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The visiting Magistrates have told me through the Governor, that they do not interfere with your duties, and you ngain say, that you are under their authority. Produce this to them on Thursday, first or after a week's consideration at home, and yet come to a point on these two questions — whether you should not furnish me with Carlile's Republican, and whether you might not accept of my services in visiting prisoners, aud addressing to -them moral lectures?
I am, yours, &c.,
Dear Sir, House of Correction, Nov. 8, 1824.
L WAS willing to think, and should be glad to find it true, that you preached at me yesterday, when you asked, " how is it that there are so many in this prison for assaults?" adding that Jesus Christ "never used force;" I took down these words, wishing you to think more of them, and give an explanation. Christ most assuredly used force when he drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple; he also advised him that had no sword to "sell his garment and buy one. Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the High Priest's servant, and cut off'his ear: then said Jesus unto Peter, put up thy sword into thy sheath." He further said, " suffer ye thus far." Now, I would ask you if there is any thing which was done, or countenanced by Christ, which we may not do? I would hid you say what proportion of good has been brought about in the world without force; certainly the Reformation was not; 1 would ask if the church could stand without it? and call to your remembrance the following words, uttered by you in the chapel some months ago: "all human affairs have a tendency to get worse—all churches become corrupt—and when men can endure them no longer they rise up and dash them to pieces." My anxious desire is to get at truth, and rightly to comprehend it, that thereby, 1 may act. Think well of the above, and advise me either in a sermon next Sunday, or privately by letters. I am perfectly sincere, and believe you to be so.
N. B. You well remember of my speaking to you of "Tindal's Christianity As Old As The Creation,' which you said was a good book. I have enquired for it of several people; but cannot get a copy. Could you borrow one for me, and still think of letting me have Carlile's Republican for review.
Dear Sir, House of Correction, Nov. 20, 1824.
Conversing of my letters to you of the 8th instant, you told me that Christ had two powers; and from the pulpit last Sunday, preaching from the text about the pool of Silvan you said he had two characters, that of God and man; in the first of which he performed miracles, and drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple. You wish me to believe from this, that we must not in all things follow the example of Christ; but I maintain that whatever Christ did on earth, and in the person of a man, must have been meant at once for instruction and example to men. To what end else could be his driving out the buyers and sellers? Doing this only once could be of little avail; and, in reply to what you said of the temple being his father's house, is not every temple, or church, nay every house his father's? It was very odious to see the temple put to worldly purposes and the conduct of Christ was evidently to shew, that when such flagrant abuses happen, men may forcibly interfere. Some one person, or persons must act, and the act must be virtuous. It was the peculiar duty of the priests to keep the temple free from pollution; and had they done so it might have stood till the end of time. As they neglected their duty, it became duty for others to correct abuses, and so we are taught by the example of Christ: when people interfere in the correction of evil, which has grown up under the eye of power, they must incur risk: they, by doing so, generally oppose the interests of those in power, and besides, stir up envy, which is still more dangerous. They must be devoted to the good work, and willing to sacrifice life in the cause before they interfere: and so it was with Christ; he was not only willing, but did actually lose his life, because of interfering where the priests were remiss; all of which is beautifully instructive. Say that we are not, thence to take example, and you throw down the very purpose for which Christ suffered ignominy and death. The mandate for his followers to provide each a sword, even at the expence of his garment, is further illustrative of what we may do, and what we ought to do, incases of urgent necessity. Nothing could so powerfully corroborate this, as the order to sell the very clothing from the body, whereby to have means for the purchase of a sword. It shews that truth and goodness must be maintained at all hazards; and the worth of the body is not to stand in competion with that of the soul; Christ suffered only the ear of a single individual to be cut off; but that was sufficient, it exhihited at once the mildness of his government and the vigour with which it should be maintained.
