S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
One would fancy that infidels would be exempt from that single fault which seems to grow out of the imprudent fervours of religion; but so it is that infidelity is propagated with as much fierceness and contention as if the safety of mankind depended upon it.
This admirable author [Shakspeare], as well as the best and greatest men of all ages and of all nations, seems to have had his mind thoroughly seasoned with religion, as is evident by many passages in his plays, that would not be suffered by a modern audience; and are, therefore, certain instances that the age he lived in had a much greater sense of virtue than the present.
It is indeed a melancholy reflection to consider that the British nation, which is now at a greater height of glory for its councils and conquests than it ever was before, should distinguish itself by a certain looseness of principles, and a falling off from those schemes of thinking which conduce to the happiness and perfection of human nature. This evil comes upon us from the works of a few solemn blockheads that meet together, with the zeal and seriousness of apostles, to extirpate common sense and propagate infidelity. These are the wretches who, without any show of wit, learning, or reason, publish their crude conceptions with an ambition of appearing more wise than the rest of mankind, upon no other pretence than that of dissenting from them. One gets by heart a catalogue of title-pages and editions, and immediately, to become conspicuous, declares that he is an unbeliever. Another knows how to write a receipt, or cut up a dog, and forthwith argues against the immortality of the soul. I have known many a little wit, in the ostentation of his parts, rally the truth of the Scripture, who was not able to read a chapter in it. These poor wretches talk blasphemy for want of discourse, and are rather the objects of scorn or pity, than of our indignation; but the grave disputant that reads and writes, and spends all his time in convincing himself and the world that he is no better than a brute, ought to be whipped out of a government, as a blot to civil society, and a defamer of mankind. I love to consider an infidel, whether distinguished by the title of deist, atheist, or free-thinker, in three different lights: in his solitudes, his afflictions, and his last moments.
Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele: Tatler, No. 111.
What figure do I make in saying, I do not attack the works of these atheistical writers, but I will keep a rod hanging over the conscientious man, their bitterest enemy, because these atheists may take advantage of the liberty of their foes to introduce irreligion? The best book that ever, perhaps, has been written against these people is that in which the author has collected in a body the whole of the infidel code, and has brought the writers into one body to cut them all off together. This was done by a Dissenter, who never did subscribe the Thirty-Nine Articles,Dr. Leland. But if, after all this, danger is to be apprehended, if you are really fearful that Christianity will indirectly suffer by this liberty, you have my free consent: go directly, and by the straight way, and not by a circuit in which in your road you may destroy your friends; point your arms against these men who, not contented with endeavouring to turn your eyes from the blaze and effulgence of light by which life and immortality is so gloriously demonstrated by the Gospel, would even extinguish that faint glimmering of Nature, that only comfort supplied to ignorant man before this great illumination,them who, by attacking even the possibility of all revelation, arraign all the dispensations of Providence to man.
Edmund Burke: Speech on Relief of Protestant Dissenters, March 17, 1773.
These men, who would take away whatever ennobles the rank or consoles the misfortunes of human nature, by breaking off that connection of observances of affections, of hopes and fears, which bind us to the Divinity, and constitute the glorious and distinguishing prerogative of humanity, that of being a religious creature: against these I would have the laws rise in all their majesty of terrors, to fulminate such vain and impious wretches, and to awe them into impotence by the only dread they can fear or believe, to learn that eternal lesson, Discite justitiam moniti, et non temnere Divos!
Edmund Burke: Speech on Relief of Protestant Dissenters, March 17, 1773.
The others, the infidels, are outlaws of the constitution, not of this country, but of the human race. They are never, never to be supported, never to be tolerated. Under the systematic attacks of these people, I see some of the props of good government already begin to fail; I see propagated principles which will not leave to religion even a toleration. I see myself sinking every day under the attacks of these wretched people. How shall I arm myself against them? By uniting all those in affection who are united in the belief of the great principles of the Godhead that made and sustains the world. They who hold revelation give double assurance to their country.
Edmund Burke: Speech on Relief of Protestant Dissenters, March 17, 1773.
Indisputably, the firm believers in the gospel have a great advantage over all others,for this simple reason, that if true, they will have their reward hereafter; and if there be no hereafter, they can be but with the infidel in his eternal sleep, having had the assistance of an exalted hope through life, without subsequent disappointment, since (at the worst of them) out of nothing nothing can arise, not even sorrow.
Lord Byron: Letter to J. Shepherd, Pisa, Dec. 8, 1821.
There is but one thing without honour; smitten with eternal barrenness, inability to do or to be,insincerity, unbelief. He who believes no thing, who believes only the shows of things, is not in relation with nature and fact at all.
Infidelity gives nothing in return for what it takes away. What, then, is it worth? Everything to be valued has a compensating power. Not a blade of grass that withers, or the ugliest weed that is flung away to rot and die, but reproduces something. Nothing in nature is barren. Therefore, everything that is or seems opposed to nature cannot be true; it can only exist in the shape that a diseased mind imparts to one of its coinages,a mass of base money that wont pass current with any heart that loves truly, or any head that thinks correctly. And infidels are poor sad creatures; they carry about them a load of dejection and desolation, not the less heavy that it is invisible. It is the fearful blindness of the soul.
