Page images

bited, during his extraordinary succession of being every degree of virtue and of vice, for more than two thousand years ago, he had nearly passed through the zodiac of animated nature; and must, therefore, by this time, have frequently traversed the orbis magnus of animal existence, To one of these doctrines, the Disciple of Deism must submit; unless he will again arrogate to himself a wisdom beyond that of Pythagoras; or reject a belief that was generally countenanced in the Grecian schools of philosophy. The fact really is, that nature affords no guide to man by which he can arrive at any thing like satisfaction concerning the immortality of the soul. The best argument that I remember, it is also the argument of Mr. Paine,) is the difficulty of conceiving that to cease to exist, which exists at present. The greatest stretch of the human mind cannot grasp the idea of annihilation. But, then, how the soul came to be, as I know not, neither will I conjecture. This I do know, that revelation unlocks the mystery, and gives us, what Justin Martyr himself found in Christiani. ty, (viz.) that clear solution of every moral, and religious difficulty, which no other philosophy could afford.

As I have here availed myself of no equivocal arguments, no disputed authorities, to prove that man cannot from nature, derive either a pure knowledge of one God, or a certainty of existence, (much less of happiness) beyond this life, so let me earnestly entreat the reader to grant these arguments a candid consideration, and, where he cannot refute, to yield to them. Further to satisfy his mind, (if he be a Father) let him observe how his children acquire the knowledge of which we are here speaking. Let him reflect, whether they, probably; would not pass through life without the first “ belief,” and the last “hope;" if the evidence of both were not revealed to them; and if so, let him consider, whether he himself did not acquire it in the "? same manner; and if himself, whether all mankind might not also; and, therefore, without revelation made to our forefathers of these important truths, whether we, their offspring, should not, like the ancient Grecians, and the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

modern Chinese, have been destitute of both; or have possessed such gross notions of either, as would have been worse than destitution. There remains but one word more to be said upon this interesting subject, and that consists in confronting Mr. Paine with himself. In the opening of his religious declamation, he “hopes for happiness beyond this life," but when the fire of infidelity is spent, and cooler judgment supervenes, he declares, that " he troubles not himself about the manner of future existence.”

He feels no guide that can conduct him to certainty. What may we not expect from a man who so pointedly differs from himself? whose hope burns but for à moment, and then fades into the darkness of indifference? How unlike is all this to the steadiness of the Christian's hope!

“I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-Citizens happy."

I, too, believe the equality of man, considered as a moral agent, for “God is no respecter of persons;" so that Mr. Paine's Deism and my Christianity, here teach the same doctrine. But where are to be found Mr. Paine's authorities for “doing justice?” What page of nature is inscribed with this precept? It is, to our eyes, rather contra-indicated than enforced by nature. The instinct of nature makes one animal prey upon another; and, surely, this is not an exemplification of Mr. Paine's doing justice! The hawk will destroy the lark, and the lark will destroy the worm. Is this a lesson for man to learn, and practice in social life? Nor is this example solitary, nor contrary to the general designs of nature, as is manifest from the various provisions she has made to facilitate the capture and destruction of weaker animals by the stronger; from the spider that preys upon a fly, to the lion that feasts upon

Nor do we learn to respect property more than person from the instincts of nature. Every animal plunders the stores of others when opportunity offers; evincing in no single instance, a regard of justice. And what would it avail, if we were to behold the strictest justice every where observed by instinctive natures? What would make that duty obligatory upon man?

an OX.

It would still need a declaratory sanction to give it the efficacy of law; and a penalty must be annexed to its transgression, or its promulgation would be in vain. If Mr. Paine, quitting the volume of nature, from which he pretends to have transcribed his belief, and his morality, rests his mind on the deductions of reason, and the suggestions of experience, why, then, indeed, his “justice” is not a religious duty, as he calls it, but a civil duty. The man who does unto "others as he would that others should do unto him, because it is the command of God, does a religious duty; and such a duty as may, I think, be called “doing justice;" but he who does so from a consideration, that the compact of society cannot be preserved without it, does it from an obligation he owes to others, and to himself; and it is then wholly a civil duty.

