Terræ-filius: or, the Secret History of the University of Oxford/Terræ Filius No. II
Terræ-Filius. No. II.
Obsequium amicos, Veritas odium parit. Ter.
Wednesday, January 18.
THERE is not in nature a more senseless piece of imposture, than that common, estabilsh'd maxim, Truth ought not to be spoken at all times. How this hopeful proverb became so current amongst us, or by whom, seems very plain to me; but I will not presume to determine it, lest I should be thought partial in my opinion: but thus much, I suppose, without affronting any body, I may say, that it was first introduced to covet some design, which could not be carried on without concealing the Truth; and I will add, that every design, which cannot otherwise be carried on, is a wicked design; for that Truth tends in its nature either to the disservice of man, or the dishonour of God, or to both (as it certainly does if it ought not to be spoken at all times) is a position big with mischief and falshood; as it dissolves all obligations, civil and spiritual, and reduces all religion, both natural and revealed, to mere chimeras and impositions which have no foundation.
I always thought it the great business of leaning and philosophy to enquire after Truth, and to discover that inestimable jewel (as it used to be called) as far as frail nature will allow us. This is what the greatest med of all ages have profess'd to be their enquiry, and the ultimate end of all their studies: they were so far from believing that Truth was hurful to mankind, that, on the contrary, they thought it the greatest service to their fellow-creatures to pursue it with indefatigable application, and to publish it unreservedly amongst them.
Nay, even in this nation, and in this age, whilst we call it sinful and imprudent to speak the truth, how often do we hear it insisted upon from the pulpit, of what an eternal and divine nature Truth is; that it is unalterable, and varies not with times and seasons? If so, methinks such a dinine blessing ought to be made as popular and diffusive as it can be, for the present and future welfare of mankind.
Our religion, God be praised, is of so excellent and apostolical a constitution, that it needs no craft, nor disguises, to support it; it fears no examination, but demands of all its professors; it is built upon the rock of Truth, and why should the strength and glory of its foundation be kept a secret?
And yet how often do we hear men blamed for blabbing the truth? Nay, how often do we hear some men openly maintain, that, in many points, the common people ought to be deluded, and kept in the dark, for the preservation of government and religion?
Especially, amongst the Clergy; if any one of that function, out of a scrupulous conscience, or a tender regard for mankind, condemns his own body for what he thinks wrong in them, or disputes any doctrine which has been current amongst them, he is told, That, supposing this hopeful point could be made out, yet it became not a clergyman to be concern'd in such dirty work, but that he ought to leave it to the Laity, who are always ready enough upon such occasions.
And we may constantly observe, as Sofia says in my motto, that these communicative men, who cannot keep counsel, but are always divulging the truth, meet with the worst sort of treatment, and are look'd upon as false brethren, and false sons of that church, in which they have the honour to serve: I have before my eyes so many instances of this, especially amongst the wisest and worthiesst of men, that were I to enumerate them, I should be at a loss where to begin.
This has not only a direct tendency to atheism, but is the very essence of atheism itself: it supposes, indeed, that some system of theology is necessary for the good of civil society; but it supposes also that a false one will serve the turn; nay, it supposes farther, and evidently implies, that a false one will serve the turn better than a true one; and why may not one false one, if well contriv'd, do as well as another?
By this artifice every stage-hypocrite, and old libertine in authority imposes upon mankind what ridiculous doctrines, and wicked practices he pleases: it is, says he, a sin to pry into either, or discover them to others, if you cannot help discovering them your self.
Thus have ill-minded priests in all ages wrapt up the amiable truths of religion in a cloud of hard names, and cooked them up, like French ragousts, with so many different ingredients, that no body knows what to make of then; though all believe them, as they are cristen'd, by the name of mysteries.
In the same manner corrupt statesmen, when they are projecting destructive schemes against their country, conceal their designs under plausible colours and a popular outside; well knowing, that if Truth should come to light, their actions will not stand the test of examination, and that the ruin, which they were plotting againsst the publick, will fall heavy upon themselves.
For this reason, both priests and politicians, who under those characters are destroying the religion and liberties of their country, make it their business, as it is their interesst, to siscountenance honest and sincere men, the impartial enquirers after truth, the avowed enemies of falshood and delusion.
In defiance of all these descouragements, I Terræ-Filius, a free-thinker, and a free-speaker, highly incens'd against all knavery and imposture, and not thinking Truth such a terrible enemy to religion and good order, as it has been represented, do hereby declare war against all cheats and deluders, howsoever dignified, or wheresoever residing; the fear of obloquy and ill usage shall not deter me from this undertaking, nor shall any considerations rob me of the liberty of my own thoughts and my own toungue.
In the pursuit of this design, I shall not confine my self to any particular method; but shall be grave or whimsical, serious or ludicrous, prosaical or poetical, philosophical or satyrical, argue or tell stories, weep over my subject, or laugh over it, be in humour, or out of humour, according to whatever passion is uppermost in my breast; whilst I am writing. I do not expect that the passions of my readers should keep time with my own; for I think it full as arbitrary to obtrude my anger or mirth upon others, as it is to impose my faith and opinions: neither do I expect to have it believ'd, when upon some particular subjects I speak with more than ordinary warmth and asperity (Si paulo asperius quam pro meo more expresserim, as a most reverend author has it) that publick spirit and pulick good, abstracted from all selfish motives, are my sole aim; but I hope that even personal resentments may be well grounded, and consequently praise-worthy.
Whilst therefore the British legislature are regenging their injur'd country, and bringing the gigantick parricides to justice, I judge it no improper time to discover other traytors and other pluderers; traytors to the King, whom they have sworn to obey; and plunderers of living societies, as well as of good men deceas'd, their antient founders and benefactors.
The latter of these do not seem to me much less mischievous than the former; they have pillag'd their country of its wealth and its credit; these of its religion and of every good principle; nay, it is not unlikely (since corruption of principles is the sirst step to vice) that our universities, or the spawn issuiing from thence, sirst debauch'd the mornals of these men, and actuated them to those villanies, which they have since committed.
The only difference I can see between them is this; that whereas the traiterous stock-jobbers dispatch'd their wickedness at once, and by their fashness brought down sudden vengeance upon themselves; the traierous gown men proceeded gradually from one corruption to another, and from one iniquity to another; by which means they have hitherto escap'd unpunish'd, and (for ought I can see) will still escape.
However, it is pity, methings, in either case, that the innocent should be involve'd with the guilty; for innocent of both sorts there certainly are. God grant that there may be many!
Having now finish'd all the introduction I design to make to this undertaking, I will proceed in my next paper to expose fraud and corruption to the world, and to set the famous luminaries of Great-Britain, our nurseries of literature and religion, in a new, and in their proper light.