LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Conversations on Religion, with Lord Byron
Second Conversation

First Conversation
Kennedy on Scripture
‣ Second Conversation
Third Conversation
Fourth Conversation
Fifth Conversation
Memoir of Byron
Byron’s Character
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At last I met Count G. in the street of Argostoli, and he told me that Lord Byron had resolved to depart to continental Greece in about ten days. I therefore determined to visit him, both from a sense of respect due to him, and to gratify my own curiosity in hearing and seeing a man so distinguished. I rode out to Metaxata, and fortunately found him at home. He received me very politely, and offered me refreshments, which I declined: he then said, “We must have dinner very soon.” I expressed my hope that if he had any engagement he would tell me, and not from mere politeness allow me to interrupt him; he said that he really had none, and was glad to see me, and have an opportunity of conversing with me.

I told him I would have done myself the honour of visiting him before, but I was afraid of intruding; I had, however, been preparing myself to be ready to meet him, and probably had wasted
my time on subjects which he might deem of little importance. He asked me what they were, and on being informed, he smiled, and said, “These certainly are things which I do not trouble myself with at present. I chiefly would desire to hear the motives and the reasons which influenced you to a profession of Christianity, and which convinced you, as a man of sense and reflection, of the truth of that religion.” He asked me what progress I had made in converting B. and C., naming them.

I gave him a faithful and particular account, describing the effects on each, according to their character;—I said, “The misfortune is, these young men are all in health and strength; the world affords them pleasures and delights, which fully occupy their time and care; and at present they esteem it to be both very ungenteel and very unphilosophical, to be strict either in studying religion, or in practising the duties which it inculcates: while their inclinations and prejudices are such,” I added, “it is impossible to expect from them a patient hearing, far less a serious examination of the evidence which I lay before them; for, while I bring forward what I think may be useful, they are lying in wait for critical objec-
tions, and often turn everything into ridicule; then again discussions arise which terminate as distantly as possibly from the point at which we set out.”

I confessed that my hopes were not strong, yet I would go on as long as they wished to meet me, merely with the view of convincing them occasionally of their ignorance, and of the impossibility of their reasoning justly on a subject, of which they knew so little: it might hereafter be productive of benefit to them. If men are once brought, by whatever external cause, to consider the necessity of the question, whether Christianity is, or is not true, they will bestow on it much attention and study: if they do so, the inevitable result will be a conviction of its truth.

Lord B. said that he had met with many who had talked in this way. Some of them were clergymen, who used such arguments with the same indifference with which they often read their prayers, and apparently because it was a part of the duty for which they were paid. He knew one gentleman, a layman, who endeavoured to convert him. He mentioned his name, which I forget; but his arguments, he said, did not make much impression upon him, he did not know why.


I remarked that the clearest arguments would be of no avail if they were addressed to an inattentive or prejudiced hearer. “If your lordship,” I added, “uses that reason, which God has given you, in investigating the evidence of the Christian religion, you cannot fail to be convinced. If you reject it without examination, then that same reason must compel you to admit, that you reject it without knowing its principles, and are influenced not by sound reasonings, but by prejudices resulting from the company you have kept, and from the natural reluctance which every one feels to admit a doctrine so humiliating to the pride of man. If it be alleged that men of great abilities have rejected Christianity, we say that men with equal abilities have adopted it; and these knew more of the subject than those who rejected it: if a man of talent adopts a system of infidelity, because others have done so, he cannot say that he has acted a rational part, unless he can prove, what he would find it difficult to do, that those men of high talents who received Christianity were delirious on this point!”

“I have no wish,” said Lord Byron, “to reject it without investigation; on the contrary, I am very desirous of believing, for I have no hap-
piness in my present unsettled notions on religion.”

“If that be the case,” I replied, “then you have no time to lose. It is your positive duty, as well as your highest interest, to begin immediately, and if you do so with a proper spirit, and persevere a sufficient time, you will arrive at a firm conviction of its truth. You must pray humbly to God to grant you, by his holy Spirit, a sense of your own iniquity, and a proper view of the necessity of a Saviour; and when you have seen this, the propriety and harmony of the doctrines of the Gospel will unfold themselves before you.”

“But I do not see,” he said, “very much the need of a Saviour, nor the utility of prayer. Prayer does not consist in the act of kneeling, nor in repeating certain words in a solemn manner. Devotion is the affection of the heart, and this I feel; for when I view the wonders of creation, I bow to the Majesty of Heaven; and when I feel the enjoyments of life, health, and happiness, I feel grateful to God for having bestowed these upon me.”

“All this is well,” I said, “so far as it goes, but, to be a Christian, you must go farther. Such feelings of devotion as these, I believe, every one experiences, even the most wicked, for they are
forced upon him by the wonders of the Creator, and by the nature of his own constitution. If Christianity did not exist, such feelings might be excited; but as Christianity is revealed to man, and is the only means, hitherto known, by which a sinner can be reconciled to a holy God, and made fit for everlasting happiness, it imperiously demands the attention of every one: for, if true, it follows inevitably, that transitory moments of devotion and gratitude will not be considered as sufficient for qualifying a man for heaven, if he reject that Saviour, the Son of God, who came to die in his stead, that his sins might be forgiven, and that, by believing in him, his heart and affections might be changed, and his conduct and conversation altered. I would entreat your lordship to read your bible most attentively, with humble prayer, that light may be given you to understand it; for, great as your talents are, without the teaching of the holy Spirit, the whole book will be to you sealed, or at most an entertaining history, or a curious fable.”

“I read more of the bible than you are aware,” said Lord B.; “I have a bible which my sister gave me, who is an excellent woman, and I read it very often.” He went into his bed-room on saying
this, and brought out a pocket bible, finely bound, and shewed it to me.

I said, “You cannot do better than read this; but if you have read it so much, it is singular that you have not arrived at the understanding of it. I shall shew you,” I added, “from the bible itself, the authority which there is for a change of heart, before a person can be a true Christian, or comprehend, in a proper manner, the truths contained in this wonderful book.” I then turned over the bible to look for the third chapter of John, but as the chapters were arranged in a different manner from that to which I had been accustomed, and with different titles, I leisurely observed them; in the meantime Lord B. was waiting to be shewn the passage referred to; and as I looked, I happened to say, “I cannot find the place so readily in this bible as in the common bible.”

“Give it to me,” said Lord B., “I will soon find it.” Of course from a feeling of politeness I gave it to him, and told him that I wanted the third of John. I was already near the place, and should soon have found it, but when his lordship wished for the bible, I could not withhold it. I mention this circumstance particularly, because something
was founded on it, to which allusion will hereafter be made. Lord B. found the passage, and we read the solemn declaration, “That unless a man is converted, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I then said, “If your lordship will give me the bible, I will shew you the authority for the other point, indicating the necessity of prayer with a humble heart to enable any one to comprehend the truths of the Gospel.” I then read to him part of the first chapter of the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, and part of the second, in which it is expressly declared that the cross of Christ is to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness. “God has confounded the wisdom of the wise, by means of the things which are low and foolish; no human wisdom can spiritually discern the truths of the Gospel; man must lay aside his own pride and wisdom, and submit to be taught by the Spirit of God. We can know nothing of God, nor his ways, except as he teaches us; we must not come forward with our own notions, to sit in judgment on what he reveals; and if he has revealed to us any part of his will, he demands from us that to which he is entitled; the submission which a child should pay to the instructions of a parent, and those who do not this, will
never understand his will; while, on the contrary, whoever does it, and prays for strength to God, will, for the same reason, be taught it. With respect to the other point—Since we are born, from the fall of our first parents, with affections and inclinations contrary to the will of God, and grow up in indulging those to a greater or less extent in defiance of his precepts, threats, and warnings, it follows that a change of heart and affections is equally necessary, before we can be disposed to obey the will of God, or take the smallest pleasure in doing it. Hence every one, whatever be his rank, must undergo this change, which is a thing as certain as any fact within the circle of human knowledge, supported by authority and reason; however much it has been ridiculed by many, in consequence of the epithets which have been applied to this change, namely, new birth, regeneration, conversion, and new light.”

