Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

You have without doubt, citizens, heard sufficient, and in extending my reflections I should only abuse your patience. I have removed the mysterious veil and discovered to you the origin of Sunday ; I have stripped it of those vain ornaments with which the priests of all sects have, from time to time, overburthened it. I have shown it to you in the august simplicity of its primitive institution ; you have seen the Sabbath marching at the side of slavery, and following it through ages. I have presented the Sabbath to your view, overthrowing the barrier which formerly retained slavery, and stopping only in our days at the foot of the mountain.

In consulting history and reason, I have explained the mysterious fables-incited the civic spirit-urged personal interest What then at present remains for me to do? Perhaps I ought to discourse upon the Decadi, but what can I teach you respecto ing it? Originating in our day, it is well known to all of you.One of the greatest abuses of the art of speech is, I believe, that of employing it to teach what every body knows. I will content myself, citizens, with exhorting you in the name of reason, by the love you bear to your country, by your personal interest, and by all that you hold most dear, to renounce for ever the superstitious observance of a festival, which, though truly sublime and necessary at the time of its origin, is now become of no use, and even dangerous.

CHARACTER OF JESUS CHRIST. MUCH as we esteem Mr. Volney, and highly as we prize his literary productions, we cannot agree with him in doubting the existence of Jesus Christ. Although much of mythological fable has been artfully interwoven into his biography, by his interested followers, yet we fully believe that such a person lived in Judea, about two thousand years ago. Tacitus, who, by the way, is the only historian that says any thing that can be supposed to relate to Jesus Christ (the passage in Josephus respecting him having been proved to be an interpolation) obseryes, that a sect arose at this time, (the period in which Christ is supposed to have lived) which made some disturbance in Judea. The Jewish tradition, although no doubt interlarded with fable, is at least some evidence of the fact; which acknowledges that such a person actually sprang up amongst them, and after, as they say, deluding many, suffered an ignominious and cruel death. We therefore have no more doubt on our minds that there was such a man, than we have that there existed such legislators as Moses and Mahomet.

In that age it appears that the Mosaic superstition, which, from its commencement, was a grievous burthen on the Jewish nation, had been shamefully corrupted, and that the priests possessed unbounded power over the property and consciences of the people-hence they increased the rituals of worship to such a pitch as to render them an intolerable tyranny. The Romans also, at that period, had partially subdued the Jewish nation, and left them but the shadow of their ancient independence.

At this important crisis, this obscure reformer, whose youth had been spent in the mountainous parts of Palestine, daringly attacked their national prejudices, and attempted to uproot that corrupt system of religious mummery, with which they were oppressed.

His political principles were those of a republican, for he taught the lessons of political equality.

His religious dogmas were those of the Theophilanthropist, for he inculcated reverence to the deity, and benevolence towards the whole human family. It is true that his tenets have since been veiled and enshrouded in the robes of impiety by the knavery and craft of some of his fanatical disciples ;-but we shall, in future numbers, endeavour to sift and separate the wheat from the chaff, and show that the morality which he preached to his followers was the same as that taught by Plato, Socrates and Epictetus, who lived before him.

In that rude and barbarous age, it was the practise of men who wished to govern the passions of the ignorant, to pretend to be messengers sent from heaven; it is therefore probable that Jesus Christ, like many of his cotemporaries, made use of this stratagem, more powerfully to enforce his doctrines upon the minds of the vulgar. However that may be, we find that the Jewish Sanhedrim became alarmed at his growing popularity ; for, from his obscure retreat, we find him advancing into their very capital, and in their very temple bearding their authority; ridiculing their ridiculous superstitions, and assuming a controul over the pettifogging retailers of offerings in the porches, and also over the horde of usurers that infested the temple. After numerous expedients had failed, they at length hit upon one, which they hoped would be effectual, to take off their dangerous rival. They therefore denounced him as a traitor, and an enemy to Cæsar.

