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them, and live to reap a reward in the triumph of reason and free discussion.
As to the assertion in the paragraph now under notice, that it is a frail and ridiculous notion to hope for eternal life; it is sufficient that I say, the sciences of Astronomy and Chemistry have annihilated every hope of the kind with those who have examined and who understand them.
I come now, Gentlemen, to the last extract, which is longer than any of the former, but upon which I shall have but very little to say, as it consists of private matter which pas; sed between the aforesaid Parson Wait and Mr. Carlile, and forms part of an answer to one of the Parson's letters, and to some of his denunciations and invectives.
Really, Gentlemen of the Jury, it is not to be borne, that such a man as an interested priest should pour forth his denunciations and invectives against a man of opposite opinions, and that the latter cannot reply to him without dooming some member of his family to a dungeon. Is this fair play? Call you this toleration? Is this a land of liberty? Or I would ask on which side does the licentiousness lie in this case? Parson Wait began the correspondence, by challenging the opinions of Mr. Carlile, after he was confined in Dorchester Gaol, in the most domineering and insolent manner; and what man of spirit would sit quietly under such impudence and insult? Mrs. Carlile is now doomed to two years imprisonment merely for selling one of her husband's letters to this old hypocrite, which was an answer imperatively called for by the infamous insinuations in the Parson's letter.
Chief Justice. I cannot suffer such language to be used here. (Mrs. Wright still persisted as if he had not spoken.) This is what is called hearing both sides of the question! Go on, ye hypocrites of the Vice Society! Go on, all ye public robbers of whatever gang! We will brave and defy your persecutions, and triumph over you at last! We will have free discussion! We will brave the dungeon or the faggot-the torture, or the scaffold, like the sturdy martyrs of old, and vain shall be all your persecutions! As the blood of the Christian martyrs became the seed of the Christian Church, so shall our sufferings become the seed of free discussion, and in those very sufferings we will triumph over you!
Let it not be thought, Gentlemen, there is any thing in this last extract that I shrink from defending. There is no word of it that conveys an opinion but coincides with mine,
and I only forbear quoting and invesitgating the whole of it, because, Mr. Carlile has expressed his contempt for the Parson's religious tracts by a figure, which though not proper for me to notice to you, contains nothing that can bear out the charge of the indictment against me.
He says, in one part, he would not put the Bible as a whole into the hands of his children, because it abounds in fictions and obscenities. He certainly, as a father, has a right to preserve the morals of his children from every thing that can contaminate them, and if the latter part of the sentence was false, why was it not charged as a false libel? Why has not the Counsel for the prosecution contradicted the phrase? There is a reason why, because, in truth, he could
Mr. Carlile says, he would put the Book of Proverbs into the hands of his children, because every one knows, that, with a few exceptions, it is an admirable compendium of morality, which it would well become my persecutors to study and to practise.
As to that part of the extract where Mr. Carlile says, he considers the Jewish and Christian Religion to be a mythology of the same description as the Paganism of old, it is only expressed as an opinion which he holds, and I will add which I hold, and which is held by millions in Europe. He does not go out of the way to lug in any comparisons, but says, Jehovah is the Jupiter of the Jews; and certain it is, that the Jews never held such sublime notions of their Jehovah, as the Grecians and Romans did of their Jupiter. If the latter was worshipped in statues made of metal, wood, or stone, the former was ever considered by the Jews, as a local deity, and ever present in the ark, the tabernacle, or the temple. The Jews had no idea of an omnipotent or an omnipresent God. A contemptible idol was all that ever they worshipped. Of the God of Nature they had no conception; for it is evident that they attributed every kind of whim, caprice, and passion to their Deity, such as they had seen in the character of different chieftains.
As to the charge of the Christian Religion being a mythology, it is only necessary to define its elements to come to that conclusion. The wife of a carpenter is called the mother of a Christian God, but, although the woman is married, it is asserted, that the husband is not the father of the child. Surely this is the most ridiculous of all the mythologies that ever existed. If there be any thing harsh in these words, Gentlemen, it is no fault of mine; you all know that such is
the import of the two Gospels of Matthew, and Luke. I have no wish to make any unpleasant remarks upon the subject, and I am sure when you coolly weigh all the passages selected into my indictment, and compare them with the context, and the correspondence which gave rise to them, you will find there is not a blasphemous or profane expression, but such as fairly and naturally grew out of the matter of discussion; and if that matter of discussion be improper, recollect, Gentlemen, that it was the well-fed priest who first provoked it.
I have already said, that the manner in which the indictment is drawn up is blasphemous and profane, because, it applies epithets which are false, and allusions which are profane; at the conclusion of each count it repeats, that the extracts selected into the indictment are to the high displeasure of Almighty God. Now this is abominably blasphemous, because it makes the Deity a party to these prosecutions, and upon the same principle he has been made a party to all the prosecutions for matters of religious opinions, for his name has been used in every indictment from the first burning of heretics in this country, down to the present prosecution. This is blasphemy indeed! here is a definable blasphemy, which is not the case in the charge against me; and, Gentlemen, if you are conscientious, and act conscientiously upon the call of my opponent in wig and robes, you will express your abhorrence of this blasphemous indictment, and not of my harmless and moral publications. It is making the almighty a puppet to support the wicked pretensions of my persecutors, and to din your ears with some horrible expressions for the sole purpose of exciting any latent prejudices which they hope to find in your bosoms.
Even to this day, in certain indictments, it is still the practice to say, that the accused has been instigated by the Devil, whilst throughout this Island, there is not one in ten who believe any such nonsense, or in any such an animal as the Devil is represented to be with his horns, his saucer-eyes, his tail, and his cloven feet. It is shameful that such practices should be tolerated in our courts of law, which should rather lead the public mind forward to improvement than attempt to foster and retain all the antiquated and horrible prejudices and ignorances of former generations. It has been well observed, that lawyers are like mile-stones, they are stationary indexes, which denote the advanced distance of the public mind.
