forward the cause of human freedom, though by ir-
regular and disorderly movements.
In the early part of the century Leibnitz
had found traces of the opinions of Epicurus
in the books that were most in vogue, and in the men of the great world who were the masters of affairs, and he had foretold in consequence a general overturn in Europe
‘The generous sentiment which prefers country and the general good to life,’ he said, ‘is dying out; public spirit is no more in fashion, and has lost the support of good morals and true religion; the ruling motive in the best is honor, and that is a principle which tolerates any thing but baseness, does not condemn shedding a deluge of blood from ambition or caprice, and might suffer a Herostratus or a Don Juan
to pass for a hero; patriotism is mocked at, and the well-intentioned, who speak of what will become of posterity, are answered by saying that posterity may see to that.
If this mental epidemic goes on increasing, providence will correct mankind by the revolution which it must cause.’
But men had more and more given the reins to brutal passions; and throwing off the importunate fear of an overruling providence, no longer knew of any thing superior to humanity, or more godlike than themselves.
‘What distinguishes man,’ said Aristotle, ‘is the faculty of recognizing something higher and better than himself.’
The eighteenth century refused to look for any thing better; the belief in the divine reason was derided like the cowering at spectres and hobgoblins; and the worship of humanity became the prevailing idolatry.
Art was commissioned to gratify taste; morality had for its office to increase pleasure;