« הקודםהמשך »
them a promise of this eternal bliss for their money they have the better bargain of the two.
E. This doctrine supposes the existence of a God, but admitting that existence, can we imagine him worse than the worst of mankind ? for such this doctrine makes bim. Can we suppose that if eternal bliss or life, was to be the portion of part of the living animals who cover the face of the earth, that that device would not have been long ago known to man, as surely as he knows that he must die, so that I, you, and all the men and women who have lived before us in all parts of the world, would have been able to be partakers of it? Does not it carry the stain of falsehood strongly marked upon it, when we remember that it proceeds from the most immoral people of Asia who dwell in an unfrequented corner of the earth ? and it is astonishing it should have obtained the least credence. But of what use is this doctrine proposed to be of to mankind.
Son. By holding out the belief of reward and punishment in a life to come, it is proposed to diminish crime in this life, from the fear of the anticipation of what may await us hereafter.
E. Oh the inconceivable folly of mankind! Do these idiots bring forward this short-sighted and cruel doctrine, as a proof of the wisdom and benevolence of their God?
Son. They say that God himself visited earth to declare it.
E. I do not know which to admire most, the lying fabrication, or the folly of the doctrine, the injustice, or the malevolence! They propose to prevent crime, first by postponing the punishment due to it, to a time when the perpetrator shall no longer be able to commit it, and secondly, by giving them so heavy a quantity as to be out of all proportion to the crime, Experience in legis, lation has taught men that the only way to lessen crime, is to ad- . minister the proper chastisement immediately upon its commission; and that by so doing, by rendering the punishment imme. diate and certain, less cruel and barbarous punishments will suffice, because a small immediate punishment has more effect in deterring men from committing crimes, than a heavy deferred one. It is imperatively required by the laws of benevolence, that if evil is a necessary means to our end, every expedient should be made use of to reduce it to the smallest quantity possible. It is cruelty, it belongs only to a malignant nature, to apply evil in a way which demands a larger quantity than would have otherwise sufficed. To try at once the amazing absurdity and uselessness of this doctrine, let us suppose that the Athenians should pass a law by which they enacted that no act of theft should be investigated or punished, until twenty or more years had passed after the commission, or till the life of the thief was near its end. Is it not evident that in this case all pnnishment however dreadful would be destitute of power ? Philosophy teaches us to apply the penalty due to bad actions, as surely and instantly, as
when we put our finger into the fire, we are burned for our folly. Would it not be wicked beyond expression, if, instead of the immediate slight burn our finger receives upon touching the flames, the pain should be postponed for a few years, in order, that we might lose our arm, or life by the fire only then taking effect?
Son. I fully agree with you, my father, and I wish some of these poor deluded people could have the benefit of your remarks. How soon would the truth of your reasonings dispel the error into which these wretched men plunge the multitude. Besides these doctrines, this sect as usual pretends to perform miracles ; you shrug your shoulders my father, and I do not wonder at it.
E. The ignorant delight in the marvellous.— The less prevalent you find knowledge, the more you will find fable and superstition prevail.— But have these Jews admitted you to see the performance of one ?
Son. Oh no, philosophers, and those who love reason and truth better than fable and lies, never are permitted to enter into the mysterious depths of miracles, but I have spoken to many people, both men and women, who tell me, that many of their gossips and grandmothers have been witnesses of them.
E. Enough, enough of their absurdities. What moral precepts do this sect inculcate ?
Son. I will repeat some of them, and you shall judge how far they are entitled to adoption. First, they .say, that a man of property cannot be a good man, and they exemplify this precept by saying, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a nee. die, than for a rich man to inherit the life that is to come, in what they call the kingdom of heaven, (I suppose they mean a sort of garden for the reception of resurrectionists. It is very clear that it is for the interest of these priests that the rich and people of moderate property should believe them, because in proportion as these latter make themselves beggars, so do the former secure the possession of good things that they otherwise must labour to obtain.
2. That only fools, and those poor in spirit, and wanting information, in fact only such as are ignorant like little children will be happy, or, as they call it, blessed.
3. That if people do not like their father and their mother, and relations for the sake of these doctrines, they never will be permitted to enter the kingdom or garden.
4. That the preachers come to bring war, not peace.
5. That when any person is inclined to give a marriage feast, he must force all the strangers, and chance passengers into the house to come to the feast; and all those amongst this chance medley who are not prepared with a nuptial robe, are to be cast out in a dungeon.
E. My life draws rapidly to a close, but I am filled with grief
and indignation at the recital of these enormities and mischievous follies. Most imperatively are you called upon, my beloved son, to exert yourself to instruct your poorer brethren, and indeed mankind in general, and to shew them the errors and falsehoods that are attempted to be imposed upon them. Guide them to seek out happiness by acquiring the knowledge requisite to diminish the mass of misery that surrounds them, teach them to be just and · kind, and to assist each other in misfortune; engage them to the performance of acts useful to encrease the sum of human happiness. Alas! I foresee vice and misery will continue loug in the world if this superstition becomes predominant. Let me be assured that the son of Epictetus will devote his life to the removal of ignorance generally from among mankind. To stop the tide of these absurdities is not possible by any other means than by instructing the reasoning faculties ; and by teaching to the world a good and sound morality. Such errors and superstitions may prevail for some years-nay even for some centuries, but reason and truth will prevail at last. Farewell!
