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his extraordinary exertions to meliorate the condition of the poor, in which charitable work he is now zealously engaged, that I'am induced to give his rational views re specting religion, in answer to a correspondent of the Limerick Chronicle.
“For nearly forty years,” he says, “I have studied the religious systems of the world, with the most sincere desire to discover one that was devoid of error ; one to which
mind and soul could consent; but the more I have examined the faiths and practices which they have produced, the more error in each has been made manifest to me, and I am now prepared to say that all, without a single exception, contain too much error to be of any utility in the present advanced state of ihe human mind. There are truths in each religion, as well as errors in all, but if I have not been too much prejudiced by early education and surrounding circumstances, to judge impar. tially between them, there are more valuable truths in the Christian Scriptures than in others—but a religion to be pure and undefiled, and to produce the proper effect upon the life and conduct of every human being, and to become universal, must be so true, that all who run may read, and so reading may fully comprehend. A religion of this character must be devoid of forms, ceremonies and mysteries, for these constitute the errors of all the existing systems, and of all those which have hitherto created anger, and produced violence and bloodshed throughout society. A religion devoid of error will not depend for its support upon any name whatever. No name, not even Deity itself, can make truth into falsehood.--A pure and genuine religion, therefore, will not require for its support, or for its universal promulgation by the human race, any name whatever, nor ought, except the irresistible trath whích it shall contain. Such religion will possess whatever is valuable in each, and exclude whatever is erroneous in all, and in due time, a religion of this character, freed from every inconsistency, shall be promulgated. Then will the world be in possession of principles which, without any exception, produce corresponding practices, then all
face to face, clearly and distinctly, and no longer throngh a glass, darkly. In the mean time, however, while the dangers shall be gradually working in the minds of those who have been compelled to receive error mixed with truth, it is intended that no violence shall be offered to the conscience of any one, and that in the proposed new villages, full provisions shall be made for the performance of religious worship, according to the practice of the country in which the villages shall be situated.
Elias Hicks, a celebrated Quaker preacher, at New-York, in a letter addressed to the Rev. Dr. Shoemaker, dated 3d mo. 31, 1823, speaking of the atonement, and those who believe in it, writes, “Surely, is it possible that any rational being, that has any right sense of justice and mercy, would be willing to accept forgiveness of his sins on such terms ? Would he not go forward, and offer himself wholly up, to suffer all the penalties due to his crimes, rather than the innocent should suffer ? Nay, was he so hardy as to acknowledge a willingness to be saved through such a medium, would it not prove that he stood in direct opposition to every principle of justice and honesty, of mercy and love, and show himself a poor selfish creature, unworthy of notice ?" Towards the conclusion of his letter, he says, “ I may now recommend thee to shake off all traditional views that thou hast imbibed from external evidence, and turn thy mind to the light within, as the only true teacher; and wait patiently for its instructions, and it will teach thee more than men or books can do, and lead thee to a clearer sight and sense of what thou desirest to know, than I have words clearly to convey to thee.”
In his discourses the following sentiments have been noted and published ; " That the death of Jesus Christ was no more to us than the death of any other good man ; that he merely performed his part on earth as a faithful son, just as any other man had done; that he did not believe any thing contained in the Scriptures merely because it was in them; that although the miracles might have been a proof to those who saw them, yet they could be no proof to us who did not see them. Is it possible, said he, that there is any person so ignorant or superstitious, as to believe, that there ever was on earth such a place as the garden of Eden, or that Adam and Eve were really put into it, and turned out of it for eating an apple? My friends, it is all an allegory."
Mr. Hicks, I understand, is far advanced in life, and is a great favourite, as a preacher, not only among his own sect, but with others of different denominations
He is said to be a man of the strictest morals. His doctrine is void of trilling puerilities, and disgusting hypocrisy, the greatest impediment to human improvement. It is plain, honest, common sense. Such as one would suppose would be adopted by all people, not burdened with an expensive priesthood.-Hired priests, no doubt, consider themselves in a measure bound to deal out to their hearers a great deal of school divinity, consisting of perplexing metaphysics, in order to convince them that they get the worth of their inoney. Plain morality would not command a high price among those who are in search of mysteries, miracles and spiritual nonentities.
Religionists seem to think that there can be no religion unattended with mystery and miracle. They require a name to uphold their religion ; and the person who bears it must have performed miracles to entitle him to their respect.
The simple principles of moral virtue have no charms for them. Their religion must be involved in clouds and darkness, to make it difficult to be understood, in order to enhance the merit of believing it. Such a scheme, as they call it, of religion is well adapted to priestcraft, because it gives the high priests of the establishment an opportunity to play off a sort of necromancy to deceive and gull the multitude. It would require no ministers, with high salaries, to explain the plain creed of Dr. Franklin. It does not require, like complicated and mysterious religions to be taught, as a school boy is taught grammar.
