesburys." Much pleading for
the recognition by unbelievers of the value of the Bible failed to
convince Christians of the value of such a thinker's Christianity. A
more important sensation was provided in 1873 by the posthumous
publication of Mill's Autobiography, and, in the following year,
by his Three Essays on Religion, which exhibited its esteemed author
as not only not a Christian but as never having been one, although he
formulated a species of limited liability theism, as unsatisfactory to
the rationalists as to the orthodox. Still the fresh manifestations of
freethinking multiplied. On the one hand the massive treatise entitled
Supernatural Religion (1874), and on the other the freethinking
essays of Prof. W. K. Clifford in the Fortnightly Review, the most
vigorously outspoken ever yet written by an English academic, showed
that the whole field of debate was being reopened with a new power and
confidence. The History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century,
by Leslie Stephen (1876), set up the same impression from another side;
yet another social sensation was created by the appearance of Viscount
Amberley's Analysis of Religious Belief (1877); and all the while the
"Higher Criticism" proceeded within the pale of the Church.

The literary situation was now so changed that, whereas from 1850
to 1880 the "sensations" in the religious world were those made
by rationalistic attacks, thereafter they were those made by new
defences. H. Drummond's Natural Law in the Spiritual World (1883),
Mr. Balfour's Defence of Philosophic Doubt (1879) and Foundations
of Belief (1895), and Mr. Kidd's Social Evolution (1894), were
successively welcomed as being declared to render such a service. It is
doubtful whether they are to-day valued upon that score in any quarter.

9. In the first half of the century popular forms of freethought
propaganda were hardly possible in other European countries. France
had been too long used to regulation alike under the monarchy and
under the empire to permit of open promotion of unbelief in the early
years of the Restoration. Yet as early as 1828 we find the Protestant
Coquerel avowing that in his day the Bourbonism of the Catholic clergy
had revived the old anti-clericalism, and that it was common to find
the most high-minded patriots unbelievers and materialists. [1702]
But still more remarkable was the persistence of deep freethinking
currents in the Catholic world throughout the century. About 1830
rationalism had become normal among the younger students at Paris;
[1703] and the revolution of that year elicited a charter putting
all religions on an equality. [1704] Soon the throne and the chambers
were on a footing of practical hostility to the Church. [1705] Under
Louis Philippe men dared to teach in the Collège de France that
"the Christian dispensation is but one link in the chain of divine
revelations to man." [1706] Even during the first period of reaction
after the restoration numerous editions of Volney's Ruines and of the
Abrégé [1707] of Dupuis's Origine de tous les Cultes served to maintain
among the more intelligent of the proletariat an almost scientific
rationalism, which can hardly be said to have been improved on by such
historiography as that of Renan's Vie de Jésus. And there were other
forces, over and above freemasonry, which in France and other Latin
countries has since the Revolution been steadily anti-clerical. The
would-be social reconstructor Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was an
independent and non-Christian though not an anti-clerical theist,
and his system may have counted for something as organizing the
secular spirit among the workers in the period of the monarchic and
Catholic reaction. Fourier approximated to Christianity inasmuch as he
believed in a divine Providence; but like Owen he had an unbounded and
heterodox faith in human goodness and perfectibility; and he claimed
to have discovered the "plan of God" for men. But Fourier was never,
like Owen, a popular force; and popular rationalism went on other
lines. At no time was the proletariat of Paris otherwise than largely
Voltairean after the Revolution, of which one of the great services
(carried on by Napoleon) was an improvement in popular education. The
rival non-Christian systems of Saint-Simon (1760-1823) and Auguste
Comte (1798-1857) also never took any practical hold among them;
but throughout the century they have been fully the most freethinking
working-class population in the world.


    As to Fourier see the OEuvres Choisies de Fourier, ed. Ch. Gide,
    pp. 1-3, 9. Cp. Solidarité: Vue Synthétique sur la doctrine de
    Ch. Fourier, par Hippolyte Renaud, 3e édit. 1846, ch. i: "Pour
    ramener l'homme à la foi" [en Dieu], writes Renaud, "il faut lui
    offrir aujourd'hui une foi complète et composée, une foi solidement
    assise sur le témoignage de la raison. Pour cela il faut que la
    flambeau de la science dissipe toutes les obscurités" (p. 9). This
    is not propitious to dogma; but Fourier planned and promised
    to leave priests and ministers undisturbed in his new world,
    and even declared religions to be "much superior to uncertain
    sciences." Gide, introd. to OEuvres Choisies, pp. xxii-xxiii,
    citing Manuscrits, vol. de 1853-1856, p. 293. Cp. Dr. Ch. Pellarin,
    Fourier, sa vie et sa théorie, 5e édit. p. 143.

