"AND A BONNIE PULPIT IT IS." — Allan Cunningham.

No. 24.]AUGUST 19, 1831.             

An  Oration,

“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel."Matthew xxiii. 24.

The gentlemen who distribute religious tracts, the general body of dissenting preachers, and almost all persons engaged in the trade of religion, imagine themselves to have a mighty advantage against infidels, upon the strength of that last and reckless argument,—that whether the Christian religion be true or false, there can be no harm in believing; and that belief is, at any rate, the safe side.

Now, to say nothing of this old Popish argument, which a sensible man must see is the very essence of Popery, and would oblige us to believe all the absurdities and nonsense in the world inasmuch as if there be no harm in believing, and there be some harm and danger in not believing, the more we believe, the better; and all the argument necessary for any religion whatever, would be, that it should frighten us out of our wits: the more terrible, the more true: and it would be our duty to become the converts of that religion, whatever it might be, whose priests could swear the loudest, and damn and curse the fiercest.

But I am here, to grapple with this Popery in disguise, this wolfish argument in sheepish clothing, upon scriptural ground, and on scriptural ground only; taking the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, for this argument's sake, to be of divine authority,

The question proposed is, ‘Whether is the believer or the unbeliever the more likely to be saved, taking the scriptures to be of divine authority?’ And I stand here, on this divine authority, to prove that the unbeliever is the more likely to be saved: that unbelief, and not belief, is the safe side; and that a man is more likely to be damned for believing the gospel, and because of his having believed it, than for rejecting and despising it, as I do.

I propose to sift this question, with most careful diligence, and to bring all its merits before you, with the utmost fairness, candour, and truth, taking words and meanings in their most ordinary acceptation, submitting the result to the judgments of your own minds, no judgment of mine withstanding. Let your good patience hear,—let such conviction as shall ollow on your patient hearing, decide.

But, if such a patient hearing be more than good Christians be minded to give us, when thus I advance to meet them on their own ground, their impatience and intolerance itself will supply the evidence and demonstration of the fact, that, after all, they dare not stand to the text of their own book, that it is not the Bible that they go by, nor God whom they regard: but that they want to be God-a-mighties themselves, and would have us take their words for God's word: you must read it as they read it, and understand it as they understand it! you must ‘skip, and go on,’ just where a hard word comes in the way of the sense they choose to put upon't: you must believe what the book contains, what you see with your own eyes that it does not contain: you must shut your eyes, and not see what it does contain; or you'll be none the nearer the mark of their liking, though you should ‘from the table of your memory’ wipe away all trivial fond records,

        All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
        That youth and observation copied there,
        And God's commandment, it alone should live
        Within the book and volume of your brain,
        Unmixed with baser matter.

And though you should be ‘a scholar, and a ripe and good one,’ with all advantages that education and learning can confer on man, as familiar with the text of the original Greek, as with your mother tongue, the most illiterate bungling ass, the smutched artificer, the dirty kern, the cobbler from his lapstone, the weaver from his loom, having once given his mind to religion, will expect that your understanding should submit to his; and that you should receive not merely the text he quotes, but whatever sense he chooses to understand, or to misunderstand, from it. So that the Sun itself is not more apparent in the Heavens, than is the fact, that religion is nothing more than the moody melancholy of an overbearing and tyrannical disposition; and your religious Man, nothing more than all usurping saucy knave, who wants to be your master.

       ‘How calm and sweet the victories of life!
        How terrorless the triumph of the grave!
        How ludicrous the priest's dogmatic roar
        The weight of his exterminating curse,
        How light! and his affected charity,
        To suit the pressure of the changing times,
        With palpable deceit! but for thy aid,
        Religion! but for thee, prolific fiend,
        That peoplest earth with demons, hell with men,
        And heaven with slaves!’
                        Shelley's Queen Mab.

Hear the pulpit, Sirs! and their word of God, to be sure, is all joy and peace in believing,—mild, as if blest voices, uttering praise,—soft, as the down upon the ring-dove's breast—‘sweet, as the south wind that breathes upon a bank of violets, stealing and giving odours.’ Hear itself, Sirs! the gospel itself; uncommented by any gloss of mine; and marvel!

‘The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of souls and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.’ Heb. iv. 12. What is hypocrisy? What is deceit? If greater hypocrisy and deceit can be, or be conceived, than that men should put heaven in their shop-windows, when hell is in the shop? that they should cry ‘peace! peace! when there is no peace;’ and call their gospel ‘glad tidings of great joy,’ which, when we come to look into't, presents descriptions of grief, and woe, and pain, the bare imagination of which doth blanch the cheek of health to ashy paleness; and ‘makes the seated heart knock at the ribs against the use of nature.’

