AN EXAMINATION OF THE AGE OF REASON, OR AN INVESTIGATION OF TRUE AND FABULOUS THEOLOGY.

BY THOMAS PAINE:

BY GILBERT WAKEFIELD, B. A. Late Fellow of Jesus-College, Cambridge.

Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,
Quo me cunque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes.
HOR.
A little Learning is a dangerous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
POPE.

LONDON: SOLD BY KEARSLEY, NO. 46, FLEET-STREET.

1794.

TO THE FRIENDS OF RELIGION. REFORMATION, AND UNIVERSAL PEACE, OF EVERY DENOMINATION; AND PARTICULARLY TO THE SOCIETIES OF GREAT-BRITAIN AND IRELAND, ASSOCIATED FOR THESE GOD-LIKE PURPOSES; THIS DEFENCE OF THE RELIGION OF JESUS IS AFFECTIONATELY DEVOTED

BY THE AUTHOR.

ERRATA.

  • Page 27, line 11th, for one right angle, read two right angles.
  • — 28, line 9th, for son of righteousness, read sun of righteousness.

N. B. The references are made to the first edition of Mr. Paine's book.

AN EXAMINATION OF THE AGE OF REASON, &c.

THAT the former writings of Thomas Paine abound with indications of original conception and profound thought, of comprehension and sa­gacity, far beyond the vigour of vulgar minds, no man, I presume, of character for intelligence and integrity will venture to deny. To the authority of venal sycophants, and all the retainers of cor­rupt and wicked systems, whether in politics or religion, no competency can be allowed in a deci­sion upon this subject: but, on the contrary, the virulence of their abuse is in itself no unequivocal symptom of extraordinary merit: just as the screams and tumult of the feathered tribe prove some bird of nobler presence and more ample pi­nion to be approaching. The work, which I have undertaken to examine, is entitled to particular respect from the circumstances of it's composition. [Page 2]It is the effusion of a pregnant intellect, sobered by the meditations of a solitary prison, not unat­tended probably by some apprehensions of such a catastrophe, as a crisis of things so novel and event­ful, may daily and hourly be expected to produce. The reflections therefore of such a season, from so popular a name, on a subject of such univer­sal interest, is secure, we may presume, of consider­able attention in this country, from those who are occupied in the discussion of their civil and religious creed: a number, which has certainly in­creased of late with surprising rapidity, and will, I hope and believe, go on encreasing with an ac­celerated progress. On this account, I conceived myself not unlikely to serve the cause of revealed truth by an examination of a deistical pamphlet, which seemed so fair a candidate for extensive cir­culation: and I felt the more inclination to this talk, not from an arrogant persuasion of superior knowledge and abilities, but from a clear con­viction, that Christianity CANNOT be vindicated adequately and consistently against Deism by any slave of systems and establishments; well aware in the mean time, that all my zeal for Christianity will not screen me from the malice of those, who love church-emoluments better than scripture-truth; because an opportunity will arise of exposing the trumpery and nonsense of ecclesiastics.

[Page 3]The time is come, when all our opinions must be tried at the touchstone of severe enquiry: and, if the Jewish and Christian Revelations cannot support themselves against the batteries of their assailants, in the estimation of capable and disin­terested judges, the out-posts must be abandoned; and a retreat secured to the fortresses of deism, al­ready occupied by the patriarchs of old, and the illustrious philosophers of later times. The sway of creeds and councils, of hierarchies and churches, whether Protestant or Popish, over the bodies and consciences of men, is diminishing apace: and the temple of revelation, deprived of the mouldering props, which priestcraft, and tyranny, and supersti­tion had framed for it's support, must repose solely on it's proper basis, the adamant of TRUTH.

After premising a short introduction, explana­tory of his motives to this work, our ingenuous author delivers his creed:

‘I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.’

I join the writer in assent to these articles of faith. That Creed of Christian Churches, which acknowledges Jesus Christ also to be God, and the Holy Spirit to be God, is a fundamental violation [Page 4]of all theology; a doctrine, alike unknown to the Heathens and the Jews, and contemplated with abhorrence by the followers of Moses from it's first propagation to this very day: a doctrine, incon­sistent with the plainest declarations of Christ himself and his apostles; a doctrine, which no human testimony whatever could render credible; a doctrine, which will happily prove a mill-stone of destruction to all political establishments of christianity.

Our author thus proceeds in his confession: ‘I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.’

All diversity of civil privileges and titular dis­tinctions; all inequality, but the transient and ca­sual inequality produced by personal exertion, public benefit, or private worth, is destitute of even the shadow of support from nature or revela­tion. We are all children of one common father: and Jesus of Nazareth allowed no pre-eminence among his disciples, but that of mutual subjection, condescending service, profound humility, and self-abasement *; of which lowly virtues he pro­posed [Page 5]himself as a complete example. It requires but a trivial portion of sagacity to discover, that certain orders and descriptions of frail creatures, encompassed with every inducement to be corrupt themselves, and plentifully furnished with every means of corrupting others, cannot be peculiarly calculated to promote the general happiness of mankind; and this happiness we are compelled to regard as the prime object of the divine ad­ministration. It was a beautiful sentiment of Plato *, that ‘the affairs of states would never be well conducted, 'till philosophers were kings, or kings philosophers.’ He, who vindicates corruption in society, and discountenances a pro­gress to all perfection, of which humanity is capable, from the stale topic of the inevitable depravity of human beings, discourages every effort for virtu­ous pre-eminence, degrades the dignity of our nature, libels his species, and thwarts the mea­sures of divine government. Christians at least might be expected to bestow some readiness in their attempts of conforming to the injunctions of their divine teachers, by striving to be perfect , and thoroughly furnished unto all good works by ‘leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go­ing on unto perfection .’ In our present state of embarrassment and degradation from a thousand [Page 6]causes, it were presumptuous ignorance, border­ing on profaneness, to prescribe a limit to the ca­pacities of mortality, either in moral or intel­lectual exertion. He at least cannot be deemed unfriendly to his species, or contemptuous to the divinity, who thinks respectably of the workman­ship of God, of the rational image of his Creator.

Again: ‘I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.’

This too may be conceded, if by ‘the creed of the Protestant church,’ be meant that mon­strous farrago of absurdities and contradictions, concentrated with most ingenious and compre­hensive brevity, in the creeds denominated the Athanasian and Nicene; which, without the expe­dient of repeating backwards, would

— "with a vengeance send,
"From Media post to Egypt *"

a much more untractable daemon than Asmodeus : or, if some clauses even of the Apostle's creed were intended by our author; clauses, which may be [Page 7]found indeed in the liturgies of established churches, but are certainly not "written in the book of life."

‘All national institutions of churches, whe­ther Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.’

A just remark, concisely and pregnantly ex­pressed. National churches are that hay and stubble * which might be removed without difficulty or confusion, from the fabric of religion, by the gentle hand of reformation, but which the infa­tuation of ecclesiastics will leave to be destroyed by fire . National churches are that incrustation, which has enveloped, by gradual concretion, the diamond of christianity; nor can, I fear, the ge­nuine lustre be restored, but by such violent efforts as the separation of substances so long and closely connected must inevitably require.

