Imatges de pÓgina

Essay on Truth.

265 The authority of this book is certainly on the simple Unitarian hypothesis of not such as alone to establish a doc- Christ's being by nature a man, and trine, but it is assuredly great enough not a pre-existent spiritual being. I to afford no mean confirmation to that consider this view of his person as the interpretation of other parts which it doctrine of the gospel, and perfectly favours.

consistent with that of the propitiation Your correspondent comes to a con- or atonement for sins, as ained clusion from which I feel myself above. To conclude, may the Father obliged very seriously to dissent. of Light so guide us all, that we may • What then,” he asks,“ becomes do nothing against the truth, but for of the Scripture doctrine of redemp- the truth? tion by the blood of Christ?” He

T. F. B. confesses that, according to his views, it comes to nothing, which is just what I have been endeavouring to

Essay on Truth. " that it cannot be

(Concluded from p. 219.) justy said that there is any such doc- 5th. Or a ceruths have their origin trine in the Scripture.” As we have already been engaged in reviewing the in the relations which subsist between testimony of the Scripture to this man and man, it is evident that it will point, I shall not revert to it now; be necessary, in the first place, to asbut if Mr. Acton be correct in this certain what those relations are before assertion, I know not how any doc- we can determine what are, and what trine is to be found in Scripture, for are not, moral truths. But, to enable it seems insufficient that it be re- us to accomplish this, much previous peatedly stated in its very terms, and observation and investigation is restill more frequently in words of pa- quired. It will be necessary not only rallel import; in short, that it occurs to examine ourselves in a most careful in almost every book of the New Tese manner, to mark all our various detament. But let us now turn to your sires and propensities, and how these correspondent's own view of the sub- desires and propensities manifest themject. He states it thus: “ The doc- selves in our actions, but we inust trine of the Scripture is this, that if likewise observe the actions of others, men repent of their sins, and turn unto and mark all their various modificaGod in contrition of heart, and bring tions in every possible situation. This forth fruits meet for repentance, he being done, the next step is to comis always mercifully disposed to for- pare our own with the observed acgive their past transgressions, and to tions of others, and on finding from restore them to his favour; and that this comparison that other men act Jesus is the mediator between God in the same manner as we ourselves and men, by whom this joyful assu. would do in similar circumstances, we rance has been proclaimed and con- necessarily infer that other men are firmed to the world.” Now, undoubt. similar to ourselves, and are actuated edly, all this is the doctrine of Scrip- by the same desires and propensities. ļure; I deem every syllable of it true, This being established, by considering in the most unqualified and absolute how we would act, or how we would

But where is there any incon- wish that others should act by us, in sistency, if I add another clause, and any given situation, we know how say, that the Divine Wisdom required others would act, or how they would that Jesus should previously submit to desire us to act, in the same situation. death, as the most proper way of his By thus pursuing our inquiries, by dispensing this great forgiveness ? I considering what objects are desired do not, therefore, regard such views by others as well as ourselves, and by as your correspondent's as false, but observing the present constitution of as inadequate; as too limited and things, we cannot fail to discover that reduced, as incommensurate with the man can enjoy the advantages real ends and reasons of the death of arising from the society of others Christ, as unfolded in the Scriptures. without sometimes sacrificing his own

It is hardly necessary for me to inclinations to their wishes; that inanobserve, that through the whole of the kind are inclined to retaliate upon foregoing argument, I have reasoned him who injures them; that we are




2 M

desirous of pleasing those who contri- have had a Maker, and this Maker bute to our happiness; that he who must have been possessed of power contributes to the happiness of others and intelligence sufficient at the least employs the most certain means of to produce him. As it implies a conincreasing his own; that it would con- tradiction in terms to suppose that tribute greatly to the happiness of there can be more than one being mankind in general, if every one which exists necessarily, or is selfwould do to others as he would that existent, it follows that this being they should do to hiin; that it is the must have been the origin of all things; interest of every person to do so, &c. and consequently his power and intelIt consequently follows that a prudent ligence are the sources of all power man, one who takes an extensive and and intelligence. This being must enlightened view of what constitutes likewise be a benevolent being: for if his true interest upon the whole, will we examine all nature, not even a soregulate his conduct accordingly. litary instance can be adduced of any