T'he morality contained in what is called the gospel, unconnected with the Old Testament, is unexceptionable. It is the doctrine of Deism ; as Dr. Tindal bas shown, in his work, entitled, “ Christianity as old as the Creation, or the Gospel a republication of the religion of nature.” The same sentiments, however, had been promulgated long before the gospel had existence. CONFUCIUS, the Chinese phlosopher, who was born 551 years before Christ, said, “Human nature came to us from heaven pure and perfect; but in process of time, ignorance, the passions, and evil examples have corrupted it.-All consists in restoring it to its primitive beauty; and to be perfect, we must reascend to that point we have fallen from. Obey heaven, and follow the orders of Him who governs it. Love your neighbour as yourself; let your reason, and not your senses be the rule of your conduct; for reason will teach you to think wisely, to speak prudently, and to behave yourself worthily on all occasions. Do to another what you would he should do unto you; and do not unto another what you would should not be done unto you; thou only needest this law alone; it is the foundation and principle of all the rest.
“ Desire not the death of thine enemy; thou wouldst desire it in vain ; his life is in the bands of Heaven.
“ Acknowledge thy benefits by the return of other benefits, but never revenge injuries.
In the precepts of PHOCYLIDES, written 540 years before Christ, we find thie following; “Let no favour or affection bias thy judgment; reject not the poor; nor judge any man rashly; for if thou doest, God will judge thee hereafter.”
"Give not thy alms to the poor with grudging, nor put him off till to-morrow; bave compassion on the man that is banished, and be eyes to the blind.”
“Show mercy to those that are shipwrecked; for the sea, like fortune, is a fair, but fickle mistress. Comfort the man that is dejected; and' be a friend to him that has no one to help him. We are all liable to misfortunes, up to day, and down tomorrow."
In what are called the Golden Verses of PYTHAGORAS, who died 497 years before Christ, we read as follows, “Do not an ill thing, either in company, or alone; but of all respect yoarself first; that is, first pay the duty which is due to yourself, to your honour and to your conscience ; nor let any foreign regard make you deviate from this faith.”
“Presume not to sleep till you have thrice ran over the actions of the past day. Examine yourself, where have I been? What have I done? Have I omitted any good action ? Then weigh all, and correct yourself for what you have done amiss, and rejoice in what you have done well.”
“Whatever evils thou mayest undergo, bear them patiently, endeavoring to discov. er a remedy. And let this reflection console thee, that fate does not distribute much of evil to good men.
“Men apply the art of reasoning to good and bad purposes ; listen, therefore, with caution, and be not hasty to admit or reject. If any one assert an untruth, arm thy. self with patience, and be silent.
“When this habit has become familiar to thee, thou wilt perceive the constitution of the immortal Gods, and of mortal men; even the great extent of being, and in
what manner it exists. Thou wilt perceive that nature in her operations is uniform, and thou will expect' only what is possible. Thou wilt perceive that mankind willingly draw upon themselves evil. They neither see nor understand what it is wise to prefer; and when entangled, are ignorant of the means of escape. Such is the destiny of man. They are subjected to evils without end, and are agitated incessantly, like rolling stones. A fatal contention ever secretly pursues them, which they neither endeavor to subdue, nor yield to.
“Great Jove ! Father of Men! O free them from those evils, or discover to them the demon they employ! But be of good cheer, for the race of man is divine. Nature discovers to them her hidden mysteries, in which if thou art interested, and attain this knowledge, thou wilt obtain with ease, all I enjoin; and having healed thy soul, thou wilt preserve it from evil.
“ Abstain, moreover, from those unclean and foul meats, which are forbidden, keeping thy body pure, and thy soul free.
« Consider all things well, governing thyself by reason, and settling it in the uppermost place. And when thou art divested of thy mortal body, and arrived in the most pure æther, thou shalt be eralted among the immortal Gods, be incorruptible, and never more know death."
Laurence Sterne, in his Coran, says, * I had conceived, that to love our enemies was a tenet peculiar to the Christian religion, till I stumbled upon the same idea in the writings of that rogue Plato.” And it seems that the rogue Pythagoras, as well as Plato and others, taught the doctrine of immortality long before its promulgation in the gospel, although the merit of it is ascribed exclusively to Jesus by many of his followers.
Quotations to the same effect might be made from the writings of Socrates, Plato, Cicero, and others, who lived anterior to the time of Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems apparent, that the moral sentiments contained in the gospel, have been derived from philosophers who lived at periods remote from the time of its promulgation. The morals of Epictetus, Seneca, and Antoninus, whom christians call heathens, are not inferior to those of the gospel. ANTONINUS observes, “It is the peculiar excellence of man to love even those who have offended him. This you will be disposed to do, if you reflect that the offender is allied to you ; that he did it through ignorance, and, perhaps involuntarily; and, inoreover, that you will both soon go peaceably to your graves. But above all, consider, that he has not really injured you, as he could not render your mind, or gorerning part, the worse for his offence.
