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Christian relatives."-A mighty crime that! But if among those mere Christian relatives had been a Christian mother; it was still worse, I suppose, to pretend to repent of my infidel expressions, merely because I found that they had grieved my mother. Now, Sir, I beseech you, make the worst on't-take it all your own way; and then set the inferred character of fickleness, vacillation, and insincerity-on the pretext of which you decline the challenge which you yourself had first called for from me-over against the appearances and inferences which attach to your own conduct, your best friends being judges. Rather, what would you think of the justice and honesty of a man who, never having been in your company, should choose to say that he had been informed of something that had transpired twelve or fourteen years ago, between the Rev. James Bennett and some of his Christian relatives, that proved you to be so great a dissembler and so infamous a hypocrite, that no man should be held bound to stand to his word, and to make good his engagements to you."
Sir, in the name of God, and "in God's house," you gave your word; you pledged yourself; you promised that you would not shrink from public discussion with us-the Infidel Missionaries: but, Sir, you are a priest, every inch a priest; and your promises and engagements, your reasons for making them, and your reasons for breaking them, are of the school of the silversmith.
I defy the world to produce a better specimen of the craft, than that of making a man an atheist against his will, and in contravention of his own declarations to the contrary.
This trick you play on me, upon the sufficient authority of the unknown somebody who has informed you that Mr. Carlile has said, that "I am as much an atheist as he is."
Now, Sir, it happens that I heard Mr. Carlile say the same thing of you, with this only difference between the authority of your evidence and of mine-that Mr. Carlile will stand to what he said, and undertake to make it good against you to your own face, to the satisfaction of your own congregation, or before a thousand or ten thousand witnesses.
How will you prove that you are not an atheist; if there be no proof that I am not one, in the whole tenor of my life's profession; in the public and solemn declaration which I made upon my trial in the Court of King's Bench, than which nothing could be more public-in my never surceased publications through the press; and above all, in my utmost and last effort of talent, in the DIEGESIS-a work which commits my claim to the estimation which I would wish posterity to have of the heartfelt convictions of its author-a work which will at least demonstrate that a man who pretended reason for declining to enter into controversy with its author, on the score of his being either a madman, a weak man, a bad man, an atheist, a dunce, or the inferior to the Rev.
Dr. Bennett, in any respect, that man could have no respect for truth.
The merits of the metaphysical question between atheism and deism is wholly irrelevant to the purpose of the discussion, which you have contrived to evade: no metaphysical question of any sort is involved in the great argument on which I stand, and before which you dare not stand. History and criticism have nothing to do with questions of opiniatry. I historically undertake to demonstrate, that your pretended history of the origination of Christianity is FALSE; and critically, that your Christian scriptures are Monkish forgeries; that they are, or are not, neither more nor less, whether there be, or be not a Deity.
Had you felt an ingenuous confidence that you should not be convicted of having followed cunningly-devised fables, you would not have found it necessary to act as you have done.
This to the press,
17, Carey-street, Lincoln's Inn,
December 11, 1829.
Yours to serve,
To the Rev. James Bennett, Dalby House, Islington.
A PORK PIE FOR CHRISTMAS!
Being a Sublime Discourse.
Matthew viii. 28. "And when he was come to the other side, into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way." (Read on to the end of the chapter.)
Nothing is in itself more horrible, nor more justly calculated to provoke the indignation of Almighty God, and of all pious and sober-minded persons, than any attempt to treat the blessed Scriptures with ridicule.
Those blessed Scriptures are the source of spiritual consolation and heavenly comfort to thousands: they are dear to the hearts, and precious to the affections of God's people. So that if it were only on this account, one would hardly know whether to be astonished at the barbarity and cruelty, or at the impiety and wickedness of those who would treat matters of such solemn and serious importance with indecent levity and ribaldrous
Indeed, nothing more completely shows how weak and futile the arguments of infidels really are; and how conscious they themselves must be of their weakness and futility, than their having no better means to support the wicked cause that
they have taken in hand, than to launch forth the shafts of an ineffectual and contemptible ridicule. Ridicule is no argument. The most solemn and sacred truths of our most holy faith are, it seems, to be rendered the subjects of caricature. Infidels can laugh; they can sneer; they can avail themselves of the infirmities of Christians, or of the mistakes and misapprehensions which the best of Christians are liable to fall into; and thus furnish matter for a sort of mountebank entertainment, sufficient to draw together a set of weak-minded and inconsiderate people, who are thus, imperceptibly to themselves, taken captive by the devil at his will, and thus "run greedily into the error of Balaam, and perish in the gainsaying of Core."
And one impious wretch there is, whom I shall not disgrace myself by naming, who, even in a place which had been consecrated to the worship of God, and in the garb and attire of a Christian minister, and calling himself the REVEREND, audaciously presumed to vomit forth such infernal sarcasms and such hellish blasphemies, that no man who felt that he had a soul to be saved, and an eternity of happiness or misery at stake, could forbear from calling in the power of the magistrate to crush such a hydra of iniquity.
Indeed, had such a crying sin been allowed to pass with impunity, I have no doubt that some fearful judgment of the Almighty would have been poured forth from above, the angel of divine vengeance would ere now have cast the great stone from heaven, and the irreversible decree would have gone forth-" Babylon is fallen, is fallen!"
