« VorigeDoorgaan »
Yes!“ a Deist” is the man; and whilst he persists in oppósing the stability of the laws of nature” to the truths of re vealed religion, I shall persist in calling on him to develope those laws, considering all besides as “mere empty declamation, mere plausible rant.'
In support of his position, your correspondent proceeds to lay down certain preliminaries, with which he expects the Christian will agree--(1st)" That 'we know nothing of the attributes and intentions of Deity, except from the visible creation.". I confess, Sir, I am at a loss to account for thel rashness of “a Deist," in supposing that any believer in revelation could be so silly as to assent to this proposition as a preliminary to the discussion--it is really preposterous, when the Christian contends that the Deity has revealed himself to man in an extra ordinary way, and that all we know of his attributes and intentions is from revelation, that he should be expected to concede the very point in dispute--that he should be coolly asked to agree with the Deist on the identical point where they most essentially differ. To talk of this position as a preliminary is absurd, for grant what it requires and the controversy is at an end--the whole accumulated evidence of Christianity is swept away in less than two lines. How ridiculous would this writer reckon the Christian who should say to him, let us see if we cannot agree to a few prelinjinaries, and then propose as the firstthat we know nothing of the attributes and intentions of the Deity except from revelation!...
The fact is, Mr. Editor, your correspondent has assumed what he ought to prove ; and as the whole of his argument, together with his after propositions, rest on that assumption, they can pass for nothing till it is proved. For myself, I wish to know what the visible creation” does teach concerning the attributes and intentions of the Deity, and I trust "a De ist" will not be above instructing me; I trust he will make it appear, that in proportion as nations have been less enlightened by revelation, their conceptions have been more simple more rational, and more comprehensive 6 of the attributes and intentions of the Deity.”
The two concluding positions, or s6 axioms; as the writer is pleased to call them, deserve notice. The sixth runs thus
that in the early ages of the world, when men as yet were unaequainted with the properties of matter, and the settled order of events, it was perfectly natural for them to refer every uncom
* It is readily granted to the writer, that it does not follows that because there are some things which we do not know, therefore it is impossible to examine and arrive at certainty concerning the things that we really do know3" but the fallacy of his reasoning is this, that ii professes to arrive at certainty concerning the things that we really do not know.
mon appearance to supernatural interference and agency; and that consequently the judgment and testimony of such men are but of little value." But how does this apply to lessen the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus? The Apostles were unacquainted with the properties of matter, therefore their judgment and testimony is of little value. I shall expect next to hear, that because Paul was "unacquainted with the properties of matter," therefore he was incapable of ascertaining whether he was let down the wall of Damascus in a basket : it may be my ignorance of the “ properties of matter” which makes me incapable of seing the logic of the conclusion. It is admitted, that in the infancy of science men are often disposed to mistake the causes of events purely natural, or as the writer expresses it, to “ refer every uncommon appearance to supernatural interposition and agency ;” but the first point to be settled is, did such uncommon appearances exist; that is, did Jesus rise from the dead ? According to the construction of the proposition, the phenomenon is admitted, though the supposed cause is disallowed. The disciples attribute this uncommon appearance to supernatural interference and agency; they believed that Jesus was raised from the dead by the mighty power of God.
The Deist allows of nothing but what is consistent with the properties of matter, and the settled order of events. Are the two suppositions necessarily at variance with each other? I have sometimes presumed to conjecture that in reality they are not, but never had I dared to hope to arrive at any thing like certainty in this respect. I had feared that the times in which we live were not sufficiently advanced in the day of science to illumine so dark, so mysterious a subject, and that a perfect knowledge of the profound arcanum of nature was reserved for the .future discoveries of unborn ages; but when“ a Deist," in his next, shall have revealed to us the LAWS OF NATURE, all my doubts will be dissipated; hypothesis and conjecture will give place to conviction and certainty, and we may possibly find that revelation itself forms but a part of one grand and comprehensive system, holding in its extended grasp the past, the present, and the future order of things--blending the simple with the stupendous—impelling an eternity with the event of a moment --connecting the remarkable phenomenon with the ordinary occurrence, and bringing from laws equally immutable, a world from chaos, ora man from the grave. To the rapid improvement of modern philosophy and modern Deism we shall be indebted for this sudden influx of information.
" Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night,
God said, let sceptics* be! and all was light.” bad * It is presumed no reader can object to the substitution of the word COEPTICS for the name of NEWION; particularly when it is remembered
But when the judgment and testimony of the witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus are attempted to be invalidated, nerely because they lived before the properties of matter, and the settled order of events," were understood, I can scarcely admit even the plausibility of the objection ; for was not the eye as capable of seeing, and the ear of hearing, in the apostolic age, as in the present? Shall I be reckoned credulous, when I assert that I think Peter or John were as competent to determine whether they saw and conversed with Jesus or not, after his resurrection, as Mr. Paine, or the author of the objection, would be of any fact which passed under their observation, and the truth of which they were appointed to witness, notwithstanding their familiar acquaintance with the properties of matter," “ the laws of nature," and "the settled order of events?" Alas! for the poor fishermen of Galilee, they kyew not what such fine.things meant!
