« PreviousContinue »
Edward. It is on this account, also, that we should prefer continuing the consideration of the subject in conversations. In many cases, we have perplexed ourselves needlessly, I am convinced, by losing sight of the great object we ought to have had in view, viz. the simple truth and by dipping into many books, I have only made the matter worse; for, as fast as one difficulty was cleared, another started up, of which the author, perhaps, took no notice; and the habit of doubting, I found much more easily acquired than discarded.
Maria. Do you not think, my dear father, that conversation has its advantages, in enabling one to obtain much information not usually met with in books, or dispersed in so great a number as to be almost out of reach, as well as in securing the thorough examination of each portion of the subject?
Mr. B. It undoubtedly has; but, perhaps its principal advantage will be found in its being the plan yourselves have suggested. My own knowledge of the subject has been acquired in a manner so very different, that I hardly know how far I shall be enabled to bring it before you, in so clear and convincing a form, as the importance of the subject demands. Much, however, depends upon yourselves; and as I shall take care to give you references to authors, whose opinions are of far greater weight than mine, you must be careful not to attach any weakness to the argument as developed by me, till you have first examined the original works, and seen how far the apparent deficiency may be inherent in the nature of the subject, or only the consequence of my inefficiency. I should by no means consider myself justified in proceeding in this undertaking, if I thought you would depend solely on my statements, and did not search whether these things be so or not. I shall give you a fair statement, to the best of my power, remembering well the danger incurred by those through whom
13 How does Edward say, they have needlessly perplexed themselves? 14 What question does Maria ask her father, as to the conversational form?-15 What answer does Mr. B. give her ?-16 What does he tell her he shall take care to do ?-17 How does he promise her he shall proceed in the argument?
an offence cometh; but, as the subject is of so grave a nature, and so much depends upon it, I must entreat you well to watch over both yourselves and me, in which case I trust our conversations will prove a mutual benefit.
Maria. But you will not make our understanding the subject, depend upon our reading the authors you refer to?
Mr. B. I hope to be able to give you a clear and correct idea of it, without your having occasion to refer to any work; but I can only give you an outline, which you must yourselves fill up at your leisure, and according to your own peculiar wants and difficulties.
Edward. But, if the arguments you adduce are, in themselves, satisfactory, where will be the need of further inquiry? If not, it appears to me hardly probable, that the perusal of many volumes, in detail, would strike more forcibly, than their condensed force delivered at
Mr. B. In the course of the inquiry, it will, however, be necessary to consider various objections: now many of these, though found to be flimsy and worthless when examined, are yet specious, and not easily overthrown in few words. There is no objection, of consequence, which has not been fully considered, and, in my opinion, satisfactorily answered; but it is impossible for me, in many cases, to convey to your minds the force of the reasoning which has been employed in these answers,and mere assertions are of no value. It is easy to produce the effect on the one side, but difficult on the other: not because truth is with the former, and not with the latter; but because truth has, in such cases, to be searched for diligently before it is apparent; and, till that is done, we cannot altogether reject the pretensions of falsehood, dressed in the garb of truth. It is in cases like these, that full conviction can only be produced by full
18 What question does she ask her father?-19 To what extent does he promise, to instruct her?-20 What question does Edward ask his father, as to the course to be pursued ?-21 What does Mr. B. say of the objections, that have been made to Christianity?-22 How does he say these objections operate on the mind?-23 How does he say, that full conviction is to be produced?
investigation, and from my anxiety not to injure the cause, which I cannot but believe to be divine, that I earnestly impress upon you the necessity of inquiring fully in every case, where you see reason to doubt the accuracy of my statements, or the correctness of my conclusions.
Maria. It would be unjust, both to you, and to the cause you advocate, not to follow your directions in this respect: but I trust you will, however, allow us the utmost latitude of personal inquiry, which time will permit.
Edward. And you will permit us to state, not only the objections, which really have weight in our own minds, but also those which we have heard, and which, though they do not so much affect us, we yet find it difficult to answer properly.
Mr. B. Certainly; but I would not have you waste your time in searching out difficulties, or in bringing objections, which you are conscious do not deserve an answer. Inquire boldly and diligently as to what is the truth; but remember, that the inquiry is of too much importance to permit trifling and sophistry.
