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Matthew, he makes salvation, or the future happiness of man, to depend entirely upon good works. Here is nothing about predestination, that lust which some men have for damning one another. Here is nothing about baptism, whether sprinkling or plunging, nor about any of those ceremonies for which the Christian church has been fighting, persecuting and burning each other, ever since the Christian church began."
In another part, he says, "My own opinion is, that those whose lives have been spent in doing good, and endeavouring to make their fellow mortals happy, for this is the only way in which we can serve God, will be happy hereafter: and that the very wicked will meet with some punishment. This is my opinion. It is consistent with my idea of God's justice, and with the reason that God has given me."
Why should Mr. Paine be reprobated for these opinions, and the clergy, who proclaim the eternal damnation of their species, be approved of and applauded? The reason is plain. The clergy "mould the minds of the people like wax in the hollow of their hands." They well know, if Paine's principles prevail, their consequence and high salaries would be at an end. Hence the outcry against him and those who adopt his opinions. King's, in the first instance, created a band of priests to tyrannize over the mental faculties of man, that they might the more readily enslave him; and the American republic imbibed the malady through a predisposition to infection inherited from their ancestors. The business of life is incorporated with priestcraft, and whoever takes an honorable part in vindication of truth, is sure to meet with abuse. The doctrine of let us alone, is the constant cry of priests, and the fear of censure from the pulpit creates and fosters the detestable crime of hypocrisy.
The flatteries and respect shown to the clerical character, of all denominations, has induced some of the profession to adopt a language towards their opponents truly astonishing. In fact, many preachers of the Gospel of Christ, seem to consider themselves licenced calumniators, and that they have a right, by virtue of their office, to abuse the whole human race, as enemies to God and all righteousness.
A few years since, a young preacher of the Methodist connec tion arrived in this country from England. He laid great claims to religious endowments, and, in consequence of his pertness and assurance, was highly caressed by the members of his church. Emboldened by the attentions he received, in order to show his zeal for the cause, he had the effrontery, at a tract society meeting, to express himself in the following terms: "I thank God, that the bones of Tom Paine have been rooted up, and no longer disgrace the soil of our country." No man at the meeting, or in the public prints since, dared to reprove him. As a man of God, he was deemed to be privileged to stigmatize the memory
of one who had so powerfully opposed the clerical scheme of eternal misery.
The same spirit, which dictated the above declaration, is conspicuous in an article that lately appeared in the New-York Herald, supposed to be written by an English clergyman of the Episcopal church. It is entitled, "The Lone Tomb; a scene in Westchester county." The object of it was to eulogize the virtues of a young woman who died in New-Rochelle, at the age of nineteen. Thomas Paine, at the mention of whose name, the clergy were wont to quake, was also dead, and had been interred in the same village. What a glorious opportunityit was irresistible; and the pious parson improved it to bespatter the tomb of the great advocate of human rights; the vindicator of the justice and goodness of God; the opponent of the pleaders for Calvinistic fire and brimstone. And, strange as it may appear, he found an American printer who was enjoying, in common with his countrymen, the fruits of Paine's revolutionary services, indiscreet, or shall I say, base enough to lend his types in furtherance of the unholy purpose.
The article concludes as follows: "Here is found the delightful village where the pious, but persecuted Huguenots, fleeing from oppressions of bigotry and intolerance, found a quiet and a happy home; and where too is still pointed out the consecrated little enclosure, in which, when the toils and sufferings of this life were over, they rested from their labors. And here, alas! that the place should be known but to be shunned,-here is yet seen the ruins of the sad and forsaken spot rendered infamous by the sepulchre of the infidel Paine ! !"
This consistent Christian writer, in persecuting the memory of Paine, commits the same outrage that he reprobates in others.But, in the one case, it regarded pious Huguenots, Calvinists, who believed in hell-fire; in the other an infidel, who was endeavouring to wrest mankind from the clutches of the clergy, and to render them happy, here and hereafter, by the mere force of moral virtue. The difference, in the view of a minister of the gospel, must be enormous indeed. But where were nine-tenths of these believing Huguenots, according to their own doctrine, after their toils and sufferings were over, to rest? In hell, among glowing embers! This is a true statement of the case, and I leave the reader to his own reflections.
