« VorigeDoorgaan »
: If Deism, therefore, can satisfactorily answer the questions required of it, and prove its claims to the properties above stated, it may be more entitled to the confidence of mankind than from all its declarations in its own favour, or its carping at Christianity, because many calling themselves Christians, have distigured its simple but sublime and efficacious system, or by their lies belied the principles they were acting under.
Wishing truth alone to prevail, which I believe to be no where found so pure and powerful, as in the Gospel of Jesus,
ROBERT LYON. Clapton, Sept. 24, 1820.
P.S.-Deism declares to intelligent man, the existence of one perfect God, Creator and Preserver of the Universe, that the laws by which he governs the world are like himself immutable, and of course that violation of these laws or miraculous interference in the movements of vature, must be necessarily excluded from the grand system of universal existence : that the creator is justly entitled to the adoration of every intellectual agent throughout ihe regions of intinite space, and that he alone is entitled to it, having no copartners who have a right to share with him the homage of the intelligent world. Deism also declares, that the practice of pure natural and uncorrupted virtue is the essential duiy, and constitutes the highest dignity of man—that the powers of man are competent to all the great purposes of human existence—that science, virtue, and happiness are the great objects which ought to awaken the mental energies, and draw forth the moral affections of the human race.
TO MR. WILLIAM AINGER.
Dorchester Gaol, Oct. 16, 1820. SIR,
The recollection that you were one of those who boldly stood forward to express your approbation of my conduct, at a time when some little peril attended such an expression, in consequence of the fury and malice of the corrupt and bigotted part of the community, demands my attention to any communication from you, and commands my respect for your person, although unknown to me. It is with this feeling, and entirely in return for the service you did to me in opposition to your own personal advantage in life, that has induced me to notice the evasive manner in which your friend Mr. Lyon has answered the extract from Palmer's Principles of Nature, submitted to his consideration or animadversion, as containing
the principles of Deism ; nothing short of the respect which I feel for you could have induced me to notice this matter under such circumstances, for, to be caudid myself, I must at once confess, that I do not deem your friend a candid disputant or a sincere lover and searcher after truth in its native simplicity. You will, and I am sure your friend ought to acquit me of any personal disrespect, or want of proper feeling on the occasion, i an altogether led by the correspondence which lays before me, and have no personal feeling on the matter.
In the first place, I have to observe, that the extract which you submitted to your friend was a candid declaration of the principles of Deism, and the cause of Deists rejecting every other species of superstition as taught by books. It therefore required from Mr. Lyon, a professed Christian, or a believer in more than one God, all the objections he could raise against the declared principles of Deism, and in support of his bookreligion or idolatry, instead of a distortion of words, and a cavilling with these words, by asking you in turn half a dozen questions about the meaning of words for which a dictionary should have sufficed him, instead of giving you ope answer or rational objection to your extraeted declaration.
I can never travel through the wilderness which Mr. Lyon has sought to embarrass you in, for, although, I will not admit that I am the dullest fellow to comprehend what is comprehensible, I had to read his something (for it is not a reply) half a dozen times, and to make a few slight corrections in the words and letters before I could either make sense or nonsense of it. I shall therefore endeavour to simplify what he has endeavoured to mystify, and without following his questions in order, endeavour to embrace them all and leave nothing unanswered.
The first words that seem to be carped upon are the words Deism and Christianity, let us enquire their signification lest your friend should make another string of questions on this head.
Q. What is Deism, or rather ils signification ?
A. It is a principle or rather a notion impressed upon the minds of certain men, that the visible works of nature are sufficient to support the hypothesis that there must be a being that has created, and that preserves, whatever the ocular or mental faculty can comprehend, that this cause or being gives motion to maiter : this being they call God, and consider the admiration and contemplation of the works of nature to be the most becoming species of worship or veneration for this
being, in preference to a worship founded on certain books, or by the law of any country.
Q. Does the Deist, or rather, does Deism impute any par. ticular form to the being it calls God?
A. Deism itself cannot, because, it professes to make nature its base, and consequently no further form can be attributed to the Deity, than the mind can comprehend of nature. The ideas of different men who study nature and her laws must differ on this head in proportion to the extent of their researches.
Q. Is not your last answer a near approach to Atheism ?
4. Atheism is a word that has been fabricated to become a butt for the malignant shafts of superstition. It implies no God, or the honentity of the word God, but, in fact, can never form a principle in the mind of any man, until he can trace the whole agency and machinery of nature to its highest source. The word Atheism has no strict definition, it is a word invented by cavillers, and meant as a term of reproach to all who search into the laws of nature, their cause, and origin.
