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difpenfation of mercy, and conducts himself according to the letter and spirit of it, is a weak and despicable character? Can you, in the fober fear of God, efteem all the great men among Chriftians to have been unreasonable and deluded perfons? and that THOMAS PAINE and yourselves are the only men upon earth, who have found out the true wisdom? Is it probable, that men of your defcription, who, in general, have never turned your thoughts feriously and conscientiously that way, and who are neither more moral, more sensible, more learned, more philofophical, nor more inquifitive than large numbers of Chriftians are found to be, fhould have made the wonderful discovery, that Religion is all a cheat, and the Bible a ridiculous tale, trumpt up by the Priests, to delude and amufe mankind, while many of our great philofophical characters of all profeffions make it the ftudy of their lives to comply with the former, and fpend a confiderable proportion of their time in the inveftigation of the latter? And then, it is of no little importance to afk, Does your Unbelief make you more moral, pure, chaste, temperate, humble, modeft, thankful, happy? Are You more amiable in your manners than we Chriftians ufually are, better mafters, fervants, husbands, wives, children, friends, neighbours?
Befides, MY COUNTRYMEN, (permit me to speak plainly) are not you the most ungrateful of all human Beings, in that you have derived the whole of your prefent peculiar light, information, or philofophy (call it which you will) from the writings of the Old and New Teftaments, and then make use of that light, information, or philofophy, to difcredit those Writings, and to make them ridiculous among mankind? If we want to know what pure nature can teach, we must diveft ourselves of all our prefent ideas, collected from the writings of the Sacred Code, and learn our religion from the Pagan page alone. The mot eminent of them, however, faw and lamented their want of what you now fo faftidiously reject.
"Pure PLATO! how had thy chafte spirit hail'd
* O sweet enthufiaft! thou hadft blefs'd a scheme
Should you not, as men of fenfe, review the hiftory of the feveral ancient nations of the world, and compare their religion and morals with the religion and morals of your own country, where the Gospel has been preached for fo many years? Common fenfe, and common equity feem to require this of you, before you commence apoftates from the religion in which you have been educated. You will permit me here to call to your remembrance a few facts culled out of the hiftory of mankind. Make what ufe of them you please. Only give them a patient confideration, and a fair comparison with the religion of Jesus, as exhibited in the New Teftament, and then act as you judge meet.
The Babylonians are faid to have introduced the unnatural custom of human facrifices. The Sepharvites, probably a branch of that people, burnt their children in fire to ADRAMMELECH and ANAMMELECH, the Gods of Sepharvaim. 2 Kings xvii. 31.
Among the Phenicians, a father did not fcruple to immolate his only child; a husband to plunge his knife into a heart as dear to him as his own, to avert fome public miffortune. PORPHYR. 1. 2.
In Carthage, the children of the nobility were facrificed to SATURN. The calamities, which AGATHOCLES brought upon that city, were believed by the inhabitants to be a punishment for the fubftitution of ignoble blood; and, to appease the wrath of the GOD, they immolated 200 children of noble blood in one facrifice. PLUT. de Superftit.DIOD. SIC. 1. 20.
The ancient Germans alfo facrificed human victims. Their priefteffes opened the veins of the fufferers, and drew omens from the rapidity of the ftream of blood. TACT. Germ. 9.-DIOD. SIC. 1. 5. 20.
The ancient Britains likewife were equally cruel and fuperftitious.
The facrifice of strangers and prifoners of war feems to have been general, even among the ancient nations which were more civilized.
ACHILLES, in HOMER, immolates twelve Trojans to the manes of PATROCLUS. IL. 23. 175.
And even in the 532 year of Rome, two Greeks and two Gauls were buried alive in a public place of the city, to fatisfy the fuperftitious prejudices of the populace. Liv. 1. 22. C. 57.
Though the Greeks do not appear to have offered human facrifices, yet whole states were at times reduced to flavery, and their lands confifcated, and their prifoners of war maffacred in cold blood.
Conjugal infidelity among the Athenians was become fo common in the time of PERICLES, that almost 5000 of their citizens were illegitimate. PLUT. in PARICL.
If at any time a man became eminent among them for virtue, he was generally fentenced to fome kind of punishment, either to imprisonment, banishment, or death.
Dark, however, as the picture of the Athenians is exhibited, it is funfhine when compared to that of the Lacedæmonians. See their history. By the laws of Sparta, a parent was permitted to destroy a weak or deformed child.
The Romans, though great and fuccefsful, were equally far from being a virtuous nation. They were the mur derers and plunderers of the world. We might inftance their whole hiftory; but it will fuffice to have observed, that the celebrated JULIUS CÆSAR boasted he had taken 800 towns, vanquished 300 ftates, fought three millions of men, of whom one million had been either flaughtered or reduced to flavery.
