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God himself; for he says in verse thirtieth, for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved, but whether it was God, an angel, or a man is not material, for the story carries on, the face of it, the marks of fi&tion and not revelation. We must seek for the mind and will of God in other sources ; we must read it in a book of a very different character, than that of the Bible; that book is the volume of nature, reader peruse it and thou wilt be instructed; it contains the science of life, and directs us in the path of substantial happiness.
LAWS OF NATURE. It is by long observation, that man discovers the true character of the laws, by which the world is governed, the united experience of nations and ages bears such ample testimony, to a general, universal and immutable establishment, that doubts in the present case, seem tantamount to a wilful attack
upon that mass of evidence, which is calculated to work general conviction in the human mind; where Phenomena are con. stant and uniform, they ought most undoubtedly to become the basis of the highest confidence. If it were possible for a single individual, to possess all the rational powers, with a knowledge of one solitary fact, that the sun has risen in the Eastern hemisphere, he could not affirm that there existed a. certainty of his ever beholding the same phenomenon again; from a single case, no general deduction can be drawn, but from thousands and thousands of cases, conclusions may be made against, which nothing but folly and fanaticism could be induced to make any opposition. When the Bible asserts that the sun stood still, or that the regular operations of the laws of nature were suspended in the planetary system, the universal observation of mankind, the experience and the testimony of ages are against the assertion; to say that it is a lie, is perfectly consistent with all those rules of judging, by which the reason of man ought to be regulated; nay further, in all other cases where religion is not concerned, men of commun understanding would be ashamed to acquiese in decisions of a similar nature. When the New Testament afirms that Jesus turned water into wine, we know or ought to know, that the assertion is false ; first because the practicability or possibility of such a thing is denounced by the nature of the case,-by the 'reason and experience of mankind; secondly, because the
science which man has acquired, has exposed innumerable impostures of this kind, and so many detections have thrown a coloring of suspicion over all the rest. Credulity bowever, and especially religious credulity, seems to be a leading property to which ihe imbecility of inan has exposed his existence. In proportion as the human mind becomes improved and enlightened, it becomes less credulous, less disposed to swallow absurd and marvellous doctrines. The sublime and elevated power of contemplation excludes all credulity, and surveys with steadiness, the character of different beings or objects; it enquires with patient perseverance, and never suffers itself to be thrown off from that well balanced position, which takes in all the points and bearings of any given portion of Physical existence. Intellectual precipitancy leadeth to error; it is the character of the mind in search of truth, to move in an easy and happy medium of doubt,-always disposed to be influenced by the greatest quantity of evidence which the nature of the case presents to view, when a man in a state of intellectual fanity reads in holy writ, the story of Jonah and the whale, or in other words the big fish; it is scarcely possible to refrain from a burst of laughter. If religious superstition were not blinded by the inherent nature of her own character, she would be ashamed of the gross attempts to impose upon men, such miraculous tales for a system of truth and genuine-theology ; but nothing will tend to destroy superstition, more than a persevering attention to the laws of nature; no man who understands these laws, and who perspi. cuously surveys the immutable properties which they possess, can possibly believe in the hob-goblin stories of antiquity. It may be objected here that Newton was a good philosopher ; that he understood well the laws of nature, and yet, that he was a believer in the christian religion ; in the first place, it is un.. certain in what respects he was a believer, or how far in his own mind he might have rejected certain absurd and ridiculous parts of the Old and New Testament: It is well known, that he did not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, and his knowledge of the solar system, must have elevated him above any kind of credence in the following declaration in holy writ, Sun stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Agalon; but if we concede what has generally been considered as a fact, that he was a christian upon a graduated scale, it. will prove nothing in the present case. A correct knowledge of the laws of nature, includes something more than mere mathematical calculation, or demonstration, it includes some. thing more than planetary revolutions, eccentricity of comets or magnitude of celestial bodies; that important and useful science, which embraces all the operations of the human mind, and on which in fact the welfare of the intelligent world depends, was not well understood by Newton; he understood physical nature, but with the moral science he was much less conversant'; he had not compared the operations of the un, derstanding, with the doctrines and opinions contained in the Bible. From such a comparison 'made without prejudice, deductions must have 'followed hostile to the sentiments of the church, and to that system of religion, from which the church has drawn its tenets; these tenets must eventually give way to a thorough knowledge of moral and physical existence.
FOR THE PROSPECT. It would be difficult to determine whether folly or baseness, was the most prominent characteristic of the authors of the christian religion. Their object seems to have been, to impose upon the credulity of mankind, and propagate a religion as divine, which they must have known to be false; but they appear at the same time, to have been destitute of the talents necessary to the judicious performance of so difficult a piece of business. They were astonishingly successful it is true, but their success was among the unthinking class of people, who did not examine the merits of the system, or take reason as the criterion of their decision. If they had, they would never have adopted a religion so pregnant with absurdity, as thai which was published by the Apostles of the carpenter. Jesus.
