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FRAGMENT OF A DISCOURSE,
DELIVERED TO THE DEISTICAL CONGREGATION OF THE CITY OF
The splendid exhibitions of the universe invite men to contemplation and reflection. The great Mechanic of the world by his eternal wisdom, has arranged every thing in a mode and manner, which solicits the strongest operations of the human mind; and the volume of nature is the book in which we ought to read, and from which we must draw all useful and important science. All other books may be erroneous; but in this, there can be no mistakes. God himself is the printer and publisher. He set the types with his own hand, and there is not a single misprint in the volume. Whoever reads in this volume will find in every page the lesson of invariable and Eternal Truth. He will mark the progressive arrangements of divine knowledge and learn from these arrangments the best possible method of becoming useful to himself and of contributing to the felicity of his fellow crea
He will discover the fundamental principles upon which the science and happiness of the world depend, and a sentiment of gratitude in the heart will accompany every accumulation of real knowledge derived from the efforts of the mind. It is here, in this great system of the world, this vast machinery of the universe, that men should exhibit the mental energies of his Dature. It is here that he must learn every thing useful to himself and dignifying to the character of the great Creator. Here he may indulge, with pleasure, the reflecting faculties of his mind and develope those principles which regulate the relative properties of all existence. How essentially would it contribute to the establishment and diffusion of real science, if man would dismiss the stupid system of revealed religion and bend the force of his faculties to an accurate investigation of the compound arrangements of real existence. Instead then of reasoning on phantoms, reality would be the basis of his inquiry: and the mind, resting on this solid foundation, would accumulate an unknown extent of science. The earth with all its variegated productions and the planetary system with all its harmonious revolutions, would become the sublime objects, to which the force of his genius would be directed. The acquisition of this philosophical science would correct the heart and exalt the mind : and man would become wiser and better than in perusing all the pretended revelations of the world. My object, therefore, in this discourse, is, to present to the human mind the system of nature such as, it really is, and to oppose the science resulting from this inves
tigation, to the dogmas of the Christian religion. What a diminutive idea do those form of the wisdom, power and goodness of the Creator, who suppose the surface of the globe to be the only residence of sensitive and intelligent creatures, and how trifling their knowledge of the universe; especially when the idea is included, that the munificence of the Deity will be ultimately extended only to a small part of those beings who inhabit this earth. The philosophic mind, by investigating the science of astronomy, forms more exalted conceptions of the character and perfection of the great Creator. The unlimited regions of space are filled with innumerable worlds, which roll in harmonious order and proclaim the infinite benevolence of him who constructed and organized this great and sublime system. It is only a small part of the work of God that man is permitted to examine; but he extends his ideas on the ground of analogical reasoning, and admits the probable opinion, that the infinity of space is filled with revolving worlds, commodious for the residence of numberless sensitive and rational beings, who enjoy the divine munificence of the eternal Creator. But I shall first examine the solar system, with which man is best acquainted, and afterwards extend my views to other parts of the universe.
The Sun, the great source of light and heat, is fixed in the centre of our system, and gives life and animation to innumerable beings who dwell upon the several Planets which perform their respective revolutions round the common centre. The planets which revolve round our Sun, are seven in rumber; viz. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Herschell. These several planets perform their revolutions round the Sun at stated but different periods of time. Their periodical revolutions are calculable by a nice mathematical process, which presents us with the difference of time which they take up in performing their periodical circuits. These planets are also of different magnitudes, and are situated at different distances from the Sun, but, they all move in nice mechanical order and exhibit the unbounded perfections of the intelligent Organizer. The Earth on which we dwell is one among the number of the planets, and is situated at a greater distance from the Sun than either Mercury or Venus, and at a less distance than either of the others, and the time of its revolution is analogous to the stations which it holds in the system, being longer than that of Mercury or Venus, and shorter than those which are at a greater distance. As all the other planets as well as the Earth perform their revolutions on principles similar to that of the Earth, and as they all enjoy similar benefits of light and heat, analogy induces us to conclude, that they are the abodes of sensitive and intelligent beings. The objection that the situation of Mercury is too hot, and that of Herschell too cold, can be removed by physical or moral reasoning. Physically, it can be removed by the consideration of density or rarity of
atmosphere. Heat depends, in a great measure, upon the refraction and reflection of the rays of light; if the rays of light pass through a medium wbich is dense, the refractions and reflections will be more numerous and powerful, and that medium will become heated by the operating effects of these principles; on the other hand if the rays of light pass through a rare medium, the refractions and relections will be proportionably small and the quantity of heat will be diminished. This observation is veritied by experiments in our own atmosphere. For by ascending to any considerable distance from the surface of the earth the cold is so intense as to destroy animal life, and if it were possible to ascend entirely above the atmosphere, a sensitive being, thus ascending, must instantly perish. This proves that a refracting and reflecting medium is absolutely necessary for the creation of heat, and that the heat is in proportion to the obstructions which the rays of light meet with. Let us then apply this reasoning to the planets that are siiuated nearest and farthest from the sun, and we shall discover a physical argument for the preservation of animal existence in those regions.
[The remainder of this discourse has either never been committed to paper, or, if so, is lost.]
OBSERVATIONS ON MR. FELLOWS'S LETTER.