Nor can I forbear the quotation of another pa­ragraph, replete with manly sense and dignified mo­rality, conveyed in simple but energetic language; [Page 8]though not immediately pertinent to the discussion, which I have in view; especially as fewer occa­sions of approbation and coincidence will be pre­sented in our progress through the pamphlet.

‘It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has pro­duced in society. When a man has so far cor­rupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive any thing more destructive to morality than this?’

These very rational and important observations are applicable in the fullest latitude to the subscrip­tions exacted from young men at our Universities for degrees, and for the candidates for the ministry in the Church of England. It is a most shocking reflection to every lover of truth and honesty, that a requisition to acknowledge a multitudinous mass of theological and political propositions, deno­minated articles of religion, which many have never read, and which they, who read, cannot under­stand; that an assent, I say, to such a monstrous [Page 9]and unintelligible hodge podge of scholastic reve­ries should be made an indispensable condition to the privilege of preaching the truths of Christianity. The simplicity and sincerity of the gospel cannot fail of furtherance and support, beyond all contro­versy, from those, who begin their godly functions in such trifling with veracity and the solemnity of oaths! who thus bind themselves to the belief of certain tenets manufactured and imposed by others; and thereby preclude themselves (in addition to the indirect impediment in the way of acquiring truth, interposed by this unequivocal declaration of indifference to her interests) from pursuing their theological enquiries beyond the limits assigned by councils and parliaments in former days, by an ex­press obligation not to exceed the knowledge of their forefathers, nor to dispute their opinions, whether true or false. I cannot myself conceive a case more palpably immoral and indefensible: nor can we be surprised at a plenteous harvest of unbelievers in a vineyard cultivated by labourers of this complexion.

‘Every national church or religion has establish­ed itself by pretending some special mission from God communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks [Page 10]their Mahomet; as if the way to God was not open to every man alike.’

This statement is frivolous and erroneous in the extreme. The system of Jesus Christ pro­ceeds upon the very supposition here instituted, that "the way to God is open to every man alike;" as might be proved by many passages in the Christian Scriptures. What the Jews and Christians maintain in behalf of their respective sys­tems, is: that their founders delivered to man­kind rational sentiments of the Divine nature, of his existence, and his providential government of the world, at a time, when ignorance and deprava­tion, with respect to these fundamental canons of religious rectitude, were almost universally predo­minant. With relation to the writings of the Jews, it is altogether undeniable, and is a truth of the ut­most weight and magnitude, that our accumulated discoveries in science and philosophy, and all our progress in other parts of knowledge, has not en­abled the wisest of the moderns to excel the noble sentiments conveyed in the didactics and devo­tional compositions of the Old Testament; com­positions, many of which existed, without dispute, before the earliest writings of heathen antiquity, and at a period, when even those illustrious in­structors of mankind, the Greeks and Romans, were [Page 11]barbarous and unknown. It would gratify me much, I confess, to be informed in what manner the contemners of the Jews and of the Mosaic sys­tem account for this singular phoenomenon: which indeed might be stated with abundantly more full­ness and cogency, if it were necessary on this oc­casion. Will Thomas Paine the deist, or any of our modern atheists, undertake the solution of this difficulty?—Besides, let any man compare the sim­ple morality and the noble precepts of the Gospel, as they relate to the attributes of God and the du­ties of humanity, with the monstrous theology, with the subtleties and the contradictory schemes of contemporary moralists, among the Greeks and Ro­mans; (who nevertheless had, in all probability, profited mediately or immediately by the Jewish system, which could not exist without diffusing some influence through the neighbourhood) and reflect at the same time, that a perfect manual of morality may be collected from a few pages in the gospel, but must be picked in Pagan writers from a multitude of discordant volumes, and a mass of incoherency and absurdity: and then condescend to furnish us with an explanation of what must be allowed on all hands a surprising fact; namely, the existence of such superior intelligence in a Jewish carpenter at Nazareth. So then, though we con­cede to Mr Paine, that "the way to God was open [Page 12]to every man alike," we affirm of the Jewish and Christian dispensations, that they only were this way to any man desirous of entertaining rational no­tions of God and human duty. Without the illu­mination, which has been distributed through the world from these dispensations, Thomas Paine, and other deists of our own and succeeding ages, who fancy themselves so very philosophical and intelli­gent in their theology, would have known full as little of the matter, to speak with moderation, as much wiser heads than their's, among the illustri­ous nations of antiquity, deprived of these advan­tages, so much contemned and so ungratefully en­joyed. The natural inference from these indubit­able positions is clearly, some degree of supernatu­ral communication, which we stile Revelation, to the founders of Judaism and Christianity, Moses and Jesus; and the denial of such communica­tion leaves a problem, I apprehend, of much more arduous solution; but which we may now expect the wonderful disciples of modern reason to ex­plain in a way, that will leave no further difficul­ties on the subject.

‘As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means [Page 13]something communicated immediately from God to man.’

‘No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication if he pleases. But admitting for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other; and consequently, they are not obliged to believe it.’

This statement also is inaccurate, fallacious, and inconclusive. Let us see, if we can exhibit a rational and unexceptionable representation of the point in question. A revelation is made to one person in the first instance; Moses, for example. He communicates this revelation to a second party, his countrymen, the children of Israel. But does he expect them to believe this message on a mere assertion, so that their assent may be stiled a hearsay revelation? No such thing. He delivers his credentials with the message, and sanctions his pretensions by some display of [Page 14]supernatural agency. Whether such display were in reality made in the case before us, is not now the question: I am only exhibiting the proposition in it's proper form, and stating the fact, as it exists, whether authentically or otherwise, in the Mosaic history: and hence, I think, it is abundantly ma­nifest, that Mr Paine's notions of the character and condition of the Jewish and Christian revela­tions are so confused, as to render his account al­together unsuitable to the purpose in view, and most effectually impertinent. And this answer, I ap­prehend, will serve for all contained in the suc­ceeding paragraphs, which are also wholly foreign to the subject; a mere inapplicable figment of our author's bewildered imagination.

‘It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call any thing a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.

[Page 15] ‘When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments from the hand of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other au­thority for it than some historian telling me so: the commandments carrying no internal evi­dence of divinity with them. They contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a law-giver or a legislator could produce him­self, without having recourse to supernatural in­tervention.’

In a note our author subjoins a sarcastical re­flection, with which his fancy seems not a little tickled; and he proposes it accordingly with an air of self-complacency and exultation.

‘It is, however, necessary to except the de­claration, which says, that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children. It is contrary to every principle of moral justice.’

But nothing in reality can possibly be more feeble and inefficient than this objection. The belief and worship of one true God, in oppo­sition to a plurality of divinities and the vani­ties of idolatry, is the root of all genuine reli­gion; and springs up into that stem, upon which [Page 16]every moral and social duty must be engrafted. Now, it is most notorious, mankind are so entirely the creatures of imitation, association, and habit, that a general prevalence of a false principle in one age has an obvious and unavoidable tendency to transmit this principle, with accumulated error and aggravation, to the age immediately succeed­ing *. But history and experience uniformly ascer­tain, that, while individuals go unpunished, large societies and communities of men at least (and to the Jews in their national capacity were these commandments given) are, in the regular course of divine administration, chastised for their crimes, in consequence of the eternal alliance and insep­arable connection between vice and suffering: yet these crimes are not their own crimes merely, but the aggregate wickedness of themselves and their progenitors. And with unfeigned sorrow do I regret, that Thomas Paine should himself be a standing evidence of this immutable dispensa­tion; whilst he lies languishing in prison for an acci­dental attachment to the Brissotine faction, without [Page 17]one personal or political immorality to justify so harsh a treatment *.