RELIGIOUS STATE OF THE UNITED STATES OF
I have published, as an extract from Elihu Palmer's periodical work, “ The Moral World," a similar description to the following, of a Methodistical Revival Meeting. This may be considered as a proof that religion still flourishes as a baneful weed in the wilds of America, sending its baleful exhalations into the cities.
TO MR. RICHARD CARLILE, DORCHESTER GAOL.
Lovdon, Nov. 7, 1825. You will conceive that I am disposed to represent the United States in the best light, and I truly think that America is the country towards which we may look with the hope of freedom and good sense being established, at present, I must adınit, that the population there are very generally the subjects of ignorance and fanaticism. Perhaps it will interest you to read the following Extract from the Letter of a New York friend, lately returned from a visit to his relatives in the state of Ohio, he was accompanied by his friend Pierre.
“The people around my brother's settlement are good-natured and friendly, but there is so much religious cant, and that too of the very worst order (Methodism), that I became at first irritated, and then disgusted. There had been a revival, as it is called, just before we came out, so that we saw the work of grace in full vigour during our stay. My youngest brother became a subject of it to my sorrow. He had been very wild, and foolishly attended their meeting to laugh at them, when, lo! the power of God, as they called it, seized him, and he began to experience conviction, and at last was converted! His health was almost ruined when I arrived, owing to his having for weeks been up late at night praying with
the godly of the neighbourhood, and no entreaties on the part of the family (who lweakly refused to exert any authority over him, from a childish regard to the opinions of their neighbours) could induce him to stay at home. When I came, I kept him at home as much as I could, and made no scruple of openly ridiculing his phrenzy. At last came a camp meeting. It was near my brother's, and I attended every day, and had the mortifcation of seeing my brother joining the herd in shouting the praises of God, and worshipping him more like negroes in our city, than like rational beings. One night I was at the upper end of the camp-ground amidst a circle of the pious missionaries, all the family were at the lower part near the altar where the work was going on gloriously, when Pierre came running to me, and told me to hasten down for they had my brother Abraham (the new convert) in their clutches. I sprang down and found my - brother exbausted on the ground uttering broken praises to God, while a parcel of sanctified methodists were singing over him and watching the progress of the power. Need I assure you that I cleared away a host from before me, and carried him out of the magic circle. My youngest sister was so frightened that she leaped from the pulpit to the ground at the risk of her limbs, and ran crying towards us. By this time all the camp ground was in an uproar, but we mustered too strong for them, and bore him off to the woods. One Methodist preacher ran after us, attended by some of his flock, and seizing on Abraham, asked him if he wished to leave the ground. The poor boy was so exhausted by his late religious efforts, that he could not answer, but I answered by tearing the preacher off from him and knocking him down on the spot! We left him lying there, and by the aid of a pine-torch that one of our party procured, we bore the boy off home, and encamped round his bed all night, lest he should steal back to them. We were all of course, after this, spoken of as deserving an immediate visitation of divine anger, but we laughed them all to scorn. The impudent rascals, before I came up, dared to tell my sister that the Lord would sweep her off from the face of the earth, for not hearkening to their cant, and one of them actually prayed that she and her husband might be speedily taken away as cumberers of the ground! Is not this insufferable? Were I to locate myself there with a chosen few, I would drive far away from me such canting scoundrels. They have played the devil with my brothers; both of their wives belong to their society, and these hypocrites, or fools, thrust themselves into their houses, and condescendingly implore God to awaken them from their mad slumber, and drag them from the horrible pit, and this miry clay in which they are wallowing. I do not believe that the state of society where my brother lives is worse than in other sections of the country. Wherever we went we were obliged to erect the standard of Deism in self defence. I would preach up those principles if they pushed us hard, and that would frighten eren the devil away. We should be finely off if we were to marry country girls that would turn methodists. How would you like to have every beggarly wood-chopper call your wife sister?"
The following hymns also, which I copied from the Lexington Hyma Book, edition of 1803, will further serve to acquaint you with the state of things in America.
THE PORTION OF SIŃNERS.
Of parting soon will come,
And Christians gathered home!
Those one with Dives for water cry,
And gnaw their tongues in pain,
And wring their hands in vain.
With whom I once did dwell,
And danc'd my soul to hell!
And caus'd my soul to sin;
And force the fuel in!
Sink down to endless flame,
Never to rise again.
Mother! behold your child !
Amidst the flames confin'd!
Go headlong down to hell;
And bid the child farewell!
With whom he once did dwell,
“ My husband ! fare you well!"
The man she once did love,
Whilst sbe is crown'd above!
Drink in eternal love :
And reign with him above!
SAME SUBJECT. Come all ye poor sinners that from Adam came, Ye poor, and ye blind, and ye halt, and ye lame, Close in with the gospel, upon its own terms, Or you'll burn for ever like poor mortal worms. When the Lord shall descend with a shout from abuve, And call down his saints to bless them with his love, And you not renew'd in your souls by his grace, Away you must turn with a sorrowsul face. For if you deny Christ, he will deny you, You'll be found on his left hand with the wicked crew; In horror and in torment for ever you'll lie, In vain then for mercy, in vain you must cry.