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"they 9hall be my sons and daughters," saith the Lord. Ye, then, who would become members of this holy family, and receive the benefits attendant thereon, listen to the means by which it is attained.—Consider your Creator as a being Whose eye is constantly over you—who marks every turn of your conduct—and who approves or disapproves in proportion as it is right or wrong. Be it your first study to learn the will of that Being; and your next, to do it: and let not the allurements of the world, however tempting in their appearance, divert your attention from this grand object— for piety, true piety, is the corner-stone of all virtue, without which the best system of ethics in the world is but of little value. Tj
ANALYSIS OF THE CONTENTS OF LAST NUMBER.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
BELIEVING as I do your principles to be correct ones, and your church to be founded upon a truly Christian foundation, it is witli great and sincere concern I st>£ fte whole of your pages, and nearly the whole of your Sunday morning conferences, taken up with controversial discus* Bions and personal disputes. This is all very well as far »s it goes—it is very well to a certain extent, and in its propef place. I think you have right on your side against Mr. Lmiion, Mr. Cobbett, the author of Ei'ce Homo, against, in short, the whole tribe of Atheists and of Deists who have entered into the controversy with you; but then, at the same time, 1 do think that, as Christians, as men coflV versantin the moral precepts of Jesus, and evidently wishing to bring those precepts into general practice, there are sub' jects of discussion, and themes for the improvement of the mind and the manners, both of your hearers' and yoi/f readers, which might at least divide your attention with either Payne, Burdon, or Cobbett, or even the rascally author of Lcce Homo himself. u Jiiho
I know you may reply that this sort of discussion is absolutely necessary—that you are drawn into it against your will, and that it is even advantageous io expose the errors at once of the bigot and the unbeliever, in order to induce others to avoid them and embrace the truth. Granted—but to those who see as well as j'oursqlf the absurdity of these men, and who (as far as rejecting such principles goes) have already embraced the truth, would it not be advisable that you should address yourself in other language, and assist u> leading them towards that moral perfection, which, with proper cultivation, but not without, true principles of belief as to facts and doctrines will naturally tend to produce.
That I do not speak without foundation us to your Magazine, the following analysis of your last number will prove: let us suppose an account opened between yourself au4 readers.
By the whole number of pages to be filled 48
To proving the author of Ecce Homo a rascal, with occa-
To proving that there is a God, and that Mr. Burdon has'
not replied to Cliiistopbilus S|
To asserting Methodists not to be fools, Freethinking
To shewing Mr. Burdon a weak man, by means of his
■ own pen , 2
To proving him an unfair one, by the pen of Mr. Coates 7§
To proving that Deists need not think 2
To certain well-meant enquiries as to the locality of a
future state, &c 2£
To a Review, abusing promises and professions, and theu
• . making them , 3
To proving Mr. Morton's defence of the Trinity a weak
oae • 7j
To a Port-folio about priests and stay-makers 1|—45!
•ii . . .
Balance on moral and generally interesting or useful subjects 2i
a And even this balance is erroneous: it should be but the H pagfe occupied by the poetry; the other three-fourths must be an error in putting down the farthings of the Recount, though that much may be allowed for the maxims of. morality occurring incidental 11/ throughout the number. '..-•Now, in looking over the New Testament, I much doubt if the moral precepts on the one hand, and the personal (disputes of Jesus and his apostles on the other, would be found in this proportion; and yet they had opponents to contend with to the full as shuffling as Cobbett—as weak as Mr. Burdon—and as base and unmanly as the author of £ece Homo.
You will, I am sure, perceive that what is here said springs from a sincere desire for your welfare, and that of the cause in which you are engaged, and will attribute the intrusion, though ignorant who is the intruder, to no improper motive.
Some people have a singular facility at overturning all their own arguments by unfortunate remarks or concessions, end I had nearly fallen into this error by making a promise, that should my humble suggestion be acted upon in the more frequent discussion of moral and' really useful subjects —the example being set, and the previous means of instruction afforded—I might even myself presume to cast in nijr mite towards the supplying so rich and excellent a treasury. Should this promise, or this threat, which ever way it may be construed, not wholly deter you from the object in question, I shall naturally look (interesting and improving as the past may have been) for an increase both of interest and' improvement in the future numbers of your Magazine; and remain in the mean time, and at all times, your well wisher,
* If onr Magazine is to be judged of by one of its numbers, and if tbe last number is to betaken as a fair average of its general contents the animadversions of our correspondent will certainly appear Wellfounded; and even as it is, we thank the writer for his hint, which shall not pass by unregarded. .On our own .behalf we think it necessary to say. that it is an object with us to avail ourselves of passing events; and as we cannot command circumstances, it will sometimes happen that our Magazine may he deficient in variety. As to controversy, that must necessarily be its reading feature; differing so widely as we do in our principles and opinions from all who profess the name of Christian, and being-anxious to make that difference known, and the ground of it understood. More than all, it has been our deskfcio exhibit the evidences on which our faith is established, as bciiig- in itself a matter of primary importance, and as a jneans of repelling the many vile, and the many honest, though ignorant, imputations whicfrafe^ brought against us as infidels: still we shall ever wish to see in e«# number of our publication a pleasing variety of subjects,.: Mori essays, written in a manner calculated to engage the attention, ana is improve the mind, will be always acceptable to us; and as our correspondent himself may be very capable of this sort of writing, itw'ifr he expected from him, and he will thus have an opportunity of remedying the evil of which he cumplains. We must add,.that on a revwr' of our Work, it will be found we have not been altogether neglect"' •f practical and moral subjects.—Eoitor. j-^na
An Essay On Argument,
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians" Magazine.. __■}
SIR, , i
ALTHOUGH the subject which I purpose considering in this essay is not immediately of a religious nature, yet 1 cannot but regard a right understanding of argument to be of so high a degree of importance to society, that any thing which may have a tendency to promote that object you will consider well fitted for the pages of your Magazine. To enter into a critical examination or logical discussion of argument, in all its beariugs, would far exceed the limits of your publication, and the boundaries of my understanding; all therefore that 1 propose is, to make some general remarks on its nature, and ou the principal perversions to which it is exposed.