“Of the wickedness and depravity of human nature, I have no doubt,” said Lord B.; “I have seen too much of it in all classes of society; and under the mask of politeness and patriotism I have found so much vileness and villany, that no one, except those who have witnessed it, can have any conception of; but these doctrines, which
you mention, lead us back into all the difficulties of original sin, and to the stories in the Old Testament, which many who call themselves Christians reject.
Bishop Watson, if I mistake not, rejected, or did not value the bible; the Waldenses, according to Gibbon, rejected it as being a mere history of the Jews, and you will acknowledge that these were good Christians; and the history of the creation and the fall is, by many doctors of the Church, believed to be a mythos, or at least an allegory. Nay, your favourite author, Scott, does not venture to say that it was the devil who spoke to Eve by means of the serpent.“

I replied, “that I was sorry to say that much of what he had advanced was true. Whether or not Dr. Watson undervalued the bible, I did not know; if he did, it was evident, that he was not a real Christian, for the Old and New Testament must stand or fall together. I knew also that many of the German divines, some of them professors of divinity in the colleges, had professed their belief, that the history of these things was a fable or an allegory; but,” I said, “this proves nothing, for we well know, that many of these men are Socinians, or deists in disguise, and the truth or falsehood of the thing cannot be decided on their
authority. If your lordship had ever seen
Dr. Moses Stewart’s work, the Professor of Theology in Andover College, in America, on the Socinian controversy, which is at present under discussion in America, you would see some specimens of German divinity, which would astonish you, and shew you in what light you are to receive the authority of the German divines! I do not remember distinctly what Gibbon says of the Waldenses, as it is some time since I looked at him; but if he says they disbelieved the Scriptures, he must found his statement on the authority of the Roman Catholics against them; for the calumnies against this poor oppressed people were so many and great, that St. Bernard, who appears to have been a pious man, was led sincerely to believe them a set of heretics, and to wish for their conversion and suppression; though we know now from the most unexceptionable documents, that these poor people maintained the doctrines of Christianity in all their soundness and simplicity. With respect to Mr. Scott, your lordship must have cursorily observed what he says; for he has no doubt on the subject, and states, that the whole scope of Scripture, as well as particular passages, point out that it was the Devil; and you must have been
misled by some faint recollection of his refuting
Dr. Adam Clark, who entertains the idea, that the serpent was formerly a beautiful ape; an idea so fantastic, that it affords ground for ridicule and unbelief to those who cannot separate the errors of professing Christians from the clearness and truth of the Christian revelation.”

Lord B. arose from the sofa, and went to a side—table to look at Gibbon, and we spent some time in talking about this insidious enemy of Christianity. The statement was found as his lordship had affirmed, but I pointed out that his authority was that of the church of Rome, the persecuting enemy of these poor Christians, and I said that Jones in his history had so completely settled the claim of these poor people to be considered as the true church of Christ, and the forerunners of the reformation, that Christians of all denominations agreed on the subject. In speaking of Gibbon, I admitted his claim as an eminent historian and fine writer, but I pointed out his gross want of candour and fairness in matters relating to Christianity; and I expressed wonder that any one should quote his authority on the subject, when he is known to be a cowardly and underhand enemy, injuring it, as far as he can, by hints and insinua-
tions, and often by perversions and misrepresentations.

Lord B. said he was not aware that he had mistated or misrepresented anything intentionally. I replied that it had been found to be the case by Mr. Milner, and Mr. Davis, the latter of whom has pointed out and numbered his errors and misrepresentations; and though Gibbon referred to one or two errors which Davis had committed, and which he in a second edition acknowledged and corrected, yet he passes by the whole of the others which still stand unanswered. “Look,” I said, “also at the insinuating and plausible way in which he begins his history of the church, apparently in a very humble and decent manner, but he soon shews the cloven foot; for he states positively that Moses did not relieve the Jews, nor did the Jews believe in the immortality of the soul; and then he quotes Warburton, whose ingenious but fanciful work cannot but be condemned by every Christian.”

Lord B. asked me whether I had read Warburton’s theory. I said I had seen the work repeatedly at a time when I had no interest in these subjects, and now, when I wish to see it, I cannot get access to it. “I have read it,” said Lord B.,
“or rather I have glanced over it. It appears a learned and ingenious work, and I know there are many people who think very highly of his theory.” I replied that I had seen an abstract of his theory repeatedly stated, and could judge that it was easily refuted; “and indeed,” I added, “when I go home I will put down some passages in the Pentateuch itself, which, had Warburton looked at, he would not have adopted so fanciful a theory.”

Lord B. said, “I should like to see them.”—“Do you think,” he asked, “that the Devil really appeared before God, as is mentioned in the book of Job, or is this only an allegorical or poetical mode of speaking?” “I believe it in its strict and literal meaning.” “What are your reasons for doing so?” inquired Lord B. “First,” I replied, “from the authority of our Saviour, who received this among the Jewish Scriptures, as he never blamed the Jews for having entertained a wrong notion of those books which they received as inspired; but, on the contrary, established them all, as then and now received, to be the oracles of God, as is evident from the many passages in which he refers to the Scriptures with the phrase, ‘it is written;’ and where he expressly directs
them to search the Scriptures, for they testify of him. In the second place, Ezekiel mentions Job as a real personage, as does also the Apostle James. In the third place, Satan is, in one sense, as much a servant of God as the holy angels are, as he can only do what is permitted, and the Almighty could crush him to nothing with a word, as easily as he called the world into existence.”

“If it be received in a literal sense,” said Lord B., “it gives one a much higher idea of the majesty, power, and wisdom of God to believe that the Devils themselves are at his nod, and are subject to his control with as much ease as the elements of nature follow the respective laws which his will has assigned them.”

He seemed pleased with the idea, and as it appeared to me that he must have had some erroneous opinion similar to some of the Manicheans, with respect to the power of God over Satan, or the evil principle, I left him a few moments to his reflections, and when he turned towards me, I made a remark in reference to the idea, which I supposed rested on his mind. “Although Christianity exhibits two principles at work, one evil, and the other good, in the moral government of the universe and the natural world, yet these are
very different from the two principles of the Manicheans. In the latter system it would appear as if the good principle had a great deal of difficulty in overcoming the evil principle. In the former there are no such ideas conveyed. For the evil principle is represented as much subject to the omnipotence of God, as it was before it became evil, and its existence and operations are permitted by divine wisdom, only to such an extent, and for such a time, as suits the purposes which the Almighty ruler has in view, and to this end the evil spirit with all his legions of attendant evil angels are as much subservient, and as easily rendered subservient, as the sand which is blown by the wind. I am not ignorant of the absurd opinions which many divines and scholars have given respecting every thing that concerns Job, and the nature and character of the book which records his history: but an accurate and sober examination will shew, that these opinions are all fanciful and founded upon conjecture and hypothesis, a mode of argument which may be occasionally pleasing when used in illustrating a profane author, but intolerable in alluding to one of those books included in the sacred Scripture. It is either an inspired work, or it is not,—if it is
not, it should be excluded from the Scripture, and a little more sober reflection should be shewn in treating of it, by those who call themselves Christians. When examined with attention, it proves, and that in the most beautiful manner, the strictly evangelical views which the patriarchs had of some of the most important doctrines,—indeed, of all the essential doctrines of real religion, and that, too, before the promulgation of the law from Mount Sinai. The omnipotence, purity, omnipresence, wisdom, and mercy of God,—the depravity of human nature, the existence of a divine Redeemer, the resurrection and the punishment of the wicked are clearly indicated; while the erroneous views of Job’s friends with respect to the invariable retribution of wicked men, even in this world, with Job’s contrary opinion, the harshness of his friends, and his own impatience, occasional despair, and presumption, though his principles are sound, and his heart upright, are painted with equal clearness.” Lord Byron again expressed how much the belief of the real appearance of Satan to hear and obey the commands of God added to his views of the grandeur and majesty of the Creator.

Another idea which seemed to please him was that which was furnished to him by an answer I
gave to a question which he put, respecting the formation of man after the image of God. “It is said in the Scriptures,” said
Lord B., “that man was formed after the image of God, and yet God is a Spirit of which no image or idea can be formed, except that it exists and has powers, and we are commanded not to make any image of God, nor represent him by anything of a material nature; how then is man made after his image?” I replied, “the image here mentioned refers to man as created intelligent, pure, and holy in his mind and affections after the image of that infinite knowledge, purity, and holiness, which is in the Godhead, which spirit or image was lost at the fall on the introduction of sin, and requires to be renewed by a power equal to its first creation, before it can be rendered fit for communion with God and for heaven.”

He seemed satisfied with this answer, and reflected several moments on what had been said. After a short pause I proceeded. “There are many great difficulties which appear in the Scriptures to the minds of some, which are very easily answered either by a little examination and comparison of the sacred books, or on inquiring from the weakest Christian. And if Deists would only
make the reasonable supposition that Christians have just as good powers of reasoning as they have, and would not believe anything without proof and evidence more readily than themselves, they would draw the useful conclusion, that many points which appear to them either absurd or impossible, are susceptible of the clearest explanation; which when given, excites the astonishment of the objector, and enables him to see the brightness of the light which pervades every truth in the Scriptures.”

“This might do very well,” said Lord Byron, “in a matter of abstract reasoning, but how will you account for that mass of superstition and hypocrisy which exists not only on the continent, but even to some extent in England, and which I verily believe is the cause of the infidelity of thousands. I have seen,” he continued, “on the continent, both in France and Italy, such instances of hypocrisy and villany, and everything that was detestable in those who were appointed to teach religion; and such ignorance and superstition among the lower classes, particularly among the women, that it is difficult for a man to give much attention to a subject which appears to be so un-
certain and mysterious, and which produces such fruits among its followers.”

