Page images
PDF
EPUB

veries of the Platonic style of writing, particularly the epistle to the Romans. The epistle to the Hebrews I have not noticed, it might be called an epitome of the Old Testament, by which the Jews are enticed to substitute the new religion for the law of Moses. It is generally believed to have been the writing of a distinct person from those who wrote the other Epistles. The style is altogether different and peculiar.

I might have written a volume of ridicule on the book of Revelations but under present circumstances I am induced to pass it by, saying, that it is extremely ridiculous. This is not the only book of Revelation that the early Christians had among them they were as frequent as the Gospels and Epistles. It is high time that we began to seek something more substantial than those dreams and visions, unless we content ourselves with being deluded by those reveries as a pleasing insanity which I cannot admit for a moment. I have a thorough conviction on my mind, that every species of religion, that has been in practice in any age or country whatever, has been founded either by imposture, or in error and false notions. Under this conviction, I have as thoroughly purged my mind of this dross; and the delight I feel from it makes me pass my time in a prison as light as the most careless or the most happy men out of it. I cannot say that I have ever a dull moment, although my situation is that of solitary confinement. I am further impressed with a conviction that religion instead of producing, becomes the bane of morality. Moral virtue is the only essential by which man should regulate his actions in society, and I am certain that whilst the laws of this or of any other country enforce opinions by pains and penalties they will increase hypocrites and persecutors, but not moral men. I have seen a list of the names of those who were last

year

the acting Committee of the Vice Society, and wherever I could trace the private character of either of them I found it to be bad. Wilberforce and Gambier were two of them, and two more hateful hypocrites never broke bread. I feel nothing like personal anger towards any member of that Society as I have made a tool of them, so far, in my attack on superstition, and I hope to have further connections with them yet. They have given a force to my inclinations and dispositions much beyond what I had even hoped when I began my deistical publications, and I hope they will not desert me whilst they have any means of assisting.

I come now to close my account with Mr. Horne, or rather with the gentleman who sent me his book. I broke off froin

!

the review where Mr. Horne asserts that all the histories the Bible contains are credible. I can only answer now, after what I have written on that subject, that if they are credible to him they are by no means so to me. It does not merit the title of history; it is a collection of fables in which some of the incidents mentioned might have occurred, but the only proof of any thing of the kind is, that we have the sect of Jews existing to this day, and they will exist for ever whilst they are treated as outcasts in society, and never intermarry with other sects. The Quakers are equally distinct or more so, and it is exactly on the same ground of confining their marriages within their own sect, or excluding those, who dissent from this practice. If intolerance could be justified on any ground, it would be on that of preventing these distinctions and arbitrary rules in associations, for I verily believe that they are injurious, and ever will be to the general mass of mankind. It leads to a monopoly of interests, and is just as if one nation was to say to another, I will send my merchant ships into your ports, but you shall not send yours into mine. It is a narrowed-minded and bigotted policy, which should be banished from the whole human race. Masonic and Odd Fellows Societies are on the same base, but not so open and visible: still the injury and influence to the whole of a community is the same.

With respect to the credibility of the fables in the Bible, I believe I can say but little more to Mr. Horne: he of course takes all for Gospel : swallows every thing from the wonderful ark and deluge to the wonderful Jonah and the whale, the wonderful turning of Lot's wife to a pillar of salt, and the wonderful conception of a virgin through the ear or the mouth. I have another idea to state about Lot's wife, which is an original, I believe, as I can say, that I have not borrowed it from any person. This pillar of salt must have been a tradition, and its existence is far from being improbable, it might have been raised as a monument of gratitude from time to time, for salt is an important article to the preservation of human life, at least, its importance in the preservation of food is very great. Now the Dead Sea, or Lake Aspheltiles, close by where this pillar of salt is said to have stood, is so deeply im; regnated with salt, that travellers have asserted, if you dip your boot into it, it would come out encrusted. As a token of gratitude, or perhaps as an idol, the figure of a woman might have been moulded with salt, than which nothing is more easy, and this might have given risa

to the fable about Lot's wife. I believe nothing about the five cities which are said to have been swallowed up by the opening of this Lake as tradition abounds every where. Every village in England has its peculiar miraculous stories; but in my accounting for the pillar of salt there is nothing improbable, and the reader has it nearly as cheap as myself, and he may do as he likes with it. I have no wish that he should believe it.

If I have failed in any one thing of my promise, in going through the Bible, it has been in my assertion that I would show that the Jews knew nothing of letters until after the Babylonish captivity. I may not have cleared up this point, for I must confess that my evidence was not strong enough to carry conviction to another mind, although, I have not a doubt myself. Even what is called the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Judah carries a proof with it of having been compiled at Babylon, or after the return of the Jews from that place, and surely ifthe Jews had possessed any written documents before, the Chronicles of their Kings might have been supposed to have been them. The reader must judge for himself on this head, I hope in a short time (say two or three years), to re-write the whole of the Commentary on the Bible, and print it as a Companion. I shall then be able to enlarge, and to correct many errors both of my own, and what the Printer has imposed upon me.

