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being, called the Devil, who holds “ divided empire witli heaven's high king”-to whom is attributed, by the advócates of the doctrine, omniscience, omnipresence, and almost every attribute belonging to the God of nature.

In the dark ages of antiquity, this sentiment evidently had its origin-at a time when a Newton, a Locke, or a Priestley were not to be found-at a period when the mind of man was incapable of tracing effects to their natural causes-when the earth was considered flat as a trencher-when, if the tempest howled, or the earth quaked, bringing with it desolation and death, it was attributed to an evil being; but if peace and plenty crowned the land, it was attributed to a good being—at a time when

“ Fear made her devils, and weak hope her gods." The sentiments of a good and evil principle counteracting each other, seem to have been generally prevalent, and to have laid the foundation for the above doctrine, which I shall endeavour to explode.

The Devil of the Christians in some measure differs from the evil principle of the Heathens, inasmuch as he is not considered to have been eternally a Devil; but is represented as having been, previous to the creation of the world in which we jive, a pure intelligent spirit of the first order, residing near the throne of Jehovah; that among those pure spirits jealousy entered, and caused a rebellion against the most high God, with a view of hurling him from his throne, and of usurping the dominions and power of the Creator of the universe; that having made war, and suffered a severe defeat, they were cast down into a place called Chaos: here their chief, contemplating his overthrow, considering himself as a fallen monarch, and ruling over the spirits he had seduced, proudly and indignantly is represented by Milton, as exclaiming of this God

o6 Be then his love accursed!” while he feels a pleasure in contemplating the mischiefs he will produce in this world

“ As man ere long, and this new world shall know.'' But surely, Mr. Editor, this description but ill agrees with that craft and subtlety usually attributed to the Devil; for is it possible, I would ask, for a created being living in the imwe. diate presence of his Creator, acquainted with his almighty power and wisdom, to manifest a greater degree of weakness and folly, than that of endeavouring to dethrone his Maker? Avd is it not a reflection on the wisdom of God to suppose lie

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would suffer such a spirit to reside near his throne ? Yet to deny the existence of such a being is considered, in what is termed the religious world, a species of Atheism, as though the belief in a Devil and the belief in a God were necessarily connected, and depended on similar evidence; but “all nature cries aloud there is a God;" not any thing in nature declares there is a Devil. Our observation and daily experience prove that man is a sinner, but neither observation or experience prove that he sins by the temptation of the Devil. “A man, therefore, with abundance of satisfactory arguments and weighty reasons for his belief in a God, cannot be able to discover any to countenance the popular notions of an invisible being called the Devil.

Who that considers the character of God as powerful, just, and good, governing all things after the counsel of his own will, can possibly suppose that he would permit a being to exist in avowed hostility to his government, whose grand object is to counteract the benevolent intentions of the Creator towards his creatures, to make them sin, and thereby to bring them into condemnation. The powers attributed to the Devil, and by means of which he is rendered capable of effect. ing his purposes, are such as to render caution against his designs, or resistance to them, utterly impossible ; for we are told he is invisible; that he suggests evil thoughts, by means of which he prompts us to perform every thing which is injurious to our neighbour and ourselves ; and that this he has the liberty of doing, when he pleases and where he pleases. Now I would ask any rational man, what he would think of that father who should cantion his children against breaking his commands, and should threaten them with chastisement if they did-yet should admit and impower a person to reside in his family, whom he should know possessed the most malignant intentions towards that family; and to whom he should give the power of assuming the most secret as well as the most fascinating manners to bring about his diabolical intentions ? Surely every man would answer, such a father was both unwise and unjust. But if the existence of a Devil be a fact, then is the character of God subject to much greater reflections; for if we consider crention as the family of God; that God, the Father of that family, has commanded « Thou shalt do no murder-thou shalt not steal," &c. yet that he has permitted a superior being to man-one whose sole object is to draw man from his duty, to take up his abode in his family-bas endowed this wicked being with the faculties of invisibility and immortality; that he can neither be seen or destroyed ; at the same time if he chuses to shew himself he can do it without fear of attack, being subject to different lass,

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and having the power to assume the most pleasing forms, and if detected to vanish when he pleases; that also by means of these powers he can imperceptibly suggest or instil into the minds of men, the most wicked and abominable thoughts, even to breaking the commands of God.

Surely, surely! Mr. Editor, the Maker of heaven and earththe God in whom we live and move, and have our being—that kind Parent who causes his sun to shine, and rains descend on the evil and the good, cannot! will not-endow a being, possessed of a mind fraught with malice against his creation, with miraculous powers, such as are ascribed to the Devilby means of which he is enabled to deter man from obeying the commands of his Creator, and impelling him to break them, thereby rendering him obnoxious to punishment. In other words, this doctrine represents God as giving commands, and threatening a breach of them with condemnation, and at the same time endowing a being with every necessary power (and powers of that description against which it is impossible for man to be on bis guard), to compel men to break those commands, and become subject to condemnation. But our God delighteth not in the misery of his creatures-punishment is his strange work; therefore the doctrine of Devilism is a libel on the character of the Most High.

