« AnteriorContinuar »
poor and humble, whom it affects to pity, may be stabbed to the heart by it. They have more occasion for firm hopes beyond the grave, than those who have greater comforts to render life delightful. I can conceive a distressed but virtuous man, surrounded by children looking up to him for bread when he has none to give them, sinking under the last day's labour, and unequal to the next, yet still anticipating with confidence the hour when all tears shall be wiped from the eyes of affliction, bearing the burden laid upon him by a mysterious Providence which he adores, and looking forward with exultation to the revealed promises of his Creator, when he shall be greater than the greatest, and happier than the happiest of mankind. What a change in such a mind might not be wrought by such a merciless publication ?
“But it seems, this is an Age of Reason, and the time and the persons are at last arrived, that are to dissipate the errors which have overspread the past generations of ignorance. The believers in Christianity are many, but it belongs to the few that are wise ta correct their credulity. Belief is an act of reason, and superior reason, may, therefore, dictate to the weak.
" In running the mind over the long list of sincere and devout Christians, I cannot help lamenting, that Newton had not lived to this day to have had his shallowness filled up with this new flood of light.
“ But the subject is too awful for irony. I will speak plainly and directly. Newton was a Christian! Newton, whose mind burst forth from the fetters, cast by nature upon our finite conceptions-Newton, whose science was truth, and the foundation of whose knowledge of it was philosophy: not those visionary and arrogant presumptions, which too often usurp its name, but philosophy resting upon the basis of mathematics, which, like figures, cannot lie-Newton, who carried the line and rule to the utmost barriers of creation, and explored the principles by which all created matter is held together and exists.
“ But this extraordinary man, in the mighty reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errors, which a minute investigation of the created things on this earth might have taught him, of the essence of his Creator.
“ What shall then be said of Boyle, who looked into the organic structure of all matter, even to the brute inanimate substances, on which the foot treads ?Such a man may be supposed to have been equally qualified with Mr. Paine to look up through Nature to Nature's God. Yet the result of all his contemplation was the most confirmed and devout belief in all that which the other holds in contempt, as despicable and drivelling superstition.
“ But this error might, perhaps, arise from a want of due attention to the foundations of human judge ment, and the structure of that understanding which God has given us for the investigation of truth.
“Let that question be answered by Locke, who was, to the highest pitch of devotion and adoration, a Christian : Locke, whose office was to detect the errors of thinking, by going up to the fountains of thought, and to direct into the proper tract of reasoning, the devious mind of man, by shewing its whole process, from the first perceptions of sense to the last conclusions of ratiocination, putting a rein upon false opinion, by practical rules for the conduct of human judgment.
“ But these men were deep thinkers only, and lived in their closets, unaccustomed to the traffic of the world, and to the laws which practically regulate mankind.
“ In the place where we now sit to administer justice, above a century ago, Hale presided ; whose faith in Christianity is an exalted commentary on its truth and reason, and whose life was a glorious example of its fruits in man, administering human justice with a wisdom and purity drawn from the pure fountain of the Christian dispensation, which has been, and will
be, in all ages, a subject of the highest reverence and admiration.
“ But it is said by the author, that the Christian fable is but the tale of the more ancient superstitions of the world, and may be easily detected by a proper understanding of the mythologies of the Heathens.
" Did Milton understand those mythologies? Was he less versed than Mr. Paine in the superstitions of the world ? No; they were the subject of his immortal song; and though shut out from all recurrence to them, he poured them forth from the stores of a memory rich with all that man ever knew, and laid them in their order as the illustration of that real and exalted faith, the unquestionable source of that fervid genius, which cast a sort of shade upon all the other works of man:
“ He passed the bounds of flaming space,
He closed his eyes in endless night.”. But it was the light of the body only that was extinguished ; the celestial light shone inward, and enabled him to “ justify the ways of God to man.” The result of his thinking was nevertheless not the same as the author's. The mysterious incarnation of our Blessed Saviour, which this work blasphemes in words wholly unfit for the mouth of a Christian, or for the car of a court of justice, Milton made the grand conclusion of the Paradise Lost, the rest from his finished labours, and the ultimate hope, expectation, and glory of the world :
" A virgin is his Mother, but his Sire,
" Piety has found
Milton whose genius had angelic wings,
For sanctity of manners undefild.”(5) He that feels not conviction from these reasonings is out of the reach of all ordinary means of conviction, and must be dealt with in some more fearful manner. I
pray God that his conscience may be alarmed as with thunder---that the arrows of the Almighty may stick fast within him—that his soul may feel the terrors of hell following hard after him--that, he may be made a monument of divine justice in the sight of all men—and that, he may be finally snatched as a brand from the burning by the power of sovereign grace! May that blood, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel, and on which he now profanely and insolently tramples, be applied to his soul by the energy of the eternal spirit ; and may there be joy in the presence of the angels of God at his conversion, and heaven's eternal arches résound with hallelujahs at the news of a sinner saved!
In this volume Mr. Paine's objections to the Bible are particularly considered, and answers returned.
A compendious account of church-preferinents is introduced, with a general view of the Dissenting congregations.
The present state of the Methodist societies is noticed, with some account of that body of Christians.
The missions to the Heathen are spoken of with approbation. These noble efforts for the salvation of mankind, are one reason why, in the midst of abounding iniquity, our fate, as a nation, is, for a season, suspended (6)
(5) I am not clear that this prosecution can be justified upon the principles of Christian liberty.
(6) Is it not an instance of the most unamiable bigotry, that when such generous, disinterested, and noble efforts have been mak
Both believers and unbelievers, will meet with something or another that will be useful to them. Whatever is pernicious, they will reject, remembering that we are enjoined to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good.
Some shameful instances of non-residence, patronage, and pluralities of livings, among the bishops and clergy of the land, are detailed.
The articles and canons, the liturgy, and the other public offices of our church, are reviewed and reproved.
If he be thought severe upon the episcopal and clerical orders of men, let it be remarked, that he esteems them all very highly in love for their offices' sake ; and that, if at any time he has given way to his indignation, and expressed himself in strong terms against these orders, it is never intended to affect any but the culpable part of them.
“But, in a plea for religion and the Sacred Writings, where is the propriety of exposing the imperfections of the church, with her bishops and clergy?"
Because, the undiscerning world and our deistical fellow creatures, constantly unite them together, and
ing for the civilization and christanization of the South Sca islands, scarcely one bishop or dignified clergyman of the church of England; scarcely one Arian or Socinian congregation, those more opulent bodies of dissenters; scarcely one nobleman, and but very few rich commoners have contributed a single shilling out of their am. ple revenues towards promoting this expensive and god-like design?- The honour and blessedness of the glorious attempt is left to the poor!-Is not such a conduct aniong our great ones speak. ing in the strongest of all language, that it is better the poor, miserable, benighted Heathen nations should continue in their present deplorable condition, than that they should be brought out of darkness into the glorious liberty of the children of God, in any other way than that prescribed by them? Oh! shame to these several ofders of men. What a curse has not bigotry ever been to mankind ?--Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad bim, because be followed not us, said the selfish and party-spi. rited apostles. Forbid him not, replied the benevolent and liberalminded Saviour, for there is no man that can work a miracle in my name, who will lightly speak evil of me.
e.--I add, with the apostle, If Christ be preached, and souls saved, I herein do rejoice, and will rejoice, whoever is the instrument.