Edward. There is, then, an objection, which is somewhat connected with the observations you just now made, which seems to deserve some consideration. From what you there stated, it would appear, that no full conviction of the truth of Christianity, unmixed with doubt, can be obtained without diligent inquiry, proceeding from personal interest in the subject?
Mr. B. Certainly not, if you mean rational conviction. Edward. But if so, where is the right of censuring those, who, not feeling sufficient interest in the subject, have no motive for inquiry?
Mr. B. But why do they not feel sufficient interest in the subject? Can a rational creature be justified in regarding what assumes to be a revelation of the will of his Creator, with indifference?
24 What objections does Edward propose stating ?-25 What does Mr. B. say, as to the importance of the subject, and the manner of treating it? 26 What objection does Edward say is connected with the observations made?-27 What question does Mr. B. ask concerning indifference of feeling to the subject of religion?
Edward. But, might not a Deist rationally think, that the world would do very well without Christianity, without any revelation?
Mr. B. If you put this question with reference to the knowledge of God, and of our moral duty, as existing at the present day, which we can deduce from first principles, and which is generally termed natural religion, your objection is unfairly stated; for the advocate for revelation argues, that the very knowledge, which we now possess, would, in all probability, never have existed, without revelation. You assume the point in dispute, if you take it for granted, that all the religious knowledge, which we are now enabled to found upon principles of strict reasoning, exclusively of revelation, has been discovered by the mere light of reason.
"The lights of reason and revelation fall upon our path in rays so blended, that we walk like the summer evening traveller, who, enjoying at the same time the full orb of the moon, and the sun's solstitial twilight, is unable to ascertain the proportion in which he is indebted to each of these heavenly luminaries: and some of us, alas! are such incompetent philosophers, as, because the greater is below our horizon, to attribute all to the less." -Napleton's Advice to a Student in Divinity.
Edward. But the advocate for revelation is no more at liberty to assume, that our present knowledge of God and of our duty arises from revelation, than the Deist to affirm, that reason alone is sufficient.
Mr. B. Certainly not.
Edward. But, if we may argue from analogy and the powers of the mind, as developed in other pursuits, may we not infer, that reason is sufficient, without revelation, for our guidance?
Mr. B. If the discovery of our duty towards God and man, as founded in religion, were a matter of mere curiosity, perhaps I might partially admit the truth of your
28 Wherein does he say, that Edward deals unfairly-29 What does he accuse him of assuming ?-30 What quotation is made from Napleton ? 31 What reply does Edward make to it?-82 What question does he ask, respecting an argument from analogy?-33 What reply does Mr. B. make to it?
supposition; but it is a matter of infinitely too much importance, for us to suppose, that the great Creator would leave it to be developed only in a long course of ages, by the slow advance of real knowledge and certain truth.
Maria. Admitting the possibility of human reason being sufficient to discover the truth, do you not see, brother, that, arguing from analogy, many ages would elapse, in all probability, before the principles of natural religion would be so established as to become binding upon the bulk of mankind?
Mr. B. But we need not argue only from analogy and the probabilities of the case: let us refer to facts, and you will find, that the common sense of mankind is against you. Almost all nations have some notion of there having been a revelation or communication from the Creator to his creatures. Many have had their laws and civil polity founded in the idea of something of the kind; and the philosophers of old, who were sceptical as to the truth of the popular religions, agreed as to their Iwant of divine revelation to declare the will of God. Now, subsequently to the establishment of Christianity, this want of divine aid has no longer been felt, and there is, therefore, considerable probability, that Christianity is a divine revelation, from the very argument brought forward by the Deists, as to there now being no necessity for any revelation; nor can this be overthrown, except by showing, not only that reason possibly might arrive at similar conclusions, as to natural religion and moral obligation, without the aid of revelation, but, also, that there is a strong probability, that it actually did so, and that the results were imputed to revelation, for the sake of giving greater authority to them in the eyes of those, who would be little disposed to acquiesce in conclusions, backed only by their intrinsic excellence and the authority of their fellow-men.
34 What does Maria say of arguing from analogy?-35 What facts does Mr. B. mention, as superseding the necessity of reasoning from analogy ?-36 What does he say is true, upon this subject, subsequent to the establishment of Christianity?-37 How can this argument be overthrown ?