Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

a

we believe he is in himself to be considered 6 as a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary, naturally, as weak, as fallible, and as PECCABLE as other men, possessed of no natural advantages over his father Joseph, or any other man in a similar situation in life in Judea :* yet, that he was commissioned by the

* Supreme Being, to instruct mankind in pure principles of morality, so far as he understood them; for “though we admit that Jesus taught the truth in , popular way, yet we very much doubt, whether in some instances, he properly and accurately understood it!!!”+

Consid. Is this the voice of Mr. Wisehead, or the ghost of some departed infidel, that is uttering such dangerous and profane insinuations against the person and even moral character of our blessed Lord ? If this be his just character, what good can we get by following such an uncertain leader? and what can we expect from the Bible itself, but that it will distract and puzzle the minds of all who read it ?

Wiseh. Dear Sir, I am sorry you should be so alarmed, but I only meant to soften matters, by showing you, that it is no wonder if those well-intentioned men, who became the followers of Jesus, who was a fallible and peccable man and had only a popular way of preaching what he did not properly Scripture easily detects and confutes the frauds of heretics ;” and he calls them “ The heavenly Scriptures wh never deceive." Farther, in all the controversies between the Arians, Athanasians, and the admirers of Origen's platonic notions, however some of them differed from the truths contained in the Scriptures, yet they always acknowledged their decision was definitive : "That they were the certain guide to truth given for that purpose by God himself: The divinely inspired Scriptures.'I therefore observe that the modern notion of the Bible, as it is now before us, presents us with one of the boldest attacks ever yet made on its sacred authority, and it is unsupported by all writers, almost in every age of the Church; nor can they produce in support of such sentiments, any other argument than bold, unqualified assertions from their own authority. Had they searched into antiquity, they would have been more mot West, and better taught.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

* Priestley's Letters to Dr. Horne, p. 21.

Priestley on Necessity.

[ocr errors]

and accurately understand : I say it cannot be wondered at, if they also blundered, and mistook matters still more frequently than their Master.

Mrs Toog. Why Mr. Wisehead, you quite shock me! It appears as though you believed next to nothing about our blessed Saviour, or that there is scarcely either God or devil-though I don't join in with Mr. Lovegood, and his followers, in running down all man's merits ; yet I am sure, I don't know what we should do without our Saviour's merits also, to make up our deficiences, after we have done our duty as well as we can.

Consid. Why madam, I am not a little alarmed, as well as yourself; for according to this, almost the whole of Christianity, allowed by reason, is, whether Jesus Christ was a good man or an impostor; and even that is a matter of doubt, for now it seems he is peccable as well as fallible. Do you mean to prove that Christ was wicked as well as weak ?

Wiseh. Sir, I think I can make it out, that Jesus was actually peccable as well as fallible, though you seem to be so shocked at our true Gospel,” and rational notions of religion; and of this, I will give you an instance. He frequently accommodatedhis doctrine to the vulgar errors of the day: and I have before observed, that the doctrine of angels and devils, was a pernicious tenet, and which tended to diminish our regard to the omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God; and though Jesus was his mere servant, yet" he seems to use the word soul, as though expressive of something distinct from the body ; but if he did,

; which however is not certain, he might do it in conformity with the prevailing opinion of the times, in the same manner as he applies being possessed of demons to madmen, and speaks to madmen, as if they were actuated by evil spirits, though he CERTAINLY did not believe the existence of such demons.* Consid. I think Sir, you have now done the busi

* Priestly on Matter and Spirit, Vol. II,

2

ness completely. According to your doctrine the art of a Jesuit could scarcely equal the designs of Jesus Christ; and if the author of Christianity founded his religion by such gross impositions on the credulity and weakness of mankind, the sooner we renounce it the better.

Spitef. Though I hate Lovegood's enthusiasın, yet I think you are almost as far gone in infidelity, as he is in enthusiasm. I really did not suppose that your rational religion, would have brought you to all this!

Wiseh. Sir I am only "removing the rubbish which loads and disgraces the foundation."*

Consid. It appears to me, as if you were not only clearing away what you call rubbish, but foundation and all; but have you done Sir?