Now, if we examine the evidence on contrivance, the principal object of which we assent to the truth of these which is to produce pain and misery, moral maxims, we shall find that it is while almost innumerable cases might of a much more complicated nature be pointed out where the manifest than in any of the foregoing kinds of intention is to produce pleasure and truths. We know our own desires happiness. Indeed, every class of creaand propensities by consciousness and tures seem placed in those circummemory; we become acquainted with stances most congenial to their nature, our own actions as well as the actions and best calculated to secure their of others through the medium of our happiness. From the mighty monarch senses; and it is by our senses that of the ocean to the smallest animalwe determine that our own actions are cule, we perceive such evident marks similar to those of other men in simi- of health, activity and liveliness, as lar circumstances; and, lastly, the must convince us that life, even in the inference that other people are actu- storiny deep, is crowned with many ated by similar desires and propensi- enjoyments. If we extend our inquities, and will act in a similar manner ries from the tawny tyrant of the with ourselves, evidently rests on the forest in the burning plains of Africa two metaphysical maxims that equal to the grim polar bear enveloped in effects must have equal causes, and continual snow, from the stupendous that equal causes must produce equal elephant to "the poor beetle that we effects.—Hence the evidence on which tread upon,” we every where discover we assent to the truth of the above evident traces of paternal care and moral maxims is compounded of con- tenderness. The eagle soaring amid sciousness, memory, the testimony of the clouds and the sleek mole in its our senses, and of the evidence for the burrow are both provided for accordtruth of that class of maxims which ing to their natures. When we hear were examined under the article meta- the lark caroling its morning lay, the physical truths.

nightingale pouring forth its midnight 6th. Of religious truths. As all melody, and myriads of insects humtruths of this kind originate in the ming their evening hymn, is it possible relations which subsist between man to believe that all this enjoyment is and his Maker, the first thing must be merely accidental, that the great to determine what those relations are; Author of it had no intention to probut, as it implies a manifest contra- duce happiness, that he is not a benediction to suppose that any created volent being ? being can fully comprehend the nature If we prosecute our inquiries, we and powers of its Creator, it follows shall find that health, the greatest that the utmost we can expect to blessing in life, is so generally diffused arrive at in this case is to discover a through animated nature as to be few of the most obvious of those rela deemed the natural state of every tions.

living creature: and when we consider Every man is firmly persuaded that the amazing number of parts of which there once was a time when he him- the body of any creature is composed; self, or any other particular individual, that all these parts must have been had no existence: he inust, therefore, arranged in one particular order and

[ocr errors]

Essay on Truth.

267 no other; and that provision must connected with natural religion has have been made for retaining them in the sainc foundation as the evidence this order before that state, which we for moral truths; with this difference call health, could be produced in any only, that it requires a much more creature whatever, can it be any won- extensive examination of the works of der that there are always a few indivi- nature to enable us to draw correct duals that do not enjoy health? The conclusions. only wonder seems to be that any one But to be satisfied of the truth of should enjoy it. Indeed, it appears divine revelation, to be a Christian absolutely impossible to account for from conviction and not from prejuthe general diffusion of health on any dice or the force of example or eduother supposition but this, that a de- cation, requires a still more varied and gree of power and wisdom far above extensive view of things. The existour comprehension, directed by bene- ence of the Supreme Being must be volence, which extends to every living firmly established as before ; that he creature, must have been exerted by is powerful, wise and benevolent, must the great Giver of life. This conclu- be shewn to be probable. The state sion will be considerably strengthened of mankind at distant periods of the by reflecting that the organization of world must be inquired into. The our bodies is such as to have a natural insufficiency of reason, in the early tendency to rectify, any partial de- ages of mankind, to serve as a guide, rangement of its parts; that where and the wisdom and goodness of givthis derangement is too great to admit ing to man more explicit directions of being perfectly restored, it is so by which to regulate his conduct, and ordered that custom alone has a natu- of setting before him stronger motives ral tendency to lessen the pain attend- to action, must be clearly shewn. The ing it; that many things which, at necessary tendency of these directions, the moment, were considered as great if followed, to increase his happiness, misfortunes, have really been blessings must next be made to appear. And, in disguise; and, lastly, that hope lastly, the evidence that such direcwhich closes the wounds of present tions were actually given, and have pain and suffering has been given to been preserved uncontaminated by any all. And if we take into considera- foreign admixture, must be carefully tion the circumstance that even those examined. parts of the present system of things Before I quit this subject, allow me which at first sight appear to militate to observe, that, even supposing an most strongly against this supposition, individual after the most diligent inwhen properly examined, either be- quiry should not be able to give his come arguments for it or at most are assent to the truth of revelation, it by neutral, the conclusion that the Su- no means follows that he reaps no bepreme Being is a benevolent being nefit from it; for, if the truths rebecomes quite irresistible.

