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Christianity ; and as long as the mystery of iniquity remains, so lang must the flaming'sword of the law turn every way to protect it.
The publication which has excited the present prosecution is from the pen of Mr. Paine : it appears to have been printed a few years ago in America, and recently in this country by the present defendant; D. I. Eaton. This production, as an attack on Christianity, is, in my opinion, extremely trifling, very inferior to the former writings of the same author, and much more positive in its tone, and dogmatical in its spirit. Mr. Eaton is its editor as well as publisher; he professes to be an adınirer of Paine's religious opinions-informs the reader that the work was printed a short time prior to the author's death, and contains his real and unprejudiced opinions in his last moments of existence. Whether this is intended to give a greater degree of weight to Mr. Paine's arguments, like the dying experience of fanatics is adduced by the ignorant survivors as evidence of the truth of their belief, I cannot say ; -but with me it weighs nothing how Thomas Paine died, or how John Wesley died--- I would rather hear how they lived ! A man may live and die a sceptic or an enthusiast--it only proves the strength of his prejudice, not the truth of his opinions---it is simply this, after all.--that he died as he lived, in a mistake! Nay, if a man were even to recant his opinions in his dying moments, * it would not follow that they were erroneous on that account. Truth or falsehood is founded in the agreement or disagreement of things, and not in the strength or fears of dying men.
In examining this pamphlet, we find that if the author did not give up his religious principles, yet he evidently changed his opinions before the close of his life. In the former parts of the Age of Reason, the author fully believed in the existence of Jesus, and professed to admire him as a virtuous and amiable man; but in the present he discovers reason to create a well-founded suspicion that“ he did not even exist as a man; and we all recollect how he abused Moses as a vain coxcomb, on the supposition of his baving said of himself that he was the meekest man---but in this work, when Paine favours the
The writer does not wish to give the least degree of plausibility to the lying stories about Mr. Paine's death. Awful accounts of the deatlis of infidels are a favourite species of composition among the Methodists-they are like last dying speeches and confessions--written perhaps before the demise of the party. A number of these stories may be kept manufactured on hand, and when it pleases the Lord to send an infidel to the Devil, the name and date can be immediately filled up, and the narrative sent forthwich to the press to comfort the faithful. No doubt many a pious soul could havo given a full, true, and particular account of the death of poor Paine twenty years before it happened.
public with what he calls his private thoughts of a future state,” he modestly concludes by saying, this is my opinion ---it is consistent with my ideas of God's justice, and with the reason God has given me, and I gratefully know he has given me a large share of that divine gift."
It is but justice to this production to say, that it is not totally destitute of merit: the dissertation on dreams is ingenious; the remarks on Newton's “ dissertations on the prophecies” are witty ; the examination of the passages quoted from the Old Testament in the forged chapters of Matthew and Luke is not badly carried on, though the whole story of the miraculous conception of Jesus has been refuted by the firmest believers in the scriptures, with much more talent and force of argument, than Mr. Paine has displayed on the subject. And here I must remark, that throughout the pamphlet there is a palpable deficiency in that candour which ought to characterize every enlightened writer---opinions and principles are ridiculed as Christian which form no part of Christianity, and against which Christians themselves are reasoning and writing every day.
Upon the whole, this work cannot produce any other effect than to fix more firinly the truths of Christianity in every intelligent mind; and those who are in danger of being carried away by its argument, are not worth being kept from infidelity. Christianity itself is not touched by any thing the author has advanced--- it is “ reviled without being understood, and denied without being examined.” But, it seems, this book shocks the piety of the Attorney-general---this godly man cannot endure it. I certainly have one serious objection to it my. self---it cost me three shillings, which is about three times its value. It might be a very laudable undertaking, if the clergy were to publish a sixpenny edition for the benefit of the poor, that they might be induced to change the religion of their country for the RELIGION OF Jesus, and be enabled to smile at the impotent objections to that divine system.
The remarks on the speech of the Attorney-general and on Lord Ellenborough's charge to the jury, shall be reserved till my next; but I wish to place the subject in a proper light to my readers, before I quit it for the present. The actions of men may appear widely opposed to each other, when in reality they spring from the self-same principle--Sir Vicary Gibbs defends the Bible, and opposes the Age of Reason---Daniel Isaac Eaton opposes the Bible, and defends the Age of Reason. The motives that induced the Attorney-general to interfere in the affair need not be named---and the Bookseller published his work---to sell !
SECTARIANISM NOT CHRISTIANITY.
