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From what cause it was that the intention was not put in execu. tion, I know not, and cannot inform myself: and therefore I ascribe it to impossibility, on account of that illness.
The Convention, to repair as much as lay in their power the injustice I bad sustained, invited me publicly and unanimously to return into the Convention, and which I accepted, to show I could bear an injury without permitting it to injure my principles, or my disposition. It is not because right principles have been violated, that they are to be abandoned.
I have seen, since I have been at liberty, several publications written, some in America, and some in England, as answers to the former part of “ The Age of Reason." If the authors of these can amuse themselves by so doing, I shall not interrupt them. They may write against the work, and against me, as much as they please: they do me more service than they intend, and I can have no objection that they write on. They will find, however, by this second part, without its being written as an answer to them, that they must return to their work, and spin their cobweb over again. The first is brushed away by accident.
They will now find that I have furnished myself with a Bible and Testament, and I can say also, that I have found them to be much worse books than I had conceived. If I have erred in any thing, in the former part of the Age of Reason, it has been by speaking better of some parts of those books than they deserved.
I observe, that all my opponents resort, more or less, to what they call Scripture Evidence and Bible Authority, to help them out They are so little masters of the subject, as to confound a disputo about authenticity with a dispute about doctrines; I will, however, put them right, that if they should be disposed to write any more, they may know how to begin. Oct. 1795.
AGE OF REASON.
It has often been said that any thing may be proved from the Bible; but before any thing can be admitted as proved by the Bible, the Bible itself must be proved to be true ; for if the Bible be not true, or the truth of it be doubtful, it ceases to have authority, and cannot be admitted as proof of any thing.
It has been the practice of all Christian commentators on the Bible, and of all Christian priests and preachers, to impose the Bible on the world as a mass of truth, and as the word of God; they have disputed and wrangled, and have anathematised each other about the supposable meaning of particular parts and passages therein ; one bas said and insisted that such a passage meant such a thing ; another that it meant directly the contrary: and a third, that it neither meant one nor the other, but something different from both; and this they call understanding the Bible.
It has happened, that all the answers which I have seen to the former
part of the Age of Reason have been written by priests, and these pious men, like their predecessors, contend and wrangle, and pretend to understand the Bible ; each understands it differently, but each understands it best: and they have agreed in nothing but in telling their readers that Thomas Paine understands it not.
Now, instead of wasting their time, and heating themselves in fractious disputations about doctrinal points drawn from the Bible, these men ought to know, and if they do not, it is civility to inform them, that the first thing to be understood is, whether there is sufficient authority for believing the Bible to be the word of God, or whether there is not.
There are matters in that book, said to be done by the express command of God, that are as shocking to buinanity, and to every idea we have of moral justice, as any thing done by Robespierre, by Carrier, by Joseph le Bon, in France; by the English government, in the East Indies; or by any other assassin in modern times. When we read in the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, &c., that they (the Israelites) came by stealth upon whole nations of people, who, as the history itself shews had given them no offence : that
they put all those nations to the sword ; that they spared neither age nom infancy; that they utterly destroyed men, women, and children viar they left not a soul to breathe ; expressions that are repeated over and over again in those books, and that too with exulting ferocity; are we sure these things are facts ? are we sure that the Creator of man commissioned these things to be done ? are we sure that the books that tell us so were written by bis authority ?
It is not the antiquity of a tale, that is any evidence of its truth; on the contrary, it is a symptom of its being fabulous ; for the more ancient any history pretends to be, the more it bas the resem. blance of a fable. The origin of every nation is buried in fabulous tradition, and that of the Jews is as much to be suspected as any other. To charge the commission of acts upon the Almighty, which in their own nature, and by every rule of moral justice, ane crimes, as all assassination is, and more especially the assassination of infants, is matter of serious concern. "The Bible tells us, that those assassinations were done by the express command of God. * To believe therefore the Bible to be true, we must unbelieve all our belief in the moral justice of God : for wherein could crying or smiling infants offend? And to read the Bible without borror, we must undo every thing that is tender, sympathising, and benevolent in the heart of man. Speaking for myself, if I had no other evidlence that the Bible is fabulous, than the sacrifice I must make to believe it to be true, that alone would be sufficient to determine my choice.
But, in addition to all the moral evidence against the Bible, I will in the progress of this work, produce such other evidence, as even a priest cannot deny: and show from that evidence, that the Bible is not entitled to credit, as being the word of God.
But, before I proceed to this examination, I will show wherein the Bible differs from all other ancient writings with respect to the nature of the evidence necessary to establish its authenticity; and this is the more proper to be done, because the advocates of the Bible, in their answers to the former part of the Age of Reason, undertake to say, and they put some stress thereon, that the authenticity of the Bible is as well established, as that of any other ancient book; as if our belief of the one could become any rule for our belief of the other.
I know, however, but of one ancient book that authoritatively challenges universal consent and belief; and that is Euclid's Elements of Geometry;* and the reason is, because it is a book of self-evident demonstration, entirely independent of its author, and of every thing relating to time, place, and circumstance. The matters contained in that book, would have the same authority they now bave, had they been written by any other person, or had
• Euclid, according to chronological history, lived three hundred years before Christ, and about one hundred before Archimedes; he was of the city of Alexandria, in Egypt.
the work been anonymous, or had the author never been known
; for the identical certainty of who was the author, makes no part of our delief of the matters contained in the book. But it is quite otherwise with respect to the books ascribed to Moses, to Joshua, to Samuel, &c. Those are books of testimony, and they testify of things naturally incredible; and therefore the whole of our belief, as to the authenticity of those books, rests, in the first place, upon the certainty that they were written by Moses, Joshua, and Samuel ; secondly, upon the credit we give to their testimony. We may believe the first—that is, we may believe the certainty of the authorship—and yet not the testimony: in the same manner that we may believe that a certain person gave evidence upon a case, and yet not believe the evidence that he gave. But if it should be found, that the books ascribed to Moses, Joshua, and Samuel, were not written by Moses, Joshua, and Samuel, every part of the authority and authenticity of those books is gone at once; for there can be no such thing as forged or invented testimony; neither can there be anonymous testimony, more especially as to things na. turally incredible-such as that of talking with God face to face, or that of the sun and moon standing still at the command of a man. The greatest part of the other ancient books are works of genius ; of which kind are those ascribed to Homer, to ato, to Aristotle, to Demosthenes, to Cicero, &c. Here again the author is not an essential in the credit we give to any of those works ; for, as works of genius, they would have the same merit they have now, were they anonymous. Nobody believes the Trojan story, as related by Homer, to be true : for it is the poet only that admired; and the merit of the poet will remain, though the story be fabulous. But, if we disbelieve the matters related by the Bible authors, (Moses, for instance,) as we disbelieve the things related by Homer, there remains nothing of Moses in our estimation but an impostor. As to the ancient historians, from Herodotus to Tacitus, we credit them as far as they relate things probable and credible, and no further ; for if we do, we must believe the two miracles which Tacitus relates were performed by Vespasian, that of curing a lame man and a blind man, in just the same manner as the same things are told of Jesus Christ by bis historians. We must also believe the miracle cited by Josephus, that of the sea of Pamphilia opening to let Alexander and his army pass, as is related of the Red Sea, in Exodus. These miracles are quite as well authenticated as the Bible miracles, and yet we do not believe them ; consequently the degree of evidence necessary to establish our belief of things naturally incredible, whether in the Bible or elsewhere, is far greater than that which obtains our belief to natural and probable things; and therefore the advocates for the Bible have nc claim to our belief of the Bible, because that we believe things stated in other ancient writings; since we believe the things stated in those writings no further than they are probable and credible