You will perceive, Mr. Editor, that the last proposition is, like the first, a round unsupported assertion—(7th) “ that no human testimony is of sufficient authority to establish a fact manifestly inconsistent with the usual course of events.” Now the resurrection of Jesus, whether it is or is not contrary to the laws of nature, is admitted to be “ manifestly inconsistent with the usual course of events," and the Christian believes it on the express authority of human testimony; yet, strange to say, before he can reason with “ a Deist,” he is modestly asked to give up the only authority on which he rests the system about which they are to dispute. The conditions on which this writer proposes to argue are all in his own favour; and here Mr. Teulon was justified in not acceding to them, for, as he well observed, “ it would be having nothing to contend for." And though " a Deist” feels so confident in his irrefragable position as to repeat it in his next letter, and to tell us that it strikes his own mind with all the energy of a first principle, yet this can only serve to show how differently our minds are constituted; for to my mind there is nothing striking whatsoever in the position-except its weakness. Setting revelation or miracles aside, I could not judge of many other events that have happened in the world by such a principle.
The “ usual course of events” can only be determined by our knowledge and experience, and we may possibly make erroneous calculations as to what appears “ manifestly inconsistent with the usual course of events.” How many discoveries have there been made in philosophy which our forefathers would have considered " inconsistent with the usual course of events?" and does not the chemist often meet with phenomethat Newton knew so little of the laws of nature as to believe in Christianity!
na which he is unable to reconcile to those general laws. by which nature is supposed to be governed? The fact is, that events are only esteemed remarkable, or contrary to nature, as long as the causes by which they are produced remain unknown. Printing was at one time esteemed contrary to the usual course of events, and the man who should then have as. serted that he had seen a hundred copies of the Bible produced in a hundredth part of the time which was usually taken to finish one, ought not to have been believed on any human testimony whaterer, according to the principle of the objection. The navigator who merely calculated an eclipse was consi. dered to have performed a something contrary to the usual course of nature, and by that means saved his life. But to try this infallible axiom in its application, let us suppose that one of our modern Aeronauts should tell a party of Indians that in England he had frequently seated himself in a convenient vehicle, ascended from the earth, pierced the clouds, and travelled through the air with the utmost safety--they would listen to him with wondering credulity, but I might imagine one of their Sages, profoundly learned, and deeply skilled in the study of nature, to rise up and address the narrator-What you have told us, European, of your travels through the air is as wonderful as the stories of most other travellers; but the point at issue between us is, the stability of the laws of nature. I choose to state the question generally, as being the least invidious and startling-let us try your story by a few plain truths. There is not sufficient reason to believe that from the begining of the world to this day the laws of nature have in a single instance been disturbed; but for a man to raise himself from earth to heaven, strictly involves such a disturbance. In our own times, at least, the laws of the world are absolutely fixed, and their operations quite uniform and steady. There is no instance whatever,within the range of our observation, in which a single individual, either black or white, has been known to float in the air as you describe, consequently there is nothing in the usual course of nature which bears the most distant analogy to the supposed ascension of the human person. As far back as our tradition will carry us, the course of nature appears to have been uniformly constant; but with regard to those instances alleged to have been exceptions to this rule (for we have heard of old women in the country from which you came taking an evening's ride round the sky on a broomstick) the greater number of them are notoriously forged; and with regard to the rest, a violent presumption necessarily arises against their truth. It is in vain then, European, that you swear by the gods of your country--it is in vain that
offer your companions as living witnesses-for the judgment and testimony of men unacquainted with the settled order of events are but of little value; and no, human testimony whatever is of sufficient authority to establish a fact manifestly inconsis. tent with the usual course of events. These principles appear to me as firm as the rocks--as immovable as the mountains--go then to your own country, sail through the waters or the clouds as fast as you please, and amuse a people who will be more ready to listen to you.
After all, Mr. Editor, the position of your correspondent appears to me utterly inconclusive ; for even if we were to admit the inference to be just, which is a matter of dispute, yet the premises are evidently founded in our ignorance of the course of events, and the general operations of nature.
The objection of a Deist is not new, for it was the objection of an Apostle Thomas thought no human testimony of sufficient authority to establish the fact of the resurrection or JesusThomas lived long enough to change his opinion--and it is with pleasure I think I address myself to one who will not be above following his example upon fair conviction.
It was my intention at this time to have noticed the paper on “the stability of the laws of nature,” in the number for last month, but as I have already trespassed on your pages to a much greater length than I had intended, I shall claim your indulgence in a future paper ; hoping the importance of the subject, and the acumen of your correspondent, will be considered a sufficient excuse for the present. Your's, &e. Blackfriars Road.
EXTRACT FROM A PORT-FOLIO.
Consistency of the Editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica in his explanation
of the words Trinity and ABSURD. "Trinity, in theology, the ineffable mystery of three persons in one God.” ." Absurd, an epithet applied to any thing that is contrary to human apprehension, and contradicts a manifest truth. Thus it would be absurd to say, that 6 and 6 make only 10; or to deny, that twice 6 make 12. When the term absurd is applied to actions it has the same import as ridiculous.”And why not when applied to doctrines as well as ac, tions ? and, if equally applicable to one as the other, he has proved his ineffable mystery of three persons in one God to be not only absurd but ridiculous. But, why did he not say that it would be absurd to assert that 3 ones, or 2 and I, make only 1; or. to deny that 3, ones, or ? and 1, make 3 ? The answer is obvious, because it would have been so completely applicable to his doctrine of the trinity," that of the Father is God, the son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and yet they are not three ods but one God," that it must have made it evident to every ra: tional man that it could not be true, and that it was highly absurd and ridiculous altogether,