« VorigeDoorgaan »
ing Deity which would naturally be entertained by the inhabitants of such a country, might, of themselves, be easily surmised, without the further assistance of the historian-that assistance, however, happily is not wanting ; for Tacitus goes on to tell us, that this very tribe, Deists as they were, and dauntless sticklers no doubt for the stability of the laws of nature--commenced their operations, when arrived at the wood in question, by the slaughter of a man! The grove, too, inhabited by this benevolent Deity, was, we are also told, beheld (as well indeed it might be) with superstitious terror. No one en. tered it without being bound by a chain, and should he happen to fall, he must not presume to rise, but in that grovelling state was compelled to make his way out of the wood ! Exal. ted.and sublime religion ! enlightened and praise-worthy principles ! what pity is it that opinions such as these should be forgotten, that practices like these should be abrogated! Methinks I hear “a Deist” sighing for the rude bogs and morasses of these philosophers--exclaiming against the vile impostors, who have copied their doctrines, without confessing from whom they borrowed them-and lamenting that mankind are not still wandering in the wilds of uninspired Deism, bound by the chains of superstition, and compelled, when the unaided weakness of their nature betrays them to a fall, to grovel like their fellow brutes upon the earth, or extricate themselves from the consequences of their errors and their wanderings as they may best be able. How dreadful indeed is it, that such such a state of things should have been superseded-that so great a revolution should have taken place in the frame of society - that, in short, to sum up all in one small sentence, the laws of nature should not here also have been stable !
To the consideration of yourself, and your readers, I submit the remarks and observations contained in this, and my former letter on the subject. If deemed well founded, they may not only serve to confute the particular assertions of a Deist," but, what is of infinitely more consequence, also tend generally to shew, that, as the probability of a revelation from the Deity may be demonstrated from the phenomena of nature, so its absolute necessity is approved by the records of every nation which have come down to us, and established by the concurrent voice of antiquity.
I remain, &c.
J. D. P. S. One part of the subject remains to be commented on, and it is perhaps deserving of more serious consideration. Cecrops and Moses, it appears, were both Egyptians, and they are each severally represented as deeply versed in all the learning and superstition of that country : from the saine point then, at the same time (for it seems they were contemporaries) they started on their course--the one founded Athens—the other led the Israelites to Jerusalem. For centuries afterwards we find their
journey continued as it were in different directions, but we may picture them to our imaginations as ineeting again in the persons of their posterity, when we read of Paul disputing with the Athenian philosophers, on the hill of Mars. We find, however, the descendant of Moses here teaching the existence of but one God, whilst the representatives of Cecrops boast of thirty thousand ! All that I would now say on the subject is this, from such a difference of effects, what would enlightened philosophy dictate, as to the similarity of the causes which produced them?
MR. BURDON, ON TIIE OVERBEARING SPIRIT OF PRIESTS.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
OR all priests who are actuated by a priestly spirit, I have
the utmost hatred and contempt, and nine out often of them are priests in spirit and in truth, of whatever church they may be, because they are all convinced of their right to dictate to mankind, and to treat them as schoolmasters treat children; but when they have both spiritual and temporal power, they are intolerable, like the ministers of the church of England. Other bodies of men are actuated by the spirit of their order, that is, by an idea of concentrating in themselves a considerable portion of power or knowledge; but as they have none of them so much temporal power as the English clergy, they are more tolerable and less insolent.
It is now high time that the spirit and power of these men should be abated, and your society, Mr. Editor, has the credit of being the first Christian society which has attempted to strike at once at their existence. Others have attempted to diminish their influence, and have in some measure suceeeded; for since the reformation they have lost much of their spiritual power, though none of their temporal riches. The time was, when no great family was without a chaplain—a sort of mischievous spy, who made himself useful to one part of the house by watching the conduct of the other, and dictating to the whole under pretence of religion. These vermin are now happily exterminated, or if they anywhere exist, they are quiet convivial animals, who take their dinner and their bottle without troubling themselves any further. Such men are only contemptible, and they escape being hateful by not being mischie
The Jesuits were a set of Romish priests, justly hated and dreaded by all ranks of people, thougâ they succeeded in making numerous proselytes; but they carried their spiritual and temporal power too far, and were finally abolished in different nations, though those nations consisted of devout and zealouş Catholics,
A nation of Christians has no need of an army of priests. The Christian religion was intended to abolish the Jewish priesthood, and the whole of the Epistle to the Hebrews was written for no other purpose. A Christian who can read that epistle, and still contend for the necessity of priests to teach what Christ and his apostles have taught already, must be so bigotted and so blinded by prepossession, as to deserve the appellation of an unworthy follower of Christ.