“A man may be more expert than you in the gymnastic exercises ; be it so; yet he is not superior to you in the social virtues, in generosity, in modesty, in patience under the accidents of life, or lenity towards the foibles of mankind.”
Moral principles are the same in all countries, and at all times. Neither time nor place can change them.
Although sects were formed under the names of some of the ancient philosophers, which caused great disputations among the disciples of the respective leaders, it does not appear that they were carried on with such rancor towards each other, as those which have distinguished the followers of men who have given names to various denominations of christians. Among these, at least, reason hias been perverted by a blind zeal to support the favourite dogmas of spiritual guides, and christendom has been kept in turmoil, for 1800 years, by the ranglings and persecutions of sectarians.
When philosophers speak favourably of the morality of the gospel, they are far from vindicating the cruelties committed in the name of its founder, or the arrogant pretensions of its ministers. In fact, they evidently do it as a salvo against persecution for their unbelief in its divinity, and their disapprobation of the yindictive spirit of its supporters.
The following are the only books of note which are esteemed by the various nations of the earth as of divine origin.
Shu-King, or sacred book, of the Chinese.
Which of these contain the best or most practical system of morals it might be difficult to determine. But, as the cause of cruelties in the destruction of the human species, I will venture to say, that the Bible stands pre-eminent and unrivalled. MilJions liave been sacrificed, under both the Jewish and Christian economy, with the false and wicked pretext of honouring the Deity by the inforcement of ridiculous creeds, rights and ceremonies. In the trifling and foolish affair of the molten call alone, as recorded in the 320 chap, of Exodus, about three thousand men are said to have been
pat to death to appease the pretended jealousy of the Supreme Creator of the Universe. This, and hundreds of other passages that might be cited from the Bible, forma a striking contrast with that tolerant spirit of the Koran, in which it is said, “ If God had pleased, he had surely made you one people; but he hath thought fit to give you different laws, that he might try you in that which he hath given you respectively. Therefore strive to excel each other in good works; unto God shall you all return, and then will he declare unto you that concerning which ye have differed.”-Koran, chap. 5.
I will here insert a concise history of occurrences under the gospel dispensation in Spain, as a sample of what has, and ever will take place, wherever ministers of religion bear sway in government. This I take from a statement, which has recently appeared, of the number of victims to thal terrible engine of superstition, cruelty and death, the Inquisition; the bare recital of which chills the blood, and fills the mind with horrid images of suffering humanity under the most excrutiating tortures, which awful depravity, disguised in the robes of religion, could invent. The table is extracted from a Critical History of that dreadful tribunal, by J. A. Lorente, one of its late secretaries, and may therefore be considered as indisputably authentic. It exhibits a detailed list of the respective numbers who have suffered various kinds of punishment and persecution in the Peninsula alone, independent of those who have been its victims in other parts of the world, for a period of 356 years, viz. from 1452 to 1808, during which the Inquisition has existed, under the administration of 44 Inquisitors General. Within that term it appears that in Spain have been burnt 31,7 died in prison or escaped by flight and were burnt in effigy, 174,111, and suffered other punishments, such as whipping, imprisonment, &c. 287,522, making a grand total of 336,651. The greatest number of victims under any administration, was in that of Torquemada, the first Inquistor General, who presided from 1452 to 1499, a long and bloody reign of 47 years, during which 8,800 victims were burnt, 6,400 died or escaped by flight, and 90,094 suffered various other punishments ; being in the whole, 105,294, or 2,240 per annum !
The use of this horrid instrument of slanghter was abolished by the Cortes ; but is about to be reinstated under the rule of the heaven-born Ferdinand. The consequences of which may be anticipated by the tenor of the following Decree, issued at Madrid, Oct. 13, 1823.
“In casting my eyes (says his Majesty) on the Most High who had 'deigned to deliver me from so many dangers, and to lead me back as it were by the hand among my faithful subjects, I experience a feeling of horror when I recollect all the sacrific all the crimes which the impious have dared to commit against the Sovereign Creator of the Universe.
“ The Ministers of Religion have been persecuted and sacrificed—the venerable successor of St. Peter has been insulted—the temples of the Lord profaned and destroyed—the Holy Gospel trodden under foot-lastly, the inestimable inheritance which Jesus Christ left us, the right of his Holy Supper, to assure us of his love, and of our eternal felicity, the sacred Hosts, have been trampled under foot. My soul
nnot be at rest till united to my beloved subjects, we shall offer to God pious sacTifices that he may deign to purify by his grace the soil of Spain from so many stains. In order that objects of such importance should be attained, I have resolved that in all places in my dominion, the tribunals, the Juntas, and all public bodies, shall implore the clemency of the Almighty in favour of the nation, and that the Archbishops, Bishops and Capitular Vicars of vacant Sees, the Priors of Orders, and all those who exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction, shall prepare missions, which shall exert themselves to destroy erroneous, pernicious, and heretical doctrines, and shut up in the monasteries, of which the rules are the most rigid, those ecclesiastios, who have been the agents of an impious faction.