The disagreeable, the injurious, and, in many instances, the tragical consequences that, have arisen from the perversion of argument, have induced many persons to decry it altogether, and to consider it in all cases productive of more harm than good; but surely these people lean too.mucli to the Opposite extreme—they would destroy all argument at once, and by so doing act like an unskilful gardener, who would root up a fine tree because it produced no fruit, when its sterility proceeded only from a want of being well pruned. The best thing on earth may be abused—truth itself may be perverted and turned to an improper use, but that perversion makes it not the less true; neither does the misuse of argument make it less argumentative, or le?s calculated to benefit mankind. We must not determine the merits of a principle by the consequences which men make it produce, but rather by the effects which in its own nature it is calculated to produce. That which is naturally good cannot by any art of man be made naturally bad, although a Wicked man may apply it to a wicked purpose; but if we deny its instrinsic excellence because it hath been thus used, we do in fact reject truth not because it is untrue, but because error hath obscured it; than which nothing can be nmre illogical or irrational. It is by this mode of reasoning, by judging from apparent rather than from philosophical and necessary consequences, that men draw erroneous conclusions, and are often led to reject what is really excellent, merely because ignorant or designing men have given it a false appearance; This is the case with those who are enemies to argumentation. They mistake wrangling for argument, only because wranglers give it that name; and if you speak to them about sound argument, they can imagine nothing but sophistical dispute.
To aigue signifies to reason, or to offer reasons to another for or against any given proposition; and who will be hardy enough to deny the propriety of reasoning and improving reason? It is only by the superior exercise of this, faculty that man is materially distinguishable from the brute, and in proportion as he improves it so he increases his capability of moral excellence; and as to reasoning or arguing with others, it must unquestionably be useful, if a correction of o\ir ideas and an increase of them be desirable: for as there are no two men who think alike, a reciprocal communication of ideas must tend to the increase of both; and as one man often thinks right where another thinks wrong, by arguing the point each may frequently receive correction.
"Hast thou no friend to set thy mind abroach.'
Good sense will stagnate—thoughts shut up want air,
And spoii like bales iinopcn'd to the sun.
Had thought been all, sweet speech had been denied—
Speech, thought's canal--Speech, thought's criterion too!
Thought in the mind may come forth gold or dross—
When coin'd in word, we know its real v/orth—
Thought too delivcr'd is the more possess'd—
Teaching we learn, and giving we retain.
The births of intellect when dumb forgot.
Speech ventilates our intellectual tire;
Speech burnishes our mental magazine,
Brightens for ornament, and whets for use!
'Tin thought's exchange, which, like th' alternate push
Of waves conflicting, breaks the learned scum,
And defecates the student's standing pool."
A right motive is of all considerations the most important in argument.. The proper object of argument is either to give or receive information; but if men will sit down to argue without having this object before them, how can it be expeeted that they will receive a benefit which they neither intend nor wish for? They don't argue for improvement, and therefore have no reason to expect it; a rid as'argument in this instance is perverted from its original Hesign there can be no wonder that in its perverted state.it produces much mischief. Right motives most frequently produce right actions; but it seldom happens that a right action proceeds from a bad motive. On the contrary, '^ generally find that when people hold arguments from any1 but the right motives, instead of being beneficial the/produce anger, and increase that priJe which has already received too high a value. This error in the very commencement of an argument, although it is sure to prove fatal to" all benefit that might otherwise have been received, and although its consequences may be daily seen in the GOlnttenance of many an angry disputant, yet it is so universally prevalent, that to find a man who can calmly sit down to aji argument with a pure design of finding out the truth, is almost a miracle. Every man imagines himself to be much wiser than he really is; and as fallacy is uniformly the food of pride, she lays a ready hold on this imaginary wisdom, and excites in our minds a much stronger inclination to the display of this supposed knowledge than to the acquirement of more. Hence the reason why people are so for