       ‘Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where pence
        And rest can never dwell; hope never comes
        That comes to all; but torture without end,
        And pain of inextinguishable fire
        Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
        With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.’

And are these ‘glad tidings of great joy?’ Is the liability which Christian men stand in, if the gospel be true, of being infinitely and eternally miserable, so tempting as to tempt a man to wish that it may be true; when that liability, if the gospel be true, and the scriptures, from Genesis to Revelations, be of divine authority, impends more over the believer than the unbeliever; and that the unbeliever is more likely to be saved in consequence of his unbelief, and by virtue of his unbelief; and the believer more likely to be lost and damned to all eternity, because he did believe, and in consequence of his having believed?

Taking the authority of scripture, for this argument's sake, to be decisive, I address the believer who would give himself airs of superiority, would chuckle in all imaginary safety in believing, and presume to threaten the unbeliever as being in a worse case, or more dangerous plight, than he. ‘Hast thou no fears for thy persumptuous self? when on the showing of thine own book, the safety (if safety there be) is all on the unbelieving side. When for any one text that can be produced, seeming to hold out any advantage or safety in believing, we can produce two, in which the better hope is held out to the unbeliever. For only one apparent exhortation to believe, we can produce two forbiddances to believe, and many threatenings of God's vengeance to, and for the crime and folly of believing. To this proof I proceed, by showing you:

1st. What the denunciations of God's vengeance are: with no comment of mine, but in the words of the text itself.

2d. That these dreadful denunciations are threatened to believers: and that they are not threatened to unbelievers: and

3d. That all possible advantages and safety, which believing could confer on any man, are likely, and more likely to be conferred on the unbeliever, than on the believer.

That the danger of the believer is so extreme, that no greater danger can possibly be.

1st. What are the denunciations of God's vengeance? ‘There are.’ (says the holy Revelation xiv. 10) ‘who shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night.’ There's ‘glad tidings of great joy’ for you. The Christian may get over the terror of this denunciation by the selfish and ungenerous chuckle of his ‘Ah! well, these were very wicked people, and must have deserved their doom; it need not alarm us: it doesn't apply to us.’ But good-hearted men would rather say, ‘It does apply. We cannot be indifferent to the misery of our fellow-creatures. The self-same Heaven that frowns on them, looks lowering upon us.’ And who were they? and what was their offence? Was it Atheism? was it Deism? was it Infidelity? No! It was for church and chapel-going; it was for adoring, believing and worshipping. They worshipped the beast: I know not what beast they worshipped; but I know, that if you go into any of our churches and chapels at this day, you will find them worshipping the Lamb; and if worshipping a lamb, be not most suspiciously like worshipping a beast, you may keep the colour in your cheeks, while mine are blanched with fear. The unbeliever only can be absolutely safe from this danger. He only who has no religion at all, is sure not to be of the wrong religion. He who worships neither God nor Devil, is sure not to mistake one of those gentlemen for the other.

But will it be pretended, that these are only metaphors of speech, that the thing said is not the thing that's meant. Why, then, they are very ugly metaphors. And what is saying that which you don't mean, and meaning the contrary to what you say, but lying?[1]

And what worse can become of the Infidel, who makes it the rule of his life ‘to hear and speak the plain and simple truth,’ than of the Christian, whose religion itself is a system of metaphors and allegories, of double meanings, of quirks and quiddities, in dread defiance of the text that warns him, that ‘All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.’ Rev. xxi. 8.

Is it a parable that a man may merely entertain his imagination withal, and think no more on't—though not a word be hinted about a parabolical signification, and the text stands in the mouth of him, who, we are told, was the truth itself. And he it is who brought life and immortality to light, that hath described in the 16th of Luke, such an immortality as that of one who was a sincere believer,—a son of Abraham, who took the Bible for the rule of his life; and was anxious to promote the salvation of his brethren, yet found for himself no saviour, no salvation; but, ‘In Hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment and saith, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.’ But that request was refused. ‘Then he said, I pray thee, therefore, Father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house; for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ But that request was refused. There's ‘glad tidings of great joy’ for you.

That the believer's danger of coming or going into that place of torment is so great, that greater cannot possibly be: and, that his belief will stand him in no stead at all, but make his plight a thousand times worse than if he had not been a believer; and that unbelief is the safer side,—Christ himself being judge,—I quote no words but his to prove.