    Saint-Simon, who proposed a "new Christianity," expressly guarded
    against direct appeals to the people. See Weil, Saint-Simon et
    son OEuvre, 1894, p. 193. As to the Saint-Simonian sect, see an
    interesting testimony by Renan, Les Apôtres, p. 148.


The generation after the fall of Napoleon was pre-eminently the period
of new schemes of society; and it is noteworthy that they were all
non-Christian, though all, including even Owen's, claimed to provide
a "religion," and the French may seem all to have been convinced by
Napoleon's practice that some kind of cult must be provided for the
peoples. Owen alone rejected alike supernaturalism and cultus; and
his movement left the most definite rationalistic traces. All seem
to have been generated by the double influence of (1) the social
failure of the French Revolution, which left so many anxious for
another and better effort at reconstruction, and (2) of the spectacle
of the rule of Napoleon, which seems to have elicited new ideals of
beneficent autocracy. Owen, Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Comte were all
alike would-be founders of a new society or social religion. It seems
probable that this proclivity to systematic reconstruction, in a world
which still carried a panic-memory of one great social overturn, helped
to lengthen the rule of orthodoxy. Considerably more progress was made
when freethought became detached from special plans of polity, and
grew up anew by way of sheer truth-seeking on all the lines of inquiry.

In France, however, the freethinking tradition from the eighteenth
century never passed away, at least as regards the life of the great
towns. And while Napoleon III made it his business to conciliate the
Church, which in the person of the somewhat latitudinarian Darboy,
Archbishop of Paris, had endorsed his coup d'état of 1851, [1708]
even under his rule the irreversible movement of freethought revealed
itself among his own ministers. Victor Duruy, the eminent historian,
his energetic Minister of Education, was a freethinker, non-aggressive
towards the Church, but perfectly determined not to permit aggression
by it. [1709] And when the Church, in its immemorial way, declaimed
against all forms of rationalistic teaching in the colleges, and
insisted on controlling the instruction in all the schools, [1710]
his firm resistance made him one of its most hated antagonists. Even
in the Senate, then the asylum of all forms of antiquated thought and
prejudice, Duruy was able to carry his point against the prelates,
Sainte-Beuve strongly and skilfully supporting him. [1711] Thus in
the France of the Third Empire, on the open field of the educational
battle-ground between faith and reason, the rationalistic advance
was apparent in administration no less than in the teaching of the
professed men of science and the polemic of the professed critics
of religion.

10. In other Catholic countries the course of popular culture in
the first half of the century was not greatly dissimilar to that
seen in France, though less rapid and expansive. Thus we find the
Spanish Inquisitor-General in 1815 declaring that "all the world
sees with horror the rapid progress of unbelief," and denouncing
"the errors and the new and dangerous doctrines" which have passed
from other countries to Spain. [1712] This evolution was to some
extent checked; but in the latter half of the century, especially
in the last thirty years, all the Catholic countries of Europe were
more or less permeated with demotic freethought, usually going hand
in hand with republican or socialistic propaganda in politics. It is
indeed a significant fact that freethought propaganda is often most
active in countries where the Catholic Church is most powerful. Thus
in Belgium there are at least three separate federations, standing
for hundreds of freethinking "groups"; in Spain, a few years ago,
there were freethought societies in all the large towns, and at
least half-a-dozen freethought journals; in Portugal there have
been a number of societies--a weekly journal, O Secolo, of Lisbon,
and a monthly review, O Livre Exame. In France and Italy, where
educated society is in large measure rationalistic, the Masonic
lodges do most of the personal and social propaganda; but there are
federations of freethought societies in both countries. In Switzerland
freethought is more aggressive in the Catholic than in the Protestant
cantons. [1713] In the South American republics, again, as in Italy
and France, the Masonic lodges are predominantly freethinking; and in
Peru there was, a few years ago, a Freethought League, with a weekly
organ. As long ago as 1856 the American diplomatist and archæologist,
Squier, wrote that, "Although the people of Honduras, in common with
those of Central America in general, are nominally Catholics, yet,
among those capable of reflection or possessed of education, there
are more who are destitute of any fixed creed--Rationalists or, as
they are sometimes called, Freethinkers, than adherents of any form
of religion." [1714] That the movement is also active in the other
republics of the southern continent may be inferred from the facts
that a Positivist organization has long subsisted in Brazil; that its
members were active in the peaceful revolution which there substituted
a republic for a monarchy; and that at the Freethought Congresses of
Rome and Paris in 1904 and 1905 there was an energetic demand for a
Congress at Buenos Aires, which was finally agreed to for 1906.

