תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

demonstrated all men to be fools who troubled themselves with inquiries into heavenly things. Lastly, it is plain that Socrates was a freethinker, because he was calumniated for an atheist, as freethinkers generally are, only because he was an enemy to all speculations and inquiries into heavenly things. For I argue thus, that, if I never trouble myself to think whether there be a God or not, and forbid others to do it, I am a freethinker, but not an atheist.

Plato was a freethinker; and his notions are so like some in the Gospel, that a heathen charged Christ with borrowing his doctrine from Plato. But Origen defends Christ very well against this charge, by saying he did not understand Greek, and therefore could not borrow his doctrines from Plato. However, their two religions agreed so well, that it was common for Christians to turn Platonists, and Platonists Christians. When the Christians found out this, one of their zealous priests (worse than any atheist) forged several things under Plato's name, but conformable to Christianity, by which the heathens were fraudulently converted.

Epicurus was the greatest of all freethinkers, and consequently the most virtuous man in the world. His opinions in religion were the most complete system of atheism that ever appeared. Christians ought to have the greatest veneration for him, because he taught a higher point of virtue than Christ; I mean, the virtue of friendship, which, in the sense we usually understand it, is not so much as named in the New Testament.

Plutarch was a freethinker, notwithstanding his being a priest, but indeed he was a heathen priest. His freethinking appears by showing the innocence VOL, X.

of

very satirical

of atheism (which at worst is only false reasoning) and the mischiefs of superstition; and he explains what superstition is, by calling it a conceit of immortal ills after death, the opinion of Hell torments, dreadful aspects,

doleful
groans,

and the like. He is likewise

upon the publick forms of devotion in his own country, a qualification absolutely necessary to a freethinker; yet those forms which he ridicules, are the very same that now pass for true worship in almost all countries: I am sure, some of them do so in ours; such as abject looks, distortions, wry faces, beggarly tones, humiliation and contrition.

Varro, the most learned among the Romans, was a freethinker; for he said, the heathen divinity contained many fables below the dignity of immortal beings : such for instance as Gods begotten and proceeding from other Gods. These two words. I desire you will particularly remark, because they are the very terms made use of by our priests in their doctrine of the Trinity. He says likewise, that there are many things false in religion, and so say all freethinkers; but then he adds, “ which the vulgar ought “ not to know, but it is expedient they should believe.” In this last he indeed discovers the whole secret of a statesman and politician, by denying the vulgar the privilege of freethinking; and here I differ from him. However, it is manifest from hence, that the Trinity was an invention of statesmen and politicians.

The grave and wise Cato the censor will for ever live in that noble freethinking saying—“I wonder,” said he, “ how one of our priests can forbear laughing « when he sees another !” For, contempt of priests is another grand characteristick of a freethinker. This shows that Cato understood the whole mystery of the Roman “ religion as by law established.”

shows

as by law established.” I beg you, sir, not to overlook these last words, “religion as by “ law established.” I translate haruspex into the general word, priest. Thus I apply the sentence to our priests in England ; and, when Dr. Smallridge sees Dr. Atterbury, I wonder how either of them can forbear laughing at the cheat they put upon the people, by making them believe their “ religion as " by law established.”

Cicero, that consummate philosopher and noble patriot, though he was a priest, and consequently more likely to be a knave, gave the greatest proofs of his freethinking. First, he professed the sceptick philosophy, which doubts of every thing. Then, he wrote two treatises; in the first, he shows the weakness of the stoicks arguments for the being of the Gods: in the latter he has destroyed the whole revealed religion of the Greeks and Romans ; for why should not theirs be a revealed religion as well as that of Christ? Cicero likewise tells us, as his own opinion, that they who study philosophy do not believe there are any Gods: he denies the immortality of the soul, and says, there can be nothing after death.

And because the priests have the impudence to quote Cicero, in their pulpits and pamphlets, against freethinking; I am resolved to disarm. them of his authority. You must know, his philosophical works are generally in dialogues, where people are brought in disputing against one another. Now the priests, when they see an argument to prove a God, offered perhaps by a stoick, are such knaves or blockheads, to quote it as if it were Cicero's own: whereas

Cicero

[ocr errors]

02

Cicero was so noble a freethinker, that he believed nothing at all of the matter, nor ever shows the least inclination to favour superstition, or the belief of God, and the immortality of the soul; unless what he throws out sometimes to save himself from danger, in his speeches to the Roman mob; whose religion was, however, much more innocent, and less absurd, than that of popery at least : and I could say more-but you understand me.

Seneca was a great freethinker, and had a noble notion of the worship of the Gods, for which our priests would call any man an atheist: he laughs at morning devotions, or worshipping upon sabbath days; he says, God has no need of ministers and servants, because he himself serves mankind. This religious man, like his religious brethren the stoicks, denies the immortality of the soul; and says, all that is feigned to be so terrible in Hell is but a fable: death puts an end to all our misery, &c. Yet the priests were anciently so fond of Seneca, that they forged a correspondence of letters between him and St. Paul.

Solomon himself, whose writings are called “ the " word of God,” was such a freethinker, that if he were now alive, nothing but his building of churches could have kept our priests from calling him an atheist. He affirms the eternity of the world almost in the same manner with Manilius the heathen philosophical poet, which opinion entirely overthrows the history of the creation by Moses, and all the New Testament: he denies the immortality of the soul, assures us, " that men die like beasts,” and “ that both go “to one place.” The prophets of the Old Testament were generally freethinkers. You must understand, that their way of learning to prophecy was by musick and drinking.' These prophets wrote against the established religion of the Jews (which those people looked upon as the institution of God himself) as if they believed it was all a cheat : that is to say, with as great liberty against the priests and prophets of Israel, as Dr. Tindal did lately against the priests and prophets of our Israel, who has clearly shown them and their religion to be cheats. To prove this, you may read several passages in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Jeremiah, &c. wherein you

freethinkers.

will find such instances of freethinking, that, if any Englishman had talked so in our days, their opinions would have been registered in Dr. Sacheverell's trial, and in the representation of the lower house of convocation, and produced as so many proofs of the prophareness, blasphemy, and atheism of the nation ; there being nothing more prophane, blasphemous, or atheistical, in those representations, than what these prophets have spoken, whose writings are yet called by our priests “the word of God.”

" the word of God.” And therefore these prophets are as much atheists as myself, or as any my freethinking brethren whom I lately named to you.

Josephus was a great freethinker. I wish he had chosen a better subject to write on, than those ignorant, barbarous, ridiculous scoundrels the Jews, whom God (if we may believe the priests) thought fit to choose for his own people. I will give you some instances of his freethinking. He says, Cain travelled through several countries, and kept company with rakes and profligate fellows; he corrupted the simplicities of former times, &c. which plainly supposes men before Adam, and consequently that O 3

the

of my

« הקודםהמשך »