“I hope your lordship,” I said, “will always make a distinction between the use and abuse of a thing, nor charge the crimes and the vices of false Christians to the real Christian, since every candid man must admit that it is the want of belief and of the proper Christian principles and spirit which is the cause of such horrible evils.”

“I always take care to do that” said Lord B.; “I know the Scriptures sufficiently well to acknowledge, that if the mild and benignant spirit of this religion were believed and acted on by all, there would be a wonderful change in this wicked world; and I have always made it a rule to respect every man who conscientiously believes the Scriptures, whatever external creed he may profess, and most cordially do I detest hypocrites of all sorts, especially hypocrites in religion. I have known in Italy some instances of superstition which were at once amusing and ridiculous. I have known a person engaged in sin, and when the vesper-bell has rung, stop and repeat the Ave Maria, and then proceed in the sin: absolution cured all. The sins of the head, or dissent from
the Church, is heresy, and requires the severest punishment: the sins of the heart were easily forgiven, they thought, by a merciful God.” He then mentioned some anecdotes illustrative of his statement.

I said, “that these facts only exhibited the extremely low state of religion in the Romish church, and at the very seat of this abominable hierarchy; and it was to be hoped that the efforts which were now making by the Bible and other Societies, would tend in time to remove that darkness and superstition, and enable every man to understand and value the sacred Scriptures. And it was the duty,” I added, “of every one who witnessed such woful scenes of depravity and blindness, to lend his assistance to remedy the evil.”

“The diffusion of knowledge,” said Lord Byron, “has diminished, I am afraid, the number of the believers in Christianity; for in the dark ages, when, every body believed in witches and ghosts, which the diffusion of knowledge has sent to their cells, the belief of Christianity was more general than it is now, at least there were fewer infidels.”

I replied, “that it was impossible to reason accurately on a subject of so extensive a nature
by mere inferences, as so many causes were at work, and the effects so various and complicated. On the one hand we know that the heart might be sincere, and pure in faith before God, while the head abounded with a great many erroneous views, owing to the state of darkness and ignorance which prevailed in the middle ages; while, at this time, the head might have clearer views of scientific, nay of religious subjects, and the heart remain unconverted, neither loving nor believing in God, as revealed in the Scriptures. At the same time it is not incompatible,—in the present day especially,—to find clearness of head and purity of heart combined, though my observations lead me to think that this is not a general result, as the most sincere and humble Christians are found among the lower classes of society, whose knowledge in literature and science is of course nothing. Whether there were more Christians in the dark ages than now, I would not,” I said, “take upon me positively to decide, but, judging from various circumstances, it appeared to me, that, granting the ostensible number of Deists to have been greatly increased, the number of real Christians in the present day surpassed those in the dark ages in a very great
proportion. The real state of the case can only be known at the last day; but taking in view the vast variety of means constantly in action for the teaching and diffusion of Christianity, it was reasonable to suppose, that a very great proportion of those to whom it is addressed, especially in the middling and lower ranks of life, with which his lordship was least conversant, received it; and the number we know will increase, for there are mighty engines at work, which, by the blessing of God, will beat down every obstacle, and renovate the face of the world. The progress of Christianity,” I added, “is now so rapid, or at least of so sensible a nature, that it necessarily attracts the attention of all men, more or less; nor is it a matter of surprise that its enemies, from vanity and a desire to display their talents, should endeavour to check its progress by their writings. The young, the vain, and the ignorant, adopt and retail the paltry, and sophistical, and false reasonings of Deists, or Socinians, not so much from conviction as from a desire to shew that they are emancipated from the prejudices of the nursery; and there are many young men, who, in the delusion of youthful vanity, actually think that they are no common philo-
sophers, if they adopt and repeat the objections of
Hume and Voltaire.”

“But since we have spoken of witches,” said Lord Byron, “what think you of the witch of Endor? I have always thought this the finest and most finished witch-scene that ever was written or conceived, and you will be of my opinion, if you consider all the circumstances and the actors in the case, together with the gravity, simplicity, and dignity of the language. It beats all the ghost-scenes I ever read. The finest conception on a similar subject is that of Goethe’s Devil, Mephistopheles; and though of course you will give the priority to the former, as being inspired, yet the latter, if you know it, will appear to you—at least it does to me—one of the finest and most sublime specimens of human conception.”

I smiled at the singular associations which brought such subjects together in Lord B.’s mind. I said, I agreed with him as to the first, though I had not before considered it in a poetical point of view; but the grandeur of the circumstances readily struck me, when he pointed them out to me, but I was not able to judge of the latter, as it was some time since I had looked at Madame de
Staël’s work on Germany, where an abstract is given, and copious extracts are made from the work. “The authoress praises it in very high terms; but,” I said, “whether owing to want of taste or something else, I had never met with any conception of angels, whether good or bad, or devils, or witches, which conveyed an idea sufficiently high of the goodness of the one class, or of the wickedness of the other. Milton,” I said, “appears to me completely to fail in his angels. His good angels are very good, but they are a little insipid, and the bad angels excite more sympathy and less terror than perhaps he intended. The only fine conception of its kind is the Diable boiteaux, at least it seems to me more original than any other sketch of a devil which I have seen.”

“Do you very much admire Milton?” asked Lord B. “It would be heresy,” I replied, “to say that I do not admire Milton, and in sober earnestness I admire his talents as a poet, but I have no pleasure in the greater part of his Paradise Lost. The weakness of fiction is strikingly manifest to him who knows the simple majesty of divine truth, and he who is much impressed with the latter can have no enjoyment in seeing it
rendered subservient to fiction.” “I do not so greatly admire Milton myself,” said Lord B.; “nor do I admire
Cowper, whom so many people praise.” “Cowper happens to be my favourite among the poets,” I said, “and he is so with a large class of people, and will continue to be so, in proportion as real Christianity spreads, for he has more of moral and divine truth in his poems than any other poet of his rank and poetical abilities. My habits and studies do not lead me to read much poetry, and I am probably a very incompetent judge; but, like many others, I have read Cowper twice or thrice, and may read him oftener, but though I have more than once resolved to read Milton, I have never fairly read him twice, but tired after reading different passages.”

“Do you admire Shakspeare?” enquired Lord B. “By no means to that extent which is generally done.” “Neither do I,” said his lordship. “I lately met with an invective in the Eclectic Review against our poets in general, and in particular against Shakspeare, in which the critic, with that sternness and intrepidity of mind which brings to remembrance the magnanimity of the Puritans, accuses all the poets of having done little good in
their generation to the cause of virtue and religion; that their writings leave us nothing to admire, except the mere eloquence and force of poetry, as their sentiments are often vicious, licentious, and immoral; and with regard to Shakspeare the admiration of the English for him, whether real or affected, approached to idolatry.”

“I was pleased,” I added, “at the earnest and manly tone of the Reviewers, so different from the insipidity and common—place style of many of that fraternity in modern times, although the passage was extracted in another Review as a proof of modern fanaticism.”

Pope”, said Lord B., “is undoubtedly one of the greatest of the English poets, and his merits are little understood by many.” I replied that he was certainly one of the best versifiers in the language, but he was not a particular favourite of mine from his vanity, and from the attacks which he had made on many of his friends: neither had he clear views of religion.

“But,” said Lord Byron, “if you read Spence’s Anecdotes, you will find Pope’s character placed in a clearer and more correct point of view than is often done, and that as a friend, as a son, and
as a member of society, his conduct was not only unimpeachable, but in the highest degree praiseworthy.” I said that I had seen
something from Spence’s work in the Edinburgh Review. “Have you,” asked Lord B., “seen any of the Reviews lately?” I answered, I had seen the Edinburgh, in which there is a review of your lordship’s Tragedies. “Ah that is a subject in which I have failed; I shall write no more tragedies I think,” said Lord B. “Have you,” I asked, “seen the review?” He said he had. “There are some allusions,” I said, “to your lordship in another of the London Reviews—I think in the Literary Gazette—in which they express surprise at your inconsistency, when you say in your Don Juan, that, after Walter Scott, Jeffrey is the man with whom you would find most pleasure in drinking a bottle of Port.”

“They are wrong, nor am I inconsistent,” said Lord B. “For though Jeffrey made a great mistake in the commencement, he was sufficiently chastised for it, and from the time he was sensible of his fault, he has been uniform in a more fair and honourable mode of criticism than some who profess to be more decidedly my admirers. In
fact, he has done as much as could be expected from one who was once my open enemy, and enmities you know should not be everlasting.”

I said, “Certainly, Jeffrey appears to censure your lordship with regret, and he does it in the prettiest, gentlest terms possible, mixing expressions of high admiration for your abilities, with his hopes that you will leave such subjects as Cain, and employ your talents on those which will be honourable to yourself, and useful to others.”

