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age, and place, any more than by doubting whether the mandate of Jesus to his apostles, " go, teach all nations,” &c. or his direction to his seventy disciples, be general or particular.
1 perfectly agree with Timotheus, that nothing ought to be called Christian, but what is authorised by Christianity ; but Timotheus would not allow that the publication of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine was antichristian, because Jesus never appointed it ; neither can I call the publié means of instruction by preaching, antichristian, because Christianity does not directly authorise it. The stability of the thing sufficiently justifies the means, and I hope both pulpit proaching and the circulation of the Magazine has been, and will be, in- strumental in correcting errors, convincing the unbelieving, and reclaiming the vicious.
What clear demonstration Timotheus requires of the moral tendency of pulpit preaching, I know not; I think there are thousands who could bear testimony to its value both as it relates to points of doctrines and principles of conduct; but my thinking so does not prove it, I allow, any more than bis saying, “ if ever it existed it has been counteracted, and so effectually that not the least trace is left behind,” proves the reverse to be fact. To point to particular persons as proofs of my opinion would be of no use, as such persons would be unknown to Timotheus.
It is probable some better plan may be devised to produce general happiness to man ; this I do not deny; I would contend only that pulpit preaching is a good one, against which one would suppose Timotheus perceives the impropriety of contending,” unless by " a better” he means another. I would inform Timotheus I am no stranger to a plan, or to the good effects of a mode of instruction similar to that of Jewin-street, having been accustomed from my childhood to religious conferences, at which meetings every person has liberty,
either to correct any error or enforce any truth," then stated, or which had been spoken in the pulpit at a former period. And from bservation, I doubt if Timotheus's reasoning on the ction of the mind, and the insufficiency of pulpit preaching to excite-it into action, be correct; for I have frequently heard one and another say, “ what such a person (meaning the pulpit preacher) said at such a time led me to examine the subject more closely, and I am persuaded I was in an error.” Now it appears to me here was a stimulus which did excite to action, and pulpit preaching was the means of producing it.
With my thanks to Timotheus for the manner in which be has written, so free from that moroseness and censoriousness, which is detestable in a writer, I remain your's, &c. Cranbrook, April 18, 1812.
JUVENIS. ON THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY.
« It is by discussion only that we elicit truth, which alone will be altimately productive of honourable, permanent, and universal peace." -BELSHAM.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
So great a distance intervenes hetween us, that it is with
considerable reluctance I again offer myself to your notice; but a correspondent, (No. 16, p. 171,) having, in his animadversions on my former letter, fallen into some gross mistakes, I solicit, in order to correct him, insertion of the following observations,
Alphonso, with the true spirit of a dogmatist, informs you that "to undermine the general authenticity of the Bible, I most artfully and deceptiously clothe my own sentiments in the character of a stranger.
This is certainly a heavy charge : but you well know that such was not my intention, as the proposed queries were sent to you in a private way; at the same time leaving you at liberty either to give them publicity, or to answer them agreeably to your own pleasure. Yet, admitting the case had been as he has depicted it, his assumption is more than he was warranted to introduce, merely from what I advanced.
My motives in addressing you emanated from the purest source; and my only reason for moulding the composition into that peculiar form, was to set the case in the strongest and most perspicuous point of view; resting assured that some ingenious friend to Christianity would, without cavilling, furnish an answer truly decisive and satisfactory. No doubt but able replies to most of the objections have been already written; but the very limited circumstances in which I and many others are placed, operate as barriers against our taking extensive excursions through the complicated forests of theological polemics.
Dr. Priestley, if I mistake not, somewhere remarks, that he frequently started objections solely to stimulate a more free discussion. Having the example of so eminent a man before me, I conceived that the adoption of a similar method might be productive of a beneficial result. Little did I imagine, that in so doing, I should provoke the chagrin of a
66 friend to uncorrupt Christianity," (a title assumed by my opponent,) or that I should be designated with the anomalous appellation-a“ Deistical Unitarian.” In a subsequent part of his letter he calls me “ a half and half man.” One might have conjectured from this expression that he is of the school of Mr. Wil berforce, or he seems to have borrowed this pretty meta
phor from that gentleman's “ half-way house." What my peculiar component parts have to do with the questions proposed, I am at a loss to discover. It matters but little, I should think, whether I am a half and half man, a quarter and three-quarters man, or a man made up of any other fractional parts; whether I am an inhabitant of the polar regions, or of the torrid zone; of the city of Washington in America, or of Pekin in China :- this I can assure him (pardon the egotism) that I am an honest man; and the spot I choose for my abode, is situated in the land of Free Inquiry, beneath a transparent, temperate atmosphere, amid the most delightful and picturesque scenery imaginable. But I confess, if I were compelled to choose out of extremes, “I would,” to use the words of an eminently learned and excellent author, “ rather approach the confines of cold and cheerless scepticism, than the burning zone of merciless orthodoxy."*
However, be it known unto Alphonso, and to all whom it may concern, that Minimus, so far from being a Deist, has not the shadow of a doubt resting on his mind as to the reality of Christ's divine mission ; but, notwithstanding this he is no personal enemy to an honest Deist, and is not fond of branding such a character with the name of Infidel, taken in its common acceptation. My creed is not founded on implicit confidence in the writings of any man, or set of men, but is the result of much patient and calm investigation.
