Thomas Paine Reprimands Bishop Moore

 

To Mr. Moore of New York, Commonly Called Bishop Moore

 

I have read in the newspapers your account of the visit you made to the unfortunate General Hamilton,[1] and of administering to him a ceremony of your church which you call the Holy Communion. 

I regret the fate of General Hamilton, and I so far hope with you that it will be a warning to thoughtless man not to sport away the life that God has given him; but with respect to other parts of your letter I think it very reprehensible, and betrays great ignorance of what true religion is. But you are a priest, you get your living by it, and it is not your worldly interest to undeceive yourself. 

After giving an account of your administering to the deceased what you call the Holy Communion, you add, "By reflecting on this melancholy event let the humble believer be encouraged ever to hold fast that precious faith which is the only source of true consolation in the last extremity of nature.  Let the infidel be persuaded to abandon his opposition to the Gospel." 

To show you, Sir, that your promise of consolation from Scripture has no foundation to stand upon, I will cite to you one of the greatest falsehoods upon record, and which was given, as the record says, for the purpose, and as a promise, of consolation. 

In the epistle called the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, iv, the writer consoles the Thessalonians as to the case of their friends who were already dead. 

He does this by informing them, and he does it he says, by the word of the Lord, (a most notorious falsehood,) that the general resurrection of the dead and the ascension of the living will be in his and their days; that their friends will then come to life again; that the dead in Christ will rise first. -- "Then WE (says he, ver. 17, 18) which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with THEM in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 

Delusion and falsehood cannot be carried higher than they are in this passage. You, Sir, are but a novice in the art.  The words admit of no equivocation. The whole passage is in the first person and the present tense, "We which are alive." 

Had the writer meant a future time, and a distant generation, it must have been in the third person and the future tense.  "They who shall then be alive."  I am thus particular for the purpose of nailing you down to the text, that you may not ramble from it, nor put other constructions upon the words than they will bear, which priests are very apt to do. 

Now, Sir, it is impossible for serious man, to whom God has given the divine gift of reason, and who employs that reason to reverence and adore the God that gave it, it is, I say, impossible for such a man to put confidence in a book that abounds with fable and falsehood as the New Testament does.  This passage is but a sample of what I could give you. 

You call on those whom you style "infidels," (and they in return might call you an idolater, a worshipper of false gods, a preacher of false doctrines), "to abandon their opposition to the Gospel."  Prove, Sir, the Gospel to be true, and the opposition will cease of itself; but until you do this (which we know you cannot do) you have no right to expect they will notice your call.  If by infidels you mean Deists (and you must be exceedingly ignorant of the origin of the word Deist, and know but little of Deus, to put that construction upon it), you will find yourself over-matched if you begin to engage in a controversy with them. 

Priests may dispute with priests, and sectaries with sectaries, about the meaning of what they agree to call Scripture, and end as they began; but when you engage with a Deist you must keep to fact. Now, Sir, you cannot prove a single article of your religion to be true, and we tell you so publicly.  Do it, if you can.  The Deistical article, the belief of a God, with which your creed begins, has been borrowed by your church from the ancient Deists, and even this article you dishonor by putting a dream-begotten phantom[2] which you call His son, over His head, and treating God as if he was superannuated. 

Deism is the only profession of religion that admits of worshipping and reverencing God in purity, and the only one on which the thoughtful mind can repose with undisturbed tranquility.  God is almost forgotten in the Christian religion. Everything, even the creation, is ascribed to the son of Mary. 

In religion, as in everything else, perfection consists in simplicity.  The Christian religion of Gods within Gods, like wheels within wheels, is like a complicated machine that never goes right, and every projector in the art of Christianity is trying to mend it.  It is its defects that have caused such a number and variety of tinkers to be hammering at it, and still it goes wrong. 

In the visible world no time-keeper can go equally true with the sun; and in like manner, no complicated religion can be equally true with the pure and unmixed religion of Deism. 

Had you not offensively glanced at a description of men whom you call by a false name, you would not have been troubled nor honored with this address; neither has the writer of it any desire or intention to enter into controversy with you. He thinks the temporal establishment of your church politically unjust and offensively unfair; but with respect to religion itself, distinct from temporal establishments, he is happy in the enjoyment of his own, and he leaves you to make the best you can of yours.



[1] Alexander Hamilton who was dying from a shot he received in a duel. Editor.

[2] The first chapter of Matthew, relates that Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary, dreamed that the angel told him that his intended bride was with child by the Holy Ghost. It is not every husband, whether carpenter or priest, that can be so easily satisfied, for lo! It was a dream. Whether Mary was in a dream when this was done we are not told. It is, however, a comical story. There is no woman living can understand it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






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