« PoprzedniaDalej »
believe it, who was born near two thousand years after the fact, and two thoufand leagues distant from the place! Don't
fee that, before I can give credit to this book, which you call sacred, and of which I comprehend 'nothing, I ought to be informed from others, when and by whom it was written, how it hath been preserved and transmitted to you, what is said of it in the country, what are the reasons of those who reject it, though they know as well as you every thing of which you have informed me ? You must perceive the necessity I am under, of going first to Europe, to Asia, and unto Palestine, to examine into things myself; and that I must be an idiot to listen to you before I have done this."
Such a discourse as this appears to me not only very reasonable, but I affirm, that every sensible man ought, in such circumstances, to speak in the same manner, and to send a missionary about his business, who should be in haste to instruct and baptize him, before he had fufficiently verified the proofs of his miffion. Now, I maintain that there is no revelation against which the same objectionis might not be made, and that with greater force, than against Christianity. Hence it follows, that if there be
. in the world but one true religion, and every man be obliged to adopt it, under pain of damnation, it is neceffary to spend our lives in the study of all religions, to visit the countries where they have been established, and examine and compare them with each other.
them with each other. No man is exempt. ed from the principal duty of his species, and no one hath a right to confide in the judgment of another. The artisan, who lives only by his industry, the husbandman, who cannot read, the timid and delicate virgin, the feeble valetudinarian, all without exception, must study, meditate, dispute, and travel the world over, in search of truth. There would be no longer any settled inhabitants in a country, the face of the earth being covered by pilgrims, going from place to place, at great trouble and expence, to verify, examine and compare the several different, Tystems and modes of worship to be met with in various
countries. We must, in such a case, bid adieu to arts and sciences, to trade, and all the civil occupations of life. Every other study must give place to that of religion ; while the man who thould enjoy the greatest Share of health and Atrength, and make the best use of his time and his reafon, for the greater term of years allotted to human life, would, in the extreme of old age, be still perplexed were to fix: and it would be a great thing, after all, if he should learn before his death what religion he ought to have believed and practised during life.
Do you endeavour to mitigate the severity of this me. thod, and place as little confidence as possible in the au. thority of men? In so doing you place the greatest confi. dence; for if the fon of a Chrifiian does right, in adopting, without a scrupulous and impartial examination, the religion of his father, how can 'the fon of a Turk do wrong, in adopting, in the fame manner, the religion of Mahomet? 'I defy all the persetutors in the world to answer this questior in a manner satisfactory to any perfon of common sense. Nay, fome of them, when hard pressed by such arguments, will sooner admit that God is unjust, and visits the fins of the fathers on the children, than give up their cruel and persecuting principles. Others, indeed, elude the force of these reasons, by civily fending an angel to instruct those, who, under invincible ignorance, liveth, nevertheless, good moral lives. A very pretty device, truly, that of the angel! Not contented with subjecting us to their machinery, they would reduce the Deity himself to the necessity of employing it.
See, my fon, to what absurdities we are led by pride, and the spirit of persecution, by being puffed up by our own capacity, and conceiving that we possess a greater Share of reason than the rest of mankind. I call to witness that God of peace whom I adore, and whom I would make known to you, that my researches have been always fincere: but feeing that they were, and always must be, unsuccessful, and that I was launched out into a boundlefs ocean of perplexity, I returned the way I came, and
confined my creed within the limits of of my first notions. I could never believe that God required me, under pain of damnation, to be so very learned. I therefore Shut up all my books : that of nature lies open to every eye. It is from this sublime and wonderful volume that I learn to serve and adore its divine Author. No person is excufeable for neglecting to read in this book, as it is written in an universal language, intelligible to all mankind. Had I been born in a defart island, or never seen a hu. man creature beside myself; had I never been informed of what had formerly happened in a certain corner of the world; I might yet have learned, by the exercise and cultivation of my reason, and by the proper use of those faculties God hath given me, to know and love him; I might hence have learned to love and admire his power and goodness, and to have discharged my duty here on earth.