Our author proceeds: ‘When also I am told that a woman, called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said, that an angel told him so, I have a right to believe them or not: such a circumstance required a much stronger evi­dence than their bare word for it: but we have not even this; for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves. It is only reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not chuse to rest my be­lief upon such evidence.’

These difficulties I concede to the deist, for my own part, in all their force; they are pertinent in themselves, and of serious significancy to those whom they may concern: but as the immaculate conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit constitutes no essential article of my creed, and certainly rests [Page 18]on much weaker evidence, than any other impor­tant fact of all the gospels, I leave the vindication of it to the orthodox sons of the establishment. In the mean time, as one defect of demonstration * has not impaired the general truth of the Newto­nian philosophy, not even in the case of that parti­cular doctrine, the propagation of sounds, so an oc­casional interpolation of one or two groundless circumstances will not invalidate the evidences of Christianity: they repose on a much broader and firmer basis than that of detached facts, knavish im­positions on the superstitious, and unnecessary mi­racles. For the same reason, I shall not scruple to pass unnoticed the subsequent paragraphs of our antagonist, which direct their attacks on the wretched materials heaped up, for the security of usurped dominion and secular interest, by the hands of priests and devotees: a tribe of Christians, holden by Mr Paine and myself in equal vene­ration.

‘Nothing that is here said can apply, even with the most distant disrespect, to the real character of Jesus Christ. He was a virtuous and an ami­able man. The morality that he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind; and [Page 19]though similar systems of morality had been preached by Confucius, and by some of the Greek philosophers, many years before; by the Quakers since, and by many good men in all ages; it has not been exceeded by any.’

Of these remarks the former part is excellent: the latter was never surpassed in ignorance and ab­surdity. The Quakers undoubtedly, take them all in all, are as a PRACTICAL society, the most re­spectable of all the religious sects that have come to my knowledge: but what can be more su­premely ridiculous, than to exemplify their mora­lity in contradistinction to that of the gospel; when they are one and the same? To say, moreover, of the Christian system merely, that "it has not been exceeded by any" systems ancient or mo­dern, is such a misconception, as candour will choose to impute, not to malignant disparagement, but to an ignorance rather of the philosophical systems of antiquity, and the comparative merits of evangelical morality; which, I fear, Mr Paine has not examined with a minuteness and scrupulosity, that will authorise to a conscientious reasoner such peremptory decision on the case.

I wish those heavenly maxims of Solon and the son of Sirach, Know thyself:—and, Understand first [Page 20]and then rebuke; were more deeply impressed on the hearts and memories of us all: that we might not impose upon ourselves conceit for knowledge; upon our readers, sophistry for argument, and dogmatism for intelligent conviction.

We are now arrived at the most important parts, in my judgement, of our author's production; to which I shall endeavour to reply directly, intelli­gibly, and without evasion: and, if I should prove unable to vindicate my faith in Christianity upon principles truly rational and unambiguously expli­cit, I will relinquish it altogether, and look for an asylum in the deism of Thomas Paine, and the calm philosophy of Hume.

‘Jesus Christ wrote no account of himself, of his birth, parentage, or any thing else. Not a line of what is called the New Testament is of his writing. The history of him is altogether the work of other people; and as to the account given of his resurrection and ascension, it was the necessary counterpart to the story of his birth. His historians having brought him into the world in a supernatural manner, were obliged to take him out again in the same manner, or the first part of the story must have fallen to the ground.’

[Page 21]To this argument against the resurrection of Jesus, various answers might be instituted: but I shall confine myself to one only, which appears to my mind incapable of confutation upon any prin­ciples of philosophy or experience; and will in­deed admit of no dispute, but upon positions, sub­versive of all historical testimony whatsoever, and introductory of universal scepticism.

The numerous circumstances interspersed through the Gospel narratives and in the Acts of the Apostles, appertaining to the geography of countries, the positions of rivers, towns, and cities, public transactions of much notoriety in those days; the dress, customs, manners, and languages of na­tions and individuals; political characters of emi­nence and their conduct, with a vast multiplicity of detached occurrences and facts, not necessary to be specified at large, challenge (to speak with mo­deration) as large a portion of credibility to these books, considered in the light of historical testimo­nials, as can be claimed for any writings what­ever, received as genuine, and equally ancient and multifarious. Now no mean presumption arises in favour of the most extraordinary transactions also, blended in the same texture of narrative by histo­rians of so credible a character with respect to the rest of their relations; but, when these extraordi­nary [Page 22]facts are found to have so intimate an incor­poration with the common and unsuspicious occur­rences of these histories so as to admit of no de­tachment, but to stand or fall with the main body of the compositions; I cannot see how any histo­rical probability of the authenticity of these extra­ordinary events can rise higher than in such an in­stance. But it will be proper to unfold the pur­port of this reasoning, which admits abundant illus­tration, more explicitly, by a particular example.

The apostles, Peter and John, after the death of their Master, being summoned before the priests and elders of the Jews *, boldly assert in their pre­sence, that ‘God had raised Jesus Christ of Na­zareth, whom the Jews had crucified, from the dead.’ After some examination and debate, the two apostles are commanded by those magi­strates and rulers of the Jewish nation to teach no more in the name of Jesus. But these intrepid followers of Jesus replied in precisely the words of Socrates to the Athenians : ‘We ought to obey God rather than men: for we cannot but speak the things, which we have SEEN and HEARD.’ And what was their prospect and expectation from this determination to perseve­rance? [Page 23]Nothing less than ridicule, contempt, per­secution, poverty, bodily chastisements, imprison­ment and death:—‘"Starving their gains, and martyrdom their price."’

Now, if we recollect in union with all this, what indeed should never be forgotten, that these apos­tles, the first teachers of christianity, the companions and friends of Jesus, did not endure these ac­cumulated inconveniencies from a mere obsti­nate attachment to speculative opinions, in which, in my opinion, they were fallible as other men; but for asserting the palpable unquestionable evi­dence of their external senses, what "they had heard, and seen, and handled *: no alternative of delusion or fallacy can be supposed; but their case stands clearly distinguished from that of every future victim to religious persuasions: liable, as they were, to no misconstruction, no precipitate and prejudiced judgements, no conceivable imposture. The falshoods therefore of Christ's resurrection in connection with this single fact, and all the train of collateral circumstances dependant from it, would, I am persuaded, upon any mathematical calcula­tion of the sum of moral and historical presump­tion, amount to an improbability of the greatest [Page 24]magnitude, indefinitely approximating to a mira­culous event.

‘The resurrection and ascension, supposing them to have taken place, admitted of public and o­cular demonstration, like that of the ascension of a balloon, or the sun at noon day, to all Je­rusalem at least. A thing which every body is required to believe, requires that the proof and evidence of it should be equal to all, and universal; and as the public visibility of this last related act was the only evidence that could give sanction to the former part, the whole of it falls to the ground, because that evidence never was given. Instead of this, a small num­ber of persons, not more than eight or nine, are introduced as proxies for the whole world, to say, they saw it, and all the rest of the world are called upon to believe it. But it appears that Thomas did not believe the resurrection; and, as they say, would not believe, without having ocular and manual demonstration himself. So neither will I; and the reason is equally as good for me and for every other person, as for Thomas.’