While popular propaganda is hardly possible save on political lines,
freethinking journalism has counted for much in the most Catholic parts
of Southern Europe. The influence of such journals is to be measured
not by their circulation, which is never great, but by their keeping up
a habit of more or less instructed freethinking among readers, to many
of whom the instruction is not otherwise easily accessible. Probably
the least ambitious of them is an intellectual force of a higher order
than the highest grade of popular religious journalism; while some of
the stronger, as De Dageraad of Amsterdam, have ranked as high-class
serious reviews. In the more free and progressive countries, however,
freethought affects all periodical literature; and in France it partly
permeates the ordinary newspapers. In England, where a series of
monthly or weekly publications of an emphatically freethinking sort
has been nearly continuous from about 1840, [1715] new ones rising
in place of those which succumbed to the commercial difficulties,
such periodicals suffer an economic pinch in that they cannot hope
for much income from advertisements, which are the chief sustenance
of popular journals and magazines. The same law holds elsewhere; but
in England and America the high-priced reviews have been gradually
opened to rationalistic articles, the way being led by the English
Westminster Review [1716] and Fortnightly Review, both founded with
an eye to freer discussion.


    Among the earlier freethinking periodicals may be noted The
    Republican, 1819-26 (edited by Carlile); The Deist's Magazine,
    1820; The Lion, 1828 (Carlile); The Prompter, 1830 (Carlile);
    The Gauntlet, 1833 (Carlile); The Atheist and Republican, 1841-42;
    The Blasphemer, 1842; The Oracle of Reason (founded by Southwell),
    1842, etc.; The Reasoner and Herald of Progress (largely conducted
    by Holyoake), 1846-1861; Cooper's Journal; or, unfettered
    Thinker, etc., 1850, etc.; The Movement, 1843; The Freethinker's
    Information for the People (undated: after 1840); Freethinker's
    Magazine, 1850, etc.; London Investigator, 1854, etc. Bradlaugh's
    National Reformer, begun in 1860, lasted till 1893. Mr. Foote's
    Freethinker, begun in 1881, still subsists. Various freethinking
    monthlies have risen and fallen since 1880--e.g., Our Corner,
    edited by Mrs. Besant, 1883-88; The Liberal and Progress, edited
    by Mr. Foote, 1879-87; the Free Review, transformed into the
    University Magazine, 1893-1898. The Reformer, a monthly, edited by
    Mrs. Bradlaugh Bonner, subsisted from 1897 to 1904. The Literary
    Guide, which began as a small sheet in 1885, flourishes. Since
    1900, a popular Socialist journal, The Clarion, has declared for
    rationalism through the pen of its editor, Mr. R. Blatchford
    ("Nunquam"), whose polemic has caused much controversy. For a
    generation back, further, rationalistic essays have appeared
    from time to time not only in the Fortnightly Review (founded
    by G. H. Lewes, and long edited by Mr. John (now Lord) Morley,
    much of whose writing on the French philosophes appeared in its
    pages), but in the Nineteenth Century, wherein was carried on,
    for instance, the famous controversy between Mr. Gladstone and
    Prof. Huxley. In the early 'seventies, the Cornhill Magazine,
    under the editorship of Leslie Stephen, issued serially Matthew
    Arnold's Literature and Dogma and St. Paul and Protestantism. In
    the latter years of the century quite a number of reviews, some of
    them short-lived, gave space to advanced opinions. But propaganda
    has latterly become more and more a matter of all-pervading
    literary influence, the immense circulation of the sixpenny
    reprints of the R. P. A. having put the advanced literature of
    the last generation within the reach of all.


