« VorigeDoorgaan »
and when alive in every pore to the success of my friend, he has suddenly run against some trite ridiculous notion, diverged from the point in dispute, and in a moment his whole faculties have become eclipsed. Among the scriptural pursuits of my friend, Prophecy has occupied a large share of his attention. The study of prophecy must certainly prove interesting to the Christian, as it carries with it an evidence of the truth of scripture, and tends to declare the providence and superintendance. of a benevolent Being over human affairs. But the prophecies should not be read with childish curiosity; it is not for man to undertake the task of fulfilling them, or to go in search of a prophecy for every trifling event which comes under his Rose; but Mr. Allen is so eager to find an accomplishment for scripture prediction, that if we were at sea, and were to observe a porpoise thrown up by the storm, I should not be surprized to hear him descant on it, as the beast which arose out of the sea, in the Revelations.--In the pursuits of the chace, Dashwood, our Justice of Peace, had rode over the farmer's corn, broke down his fences, and done serious mischief to his grounds; accordingly he commenced a prosecution against him, when sud, denly he discovered, that Paul's “ Man of Sin” was none other than the sporting Magistrate ; that part of the verse which de scribes him as “God sitting in the temple of God, shewing him. self that he is God,” he thought peculiarly applicable" the temple of God” was our parish church, in which the 'Squire has a fine seat; and where the apostle describes this Man of Sin, as “ shewing bimself that he is God,” it was only meant to convey an idea of his pride, and aspiring consequence; the term God implying power, and being in the scriptures given to the assembly of the judges, which makes the word singularly appropriate to Dashwood, who is a Magistrate,
I asked Allen, what was to be understood by the Lord's destroying this Man of Sin" by the brightness of his coming?” &c. “ The coming of the Lord (said he) is not to be understood as a personal appearance, but merely a display of his power and judgment, in any remarkable or ordi way ;-he supposed the 'Squire might be thrown from his borse, and break his neck.
I need only tell you, that the farmer immediately stayed all legal proceedings, being more satistied with this discovery, than with any damages a jury could have given ; and the 'Squire may hunt over his grounds with impunity, as long as be lives.
PROPOSALS FOR A MORE GENERAL DIFFUSION OF THE SEN•
TIMENTS OF THE FREETHINKING CHRISTIANS.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
A S a constant reader of your Magazine, and also an ap:
prover of your sentiments, I wish to give you a hint for a more general distribution of them among the common people; I mean among those whose reading scarce ever extends further than their bible, and a few children's story books, or án almanack; or we shall have them soon all Me. thodists or Infidels: for within these twenty years, nay
may say these ten years, our churches are nearly deserted. A few days since a return was made by the bishops of the proportionable number of dissenting meeting houses to those of ihe churches; but I assure you, that is a very false return of the number of the people; for the dissenting houses are full, while there are scarce any one in the churches. And then there are more people than are in both together, that attend neither, and perhaps the best Christians of the three parties; and I look on these particularly, and many of the others, to want only something that would appear to them reasonable Christianity, to form them into a community. And what I wish to point out in the first place, would be for you to distribute with your Magazine one paper each month, of not more than from four to eight pages, closely printed, and make an addition to the price of your Magazine accordingly; also that each subscriber may have as many copies of this paper as he chooses, at a cer, tain price, for distribution among his neighbours, or that any one may subscribe for those also, exclusive of your Magazine.
This paper should point out the defects of our establishment, also the superstitions of the Methodists, and other dissenters; and your sentiments of reason in religion. Many papers in your Magazine would be very well suited for the purpose. As to Christophilus's truth of the Christian religion, I do not think it is much wanted among the commonalty, there being very few but wbat are Christians; but only to dress away the rubbish that has been heaped on it by interested priests. In these should be inserted some facts relative to the present management of church affairs, and the bartering and jockeyship that is used among priests of all denominations ; and short essays to point out your rules of teaching the truths of the gospel. I have just fallen in with an advertisement in the Evening Star newspaper, for the publishing a pamphlet or magazine, called the Protestant Advocate, which confirms me, that you should make ute of the above hint, as this Advocate is like the advocates in Jaw, to lead the people from the truth to serve their own interest, and that of priestcraft.
I cannot help observing, that we should soon all enter into your sentiments of reasonable Christianity, if it was not for the old prejudice which priestcraft is endeavouring to keep up; and till the rights of the poor to the revenues of the clergy be advocated, and they are fully established in that right, no reason will be effectual to the propagating your sentiments; for mark the great wealth of the clergy, drawn principally from the people, who have little interest in the kingdom-the nobles generally draw tithes instead of paying them--the merchant and manufacturer can say prayers in their own way without paying priests--and the lawyers are studying the best method of promoting litigation ;-so that the expence for carrying the souls of the whole empire to heaven lays on the farmer and the landowners of small
property. Your's, &c. October, 1812.
ON THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE UNDERSTANDING.
" Mind, mind alone, gives value to the man."
