« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
SIR, I send you this apology for Freethinking," withOut the least hopes of doing good, but purely to Comply with your request; for those truths which nobody can deny, will do no good to those who deny them. The clergy, who are so impudent to teach the people the doctrines of faith, are all eithet cunning knaves or mad fools; for none but artificial designing men, and crack-brained enthusiasts, presume to be guides to others in matters of speculation, which all the doctrines of Christianity are; and whoever has a mind to learn the Christian religion, naturally chooses such knaves and fools to teach them. Now the Bible, which contains the precepts of the priests' religion, is the most difficult book in the world to be understood: it requires a thorough knowledge in natural, civil, ecclesiastical history, law, husbandry, sailing, physic, pharmacy, mathematics, metaphysics, ethics, and everything else that can be named: and every body who believes it ought to understand it, and must do so by force of his own freethinking, without any guide or instructor.
How can a man think at all, if he does not think freely? A man who does not eat and drink freely,
The chief strain of Collins's Discourse is an eulogium upon the necessity and advantage of Freethinking; in which it is more than insinuated, that the advocates of revealed religion are enemies to the progress of enlightened inquiry. This insidious position is ridiculed in the following parody,
does not eat and drink at all. Why may not I be denied the liberty of freeseeing as well as freethinking? Yet nobody pretends that the first is unlawful, for a cat may look on a king; though you be near-sighted, or have weak or sore eyes, or are blind, you may be a freeseer; you ought to see for yourself, and not trust to a guide to choose the colour of your stockings, or save you from falling into a ditch.
In like manner, there ought to be no restraint at all on thinking freely upon any proposition, however impious or absurd. There is not the least hurt in the wickedest thoughts, provided they be free; nor in telling those thoughts to every body, and endeavouring to convince the world of them; for all this is included in the doctrine of freethinking, as I shall plainly show you in what follows: and therefore you are all along to understand the word freethinking in this sense.
If you are apt to be afraid of the devil, think freely of him, and you destroy him and his kingdom. Freethinking has done him more mischief than all the clergy in the world ever could do: they believe in the devil, they have an interest in him, and therefore are the great supports of his kingdom. The devil was in the States-General before they began to be freethinkers : for England and Holland * were formerly the Christian territories of the devil. I told you how he left Holland; and freethinking and the revolution banished him from England; I defy all the clergy to shew me when they ever had such success against him. My meaning is, that to think freely of the devil, is to think there is no devil at all; and he that thinks so, the devil is in him if he be afraid of the devil.
* Collins is supposed to have imbibed his freethinking philosophy during his repeated visits to Holland,
But, within these two or three years, the devil has come into England again ; and Dr Sacheverell has given him commission to appear in the shape of a cat, and carry old women about upon broomsticks: and the devil has now so many “ministers ordained to his service,” that they have rendered freethinking odious, and nothing but the second coming of Christ can restore it.
The priests tell me, I am to believe the Bible ; but freethinking tells me otherwise in many particulars. The Bible says, the Jews were a nation favoured by God; but I, who am a freethinker, say, that cannot be, because the Jews lived in a corner of the earth, and freethinking makes it clear that those who live in corners cannot be favourites of God. The New Testament all along asserts the truth of Christianity ; but freethinking denies it: because Christianity was communicated but to a few; and whatever is communicated but to a few, cannot be true; for that is like whispering, and the proverb says, “ that there is no whispering without lying."
Here is a society in London for propagating freethinking throughout the world, encouraged and supported by the queen and many others. You say, perhaps, it is for propagating the gospel. Do you think the missionaries we send will tell the heathens that they must not think freely? No, surely; why then, it is manifest, those missionaries must be freethinkers, and make the heathens so too. But why should not the king of Siam, whose religion is heathenism and idolatry, send over a parcel of his priests to convert us to his church, as well as we send missionaries there?
Both projects are exactly of a piece, and equally reasonable; and if those heathen priests were here, it would be our duty to hearken to them, and think freely whether they may not be in the right rather than we. : I heartily wish a detachment of such divines as Dr Atterbury, Dr Smallridge, Dr Swift, Dr Sacheverell and some others, were sent every year to the farthest part of the heathen world, and that we had a cargo of their priests in return, who would spread freethinking among us. Then the war would go on, the late ministry be restored, and faction cease; which our priests inflame by haranguing upon texts, and falsely call that“ preaching the gospel.”
I have another project in my head, which ought to be put in execution, in order to make us freethinkers. It is a great hardship and injustice, that our priests must not be disturbed while they are prating in the pulpit. For example : why should not William Penn the Quaker, or any Anabaptist, Papist, Muggletonian, Jew, or sweetsinger, have liberty to come into St Paul's church, in the midst of divine service, and endeavour to convert first the aldermen, then the preacher, and singing-men? or pray, why might not poor Me Whiston, * who denies the divinity of Christ, be allowed to come into the lower house of convoeation, and convert the clergy? But, alas ! we are overrun with such false notions, that, if Penn or Whiston should do their duty, they would be reckoned fanatics, and disturbers of the holy synod ; although they have as good a title to it as St Paul
* Yet Whiston, who receives this side-cut, was himself an anxious combatant of Collins, in bis Reflections on an Anonymous Pamphlet, entitled, A Defence of Freethinking. 1713.
had to go into the synagogues of the Jews; and their authority is full as divine as his.
Christ himself commands us to be freethinkers; for he bids us search the scriptures, and take heed what and whom we hear : by which he plainly warns us, not to believe our bishops and clergy; for Jesus Christ, when he considered that all the Jewish and heathen priests, whose religion he came to abolish, were his enemies, rightly concluded that those appointed by him to preach his own gospel would probably be so too; and could not be secure that any set of priests, of the faith he delivered, would ever be otherwise : therefore it is fully demonstrated that the clergy of the church of England are mortal enemies to Christ, and ought not to be believed.
But, without the privilege of freethinking, how is it possible to know which is the right scripture? Here are perhaps twenty sorts of scriptures in the several parts of the world, and every set of priests contends that their scripture is the true
The Indian bramins have a book of scripture called the Shaster; the Persees their Zundivastaw; the bonzes in China have theirs, written by the disciples of Fohe, whom they call “ God and Saviour of the world, who was born to teach the way of salvation, and to give satisfaction for all men's sins:" which, you see, is directly the same with what our priests pretend of Christ. And must we not think freely, to find out which are in the right, whether the bishops or the bonzes? But the talapoins, or heathen clergy of Siam, approach yet nearer to the system of our priests ; they have a book of scripture written by Sommonocodam, who, the Siamese say, was “ born of a virgin," and was “the God expected by the universe;" just as our priests tell us, that Jesus