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The inhabitants
of each of the worlds of which our system is composed, enjoy the same
opportunities of knowledge as we do. They behold the revolutionary
motions of our earth, as we behold theirs. All the planets revolve
in sight of each other; and, therefore, the same universal school of
science presents itself to all.

Neither does the knowledge stop here. The system of worlds next to us
exhibits, in its revolutions, the same principles and school of science,
to the inhabitants of their system, as our system does to us, and in
like manner throughout the immensity of space.

Our ideas, not only of the almightiness of the Creator, but of his
wisdom and his beneficence, become enlarged in proportion as we
contemplate the extent and the structure of the universe. The solitary
idea of a solitary world, rolling or at rest in the immense ocean of
space, gives place to the cheerful idea of a society of worlds, so
happily contrived as to administer, even by their motion, instruction
to man. We see our own earth filled with abundance; but we forget to
consider how much of that abundance is owing to the scientific knowledge
the vast machinery of the universe has unfolded.



CHAPTER XVI - APPLICATION OF THE PRECEDING TO THE SYSTEM OF THE
CHRISTIANS.

BUT, in the midst of those reflections, what are we to think of the
christian system of faith that forms itself upon the idea of only
one world, and that of no greater extent, as is before shown, than
twenty-five thousand miles. An extent which a man, walking at the rate
of three miles an hour for twelve hours in the day, could he keep on in
a circular direction, would walk entirely round in less than two years.
Alas! what is this to the mighty ocean of space, and the almighty power
of the Creator!

From whence then could arise the solitary and strange conceit that
the Almighty, who had millions of worlds equally dependent on his
protection, should quit the care of all the rest, and come to die in our
world, because, they say, one man and one woman had eaten an apple! And,
on the other hand, are we to suppose that every world in the boundless
creation had an Eve, an apple, a serpent, and a redeemer? In this case,
the person who is irreverently called the Son of God, and sometimes
God himself, would have nothing else to do than to travel from world
to world, in an endless succession of death, with scarcely a momentary
interval of life.

It has been by rejecting the evidence, that the word, or works of God in
the creation, affords to our senses, and the action of our reason upon
that evidence, that so many wild and whimsical systems of faith, and of
religion, have been fabricated and set up. There may be many systems of
religion that so far from being morally bad are in many respects morally
good: but there can be but ONE that is true; and that one necessarily
must, as it ever will, be in all things consistent with the ever
existing word of God that we behold in his works. But such is the
strange construction of the christian system of faith, that every
evidence the heavens affords to man, either directly contradicts it or
renders it absurd.

It is possible to believe, and I always feel pleasure in encouraging
myself to believe it, that there have been men in the world who
persuaded themselves that what is called a pious fraud, might, at least
under particular circumstances, be productive of some good. But the
fraud being once established, could not afterwards be explained; for
it is with a pious fraud as with a bad action, it begets a calamitous
necessity of going on.

The persons who first preached the christian system of faith, and in
some measure combined with it the morality preached by Jesus Christ,
might persuade themselves that it was better than the heathen mythology
that then prevailed. From the first preachers the fraud went on to
the second, and to the third, till the idea of its being a pious fraud
became lost in the belief of its being true; and that belief became
again encouraged by the interest of those who made a livelihood by
preaching it.

But though such a belief might, by such means, be rendered almost
general among the laity, it is next to impossible to account for the
continual persecution carried on by the church, for several hundred
years, against the sciences, and against the professors of science, if
the church had not some record or tradition that it was originally
no other than a pious fraud, or did not foresee that it could not be
maintained against the evidence that the structure of the universe
afforded.



CHAPTER XVII - OF THE MEANS EMPLOYED IN ALL TIME, AND ALMOST
UNIVERSALLY, TO DECEIVE THE PEOPLES.

HAVING thus shown the irreconcileable inconsistencies between the real
word of God existing in the universe, and that which is called the word
of God, as shown to us in a printed book that any man might make, I
proceed to speak of the three principal means that have been employed in
all ages, and perhaps in all countries, to impose upon mankind.

Those three means are Mystery, Miracle, and Prophecy, The first two
are incompatible with true religion, and the third ought always to be
suspected.

