תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

which surround bim, which leads him to attribute them to a supernatural being. As men increase their knowledge of natural causes and effects, they see less and less need of a supernatural agent. Pbenomena, once as mysterious as the now mysterious production of animalcula in apparently pure water, are now, by the researches of men, traced to their primary causes, and demonstrated in so plain and simple a manner, as to be comprehensible even to the most careless enquirer; and as men advance further and further in their researches into nature and visible phenomena, the idea of a supernatural, superintending being, or God, will be abandoned. He continues: “ With this article therefore our creed begins; and as all the rest are built upon it,mark this, “ so the truth and certainty of it is plain to every man.” Fine logic truly! Excellent and admirable for an Archbishop! What! if eleven lies be built upon one lie, then, that one lie must be true and be a voucher for the truth of all the others? Fine logic indeed! And after having laid such an “excellent” foundation, who cap doubt but that he has created an “admirable" fabric upon it, “how unlikely soever some men would have been to discover it of themselves.” Rather unlikely that a man should discover one lie to be true because another was proposed ; Ah! but then, “duly proposed.” Ab, now I bare hit it; as the assertion true or false was “duly proposed” by an Archbishop, so the truth and certainty of it is, must be; or a prison for your unbelief “plain to every man.” Now for a little more of the Archbishop's admirable logic. “ We know beyond a possibility of doubt, that we now are: (wonderful!) and yet the oldest of us but a few years ago was not. (Astonishing!) How then came we to be?” A query which I should thank you, Sir, or any other man to resolve for me. But, recolleet, Sir, meanly crying out, “Ob! the wonderful works of God!” will not do. I find the word God is only another name for ignorauce; we never make

use of the word God, or refer to a supernatural being till * we discover our own inability, or want of knowledge to ex

plain what is natural, except in the case of the priests, who, by thus working on the ignorance and superstition of the multitude, are enabled to support a trade (I beg pardon, a profession) easy and comfortable to themselves but useless, costly, and inischievous to the rest of society. But more on this posing question by and by.

The Archbishop says, that “there is strong evidence, that the present frame of things is not more than about 6000 years

old; and first parees the premier, not only the mou

old; and that none of us here present are 150 generations
from our first parents.” But where is this strong evidence
to be found? Does the present appearance of things favour
such a conclusion? I answer, no; but, on the contrary,
it proves such a conclusion to be, not only totally devoid of
foundation, but a complete absurdity. The mountains of
salt discovered in Asia would give the lie to any one who
should state that the earth has not been in being 60,000
years, instead of 6000. It would not only be a waste of time
and paper on my part, but it would be an insult to you,
were I to bring forward a long string of arguments on such
a question; for, surely, in the present advanced state of
knowledge, there cannot be a man ranking higher than a day.
labourer, so ignorant of geology as to believe in the Bible ac-
count of the creation? No; the belief in such a tale, like the
belief in witchcraft, must be confiued to the most ignorant and
illiterate of mankind; although interest may induce many of
higher rank outwardly to support it. The evidence as to
the few generations of mankind is equally fallacious. The
Chinese, a people much more to be depended upon, than
the insignificant people whose history and cosmogony the
Archbishop has attempted to support, bave records of their
own nation of 15,000 years standing; during wbich there
must have been at least 500 generations. The Archbishop
would persuade us, that the small number of mankind is a
clear proof that they have not existed many years ou the
earth. “If,” says he, “it be said, that universal deluges
may perhaps have destroyed almost all the race of men, and
so made that seem a new beginning which was pot, we an-
swer, that one such deluge we own; but that no such can pos-
sibly happen according to the common course of nature; con-
sequently this proves a higher power, instead of destroying
the proof of it.” For my part, I never heard a universal
deluge proposed as an argument; and I fully agree with the
Bishop, that no such event can possibly happen according to
the common course of nature. Butif it cannot happen accord-
ing to the common course of nature, it cannot happen at all;
and there is not the least shadow of proof thatever such an event
has bappened; so that his owning one such deluge does not
in the least prop bis supernatural, designing, bigber power.
Bring forward proofs that there has been a universal flood,
before you can expect that any weight of argument will be
attached to the mere Bible account of sucb an event. There
have been, no doubt, many partial deluges wbich bave de-
stroyed great numbers of mankind; and the traditionary ac-

[ocr errors]

counts of such events, emanating perhaps from a few scattered and affrighted survivors, and distorted and exaggerated by every succeeding generation, may, at last, have formed the idea of a universal flood. But is it to floods alone we are to look for causes sufficient not only to destroy the face of nature, but also the whole, or nearly of animal and vegetable life? Does not thc examination of the face of the earth, and that part of it which we are enabled to penetrate, sufficiently prove, that it bas undergone revolutions by far more terrible than what could be occasioned by a flood? The petrified and deeply buried remains of animal life, together with the great quantity of the remains of vegetable matter, found at such an immense depth below the surface, demonstratively prove, that the earth has not always had the face it at present weårs. This not only gives a reason for the small number of mankind, but destroys the Bishop's succeeding arguments, when be says, that the present appearance of the earth proves that it could not be from eternity. They who have well thought of these matters, says the Bishop, will know and confess, that the present constitution of the heavens and the earth, both must have bad a begipuing, and must of itself come to an end. If the Bishop meaus only the appearance, I agree with bim; but if he means that there was a time wben the component parts of this earth were not, and that there will be a time when they sball again be nothing, I widely differ from him; and so inust every man who reasons rightly on the subject. It is proved to a certainty that they cannot be annibilated ; and what cannot be annibilated, we cannot conceive to have had a beginning. For fear of becoming tiresome by troubling you with too long a letter at first, I shall for the present, . conclude, and resume the subject, when I have leisure, on some future day.

