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TO MR. CARLILE, DORCHESTER GAOL.
Fordmoss, August 19th 1825. Sir, I shall give a copy of a Letter sent to a Reverend vagabond with his answer annexed. This fellow would be as great a persecutor, had he power, as ever existed. After he had given us all the abuse that he could with words, he has the audacity, in his admirable answer to me, to put on a humble garb and to find fault with the spirit of my letter. A friend or two, who heard him preach after he received my letter told me, that he took no notice of receiving any thing; but most vehemently warned his hearers against what he called the pestilence of infidelity. He also made very free with your character, attaching every base motive to your designs, which is a surfeit to repeat,
TO THE REVEREND DAVID AITKEN, ETAL.
Rev. Sır. I have been informed, by one of your hearers, that, on the Sunday before last, you were preaching vehemently against the principles of infidelity, and exhorting Masters not to keep such of their servants as had imbibed these principles. I was convinced that it was directed against me and a few friends, knowing it to be a repetition of the advice that our Master received about two or three years ago. On hearing the information, a train of reflections occurred to my mind. Thought I, Oh! Religion ! ferocious bigotry and cruel Priestcraft what have you in all ages done to the human species. The horrid massacres which you have occasioned and fomented, the persecutions that you are still instigating, fill every virtuous mind with mingled sensations of sorrow and indignation. Were our Master to put your exhortation into practice, and every other Master to follow his example, the punishment would be most excessive: the poor despised followers of truth would fruitlessly wander from one part to another seeking work, until wearied with disappointment, they would be compelled to sit down in despair, and inevitably suffer a premature death by hunger, a death the agony of which would be inexpressible. Were there as many or half as many Deistical preachers, as there are other preachers in the country, there might be some cause for alarm; but you, to be breaking out occasionally in the pulpit in such raptures, about two or three unlettered, hard wrought mea,
searching into the foundation of your religion, and that religion from an almighty being, besides having several thousands of Priests to defend it, surely indicates much weakness. you would be done unto, is a maxim much reiterated, but seldom attended to by Christian teachers. How would you, sir, or any of your brethren, like it, were you prevented from preaching or getting a living any where because you read the Bible ? - Were we becoming more numerous than the Christians and using this severity towards you, we should only then be doing as we had been done unto. If the arguments of freethinkers be so weak and futile, as Priests affirm, why resort to persecution to sup: press weak arguments ? What should we think of man when fighting with his antagonist; to be crying out about his opponents weakness, and desiring him to be handcuffed: and, after this, boasting that he had gained the victory? It is an incontrovertable fact, that “ the appeal to means of force is the surrender to all pretence to argument.” I and a few friends have of late been much insulted by all the Priests of this neighbourhood. Our characters have been falsely and malignantly aspersed, which ought to be honestly repelled. Had we, instead of improving our minds in useful knowledge, been promoters of carding and cockfighting, we should have passed unheeded and unmolested. Whatever our enemies say of is, we are conscious, that, in our researches, our aim is the developement of truth, our view the detection of fable and falsehood, and, if, in our conclusions, we should happen to be wrong, the fault is in our reasoning faculties, the error of our judgments not of our hearts. Let any come forward and impeach our morals. It is ridiculous, it is base, for men, to whom we never did the least injury, to endeavour to irritate a Master against his servants, especially, when the Master has had upwards of twenty years experience of the good conduct of some of them. If a Master, by experience, finds the character of a servant to be unimpeachable, it is all that should be required. Were he to put the malicious advice given him into practice, would the Priests find him better servants among their hearers ? No, I defy them. With regard to mental knowledge, it would be a degradation to us to compare ourselves with the stupid and ignorant numbers who go to their respective Churches and Meetings. Within the circle of my acquaintance, I believe, there is scarcely one amongst fifty who knows or cares any thing about religion. Neither have they any taste for improving their minds upon any useful subject. When we assemble at a fair, or an alehouse, we seldom hear any thing but the diffusions of vociferating ignorance, and often our ears, are grated with a damning of each others soul to hell. Sometimes the conversations is about matching cocks and dogs to fight, which often terminates in a man fight.* ke That there are some of this class who deny the truth of the Christian religion, I shall not undertake to disprove.
There are, I confess, exceptions, some of a sober deportment, but
very few intelligent. Should we happen to go to a sacrament we need only read Robert Burns Holy Fair, for a general description of it. Hearing, that you were to resume the subject against infidelity, I went to your meeting on Sunday last, and heard you. Considering your office and its appendant interest, you, at that time, handled the subject candidly. Your observations respecting God teaching the Jews, according to the then prevailing customs and manners and accommodating himself to their state and condition, comparing him to a schoolmaster teaching children, would furnish matter for an excellent antichristian discourse. It is impossible for an Almighty, unchangeable, benevolent and just being to have been the Jewish God, for they make him the reverse of all these qualities. They appear to have been nothing but a band of ruffians. I am entering into a field that would require another letter to explore.
Your assertion that the motives of the writers or promulgators of infidel principles were influenced by gain and vanity, must not escape. This stigma, I am certain,could with far more justice be retorted upon the Priests. If the prospect of being laid in dungeons for a series of years be a motive for gain, then the infidels may be justly charged with mercenary motives. Since Mr. Carlile has been imprisoned, upwards of twenty of his shopmen have been paid with this kind of gain, five of whom are now in the London Newgate, and are editors of an excellent monthly Magazine, the contents of which give them much credit. The Rev. Robert Taylor, when writing to Mr. Peel about the inconsistency of the late prosecutions, offers as a reason. “The certainty that these prosecutions have contributed more than all other causes put together to extend and propagate the very matter they were intended to suppress, so that the prosecutors have been its virtual publishers. The facts that these publications (owing to the very means taken to repress them) have now obtained an unlimited and uncontrolable circulation, are more diffused than the tracts of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, are more read than the Bible, and found by experience to produce more beneficial effects."