The injurious tendency of this doctrine on the minds of its believers must not pass unnoticed—the man who has injured society by his wicked conduct, instead of being taught to search for the cause in his own mind, is taught to refer all bis base actions from himself to the Devil. Thus the man against whom a bill of indictment is found for murder or robbery, is said to have been moved to commit those acts “ by the instigation of the Devil.” If a man entertain wicked thoughts, it is the Devil suggests them; if his passions overcome his reason, it is the Devil's fault; and if his reason, getting the better of his feelings, prompt him to investigate some favourite dogmas, he is soon driven from his design, by the priest telling him it is the workings of the enemy. The enthusiast spends one half of his time in imaginary combats with the Devil, and the other half in praying for deliverance from his supposed attacks ; children are alarmed at the approach of night, lest they should see the Devil ; and many an old woman has escaped from a white cat or black dog, as though she knew the Devil assumed those forms. This doctrine then obscures the mind, renders it servile and timid, prevents man from searching into the secret springs from whence his actious flow, rendering him callous to the calls of virtue and reason, and compleatly indifferent to the principle of morality-damping all enquiry, and rendering him a passive machine, to be arted upon at pleasure by a being of a superior order, whom he never saw, and with whose mode of acting he is perfectly unacquainted. To one set of men only is this doctrine bene. ficial, and to this order of men it most probably owes its origin-I mean priests, or preachers!

They, sweet gentles! have engaged the Devil in their cause, and it matters little to what sect or party they belong, for the leaders of most sects and parties seem to agree in making this gentleman their attorney-general. If you doubt the dogmas of catholicism, the Devil will receive you and hand you over to his imps, to be boiled, roasted, or fried, at pleasure ; if you disbelieve the creeds of the Protestant church, you are to be eternally damned, and the Devil will execute the sentence; if you go to a Calvin or a Luther, a Whitfield or a Wesley, they, good souls, call every man who differs from them hereticks, and the Devil always punishes hereticks--so that the priests proclaim their doctrines and form their creeds, and the Devil prosecutes and punishes all that do not most cordially believe and subscribe to them. To these gentlemen then we may consider the Devil as a bosom friend--as one with whom they can enter into sweet converse-as the very life and spirit of the order and certainly I can only plead the general good in 'endeavouring to rob them of a supporter, whose congeniality of disposition must have rendered him a most pleasant and agreeable companion.

But on what evidence does this doctrine rest? That there is evil in the world no one will deny; but it is only evil as it respects the immediate effects it has on man--not evil as connected with the general plan of a wise and benevolent Creator; that man is a sinner no one can dispute, but it does not require a Devil to account for it. The introduction of sin I know is attributed to the Devil; but I would ask the advocates of this doctrine, to whom they attribute the introduction of sin into the regions of bliss, previous to the transgression of this fallen chief? The scriptures inform us, and reason sanctions the idea, “ that out of the heart proceed murders, &c. and that a man when he is tempted is neither tempted by God nor Devil; but that when be is tempted he is drawn aside of his own lusts, &c." In short, which ever way I look at the doctrine, 1 am equally at a loss to discover any evidence in eitherthe natural or moral world to support this doctrine; and this leads me to the bulwark on which the believers in a Devil principally rest their cause, viz. the scriptures. In these books it is said the existence of a Devil is revealed, and also his attributes, but all revelation has the good of man in view-tending to his improvement, and leading to the pursuit of happiness by the road of virtue. Here, let me ask, how a revelation of the existence and attributes of the Devil does this? But even in the scriptures, the times and modes of tempta ing man are nowhere specifically laid down; neither the means of resisting his suggestions or warding off his attacks; no, not even the cabalistical words used by priests, " in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” are prescribed as a remedy for souls tempted by Satan! But all we can say is, that the word Devil and Satan are to be found in the book called the Bible; as such in my next I will endeavour to set them in their true poiut of view. I remain, your's, &c.

CRITO.

noon

REVIEW OF PARTICULAR PASSAGES IN MR. BELSHAM's

RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE ASSERTED AND DEFENDED;" WITH OBSERVATIONS ON THAT

GENTLEMAN's CHA RACTER.

To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.

SIR,

be of the first importance to the friends of the toleration act; in this respect Mr. Belsham's pamphlet is of peculiar interest, in bringing to our view the wording of this celebrated act, by which it appears that Dissenters are not so strongly guarded in the letter of the law as they imagined. By the words of the act the civil officers are “ impowered" and "requiredto administer the oaths, &c. upon application by dissenting teachers. Thus that law which was considered as commanding is in truth but discretionary; and the security of religious liberty is left to the choice of the magistrate and the enlightenment and moderation of the times.

In the course of Mr. B's. argument we find some most extraordinary passages—passages that contain principles which are immutable, and which no sophistry can overturn ; and yet these passages are in such direct opposition to this gentleman's conduct as a preacher, and a hired teacher of Christianity, that upon reading them we are confounded-we are lost in amazement when we recollect who the writer is. Had he studied to expose his own character, his success could not have been more complete, as the following extracts will shew; from which we are necessitated to form either a weak opinion of his mind (which I am by no means inclined to do), or else conclude that his principle of action is the opposite of that admirable qualification commonly known by the name of honesty.

In the fourteenth page, we read as follows:-“If indeed religion consisted of a series of subtle and abtruse propositions, which nong but men of superior understand

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