« PoprzedniaDalej »
Here then is war openly proclaimed among men. Each one must take a side; must necessarily range himself with the Pyrrhonists or the Dogmatists; for he who would think to remain neuter, is a Pyrrhonist par excellence. This neutrality is the very essence of Pyrrhonism. He who is not against them, is completely for them. What then must a man do in this alternative? Shall he doubt of every thing ? Shall he doubt that he is awake, or that he is pinched or burned ? Shall he doubt that he doubts? Shall he doubt that he is? We cannot get so far as this; and I hold it to be a fact, that there never has been an absolute and perfect Pyrrhonist. Nature props up the weakness of reason, and prevents her from reaching this point of extravagance.
But then on the other side, shall man affirm that he possesses the truth with certainty, who, if you press him ever so little, can bring no proof of the fact, and is forced to loose his hold ?
Who shall clear up this perplexity ? Common sense confutes the Pyrrhonists, and reason the Dogmatists. What then must become of thee, O man, who searchest out thy true condition, by the aid of natural reason? You cannot avoid adopting one of these opinions; but to maintain either, is impossible.
Such is man in regard to truth. Consider him now with respect to that happiness, which in all his actions he seeks with so much ayidity; for all men, without exception, desire to be happy. However different the means which they adopt, they aim at the same result. The cause of one man engaging in war, and of another remaining at home, is this same desire of happiness, associated with different predilections. He will never stir a step but towards this desired object. It is the motive of all the actions of all men, even of those who destroy themselves.
And yet, after the lapse of so many years, no one has ever attained to this point at which we are all aiming, but by faith. All are unhappy: princes and their subjects, noble and ignoble, the old and the young, the strong and the weak, the learned and the ignorant, the sick and the healthy of all countries, all times, all ages, and all conditions.
Experience so lengthened, so continual, and so uniform, might well convince us of our inability to be happy by our own efforts. But then here we get no profit from example. It is never so precisely similar, but that there is some slight difference, on the strength of which, we calculate that our hope shall not be disappointed, in this as in former instances. And thus while the present never satisfies us, hope allures us onward, and leads us from misfortune to misfortune, and finally to death and everlasting ruin.
It is remarkable, that in the whole range of nature, there is nothing that has not been accounted fit to become the chief end and happiness of man.
The stars, the elements, plants, animals, insects, diseases, wars, vices, crimes, &c. Man having fallen from his original and natural state, there is nothing however mean on which he does not fix his vagrant affections. Since he lost that which is really good, any thing can assume the semblance of it, even self-destruction, though it is so manifestly contrary at once both to reason and to nature.
Some have sought happiness in power; some in science or in curious research ; and some in voluptuous pleasure. These three propensities have given rise to three sects; and they who are called philosophers, have merely followed one or other of them. Those who have come nearest to happiness have thought, that the universal good which all men desire, and in which all should share, cannot be any one particular thing, which one only can possess, and which if it be divided, ministers more sorrow to its possessor, on account of that which he has not, than pleasure in the enjoyment of that which he has. They conceived that the true good must be such that all may enjoy it at once, without imperfection and without envy; and that no one could lose it against his will. They have rightly understood the blessing, but they could not find it; and instead of a solid and practical good, they
have embraced its visionary semblance, in an unreal and chimerical virtue.
Instinct tells us, that we must seek our happiness within ourselves. Our passions drive us forth to seek it in things external, even when those things are not actually present to minister excitement. External objects are themselves also our tempters, and entice us even when we are not aware. The philosophers then will but vainly say, "Be occupied with yourselves, for there you will find your happiness." Few believe them; and the few who do, are more empty and foolish than any. For can any thing be more contemptible and silly, than what the Stoics call happiness? or more false than all their reasonings on the subject ?
They affirm that man can do at all times what he has done once ;
and that since the love of fame prompts its possessor to do some things well, others may do the same. But those actions are the result of feverish excitement, which health cannot imitate.
2. The intestine war of reason against the passions, has given rise, among those who wish for peace, to the formation of two different sects. The one wished to renounce the passions and to be as Gods; the other to renounce their reason, and become beasts. But nei. ther has succeeded; and reason still remains, to point out the baseness and moral pravity of the passions, which are still vigorously in action in the hearts of those who aim to renounce them.
3. This then is all that man can do in his own strength with regard to truth and happiness. We have a powerlessness for determining truth, which no dogmatism can overcome: we have a vague notion of truth, which no Pyrrhonism can destroy. We wish for truth, and find within only uncertainty. We seek for happiness, and find nothing but misery. We cannot but wish for truth and happiness; yet we are incapable of attaining either.
The desire is left to us, as much to punish us, as to shew us whence we are fallen.
4. If man was not made for God, why is he never
happy but in God? If man is made for God, why is he so contrary to God?
5. Man knows not in what rank of beings to place himself. He is manifestly astray, and perceives in himself the remnant indications of a happy, state, from which he has fallen, and which he cannot recover. He is ever seeking it, with restless anxiety, without success, and in impenetrable darkness. This is the source of all the contests of the philosophers. One class has undertaken to elevate man by displaying his greatness; the other to abase him by the exhibition of his wretchedness. And what is most extraordinary is, that each party makes use of the reasonings of the other to establish its own opinions. For the misery of man is inferrible from his greatness, and his greatness from his misery. And thus the one class has more effectually proved his misery, because they deduced it from his greatness; and the other established much more powerfully the fact of his greatness, because they proved it even from misery. All that the one could say of his greatness, served but as an argument to the other, to prove his misery; inasmuch as the misery of having fallen, is aggravated in proportion as the point from which we fell is shown to be more elevated; and vice versa. Thus they have outgone each other successively, in an eternal circle; it being certain, that as men increased in illumination, they would multiply proofs, both of their greatness and their misery. In short, man knows that he is wretched. He is wretched, because he knows it. Yet in this he is evidently great, that he knows himself to be wretched.
What a chimera then is man. What a singular phenomenon! What a chaos! What a scene of contrariety! A judge of all things, yet a feeble worm; the shrine of truth, yet a mass of doubt and uncertainty : at once the glory and the scorn of the universe. If he boasts, I lower him ; if he lowers himself, I raise him; either way I contradict him, till he learns that he is a monstrous incomprehensible mystery.
ON AVOWED INDIFFERENCE TO RELIGION.
It were to be wished, that the enemies of religion would at least learn what religion is, before they oppose it. If religion boasted of the unclouded vision of God, and of disclosing him without a covering or veil, then it were victory to say that nothing in the world discovers him with such evidence. But since religion, on the contrary, teaches that men are in darkness, and far from God; that he is hidden from them, and that the very name which he gives himself in the Scriptures, is “a God that hideth himself;" and, in fact, since it labors to establish the two maxims, that God has placed in his church, certain characters of himself, by which he will make himseif known to those who sincerely seek him; and yet that he has, at the same time, so far covered them, as to render himself imperceptible to those who do not seek him with their whole heart, what advantage do men gain, that, in the midst of their criminal negligence in the search of truth, they complain so frequently that nothing reveals and displays it to them ? seeing that this very obscurity under which they labor, and which they thus bring against the Christian church, does but establish one of the two grand points, which she maintains, without affecting the other; and instead of running, confirms her doctrines.
To contend with any effect, the opposers of religion should be able to urge, that they have applied their utmost endeavours, and have used all the means of information, even those which the Christian church recommends, without obtaining satisfaction. If they could say this, it were indeed to attack one of her main pretensions. But I hope to shew that no rational person can affirm this; nay, I venture to assert that none ever