COW much professors of Christianity have attended to the teaching of of Christianity with what the Apostle Paul says in his first epistle to the Corinthians (iri. 2), “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” But at this time the numerous sects and partįes, each of them are built on another foundation from the Papist to the Unitarian. The Catholics are not Christians, for the popes of Rome are their foundation; the members of the church of England are not Christians, for Luther and Cranmer are their foundation ; the Arians are not Christians, for Arius is their foundation ; the Calvinists are not Christians, for Calvin is their foundation ; the Methodists are not Christians, for Wesley and Whitefield are their foundation; the Quakers are not Christians, for Fox is their foundation ; the Sweedenborgians are not Christians, for $weedenburgh is their foundation ; the Southcotonians are not Christians, for Southcot is their foundation ; the Unitarians are not Christians, for Priestley is their foundation ; neither is any other sect or party Christian which lays any other foundation “than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
A reverend Doctor in his preaching was contending loudly for reason --for the free use of that which distinguishes man from the beasts ; but in a softer tone he immediately said, “ My friends I would not have you misunderstand me--though reason be good, yet we must not follow it so far as to deny the faith of the son of God, as established by the great founders of our faith, Fletcher and Wesley."
Wherever men of uncommon energy and dignity of mind have ex, isted, they have felt the degradation of binding their assertions with an oath. The English constitution recognises in a partial and imperfect manner the force of this principle, and therefore provides, that, while the common herd of mankind shall be obliged to swear to the truth, nothing more shall be required from the order of the nobles than a declaration upon honour. Will reason justify this distinction ? Men will never act with that liberal justice and conscious integrity which is their highest ornament, till they come to understand what men are. He that contaminates his lips with an oath, must have been thoroughly fortified. with previous moral instruction, if he be able afterwards to understand the beauty of an easy and simple integrity. If our political institutors had been but half so judicious in perceiving the manner in which excellence and worth were to be generated, as they have been ingenious and indefatigable in the means of depraying mankind, the world, instead of a slaughter-house, would have been a paradise. What are the words which we are taught in this instance to address to the creator of the universe ? “ So help me, God, and the contents of his holy word.”. It is the language of imprecation. I pray him to pour down his everlasting wrath and curse upon me, if I utter a lie.--It were to be wished that the name of that man were recorded, who first invented this mode of binding men to veracity. He had surely himself but very light and contemptuous notions of the Supreme Being, who could thus tempt men to insult him by braving his justice. If it be our duty to invoke his blessings, yet there must surely be something insupportably profane in wantonly and unnecessarily putting all that he is able to inflict upon us upon conditions.--Godwin. VOL. II.
The essence of right and wrong does not depend upon words and clauses inserted in a code or statute book; much less upon the conclusions and explications of lawyers ; but upon reason and the nature of things, antecedent to all laws.
THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIANITY COMPARED WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE TIMES.
If the great founder of Christianity were to descend on the earth, with what indignation would he behold the heads of his ministry invested with wealth, with patronage, and political power !With what indignation would he behold the cringing, the meanness, and servility of the subaltern clergy towards their superiors--to see his mild disinterested religion coupled with political faction--to see worldly preferment their only pursuit, and the sacrifice of independence and public virtue and honour the only means of attainment--to see the mast lofty ambition, the most selfish avidity, the most persecuting spirit of tyrannic ascendancy concealed under the colour of sanctity and the garb of hypocrisy? Well might he ask what part of his sacred writings authorised his ministers to rank themselves at the head of the opulent lords and most puissant princes of human creation, instead of that self-denial, that humility, that meekness, that contempt of riches and honour's, which he preached in every line of his gospel. wannena
WRITTEN ON THE SEA BAORE.
UPON the shores a death-like silence reigns,
And placid calmness holds the ocean's wave:
But solemn silence reigns.
And seems the gloomy influence to bewail;
An awful silence reigns.
Dashing with splashy sound, the rippling wave
lemn silence reigns.
VOLNLY's RUINS OF EMPIRES,” WITH A REFUTATION OF HIS STATEMENT OF THE DOCTRINES OF CHRISTIANITY.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine. A Correspondent in your last number, having adyerted to
the celebrated “ Ruins of Empires” by Mr. Volney, as a book in which bis own objections to Christianity were most ably explained, and his ideas on the subject enlarged upon, I have been induced to give that work an immediate perusal ; and now propose submitting to your attention the substance of the ideas and observations, which have occurred to me, on a hasty indeed, and perhaps indigested, but, I trust, impartial and unprejudiced review of the subject.
Me. Volney's performance, as indeed is sufficiently evident from the title of it, is by no means confined to religious subjects, but takes in almost every question that relates to the nature of society, and the moral and intellectual condition of mankind. In his general views and conceptions on these subjects, he displays a benevolence of intention, and an ability and acuteness of research, which most incontrovertibly attest his clain to the titles of a philosopher, a metaphysician, and a friend of the human race; whilst his style, endued with a peculiar smoothness, and a remarkable aptitude in the conveyance of his ideas under pleasing and impressive images, is precisely of that nature which is the most likely to captivate the attention, and carry conviction to the mind of his reader. To this general character however must be claimed an exception, in the instance of Chris. tianity, which he evidently either misunderstood himself, or has purposely misrepresented to his readers ; and this being the main object of our enquiry, and one, besides, which must be decided he facts, and fair argument, rather than by a mere state
of agreement or disagreement in opinion, I out further preface to state the reasons wbich conclusion, and to examine those passages 1. by which I think it can be fully supporstar which he entitles " the problem
der is naturally struck with