Is the believer concerned to save his soul, then shall he most assuredly be damned for being so concerned: for Christ hath said, ‘Whosoever will save his soul shall lose it.’ Matthew xvi. 25.

Is the believer a complete beggar; if he be not so,‘if he hath a rag that he doth call his own; he will be damned to all eternity. For Christ hath said, ‘Whosoever he be of you who forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.’ Luke xiv. 33.

Is the believer a rich man? and dreams he of going to Heaven? ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.’ Matthew xix. 24. Is he a man at all, then he cannot be saved: for Christ hath said. ‘Thou believest that there is one God;’ saith St. James, ‘Thou dost well, the devils also believe and tremble.’ James ii. 19. And so much good, and no more, than comes to damned spirits in the flames of Hell is all the good that ever did and can come of believing, ‘For though thou hadst all faith, so that then couldst remove mountains,’ saith St. Paul, ‘it should profit thee nothing.’ 1 Cor. xiii. 2.

Well, then! let the good Christian try what saying his prayers will do for him: this is the good that they'll do for him; and he hath Christ's own word to comfort him in't. ‘He shall receive the greater damnation.’ Luke xx. 47.

Well, then, since believing will not save him, since faith will not save him, since prayer will not save him, but all, so positively makes things all the worse, and none the better, here's one other chance for him. Let him go and receive the Sacrament, the most comfortable Sacrament, you know, ‘of the body and blood of Christ.;’ remembering, as all good communicants should, ‘that he is not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs that fall from that table.’ ‘Truth, Lord! But the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table!’ O what happy dogs. But let those dogs remember, that it is also truth, that ‘He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.’ 1 Cor. xi. 29. O what precious eating and drinking.

        ‘My God? and is thy table spread;
        And dote thy cup with love o'erflow?
        Thither be all thy children led,
        And let. them all thy sweetness know.’

That table is a snare, that cup is deadly poison, that bread shall send thy soul to hell.

Well, then! try again, believer: perhaps you had better join the Missionary Society, and subscribe to send these glad tidings of these blessed privileges, and this jolly eating and drinking, to the heathen.

Why, then, you have Christ's own assurance, that when you shall have made one proselyte, you shall have just done him the kindness of making him twofold more the child of hell than yourself. Matt. xxiii. 15.

Is the believer liable to the ordinary gusts of passion, and in a passion shall he drop the hasty word, ‘thou fool:’ for that one word, ‘he shall be in danger of Hell-fire.’ Matt. v. 22.[2]

Nay, Sirs! this isn't the worst of the believer's danger. Would he but keep his legs and arms together, and spare his own eyes and limbs; he doth by that very mercy to himself damn his eyes and limbs—and hath Christ's assurance that it would have been profitable for him rather to have plucked out his eyes, and chopped off his limbs, and so to have wriggled and groped his way through the ‘straight gate and the narrow way that leadeth unto life,’ than having two eyes and two arms, or two legs, to be cast into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their ‘worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.’ Mark ix. 43.

Well, then! will the believer say, what were all the miracles and prophecies of both the Old and the New Testament for? those unquestionable miracles, and clearly accomplished prophecies, if it were not that men should believe? Why absolutely they were the very arguments appointed by God himself to show us that men should not believe; but that damnation should be their punishment if they did believe. ‘To the law and the testimony,’ Sirs! These are the very words: Of miracles,’ saith God's word, ‘They are the spirits of devils, that work miracles.’ Rev. xvi. 14. And it is the Devil who ‘deceiveth them which dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he hath power to do.’ Rev. xiii. 14. So much for miracles.

Is it on the score of prophets and of prophecies, then, that you will take believing to be the safe side? Then ‘thus with the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means.’ Jer. v. 31. ‘The prophet is a fool: the spiritual man is mad.’ Hosea ix. 7. ‘Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, hearken not unto the prophets.’ Jer. xxiii. 16. ‘O, Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes of the desert.’ Ezekiel xiii. 4. ‘They lie unto thee.’ Jer. xiv. 14. ‘And they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.’ Rev. xx. 10. ‘And the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.’ Ezekiel xiv. 10.

