« הקודםהמשך »
sharpened by the power of truth, Coarse, vulgar, and most unfair allusions (so frequent in public discussions, vitally affecting the highest interests of human beings, and therefore to be treated with a gravity suitable to their importance) may sometimes appear to give unscrupulous reasoners a temporary advantage—but in reality, they ever injure the cause they are intended to promote, and can only disgrace those who use them. To slander us will not be the best way to prove our arguments unsound, or our positions untenable-—which, however, may easily be done, if it can be done, by theological professors, who are sufficiently numerous in these countries, and are certainly of no use, if not to expound and defend the doctrines of Christianity! Those who live by the altar, are expected to support the altar,
,—nor can they by any other means so effectually do this, as by proving the reasonableness of the worship offered up by those whose spiritual interests they profess themselves to be the ever-watchful guardians of. The duty of a Christian minister is “ to watch for souls as one that must give an account" --and at all times to act as one “ set for the defence of the gospel,” --and this, too, in the spirit that the Psalmist has ascribed to Jehovah: “But he being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not; yea, many a time turned he his wrath away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh—a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”
These Letters being written by a Jew, will not, it is hoped, weigh against the arguments they contain, nor fill the breasts of Christians with malice and disgust. Arguments are arguments, as truths are truths, no matter by whom urged; yet it must be confessed that all are not sufficiently enlightened to view the subject in this fair and candid manner,-and prejudices against our race are still rife and strong in the bosoms of all—but the children of wisdom, who have the best assurance that individual and national differences, with the hates and heartburnings, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, to which they give birth, will retrograde as a knowledge of the causes of these differences advances. The prejudices of caste and system have been the curse of Jew and Gentile, and involved all in one common moral ruin. Happily, we live in an age when religious prejudices (the most fatal of all) are comparatively weak, and as a consequence, the times are out-of-joint for persecution. We live at an epoch when men are free to write and speak almost all they think, and as a consequence, superstition is dying a natural death; truths which, in times not very remote, would startle and affright, are now received, not merely without fear, but with joy and gladness! nor are they merely loved because they are truths—but from a deeply-rooted and hourly-growing conviction that their acknowledgment and practical adoption by the wise of the earth, will lead to universal redemption from sin and misery. When the people shall no longer “spend money for that which is not bread; and their labour for that which satisfieth not; but hearken delightfully (unto the voice of reason), and eat that which is good, and let their souls delight themselves in fatness." From the Atlantic to the Ganges the faith of Mahomed, at this day, insults the understanding of at least a hundred and thirty millions of our fellow beings. Nearly an equal number of Hindoos, in the vast Indian Empire, under British rule, drink the very dregs of superstition, while untold myriads wallow in the mire of an abominable idolatry, and in the worship of stocks and stones, dis. honour that nature which, when guided by right reason, and that firm faith in truth, which is its first-born, would cover the earth with men as gods-wanting only their immortality. « For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” Therefore should we “get wisdom, and above all things, get understanding,” by maintaining the right and duty of every human being to speak and act according to the dictates of his conscience in matters of a religious nature. This is a truth which should be insisted upon by men of all creeds, castes, and denominations—as it is equally true, whether issuing from the lips of an Infidel or Christian ; indeed, whatever is by nature good (as truth manifestly is) can neither be honoured nor disgraced by any human being. Yet that a Jew-one of a tribe whose badge is sufferance, remarkable for what Christian writers are pleased to call 6 stiffneckedness and obstinate credulity," upon some points, and equal stiffneckedness and obstinate incredulity, with regard to others -should appear, without invitation, at the present alarming crisis in religious affairs, to defend the scepticism of the Jewish people boldly and without reserve or mysticism-within hearing of the trumpets and organs of the Christian churches in this Christian land! to proclaim a GREAT TRUTH, that will shake the world of super
stition from its centre tò its circumference, and put to shame the worshippers of idols in all the countries of Europe !—will doubtless fill the credulous, who measure virtue by the length of belief, with horror and dismay; while hypocrites of every shape and hue--tost on the stormy ocean of contending passions, fear of exposure, and hate of the exposer, anger and affright struggling for mastery, making up the wretched sum of their existence will gather courage from despair, when the highest note of hypocrisy will be sounded in every corner of the land—lest that which hath been enjoyed so long, should be enjoyed no longer! while the lover of his species will look on and smile, exclaiming in the joy of his heart : “ The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
If it can be shown, by clear and indisputable evidence, that the history of Jesus Christ (as commonly received among Christians) is a forgery and a fiction—that he was not the son of a virgin called Mary, the wife of Joseph the carpenter, who conceived through the
power of the holy ghost, and ceased not to be a virgin even after she had become a mother-that he did not converse with the Jewish doctors in the temple--nor preach to the populace in Jerusalem and elsewhere—nor perform miraculous cures-nor hold communion with the devil--nor, in point of fact, do any one act that pious enthusiasts and ignorant devotees have ascribed to him; and further, that neither a god nor a man called Christ was crucified by Pontius Pilate, the Procurator, and therefore could not by possibility have arisen from the dead three days after an event which did not happen, and ascend into heaven, as is vulgarly supposed, —if, we repeat, it can be clearly proved that the foregoing assertions about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are idle tales, having no foundation whatever in truth-mere fictions stolen from the mythological fables of ancient nations,--the very root of the Christian system will be as nought! « Therefore, as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust."
