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I charge you, nymphs of Zion, as you go Arm'd with the sounding quiver and the bow, Whilst through the lonesome woods you rove, You ne'er disturb my sleeping love.
Be only gentle Zephyrs there,
To keep off each intruding sound:
But see! he comes! with what majestic gait He onward bears his lovely state!
Now thro' the lattice he appears,
Arise, my fair, and come away.
The dews and soft descending show'rs,
Arise, my fair, and come away.
So let us hasten to some lonely shade,
As all of me, my love, is thine,
Remove the shades of night away;
Glail to behold the light again,
No. 389. TUESDAY, MAY 27.
-Meliora pii docuere parentes.
Nothing has more surprised the learned in England than the price which a small book, intitled Spaccio della Bestia triomfante, bore in a late auction. This book was sold for thirty pounds. As it was written by one Jordanus
* This book was for some time so little regarded, that it sold often for two shillings; the same copy, as above referred to, has since been sold for fifty pounds sterling. There was an edition of it in English, printed in 1713. VOL. VIII.
Brunus, a professed atheist, with a design to de preciate religion, every one was apt to fancy, from the extravagant price it bore, that there must be something in it very formidable.
I must confess, that happening to get a sight of one of them myself, I could not forbear perusing it with this apprehension; but found there was so very little danger in it, that I shall venture to give my readers a fair account of the whole plan upon which this wonderful treatise is built.
The author pretends that Jupiter, once upon a time, resolved upon a reformation of the constellations: for which purpose having summoned the stars together, he complains to them of the great decay of the worship of the gods, which he thought so much the harder, having called seve. ral of those celestial bodies by the names of the heathen deities; and by that means made the heavens as it were a book of the Pagan theology. Momus tells him that this is not to be wondered at, since there were so many scandalous stories of the deities; upon which the author takes occasion to cast reflections upon all other religions, concluding, that Jupiter, after a full hearing, discarded the deities out of heaven, and called the stars by the names of the moral virtues.
This short fable, which has no pretence in it to reason or argument, and but a very small share of wit, has however recommended itself wholly by its impiety to those weak men who would distinguish themselves by the singularity of their opinions.
There are two considerations which have been often urged against atheists, and which they ne
ver yet could get over. The first is, that the greatest and most eminent persons of all ages have been against them, and always complied with the public forms of worship established in their respective countries, when there was nothing in them either derogatory to the honour of the Supreme Being, or prejudicial to the good of mankind.
The Platos and Ciceros among the ancients; the Bacons, the Boyles, and the Lockes, among our own countrymen, are all instances of what I have been saying; not to mention any of the divines, however celebrated, since our adversaries challenge all those, as men who have too much interest in this case to be impartial evidences.
But what has been often urged as a considera tion of much more weight, is not only the opinion of the better sort, but the general consent of mankind to this great truth; which I think could not possibly have come to pass, but from one of the three following reasons:–Either that the idea of a God is innate and co-existent with the mind itself; or that this truth is so very obvious, that it is discovered by the first exertion of reason in persons of the most ordinary capacities; or lastly, that it has been delivered down to us through all ages by a tradition from the first
The atheists are equally confounded, to whichever of these three causes we assign it; they have been so pressed by this last argument from the general consent of mankind, that after great search and pains they pretend to have found out a nation of atheists, I mean that polite people the Hottentots.
I dare not shock my readers with a description of the customs and manners of those barbarians, who are in every respect scarce one degree abové brutes, having no language among them but a confused gabble, which is neither well understood by themselves nor others.
It is not, however, to be imagined, how much the atheists have gloried in these their good friends and allies.
If we boast of a Socrates or a Seneca, they may now confront them with these great philosophers the Hottentots.
Though even this point has, not without reason, been several times controverted, I see no manner of harm it could do to religion, if we should entirely give them up this elegant part of mankind.
Methinks nothing more shows the weakness of their cause, than that no division of their fellow-creatures join with them, but those among whom they themselves own reason is almost defaced, and who have little else but their shape, which can entitle them to any place in the species.
Besides these poor creatures, there have now and then been instances of a few crazed people in several nations who have denied the existence of a Deity.
The catalogue of these is however very short; even Vanini,* the most celebrated champion for the cause, professed before his judges that he be
* Vanini was a priest of irregular life and atheistical principles, which he industriously disseminated. His tongue was cut out and he was burnt at Thoulouse, in February, 1619.