Wiseh. No Sir; I confess there are other erroneous and irrational notions which we equally disapprove : for instance, " The doctrine of an intermediate state, or a state of conscious existence between death and the resurrection;" this must be “ discarded, if we are desirous to regulate our faith by the standard of reason, of truth, and of Christianity.”+

Consid. Of Christianity! Why did not St. Paul say that he desired to depart, or as he explains it, not to abide in the flesh; that he might be with Christ?

Wiseh. O Sir! I have before said that Paul was very weak and inconclusive in what he advanced; but I don't think this was the doctrine of the founder of Christianity.

Consid. Why did not Christ himself say to the thief, “ This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise?"

Wiseh. O Sir! but you have not considered the proper rational interpretation of that text, as given by our learned divines; they only just alter the stop, and then it reads~" Verily I say unto thee this day ; -thou shalt be with me in Paradise." Consid. This is indeed, a capital proof of the

* Belsham's Caution. t Belsham's Caution.

.

rationality of your divines ! but do they mean this as an argument, or a joke? for according to this, I might say to a poor man who was half starving, “Verily I say unto you this day ;-) will give you a loaf of bread. "And when for several days I delay my promise while he accuses me of a breach of my word, I have nothing to do but to say, he did not understand my stops; and that I was not bound to fulfil my promise for a month after I had made it.” And again,if a physician says—“To-day I say; I'll visit such a

I poor man, ill of a fever;" but still delays till his patient dies, and is accused of cruelty; yet all this arose from their neglect, in not observing where the physician designed to have made his stops. The same sort of joke also (for I cannot call it argument) has been played off by your divines, on the words of Thomas when he solemnly appealed to our Lord, and said, “ My Lord and my God!" as if it was said in a fit of sudden surprise, and meant nothing. The exclamation can therefore only be accounted for, on the profane principle of “ taking the Lord's name in vain." But it is well known that the Jews, even with a superstitious awe, abstained from mentioning the LORD's name, lest at any time they should take his sacred name in vain.

Wiseh. O Sir! if you do not like this interpretation; you should remember that I have already proved, that Jesus was both fallible and peccable ; so that in this respect also, he might be under the necessity (“ though I do not think that our Lord or his apostles rightly understood the doctrine of necessity," *) of saying something he did not believe, in conformity to the prevailing opinion of the times.

Consid. Ah Sir! what shocking language is this ! Did then our holy Redeemer not only preach lies, but eveu die with a lie in his month? And is all this to prove you are no infidel ? Could

any infidel upon earth advance a doctrine inore abominable and profane? And can you wonder that so many of your sen

* Priestley on Necessity.

timents make such an easy transition into downright infidelity itself?

Spitef. [To Wisehead.) Why I confess, what Mr. Considerate says has a deal of truth in it; for Jack Pert, a saucy young fellow, who goes to your meeting, came into my school-room, while I was writing a paper for the Anti-jacobin Review, took up one of tbe school boy's old Bibles and said, that in his opinion the truth lay between the Deists and Socinians, though he was not quite wise enough to fix the exact line of demarcation between them. I always thought that you Dissenters go a devilish* deal too far. I can't make you out ; some of you are infidels, while others are downright enthusiasts; but I never go into any of your conventicles.

Consid. I wish Mr. Spiteful, you would not interrupt our conversation just for the present, I have a few more questions to ask Mr. Wisehead. [To Mr. Wisehead.] Pray Sir, have you any more rubbish to clear away?

Wiseh. Yes Sir, "the obligation of sabbatical institutions."

Consid. Is that rubbish also ?

Wiseh. Rubbish Sir, it is all Jewish rubbislı, " that one day should be more holy than another: or that any occupation whatever, that is morally lawful on one day, should be morally unlawful on another, is a distinction unfounded in reason, wholly unauthorised by Jesus and his apostles, and unknown in the primitive and purest ages of the church.”+

Consid. Why, then there would be no great harm directly as your Doctor, or Mr. Smirking, gets out of the pulpit, if all three of you were to run together to the play-house. But what a wonderful knack you gentlemen have of proving your point, by bold un

* No wonder that this was a favourite expression of Mr. Spiteful and the Anti-jacobin Reviewers, both being under the influence of such a devilish disposition.

† Belsham's Caution, p. 26. How contemptible is the cant or these men, to talk about the primitive and pure ages of the church.

a

« ÎnapoiContinuați »