11. In Germany, as we have seen, the relative selectness of culture,
the comparative aloofness of the "enlightened" from the mass of the
people, made possible after the War of Independence a certain pietistic
reaction, in the absence of any popular propagandist machinery
or purpose on the side of the rationalists. In the opinion of an
evangelical authority, at the beginning of the nineteenth century,
"through modern enlightenment (Aufklärung) the people had become
indifferent to the Church; the Bible was regarded as a merely human
book, the Saviour merely as a person who had lived and taught long ago,
not as one whose almighty presence is with his people still." [1717]
According to the same authority, "before the war, the indifference to
the word of God which prevailed among the upper classes had penetrated
to the lower; but after it, a desire for the Scriptures was everywhere
felt." [1718] This involves an admission that the "religion of the
heart" propounded by Schleiermacher in his addresses On Religion
"to the educated among its despisers" [1719] (1799) was not really a
Christian revival at all. Schleiermacher himself in 1803 declared that
in Prussia there was almost no attendance on public worship, and the
clergy had fallen into profound discredit. [1720] A pietistic movement
had, however, begun during the period of the French ascendancy; [1721]
and seeing that the freethinking of the previous generation had been
in part associated with French opinion, it was natural that on this
side anti-French feeling should promote a reversion to older and more
"national" forms of feeling. Thus after the fall of Napoleon the tone
of the students who had fought in the war seems to have been more
religious than that of previous years. [1722] Inasmuch, however, as
the "enlightenment" of the scholarly class was maintained, and applied
anew to critical problems, the religious revival did not turn back the
course of progress. "When the third centenary commemoration, in 1817,
of the Reformation approached, the Prussian people were in a state
of stolid indifference, apparently, on religious matters." [1723]
Alongside of the pietistic reaction of the Liberation period there
went on an open ecclesiastical strife, dating from an anti-rationalist
declaration by the Court preacher Reinhard at Dresden in 1811, [1724]
between the rationalists or "Friends of Light" and the Scripturalists
of the old school; and the effect was a general disintegration of
orthodoxy, despite, or it may be largely in virtue of, the governmental
policy of rewarding the Pietists and discouraging their opponents
in the way of official appointments. [1725] The Prussian measure
(1817) of forcibly uniting the Lutheran and Calvinistic Churches,
with a neutral sacramental ritual in which the eucharist was treated
as a historical commemoration, tended to the same consequences,
though it also revived old Lutheran zeal; [1726] and when the
new revolutionary movement broke out in 1848, popular feeling was
substantially non-religious. "In the south of Germany especially
the conflict of political opinions and revolutionary tendencies
produced, in the first instance, an entire prostration of religious
sentiment." The bulk of society showed entire indifference to worship,
the churches being everywhere deserted; and "atheism was openly avowed,
and Christianity ridiculed as the invention of priestcraft." [1727]
One result was a desperate effort of the clergy to "effect a union
among all who retained any measure of Christian belief, in order to
raise up their national religion and faith from the lowest state into
which it has ever fallen since the French Revolution."

But the clerical effort evoked a counter effort. Already, in 1846,
official interference with freedom of utterance led to the formation
of a "free religious" society by Dr. Rupp, of Königsberg, one of
the "Friends of Light" in the State Church; and he was followed by
Wislicenus of Halle, a Hegelian, and by Uhlich of Magdeburg. [1728]
As a result of the determined pressure, social and official, which
ensued on the collapse of the revolution of 1848, these societies
failed to develop on the scale of their beginnings; and that of
Magdeburg, which at the outset had 7,000 members, has latterly
only 500; though that of Berlin has nearly 4,000. [1729] There is
further a Freidenker Bund, with branches in many towns; and the two
organizations, with their total membership of some fifty thousand,
may be held to represent the militant side of popular freethought
in Germany. This, however, constitutes only a fraction of the
total amount of passive rationalism. There is a large measure of
enlightenment in both the working and the middle classes; and the
ostensible force of orthodoxy among the official and conformist
middle class is in many respects illusory. The German police laws
put a rigid check on all manner of platform and press propaganda
which could be indicted as hurting the feelings of religious people;
so that a jest at the Holy Coat of Trèves could even in recent years
send a journalist to jail, and the platform work of the militant
societies is closely trammelled. Yet there are, or have been, over
a dozen journals which so far as may be take the freethought side;
[1730] and the whole stress of Bismarckian reaction and of official
orthodoxy under the present Kaiser has never availed to make the tone
of popular thought pietistic. Karl Marx, the prophet of the German
Socialist movement (1818-1883), laid it down as part of its