Paine began Age of Reason with this statement:
"It has been my intention, for several years past, to publish my thoughts upon religion. I am well aware of the difficulties that attend the subject, and from that consideration, had reserved it to a more advanced period of life. I intended it to be the last offering I should make to my fellow-citizens of all nations, and that at a time when the purity of the motive that induced me to it, could not admit of a question, even by those who might disapprove the work.
The circumstance that has now taken place in France of the total abolition of the whole national order of priesthood, and of everything appertaining to compulsive systems of religion, and compulsive articles of faith, has not only precipitated my intention, but rendered a work of this kind exceedingly necessary, lest in the general wreck of superstition, of false systems of government, and false theology, we lose sight of morality, of humanity, and of the theology that is true."
Watson's replied to Paine's effort to stake out a moderate position between established religion and atheism by saying:
"I hope there is no want of charity in saying, that it would have been fortunate for the christian world, had your life been terminated before you had fulfilled your intention."
In contrast to Watson's desire that Paine's life had been terminated, is the effort Paine made in the French Convention to prevent the guillotining of King Louis XVI who was being held in custody awaiting sentencing. Against furious opposition, Paine said in part, "what today seems an act of justice may [in the future] appear an act of vengeance." William Blake's note on Watson's writing that Paine's death would have been fortunate was:
"Presumptuous Murderer dost thou O Priest wish thy brothers death when God has preserved him"Blake found it easy to find much in Paine with which to agree and little in Watson.
Jerusalem, Plate 47, (E 196) "Hark! the mingling cries of Luvah with the Sons of Albion Hark! & Record the terrible wonder! that the Punisher Mingles with his Victims Spectre, enslaved and tormented To him whom he has murderd, bound in vengeance & enmity Shudder not, but Write, & the hand of God will assist you! Therefore I write Albions last words. Hope is banish'd from me. Plate 48 These were his last words, and the merciful Saviour in his arms Reciev'd him, in the arms of tender mercy and repos'd The pale limbs of his Eternal Individuality Upon the Rock of Ages. Then, surrounded with a Cloud: In silence the Divine Lord builded with immortal labour, Of gold & jewels a sublime Ornament, a Couch of repose, With Sixteen pillars: canopied with emblems & written verse. Spiritual Verse, order'd & measur'd, from whence, time shall reveal. The Five books of the Decologue, the books of Joshua & Judges, Samuel, a double book & Kings, a double book, the Psalms & Prophets The Four-fold Gospel, and the Revelations everlasting Eternity groan'd. & was troubled, at the image of Eternal Death!"
Copy A, Plate 51