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"In order to be effectual, to be acknowledged by God, and accompanied by his power, they (the sacraments) must be administered by those who have received a commission for the purpose from him.""None can possess authority to administer the sacraments but those who have received a commission from the bishops of the church."—"Great is the guilt and imminent the danger of those who negligently or wilfully continue in a state of separation from the authorised ministrations of the church, and participate of ordinances administered by an irregular and invalid authority"-" wilfully rending the peace and unity of the church, by separating from the administration of its authorised priesthood; obstinately contemning the means which God has prescribed for their salvation. They are guilty of rebellion against the almighty Lawgiver and Judge; they expose themselves to the awful displeasure of that almighty Jehovah, who will not suffer his institutions to be contemned, or his authority violated, with impunity." Ib. pp. 198-200: 203-4. This is all fair as a matter of trade. The rivalry for adher ents constantly carried on among the various denominations of Christians, justifies every divine in endeavouring to draw as many gulls to his shop as possible; and the end must sanctify the means.
From this nonsense, advanced even by wise men, with a view of promoting their interests, it is pleasant to turn to the writings of philosophers who have not the same inducements.
Thomas Jefferson speaks of religion as every man of common sense, not under the influence of early impressions before the mind is capable of distinguishing right from wrong, thinks; and as every honourable man, who wishes to benefit his species, ought to express himself.
The following sentiments are extracted from his correspondence with his old revolutionary colleague, John Adams, whose minds seem in perfect unison on the subject treated of; both must be actuated by the purest motives of humanity, as no sinister views could possibly be entertained at the late period in which the letters were written.
"I remember to have heard Dr. Priestleysay, that if all England would candidly examine themselves, and confess, they would find that unitarianism was really the religion of all. It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one: to divido mankind by a single letter into homoousians and homoiousians. But this constitutes the craft, the power, and the profit of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of factitious religion, and they would catch no more flies. We should all then, like the Quakers, live without an order of priests, moralize for ourselves, follow the oracle of conscience, and say nothing about what no man can understand nor therefore believe; for I sup
pose belief to be the assent of the mind to an intelligible proposition." Vol. iv. p. 205.
"The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrine of Christ levelled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw in the mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system, which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power, and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them; and for this obvious reason, that nonsense can never be explained. Their purposes, however, are answered. Plato is canonized; and it is now deemed as impious to question his merits as those of an apostle of Jesus." Ib. p. 242.
"The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.
"1. That there are three Gods.-2. That good works, of the love of our neighbour, are nothing.-3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.-4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use.
5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter,
"Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian; he who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus, or the impious dogmatists, as Athanasius and Calvin ?" Ib. p. 349.
"The wishes expressed in your last favour, that I may continue in life and health until I become a Calvinist, would make me immortal. I can never join Calvin in addressing his God. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be; or rather his religion was dæmonism. If ever man worshipped a false God, he did. The being described in his five points, is not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the creator and benevolent governor of the world; but a dæmon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin. Indeed, I think that every Christian sect gives a great handle to atheism by their general dogma, that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of a God. Now, one-sixth of mankind only are supposed to be Christians: the other fivesixths then, who do not believe in the Jewish and Christian revelation, are without a knowledge of the existence of a God!" Ib. p. 363.
"The result of your fifty or sixty years of religious reading in the four words, Be just and good,' is that in which all our inquiries must end; as the riddles of all the priesthoods end in four
more, 'Ubi panis, ibi deus.'" Ib. p. 300. Where there is bread, there is God. That is, whatever religion is most conducive to the interests of the clergy, that they will preach. This is what the professors of every other kind of business do. If any community of people should prefer five wheels to a coach, and would give high prices for such, a coach-maker would act very unwisely to refuse to accommodate them. The clergy are, therefore, not so much to blame as the people who take their quack medicines and pay very dear for them. If praying be of any service, every one knows what he stands most in need of, and should therefore prefer his own petitions, instead of paying others for doing it. And as for moral instruction, there are certainly books enough extant upon that subject, the cost of which is nothing in comparison to what is paid for oral sermons.
Let the people shake off the shackles with which they are bound by the existing priestcraft, and profess a manly religion, founded upon moral virtue alone, divested of all creeds, as the sure and only foundation of happiness here and hereafter, and they would soon find teachers enough who would accommodate themselves to their wishes. In this case, useful, scientific instruction would form a prominent part of the preacher's duty. How much more pleasant and satisfactory would such a course be, than in listening to the eternal repetition of stupid, unintelligible dogmas, which can never be of the least possible advantage.
The religious opinions of Jefferson, Franklin, John Adams, and a host of wise and good men in Europe and America, differ in no respect from those of Thomas Paine. Yet he has been singled out particularly as a mark for the priesthood to aim their most deadly shafts. This, no doubt, arose from fear that his writings would prove more destructive to the craft than those of other liberal writers, on account of the bold, plain common sense which distinguishes his compositions.
Mr. Paine's natural goodness of heart seems to have rendered him sceptical in the prevailing religious dogmas, at an early period. He says, "from the time I was capable of conceiving an idea and acting upon it by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the Christian system, or thought it to be a strange affair; I scarcely know which it was, but I well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon read upon the Redemption, by the death of the Son of God. After the sermon was ended, I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard; it was to me a serious reflection, arising from the idea I had, that God was too good to do such an action, and also too almighty to be under the necessity of doing it. I believed in the same manner to this moment."
Of Jesus Christ he speaks in the following terms: "The morality that he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind; according to his declarations, in the 25th chapter of
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