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that beheld Jesus in the act of rising from the tomb, you make a very strange demand. You might as well ask ne to produce witnesses who beheld the birth of Jesus, in order to prove his existence, as ask me to produce witnesses who beheld his resurrection, in order to prove that he was alive after he was dead. This is the question, Doctor, “ was Jesus seen alive after being dead?” and not“ did any one see him in the act of rising from the dead 6 ?”
You next refer to Matthew and Mark's account of what was seen in the interior of the sepulchre; as we are told by John, that the one angel stood where the feet of Jesus lay, and that the other stood where his head lay; the one angel would naturally be seen before the other, and though Mark says that an angel was seen, he does not say that only one angel was seen. He says, that they saw a young man at the right side, now as it was to this young man that their attention was first directed, and principally directed, Mark mentions him in particular. If Peter and John saw oply the clothes lying, this circumstance proves nothing more than that the angels had departed before they arrived at the sepulcbre. You, yourself, lay no stress on the objection.
You say that my remarks on the expression three days, and three nights are trifling. Well, but you bave not proved them so. I get assertion in reply to them, but they are not refuted by you.
NOTE FROM THE PRIEST TO THE DOCTOR. D. L., sends to Dr. — with his best wishes for his welfare, a reply to his last letter. He conjures him again to inquire into the evidences of religion, without reference to any man or to any party. He entreats him not to treat the subject as a disputant but as an humble and diffident enquirer. He beseeches him to consider that he may be wrong, and from this consideration not to speak on Christianity so vainly as he does : and he desires Dr. – to believe him his well wisher-notwithstanding the ardour with which he has written to him. It is not more than ardour, it is not wrath, he has not used one single harsh expression. 6 The question is, did he exist! Is he more than a fabled character?
DOCTOR IN LONDON, TO THE PRIEST IN DUNDEE.
London, June 15, 1824. Your late epistle only reached me the other day, and as I feel anxious to reply to it, I now sit down to do so, animated by the purest desire of truth.
The insinuation of my coming forward in this correspondence with no other wish but to enjoy the love of victory, is what I altogether disclaim. It is a gratification which, certainly, I had not in view; but even granting that I was under the dominion of such a feeling, the cause which I espouse being of that kind, which embraces every thing that is connected with the dignity of the human mind, will make the motive in place of being condemned, be deemed by many truly laudable and praiseworthy. In the story of La Roche, drawn by the elegant Mackenzie, we have the character of David Hume extolled on account of being free from the spirit of dogmatism. Upon this occasion it would appear that Hume did not wish to enforce his opinions. In his writings, however, he possesses a great deal of energy; but he is not on this account charged with writing for no other view than to gratify the love of triumph, and if, in my humble exertions, I have written with some degree of confidence, it is certainly very unfair to impute to me any such motive.
In much that I have contended for during our epistolary correspondence, I have, I confess, felt an honest pride in the avowal of opinions that cannot be easily overthrown: and when I behold nothing brought forward to oppose them, but the most flimsy observations, I own, I experience the inward satisfaction that never fails to be the result of a deep moral feeling which inherits the breast of every one, who wishes to see destroyed, the baneful effects of Religion, a spectre, which according to the philosophic Dupuis, “ seizeth upon man in his cradle, accompanieth him during his whole existence, and more frighsul in its threats than consoling in its promises, followeth him to his very tomb.” Surrounded by every thing dark and mystical, we can consider a religionist in no other view than a being lost to the dictates of reason, continually crouching under the servile yoke of Priests, making a sacrifice of his judgment to that bugbear named faith, a word which leads him to entertain tales truly disgusting, and which are rejected with indignation by all those who are guided by the sacred light that is to be found gleaming through the beautiful productions of Nature. Your late reply will amply justify me in making these remarks; for I have met with few who, with such daring credulity, have sheltered themselves under the influence of opinions so very contemptible. In my last, I told you what was the dernier resort of all theologians when baffled by arguments which are incon
trovertible, and I now feel in no way astonished at your yet claiming all the advantage that you think belongs to this mode of reasoning. To an unprejudiced mind, however, it will appear, that religion has no basis to rest upon. You have advanced upon the same shallow ground, that the followers of Mahomet, or any other imposter would abide by; for to assert that there is nothing impossible with God, is assuredly one of the weakest holds, that you, in an argument of this kind, can possibly assume. I care not for the opinion of a Newton or a Boyle, upon a subject like this notwithstanding the brilliancy of both, in the glorious discoveries of modern times, I can see amidst much gold there is a great deal of dross. When Newton takes up the pen of a theologian, we find him sinking into the common level of mankind, unfortunately tarnishing his bright name with all those silly conceits, which have been echoed by men like Calvin and Knox-enthusiasts, who never felt the rays of science dawn upon their gloomy and monastic minds. To enter into all the statements of your epistle would only force me to recapitulate what has already been said. I demanded of you proof, concerning certain events connected with the history of Christ, upon which the whole fabric is tounded, but you reply to me almost in the same strain as you formerly did. It is impossible for you to aver any thing else, and what you have repeated only forcibly explains, what I have all along contended for, viz. that we have not the testimony of a single individual who was an eye witness to these supposed occurrences. To believe in them, because they are related by this man, or that man, appears to me the very height of folly. Why, upon this principle I must believe that the witch of Endor appeared to Saul, or that Balaam's ass actually spoke. These things are related by certain men; but surely no one now-a-days will imagine that they ever really happened. In fact, going upon this data, we might give credit to the most monstrous absurdities. I might even receive for truth the stories regarding Johanna Southcote; they are seriously promulgated by her fanatical admirers; but it does not follow, that we must believe in them. If the religion which you call divine had emanated from a being possessed of power and wisdom he would have given a system that would have been intelligible to all.
