Page images
PDF

son, the finless weakness of humanity, with the power and nature of the Godhead), determine whether he spoke in a literal or hgurative sense. For place and body, matter and space, are incomprehenfible riddles which the greatest philosophers are at a loss how to unravelsi The sensations of cold, hunger, thirst, pain, and pleasure, convince us sufficiently that we have

'bodies, whose daily decay we are continually

repairing with sleep and aliment. We are, in like manner, convinced that there is such a thing as place, when we remove from the fireside to bed, where, locked up in the close arms of sleep, we are for a while in an intermediate state between life and death ; dreaming sometimes that we are sovereigns, swaying the sceptre of authority ; and at other times, trembling under the hand of the executioner, who has the axe in his hand to fever the head from the body, or the rope to strangle us; alternately enjoying the grandeur of kings, and undergo: ing the punishment of criminals, without the

Wreality of either. The different impreffions we

receive from the sun, moon, and stars, scorching flames, and refreshing springs, make, us

believe that there are other bodies in nature, besides those frail machines we carry about us.

'In a word, sensations' from within, and impreffions from without, concur to convince us that

l

that there are places and bodies. The arguf

. ments of divines, and the severity of human

laws, in support of those arguments, consigning those bodies to prison, death, banishment,'or

hunger, are collateral proofs that we have those

bodies, and that we feel their existence by means

of painful sensations. Yet the immortal Berkley, '

bishop of Cloyne, has proved by arguments hitherto un'answerable, that there is no demonstration for the existence of one single body in nature. He has reconciled the Catholic and Protestant philosophers and divines, about the real presence, by cutting off, at one blow, both hody and place. i '

Our whole life, according to this' system, adopted by several learned men, is but one continual scene of delusion. Objects we never saw, during the day-time, are present to us in our'sleep, and make a deep and lasting impresfion. Who knows, then, but all the actions we' perform, when we imagine ourselves awake, are r'eal dreams? We are spirits created millions of years before the Mosaic account.

In that pre-existent state, w'e gloried too

much in our knowledge ; and, as ajust punish- '

ment, we are given up for a short 'time to dreams and deceptions, not on earth, or in corruptible' bodies, for there 'are no such things, and whoever says there are such things, can

' never

never prove his assertion : 'but the 'great theatre on which we play the sportive farce, is nothing else than God''s immensity, which can never fall within the reach of corporeal organs, eyes, ears, hands,*&c : for the exittenceof such organs is a mere delusion.

Origenes, the most learned of the fathers,

who wrote six thousand books, and was corn-'

plimented by Porphyry, 'the heathen Philosopher, was of opinion, that the souls of men were angels, who, in the great conflict bet'ween the good and bad spirits, observeda strict neutrality, and were doomed to corruptible bodies, in order to try their fincerity. Had Origenes been as well versed in Philosophy, as our modern writers, he would have confined himself to spirits,

'and granted bodies no existence in the c'lass'

of beings.

Happy for millions were the philosophers syfiem founded in reality', and that wehad no bodies! For the disputes of theologians 'have destroyed and famished a good part of the creation. We have every respect for the Chris

tianreligion and its ministers of all denomina-l ' tions, and without any doubt, 'for 'that syflem.

in which we have had the''happiness of being reared up. But we are extremely'sorry that rex ligion hasever been made aþretext for persecution or. oppresiion. '

We

. .We have taken the liberty, in the course of this treatise, to glance at some religious as well as philosophical systerns, to shew the weakness of reason, and the impoffibility of establishing 'universal orthodoxy. '

Should this treatise fall into the hands of any of our legislators, in whose power it is to ease the necks of their inoffensrve subjects from the galling yoke of oppreffion-g we expect from their wisdom and feelings, that. they .will no longer consider difference in religion as a sufficient reason for hindering the young gentleman from purchasing a pair of colours, and fighting the battles of his king and cotint'ry; the industrious citizen from realizing. the fruits of his labour, in' getting landed security for his money, and purch'afing anestate, descendible to his children ; the Physician, theopulent farmer, the man of property, from carryingra gun, a sword, a case of pistols, for their defence from theattacks of the midnight-assasiin or highwayman ; the clergyman, who instils the principles of good morals into the minds of the ignorant who

would follow the fierce instinct of savage and v

uncultivated nature if they were deprived of their pastors, from vthe protection of the laws, which now leave them exposedto the caprice and fury of every ruffian, in whose power it is

'to shut up 'their chapels, and get them trans

ported : When it is obvious that such restraints

F . arise'

arise from speculative points disputed on.a narrow ridge by the greatest men. the world has ever produced,-when 'philosophers themselves are bewildered in their notions,-and when the learned are at variance, about matters far beyond the reach of the bulk of mankind.

Should it be said that these laws are seldom put in force; it can be answered that the liberty of the subject, which is the birth-right of man, should 'not depend on the capricious benevolence OF his neighbour. The law should be the common mother whose arms should be open to all : and the ghost of intolerance, more .destructive' than Attila's sword, should vanish on the approach of the rays of benevolence'z''which are now blazing all over the con

'tinent Attila's (sword destroyed'but such as it

met. in its way'i' but the rage of religious seuds has thinned the world of fifty millions of human beings ; and isstill trampling, in these kingdoms, onv com'pa'ffion, on: 'equity,' on na

' tional interest.".''* s

' In Ireland,, where 'such scandalous scenes 'have not been exhibited, as last year in Scotland 'and England, the ghosts os those legislators whaenacted the penal code, are still looking, with a clouded, malevolent joy, over the long wastes and desolalted pastures they have made in a fruitful country ; and supplying, the wan;

' O

« PreviousContinue »