Matthew, one of the most important organs of this religion, has undertaken in the first chapter of his book, to prove that Jesus had lineally decended from David, for which purpose he has given the geneology from David, down to Joseph his mother's husband; but he informs us in the next paragraph, thát Jesus was not a descendant from the said Joseph, but was begotten by a ghost : this is proving him to be a descendant from
David with a witness. " It would be impossible at this day, to find a school boy of ten years old, capable of committing so gross'a blunder in telling a story, as the divinely inspired Matthew has done in this case, had he been a man possessed of the least 'spark' of common sense," he would not in his attempt to deceive the world, have told a story so inconsistent
with itself, and have, contradicted his own statement of the: business, in so barefaced a manner. The impostor Mahomet executed his scheme of deception in a much better manner; In his plan, we may discover some method and arrangement, and a great deal of deep cunning, but christianity is destitute of all these qualities,
In Matthew chap. 13, ver. 55, Jesus is called “the carpenter's son,” and in Mark chap. 6, vei. 3, he is called "the car. penter," so that it seems he was both a carpenter and a carpen. ter's son,
and it would have been much better for the world, and perhaps for himself too, if he had pursued this useful occupation, instead of strolling about the country with a set of vagabond women, such as Mary Magdalene and the rest, imposing upon the credulity of the ignorant multitude, and making converts from among the very scum of the populace. Both those writers speak of his brethren, James, Joses, Juda, and Simon, and in John chap: 7, these brethren are represented as mocking him, and endeavouring to turn him into ridicule : " For (says the writer ver. 5.) neither did his brethren believe in him.” It is really astonishing, that mankind in this enlightened age, should believe a man who lived 1800 years ago, to have been the son of God, and the saviour of ihe world, whom his own brothers (the sons of the same mother at least, who lived with him, and saw all his performances, believed to be an impostor. What a misfortune it is to be educated in the school of superstition : How soon will mankind open their eyes,
and see their own tolly: If those who deny the divinity of Christ at this day, are to suffer eternal punishment for so doing, what punishment ought to be inflicted on his brothers, who were connected with bim by all the tender ties of nature, and saw all the miracles he performed, but still disbelieved in his divinity, and laughed at him as a cowardly imposter. If John had been a man of any discern. ment, he would have kept this circumstance to himself, and not have divulged a secret so essentially derogatory to the character of this impostor, whose cause he intended to detend.
HEREFORE should the word of God be harder to understand than the word of man? Why should that be mysterious, which is most necessary to be plain? Why should not God's word be understood in its natural sense ? How is revelation unrevealed consistent with divine wisdom or goodness, or the marks of evidence of either? Does God delight to puzzle and destract human minds; and purposely, as by a wile, to deceive men's understandings? Is this consistent with the character of goodness and truth? To what purpose are un. knowable riddles, or inexplicable predictions ? What knowledge does this convey? Or what warning do they give us of things to come, if the meaning of the expression is not known? And what occasion is there for such prophecies? If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle? So except words are ultered easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken ? If no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation, it can have no mystical meaning. They that say one thing, and mean another, are not to be depended on, nor regarded. Is it any mark of : wisdom in a teacher to utter himself
in words, which the scho.. lar with all his endeavours cannot understand: And if he by labour or chance hopes he has got the right sense, yet can never be sure of it? That which is good and wise need not be ashamed nor afraid to appear. The wisdom that is hidden, has not the face of wisdom ; her residence is founded on knowledge.; but mystery or secrecy prevents our coming at it. How is it consistent with the wisdom of God to deliver mysteries to the, world, for men to explain as they .can or will, leaving them in the dark to.be eternally tossed about by their own giddy conceits, and his word to be to them an endless fund of deception, and maze of confusion, as well as an everlasting bone of contention? Where is the difference between what is unintelligible and nonsense ? When mysteries prevail, credulity is infatuation. Any writing may be deemed prophetic, if a mystical interpretation be allowed. Whatever the spirit teaches, the letter says, the time will come when men will 1}d their ears from truth, and be turned into fables. vil spiritual or mystical interpretation to a prophecy, is to make a fable of it. Are not assertions and prevarications ever present where truth is present ?--It seems so strange, that the Jews should not know the meaning of their own Prophets, and we should; as that a Foreigner in tongue and religion, should understand the articles of our church, and our churchmen not understarid them at ail; and yet the strangers sense of these articles should be forced, fereign and allegorical. I (as a carnal man) am apt to think the knack of understanding the pro. phecies and scriptures, spiritually, is that of parting what setise men please upon them, to preserve their reputation : So