The number of men flain at different periods, even for their diverfion and entertainment, was immense!
A creditor could, at the expiration of thirty days, seize an infolvent debtor, who could not find bail, and keep him fixty days in chains. During this time, he was allowed to expofe him three market days to public fale, for the amount of his debt, and, at the expiration of a third,
to put him to death. If there were many creditors, they were permitted to tear and divide his body among them. It was customary, however, to fell the debtor, and divide the money.
A father had the right of life and death over his children, and, by the laws of Rome, was permitted to expose his child to perish.
The husband was the only judge and arbiter of his wife's fate. If a wife was convicted of committing adultery, or of drinking wine, her husband had a right to put her to death without the formality of a public trial; while fhe was not permitted, on any provocation, to raise her finger against him*.
To these feveral facts, add a careful perufal of the first chapter of St. PAUL'S Epiftle to the Romans, and then you will have had a view of the religion and morals of the Heathen world before the advent of CHRIST. If there is a difference between us and them, it is what the Gospel has made. The Heathens, indeed, excelled greatly in the arts and sciences. Excellence of compofition may be produced from their writings, in rich abundance; but we call upon you to fhew us any thing fit to be compared with various of the compofitions contained in the Bible. You have no History so ancient, fo important, fo inftructive, so entertaining, fo well written†; no poetry fo fublime; no Elo
See a learned Sermon of Dr. VALPY, where these teftimonies to the depraved ftate of ahe Heathen nations are detailed more at large.
One of the finest and most important paffages in all Heathen antiquity is that of PLATO, where he introduces SOCRATES fpeaking of fome divine teacher of whom he was in expectation, and of the mift which is naturally upon the mind of man, which was to be removed by that teacher. "He is one," fays SOCRATES," who has now a concern for
us."-" He is a perfon that has a wonderful readiness and willingness "to take away the mift from the mind of man, and to enable us to diftinguish rightly between good and evil." See his fecond ALCIBIADES. Bishop HALL fays, "I durft appeal to the judgment of a carnal reader (let him not be prejudiced) that there is no hiftory fo pleasant as the facred; for fhould we even fet afide the majesty of the Inditer, none " can compare with it for magnificence, and the antiquity of the matter; the sweetness of compiling; and the strange variety of memorable occurrences."
quence fo noble and fo perfuafive; no Proverbs fo laconic, fo divine, so useful; no Morality so pure and perfective of human nature; no System of the intellectual world fo rational. We challenge you, MY COUNTRY MEN, we dare you to come forward, and fhew us any thing of equal excellence in all the authors of antiquity, or among all the ftores of modern refinement*. You ought then to be ashamed of your conduct, in treating with fuch indignity and fovereign contempt, writings which were never excelled, never equalled; and which, it is probable, you have never given yourselves time thoroughly to understand. Your conduct herein is extremely culpable, and what cannot be justified, either on the principles of religion or philofophy. Any man poffeffed of one grain of modefty, and gratitude to heaven, could not help feeing the impropriety of it. A timely attention to one of SOLOMON's jeftst might do all fuch perfons everlafting good.-Judgments are prepared for fcorners, and ftripes for the back of fools! "I can write," fays Mr. PAINE, a better book than the Bible myself." We grant this gentleman every merit to which he is entitled; but I cannot help recommending to his attention, and that
"I am very confident," faith Sir RICHARD STEEL," whoever reads the Gospels, with an heart as much prepared in favour of them, as when he fits down to VIRGL or HOMER, will find no paffage there which is not told with more natural force, than any Episode in either of thofe wits, who were the chief of mere mankind."
Mr. LocKE fomewhere obferves, "that morality becomes a gentle, man, not barely as a man, but in order to his bufinefs as a gentleman and the morality of the Gospel," fays he, " doth fo excel that of all other books, that to give a man a full knowledge of true morality, I should fend him to no other book but the New Teftament.
If any perfon, who takes up this pamphlet, wifhes to be informed where he may find the literary beauties of Holy Scripture pointed out to him, let him know, that BOYLE on the Stile of Scripture-BLACKWALL'S Sacred Claffics-and Bishop LowTH's Prelectiones, are all very valuable in this way. HERVEY's Works contain many beautiful fpecimens of facred criticism.-SMITH'S LONGINUS--BLAIR's Lecture-ROLLIN's Belles Lettres-WEALD'S Chriftian Orator-and the fecond volume of the Adventurer-all contain feveral good illuftrations-Some inftances of the fame kind will be met with in the Spectator and Guardian.— Many of thefe illuftrations of the beauties of Scripture are collected into one view in the fecond vol. of SIMPSON'S Sacred Literature.
THOMAS PAINE, by way of fhewing his wit, calls SOLOMON'S Proverbs a jest book.