« AnteriorContinuar »
that he, or she, or it, for it need not be either masculine or feminine, must be every where present at the same time, contriving all the contrivances that are contrived. This ridiculous notiou comes from man supposing himself to be the most important thing in existence. "Why is he more important, than any other animal ? Has he reason? To what useful purpose does he apply that reason, which cannot be said for almost every other animal? Has be intelligence? So bas every other animal; for all purposes useful to its condition. It is the wants, the sensations of the animal, tbat creates the reason and accomplishes the useful purposes, and not any inherent superiority or capacity. If man has more of reason, than any other animal, it is only where he has greater wants than that animal: and the wants generated by education do not alter the argument. Can man subject other animals to his purposes? Is he not also subjected to the purposes of some few of the more cunning of those with whom he associates ? Can he devour other animals? Cannot they devour bim, if the opportunity offers? If they are food for bim, he is also food for them : and all that Paley's great intelligent contriver has done, has been, to contrive them as food for one another: each dying identity nourishing those which live! Surely, there can be nothing deserving the denomination of wisdom, in the purpose of such a contrivance! If the cries of insects could reach our ears, we should hear nothing but one incessant expression of agony !
Doubtless, Sir, your bave picked the bones of many a fowl, broken many an egg, devoured many a fish, and swal. lowed many a bullock, bog, and sheep; but think you, that they were contrived to be your food?' Supposing, that you bad been drowned at sea, at any given period of your life, and some of those fishes wbich you have eaten had fed upon your body; how then would the case have stood, as to their being contrived to be your food? Might we not have said in such a case, that the great intelligent contriver had contrived you as food for those fishes? Is not the case as good on the one side, as on the other ? Is it not clear, that we exist only to die, to be food for, and to make way
for new identities? Is not this the clear and only purpose of all vegetable and animal matter? I see it to be so, and am happy in the conviction. If you escape the devouring jaws of the fishes, and receive a Christian burial, you bave no further consolation, than that your rotting body will generate its own devourers, in the character of worms or maggots. There is no escaping from this disgusting idea; but in tbe alternative of a funeral pile: and give me a funeral pile, in idea, before a Christian burial.
It is not only on this planet, that your, or Paley's, industrious intelligent contriver has to employ itself—it must be on every other planet at the same time. Now, ponder here, and ask yourself, if you can conceive the existence of intelligence separate from one of those organizations by which you see it produced. Whatever you may conceit, or assert, I know the impossibility of the belief of such a notion, wben fairly reasoned upon: and knowing this, I would know from you, Paley being dead, how one animated being can be every where present, and contrive all the contrivances that are contrived ?
I do not ask you to consider what is infinity, or what is a universe, they are idle and senseless words, a proof of a degree of ignorance; but I ask you to contemplate the system of solar systems, which the eye alone, unaided by the telescope, can reach. I ask you to contemplate but one of those systems, that which we inhabit. I ask you to contemplate but one planet of this system, that on which we live: consider its hugeness! its inconceivable bulk! and its inconceivable distance from the sun, or even from its own satellite the moon! I ask you to contemplate but this one planet, this mere grain of sand, wheu compared with those visible to the eye; and consider, if any thing which you know of the
powers of intelligence can controul it. On this planet, you | see the big best degree of intelligence, or man, but a mere ephemeral creature; born in a morning; the sport of storms through a day; and dead at night. This is all that can be said of the bighest known degree of intelligence! And is it not a mockery; is it not profaneness; is it not impiety; or is it ignorance alone, that makes this ephemeral principle to be a creator of all that we know to have existed, to exist, or to be about to exist?
Look and consider if the Deity pervades all space, as some Theists preach, can that all be intelligent and act every where as an individual beiug ? If it pervades all space and be intelligent, what hope have you, as an identity, of immortality? If it pervades all space, where is your beaven, in which you talk of beiug located with your idol God? Can it be at the same time located and extended to all locations ? If you have the capacity to think seriously, and you exbibit a contour of that kind, you must see, that nothing but ridicule will attach to any and every notion of an intelligent creator of all things.
This is sermon enough to prove my first text, “ that there is no such an intelligent God in existence as any man has preuched.”
2. That the Jews had no ancestors inbabiting Judea, or the coast of Syria, or Palestine, or by wbatever other name that district, or the whole of Asia Minor, migbt have been called, before the Babylonian Colonization under the authority of Cyrus, in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.
As far as Judaism or Christianity is concerned, this is a momentous questiou; but in any other sense, it is a matter of no consequence.