RICHARD HASSEL.

P.S. I do not doubt your good intention, Sir, in the selection of books you have sent me and my fellow prisoners, viz. four Bibles, four Coinmon Prayer-books, and four of Watson's Apology for the Bible; but I doubt whether you have pot conceived a very erroneous opinion, or been sadly misinformed, as to our real character. Do you think, Sir, that men who bave left their families, their friends, and their homes, and placed themselves in the way of persecution, at a time when years of solitary confinement was the almost certain result of such a line of conduct, and all for the support

of anti-Christian principles; do you think, Sir, that such men are not acquainted with the Bible ? Must you not rather think, that before men would go to this length in support of their opinions, they must be well acquainted with all that can be said both for and against them? Or do you think, with the Sheriff Whitaker, that we are an ignorant, illiterate set of vagabonds, who entered Mr. Carlile's shop merely for profit? If so, and you will grant me half an hour's couversation, I am confident of being able to convince you to the contrary. Speaking for myself, I can assure you I have given the Bible far more attention than I think it deserves: once read and examined with an unprejudiced mind, it sinks too low in the reader's estimation, ever to obtain a second serious perusal. The prayers are still more useless, as I never pray: my most idle moments are better occupied than they would be at prayers. The Apology for the Bible I long since perused, and I consider it, as all attempts of the kind must be, a complete failure. If, Sir, you could grant me the loan of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or any useful history, or scientific work, I should feel obliged to you; but was I to thank you for the gift of tbe books we have already received, it would be but hypocrisy, it would be an outward sbow of thankfulness not felt.

TO MR. R. CARLILE, DORCHESTER GAOL..

MY DEAR SIR, It has occurred to me that I may perhaps mislead the readers of the Republican, by the use I have made of a certain Greek word in my first Dialogue. I think it therefore a matter of candour to state, that my only authority for this application of the word, is that the epithet is applied by Orpheus to Misé, and that the character of Christ exhibits a total want of amativeness. As to the rest of the Dialogue, it is founded upon quotations from a variety of authors, cited by Voltaire, &c.

I am, my dear Sir, yours truly,
The AUTHOR OF THE THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUES.

TO THE REVEREND JOHN DAVIS, VICAR OF CERNE.

N.

REVEREND Sir,

Newgate, July 23, 1824. It is often said, and in many cases justly, that the formation of new acquaintances causes us to forget the old; and the common saying of “ out of sight out of mind,” is too often verified. But, Sir, as regards you and me, I can on my part, assure you that it is not so in the presentinstance; on the contrary, my old spiritual pastor as often occupies my thoughts as any person I know, and the recollection of our past acquaintance affords me so much pleasure, that I shall not allow trifling circumstances to put an end to it.

You are perhaps, Sir, not aware, how very instrumental you have been in conducing to that high state of happiness and ease of mind with which I am at present so profusely gifted; nor how much you have done towards obtaining for me such distinguished marks of the friendship and esteem of the honest and well informed part of mankind, as I am now continually receiving. But, as all praise should fall where it is due, and in order to give you your rightful share of it, I beg to lay before you a brief history, of my escape from the trammels of priestcraft and superstition, and of my adoption of anti-religious principles.

To the best of my recollection, you became Vicar of Cerne about the year 1810. At that time I was too young to notice whether it was a new doctrine held forth or the old continued, or whether it was true or false; but as I increased in years and heard my elders speaking of the wide difference between the doctrines of the new Vicar and those of the old, (being naturally, for I know not else how it should be, of a reflecting and inquisitive turn of mind) I began to think, that, if the old Vicar taught one set of doctrines, and the new Vicar another, one of the two must be wrong, and, that consequently, it would be no bad speculation to find out which was right. From this pbilosophizing temper, which you can see was evidently occasioned by your new doctrines, I date my first step toward that high degree of intellectual freedom which I at present enjoy, and which you have been the means of accelerating at every successive step I have taken. I had not proceeded far in my enquiry, before I perceived, that, instead of being likely to remove the difficulty, every succeeding step increased it; for, instead of having to decide between only two different doctrines, I found as many score, equally claiming my attention. It is needless to tell you, which I inclined to at one time, or which at another, or what I disliked, or what I approved amongst the numerous tenets; suffice it for you to know, that I decided on none. After remaining some time in this uncomfortable state of inquietude, with no fixed principle for or against

« הקודםהמשך »