Tue readers of “ The Republican” will find the letter from Mr. Fellows, which I have made the leader of the present Number, to be both interesting and insiructive, It demolishes all the flimsy arguments and false statements of Mr. Cobbett against a truly representative system of government, and adds another proof that, as a public writer, be is not entitled to much credit for uncorroborated statemeni. In answer to the shewings against iny statements of the character and condition of the people of the United States of North America, I have to observe, that, I am pleased to find those statements in some degree crroneous. formatiou has been chiefly of the hearsay kind, or such as Mr. Fellows describes it; and as I am ever open to fair conviction, I am as ever ready to embrace fair refutation. I thank Mr. Fel. lows for seiting me right. But I am quite sure, from such of the religious publications as come to me from across the Atlantic, that the people, among whoin such publications can find readers, must be far behind us as to general instruction. The character of the people is to be found in the taste and disposition of the authors to put forth such publications. Excepting Palmer's Works, I have not yet.seen a good book on the subject of religion written in America. There might be some that I have not
No. 8. Vol. XIII.
seen, and I hear of a Commentary on the Bible, which is good, and very scarce. Houston's book of “ Israel Vindicated," is a mere transcript of his “ Ecce Homo,” itself a mere transcript from other authors : a good compilation certainly, but proves nothing in favour of the state of the religionis mind of the people of America. The works of Paine that were written in America are also exceptions; but it has long been my impression, that Mr. Paine would not have written in America on the subject of religion as he wrote in France. We find, if the accompanying letter to Elihu Palmer, that he intended, while in France, to publish the “ Third Part of the Age of Reason," on his arrival in America; but on getting there, he found such a religious state of mind, as to dissuade him from putting forth this work as a whole, and, in consequence of that religious state of mind of the American Republicans, it has never yet been published as a whole.
It is difficult to speak correctly of a people. If a traveller were to describe the people of England from his observations on the wretched beings who are found in the streets of London, we should make a pitiable figure as to morals and manners. Or if he were to draw conclusions as to the state of intellect in this country from what he found among our peasantry in general, he would describe us as near akin in mind to our cattle; but here the foreigner goes to our Courts of Law, our Parliament, and among the best informed people, and falls into the error of overrating our attainments.
A Bolton correspondent complains that my publications are charged in Bolton more than the London retail price. This is not necessary, and I recommend to the Bolton Friends to refuse to pay more than the usual price, pledging myself that they shall not be long unsupplied at that price. A bookseller's profits at first hand are 25 per cent., and if that be not enough to divide between a first and second agent, some Bolton Friend had better have a parcel direct from London. I have not had fair play in my returns fronu Manchester, while I was disposed to be generous; so now, if I wish to keep my head up, I must do business as others do.
G. H. is informed that the abridged edition of the “ Every Woman's Book; or, What is Love?" is now on sale at threepence.
Not having heard further from Mr. Graddons, I shall be happy to receive the tales he mentioned as translated from the French of Voltaire, and to comply with his stipulation, in giving him a few Numbers of “ The Republican” in which any of his articles may appear.
Persons wishing to perfect their sets of “ The Republican” had better make an early application; as perfect sets are making up as far as they can be made, and the odd Numbers will be disposed of. An octavo edition of the “ Age of Reason" will be ready in a few days.
TO MR. RICHARD CARLILE, LONDON.
Feb. 14, 1826. I have left your son Richard five hundred pounds in my will. Although I am as young as yourself, I see so many disorders attacking our insides, and such a variety of accidents awaiting our outsides, that I may say with the Bible, “ in the midst of life we are in death.” Methodism, Quakerism, and Church of Englandism, have all been established by the persecutions of persons of a contrary opinion ; it seems Atheism is to be established on the same footing.
The Apostles of the New Testament said the Gospel should be preached to every part of the world. Seventeen hundred years are gone, and not one quarter of the inhabitants have heard of the uame of Jesus. Mr. Canning would issue a proclamation to every part of the world in less than one year.
You are the best friend the poor man bas; but it is difficult to convince the multitude. The early prejudices received in infancy set them in array against you. They say of you, as they said of Christ, “ Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ?” What a diminution of evil would take place, if the rich, as well as the poor, would practise the good precepts recommended in the “ Moralist," and in your other publications. poor
Richard” says, we tax ourselves more than our Governors tax Let us begin by reforming ourselves, and the grand subject of reform is half done.
Long before we are able to judge for ourselves, we are taught to lisp the names of God and Devil, which makes it marvellous that Atheism should ever have been believed. The Bible says, “ We are born in sin and conceived in iniquity:"-". done righteous; no, not one." Possessing this corrupt and wicked nature, we are called upon to choose good or evil. As well might a drunkard be called upon to choose intoxicating liquor or water. If, on the contrary, we bad been born in righteousness, had had a virtuous nature given us, and then been called upon to choose good or evil, our choice of the latter would deserve a punishment as severe as a living and gracious God could choose to inflict.
The Atheist finds no such apology as that of being born sinful, for bis misconduct. The good and bad tuition and example forms the man for a good or bad character:~" as the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined,” is a general rule. All reflecting men are against immorality, knowing that it produces pain, disease, and poverty, as virtue produces pleasure, health, and wealth.
Atheism is definable, and will bear examination step by step. It is more closely connected with morality than any other system. It is the same every where. Religion is not definable-many of its precepts are questionable, and it is not the same in any two countries. King James I. said, that as long as he had the making of Judges and Bishops, that should be both law and gospel, which best pleased him, Shebago" has not overdrawn the picture of a suffering world.
I have the pleasure to tender my congratulation on your liberation. Your readers well know that “the favourable circumstances reported of you to the King," are, that, though you have written with the greatest boldness, you have not sullied your pages with low, illiterate, and abusive language which reflects only on the writer.