« ZurückWeiter »
AUTHORS OF DIVINE ANALOGY,
THE MINUTE PHILOSOPHERS:
FROM AN OLD OFFICER.
-Ne tanta animis assuescite bella,
GENTLEMEN, No doubt, you will think it somewhat odd, to receive a letter from an old officer, on a subject in which books only seem to be concerned, and which relates to one of the subtlest theological controversies that has either exercised or disturbed the church. And what will probably surprise you still more, is to find the same letter directed jointly to two persons, whom their places of abode, but more especially their differences in opinion, have set at so great a distance. But the very occasion of your surprise must remove it; for had you not entered the lists together in the spirit of combat, I should never have had occasion to interpose in the character of a peace-maker, nor call to you both at once, rather in the voice of one that attempts to reconcile friends at variance, than compose the resentments of enemies.
I own it may seem a little too presuming, for one of my character and employment, to intermeddle in the controversies of divines; for which reason I should have taken some feigned name, and wrote to you in the disguise, perhaps, of a clergyman, had I not contracted such a habit in the service, of talking about military affairs, and
of the army.
allading to them, when I am in discourse on subjects the most remote from warfare, that I must have soon betrayed myself to correspondents so discerning. Besides, I do not care to dissemble. You know, gentlemen, it is not the way
I have been too long a soldier to appear any thing els
However, though I have spent a great share of my time in garrisons or camps, as I got a little Latin when I was a boy, I have entertained myself with my books ever since the peace of Utrecht. .
Though Baker's Chronicle, Knoll's History of the Turks, and several other volumes of the same kind of writing, have been my constant companions in my retirement; yet with leave of the divines, I now and then look a little into church history, and read all the new things that come out, particularly whatsoever relates to the present controversy with libertines, in which, as I am a staunch Christian, my thoughts are very deeply engaged.
Do not imagine, gentlemen, that lay-Christians are not concerned, as well as you of the clergy, in the defence of their faith, particularly such as I am, who have drawn my sword as often in the cause of religion, as you have done your pens. If you have risked your characters with posterity in its favour, I have also risked my life for it; and that you know is as dear to me. For every drop of ink you have spent in the service of the church militant, I have shed, at least, four of my blood. If I break in upon your province of writing about religion, do you the same with mine, and fight for it, when occasion shall serve; every man of sense will think it more decent and more consistent with your zeal, than to turn your weapons upon each other, when the common enemy is laying hard at us all.
Bear, good gentlemen, bear with the warmth of an old man, who imbibed the principles of religion in better times than these, and the remainder of whose blood rises with indignation at those libertines, who would laugh that faith out of the world, in the defence of which he shed the rest, and no less at those divines, who draw upon each other within the town, when they should unanimously encourage us to the defence of our walls, where the adversary has already made a dangerous breach in one part, while they
fix their ladders to it in others, and prepare for a general assault. Bear also with my military style, and while I am calling to you as a friend, apprehensive of our common danger, do not idly criticise on the manner of expressing my concern for you, and the great cause in which you are embarked.
The garrison is well walled, its foundations deep, its battlements bigh, its bastions disposed according to military rules, and mounted with cannon of a wide and formidable bore. We have sufficient magazines of ammunition, and stores of victual, and our soldiers are well armed, full of courage, and hearty in the service. But this can never secure us against the attacks of our assailants, unless our commanders be wise, vigilant, and unanimous; unless they join heads to conduct the defence with discretion, and hearts to execute their resolutions with steadiness. Neither Namur, nor Gibraltar, nor the best garrison in the world, could ever defend itself. The besiegers, it is true, are in many respects contemptible, their cannon seldom fire home, their weapons are blunt and brittle, the ground on which they intrench is sandy and shaliow, and their military stores scanty. But then they perfectly well understand the art of war, they are great masters of stratagem, and extremely intent upon the occasions of engaging with advantage. However, be only unanimous, and we cannot fail to baffle their attempts. Be absolute each of you in his own quarter, but do not intrude upon and confound one another. Let not this one, because he himself fights with a pike, find fault with that other for fighting with a sword; but let each hew, or bruise, or push the enemy with that kind of weapon which he is best skilled to wield. Every weapon has its use, and there may be occasion for them all. Whilst you give opposite orders, we under-officers, or common soldiers, know not which to follow; and the delay this disorder occasions, gives the enemy time to mount the breach, and make the defence ten times more difficult and hazardous. Be as distinct in your orders as you please, but be not contrary.
