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prising, when we take into consideration the dictatorial stile in which ignorance is cultivated by those who reap the advantage of it, and the asperity with which those are attacked who attempted to undeceive mankind, and to discover to them their true interests, by pointing out the errors with which they are surrounded.
“Error,” says St. Pierre, in his Indian Cottage, or Search after Truth,” is the work of man; it is always an evil. It is a false light which shines to lead us astray. I cannot better compare it than to the glare of a fire which consumes the habitation it illumines. It is worthy of remark, that there is not a single moral or physical evil but has an error for its principle. Tyrannies, slavery and wars are founded on political errors, nay even on sacred ones; for the tyrants who have propagated them have constantly derived them from the Divinity, or sonie virtue, to render them respected by their subjects.
It is, notwithstanding, very easy to distinguish error from truth. Truth is a natural light, which shines of itself throughout the whole earth, because it springs from God*. Error is an artificial light, which needs to be fed incessantly, and which can never be universal, because it is nothing more than the work of inan. Truth is useful to all men ; error is profitable but to a few, and is hurtful to the generality, because individual interest, when it separates itself from it, is inimical to general interest.
Particular care should be taken not to confound fiction with error. Fiction is the veil of truth, whilst error is its phantom; and the former has been often invented to dissipate the latter. But, however innocent it may be in its principle, it becomes dangerous when it assumes the leading quality of error; that is to say, when it is turned to the particular profit of any set of men.”
The christian religion answers exactly to this description of error, in every particular. It has been “fed incessantly” for upwards of eighteen hundred years;
millions have been expended on its priests to propagate it, and it is still far from being universal. According to Bellamy's history of all Religions; of eight hundred millions of souls, which the world is supposed to coutain," one hundred and eighty-three millions only are christians. One hundred and thirty millions are Mahometans. Three millions are Jews, and four hundred and eighty-seven millions are Pagans.
Is not this a convincing proof that christianity cannot be true? If it had been divinely inspired, and God had actually visited this earth for the purpose of teaching it to man, would it not, long before this time, have extended throughout the world? It is the work of man, and therefore can never become universal.
Ministers of the gospel, instead of teaching the principles of moral virtue, which would render them useful to their fellow men, are almost incessantly inculcating their peculiar and favorite dogmas: Wishing to make religion to consist in what it does not, in the belief of unintellible creeds, in order to render the subject complex, that their preaching might be thought the more necessary to explain it.
A great portion of these ministers, moreover, are mere boys; who, after learning a little Greek and Latin, set up the trade of preaching; and ana
By the word God, the reader must understand what we call nature, or the operations of matter which give life and food to aniinals. Used in this sense, the word God will do as well as any other : for, so long as we haye confused ideas, we must resort to subterfuges to cover tliem. At least this seems to be a rule with mankind. The words God, Nature, Reason are all subterfuges which exhibit ignorance and express confused ideas.
thematise all who do not submissively bow to their dictation. It is lamentable to see decrepid age hobbling after such teachers in search of the road to heaven. One grain of common sense would save them all that trouble.
Although the injury, resulting from the heavy contributions required for the support of christianity, is not, perhaps, so great as that arising from the demoralising effects of substituting nonsensical creeds for moral virtue, yet these expenditures are serious evils.
By a work lately published, relative to the consumption of wealth by the clergy, it appears, that the clergy of Great Britain * alone receive annualiy, the enormous sum of 8,896,000 pounds sterling, which is divided among 18,400 clergymen; but rery unequally. Bishop Watson got, for his share of the booty, £7,000 a year, which, one would think, was sufficient to induce hiin, to vindicate the christian religion, or any other, equally productive t.
The primate Lord J. Beresford, archb shop of Armagh, has above 63,000 acres of land, of which more than 50,000 are arrable. His grace is a man in middle life, and of a healthy constitution. Suppose him to run his lite against the leases let by his predecessor, he would have the power of ruining perhaps a hundred families, and obtaining for himself a rack rent of not less than £70,000 or £80,000 per annum. The see of Dublin has upwards of 20,000 acres.
Much of this being near the metropolis, must be considered as of extraordiuary value.
But every thing is eclipsed by Derry; there we have 94,000 Irish acres appropriated to my lord the bishop-little short of 150,000 English acres !. and should his lordship at the beginning of his incumbency, have thought fit to run his life against the tenants, he would now, at the expiration of twenty years, possess a larger rent roll than any subject in the world. Yet it was this very see which begged assistance towards repairing its own cathedral!
