« VorigeDoorgaan »
fulfilled in him (which was spoken by Homer the poet of another person) :
“ Words sweet as honey from his lips distilld." Such stories respecting the sages of antiquity might be quoted in abundance. These few however may suffice to shew, how, in those ages, when the supernatural was held in general estimation, all men loved to suppose immediate interferences of the Deity in regard of extraordinary persons, who by their instructions were the benefactors of mankind, and to consider every natural though rather singular incident as a divine indication, and afterwards by the help of the imagination to magnify and transmit it to posterity.
How now if one of those called unbelievers should say, s several narratives of the evangelists, and more particularly those in the two first chapters of Luke and Matthew, bear a great resemblance to those, which
have related concerning Zoroaster and Plato?” Now if he should appeal to the then prevalent taste of mankind, who were fond of such stories; and thence infer, “ that perhaps even what Matthew and Luke there relate, though true in the main, yet that the collateral circumstances, which give a colouring of the marvellous to the affair, should be an excrescence of the history, which it may have acquired by moral tradition?". What think ye, what answer would you make ? - Would it be advisable to connive at the witty sarcasms of such a sceptic, and return scorn for scorn? Or would you endeavour to prove to him every particular collateral circumstance of the narration ? And should you now, if that be not possible, make yourself uneasy about it, and let your faith in the gospel be shaken?
No; neither one nor the other. You have no need to be thrown into perplexity by any of the like objections. Your faith in Christ, your conviction of the truth and divinity of his doctrine, your high veneration for him, as the redeemer and benefactor of mankind, by no means rest upon such details, and the ascertained veracity of their several collateral circumstances, of his infancy, of his kindred, brethren, &c. These historical circumstances were edifying to numbers at the time, and therefore the evangelists wrote them down.* But nobody can pretend, that the proper doctrine of Jesus, though we even know nothing of these stories of the infancy, &c. would
* We are decidedly of opinion, that the two first chapters of Matthew and Luke were never written by the evangelists whose names they bear and we think if the ingenious writer has an opportunity of seeing Wil. liams and Priestley on this subject, as well as Jones's Development of remarkable Facts, he must agree with us, that those chapters are not genuine.EDITOR.
lose an atom of their worth and their certainty as to us. And if you have patience to seek farther information in these essays, you shall see in the end, that the history of Jesus taken in the whole, that is, what Jesus has really done, taught, and suffered in our behalf, no less than the religion itself, which he promulgated, is perfectly ascertained, perfectly incontrovertible truth, and will irresistibly demonstrate itself as such to your understanding and to your heart. No
more can the credibility of the sacred historians themselves be diminished by these objections ; for these men had it in command to publish what they had seen and heard. That they did, according to their best abilities and with honest intentions. And their history has, and deserves, the approbation of all reasonable men, notwithstanding here and there a particular relation, to one or another, may appear with all its collateral circumstances not true : wherefore, since it may be deemed possible, that one or another circumstance may have been a little magnified in passing from mouth to mouth, so that the historians themselves are not to blame, they should have credit as men, who, without partiality and intentional deceit, have honestly informed the world of what they saw and 'heard from others. And now to the history itself. This however must be reserved for a future number; when we shall begin with the two first chapters of Luke; interspersing with thera the two first chapters of Matthew, in order as much as possible to observe the chronology. I am, Sir, your's, &c.
MR. COOPER OF
ON THE FOLLY AND INCONSISTENCY OF
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians Magazine.
derived much useful information from the above-named
clergyman, concerning the corrupt state of Christianity, both as to the faith and practice of its professors, when he last appeared in London (now six years ago), as a most zealous and decided reformer in the religious world. He then considered himself (to use his own words) “ to have been more honourably situated when preaching the truth of God from a carpenter's bench in the tobacco warehouse (Gower's Walk) than when he formerly appeared in the eagle-supported pulpit of Sion chapel, bearing one of the names of blasphemy (reverend )-dressed in the livery and habiliments of Rome, and ministering to the vain religion of the place”-but now, for a season, behold the man, all clad in black, enthroned on high in the pulpit of Hoxton Academy Chapel, ministering to the vain religion of that place; not only “ dressed in his common clerical black, but wearing also a long black robe, and with two bits of white rag playing under his chin!”
Nothing is now said against parson factories, the livery and habiliments of Rome, and the wearing of black as a mark of superior sanctity. There may be, and most likely are, many other matters of more importance, which Mr. Cooper does not now feel it quite so convenient to condemn as formerly ; such as preaching without working, or to enforce, as the necessity of a plurality of elders in a Christian church, mutual exhortations of the brethren, eating (what is falsely called) the Lord's supper without a clergyman at the head as master of the ceremony, to ascertain which I have neither time nor inclination to follow a man that waxes and wanes like the moon; who may, the next time he arrives from Dublin, appear as a mitred bishop; notwithstanding he has declared from the pulpit and the press, that he sees little difference between the book of cominon-prayer, and the Popish mass-book. I shall therefore subjoin a few extracts from various letters on religious subjects, published by W. Cooper of Dublin, dated London, 1806, which, when compared with his present conduct, will, I think, fully substantiate the charge of folly and inconsistency.