Farther, The demonstration of the resurrection may have been sufficiently public to demand our [Page 25]assent, in conjunction with such a variety of cor­roborating coincidencies, though it were not at­tested by the ocular observation of all Jerusalem, which Mr. Paine supposes to be absolutely necessary to the establishment of this fact. The actual degree of publicity, however, attendant on this * transac­tion, according to the histories, may be learned from the texts referred to below . Not a thou­sandth part of the people in Great Britain saw Lunardi go up from the Artillery Ground in a baloon; but the superior impulse to any possible action upon my mind, who saw him, in consequence of that event, does not exceed the impulse to a simi­lar action on the mind of another, who did not see him, by an evanescent infinitesimal of efficacy. The man, therefore, who is resolved to believe no transaction, but upon "ocular and manual de­monstration," belies his own theory in every movement of his life. I might advance also, in aid of these remarks, that mankind are most evidently placed here in a state of probationary im­perfection; that, instead of certainty for our guide, we are compelled to trust, on most occasions, to degrees of probability infinitely diversified; and that some of our noblest and most refined excel­lencies, [Page 26]moral and intellectual, spring from a diffidence and docility and lowliness of under­standing, which disputable evidence is best calculated to produce. Besides, that exercise and agitation of our mental powers, which is inevitably generated by the delays and difficulties, intervening proposi­tions of this nature and the attainment of moral certainty, in a painful disquisition of them, contri­bute essentially to the clearness, and vigour, and general salubrity of the understanding: just as rivers are meliorated and refined by a winding passage over sand and gravel *. It might as well be pretended, that the faculties of man would be enlarged, and his condition improved, without the necessity of labour and ingenuity for the sub­sistence and well-being of common life: if the trees dropt honey into our mouths; if the land flowed with milk and nectar, as is fabled of the golden age . [Page 27]The declaration, therefore, of Christ, is no fana­tical ejaculation, but a position strictly philoso­phical and intrinsically wise: ‘Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they, that have not seen, and yet have be­lieved *.’

No considerate and inquisitive christian will pretend, that he sees the truth of his master's re­surrection and the system supported by it, with the same intuition, which perceives the equality of the three angles of a triangle to one right angle. He is satisfied with thinking an acquiescence in this grand doctrine strictly rational and philoso­phical, if he descries it's indissoluble connection with other numerous occurrences of the highest probability; if it forms a most important link in one concatenated series of divine communications, dignified and important in themselves, corrobo­rated by contemporary histories, and ascertained almost to demonstration by the preceding and [Page 28]present existing circumstances of mankind at large: if, in short, nothing can be discovered in such a system, unfit for man to receive, or the Creator to bestow; but, on the contrary, innumerable indica­cations present themselves of that benevolence to the human race, which is to us the most convincing characteristic of the divinity.

‘It is vain to attempt to palliate or disguise this matter. The story, so far as relates to the supernatural part, has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it. Who were the authors of it is as impossible for us to know, as it is for us to be assured, that the books in which the account is related, were written by the persons whose names they bear. The best surviving evidence we now have respecting this affair is the Jews. They are regularly descended from the people who lived in the times this re­surrection and ascension is said to have happen­ed, and they say, it is not true. It has long appeared to me a strange inconsistency to cite the Jews as a proof of the truth of the story. It is just the same as if a man were to say, I will prove the truth of what I have told you, by producing the people who say it is false.’

That the story of the resurrection ‘has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the [Page 29]of it,’ is the hardy assertion of one, who must be deemed to have nothing better to offer than hardy assertion, 'till he present us with a deduction of particulars in vindication of his confidence: and, if the books should not be written in reality by those identical persons, whose names are affixed, the truth of the facts themselves is deducible from a mass of collateral and independent evidence. And with respect to the incredulity of the Jews, many satisfactory reasons may be alledged. I have been assured indeed, and upon authority exceed­ingly respectable, that in the written annals of the Israelitish nation, reposited at Venice and Amster­dam, two miracles of Jesus stand recorded; one of which is the resuscitation of the widow's son at Nain *: but I would not wish this argument to pass for more than it's proper value. It is, how­ever, acknowledged by the Jews, that such a per­son as Jesus of Nazareth existed , and at the time assigned by the Evangelists: but motives numerous and highly probable may be suggested for their rejection of him. The Jewish nation were ex­pecting a magnificent leader and glorious conquer­or, not an obscure Nazarene and humble teacher of religion: they were at that time, as appears from their countryman Josephus, and from the [Page 30] Roman and Evangelical historians, a people ex­ceedingly vicious and depraved: their leading men, with their chief priest and scribes, whose opinions and authority swayed the whole nation, according to the custom of corrupt communities, hated and reviled Jesus, not only for that simpli­city and purity of life, which read a lecture of tacit reprobation to their ostentatious and immoral characters, but much more from his public and unreserved reproof of their ignorance, their ty­ranny, their selfishness, their extortion, and hy­pocrisy. Now, if it should be rejoined to these allegations, (and nothing else discoverable by me can be rejoined) that miracles, if Jesus really per­formed them, would not have failed to overpower their prejudices and animosity; I reply first; that the Jews, who admitted the possibility of working miracles by a confederacy with evil spirits, and a skill in magical operations *, would much more easily take refuge in that popular solution, than surrender their emoluments, their vices, and their religious professions, entwined as these were with great intellectual depravity; than offer up such costly sacrifices to the name and authority of a detested Censor. And, secondly, daily expe­rience [Page 31]presents us with innumerable instances of a perseverance in vice and folly, which, the unhappy victims of this tyranny are in their own minds fully assured, will as inevitably terminate in wretched­ness and destruction, as if the evidence of such an issue were ascertained by a miracle.

But the subject before us admits of further illus­tration from the example of Mr. Paine himself. In this country, where his opposition to the corrup­tions of government has raised him so many ad­versaries, and such a swarm of unprincipled hire­lings have exerted themselves in blackening his character and in misrepresenting all the transac­tions and incidents of his life; will it not be a most difficult, nay, an impossible task, for posterity, after a lapse of 1700 years, if such a wreck of modern literature, as that of the ancient, should intervene, to identify the real circumstances, moral and civil, of the man? And would a true historian, such as the evangelists, be credited at that future period against such a predominant incredulity, without large and weighty accessions of collateral attesta­tion? And how transcendently extraordinary, I had almost said miraculous, will it be esteemed, by candid and reasonable minds, that a writer, whose object was, a melioration of condition to the com­mon people, and their deliverance from oppression, [Page 32]poverty, and wretchedness, to the numberless bles­sings of upright and equal government, should be reviled, persecuted, and burned in essigy, with every circumstance of insult and execration, by these very objects of his benevolent intentions, in every corner of the kingdom?