By the Almanach du clergy du France for 1823, it appears that there are ffty-four bishops, and archbishops, already consecrated, out of the eighty France is to have. There are also, already, 35,676 priests in activity, exclusive of missionaries, and 50,934 is the number the bishops judge necessary to complete the Army of the Church—2,031 are, moreover, pensioned. Then, in the schools and at their different colleges, there are, 29,379 youths preparing for clerical duties. The revenue of the priests even now amounts to 28,000,000 francs, exclusive of sums destined to repair the churches, and other ecclesiastical services, which, amounting to 1,500,000 francs, will also pass through their hands, and exclusive of the sums collected by the missionaries, and contributed by the communes, both of which are very considerable. From the same book, it appears that since 1802, the legacies and gifts received by the church, and held in Mortmain, amount to 13,388,554 francs, giving an annual revenue, after * Of the law established Church only.
R. C. † Dr. Franklin, in a letter to Dr. Price (1780) speaking of the religious tests, incorporated into the constitution of Massachusetts, observes, If christian preach ers had continued to teach as Christ and his apostles did, without salaries, and as tlre Quakers now do, I imagine tests would never have existed; for I think they were invented not so much to secure religion itself as the emolument of it. When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power. 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” Religious tests have been abrogated in Massachusetts by the late revision of its constitution.
abstracting from this sum many church ornaments, of 450,000 francs. Of this sum, no less than 2,332,354 francs were contributed within the last . year.
There are in Rome, 19, cardinals, 27 bishops, 1450 priests, 1532 monks, 1464 friars and 332 seminarists. The population of Rome, in 1821, without reckoning the Jews amounted to 146,000 souls.
Among the evils entailed upon mankind by establishing a religion that requires the renunciation of reason, hypocrisy holds a conspicuous place as the most pernicious in its effects on society. It lowers the dignity of man; it checks the progress of the human mind by sınothering that frank and liberal communication of thought, which leads to improvement; in short, it destroys all confidence among friends the most intiinate. “If,” says La Bruyere, “ I marry an avaricious woman, she will take care of my money; if a gambler, she may win; if a learned woman, she may instruct me: if a vixen, she will teach me patience; if a coquette she will take pains to please; but if I marry a hypocrite that affects to be religious, (une derote) what can I expect froin her who tries to deceive even her God, and who almost deceives herself.”
The clergy are fond of attributing all the calamities, incident to human nature, to supernatural influence. Not, it is presumed, because they believe what they pretend; but on account of the reputation it gives them for extraordinary picty. Thus in the seaport towns even of the United States, which have been afficted with yellow fever, I have observed, that some of their clergy considered it as a special judgment of God, arising from the passion of the people for theatrical exhibitions, &c. And fastings and prayers were resorted to, to appease the wrath of the Almighty. But these doctors of divinity, it is said, when attacked with yellow fever, or any other serious complaint, immediately employ a physical doctor to cure them; which is sufficient evidence that they do not believe their own doctrine: for it would be vain, and impious, to attempt to cure those whom God intended to destroy. Incalculable evils niay result froin the promulgation of this doctrine : Because those who have făith in it, may, as is the fact in some countries, refuse to take medicine in case of sickness, and thereby sacrifice their own lives to folly and superstition.
The Emperor of China, however, fully agrees with these Christian doctors, in his conceptions of supernatural interference in passing events; und takes the same means to assuage the wrath of the Gods, as appears by the following statement of what took place in cousequence of a hurricane and drought at Peking and Pe-che-le province.
On the 13th of May, 1818, there was a violent hurricane at Peking, which produced much alarm among all sorts of people. The Emperor published an edict on the subject, in which he decares be was extremely frightened. He says " it rained dust," and produced such profound darkness that nothing could be seen without candle. It was not so violent however as to produce any serious injury, and the apprehensions of the people, and particularly of the Empercr, proceeded from the belief that such phenomena are punishments for some mismanagement among the lers of the country. The Emperor gives a long list of the evil effects of improper measures in governing, and exhorts his officers to join him in self examination to find out the true cause of this calamity. In another document hè blames the imperial astronomers for not foreseeing and foretelling the hurricane, instead of flattering him as they had formerly done, with hope of tranquility; and to calculate with accuracy the intentions of heaven. He also despatched a messenger towards the south-east, where
the storm arose as he is confident there must have been some act of oppression committed in that direction *.
The Mathematical Board set up the result of their learned researches on the subject, but declined to express any opinion of their own. If it had continued a whole day it would have indicated some disagreement between the Emperor and his Ministers; also a great drought and scarcity of grain. If but for an hour, pestilence in the south-west, and half the population diseased in the south-east. If the wind had blown up the sand, and moved stones with a loud noise, inundations, &c.
