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manifest will, his invisible intentions. Under the eye of this terrible Deity, no one would have had the audacity to violate his ordinances, no mortal would have dared to place himself in the situation of drawing down his wrath ; and lastly, no man would have had the effrontery to impose on his fellow creatures, in the name of the Deity, or to interpret his will according to his own fancy.
In fact, even should the existence of the theological God be admitted, and the reality of the discordant attributes which are given to him, nothing could be inferred from it, to authorise the conduct or the modes of worship, which we are told to observe towards him. Theology is truly the tub of the Danaides. By dint of contradictory qualities and rash assertions, it has so trammelled, as it were, its God, that it has made it impossible for him to act. If he is infinitely good, what reason have we to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we be uneasy for our future state 1 If he knows all, why inform him of our wants, and tease him with our prayers 1 If he is omnipresent, why raise temples to him 1 If he is master of all, why sacrifice and make offerings to him 1 If he is just, how can we believe that he punishes creatures whom he has afflicted with weakness? If grace does all in them, for what reason should he reward them 1 If he is omnipotent, how can we offend, how resist him? If he is reasonable, how could he be incensed against his blind creatures to whom he has only left the liberty of falling into error? If he is immutable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? If he is incomprehensible, why do we busy ourselves in endeavouring to understand him? IF HE HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS NOT THE UNIVERSE CONVINCED I If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the clearest and most evident ?—System of Nature, London, 1781.
The enlightened and benevolent Pliny thus publicly professes himself an atheist:—
For which reason, I consider that the enquiry after the form and figure of the Deity, must be attributed to human weakness. Whatever God may be (if indeed there be one] and wherever he may exist, he must be all sense, all sight, all hearing, all life, all mind, self-existent. * * * * But it is a great consolation to man, with all his infirmities, to reflect that God himself cannot do all things: for he cannot inflict on himself death, even if he should wish to die, that best of gifts to man amidst the cares and sufferings of life; neither can he make men eternal, nor raise the dead, nor prevent those who have lived, from living, nor those who have borne honours from wearing them; he has no power over the past, except that of oblivion, and (to relax our gravity awhile, and indulge in a joke,) he cannot prevent twice ten from being twenty, and many other things of a similar nature. From these observations it is clearly apparent that the powers of nature are what we call God.
Plin. Nat. Hist.
The consistent Newtonian is necessarily an atheist. See Sir W. Drummond's Academical Questions, chapter iii. Sir W. seems to consider the atheism to which it leads, as a sufficient presumption of the falsehood of the system of gravitation; but surely it is more consistent with the good faith of philosophy to admit a deduction from facts, than a hypothesis incapable of proof, although it might militate with the obstinate preconceptions of the mob. Had this author, instead of inveighing against the guilt and absurdi ty of atheism, demonstrated its falsehood, his conduct would have been more suited to the modesty of the sceptic, and the toleration of the philosopher.
All things are made by the power of God, yet, doubtless, because the power of nature is the power of God: besides we are unable to understand the power of God, so far as we are ignorant of natural causes: therefore we foolishly recur to the power of God whenever we are unacquainted' with the natural cause of any thing, or in other words, with the power of God.
Spinoza, Tract. Theologico, Pol. chap. i. p. 14.
VII. Page 48.
Ahasuerus the Jew crept forth from the dark cave of Mount Carmel. Near two thousand years have elapsed since he was first goaded by never-ending restlessness, to rove the globe from pole to pole. When our Lord was wearied with the burthen of his ponderous cross, and wanted to rest before the door of Ahasuerus, the unfeeling wretch drove him away with brutality. The Saviour of mankind, staggered, sinking under the heavy load, but uttered no complaint. An angel of death appeared before Ahasuerus, and exclaimed indignantly, "Barbarian! thou hast denied rest to the Son of Man; be it denied thee also, until he comes to judge the world."
A black demon, let loose from hell upon Ahasuerus, goads him now from country to country; he is denied the consolation which death affords, and precluded from the rest of the peaceful grave.
Ahasuerus crept forth from the dark cave of Mount Carmel—he shook the dust from his beard—and taking up one of the sculls heaped there, hurled it down the eminence: it rebounded from the earth in shivered atoms. This was my father! roared Ahasuerus. Seven more sculls rolled down from rock to rock ; while the infuriate Jew, following them with ghastly looks, exclaimed—And these were my wives! He still continued to hurl down scull after scull, roaring in dreadful accents—And these, and these, and these were my children! They could die; but, I! reprobate wretch, alas! I cannot die! Dreadful beyond conception is the judgment that hangs over me. Jerusalem fell—I crushed the sucking babe, and precipitated myself into the destructive flames. I cursed the Romans—but, alas! alas! the restless curse held me by the hair, and I could not die!
