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But we who are independent on the judgment of any con, gregation, on all charges brought against us by superstitious superiors, protected by the laws of the land, favoured by the liberty of the press, encouraged and summoned by a thousand friends to truth-you might complain of us if we resolved on taciturnity : you would justly call us dastards, or sluggards, or traitors to truth, if we, exempt from the peril of destroying our agency, merely for the sake of living at ease, or avoid, ing the scurrility of canting scribblers, or of gaining more by orthodox babble, or on account of our insignificant reputation, should, like such numbers of our ice-cold and selfish philosophers and theologues, betray the cause of truth, by withholding our convictions.
What I have now submitted to the reader, however, has nothing more in view than to settle his notions on certain points, hoping on the one side that the frankness with which I have delivered myself, and shall preserve in what future communications he may expect from me, will not be thought ex, cessive ; and on the other side, that from the taciturnity of our intelligent and sagacious clergy, no prejudice may be derived against them.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine,
Gentleman of Hackney, who has been blind for several
years, and who belongs to a respectable body of Dissenters, established at that place, was recently in want of a boy, to act as “ a guide to his feet, and a light to his path,” in his diurnal perambulations through the village. As he usually paid his little attendants liberally for their trouble, he was advised to apply to the master of the Gravel-pit Charity-School, wbich he accordingly did; and a boy was politely granted him for one day, with an injunction, that, if he wished to retain him longer in his service, he should procure the sanction of the Reo. Doctor W-n, Vicar of the Parish. To this the gentleman assented; but (whether owing to the privation of his visual organs, or to a deficiency of nrental light, it may not be easy to determine) he did not foresee, that difference of cast would be considered as a bar to the success of his application. On the following day the gentleman waited on the Recerend Doctor, to solicit an extension of the grant; but, judge of his purprise when he was bluntly told, that "it was truly amazing
he should come there upon such a business," and as rudely asked, “ were there no boys in his own connection ?" Utterly confounded by the shock which this reception had given to his nerves, the gentleman had begun to grope his way from the holy threshold, when his Reverence added, “ you can, indeed, keep the boy longer; if you have his consent; but he has a sister at the same school, and you may be assured that if you retain him, she shall likewise immediately quit, and may also go amongst the Dissenters!"
Query. Which was most in a want of a guide-the learned doctor or the applicant?
By giving the preceding a corner in any of your pages, you will much oblige a constant reader and well-wisher, Mare Street, Hackney.
REVIEW OF THE
CONTROVERSY ON THE EVIDENCES OF
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine. ELDOM has the question of the Truth of Christianity
undergone a more ample discussion than in your invaluable Magazine, and perhaps no publication, avowedly Christian, has ever before afforded so fair an opportunity to the disputants on both sides, to defend their respective systems. You, Sir, have set an honourable example of free enquiry, by presenting to the world, in the same pages, an exhibition of talent and argument exerted for and against the Christian religion ; convinced that if that system be true, the permission of its enemies to examine or oppose it, is, in reality, as beneficial to the cause, as the attempts of its friends to support it by law and violence have proved injurious.
These reflections have suggested themselves to my mind, on going through the whole of the controversy as it has appeared in your Magazine; and, with your permission, I purpose presenting your readers with a review of the argument, claiming the privilege of offering occasional strictures on the wri. ters who have taken the leading part in the discussion.
The foremost of this description in favour of Christianity is your correspondent Christophilus. This writer commences his operations by throwing off all the cumbersome dogmas and absurdities of orthodoxy-thus, by making the religion of Jesus a reasonable service, he does away at once with that fund for wit and ridicule, which the general representations of Christianity have afforded to the sceptic. The fault with the advo
66 for (says
cates of revelation has usually been, that they have trad too much to defend; not so with Christophilus--he undertakes to support nothing but Christianity, pure and simple as its great teacher left it; and in the spirit of this system he consi. ders there is nothing to which the Deist can object; he, page 182, vol. i.) it is in fact pure Deism, with such advantages as Deism, without revelation, never can possess ; for what is Christianity but the religion of nature, simplified and elucidated so as to meet and suit the circumstances and ability of the meanest capacity, and rendered truly valuable by furnishing a elue and evidence for the belief of a future state of existence ?"
Mr. Paine expresses his religious belief in the following terms--" I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy. Now to this creed Christophilus can add AMEN ; So that the Christian can unite with the Deist in the general principles of religion-both equally believing in the existence of one God, in his justice and goodness, in the necessity of virtue and morality to the happiness of man, and in a state of bliss beyond the grave. On the latter article, it is true, Deists are divided among themselves; but of those who do not believe in a future state of existence, it may be said, at least they would wish for some condition of enjoyment beyond the short compass of human life, though they consider futurity to be irvolved in doubt and obscurity. And here the language of one of your Deistical correspondents may be quoted to the point
I wish, Mr. Editor, in common with my brethren of mankind, to learn our future destiny; but this wish this ardent desire Sin the view of enlightened reason, constitutes no proof that I ever shall."
