« הקודםהמשך »
enable you to know something more of it than your pretensions can at present have any claim. You will then learn that the many experiments made by the first French and English physiologists, lead us to a knowledge of the nervous system, which can explain its functions by no rational means, other than those of Materialism. I would with pleasure, here, enter into the nature of these experiments, but as you have misrepresented the plainest principles, which I have advanced, connected with natural philosophy, I am afraid, that, till you are more proficient with science in general, my observations will not be understood.
Galen certainly is an example of great industry, combined with much talent; but he never enjoyed the advantages which the discoveries of modern times present. Moreover, his becoming a Theist, can do little in behalf of your opinions. He never bowed the knee to Jehovah, the capricious and ever-changing Deity, of the Jews, the Mahometans, and the Christians. The prejudices of his country would lead him, in all probability, to worship the mythology which the Romans, in a great degree, borrowed from the Greeks; a system that is characterized by the amiable and penetrating Gibbon, as being far superior to Christianity, and better calculated to promote those noble feelings and elevated sentiments for which the Greeks and Romans were remarkable.
When I review the pages of your last letter, I really feel myself at a loss, to offer to you seriously, any observations regarding those events, which you call marvellous. I told you in my last, positively and distinctly, that it was your province to prove to me, that such things really happened; but this you have not even attempted. The creation of a human being is an operation in nature that in its particular processes, has excited the enquiry of every age. The labours of a Spallanzani, with the beautiful speculations of a Darwin, throw much credit on modern philosophy; they have endeavoured to explain the theory of life without, however, harrowing up the phantoms of superstition; for generation, notwithstanding the great obscurity of its modus operandi appeared to them, as nothing more than the effect of some natural cause. If mankind had always viewed nature, with the same ideas that theology teaches, we should yet be in profound darkness, regarding many
of her operations with which we are now familiar. What was attributed in former times to the agency of spirits, hobgoblins, and other phantasies, can be explained upon well known principles; and as the human mind goes on in advancement, the notion of that indescribable spirit, called Jehovah, will continue to be destroyed. The belief of such phantoms are tenaciously cherished in the gloomy caverns of monkish piety-it is there alone that they have originated. It is true that they still maintain a strong, hold over the weak intellect of man; but in the fair garden of science, they do not exist. In this delightful spot, weeds which are the effect of theological poison, soon perish. The cultivators well know how baneful such productions are to the soil; for, the lovers of philosophy never behold a department of knowledge, engrafted with religion, but they look upon it, as an unweeded garden, where, to use the language of Shakespeare,
Things rank and gross in nature, possess it merely." The farrago which you have brought forward about your resurrection is entirely foreign to the maxims of truth. Chemistry teaches us that animated beings deprived of their vital powers, sink into the bosom of nature, entirely changed from their former elements, to give life to other principles. Forms alone perish, while matter eternally exists; to trace the endless varieties of it would be vain; a little consideration, however, will expose the futile and ignorant idea, of a being, becoming again alive, after hav. ing undergone decomposition. The notion, indeed is so gross and so opposite to every thing that science inculcates, that it is only the vulgar mind, which can listen to dogmas so revolting. They are worse than any old woman's tale; and I repeat, so offensive, that none can believe in them, who are guided by the pure dictates of sound reason. Had you
read my letters attentively, you would have saved yourself the trouble of committing to paper those disjointed ideas, contained in your last communication. Throughout the whole of your observations. you do not comply with one of my demands, but run on, from one sentence to another, substituting bare assertion for sound reasoning. confess there is much to explore connected with the properties of matter; but every age advances with improvement, now that "science holds her sway.” Within the last century she has developed facts, that never will be obliviated, and to add to this tributary stream of knowledge, men of scientific and enquiring minds, only wish a demonstration of the nature of this principle, which is named, intelligent; and which is said to be separated from matter, and entirely to have an independent existence from it. The phenomena around us, are by religionists ascribed, to a something that human reason, cannot comprehend. The Materialist, however rejects this: in his researches he is warranted to conclude that matter has always existed: he finds it cannot be destroyed, and sees in it properties coeval with its duration, in short, from the ceaseless movements which it ever undergoes, effects are produced, which can alone be referred to its action--the Materialist therefore, considers it presumption without proof, that there is anything beyond nature directing this vast machinery. If there is any thing totally distinct from matter, and tangible to the senses of men, in the name of all that belongs to truth, why is it, that Theists do not come forward and define it? they say that it is a spirit; but Materialism knows, that this is a word, which means nothing, and therefore it is in the rolume of nature, and not in the flimsy, and confused records, of men, that proof is wanted to establish the existence of a Deity.— Materialism embraces facts confirmed by investigation alone, and turns away from theories hitherto only supported by current opinion. The followers of it, are content, with abiding, by the powers existing in nature to explain its varied phenomena, till some identity, be brought forward, rather than adopt the belief of a principle, which is purely imaginary, and of which no tangible idea can be formed; expound to me, the nature of this principle, where it exists, how it exists, and in what form it can be identified, or otherways, confess your ignoranee, and be no longer the dupe of your imagination.
