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forms a complete labyrinth. There is no clear passage through it.
I now come to the book of John. It has been said of the nominal author of this book, that he was the immediate disciple of Jesus, and that disciple whom Jesus loved above the rest. Polycarp, who was one of the early Christian martyrs, asserts that he had frequent conference with this John at Ephesus, and it is also said that this book was written at Ephesus. This same John is made to be the author of the book of Revelations at the end of the New Testament; and from all these circumstances, I expect to show that this book was not extant in the first century. In the first place, it must be admitted that this book was either written, or has been interpolated by one of the Platonic Christians. The beginning of the book has a direct plagiarism from Plato's writings. It was Plato who first made use of the terms which we find the book of John commences with ; thus :
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life ; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."
Plato was one of those kind of men who was very fond of rendering every thing very mysterious to the multitude: he was, in fact, little better than a priest. Socrates had taught a simple code of morals and theology; and Plato, who called himself the disciple of Socrates, came, like a demon, to corrupt all that was valuable in the philosophy of his master, Even in the life time of Socrates, Plato was guilty of interpolating and corrupting his writings; and after his death, he annihilated all that was beautiful for its simplicity, in the moral and theological precepts of his master, and set up a new fangled mysterious system of his own. Plato was as much inferior to Socrates in honesty and good intention towards the moral welfare of mankind, as Burke was to Thomas Paine. The close assimilation of Platonism to the early Christianity, was such that it required but a very little concession on each side for direct union. The Platonic philosophy, or rather the Platonic fanaticism and madness, had been current four hundred years when Christianity began to make its appearance, and had made considerable progress through all the Roman provinces. It might be fairly considered a prelude to Chris
Vol. IV. No, 9.
tianity ; for when the followers of the Platonic fanaticism at Rome and other places distant from Greece, first met with the book called John's Gospel, they were struck with admiration at the similarity of ideas, and embraced it instantly. It was the grand impulse to the rise of Christianity above the illiterate multitude. This pretended! Gospel of John, and the Epistles of John, abound in that style of writing which has been termed Platonic love; and the book of Revelations much resembles the Platonic enthusiasm and madness-only the Christian religion is made the ground work of it. I verily believe that all the Epistles we have in the New Testament, were written by those Platonic philosophers; for I do not believe that there was sufficient ability among the first Christians to produce such writings. Independent of all fanaticism and falsehood, the writers have displayed something like ability or learning, such as prevailed among the Academicks. Plato himself had no definitive object for worship: he taught the immortality of the soul, and the éxistence of a God, or rather Gods; but Christianity was just the thing to fill up the deficiency of the Platonic fanaticism. They had then a specific object to proceed upon; and the name of Plato was lost sight of before the more important name of Jesus. Plato as well as Jesus, has been called the son of a virgin.
I find nothing new in the book of John, but the manner of telling the tale ; and like the other books called Gospels, it has its variations and additions. The close of the book forms a sufficient proof that it was not written by the immediate disciple of Jesus, even if there had been such a person, but distinctly alludes to that disciple which Jesus loved, which is said to be John, in a manner that the allusion cannot apply to the author. Speaking of the disciple Jolm, the writer says,
“ This is the disciple which testitieth of these things, and wrote these things : aud we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose iliat even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen."
The last sentence in this quotation is sufficient to falsify the whole book, and to impress our minds, with its being a roma nce So ridiculous an assertion could only have been penned by a marlman ; and he that has credulity enough to imbibe such an assertion as Gospel, must be something more than mai.
I come now to the book called the Acts of the Apostles, which is a continualion of Luke's Gospel, and written by the
same hand. I find nothing here but a repetition of similar matter to that we have passed in the four former books. Sick persons are healed, the dead are raised to life again, and devils are cast out, only that Peter is the principal actor instead of Jesus. Origen, a father of the Christian church, and one of the Platonic Christians, says, that he has seen evil spirits cast out and put to flight by Christians. Josephus says, he has seen it done by a Jew; and I have heard a Catholic Friar, now living, say that he has seen it done at Rome! I am inclined to think that if there had been any truth in the existence of devils, I should have had a visit from some of them ere this, otherwise they are very negligent in their pretended offices. This same Catholic Friar paid me the compliment to say that he thought I was a besom in the hand of God, to sweep away all the rubbish that obstructed the progress of the true Catholic church. I hope my besom will not be worn out until all the nonsense is brushed away, both in Catholic and Protestant church, and all other churches, chapels, and conventicles.