The Gazette of the same date contains a paper in which the Emperor expresses much grief at a long drought at Pe-che-le province. He had sent his sons to fast, pray and sacrifice to heaven, earth, and the God of the wind, but this had obtained only a slight shower. His Majesty wrote a prayer himself, and appointed a day to go with his brother, and two more persons to sacrifice; the Emperor to heaven, his brother to the earth, the first of their companions to the divinity that rules the passing year, and the second to the god of the winds. A day was also appointed for a general fast and sacrifice, on which the kings, nobles ministers of state, attending officers, soldiers, and servants, were to appear in a peculiar cap and garment as a mark of penitence. The two sons of his Majesty were to sacrifice at the same time in two other places.
Such idle vagaries ought to be eradicated from the mind of man, that he may contemplate his true predicament in nature, provide for his wants and ward off approaching danger. It is to be hoped, that the time is not far distant when this happy event will be realized, especially in that portion of the globe where science is generally diffused. It iequires only the honest and bold co-operation of men of learning to affect it.
As the opinions of great and good men, provided they have no interest to uphold superstition, ought to have weight on the minds of those less informed, I shall here subjoin the brief sentiments of a few celebrated characters, in support of Mr. Paine's infidelity.
Philadelphia, June, 6th, 1753. I received your kind letter of the 2d inst. and am glad to hear that you increase in strength-I hope you will continue mending until you recover your former health and firmness. Let me know whether you still use the cold bath, and what effect it has. As to the kindness you mention, I wish it could have been of more serious service to you; but if it had, the only thanks that I should desire, are, that you would always be ready to serve any other person
that may need your assistance; and so let good offices round; for mankind are all of a family. For my own part, when I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favors, but as paying debts. In my travels and since my settlement, I have received much kindness from men, to whom I shall never have an opportunity of making the least direct return; and numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefitted by our services. These kindnesses from men, I can therefore, only return to their fellow men; and I can
* Good political effects to the people of China must have arisen out of this storm. The humility, conscientiousness, and self examination of the Emperor would be well occasionally imitated by the King of England. We have heard of nothing in this way, but to deprive the inhabitants of Brighton of military music on a sunday evening! This was no self-denial.
only show my gratitude to God by a readiness to help his other children, and my brethren, for I do not think that thanks and compliments, though repeated weekly, can discharge our real obligations to each other, and much less, to our Creator.
You will see, in this my notion of good works, that I am far from expecting to merit heaven by thein. By heaven, we understand a state of happiness, infinite in degree and eternal in duration. I can do nothing to de. serve such a reward. He that, for giving a draught of water to a thirsty person, should expect to be paid with a good plantation, wonld be modest in bits demands compared with those who think they deserve heaven for the little good they do on earth. Even the mixed imperfect pleasures we enjoy in this world, are rather from God's goodness than vur merit; how much more so the happiness of heaven? for my part, I have not the vanity to think I deserve it, the folly to expect or the ambition to desire it, but content myself in submtting to the disposal of that God who made me, who has hitherto preserved and blessed me, and in whose fatherly goodness I may well confide, that he never will make me miserable, and that the affliction I may at any time suffer, may tend to my benefit.
The faith you mention has, doubtless, its use in the world. I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I desire to lessen it in any man, but I wish it were more productive of good works than I have generally seen it. I mean real good works, works of kindness, charity, mercy and public spirit; not holy day keeping, sermon-hearing or reading; perforining church ceremonies, or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments, despised even by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Dejiy.
The worship of God is a duty-the hearing and reading may be useful; but if men rest on hearing and praying, as too many do, it is as if the tree should value itself on being watered and putting forth leaves though it never produced any fruit.
Your good master thought much less of these outward appearances than many of his modern disciples. He preferred the doers of the word to the hearers; the son that seemingly refused to obey his father and yet performed his commands, to him that professed his readiness but neglected the work; the heretical but charitable Samaritan, to the uncharitable but orthodex priest and sanctified Levite, and those who gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and raiment to the naked, entertainment to the stranger, and never heard of his name, he declares shall, in the last day, be accepted; when those who cry, Lord, Lord, who value themselves on their faith, though great enough to perform miracles, but have neglected good works, shall be rejected. He professed that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, which implied his modest opinion that there were some in his time so good that they need not hear him even for improvement, but now-a-days we have scarcely a little parson that does not think it the duty of every man within his reach to sit uuder his petty ministration, and that whoever omits this offends God—I wish to such more humility, and to you, health and happiness.
Being your friend and servant.
Extract of a letter from the same to Ezra Stiles, President of Yale College.
Philadelphia, March 9, 1790. You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed. I believe in one