The planetary orbs of the universe, are certainly a subject of sublime contemplation. To admire the extent of their grandeur, we however, have no occasion to go into the romantic fields of fiction, and till something else is substituted, theism must beconsidered, as a system explaining, in a very unsatisfactory manner, the nature of a first cause. Till the matter is more fully developed, we must look upon the cause and the effect, the design and the execution, of such immense machinery, to be the result of its own internal energy. The other points of your letter, require from me little or no observation, or addition to what has been
stated; indeed, I see no necessity, whatever, in following you through your long and tiresome remarks about Jesus, and his followers--I can only direct you to my former letters. I have there shewn you, that you have not the shadow of a proof, for believing in the ascension, and I may observe that if Jesus did not ascend, there was of course little use for his resurrection. There is not one witness that says he saw Jesus rise from the tomb, and those that give record of him being seen after, only prove that he never had been dead. In short, I have proved beyond a doubt, that he did not remain the appointed time, in the grave, and likewise have shewn you that these men, whom you call inspired, are at variance with each other, in their different details. Upon the whole, when I look upon what is called revelation, I consider it such a tissue of marvellous events, and barefaced contradictions, that for them to have gained credit we must ascribe to the human mind, a strange perversity of intellect. Your reply to me about those celestial regions concerning which you have such notions, at once demonstrates that you have no fixed idea of them--they only exist in the coinage of your brain ; for to quote the language of our immortal bard, as a theologian
“ Your imagination bodies forth,
A local habitation and a name." Things of a more substantial nature, will however succeed ali this flowery and romantic path, We now live in an age, very different from what is past, and though cant and hypocrisy, to a great degree prevail, yet you will scarely meet with an intelligent man, who speaks his sentiments honestly, but turns away with disgust from such an ill told fable. We may say, the bubble is now burst-the cheat exposed-future years will create new generations, who availing themselves, of the advantage of our times, will I have no doubt look upon Christianity, in the same light as its followers of the present day view the mythology of the Greeks from which the whole system has been borrowed, as is satisfactorily proved, by a learned and elegant article, written lately by the Reverend Mr. Taylor, wherein, he shews that the whole legend of Jesus is founded, upon the ancient pagan story of Prometheus.
I cannot draw this letter to a conclusion without stating to you: that whatever difference of opinion, I have found, to exist, concerning the affairs, that have formed the subject of this correspondence, I have always made it a study never to allow my sentiments to interfere with the private feelings of friendship, and I believe, I at this moment can say, that I possess the good opinion of not a few, who are distinguished for their piety, and who are aware that
my ideas are by no means in unison with theirs. Men are unwilling to shake off the bonds which education imposes--it is an effort, an exertion of much energy to destroy those impressions of early life, and hence many whom I know, who upon other subjects enjoy the clearest penetration, have, in the mazes of theology, their minds warped with the strongest prejudices. I have seldom however, met in the circles of friendship, any acrimony that could in the least lead to unpleasant feeling, and therefore when I contrast, such mildness of character with the complexion of your last letter, I assure you, I draw conclusions that are by no means favourable to you. I consider your effusions, as the ebullition of a mind highly ruffled, and distorted with conceptions by no means of an amiable nature. To impute to me motives, that you dare not avow, is truly contemptible. I despise your insinuations as I know well the feelings from which they proceed, and hold you in estimation accordingly. Such conduct I consider unworthy of any one with whom I wish to hold communication, and therefore candidly acknowledge to you, that I have no wish to extend the correspondence farther. You tell me that you will perhaps write to
my letter worthy of an answer; wonderful condescension! I am however aware of your plan, and to render it abortive, I disclaim any future communication. Wrought up as your feelings are, it is high time to bring these letters to a termination; the correspondence has ended, as I anticipated-your evasive and unsatisfactory mode of replying to questions, fairly stated, but which apparently cannot be properly answered, shews, that if I had any inclination, we might go on ad infinitum. This however would be an idle task, perfectly useless, and unvailing, and therefore, under such an impression, combined with what I have already alluded to, I without much regret, adopt this mode of finally bidding you farewell.
I am, yours, &c.