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that, under that name, is punishable by law, or deserving of disapprobation at the hands of public opinion,—which is what I believe you would not find it very easy to prove,-call it by that name if it be any satisfaction to you, you have my free leave for it.*
* On every part of the field of religion-whether a man be in power or not-but more particularly if he is—this way of thinking, speaking, and acting, is unhappily but too generally prevalent. Whatsoever are the opinions which he entertains, or professes to entertain,—what he all along insists upon is—that they are God's, and as such ought by every man to be deemed and taken to be:-yes, and accordingly spoken of by every man who takes the liberty—a liberty on this hypothesis equally audacious and inconsistent—of contesting them : yes, and this at the very time, and all the time, that he is contesting them: all this on pain of being subjected to the punishment, or at any rate to the reproach, of blasphemy.
Now then if so it be that the man in question-the self-constituted and untolerating censor-is the Almighty, then as above, true it is, that the language, by which any disrespect is cast upon any such opinion of his, is blasphemy: on this supposition, but not otherwise.
History speaks of a man, who, fancying, or pretending to fancy himself, to be Jesus, went about the country declaring himself so to be to every body who would hear him. This man spoke out. For prostration of understavding and will, as towards himself, by this vagabond, supposing him impudent enough to call for obsequiousness in that shape, the ground was explicitly declared. Comes his Lordship of London, ard,--addressing him. self to the Clergy, his subordinates, and through them by means of the press to the public at large,-informs them of a case, in which obsequiousness in that same abject and unreserved form will be due to, and as such may be called for by, themselves. To these men will it then really be due? Yes : if they be, each of them, Jesus, but not otherwise. Thus then does he encourage and virtually command them, each of them, to give men to understand that he is Jesus.-Command them? How? in explicit terms as the vagabond did ? No: only by necessary implication : nothing more : in that lies the only difference. To be himself the one Jesus, will even that satisfy him? Not it indeed: Jesuses must he have, and by hundreds, for his subordinates.
Dismissing the Bishop, take any controversialist at random, so he be a religious oue, this assumption of his being God-every one who on the
Zealot.-Oh, but the decencies ....? Put this lowbred Parish-boy in the place of the University-bred and
points in question agrees with him, a God-each of them tlie one only God -is but too apt to run through all his discourses, and to be among the postulates, which all his demonstrations take for their ground. Nor will even this satisfy him. For, when you have a dispute with him, you having the boldness to contest this or that one of his tenets,—what he virtually requires of you is-on your part a virtual admission that such is the case. Whatever assertions the tenet contains, -yes, and whatever assertions he - comes out with, in defence of them,—they must be, all of them, deemed and taken to be so many assertions made by God, and on that supposition must the language employed by you in speaking of them be grounded. Supposing them then absurd,—and that to such a degree as to be ridiculons,-may you represent them exactly as they are? No. Will he endure that you
should?-Not he indeed. For, as by the implied postulate be is God, his assertions are God's assertions, which being true, they cannot be, any of them, ridiculous: and to treat any of them as such is blasphemy; and you, so treating them, are a blasphemer : and blasphemers are such wretches, no treatment can be too bad for them. On every such occasion, all along, in giving expression to these opinions of his, he, on his part, takes care, of course, to employ such language as imports them to be so many just objects of the most prostrate veneration. In any defence he makes of them against any attacks, all along he thus keeps taking for granted that which is in dispute. In all this there is nothing but what, though not altogether logical, is, considering the nature of the subject, natural enough, and at least excusable. But neither will this satisfy him : for, on your part, the language used by you, in relation to these assertions his, must be of such a sort as to convey an implied confirmation of the grant. In themselves they are so absurd as to be ridiculous. Representing them as venerable, what you would say of them would be a misrepresentation. Yet in this misrepresentation he insists that all along you shall join, or all your arguments are so much blasphemy.
The misfortune is—that if the notion a man has advanced is to a certain degree absurd and ridiculous, and it has fallen in your way to shew it so to be,~in so doing you have unavoidably been testifying towards the man bimself a certain degree of disrespect : for in proportion as what, on any occasiou, a man says, is seen to be ridiculous, in that same proportion does he become the object of the sort of sentiment called disrespect. Irri. tated by this disrespect-irritated, and, by the irritation, his judgment to such a degree disturbed, as to cause him, in the view he takes of the
regularly ordained Priest, what will become of the decencies?
matter, to mistake one person for another—the disrespect thụs, shewn to him, and this notice of bis, he fancies, or pretends to fancy, is disrespect shewn to the Almighty. To the Almighty ?-Yes: if he and the Almighty are one and the same person—(a proposition which, by the bye, may as easily be true as that any three persons are but one) :-Yes, if he and the Almighty are one and the same person, but not otherwise. But as for yop, you for your part do not believe him to be the Almighty: therefore, what. soever disrespect you may unavoidably have been testifying, it goes no fur. ther than your antagonist-it reaches not the Almighty.