Upon the whole, we find no difficulty in declar­ing, that what has astonished Mr. Paine so long, should astonish him no longer: as no species of reasoning is more common and more legitimate, than that which proves the truth of a circumstance from the evidence of corrupt and interested wit­nesses, who assert it to be false. The very denial of such a people as the Jews is no mean presump­tion in favour of the character of Jesus. Indeed, Mr. Paine pleads this cause with so much ability in our favour and against himself, that I should be unpardonable in with-holding the next paragraph, replete with cogency and good sense, from the notice of the reader.

‘That such a person as Jesus Christ existed, and that he was crucified, which was the mode of execution at that day, are historical relations strictly within the limits of probability. He preached most excellent morality, and the equa­lity of man; but he preached also against the [Page 33]corruptions and avarice of the Jewish priests; and this brought upon him the hatred and ven­geance of the whole order of the priest-hood.’

In the following pages, from p. 13 to p. 21, Mr. Paine enters into what he calls ‘a bold in­vestigation, and which, he apprehends, will alarm many.’ Upon this topic of discussion our au­thor fancies himself, no doubt, extremely eloquent; and, instead of plain sensible Thomas Paine, he commences a tumid and hypertragical declaimer. A most formidable and pompous representation is exhibited of the devil; with a detail of the battles, the transformations, the imprisonment, and other strange adventures of his Satanic majesty. All this, I grant, may swell into a serious difficulty with good churchmen and puritanical fanatics, but to myself, and others of the same orthodox standard, occasion no embarrassment at all, being received with exactly the degree of credit vouchsafed them by Thomas Paine himself. The whole fable of the Devil and his angels, with all it's terrific appen­dages, has been gratuitously fabricated by the sons of superstition from one or two emblematical pas­sages in the Revelations, where the author has de­lineated future characters and events under the guise of these fictitious personages. No legiti­mate rules of interpretation, and no circumstances [Page 34]of the Jewish or Christian systems, make it neces­sary for us to regard the Devil, or Satan, in any other light than that of an allegorical character. This mode of personification was perfectly suited to the taste of the orientals; who delighted in speak­ing, not only in striking metaphors, but by actions; and whose compositions are a tissue of figurative and emblematical expression. The origin of evil, moral and natural, is a problem, which has exer­cised the ingenuity of man, since the creation of the world; and the Hebrews relieved the distress of mind, resulting from these disquisitions, by per­sonifying the evil principle under the denomina­tion of Satan, or the enemy. The Greeks also had recourse to a similar contrivance for their satisfac­tion on this point; and employed Ate, the Furies, and other malignant deities, as convenient substi­tutes for the origin of evil *. Nor were similar fic­tions, with a view to the same embarrassment, un­known to the followers of Confucius and Zoroaster, to the natives of Peru and Mexico. But Mr. Paine's information upon the subject of modern theology must be very slender indeed, or he would have known, that those, who have distinguished them­selves of late years by the freedom of scriptural re­search, unfettered by the chicanery and bribery [Page 35]of establishments, have exploded these monstrous doctrines, which receive no real countenance from the genius of the Christian covenant, or the sense of scripture; and will soon have no existence but in the creeds of Dames and Nurses. Alass! our Deist fancied himself in stout combat with genuine Christianity, whilst he was buffeting a mere phan­tom of ignorance and superstition! So easy is de­clamation against folly!

‘These books, beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelations (which by the bye is a book of riddles that requires a Revelation to explain it) are, we are told, the word of God.’

The vindicator, who occupies himself in the confutation of such unsupported and dogmatical assertions, is not much more excusable, than the ignoramus, who has the audacity to produce them. I thus express myself with unreserved censure, upon a probability of the highest kind, that Mr. Paine never studied the apocalypse with an express view of deciding upon the authenticity of that sin­gular composition. When he has done this, and is able to invalidate merely those incontrovertible internal symptoms of genuineness, which the syn­chronisms, the curious coincidences and arrange­ment of the parts, detected and elucidated with [Page 36]such incomparable skill and clearness by Joseph Mede, carry with them to every dispassionate exa­miner, it will then be proper and seasonable to dis­cuss the allegations of our deist. But that the random fiction of a distempered brain should be marked with such characters of truth, as are found on the face of the apocalypse, is to me perfectly inconceivable.

‘When the church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find, and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear, under the name of the Old and the New Testa­ment, are in the same state in which those col­lectors say they found them; or whether they added, altered, abridged, or dressed them up.’

‘Be this as it may, they decided by vote which of the books out of the collection they had made, should be the WORD OF GOD, and which should not. They rejected several; they voted others to be doubtful, such as the books called the Apocrypha; and those books which had a majority of votes, were voted to be the word of God. Had they voted otherwise, all the peo­ple, since calling themselves Christians, had be­lieved [Page 37]otherwise; for the belief of the one comes from the vote of the other. Who the people were that did all this, we know nothing of; they called themselves by the general name of the church; and this is all we know of the matter.’

In answer to this undigested and inaccurate state­ment of the case, I observe, as follows: It is most certain, and ought not to be dissembled, that all the books of the Old and New Testaments have not come confirmed to us by the same degree of evi­dence. They may be properly distributed into two classes, Books of Fact, and Books of Opinion. Under the former class I would comprise from Ge­nesis to the book of Job, with the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles; and under the latter, to make the largest concession to this argument, the Hagio­grapha and Prophets, i. e. all the remainder of the Old Testament, with the Epistles and Apocalypse of the New. Now, that we may wave all discussion of the evidences and importance of the latter col­lection, the Christian and Jewish systems need no support beyond the authenticity of the historic class: and I assert in the fullest confidence, and appeal to a multitude of publications in behalf of this assertion, that no history whatever, taking it's antiquity into consideration, has more claims to be [Page 38]received as genuine, than the histories in question. And what need of circumstantial detail in repelling the objections of men, who really know just nothing of the subject, and satisfy their reason and philo­sophy by peremptory asseveration only, unillumi­nated by one single ray of information on the topic in dispute *? To contravene positions, that have been discussed again and again by writers of the first genius and erudition, and to disparage the ge­nuineness of the bible histories wholly and indiscri­minately, without some precision of investigation, some specific allegations, founded on the report of authentic documents, is intolerable arrogance, and the consummation of literary profligacy. With respect to the internal evidences of these histories, I am persuaded, and would engage to prove in de­tail, that they are exceedingly superior to those of any ancient records whatever, whose authenticity is admitted; evidences, of which no man will doubt, who does not insist, on mathematical demonstration in cases only susceptible of varying probabilities. However this be, it is my settled persuasion, de­duced from experience and the manners of man­kind, that, if no written memorials of the Jewish and Christian dispensations were at this moment in [Page 39]existence, the present condition of the professors of these systems, as a traduction of believers in a certain system, composing vast aggregates of men through a succession of ages, in a variety of instan­ces persecuted, distressed, and destroyed for their belief, cannot be accounted for, but on a suppo­sition of the original reasonableness of these dis­pensations, in the apprehensions of the first profes­sors; and consequently of their probable authen­ticity: unless indeed we are resolved to exempt the men of those aeras from the common benefits of ra­tionality. It were most easy to enlarge on this subject; but more has been said already, than such desultory and unsubstantiated allegations have any reason to expect: and I shall only add, from a multiplicity of cogent instances, with reference to one branch of evidence of the first moment, that a comparison of the xxviii. chapter of Deuteronomy only, with the subsequent and present state of the Israelitish nation, must slash conviction, I should think, upon any mind, not totally prejudiced and perverted, in favour of the prophetical pretensions of the Scriptures: for that the book of Deuteronomy was composed posterior to these events, what effron­tery even of unlearned deism, if it hazard the asser­tion, will undertake to prove?