I have been for several weeks past anxious to draw it to a close, for reasons before stated, and which has made me more brief than I should have been, if domestic affairs had been in a different state. I present the whole to the reader as a rough sketch of a book which, in my opinion, is wanted above all others, and I hope and trust, that if any thing should prevent my republishing it as a volume, some more able person will see the necessity of correcting and enlarging upon it. I am certain, from my own experience, that the more this book, called the Bible, be submitted to candid and rational criticism, the more contempt will be felt towards it. I believe I can say now that there is not a letter in it that has escaped my notice, and that at the mention of any subject contained in it, I could refer to it in a moment. It is the difficulty of making any sense or meaning to so great a portion of it that has puzzled so many weak minds, and has made them fancy that there was some supernatural power required to endow them with the comprehension of it, particularly as this notion has been taught by Priests in all countries. It has been said, that the close assimilation of the New Testa

ment to the Prophecies of the Old is a proof of the genuineness and divine authority of them both : but, be it remembered, that the fabricators of the New Testament, or of the Christian religion, had the Old Testament to work by. It was that anxious expectation of the Messiah that wrought fanaticism to such a pitch as to fabricate the story of Jesus and his Disciples, and it is but natural that the Old Testament should have formed the ground work; though if the quotations in the New Testament from the Old be rationally examined, it will be found that they are distorted, and that they no more apply to the subject for which they are used, than they apply to any thing about me. The whole of the ground work of the Christian religion may be found in the second book of Esdras, and whoever fabricated that book, fabricated the Christian religion, unless it be a work of a later date than the origin of Christianity, which I should not think. was astonished at reading it, for I had never read it with attention before. In the same manner all the miracles attributed to Jesus, are but a repetition of the performances of Elijah and Elisha. I am morally and naturally certain that the grounds of the Christian religion are so slender, that the moment it ceases to be protected by penal laws it will fall to the ground. I am inclined to think that another half century will see it expire all over the face of the earth.

Mr. Horne in a note has expressed great fear that Christianity is losing ground in North America; he may be quieted on this head, and safely lay the scene of his fears nearer home. The United States of America will become the hot bed of fanaticism when England has banished it from her shores. Even at this moment fanaticism rages more in America than it does in England. A great portion of the inhabitants of the United States set their face against Paine for writing the Age of Reason, but iheir descendants will execrate their stupidity. It is a singular fact, that the Age of Reason is as much suppressed in America as it is in England, and I doubt whether a dozen copies could be found for sale in all the States. In England it is suppressed only from the fear of the law, in America it is suppressed by public opinion !

Fanaticism seems to travel like the plague, one country is no sooner free from it than we hear of another infected. It has all the properties of the plague, save that it lingers in the human body without inflicting immediate destruction, but of the two, the plague, of whatever species, is much to be preferred. Those who were called Priests and Prophets among

the Jews, those who acted as Priests and Priestesses in the various Pagan Temples, and to the various Oracles, and those who speak in the name of Jesus Christ, are all acting upon the same principle—the common pest of religious fanaticism and imposture.

it has been asserted by some writers, that although man is made for truth, all truths are not made for man. This I take to be a very erroneous idea. Truth is but a very simple thing, and such as the human mind when incorrupt is always capable of receiving. The danger lies in corrupting the mind for a number of years, and then immediately to attack all its prejudices with the truth: it becomes irritated, not only at being disturbed, but with the reluctant idea of acknowledging that it has been so long in error. Thus Mr. Addison, in his evidences of Christianity, brings up an argument that the Pagan writers admitted that the Devils fled at the name of Jesus. If Mr. Addison had lived to the present day, we might have challenged him to prove the existence of such animals as Devils have been depicted to be, then it would have been time enough to pay attention to what Pagan writers or Christian writers had said about them. Again, I say, that the word Devil, is but a word, and not a being, or if so I defy him to make his appearance to me.

I have ever considered Christianity, in courts and palaces, to be a mere conveniency, and never practised with sincerity. It is evidently a religion too degrading for a monarch to act up to its principles, and to retain, at the same time, what is called dignity: we have had many proofs of that by the conduct of the Pope and other priests, towards weak-minded kings. It is well known that although Constantine, the Roman Emperor, embraced the Christian Religion with a great deal of professed sincerity; still he continued to act as supreme pontiff, in performing the Pagan rites. He was the head of both churches at once ! But the Christians played the more insiduous part with him, and got him to side with them, and to root out every volume that had been written by Roman writers, in opposition to their religion, both as to its origin and progress.

We have another anecdote on record, of a king of the Franks, soon after he had been converted to Christianity. A priest was laying down to him, in a very piteous manner, how Jesus had been crucified by the Jews. “Aiter listening a few minutes, the King, drawing his sword in a passion, observed, if I had been there with a few of my fellows, we would have

« PreviousContinue »