« PreviousContinue »
“To see the sufferings, of my fellow-creatures,
-whom they please they lay in basest bonds;
That makes us slaves, and tell us 'tis our charter." It is true, that we have not that stimulus, which is extorted from the pockets of the poor, to call forth the energies of our minds and bodies. But, we have others, which, to the mind, is more consoling: one of which, is a peaceful and delightful reflection, assuring us, that we have contributed our mite towards the welfare and happiness of mankind; by our endeavours to teach the ignorant, and our efforts to release them, from those groundless terrors and deceptive arts, with which their imprisoned senses have so long been bound by that Faith, which is
“The Priest's strong chain,
DIVINITY.” It is this consolation which buoys us up, while passing through the waters of tribulation: and, though the flood-gates of persecution, may be opened wide, yet, it will not overflow us: even whilst walking through the fire of our enemies, we shall not be consumed; neither shall the flame of their malignant tongues, kindle upon
I have made thus bold, Sir, to address myself to you, knowing you to be a defender of that system which I am compelled to look upon as nothing more than a "fancied vision.” Having made the Old and New Testaments my particular study, during these last four years, in the hope of finding some internal evidence of their authenticity, I have at length discovered that there is none; and that to build upon them, is like resting on a “thing of nought." I shall, therefore, henceforth, fix my dependance, not on doctrines, which
are made and unmade at pleasure ; but upon a pure, uncontaminated, stable, system of morality; which is founded on Reason, and has for its object, general utility. For those doctrines and ceremonies, which are only founded upon things not seen, and things hoped for, can only be beneficial to those individuals, who, in submitting thereto, find it an easy and profitable profession. Thus the priests, taking advantage of the credulity of the ignorant, soon found themselves secure, and ruled over them as they pleased; and who, notwithstanding the increase of knowledge, still continue to claim, through the force of custom, that as a right, which was first obtained by subtilty, and now sanctioned by antiquity. But the age has now arrived in which their doymas shall no longer be held sacred. Men will not tamely submit, to the customs and authority of their credulous fore-fathers; because they find that they have been founded only in ignorance and fraud. Therefore, if I do not obtain some better evidence than I now possess, concerning the utility and veracity of the dogmas of the Christian Religion, I must speedily renounce the name of Christianity, and adopt some other that is more allied to virtue : where the principle of “ doing to others, as we would wish them to do to us,” is less talked of, and more practised.
It is said, that Man, by reason, may controul every propensity; then surely, that which has only existed in opinion, may, by the force of reason, be effectually removed, when found to be erroneous. It is the knowledge of this, which raises the venom of the priesthood against reason. It is carnal, they say. It is at variance with God. It is unable to comprehend the things which are spiritual. But, Sir, do you not affirm that reason is the gift of God? If this be true, where is his wisdom and justice displayed, in giving to us that which is incompatible with our wants and welfare ? For, if our reason be the gift of God, it is our greatest evil; seeing that by it we are drawn aside from that faith, which is so necessary for our salvation, and without which you, moreover, tell us we cannot be saved. It not only deprives us of those inestimable blessings, held forth to us in those books, but it draws us, imperceptibly, to the brink of a dangerous precipice, whence, if what you say be true, we can have no chance of escaping, but a sure and certain doom of falling headlong into an abyss of endless torment; as it is written, that, he that believeth not, shall be damned. But, if this reason be carnal, and unable to comprehend the things which are spiritual, why does your spiritual God invite us to come and reason with him, and to bring forth all our strong reasons, if he knew that the reasoning powers which we possess, were not sufficient to compres hend him ?
The Priests, we find, although they make pretensions of holding familar intercourse with their God, and ascribe to him certain attributes and qualities, which they pretend to expound, by the aid and assistance of his holy spirit, nevertheless cannot agree among themselves, in any one of their dogmas. Yet they will all concur, in drawing their subsistence from the labour of the poor. How is this ? Are they not composed of the same elements, and organized like ourselves ? Are they not, likewise, subject to the same calamities, and infirmities, even the dissolution of their bodies, as other men ? What natural claim can they have, then, to the fruits of our labour ? Is it to their abstemious and moral conduct, that we are to ascribe their “right divine ?" No; we find them, in general, the most lascivious and voluptuous, whenever
the veil of reverence is drawn aside, and all their “ hidden man” exposed. To what purpose, then, are they employed ? Is it to expound the word and will of a God of infinite wisdom, as though he were not competent to make himself understood, without an interpreter? If so, which, among them all, are we to believe, seeing, that so many different explanations of it are given by them ? And, if this be the word of God, cannot we read it and judge for ourselves, without employing another to do it for us? Surely, it is time, then, that they were driven to some more useful employment than that of decorating
their persons with long robes, in which, for a show, they make long prayers, 4 telling us that only, which we might easily know by ourselves. That time, I trust, is fast approaching. The eye of reason, having detected the imposition, and discovered their utter uselessness, the “ Age of Reason” is now exposing them. The spell of superstition is broken. The walls are tottering. And though the “powers that be," aided by prejudice and interest, are endeavouring to support them, yet, having no other foundation, but sophistry and ignorance, fall they must before the “unsophisticated voice of Reason.” We see that the “gangs,” which have been raised in their behalf, are now scattered; and those who have conducted their numerous prosecutions have experienced little else than shame and disgrace--still, should they have the temerity to proceed further, they will find, when too late for them, that their conduct has only hastened, the downfall of superstition.
I have been induced to say thus much, by way of introduction; in order that I might be perfectly understood, before I commence with the body of the work that I have proposed to examine. My intention is to sbow you that the internal evidence of those books, called Old and New Testaments, will not warrant our assent to their genuineness and authenticity. Also, that their style and composition prove them, instead of emanating from an all wise and perfect being, to have been the production of the most ignorant and depraved of all civilised human beings. In so doing, I shall endeavour, as much as possible, to confine myself to the books themselves; and draw from them my conclusions. As it is written, “by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”'5
GIFT OF IRVING LEVY
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW.
Verse 1. “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
Prithee, Doctor, what would you think of that historian, who, whilst writing the genealogy of King George, should say “George, the son of James the first, the son of Henry the seventh ?” Here, vou see, is only a hop, and then a jump to the top! But the next verse, we shall find bringing him down again, step by step.
Verse 2. “ Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren.”
I cannot see, why the brethren of Judas should be introduced, into this genealogy of Jesus, more than the brethren of David, Solomon, and the rest. Were they such an honour to the holy child, Jesu ? No, surely; for we find, that they were all a gang of murderers. Read Gen. xxxvii. 5. and you will there learn, that they hated their brother Joseph, whom they attempted to destroy; and you know, that John says, he that hateth his brother is a murderer. 6 Even while they were mere boys, some of them thought nothing of slaying all the men in the city, in the most treacherous and barbarous manner. 7 And I would also ask you, who are so well acquainted with history, whether you ever heard of a more unfeeling and despotic monster, than Joseph is represented to have been ? When but a child, he was continually sowing discord among his brethren, by telling them his idle dreams; which conduct, Solomon says, is an abomination to the Lord. 8 When a servant, he disturbed the peace of the family, by his misogyny and vanity, because, forsooth! he was a goodly person and well favoured.9 While in prison, he made his fellow prisoners miserable, through his pretensions to fortune-telling. 10 And, after having ingra