vealed be of such a nature that reason, Again, as we are entirely dependent although it did not of itself discover upon his power, and cannot possibly them, decidedly approves of them avoid detection if we do any thing when thus brought to light, such contrary to his will, does it not neces- truths have evidently all the force of sarily follow that it is our interest to the dictates of natural religion and endeavour to please him? But when are equally binding, and consequently we reflect that his benevolence induces he thus becomes possessed of addihim to care for us, even as a father tional lights to guide him in the paths for his son, ought we not to feel love of virtue and happiness. And this and gratitude for such endearing kind- circuinstance clearly shews of what ness, and to inake his will the rule of incalculable advantage revelation may our conduct, to endeavour to obey have been, even to those parts of the him in all things? These are a few world where it is not received as of of those maxims which have been divine authority. called religious truths.

Having finished the examination of This brief view of the subject, and the various kinds of truths, and of the of the mode of arriving at the conclu- nature of the evidence on which we sions, will, I believe, be sufficient to give our assent to them ; we are betshew that the evidence for the truths ter prepared to appreciate the value

[ocr errors][merged small]

of truth in general; to point out the This amazing difference, between the advantages we derive from a know- external circumstances in which man ledge of each particular kind of truths; is placed in savage and civilized life, and the almost incalculable benefits naturally leads us to inquire into its which arise from the whole taken col- cause ; and a very little reflection will lectively.

be sufficient to convince us, that it is When we view man, in the savage entirely produced by the different deand civilized states, we can scarcely grees of knowledge which he is posbring ourselves to believe that he is sessed of in these two states. It must the same creature. In the former, be evident, that no man could exist we behold him a wanderer, without a without knowing some physical truths, home and alınost naked, exposed to that is, without knowing the nature of all the fury of the contending ele- some things; for if he had no knowments, or sheltering himself perhaps ledge of those bodies which he defor the moment under the branches vours to satisfy his craving appetite, of a tree, in the cleft of a rock, or in he must, in a very short time, either some damp and dreary cavern. Driven be poisoned, or perish for want of by bis wants, we now see him attack- sustenance: and it is from this cause, ing some wild animal, probably at from not being acquainted with a sufthe risk of his life; and then gorging ficient number of these facts, or phyhimself like another beast of prey. sical truths, that the ignorant savage The noblest pleasures, those arising is so frequently in danger of the one from the society of his fellow-cream or the other. But view man, in civitures, are alınost entirely unknown to lized society, when possessed of all him; and, indeed, he appears scarcely the resources arising from the knowcapable of enjoying them. From his ledge and combination of physical and situation, he almost necessarily be- mathematical truths; and we shall find comes reserved, gloomy and suspi- his power has become so great and cious in his disposition; impatient extensive, that you would think him and irascible in his temper; ready to almost omnipotent. Every thing is take offence, and slow in forgiving it: made to serve his purposes : all nature retaliation is by him deemed justice, appears to be subservient to him. The and the most sanguinary revenge, en. majestic horse and the mighty elejoyment: dreading an enemy in al- phant have become his servants; the most every one he meets, he is in a lowing herds and bleating flocks supcontinual state of warfare with others; ply hiin with food and clothing; from and must be constantly upon his ihe insignificant silk-worm, as well as guard, to preserve himself, even in the enormous whale, he draws warmth this miserable state of existence. and comfort: every creature, from the While, on the other hand, let us exa- cooing dove to the roaring lion, is mine our own situation. Sitting by a made to contribute to his pleasure or cheerful fire, enjoying the company of his profit. His own bodily powers our friends, or partaking, perhaps, of indeed are still very limited; but see a comfortable cup of tea, and amusing him mounted on the stately courser, ourselves with friendly chat or instruc- and he literally outstrips the wind. tive conversation ; we hear the “pelt- View him armed with the various meing of the pitiless storm” without, chanical powers, and we see him but feel pone of its effects. Should raising immense masses, tearing rocks the pleasures of a fine evening tempt to pieces, or whirling them through us to walk abroad with a companion, the air at his pleasure. Neither the we are at full liberty to enjoy all strength of the rhinoceros, por the the beauties of nature: we ramble fleetness of the antelope, can protect about without even thinking of dan- them; he sends the messenger of ger: we are not haunted by the chill- death after them, swift and resistless ing dread, that some unseen enemy as the bolt of heaven, and they lie may perhaps be lurking near, and stretched at his feet. At one time we ready to burst upon us, when we are see him rolling along at ease in his least aware of it. All is peace both chariot, and at another, skimming on without and within, unless we our- the surface of the deep, making the selves, by our own misconduct, dis- winds and the seas to serve him. Beturb the tranquillity of the scene. hold him mounting in the air, and