I shall beg leave, though without having obtained or even solicited his permission, to avail myself of the assistance of a very able writer,
whose exertions in the cause, in which I am engaged, ought not to drop unnoticed into silence, but merit a conspicuous place in EVERY trial of this kind. This is a person of respectability as a private, and celebrity, as a public man, he has not thought it unworthy of himself to step forward in the sacred cause of liberty, in advocating the propriety of a conscientious assertion, as well as profession of sceptical principles, he maintaining the right of publishing as well as of thinking, conceives probably, that, if an individual is punishable for the former, he ought to be punishable for the latter. He is, moreover, a minister of that very religion, which is attacked in some of the works printed at Mr. Carlile's; and, he thinks, no doubt, with Bishop Watson, that "The Bible, having withstood the learning of Porphyry, and the power of Julian; having resisted the genius of Bolingbroke, and the Wit of Voltaire, will not fall by the force" of such publications. This gentleman is the Rev. Mr. Fox. I now beg leave to submit his observations to your serious attention, Gentlemen of the Jury, and to read them publicly before you.
The Duties of Christians towards Deists: a Sermon, preached at the Unitarian Chapel, Parliament-Court, Artillery-Lane, Bishopsgate-Street, on Sunday, October 24, 1819, on occasion of the recent Prosecution of Mr. Carlile, for the Republication of Paine's Age of Reason. By W. J. Fox.
Christianity stands in no need of prosecutions for its support.”
ON the Sunday preceding the Trial of Mr. Carlile for the publication of Paine's Age of Reason, having occasion to discourse on the account of the persecution of Paul and Silas at Philippi, I made the following allusion to what I could not but consider as an imitation of the opposers of Christianity in that transaction:
"And here I must be allowed to digress for a moment, to lament that the Christian name should have been sullied, stained, bloodily stained, with the foulest enormity of Paganism and Imposture; and that even here, in this boasted land of liberty, and now, in the nineteenth century, there should be Christian tribunals to whose bar the unbeliever may be summoned to expiate his want of faith, or even his opposition to the faith, by pains and penalties, fine and imprisonment. The very fact is a libel on Christianity, and founded on a principle against which every one who values the character of his religion in the eyes of rational men should solemnly protest. If Deists will listen to you, persuade them; if they will reason, argue with them; if they write and publish, reply to them; if they misrepresent, expose them; but in the name of Christ, do not persecute them, do not abet or sanction their persecution. Fine and imprisonment! What need has Christianity of such supports? What means could its bitterest enemies devise more foully to disgrace its name, more effectually to obscure its truth? It will never prevail with such aid. O may
Deism that is punished, but honesty. Not the insidious artifice that corrupts, but the open hostility that disgusts. Not Gibbon, but Paine. The liability of a Deist to punishment is in exact proportion to the openness with which he avows and pursues his object, and in which proportion he may be considered as less culpable in himself, and more harmless to society. This is surely not consistent with laws which make evil intentions the essence of criminality.
5. If Christianity be the law of the land, then the decision of Christianity is final and obligatory, as to whether any, and what punishment should be inflicted on those by whom it is denied and reviled. If the New Testament decides that they should be silenced, fined, imprisoned, banished, burned, then the production of such authority indubitably legalizes those inflictions. Its decision is the very reverse of all this, as I have shewn in the following Sermon. If it be said that the directions which I have endeavoured to illustrate, are for the guidance of private individuals, and not of public functionaries, I ask where is its other code by which they are to be guided? There is no intimation of the repeal of the general precepts, as to the particular case of their sitting in judgment upon Deists. If it be objected that Christ did not contemplate the adoption of his religion as law, I reply, 1st. The supposition falsifies the declarations of the Scriptures that he foresaw and foretold the future fortunes of his church, and is therefore itself an offence on the principles of the objector; and, 2d. That if Christ only contemplated private duties, then his religion, framed on that foundation, is incapable of becoming the law of this or of any country. The distinction, therefore, completely fails, from its inconsistency with the original supposition. The argument upon that supposition I cannot state better than by quoting a letter from a most estimable friend: "We are told Christianity is the law of the land. Admitted. This is the only concession we need; for then the law of Christianity, the law of charity, kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, rendering good for evil, blessing for cursing, is the law of England; and then it follows, too, that these prosecutions are illegal, because they are Antichristian."
Should it be urged that former convictions are a decisive proof of the legality of punishing unbelief, and that the Common Law is to be interpreted by precedents, it may be replied, in the words of Blackstone, that "this rule admits of exception, where the former determination is most evidently contrary to reason, and much more, if it be clearly contrary to the Divine law."
While as an Englishman I deprecate any limitation of the right of canvassing opinions, whatever those opinions may be, as a Christian I feel still more deeply the injury done to religion. As a Unitarian and a Dissenter, I regret that the first prosecution should have been conducted by one who has acknowledged the former title, and the second by one who still claims the latter. There are many, however, whose faith and practice are described by those denominations, many also of the Church of England, who lament with me the glaring inconsistency of publishing appeals to reason in behalf of the divinity of the Gospel, to which the objector replies at the peril of his liberty and property. Deism has spread widely in our country; no inconsiderable proportion of the lower classes are honest and open unbelievers; and a larger proportion of the higher classes are, I fear, concealed unbelievers, who, while they discard Christianity themselves, think it an useful superstition to keep their inferiors in order. It is proper and necessary that Christians should exert themselves to reclaim both these classes, but that very necessity and that propriety also require the unsparing rejec