The above Gentleman formerly had a good living in the Church of England, but he relinquished it from conscientious motives when he had reasoned himself a Deist. This change could not be for gain. He is now Secretary of a Society in London, called the Christian Evidence Society, which commenced about half a year ago. Priests and Laymen of every denomination of Christians are allowed and encouraged to come and defend their religion at this Meeting. The chief view of the superintendants of the Society, in the first place, was, to collect all the best writers upon the evidences of Christianity, to investigate whether their arguments were true or false : and the majority of the Meeting was to determine the case by the sign of raising the hand. They be
gan with Paley's Evidences, which are considered the best upon that subject. Mr. Taylor delivered a philippic against Priestcraft at the 14th Meeting of this Society, which he commenced as follows.
“ Mr. Chairman, Members of the Christian Evidence Society, Ladies and Gentleman, after a patient investigation of Paley's Evidences of Christianity continued for four months, the palpable sophistications and falsehoods contained in that celebrated treatise have determined, by the unanimous verdict of all the piety and learning in this great metropolis, that could be engaged in our discussion, that his argumentation is altogether invalid, 8c." In another part of this discourse, he adds: “ The various conflicting sects of religionists in the world are each of them willing to confess, that there has been Priestcraft in every communion but their own; nor do any pretend to deny, in some form or other, that mankind have been made miserable by its influence. Nor is inconsistency peculiar to any sect of religionists. The character of mean and cowardly cunning is common to them all. In
every other species of villainy there is a something noble: there is at least a coming forth of the soul, great in its error and majestic even in crime. In the battles of warriors, man meets with man, and shield is clashed on shield ; but the laurels of our spiritual heroes are won only in the nurseries of infancy, and in the chambers of the dying; from helpless childhood and unresisting dotage. They are never to be met with on terms of equal conflict; but, shrinking in guilty terror from the contact of research and profound learning, as extensive as their own, they dare not trust themselves to defend their mystic nonsense, where any body is likely to oppose it, but only will deliver it from the knaves pedestal of a Pulpit to the poor fools that will believe any thing.
Infidels and Blasphemers are words of opprobrium, with which every religious sect criminates every other. A Christian of the Calvinistic sect gravely affirmed to me, that you preached dangerous doctrine, contrary to that of Election, so clearly taught in the scriptures; consequently, blasphemous; therefore, you see were I to come over to your party, I should only still be a blasphemer in the eyes of numbers of Christians. Although Christians have been massacreing and burning each other during almost 1800 years about the meaning of God's will, the business is not made a whit better. They are still abusing and anathematizing each other respecting the meaning of the sayings and ways of God. Witness the debate which took place in this neighbourhood a few months ago, between John Scott the Scotch Baptist and William Mason the Itinerant Methodist Ranter. The Pamphlets of these two loving Christians have a tendency to do more injury to Christianity than any thing we have done. The one, in a certain part of his pamphlet, says, that “ He had prayed to God to direct his pen, and that if the reader gained any information from the perusai, God should have the praise." The other says " that his opponent's production is a heterogenous jumble of things and entreats his readers to pray earnestly to God for direction in reading his pamphlet." 'When contending about Perfection, the one argues that there is no perfection in man, the other refers to Job's perfection. John says that Job was not perfect, and refers to Job 3d chap. verse 1st, where Job curses the day of his birth. William retorts upon his opponent with letting “ the most holy one speak :" “ And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil.” From which he triumphantly says. “ Beloved reader, you see the difference between the Lord and Mr. Scott, and I will leave it to your judgment, whether the truth is spoken by the Lord or Mr. Scott." This absurdity and contradiction apparent to any individual of common sense cannot be made plainer than these two Christians have made it. John might have adduced more passages against the words of the Lord and his opponent; because at the 16th verse of the 10th chapter, Job compares the Lord to a fierce lion, complains that he had brought him forth out of the womb, entreats him to cease and let him alone, that he may take comfort a little. Well might Job complain of such terrible cruelty exercised towards him, as being smitten by Satan (who received both power and permission from the Lord) with sore boils from the crown even to the sole of the foot! But this absurdity is enhanced, when a God of love, who doth not afflict willingly, nor grieves the children of men, is made ihe author of it, and who joins in a friendly and sociable manner with Satan, inasmuch as he refuses Satan nothing which he requests, though Satan previously had been the means of ruining millions of the souls of God's creatures ! One would have imagined, that the writer of this tale would have made God conquer Satan in this exploit, especially as he set out on this footing; but instead of this, the Old Serpent, as he did at what is called the fall of man, triumphs again; for it is obvious, according to the account, that this affliction was to try Job's patience, which God expected nothing could move; but Satan did let him see different; for, if Job did not curse God as Satan predicted, Chap. 2nd. verse 5th, he called him a fierce lion, which was not much better,
You acknowledged that there were some things you met with in the Bible beyond your comprehension and things which staggered you much; but the unconceivableness of which you inputed to your ignorance, and consequently wrapped them up in mystery, adding, that there are mysteries in the nature of the Author of the Bible, instancing his omnipresence, the mystery of the trinity, &c. thus satisfying yourself, that as there were mys teries in the nature of God, it was no wonder there were myste