« All clerical dresses and titles are part of the merchandize of Rome.”-p. 82.
To Mrs. C.
“I must confess it struck me as father inconsistent to hear a man not only dressed in his common clerical black, but wearing also a long black robe, and with two bits of white rag playing under his chin. I say it struck me as being rather inconsistent, that that same gentleman, in that very dress, should exclaim against the superstitions and fooleries of Rome. Others (dissenters) while they are very angry with the pope for being called his holiness, have no objection to the title reverend ; and the common clerical dress, and a little bit of clerical consequence, seems palatable with them all; but, however useful such things may be to the clergy, to keep their trade a-going, I am very certain they are contrary to the simplicity which is in Christ Jesus, and pernicious to the 'souls of men.”-pp. 83, 84.
" To a Friend.
« The common mode of imporțing clergymen from parson factories, however suitable to national churches, commitfee-men's churches, or clergymen's churches, is quite unsuitable to a Christian church. What a blessing to all societies would seminaries of learning be, if literature were the only object !. but when they are opened with the view of " fit
ting young men for the ministry, they are as anti-christian, as if they were opened to fit young men for Christianity, Learning is a valuable acquisition in a pastor, but he may be a Christian bishop without it.-p.” 144.
“How different were the primitive churches from the things which are now called Christian churches ! not only different from religious national establishments, but also from the great bulk of dissenting bodies ! They were composed of living stones;' these have the living and the dead intermixed. They united to watch over one another'; to'provoke unto love and good works ;' and to exhibit to the world, the Christian faith and union. These, to support a name, a sect, a worldly faction, or, perhaps, a favourite clergyman!"-p. 140.
In another place (p. 28, 29 )he says, I'object to the title reverend,” and all other ecclesiastical titles, because the Lord hath said " be not ye called master, for one is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." Again, sooner than not preach, I would make use of the gown; but left to my own choice, would rather preach without it.” So then this cele. brated preacher, to please a set of priests, or an ignorant multitude, will make use of the livery and habiliments. of Rome, which he condemns in others, and acknowledges to be no part," nay“ even contrary” to the simplicity which is in Christ Jesus. Surely such a man, with many others who love to have the pre-eminence, had they lived in the apostles days, would have been delivered unto Satan for a season for the destruction ot'such fleshly pride.
Your's, &c. Stoke Newington, June, 1812.
ON THE JEWISH REVELATION..
Tb the Editor of the Freethinking Christians Magazine.
(AVING closed my observations on the subject of miracles,
it is not my purpose to renew them. The shortness of human life admits not of endless discussion. I have dedicated many years of my life to the consideration of these topics, because I believed them to be important ; I have procured intelligence from every quarter ; and having done so, I have formed the best conclusions I could. Perhaps I am still in error : yet, more than I have done, my Creator, I am persuaded, does not require. I turn, therefore, now, to other pursuits and to other studies. Before quitting the subject, however, finally, wish to make two or three general remarks ; remarks which, I trust, will not be thought altogether superfluous.
A gentleman, whose signature is W. Burdon, and who, whatever may be thought of his general views, possesses undoubtedly much force of character, has adverted, in your last number, to the share which I took in the controversy respecto ing miracles. He says, that,“ as a Deist, my objections are not wholly unanswerable ; because they who allow the existence of an omnipotent Creator, cannot, consistently, deny his power to reverse or alter the laws of nature.
Without meaning to enter afresh into any debate, I shall take the freedom to exhibit very concisely my view of the matter. After the most mature deliberation, it does appear to my understanding, that the existence of an intelligent, active, wise and powerful FIRST CAUSE, adınits not of the slightest hesitation or doubt :--that the being who made the world can, if he please, destroy it; and by a necessary consequence, can introduce into its government, at any period of its duration, whatever changes he may think proper ;--but that, all things considered, there is not sufficient ground to believe, that the Deity bas, in point of fact, introduced any change whateder in. to the government of the world, from its commencement to the present time ; and that probably, he never will introduce any change, till the moment of its final dissolution ; should such a moment ever arrive. This is precisely what I mean, whether it be defensible or not. To allege, as your correspondent Mr. Burdon does, that " a miracle is impossible,” or, in other words that the Deity cannot alter or suspend the laws of nature, is, according to my judgment, a proposition altogether unwarrantable,
I now pass on to another writer in your last Magazine, W. C. “I shall attempt to show, (says he) that the very same difficulties which your correspondent (a Deist) charges on the system of revelation, belong to his own opinions."-Difficulties, no doubt, attend my opinions, as well as the opinions of other people. But, what is the particular difficulty in question? The objector himself shall state it. "How is it, (he inquires) that under the moral government of God, the science and philosophy of modern times, with all their inestimable-advantages, were withheld from mankind in the early ages of the world ? How is it, that society was not blessed with a Newton and a Locke till the last century?"-And against which of my opinions is this view of the moral govern, ment of God directed? The proposition which forms the basis of all my reasoning is this--that we know nothing of the Deity except from the contemplation of his works ; and that he apa pears, after the most accurate, scrutiny, to conduct the admi. nistration of his affairs, and to have conducted it from age to age, by adherivg, strictly, to the execution of general laws.