Rome the giantess fell—I placed myself before the falling statue—she fell and did not crush me. Nations sprung up and disappeared before me; but I remained and did not die. From cloud-encircled cliffs did I precipitate myself into the ocean; but the foaming billows cast me upon the shore, and the burning arrow of existence pierced my cold heart again. I leaped into Etna's flaming abyss, and roared with the giants for ten long months, polluting with my groans the Mount's sulphureous mouth—ah! ten long months. The volcano fermented, and in a fiery stream of lava cast me up. I lay torn by the torture-snakes of hell amid the glowing cinders, and yet continued to exist. A forest was on fire : I darted on wings of fury and despair into the crackling wood. Fire dropped upon me from the trees, but the flames only singed my limbs; alas; it could not consume them. I now mixed with the butchers of mankind, and plunged in the tempest of the raging battle. I roared defiance to the infuriate Gaul, defiance to the victorious German; but arrows and spears rebounded in shivers from my body. The Saracen's flaming sword broke upon my scull; balls in vain hissed upon me: the lightnings of battle glared harmless around my loins; in vain did the elephant trample on me, in vain the iron hoof of the wrathful steed! The mine, big with destructive power, burst upon me, and hurled me high in the air—I fell on heaps of smoking limbs, but was only singed. The giant's steel club rebounded from my body; the executioner's hand could not strangle me; the tiger's tooth could not pierce me, nor would the hungry lion in the circus devour me. I cohabited with poisonous snakes, and pinched the red crest of the dragon. The serpent stung, but could not destroy me; the dragon tormented, but dared not to devour me. I now provoked the fury of tyrants; I said to Nero, Thou art a bloodhound! I said to Christiern, Thou art a blood-hound! I said to Muley Ismail, Thou art a bloodhound! The tyrants invented cruel torments, but
did not kill me. Ha! not to be able to die—not to be able
to die—not to be permitted to rest after the toils of life~to be doomed to be imprisoned for ever in the clay-formed dungeon—to be forever clogged with this worthless body, its load of diseases and infirmities—to be condemned to hold for milleniums that yawning monster Sameness and Time, that hungry hyena, ever bearing children, and ever devouring again her offspring!—Ha! not to be permitted to die! Awful avenger in heaven, hast thou in thine armoury of wrath a punishment more dreadful? then let it thunder upon me; command a hurricane to sweep me down to the foot of Carmel, that I there may lie extended: may pant, and writhe, and die!
This fragment is the translation of part of some German work, whose title I have vainly endeavoured to discover. I picked it up, dirty and torn, some years ago, in Lincoln'sInn-Fields.
VII. Page 50.
I will beget a Son and he shall bear
A book is put into our hands when children, called the Bible, the purport of whose history is briefly this: That God made the earth in six days, and there planted a delightful garden, in which he placed the first pair of human beings. In the midst of the garden he planted a tree, whose fruit, although within their reach, they were forbidden to touch. That the Devil, in the shape of a snake, persuaded them to eat of this fruit; in consequence of which God condemned both them and their posterity yet unborn to satisfy his justice by their eternal misery. That four thousand years after these events, (the human race in the meanwhile having gone unredeemed to perdition,) God engendered with the betrothed wife of a carpenter in Judea, (whose virginity was nevertheless uninjured,) and begat a son whose name was Jesus Christ: and who was crucified and died, in order that no more men might be devoted to hell-fire, he bearing the burden of his Father's displeasure by proxy. The book states, in addition, that the soul of whoever disbelieves his sacrifice will be burned with everlasting fire.
During many ages of misery and darkness this story gained implicit belief; but at length men arose who suspected that it was a fable and imposture, and that Jesus Christ, so far from being a God, was only a man like themselves. But a numerous set of men, who derived and still derive immense emoluments from this opinion, in the shape of a popular belief, told the vulgar, that if they did not believe in the Bible, they would be damned to all eternity; and burned, imprisoned, and poisoned all the unbiassed and unconnected enquirers who occasionally arose. They still oppress them, so far as the people, now become more enlightened, will allow.
The belief in all that the Bible contains is called Christianity. A Roman Governor of Judea, at the instances of a priest-led mob, crucified a man called Jesus, eighteen centuries ago. He was a man of pure life, who desired to rescue his countrymen from the tyranny of their barbarous and degrading superstitions. The common fate of all who desire to benefit mankind awaited him. The rabble, at the instigation of the priests, demanded his death, although his very judge made public acknowledgment of his innocence. Jesus was sacrificed to the honour of that God with whom he was afterwards confounded. It is of importance, therefore, to distinguish between the pretended character of this being, as the Son of God and the Saviour of the world, and and his real character as a man, who, for a vain attempt to reform the world, paid the forfeit of his life to that overbearing tyranny which has since so long desolated the universe in his name. Whilst the one, is a hypocritical demon who announces himself as the God of compassion and peace, even whilst he stretches forth his blood-red hand with the sword of discord to waste the earth, having confessedly devised this scheme of desolation from eternity; the other stands in the foremost list of those true heroes, who have died in the glorious martyrdom of liberty, and have