I claim, as my inalienable right, the fullest liberty to think and act for myself; and I allow the same privilege, in its most unbounded degree, to every other person. It is true I am an Unitarian, as far as it respects the grand fundamental article of their creed ; yet it does not follow thence that I must re. ceive every article maintained by the greater proportion of this very respectable class of Christians. I cordially agree with the Quakers and Freethinking Christians, in rejecting water baptism, and what is usually styled the Lord's Supper;-nor do I believe that a class of men set apart as Christian teachers, is essentially necessary, provided that in every Christian assembly were to be found a number of persons competent to instruct and edify their weaker brethren; but whether all churches, in the present day, are really favoured with such characters, so as to stand in no need of an intelligent pious person to preside over their spiritual concerns, I shall not determine, but leave it for those seriously to consider, who have a more extensive acquaintance with the subject than I can possibly possess, and who are decidedly hostile to the existence of select teachers. If I may be allowed to es. press an opinion, I am much afraid that unless the Freethink
Mr. Belsham's Review of Wilberforce.
ing Christians' Society adopt some kind of a missionary scheme, their peculiar sentiments will be long confined within the bounds of the metropolis.
I am challenged to prove that the Bible lays claim to a divine revelation. I am not a little astonished that such a question should proceed from a defender of Christianity: surely Alphonso cannot be serious. It requires, in my opinion, but little erudition to prove this point; though, by the way,
I am not an advocate for inspiration, as it militates against every rule of rational criticism. mode of phraseology used by the writers of the Bible, shews either that it contains a divine revelation, or that it is a gross imposition: for instance (Ex. xx. 1.) « God spake these words."-(Jer. ii. 1.) “ The word of the Lord came unto me saying," &c.-Christ and his apostles, confirmed the inspira. tion of the Old Testament.-(Luke xxiv. 27.) “ Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he (Christ) expounded to them (the two disciples) in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” -(2 Tim. iii. 16.) “ All scripture (I presume Paul meant the writings of the Old Testament) given by inspira. tion of God,” &c.-(2 Pet. i. 21.) “ Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they weré moved by the Holy Spirit.
These testinonies are, I think, a sufficient answer, and the subject requires no further illustration.
With respect to a person totally unacquainted with Christianity not knowing what is meant by a " future state," Alphonso ought to have recollected that an existence after death is, in a more or less confused idea, universally believed. Long before the Christian era it was admitted by the Greeks and Romans. The American Indians suppose that after death their spirits will be transported to some of the islands situated in their large lakes; and the African slaves in the West Indies, I have been informed, court death, in order to rejoin their friends in their own country, from whom they had been inhumanly severed. Christianity appears to not to have taught the existence of a future state as a novelty; but rather to have placed it in its proper light, viz. that it shall be enjoyed only by a revivification of the body; and which important consideration was fully confirmed to Christians by the resurrection of their venerated master.
Alphonso wishes I had stated explicitly what parts of the Bible wear the appearance of legends. All the miraculous interpositions recorded in it, I suppose, would seem to be such, in the mind of the stranger whom I introduced. He adds, that the “miraculous conception has been proved to be an interpolation;" I kindly thank him for this piece of information. I shall also be much obliged to him for his thoughts on anot ther circumstance, which appears to me equally incredible as the former, namely-the temptation of Christ by the Devil. í Several ingenious hypotheses have, I am aware, been proposed by the learned Mr. Farmer and others; but, to me, none of them are completely satisfactory. When I see so great a display of talents necessary to form any thing like a plausible solution, I am led to infer from it (and from the ab, surd impossibilities with which this story is fraught) it is altogether fabulous, and must have been foisted into the gospels by some officious person posterior to the days of the apostles. I strongly desire to see this matter thoroughly discussed in your future numbers.
Alphonso strangely asserts, that “the grand point in debate is, whether a man, being totally a stranger to the Bible, could arrive at the knowledge of but one God.” I do not believe he could. But this is not the question I proposed, which is şimply this : “ what obligation is a person under to receive the Christian religion as of Divine original, when he does not possess adequate means for investigating the evidence by which it is supported ?" If my worthy antagonist had confined himself strictly to this point, and given it a rational an. swer, it would have kept your pages free of extraneous matter, and spared me the trouble of resuming my pen to adjust his mistakes. I wish, I say, for a rational answer to this question, as it is affirmed, by the orthodox party, that they desire no other evidence of the Divinity of the Bible than what the Holy Ghost supernaturally communicates to their minds; which communication, if true, of course, sets aside the necessity of all external evidence whatever.
Wishing the most extensive circulation to your valuable Magazine,
I remain, your's, &c. 1 Plymouth Dock, April 1812.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magasine.
TOUR Magazine for October last, page 408, contains a let
ter from Mr. John Moor, wherein he engages to prove, in two short letters, that the rules of the Methodist Societies are inconsistent with scripture and common sense, and also to shew that numbers of persons must perish for want of food; if they attend to them.” Since that time there have been several numbers of your work published, but nothing further from your correspondent on the subject has appeared.