We are aware that with some men the oracles of faith are better heeded than the oracles of sense-as is fully proved by the faot that a vast majority of the human race believe, not merely that which is superior to sense, but that which is contrary to it. By such, the evidence of the senses is discarded-unless it accord and
harmonise with the evidence of faith ; nor will our most sanguine anticipations justify us in declaring our conviction that the multitude, as a multitude, can be at once taught to see as clearly, and argue as rationally, on religious as on other subjects. No; religious prejudices are the most inveterate, destructive, and firmly rooted of all,-often sinking deep even into minds which have been polished by liberal and elegant society, and matured by anxious study—but who, nevertheless, have a tinge of religious fanaticism, which darkens reason-inducing moral disease, of a specific and isolated character, which, wherever it-exists, undermines veneration for the majesty of truth, weakens the perception of right and justice, and gives over its unhappy victim as a prey to contending feelings and opinions, which rend and tear his moral being. But there are others ready to renounce their prejudices the moment they are proved to be prejudices and to these we address ourselves; and, as the first step to be taken by those who would instruct mankind, is to implant a desire to know-stimulate curiosity, and arouse a spirit of investigation, that will not stop short in its career, but if possible, grasp the universe, and all its wonderful phenomena, --willing, nay eager, to emancipate itself from the thraldom of error,---we here offer to such, the files and pincers of argument—the material for thought,—the weight of which will crush Christian dogmatisers! who, while steeped to the very lips in ignorance as to the source and origin of the religion they proclaim, are yet generally better instructed than the majority of their opponents, who, if more honest, have unfortunately (if possible) less actual knowledge of the matter in hand. To such honest reasoners we recommend the perusal of our Letters—not in a vain or boastful, but friendly spirit, so that they may hereafter exclaim : “ And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft.”
Inquiry can only be carried on beneficially by those who have knowledge of men and things; and whatever inquiry effects, as regards religious opinions, can never alarm the wise man- -for his soul is comforted by the assurance that the reason of man is that which giveth dominion over the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea, and will one day regulate and keep within due bounds, the passions of men. That, as “godliness profiteth in all things, both in this life and that which is to come,
godliness must have a moral basis-it being evident, to all reflecting minds, that any attempt to separate godliness from morality shows an utter ignorance of the true meaning of the terms, which, being one and the same, is, as a moral element, incapable of divi. sion. Now, all morality is nourished by truth--that is to it as sap or vital juice to the plant--without which, it withers and dies. The
rays of the morning Sun act upon the bosom of the chilled earth -when life, in its myriads of animal, insect, and vegetable forms, springs forth-withdraw their cheering influence---all becomes stiffened and dead; so, without the rays of truth, would all moral existences lose vitality, and perish! Whoever, then, suppresses truth, or injures the truth-teller, makes war upon morality, and thus aims a malignant and deadly blow at our happiness in this life and that which is to come. Yet, with this truth staring us in the face, the custom of mankind has been---to hate those who hastened to deliver them from evil, by teaching them that morality is everything in the arithmetic of life. They have been called “ Infidel scoffers-libertines--men who love not the law of the Lord evil men and seducers-filthy dreamers, who set their mouths against the heavens--men
may be seen walking in the counsel of the ungodly, standing in the way of sinners, and sitting in the seat of the scornful, instead of finding their delight in the law of the Lord''—who are, moreover, “ waxing worse and worse.!"_which seems barely possible in human beings so criminal. Such a farrago of abuse from the lips of Christian clergymen-directed against those who have been no otherwise criminal than in differing or departing from such opinions as the said clergymen deemed orthodox—is, as before noted, only disgraceful to its authors; but such is the line of argument ever adopted by the professors of law-made religions, who support their authority by vindictive personal slander-not seldom backed by sticks and staves, the dungeon, the faggot, and the rack ! -in which most unjust and reckless course they have found a steady support in the fanaticism and vulgar prejudices of the multitude.
Some there are who will sit down to peruse these Letters in a warped spirit of incredulity, and not draw so much of intellectual putriment from them as they otherwise might–because they argue, that if Christ had no more a real existence than Adonis, Bacchus, Mithra, or Hercules, the fiction would long since have been disco,