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three ideas totally distinct came to take place and assume the name of religion--what connexion they have in nature-whether they may not be separated without injury to morality; and, finally, having thus stripped morality of the load with which it has been incumbered, we shall then see what ought to be the idea or definition of true religion.

As it would take up too much time to examine the whole of these propositions, we shall content ourselves with an investigation of the probable origin of rites, ceremonies, and creeds. In all ages mankind have believed in the existence of celestial beings, who have been supposed to direct the affairs of this lower world, and have been anxious to know their will, and as far back as the history of man has been preserved, the practice was to have recourse to oracles; and, frequently, it is said, anticipating the wishes of man, communicated their will in dreams or visions: but as oracles and dreams were always ambiguous, a class of men sprung up, who, taking advantage of the passions of the ignorant, pretended to a superior skill in the interpretation of these imaginary enigmas : this was found to be so profitable an employment, that its professors, desirous of converting it into a trade, wherein many hands might be employed, under the direction, and for the emolument of one chief; taught their pupils that certain appearances in nature, denoted certain purposes of the gods ; hence the management of the Urim and Thummim among the Jews, which answers to the purpose of reading cards or cups, by old women of the present day : of the same kind also, were predictions from the appearance of the entrails of sacrificed animals, and the manner of the flight of birds. This was the origin of the priesthood and of priestcraft

. Afterwards the followers of the craft

, while they were deceiving the world by lies, were themselves deceived, believing, as they did, implicitly in the correspondences taught or transmitted to them fron, the first deceivers.

As the whole invention of converting lying into a trade was only that its followers might live in splendid idleness; and as money was not then a representative for wealth, sacrifices and offerings were invented : the first to satisfy the hunger of the priests, the second to procure them the gratification of their sions : and as in those days the people were accustomed to Inature ter, and to give one substantial object for another, it was neneither sary to give them some plausible reason that might satisfy on ar minds of the people, as to the strange absurdity and injustice ta taking a bullock, or a ram of the best of their flocks for that which cost nothing, they were therefore told, that these sacrifices and offerings were pleasing and acceptable to the gods, and that for these small donations, or rather bribes, the heavenly powers would be propitious, and change their absolute decrees.

This period of deception may be called the age of oracles, and it lasted as long as the priests were moderate in their demands;

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while they preserved some show of decency in their manners, and while the characters and actions of their gods were such as indicate a divine origin ;, but when the priests became too rapacious and greedy, and when their morals and the morals ascribed to their gods grew to be so dissolute and abandoned that they had more the appearance of demons and tyrants, than of gods, and men desirous of the happiness of the human race, then this superstition, after combating with reason for several centuries, was obliged to give place to another equally absurd and wicked, but which in its commencement gained the approbation of the people by the purity of the lives of the first promulgators; this is the doctrine of discovering the will of gods from books of scripturo. Oracles or dreams were then said to be abandoned as improper means of communicating the will of gods to men.

Demons, it is said, had taken advantage of those means and had egregiously deceived the people, insomuch, that the will of demons or evil spirits were generally substituted for that of the true God. A doctrine which gained an easy belief from the people of those times, as the will of the gods expressed by the oracles tended more frequently to the destruction than preservation of mankind. It was said, also, that to prevent the interference of devils or false (lying) gods, the only true God had written or caused to be written in some ancient manuscript books, some of them in the language of Paradise which was almost forgotten, and hardly understood, and others in the prevailing language of that time, which was the Greek ; that they ordered these books to be collected and preserved for the instruction of men in all ages and in every nation ; and he promises, that this shall be his unalterable will and last testament ; that he will no longer confuse or perplex the people of the earth with new regulations and laws; and finally, that he would, to the end of time, continue a succession of priests whose trade it should be to interpret those books, and reconcile their contradictions, for which they are to receive money, and thereby put an end to sacrifices.

It is evident that the inventors of this doctrine had the same end in view, with those others who invented correspondences and intje interpretation of dreams : namely, to form it into a trade or puaft for the mutual benefit of the concerned : though some

işod people have been surprised that there ever should exist Twuch villany as to impose upon mankind by falsifying the divine weing, and making God as it were accessary to their crimes. To which it may be answered, that this species of villany proceeds from a most accursed principle, which never was more prevalent than

now, namely, “That such is the perverse nature of man, so prone is he to do evil that it is necessary to deceive him in order that he may be persuaded to pursue his own good.

." Let a man's mind be possessed of this principle, and add to it talents and op portunity, and he will not hesitate to raise his fortune and power by taking sacrilegious liberties with the character of the Supreme Intelligence.

Having got possession of some of those books, and having reserved to themselves the interpretation of them, they began to teach the world doctrines suited to their own views and interest, all of which will be examined in due time, by the eye of reason and the standard of nature. It was unfortunate for mankind that there should be so many books (written in different centuries, and by men of contrary sentiments) exhibited to the world as the will of God, and holding out, as these books do, the character of the Deity, in so many different points of view ; sometimes as a sanguinary tyrant, who cannot be satisfied but by blood and sacrifices, and every species of absurd formality ;-at other times as a kind, beneficent being, who held sacrifices, new moons, and the most solemn meetings as an abomination ;--at one time declaring himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and afterwards professing to be the God of the whole earth. In one book issuing a decree that the children shall bear the sins of their fathers even to the third and fourth generation, and in another repealing that law when it became disagreeable to the people, and they had made use of a taunting proverb concerning it, viz. “ The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge by it.” Jer. 21, 29. These contradictions could not fail to cause dispute, but they have done more, they have been the cause of bloody and destructive wars, which have not only disgraced religion, but human nature, and put back the age of reason for many centuries. This was an accident, however, that was unavoidable, for the Jews had from a national pride, and by universal consent, consecrated all their ancient books that were saved after their return from Babylon, and the first Christians, however willing they might be, had not sufficient authority to bring in question the fact of their inspiration.