The Roman governor, to gratify the revenge of the infuriated priests, whose power he had shaken, delivered him over to their will, after a mock trial; at the same time declaring that he found him guiltless. They therefore doomed him to suffer crucifixion, the common punishment for heinous offences.

Thus the man who had humanely endeavoured to ameliorate the condition of his countrymen, and to rescue them from civil despotism and religious tyranny, prematurely fell a victim to the bigotry and superstition of the age in which he lived, and became a martyr in the cause of philanthropy. His character was acorned with an assemblage of amiable virtues, and his ethics were calculated to render his fellow-creatures individually happy, and socially benevolent.

Such, in our opinion, are the true characteristics of Jesus Christ. But, several centuries after his death, interested and fanatical men founded a monstrous and impious system of religion in his name.--It is not pretended that he wrote a single line of this himself. His expositors however, to suit their own purposes, taking the heathen mythology as their guide, first deified him, and then intermixed with his rational ethics the most abominable frauds that were ever imposed upon human creditlity.

FOR THE THEOPHILANTHROPIST.

DEBTORS' PRISON.

“ Man's inhumanity to man,
" Makes couliless thousands mourn."

BURNS.

Messrs. Editors,

PERCEIVING that your monthly publication, under the abore title, is intended as a conveyance, through which the public may be apprised of all abuses which ought to be corrected, and of all improvements which have been, or might be adopted for the benefit of your fellow.citizens, I take the liberty of offering you some hasty reflections respecting the debtors' prison of this city, not doubting but that the other prisons in this state have equal claims on the justice of our legislature.

I yesterday visited this compound of misery and of vice, the tout ensemble of which is calculated to arouse the sensibility of the most obdurate heart. In one room I saw a number of men in the vigour of life, murdering their best days, in fruitless endeavours to drown reflection by card playing and other futile amusements. In another, a woman, with several children, weeping by the side of a hapless husband and father, inhumanly deprived of the power to render the least aid to those who had such powerful claims on his exertions. From this scene I turned to another apartment, to witness one still more affecting; here I beheld a group of female prisoners, huddled together in a confined room, and who, half naked and half starved, appeared, in despair, to have abandoned every trait which peculiarly marks the amiabi. lity of their sex ;-nature revolted at the sight, and modesty beckoned me to depart.

My indignation was aroused when I reflected upon the agents in this cruelty,That those who, after amassing consi

derable sums by the imprudence of these victims to treachery and seduction, but experiencing some disappointment in their unconscionable expectations of gain, had remanded them over to this place of punishment; the public becoming parties in the infamy, by lending a prison for the purpose of satiating the vengeance of these inhuinan wretches; and that quack doctors, who exercise a trade more injurious to society than that of highway, men, who fatten upon the credulity and ignorance of the multitude; in short, whose occupation is murder, took a prominent part in the mischief.

The sight of so much degradation and misery threw me into a profound reverie, and forcing myself from the view of the unhappy objects that surrounded me, the following reflections occurred.

Where is the necessity of all this pain and suffering? why this cruelty of man to man? why are nearly one hundred of my fellow creatures immured within these walls, shut out from the benignant rays of heaven? what crimes have they coinmitted? Some of them, no doubt, have been guilty of intentional wrong, of committing frauds upon their fellow citizens; whereas others can be charged only with the crime of poverty, occasioned by imprudence and unavoidable misfortunes. And do the laws of our country make no distinction between misfortune and crime. Shall creditors, the party concerned, and often the most unprincipled of the community, who have amassed money by the oppression of the widow and orphan, by chicanery and fraud, around whose hearts not a drop of the milk of human kindness circulates, whose ruling passion is avarice, which, being thwarted in its views, is deaf to the voice of reason, and the cries of distress, shall they be the judge and jury to determine the amount of punishment due to an unfortunate debtor, from whom their cupi. dity is unable to wring another farthing of, perhaps, an unjust demand?

Will our legislators, in cold blood, combine with wretches like these to torture even unto death, an honest and amiable man? Shall they provide a charnel-house for the deposit of the famished bodies of their fellow men? From whence they would

« EdellinenJatka »