You should by no means seem to approve, encourage, or applaud those libertine notions which strike at religions equally, and which are the poor threadbare topics of half wits, and minute philosophers. Even those who are silly enough to laugh at their jokes are still wise enough to distrust and detect their characters: for, putting moral virtues at the highest, and religion at the lowest, religion must still be allowed to be a collateral security, at least to virtue; and every prudent man will sooner trust to two securities than to one . Depend upon this truth, that every man is the worse looked upon, and the less trusted, for being thought to have no religion; in spite of all the pompous and specious epithets he may assume, of esprit fort, free-thinker, or moral philosopher; and a wise atheist (if such a thing there is) would for his own interest, and character in this world, pretend to some religion.
Lord Chesterfield: Letters to his Son, Jan. 8, 1750.
No men deserve the title of infidels so little as those to whom it has been usually applied: let any of those who renounce Christianity write fairly down in a book all the absurdities that they believe instead of it, and they will find that it requires more faith to reject Christianity than to embrace it.
Some sciolists have discovered a short path to celebrity. Having heard that it is a vastly silly thing to believe everything, they take it for granted that it must be a vastly wise thing to believe nothing. They therefore set up for free thinkers; but their only stock in trade is, that they are free from thinking. It is not safe to contemn them, nor very easy to convince them: since no persons make so large a demand upon the reason of others as those who have none of their own; as a highwayman will take greater liberties with our purse than our banker.
As the man of pleasure, by a vain attempt to be more happy than any man can be, is often more miserable than most men are, so the sceptic, in a vain attempt to be wise beyond what is permitted to man, plunges into a darkness more deplorable, and a blindness more incurable, than that of the common herd whom he despises and would fain instruct. For the more precious the gift, the more pernicious ever will be the abuse of it, as the most powerful medicines are the most dangerous if misapplied; and no error is so remediless as that which arises, not from the exclusion of wisdom, but from its perversion. The sceptic, when he plunges into the depths of infidelity, like the miser who leaps from the shipwreck, will find that the treasures which he bears about him will only sink him deeper into the abyss.
It is impossible to hear with the slightest degree of respect or patience the expressions of doubt and anxiety about the truth of Christianity from any one who can delay a week to obtain this [Paleys] celebrated View of its Evidences, or fail to read it through again and again. It is of no use to say what would be our opinion of the moral and intellectual state of his mind, if, alter this, he remained still undecided.
John Foster: Life and Thoughts, by W. W. Everts, 67.
No living man is at heart an atheist. It is an incompatible condition. It would require a vacuum in the soul, an utter impossibility. If the desire is not filled with God, it must take up an ism; something to pet, love, admire, and study. To the unknown God would apply to many in the nineteenth century, if they would only open their eyes.
How any scientific man can be an infidel is a perfect wonder to me. For the more one studies out the marvels of creation, the more he is permitted to peep into the penetralia and behold the arcana, the hidden treasures of Gods works, the more he looks at and never, never finds an error in the plan of the universe, the more he beholds the unceasing labors of the worldwhile half sleep in darkness, the other half are toilinga heaven, some shrine beyond the reach of the tangibility of science and analysis, is needed for the soul to take the wings of the morning and fly to. There is no limit to unselfish love.
S. W. Francis, M.D.: Curious Facts concerning Man and Nature, Part II., 1875, 26.
Infidelity and Faith look both through the same perspective glass, but at contrary ends. Infidelity looks through the wrong end of the glass; and, therefore, sees those objects near which are afar off, and makes great things little,diminishing the greatest spiritual blessings, and removing far from us threatened evils. Faith looks at the right end, and brings the blessings that are far off in time close to our eye, and multiplies Gods mercies, which in the distance lost their greatness.
To obliterate the sense of Deity, of moral sanctions, and of a future world,and by these means to prepare the way for the total subversion of every institution, both social and religious, which men have been hitherto accustomed to revere,is evidently the principal object of modern sceptics; the first sophists who have avowed an attempt to govern the world without inculcating the persuasion of a superior power.
Under every possible aspect in which infidelity can be viewed, it extends the dominion of sensuality; it repeals and abrogates every law by which divine revelation has, under such awful sanctions, restrained the indulgence of the passions.
While they study how to bring to pass that religion may seem but a matter made, they lose themselves in the very maze of their own discourses, as if reason did even purposely forsake them who of purpose forsake God, the author thereof.