In every country where the problems of Euclid are known, their truth is readily acknowledged. Their is no controversy concerning the beauty of such axioms; but the book which contains the inspired writing of a God presents such a heterogeneous mass of opinions, that ten thousand different creeds are, I dare say, formed upon them. Every one who is not warped in his judgment, by the powerful influence of early education, turns away with disgust from a collection of strange events, that have neither reason nor nature to support them. Those whose minds possess the materials for thinking, direct their attention to something more grand and pleasing. It was upon these views, that I, in the outset of this correspondence, wished to avoid the dull and monotonous plan of referring to the book itself to explain any difference regarding our sentiments. The sequel has proved my suspicions to be correct, and amidst a great deal, which might have been omitted, the question is now determined by yourself, that we really have no satisfactory evidence to support the great props of the Christian religion. The resurrection and ascension were by you acknowledged as such; and now, after I have entirely disproved them, you come forward and tell me, that I am yet bound to receive the whole story as truth; because, forsooth, one or two interested individuals say, they saw Jesus on earth after he had been crucified. While we are connected with events deviating from the common course of nature, we shall find no end to your observations!
As for Jesus being put to death in the manner related, it is now a matter of no moment; but if any man ever asserted, that he saw Jesus alive after being dead, I maintain he is upholding an event that never possibly could happen. Such scenes would have attracted the attention, not only of the vulgar, but would have called forth the interest of men remarkable for their intellectual endowments. The Roman naturalists and historians do not in any form allude to them; and Philo and Josephus, who were in fact cotemporary, and who are authors of very shrewd discrimination, pass over in profound silence all those appalling wonders. Indeed, by the talents and industry of Richard Carlile, it is fairly established, that Jerusalem was destroyed a good number of years before the name of Christian stands recorded in common history, which has led to a strong surmise, that no such a being as Jesus ever existed.
In the history of mankind, where events are recorded of a natural description, we do not always seek the same chain of evidence as that which I have demanded relative to theological occurrences- it is only where supernatural things are detailed, the bare consideration of which, strike the minds of the ignorant, with wonder and astonishment, that we are warranted to look for something more than the mere assertion of a few individuals, who were, without doubt, intimately concerned, as far as the story goes, with the transactions which now form the question in dispute. However, as you have been cheered on, in this lengthened discussion, with the hope of being able to convert me, I feel somewhat sorry, that we should have entered into such a long, and bewildered path. It, perhaps, would have been better, had we taken a more natural one; but, notwithstanding this, I should have been pleased even in a wilderness, where darkness and obscurity every where abound, to have had the satisfaction of seeing you elucidate the subject. Could you have illumined the matter in the smallest degree, I should have received your remarks in the most attentive manner; but the contrary is the case; you have only, by your observations, rendered it more perplexing. My opinions have not been formed upon a slight examination of this affair; and I can assure you, in my efforts to obtain knowledge, I have always endeavoured to keep clear of the baneful poison, which prejudice never fails to engender. Truth has alone been my object, as the mysteries that envelope theology embraced, in a strong degree, my early investigation. The beautiful poem, of Pope's Essay on Man, gave a stimulus to these enquiries, and, before I had attained my eighteenth year, I found myself confirmed in all the principles of Deism, after having read almost every author from Addison down to the Bishop of Llandaff, on the one hand, with those from Shaftsbury to the period of Paine, on the other.
Future years brought me into new views, and while studying anatomy and physiology at the University of Edinburgh, after much enquiry, I ranked my name among the number of a few, whose taste, directed them, to speculate, in the doctrines of Materialism. One of the lecturers seemed, throughout his whole course, to inveigh against such principles; his exertions were in. defatigable, and as he had originally been educated for the church, he had not forgotten the usual cant and hypocrisy that prevails too often with churchmen. The unphilosophic distinction of the soul, being an independent principle from the body, was, therefore, his favorite theme; but I fortunately was induced to think for myself, upon these matters. His declamations were considered truly verbose, while my companions and I, often thought, that it did very well with him, to prattle as long as no one was allowed to answer him. In the dissecting room we, however, saw in vivid colours the falsity of his arguments. We beheld, amidst all the ruin which decomposition generally presents, the bodies of those, who were once animated, sink into their former principles.
Accustomed to such scenes, men acquainted with the phenomena of mind, considered the idea as truly chimerical, that imagined the vital principle, when once entirely destroyed, could ever possibly, in same form, again exist. Such ideas, they left to be cherished by churchmen, and those whose province it is to take care of the soul; for few, who have studied anatomy profoundly, can ever allow themselves to be carried down the stream of popular opinion, by reveries of such a fantastic nature. The lessons which a knowledge of the human system teach us, are too forcible not to possess the clearest demonstration, and always to a thinking mind, Materialism is the basis on which it rests.
These opinions were at this time greatly strengthened, when I reflected that they were espoused by such men as Murray and Leslie, the first of whom was, without doubt, the most celebrated chemist of the age, and whose acquaintance I had the pleasure of enjoying; the latter, as a Professor of Natural Philosophy, is well known, and who, about twenty years ago, was exposed to the ma