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On the 8th of June 1809, about 9 in the morning, he placidly, and almost without a struggle, died, as he had lived, a deist.
Why so much consequence should be attached, to what is called a recantation in man's last moments of a belief or opinion held thro life, a thing I never witnessed nor knew any one who did, it is difficult to say, at least with any credit, to those who harp so much upon it. A belief or an opinion is none the less correct or true even if it be recanted, and I strenuously urge the reader to reflect seriously, how few there are who really have any fixed belief and conviction thro life of a metaphysical or religious nature; how few who devote any time to such investigation, or who are not the creatures of form, education, and habit; and take upon trust tenets instead of inquiring into their truth and rationality. Indeed it appears that those who are so loud about the recantation of philosophers, are neither religious, moral, or correct themselves, and exhibit not in their own lives, either religion in belief, or principle in conduct.
He was aged 72 years and o months. At
The reader must from the foregoing pages be persuaded how unkindly teased and obtrusively tormented were the closing hours of Mr. Paine's life; hours that always should be soothed by tenderness, quietude, and every kind attention, and in which the mind generally loses all its strength and energy, and is as unlike its former self as its poor suffering companion the body.
Infirmity doth still neglect all office,
To a rational man it should seem that a deist, if he be so from principle, and he is as likely to be so as any other religionist, is no more to be expected to renounce his principles on his deathbed or to abandon his belief at that moment, than the Christian, the Jew, the Mahometan, or any other religionist.
It will be seen that Mr. Paine very early, when a mere child, was inspired as it were with the antichristian principles which he held religiously thro life. See page 36/ Age of Reasoa.'
"From the time I was capable of conceiving "an idea and acting upon it by reflection, I "either doubted the truth of the Christian sys"tem, or thought it to be a strange affair; I "scarcely knew which it was, but I well "remember, when about seven or eight years of "age, hearing a sermon read by a relation of "mine who was a great devotee of the church "upon the subject of what is called "redemp"tion, by the death of the son of God."
"After the sermon was ended I went into "the garden, and as I was going down the "garden-steps (for I perfectly recollect the spot) "I revolted at the recollection of what I had "heard: it was to me a serious reflection arising "from the idea I had, that God was too good to "do such an action, and also too almighty to "be under any necessity of doing it. I believe "in the same manner to this moment: and I "moreover believe that any system of religion "that has any thing in it that shocks the mind of "a child cannot be a true system."
His philosophical and astronomical pursuits could not but confirm him in the most exalted, nine of the clock in the forenoon of the Oth of June, the day after his decease, he was taken from his house at Greenwich, attended by seven persons, to New Roche! le; where he was afterwards interred on his own faim. A stone has been placed at the head of his grave according to the direction in his will, with the following inscription,—
There is near the close of Cheetham's Life of Mr. Paine a letter of a Doctor Manley's, descriptive of Mr. Paine's illness, and some of his last hours; but it is too evidently the production of a fanatic, who wished to discredit and traduce him, and also who was wrath at his being a deist.
As an instance of the tone of this letter which Cheetham wrote to Manley for, and which was a contrivance between them to slander him, he says, "that his anger was easily kindled, and I doubt not that his resentments were lasting." This libeller of Mr. Paine knew but little of him, and wrote thus on visiting him in a dying state worn down with age, pain, and feebleness.
O shame ! where is thy blush !—The visits of Doctor Manley to Mr. Paine in his last moments look very like a contrivance to misrepresent and encourage the notion of his recantation.
Manley's letter is evidently written to answer a purpose among the enemies of Mr. Paine, and has been particularly circulated in a mutilated state, in order generally to impose the idea that Mr. Paine renounced his faith before he died; yet even this letter has the following passage:
Again I addressed him, "Mr. Paine, you "have not answered my questions—will you "answer them? Allow me to ask again, Do "you believe, or let me qualify the question, "Do you wish to believe that Jesus Christ is "the son of God? After a pause of some "minutes he answered, I have no wish to be"lieve on that subject. I then left him, and "know not whether he afterwards spoke.".