« הקודםהמשך »
lowers, we find few qualities such as these and many, very different. It appears from their narratives, that he was a narrow minded, ignorant, superstitious enthusiast—so obscure in his sayings, that his own disciples sometimes did not understand what he meant—and so reserved in his manner, that they durst not ask him, Mark chap. ix. ver. 32: and though he often spake in favour of the poor, yet it does not appear that he ever interposed to protect or assist them, or yet to relieve the oppressed, however miserable their condition.
By his direction to his disciples, “ whosoever is greatest among you, let him be your servant,” he seems to have meant to destroy all distinction of ranks, and consequently every known form of government. By his absurd sayings, Matt. chap. xix. ver. 24, " that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God;" and by his foolish directions to the rich “ to sell all and give to the poor," he seems either to have intended to make a complete equalization of property, and a community of goods, among his followers, or else to have never expected rich men to become his disciples. This direction, if generally followed, would cause a complete revolution in the condition of society-certainly not for the better: for though it might benefit the poor, the lazy, and idle; yet, by burdening the industrious, and providing for the indolent, the prosperity of society would be checked, as well as the motives to exertion of its most industrious members. But the most zealous of his worshippers, when rich, pay no more attention to these divine directions, than those who never heard of his name. · If Jesus possessed knowledge in any of the arts and sciences, he has kept it to himself, and communicated none to his followers. We find no instructions that he gave in any of the useful arts. His directions concerning our moral duties were both imperfect and inconsistent. He gave no instructions concerning civil Governments and legislation, which are so necessary for the protection of person and property; none in mathematics, astronomy, geography, navigation, or natural philosophy, sciences which enlarge our knowledge, and are so useful in many of the affairs of life. He gave no instructions in the various branches of medicine and surgery, which are so necessary to relieve us in sickness, or assist us in accidents-none in literature and philosophy, which improve the mind and exercise the reason. He was greatly · inferior to Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle, as a teacher; and unworthy to be compared with Demosthenes or Cicero as an orator. Even his religious instructions (on which his fame is built) are very imperfect, gloomy, and dogmatical. He institutes no system of religion himself, and did little to establish or propagate that which has been founded on his name. For zeal and exertion in spreading his own doctrines, he cannot be compared with Paul, Origen, Tertullian, and many other of the early fathers of the
church. He was even greatly inferior to many modern divines and missionaries; and as a preacher, he would sink into insignificance of compared with Barron, Tillotson, or Sherlock; Bossuet, Massillon, or Bourdaloue; Blair, Porteus, or Chalmers. What have his followers to admire?
Christian divines have often told us of the great things which Jesus has done for mankind; but his followers have amply repaid him, both in praises and services. After he was crucified at the instigation of his countrymen, they raised him up from the grave to triumph over his enemies, and gave him a name above every thing known among men; they exalted him to the highest heaven, placed him at the right hand of God, and made him equal to the deity. By zeal, intrigue, and force, they established a system of religious worship for his glory, and maintained it by the most stern tyranny, and horrid oppression. In the Crusades, the exertions they made for his honour, were worthy of a better cause, and a more attentive master. They strewed the fields of Palestine with their own, and their enemies' dead bodies, for the possession of his tomb, and the imaginary relics of his cross. They have sacrificed one another by thousands on the rack, in flames, and on the scaffold, for the glory and honour of his name; and they still persecute and imprison those who deny his divinity, and dispute the truth of his doctrines. They compass both sea and land, to make proselytes to his religion; and his worship (besides its enormous cost to the whole community) still occupies a large proportion of their time to attend, and their exertions to support. What could they do more? Surely, the honour paid him, and the exertions made for him, have been equal to the benefits received.
TO THE REVEREND DR. COTTON, CHAPLAIN
Newgate, August 20, 1824. WISDOM, goodness, and power, are amongst the many attributes so gratuitously given to the divinity. Having by the dint of a restless imagination conjured up a phantom, the Spiritualists find it necessary, in order to make the allusion complete, to attribute to it qualities; to give it a will to act, and the power to perform what it wills; to give it passions, that like themselves, it should feel pleasure and pain; in short to attribute to this phantom of a distempered brain every quality which they feel necessary to themselves. That their God is but an exaggerated picture of them
selves, is evident from the manner in which he is described, from the qualities with which he is invested, from the passions by which they pretend he is actuated being so different amongst different nations, so different among people differently situated, and with passions differently modified. Wherever, in searching amonst the theistical writers, we find a description of their God, it will always bear a strong resemblance to the manners, customs, and dispositions of the people, among whom the writer may have happened to have had his existence. Wherever we find described a cruel, revengeful, and bloodthirsty God, if we search further into their history we shall find a cruel, revengeful, and bloodthirsty people; and, on the contrary, where we find a mild, merciful, and peaceful God, there we shall find a people with similar traits. This clearly proves, that wherever man has attempted to describe his God, he has never made him otherwise than an exaggerated picture of himself—has never ascribed to him other qualities than such as he himself possessed, or felt the effects of-has never ascribed to him other passions, than such as he saw govern the actions of his fellow-men. Indeed it could not be otherwise: man cannot receive an idea otherwise than through the medium of his senses; he has never received through this medium any idea of a God; consequently if he attempts to describe the phamtom he calls God, it will be but a description of a combination of ideas received from realities. He knows nothing of any real existence under the name of God he has no real idea attached to the word, consequently he cannot describe any. That the Archbishop has done no more than this, a short analysis will make fully appear.