Nay, more, then, it is, when God hath determined to damn men, that he, in every instance, causeth them to become believers, and to have faith in divine Revelation, in order that they may be damned. Believers, and none but believers, becoming liable to damnation; believers, and none but believers, being capable of committing that unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, which hath never forgiveness, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come. ‘Whereas, all other kinds of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, and all sorts of blasphemy wherewith so ever they shall blaspheme.’ But there is no forgiveness for believers. Mark iii. 28. For it is written, ‘For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned.’ 2 Thess. ii. 11.[3]

So when it was determined by God that the wicked Ahab should perish, the means to bring him to destruction, both of body and soul, was to make him become a believer. I offer no comment of my own on words so sacred; but those are the words: ‘Hear thou, therefore, the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the hosts of Heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead? and one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there stood forth a spirit and stood before the Lord, and said—I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shall persuade him, and prevail also. Go forth and do so. Now, therefore behold the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all thy prophets.’ 1 Kings xxii. 19-23. There were 400 of 'em; they were ‘the goodly fellowship of the prophets for you; all of them inspired by the spirit from on high, and all of them lying as fast as they could lie.’

So much for getting on the safe side by believing. Had Ahab been an Infidel, he would have saved his soul alive. As it was, we may address him in the words of St. Paul to just such another fool. ‘King Ahab, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest: but not better than I know, that, for that very belief, fell slaughter on thy soul: and where thou soughtest to be saved by believing, it was by believing thou wert damned.’

So when Elijah had succeeded in converting the 450 worshippers, of Baal, who had been safe enough while they were Infidels, and they began crying, ‘the Lord He is God, the Lord He is God:’ the moment they got into the right faith, they found themselves in the wrong box; and the prophet, by the command of God, put a stop to their Lord-Godding, by cutting their throats for 'em. ‘Elijah brought them down to the brook of Kishon, and slew them there.’ 1 Kings xviii. 40. O, what a blessed thing! ye see, to be converted to the true faith.[4]

Thus all the sins and crimes that have been committed in the world, and all God's judgments upon sin and sinners, have been the consequence of religion, and faith, and believing.

What was the first sin committed in the world? It was believing. Had our great mother Eve not been a believing credulous fool, she would not have been in the transgression. Who was the first reverend divine that began preaching about God and immortality? It was the Devil. What was the first lie that was ever told, the very damning and damnable lie? It was the lie told to make folks believe that they would not be dead when they were dead, that they should not surely die, but that they should be as gods, and live in a future state of existence. When God himself hath declared, that there is no future state of existence: that ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust shall thou return.’ Who is it, then, that prefers believing in the Devil rather than in God, but the believer. And from whom is the hope of a future state derived, but from the father of lies?—the Devil, But

If, in defiance of so positive a declaration of Almighty God, men will have it, that there is a future state of existence, after death, who are they who shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of Heaven, but unbelievers, let 'em come from the north, from the south, from the east, or from the west? And who are they that shall be cast out, but believers, ‘the children of the kingdom?’

As St. Peter very charitably calls them, ‘cursed children.’ 2 Peter ii. 14. That is, I suppose, children with beards, children that never grew to sense enough to put away childish things, but did in gawky manhood, like new-born babes, desire the pure milk and lollipop of the gospel. ‘For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.’

And who are they whom Christ will set upon his right hand, and to whom he will say, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father!’ but unbelievers, who never trouble their minds about religion, and never darkened the doors of a gospel-shop. But who are they to whom he will say, ‘Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devils and his angels.’ but believers, every one of them believers, chapel-going folks, Christ's blood-men, and incorrigible bigots, that had been bothering him all their days with their ‘Lord, Lord!’ to come off at last with no better reward of their faith than that he will protest unto them, I never knew ye.

One text there is, and only one, against ten thousand of a contrary significancy: which, being garbled and torn from its context, seems, for a moment, to give the advantage to the believer: the celebrated 16 chapter of Mark, ver. 16: ‘He that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.’ But little will this serve the deceitful hope of the Christian, for it is immediately added, ‘And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents: and if they drink any deadly things, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.’ Can the Christian show these signs, or any of them? Will he dare to take up a serpent, or drink prussic acid? If he hesitate, he is not a believer, and his profession of belief is a falsehood. Let belief confer what privilege it may, he hath no part nor lot in the matter: the threat which he denounces against infidels hangs over himself, and he hath no sign of salvation to show.

