« PreviousContinue »
he falls asleep, again sees a vision, and again is dis
Lucky and unlucky days, which were so much relied on as even to be marked in the Greek and Roman kalendars, make an appendix to prophecies. The Tartars never undertake any thing of moment on a Wednesday, being held by them unlucky. The Nogayan Tartars hold every thirteenth year to be unlucky: they will not even wear a sword that year, believing that it would be their death; and they maintain, that none of their warriors ever returned who went upon an expedition in one of these years. They pass that time in fasting and prayer, and during it never marry. The inhabitants of Madagascar have days fortunate and unfortunate with respect to the birth of children: they destroy without mercy every child that is born on an unfortunate day.
There are unlucky names as well as unlucky days. Julien Cardinal de Medicis, chosen Pope was inclined to keep his own name. But it being observed to him by the Cardinals, says Guichardin, that the popes who retained their own name had all of them died within the year, he took the name of Clement, and was Clement VII. As John was held an unlucky name for a king, John heir to the Crown of Scotland, was persuaded to change his name into Robert; and he was Robert III.
I close this important article with a reflection that will make an impression upon every rational
person. The knowledge of future events, as far as it tends to influence our conduct, is inconsistent with a state of activity, such as Providence has allotted to man in this life. It would deprive him of hopes and fears, and leave him nothing to deliberate upon, nor any end to prosecute. In a word, it would put an end to his activity, and reduce him to be merely a passing being. Providence therefore has wisely drawn a veil over future events, affording us no light for prying into them but sagacity and experience.
+fxto fa These are a few of the numberless absurd opinions about the conduct of Providence, that have prevailed among Christians, and still prevail among some of them. Many opinions no less absurd have prevailed about speculative points. I confine myself to one or two instances; for to make a complete list would require a volume. The first I shall mention, and the most noted, is transubstantiation; a doctrine in which it is asserted, first, that the bread and wine in the sacrament are converted into the body and blood of our Saviour; next, that his body and blood exists wholly and entirely sin every particular sacrament administered in the Christian world even at the same instant of time. This article of faith, though it has not the least influence on practice, is reckoned so essential to salvation, as to be placed above every moral duty. The following text is appealed to as its sole foundation." And as they were eating, Jesus took
« bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup and gave thanks, " and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it r " for this is my blood of the New Testament, which "is shed for many for the remission of sins. But "I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of "this fruit of the vine, until that day when I "drink it new with you in my Father's king. "dom *." That this is a metaphor, must strike every one: the passage cannot even bear a literal meaning, considering the final clause; for surely the most zealous Roman Catholic believes not, that Christians are to drink new wine with their Saviour in the kingdom of heaven. At the same time, it is not so much as insinuated, that there was here any miraculous transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Saviour; nor is it insinuated, that the Apostles believed they were eating the flesh of their master, and drinking his blood. St John, the favourite apostle, mentions not a word of this ceremony, which he certainly would not have omitted, had he imagined it an essential article of faith.
But supposing transubstantiation were clearly expressed in this text, yet men of understanding will be loth to admit a meaning that contradicts their five senses. They will reflect, that no man now living ever saw the original books of the New
St Matthew, xxvi. 26, &c.
Testament; nor are they certain, that the editions we have, ate copied directly from the originals. Every remove from them is liable to errors, which may justly create a suspicion of texts that contradict reason and common sense. Add, that the bulk of Christians have not even a copy from the ori ginal to build their faith upon; but only a translation into another language. But the second branch of this article is obvious to a still stronger objection than of its contradicting our senses: it is a direct inconsistence, as we cannot even conceive it possible that the same body or thing can be in two different places at the same time.
And this leads to what chiefly determined me to select that instance. God and nature have bestowed upon us the faculty of reason, for distin guishing truth from falsehood. If, by reasoning with candour and impartiality, we discover a proposition to be true or false, it is not in our power to remain indifferent: we must judge, and our belief must be regulated by our judgment. I says more, to judge is a duty we owe our Maker; for to what purpose has he bestowed reason upon us, but in order to direct our judgment? At the same time, we may depend on it as an intuitive truth, that God will never impose any belief on us contradictory, not only to our reason, but to our
The following objection however will perhaps relish more with people of plain understanding. Transubstantiation
Transubstantiation is a very extraordinary miracle, reiterated every day and in every corner of the earth, by priests not always remarkable either for piety or for morality. Now I demand an answer to the following plain question: To what good end or purpose is such a profusion of miracles subservient? I see none. But I discover a very bad one, if they have any influence; which is, that they accustom the Roman Catholics to more cruelty and barbarity, than even the grossest savages are ever guilty of: some of these indeed devour the flesh of their enemies; but none of them the flesh of their friends, especially of their greatest friend. But to do justice to people of that religion, I am confident, that this supposed miracle has no influence whatever upon their manners: to me it appears impossible for any man seriously to believe, that the bread and wine used at the Lord's supper, is actually converted into the body and blood of our Saviour. The Romish church requires the belief of transubstantiation; and a zealous Catholic, out of pure obedience, thinks he believes it. Convince once a man that salvation depends on belief, and he will believe any thing; that is, he will imagine that he believes: Crede quia impossibile est *.
A traveller describing the Virgin Mary's house at Loretta, has the following reflection, "When there are so many saints "endued with such miraculous powers, so many relics, and