All these objections exist against the remaining items. of Mr. Paine's belief. Loving mercy” is no more to be found in the walks of nature, than “doing justice;” nor

making our fellow-creatures happy" than either of them. It would be needless to add examples of these daily attested truths.

If Mr. Paine meant, that the ordinances of nature are so regulated by the hand of the Almigbty, as to display his mercy, &c. to us, and that, therefore, we should exercise it to one another, how would he have reconciled with this notion, the apparently unmerciful earthquake which destroys indiscriminate thousands at a stroke? The plague which scatters death amidst populous cities, and cuts asunder the ties of friendsbip and of blood? Or the hurricane which lays prostrate the labour of man, and buries him under its ruins ? Thus, then, we perceive, that, neither from the instinct of animals, nor the phænomena of nature, can the Deist educe one moral law, that is capable, by rear

[ocr errors]

son, of being carried up to the will and authority of God. At best he has to judge between two opposing precedents proceeding from the same authority; and, is therefore, in no better condition, than if he had been without both. It is by the light of Revelation alone that man discovers the obligation which binds him to the performance of his moral and religious duties. Reason may declare their expedience, but Revelation only, can make them a law of God.

“But lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.”

This Paragraph being entirely prospective, it may

be passed over without any comment. It might have been entirely omitted, but that I would not break into my de sign of fairly producing every one of them.

“I do not believe in the Creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church.

As here is set forth nothing but a general declaration of disbelief, without any reasons to support it, I shall pass it by, and proceed to other matter that is more important.

“ All national Institutions of Churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

It cannot but excite surprise that a mind so acute as that of Mr. Paine, should have committed itself in the unguarded manner that is betrayed in this paragraph. It is an almost unparalleled presumption upon the reader's ignorance; and can then only escape detection when it eludes enquiry. He who knows nothing of Judaism or Christianity, may bow to the infallibility of Thomas Paine, but . he who knows any thing of either, will feel this charge

to be too frivolous for serious refutation. But it is my business to address the former; to lessen their reverence for concealed error, by confronting it with naked truth.

The national Institution of the Jewish Church (Josephus employs a more comprehensive term, and calls it the Jewish Theocracy,) however calculated it might be to “terrify" the wicked, was, certainly, not designed to disturb the tranquility of the good; much less was it adapted to “monopolize power and profit.” At its foundation the Priesthood had no other privileges beyond mere subsistence; and, afterwards, in the division of the land, the tribe of Levi had no portion. It is true that they had allotted them a tithe of all its produce; but, when it is considered that that provision was made within a year of the Israelites' redemption from a state of bondage, it cannot be imagined to have been more than equal to their necessities; and, certainly, not more than an æquivalent for those hopes which encouraged industry, and promised reward to exertion, from which they were absolutely cut off. But let us hear what the learned Cunæus

says concerning this “human invention set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit”-speaking “ de Mosis instituto” he proceeds thus---"Ille (Moses) rempublicam conditurus quæ in terris sanctissima foret, summam rerum potestatem numini detulit; et, cum alii nomina alia, ut res fert, reperiant, ac monarchiam modo oligarchiamque et interdum democratiam appellent, nihil ille horum fore pro naturâ atque indole intellexit tanti imperii. Igitur regiminis quendam modum constituit, quem, persignificanter, Flavius adversus Apionem vocari posse Theocratian ait, quasi tu ejusmodi civitatem dixeris, cujus præses rectorque solus Deus sit. Quæ enim cunque gerebantur, hujus geri judicio ac numine professus est. Idque ita verum esse claro documento probavit. Etenim qui omnia ex se uno pendentia videbat, quique populum oratione flectebat in omnem partem NULLAM, ex tam bellâ occasione, POTENTIAM SIBI, NULLAS OPES, NULLOS HONORES quæ

« PreviousContinue »