The Christian and the Deist agreeing then in the general principles of religion, the point at issue between them is simply this has the Deity ever revealed to his creature man these principles of religion, in any other way than is supposed to be conveyed by his works, and in what we behold of the ordinary operations of nature? The affirmative of this is taken by the Christians; and to prove that the Deity did reveal in an extraordinary inanner these principles of religion, which it is acknowledged it is important for man to know, certain ancient records are put in as evidence, consisting principally of history, poetry, and epistles—these records have been col. Jected together into a book known by the name of the Biblein this miscellaneous work is to be found the history of a people, to whom it is assumed the Deity revealed himself-their origin,
customs, manners, policy, virtues, vices, and ignorance, are detailed in a manner totally different from the spirit of impos. ture-their poetry and songs, which exhibit some of the finest speciinens of composition, have all a reference to a supposed divine communication-and the original letters, written by dif ferent persons, are replete with the soundest maxims of morality, avowedly derived from the source of revelation, contain evident allusions to and arguments concerning this revelation; and it appears that the writers of these letters endured privation, hardships, and even death, in support of some of the most material facts connected with this revelation. But in the regular course of human affairs, it has happened that this book has become corrupted, partly by design, and partly from the ignorance of translators; and the difficulty of conveying the spirit of a dead language into a lịving one-an ill acquaintance with the figures of speech, and the characteristic phraseology used by the oriental writers--a blind and senseless veneration toward these writings, in sụpposing them to have been dictated by supernatural power--the carelessness and ignorance of the majority of readers of works of this description-together with a variety of other causes which might be enumerated, have made it appear to the Deist, that these records have in them so much that is puerile, ridiculous, and inconsistent with the character of God, that they reject their evidence altogether.
In such a mass of matter as this book presents, viewed as it generally is through so wrong a medium, and existing under such disadvantageous circumstances, it is not surprising that a variety of difficulties should be raised, and objections started against it; and, to answer all the objections which the inge. nuity and ignorance of man have framed, would require a term of life much longer than is usually allotted to mortals. Christophilus had observed this, and wishing to do some good before he left this world, has adopted a different method in diss cussing the evidences of revealed religion : accordingly he has brushed away all the forcible and all the weak objections at once-all the argument and all the quibbling against this bookand on a very simple principle of reasoning attempts to prov the truth of revealed religion, without assuming the truth of the book-whilst the credibility of the book at the same time follows as a consequence.
The argument may be termed philosophical--facts are ad. duced, the existence of which is acknowledged on all hands; for these facts adequate causes are required, to account for their existence, on the principle of every effect requiring a cause, and of not adducing more causes than are necessary to the production of the effect; and the object of Christophilus is to shew, that for these acknowledged facts and effects, no other
causes can be assigned but such as imply the truth of revelation; accordingly he calls upon the Deist either to admit the truth of revelation, or to produce any better cause for the given effects. Than this mode of managing the controversy, nothing can be more simple, nothing more fair. I come into my kitchen, which is extremely hot-1 observe in it a large fire, and immediately say the heat is occasioned by the fire— No! (says the kitchen maid), it is not the fire, indeed, Sir, that makes the place so hot!”_" Well, Molly, what is it then?” would be the natural questionr; and if Molly could not tell, I, who had always observed that fire produced heat, and had often felt that a good fire in winter made my study warm, should still be disposed to think Molly's fire the real cause of the heat, at least till she assigned some better one!
Plain and natural as is this process of the mind in forming its opinions, yet a correspondent (A. B. vol. ji. page 217) bas thought fit to object to it, and on this circumstance the friend to revealed religion may perhaps congratulate himself. He will suspect that A. B. knew well the irresistible application of the principle, if it was once admitted, and therefore thought it advisable to shake it in the very commencement of the discussion ; but be assured, A. B., the principle remains unshaken: and if thou wert to unite thy logic to the tongue of my Molly, I should remain unconvinced of my mistake. I might take an extra pinch of snuff to be sure, or the scullion might pin a dish-clout to the tail of thy coat, for shewing so much learning in the kitchen.
A. B. beats about this principle on which Christophilus conducts the argument with a good deal of debonair. He talks of our “ finite knowledge, the short-sightedness of our nature, the properties of matter," and so on : but A. B. need not be alarmed; Christophilus does not pretend to prove his point to mathematical demonstration; he does not suppose that his principle is infallible, but he thinks it the best that fallible men can adopt. Christophilus may possibly be mistaken in some of the causes he assigns to effects; he only means to say, that when such and such causes appear the most suitable, the most appropriate, the most commensurate to the effects, he must consider them the real causes of such effects, till you find others more suitable, more appropriate, and more commensurate.
The first paper of the evidences of revealed religion is occupied in noticing a variety of observations by the author of the Age of Reason, in defining what Christianity is, stating the merits.of the question, and laying down the principles on which the writer intended to discuss it. The second exhibits a very masterly treatise on the various books which compose the