“But,” said Lord B., “they have all mistaken my object in writing Cain. Have I not a right to draw the characters with as much fidelity, and truth, and consistency, as history or tradition fixes on them? Now it is absurd to expect from Cain, sentiments of piety and submission, when he was a murderer of his brother, and a rebel against his Creator.”

“That is true,” I replied, “but they blame you, not for putting such sentiments in the mouth of Cain, but for not putting such sentiments into those of Abel and Adam, as would have counterbalanced the effect of what Cain said. And they moreover urge, that the sentiments of Cain are carried too far, even to the height of blasphemy,
and the effect of this is pernicious on many minds; especially when no counterbalancing effect is produced from the sentiments of the other characters: and, that being the case, it is naturally inferred, that many of the sentiments belong not so much to Cain, as to your lordship, and you have expressed them with all that force, vivacity, and energy, as coming from the heart. The subject was unhappy, but though, from what I know, I believe it would be impossible to expect from you as much strength and force in your expressions of piety, as in those of doubt, and incredulity, and daring murmuring, yet, it was a subject that required to be considered; whether such a work was calculated to be useful to yourself or others; and there is no doubt it has been the reverse, and will continue to be so. We know already that it has been productive of mischief.”

“To myself it has,” said Lord B., “for it has raised such an outcry against me from the bigots in every quarter, both in the church and out of the church, and they have stamped me an infidel without mercy, and without ceremony; but I do not know that it has been, or ever can be, injurious to others.”

“I can mention one instance, at least, of its
mischievous effects which was told me a few days ago, by
Colonel D.:” “What is it?” inquired he. “Colonel D.,” I replied, “read in one of the papers, of a man in distressed circumstances, who one evening brought Cain in his hand to a friend, and read some passages of it to him, in which doubts of immortality, and of justice on earth, are expressed,—and desired his attention to what you said. Next morning he shot himself.” Lord B. looked serious. “I do not quote this,” I said, “as a justification of the man, who may have been driven to insanity before, and who might, in such a state, pervert the writings of the best intentioned authors; but surely everything of a dubious or equivocal nature should be avoided by every honest man, to prevent even the shadow of reason or occasion for the commission of evil.”

“In what work,” asked Lord B., “did this fact appear?” “It was in the newspaper; whether true or false, I cannot say.” “I am very sorry for it,” he replied, “whether it be true or false. Had I known that such an event was likely to happen, I should never have written the book. I would like to see the thing, and I shall ask D. about it.”

I said, if he would permit me, I would take an opportunity of asking Colonel D. in what paper it
was, and then tell his lordship, lest Colonel D. should imagine that I had used his authority unreasonably.

“I certainly,” said he, “never anticipated that the work would have been productive of evil; and in drawing the character of Cain, I prosecuted the conception of it, which the Scriptures enable us to form of him, a daring unbeliever, and blasphemer, and a vile murderer; nor can I conceive why people will always mix up my own character and opinions with those of the imaginary beings which, as a poet, I have the right and liberty to draw.”

“They certainly do not spare your lordship in that respect; and in Childe Harold, Lara, the Giaour, and Don Juan, they are too much disposed to think that you paint in many instances yourself, and that these characters are only the vehicles for the expression of your own sentiments and feelings.”

“They do me great injustice,” he replied, “and what was never before done to any poet.” “But,” I said, “although it may be carried too far, is there not, at least, some foundation for the charge? Virtue and piety are qualities of too insipid a nature to excite a vivid interest in the minds of too many readers; and in order to produce effect
and impression, beings of high talents and evil dispositions may be drawn by the poet as well as figured by the painter; but unless care is taken in drawing some good qualities, in which a noble and virtuous mind must feel delight, the inference will be against the poet, if he seems unable or unwilling to draw anything but that which is bad, however lofty the qualities and actions.
Don Juan, as far as I have understood from the extracts in the reviews, has no counterbalancing effect, in bringing forward good and virtuous characters, nor by the punishment of the wicked; but the hero goes on, prosperous and uncontrolled, from one vice to another, unveiling and mocking at the crimes and vices of mankind.”

“Even in this work,” said Lord B., “I have been equally misunderstood. I take a vicious and unprincipled character, and lead him through those ranks of society, whose high external accomplishments cover and cloke internal and secret vices, and I paint the natural effects of such characters; and certainly they are not so highly coloured as we find them in real life.”

“This may be true; but the question is, what are your motives and object for painting nothing but scenes of vice and folly?” “To remove the
cloke, which the manners and maxims of society,” said his lordship, “throw over their secret sins, and shew them to the world as they really are. You have not,” added he, “been so much in high and noble life as I have been; but if you had fully entered into it, and seen what was going on, you would have felt convinced that it was time to unmask the specious hypocrisy, and shew it in its native colours.”

“My situation,” I replied, “did not naturally lead me into society, yet, I believed, before the publication of your book, that the world, especially the lower and middling classes of society, never entertained the opinion, that the highest classes exhibited models of piety and virtue; nay, from circumstances, we are naturally disposed to believe them worse than they really are.”

“It is impossible you can believe the higher classes of society worse than they are in England, France, and Italy, for no language can sufficiently paint them.” “But still, my lord, granting this, how is your book calculated to improve them, and by what right, and under what title, do you come forward in this undertaking?” “By the right,” he replied, “which every one has who abhors vice united with hypocrisy.” “Then,” I added, “he
that teaches others, should be pure himself; and as your lordship belongs to that class, you cannot complain, if they examine your own conduct to see if your lordship has a right to become a reformer. From what I have seen of
Don Juan, I cannot perceive that morality is much inculcated in it, or that vice, united with hypocrisy, is held up to abhorrence. On the contrary, it is a pure, unvarnished display of vice, and in language by no means calculated to render the Don odious, or the subject odious, to any mind unfortified by sound principles.”

“It is the plan,” said his lordship, “to lead him through various ranks of society, and shew that wherever you go vice is to be found.” “This is a fact already known,” I replied; “and it has also been known by experience, that no satire, however witty, poignant, or just, ever did any good, or converted, as far I have heard, one man from vice to virtue. Neither Horace, nor Juvenal, nor Persius, could stop the torrent of vice, and folly, and crime which inundated Rome, and which finally overthrew it, notwithstanding all the declamations of these satirists. Nor have I heard that Donne’s or Pope’s satires ever effected any good. Your language is not so gross as that of Juvenal or
Persius, yet this is owing to the manners of the times; and while your satire is useless, it will call down on your head the exclamations, both of the virtuous and the vicious; of the former, because they do not perceive in you the proper qualifications of a reformer of morals, nor believe that you have adopted the means calculated to promote such an object, but rather the reverse; while the latter will naturally hate him who unmasks those vices—more particularly if he be stained with any himself.”

“But it is strange,” he answered, “that I should be attacked on all sides, not only from magazines, and reviews, but also from the pulpit. They preach against me as an advocate of infidelity and immorality, and I have missed my mark sadly in having succeeded in pleasing nobody. That those whose vices I depicted and unmasked should cry out, is natural, but that the friends of religion should do so is surprising; for you know,” said he, smiling, “that I am assisting you in my own way as a poet, by endeavouring to convince people of their depravity; for it is a doctrine of yours, is it not? that the human heart is corrupted, and therefore, if I shew that it is so in those ranks, which assume the external marks of politeness and benevo-
lence,—having had the best opportunities, and better than most poets of observing it,—am I not doing an essential service to your cause, by first convincing them of their sins, and thus enable you to throw in your doctrine with more effect?”

“This is a very ingenious turn which your lordship has given to the question, but it will not do. The heart of man is viler than you, with all your talents, can describe, and the vilest actions are often committed in secret by those who maintain a fine character externally. All this is true. But you have not conciliated these unhappy persons to yourself, nor to a new mode of life: you have not shewn them what to do. You may have shewn them what they are, but you have neither shewn them by precept, nor by example, the proper remedy. You are like a surgeon, if I may use a simile from my own profession, who with diabolical delight tears the old rags, ointments, and bandages, from the numerous wounds of his ulcerated patients, and, instead of giving fresh remedies, you expose them to the air, and disgust of every by-stander; laughing, and smiling, and crying out, how filthy these fellows are.”

“But I shall not be so bad as that,” said Lord Byron. “You shall see what a winding up I
will give to the story.” I replied, “I shall be glad to see any winding up, which can have the effect of remedying the pernicious consequences of the first part of the work. But the best way,” I added, “of remedying this is, for your lordship to study Christianity, now that you have time, and the matter is pressed upon you, and then you will know and feel what is right; and when you have exhibited proofs of your conversion, your attempts at reformation will be better received and more successful.”

“But what would you have me to do?” asked his lordship. “I do not reject the doctrines of Christianity; I want only sufficient proofs of it to take up the profession in earnest; and I do not believe myself to be so bad a Christian as many of those who preach against me with the greatest fury, many of whom I have never seen nor injured. They furnish the suspicion of being latent hypocrites themselves, else why not use gentler and more Christian means?”