Q. Then you, who are called a Deint, form no idea as to the form and figure of your Deity ?
A. I do not; and further, I can only view that man as an idolater who does; because, both my reason and common sense assure me that it is but the idol of his imagination, and an idea without foundation or even propriety of thought. We are as yet but in the infancy of science, and until we can trace the cause of the existence of animal and vegetable bodies, we should cease to opine upon the first power of production.
Q. Then these are the grounds upon which you oppose the validity and truth of the generally received notions of religion, and adhere to that which you call Deism ?
A. These are my grounds, as distinct and abstracted from all arguments borrowed from books. If I find a book that recommends ideas contrary to the laws of nature, and demands my assent to those ideas, the more powerful force of nature and reason in my mind bids me reject it as the fabrication of some lunatic or impostor. The original of such book can have no just claim to attention, much less after it has been transcribed a thousand times over by different persons, each of whom alters it agreeable to his own phantasies. I beg to add, that I consider the word Deism has no better definition as a word than the word Atheism, they are mere words of sound, and can never regulate the principle or action of the reflecting and philosophical mind.
Q. In your first definition of the signification of the word Deism, you spoke of a being that created whatever we behold or conceive: pray what do you consider by creation ? do you mean that such being could produce matter from nothing, or that he produced whatever we behold or conceived by an arrangement of matter?
Ă. I do not believe that matter could be produced from nothing: I believe it to be both eternal as to the past, and imperishable as to the future. By creation, I mean, that due arrangement and harmony which we observe in matter, its combinations, powers, and emanations, by which vegetable and animal bodies are produced and sustained. I consider the work of creation to be continually going on, in all its original variety. If 1, for instance, know that the planting a certain seed will produce a certain flower, fruit, or grain, I consider that I create, by my knowledge of the effect of my planting, observing the proper method which experience has taught, and which I have either been taught by my elders, or have made some improvement in by experiment myself. These are the only ideas I have on creation or a creator; and I further find, that whatever is created, is limited as to the time of its existence.
Q. Now, what is Christianity?
A. Christianity is a word derived from the word Christian, and implies the conduct of that sect.
Q. Whence comes the title of Christian? A. From the word Christ, which is the English translation of the Latin Christus, and the Greek Christos.
Q. Has this word any particular meaning?
A. Yes; it signifies anointed, such as a besmearing the body with oil, ointment, or any kind of grease.
Q. Has it no other meaning ?
A. It has no other meaning. Jesus Christ, means the saviour anointed; but Jesus was a very common name among the Jews before the Christian era.
Q. Then what is practical, pure, or unadulterated Christianity?
A. There can be nothing of the kind: it is a mere play with words, founded on a delusion called the religion of Jesus, or the Christian religion; it cannot imply moral virtue, because there is no record of any thing of the kind having been ever practised among the sect of Christians, from their origin to the present day; they have been a faction that has attempted to destroy all persons that would not do as they did, and
whenever they could not find any persons foreign to their sect they have fallen to devouring each other.
Q. Are there not different sects of Christians ?
A. Yes, but they are alike in principle; the sect that is the stronger has ever persecuted the weaker sect. Harmony has been always foreign to the whole.
Q. Do the Christians boast of any peculiar qualities?
A. They boast of every thing that is moral, and practice nothing: the book that contains the principles of their religion certainly has a few moral precepts, interspersed with much fable and narrative that is immoral; and the latter much outweighs the former, as well in the conduct and practice of Christians as in their book of religion. Again, a much better system of morals was taught many centuries before the risé of the Christian religion by Confucius, by Socrates, by Isocrates, by Epicurus, and many others; and there is not a moral precept in the New Testament but what can be traced up to Confucius, who lived 500 years before the origin of the Christian religion. Although the book is called the New Testament, there is nothing new in it in the shape of morality, but much in the shape of falsehood and delusion. What is called the Gospel of Jesus, is nothing more than a compilation of moral scraps from the Pagan philosophers, mixed up with the fanatical fables of the Jews, and thrown into a kind of narrative or memoir of a Jew, without the least fact or data to proye it to be genuine; whilst most learned men have believed it to be altogether a forgery.
Now, Sir, as I think you will find the foregoing questions and answers to be a replication to the greater part of your friend's suggestions, I shall conclude with answering his question, as to what is virtue? but not the absurdities which he has spun out of the same question.
Virtue has no component parts, it is one and indivisible, It is comprehended in that greatest of all moral maxims to be found in the New Testament, but to be traced from there up to the writings of all the philosophers I have before quoted. * Do unto others as you would they should do unto you.' The earliest record we have containing this maxim is from Confucius, but I am inclined to think that
was co-existent with the first society of man. It is a maxim of nature. Virtue may be defined another way. It is the business and interest of man in sociely studiously to seek pleasure, and to avoid pain: in a great measure he has the choice of this antithesis ; but whilst he studiously avoids pain himself, virtue requires