‘Revelation is a communication of something, which the person, to whom that thing is revealed, [Page 40]did not know before. For if I have done a thing, or seen it done, it needs no revelation to tell me I have done it, or seen it, nor to enable me to tell it, or to write it.’

This is not only the essence, but the quintessence, of all weakness and absurdity: and affords a me­lancholy instance, how men of real genius and abi­lities must expose themselves, when they venture to discuss subjects of the highest moment, for which they are qualified neither by reading nor reflexion. Such presumption is no other than the case, simply but pointedly described by the apostle: ‘Profes­sing themselves to be wise, they become fools *.’ Mr. Paine has given us a notable definition truly; in which the term to be explained constitutes a part! But, to pass by this stupidity; how sayest thou, child of reason? ‘Revelation is a commu­nication of something unknown before.’ So then, not only the professors of philosophy at the higher places of education, but every dame, that teaches the horn-book in a country village, com­municates, it seems, a revelation! And the man, who so defines and so conceives, and, upon the strength of such definition and conception, talks about it and about it with all the fullness of self-suffi­ciency, is able, it should seem, to demolish Judaism [Page 41]and Christianity with a few dashes of his pen, and to establish mere deism on their ruins!

"How would our fathers rise up in a rage,
"And swear all shame is lost in George's age!"

What our redoubtable antagonist immediately subjoins, savours of equal imbecillity, and total misapprehension of the subject under contempla­tion. The greater part of the bible-history con­tains simply a narrative of the political occurrences of the Jews; and the transactions recorded are, therefore, in a variety of instances to be consider­ed in the same light with those of all other histories; namely, as aggravated and disguised in a thousand instances by passing through the medium of na­tional partiality. The history of Sampson is, on this account, to be credited in proportion only to that degree of probability, measured by the com­mon experience of mankind and the state of the world in those days, which the history itself shall claim in the estimation of reasonable judges, un­der such qualifications and deductions, as will by no means invalidate the main body and the leading facts of the narrative in the light of a national re­gister of persons and events.

I agree with Thomas Paine, that ‘the account of the creation, with which the book of Genesis [Page 42]opens, has all the appearance of being a tradi­tion, which the Israelites had among them be­fore they came into Egypt; and after their de­parture from that country, they put it at the head of their history, without telling, as it is most probable that they did not know, how they came by it.’

But what majesty of sentiment, what a dignified simplicity of expression, characterises the Mosaic ac­count of the creation of the world! Compare only this elegant and compendious relation with the strange, confused, and despicable cosmogonies of the Greeks: for it is manifest from internal evidence, that Ovid's beautiful description was constructed upon the Mosaic narrative: nor, otherwise, is it pro­bable, that the literary Romans of the Augustan age should be strangers to the Greek translation of the Old Testament *.

To all that occurs between pages 23 and 31, as far as they comprehend any objections to the Jewish institution, a very satisfactory answer has, if I mistake not, been already given. One pre­dominant [Page 43]error in page 24, it may not be unseason, able to detect. Mr. Paine there asserts:

‘Why it has been called the Mosaic account of the creation, I am at a loss to conceive. Mo­ses, I believe, was too good a judge of such sub­jects to put his name to that account. He had been educated among the Egyptians, who were a people as well skilled in science, and particularly in astronomy, as any people of their day.’

All this may be literally true; but a palpable untruth is implied in it; that the Aegyptians were really a learned and scientific people: whereas their science and their astronomy was just nothing at all. If not, produce me your vouchers to this fact, from existing monuments or ancient testimony *. Political society was undoubtedly existing in much stability and regularity at a very early period in AEgypt; but probably not earlier than in China and Indostan, or, perhaps, other pleasant and fertile countries of the East; but where shall we find the scientific discoveries of all, or any of these people, at the Mosaic aera? The only circumstance, which has fallen to my knowledge, that is favourable to the science of the Aegyptians, but in much later ages, [Page 44]is that eagerness, with which the Grecian sages travelled for information to this country. But the Aegyptian priests, like priests of other ages, cajoled mankind with juggling tricks, mysterious mythologies, lying legends of gods and heroes, and an imaginary chronology dependant on pretended observations of eclipses; and, I ap­prehend, the acquisitions of the Greeks from this peregrination, were no more than the general ac­quisitions of modern travellers, and those of Ulysses in ancient times; who, as we learn from Pope's translation of the Odossey,

"Wandering from clime to clime, observant stray'd,
"Their manners noted, and their states survey'd."

The few elementary propositions in geometry, which are ascribed to Pythagoras and Plato, ought not to be imputed, in all probability, to any com­munications from the Aegyptians; but were the pure inventions of those most acute and god-like philosophers. Yes; such men, as Plato and Pytha­goras, would either have learned more, or have learned nothing, from the Aegyptians. Not a day passes however, but authors are trumpeting the science of the Aegyptians upon all occasions; a science, which has no existence but in the miscon­ceptions of their own brain, and the creeds of their [Page 45]teachers. And these deists after all laugh at Chris­tians, forfooth! for their credulity.

‘If we permit ourselves to conceive right ideas of things, we must necessarily affix the idea, not only of unchangeableness, but of the utter impossibility of any change taking place, by any means or accident whatever, in that which we would honour with the name of the word of God; and therefore the word of God cannot exist in any written or human language.’

What can be more frivolous, and more unwor­thy of a man of sense? A revelation, we sup­pose, is first conveyed to a particular person; he proposes it with the proofs of his mission to others; they transmit the same by tradition and written records to their posterity. It is acknowledged, that no succeeding evidence to future generations can strictly authorize that most indubitable con­viction of the first immediate professor; but even their evidence may approximate to certainty be­yond any assignable limits, so as to amount to a species of persuasion, from a concurrence of corroborating particulars, which is morally irre­sistible. Who, even at this day, can be assured, that Michael Angelo planned the fabric of St. Peter's at Rome, or Sir Christopher Wren, St. Paul's [Page 46]in London, with a satisfaction equal to that of the contemporaries of these transactions? And yet, what man in his senses entertains the least doubt of these respective facts? And so it may be with respect to the Jewish and Christian revelations; and so it is, notwithstanding any arguments of Mr. Paine. A few mistakes of copyists and prin­ters make no more alteration in the general effect of this argument, than a new stone, or pinnacle repaired, will be deemed to abolish the pretensions of the primary architect to his structure.

‘I now go on to the book called the New Testament. The new Testament! that is, the new Will, as if there could be two wills of the Creator.’

Scarcely a single Christian can be found, I be­lieve, so totally ignorant and untutored, as not to know, that the New Covenant is the proper title of this book. Most completely ridiculous then does Mr. Paine make himself by his serious con­test with vulgar and exploded errors. A plain demonstration this, how little of what is new and important he has to bring forward on these long agitated disquisitions.