Towards the end of the age of oracles, and the commencement of the age we are now speaking of, which may be termed the age of scripture belief, every thing written in the ancient Hebrew tongue, was sought after with wonderful avidity: lature was a mania that possessed the world at that time, as antiqlither medals and pictures have done at other periods ; they sought f them as for hidden treasure, and every fragment that could be rescued from obscurity and the teeth of time, was considered of inestimable value. It was the same with any Greek cpistle or fragment that in the slightest manner mentioned the name of Jesus Christ or his disciples. This mania lasted for several centuries, during which time the scriptures, or manuscripts which they called the word of God, were growing in the bulk and mend ter for disputation. Forgeries of epistles and gospels in Greas were numerous ; those in Hebrew were fewer, because not ma



understood that language ; besides there were more scripture already in the Hebrew, than suited the doctrines which the first Christians were anxious to establish. For a long time, therefore, it was the wish of many that several of the Hebrew books were out of the sacred catalogue, it was found so difficult to make them bend to the new opinions.

When the age of scripture belief was in its full ; and the people as ignorant as could be wished by designing men, a council was called who took upon them to determine upon the validity of the last will and testament of Almighty God. By this council several of the books were deprived of their sacred character; but whether the true or the forged is uncertain.

From that period the teachers and the taught have been equally deceiving and deceived ; we do not, therefore, charge any Christians of the present day with preaching a false doctrinc on purpose to deceive ; but we say of them as Charles V., Emperor of Germany, said of Luther and Calvin—they are seduced by their own opinions, and that their own interest, coupled with that most abominable of all principles mentioned above, namely, that men inust be deceived for their own good, causes them to despise the dictates of reason, and assist in perpetuating the deception.

The age of scripture belief has been the most dreadful æra, and the most calamitous to the human race that history has recorded. In one war, the crusades, which was about a rotten piece of wood, the cross of Christ, there was more money spent, blood shed, cruelties committed, than in any war either before or since. At the taking of Jerusalem 20,000 Turks were slain, and notwithstanding a proclamation of pardon, the Christians put to death all the Turks found in the city, without regard to age or sex, with the same zeal, as the authors of those days call it, wherewith Saul slew the Gibeonites.

It is not my intention at this time to enumerate the evils that this system has occasioned. Experience has sufficiently shown how miserable man has been during the whole age of scripture belief, and that the system itself is giving way very fast to the li-ht of reason, which alone can give man an adequate idea of

intelligent first cause and of the means which he has provided pur improvement and happiness.

is only my intention to show that the true God can only be known by the investigation of reason contemplating the mighty frabric of the universe, and perceiving throughout the whole a unity of design and a wonderful contrivance. This is the first perception or glimpse of the Deity ; the actions upon which all our future reasonings must be founded, and from which all the knowledge we can attain of him or of his ways with man is drawn. By beginning at the source we shall see nothing in the Supreme Intelligence but immense goodness and power, no partialities, no injustice or eternal punishment for crimes of a moment, or for


of a

acting in obedience to the unalterable laws of nature. -Led by the light of reason man will perform his duty as a son under the eye

kind parent ; he will perform his duty because he sees iť to be the road to self-satisfaction, and that he is acting a part in a great work, which he is desirous of seeing accomplished. He considers himself as belonging to the great family of mankind, and is assured that his own happiness cannot be complete without a regard to the happiness of the whole family. In his opinion, heaven itself could not be the seat of happiness, if such a place as hell has an existence in the universe. But he who has no other check to his vicious propensities but a fear of hellfire, thinks that were that obstacle removed, man would riot in vice and in the gratification of every lust, little loes he think that virtue


be loved and followed with as much ardour, if not more, than vice, when we have a good opinion of the justice and goodness of God. But how is it possible men should be virtuous when the God they pretend to worship is represented as a tyrant, and unjust, whose forgiveness for an ill spent life may be obtained by the most ridiculous ceremonies or foolish credulity.

We have, therefore, undertaken to expose and set in its true light the character of the God of the Hebrews as it is represented in the first books of the Bible, to show that he was not the true God, but an imaginary being conjured up to serve the political purposes of Moses--to show also that men who believe in such a God cannot be virtuous, or good citizens, or believe in the true God; and this is the only reason why so much iniquity abounds.

Although the three æras that I have noticed are remarkable in the history of human mind, yet it must not be understood that I think the principles of the Age of Reason have never made their appearance; because I place that æra as following the other two, or that there are no other æras-no-the case is, that although there never has been an æra which could be justly denominated the Age of Reason, yet its principles have been recognised in all ages, and in every country were there have been men who had courage to divest themselves of the prevailing prejudices, and us: the faculties of their own minds to discover truth ; and severre of the authors of the Bible were certainly men of this descher tion ; such were the authors of the book of Job ; of some of opre Psalms and several chapters of Isaiah, (for both these books appear to be a collection,) and also the prophet Malachi and Jesus the son of Sirach, (apocryphal,) and finally Jesus Christ himself and the authors of the Apostles and Jude--all these were men evidently exercising their own reason on the works of God, in regard to which men will in all ages, and in every country without communication with each other, have nearly the same sentiments, and be prompted by reflection to the same duties:-Unis versal good will and peace to man.

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