With respect to Mystery, everything we behold is, in one sense, a
mystery to us. Our own existence is a mystery: the whole vegetable world
is a mystery. We cannot account how it is that an acorn, when put into
the ground, is made to develop itself and become an oak. We know not how
it is that the seed we sow unfolds and multiplies itself, and returns to
us such an abundant interest for so small a capital.

The fact however, as distinct from the operating cause, is not a
mystery, because we see it; and we know also the means we are to
use, which is no other than putting the seed in the ground. We know,
therefore, as much as is necessary for us to know; and that part of
the operation that we do not know, and which if we did, we could not
perform, the Creator takes upon himself and performs it for us. We are,
therefore, better off than if we had been let into the secret, and left
to do it for ourselves.

But though every created thing is, in this sense, a mystery, the word
mystery cannot be applied to moral truth, any more than obscurity can
be applied to light. The God in whom we believe is a God of moral truth,
and not a God of mystery or obscurity. Mystery is the antagonist
of truth. It is a fog of human invention that obscures truth, and
represents it in distortion. Truth never envelops itself in mystery;
and the mystery in which it is at any time enveloped, is the work of its
antagonist, and never of itself.

Religion, therefore, being the belief of a God, and the practice of
moral truth, cannot have connection with mystery. The belief of a God,
so far from having any thing of mystery in it, is of all beliefs the
most easy, because it arises to us, as is before observed, out of
necessity. And the practice of moral truth, or, in other words, a
practical imitation of the moral goodness of God, is no other than our
acting towards each other as he acts benignly towards all. We cannot
serve God in the manner we serve those who cannot do without such
service; and, therefore, the only idea we can have of serving God, is
that of contributing to the happiness of the living creation that God
has made. This cannot be done by retiring ourselves from the society of
the world, and spending a recluse life in selfish devotion.

The very nature and design of religion, if I may so express it, prove
even to demonstration that it must be free from every thing of mystery,
and unincumbered with every thing that is mysterious. Religion,
considered as a duty, is incumbent upon every living soul alike, and,
therefore, must be on a level to the understanding and comprehension of
all. Man does not learn religion as he learns the secrets and mysteries
of a trade. He learns the theory of religion by reflection. It arises
out of the action of his own mind upon the things which he sees, or upon
what he may happen to hear or to read, and the practice joins itself
thereto.

When men, whether from policy or pious fraud, set up systems of religion
incompatible with the word or works of God in the creation, and not
only above but repugnant to human comprehension, they were under the
necessity of inventing or adopting a word that should serve as a bar
to all questions, inquiries and speculations. The word mystery answered
this purpose, and thus it has happened that religion, which is in itself
without mystery, has been corrupted into a fog of mysteries.

As mystery answered all general purposes, miracle followed as an
occasional auxiliary. The former served to bewilder the mind, the latter
to puzzle the senses. The one was the lingo, the other the legerdemain.

But before going further into this subject, it will be proper to inquire
what is to be understood by a miracle.

In the same sense that every thing may be said to be a mystery, so also
may it be said that every thing is a miracle, and that no one thing is
a greater miracle than another. The elephant, though larger, is not a
greater miracle than a mite: nor a mountain a greater miracle than an
atom. To an almighty power it is no more difficult to make the one than
the other, and no more difficult to make a million of worlds than to
make one. Every thing, therefore, is a miracle, in one sense; whilst,
in the other sense, there is no such thing as a miracle. It is a miracle
when compared to our power, and to our comprehension. It is not a
miracle compared to the power that performs it. But as nothing in this
description conveys the idea that is affixed to the word miracle, it is
necessary to carry the inquiry further.

Mankind have conceived to themselves certain laws, by which what they
call nature is supposed to act; and that a miracle is something contrary
to the operation and effect of those laws. But unless we know the whole
extent of those laws, and of what are commonly called the powers of
nature, we are not able to judge whether any thing that may appear to us
wonderful or miraculous, be within, or be beyond, or be contrary to, her
natural power of acting.

The ascension of a man several miles high into the air, would have
everything in it that constitutes the idea of a miracle, if it were not
known that a species of air can be generated several times lighter than
the common atmospheric air, and yet possess elasticity enough to prevent
the balloon, in which that light air is inclosed, from being compressed
into as many times less bulk, by the common air that surrounds it.



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