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and that we have sold a vast number more than this calculation shews. There were as many copies of the first twelve Nos, of the Republican sold in 1819 There were at least thirty thousand Nos. of the Deist sold in that year; besides other books and pamphlets. But here is a number to fix upon, an hundred and twenty thousand of spirit stirring books, of the price of one shilling each, tbrown into the system against Christianity; besides what good has been done through the newspapers and other periodical publications, and by other publishers.
The Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, or the Bible Societies, or the Religious Tract Societies, may be each able to shew, that, in regard to amount of printing, they have exceeded me above all comparison. It may be so, but can they shew a book, that refutes any one of my books? or can they say, that their publications stand the least chance where an individual reads both sides of the question ? Not the least: and they know it. Therefore, though mine is a real opposition to them, they have no power with the press to oppose me. They do but excite the appetite for enquiry. Not one of their books will satisfy and compose an enquiring mind; and wberever mine go, all that they have done before we is nothing; in fact, they cannot move without doing mischief to themselves; for their books act but as beralds to the ignorant, to say, that there are better books to be met with. If you saints were wise, you would keep your money in your pockets, print nothing, say notbing, and leave it to the Anti-Christians to stir up the ignorant to evquiry. Enquiry is death to Christianity.
The Republican has become your terror, confined as is its circulation; and terrific as it bas hitherto been, you will see it come forth with new powers in the ensuing year.
I find it exciting the most intense interest in new quarters, the demand for sets, which we cannot supply, goes on increasing, and I hope, that, in auother year, the demand will be sufficient to encourage me to reprint every part that is out of print. The work contains the very essence of every thing that can be brought against you, and, in truth, though I say it, it is, with the Newgate Magazine, the only periodical work in existence, that fairly clears the way for good government.
You may succeed in throwing me out of the present place of its publication, but this will not affect its publication in another place. War with you I will have, at 84, Fleet Street, or at some other house, there or elsewhere.
R. CARLILE. Dorchester Gaol, Dec. 27, 1824.
TO MR. R. CARLILE, DORCHESTER GAOL.
Edinburgh, December 16, 1824. Having just read the number of your Republican for November 19 and 26, I write to send you some observations on them.
In reviewing the boasted sermon by Jesus Christ, on the mount, or on the plain, you have displayed great boldness in attacking, and much acumén in criticising it. You have made many correct observations on the doctrines and instructions contained in it. Your criticism is probably too severe for some readers, and certainly will irritate your enemies; but you have taken some revenge on your oppressors, in thus criticising that sermon to death. Altogether, it is a poor production, and utterly unworthy of the praises that have been lavished upon it. Very little of it deserves any praise; many of the directions given in it are either impracticable, or would be pernicious, and deserve all the condemnation you have passed upon them: but it bears internal evidence, that it is a mere patch-work of the authors own compiling; and never was delivered as a real sermon, by Jesus Christ, or any one else.
I have been much amused by reading in some late Republicans, the correspondence between the Doctor and the Unitarian preacher in Dundee; the last two letters from the Doctor are admirable ; but I think you rather undervalue the merits of the preacher; he has made great exertions to support a bad cause, which he certainly thinks good. Had the Evangelists possessd learning and abilities equal to his, they would have written much better books.
Had the correspondence been continued by the Doctor, I should not have troubled myself, or you, with this communication, but as it is likely to be diopt, I propose to make a few observations on the preacher's last letter. Iam of opinion that it cannot be proved, that such a person as Jesus Christ existed; but for the sake of particular argument, I shall allow that he did exist, that he lived in Judea at the time stated, that he wandered about the country teaching as stated; and that he was finally crucified at Jerusalem, for the doctrines he taught.
I shall now make a few remarks on some questions put to the Doctor concerning the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, in order to shew that there is no proof of these events. The preacher asks: “if the gloomy prospect of everlasting forgetfulness; if the prospect of the everlasting vanishment of your spirits like a vapour, can cheer you more than the assurance of inmortality ?" I answer, Materialists have as much reason to wish for a life hereafter, and future happiness as Christians have, and would believe it as sincerely, if sufficient proof of it could be shewn; but this cannot be done; even Christianity cannot give assurance of immortality. The difference between Christians and Materialists is this the mind of the Christian is guided by faith or credulity, which leads him to believe these fancied descriptions, the mind of the Materialist is guided by reason, which leads him to doubt them; and
No. 26, Vol. X.
seeing no sufficient proof of the future life and extravagant enjoyment in it, he disbelieves it.
The preacher says, “ The propagation of Christianity was an uncommon object, and required for its success uncommon events called miracles, which manifested God's patronage of Christianity," I answer that the propagation of Christianity was not so uncommon an object as the propagation of Mahometanism, which really seemed to recieive more assistance from God in its establishment, than the religion of Jesus. No miracles were necessary to establish Christianity; and none were ever wrought. We have only a collection of legendary tales about miracles performed, which some superstitious people had believed and propagated, but no proof that they were wrought. If there is a wise and omnipotent God, he ought to have taken more effectual means than these useless tricks and doubtful tales, to secure so important an object, as the happiness of mankind.