“I do not commend their conduct. It is wrong and imprudent to preach against individuals, either by name or character, and it is inconsistent with the dignity of a minister of the Gospel. It is beside calculated to exasperate the offender, rather
than to effect a reformation. But,” I continued, “you must excuse these zealous preachers, for their very imprudence proceeds from the high idea they have formed of your talents, and that whatever you do or say is of infinite importance to the church. They think your writings promote infidelity and immorality; and corrupt the youth who are disposed to admire your genius, and bow to your authority, and they act as if the church was in danger. I am not of that opinion, though it is desirable for your own sake, and that of all those whose conduct and principles you may influence, that you should become a Christian. I am not in the least afraid of Christianity, though your talents were much higher than they are; though you were openly to fight against it, your exertions would produce a very limited effect. They would not stagger the faith of the weakest Christian who truly believed, as he could trace everything you said to a complete ignorance of the true nature of Christianity; and as to the vicious, they have found occasions to be so before your lordship was born, and will do so when you are dead and forgotten; and what you could do, would only be to furnish the authority, and the occasion of excuse for some vices, to those who would find others, did
you fail to supply them. Those divines that preach against you have fallen into the same error with many who write against poor
Mr. Belsham, by conceding as much as possible to him, and by soothing and praising him as much as they can,—and more, perhaps, than they ought; differing in the manner in which they treat him, but agreeing in thinking him, like your lordship, a most formidable enemy to the church. Perhaps the best way would be to treat all such with silence and prayer, as long as there are hopes of conversion; and, when this is gone, with pity.”

“But what excuse will you find for that preacher in London, about whom they have lately raised such infamous calumnies, and who has written against me in the Review with which he is connected, as well as preached against me? I do not believe,” he said, “there is the least foundation for the calumny; but how delighted he would have been, had it been raised against me! He would have readily believed it, and many others would have done so too, perhaps; so that I shew a greater degree of Christian charity in believing him innocent, than he would have done towards me.”


“We do not know the heart,” I replied, “but we judge from conduct and conversation. The gentleman to whom you allude may consider it his duty to raise his voice against you as long as you continue in your present mode of writing and acting; but change your conduct, and you will be received with joy and open arms by him, and also by thousands who have never seen your face.”

“Of course a convert to any party is received with gratulation and joy, and, especially, a convert like myself, to whom circumstances have given a much greater degree of notoriety, as well by praise, as by censure, than I ever expected, or desired.”

“Your lordship can remove the one, and increase the other, whenever you please. You have only to examine the causes which prevent you, and you will find that they are futile, and only tend to withhold you from the enjoyment of real happiness; which, at present, it is impossible that you can find.”

“What, then, you think me in a very bad way?” “I certainly think you are,” I replied; “and this I say, not on my own authority, but on that of the Scriptures. No Christian can say that he has been better than your lordship; on the con-
trary, many will acknowledge their hearts to have been more sinful, and their lives as bad, though their rank and talents never placed them in so conspicuous a point of view. But while they thus acknowledge themselves to have been as bad, or worse than your lordship, they consider themselves entitled to say,—considering you simply as a fellow creature, possessed of an immortal soul, which will either be saved, or damned,—that your lordship must be converted, and must be reformed, before anything can be said of you, except that you are bad, and in a bad way.”

“But,” answered he, “I am now in a fairer way. I already believe in predestination, which I know you believe, and in the depravity of the human heart in general, and of my own in particular: thus you see there are two points in which we agree. I shall get at the others by-and-bye; but you cannot expect me to become a perfect Christian at once.”

“There is a wide difference between us, and there are more points of variance than you have calculated,” I said. “Predestination is of no importance in the present state of affairs, whether you believe it, or whether you do not. The
other is important, and the first step, without which, the others would not be useful. But, if you really believe, and feel that you are weak, depraved, and helpless, then you will naturally inquire from whence help may be derived. The Scriptures say,—‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ If you really feel that you are lost, cannot save yourself, and need a Saviour, why not apply to Christ, and seek him as your Saviour?”

“This is going too fast,” said Lord B. “There are many points and difficulties to clear up; when that is done, I will consider what you say.” “What are your difficulties?” I asked. “If the subject is of importance, why not have them cleared and removed? You do not want time; you can reason, and reflect. The means of clearing up these difficulties are at hand. If it were a question of poetry, or of poetic literature, you would search and examine, and soon form your own judgment: on a point of far greater consequence, why do you linger and delay?”

“This is true,” he said; “but here I am, the slave of circumstances, surrounded by things, and people which distract my attention, with nothing to lead me to the consideration of such subjects.”
“Your own judgment, and the consciousness of your own happiness, and that you are not fulfilling the ends of your creation, should lead you to the examination of the subject; and besides, there are no circumstances which bind you with such irresistible power, that you cannot easily surmount and conquer them. Religion must be sought after; your habits and studies must be subdued and laid aside in part, till you have obtained this, and then we may expect to see fruits worthy the high talents which God, whose revelation you neglect, has given you. I wish more earnestly than before, that your lordship would study the subject night and day, till you ascertain its truth, and your difficulties vanish. Every one would help you in your research: small as my abilities and experience are,—they are at your service. And I give you my testimony in the most solemn manner, that if you allow any worldly circumstance to interfere with you, till you have succeeded in the search to which I encourage you, you will have deeply to repent of your neglect.”

“Well, what would you have me to do? How shall I set about it?” “Begin,” I said, “this very night to pray that God would pardon your sins, and grant you understanding to find out the
truth, and continue praying on the one hand, and reading your Bible on the other, and do it with an earnest desire and an unbiassed mind, and the result will be what we so earnestly wish. I do not mean that you are to take the subject on trust; examine it with the strictest scrutiny; weigh every objection, and hear every answer, and give on each side the fairest play: if you do this with justice and candour, you must believe. Ignorance is the mother of infidelity. High as are your attainments, and contemptible as I am in those gifts in which you excel, yet I am ready to prove to you, that, on every subject connected with Christianity, you are very deficient; and that your difficulties, doubts and contradictions proceed from a false, erroneous, and mistaken idea of the subject, which a little more knowledge would easily and infallibly remove.

“Will your lordship bestow on these subjects an earnest and attentive consideration? You will rejoice that you took my advice, when a deathbed arrives; when the tumultuous pleasures of life, and the gay dreams of high ambition, and rank, and fame, pass away, and when the value of life will concentrate in one moment.”

“I shall most certainly study the subject,”
said his lordship seriously, “with due attention.” “And will you,” I added, “keep in mind that I requested you not to be discouraged at first, even though your difficulties and doubts increase? and if the light, force, and clearness of the Christian scheme do not at once appear to you, remember that it will, if you persevere; and you must admit, that nothing can be gained, or understood, without time and labour. Keep your mind unbiassed, fairly weigh every argument, and continue constant in prayer to God, in whom, at least, you believe,—to give you that light which you at present want.”

“But why are these difficulties so great?” asked Lord Byron. “It is not necessary to mention more, when I find sufficient already: there is, for instance, the doctrine of the Trinity, which is alone quite appalling.”

