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To the Ministers and Preachers of all
Denominations of Religion.
IT is the duty of every man, as far as his ability extends, to detect and expose delusion and error. But nature has not given to every one a talent for the purpose; and among those to whom such a talent is given, there is often a want of disposition or of courage to do it.
The world, or more properly speaking, that small part of it called christendom, or the christian world, has been amused for more than a thousand years with accounts of Prophecies in the Old Testament, about the coming of the person called Jesus Christ, and thousands of sermons have been preached, and volumes written, to make man believe it.
In the following treatise I have examined all the passages in the New-Testament, quoted from the old and called prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, and I find no such thing as a prophecy of any such person, and I deny there are any. The passages all relate to circumstances, the Jewish nation was in at the time they were written or spoken, and not to any thing that was, or was not, to happen in the world several hundred years afterwards ; and I have shewn what the circumstances were, to which the passages apply or refer. I have given chapter and verse for every thing I have said, and have not gone out of the books of the Old and NewTestament for evidence, that the passages are not prophecies of the person called Jesus Christ.
The prejudice of unfounded belief often degenerales into the prejudice of custom, and becomes at last, rank hypocrisy. When men from custom or fashion or ar y worldly motive profess, or pretend to believe, what they do not believe, nor can give any reason for believing, they unship the helm of their morality, and being no longer honest to their own minds, they feel no moral difficulty in being unjust to others. It is from the influence of this vice, hypocrisy, that we see so many church and meeting going professors and pretenders to religion, so full of trick and deceit in their dealings, and so loose in the performance of their engagements, that they are not to be trusted further than the laws of the country will bindthem. Morality has no hold on their minds, no restraint on their actions,
One set of preachers make salvation to consist in believing. They tell their congregations that if they believe in Christ their sins shall be forgiven. This, in the first place, is an encouragement to sin, in a similar manner, as when a prodigal young fellow is told his father will pay all his debts, he runs into debt the faster and becomes the more extravagant; Daddy, says he,pays all, and on he goes. . Just so in the other case, Chrisi pays all and on goes the sinner.
In the next place, the doctrine these men preach is not true. The New-Testament rests itself for credibility and testimony on what are called prophecies in the Old-Testament, of the person called Jesus Christ, and if there are no such thing as prophecies of any such person in the Old Testament, the New-Testament is a forgery of the Councils of Nice and Laodocia and the faith founded thereon, delusion and falsehood.*
Another set of preachers tell their congregations that God predestinated and selected from all eternity, a certain number to be saved, and a certain number to be damned eternally. If this were true the day of Judgment is PAST, their preaching is in vain, and they had better work at some useful calling for their livelihood.
This doctrine also like the former hath a direct tendency to demoralize mankind. Can a bad man be reformed by telling him that if he is one of those who was decreed to be damned before he was born his reformation will do him no good; and if he was de creed to be saved, he will be saved whether he believes it or not, for this is the result of the doctrine. Such preaching and such preachers do injury to the moral world. They had betler be at ihe plough.
As in my political works my motive and object have been to give man an elevated sense of his own character, and to free him from the slavish and superstitious absurdity of monarchy and hereditary government, so in my publications on religious subjects my endeavours have been directed to bring man to a right use of the reason that God has given him, to impress on him the great prin. ciples of divine morality, justice mercy and a benevolent disposition to all men, and to all creatures, and lo inspire in him a spirit of trust, confidence, and consolation in his creator, unshackled by the fables of books pretending to be the word of God.
* The councils of Nice and Laodocia were held about 350 years after the time Christ is said to have lived, and the books, that now conipose the New-Testament, were then voted for by YEAS and Nays, as we now vote a law. A great many that were offered had a majority of nays and were rejected. This is the way the New Testament came into being.
AS a great deal is said in the New Testament about dreams, it is first necessary to explain the nature of dream, and to shew by what operation of the mind a dream is produced during sleep. When this is understood we shall be the better enabled to judge whether any reliance can be placed upon them; and consequently, whether the several matters in the New Testament related of dreams deserve the credit which the writers of that book and priests and commentators ascribe to them.
An ESSAY on Dream. I N
N order to understand the nature of dream, or of that which passes in ideal vision during a state of sleep, it is first necessary to understand the composition and decomposition of the human mind.
The three great faculties of the mind are IMAGINATION, JUDGMENT and MEMORY. Every action of the mind comes under one or other of these faculsies. In a state of waketulness, as in the day time, these three faculties are all active ; but that is seldom the sase in sleep, and never perfectly; and this is the cause that our dreams are not so regular and rational as our waking thoughts.
The seat of that collection of powers or faculties that constitute what is called the mind is in the brain. There is not, and cannot be, any visible demonstration of this anatomically, but accidents happening to living persons, shew it to be so. An injury done to the brain by a fracture of the scull will sometimes change a wise man into a childish idiot; a being without a mind. But so care. ful has natare been of that sanctum sanctorum of man, the brain, that of all the external accidents to which humanity is subject this happens the most seldom. But we often see it happening by long and habitual intemperance.
Whether those three faculties occupy distinct apartments of the brain, is known only to that almighty power that formed and or ganised it. We can see the external effects of muscular motion in all the members of the body, though its primum mobilé, or first moving cause, is unknown to man. Our external motions are sometimes the effect of intention, and sometimes not. If we are sitting and intend to rise, or standing and intend to sit, or to walk, the limbs obey that intention as if they heard the order given. But we make a thousand motions every day, and that as well waking as sleeping, that have no prior intention to direct them. Each member acts as if it had a will, or mind of its own. the whole when he please to govern, but in the interims the several parts, like little suburbs, govern themselves without consulting the sovereign.
But all these motions, whatever be the genrating cause, are ex. ternal and visible. But with respect to the brain, no occular observation can be made upon it. All is mystery ; all is darkness, in that womb of thought.
Whether the brain is a mass of matter in continual rest; whether it has a vibrating pulsative motion, or a heaving and falling motion like matter in fermentation ; whether different parts of the brain have different motions according to the faculty that is employed, be it the imagination, the judgment, or the memory, mar knows nothing of. He knows not the cause of his own wit. His own brain conceals it from him.
Comparing invisible by visible things, as metaphysical car sometimes be compared to physical things, the operations of these disa
tinct and several faculties have some resemblance to the mechan. ism of a watch. The main spring, which puts all in motion, cor. responds to the imagination ; the pendulum, or balance, which corrects and regulates that motion, corresponds to the judgment, and the hand and dial, like the memory, record the operations.
Now in proportion as these several faculties sleep, slumber, or keep awake, during the continuance of a dream, in that proportion will the dream be reasonable or frantic, remembered or for gotten.
If there is any faculty in mental man that never sleeps it is that volatile thing the imagination. The case is different with the judgment and memory. The sedate and sober constitution of the judgment easily disposes it to rest, and as to the memory it records in silence and is active only when it is called upon,
That the judgement soon goes to sleep may be perceived by our sometimes beginning to dream before we are fully asleep ourselves. Some random thought runs in the mind, and we start, as it were, into recollection that we are dreaming between sleeping and wak
If the judgment sleeps whilst the imagination keeps awake, the dream will be a riotous assemblage of misshapen images and ranting ideas, and the more active the imagination is the wilder the dream will be. The most inconsistent and the most impossible things will appear right; because that faculty whose province it is to keep order is in a state of absence. The master of the school is gone out and the boys are in an uproar.
If the memory sleeps we shall have no other knowledge of the dream than that we have dreamt, without knowing what it was about. In this case it is sensation rather than recollection that acts. The dream has given us some sense of pain or trouble, and we feel it as a hurt, rather than remember it as a vision,