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servations on it here, by way of introducing a few paragraphs from the Free Thinkers pamphlet, whom I have quoted before.
* I must not omit one great benefit of free thinking, of which all past ages as well as the present may convince Free thinking is upon experience, the only proper means to destroy the • devil's kingdom among men; whose dominion and power are ever . more or less extensive, as free thinking is discouraged or allowed :
and all other means employed against him, such as the casting him • out miraculously, multiplying priests, and enlarging their power, and • usiug the temporal sword, have often increased, but never wholly • destroyed his power.
• Thus the devil is entirely banished the United Provinces, where • free thinking is in the greatest perfection; whereas all round about • that commonwealth, he appears in various shapes: sometimes in his
own, sometimes in the shape of an old black gentleman, sometimes • in the shape of a dead man, and sometimes in that of a cat. He obsesses some, possesses others, and enters into confederacy with others. As for instance, he has liad from the remotest' antiquity a great sway in England; first, while we were in heathen darkness
, and afterwards a greater, during the thicker darkness of popery. * Nor did the reformation do nruch towards lessening his power; for . great complaints have been made of the growth of witchcraft, and the mighty power of the devil among us, from the most primitive • times of our holy church, viz. about 150 years ago *
• Bishop Jewel, in a sermon before Queen Elizabeth, told her Majesty of the marvellous increase of witches and sorcerers within her • realın, and expressed his fears lest bier Majesty herself should be
bewitched by them. I pray God, says he, they never practice fur• ther than upon the subject.'
• His sacred Majesty King James the first, (who was told to his face .by the Archbishop of Canterbury, that his Majesty spake by the • especial assistance of God's spirit, and who ereployed his royal pen * always on subjects worthy of a prince, viz. "A Paraphrase on the * Revelation,'' A Counterblast to Tobacco-taking,'and • Love Letters 'to the Duke of Buckingham,) tells us, that the fearful abounding at * this time in this country of these detestable slaves of the devil the 'witches and enchanters, moved him to dispatch in post his treatise on Demonology.'
. In the reign of King Charles the First, it ought likewise to be sup'posed that many people of the church were obsessed and possessed
by the devil, since among the articles of enquiry at a visitation of the diocese of London, by Bishop Juxon, then Lord Treasurer of Eng. • land, one is : Whether any minister without licence, upon any pretence whatsoever, either of obsession or possession, cast out any devil ‘or devils.'
* Now 250 years since.
• In short, great numbers of witches have been almost annually ex•ecuted in England from the remotest antiquity to the late revolutioni
when upon the liberty given and taken to think freely, the devils power visib!y declined, and England as well as the United Provinces ceased to be any part of his christian territories * Let the priests give such an instance of their success against the devil any where.' * But since the time of Dr. Sacheverell, when the clamours against free thinking began to be loudest, the devil has again resumed his * empire, and appears in the shape of cats, and enters into confede
racy with old women; and several have been tried, and many are accused, through all parts of the kingdom, for being witches, and he seems at present to have so great a party among us, and so many ministers ordained to his service, and to have rendered free thinking * so odious ; that nothing but the second coming of our Blessed Sa.
viour, which is soon expected by several of our reverend divines, • who are well skilled in the Prophets and revelation, gives me any hopes of a change for the better!' • Perhaps it will be said, That the stories of the devil's power were founded on the lies of some, and the credulity of others; and that ' the executions of witches have been so many murders: and therefore • that there is no pretence to talk of conquest over the devil since the • revolution, and nothing to be boasted of by free thinkers. The
people were only come a little more to their senses, and by consequences their tutors were a little fearful of endeavouring to impose on them.'
• But this objection can be made by very few. First, all the ig• norant people believe all stories of this kind to be true. Secondly, . it is not likely, that they who have so great an interest in maintaining
the power of the devil, and have been the principal promoters of all * prosecutions against witches (and against blasphemers too) and have branded all men with atheism, who did not agree with them in
the extent of the power attributed to the devil, or refused to join ' with them in the promoting prosecutions against witches, should accept of this apology.
• To those few therefore who make this objection, I reply, That it is an equal glory to free thinkers, to wrest out of the priests hands, the power of taking away so many innocent lives and reputations,
which the general belief of the great power of the devil and of the 'existence of witches gave them an opportunity to do, as to drive away the devil limself. And the good consequence of free thinking
* I know not how our author can account for this assertion, for even to this day, the devil is found in our courts of law, as well as places of worship, every indictment for high treason charges the person with having been instigated by the devil, and within a few days past, we have seen an Irish Judge, sit and allow a perjured wretch to say, that he had been instigated to perjure himself by ihe devil, but that he was now conscious of his error!!!
'to society, is plainly equal upon this last, as upon the former supposition.