The preacher says, c. tell me what law of nature could be violated in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?” I answer, that there would indeed have been an express law of nature violated by that event, if it had taken place; a law which no man living ever saw violated. We have daily experience, that no animated being, when once really dead, is ever again brought to life; nor ought any person to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, on the hearsay testimony of such ignorant and superstitious authors as the evangelists. They did not see him rise, and they contradict one another in almost every particular concerning that reported event. The preacher asks, “ have you yet proved that the apostles did not declare that they saw Jesus alive after he was dead and buried? Or have you vet proved, that when they declared this, they declared a falsehood, though the declaration was made in the certain prospect of rousing the prejudices of the world against them, and of incurring certain misery and death itself?” I answer, that as Christians assert that the apostles saw Jesus alive after he was dead and buried, they are bound to prove that these mea said so; we have no proof that even these ignorant and superstitious apostles declared any such thing; we have only the inconsistent relations of four ignorant writers that they saw himtwo of these writers were not apostles, and could only learn the story from others, two only are said to have been apostles, but we are uncertain whether they wrote these stories or not; and their contradictions renders their testimony unworthy of credit. We have not declarations by all the apostles individually that they witnessed these things; but even if we had separate original affidavits, in the hand writing of all the apostles, that they saw Jesus rise from the grave, and saw him often alive after he was risen ; they ought not to be believed, in direct opposition to the known laws of nature, even though that declaration had been made in the certain prospect of rousing the prejudices of the world against them, and of incurring certain misery and death itself; their superstitious zeal, and the hopes of eternal feliçity in a fu
ture life for spreading the doctrines of Jesus on earth, appear to have made them venture their lives to propagate this doctrine, in the same manner as the superstitious zeal of the followers of Mahomet made them venture their lives to propagate and support that which he evidently taught.
The preacher says, “ have you yet explained how, if they were a body of impostors, they would ever think of selecting for the founder of their faith, one who died a death more ignominous than that which is in the present day inflicted by the hangman. I answer, that I do not think above one or two of the first Christians were imposters and selected their founder. Sincere but igno. rant men and very superstitious as were the first deluded, they did not select their founder, but believed a story that their original teacher suffered death unjustly*. A story was afterwards raised (like many other stories of Ghosts) that he was seen alive again after he was dead and buried, and the circumstances of his cruel death and reported appearance after it, made a deep impression on the minds of his followers and caused them to think that he was a supernatural being. The mind of man is prone to superstition, and fond of the marvellous; the more frightful a story is, it is believed among ignorant people the more fervently, and if connected with religion it is embraced with uncommon devotion : but zeal and devotion prove nothing. I have heard many a story about ghosts and apparitions better told and attested, and as firmly believed, as this of the resurrection and appearances of Jesus after his death; and have been threatened with hell for doubting them; although unconnected with Christianity. The mass of mankind are guided much more by their passions in all things than by their reason, and in matters of religion, reason is generally condemned; they are so driven on by superstitious fears, that they dare not examine the foundation of religion.
The preacher again asks, “have you yet explained how a man of talent and of the most violent prejudices against Christianity, could all on a sudden abandon Gamaliel, disappoint the hopes of his friends, incur the hatred of almost his whole countrymen to whom he was enthusiastically attached, become the brother and apostle of the depised sect which he hated with the most rancorous inveteracy, and run in the face of the most direful persecutions, &c." I answer that the story of Paul's conversion seems very incorrect and is not supported by proof; even his sudden change from Judaism to Christianity proves nothing in favour of its divine origin, it only proves that he was an enthusiast whose mind was changed. Paul seems to have been a zealous bigot when a Jew but being struck with lightening (if the story is true) when going on a cruel errand, some strong impulse seems to have changed his mind, and he became an enthusiastic Christian, like all men who are driven by passion or superstition, and not guided by reason. He ran from one extreme to another; but the story of his conversion is very incorrectly told and it ought not
* Such was the story among the Pagans about Prometheus. R.C.
to be trusted. The author of Acts relates it in one manner, and makes Paul himself to relate it in another; he says, chap. ix. ver. 7, that the men who were with Paul heard a voice but saw no man; yet in another place chap. xxii. ver. 9, he makes Paul to say, that they heard not the voice that spake to him. Paul was a man whose word should not be much trusted: he several times contradicted himself; and in claiming the power to work miracles, he seems to have stuck at no assertion that would promote the cause he had embraced.
The preacher again asks “ Have you proved that Jesus did not really die, and that he rose only by the recurrence of the smothered but not extinguished spark of life?" I answer, that it is a weak and unnecessary position to assume, that Jesus was only apparently dead, and came again to life. If Jesus was really crucified and had his side pierced with a spear as related; I have no doubt that he really died; and as little doubt that he never rose again; and am quite satisfied that the whole story of his resurrection and ascension is a superstitious legend, unworthy of any credit. There is not as much evidence concerning this miraculous event, as would establish the truth of an ordinary and probable story; therefore it cannot establish the truth of one so extraordinary and utterly improbable. He says that Jesus was consigned to the cold sepulchre under the custody of a Roman Guard. This assertion is without any proof, it rests solely on Matthew's unsupported and improbable story, which is negatived by the silence of all the other Evangelists and other circmstances that render it unworthy of credit. Whoever chooses to consult the CRITICAL REMARKS ON THE TRUTH AND HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS will find that subject more fully criticised.
The preacher says, “ you have not explained how the matchless character of Jesus as described in the Evangelists could be compatible either with imposture or enthusiasm on his part, or on the part of those who describe it.” I answer, if his character has been correctly described, he has indeed been a gloomy enthusiast of great prefensions; but he has been raised by particular circumstances to an eminence which he certainly never expected; and which his own exertions and merits did not deserve: those who has described his character or rather related his actions and sayings, have evidently been ignorant enthusiasts. He continues to speak of his character as matchless, as quite superior to every thing found in history; and says, that he taught the existence, the lenity, the goodness, and the providence of God, &c. but he may be reminded, that we know very little of the personal character of Jesus except from sayings reported; many of his sayings are indeed matchless, but not quite superior to every thing found in history. He said that he came not to send peace on earth but the sword, that he came to set the father against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; and thanked his father that his peoples eyes were blinded and their hearts hardened, lest