[Page 47]From p. 33 to 36, not an iota of remark is to be discovered, that does not disgrace the meanest understanding: and no objection, that a school-boy could not confute. My countrymen must be degenerated into a swinish multitude indeed, to find any nutriment in such a mess of pigs-meat, as these wretched caterers David Andrews and Thomas Paine have provided for them. But what better can be expected from zeal without knowledge? Nothing indeed, but dogmatism, mis­representation, nonsense, and obscurity. In short, to employ our author's own words in p. 38. ‘I become so tired with examining into the in­consistencies and absurdities of Thomas Paine's effusion, that I hasten to the conclusion of it, in order to proceed,’ but on very unpromising speculation of success, "to something better."

It is most true, as our author asserts in p. 40, ‘The church has set up a system of religion very contradictory to the character of the person whose name it bears. It has set up a religion of pomp and of revenue in pretended imita­tion of a person whose life was humility and poverty:’ yet, according to the stale but just maxim, whose dictates Mr. Paine has so inces­santly and egregiously violated in this crude production; ab abusu ad usum non valet conse­quentia: [Page 48] quentia: these corruptions are not chargeable on the spirit of true christianity: the argument will not infer from perverted revelation to no revela­tion at all. No: there are, we trust, such things in being, as truth, philosophy, and revealed religion, in spite of lying Chroniclers, imaginary system­mongers, and meretricious theologians.

Your notion of redemption, upon which you so largely expatiate and so tragically declaim in the following pages, is the notion derived probably from your quaker father and the good fraternity, among whom you received your education: but is not the notion of the scriptures. Our doc­trine is, that God created man pure and upright, with a capacity of conforming himself in all res­pects to the injunctions of the divine will *: that life without cessation was the proposed reward of unfailing obedience; and death the punishment of transgression. Man deviated from the line of rec­titude, by listening to the seductions of wayward appetite; and became justly exposed to the penalty denounced against sin. His heavenly father, who in the midst of judgement remembers mercy, and [Page 49]delights, through the whole conduct of his pro­vidential administrations to mankind, in educing good from evil, renews his covenant with his fallen creatures; promises to reverse this sentence of death, and to re-establish him in his claim to immortality by means of another dispensation at a future season, which appeared to divine wisdom the best calculated for it's promulgation. Ac­cordingly, in the fulness of time, after a prepara­tory system, whose chief object was the establish­ment of a belief in one God, in opposition to the corruptions of idol-worship; Jesus of Nazareth was commissioned to preach in Judea the terms of acceptance with the Almighty. These were, a belief and practice of the doctrines, which this apostle preached, and confirmed by miracles: the doctrines of unbounded mercy on the part of God upon repentance and reformation, and of univer­sal undistinguishing benevolence on the part of man to all his brethren of the human race: prin­ciples essential in themselves to the virtue and happiness of mankind; and therefore required as the conditions of divine favour, by this system of revelation. Thus was the inestimable privilege of immortality again indulged to the world; and Jesus himself was propounded as the voucher of this truth. Hence manifestly appears the rea­son, [Page 50]why, he did not ‘die of a fever, or of the small-pox, of old age *,’ or in any private customary manner; but by a public exhibition of death upon a cross: that he, whose resurrection had been previously appointed by himself for the test and demonstration of the whole christian system as it related to the destruction of death and the gift of immortality, might be shown to the world unequivocally and indubitably dead . This may be regarded as a brief abstract of the evangelical scheme of redemption according to my conception of it; a scheme, which admits of abundant illustration and establishment from a multiplicity of considerations, conformable alike to reason, philosophy, and experience: but nei­ther does the present occasion permit, nor the weight of Mr. Paine's objections require, a more copious display or a more scrupulous corrobo­ration of our creed.

In page 46, you say, ‘Jesus Christ could speak but one language, which was Hebrew,’ with as much confidence, as if you had been personally ac­quainted [Page 51]with him. Now my opinion is, that the inhabitants of Judea, and the greater part of the Roman empire, understood Greek also as well and generally as the Irish understand English: but what claim have those, who decide without know­ledge, to any satisfaction on this point? My wish is to excite in the deistical lovers of truth a desire to examine for themselves; a sober estimate of their own acquirements; and a modest persuasion, that the disciples of Christ may have some reasons, not wholly puerile and inefficient, for their attachment to their religion: and I recommend, in the mean time, to the consideration of the atheist (if such men really exist; which I doubt exceedingly) what Mr. Paine advances in the 48th and following pages, and at the conclusion of his pamphlet. I know not, whether Mr. Paine's remarks on the languages of the ancients * can be thought worthy of any ani­madversion as we pass. I observe, however, that as all men have not that docility and humility of mind, which is essential to an acceptance of Christi­anity, but wrap themselves up in a cloak of igno­rance and self-sufficiency; so neither have all that sensibility of perception, and that elegance of taste, which is necessary to a relish of the inimitable beau­ties of ancient composition. I may be, for exam­ple, a delicate bird, delighting in strawberries and [Page 52]the choicest fruits: Thomas Paine, a crow; who prefers a feast on carrion and putrescence. The genius and faculties of men are diversified with in finite shades of texture: and it seems to be the duty of every individual to prosecute that branch of literature, with peculiar devotion, for which na­ture has peculiarly fitted him. Poetical inspira­tion and the powers of eloquence were not given by God without some wise intention, with respect both to the possessor and mankind at large. ‘Nec tua laudabis studia aut aliena reprendes:’ is a sensible and valuable maxim of an Augustan poet. The compositions of the Greeks and Ro­mans stand as yet unrivalled in the universe; and their admirers are much confirmed in their attach­ment, when they perceive their censurers to be those, who know little, or nothing, of the subject themselves, and scruple not to incur an imputa­tion of most contemptible impertinence for so ir­rational an interposition of their judgement. Be­sides, I have not yet discovered, that the best phi­lologists are generally inferior in any other branch of knowledge to the wise-acres, who undervalue these attainments, merely because they have not the means of acquisition. Have the cultivators of the languages more natural powers therefore than other men? By no means: but their youth [Page 53]has been happily exercised in those pursuits, in which youth can only be occupied, very generally speaking, with complete efficiency. In all that Mr. Paine has said on this subject, I discern little more than a collection of ignorance, misconcep­tion, effrontery, and insipidity.

‘The event that served more than any other, to break the first link in this long chain of des­potic ignorance, is that known by the name of the reformation by Luther. From that time, though it does not appear to have made any part of the intention of Luther, or of those who are called reformers, the Sciences began to re­vive, and Liberality, their natural associate, be­gan to appear.’

The reformation arose from an insight into the corruptions and absurdities of Popery, in conse­quence of a freedom of enquiry already commen­cing, and a steady conviction of servility, dis­graceful to a rational being, in a submission of the understanding to the arbitrary dictates of a spiri­tual usurper. The reformation, therefore, by Lu­ther was only one circumstance in the recovery of the natural right of man, to think and determine for himself. But the benefits of the reformation were momentous and extensive; and particularly [Page 54]by removing those apprehensions of personal dan­ger, which debarred all progress to true philoso­phy in countries, where the Papal domination was established. And surely it forms no mean pre­sumption in favour of the reasonableness of reve­lation, that the restoration of science and the recti­fication of religion should be congenial and con­temporary; that the beams of knowledge should dispel the damps and darkness of ignorant supersti­tion, but contribute illumination and vigour to the sincere gospel of Jesus Christ. The most distin­guished mathematicians and philosophers of our own country, Bacon, Boyle, Newton, Locke, Barrow, and Hartley, have been the firmest believers of the Christian revelation: and not passive educational believers merely, accepting with implicit acqui­escence the traditionary creeds of their teachers; but strenuous assertors and most able vindicators of the authority, the importance, and the rationality of the gospel. I would recommend to the notice of Thomas Paine the following passage in the life of Emlyn *: Dr. Halley, said Sir Isaac Newton, I am always glad to hear you, when you speak about astronomy, or other parts of mathematics; because that is a subject you have studied, and well understand: but you should not talk of Christianity; for you have not studied it. I [Page 55]have; and know you know nothing o [...] the matter.’