“There is no more difficulty about this, than about any of the others; but there is an increase of difficulty, according to the ideas you have formed of it. Do you think, that the moment a man becomes a Christian, he loses his reason, or any of his other faculties? Look around, and you will find that he is the most cool and sober of all men, and is better qualified to weigh and
scrutinize evidence, than those whose life is a scene of constant bustle and eagerness about the thousand trifles which engage their attention. If the doctrine of the Trinity is absurd, is it not likely that we could see its absurdity as soon as others? That it is above the power of reason to analyze the nature of the Trinity, we admit; and reason tells us that it must be so, till we can comprehend the nature of spiritual existence. Deists, however, endeavour to comprehend, or think it their duty to try to comprehend this mystery; and failing, reject it as absurd, and hence they ridicule faith—as if faith consisted in believing what was unreasonable. All those who are ignorant of real Christianity have these conceptions; and you, while you believe me reasonable on other points, think that I have laid aside my reason in this. You have wrong notions, not only of the nature, but of the object of our belief, which a little more knowledge would rectify. Now I say that what we believe respecting the Trinity is perfectly consistent with reason, and rests on the clearest evidence. We believe that God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for sinners, to make an atonement worthy of his justice, and prepare the way for their salvation; and that
the Holy Spirit applies this sacrifice by exciting faith in those who embrace the way of salvation, and gradually sanctifies them, till they are fit for heaven. We believe that there is but one God, and that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are but one God, the same in substance, power, and glory. We believe this, because the same names, and attributes, and works, are ascribed to them indiscriminately, although in the scheme of redemption there appears a distinction between the offices which each performs. Now keep in mind, that God is a spirit, the modus existendi of which we are perfectly unacquainted with, and shew me where is the absurdity of there being a distinction of three in one essence, in the Godhead; the highest spiritual existence? When we say there are three persons in the Godhead, we are compelled to make use of a name drawn from material objects, which name deceives Deists, who think themselves clear reasoners; yet they want candour to hear the statement we constantly give,—that in using the word Person, we do it from necessity, and mean not that there is as perfect a distinction between the persons of the Trinity, as between three material objects. To say that three material objects are one and the
same, would be both a physical, and mathematical absurdity; because, however similar their bodies were in colour, weight, density, taste, &c., and in the particles of matter which composed them, yet they are essentially three distinct bodies, and must, from the very nature of things, be so. It is absurd in a Deist to say, that this must be the same with spiritual existences. The reasoning is not, nor can be applicable, till he explains what spiritual existence is: when he does, we shall then be able to estimate the weight of his reasonings. The highest reason can explain neither the modus existendi of spiritual essence, nor the modus operandi, disjoined from matter. Believing this to be the case, we rest satisfied with the fact, that there is a distinction in the unity of the Divine Being, so, however, as not to divide the essence; and this rests upon the evidence which supports the whole of the Scriptures. We see no absurdity in it, nor contradiction, nor anything that is revolting to reason. When we confine ourselves to the fact of the three in unity of essence, the source and fountain of spiritual existence, and that each acts a part in the redemption of man, the Father decreeing, the Son fulfilling, the Spirit sanctifying, we perceive a reve-
lation suited to our wants, consoling, and satisfactory. More could not have been revealed of the nature of the Deity, nor of this three-fold distinction. What language could have been made use of to convey to man ideas of spiritual existence, when from his nature he cannot form a conception of mind, nor use one term relating to it which is not borrowed from matter? If a man pry impertinently beyond what is revealed, and by his own reason speculate about the Deity, and the distinct personalities, he must inevitably err. Not a step he takes, not an inference he draws, but must lead him into absurdity and confusion. When the soul is separated from its present fetters, it can then perhaps know more of the nature of spiritual existence, and may know more of the real nature of the distinction of the Godhead, though it seems impossible that it can ever know the Divine Essence; otherwise what is created and dependent, would be equal to that by which it was created, and on which it depends. You will see, therefore, that our belief is simply founded on a fact which reason would never have discovered, revealed by God himself, so far as it is necessary, inasmuch as it lies at the very foundation of the means of our redemption. The
Bible has wisely revealed the fact in a way which is level to the meanest understanding, by embodying the person of the Divine Unity in those offices which directly bear upon our happiness here, and salvation hereafter; but it does not define the fact after the manner of schoolmen, nor give a dissertation on the nature and attributes of the Deity, nor why, nor how they exist. All the absurd errors that have arisen have been from the pride of human nature, for man would be thought wise on subjects which he can never understand while in this present state, and many of those writers who call themselves Christians have done incalculable mischief. I would ask any man, whether he has a clear idea of spiritual existence unconnected with matter. If he says he has, we must consider him insane, because the thing is impossible. If he says he has not, then I would ask on what grounds he reasons about a thing the nature of which he neither knows, nor can know in the present life. That God is a spirit, and exists and acts, we know, but this knowledge comes to our mind through the medium of matter, inferrible from effects which we know matter never could produce; and we know that the self-existent Being, the Creator of all, has revealed to us his
attributes, and that he has sent his Son, who is God, and his Spirit, who is God, to heal our wanderings, to restore us to happiness, and to knowledge, and immortality. More than this the search of man can never discover, till he lay aside the body with which he is clothed.”

“Then what would you do with those Divines,” Lord B. said, “who have written so largely on the Trinity, and the fathers of the Church, and the creed of Athanasius, and others?”

“With respect to the creed of Athanasius, the sooner we get quit of it the better. Granting the inferences to be fairly drawn from what is revealed, they are mere truisms, which the mind perceives at once, and when announced with formality they have something ludicrous in them to the wicked and profane, giving rise to parodies, as in the case of Hone. It throws not the least light upon the subject, and being presented in one abstract form, which is never done in the Scriptures, it provokes abstract discussions. The damnatory clause is reprehensible, for our minds are so constituted, that there are many serious Christians who cannot conceive that these reasonings are fair inferences from Christian revelation, and though they were, cannot see the necessity of annexing
a damnatory clause to anything that is of human composition. With regard to all the writers on the subject, I would make the following distinction. Whenever a man confines himself to shew, by Scripture proofs, that the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and that there is but one Godhead, or unity of essence, he does what is his duty, and he uses that sort of argument by authority, which is the only one suited to the case. But if he mixes abstract reasonings and speculative deductions from the attributes of God respecting the mode of existence, and the office of the three persons of the Godhead, it is certain that he will either fall, or lead others into error. I am not familiarly acquainted with those writings which have professedly treated of the subject of the Trinity; but from what I have seen, it appears that many great divines, who relied on the strength of their own talents, have been justly accused of leaning either to an unity without the distinction of Trinity, or to tritheism.
Dr. Samuel Clarke was accused of the former, and I am afraid gave too great cause for it, from his language. But I am inclined to believe that his error arose from an attempt to define and explain what is, to us, in our present state, indefinable and incomprehensible;
for, conscious of his own abilities, he attempted subjects that were beyond the reach of human capacity, as he has done in his reasoning on the existence and attributes of the Deity à priori.
Newton also is accused of having been an unitarian, though I know not on what grounds. While on the other hand, Dr. Waterland, who opposed Clarke, is accused of having made use of language which savours too much of tritheism. I believe that it is utterly impossible to reason on this subject but in the way of authority drawn from the Scriptures, proving that the Son and Holy Ghost are equal to the Father, admit of a distinction, but constitute but one divine essence. And, whoever attempts more, will only shew his own absurdity, his want of sense, and his want of proper reverence for the Scriptures. No humble Christian ever makes a mistake on this subject. He believes what is revealed, he is conscious he cannot penetrate into these things, and he prays to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as one and the same God, and to each according as he views the offices connected with his own redemption. Deists, when they assert that the Trinity is an incomprehensible and mysterious subject, forget that it is not so in itself, but from the state of human nature,
which cannot comprehend the nature of spiritual existence were it revealed, and which has not been revealed, precisely because it cannot be comprehended at present: but as much of it as is revealed, is plain, easily comprehensible, consolatory, and satisfactory, and implies no more difficulty than any other truth in the Christian revelation. But while I have said so much on this abstract point, I cannot help expressing my surprise how it happens that those who are not religious invariably wish to begin with the subject which appears to them most difficult. The contrary is the case in all the other sciences except religion. Some time ago,
S. and M. pressed me into discussion on predestination. It was in vain I attempted to evade it by asserting they were too ignorant to comprehend it, and that I would take up the subject at a future time. I was, however, compelled to yield to them. But I could not make them understand, that if the end was destined, the means must be so likewise, a connexion which they invariably disunited, by alleging, that if a man was destined to be saved, it was of no importance what he did, he must be saved. Now such a mode of reasoning is absurd, and its absurdity would be seen, were it on any
other subject; but it is impossible for any but a real Christian to reason fairly on Christianity. For if every thing is destined, then the means must be destined, not the end only. Hence a man must be saved, not because he does what he will, that is, uses any means, but because he uses those means which are destined for salvation. But plain as this is, they could not or would not see it, and pronounced the doctrine horrid and unphilosophical: that it is so in their view of it, I readily admit, but it so happens that their view of it is erroneous, the result of their own ignorance. On all these difficult subjects,” I continued,“such as the nature of the origin of evil, the fall of man, the nature of the Trinity, and predestination, I find many who are ready to reason; and however they are disposed to acknowledge their ignorance of many of the sciences, and their deficiency in every branch of literature, yet each thinks himself sufficiently qualified by the strength of his own reason alone, without the help of the Scriptures, of which sometimes they readily acknowledge their ignorance, to investigate these subjects and to form just conclusions; and when it is found impossible to make them comprehend these subjects, or feel their own ignorance, they throw the blame on the doctrines of
Christianity, and on those who believe and defend them.

“This is the wisdom of the world, which by reasoning attempts to find out God, but cannot; but it is not the conduct of those who, like children listening to a parent’s voice, eagerly attend to the revelation which God has given them, and who by prayer, meditation, and reading, endeavour to find out his will. The former will never understand it—the latter will invariably succeed. I therefore advise your lordship to lay aside these subjects for the present, and study Christianity, not in the books of Divines, which are more or less imperfect, even the best of them, while many are full of error; but to commence an attentive and honest examination of the Bible itself, comparing passage with passage, till at last you will find such harmony and clearness in all its parts, and such a light and brightness of wisdom upon the whole, as will leave you in no doubt about its being from God, and its containing the communication of the only way in which you can be saved.”