It has been observed, that as men grow less courageous and patient of labour, they have learned to fortify with more art, and to put their trust in walls and towers, instead of personal courage and conduct; hence proceeds security, the greatest enemy to military exploits, hence frequently the greater number, though enclosed within a garrison deemed impregnable, have been sarprised and cut to pieces by the fewer.
The great ecclesiastical garrison seems to be threatened with the effects of the same degeneracy. Its walls are raised much higher, and perhaps rendered stronger; its counterscarps, its bastions, and its redoubts, are executed upon more skilful plans by the modern engineers, than they were by the old methods of fortification. But all this to very little purpose, if it renders the defendants idle, secure, and luxurious; if it gives the commanders leisure for ambitious broils among themselves, and makes them seek enemies within, whilst they live in a contempt of those without the walls.
Pardon, gentlemen, my running thus into allegories drawn from my employment: I slide, I know not how, insensibly into such allusions. However, they seem to be very parallel to the case under consideration, and as such, perhaps, you may not think them altogether to be despised. But to be plain, books indeed wrote in defence of Christianity, are necessary to answer those that oppose it, and satisfy the reading world of its divine authority and truth. But then those books, unless they appear to proceed from a disinterested Christian principle, and to be put in practice by such as approve of them, especially their authors, can be of no more service to the cause in which they are engaged, than artillery charged and directed, but never fired. Particularly if the authors that write in favour of Christianity, quarrel with each other about their own private opinions, the world will rather regard them as authors than Christians. Their readers will be tempted to look upon their performances, howsoever ingenious in themselves, as dictated to them rather by a spirit of ambition and contention, than by a spirit of piety, and a zeal for that religion which should inspire mutual love, and a contempt for praise, and whosoever makes the occasion of dissension, understands not rightly its meek and peaceful genius.
As for you gentlemen, if we believe yourselves, you have grafted your dispute upon the very root of religion, and therefore if its consequences be hurtful, they must be infinitely more dangerous than differences in matters less fundamental. A radical putrefaction strikes at the life of the whole, whereas a distempered branch may be lopped off, and with it the entire disorder. Should one of these aids-du-camp, that receive orders from the general in time of battle, misconceive or wilfully alter the message he is charged with, it would infallibly pervert the whole scheme of the battle, and endanger the loss of the day. The hazard would not be so considerable, if a petty captain would fight his troop after a method different from the main design of the engagement.
However, though the point on which you differ may be a fundamental one, I am afraid your wrangling about it will have worse consequences than could proceed from either the one opinion or the other, were it universally received and established. Do not think, gentlemen, that religion is to stand or fall, according as this or that of your opinions shall obtain. You know it subsisted for many ages, and withstood the persecution of otherguise adversaries, than a few sneering libertines, without troubling itself much about analogy. It was po subtle distinctions, nor nice metaphysical schemes that supported this magnificent fabric in the midst of so many storms; no, it was faith, piety, and charity, pillars of a solider kind of stuff than ever was dug from the mines of the schools.
But you have only run fondly into the same warmth with all the other theological disputants that have gone before you, every one of whom has made the particular controversy, howsoever trivial it may have been, in which he was engaged, the one only question on which all religion bottomed, and represented the tenets of his adversary as utterly destructive of faith and revelation. It is to be wondered, that persons of such uncommon understandings, and that have set themselves to open new avenues to truth, should repeat so trite an error, and sink the main value of their performances, by laying an immoderate stress on the part controverted. How ridiculous would it be for a common soldier, or a petty officer, in the time of battle, to tell those that stood next him, that if he should be killed, it