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du feu President MONTESQUIEU
J'AY reçu, Monsieur, avec une reconnoissance tres grande, les deux magnifiques ouvrages que vous avés eû la bonté de m'envoyer, et la lettre que vous m'aves fait l'honneur de m'ecrire sur les æuvres posthumes de My Lord Boling broke : et comme cette lettre me paroit être plus à moi que les deux ouvrages qui l'accompagnent, auxquels tous ceux qui ont de la raison ont part, il me semble que cette Lettre m'a fait un plaisir particulier. J'ay lù quelques ouvrages de My Lord Bolingbroke, et s'il m'est permis de dire comment j'en ai été affecté, certainment il a beaucoup de chaleur: mais il me semble qu'il l'employe ordinairement contre les choses, et il ne faudroit l'employer qu'à peindre les choses. Or, Monsieur, dans cet ouvrage posthume, dont vous me donnes une idée, il me semble que vous prepare une matiere continuelle de triomphe. Celui qui attaque la Religion revelée n'attaque que la Religion revelée; mais celui qui attaque la Religion naturelle attaque toutes les Religions du monde. Si l'on enseigne aux hommes qu'ils n'ont pas ce frein ci, ils peuvent penser qu'ils en ont un autre: mais il est bien plus pernicieux de leur enseigner qu'ils n'en ont pas du tout. Il n'est pas impossible d' attaquer une Religion revelée, parce qu'elle existe par des faits particuliers, et que les faits, par leur nature, peuvent être une matiere de dispute : mais il n'en est pas de même de la Religion naturelle; elle est tirée de la nature de l'homme, dont on ne peut pas disputer, et du sentiment interieur de l'homme, dont on ne peut pas disputer encore. J'ajoute à ceci, Quel peut être le motif d'attaquer la Religion revelée en Angleterre ? on ly a tellement purgé de tout prejugé destructeur qu'elle n'y peut faire de mal, et qu'elle y peut faire, au contraire, une infinité de biens. Je sais, qu'un homme en Espagne
ou en Portugal que l'on va bruler, ou qui craint d'être brulé, parce qu'il ne croit point de certains articles dependans ou non de la Religion revelée, a une juste sujet de l'attaquer, parce qu'il peut avoir quelque esperance de pourvoir à sa defence naturelle : mais il n'en est pas de même en Angleterre, où tout homme qui attaque la Religion revelée l'attaque sans interest, et où cet homme quand il reussiroit, quand même il auroit raison dans le fond, ne feroit que detruire une infinité de biens pratiques pour etablir une verité purement speculative.
J'ay eté ravi, &c.
MONTESQUIEU. A Paris, ce 26 May 1754.
to the AUTHOR. SIR, I AM extremely obliged to you for the magnificent Present you have been pleased to make me of your Books, and for the Letter you did me the honour to write me on Lord Bolingbroke's Posthumous Works. As that Letter seems to be rather more my own than the two Books which accompany it, every reasonable creature being interested therein as well as myself, I enjoy it with particular delight. I have dipped into some of my Lord Bolingbroke's Discourses; and, if I may be allowed to say in what manner they affected ine, I must own that he writes with a good deal of warmth; but methinks he generally employs it against things, whereas it ought to be employed only in painting them. Now it appears to me that, in the posthumous work of which you have given me an account, he hath prepared for you, Sir, continual matter of triumph. He who attacks revealed Religion, attacks revealed Religion only; but, he who attacks natural Religion, attacks all the Religions in the world. Though men should be taught to disbelieve the obligations of revealed Religion, they may still think themselves bound by some other; but it is most pernicious to endeavour to persuade them that they are bound by none at all. It is not impossible to attack a revealed Rcligion, seeing it depends on particular facts, and facts are, in their own nature, liable to be controverted: but that is not the case with natural Religion; for it is drawn from the nature of Man, which cannot be disputed, and from the internal sentiments of mankind, which are equally indisputable. Besides, what motive can there be for attacking revealed Religion in England ? In that country, it is so purged of all destructive prejudices, that it can do no harm; but, on the contrary, is capable of producing numberless good effects. I am sensible that, in Spain or Portugal, a man who is going to be burnt, or afraid of being burnt, because he does not believe certain articles, whether depending or not depending on revealed Religion, hath very good reason to attack it, because he may thereby hope to provide for his natural defence. But the case is very different in England, wlıçre a man that attacks revealed Religion does it without the least personal motive; and where this champion, if he should succeed, nay, should be in the right too, would only deprive his country of numberless real benefits, for the sake of establishing a merely speculative truth. I was charmed, &c.
THE TWO FIRST LETTERS:
WHICH MAY NOW SERVE FOR
A VINDICATION OF THE WHOLE.
SOON after the publication of the two first of these tisement, in the warmest terms of friendship lamenting the displeasure, which my treatment of Lord Bolingbroke had given to that part of the Public, where the Advertiser had an opportunity of making his observations.
There was in this friendly notice so many sure marks of the Writer's regard to the Author of the View; so much good sense, elegance, and weight of authority in the composition; and the whole so superior to every thing, but the force of plain and simple truth, that I had as much pleasure in the honour of the admonition, as I had real pain for the occasion,
He assures me I shall never know from what hand it came; so that when such a Writer will remain unknown, it is foolish as well as indecent to presume to guess.
Yet I am very confident that a Friend so generous could never intend, by keeping himself out of sight, to deprive me of the means of vindicating my conduct to him. I am rather inclined to think, that he took this method to oblige me to convey my Apology to him, which he had a right to expect, through the hands of that Public, which appear to have none : and which yet, I am persuaded, it was his principal concern, I should first satisfy. For I must inform my Reader, that the severe
reflections, proper senti
reflections, I am about to quote, are not his ments, but the sentiments of those whom he is pleased to honour with the name of the Public.
They are introduced in this manner: I am grieved to the heart to find the reception your two Letters meet with from the World.--I am very sure he is; and so, I think, must every good man be; and more for the sake of that World than for minc. For what must an indifferent person think of a World, by profession, Christian, of so exceeding delicate a feeling as to be less scandalized 'at three or four bulky volumes of red-hot Impiéty, because they come from a LORD), than at the cool contempt of such an insult, in a Defender of the Religion of his Country, because he may be a poor Priest or an ignoble Layman? Will not every impartial man lament with me so abject a state of things, as that must be, where atheistic principles give less offence to our politeness, than illmanners; and where, in good company you may be better received with the plague-sore upon you, than the itch?
It veres me (says the anonymous writer) to hear so many positively deciding that the Writer must beby the SCURRILITY and abuse.- -The term is a little strong. But the best of it is, that it is one of those words the Public think themselves at liberty to apply indifferently, either to scandalous abuse or to honest reproof, just as they happen to be disposed to the Author, or the Subject. The equity of this kind of judgment, so readily passed upon authors, had been sufficiently apparent in the case of one much more considerable than the Author of the View. The Author of The Divine Legation of Moses composed a book in support of Revelation; and sensible that the novelty of his argument would give the alarm, and bring down whole bands of Answerers upon him, he did all he could to invite fair quarter. He pubJicly engaged that a candid, and ingenuous Adversary should never repent him of his civility. Answerers, as he foresaw, came down in abundance : but it was not his hap to meet with one who treated him with common good manners. Of about a hundred of these writers, one or two, and no more, he thought fit to answer; and (who can wonder!) without much ceremony. This was