But, blessed be God! there were ten-there were twelve righteous persons found in our city, and we are, through infinite mercy, here in the presence of God, and in God's house at this time allowed to contemplate once more the beauty, and to adore the divine wisdom of that very passage of Scripture which furnished matter of ridicule, and became the butt of impious sarcasm, on the unhappy occasion to which I allude. Forgive me my tears,* my brethren, I cannot help weeping on a subject that touches me so closely! Let us now then, relying upon God's grace, to shield us from "the fiery darts of the wicked one, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt our souls,” proceed to contemplate the adorable wonders of that sublime passage of God's blessed word which I have now read to you.
In handling this awful passage, I am desirous to do so under a becoming sense of my own manifold infirmities, and “ in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling; and that my speech, and my preaching may not be with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power."— 1 Cor. ii. 4.
And never, my brethren, never be it forgotten, that those who
Here the orator bursts into tears.
"stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto they also are appointed," do so through the dreadful error of their not perceiving that those very things which strike the unregenerate mind as weak and foolish, are purposely appointed by God to have such an appearance, that they may serve as a sort of touchstone for the proof and assay of the genuineness and sincerity of the faith of God's people.
Ut ita sermo evangelii tanquam lapis esset Lydius, ad quem ingenia sanabilia explorarentur.
Because, as says the holy apostle, St. Paul (Subaudi hominem, post homines natos mendacissimum), "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men: and God hath chosen the foolish things to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the strong; yea, things which are not, to bring to nought things which are."--1 Cor. i. 28. Let then the infidel sneer; let the blasphemer scoff"Let men and fiends, and earth and hell, Against our faith combine;
We'll clasp the Bible to our hearts,
And now for the tractation of our text!
When our dear Redeemer " was come to the other side," that is, to the other side of the sea, in which he had passed through a terrible storm, and on which he had wrought that glorious miracle of stilling the storm; when he was half-seas over, he landed in the country of the GEE-EE-R, GER, GEE-EE, GEE, Gurgy, Juggly-scenes. Mark calls them the Gee-a-dee, Gad. But, however, there is no occasion to spell these words, because they are very hard to spell; so hard, indeed, that the apostle says, "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." I was always a bad hand at spelling; which seems to have been the case of the apostles themselves, who were "able ministers of the New Testament," though "not of the letters;" since the best scholar among them could hardly put two letters together, and Simon Peter could not tell great A from a bull's foot. It is not learning, my brethren, that's necessary for salvation. Your first crack scholars were never any the better Christians for it: and your spiders'-legs letters, that they call Greek, never had any honest meaning in
Well, in that country, which, it does not matter what we call it-say, Ireland.
"There met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs."-Ex Twy pony Epoxoμeros! Now, I am sorry to say, that so rash and inconsiderate are the greater number of professing Christians, and so by their own rashness and inconsiderateness do they" give occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme," where the Scripture itself gives no such occasion, that you never find them strictly sticking to the exact text of their own Scrip
tures; but picking up a word here and there, which is neither here nor there, without any observance of what goes before, or what follows; away they run, filling up the connexion from their own imaginations, and making cock-sure that they've got the right sow by the ear, when they are just a hundred miles off it.
"There met him two coming out of the tombs," are the words of the text. That's enough for them. So, without a second thought on the matter, they jump me to the conclusion-that there were two MEN, and all alive O! coming out of the tombs. Though the text itself does not glance at such a thing, but contrariwise, most clearly intimates that they were dead, and so very dead, that they were dead and buried, and damned, and gone to hell, and the devil had got them! God, Sirs, if we are to be persuaded that they were alive, after things were gone to such a pitch as that-sextons and churchwardens are a cheat upon us-" our sepulchres should be the maws of kites." Lazarus himself, when he had been dead four days, and as the young lady, Miss Martha Lazarus, said, " By this time he stinketh," was not gone so far as these fellows. The devil hadn't got him: he wasn't out of call. But these two had been in the custody of the black prince" a long while ;" and, as we learn from St. Mark, were" bound with fetters and chains," and so exceeding fierce, that all the devils in hell could hardly manage them. The resurrection of Lazarus was really a trifling miracle compared to this: He was in attendance, and only waited for our dear Lord to cry with a loud voice, Master Lazarus, come forth. But somebody else's leave was to be asked, and an account to be settled, before these gentlemen could be set at liberty. And that that account was for no week's or fortnight's lodging, is apparent in the fact, that they were afraid that our blessed Saviour's interference in their behalf, unless he could discharge them out of custody, would make matters rather worse than better for them; and that the devils would give them a roast or two the more, unless the blessed Jesus would make over to them the property in a few flitches of bacon (no matter who the bacon belonged to) in part of payment.
Hence they said," What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God, art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" If you can settle the matter with the marshal, well and good; but don't come here, into this hungry church-yard, to aggravate the afflictions of the dead; so dead and damned as we are.
A very reasonable remonstrance that; and clearly proving to my mind, that whenever our blessed Saviour is concerned, there's quite as much reason in the dead as in the quick.
That they were, in every sense of the word, literally and bonafide DEAD, is marked in the emphatic repetition by each of the three Evangelists, that they were" in the tombs." Luke says, long time in the tombs; and both Mark and Luke, by significant