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signs of the times without apprehension, or a scoundrel connected with what is called the public press, who does not speculate upon them, and join with the anarchists as the strongest party? Deceive not yourself by the fallacious notion that truth is mightier than falsehood, and that good must prevail over evil! Good principles enable men to suffer, rather than to act. Think how the dog, fond and faithful creature as he is, from being the most docile and obedient of all animals, is made the most dangerous, if he becomes mad; so men acquire a frightful and not less monstrous power when they are in a state of moral insanity, and break loose from their social and religious obligations. Remember too how rapidly the plague of diseased opinions is communicated, and that if it once gain head, it is as difficult to be stopt as a conflagration or a flood. The prevailing opinions of this age go to the destruction of every thing which has hitherto been held sacred. They tend to arm the poor against the rich; the many against the few: worse than this,..for it will also be a war of hope and enterprize against timidity, of youth against age.
Sir Ghost, you are almost as dreadful an alarmist as our Cumberland cow, who is be
lieved to have lately uttered this prophecy, delivering it with oracular propriety in verse:
Two winters, a wet spring,
SIR THOMAS MORE.
That prophecy speaks the wishes of the man, whoever he may have been, by whom it was invented: and you who talk of the progress of knowledge, and the improvement of society, and upon that improvement build your hope of its progressive melioration, you know that even so gross and palpable an imposture as this is swallowed by many of the vulgar, and contributes in its sphere to the mischief which it was designed to promote. I admit that such an improved condition of society as you contemplate is possible, and that it ought always to be kept in view: but the error of supposing it too near, of fancying that there is a short road to it, is, of all the errors of these times, the most pernicious, because it seduces the young and generous, and betrays them imperceptibly into an alliance with whatever is flagitious and detestable. The fact is undeniable that the worst principles in religion, in morals, and in politics, are at this time more prevalent than they ever were known to be in any former age. You need not be told in what manner revolutions in opinion bring about the fate of empires; and upon this ground you ought to regard the state of the world, both at home and abroad, with fear, rather than with hope.
When I have followed such speculations as may allowably be indulged, respecting what is hidden in the darkness of time and of eternity, I have sometimes thought that the moral and physical order of the world may be so appointed as to coincide; and that the revolutions of this planet may correspond with the condition of its inhabitants; so that the convulsions and changes whereto it is destined should occur, when the existing race of men had either become so corrupt, as to be unworthy of the place which they hold in the universe, or were so truly regenerate by the will and word of God, as to be qualified for a higher station in it. Our globe may have gone through many such revolutions. We know the history of the last; the measure of its wickedness was then filled up. For the future we are taught to expect a happier consummation.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
It is important that you should distinctly understand the nature and extent of your expectations on that head. Is it upon the Apocalypse that you rest them?
MONTESINOS. If you
had not forbidden me to expect from this intercourse any communication which might come with the authority of revealed knowledge, I should ask in reply, whether that dark book is indeed to be received for authentic scripture? My hopes are derived from the Prophets and the Evangelists. Believing in them with a calm and settled faith, with that consent of the will and heart and understanding which constitutes religious belief, I find in them the clear annunciation of that kingdom of God upon earth, for the coming of which Christ himself has taught and commanded us to pray.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Remember that the Evangelists, in predicting that kingdom, announce a dreadful Advent! And that, according to the received opinion of the Church, wars, persecutions and calamities of every kind, the triumph of evil, and the coming of Antichrist are to be looked for, before the promises made by the Prophets shall be fulfilled. Consider this also, that the speedy fulfilment of those promises has been the ruling fancy of the most dangerous of all madmen, from John of Leyden and his frantic followers, down to the Saints of Cromwell's army,
Venner and his Fifth-Monarchy men, the fanatics of the Cevennes, and the blockheads of your own days, who beheld with complacency the crimes of the French Revolutionists, and the progress of Buonaparte towards the subjugation of Europe, as events tending to bring about the prophecies; and, under the same besotted persuasion, are ready at this time to co-operate with the miscreants who trade in blasphemy and treason! But you who neither seek to deceive others nor yourself,..you who are neither insane nor insincere, ..you surely do not expect that the Millennium is to be brought about by the triumph of what are called liberal opinions; nor by enabling the whole of the lower classes to read the incentives to vice, impiety and rebellion, which are prepared for them by an unlicensed press; nor by Sunday Schools, and Religious Tract Societies; nor by the portentous bibliolatry of the age! And if you adhere to the letter of the Scriptures, methinks the thought of that consummation for which you look, might serve rather for consolation under the prospect of impending evils, than for a hope upon which the mind can rest in security with a calm and contented delight.