That, to whatsoever object or objects applied, three and one are the same number, this, for example, (you say) is a notion so absurd as to be ridiculous: as such you accordingly, if you speak of it without misrepresentation, cannot avoid representing it.-Alas! (cries he) this is blasphemy: this is blaspheming the Trinity: this is blaspheming God: this is treating the Al. mighty with contempt.- Treat the Almighty with contempt?--pot you indeed. With contempt enough indeed, what is but natural, and indeed scarce avoidable, is--that on this occasion something or other should be treated by you; for example, this notion of his that in that instance, or any instance, applied to the same object (or objects shall we say?) three and one are the same number. After putting on this occasion person for God, as on other occasions he would put person for a man, to say that three God-persons are but one God, is exactly the same absurdity-exactly the same selfcontradictory proposition as to say of three mun-persons (three brothers, for instance) that they are but one man: of a proposition thus self-contradictory,-- by no evidence, that ever was contained in a book, or ever could be contained in a book —can the truth be proved.--Away, away! cries he: what is all this but blasphemy ! -Aud 30 the dispute ends, by his going to a lawyer for advice, whether he cannot give himself the satisfaction of seeing you punished,--and out of the Judge's tender mercy, forced to tell a barefaced lie under the name of recantation, to save yourself from further punishment.
This word blasphemy, in the meaning at present attached to it, for what sort of purpose is it employed? Only to serve as a cloak for some injury, which he, by whom the word is employed, labours thereby to do, tą him to whose discourse it is applied: to render hin, ap object, if not of legal punishment, at the least of public hatred, for expression given to this or that notion, opposite to those entertained, or professe 1 to be entertained, by him, by whom the word is thus employed..
Graduate. Well then, as to the decencies. Unless by the decencies you mean the 101. a year, or the 7,0001. a year, or some intermediate sum given for doing something
Considering the use which it has thus been put to, and the mischievous passions of which—and with but too much success-it is, almost as often as employed, endeavoured to be made the instrument,-great would be the service done to mankind, were it possible to extirpate it out of all language.
Next to the extirpation of it, is the laying the root bare. Like almost every other word that has been used with reference to God or Gods, it was of course first used with reference to man. Used with reference to man in the Greek (from which so large a part of the language of technical religion has been derived), compounded, as it were, of two words, one of which signifies injury, the other reputation, it meant neither more nor less than injury to his reputation. Blasphcming against man, was injury done to the reputation of the man. In this the only original sense of the word, blasphemy therefore against God was injury done to the reputatiou of God. Now then, as to man, by injury done to his reputation, man is indeed liable to be subjected to sufferance :-to sufferance in various shapes, vary. ing in quantity upon a scale of almost indefinite length. But, by injury done to God's reputation, is God exposed to sufferance in those or any other shapes? No, says somebody: but, by notions which are unworthy of him, injury is in your plırase done to his reputation : or, in the more usual and proper phrase, dishonour is done to him, and disrespect shewn to him, and for that disrespect the offender onght to be punished. Such is the answer.--Here then, as above, look into this supposed disrespect towards God, what you will find in it is neither more nor less than disrespect towards some opinion entertained, or pretended to be entertained, concerning God by man: by man with power in his hands.
Take two men of irritable mould set them a talking about God-and thence necessarily about his attributes,-the moment any difference of opinion has place between them—and that moment will never be far dise: tant-each becomes, in the eyes of the other, a blasphemer:—to each it thereupon becomes clear, that the other ought to be punished: punished in the offending member: the only doubt being, whether, as has been sometimes done, it ought to be bored through with a red-hot iron, or cut out. Inadequate, incorrect notions concerning God, are not they unworthy of him?:-Yes. Did that man then ever exist, of whom, if lie entertained any votions at all concerning God, it miglit not with truth be said, that he entertained unworthy notions of him? No: and yet, in the next breathi, by
or nothing, on which subject something will be said presently the decencies have already been enumerated : the vestments, the postures, the gestures, and the loco-mo tions.
As to the vestments, these you might give to the juvenile reader, if you thought it worth the while. Similar vestments—some of them at least-are actually worn at six or seven years old by boys in Cathedrals-in those magnificent,-and, except to the lust of the eye, so completely useless,-edifices, in which for six days out of the
seven, the pleasantness of what is sung cannot so far atone for the insipidity of what is said, as to procure upon an average half a dozen voluntary yawners, in addition to the compulsory ones.
Remain the postures, the gestures, and the loco-motions --the marching and counter-marching-from Reading-desk to Altar---from Altar back to Reading-desk-from Readingdesk up to Pulpit : as if when reading his own stuff, or another man's stuff, on pretence of its being his own, it were necessary a man should exhibit himself as a higher man than when, under the name of a lesson--reading the word of God.
Well-keep them there-if you cannot part with themthe postures, the gestures, and the loco-motions. But, in all of them put together, what is there that a boy of fourteen would not serve for as well as a man of forty? Stupid indeed must the boy be, if after a couple of hours' drilling he be not as perfect in this part of the exercise as the man could be if he were fourscore.
Even in your Universities—where, along with perjury, ceremony is taught in such perfection,-immediately as he
the same man who thus says no, will punishment be called for to be inflicted on this or that other man, for the unworthiness, as above, of such his notions!