“Sealed by my Royal band !" A Royal hand bathed in blood; the witness of innumerable perjuries. The pious sacrifices to be offered to God are human victims : the best blood of Spain-Riego, &c. Good heavens! is it possible that the enlightened reason of man will long submit to be imposed upon by the canting of such vile, infamous wretches as Ferdinand the Seventh ?
In the opinion of such blotches on the human character, the belief in mysteries and miracles, and the performance of the idle ceremonies ordained by the Church, are sufficient to atone for all sins, and that morals, in comparison, are of no value.
Christianity, as taught and practised by theologians and their adherents, is so ace curately described in a letter on superstition, addressed to the people of England, by the celebrated William Pitt, (afterwards Earl of Chatham, and Prime Minister of Great Britain,) that I am induced to give it entire. It was first printed in the Lowdon Journal in 1733.
LETTER OF WILLIAM PITT.
“ Pure Religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this : to visit the Fatherless and Widows in their afflictions, and to keep one's self unspotted from the World.”
Gentlemen, whoever takes a view of the world, will find, that what the greatest part of mankind have agreed to call religion, has been only some outward exercise esteemed sufficient to work a reconciliation with God. It has moved them to build temples, flay victims, offer up sacrifices, to fast and feast, to petition and thank, 10 ļaugh and cry, to sing and sigh by turns ; but it has not yet been found sufficient to induce them to break off an armour, to make restitution of ill-gotten wealth, or to bring the passions and appetites to a reasonable subjection. Differ as much as they may in opinion, concerning what they ought to believe, or after what manner they are to serve God, as they call it, yet they all agree in gratifying their appetites. The same passions reign eternally in all countries and in all ages, Jew and Mahometan, the Christian and the Pagan, the Tartar and the Indian, all kinds of men who differ in almost every thing else, universally agree with regard to their passions; if there be any difference among them it is this, that the more superstitious, the more vicious they always are, and the more they believe, the less they practise. This is a melancholy consideration to a good mind; it is a truth, and certainly above all things, worth our while to inquire into. We will, therefore, probe the wound, and search to the bottom; we will lay the axe to the root of the tree, and show you the true reason why men go on in sinning and repenting, and sinning again through the whole course of their lives ; and the reason is, beca use they have been taught, most wickedly taught, that religion and virtue are two things absolutely distinct ; that the deficiency of the one, might be supplied by the sufficiency of the other; and that what you want in virtue, you must make up in religion. But this religion, so dishonourable to God, and so pernicious to men, is worse than A theism, for Atheism, though it takes away one great motive to support virtue in distresi3, yet it furnishes no man with arguments to be vicious ; but superstition, or what the world means by religion is the greatest possible encouragement to vice, by setting up something as religion, which shall atone and commute for the want of virtue. This is establishing iniquity by a law, the highest law; by authority, the highest authority ; that of God himself. We complain of the vices of the world, and of the wickedness of when, without searching into the true
It is not because they are wicked by nat ire, for that is both false and impious ; but because to serve the purposes of their pretended soul savers, they have been carefully taught that they are wicked by nature, and cannot help continuing son It would have been impossible for men to have been both religious and vicious, had religion been made to consist wherein alone it does consist; and had they been always taught that true religion is the practice of virtue in obedience to the will of God, who presides over all things, and will finally make every man happy who does his duty.
This single opinion in religion, that all things are so well made by the Deity, that virtue is its own reward, and that happiness will ever arise from acting according to the reason of things, or that God, ever wise and good, will provide some extraordinary happiness for those who suffer for virtue's sake, is enough to support a man under all difficulties, to keep him steady to his duty, and to enable him
to stand as firm as a rock, amidst all the charms of applause, profit, and honour. But this religion of reason, which all men are capable of, has been neglected and condemned, and another
up, the natural consequences of which have puzzled men's understandings, and debauched their morals, more than all tlie lewd poets and atheistical philosophers, that ever infested the world; for instead of being taught that religion consists in action, or obedience to the eternal moral law of God, we have been nost gravely and venerably told that it consists in the belief of certain opinions which we could form no idea of, or which were contrary to the clear perceptions of our minds, or which had no tendency to make us either wiser or better, or which is much worse, had a manifest tendency to make us wicked and immoral. And this belief, this impious belief, aris