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reason are the guides which are often pointed out to demonstrate his existence; yet every one must be aware that these auxiliaries, notwithstanding all their deductions, are to us truly unavailing. To get out of the circle of these perplexities, I know of no way, but by confiding in the knowledge of those principles that are the result of long experience and observation, principles, which indicate, that the laws of nature are invariable, and governed by a power altogether unintelligible, except by recognizing it, as a quality inherent in matter, and which, to the philosophic mind, is sufficient, to explain the phenomena that are continually presenting themselves, throughout the extensive regions of the universe. It has not been without a due consideration of the effects, which such opinions as these, would have upon the great bulk of mankind, that I feel convinced of their truth. If you call them Atheistical, because they cannot recognize, in the arrangements of nature, a personal deity, I must remind you, that, in all its bearing, according to Lord Bacon, Atheism, leaves men to philosophy, to good nature, to human laws, and to reputation. It is by the study of nature alone, that we can ever really know ourselves, and while those systems are followed, that have nothing to recommend them, but the most offensive superstition, the pure principles of morality, will always be perverted. In my enquiries upon this subject," i have been constantly guided by the best of motives, and if I have differed from you, upon what is considered the great leading doctrines of religion, it is possible, that those views, will lead you to a more extensive revisal of the whole affair, than what you have hitherto known. Think seriously, and perhaps, our sentiments will be more congenial. You have already made a candid avowal that you know nothing of heaven. Had you been guided in your views, upon this subject, as a believer in Christianity, you could have referred me to a variety of informations concerning these celestial regions. The revelations of John, furnish an ample scope, for the reverie to dwell upon; though, to a thinking mind, they must appear as nothing more, than the ravings of a bedlamite. I cannot think that had you possessed any knowledge of this unknown country, you would have been so uncourteous, to withhold it; I believe, you are, like the rest of mankind, in total darkness regard
Divines, notwithstanding their boasted knowledge in these matters, have, in their calm and reflecting moments, felt like other men. Blair in his poem “ The Grave," has even doubted the immortality of the soul
“() that some courteous ghost would blab it out,
What 'tis we are, and we must shortly be,” Are words, that certainly denote doubt, and when we call into view, the general tenor of his sentiments, we cannot consider them in any other light than being strictly orthodox; Blair assuredly
possessed the genius of a poet, though he has written with all the rancour of a bigot. I never peruse the beautiful lines by Campbell, “ On the grave of a Suicide,” but, I contrast his generous sentiments, with the cruel, illiberal spirit, that prevails upon this subject in the poem of the grave. The feelings of Campbell do him honor; while those of Blair, will always excite the just indignation of every virtuous man. However, as this is rather departing from the particular theme, that I have entered upon, I must, before I proceed farther, entreat you, to explain to me the subject of Deity. Demonstrate that a being exists, such as the Christians worship; unfold to me, the nature of his existence; reconcile the inconsistent, and truly absurd qualities, that are always attached to him; and I will surrender to you, all the knowledge that I have studiously obtained, during the persevering industry of many years.. You will, perhaps, reply, that it remains with me, to give all this demonstration, for you have, when speaking of the Sun standing still, told me, that it is my province, to explain to you the qualities of your God; but as I cannot believe in the existence of such a capricious being, or for one moment, seriously, the miraculous absurdities imputed to him, the onus prabandi entirely rests with you, you have affirmed the things, and I have denied them. I have therefore nothing to prove. You have again and again, with the warmth of friendship, conjured me to think calmly upon the subject, I can assure you, I have long ago done so. I should have a poor opinion of the man who would assume the principles of infidelity, as they are foolishly termed, merely for the sake of being considered singular. I should pity the weakness of any one who had not been brought to this mode of thinking, by a fair process of reasoning, as much as, I would admire the firmness of him, who had the energy of intellect, to think boldly for himself. What I have stated, will, therefore, I hope, convince you, that it is upon no slight consideration, that my sentiments are so very different from yours. No change of fortune, no situation, in which fate may place me, will ever eradicate principles so firmly supported. I have had a trial in my mind, regarding the truth of them, and can laugh at the folly of men, such as Addison, insinuating, that it is only in the vigour of health and prosperity, that these maxims are maintained; when death approaches, the horrors of it, they say, often change the scene. In former times, when the dominion of priestcraft was more extensive, instances of this kind might have frequently happened; even not long ago, the recantation of the weak minded Dr. Bateman, gave a triumph to the enemies of truth! every Methodistical Magazine, in the country teemed with the accounts of this supposed victory, but in general such pitiful death-bed repentance is seldom heard of. The progress of knowledge, is advanced so far, that those who become converts to the cause, are too deeply fixed, in their opinions, to disturb them. I have experienced all the feelings which the pros
