Thomas Paine: These are the times that try men's souls

Age of Reason

by Thomas Paine

Age of Reason, Part III, Section 5

Appendix. Contradictory Doctrines in the New Testament, Between Matthew And Mark.

In the New Testament, Mark, chap. xvi. ver. 16, it is said "He that believelh and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." This is making salvation, or, in other words, the happiness of man after this life, to depend entirely on believing, or on what Christians call faith.

But the 25th chapter of The Gospel according to Matthew makes Jesus Christ to preach a direct contrary doctrine to The Gospel according to Mark; for it makes salvation, or the future happiness of man, to depend entirely on good works; and those good works are not works done to God, for he needs them not, but good works done to man.

The passage referred to in Matthew is the account there given of what is called the last day, or the day of judgment, where the whole world is represented to be divided into two parts, the righteous and the unrighteous, metaphorically called the sheep and the goats.

To the one part called the righteous, or the sheep, it says, "Come ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world — for I was an hungered and ye gave me meat — I was thirsty and ye gave me drink — I was a stranger and ye took me in — Naked and ye clothed me — I was sick and ye visited me — I was in prison and ye came unto me."

"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered and fed thee, or thirsty and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in, or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick and in prison, and came unto thee?

"And the king shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Here is nothing about believing in Christ — nothing about that phantom of the imagination called Faith. The works here spoken of, are works of humanity and benevolence, or, in other words, an endeavour to make God's creation happy. Here is nothing about preaching and making long prayers, as if God must be dictated to by man; nor about building churches and meetings, nor hiring priests to pray and preach in them. Here is nothing about predestination, that lust which some men have for damning one another. Here is nothing about baptism, whether by sprinkling or plunging, nor about any of those ceremonies for which the Christian church has been fighting, persecuting, and burning each other, ever since the Christian church began.

If it be asked, why do not priests preach the doctrine contained in this chapter? The answer is easy; — they are not fond of practicing it themselves. It does not answer for their trade. They had rather get than give. Charity with them begins and ends at home.

Had it been said, Come ye blessed, ye have been liberal in paying the preachers of the word, ye have contributed largely towards building churches and meeting-houses, there is not a hired priest in Christendom but would have thundered it continually in the ears of his congregation. But as it is altogether on good works done to men, the priests pass over it in silence, and they will abuse me for bringing it into notice.

Thomas Paine

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