Believing the gospel, then (or rather, I should say, professing to believe it, for I need not tell you that there's a great deal more professing to believe, than believing), instead of making a man the more likely to be saved, doubles his danger of damnation, inasmuch as Christ hath said, that ‘the last state of that man shall be worse than the first.’ Luke xi. 26. And his holy apostle, Peter, addeth, ‘It would have been better for them not to have known the way (2 Peter ii. 21) of righteousness.’ The sin of believing makes all other sins that a man can commit so much the more heinous and offensive in the sight of God, inasmuch as they are sins against light and knowledge: and ‘the servant who knew his Lord's will, and did it not, he shall be beaten with many stripes.’ Luke xii. 47. While unbelief is not only innocent in itself but so highly pleasing to Almighty God, that it is represented as the cause of his forgiveness of things which otherwise would not be forgiven. Thus St. Paul, who had been a blasphemer, a persecutor, an injurious, assures us that it was for this cause he obtained mercy, ‘because he did it ignorantly in unbelief.’ 1 Tim. i. 13. Had he been a believer, he would as surely have been damned as his name was Paul. And 'tis the gist of his whole argument, and the express words of the 11th of the Epistle to the Romans, that, ‘God included them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.[5] Unbelief being the essential qualification and recommendation to God's mercy, not without good reason was it the pious father of the boy that had the Devil in him, when he had need of Christ's mercy, and knew that unbelief would be the best title to it, cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief!’ Mark ix. 24.

While the apostles themselves, who were most immediately near and dear to Christ, no more believing the gospel than I do: and for all they have said and preached about it, they never believed it themselves, as Christ told 'em that they hadn't so much faith as a grain of mustard-seed. And the evangelist, John, bears them record, to their immortal honour, that, ‘though Christ had done so many miracles among them, yet believed they not.’ John xii. 37.

And the same divine authority assures us, that ‘neither did his brethren believe in him.’ John vii. 5. Which, then, is ‘the safe side,’ Sirs, on the showing of the record itself? On the unbelieving side, the Infidel stands in the glorious company of the apostles, in the immediate family of Christ, and hath no fear; while the believer doth as well, and no better, than the devils in Hell, who believe and tremble.’[6]

If there were in reason any danger or guilt in being an unbeliever; if it could be thought or feared for a moment that God would punish a man for being an infidel; that is, for the mere error of his thought, if an error it be—the mere mistake of the mind, made by God himself liable to be mistaken; what chance, what hope, what dream of salvation, could exist for the believer? The chance of salvation is a chance not worth having; it is a madman's dream. It is a hope but as of a man who is to be hanged. It is a gallows hope; ‘For if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?’[7]

But let not the sinner be cheated by the belief, that belief will keep him safe from any denunciation threatened against unbelief. His very belief itself is founded upon unbelief. He cannot maintain his notion of being accountable to God, and that he shall exist in a future state, without flying in the face of his own Bible, making it a nose of wax, twisting it to his own conceit, taking the part he likes, and in the sense he likes it, but rejecting what likes not him. (Does the Infidel do more than this?) Does his brain-sick vanity lead him to think that he is of so much consequence, that his every thought, word, and deed, is registered in Heaven, and that an accusing angel flits up to heaven's chancery to insult the majesty of God, with an account how a beggar's callet stole a cabbage-net?

And doth he not, by that very vanity, as much trample upon the word of God as ever did an infidel, where that word hath said, ‘Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? Or is it again to him that thou makest thy way perfect’ Job xxii. 3. ‘And if thou sinnest, what dost thou unto him? or, if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him.’ Job xxxv. 6.

Dreams the crackt fool of his superiority to the brute creation, and that when he dies there shall be not as sheer and final an end of him as of them? And is he not himself an infidel and an unbeliever in that very text of God's words, which saith, and which hath the testimony of his own reason, and of his own senses, and of all nature, and the experience of all time, and of all places, and of all men in all the world, in attestation of what it saith? That which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts; even one thing, befalleth them. ‘As the one dieth, so dieth the other: yea, they have all one breath: so that a man hath no pre-eminence about a beast: all go unto one place: all are of the dust: and all turn to dust again.—’Eccles. iii. 19-20.

Well, then, Sirs! What comes of their appeal to reason, as to belief being the safe side? What comes of their appeal to scripture, as to belief being the safe side? Their ground fails them on every side.

In what, then, originated the mighty hue and cry against unbelief, and the exceeding bitterness of the saints against unbelievers? How comes the free exercise of our thoughts, which should be as free as air, and our free speech as free as our free thoughts, to be so grievous to the clergy, from the proud prelate who swells in the throne of a cathedral to the ragamuffin that sweeps the hayloft of God a’mighty's second wife, Mother Soapsuds, and her little Shiloh? It spoils their trade: it crosses the paths of their ambition.

