« הקודםהמשך »
means the Christian Church ;9 and the earth helped her, not only because the believers found a refuge from persecution in the witderness, but as given to agriculture they derived from the earth the means of subsistence.
7. Here we see the origin of monastic institutions. Philo describes them, and gives them the very name of monasteries. The first believers in Egypt and Palestine became monks' and hermits from compulsion and not from choice; and thus the gross superstition which afterwards from this source disgraced Christianity, originated in the violence and cruelties with which it was at first assailed.
8. Philo has a passage on this subject which I particularly recommend to your potice, Mr. Carlile, and that of the learned Secretary; and I desire him to produce the authority of Philo the next time he draws a character of those who believe in Christ. After giving an account of the believers in Palestine and Egypt, and painting their virtues in such colours as the world never till then beheld, he anticipated the question which the adversary might put, “ Whether any men then really existed, or even had existed, that could realize the character which he was delineating ?" Philo answers, “I may well reply, that is former times certain men flourished, who having God for their guide, excelled all their contemporaries in virtue; and who living conformably to the divine law, which is also the law of reason and nature, not only be came themselves free, but filled all around them with the same manly freedom. And in our own days, there are men, who, as images of the same higli original, have copied the fair and honourable conduct of those wise patriarchs. For we are not to suppose that, because the souls of our adversaries are themselves destitute of spiritual freedom, as being the slaves of folly and bad passions, all men are incapable of the same elevated virtue. If such persóns do not appear like flocks in vast numbers, it eannot be deemed strange ; first, because great moral excellence, like
every other excellence, is rare; and, secondly, because they pursue truth in retirement, remote from vulgar eyes, wishing, if it be possible, to come forth and reform the world : for virtue, by its very nature, is disposed to benefit the community. Bat as they are not able to effect this purpose, on account of the mad prejudices and vices which have overspread society, and which have been deeply rooted in the public mind, they have retired; and in solitude sought shelter from the persecution which, with the violence of a flood after a tempest, threatened to sweep them
- See the researches of Sampson Arnold Mackey upon this subject.R. C.
? It may be so; but they were not Christians who first led a 'inonastic life.-R. C.
away. And we, if we have any zeal for reformation, should pursue them to their retreat, and supplicate them to return, that their presence might prove instrumental in healing the monstrous disorders, which like wild beasts overrun the world, offering them peace and liberty, and other earthly blessings instead of assailing them with war and slavery, and other innumerable evils."-Vol. ii. p. 455, or 877.
Here we see the followers of Jesus placed in a very interesting point of light. The sublimity in moral virtue to which they had attained, appeared incredible to those who opposed and persecuted them. They were the reformes and benefactors of the world... They wished, if possible, to live in the midst of society, and diffuse over it, wy their example and instruction the blessings of peace, order, and virtue.' But the enemies of truth and moral improvement assailed them “ with war and slavery, and other indumerable evils ;” and they were obliged to seek shelter in solitude, lest they should be swept away by persecution as by a flood after a violent tempest. This is the food which the author of the Revelation in figurative language represents the votaries of the serpent as casting after the Christian Church, when flying into the wilderness, that they might cause her to be carried away of the flood. Philo well knew the state of the heathen world in regard to virtue and real knowledge, and especially that of the Egyptians, among whom he lived. He speaks of it as a savage state, overrun with monstrous disorders, as with wild beasts ; and in another place he declares it impossible to reform men without the especial assistance and wisdom of God. He, therefore, supposes the holy med, of whom he speaks, to be possessed of this peculiar wisdom and assistance; and he earnestly prays for their return to society, that their presence might illumine and regenerate mankind. This is a glorious representation of the character of the primitive Christians; and triumphantly sets aside the character which the Rev. Mr. Taylor has lately given of them, as well as the account which Gibbon gives, of them, as false and calumnious in the extreme, representing them as neither agreeable nor useful in this world, and their virtues as only a mean and timid repentance for former sids, and an impetuous zeal in supporting the reputation of a rising sect.
My object in these letters is first to gather well attested facts respecting Christianity, and then argne for its divine origin. My enquiry will comprehend, in addition to Philo, Josephus, Seneca, Plutareh, Tacitus, Pliuy, Celsus, and Lucian. These are the most competent authorities, having flourished in the first century, or in the beginning of the second : and my aim is to lay open iu these writers, friends and foes of the Gospel, a fund of evidence hitherto little known; which, in opposition to its enemies, shall prove its truth to the end of time.
BEN DAVID. • Bravo, Ben David.-R. C.
TO THE CHRISTIAN JUDGE BAILEY.
62, Fleet Street, July 14, 1826. Tire Republican requires something like a finish of those letters which I have begun to address to you. I can adduce but little further from your “ Notes on the Book of Common Prayer" that is high enough for criticism. While I was in the Gaol, I had i different grounds whereon to notice your observations; but now,
I confess, that I think them scarcely worth notice. Still, as I am about to conclude “ The Republican,” I must make a conclusion of my letters to you.
I congratulate you on the wisdom which the men in authority have acquired, in ceasing from persecuting those who impugn (as by law allowed) the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This is always the result of having to maintain a bad cause. Your more tification must have been great to see that divine religion, which you maintained on the bench with the asperity of a political partizan, fall before the plain attacks of a few individuals, who have no college education whereof to boast. You may see, that neither its God, its Priests, its Judges, or its Public Prosecutors, could maintain a doctrine that has no foundation in truth.
