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which surround him, 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. Phenomena, 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 ahandoned. 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 Archhishop! 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 can 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." Ah, now I have hit it; as the assertion true or false was "duly proposed" by an Archhishop, 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 Archhishop's admirable logic. "We know beyond a possihility 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 forme. But, recolleet, Sir, meanly crying out, "OhNthe wonderful works of God!" will not do. I find the wdrd God is only another name for ignorance; we never make use of the word God, or refer to a supernatural being till we discover our own inahility, or want of knowledge to explain 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 mischievous to the rest of society. But more on this posing question by and by.
The Archhishop says, that " there is strong evidence, that the present frame of things is not more than about 6000 years 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 ou 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 account of the creation? No; the belief in such a tale, like the belief in witchcraft, must be confined 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 Archhishop has attempted to support, have records of their own nation of 15,000 years standing; during which there must have been at least 500 generations. The Arehhishop 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 not, we answer, that one such deluge we own; but that no such can possibly happen according to the common course of nature; consequently 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 courseof nature. Butifit cannot happenaccording to the common course of nature, it cannot happen at all; and thereis not the least shadow of proof thateversuch an event has happened; so that his owning one such deluge does not in the least prop his supernatural, designing, higher 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 such an event. There have been, no doubt, many partial deluges which have destroyed great numbers of mankind; and the traditionary ac
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 th'. examination of the face of the earth, and that part of it which we are enabled to penetrate, sufficiently prove, that it has 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 wears. 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 had a beginning, and must of itself come to an end. If the Bishop means only the appearance, I agree With him; but if he means that there was a time when the component parts of this earth were not, and that there will be a time when they shall again be nothing, I widely differ from him; and so must every man who reasons rightly on the subject. It is proved to a certainty that they cannot be annihilated ; and what cannot be annihilated, 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.
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 Common Prayer-books, and four of Watson's Apology for the Bible; but I doubt whether you have not conceived a very erroneous opinion, or been sadly misinformed, as to our real character. Do you think, Sir, that men who have 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, tBat 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 1 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, its 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 cousider 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 the books we have already received, it would be but hypocrisy, it would be an outward show 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 Orphens to Mise, and that the character of Christ exhihits 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.
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 thepresentinstance; on the contrary, myold 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 yon 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 had speculation to find out which was right. From this philosophizing 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