“You recommend,” said Lord Byron, “what is very difficult. For how is it possible for a person acquainted with the history of the Church,—
with the writings more or less of the most celebrated Divines,—with the questions which have been discussed, and which have convulsed the whole Christian world,—with the errors, the strange and contradictory opinions, which prevail; and above all, to see Christians at the present day split into so many sects and denominations, each envying, hating, and often reviling, at least writing, against one another,—how is it possible to see all this, and yet not inquire into many of those points which have been so much agitated? We have sentences of one Council against the sentence of another; Pope against Pope; book against book; sects rising up and dying away, and new ones succeeding them;—the Pope against Protestants and Protestants against the Pope, and against each other; Arians, Socinians, Southcotians, Methodists, Quakers, Harmonists, and I do not know where to end. Why do these exist to perplex and puzzle the mind? and does it not seem a fair conclusion,—let it alone, and let these people fight among themselves, and when they have settled what religion is, then we can begin to study it.

“I like, however,” he continued, “your mode of religion very much; you knock away the de-
crees of councils; you cast away everything that disagrees with Scripture; the books full of Greek and Latin, of high church and low church divines. You would remove too, I dare say, many of the abuses which have crept into church establishments. I doubt whether the archbishop of Canterbury would consider you a very great friend, nor the Scotch presbytery perhaps. On predestination, however, I do not think as
S. and M.; for it appears to me, just from my own reflections and experiences, that I am influenced in a way which is incomprehensible, and am led to do things which I never intended; and if there is, as we all admit, a Supreme Ruler of the universe, and if, as you say, he has the actions of the devils, as well as of his own angels, completely at his command, then those influences, or those arrangements of circumstances, which lead us to do things against our will, or with ill-will, must be also under his direction. But I have never entered into the depths of the subject, but contented myself with believing that there is a predestination of events, and that that predestination depends on the will of God.”

“You have placed it,” I said, “on its proper foundation. With regard to some of your obser-
vations, the difficulties you mention as lying in the way of Christianity are more apparent than real, and are used only as excuses by those who have no inclination to study it. The differences among Christians, the corruption and abuses of church establishments, are certainly to be much lamented, and if I could remedy them, I would, and so would every honest man, of whatever sect to which he might belong. If each who professed Christianity, not only understood its doctrines clearly, in all their simplicity and spirituality, but reduced them to practice in his life and conversation, the aspect of our religion would be more bright and alluring than it has ever been, or is at present. But, it must be observed, that many profess Christianity, who are not Christians; nay, some teach it who are not so, since it is taken up by many as a liberal profession; such as medicine, or law, by which they gain their daily bread. That such should act according to their dispositions, characters, and circumstances, in a way different to that which religion prescribes, and consequently, in a manner so contrary to its precepts, as to throw a sort of odium and stigma on religion itself, in the estimation of the careless and superficial, is not to be
wondered at: it is equally true, and still more to be regretted, that there are many weak Christians, whose zeal and sincerity are undoubted, yet who, from the weakness of their understanding, attribute an importance to things which are either indifferent or unessential, and who (according to circumstances) either persecute those who think differently, or are persecuted by others equally weak, who differ from them in opinion. From these two classes of people, from their actions, and writings, and conduct, much mischief ensues. Divisions, schisms, and dissensions, are produced; and the more keenly each writes and reasons in defence of his own notions, or those of the party to which he belongs, the more firmly he flatters himself he is in the right, and imagines he is animated with a pure zeal for the church; when, in reality, he is simply gratifying a busy, pragmatical disposition, and confounds the applause of an active partisan to a particular church, with the fervour of a true Christian and follower of Christ. Though, in consequence of these principles, divisions exist in name and external practice among Christians, they afford no excuse to the deist; because a little attention would shew him, that these differences are chiefly
in things indifferent, and unessential, arising from the imperfection of human nature, or from the imperfection of the Christian character, or from hypocrites who mix among them; but, among all those sects that are entitled to the name of Christian, there is a perfect agreement with respect to the fundamental principles. Though a Scotchman, for example, I can conscientiously subscribe to all the articles of the church of England; every Scotchman can do the same; so can all the Independents, Congregationalists, and Methodists; and perhaps all real Church-of-Englandmen would subscribe to the fundamental articles of the other denominations. The absurdity is, that a Scotchman passing the Tweed becomes a dissenter, and an Englishman going to Scotland, becomes the same; a zealous Presbyterian thinks that every church, not founded on presbyteries and synods, is corrupt and unapostolical; a Church-of-Englandman attaches the same importance to bishops, archbishops, deans, &c.; a zealous Independent thinks that the church should be separated from the state, and each church independent of another.

“All such opinions are decidedly wrong, and contrary to the spirit and express precepts of
Christianity. A man of sense laments the existence of such differences, and would, if he could, promote an intimate union among all these orthodox sects, by removing those appendages in the externals of each, which would enable all to approximate nearer to each other.

“The first sentiment which Chalmers ever published was, that all dissenters should be united to the church by some legal measure, which would leave them free on points where, from principle, or weakness of conscience, they differed; and that the name and stigma attached to a dissenter should be buried in oblivion; for there is work enough for all Christians, to preach and teach amidst the pagans which are born, live, and die around us! Though I would sincerely wish to see this union effected, and the different churches reformed, as far as some of the externals are concerned, I do not wish to see this reformation attempted by Radicals: nor do I think that the attacks lately made on the church establishment will have any other result, than to perpetuate the abuses which all must admit. These Radicals have little loyalty, and less piety; at least many of them have openly professed their deistical principles; and no honest man can join in wishing
them success. Their arguments betray their ignorance; and it is evident, if they could succeed, that they would maintain that a nation is as well without, as with a church establishment. No Christian would ever wish to see the money applied to teach religion and morality withdrawn: he might say, that it might be more justly distributed, and given only to those who execute their duty; and that he would like to see real religion flourish in every part of the nation, without the distinction of churchman or dissenter; and that the funds should be applied in such a way, as most effectually to promote these objects exclusively; and that means should be adopted which should tend to repress the ambition of rank, wealth, and indolence, literary or political.

“From such an union, however, I would exclude Arians, Socinians, Swedenborgians, and fanatics of all descriptions; leaving to them, not only toleration, but perfect liberty of conscience. These people have no right to the name of Christians. The Arians deny that the Son is equal to the Father; although he himself expressly declares that he is. The Socinians say, he is not a divine character; yet these sects call themselves Christians, while they reject the testimony of Christ.
The other fanatics are too absurd in their fancies and imaginations to be reasoned with.”

“You seem to hate the Socinians,” said Lord Byron. “Not the individuals,” I replied, “but their principles. I believe their system a terrible delusion, and that there is more hope of a deist, than of a Socinian, becoming a real Christian.”

“But is this charitable?” he asked; “why would you exclude a sincere Socinian from the hope of salvation?”

“I do not exclude him, and certainly I am no judge; nor ought we to judge of the ultimate state of any one; but comparing the Socinian doctrines with those in the Bible, the one or other must be wrong.”

“But they draw their doctrine from the Bible,” said Lord B. “Yes, so do all the fools, enthusiasts, and fanatics; so the Church of Rome founds a system of idolatry, as absurd as ancient or modern paganism, on the Bible. The Socinians reject such parts of the Scripture, as interpolations, or corruptions, which do not suit their scheme; they turn literal things into metaphorical, and metaphorical into literal, until they succeed in representing original sin, the depravity of our nature, the necessity of atonement, and conse-
quently the whole necessity of a revelation, as perfectly useless. Setting aside the evidence on which these doctrines stand, it is obvious, according to their scheme, that there was very little need of a Saviour. The truth is, the Socinians are all unregenerated men; their hearts require to be renewed and their heads enlightened; and their danger is, that they have formed a false system of religion, and cling to it in the hope of safety. If any of them are sincerely seeking the truth, God will in due time teach them, and bring them out of their Socinian delusion; but those who die believing it, die, as far as I can judge, unregenerated, and consequently, according to the Scriptures, die in a most dangerous state.”

“Their religion,” said his lordship, “seems to be spreading very much. Lady B. is a great one among them, and much looked up to. She and I used to have a great many discussions on religion, and some of our differences arose from this point; but on comparing all the points together, I found that her religion was very similar to mine.”

I said I was exceedingly sorry to hear that her ladyship was among such a set, and I hoped that ere long she would see her error and danger. “But,” I added, “were thousands more of the
great, and the noble, and the learned among them, Christianity will stand and raise its head with ultimate success from amidst the ruins of superstition, ignorance, idolatry, and damnable heresies.”

“I should have been pleased,” said Lord B. “that you had known Shelley. I should like to have seen you argue together. You very much remind me of him, not only in countenance, but in your manner of speaking. He was to have been my companion in Greece, poor fellow! had the unfortunate accident which deprived him of life not taken place.”