Such is the involuntary scepticism in which I remain: this scepticifm, however, is not painful to me, because it extends not to any essential point of practice; and as my mind is firmly settled regarding the principles of my duty, I serve God in the fincerity of my heart. In the mean time, I feek not to know any thing more than what relates to my moral conduct; and as to those dogmas, which have no influence over the benaviour, and which many persons give themselves so much trouble about, I am not at all solicitous concerning them.
Thus, my young friend, have I given you, with my own lips, a recital of my creed, such as the fupreme Being reads it in my heart. You are the first perion to whom I have made this profession: you are also the only one, perhaps, to whom I thall ever make it.
You are now arrived at that critical term of life, in which the mind opens itself to conviction, in which the heart receives the form and character, which it bears during life, whether good or ill. Its substance grows afterwards hard, and receives no new impressions. Now is the time, therefore to impress on your mind the seal of truth. If I were not positive in my felf, I should have affumed a more decisive and dogmatical air; but, what can I do more? I have opened to you my heart, without reserve ; what I have thought certain, I have given you as such; my doubts I have declared as doubts, my opinions as opinions; and have given you my reasons for both. It remains, now, for you to judge; you have taken time ; this precaution is wife, and make me think well of you. Begin by bringing your conscience to a state defia rous of being enlightened. Be fincere with yourself. Adopt those of my sentiments which you are persuaded are true, and reject the rest. You are not yet fo much depraved by vice to run the risk of makeing a bad choice. I thould propose to confer together sometimes on these fubjects; but as soon as ever we enter into disputes we grow warm; obftinacy and vanity interfere, and sincerity is banished. For my own part, it was not till after several years of ineditation that my sentiments became fixed; thefe, however, I still retain, my concience is easy, and I am content. Were I desirous to begin a new ex. amination into the truth of these sentiments, I could not do it with a more sincere love to truth ; and my mind, at present less active, would be less in a state to discover it. I purpose, therefore, to remain as I am, left my taste for contemplation should become insensibly an idle paffion; left it should make me indifferent to the discharge of my practical duties. Above half my life is already spent, the remainder will not afford me time more than fufficient to repair my errors by my virtues. If I am mistaken, it is not wilfully That Being, who searches the hearts of men, knows that I am not fond of ignorance. But under my present incapacity to instruct myself better, the only inethod that remains for me to extricate myself, is a good life.
New-York: Published every Saturday, by ELIHU PALMER, No. 26, Chatham-street. Price Two Dollars per ann, paid in advance.
PROSPECT; or, View of the Moral World.
SATURDAY, November 24, 1804.
that the evils of human life can be diminished or de Itroyed. Superstition presents a fermidable obstacle to the diffusion of science and the augmentation of human happiness. Nothing important can be done for the bene. fit of man, without a developement of the moral ener: gies of his nature ; but superstition holds him faft, tells him it is a crime to think, and frightens him almost out of his senses with spiritual ípectres that have no real existence. Thousands of gods, ghosts and deyils have been fabricated with vast variety of characters on purpose to terrify weak and daluded man. A fubordinate class of fpiritual lackeys have also been created and sent as Miffion. aries over the whole earth to frighten women and children. Of this fort were the witches, the fairies and the sprights of former days, and which, even now, form the basis of univerfal terror in many countries. The Bible fanctioned these incongruous ideas, and gave to nonentity the form, character and effect of real existence. The clergy declare to the people that this is the belt book in the world; they found they discourses upon the incohe. rencies therein contained, and the people are swallowed up in a gulph of superstition from which they know not how to escape. Ye fpiritual instructors of a lost and wicked world! read over once the Books of Genesis and Exoclus, and ask yourselves the question, whether you would think it any honour to yourselves to be the authors of such a production ? Would you not bluth for many of the sentiments therein-contained, and do you-imagine that such composition would render your names illuftrious in the great republic of letters? Superftition and in tereft have combined to create and perpetuate an artachment to the sacred writings of the Jews anely Christiáns. The age of happiness must be that in which all theologi