Having been led to the conviction, by both external and internal evidence, that the books of the Old Testament were compiled about the time, and for the purpose, of that colonization, I bave been also led to enqnire, wbat connection there existed between a nation of Israelites and a nation of Jews. I have endeavoured to trace the Jews as a nation prior to their residence at Babylon. But in this I have failed at every point. I find, that the spot of land which we now call Palestine, or the Holy Land, and which was formerly called Judea, was environed on three sides, by the Egyptians, the Phenicians, and the Grecians, the Mediterranean Sea intervening as a separation from the latter. Of Egypt, of Phenicia, and of Greece, we have clear bistories, and an account of an intercourse between them as neighbours; but in all your Greek authors, from Homer and Hesiod to Herodotus, can you find the mention of such a people as Israelites or Jews, or of such a land as Judea, or of such a city as Jerusalem? In any history of Phenicia, do you find, ibat they had such neighbours as Israelites or Jews; and bear in mind, that, if the latter existed there as a nation, prior to the Babylonian Colonization, they must bave been in the same relation as neighbours, as the people of Devon to the people of Dorset. In any ancient bistory of Egypt, seperate from the Jewish compilation, do you find any mention of such a people as Israelites or Jews existing prior to the colonization in question? Do you find the mention of such a people as Israelites or Jews, or of such a city as Jerusalem, in any ancient author wbo wrote before the colonization in question? If you do not, wbat is the inference; but the Jews had po ancestors inhabiting the coast of Syria prior to that colonization by Cyrus? We have as regular and as correct a history of them as of any other people of that neighbourhood, since that colonization, but there is not a
trace of them of an earlier date. If there be, I here expose myself to your correction.
The grand inference to be drawn from this fact is, that the first fourteen books are fabulous, as far as they are made to apply to a people inbabiting what is now called Palestine, or any part of that neighbourhood: and weight is hereby given to the theory, that all the religions of Asia have emanated from a personification of the planets and the founding of allegories thereupon. Here also the foundation of the religion of the Jews is removed, and with it, that of Christianity.
My third and last text is, that no such a person as the Jesus Christ of the New Testament existed in Judea or elsewhere.
My objections are founded upon the same ground as those with respect to the prior existence of the Jews in Judea : that there is no evidence of the existence of sucb a sect as Christians, or of such a religion as Christianity, within what we now call the first century; and that there is negative evidence against the existence of such a person as Jesus Christ at the time and place stated.
The earliest authenticated document of the existence of such a sect as Christians is, the letter of Pliny, whilst Proconsul in Bythinia, to Trajad. Pliny found a sect called Christians in Asia Minor, in or about the year 110, which he did not find at Rome, nor in any of the European Provinces. But whether they had existed one year, or ten years before that time, there is not a shade of evidence. Here then we must stop. After tbis time, or about twenty years after, Tacitus mentions the existence of the Christian Religion, and that it had then reached Rome; and soon after him, Suetonius makes mention of the same as a new sect. In addition to these evidently impartial authorities, we have Christian authorities of or near the same date with the two latter historians; but not one so early as the letter of Pliny to Trajan. These are decisive proofs, that the Christian Religion did not exist so as to excite public notice within the first century as stated in the books of the New Testament.
The negative evidences are, that no historian, who wrote within the first century, bas mentioned such a person as Jesus Christ, or such a sect as Christians. There were three persons, who lived towards the close of this century, who could not have failed to notice the person of Jesus Christ, and the sect of Christians, were the contents of the Gospels and of the “ Acts of the Apostles" authentic-Philo, Josephus aud Pliny the Elder. The mention of such circumstances would have been within the means, as it was precisely within the province, of these writers, had such things happeued as Christianity has fabled of Jesus Christ and bis Disciples.
Throughout the Epistles of the New Testament, there is no allusion to any particular known Gospel, nor to any Emperor or person in authority at the time at which they were written, which is a proof that, with the writer or writers, neither of the Gospels now at the head of the book tben existed, so as to ob. tain authority, or as a guidance; nor is there any mention of time or place at which Jesus Christ was crucified. The subject of the crucifixion is treated just as a worshipper of Prometheus might have treated of his crucifixion. And, by the way, I will mention, that the pretended prophecy in the 53rd chapter of Josiah will apply as well to ibe fable of Prometheus as to the fable of Jesus Christ.
In the Epistles, there is no reference to the pretended sayings of Jesus Christ, which are now introduced into the Gospels, nor any similarity of the doctrine, though there is continual reference to the Old Testament, which is another proof, that the Epistle’s were among the first written documents possessed by the Christian Churches, and that the Gospels were compiled after the Christians bad gained a considerable footing and become numerous.
In speaking of Christian Churches, 1 must not be understood to hold the idea of such a Church as that of England Scotland or Ireland, with its million sterling as an income. What were first called Christian Churches had a near resemblance to the followers of Johanna Southcote at this time. Meetings in different houses, and quarrels about the propriety of circumcision! Christianity now seems likely to be about to end precisely as it began, among the most illiteterate and most superstitious part of the Community. Peter was for circumcision, and Paul against it: and sucb is the present state of the followers of Johanna. Peter bad cunning enough to see, that the rite would become a great obstacle to bis progress among the Gentiles; and as for the Jews, though Mr. Sumner says, that the first Christians were converted Jews, I am of opinion, that it will be difficult to offer an authentic proof of a single Jew baving become a Christian at its origin, or until within the last few years, that in few profligates have been enticed with bribes and the prospect of collecting large sums of money from the