We are told by Luke in this book of the Acts of the Apostles, that all who joined the first Christians had to sell their property, and share it in common with others of the sect. This was the practice of the Esseans; and if this horrid fanaticism had made much progress in its first shape, it would have carried universal misery and destruction with it. Its followers would have been like unto a nest of maggots, that, after devouring all that was common among them, they would have had to devour each other. So strict does this practice of sharing property seem to have been observed, that by way of deterring those who might hold back a trifle in reserve, we are told that Ananias and Sapphira were put to death for it, under the pretence that they had lied to the Holy Ghost ! 'I am inclined to think that the first sect of Christians were guilty of some horrible measures in support of their fraud. The New Testament has frequent hints at those things, by way of reproof, which must convince us that something very bad existed among them.
I must pass over the story about Peter's being liberated from prison by an angel, about the prison doors being thrown open whilst Paul and Silas were confined, and all miracles in the remainder of this book. I have said enough, I believe, to induce the reader to pronounce it all a lie. There is one circumstance in this book which I consider to be worthy of notice, and displays something like a false mixture of incidents.
I mean the names of Saul and Paul. I could never reconcile myself to think but that these two names originally meant two distinct persons, and formed the subject of two distinct tales. I believe that Luke combined those two tales into one-a circumstance very common with the early Christians, when every thing was compiled from hearsay tales.
The different churches were in the habit of corresponding with each other, and each strove for the mastery in relating miraculous tales, which were well known by the writers to be false, but which made a very great impression on the ignorant congregations of the several churches on whom the imposition was intended. In the course of time, these tales were collected and compiled into something like a regular shape, and have formed all the Gospels, Epistles, and Legends, that have circulated from time to time among Christians. The priests were the grand movers, and they have continued to supply their several congregations with new miracles, even up to the present time, or until reason cried hold it is enoughyour baseness is discovered. But to return to Saul and Paul, I would say, the story is by no means clear. Saul is a Jewish, and Paul a Roman name. Besides, Paul is made to be a complete shuffler, and what has been aptly termed, “all things to all men." Ile is a Jew, a Pharisee, a Roman; and in addressing the Athenians, he is not made to say a word about Jesus Christ, further than by a distant hint about the resurrection. It is probable such a character as Paul might have existed, but he seems to have been a wrangler with all the leading Christians, and preferred travelling about with two or three sisters in the Lord, to the company of any male preachers in the same line!
In the nineteenth chapter of this book we are told that some Jews who were not Christians attempted to cast out some devils in the name of Jesus, but that one of the devils gave them a good thrashing for it! We have also a tale in this book about Herod arraying himself in his royal apparel, and being on his throne his courtiers hailed him as a god and worshipped him. This is by no means strange, for all courtiers are ready at all times to do the same thing, but in the case of Herod we are told that an angel of the Lord smote him and he died eaien up with worms. If we may rely on Josephus as an historian we have an anachronism here, and what I have before asserted a mixture of tales which were first related of different persons. The first Herod is said to have died a miserable death as here related, but that was in the infancy of
Jesus according to Matthew's book. Josephus relates the tale of Agrippa being hailed as a God by his courtiers and this seems more likely, as the Herod of that time was but a Tetrarch, the Governor of a province, and had no regal title nor royal authority. This is just like the whole of the historical part of the New Testament,, it is a collection of traditionary and legendary tales put together without order or date, and from time to time has been corrected with the growing intelligence of the age, or as soon as the Christian church became formidable enough to hold a council of Bishops. The Apocryphal New Testament affords ample proof of this assertion.
It is now believed that the Council of Nice which was held during the reigo' of Constantine, in the fourth century made the final arrangement of the books in the book called the New Testament, and rejected those which are to be found in the Apocryphal New Testament and others that are lost. This can only be viewed as an arbitrary selection of that which was most plausible, and likely to create union among the different sects of Christians,—for wherever Christians have possessed what they call liberty of conscience, they have been split into a multitude of sects and cutting each others throats upon the mere difference of opinion on a word. If there was the least prospect that Christianity so called would infest the earth another thousand years, it would be well for the inhabitants of that period that may come under its domicion, if they were again brought under the power of the Pope, for it is not to be denied that all the working classes of society were better fed when surrounded with Abbies and Monasteries than they have ever been since. Every new sect that starts up now, begins to prey upon the labouring class of society : for it is not until it can make some little shew, that persons with
property will identify themselves with it. Whilst the Pope of Rome was in the plenitude of his power, the whole race of priests and monks were supported by persons possessing property, and the poor were liberally relieved from the surplus, but now every thing seems to conspire to throw the burden both of Church and State upon the produce of the industry of the country. Let me not be misunderstood as advocating the cause of the Pope, I am merely pointing out the least of two evils. peat again and again, that I would have no legalised religion whatever. If any portion of the community would voluntarily support a priest from their incomes without compelling another to do the same, they are welcome for me.
I wish every thing to rest upon the force of persuasion.