« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ON THE CREDULITY OF MODERN SCEP
They grin; but wherefore? and how long the laugh?
To cheat the world, and cheat themselves they smile.'
Strange as it may appear to many of your readers on the first statement of the subject, I do most candidly and honestly confess, that modern infidelity, requires so much faith in its professed adherents, that I feel myself bound to reject its claims as a gross imposition upon a credulous mind.
It calls upon me, Sir, to believe moral and absolute impossibilities: and to believe them too, as the most clear, intelligible, comprehensive, and obvious matters of fact.
Scepticism discards all mysteries; therefore, I am to believe its disciples are perfectly taught the essences, modes, and properties, of every object in the natural world: they can render the union of soul and body as plain in its manner of existence, as the noonday sun; and every thing else equally pellucid. The Mosaic account of the creation, which is inimitably sublime, majestic, and expressive of Jehovah's grandeur, I am to believe, was the production of a lowminded ignorant pretender to mental superiority.
Mountains, far remote from the sea, and all the traditions of every distant land, contain the most evident proofs of the general deluge; but as it is narrated in the Bible, I must rather believe that marine substances transported themselves to the summit and centre of hills afar off, or were placed there by some unknown convulsion, and that all tradition is baseless,-than credit the testimony of holy writ.
Provided they are not a part of the sacred scriptures, the greatest absurdities may be admitted as rational,
and the most palpable contradictions, as the subjects of an implicit credence.
Six hundred thousand persons of military age, and consequently, in the full possession of both their mental and physical endowments, were delivered from the tyranny of Egypt, and a succession of miracles followed their emancipation:-a memorial of that deliverance was instituted at the very time of its accomplishment, and has been kept, without interruption, to the present day, by the Jewish nation; and yet, I am to believe the whole history of the circumstance a mere fable. I am to believe, that six hundred thousand people, and their lineal descendants from generation to generation, have been the dupes of a credulity, which it is morally and absolutely impossible for them to have admitted. As Leslie observes on this point, 'If any man should pretend, that yesterday he divided the Thames, in presence of all the people of London, and carried the whole city, men, women, and children, over to Southwark, on dry land, the waters standing like walls on both sides; it is morally impossible that he could persuade the people of London that this was true.' Well, then, to use the language of the same writer, Suppose I should now invent a story, of such a thing done a thousand years ago, I might perhaps get some to believe it; but if I say, that not only such a thing was done, but that from that day to this, every man at the age of twelve had a joint of his little finger cut off; and that every man in the nation did want a joint of such a finger; and that this institution was said to be part of the matter of fact done so many years ago, and vouched as a proof and confirmation of it, and as having descended, without interruption, and been constantly practised, in memory of such matter of fact, all along, from the time that such matter of fact was done, it is impossible I should be believed.'
The Scriptures contain a chain of predictions of infinite importance to mankind: many of those predictions have long since received their accomplishment, and others are actually fulfilling in the events of the
present day but the dictates of modern scepticism, would prompt me to believe, that absolute prescience is the mere ebullition of a disordered fancy, or the trick of a false prognosticator, who hides himself under the dubious interpretation of his own symbols, like the Pythian oracle.
The avowed enemies of Christianity have carefully preserved the laws, institutions, and ceremonies, which shadowed it forth, and prove its divine original; and that people themselves are a standing evidence of the truth of their own sacred records :-but modern scepticism requires me to believe, the peculiar state of the Jews, is not any thing extraordinary, nor an appeal to the contents of their sanctum sanctorum, in confirmation of the gospel, a defence of its authenticity.
Notwithstanding the wars, and murders, and frauds, and miseries, that have disgraced and burdened the earth, I am to believe in the absolute purity and complete innocence of human nature. Notwithstanding the poverty, weakness, and unlearned state of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, I am to believe, they overturned the deep-rooted prejudices, and long-established rites of idolatry, by the most profound artifice. Notwithstanding their personal sufferings, sacrifices, and even martyrdom in the cause which they had embraced and zealously endeavoured to propagate, I am to believe them hypocrites; yes,-in their case modern scepticism compels me to believe, that a conduct altogether disinterested arose from an odious selfishness of spirit; a contempt for the world, from an excessive attachment to its charms; and the most powerful reasonings in defence of truth, from the enthusiastic breathings of a deluded mind.
The volume of divine wisdom inculcates every duty upon the diversified classes of human society, and yet I am to believe it composed for purposes of the greatest mischief.
It says, 'He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.' 'Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings.' It is an abomination to kings to
commit wickedness; for the throne is established by righteousness.' As a roaring lion, and a raging bear, so is a wicked ruler over a poor people.' &c. But, notwithstanding these honest declarations in opposition to every species and appearance of despotism or tyranny, I am to believe the Bible to be an engine of kingcraft, and imposed upon the multitude to reconcile them to slavery. When I open the Scriptures, and read the most tremendous woes against an ungodly clergy, such as the following,-Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.' Woe to the idle shepherd, that leaveth the flock.' The shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I am against the shepherds.' The hireling fleeth, because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep' &c. &c.-I aver, Mr. Editor-when I read such plain and solemn denunciations as these, against an unprincipled self-seeking clergy, the laws, or rather madness of modern sceptism, would compel me to believe the Bible an invention of the priesthood, to preserve emoluments, without labour or responsibility, and patronage without piety.
Doctrines that have comforted thousands under the depths of affliction, and in the valley of the shadow of death, I am to believe, are the essence of gloom, and sure source of despondency.
Precepts of moral purity in all its real perfection, I am to receive as the dictates of the grossest knavery, and that religion, which has reformed the most desperate of mankind;—that religion which has made many a drunkard sober; many a covetous man, liberal; many an unkind person, feeling; and many a dishonest character, upright; I am compelled, by the principles of scepticism, to believe, has a pernicious effect in its progress.
You see, Sir, infidelity really requires so great a stretch of faith, that I am constrained to turn to the volume of life, to preserve me from the reproach
of credulity. Of late, it has been the practice of the avowed and bitter opponents of Revelation, to select certain portions of that holy Book, and recommend them to the serious attention of Christian ladies, who are endeavouring to promote the general circulation of the sacred oracles. As it suits the taste of some animals, to turn from every thing that is clean, and roll themselves in filth, as their natural element ;-and as there are creatures, to which the light of the day is inconceivably troublesome, the parts of the divine word, selected by modern infidels for the perusal of pious ladies, are neither scripture doctrines, nor scripture precepts; but faithful narratives of human depravity, and the wicked deeds of mankind, where the statutes of the Lord have been unknown, disobeyed, or treated with sceptical contempt.
Many of the crimes which are brought to light in a court of justice, either by the confessions of the culprits themselves, or by the evidence produced against them, are such as shock the sensibilities of a thoughtful man, and fill his bosom with horror; but it would be an act of insanity, to charge the subsequent record of the deed with the criminality of the offence committed. If men will be vile in their conduct; they themselves are to blame, and not the historian who relates their transgressions, as a warning to future generations. But what are we to think of the disposition and feelings of a wretch, whose senses are so debased, as to prefer the effluvia of an Augean stable, or the noxious exhalations of a putrid body, to the fragrancy of the most odoriferous flowers? What are we to think of the appetite of that man, who in his eagerness after the poison, despises its antidote?
Permit me, then, Mr. Editor, to put down a few of the leading maxims and laws of that very book, which scepticism teaches me to believe is productive of tyranny, bigotry, ignorance, persecution, cruelty, and all manner of mischief.
We have already heard its injunctions to kings and priests; and now, let us listen to its commands to other