« VorigeDoorgaan »
whether they are " ridiculous” or not, will be for better men than either Mr. Griffee or Mr. Moor to determine.
whatever was the generous and kind conduct of individuals towards him, it in no-wise affected the Methodist societies in general, or the rules of their societies.” It will be my business, Sir, in a future communication, to shew, that it materially affected both. But, says Mr. G. “ I am bold to declare, that what Mr. Moor received from them, was given from motives of friendship, and not as a reward for any
official service he had rendered.” How far their “ friendship” was concerned will be seen in the sequel. For one of these “ dear children of God," as John Wesley calls them, I accepted a bill of £42, as he said it was only a matter of form, and would relieve him from much trouble : he never prepared to meet the draft when due-I was obliged to part with my books, &c. to discharge it, and have never since received a farthing. What were this man's motives? 6 Motives of friendship,” to be sure, says Mr. G. Another of these friendly” gentlemen obtained goods from me, amounting to £18 3s. 20. for which I took his bill at four months after date ; when due, it was returned I was arrested, and, on this account, suffered six months imprisonment in the Surry county jail. What were this man's motives ? “ friendship,” says Mr. G.
I am told that 66 I doubt the correctness of the Methodist reports,” by saying “ if they are to be believed ;” and Mr. G. adds, “ if he knew them to be correct, why does he express a doubt?" I answer it would seem chiefly to give Mr. G. an opportunity of asking a foolish question : “ but if false (says he) then why afraid at once to confess it?" If I have no more fear of death than I have, as it respects what I have said or may say of the Methodists, I shall die as happy as ever man was allowed to do.
Mr. G. “ wishes the errors of the Methodists to be exposed ;” but “as men (says he) I do and must respect them.” So do 1. When I see an individual among them who acts as a man, I respect and love him as a brother ; but when I meet with one who acts as a rascal, the respect I feel for him as a man dwindles to nothing.
I beg to inform Mr. G. that I shall resume the subject in your next number, when the reasons will be explained, why it was not done sooner. In the mean time I request some proof from Mr. G. that the remarks which he calls 5 ridiculous” are really so. I can call Buonaparte from France to England; but the question is, will he come if I call him? I can say white is black; but who believes me without proof.
Your's, &c. Russell Court, July, 1812.
John Moot: ON THE BELIEF OF: THE NORTHERN NATIONS AS TO THE
NATURE OF THE DEITY, AND THEIR EXPECTATIONS OF A FUTURE STATE OF EXISTENCE : IN REPLY TO THE ASSERTIONS OF A DEIST," ON THOSE SUBJECTS.
“ The idea of one God, the governing mind of the universe, was unknown to the Pagan world.”--Murphy, Notes on “ The Manners of the Germans,” by Tacitus.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
Christianity-a new mode of depreciating its excellencea fresh attempt at disproving the divinity of its origin. “A Deist,” implicitly copying, even to his most glaring errors and palpable misrepresentations, the assertions of a late writer on the antiquities of the north, has affirmed, in contradiction to the generally received opinion, and, as I trust I shall be able to prove, in opposition to every truly respectable authority, that a revelation of the unity of the Deity was unnecessary, and superfluous, it being a doctrine which was already, at the time, extensively received, and had, indeed, at no very distant period, been universally acknowledged-nearly all the nations of the world disclaiming idolatry, and polytheism, decidedly not being the religion of the first ages.
A great portion of the difficulty attendant on all disputed points is well known to arise from the uncertainty of language. Now, what is here meant by the first ages ? If it be applied generally, to the earlier ages of the world, we may readily give up the point in question, convinced that “ the Deist” will gain nothing by the concession. To illustrate this part of the subject, we may lay it down as a principle, that the ignorant and unformed mind could never by itself discover, or even guess at the unity of God--that is, indeed, a temple whose very threshold, to such a one, presents a stumbling block; for how could he most distantly imagine, that it was the same hand which dispensed to him the flowers, of the spring, and wielded the terrors of the thunderbolt, or how perceive the God of mercy, equally in the blessings which made life desirable, and the earthquake that buried him in premature destruction? If then “ the primitive generations of mankind, did certainly, and indeed worship but one God,” to that God they must, from the very nature of the case, as certainly have been indebted for the knowledge of his existence; for we most assuredly have ·not even the shadow of a reason for supposing them, independent of all exterior information, possessed of that portion of enlightenment,
and arrived at that period of civilization, which, even in the mind of the most credulous Deist, would authorize the expectation of their forming such an idea for themselves. Received, however, at first (argues the Christian) from the great Creator, it was at length lost, amid the folly, ignorance, and depravity of mankind; and what is there (he adds) in such a case at all contrary to reason, in the supposition that the same benevolent Being, whom we thus see must have inevits ably first conferred the blessing, should afterwards mercifully restore it to his ungrateful, indeed, but, at the same time ige norant and infatuated creature?
Here, however, again we are at issue with the Deist," who affirms, that the existence of only one God was not only the belief of the “primitive generations;" but that it was, in fact, so generally and extensively entertained in later times, as to render a revelation on the subject unnecessary and super. fluous. He either means this, or he means nothing; and it is upon this point that all his assertions on the subject, bis quo. tations from modern authors, with his repetition of their quotations from ancient ones, can alone be brought to bear.