I have no disposition to insult your grey hairs, nor to ridicule your infirmities, indeed you have exhibited but few infirmities on any subject but on that of religion. My purpose is public instruction, and that which I have struggled for successfully is to instruct the public on matters that are useful to be known, and not in systems and established doctrines that fall before investigation; that arose without it, and that cannot be supported either with or without persecution. Common Serjeant Denman told Humphrey Boyle, that, though such publications as mine might be intended to instruct the public, they could not be tolerated at present. What does he now think of the matter? You, Mr. Justice Bailey, were rash enough to interrupt Mrs. Wright in the course of her arguments to shew why no punishment should be inflicted upon her; but what have you done by so.doing? You have given zest to a discourse that is spreading all over the earth. Praises of it have flown back across the Atlantic; and whoever reads it discerns the staring motive by which you were induced to stop its being read in court, Mrs. Wright has suffered all sorts of afflictions, as the consequence of your conduct and sentence, and is now as a widow with two children about to try to maintain herself in her native town of Nottingham by the sale of books.
I was not abashed when Mr. Justice Best in the Court of King's Bench proclaimed me a specimen of the folly of a client's defending himself in that Court. I saw the affair in a very dif
ferent light, and that the worst sentence that could be uttered by a defendant in such a case has more weight with the public than any thing that a lawyer would say in the matter.
When on a motion for a new trial, I was talking aboůl the imperfections of the English tjanslation of the Bible, I knew that it would weigh nothing with the Court; but I knew that it would weigh a great deal with the 'readers of English newspapers, to have a single argument for the invalidity of the Bible reported. However foolish you, Judges, might have thought my argument, you see that I have outwitted you all on the grand point for which I was struggling. How different must your feelings bave been between the act of 1819, in issuing a writ of levari facias to rob.me of all the property I had aceumulated, and the act of 1826, by which you were made to give me back the remains of it? Very pretty work for judges ! was not this prosecution and persecution ? I give Judge Abbott credit for foresight in the matter; but the rash and blind Eldon, Castlereagh, and Sidmouth did not understand what they were about to do, when they insisted on the prosecution of the publisher of “ The Age of Reason."
The matter is now settled. The right to publish “ The Age of Reason” is become a part and parcel of the common law of the land. Christianity, which was called a part and parcel of the common law of the laod, when fairly examined, has been found to be an indefinite term, and not understood by any person so as to be made a part and parcel of law. You see, Mr. Justice Bailey, that all your judicial consequence could not give weight to a fable, even to a divine fable. In vain, did you say, " think what you please, but be silent:" We have thought on what subjects we pleased, and have not been silent; we have published ibe conclusions of our thoughts, and will publish them: so you may think what you please upon this matter, and be silent or talk as it may please you. We fear not your speech or pen, why do you fear us?
You have stated your conviction in your concluding note on the Book of Common Prayer that Christianity is God's work; this is indisputable, for the word god is hypothetical. Had you said it was the work of a goddess, your assertion would have conveyed the same amount of instruction, the same proof.
The notes of your book are, I find, beneath my criticism, now I can so much better employ my time out of the gaol; so I must make short work of them and probably make this my last letter to you upon this subject. Minor considerations I put aside, and say a few words to you upon the subject of what you call God. In a note on the book of Psalms, you quote Dr. Blair to say, that: “ the descriptions of the Deity in the Psalms are wonderfully noble, both from the grandeur of the object and the manner of representing it.” Let us see. You also quote that grand poet Sternhold to tell us that:
“ On cherubs and cherubim full royally he rode,
This comparison is that of an insect. Without stopping to enquire what sort of beasts of burden were cherubs and cheru. bim, we may be physically sure, that they were all of the insect tribe that could ride on the winds. Nothing but insects ride on clouds and winds ; and we have not yet seen an animal body so far spiritualized, birds of feather excepted, to move by its own natural powers on anything so light as air. Instead of being magnificent, this comparison is low indeed, the lowest that could be made. Let us search for others :Psalm 3, ver. 7; “Up, Lord, and help me ; 0
for thou smitest all mine enemies upon the cheek-bone ; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.”—Here, your God is described as a ruf: fianly pugilist, or laying about him as an Irishman with his shilleJah ; and what can be lower than either of this class of beings?
Psalm 9, ver. 19, “ Up, Lord, and let not man have the up
Psalm 10, ver. 1, " Why standest thou so far off, O Lord ; and hidest thy face in the needful time of trouble?"
Psalm 44, ver. 23, “a Up, Lord, why sleepest thou : awake, and be not absent from us for ever.
Psalm 50, ver. 12, “ If I be hungry I will not tell thee: for the whole world mine, and all that is therein."
Psalm 68, ver. 6, “He is the God, that maketh man to be one of mind in an house." Where is he? Who is he? Such a god has never yet been found among men.
Psalm 68, ver. 24 and 25, “ It is well seen, O God, how thou goest: how thou, my God and King, goest into the sanctuary. The singers go before; the minstrels follow after; in the midst are the damsels playing with the timbrels.” Magnificent !
Though the writers of these Psalms said repeatedly that their God was superior to all other Gods, we may see, who can look at the matter impartially, that it was not so.
We find him, described with all the human passions and made the image of those who described him. The Gods are alike as to rank: they are the creations of human fancy. This God of the Jews is clearly so. He fights, he sleeps, he hungers, and goes into a sanc'tuary with music.
There is one point worthy of notice; the idolators in making gods to suit their passions, always made them the authors or images of what little reason they possessed. To their physical notions of a Deity, they added all the moral notions of their distinctions from other animals. The God was made the author and emblem of the little reason possessed by the idolator. The name of spirit was given to reason, and the same to the God, and an association or sameness between the two asserted. The pheno