“What wisdom and power must it be then, which hath peopled the world in this manner, and made such provision for the supper of all its inhabitants." Wisdom is the name of a quality; and is applied to a person whose judgment ever directs his actions so as to obtain the object he has in view. That men should apply this quality to the divinity is not surprising, as it is so rare and so valuable among themselves, and so necessary to the completion of all their undertakings. But that they did not show their wisdom in so applying it will be clearly seen, by attention to the views they have ascribed to the divinity, and the history they give us of the actual results. He is represented as having created man for the enjoyment of uninterrupted pleasure; according to their own account man soon became the most miserable being in existence. Man is represented as being under his peculiar care and created for his honour and glory; yet they say that man hath fallen into evil and hath dishonoured his God. The divinity is represented as styling the work of his hands good; yet they tell us the whole earth soon became an abomination to him. He is represented as coming himself on earth, that all nations should believe in him and know his will; yet not a tenth of mankind ever heard a syllable about it. Where then appears the perfect wişdom? Have the ends proposed been answered or have they not, according to their own account, failed in almost every particular? Man exists : certain matters are congenial to his existence, and without which he could not exist. But are not many things detrimental to his existence? He is possessed of an organization peculiar to bimself, which exists for a time if it be brought in contact only with those matters which are suitable to its existence. But no sooner is he surrounded with matters of a contrary tendency, than as an intelligent being his existence ceases. In all this I cannot trace any marks of wisdom. If there was a God all-wise and all-powerful, surely he would not allow inferior beings to oppose his will and counteract his designs. Where is the wisdom in creating a world inhabited by animals, who should, as the Christian's Bible expresseth it, “grieve him at his heart"?
It seems a waste of time to enter largely on these points, while, by aiming at the foundation, we can destroy the whole fabric at once. Yet to show the absurdities by which this superstition is supported may help to arouse the minds of some who are enslaved by its doctrines; and hence they may be led on to examine the foundation, and ultimately to reject it altogether. When a man has once embraced the leading doctrines of a superstition, such as the belief in a supernatural, designing, almighty governor of the universe, there are no tales connected with it, however absurd they may be, but that he is prepared to embrace also. So true it is, that, when once superstition enters the mind, reason and judge ment are entirely dispensed with. In what other state would men have received as truths the absurd stories which have been handed down to them under the title of the Holy Word? In what other state would they have accepted of a God, composed of qualities diametrically opposed to each other-of a God inaccessible to their senses? In what other state would men have tamely submitted to the barefaced robberies and cruel torments, inflicted on thena by an avaricious and bloodthirsty crew under the name priests? Let us examine a little further the attributes given to this phantom, and, by showing the absurdity and falsehood connected with their application, endeavour to recal man back to reason-to the use of his senses, which can alone procure for him that knowledge of the truth which is essential to his happiness.
Let us first premise, that a being all-wise, all-powerful, and allbenevolent, must, if he produce any thing, produce perfection. His works would be quite free from evil-there would be nothing in his works calculated to produce evil. To this test then let us bring the productions attributed to this all-perfect being. The Bishop continues-" that hath intermixed the dry land so fitly with springs, and rivers, and lakes, and the ocean, to supply every thing with necessary moisture, and to make the communication of the most distant parts easy.” But, on examination, do we find all this to be correct? Do we find every thing so admirably suited for
the convenience and comfort of man? Is the land so fitly supplied with springs, &c. as would be useful? Is the navigation of the sea so free from obstructions, or the communication between different countries so easy, as might be wished--so easy as it ought to have been, if provided for such a purpose by an intelligent, allwise, all-powerful, all-beneficent being? On the contrary, do we not find countries entirely barren for want of moisture; while others at the same time are inundated, the fruit of man's labour destroyed and himself left to perish, by an excess? Do we not find lakes and stagnant waters of no service, but to render the air in their neighbourhood unwholesome, and consequently the country round uninhabitable; while others run so swiftly as to be on that account useless? Do we not find that the sea, instead of being easy for communication, endangers our lives, every time we venture on her deceitful bosom, from rapid currents, from dreadful whirlpools, from hidden rocks, from running sands, from adverse winds, &c.? In short, do we not find, that, on the whole, nature is rather adverse than propitious, to the existence, the pleasure, and the happiness of mankind ?
He continues--" that hath placed the sun at so exact a distance from us, that we are neither burnt up by heat, nor frozen by cold; and hath kept bodies of such incredible bulk, rolling on for thousands of years together, with so orderly and exact a motion, that the return of day and night, and of the various seasons are precisely foreknown, and perfectly suitable for labour and rest, and for bringing the fruits of the earth to maturity.” In what a state of superstitious darkness must the mind of that man have been, who could pen such lines as the above, in proof an all-wise, powerful, and beneficent being! In what an abject state of slavery must his mind have been, who could thus overlook the evil and misery every where attandant on man, and talk of the goodness manifested towards him in the creation! Astonishing goodness to be sure, “ that hath placed the sun at so exact a distance” that the inhabitants of one part of the globe are driven to seek shelter to preserve themselves from the dreadful effects of its scorching rays, while at the same time the inhabitants of another part are benumbed, and in many instances frozen to death, by the cold! Astonishly good, very considerate of our wants, must that power be, which hath so perfectly suited the “ day for labour and the night for rest;" that he hath given to the inhabitants of one country for six months a perpetual day, while others are, for the same space of time, deprived of all assistance from the sun--from all its light and heat! But even if every thing in nature contributed to the pleasures of man-if every thing was congenial to his taste, and nothing tended to create an unpleasant sensation, it would not prove the existence of a supernatural, designing, almighty power. It would only prove, that to the existence of man every thing was analogous: he would still remain as much the 'being of necessity