Mr. Paine descants with a tolerable share of merriment, in page 109, on the story of Jonah and the Whale; which my own stomach also feels an equal indisposition to ingurgitate. It is not un­like a tale, that I lately heard; which many will think not inferior to that before us in symptoms of credibility. A little black-boy, a favourite with the ship's company, as he was carelessly sitting with his bread and cheese, suddenly fell overboard; and was instantly swallowed by an immense shark. Some sailors, witnesses of this catastrophe, ex­claimed: "Caesar is devoured by a shark." The captain immediately commanded a hook to be baited with a huge piece of beef; which the mons­ter seized at once with the utmost rapacity. He was drawn with difficulty upon deck; his tail cut off to prevent mischief; and the most trembling precaution used in opening his stomach for fear of wounding it's inestimable contents. But how great was their admiration and delight to discover little Caesar, perched on a tubercle of the purte­nance, dispatching his bread and cheese in perfect composure and security!

I have now finished my remarks on this pamph­let of Thomas Paine; which have been extended [Page 56]thus far, more in deference to the deserved cele­brity of the name, than the powers of the disputant: nor am I conscious to myself of eluding any diffi­culty, or shrinking from the terrors of a single ar­gument, in the course of this examination. To the best of my ability, a concise answer to every objec­tion, not completely puerile, has been specifically given, or is virtually included in this series of ob­servations. Nor, in conclusion, will I dissemble one of my most urgent inducements to this publi­cation to have been, an ambition to declare to my fellow-citizens in the most unreserved manner, that one in the midst of a general obloquy on reform­ers, as infidels and atheists, is indeed a zealous ad­vocate for Christianity; but, as becomes the disci­ple of a lowly and pacific master, with as warm an enthusiasm for the universal equality and the una­lienable rights of man, as ever actuated the breast even of the "hallowed MILTON." The more perilous the times, with the more animation will a genuine votary of a crucified Saviour, who "looks for a better country, that is, a heavenly *," feel himself impelled to a bold and open profes­sion of the practical principles of his religion; the principles of LOVE and PEACE and LIBERTY, without distinction, to the whole human race. [Page 57]This is the profession of our faith before atheists and unbelievers; before ministers and kings: from this profession, neither shall shame seduce, nor danger terrify. It shall be our guide through life, our support in death, and, we trust, our re­compense for ever!

I implore, finally, the omnipotent controller of events, who ‘ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will *,’ to con­sider his creature man in this most momentous crisis of our affairs! to stem that torrent of human blood, which is deluging the earth, at the will of Christian kings, beyond all example in the most ferocious ages of heathenism and barbarity! to confound the devices of all sanguinary destroyers of mankind, combined against liberty and know­ledge; the true "synagogues of Satan " and to turn their hearts! to annihilate every sentiment of national hostility in every breast; that the horrid circumstances of war and slaughter may no where exist, but in the bloody page of history, as awful memorials of savage unregenerated man! to re­gard the sorrows of the distressed African; and to compensate with ages of consolation ‘the [Page 58]years, in which he has seen adversity *!’ to con­firm and comfort the glorious martyrs of truth, humanity, and freedom, whether in bonds or exile; to multiply the number of their followers, that rising generations may call them blessed! to over­power the delusive flame of infatuated supersti­tion, engendered in the putrid sink of priest­craft, tyranny, and persecution, by the predo­minant radiance of the son of righteousness, the pure and undefiled religion of Jesus Christ! to consolidate all flesh with the cement of evange­lical fraternity and benevolence! to harmonize all hearts with the sympathetic influences of "unity, peace, and concord!"

THE END.

THE FOLLOWING WORKS BY THE AUTHOR.
Sold by KEARSLEY, Fleet-street, and SHEPPERSON and REY­NOLDS, No. 137, Oxford-street.

  • 1. SILVA CRITICA, sive in Auctores sacros profanosque Commentarius Philologus. Cantabrigiae, typis et sumptibus Academicis, 1789, boards, 3s. 6d.
  • 2. Silva Critica, part II. 1790, boards, 3s. 6d.
  • 3. Silva Critica, part III. 1792, boards, 3s. 6d.
  • 4. Silva Critica, part IV. 1793, boards, 5s.
  • 5. The Evidences of Christianity, or Remarks on the ex­cellency, Purity, and Character of the Christian Reli­gion; second edit. much enlarged, boards, 4s. 6d. 1793.
  • 6. Virgilii Maronis Georgicon, lib. IV. 1788, boards, 3s. 6d.
  • 7. Poemata, Latine partim scripta, partim reddita, quibus accedunt quaedam in Q. Horatium Flaccum Observa­tiones Criticae, 4to. sewed, 2s. 1776.
  • 8. An Enquiry into the Opinions of Christian Writers of the first Centuries, concerning the Person of Jesus Christ, 1784, 8vo. boards, 4s.
  • 10. An Essay on Inspiration, considered chiefly with res­pect to the Evangelists, 1781, sewed, 2s. 6d.
  • 11. Four Marks of Antichrist, 1s.
  • 12. A Sermon preached at Richmond, in Surry, July 29, 1784, a public Thanksgiving-Day, 6d.
  • 13. Remarks on Dr. Horsley's Ordination Sermon, in a Letter to the Bishop of Gloucester, 1788, 4d.
  • 14. A New Translation of those Parts only of the New Testament which are wrongly translated in our com­mon Version, 2s. 6d. 1789.
  • [Page]15. A Short Enquiry into the Expediency and Propriety of Public or Social Worship, third edit. 1s. 6d. 1792.
  • 16. Short Strictures on Dr. Priestley's Letter to a Young Man, concerning Mr. Wakefield's Treatise on Public Worship, 1792, 6d.
  • 17. A General Reply to the Arguments against the En­quiry into Public Worship, 1792, 6d.
  • 18. A Letter to the Lord Bishop of St. David's, on Occa­sion of a Pamphlet relating to the Liturgy of the Church of England, ascribed to him, 1s. 1790.
By KEARSLEY, Fleet-street,
  • 19. The Spirit of Christianity, compared with the Spirit of the Times. An improved edition.
  • 20. The Poems of Mr. Gray, with Notes. 3s. 6d.
  • 21. Horatii Opera: with Notes and a corrected Text, in two small pocket volumes, elegantly printed: 10s. 6d. a few copies on fine paper, 18s.
By ECERTON, Whitehall.
  • 22. In the press, and will speedily be published, a Selection of Greek Tragedies, for the Use of Schools, in two vols. 8vo. some copies on fine paper.

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