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
17. T is a lamentable circumstance, that in the 19th century
of the Christian era, the understanding of mankind should be so little advanced beyond animal instinct; knwledge has indeed been slow in its progress, or rather it seems to have taken a retrograde movement; for where are now our Senecas and Socrates? moralists who practised what they taught, and taught by what they practised. Where are our Solons, or our Numas, under whose auspices cities rose, commerce flourished, and arts and sciences rapidly advanced--who lived but for the happiness of their people? Or where are our modern martyrs to religion, who, like Jesus and bis disciples, laid down their lives to seal the truth of their doctrines ? Alas! Sir, we have them not in our days. We have priests who preach morality, but practise it not--we have mo. narchs who reign, but cities are ruined, commerce stagnates, and science dwindles into idle speculation ; and we have martyrs, but they are martyrs to fanaticism, to ambition, or revenge.
Did men but know the miseries attendant on ignorance, and the pleasures they forego by neglecting to improve their intelJectual faculties, every man would then become a student, and the world would be peopled by philosophers. Then indeed would be a golden age-swords would be beat into plough shares, and spears into pruning. hooks, and every man would sit under his own fig-tree ; but the human mind has many long and tedious marches to make before that period can arrive-to cut through many a rough maze of investigation, to wade through many a bog of sophistry, and to climb many a steep mountain of knowledge and science, before it can successfully Jay claim to true philosophy. The difficulties we meet with in our first steps towards mental improvement, are such as frequently deter many from continuing the pursuit ; a weak mind is easily frightened, and dangers often appear formidable, only because we cannot see their extent. Firmness and true courage are the attributes of exalted virtue; but timidity is the companion of ignorance, and will often tremble only at the shadow of danger. Let not those, therefore, who are just entering the field of knowledge be too much alarmed at its novel appearance; be not dismayed, but push forward with vi. gorous energy; press hard upon the difficulties before you, and you will soon find them wheel off to the right and to the left, Jeaving you without further molestation in full pursuit of your journey, every step of which will open to your view fresh scenes of pleasure and delight. But let me now revert to the intended object of this essay, which is to shew the method by which the mind can be improved; and to point out some of the greatest impediments that are opposed to its progress.
What is the human mind? It is a collection of ideas received through the medium of the senses, and arranged by the mental faculties into tribes, classes, or associations. The two things that require most of our attention in forming this mind are, first, the acqusition of useful ideas; and, secondly, the right arrangement of them; for he who has the largest stock of use. ful ideas, arranged in the most proper order, bas unquestionably the best understanding:
Amongst the innumerable classes of ideas that are within the sphere of attainment, those which are gathered from nature stand pre-eminent. The man who is well supplied with natural ideas will reason naturally, unless they are badly arranged : and we usually find, that in proportion as men are unacquainted with the things that are iu nature, and with the laws by which they are governed, so they are incompetent to correct reasoning, and consequently to right judgment; for to reason is to compare ideas for the purpose of finding out how they agree with each other, and what difference there is between them; and to judge, is only to determine what that difference is. Now the foundation of all correct reasoning is na. ture; whatever agrees with nature is rational; whatever disagrees is irrational; and virtue itself, if it did not accord with
the dictates of nature, would cease to be virtue, Correct ideas therefore, of nature, are of the first consequence in the acquisition of knowledge, because they form the basis of correct reasoning: and those books which delineate the wonders of creation, and develope the laws by which they are controuled, should be sought after and read with avidity: these, in conjunction with the impressions which we daily receive from surrounding circumstances, will give an ample provision of ideas; but it is not the simple possession of ideas that will give a man a sound mind; the principal work still remains to be performedthat of arranging them. There are some men who have an astonishing collection of ideas, and yet are incapable of reasoning with precision on the most simple subjects: the cause is obvious-their heads are like brokers' shops, that contain mucha good furniture, but huddled together in such confusion, that not a single piece can appear to any advantage, and the greater part lies buried in the heap'; so it is with minds that have more knowledge than they can well digest: they pass through life without ever crossing the line of mediocrity in good sense; but had they been taught to arrange their ideas, they would probably have stood high in the ranks of wisdom..
Books will furnish a man with ideas, but will not teach him to arrange them : it is reflection, it is thinking deeply, that will give a man that sound comprehensive mind sufficient to make, him uniformly a man of principle; it is this that will enable him to see things as they really are; to “ look through nature up to nature's God;" to strike out new truths, or to revive old ones; to survey the wonders of creation; and to analyse himself, the most wonderful, the most intricate, the most compound, but the best organized machine of all. This it is that will turn every idea to its proper account; that will make a little knowledge go a great way, and cause him who has but a small
portion of time for study, to appear much wiser than he who devotes his whole life to the acquisition of ideas, but forgets the more important part of arranging them.
Conversation is also particularly useful in forming right associations, but not that sort of conversation that is too generally in use. We seein to think that the society of a companion or a friend is a license for trifling and frivolous talk: this may do very well for temporary amusement, and when nothing else is required it is sufficient; but it is not the sort of communication that is calculated to improve the mind, nor is it that which will at all times give pleasure to a wise man : his business is to get wisdom, and to use it ; nor is he ever better amused tban when employed in one or other of these pursuits. The conversation most conducive, to improvement, is that which enters into the illustration of principles, or the examination of