pect of dissolution could possibly create; yet, it never made me swerve from those ideas, which in the vigour of health, I tenaciously cherished. Overcome with the dire effects of a most violent disease, which removed me, for some years, from the bustle of the world, I often felt an inward pleasnre, in commnnicating my sentiments, to the friendly physician, who attended me, and who was like every intelligent son of Æsculapius, devoted to the principles of Materialism. When I had no other eonsolation, but the thoughts of death, to alleviate my miseries, the notion of a Heaven, or a Hell, appeared to me, as they really are, the mere invention of priests. At one period of my illness, I endured many calamities, and I well knew, that in the grave, my sorrows would cease, I dwelt with satisfaction, on the anticipation of that event, when the feeble lamp of life, was to expire. Amidst such troubles my worn-out heart, often wished the change “ dull oblivion,” I was convinced would follow; for I felt settled in the idea, that neither the sweets of pleasure, nor the agonies of pain, could ever be known, in the gloomy mansions of the tomb. These remarks have extended this letter to an unusual length; but, they are perhaps, nevertheless, necessary. The statements in my last epistle, have gone far, to destroy the proof, upon which Christianity is formed, what you have brought forward, in reply, evinces strongly, that it has no firm foundation, but as you do not seem to yield to observations, the force of which, is only covered by deep rooted prejudice, I have embraced another consideration that is equally connected with the subject. You may tell me, as you have done on a former occasion, that this point, is not the question, and cannot materially affect the leading doctrines of your religion, I however, maintain, that before setting out, upon such a bewildered tract, as that which the discussions of any system of theology present, the personal existence of God should be first settled. If the various effects, that every where prevail in nature, can be referred to the action of that general principle which is never separated from matter, it will at once shake the basis, not only of the system recognized by Christians, but shew, that all religions have received their origin, from one polluted source, which, when properly examined, unfolds to our view, the sad and lamentable picture of a few designing knaves, operating with success, upon the credulity and ignorance of a large portion of mankind.' The expression of your wishes for me to consider the subject seriously, has induced me to enter into some detail, and if any thing has been said, that can be deemed superfluous, I beg you will overlook it. I feel a confidence in all I have advanced; and if you have any reply, be assured, that I will use no delay, in offering to you, a more enlarged developement of my principles.
With my best wishes, I remain, yours, &c.
EXTRACT FROM A LETTER FROM A YORK.
“ The Newgate Magazine" promises to be a very useful publication. One would suppose, that some effect would be wrought on the foolish persecutors, when they see the number of clever young writers they are bringing forward against the system.
I am much pleased with Mr. Toulmin's “ Antiquity and Duration of the World." Can
inform me when it was first published *?
At page 264, No. 9, Vol. X. of “ The Republican,” Mr. William Fitton says, “ Memory is a constituent part of the mind. Now, if memory be nothing more than an impression made on the brain, wbich is material, by w bat means is it retained, seeing that the brain like every other portion of the healthy body is always throwing off the old particles, and receiving depositious of new matter in their stead. That recollection is retained, notwithstanding this continual change going on in the brain, will not be disputed.” A little below, he asks rather triumphantly, “ How, upon the principle of materialism, do you account for this?" I will endeavour to answer the question. In the earlier part of my life, I spent a few years in the sea service, and there I saw numbers of sailors with various marks upon the skin, such as ships, anchors, initials, &c. Now, Mr. F. will hardly deny that the particles of the skin are not as often renewed as those of the brain, yet the marks are indelible, unless the skin itself be destroyed. And what are they but impressions on matter? Similar in every respect to memory, only more permanent.
I did not want any thing new to disgust me with religion; but a case has just occurred in my practice (it is certainly not an uncommon one) wbich shews its baneful influence in very strong colours. An amiable young lady who is just dead of a consumption, snd who I have every reason to believe, was as virtuous as any of her sex, had her last moments embittered by the fear of a future state, continually thinking that she had not been so good as she ought to have
* Toulmin's “ Antiquity and Duration of the World” was first published in 1780; and his “Eternity of niverse” ip 1785, by Johnson the then publisher in St. Paul's Church Yard, London,
been. Ab! religion, thou curse on the human race! I cannot belp pitying many of thy miserable votaries. Other animals are happily insensible of thy maligo influence, although they have been sacrificed by thousands at thy sbrine!
QUERIES For the consideration of those who feel inclined to use their
1. Have we not the clearest demonstration, that all the religious systems in the world, are a mixture of truth and fables, in which the absurdities, are the most conspicuous ?
2. Have we not the clearest demonstration, that each nation considers its own system, an exception from the General rule?
3. Do they not all proceed upon the assumption that the actions and opinions which are useless and often injurious to men are most acceptable to Deity ?
4. Does not this assumption proceed from another assumption, that the power that governs the universe is subject to the variable feelings which are peculiar to the animal kingdom?
5. Does this not proceed from another assumption that the infinite eternal and unchangeable power“ whose agency directs the atom and controlls tbe aggregate of matter” and which constitutes the property of motion in matter, is animated and intelligent?
6. Does this not proceed from another asssumption, “ that the present property of motion, which exists in matter, and which is now known to belong to it, was a posterior communication, and did pot originally belong to it?
7. Does not this proceed upon another assumption, “ that matter in mass had a beginving ?”
8. Is there any demonstrable evidence, that matter in mass ever bad a beginning ?