Compare the spirit of priests with the spirit of Jesus and his few chosen teachers nothing can be more opposite: the one is all humility, meekness, self-devotion, disinterestedness, and gentleness; the other is all pride, arrogance, ostentation, tyranny, and worldly mindedness. In profession they are the children of Christ, in practice they are the children of Satan, for Satan means “foe to God and man.”-See Parkhurst's Lexicon to the New Testament.
Dryden has well described the state of the world when priests kept all religion to themselves.
Io times o'ergrown with rust and ignorance,
And sav'd himself as cheap as e'er he could.--Religio Laici. The object of every trade and profession is to get money, and when they relate only to our temporal concerns, there is .no harm init; but when they interfere with our spiritual affairs when any particular set of men claim a divine commission to meddle with our hopes and fears of eternity, and expect to be
be paid for it-there is a gross inconsistency in thus making a gain of godliness, which must strike every impartial mind, and convince us of the worldly aims of such a fraternity. The primitive Christians had no such interested views, and the Quakers have followed their example they instruct each other without pay. Allowing for a few conceited singularities, they are the most blameless of all Christian sects; they have shewn us how little necessity there is for priests, and your society has given another glorious example, which I trust will be further extended.
I remain, &c. Hartford, near Morpeth, August 11, 1812. W. BURDON.
THE PRIMITIVE MODE OF PROMULGATING CHRISTIANITY
COMPARED WITH MODERN PRACTICE. 3
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine. H (AVING in my former essay shewn the primitive mode of
promulgating Christianity, and that pulpit preaching and stated ministers are directly opposite to it-that such a practice and such an order of men are not sanctioned by the New Testament-and that even on the ground of utility and expediency the primitive mode was not only, preferable, but that modern practice so far from being calculated to accomplish the design of promulgating genuine Christianity, was most eminently calculated to defeat it-a question may naturally arise how then was the knowledge of it to be perpetuated after the death of the apostles ? The answer is easy, and the New Testament will sufficiently bear me out; but first it may be necessary to state what Christianity is, lest in the multifarious dogmas, creeds, and articles, which are said to belong to the Christian religion, many might suppose it was a system so complex that none but learned men could be able to understand or explain it ; and as it might be suspected that I should feel disposed to make it very simple indeed for the purpose of shewing that it needed not an oruer of learned men purposely set apart to teach it, I will give my own ideas in the words of a man who can have no motive whetever to make it appear more simple than it really is I will give you the words of a hireling preacher, Mr. Belsham. He says,
• If indeed religion consisted of a series of subtle and abstruse propositions, which none but men of superior understand. ings and learned education could comprehend, the nature and evidences of which can only be understood by those who devote their whole time to close investigation, unlearned persons, who are almost entirely occupied in secular employments, must be
content to believe and act as their spiritual superiors should direct. But the fact is otherwise. Religion is a plain, simple, intelligible doctrine. It consists in the love of God and our neighbour, and in the practice of virtue founded upon the expectation of a future life. All who are capable of performing the duties, may also understand the obligations of religion, and the Christian ductrine is so clearly revealed in the New Testament, that no HONEST inquirer can greally mistake."* And Dr. Priestley says, in his preface to a sermon, entitled Unitarianism defended, (page 10.) It is in reality nothing else than superstition that has made regular ministers, as they are called, so necessary as they are now become, there being nothing that is done by then that may not be done and with as much effect without them.” And the apostle Paul (Cor. xv. 1 to 4) corroborates this testimony of the simplicity of the Christian religion, by saying, " Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you,
which also ye have received and wherein ye 'stand, by which also ye are saved if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also have received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the seriptures.'
Now then the question is plainly tlris, how could a knowledge of this very simple religion be perpetuated after the death of the apostles, without the aid of an order of men called preachers ?
And here let it be observed, that simple as is the doctrine of a future state, on which all the rest is founded, it could not have been known at first but through men appointed by heaven to declare it in all parts of the world, as Paul justly observes (Rom. x. 14-15)>~ How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed ? and how shall they believe in hiin of whom they have not heard ? and how shall they hear without a preacher (proclaimer)? and how shalt they preach (or proclaim) except they be sent.?” But the case is widely different in the present day, for even if no other method had been appointed to perpetuate this knowledge, we are in possession of the New Testament, in which Mr. B. says, “ The Christian doctrine is so clearly revealed, that no honest enquirer can greatly mistake.” All the men in the world cannot tellus more of Christianity than is there contained, and if as he says it is so clearly revealed in that book, those at least who are in possession of it have no need of stated teachers. But it may be said, there are thousands who have not that book, or
* See his sermon- preached at Essex Street, and afterwards published, entitled “the Rights of Conscience asserted and defined.”---p. 14.