Witchcraft, priestcraft, kingcraft, and devilcraft, must all fall together--for the foundation of one is that of the whole. They have been one and all built on the ignorance, fear, and credulity of mankind, and cannot withstand the progress of education. That same feeling among the priests and their ignorant supporters which raised up a cry against witchcraft, against sorcery, against devilism, and against antichrist, has only taken another course in the present day, in their clamours about irreligion, infidelity, and blasphemy-the trick is the same, only they have expressed themselves by different
The next age will read the particulars of the prosecutions for blasphemy and profaneness with the same disgust and horror, as the present age reads of the trials for witchcraft
, and the executions which followed. The same disposition and feeling guides the Judges—the same influence guides the Juries--the former will always be the supporters of existing abuses under a monarchy, and the latter being chosen by a King's officer, are guided by a worldly and selfish interest, to acquiesce in the dictates of the former; knowing that an opposition would only point them out for a secret persecution. The cry against popery has its origin in the same feeling; and the hatred of Christian Catholics towards Christian Protes. tants, is engendered from the same cause; and never until all public worship be abolished, will it be otherwise; for in the different sects of Protestants, where a by-stander can scarcely perceive a shade of difference in their sentiments, they carry the same rancorous feeling towards each other. Religion is the common parent of strife, of malice, of hatred, of war, and of murder. It has fostered all the evils whch have been incident to man; and if I were inclined to write an essay on the origin of evil, as others have done, I would begin
and end with one sentence, and that should be as follows:-THE ORIGIN OF EVIL HAS BEEN RELIGION. How ridiculous do Queen Elizabeth and her bishop, Jewel, King James, and his Archbishop of Canterbury, King Charles and his bishop, Juxon, appear
in our eyes at present, when we reflect on the idle notions which they must have severally held about the devil and witches; yet they, in their day, were all considered very religious people, no doubt. But even in the present day, our Magistrates and Police wink at astrologers, at fortune-tellers by cards, and palmistry, and a variety of other expedients by
which weak and credulous minds are imposed upon by such persons. It is both lamentable and astonishing to think what influence these people hold over females. Many a virtuous female hath been seduced out of her virtue by those pretended prophets. It is but lately that, in the City of Westminster, we found a servant girl, otherwise strictly honest, virtuous, and moral, induced to set fire to her master's house, in consequence of being instigated by one of those wretched strollers
; and being threatened with something disastrous if she did not follow the instructions of her instigator. Charmers, Quack Doctors, and others, who prey upon the public health as well as the public weal, are equally pestiferous. Any quack, if he can raise money to take out a patent for a mixture of some trash, is immediately entitled to kill and plunder, by his Majesty's royal authority. Thus are carried on the impositions against the health and industry of the virtuous part of mankind, and all have their common origin in the vices of priestcraft and kingcraft. A well-regulated communnity would soon annihilate charming, and fortune-telling, and every other abuse calculated to make unhappy its several members. But the present rulers of societies being established on similar frauds, and partaking of the profits of them, are quite content to continue and support them, and excuse themselves, with the shameful pretence, that pious frauds are useful and necessary to guide the mass of mankind—they are useful only to those who live in idleness, and prey upon the industrious labourer. I have now said all that is necessary on this subject, and I could wish the reader to take my word for it, that there is no such a being as the devil—that there are no such beings as spirits, or ghosts, or apparitions-that there are no kind of people who have powers, such as have been attributed to witches, to enchanters, to sorcerers, to charmers, or to necromancers, and whether the Bible, or any other book, makes mention of such, they are equally lies. The Bible, particularly, has been justly and rightly called a book of lies, insomuch, as it supports all those lying stories. Whilst there remains a portion of mankind, weak and credulous enough to be imposed on by such means, there will always be others wicked enough to make that imposition.
In the twenty-first chapter we have the following paragraph:
When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thivie liands, and thou hast taken
them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest bave her to thy wife; then thou shalt bring her boine to thine house, and she shall share her head and pare her nails ; and she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife. And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shall not sell ber at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast hambled ber.'
I am astonished when I reflect on the state of that mind which admits the existence of an omnipotent and all-merciful deity, and at the same time makes him the author of such trash as we find in the Bible. Almost every paragraph affords matter for objection, and if I were inclined to go into it with that spirit of prolixity which is common to its eulogizing commentators, I might continue to write until I became dim with old age. The above paragraph is an allusion to a custom very common to the East; as beautiful captives will now fetch a high price, and may find an entertainment in the royal seraglio.
As I am writing and printing this commentary by piecemeal, I may occasionally fall into some repetitions, in consequence of the Bible abounding in them, but as I consider this to be a mere sketch which by and by I may find convenient to enlarge upon and make a volume of it, I must trust to the candour of the reader for an occasional repetition. I throw out this observation, as I am not aware whether I have yet noticed the Jewish slave trade or not, as I have no duplicate of copy, and my distance from the press occasions the necessity of my keeping it in advance in London.
It is evident that the Jews, or the authors of the Bible, have made their deity, Jehovah, the author of the slave trade; for we are told by believers that all other nations have copied their customs from this book. It might be wondered what could be the real state of the mind of Mr. Wilberforce, who makes so much cant about this book, and who orders a bible to be brought for every member, at his breakfast table, on a silver waiter, lest the touch of the footmen should profane it: it might be wondered, I say, what could be the state of his mind, in his endeavours to counteract the slave trade, when he found the establishment of it in what he otherwise calls the