Religion deserves a candid examination, and it demands nothing more. The fulfilment of prophecy forms a part of the evidence of Christianity. And are the prophecies false, or are they true? Is their fallacy exposed, or their truth ratified, by the event? And whether are they thus proved to be the delusion of impostors, or the dictates of inspiration? To the solution of these questions a patient and impartial inquiry alone is requisite: reason alone is appealed to, and no other faith is here necessary but that which arises as the natural and spontaneous fruit of rational conviction. The man who withholds this inquiry, and who will not be impartially guided by its result, is not only reckless of his fate, but devoid of that of which he prides himself the most,even of all true liberality of sentiment. He is the bigot of infidelity, who will not believe the truth because it is the truth.
Whatever may be thought of particular faiths and sects, a belief in a life beyond this world is the only thing that pierces through the walls of our prison-house and lets hope shine in upon a scene that would be otherwise bewildered and desolate. The proselytism of the atheist is, indeed, a dismal mission. That believers, who have each the same heaven in prospect, should invite us to join them on their respective way to it, is at least a benevolent officiousness; but that he who has no prospect or hope himself should seek for companionship in his road to annihilation, can only be explained by that tendency in human creatures to count upon each other in their despair as well as their hope.
An eloquent historian, beside his more direct, and therefore fairer, attacks upon the credibility of evangelic story, has contrived to weave into his narration one continued sneer upon the cause of Christianity, and upon the character and writings of its ancient patrons. Who can refute a sneer?
To me it appears, and I think it material to be remarked, that a disbelief of the established religion of their country has no tendency to dispose men for the reception of another; but that, on the contrary, it generates a settled contempt of all religious pretensions whatever. General infidelity is the hardest soil which the propagators of a new religion can have to work upon.
Although no man can command his conviction, I have ever considered a deliberate disposition to make proselytes to infidelity as an unaccountable depravity. Whoever attempts to pluck the belief or the prejudice on this subject, style it which he will, from the bosom of one man, woman, or child, commits a brutal outrage, the motives for which I have never been able to trace or conceive.
Richard B. Sheridan: Speech in the H. of C. on the French Revolution.
Unbelievers have not always been honest enough thus to express their real feelings; but this we know concerning them, that when they have renounced their birthright of hope, they have not been able to divest themselves of fear. From the nature of the human mind this might be presumed, and in fact it is so. They may deaden the heart and stupefy the conscience, but they cannot destroy the imaginative faculty.
Robert Southey: Quar. Rev., July, 1823: Progress of Infidelity.
On the contrary, the persons who now set up for Free-thinkers are such as endeavour, by a little trash of words and sophistry, to weaken and destroy those very principles, for the vindication of which freedom of thought at first became laudable and heroic. These apostates from reason and good sense can look at the glorious frame of nature without paying an adoration to Him that raised it; can consider the great revolutions in the universe without lifting up their minds to that superior Power which hath the direction of it; can presume to censure the Deity in his ways toward men; can level mankind with the beasts that perish; can extinguish in their own minds all the pleasing hopes of a future state, and lull themselves into a stupid security against the terrors of it. If one were to take the word priestcraft out of the mouths of these shallow monsters, they would be immediately struck dumb. It is by the help of this single term that they endeavour to disappoint the good works of the most learned and venerable order of men, and harden the hearts of the ignorant against the very light of nature and the common received notions of mankind. We ought not to treat such miscreants as these upon the foot of fair disputants; but to pour out contempt upon them, and speak of them with scorn and infamy, as the pests of society, the revilers of human nature, and the blasphemers of a Being whom a good man would rather die than hear dishonoured.
I would fain ask a minute philosopher, what good he proposes to mankind by the publishing of his doctrines? Will they make a man a better citizen, or father of a family; a more endearing husband, friend, or son? Will they enlarge his public or private virtues, or correct any of his frailties or vices? What is there either joyful or glorious in such opinions? do they either refresh or enlarge our thoughts? do they contribute to the happiness or raise the dignity of human nature? The only good that I have ever heard pretended to, is that they banish terrors, and set the mind at ease. But whose terrors do they banish? It is certain, if there were any strength in their arguments, they would give great disturbance to minds that are influenced by virtue, honour, and morality, and take from us the only comforts and supports of affliction, sickness, and old age. The minds, therefore, which they set at ease, are only those of impenitent criminals and malefactors, and which, to the good of mankind, should be in perpetual terror and alarm.
All the writers against Christianity since the Revolution have been of the lowest rank in regard to literature, wit, and sense; and upon that account wholly unqualified to propagate heresies, unless among a people already abandoned.
Men always grow vicious before they become unbelievers; but if you would once convince profligates by topics drawn from the view of their own quiet, reputation, and health, their infidelity would soon drop off.
Let it consist with an unbelievers interest and safety to wrong you, and then it will be impossible you can have any hold upon him; because there is nothing left to give him a check, or to put in the balance against his profit.
If on one side there are fair proofs, and no pretence of proof on the other, and that the difficulties are more pressing on that side which is destitute of proof, I desire to know whether this be not upon the matter as satisfactory to a wise man as a demonstration.
Deists are effectually beaten in all their combats at the weapons of men, that is, reason and arguments; and they would now attack our religion with the talents of a vile animal, that is, grin and grimace.