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No. 389 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 389
Tuesday, May 27, 1712. Budgell.

‘Meliora pii docuere parentes.’


Nothing has more surprized the Learned in England, than the Price which a small Book, intitled Spaccio della Bestia triom fante, [1] bore in a late Auction. This Book was sold for [thirty [2]] Pound. As it was written by one Jordanus Brunus, a professed Atheist, with a design to depreciate 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 my self, 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 on 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 several 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 it self 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 never 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 publick 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 Consideration 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 it self; or that this Truth is so very obvious, that it is discoverd by the first Exertion of Reason in Persons of the most ordinary Capacities; or, lastly, that it has been delivered down to us thro’ all Ages by a Tradition from the first Man.

The Atheists are equally confounded, to which ever 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 these Barbarians, who are in every respect scarce one degree above Brutes, having no Language among them but a confused [Gabble [3]] which is neither well understood by themselves or others.