I replied, that I should indeed have been pleased, were he here now: not that I might argue with him, but that time might have been given to him to change his sentiments, and amend his life. “I never read any of his writings, but I have seen some extracts from them in the ‘Quarterly Review’ and most certainly it would be no honour to resemble him in his opinions, whatever it might be to do so in other respects. From what he says there, he appears to me to have been a man totally destitute of common sense. His poetry may perhaps be fine and sublime, but to me it is perfectly unintelligible; unless so far as it appeared that
the poor man was a virulent hater of Christianity, and ascribed all the evils and miseries of life to its introduction.”

“I do not at all mean to defend his sentiments,” said Lord B., “nor to approve of the mode in which he published them; but Shelley possessed many virtues, and many excellent qualities, and you would have liked him as a companion. He was cool in his manner; yet impassioned, animated, and eloquent in his conversation. I was much amused with him and another gentleman,” (he mentioned the name, but I forgot it;) “one was a Platonist, the other was not; and, after long arguments, they converted each other.”

“A proof,” I said, “that the opinions of neither were sound nor well weighed. Such things do very well for school-boys; but how a man of sense can conscientiously believe in the numbers and ideas of Plato is to me inexplicable. I wish, sincerely, however, that Shelley had been alive, that the wanderings of his imagination had subsided, and that he had become a sober, sensible man, a good Christian, and an honest member of society.”

“He possessed,” said his lordship, “one of the first Christian virtues, charity and benevolence.
His benevolence was universal, and his charity far beyond his means.”

“This is a virtue,” I replied, “and esteemed such among Christians, undoubtedly, but it is not a Christian virtue, unless it proceeds from Christian principles. With Shelley it surely could not be a Christian virtue. I admit that it is a virtue, a heathen or an infidel virtue, if you please; and he has had, and let him have, as much praise from men on account of it as he deserves: but in the sight of God it is nothing, for he has declared that nothing is pleasing to him, but what proceeds from a proper motive and principle, the fundamental point of which, belief in and love to Christ, was unfortunately wanting in Shelley. His fate is lamentable. I heard that he came out either to prosecute his inquiries with a view to overturn Christianity, or to write a book with that intent. Poor man! he little knew against whom he was fighting. His time came, and he died; died with his sins unrepented of and unanealed,—a striking warning to others, as to the opinions they should form, the mode in which they should live, and the necessity of preparing for death and judgment.”

“I see,” said Lord B., “it is impossible to ex-
cite in your mind sympathy, or obtain a proper degree of allowance, for an unfortunate man of fine genius and imagination.”

“I have as much sympathy,” I said, “and more than those who may praise and lament him the loudest; at least I ought to have more, not because a fine poet was lost to the world, but because a fellow-creature died so awfully and suddenly; and, in such a career of wild and infidel principles and sentiments, was summoned to the presence of his judge.”

I observed that by this time the day was declining, and apologized to his lordship for having detained him so long. “The subjects are perhaps more interesting,” I said, “to me than to you, and in pressing them on your notice, with a hope that they may do you good, I am apt to forget times and seasons. I must now return to the city, and I trust and pray that your lordship will give due attention to them; for without a belief in these doctrines, you can never be happy here, nor safe hereafter. God has given you a fine understanding, a knowledge to distinguish between right and wrong. Every subject to which you choose to direct your attention you can master; but there is no art or science
which you can learn by intuition. Bestow then as much of your time on the examination of religion, as you would upon any other subject which may excite your interest, and you will find that it is in every respect most reasonable: and I trust you will become, what I hope one day to see you, an ornament and boast to your country, and an object of joy to every honest and sincere Christian.”

“I intend to study the subject certainly,” said Lord B.; “you must give me time: you see I have begun well; I listen to every thing that is said, but you cannot expect me to become a good Christian all at once; you have found me, have you not? approach nearer to your sentiments than you had expected.”

“You have indeed done so, and I rejoice at it; and I have no hesitation in saying, that I have more hope of your lordship than of the others, with the exception of one: for you have shewn more candour, and patience, than I could possibly have expected.”

“Who is it that you have more hope of than me?” “It is S.,” I said, “though of him I am not certain; the result of all depends on the will of God: yet, judging by human probabilities and
means, I would augur well of S. He possesses a wild and fanciful imagination, has never studied the subject, nor bestowed on it any attention; his mind is full of a Christianity, the result of his own false conceptions; he has therefore despised it; and even now, when he is better informed, his former imaginations run away with him; and notwithstanding the knowledge he has acquired, he bursts forth, and flies into the most fanciful objections, views, and absurdities. But he possesses a sincere, open, and honest understanding; and if this has fair play,—if life is prolonged to him, and his attention continue to be directed to the subject, I have not the slightest doubt but it will terminate in conviction.

“As for the others, I do not know what to think or say. They seem so hardened and indifferent, that the subject appears only as an exercise of their reason, or a means of amusement and ridicule. It is difficult to keep your attention fixed on the subject. You enter into other studies, amusements, and occupations, and religion does not engage your thoughts; thus, you can never understand it. The accidental circumstance of my being here has excited a transient interest and curiosity, which will vanish probably as soon
as we are separated. I shall do what I can among you, and the principal thing which I would urge with you all, is your almost perfect ignorance of the subject, consequently the necessity of studying it. With respect to myself, I have to request, that if I advance an opinion which does not appear well founded, you will ascribe its insufficiency to me; and I beg that you will throw the blame on me rather than on religion; for though I may not be able to explain every thing well, or in a manner satisfactory to you, I beg to assure you that others can. One thing is evident, that every one of you must change your sentiments, and mode of life, before you can be safe; and if you reject religion, it must be at your own peril, and not from any defect in the clearness, force, and evidence of its truth.”

“I own,” said Lord B., “the difficulty of fixing, and continuing one’s attention to such subjects, considering the circumstances in which we are placed, and the strong and urgent calls to other matters. I think, however, that I may say I shall bestow more attention on it than I have hitherto done; but whether I shall reach the standard of orthodoxy, I know not.”

“We have no standard of orthodoxy, except
the leading principles of Christianity, followed by a pure and pious life. I do not wish you, nor any one else, to enter into the mazes of theological speculation. Christianity is a practical thing: reduce it to practice, believing first in the fundamental doctrines, and we shall all be satisfied.

“The best way of understanding the Scriptures, is to take the Bible by itself, and examine its several parts, and what is obscure, or briefly expressed in one part, will be found clearly and fully stated in another. The doctrines are not presented to us in a systematized form, but are declared, applied, and implied, and repeated, according to the actual circumstances of the people and the time in which they were revealed. Many good men, from the love of system, have narrowed, and limited the doctrine of the Scriptures; and in the systems which have been presented to us at different times, there is much which is merely inferential, and, consequently, less certain than that which is direct and positive. Although no system, at least none which I have seen, is free from objections; yet, these are not without their use, inasmuch as they present, in one strict, and concentrated view, the whole of the doctrines and actions which ought to flow from them. We
should, however, never forget that they are the compositions of men liable to error, and though they may be read as assistants, they are never to be taken as the standard of our faith. Whenever a difficulty or dispute arises, it must be settled by the words and meaning of the Scriptures themselves, and not by any thing which an uninspired Christian may write or say.

“I have very few books with me on religious subjects, and none which present a complete view, or systematic arrangement of Christianity, except one. It is perhaps the best that has been published, and I know of none which has been so extensively useful, especially to the poor; and I acknowledge that I have derived more instruction and improvement from it, than from works of greater fame and higher pretensions. It is ‘Boston’s Fourfold State,’ which describes man as he was in a state of innocence, before the fall; in a state of condemnation after it; in a state of begun recovery, or regeneration and sanctification; and in a state of happiness or misery. It has the merit of being short; and though it is written in a plain, and rather antiquated style, it is bold and energetic in its language: every assertion is supported by reference to Scripture,
and it is full of matter and ideas, and some of them striking and original: if you please, I will send it to you; I think that you may read it with great advantage.”

“I shall read it with great pleasure,” said Lord B.; “I have not the least prejudice against the style of our older writers, I am quite accustomed to it, and prefer the force and energy of their language, to the soft harmonious periods of the present day, which have more sound than sense.”

I now rose to depart; and I said to Lord B., “Although I may perhaps have wearied your lordship with so long a lecture, yet, I am so pleased with the attention you have shewn, and I have so much hope that it may be useful, at least so far as to induce your lordship to prosecute the study of Christianity, that I should feel great pleasure to have another opportunity of conversing with you, if agreeable and convenient.”

“I shall be glad to see you at all times, and as often as you can come out. I have no particular engagements. When my friends come from Argostoli, it is on no fixed day.” “Does your lordship intend soon to go to Greece?” “In about ten days or a fortnight all things will be
ready, I believe, for our departure; but there is nothing that can prevent me from seeing and hearing you at any time; and if you should come when I am out riding, just sit down, and take a book, and amuse yourself till I return. You will find”—looking at the books on the side-tables—“something to amuse you, although they are rather upon profane than sacred things.”