Explanation of the word Experience."

269 sailing, along on the wings of the which we conduct ourselves. But we wind, leaving the eagle in its boldest can only learn how to conduct ourflight far below; or penetrating into selves as we ought to do, by making the bowels of the earth, and from its ourselves acquainted with moral and dark recesses bringing forth the means religious truths. So that our happi. of light and splendour. Nor are his ness depends upon our practising those physical powers alone increased; his rules, which we deduce froin this mind seems to expand as the means of knowledge. It is from this source, extending his inquiries become en- that we derive the cheering expectalarged. We this moment find him tion, that this short and uncertain life measuring the claw of a mite; exa- shall not terminate our existence. It mining the curious and wonderful me- is the “ still small voice” of these chanism displayed in its construction; truths, that raises in the mind the enor meditating on the power which chanting hope that we may, nay the could supply it with all its minute ecstatic conviction that we shall, be bones, muscles, tendons, veins and happy through the endless ages of arteries; and the next instant, per- eternity, if we follow its directions. haps, he is engaged in determining When we are once fully satisfied that the figure and magnitude of the earth; “all things work together for good" or in drawing down the thunder-bolt to those who obey its dictates, the from the clouds and examining its sharpest arrow in the quiver of advernature and qualities. Whilst a Black sity falls blunted to the ground, and, or a Priestley is investigating the pro- instead of murmuring or repining unperties of some invisible Auid; a Her- der our trials, we bless the hand which schel is perhaps determining the orbit directs our present sufferings. These of the Georgium Sidus, or ascertaining are the animating hopes and convicthe place of some telescopic star, at tions that render life happy and death such an immense distance, that even not terrible; which support the sufits light requires centuries to reach us. ferer in his last struggle, and enable On one hand, we may perceive a Dal. him in triumph to exclaim, “O grave! ton, a Davy or a Berzelius engaged where is thy victory: O death! where in examining the minute changes is thy sting ?” which take place in bodies, or in com- If such be the fruits arising from paring the atoms of which they are the knowledge of these various kinds composed : while, on the other, a of truths, when this knowledge directs Newton or a La Place is employed in our actions ; it must surely be a mark measuring the distances and magni- of true wisdom to endeavour to actudes of the sun and planets, or in quire it, and make it the rule of weighing them as it were in a balance. our conduct. This, I apprehend, is a

These are a few of the effects, re. truly philosophical conclusion, legitisulting from a knowledge of physical mately deduced from the premises, and mathematical truths: but asto- and in perfect unison with the advice nishing as they may appear, they are of the wise man, when he says, of trifling importance when compared “Wisdom is the principal thing; with the benefits which we derive therefore get wisdom: and with all from the knowledge of moral and re- thy getting, get understanding." ligious truths, provided we regulate

H. A. our conduct by them. That an acquaintance with physical and mathe

Hackney, matical truths increases our power to SIR,

May 7, 1823. an astonishing degree, must be ac

A foandeas tahl general experience, knowledged by all; but it by no means follows, that it necessarily increases and a reference to experience enables our happiness: for, if we employ this us to form an estimate of their value, power improperly, we shall only be it seems not a little extraordinary that enabled more effectually to torment example and experience should be disone another. It therefore follows, paraged by theologians when treating that our happiness does not so much of the motives to morality. I know depend upon the degree of knowledge it has been usual to take a very conwhich we possess, as upon the use tracted view of the term “ experiwe make of it,-upon the manner in ence,” when applied to scriptural evi

« AnteriorContinua »