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ever, are not very sanguine, on the score of general conversion; lliose which I do entertain, are founded on the gradual extension of the new method of inquiry. To the new mode of philosophising—I mean that which consists in tracing out general principles, by a careful examination of particular facts—we ought undoubtedly to ascribe the vast superii ri'y of modern times. Our unenlightened predecessors blundered on from age to age; exchanging only, at convenient intervals, one set of absurdities for another: nor would our condition at this day have been much more enviable than theirs, but for the invaluable method of induction. The excellence of this method of inquiry is instantaneously perceived, whatever may be the subject of investigation. Let us try it on the difficult question before us, the prescience of the Deity.
It is impossible that we should know any thing of the Supreme Being, except from the contemplation of his works, or some positive declarations of his own. As to the latter, I shall not touch upon the subject; the former, it is obvious, comes fairly within the scope and operation of philosophical curiosity.
Since we learn the being of a God, only from an examination of his works; our knowledge of his attributes must of necessity be derived from the same quarter: and all speculations which are not strictly deducible from this source, must be viewed, in the presence of inductive science, as sands dissipated by the wave, as vapours driven before the whirlwind.
There is an article, Mr. Editor, in your last Magazine, about" Foreknowledge. " 1 candidly own, I do not comprehend tlie writer's meaning; and will not he So unjust, either to him or myself, as to comment on what 1 really do not understand. The gentleman of course understands himself: in the following statement, 1 shall endeavour to be understood by others.
The question appears to be simply this; if indeed it be not a solecism to call it a question :--Do the principles of sound reasoning warrant the belief, that the Deity, on the morning of creation, penetrated with a single glance through all succeeding ages, and discerned, with mathematical exactness, every event that should occur, from the commencement of time to the dissolution of the universe?
This inquiry, though infinitely bold and magnificent, contracts itself within the narrowest limits, and scarcely allows of discussion. Let a few plain facts only be admitted, and the conclusion is irresistible. Let it be admitted, for exara
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pie, that the material and moral worlds uniformly submit to the action of stated laws; and that these laws were originally framed by the Creator himself, and that they still continue to derive their efficacy from him; and 1 readily confess, that the understanding of that man is very differently constituted from mine, who feels the slightest hesitation or difficulty in subscribing the doctrine of universal prescience. 1 protest I hardly know how to shape my argument; for I see no difficulties. "The easier any subject is in its own nature (says Bishop Lowth), the harder is it to make it more easy by explanation; and nothing is more unnecessary, and at the same time commonly more difficult, than to give a demonstration in form of a proposition almost self-evident." And surely self-evident it is, that the Beingwho made the world, must be perfectly familiar with it: since every object in nature received immediately from from the hand of its maker all its powers, capacities, and attributes; and can of course accomplish nothing, except that which its Creator specifically intended. If this be not dear, allow me to ask, what is clear?
Shall it be admitted that a common engineer operating on materials, with all the properties of which it is not possible he can be acquainted, is able, nevertheless, to predict, in a multitude of cases, the final result; and shall it be supposed'even for a moment, that God, an engineer (pardon the expression) who is in complete possession of every circumstance, which, by the remotest, possibility, can affect the movement of a machine constructed by himself—who knows perfectly the strength and the use of every lever, and pulley, and spring ;—shall it be supposed that he is Jiot in a condition to foretel,. with the nicest accuracy, the ultimate result ?—If there be a mind to which this appeal carries not conviction, I pronounce that mind to be infinitely more secure against the approaches of truth, than the fortress of Gibraltar is inaccessible to the enemy.
As to the tumult which some worthy people have raised about free-will, moral responsibility,&c. 1 shall eontent myself with observing, that'we may securely leave to the Supreme Being the care of maintaining his own reputation, andtha honours of his government; who, doubtless, is under no apprehension, that any researches of ours will conduct us to degrees of knowledge, ^incompatible with the ends of his own administration. 1 am, Sir, your's, &c.
Dtc. 7, 1812, "Zeta.
11(1. BUIIDON, OS THE PRECEPTS OF JESTTS CHHIST.'