With regard to the opinion of Mr. Mallet, that the ancient northern nations believed in only one God, I must freely acknowledge, that on a perusal of his work, and an examination of the authorities which he adduces, Í conceive that, so far from establishing his point, he has, in fact, done more than, from the obscurity of the subject, could well be ex. pected, to prove it wholly false, and utterly void of all sub stantial and reasonable foundation. The idea, however, seems a favourite one with him, and we need not to be told how far a man will go to support an hypothesis, which he has once resolved to believe himself, or determined, at any rate, to establish with others. In the first place he affirms, that, among others, the ancient Scythians undoubtedly entertained the opinion in question; whereas, unfortunately for his hypothesis, it happens that we have the express testimony of the oldest historical writer now extant, and who himself visited Scythia, for the purpose of observing the manners and customs of its inhabitants, to the direct contrary. Herodotus affirms that they were Polytheists, worshipping a plurality of gods and goddesses, to whom, from their supposed attributes, he assigns the the names of Vesta, Jupiter, Tellus, or the Earth, &c. --They had also their Apollo, their Venus, and their Neptune, or God of the Ocean, but their most honoured Deity appears to have been the god of war, to whom the historian remarks they alone allotted temples, and whose altars indeed, as may be collected from other writers, were not unfrequently polluted with human blood.*
* Herodotus b. 4. 6. 1. An. Univ. Hist. y. 4.'p: 352,
Rejecting, however, all evidence of this nature, and (perhaps rightly) conceiving that " from the mouths of its own professors, we can alone
acquire a just knowledge of any religion,” Mr. Mallet appears principally to build the credit of his hypothesis upon the great Icelandic poem, or rather collection of poems, called the Edda; some parts of which, together with several smaller fragments of a like nature, were, I believe, from his French translation, first rendered in prose into the English language ;* though a poetic version, by Cottle, of certain of the songs and dialogues, which is apparently better digested, and conveys in a more spirited manner the sense of the original, is now before the British public.
The extracts given by your correspondent as to the existence of a Supreme Deity, author of every thing, eternal, &c. are exactly those on which Mr. Mallet principally founds his hypothesis, and are expressly quoted by him in his prefacc for that purpose ; and by a similar mode of extracting single sentences, without at all attending to the context, and wholly regardless of the general spirit of the work, there is probably no one system of morals, or principle of religious belief, which may not equally be discovered, and deduced from it.
The Edda (whose name it seems, “ according to the most probable conjecture, is derived from the old Gothic word signifying GRANDMOTHER,” being, as Mr. Mallet justly observes, " a proper term figuratively to express an ancient doctrine)”- the Edda, I say, is in fact a mass of unconnected traditionary legends, in the form of songs and dialogues-wild and frequently absurd in their nature-course, obscure, and desul. tory in their construction; they are however all, without ex. ception, built upon the principle of a plurality of Gods, aš your correspondent must have unavoidably discovered, if he had examined the work for himself, instead of resting contented with the garbled quotations, and implicity acquiescing in the unsupported assertions, of Mr. Mallet's Preliminary Discourse!
For your readers' satisfaction on this subject, take the fol. lowing passages, selected without preference of any kind, further than as they referred to the subject under discussion :
* With regard to the merits of Mr. Mallet's translation, “the Deist” i affirms that he was at the trouble to acquire a knowledge of all the an
cient as well as modern dialects of the North.” On this part of the subject we may refer with advantage to the introduction of the work itself, where Mr. Mallet says, “ I freely confess my imperfect knowledge of the language in which the Edda is written." “ I should have been frequently at a loss if it had not been for the Danish and Swedish versions."--" Where I suspected my guides, I have carefully consulted others," &c.--p. xxixTruly, to use the expression of your correspondent, this must have been * a most difficult and laborious enquiry !”.
Begin--for, sage, thou knowest well,
« The Gods bred up the wolf Feuris among themselves."Mallet, 90.
And the fable which Mr. M. entitles of the Gods to be believed in," tells us " there are twelve whom we ought to acknowledge, nor are the goddesses less sacred.”
It is worthy of observation, indeed, that on the very same page in which a belief of one only God is attributed to these people by that writer, it is also acknowledged by him that
each element was considered as under the guidance of some being peculiar to it; the earth, the water, the fire, the air, the sun, moon, and stars, had each their respective divinity—the trees, forests, rivers, mountains, rocks, winds, thunder, and tempests, had the same, and merited on that score a religious worship.”- vol. 1. 79.
In extenuation, indeed, of this most material admission, Mr. M. says, that these were always regarded as nations of the supreme Deity.” Now, were this proved to be the fact, it would not even then be easy to acquit them of polytheism, and even idolatry ; but it may be doubted whether the distinction itself is not rather the fanciful one of the modern philosopher and system-monger, than that it should have been actually regarded and acted upon, by the collective inhabitants of Iceland, Scandinavia, and Scythia.
To Odin, indeed, as the principal of their Deities, and the “ father of the Gods,” they appear to have attached a superiority, precisely similar, in nature, and degree, to that of the Jupiter of the Greeks and Romans, but whose actions, origin, and attributes, are as compleatly distinguished from those of the Deity, revealed by Moses, and by Jesus, as vice can be .from virtue, or “ midnight's mantle from the noon-day sun."
Thus much for the belief in one God-we now come to another part of the subject; that in which it is asserted that Jesus was far from singular in his doctrines and conceptions with regard to a future state ; or, in other words, that he was an impostor, who borrowed from more enlightened nations his ideas on that important article, and pretended that they were revealed to him by the Deity.