You well remember of saying that "all churches became corrupt, and that, when men can endure them no longer they rise up and dash them to pieces." You did not say this was wrong; but on the contrary, left us to infer, that it was just and necessary. The grand point for us is, to observe the signs of the times—mark what is wrong in our own day, and determine what must require the interposition of force, if not corrected by the discretion of those in authority. We now see the Irish people in a state of continual starvation vand convulsion. What is the chief cause of this? Undoubtedly the state of the church, which has aided the more immediate and great cause, the state of the peasantry. The tythes to the amount of millions are devoured by a priesthood who preach to less than a tenth part of the nation; who shew little desire to conciliate those who differ with them as to the non-essentials of religion. At this time it is a fact that two millions of the labouring poor of England are worse provided for than the felons of this prison. When it is so, you must be sensible that something is very wrong; and when you know that some six hundred persons sit in parliament as representatives of the people, when in fact they do not represent a hundredth part of the population, and while many obtain their seats by bribery and corruption; you cannot be at a loss to see the root from whence such evil has sprung: you canuot doubt but, by and by, force wi'l be resorted to, if reason aud duty do not begin to redress grievances.
Now, as to miracles, we are told that the disciples of Christ, who were mere men, performed many, aud that it required only faith to remove mountains. You said that the miracles performed in the pool of Silvan was a revival of such doings after miracles had ceased to be wrought for four hundred years; aud that it was supposed lobe connected with the coming of Christ. My opinion is, that the troubling of the waters of Silvan was a trick of the Jewish priests, who had become depraved in the extreme, and had recourse to contrivances for keeping up their power and influence through the superstition of the vulgar; just as the priests of England kept up theirs till the time of Henry the Eighth, when their abominable tricks were exposed and put to shame by breaking up the religious houses. The story of the pool of Silvan does, nevertheless, very well to haug a moral on, and convey an idea of the helplessness of the poor; emblems, allegories, and fables out of count, throughout the Bible, answer such ends; Christ himself taught by parables, shewing that there was no real harm in this mode of illustration. It was not necessary that the machinery of these parables should be corporeal—that they should have existed, in reality, the characters exhihited; the end was to inculcate morality—to give clear ideas of truth and justice, and good conduct, and pure sentiments, which, without the aid of figures, could not be done, ^sop made beasts speak, and nobody found fault with him. Why then should we cavil about Balaam's ass? There is no necessity, I conceive, for believing that Eve brought sin and misery into the world by actually eating fruit from a tree, though the story most admirably pour trays the frailty of women, and shews how men may be ruined by them. In the same way the plagues of Egypt impress us with a just aud necessary sense of the cruel and relentless spirit of tyranny. I look to them as mere hyperboles, intended for the best of purposes, and never wish to question the truth or falsehood of the story: Jesus Christ I revere as personifiedgoodness; and as to God, 1 agree with Dwight, that he is altogether incomprehensible! Dwight has thrown no new light on the existence of God. Near thirty years since, I read the work of Samnal Clark, on the subject, written more than one hundred years ago, and, though he has ever since been considered a pillar of the church, I have called him a narrow-minded higot; notout of disrespect to him, but to mark my sense of the presumption of endeavouring to defend the attributes of God, which are quite beyond human understanding. Perhaps our best way is to join with the poet as toGod:
"Come then expressive silence muse his praise."
I am conscious of intelligence within myself—conscious that this may be improved and greatly expounded. I find in nature objects on which this intelligence can operate—objects which it can unfold and profitably put to use. I believe, that by a due and dutiful application of this intelligence, man may in time " rise from Nature up to Nature's God." I believe, that Ihis is the true end of all religion ;-rthat the Christian religion aims at this, and that every reli, gion which has the same end ought to be revered. I wish to disguise nothing, and shall be glad to be detected in error. I believe, that the authority of the Bible is greatly lessened by false views of its meaning, and pertinacious adherence to mere figures of speech. Its spirit throughout is admirable; its end is perfection; and its laws so clear, that he who runs may read. Let us but search the scriptures, and we shall more and more become acquainted with human nature —more and more detect, in the heart of man, the seeds of iniquity—more and more be assure.!, that it_is " deceitful