Should men become unbelievers and act, and reason like men,

        ‘Othello's occupation's gone!’

The craft, Sirs, the most gainful craft going,—the craftiest of all crafts, would be in danger: the craft that makes men fools to make them slaves, and promises them a heaven of happiness to reconcile them to a world of misery. All the tricks of all the religion that ever was in the world, on the part of those who have not themselves been the dupes and tools of others, have never been aught else than a scheming, greedy, grasping at unrighteous gain, and a tyrannous usurpation of an undue influence over the minds that could be easily cajoled and terrified.

The whole argument, then, of terror and danger, which the priests denounce against unbelievers, is the danger and terror to themselves. Their ‘He that believeth not shall be damned,’ when interpreted to its real meaning, means no more than d—n them that don't deal at our shop.

And, as you value real happiness, and solid substantial peace of mind, don't go to their shops—avoid them as you would a pestilence. In infidelity, in unbelief, let me not be misunderstood, in that entire scorn, that total rejection, contempt, and hatred of the gospel, which is my pride and boast to exhibit to the world, you will enjoy a reality of safety which the dupes of faith do not dream of. You will be safe from those imaginary terrors that alarm the guilty mind: you will be safe from those chimerical dreams of a kingdom of heaven, like unto a grain of mustard-seed, that you must get through a needle's eye first,—the straight gate, the narrow way, of which you have to be sure the blessed assurance, that if you should seek to enter in you should not be able. You will be safe from those bad feelings and angry passions which you see dim the faces of religious people. You will be safe from that bad heart, and remorseless and vindictive temper, by which alone a man could bear to believe in such accursed trash as all false religion is. By rejecting religion altogether, you will save yourselves from that liability to madness, and that crackiness and confusion about the brains, which you see with your own eyes, that all religious people are so peculiarly subject to. I speak this upon my right to have an opinion upon this subject, as being, as I am, a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and having made the structure and philosophy of the human brain matter of my particular study. I speak what I do know, and testify what I have seen. Religion is poison of the brain: by rejecting religion altogether, you will be safe from all cares and anxieties, but for your well-being and well-doing in life; and in death without a fear, without a doubt, without a wish, will resign your being into the hands of the good and gracious Father of us all. In a word, to be an Infidel is to be on the safe side; to be an Infidel is the highest style, the noblest privilege, the greatest happiness of man. Let me die the death of an Infidel, and let my last end be like his. And down, I say! down with priestcraft!


[1] But if the Christian hath a right to say that there are some parts, and even many parts of Scripture, which are not to be taken as strictly and literally true; but which must be understood as metaphors and allegories: what right can we have to dispute our right to maintain, that the whole gospel story is a metaphor and an allegory from first to last; that there is not a word of truth in it: that it was not written to pass for truth; but only as a vehicle to convey moral instruction, after the well-known Oriental style; a fable with a moral to it: of which the duller wit of those western nations forgot the moral, and ran away with the fable? [Return to text.]

[2] Ενοχος  εσται  εις  την  γεενναν  του  πυρος [Return to text.]

[3] If, then, the evidence of the Christian religion were as strong as you please, where would be your evidence to show that that evidence itself was not strong delusion? And if God doth send men strong delusion, I guess the delusion is likely to be strong enough. [Return to text.]

[4] He brought them to the brook, ye know, for the convenience of baptising and killing them at the same time. I suppose they were on the safe side of the brook. [Return to text.]

[5] It is said of Abraham himself, that ‘he staggered not at the promises of God, through belief,’ Romans iv. 20. It being nothing but belief that sets men staggering. And when the whole Jewish nation became unbelievers, God was so pleased with them for it, that he actually saved the whole Gentile world in compliment to them: they have been the most money-getting people ever since. And it is expressly declared, that the Gentiles obtained mercy through their belief. Romans xi. 30. [Return to text.]

[6] While the first believers of Christianity—the martyrs, as they would pretend to be, who are said to have sealed the truth with their blood, had the seal of God's providence upon them—that it was a lie that they sealed with their blood; for how could God's providence express his displeasure and indignation against believers more strongly than by bringing them to a bad end? [Return to text.]

[7] 1 Peter 4:18 [Return to text.]

Transcribed from the 1832 book:
The Devil's Pulpit: Vol. II. containing twenty-three Astronomico-Theological Discourses, by the Rev. Robert Taylor, B.A.
See Books on Solar Mythology.

Other Sermons by Robert Taylor:
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