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the priests' history of the creation by Moses, is an imposture. He says, the Israelites passing through the Red Sea, was no more than Alexander's passing at the Pamphilian sea; that as for the appearance of God at Mount Sinai, the reader may believe it as he pleases ; that Moses persuaded the Jews, he had God for his guide, just as the Greeks pretended they had their laws from Apollo. These are noble strains of freethinking, which the priests know not how to solve, but by thinking as freely : for one of them says, that Josephus wrote this, to make his work acceptable to the heathens, by striking out every thing that was incredible.
Origen, who was the first Christian that had any learning, has left a noble testimony of his freethinking; for a general council has determined him to be dainned; which plainly shows he was a freethinker, and was no saint: for, people were only sainted because of their want of learning and excess of zeal : so that all the fathers who are called saints by the priests, were worse than atheists.
Minutius Felix seems to be a true, modern, latitudinarian, freethinking Christian : for he is against altars, churches, publick preaching, and publick assemblies ; and likewise against priests ; for, he says, there were several great flourishing empires before there were any orders of priests in the world.
Synesius, who had too much learning and too little zeal for a saint, was for some time a great freethinker ; he could not believe the resurrection till he was made a bishop, and then pretended to be convinced by a lying miracle.
To come to our own country! My lord Bacon was a great freethinker, when he tells us, “ that what"ever has the least relation to religion is particularly “ liable to suspicion ;” by which he seems to suspect all the facts whereon most of the superstitions (that is to say, what the priests call the religions) of the world are grounded. He also prefers atheism before superstition.
Mr. Hobbes was a person of great learning, virtue, and freethinking, except in his high church politicks.
But archbishop Tillotson is the person whom all English freethinkers own as their head; and his. virtue is indisputable for this manifest reason, that Dr. Hickes, a priest, calls him an atheist; says, he caused several to turn atheists, and to ridicule the priesthood and religion. These must be allowed to be noble effects of freethinking. This great prelate assures us, that all the duties of the Christian religion, with respect to God, are no other but what natural light prompt men to, except the two sacraments, and praying to God in the name and mediation of Christ. As a priest and prelate, he was obliged to say something of Christianity; but pray observe, sir, how he brings himself off. He justly affirms, that even these things are of less moment than natural duties; and because mothers nursing their children is a natural duty, it is of more moment than the two sacraments, or than praying to God in the name and by the mediation of Christ. This freethinking archbishop could not allow a miracle sufficient to give credit to a prophet, who taught any thing contrary to our natural notions : by which, it is plain, he rejected at once all the mysteries of Christianity.
I could name one and twenty more great men, who were all freethinkers; but that I fear to be tedious : for it is certain that all men of sense depart from the
opinions commonly received ; and are consequently more or less men of sense, according as they depart more or less from the opinions commonly received: neither can you name an enemy to freethinking, however he be dignified or distinguished, whether archbishop, bishop, priest, or deacon, who has not been either “a crackbrained enthusiast, a diabolical villain,
or a most profound ignorant brute.”'
Thus, sir, I have endeavoured to execute your commands, and you may print this Letter if you please: but I would have you conceal your naine. For my opinion of virtue is, that we ought not to venture doing ourselves harm, by endeavouring to do good.
I HAVE here given the publick a brief, but faithful abstract of this most excellent Essay; wherein I have all along religiously adhered to our author's notions, and generally to his words, without any other addition than that of explaining a few necessary consequences, for the sake of ignorant readers ; for, to those who have the least degree of learning, I own, they will be wholly useless. I hope I have not, in any single instance, misrepresented the thoughts of this admirable writer. If I have happened to mistake through inadvertency, I entreat he will condescend to inform me, and point out the place ; upon which, I will immediately beg pardon both of him and the world. The design of his piece is to recommend freethinking; and one chief motive is the example of many excellent men who were of that sect. He produces as the principal points of their freethinking; that they denied the being of a God, the torments of Hell, the immortality of the soul, the Trinity, incarnation, the history of the creation by Moses, with many other such “ fabulous and blasphemous stories,” as he judiciously calls them: and he asserts, that whoever denies the most of these, is the completest freethinker, and consequently the wisest and most vir
The author, sensible of the prejudices of the age, does not directly affirm himself an atheist; he
goes no farther than to pronounce that atheism is the most
perfect perfect degree of freethinking; and leaves the reader to form the conclusion. However, he seems to allow, that a man may be a tolerable freethinker, though he does believe a God; provided he utterly rejects“ providence, revelation, the Old and New “ Testament, future rewards and punishments, the “ immortality of the soul,” and other the like impossible absurdities. Which mark of superabundant caution; sacrificing truth to the superstition of priests, may perhaps be forgiven, but ought not to be imitated by any who would arrive (even in this author's judgment) at the true perfection of freethinking.