I will mention one more instance of clerical charity and forbearance. A preacher in the Dutch church, corner of Cedar and Nassau streets, lately gave vent to the following rodomontade:
"A deist, he said, was no man-he unmans himself-he is an enemy to science-denies all history, and is a rebel to Almighty God!" The last clause of the sentence the speaker pronounced with great energy, raising at the same time both hands to heaven. A gentleman, in company with the reporter, who
mistook declamation for argument, on leaving the church, observed, that Mr. was a most powerful preacher; and probably this was the opinion of the bulk of the audience. It is, however, still a mooted case, which is the greatest rebel to God, the deist who represents him as benevolent, just and merciful; or the Calvinistic divine who clothes him with attributes that would disgrace a savage?
"The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
It droppeth, as the gentle rain from heaven
By the extracts I have made from the writings and speeches of clergymen, some might be inclined to think them in general a very wicked class of men; but this is by no means the case.— They are like men in other pursuits of life, some good and some bad. The system is more in fault, than the professors. They are hired to teach a certain set of dogmas, which they cannot depart from without bringing ruin upon themselves. Were a presbyterian parson, for instance, to say to his congregation, that God was too benevolent and merciful to punish any of them to all eternity; that punishments would be graduated to crimes, and that if their lives were moral, they need be in no fear of incurring his displeasure on account of their opinions; the consequence would be that every old lady imbued with orthodox principles, and who had an enemy, on earth, that she wished to be roasted forever, would immediately quit his church. Their daughters would take the same course, and the men would be compelled to follow suit. The parson, consequently, would be left without hearers, and without bread. Let us not, then, blame the clergy, but ourselves. Old bigoted schemes of religion must be broken down, and plain common sense substituted for them; and this must be done by laymen-it is not in the power of the clergy to effect it.
I will here introduce a few appropriate questions, propounded by the celebrated Voltaire.
• Next to our holy religion, which would be the least exceptionable? Would it not be the most simple-that which taught a great deal of morality and few doctrines-that which tended to make men virtuous without making them fools-that which did not impose the belief of things impossible, contradictory, injurious to the deity, and pernicious to mankind; and which did not take on itself to threaten, with eternal punishments, all who had common sense? Would it not be that which did not support its articles by executioners, and deluge the world with blood, for unintelligible sophisms? Would it not be that which taught only the adoration of one God, of justice, forbearance and humanity?"
After all that Christian divines have said of the intensity and. eternity of hell-fire, to which, according to then, the greater por
tion of mankind are doomed, admitting even, for the sake of argument, the authority of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, there is not a word in those books which designates the terrific place represented by them. The Hebrew words Scheol and Hades which have been translated hell, mean nothing more, as every Jew can inform us, than the grave. The Gehinnom of the Old Testament and the Gehenna of the New, also translated hell, mean the valley of Hinnom; wherein the Israelites sacrificed their children to the god Moloch; and where a fire was continually burning to consume the dead bodies of criminals to whom the rite of sepulchre was not granted, as well as the filth of Jerusalem.
Moloch was a name given to a representation or emblem of the sun, which was itself only a symbol of the divinity, inherited by the Jews from the Egyptians. The fire in the Valley of Hinnom, for the purposes before mentioned, was first established by king Josiah about one thousand years after the supposed death of Moses, and was not suffered to be extinguished. The insects which subsisted upon the garbage scattered about this valley were, of course, never extinct; hence the exclamation, "Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched!”
Tartarus, once mentioned in the New Testament, is pre-eminently the hell of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but owes its origin to Egypt. The burying ground of Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt, was on an island called Elyzout, decorated with beautiful groves and meadows; to arrive at which it was necessary to pass a small lake, on whose margin three Judges were stationed to examine into the characters of the defunct; if they proved good, a passport was given by them to the ferry-man, called Charon, to transmit the bodies, otherwise they were cast into a deep pit, denominated Tartarus; from whence is probably derived the expression bottomless pit, made use of in the Apocalypse.
The Egyptians had an idea that the soul after death enjoyed or suffered with the body; and, in this respect, the contrast between Elyzout and Tartarus must, in their eyes, have appeared infinite.
From this custom of the Egyptians have arisen the fables of the Greeks and Romans of the pleasures enjoyed by those who had the good fortune to arrive at Elyzout, or Elysian fields, as they called it, and the various torments inflicted upon those doomed to Tartarus.
But it is time for mankind to cease to believe in fables; to cease to teach, or hear them taught, as sacred truths; to study their real predicament in nature, and to regulate their lives accordingly.