صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

All the knowledge man has of science and of machinery, by the aid of which his existence is rendered comfortable upon earth, and without which he would be scarcely distinguishable in appearance and condition from a common animal, comes from the great machine and structure of the universe. The constant and unwearied observations of our ancestors upon the movements and revolutions of the heavenly bodies, in what are supposed to have been the early ages of the world, have brought this knowledge upon earth. It is not Moses and the prophets, nor Jesus Christ, nor his apostles that have done it. The Almighty is the great mechanic of the creation; the first philosopher and original teacher of all science ;-Let us then learn to reverence our master, and not let us forget the labours of our ancestors.

Had we, at this day, no knowledge of machinery, and were it possible that man could have a view, as I have before described, of the structure and machinery of the universe, he would soon conceive the idea of constructing some at least of the mechanical works we now have: and the idea so conceived would progressively advance in practice. Or could a model of the universe, such as is called an orrery, be presented before him and put in motion, his mind would arrive at the same idea. Such an object and such a subject would, whilst it improved him in knowledge useful to himself as a man and a member of society, as well as entertaining, afford far better matter for impressing him with a knowledge of, and a belief in the Creator, and of the reverence and gratitude that man owes to him, than the stupid texts of the Bible and of the Testament, from which, be the talents of the preacher what they may, only stupid sermons can be preached. If man must preach, let him preach something that is edifying. and from texts that are known to be true.

The Bible of the creation is inexhaustible in texts. Every part

called his rising and setting, that of morning and evening. Besides, it is a puerile and pitiful idea, to suppose the Almighty to say, "Let there be light." It is the imperative manner of speaking that a conjurer uses, when he says to his cups and balls, Presto, be gone-and most probably has been taken from it, as Moses and his rod are a conjurer and his wand. Longinus calls this expression the sublime; and by the same rule the conjurer is sublime too; for the manner of speaking is expressively and grammatically the same. When authors and critics talk of the sublime, they see not how nearly it borders on the ridiculous. The sublime of the critics, like some parts of Edmund Burke's sublime and beautiful, is like a wind-mill just visible in a fog, which immagination might distort into a flying mountain, or an archangel, or a flock of wild geese.

of science, whether connected with the geometry of the universe. with the systems of animal and vegetable life, or with the properties of inanimate matter, is a text as well for devotion as for philosophy-for gratitude as for human improvement. It will perhaps be said, that if such a revolution in the system of religion takes place, every preacher ought to be a philosopher.-Most certainly and every house of devotion a school of science.

[ocr errors]

It has been by wandering from the immutable laws of science, and the right use of reason, and setting up an invented thing called revealed religion, that so many wild and blasphemous conceits have been formed of the Almighty. The Jews have made him the assassin of the human species, to make room for the religion of the Jews. The Christians have made him the murderer of himself, and the founder of a new religion, to supercede and expel the Jewish religion. And to find pretence and admission for these things, they must have supposed his power and his wisdom imperfect, or his will changeable; and the changeableness of the will is the imperfection of the judgment. The philosopher knows that the laws of the Creator have never changed with respect either to the principles of science, or the properties of matter. Why then is it to be supposed they have changed with respect to man?

I here close the subject. I have shown in all the foregoing parts of this work that the Bible and Testament are impositions and forgeries; and I leave the evidence I have produced in proof of it o be refuted, if any one can do it: and I leave the ideas that are suggested in the conclusion of the work to rest on the mind of the reader; certain as I am, that when opinions are free, either in matters of government or religion, truth will finally and powerfully prevail.









PARIS, MAY 12, 1797.

In your letter of the 20th of March, you gave me several quotations from the Bible, which you call the word of God, to show me that my opinions on religion are wrong, and I could give you as many, from the same book, to show that yours are not right; consequently, then, the Bible decides nothing, because it decides any way, and every way, one chooses to make it.

But by what authority do you call the Bible the word of God? for this is the first point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Mahometans calling the Koran the word of God makes the Koran to be so. The Popish Councils of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time that the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted' the books, that now compose what is called the New Testament, to be the word of God. This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law. The Pharisees of the second Temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all. I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a selfinterest in the vote they gave.


You may have an opinion that a man is inspired, but not prove it, nor can you have any proof of it yourself, because you cannot see into his mind in order to know how he comes by his thoughts, and the same is the case with the word revelation.There can be no evidence of such a thing, for you can no more prove revelation, than you can prove what another man dreams of, neither can he prove it himself.

It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so. The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No. Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don't, is all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving, except you will say that Mahomet was an imposter. And how do you know Moses was not an imposter? For my own part, I believe that all are imposters who pretend to hold verbal communication with the Deity. It is the way by which the world has been imposed upon; but if you think otherwise you have the same right to your opinion that I have to mine, and must answer for it in the same manner. But all this does not settle the point. whether the Bible be the word of God, or not. It is, therefore, nccessary to go a step further. The case then is :

[ocr errors]

You form your opinion of God from the account given of him in the Bible; and I form my opinion of the Bible from the wisdom and goodness of God, manifested in the structure of the universe, and in all the works of the Creation. The result in these two cases will be, that you, by taking the Bible for your standard, will have a bad opinion of God; and I, by taking God for my standard, shall have a bad opinion of the Bible.

The Bible represents God to be a changeable, passionate, vindictive being; making a world, and then drowning it, afterwards repenting of what he had done, and promising not to do so again. Setting one nation to cut the throats of another, and stopping the course of the sun till the butchery should be done. But the works of God, in the Creation, preach to us another doctrine. In that vast volume we see nothing to give us the idea of a changeable, passionate, vindictive God, every thing we there behold impresses us with a contrary idea; that of unchangeableness and of eternal order, harmony, and goodness. The sun and the seasons return at their appointed time, and every thing in the Creation proclaims

« السابقةمتابعة »