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians'1 Magazine.
npHE general tendency of the Society of Freethinking ■*■ Christians, so far as it goes, to put an end to priestcraft, and to all religious institutions, formed in direct opposition to the precepts of Jesus Christ and his apostles, is, no doubt, a laudable institution, and deserves the praise of every friend to truth and consistence; but in so far as Christianity literally taken, and 1 know of no dispensation to interpret it otherwise, is utterly impracticable—I conceive it a design in the highest degree chimerical and romantic. Jesus Christ was an honest enthusiast; he was disgusted with the external sanctity, and practical iniquity, of the Scribes and Pharisees, and by much meditation on the prophetical writers, who were themselves visionary enthusiasts, he had worked himself up to a belief of his being a divine person, commissioned to redress the grievances of the Jews, to restore the purity of their law, and to relieve them from the bondage of the heathen nations. Every page of the gospel bears testimony to the truth of these remarks; and the termination of his life on the cross, provos that he had expected the visible interference of God in his behalf; for after having stood mute at his trial," in expectation, no doubt, of a divine interposition, and finding that no such event had taken place, he cried out upon the cross—" My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
The story of his resurrection is evidently a forgery, a fraud imposed upon the world by his followers, who, being disappointed in all their expectations of worldly triumph, determined riot to give the matter up as hopeless, and if possible to continue the belief of his divine mission. Had the events they related been true, they would have been heard of from other sources, than the evidence of interested persons; they would have made a figure in the Roman history, and even the Jews themselves would not have been silent; but considering that they are related solely by those who were personally interested in having them believed, they are unworthy of aM credit as well as from their own nature; for being impossible in,the established order of things, they require the fullest confirmation of human testimony, 1f any testimony can prove a miracle. Allowing, however, the fullest latitude to the belief of the facts contained in the New Testamentj let us see how the precepts of Jesus Christ, to say nothing about the ridiculous doctrines of St. Paul, are practicable by any set of men, in any state of society.
Remember, Sir, I have * allowed great merit to many of the parables, and many of the precepts of Jesus Christ; but I speak now, only of those which 1 conceive impracticable, and which no gloss or commentary can explaiu away; they must be taken literally or not at all; they are expressly spoken by Jesus Christ, not once but many times, and that without any reservation or explanation—" Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth—but I say unto ye, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right check, turn to him the other also; and if any man will sue thee at law, and take thy coat, give him thy cloak also; and whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain —give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not away."
Let me ask you, Mr. Editor, is your Society disposed to go the full length of this precept.' or even if it is not to be taken literally, will they comply with the spirit of it? I trust not; for in the great city, of which they are inhabitants, I doubt they would soon subject themselves to every species of oppression and imposition. (Matt. v. ver. 59, &c.) ," Ye camwt serve God and Mammon.'1'' Perhaps not with the whole heart; but is there no medium—is no attention to be paid to their temporal concerns, by those who are earnest after their spiritual? According to Jesus Christ, none; for he says expressly—" Therefore, I say unto you, take No thought for your life what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor for"' your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are_ not ye much better than they ?—And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow—they toil not, neither do they spin ; and yet I say unto ye, that eveij Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, how much more shall he clothe ye?"
The whole of this must be taken literally, or it has no meaning. The whole tenor of the gospel is to this effect,
* In former communication*.
and therefore any attempt to reduce it to practice would be worse than ridiculous—it would be wicked.
I remain, &c. W. Bukdon.*
Hartford, near Morpeth, Oct. 6,1812.
MR. BUHDON, IN DEFENCE OF HIS COMMUNICATION.
3b the Editor of the Frcelhinking Christians'1 Magazine.
fKN the wrapper of your Magazine for this month (No^-^ vember), 1 have just read the reasons which you hav« given for not inserting mi last letter. You call it a gross and illiberal attack upon Christianity. I am not conscious of ever having written any thing gross and illiberal; but as you have not given any reasons for those appellations, I leave it to the candour of your readers, to determine, whether any reasonings or arguments deduced from the text of scripture, without one word of anger or abuse, can deserve the epithets you have applied to what 1 have written. You say, you will be happy to receive my communications oil any other subject ; but there is no other subject on which I can send you my thoughts, consistently with the nature of your Magazine. 1 imagined it was originally intended to embrace a discussion of the foundations of morality, whether resting solely upon Christianity, or on the light of human reason. I find it is not; for as you believe in Christianity, you will not suffer any one else to disbelieve it, or attempt to disabuse the minds of others. My last letter, according to my ideas, contained arguments so strong and unanswerable against Christianity, as an impracticable system, that you dared not, as a Christian, to insert; and what is more, you have dared to call my conduct, mean, dastardly, and coicard/y, in not replying to the. arguments of Christophilus,%vhen you know, and I should suppose, dare not deny, that you have now in your possession, unpublished, either two or three letters, in which 1 did reply to the arguments of Christophilus, in a mode, to myself, at least, satisfactory, and according to the best of my abilities. This
* We insert this and the following letter, not from any thing new or interesting which they contain (,1'or all the assertions of the writer respecting Christianity have been frequently refuted by different Correspondents), but merely to shew him there is nothing he can write against Christianity which we dare not print. —editor.